Saturday, July 21, 2007

Homeward Bound

It is finally happening.. Within 72 hours, we will be heading to Damascus..

A few weeks ago, I received that precious piece of paper from the Embassy, giving me permission to visit my Country..

I am particularly excited about going to Damascus this year, because my brother, my sister, and her family will also be coming from the States.. It would be the first time the whole family met together since everybody assembled in our humble abode four years ago, to celebrate my father's eightieth Birthday..

It will be far from a restful holiday.. In fact, it will be diabolically hectic.. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that we will all love every minute of it!.. We will be trying hopelessly (but failing miserably) to keep friends and relatives happy.. There just aren't enough hours in the day, or enough days in two weeks, to accept every invitation for breakfast, lunch, dinner, night-out, or day-trip that we will invariably be invited to... I just hope that I can tactfully convince all those lovely, well-meaning people that it is actually physically impossible to do that..

Apart from all the self-indulgence, the great food, and the delightful company, I am looking forward to seeing the City again.. Damascus never fails to surprise me.. It never fails to amaze me how so much can change in two years.. Unfortunately, not all change is for the better, and often I return so deeply saddened but what I have seen..

Despite that, I will hopefully come back with more precious memories, invaluable experiences, and unmissable moments to cherish forever... What I will definitely come back with is excess weight around my waist, that I will struggle to shed over the coming months.. but hey.. it will definitely be worth it...

(Photo: Abu Rummaneh St., Damascus. Source:

Friday, July 13, 2007

A Day to Be Proud

Wednesday July 11th 2007, was, for me, a day to feel proud..

It was a day that every father dreams about and lives for..

Dana, my beautiful, talented, sweet little girl, graduated from Leeds University... She now holds a BA in World and Popular Music..

We travelled that morning to Leeds. She has been there from the previous day, preparing with her friends and fellow graduands for their collective big day...

When we got to her house, she met us at the front door, looking radiant.. She was happy and self-assured, and in her usual way, bubbly, excited, and full of beans!..

She led the way in the short walk through Leeds's famous Hyde Park to the University, walking ahead of us with her elder sister. Her twin brother met us at the University. He also studies in Leeds, doing Medicine. He had asked to be excused from his tutorial to join us, and be with his sister on this memorable day. The sight of the three of them together completed our sense of pride, and filled our hearts with immense pleasure and deep contentment.. They are our most valuable asset.. our most gratifying achievement..

She then went to collect her graduation gown. When I saw her emerging from the dressing room in her gown, I felt a lump in my throat.. She looked so grown-up.. so confident.. so, so beautiful...

Dana, on the Parkinson Steps, Leeds Umiversity

The Graduation Ceremony was delightful. A nice congratulatory speech from the Pro Vice Chancellor, followed by the Conferment of the Degrees. Each graduand was called by name, and was handed his or her certificate, to the applaud of the audience.. At that point, the 'graduand' is transformed to 'a graduate'.. and what a moment in their young life this is..

The two sisters

Dana has worked very hard for this moment. She has put a lot of time, effort, tears, anxious days and sleepless nights to get the results she aspired to. She achieved an impressive and truly deserved Higher Second Class Honours (known as a 'two-one'). Even more impressively, she got First Class Honours for her dissertation, which many of you have so kindly contributed to, when you responded to her questionnaire about the Fairuz... (Alright.. alright.. so you too deserve some of the credit!..).

Dana is going to do a Masters degree.. I am so proud to say that she has chosen to do her dissertation on Middle Eastern Music, although the exact topic is yet to be determined.. some of the options she is considering include Fairuz (too large for a Masters.. more like PhD material..), or Folk Music of the Levant (a largely untapped subject, with a good opportunity to come up with some truly original work..).. However, whichever topic she chooses, her choice would be an indication of her deep-seated sense of belonging, and an unmistakable expression of her pride of her roots...

My pride and joy...

More importantly, whichever topic she chooses, and whichever career path she follows, with her delightful sense of humour, her unique personality, and her considerable drive and determination, Dana will continue to radiate optimism, happiness, and vitality around her.. and will continue to make me a very proud Dad.. very proud indeed...