Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Fortune & Misfortune!


What is in common between fortune and misfortune?


Hope? Can’t be, some hope for fancy toys, and some hope for a decent bite of food.



Dreams? Can’t be, some dream of weekend picnics and some dream of a warm shelter.


Fear? Can’t be, some fear a lousy birthday party and some fear a cold winter.


Then what is it?

It’s the laughter on their faces, the laughter that overcomes all of their fears, hunger and poverty, the laughter that can bring hope to the hearts of the elderly, the laughter that challenge the severe circumstances the life has given them, the laughter that dares the unfair world.

Oh cruel world, you can take our dreams and hopes away, but you can never take our laughter.

It is immune as it is the torch that lightens our way and the only mean of warmth we have in our cold nights.

You can take the joy of being a child, but you can never take our laughter.

It’s our path to overcome you; it is our strength to be, to exist and to fulfill. It is our way to survive and maybe become fortunate some day.

Monday, September 19, 2005

“If he falls, let go of him!”

I don’t usually write about regular hiking events since Amr of Roaming Syria is taking care of that. But this time, it is a really special hike. Special because Ghalia of Cocktail took part in it. You may wonder why it is special! Well, if you knew her, you would know that her participation in such an event is a BIG thing ;) Especially that this hike is considered one of the toughest hikes in the area!

We also had the privilege of accompanying Samer’s fiancée, Reem. Samer, by the way, is such a nice a guy that none of us had even met or known, but we feel like we know him so well after we heard a lot about him.

We started early in the morning from an area called Afra and went through the mountains towards Bloudan.

Mainly, it was up and down the mountains all the time.

We stopped for breakfast and an hour break somewhere on the way; we found a good spot with nice shade and a little spring of water.

It turned out that we were not the only ones who felt thirsty!

With a breakfast that consists of eggs, cheese, meat and noodles, always comes the tea!

After the break some people wanted to warm up by doing some sword fighting with sticks!

We resumed walking; it was wonderful scenes all the way, mountains, trees, hills and valleys.

A couple of hours later, we stopped for a second break, this time a shorter one near by an even smaller spring of water.

This time, we had to wait our turn to drink, as another group had been there before us.

The goats at that area were somehow surprised, maybe to see Ghalia with us, I may think!

We hit the road once again and the hike was getting harder and harder and for few times, I stopped and felt really helpless, I wasn’t in the best fit for such a hard walk, I had been on medications for few days and my body was exhausted, yet I wanted to go on this hike in particular.

Up in these mountains, we came across lots of trees that I had never seen in my life except for the cedars, I guess, it’s not an exclusive Lebanese symbol anymore ;)

Few hours later, we finally got to see the town of Bloudan. We were glad to see it, it deserved to take a photo of us with the town view behind us.

Louma, Amr and myself

While we were descending the last mountain, the sun was descending; it had done her job for the day and lightened our path during the entire walk.

I had to slow down and witness the sunset, even though we were late and it would have been really dangerous to get dark before we get to the town! But who could resist not admiring this spectacular view!

Finally, and after a difficult descending we reached the town, despite all the tiredness we had experienced during that time, I was in full energy and feeling so active!!

It was a hike for pros, we were all glad to have done it and were even gladder that we reached a concrete ground!

While Ghalia, Reem, Louma and Reema, who had their first hike ever, did pretty well, something tells me it may be the last as well!

In case you wonder about the title, I heard it when we were descending the last steep hill, we were in a row of three, myself and one of the hiking girls was holding my backpack and another girl was holding her hand, I was in the lead. While we were struggling not to fall, the third girl told the girl in the middle: "If he falls, let go of him"! :-\ I guess they say something about trusting women on your life ;)

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Capital of the Hamdanid Dynasty

My first time to visit Aleppo, Syria's second biggest city. I had been to most of the Syrian cities and sites but Aleppo! I was pretty excited.

I went around the city by car, felt almost the same as if I was in Damascus, crowded, busy and they all voted "YES" for the president!!

I noticed that they have lots of women in the complete veil that covers the entire face more than what we have in Damascus, of course, depending on the area, but generally speaking!

More blondish than our people in Damascus, I have met few people and got the chance to talk to. Even though I had thought that I didn't like their accent, but I guess I was wrong. They can speak with a lovely accent ;)

I visited the famous Citadel of Aleppo.

I loved it. It's the center of the city, or let's say the city was built around it. It's thought that the top of the 50 meters hill, where the citadel stands, was first inhabited in the 16 century BC, however, the earliest remains found so far are Roman and Byzantine from the 9th century BC when it was known to be a temple on the site. A legend says that Abraham camped on the the hill and milked his cow over there. I never found any traces of milk or any other dairy products on the top of the hill, however.

The first fortress on the hill was built by the Sultan Saif Al-Dawla Al-Hamadani and was used as his military headquarters, the citadel was later fortified many times and occupied, on the other hand, by many (e.g. Crusaders, Mongolians, Ottomans, ) It was a prison for the Franc prince of Antioch, Renaud de Chatillon, who spent 16 years as a prisoner during the crusades.

I couldn't possibly get a photo of Renaud in prison, so I had to use one of mines;)

It's said that Tamerlaine managed to take it by filling in the moat with his fallen soldier, and he destroyed it.

The citadel had a lot throughout the history; invasions, destructions, negligence and earthquakes (the strongest of all was in 1828), yet, it has survived and stand still. Although it has been rebuilt many times, all what we can see now is based on the rebuilding that was done by Ghazi, the son of Saladin.

The seiling of the throne hall

The views from the top of it are great, we could see all of Aleppo, so we don't need to visit another places! Of course that depends on how close you wanna visit the city ;)

Me, I'm curious, so it's never enough for me! I went here and there around Aleppo, I visited the old part of it. Aleppo has the world's biggest covered Bazaar.

But to be honest, I didn't like it, I got lost in it and reached places where streets are not even padded YET!

I walked in really great alleys in the old section, so warm and so old. I took lots and lots of photos, but here are very few of my favourites.

I also went to other parts of the city, I loved the architect in there, they use stones in most of their buildings unlike Damascus. Here are a bunch of various photos of new and old buildings in Aleppo:

While I didn't get the chance to visit the Umayyad mosque in there, donno why, I guess we have a bigger one in Damascus so what to bother! I came across many churches that looked just great!

In the neighbour where these churches were (except for the first one), I was the only one who spoke Arabic...or let me rephrase it, I was the only one who didn't speak Armenian! Man, I felt stranger! however, girls there were WOW! ;)
Another thing that I really found it amazing compared to Damascus, was the roundabouts and the squares; so creative and artistic: I took some photos of some of them.

They are not very clear cuz I was too lazy to move my butt and use my tripod!

I got a good impression about Aleppo! However, I find it full of contradiction; I mean, you see fashionably dressed people and all the aspects of a modern and mixed society, but when you get into a restaurant or a coffee place, guys get seated far from the girls! Very stupid thing actually! unless boys in Aleppo bite or maybe they smell!, then it's another story! but it really makes no sense! It feels weird! We were asked to sit at the corner (the bad corner in the back!) in all the many hangout places we went to! THAT SUCKED!

Anyways, it was a good trip that will always be remembered, especially the taste of the most delicious spicy pickles in the world...YUMI!