Monday, November 03, 2008
Twenty four hours after I shot this short clip I was on my way to Beirut. Following dinner and a few drinks I flew to Rome then to Amsterdam where I spent the rest of the week and came back to write about it.
Yet despite the fascinating piazzas, the broad avenues, the grandiose monuments and buildings, despite the enchanting canals, the intertwining back streets and the stunningly beautiful and virtuous prostitutes, I missed the little pleasures and treasures of Tartous my eternal home. I took off my tie, my pressed jacket and trousers and the shiny black shoes. I showered my tired body with a cold stream and washed away the remnants of a foreign luxury. I put on a faded pair of jeans and a patterned flannel shirt and sat by the little table at my corner in the kitchen to enjoy a simple breakfast. I reminisced over the exotic beers, the succulent steaks, the delectable pastas and the velvety wines I hedonistic consumed. I remembered the frantic pace, the purposeful crowds, the manicured lawns and the urbane vibes. In my brain, the refined sights, the restrained sounds and the polished smells of Europe danced and mingled with the Kaset al Shai (in Syria we drink tea: Shai with breakfast in a small and clear glass).
It was only a matter of time before I revert to my true nature and tell you about my annual jaunt into a green forested valley 20 km east of Tartous to partake in an old ritual: the drawing of the Karake = Arak distilling. In Everything You Wanted to Know About Arak and More I have exhausted all the little details about the ritual and procedures. My purpose here is notably different. I want to share with you the essence of the experience in a visual form. Don't mind the amateurish editing or the script since making movies is not one of my strong points. What I have going in my favor, however, is the marriage of Wadih el-Safi's song "Tallo Hbabna" with the rustic visual experience. El Safi (1921- ) is a Lebanese Tenor and one of the greatest modern singers of the Arab World. In coastal Syria, Abu George, as he is affectionately called by his faithful fans is an imposing icon of crossnational worth. He sings in our accent and he could as well have grown up in the alleys of Tartous instead of Niha, Lebanon. Wadih is to Arak what olive oil is to Zaatar (Thyme), but that's another story.
W. C. Fields once wrote: "Never trust a man who doesn't drink." In a way, we share this line of thought in Tartous but we digress further. "Never trust a drinker who doesn't like Arak".