Follow Abufares

Friday, July 24, 2009


This post is dedicated to my friend JGM, Kassak Habibi

A little before midnight my buddy called and asked me if I could join him on a short hop to Zgharta, Lebanon in the morning. He wanted to visit a friend recovering in the hospital. We might grab a bite to eat if you want to, he said, Ehden is not that far away.

I haven't been to Lebanon since October of last year. I feel terrible how a fucking barrier blocks my freedom to cross the “border” between here and there. What a bunch of idiots on both sides. What filth, hypocrisy, shortsightedness and bigotry make me wait in line to be in one of my favorite locations on the planet, a mere hour and a half drive away.

Ehden's Paradise is the number one restaurant in the world serving Mezza and Middle Eastern Cuisine. I'm not an idiot to accept the words Lebanese or Syrian Mezza. I have evolved far too much to be such a Levantine Chimp. There's no place on earth where every bite you swallow, every sip you gulp, every breath you take is as good as it is in this northern Lebanese village. Paradise has been my favorite hideaway since the first time I set foot in Ehden, well over twenty years ago.

We made it in the late afternoon to Paradise. The wide terrace seats a comfortable thousand hungry patrons but it was almost deserted. There were far more waiters milling around like busy bees than there were people sitting behind tables and eating. We were greeted near the entrance by the maître d' who assured us that we would still get the best food and service despite our late arrival. What was it all about, I asked. This is one of the biggest nights in Ehden, he said, Sabah Fakhri is here for his annual one-night appearance.

For those readers who don't know who Sabah Fakhri is and in order to make it easier for them to comprehend and grasp the importance of the event, this is a man who is considered by over 200 millions of Arabs as Our Pavarotti. Well, wait, I need to elaborate further. Pavarotti, rest his soul, was one of the greatest of all times no doubt, but he could have found a cozy place to sit in his heydays in the shadow of our 76 year old veteran singer. Sabah Fakhri is the greatest performer alive. In 1968 he sang for 10 hours without a pause in Caracas, Venezuela to the adulation of thousands of expatriate fans. This world record remains unbroken.

The evening was sold out, of course, weeks ahead. We consumed the heavenly Mezza slowly and deliberately. No Kass of Arak could taste remotely close to the way it tastes in Ehden. In the late heat of this July afternoon all around the Mediterranean, the cool air at 1,500 m altitude took us to another reality. This is indeed how Paradise would be like one day when we bite the dust and are sent by default there. There is no man on the face of this earth as good as me, I mused, content in the knowledge that someday, this could all be mine forever. A renewed and spirited hubbub behind caught my ear then my eye. The owner and the staff were greeting someone very special who, just like us, had come fashionably late for lunch. It was none other than Mr. and Mrs. Fakhri who had just checked in in their hotel and came for a quick bite to eat. They were accompanied by a Tartoussi guy we knew. As they walked close by, our friend waved hello and said to the old man: “These guys came from Tartous to see you tonight”. We had to stand and shake hands with the legend. He expressed his happiness and gratitude for our taking the trouble to attend his performance. When our friend knew that we didn't even have a reservation he fixed it in an instant. You will join me on Sabah's table, he assured us, as he hurried and joined the superstar.

I only had what clothes I was wearing. Not a toothbrush! Not even another pair of boxers to change into. Yet we managed to buy the essentials, find a great room in a hotel nearby and took a long nap before the endless night ahead. I was only missing one thing. I needed to call someone, as my day and night, my whole life past or ahead of me wouldn't be what it was meant to be if I hadn't done that. When I reluctantly hung up, my smile was larger than my face. I knew that it'll be a night to remember.

How can I explain what Tarab is to non-Levantines and North Africans? It's almost a futile attempt since Arabic is the only language with the right vocabulary to convey this state of mind. Sabah Fakhri is the master of Tarab without any shadow of a doubt. As thus let me try to make a fool of myself and fumble with an attempt to explain.

كل البنات نجوم وانت قمرهم
All the girls are stars and you...
Their moon you are

Tarab is a state of musical rapture. The lyrics, the music and the voice conspire together to put the listener in a unique mood of oriental sensuality and worship, lust and spirituality, seduction and chastity. Tarab is when you reach a mental point where everything around you is beautiful. The plate of fresh fruits on the table with drops of dew forming on the grapes and melons, the dark of night and the velvety flow of wine down your body, the numbness of complete sensory satisfaction, the touch of the wind on your cheek, the swaying ass of the girl dancing nearby, her erect nipples, the perfume on her belly in your nose, memories of love making, a mental orgasm, a voice from within,... floating in a womb of pleasure, your long scream at last with an uncontrollable Ahhhhhhhhhh, this is Tarab.

In the Paradise of Ehden, Sabah Fakhri brought us, all one thousand and one of us, into a land of one thousand and one Arabian nights for five consecutive hours (1:30AM till 6:30AM).

خمرة الحب اسقنيها، هم قلبي انسنيه
عيشة لا حب فيها جدول لا ماء فيه

The wine of love let me drink
Burdens of hearts let's forget
A life we live void of love
Devoid of water, a barren creek

I woke up at nine o'clock and headed back, across the fucking barrier to Tartous. On my way around the park in the late evening I was suddenly assaulted by the taste of fruits on my tongue, the long shadows of the night and the stream of wine gushing in my soul, the stupefaction, the caress of a breeze on my skin, a beautiful woman's butt, her breasts, the smell of her tummy, my going in, my inescapable climax, my own voice inside the tunnel, my last scream..... Ahhhhhhhhhh, Paradise.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sea Side

Ah, Abu Fares, truth be told, I have not been your way in a very long time. With this piece I was pulling on memories of the distant past as well as some accounts from friends. I would be so happy to travel there one of these days and I would definitely let you know if I was going to be there. I needed a little vacation…so I took one in my mind to one of the prettiest areas of Syria.
Is it going to be another G&A? Well, Abu Fares, I have a proposal for you. How would you like to collaborate on a fictional tale that reflects life in the area – continuing from where I left off? I don’t know of anyone better to write about this beautiful part of the country. It might be kind of exciting to see what we can come up with. What do you say? I would hate to be presumptuous, but I think our readers might enjoy it.

Mariyah (responding to my comment on her post Sea Side)

Over a period of eight months, from October 2008 till June 2009, Mariyah mixed fiction with fact and romance with resilience to create faultless white, bronze, gold and black pearls and wore them in a string around her supple neck. She then sprayed the exquisite beads with the perfume of her boundless imagination and conjured the most endearing fairy-tale on the Syrian Blogsphere, The Story of Ghassan & Alexandra.

Anyone who knows me well enough surely realizes that I'm not the romantic type, or so I would like to believe. But as my hair becomes whiter and thinner, my mind and soul get younger and greener. When I read Mariyah's first chapter of her new work Sea Side and after she invited me to co-write it with her I can't but express my absolute delight and elation. I am honored dearest Mariyah and I look forward an entertaining and sweeping flow of a spontaneous plot. As we follow our uncharted storyline we will be startling each other even before we surprise our readers.

Sea Side will appear in alternating episodes written by Mariyah and Abufares on Mariyah's Blog. She has already started the journey with a breathtaking introduction which had captivated me at least and made my heart leap with joy at her offer. I invite you all to join us there for an undetermined stretch of time. Ahhhh, the never ending stories by the sea… by Mariyah's side.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Dinghy

By sunset, I approached the rocky outcrop that defined the northern end of the long stretch of sandy beach. To cross to the other side one had no choice but to wade through the water. I always sat there on a large rock, never venturing further, before I retraced my steps. I was wearing a faded pair of jeans, rolled. My white T-Shirt, I tied around my head, and my shoes, I hung over my shoulder. The sea came in shyly and kissed my toes. It filled in my footsteps behind as soon as they were formed, obliterating them from existence, erasing them forever from the memory of the sand. I was restless in the summer heat and I had no place I wanted to be at. Driven by the inanity of being I moved forward in the water. The only scent I crave as much as that of a woman is the scent of the salt on my skin. My arms and shoulders were glistening with my perspiration and with the sweat of the sea. I breathed in the intoxicating redolence and dreamed of a hammock underneath a palm tree. The sun reached for the horizon, touched it then took a dip.


I came out on the other side to a strange landscape. I've been coming, almost, here for years but had never taken the final wet steps. How poor we live and die when we abide by the rules, when we accept random limits thrown our way by total strangers or by fate itself. It was a more desolate shoreline, forebodingly marred with reefs and shoals yet tranquil beyond the power of words. Not far from where I stood an olden dinghy was lying on its side, almost dead of neglect, cracked but not broken. Nothing makes me sadder than a stranded boat on dry land. As I approached the motionless craft a shiver ran through my spine. I caressed the ailing wood and sat down by its side. A tear ran down my cheek burning its path as it fell on a pebble and fizzled. I climbed in, the dry timber threatening to collapse underneath my foot with every step I made. I found my way to the only space that admitted my full length, slumped down, closed my eyes and stretched, as vulnerable as the shell I chose to shelter me for the night.

The feeble sough grew closer and louder. Then it stopped. I felt the tender lust of a long and hungry kiss rather than heard it. I opened my eyes but didn't move. I didn't dare even breathe. They were mere inches away. They sat with their back to the decrepit boat and talked in hushed voices. Despite all, no one had ever loved a woman like he did. She cried and leaned her head on his shoulder. Except for the faint murmurs from of the sea, their low whispers and the soft susurrus of their love making absolute silence wrapped me completely with its blanket. There was only sky above them and me. The moonless night left no shadows. He cried too. She held his face in her little hands, reached for his lips with hers and inhaled his pain for him. He ran his fingers through her hair and promised her the moon and the stars, one day. He nibbled at her ear, ran down her neck, reached for her shoulder, made a turn upfront, traced her collarbone, went up her throat, climbed to her chin then bit on her lower lip. I heard her chest heaving and felt her nipples harden as he took them one after the other in his mouth. I love you till the last day of my life, someone moaned as she took his body weight on top of hers, as she took him deep inside. I love you more, someone screamed, their voice carried in the wind reaching as far as my ear but not further. They wept and laughed, then a more raucous silence than I've ever heard. Will you be here tomorrow? I don't know, I really don't, will you? I hope so my darling. I'm floating on the passage of time taking me where I never imagined. Let's go my love, it's getting late.

I was alone when I woke up. I don't remember when I slept or when did they leave. I raised my body slowly and sensed the approach of dawn. I stood up and took a long look at the dinghy I chose to make my own. Tomorrow I'll be back with sanding paper and paint. I reluctantly headed toward the outcrop of rocks and retraced my steps backward in time, awkward in space.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Realm of the Damned

On a late summer afternoon in a hotel lobby in Athens, I sat waiting for the heat of the day to abate before I stroll alongside the marina. I've been going there late in the day to hear the harmonious sounds of a sail catching wind and the gush of bleeding froth from the scarred face of the sea. Relaxing in a corner, I was watching people go by. Eager fresh bodies coming to Greece to bask in the sun and laze on her sandy beaches. Tired long faces burdened with the insipidity of personal lives or the stink of business deals gone rotten. The banal display of emotions and the happiness and misery of total strangers filled me with a foreboding loneliness. I have learned a long time ago that I am most lonely when I am in the middle of a crowd. However, I have come not only to accept but to embrace my solitude as a trusty friend and entertaining companion. My eyes were deciphering the flickering images and sending them to my brain, saturating it like a sponge with forming notions. I was ripe to write. A seemingly innocuous apparition can trigger an avalanche of words. A sexy and rotund butt for instance would toss me in bed after midnight. I would strew the words into an improbable script, wrap it around my nakedness and scribble it in between the folds of the white sheets. Yet wickedness has its own iniquitous way of stirring me as well, of shaking me up considerably and forcing me to venture into the realm of the damned. And, this is the turn my mind took in Athens.

The sliding doors split open admitting a whiff of suffocating and sticky air into the cool lobby. In walked a man of the cloth, a thirty something years old Greek Orthodox priest, dressed in mourning black from head to toe, beard uncouth, eyebrows hawkish and ugly features wreaking of oppression and hoariness. He eyed the patrons haughtily half expecting them perhaps to kneel in reverence and servitude. I was, I suspected, the only one who took notice of his presence and in no uncertain way he was aware of that too. He stood in the middle of the vast hall waiting for something to happen.

Does he have an appointment with God, I wondered. Well, there was a bunch of cute North American chicks with supple white legs and full swaying breasts gathered in one corner. Take a look Hideous Father, may be something would stir under that sooty robe of yours. Or what about the middle aged couple there, huddled so close and holding hands, afraid of wasting a single moment away from each other. Perhaps they can teach you a thing or two about the love you never knew. Nah, my day was destined to be ruined completely when an older bowed priest followed in. The wear and tear of years have turned his hair and beard into one giant white broom. The miserable sexagenarian hurried without vacillation toward the repulsive younger cleric then.... then for God's Sake bent down and kissed his hand.

God's obsession with robes and uniforms and his distaste for nudity and permissiveness are fascinating and intriguing divine aspects to my humble mind. What went wrong after he created us nude and sexy and made him change his conviction? Why does he want women to dress like sacks of potatoes and men like idiots? What about his fetish with hair? Why does he insist that women should cover their heads?

What if a woman shave her hair? Does she still have to hide her scalp? Is the top of her head too erotic for innocuous men not to get wild and ejaculate in the middle of the street? But most importantly is the question about the differences and the common ground between all the major religions. Why do they vary so much in the definition of the divine being to the point of being fully contradictory to each other while they, by and large, agree about oppressing women, limiting sex, rationing pleasure and forbidding certain practices? Was it an inherent design fault that slipped the mind of God? Didn't he consider that a woman's butt might prove too attractive to a horny man? Was woman in her present glory and allure an unfortunate accident? Did he intend her to be a utilitarian reproduction machine, a closed Dodge Van of a sort, but instead ended up with a Red Hot Ferrari?

These questions and many more were never in fact directed to God by me. They are, however, intended for the dimwits who have been meddling with our ethos over at least the last two millennia. As I disgustingly observed an older man bowing and kissing the hand of a younger one I couldn't help but reminisce that the Greek Orthodox are not the only ones promoting hierarchy and advocating the inherent favoritism of God. The Catholic Church is notoriously imbecilic in its public and secret practices. Jewish Rabbis and Muslim Sheikhs (and now as if we didn't have enough tomfools the new wave of Muslim Sheikhas: Priestesses even if they vehemently deny being so) are as guilty as their Christian colleagues in their thirst and quest for earthly power on account of their special ties with “upstairs”.

A gentle westerly wind stirred the leaves in the trees of Athens as I walked by the marina. It was still quite hot and muggy but the young men and women knew how to undress properly for the weather. They gingerly exposed their suntanned bodies for the seagulls, the boats and for me to see. Some of which were pretty hot babes but amazingly I didn't jump anyone. I stood at the edge of the breakwater watching the sun disappears behind the masts. It took the Greeks a little longer than their European neighbors to give their religious establishment the finger. How many years before the raucous wave crashes on our shores, I wondered. Not too long I know, for the winds of change are steadfastly blowing.