Showing posts from April, 2009


I woke up at 4:42AM, three minutes before the alarm went off. I showered quickly, drank my espresso, ate a cookie and went downstairs to the waiting taxi. Normally, the trip to Damascus drags forever but the two hours and thirty minutes drive to the airport flew by so fast I couldn’t believe it when I found myself in front of the terminal. I checked in, a good time ahead of my flight and waited indifferently in the boarding area. I had The Great Gatsby with me, a gift from a dear friend, but saved it for the flight just in case I needed a distraction. Sure enough, the plane was full of babies, nervous mothers, weary looking men and a wild bunch. It always amazes me how aviation, the most regulated industry of all, permits the airlines to provide travelers with such ridiculously uncomfortable seats. All airlines CEO’s and airplane designers should be forced to sit for the rest of their lives in these miniature stools. I endured the ordeal like a sardine in a tin box while the two passe

Syria is...

"In 800 words or less, please finish the statement "Syria is…" You may choose to focus on a personal story or a singular historical event that you feel embodies the essence of Syria for you. Or, you may choose to think more about Syrian history at large or what it stands for." I received an invitation from Creative Syria , one of the more interesting Syrian sites on the internet, to participate in writing a personal assay about the land of my birth. I am honored of course that my article was published along with 7 excellent mind and heart inspiring pieces of the highest caliber written by acclaimed and accomplished Syrians from around the globe. The illustrious list of fellow countrymen included: Hassan Raymond Tahhan, M.D. - United States Elie Elhadj, Ph. D., Author - London Nour Chammas, Attorney - Cleveland, Ohio Mazen Salhi, Engineer - Canada Jamal Mansour, Author - Canada Offended, Architect - U.A.E. Ayman Hakki, MD/Prof Georgetown University - United State


The road from Amman to Damascus was straight, as the crow flies, stretched and tedious like a lackluster argument. A sandstorm blew from the east kidnapping the asphalt ahead, swallowing up the car in a fugue of uncertainty. A herd of camels materialized to the right for an ephemeral instant then disappeared before I had time to be sure. I was sitting in the back seat of a taxi, head resting rearward in a stupefied daze. The tiny earphones isolated me further from the rest of the world, pounding my head with a tidal wave of drumbeats. Layer upon layer of primal composition building up then followed by a disembodied voice: oh I needed to believe in something I need you to believe in something I needed to believe something I need you to believe in something I needed to believe I needed to believe I was a lonely man rediscovering a new age of music, grasping the refrains of an English duo by the name of The Chemical Brothers , feeling anesthetized yet alive at last. I reache

The Fellowship of the Scotch

We met in a bar in old Damascus. He introduced himself as Nabil , an expat visiting home for the first time in five years. “ Would you like a cigarette with that Scotch ”, he asked, sitting on the next stool. We were almost touching shoulders in the noisy and crowded joint. “ Well I’ve quit, but thank you anyway. Actually, I never smoked more than one or two cigs a day and only when I drank ” I replied. “ My name is Abufares ”, I extended my hand. He had a strong and confident grip. A very handsome sexagenarian with wavy hair brushed back like the mane of a white stallion. He had deep blue eyes, beaming with intelligence and vitality. A man equally at ease in a board meeting in a western capital or in an undersized jam-packed bar in the oldest city in the world. “ Have we met before? You’re not a Shami (a Damascene), where are you from? ” he stared intensely at my face. “ I would’ve remembered you if we had. I’m a Tartoussi ”, I said. He smiled big time: “ Then let me buy you a drink a

The Cave

Toward the end of October 1096, the Count of Toulouse, Raymond de Saint Gilles (1041– 1105) left his native land never to return. Driven by religious zealotry and material aspirations, Saint Gilles, by far the oldest and richest Crusader, dreamed of dying in the Holy Land. On his way to fulfilling his failed destiny in 1101, he took control of Tortosa , a little burg by the sea. Known today as Tartous , Tortosa offered safe harbor as an entrepĂ´t for military provisions and was ideally close to Cyprus and Antioch . Before the old Count died he managed to transform it into a magnificent military bastion which eventually became one of the most interesting old Mediterranean cities for researchers and historians. Nine hundred years later, the remains of the Crusader era still form the core of the historic center of Tartous. They have survived centuries of earthquakes, hostilities, neglect and negligence. The splendid cathedral of Our Lady of Tortosa (1123) endured the ravages and th