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


Syrian in London said...

I know exactly what you mean, by far not as well travelled as you or been to so many places yet but loving a place/ city is far less obvious than what it seems.
For me I love glimpses of a place, an alleyway in old Damascus, the river walk near my work place in London or the view from my bedroom window.
It is hard to be in love with so many distanced places, when I’m in Damascus I find myself missing my house here a couple of days after I arrive and when I’m here I always miss the cool summer morning back home. The first is My home, the one that I build, and still building, slowly but surly being all mine with all the dreams of tomorrow and the other is the memory of the country side where I spent the best times in my life with the people I love.
Yes, you said it in the title of this blog, it is chasing a mirage!

abufares said...

Your post Kaffet Wa Waffet.
As you've said, it's not that easy to fall in real love with a place or with another person.
I chose my 3 candidates because all of them possess certain elements of my eternal love for Tartous. I, too, however, am in love with a city that was and no longer is.
Thank you for your reply.

Lujayn said...

You completely overlooked Lancashire - no love for the place at all? (I'm not even sure if Lancashire is a county or a city, mind you)

The Syrian Brit said...

My dear Lujayn,
Lancashire is a County.. and a beautiful one at that.. Very scenic, with splendid countryside and delightfully warm people.. Regrettably, I cannot say, hand on heart, that I am in love with any of its Cities or towns... you will probably understand why if ever you visit..

Abu Turath said...

The building spree & materialism that has destroyed much of historical Makkah and Madinah can be summed up by the following hadeeth that gives one of the minor signs of the Day of Judgement:

'You will see the barefoot ones, the naked, the destitute, the shepherds and camelherds take pride in building tall structures in abundance'

Of course this applies to the other parts of the Gulf and not just Saudi!

Cities like Damascus, Aleppo, Istanbul, Fez, Cairo, Rome, Bukhara, Samarkand, Sana, Isfahan, Shiraz, Timbuktu et al. have a 'soul' as Syrian Brit has mentioned and have a mystical side.

'Modern' cities like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore. Hong Kong have amazing architectural feats but are representations of pure and unrestricted materialism, capitalism and greed etc.

Restless in Dubai said...

I am sure if you ever come to Dubai you will see that it has more than stunning towers and wide autbahns... the city is amazingly built, beatiful huge parks, golden beaches, pits and peices from everywhere, wonferul night life, great marine life, if you are into scuba diving or fishing, I guess anyone will find sth to like about Dubai..