Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Vacation - sort of

I have some terribly overdue chapters to write, so I will isolate myself for a couple of weeks to get the job done. Those who follow me regularly are to expect little update if any. Not that I was writing everyday recently. But still...

By the way, a store in Damscus claims that they have imported clothes from: Gap, Old Navy, and Banana Republic. I will surely pay a visit to the place (in Town Center) and have a nice chat with clerks and management, as I have done my research ;0)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Riyadh Girls - بنات الرياض

Few days ago, at midnight, I was very bored, no one at home and there was nothing to do or watch on TV. I suddenly remembered that I saw an ad for a book fair in Damascus citadel that stays open till 1 o’clock. So I went out of curiosity and boredom. The book fair was... fair, and the selection wasn’t huge neither interesting. But I saw that book: Riyadh Girls – بنات الرياض, and for one reason it rang a bell in my head, so I got it with another book هذيان هرّ مصاب بالاكتئاب (delirious thoughts of a depressed cat), which I didn’t like so much.

So ‘Riyadh girls’ is a book about a girl that decided to open Pandora’s Box about relationships and love life of girls in Saudi Arabia’s capital. This girl spread her stories over the web through a yahoo group called سيرة وانفضحت. Each Friday, thousands of Saudis and others wait for the new installment impatiently, and many comment back with all sorts of things.
The heroines are four girls, all best friends, and looking for a stable and fulfilling relationship, but it isn’t without hardships... especially in Saudi Arabia. The stories vary from that of arranged marriages, deception, cheating, and using كتب الكتاب for sex before marriage (then divorcing before the wedding), to perfect love that leads to nowhere, boys who can’t resist their parents ideas about the appropriate girl, girls who whine for their misfortune and others who overcome it. It also digs into mobile relationship, internet relationships, the oppression by the “do right, do no harm” police (الأمر بالمعروف والنهي عن المنكر), divorced women situation... in addition to other stories.
The flow of the story is brilliant and interesting; it binds the reader from beginning to end. In fact I read it in one session.
The book, I believe, tries to highlight the difficulties in attaining a healthy and proper relationship in Saudi Arabia due to the restrictions by law, religion and its enforcement, government, extra-conservative parents, and the society. It shows how most men are animals who would do anything to get into a girl’s pants then marry some girl who is virgin and picked by parents (but again, aren’t most Arab men like that??). It also shows how women are oppressed and confined to the walls of everything mentioned above, while the only freedom they can get is gotten under the table.

The book is a good read, I recommend it to everyone. But there is only one thing difficult about the book, at least for me, and it is the Saudi dialect (all conversations are in spoken dialect). The letter ق stands for ‘g’ as in get.
Final note, I don’t know whether these were true stories, or whether the group email was for real, I got the feeling that they are. But regardless, the stories definitely had a basis. I also don’t know whether the book is banned in Saudi Arabia, and I would be grateful if someone knows.

Beit Al-Agha بيت الآغا

Few days ago, I went with my parents and Brother's wife to Safita. As usual, there was a stop in Homs where we had lunch in Beit Al Agha. An old Arabic style house with a huge yard and a unique design that is not very much seen in Damascus: the use of black stones, basiltic stones.

The place is very nice from inside, and contrary to the name, it seems that no Aghas have dwelt here before.

كمان أخبار الشباب

االبارحة وبعد غياب طويل،و انقطاع عن رؤية الأصدقاء القدامى، التقيت بالصدفة بخلدون نعمان. وهو على حد علمي الوحيد الذي نجح بالفحص الفرنسي من دفعتنا وذهب للدراسة من البدء في فرنسا دون بعث من الدولة. حالياً هو قد أنهى اختصاصه في الأمراض الصدرية ويعمل منذ 3 سنين في مدينة جانب لورد.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

For This...

Is the title of the movie, or the short documentary rather, that was played today in Cham movie theater in a special display.
I arrived an hour later, I got the message wrong, and found no one but the executive producer Dr. Fayez Sandouq فايز صندوق who is a well known GI doctor. At first I thought: oh, I am the only one attending, everyone else is busy!!! That proved to be wrong. The theater was full an hour and a half later when the actual show started. The event was covered by few media companies that took footage of most of the movie.
The movie produced by Dr. Fayez and Directed by a French director, Christian Belle (or as he likes to call himself in Arabic عيسى أبو الهدى), was focusing on interviews with Lebanese, media personnel, artists, foreigners... about the facts and consequences of the isreali war on Lebanon. Between the interviews were documentary style commentaries. The movie was in Arabic, but French and English versions of it also exist, with Hebrew and Spanish versions to be produced later.
The director’s intention is to present the picture to the West in a language that they understand, or a visual language that they understand. There were some touching moments in the movie of course, and moments that provoked applause. I am not sure how are they going to publicize it outside the Arab world, but I am sure they already thought of that.

During my wait to see the documentary, I bought a book by George Orwell, “the animal farm” another clever installment in addition to the famous “1984”. The short novel is a must read for everyone. Although it was seen by some as a critique to the Stalin rule in USSR, but it holds true to every nowadays country. You have no difficulty associating aspects of the story with some countries (the same with 1984).
It just shows how Orwell had a brilliant understanding of the human nature and psyche when it comes to power and ruling etc... I wonder whether he really knew what is there in the future, and if he didn’t, then the future must have been easily predictable to him.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Blogspot Forbidden??

My friend told me that she has been unable to access my blog from Syria of course. As I don't consider myself too dangerous to be blocked personally, I checked the websites. And it seems that anything on blogspot is at least temporarily forbidden from Syrian access. But that doesn't mean we can't write...
Until when our (un)intelligence office will cease acting like children? I think this is enough.
On a second thought, I don't really get annoyed as long as I can post. The reason is I originally inteneded to write to my friends who are outside Syria. And I highly doubt they are going to do the same.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Yesterday I went with my fiancee, my cousin, and a friend to a restaurant called: Opaline, in Midhat Basha. I don't have photos of the place, but it is a very nice one. Of course, an old Damascene house made into restaurant. The Decor inside is very nice, but it doesn't have the popular vibe, it is more elite.
There I saw a leaflet stand (the first I see here) filled with ads concerning clothing stores and business companies... and this (to my suprise). The name rang a bell in my head but it wasn't until I opened it, and yes, it was what I expected.. condoms ad...
Mind you I don't have anything against this kind of stuff. I am used to seeing it in night clubs restrooms (with a dispenser, alas the only dispenser I found in Syria so far is a cigarette one in Steed), but I haven't seen it yet in public. It is good to have some public awareness of the issues, especially that rumors has it that premarital sex is not an uncommon phenomenon in our society here (all classes, religions, sects...) especially the teenagers. But these are not my words, I am just a passive receiver, and unless I see or hear from number one sources, I will remain loyal to St. Thomas.
And here is all the kinds that are available (to be honest, I haven't seen half these in USA) including flavored condoms (I wonder if there a gin and tonic flavored condom!).

عمارة يعقوبيان... الكتاب – الفلم

خلال الخمسة أيام الماضية، كان أهلي خارج القطر. مما يعني أني كنت ملك القلعة، ويعني أيضاً أنني ارتحت من الأخبار والاكتئاب الذي تحدثه. أعطاني ذلك مزيداً من الوقت لأقرأ، ومما قرأت كان عمارة يعقوبيان.
لا بد أن الجميع يعرف بأمر هذه القصة، على الأقل عنوانها، إذ أن الفلم الذي أنتج عنها ضم أسماء كبيرة في الوسط الفني المصري كما أنه يقال أنه سوف يرشح لأوسكار أفضل فلم أجنبي.
القصة أخذت شعبيتها، أعتقد، لأنها تسلط الضوء على مفاسد الثالوث المحرم عند العرب: الجنس، الدين، والسياسة. تدور أحداث القصة حول سكان عمارة يعقوبيان وتفاصيل حياتهم. ويستعرض في سياق ذلك كافة أنواع القصص التي تحدث خلف الكواليس مما يخطر ولا يخطر على بال. فهناك الدون جوان وأخته التي لا تمت تصرفاتها لقرابة الدم بصلة. وصاحب محل ألبسة يستمتع بالاستمناء على موظفاته في مخزن المحل (لقاء تعرفة طبعاً). وهناك مثليي الجنس (بالأصالة وبالحداثة). كما يوجد شيخ تاجر للمخدرات، مزواج، فاسد متورط مع الدولة وأوساخها. لدينا ابن ناطور العمارة ومشاكله مع كلية الشرطة، وتعذيب الشرطة، يتحول إلى إخونجي لا هم له سوى الانتقام. يوجد أخان قبطيان نصابان ديوثا الأخلاق على الأقل. وهناك الفتيات المغلوب على أمرهن واللواتي يبدو أن لا وظيفة لهن سوى استثارة شبق الرجال وإشباع متعهن... إلخ من الشخصيات.
لا توجد نهاية سعيدة، أفضل الحلول بأحسن الأحوال هو الوسط. لا توجد شخصية مثلى ولا بطل واحد. الأشخاص أقرب ما يكونون إلى الحقيقة: غير كاملين.
لكن برغم قوة وخطورة الموضوعات المطروحة، إلا أن طرحها الأدبي لم يعجبني (وعلى الرغم من أن معظم من يعرفني يدرك أني لا أطيق الفنون أو اللهجة المصرية، إلا أن رأيي هذا محايد). كاتب القصة طبيب أسنان بالأصل، وقد نال شهرة لا شك بعد هذا الكتاب، إذ طبع منه 9 مرات حتى الآن. لكن القصة أدبياً لا ترقى لنفس المستوى التجاري. الخلط بين العامية والفصحى في الأحاديث مثلاً ليس طيب المذاق. كما أن قراءة الكتاب عسيرة أحياناً، فشتان ما بين الآلة التي طبعت هذا الكتاب والآلات التي تطبعها في سوريا. أنا متأكد أنهم يستخدمون الطريقة نفسها منذ 15 سنة حتى الآن، ولن أستغرب إن كان ذلك على الآلة الكاتبة. نصف الحروف ممحية، على الأغلب أن لا أحد كلف نفسه عناء تنضيد النص ألكترونياً. وفضلاً عن كل ذلك، هل يوجد من يعلم قواعد الإملاء في مصر بشكل خاطئ لا يريد أحد أن يصلحه؟؟؟ مثلاً شؤون تكتب شئون، وكلمة رؤوس تكتب رءوس!!! وأيضاً، لا توجد علامات تنقيط في النص سوى الفاصلة!! هل يعقل هذا؟؟ فقرات بكاملها لا تفصل بين جملة سوى فاصلات، هذا إن وجدت أصلاً... لا لا لا، هذا عيب.
أما بالنسبة للفلم، فهو مقتبس بشكل جيد عن الكتاب، قد تتغير بعض التفاصيل، لكن النهايات واحدة. والفلم طويل، أكثر من ثلاث ساعات. وهو كما قيل سيرشح للأوسكار. وأستغرب، لماذا يكون هذا الفلم هو من يمثل مصر؟ وبغض النظر عن مستواه، سيكون إن ربح مثار فضول بعض المشاهدين، وسيكون ربما الفلم المصري الوحيد الذي يراه أجنبي. ويطيب لي أن أتخيل موقفهم وماهية الفكرة التي سيأخذونها عن ذلك البلد. هل الفساد السياسي والأخلاقي والديني هو كل ما يجري هناك، ربما يكون ذلك هو الحال، لكن لا أدري...