Saturday, August 27, 2005

"The bars of my prison will rust, but never my will!"

Flyers, billboards, Radio commercials had been promoting for a marathon in support of the Syrian detainees in the Golan.

The day has come, I with lots of people joined it knowing that the only effect it will have is the partial self-satisfaction that we have contributed in more than the famous Arabs “bla bla bla”!

Lots of people did show up, not as many as usually gather in similar events such as the annual Terry Fox Run.

This run was sponsored by a Syrian mobile company (on of two in Syria), Areeba.

Who took care of promoting and advertising, distributions of water and Syrian flags, not to forget flags with the company's logo.

The registration fee was 50 pounds, that included a sticker number, a cap, and a T-Shirt that has huge logo of the mobile company on the back side, the logo of the company again on the front side, and a tiny thing that turned out to be, after a close and thorough examination using my home made telescope, a logo that says “Syria Beats”.

Meanwhile, 3 tough, promising, and enchanting young men were preparing to win the race: Amr, Sinan and my humble self ;)

The run began at around 8:30; people ran and all of a sudden, the ground was full of Syrian flags that were being stepped on by all the runners. Ignorant people gave no damn shit about the national flag of our country. This flag should be considered a sacred symbol for people of all religions, sects, political, and social parties. Yet, it was thrown on the ground and stepped on during a national event to say that we never forget our detainees in Golan! Maybe, before doing such a thing, we ought to teach ourselves that we MUST not forget our flag on the ground.

Instead of running and winning the race, as we had in mind! We ran in the back and collected the abandoned Syrian flags off the ground.

While we decided to call it off, people were going ahead to reach the end of the race at Al-Marjeh Square.

The initial outcome of the race was starting to be seen.

On the sides of the Marathon path, we could see some audience who stood there, cheered, and smoked some cigarettes!

Some others were ready to party after this marathon and were appropriately dressed for this aim, but not for the race however!

On our way back, we saw what looked like a gift or a reward of some kind, being delivered to some winner, who never heard of such a marathon, and probably, never heard of such a long gone Golan!

Long live Syria!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The hike!

I joined a group of friends to a trip to the last Syrian still-owned land before the Golan Heights on the bottom of the Syrian side of mount Al-Shaikh.

A drive of roughly 2 hours separated us from the location of the town called “Bait Jin”.

Not long ago, people needed to get a security permission in order to get there, but not anymore!

The views are awesome at that area; the breeze is reviving, and the mixture of the colors of the nature form a painting that no painter can paint.

We rented a little spot by a tiny stream. We were a group of 22 persons.

We played some cards, prepared a huge amount of food that could have fed a whole African tribe who’s been suffering a famine for few years. It was good, the food I mean. Everything was fresh and delicious, even the fizzy drinks we had, we didn’t buy them, we fished them from the river. It was the first time I ever knew that coke comes from water not from supermarkets! ;)

These kind of fizzy drinks only live in Syrian water, I was told.

A small group of us decided to go for a hike in the nearby mountain, so a number of 10 people hit the road up and started walking. The first thing we saw was an Israeli watching-station built on a nearby mount.

Few minutes later, there were only 4 of us continuing the soft climb and enjoying the scene. One of the guys, who withdrew from the hike, felt that he was losing oxygen due to altitude! We were some 50 centimeters high and he already felt that! What a champ! Anyway, it was a pretty nice hike, a bit hot though. I got some shots that tell about the views better than I can in writing.

The good thing was that we never worried about “where to go” if the nature called, no matter how high and isolated we reached, we still could find “a place to let go”.

Later on the afternoon, we decided to go on a longer hike, so the brave 3 of the group, Reem, Amr and myself, who happened to be the cute ones as well :D, prepared ourselves and hit the road once again.

The scenes were, this time, a lot more beautiful than the first one…..

We climbed for a couple of hours and that included some tough rock climbing before we reached the top of the mountain.

