Syria: Destination Homs

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, we used to go on a summer trip to Syria for a week or ten days every year.

The trip was always fun. It involved more than one family, each in their own family vehicle. Most of the time my grandparents would also come along in their car. The grand children would take turns to ride with Teta and Jiddo. Although the driving and the arguments were not always fun, it is certainly a privilege to ride with teta. Let alone the fact that you get an automatic window seat.  In our family car, or any other family car, window seats were either reserved for the eldest two children, or rotated on a time basis.

The trip would usually start in Ghazzeh, which is close to the border point at Al Masnaa. Most of the time, we’d enter Syria from that border point closest to Damascus and then drive towards Dummar, where we would take our first break.  But sometimes, we’d choose to drive inside Lebanon up north to Baalbeck and then Al Qa’a, where the Lebanese and Syrian Borders meet closer to the city of Homs.

Today, I saw and shared a photo of what used to be the city of Homs: Post

I couldn’t not help feeling guilty.

Homs was never my favorite city to stop at in Syria. The stop in Homs usually involved a visit to the Souk and a stop at Masjid Khalid Ibn Al Walid.  The Souk used to be very crowded and had a lot of poultry -or at least that left a major impression on me: the smell of chicken and the “bak-bak-bakeeeeek” of the chicken.  But my grandparents used to love that souk. They always made sure to stop by.  As for the Masjid, it was a majestic place indeed: A big mosque with a lot of space outside for families to relax, picnic, and buy candy and “soos” or tamarind drink for the kids.

We used to arrive to the masjid in dire need for the restroom after a long drive. That restroom always had someone asking for a “Lira”/ a donation.  It certainly didn’t make us very comfortable at 14 & 15 years old to have to pay money to do the business!

During the earlier years of our adventures to Syria, we used to lodge at a very old hotel called “Al Zaafaran” (Saffron) in Homs.  That place was really closer to a castle than anything else. The rooms were huge, the ceilings were high like in old Arabic Houses, and the tiles were certainly a blast from the past -to say the least.  The beds at Al Zaafaran were huge for a single child so each two kids used to share one bed -either “Ras Danab” (Head/Tail) or side by side. More often than not, we used to read stories on those beds.  I don’t know how long did that hotel survive afterwards. Bombs or no bombs, it was definitely bound to collapse.  Needless to say; when we were kids, we didn’t like Al Zaafaran.  Whenever we heard the name, we’d express multiple degrees of disapproval.  I didn’t have any special connection to Homs either.

Today, I look at the picture of Homs and all I see is rubble. Even the masjid is in horrible shape.

The memories of the souk, the masjid, and Al Zaafaran flash by like distant images fading to black one after the other.

I look back at our innocent childish objections to stopping in Homs and I feel very guilty.  Tears escape from my eyes.

Even the smell of chicken does not deserve this destruction.

And I cannot help but wonder: Where did all the associations that care for the rights of chicken disappear?



Twice Upon a Time – 35 Hours To Go

To all my followers on this blog:

We have 35 Hours left to complete our crowd funding campaign for Twice Upon a Time, my feature documentary.

Your help to support the post production process of this film is needed. You may help us by contributing and by sharing and spreading the word about our campaign during these last hours to people who would want to see this film get made.

Thank you!

Twice Upon a Time – The Documentary

Then today I walked on the corniche Beirut…

Then today, I walked on the corniche.
Beirut Corniche. Always the same.
The smell of Ka’ek. And the smell of gasoline from motorcycles.
The sound of the waves. Boys and men screaming and fooling around merrily. The noise of the street. Kids playing on their bikes and scooters and skates.
And then a distinct sound echoed. A tune. I know that tune. It’s the tune of the ice cream van.
The ice cream van used to drive around in the neighborhoods of Beirut when we were younger. Now I am certain that there’s no use of having it even try to do that again these days. The traffic is a killer.
I turned around and took a look at the van. The same colors. Pink and white. The door is half open and you can see the marry cream machine. It had double parked on the side of the road. Maybe someone wanted to buy one or two cones.
I remembered one time back in the 80s someone bought SIX cones for us all. And suddenly these other images started coming back. The other images of the 80s. They didn’t. They tried. I was on the verge of losing it again. They wanted me to look back at the ice cream van one more time and remember the horrible scary stuff. And then feel my ear and my head ringing and my heart pounding. And then cry and stop functioning. But they failed. I didn’t look back at the pink ice cream truck.
It sang and sang, but I never gave it the second look.
I won this time. And I am glad and proud 🙂

Finally, Mubarak is DOWN and spirits are UP!…

Finally, Mubarak is DOWN and spirits are UP! No more long nights on twitter and facebook waiting for speeches full of bs. Funny is whenever I follow politics I assure myself more and more it is a totally unhealthy thing for me to do. But Egypt was an exception for many reasons that some may know and some may not.
Now we’re back in our good old Lebanon. It is old really. Not as good as it is old though.
I am still living in the body of an expat in this city, so I can love it.
My new mission is to make beautiful memories in it and erase all the memories of the 80’s.
Onward and Upward!