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!


Tolerant Damascene said...

I've never been there, but now I'm really considering to go. The architecture is AMAZING. It's so astounding.

It's a pity that the outside is so much different than the inside, but what can you do :(

Anyway, thanks for the info and the photos, Ihsan :)

Ghalia said...

Ummm, I just went there and took some pic there, but I guess it's too late now!:( anyway, great post, do u know why shiites use these pieces of clay?? I guess some1 told me cuz it is natural , man doesn't has anything to do with it, and thus it is pure....this is the main idea i guess!

no one said...

i once went to an area i don't know what they call it..but it's an iranian area...there was a mosque ..i actually wouldn't call it a mosque coz it was like one of these palaces ur read about in old novels...the walls ..the carpets ..the ceiling..the doom..everything was stunning..i hope i could go and see it one day again..

Ahmad said...

interesting blog. keep it coming.

Ghalia said...

Hey nice new look, this one is really great!

GraY FoX said...

wow wow wow... seems if we wanna start a tour one day ... we better start in our own city... it's rich with such perfect fascinating places... thanks buddy for posting such a nice thing.... no matter how those places are used now adays... but they are a symbol of unifying people for me

Amr Faham said...

you forgot to mention the most important visitors and residents:
people were also going to Setty Zainab to buy some Iraqi made cloths especially shoes, they were so cheap.
the Saiida was a small village till the beggining of the 90's, many Iraqi refugees had to flee their country and setteled in that village.
in few years the number increased to 40,000 most of them are Shiia muslims..
al Saiida and a nearby village called Hujjera now is a Shiia religous center, not only for pilgrimage, but also for teaching and charity activities. hundreds student come to hujjera and Saiida to studdy from all over the world.

Siia lay their heads on the caly thing, because there is a Fatwa that they only can lay their heads on a thing that you can not dress, so , it's not important to lay there heads on clay, for example on a paper...

GottfriedStutz said...

Interesting blog. Hats off!

I liked the "black camera" bit. In fact, even if photography is banned, I don't think that they mind it very much if you take a snapshot or two. I did that openly in the Ruqayyah Mosque six years ago after having asked a fellow who was in charge of supervising the place if he didn't mind. He just said "khood raa7tak". I offered money to thank him on the way out - he smiled and said he'd rather see me contribute to the mosque itself, so I put the change I had into the donation box.

Zaid Faham said...

haha I liked the camera's comment..walla it's a good one.

natasha said...

I can't believe you actually took pictures in there!! That takes so much guts!


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