Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Chasing a mirage.. The elusive love..

Some two weeks ago, Abu Fares 'tagged' me.. Quite an intriguing tag, actually..
I did say that I might take some time to answer it, but I was still hoping to reply within a week.. However, things went a bit out of control.. with a bang!!.. In addition, there was a multitude of other smaller, but still significant events.. and writing had to take a back seat for a while..
Today, I thought I shall take advantage of this brief lull in my chaotic life, and put pen to paper..(fingers to keyboard, really..)..
Abu Fares wanted me to say 'Which city do I love most in the World?'...
I am not what you might call a seasoned traveller.. Nevertheless, I have lived in and visited a number of cities.. So which one do I love most?.. What is it that one would love in a City?.. Fancy buildings?.. History and character?.. Clean, bright and well-maintained streets?.. or is it what memories and emotions the City stirs?..
To start with, I am not going to state the obvious.. Anyone who has visited my blog must have noticed that my heart belongs to Damascus.. In fact, if I were to be truthful, my heart belongs to the 'Damascus' that I once knew... the sad reality is that that Damascus does not exist anymore.. Every time I go back, I feel a piece of my heart being wrenched out, when I see what is happening to my beautiful City.. but don't get me started on that subject.. that's another matter altogether...
Abu Fares seems to believe that Beirut might be the one for me.. I lived in Beirut for a few years.. however, that was at a time when Beirut was anything but pretty or inspiring.. I did know Beirut casually before the Civil War, when it was 'the Pearl of the Orient', but my experiences with it during the 'Events' would leave a very dark and indelible mark on me.. ('The Events'.. what a stupid, understated, and empty description!.. but I digress...) My memories of Beirut are of the kind that, as much as I would love to forget, as much as I know I never will.. Memories that I would not associate with anything I love.. Regrettably, I have not been to Beirut since its rebirth.. Perhaps there is still a chance that I might fall in love with that City.. but not yet..
Many years ago, I have visited a number of Cities in the US.. but despite the grandeur, none of them made my heart flutter or skip a beat..
I am quite intrigued by modern architecture.. sort of a 'frustrated architect', I guess!.. So perhaps Dubai would be the City that I should love.. There is no doubt that the architecture is stunning, if you are into steel and glass.. The ultra-modern massive buildings, the palatial shopping malls, and the amazing and very impressive towers, surely, make it a serious contender..
But, to tell you the truth, I found it to be a City without a soul.. I'm afraid it doesn't even make it into the short-list!..
Two years ago, we visited Bangkok, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur.. Despite the similarities between them, each offered a somewhat different experience..
Singapore was very elegant and beautiful, but rather sterile...

The Imperial Palace, Bangkok
while Bangkok was beautifully chaotic..

Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur
and KL offered an interesting mixture of old and new..
Then, there is, of course, Istanbul which we visited in October.. and Rome, where we spent the last few days of 2006..
Sultanehmet Mosque, Istanbul
Istanbul was mystical and intriguing, and while I immensely enjoyed exploring it and loved visiting its amazing sites, I couldn't quite take our relationship to 'love' level..
But if character is what you are looking for, them Rome is clearly a hot favourite.. beautiful, elegant, and dripping of character..
Trevi Fountain, Rome
Still... I am not in love yet.. not with any of those beautiful Cities, anyway...
You must be thinking that I am such a finicky and choosy so-and-so.. Well, I am not, really... I am usually quite easy to please.. It's just that I am not one for casual affairs.. I am not one for falling in love on a whim.. and before a City can claim a place in my heart, must be truly special.. just like the one woman who achieved a similar feat..
And the search continues.. next on the itinerary: Vienna, Seville, and Barcelona..
So, Abu Fares.. I have replied to your tag.. but I don't think I answered your question!..
All photos by SB

Monday, March 19, 2007

What on Earth is going on?...

Does anybody know?.. Has anybody heard?..
I have only heard rumours...
I heard that there is some hideous plan to demolish yet another part of Old Damascus.. And another part of my heart will be wrenched out ..
Tales of woe of all kinds have been flying across the Syrian Blogsphere.. Souq Al-Manakhliyyeh.. King Faisal Street.. Threats to demolish old houses and bulldoze ancient shops.. Families will be homeless, small businesses uprooted, a City raped, and a tranche of our City's history lost forever..
They say that a certain Syrian 'entrepreneur' has got his eyes on the priceless real estate market in that area of town.. The potential for 'property development' is, clearly, enormous, and I have no doubt that certain quarters within the Syrian Regime would give their right arm (correction: OUR right arm!..) to get their filthy paws on our beautiful heritage.. They say that the Authorities claim that this is done for the betterment of the City.. They say that this is done in the name of progress.. but since when did we start calling rape and destruction 'progress'??..

So who should I believe?...

One of the problems of living abroad is that you rely on second-hand reports on certain issues.. Your ability to develop an informed opinion depends on the authority, credibility, and authenticity of such reports.. What you read and what you hear will shape your views.. and on this particular issue, I am unable to find anything that I can reliably use to form such an opinion... Nevertheless, I feel an unmistakable air of trepidation.. an overwhelming sense of doom...

I urge anyone with any information on this matter to disseminate such knowledge as widely as possible.. As many people as possible need to be involved, if our heritage and our beautiful City's history were to have any chance of survival..