This is me on top, the hardelly-noticed belly that may be seen on me is just a big muscle that I have been growing for a while ;)

There, we could see the two separating border lines between Syria and Israel (or the occupied Golan if I wanna speak patriotically).

The photo on the left shows the border lines, the one of the right shows the border towns on the Syrian side.

It was a day well spent, the hikes were great, I think whoever enjoys this kind of activities, hiking or cola fishing, should go there and enjoy it. A local guy told us that the place is best visited in April, where there will be lots of water falls here and there. Talking about the water; up in the mountain, we drank so cold and fresh water from a small spring, that water was GREAT!

P.S. Click on any photo to enlarge (I know you know, just wanted to make sure)

Monday, August 08, 2005

A walk to the shrine of the lady….

The Shiites’ holiest place in Syria is Al-Sayeedeh (The lady) Zainab’s Shrine, 30 minutes drive outside the city of Damascus.

This place is visited every year by tens (or more) of thousands of Iranians, Kuwaitis, Qataris, Bahrinis, Lebanese, Saudis and many other nationalities as part of their holy pilgrimage.

I haven’t been to this area for more than 15 years, when we used to go to shop from a smuggled merchandise market that was held on the banks of the un-covered sewage tunnels! (We often did that when Madaya, the regular place where people of Damascus can get smuggled stuff from back then, was to be under siege). So, I went today after I'd heard about a lot of changes in that area! Well, I think other than covering the sewage, or maybe moving it somewhere else, nothing has changed! Pretty much the same! It reminded me of Mekka during Ramadan, so much crowded, dirty, chaotic, and unorganized!

I entered the yard of the Mosque where the shrine is held, I found so many people on the ground, some praying, some reading Quran and some just staring back at me!

When I wanted to take some photos from the inside; I found this sign that bans the use of Black cameras inside the mosque! Luckily, my camera was metal-grey, thus, the sign was not for me ;)

So, I carried my camera and stepped in, again, incense filling the air just like in the Medina and Mekka holy mosques in Saudi Arabia.

A huge shrine surrounded by people was in the middle, thousands of mirrors on the walls, pretty fancy inside decoration, people were touching the shrine for blessing, some were kissing it and some, again, were staring back at me!...I think it was the T-Shirt that attracted them!

I had enough photos, I read Al-Fateha (The first verse in the Quran) once and then decided to leave through another exit…On the way out, I found a piece of clay that, I was told, Shiites use to rest their foreheads on while kneeling during prayers, which pretty much explains the permanent “brown” spot that can be seen on their foreheads.

I left the yard through the Southern gate. It was really shocking, the difference between the inside and the outside...While one could catch the smell of the millions spent inside the mosque; I could smell the garbage scattered outside the mosque! Aspects of poverty are so obvious! I felt like moving from the Sultan’s Palace to the peasant’s cottage! At one glance up, we see a dome and a gate made out of gold, another glance down, we see this homeless lady just few meters away!



Eventually, my visit, which was mainly to get a Hezbollah flag for my boss who’s leaving Syria for good and she wants to have it as a souvenir from the region, was over and I bought a couple of yellow flags! I guess...Mission accomplished!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Two Halves….

The first half: Adaptation & Co-existence

Life is a combination of opposites. The abilities of adaptation and co-existence
are God’s best gifts to all of his creation. They make everybody live with everybody and make them able to understand and cooperate in case of differences to come up with a middle solution.

The second half: Submission

Do they like it, being together? If the stones of the building and the branches of the tree are able to speak, what would they say? What about the inhabitants of the building or the birds of the tree? Are they enjoying each other’s company!
They all submit to a superior power that told them what and who to accept, how to live, what to like and never cared about what they dislike!

Those are the two halves of our life, the full half and the empty one! Unfortunately, we, the Syrians, have been living in the empty half for ages, yet, we force ourselves to think of it as the full one!

While some may call it hope and optimism; I call it submission and weakness!

*Off the topic: The photos taken at Slenfeh; here are some more: