Monday, February 28, 2005

Tel Aviv blast

Whilst I deplore the tragic death of the nightclub revelers I can't help but think who would benefit from this latest blast. I had to read the whole article so please do so as well and see if we come to the same conclusion. If not please correct me or convince me otherwise, I am sincerely open to suggestions, because this bombing does not make sense.

Here is a sample: 'Israel has already announced it is freezing plans to hand over control of five West Bank towns to Palestinian security forces, which had been promised after the 8 February summit in Egypt. '

My armchair analysis: even though the suicide bomber was Palestinian, I would not put it past the Israelis, 2 birds for one stone, always look who gains most. They gain, by continuing to blame Syria and preparing the audience for a retaliatory air raid and by changing their mind about pulling out of West Bank which is unpopular with settlers and also they can keep saying 'oh we want peace but it's the Arabs who don't'. Sounds far fetched? No that's how dealings in the ME are - no direct line , that would be too easy.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Footsteps in the snow

I've been exposed to one of the coldest weeks in the UK this winter (which means I'm in the UK now for those who are interested), so the photo above is my contribution to this lot here. I will make the most of it as this is not a familiar site in Libya ( though it does exeptionally snow in Libya sometimes). Yippee ...signing off to go and walk in this fairytale world.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Of life in Syria

I had drafted this memo on August 25th 2004 as part of my travel series and always meant to post it , well maybe now is the right time to do so. Some news maybe outdated, but I don't feel like editing. Here I go, I look forward to your impressions.

I have found the Syrians to be resourceful people, I don’t think the US sanctions are a good idea as it does not really affect their life directly only makes it harder to purchase some very specific items and also it antagonizes the ordinary populace which cannot grasp what is it they are punished for.

For as long as I know Syria had been under some kind of sanction or the other, either self imposed or imposed by outside forces. This has thought the Syrian people to rely on themselves. You should see the cars that run in the streets ,some dating back to the 30’s..instead of being relegated to the museums they are actually functioning excellently and to this day being sold at exorbitant prices. I was happy to notice that lately car import has started to be permitted but 700 000 SL ( 1$= 50 SL) for a tiny Daewoo is just too much and unaffordable by the average employee whose basic salary is approximately 100 – 125 US$. YES believe it or not and he/she has to raise a family on that! Thank God Syria does not need to import food products otherwise people would starve.

The Syrians love life and you will see them in restaurants cafes, gardens, nightclubs, beaches, picnic areas, markets, family gatherings and everywhere in public places …
You will find all the dress styles, from the traditional clothes, the hyper western stuff or even very conservative dress….

The Syrians still like to store food supplies as in old times when there were no refrigerators; this is an annual ritual where seasonal fruits or vegetables are processed in a special manner to be kept for a long time. They make delicious jams and marmalade, homemade cheese, tomato paste, dried aubergines and wine leaves, lemon juice etc… all ready to be used when needed.

The negative part is the rampant corruption of many civil servants, I understand they do this to increase their ridiculous wages but it does not reflect well on the country image and makes way for abuses of people’s rights, although I did notice lately that there was a hotline to which you could report any officer or civil servant suspected of bribery .

As I said, Syria is very hospitable to its Arab brothers and the living proof of this is the thousands of Iraqis which have flocked to it this summer and which have actually caused a rise in the property market prices by buying and renting houses and offices there. Iraqis have become a familiar site in hundreds of public places there.

The other people who were made most welcome are the Palestinian refugees since 1948.
They first arrived and were installed in camps but these camps are nowadays actual cities and buildings and schools etc.. Palestinians in Syria have been treated just like any Syrian, they go to their schools, they are employed in the civil services or elsewhere and the same rules apply to them. In fact they may fare better than the Syrians because they also get special help from the UN, in education, allocation of extra food etc…They are even granted Syrian passports and ID and are allowed to own property in Syria. The only difference is that on their passport it is written Syrian- Palestinian so that their nationality is not lost forever and to guarantee their right of return if they want to the Palestinian (otherwise known as Israel) homeland either when it becomes independent or when the Israeli-Palestinians conflict is resolved. I think that this is a very fair deal because they have lived in Syria since 1948, also they are not allowed their own militias, police or arms or whatever like in Lebanon not to threaten the sovereignty of Syria. And frankly I think that is fine as well, as they should not have that in Syria - their host country- not to repeat the disastrous Lebanon situation of having a state within a state. We all remember ( I hope) how that ended and how precarious is now the Palestinian’s fate in the Lebanese refugee camps. Lebanon does not grant Palestinians the Lebanese nationality by the way!

While I was in Syria and Jordan I met some people who actually witnessed the fall of Baghdad, and the battle of the ex- Sadam airport. I hope that one day sooner rather than later many truths will see the light just like the atrocities in Abu Ghraib came out….What I would like to say is that we are not aware of the whole picture really and neither is the media, that's why the internet and blogs is so good.

The feeling of the Syrians towards the war on Iraq and its occupation? They are delighted that Saddam is gone, but like the rest of us they wish to see the back of the US army ASAP. The ordinary person is very much aware that America’s reasons were not altruistic, he/she is powerless to do anything about it at the moment, but threatening Syria( or Iran for that matter) is not a good idea either because it does not send the right message to the man on the street , it just makes it more obvious that America does not really care about bringing democracy to the Middle-East, as it states , nor about liberating the people there but only about itself and its safety and economy. This may not be what I think, but this is what it looks like to the masses. The war has brought them less safety because of the border with Iraq through which all kinds of persona non-grata are smuggled, in addition to unwanted goods and which the supposedly American occupying forces who were manning it during the war and after it couldn’t care less what was going on. I’m sorry to shock you people but some of your soldiers and officers took as low as 20$ bills to look the other way. I don’t really blame them, they have to survive in hostile territory so why even care about a country or people which are not their own. Plus many of these people are not so well off that’s why they signed up for the army didn’t they? So honestly I don’t have a grudge towards them, this is war. In fact I would like to thank whatever patrol was there in the winter of 2003 and who was compassionate enough to give a bag of ice to be used to lower the temperature of a baby who has a special place in my heart stranded in the Iraqi-Syrian no-man’s land. Thank you guys, you probably saved his life!

When I arrived in Syria it was end of school time. One thing I noticed was that the school uniforms had changed, from the khaki green used for girls and boys since secondary school for everybody, to grey and peacock blue suits . Blue for 7th-9th grade, and grey 10-12th grade. The going joke was that the state had a surplus of this material in it’s textile factories and wanted to sell it, but the true reason ( the going local rumour ) was that when Colin Powell visited Syria in 2003 he made a remark to the effect that 'was all the population of Syrian youths in the army?', to which he got the reply that 'no the school uniforms where standard khaki military green'. Immediately after his visit all the school uniforms were changed. Though this may not be true and I think it is hilarious but this is the attitude I hate, the servility WHY? Who cares ? America will not bomb the Syrians just because the schoolchildren wear combat greens would it ? I mean all teenagers around the world love to wear surplus army clothes, camouflage trousers and skirts and T-Shirts and they think its super fashionable. Needless to say that this change has added a strain on the pockets of the average citizen and the students are not happy because the guys think they look sissy and the girls like the gas cylinders which are the exact same blue in Syria ….

Monday, February 14, 2005

Nightmare prophecy realised? I hope not

A few days ago I voiced concern at my recurrent nightmare...I was horrified this morning to wake up to the news of the massive explosion in Beirut, which injured hundreds (photos here) and killed Rafiq Hariri ( ex - PM) among others . I am just hoping this is the end of the story..Folks whenever I have this dream horrible things happen. I certainly don't want another civil war in Lebanon, nor a war in Syria because people have started to point accusatory fingers there ( see the comments here). I am very very angry at this and hope the culprits are found because I cannot see a clear reason yet for what happened today. This is not the work of your usual terrorist. I sincerely hope that the nightmare ends here. Rest in Peace Hariri and all the others who died today and have not been named , may God bring patience and healing to their families.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Rating attractiveness

Interesting I was reading this article on the BBC Men with feminine faces will be luckier in love as most women are attracted to them rather than masculine men, Liverpool University scientists say . This guy may have a point I admit.
Now my idea of a purely physical attractive man are these two specimens below. I am not talking about other factors which can influence a girl's choice like intelligence, wit, education, culture , love don't bash me ok ;) I wonder what these choices say about me? lost between the East & the West, can you notice any similarities or is it all the fault of Valentine's Day ?

Islamic mythical hero

Brad Pitt in Troy

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Charles Camilla : perfectly tuned body language ..shows they've been in love for so long. My opinion, he should never have married Diana in the firstplace.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Welcoming the Year of the Rooster AND the 1426 Hejira (Islamic Calendar)

Yesterday, I was spoiled for choice of goodies, somehow the Chinese New Year and the Islamic Calendar have coincided and we have two simultaneous causes for celebrations, so happy new year to all my Chinese friends out there and Kul Sana wa entom tayebin to all the Muslim ones and vice versa. Today is the 1st of Muharram in the Islamic calendar, the first day of the year 1426, calculated since the Prophet Mohammed emigrated to Medina. The celebration/ commemoration of Ashura (depending on where you live) will be on the 10th of Muharram, check last year's post here . I can't believe the year has gone by so fast. Hoping it heralds better news than 1425.

Muharram is the First Month of the Islamic Calendar

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

To Be Chalabi, or Not To Be

A friend emailed me a link to an article which I can only call a ' how to be another chalabi for dummies manual' just substitute the names and places et voila ( thanks ZH), great reading!

So, you're an Arab exile. You've prospered in the United States. You've got lots of influential neocon friends. And now you want to overthrow the .....
Nightmares revisited

I woke up pretty shaken this morning , my recurrent nightmare is back after almost 2 years, to the extent that I thought it had gone. Well it's taunting me back with its horrible scary head, I can taste the same fear, the smell of battleground and hear the voices of my dead or injured People ...another bloodbath in the Middle-East, this time its not Iraq, and it's not Palestine. I hope I'm wrong, especially that there has been some encouraging news of a truce to be announced between Israel and Palestine. I can't seem to find any comfort anywhere..

Friday, February 04, 2005

The results are out

Congratulations to all the winners of the Best Arab Blog Award and thanks to Haitam and Mahmood for setting it up , I discovered so many Arab blogs that I never heard about. Great work guys!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Libya plans to begin a new economic era

I got this link via Wired Temples and found it interesting.

The plans also call for relying on advice and assistance from international financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Libya hopes to place resident advisers from those institutions in the central bank,

I mean all these prospective changes seem encouraging and interesting. But I'm having one objection, why the IMF and the World Bank? I'm not an economist here but if I understand my Globalization course 101 well, then wherever these two institutions go the country falls into a debt deficit and can never catch up. I don't object at their presence as eminent consultants on investments and profit making but nothing else. I hope the governement does not make the irreversible mistake of taking anything from them. Libya has hardly any external debt to speak of so this is absolutely not the time to start any silly adventure.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Tragic accident on Tripoli highway!

Tripoli highway 31-01-05

Was flooded with emails today from friends back in Libya regarding a car accident in Tripoli. Well we are used to fatal car accident on a daily basis there ( so what's new?) but this one was more gruesome to the extent it warranted the attention of the news and all these emails...
A 25 car pile up occured yesterday on the Tripoli highway coinciding with rush hour time from the University of El-fateh. A leaking oil tanker hit a small car and all hell broke loose. An acquaintance said that at least 11 of the cars were a wrecked carbonized mass. So far the news about the fatalities are conflicting.The police sources on this Libyan website have mentioned 2 deaths and 7 severe injuries reported in hospital, but eyewitnesses and myself are contesting that . Eyewitnesses say that until last night at 19.00 hrs the death toll was 6 while 25 cars were burnt, one of them being a microbus for 25 people, usually used as cheap transport by students. In fact one of the eyewitnesses upon seeing that bus, rushed over to the university to see if his sister was safe, it turns out she had taken a 5 minutes earlier bus. Tragically a whole family who was travelling in the small car that was hit first by the tanker has been wiped out. This first car caught fire then the fire followed the trail of oil which had leaked on the highway, lit the unsuspecting other cars ablaze. The photo that I have posted is not clea, as it was probably taken by a mobile phone from a safe distance, but you can judge yourself the catastrophe. It is indeed a very sad accident not only because of the human aspect but also because in Libya the population is so small and everybody knows someone who was at least affected whether directly or indirectly by it. Another friend doctor at the central hospital in Tripoli said that ambulances from many Tripoli hospitals had been dispatched to the scene.
I'm very angry because the Tripoli 'circular' highway is literally a death trap; if even a tiny accident happens traffic will be held up for kilometres because it is sealed off in the middle and there are no side alley were help can come from swiftly. If I'm really in a hurry I don't take the highway because I'm afraid to be delayed by an accident. We Libyans are raving lunatics when it comes to driving, speed is our intoxicting agent. I admit that I've been guilty of that as well on many occasions. My father said that it was all the fault of a rubbish collection truck which kept swerving towards the oil tanker.
I was so worried that I contacted all my friends and family to check on their safety, thank God all are fine but I am so sorry for those who did not make it. May they rest in Peace.
Music band in Libya ..

It seems that a US rock band "the heavenly states' has started a short tour in Libya, well I'm not sure about how famous or good these people are because I'm more of a fan or Gun's & Roses, Metallica, AC/DC, Iron Maiden,Steve Vai etc.. , so I'd appreciate if any of the readers could give me some info .

The only western concert I ever attended in Libya was in 2003, it was a German group, and it was held at the Sabratha ruins. I still have the photos stashed somewhere so if I find them I 'll put one up in my update.

update 8/2/05

Well it seems they won't be singing there yet : " Brisbane music manager Eugene Bari has failed in his bid to bring rock 'n' roll to Libya, after a visa mix-up scuttled a tour by US indie band the Heavenly States.The Heavenly States, a Californian band, arrived in Libya on February 1 to play three concerts. The fact that the band's lyrics have a dose of rhetoric criticising US President Bush was not officially mentioned as a possible reason behind the cancellation of the the concerts. [ABC]"