Friday, April 28, 2006

Libya's heritage: fears and frustration

Today's article in the BBC deals with an important topic for me:

"Libya is home to some of the world's best preserved archaeological sites,
showcasing tales of Roman, Byzantine, and Greek civilisations [...]This
historical wealth is Libya's main tourist attraction, but that wealth is
increasingly under threat from looters. [...]Officially, 90 historical pieces
like pottery vessels and statues have been stolen since 1988.

I think it is more than that , because history is in your face in Libya and I personally saw many of my expatriate friends just buying the stuff and taking it home.

"In reality, the figure is much higher, as most items are stolen from
unauthorised excavation sites and even sites uncovered during seismic surveys in
the desert by oil companies. "

That is 100% correct !

Another reason is poor distribution of the available funds , but also heavy bureaucracy check what

"Chairman of the department of archaeology Guima Anag says [...]If you are
paying a guard just over $2 a day to guard pieces that can be valued at up to
hundreds of thousands of dollars in the black market, he could easily be
distracted from his duties by small amounts of money."

Of course there is also the Egyptian connection . Well it's a game of blaming the other , while we should only blame ourselves .Check the rest of the article here .

This article reminded me of an ongoing discussion on Khadijateri's blog which was highlighting the role of preserving our historical monuments on a visit to the Saraya . Blogger Youcef made an interesting input:

"I have been privileged enough to meet some Libyan people dedicated to this
purpose- maintaining as much as possible Libyan historic sites- and you'll be
surprised of how great those people are! One of them has even discovered some
sites by himself and took the cases of another sites to the courts and yes, He
won! and did really stopped the destructing of some sites. We went on a tour and
he showed me those sites and all the stories and fights he had to go through to
achieve the great goals he set for himself; Maintaining as much as possible of
the Libyan historic sites!It's not an easy task, it sure worth trying, and at
the end of the day it's way much better than the famous complaining of the
Libyans. We gotta act some dayة It's our history and we are part of the crime if
insisted on complaining about what the government should/shouldn't do for
ever! "

Last year I went on a walk of the old city and to my surprise stumbled by chance on a synagogue...yes in Libya !

Let's not forget that Libya is home to not less than 5 UNESCO registered world heritage sites. Which I'm ashamed to say I only learnt about last year. I only knew about one before.

Thanks to all those who are keeping our heritage alive !
Did you know ?

I always get these... so instead of spamming my friends I'll just blog them ..

* Coca-Cola was originally green .
* The most common name in the world is Mohammed .
* The name of all the continents end with the same letter that they start with.
* The strongest muscle in the body is the tongue .
* There are two credit cards for every person in the United States.
* TYPEWRITER is the longest word that can be made using the letters only on one row of the keyboard.
* Women blink nearly twice as much as men!!
* You can't kill yourself by holding your breath.
* It is impossible to lick your elbow. => are you sure ?
* People say "Bless you" when you sneeze because when you sneeze, your heart stops for a millisecond.
* It is physically impossible for pigs to look up into the sky.
* If you sneeze too hard, you can fracture a rib. If you try to suppress a sneeze, you can rupture a blood vessel in your head or neck and die.
* Each king in a deck of playing cards represents great king
from history.Spades - King David Clubs - Alexander the Great Hearts -
Charlemagne Diamonds - Julius Caesar .
* 111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321
* If a statue of a person in the park on a horse has both front legs in the air, the person died in battle. If the horse has one front leg in the air, the person died as a result of wounds received in battle. If the horse has all four legs on the ground, the person died of natural causes. => who invented this code ?
* What do bullet proof vests, fire escapes, windshield wipers and laser printers all have in common? Ans. - All invented by women .
* Question - This is the only food that doesn't spoil. What is this? Ans. - Honey
* A crocodile cannot stick its tongue out. => thank God !
* A snail can sleep for three years .
* All polar bears are left handed.
* American Airlines saved $40,000 in 1987 by eliminating one olive from each salad served in first-class.
* Butterflies taste with their feet.
* Elephants are the only animals that can't jump. => imagine if they could
* In the last 4000 years, no new animals have been domesticated.
* On average, people fear spiders more than they do death.
* Shakespeare invented the word 'assassination' and 'bump'.
* Stewardesses is the longest word typed with only the left hand.
* The ant always falls over on its right side when intoxicated.
* The electric chair was invented by a dentist.
* The human heart creates enough pressure when it pumps out to the body to squirt blood 30 feet.
* Rats multiply so quickly that in 18 months, two rats could have over million descendants.
* Wearing headphones for just an hour will increase the bacteria in your ear by 700 times.
* The cigarette lighter was invented before the match.
* Most lipstick contains fish scales.
* Like fingerprints, everyone's tongue print is different. => ;)

If you know anymore please add them in the comment section

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Falafel, crepes, creme caramel, and Syrian food

There are a few actions which have become traditions when I visit Syria ( apart from buying Arabic books ) and those are, eating falafel , a crepe , creme caramel at least once. As for Syrian food it is gorgeous. I had all the dishes shown in these recipes and more . I think I have put on 5 kgs especially in Aleppo.

So today I hit two stones in one day , how ? well I met up a good friend of mine who was in Tunis on my recent trip there. It was fun reminiscing about those great moments with the rest of our business partners. We had a capuccino at Algora cafe in Shaalan with its retro decor and a creme caramel - which I crave once a year. The conversation was very stimulating . I felt like another portion but was embarassed to look like a 'pig' stuffing myself.
Then in the evening I went out with my best friend to the fashionable 'La Noisette' restaurant-cafe and we had crepe ( that's pancake) with chocolates and nuts ( very fattening) and French chips - yep in that order. This is the best remedy for a heart to heart girl talk. I've seen the waiters give us a few shocked glances and 'raised' eyebrows ..they must have overhead us . I think this comfort food was useful to lift my mood.

Between those too sinful eating marathons Twosret phoned and we had a blast of a time. If you're reading this Twos here is a big hug coming your way. Also Sandmonkey I got your message and you can phone anytime if you wish- thanks.

Now the falafel day was yesterday : 6 girls , buying falafel - freshly made and salads and eating the whole banquet with tea ( green and black). I still can't believe I had seven pieces and two whole pitta breads - yummy that felt good .

I need to have one 'real' shawarma before going home but that's another story.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Aleppo & the Syrian blogosphere

Just returned from my Aleppo trip, and am currently in Damascus ( for those who emailed and asked about me - my favourite internet cafe there had moved and the one I went to was banning Blogger).

It seems like Aleppo has been elected on 18th March 2006 as the Capital of Islamic Culture.

"In accordance with a resolution of the Islamic Conference Organization,
Aleppo was selected to be the capital of Islamic Culture 1427 H. 2006

The city is obviously proud of this recognition and it was noticeable in the logo ( seen on the left side in this post) stamped on the shop doors and the many posters competing with those of the Head of State and the commercial ads..
Aleppo has been holding since then and plans to hold till the end of 2006 many events to celebrate this nomination, I would say they deserve it ( even though I personally prefer Damascus) …
Examples of activities :

"-Eight scientific international Symposia along the year 2006.
-150 lectures distributed among the platforms of the city and the University.
-Printing more the 100 books about Aleppo and the situation.
-Renovating, rehabilitating and operating number of historical buildings to be used in the celebrations (20) buildings.
-Organizing exhibition for plastic art, photography, manuscripts, documents, costumes, traditional industries, foods and huge fair for books.
-An intensive media activity through:
§ Issuing a magazine specialized of this situation.
§ Daily broadcast programme along the year.
§ Daily T.V. programme to cover the activities directly.
§ Booklets, brochures and articles in newspapers and magazines
public relations activity:
§ Armors, medals, souvenirs, gifts and Appreciation Certificates.
§ Visiting the historical and tourist places.
-Artistic activity through making concerts, performing plays and films presentations in addition to the huge inauguration party on 18/3/2006.
-Competitions for Koran and tradition, memorizers. "
I went to Saad Allah Jabri Square where a huge metal frame balloon is erected like a concert stand and where there are daily fireworks and games at the nearby fair.
This is not my first visit to Aleppo so if you wish to know more about my experiences there click here :) .

Since I’m still in Syria it is logical to try and read the Syrian blogosphere… My initial intention was to get in touch with the bloggers, but I changed my mind after my recent ordeal, I don’t really have all my wits about me and I’ll be a very bad and boring guest. So my regular visits will be to their blogs instead. I hope you would follow me there . Let’s find out a little bit more about Syria through the eyes of some Syrians ...

At the Syrian News Wire, Sarouja gives us his daily analysis beyond politics , vital bits and pieces which are sometimes 'dropped' from the mainstream media. The guy is objective and clear headed both in his handling of Lebanon ( he spends half his time there) and Syria. For example we learn that Palestinian refugees are to come to Syria from Iraq ( as Jordan will not allow them to settle in Jordan ). Also that "UN investigator Serge Brammertz is in Damascus to interview President Bashar Al-Assad.It comes one day after Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora announced that Bashar had personally threatened Rafiq Al-Hariri, but revealed that he wasn't in the room when it happened."

Amarji is a self described heretic , check his thoughts here . Hassan telling us about ADSL in Syria . Soraya who is 'Syrian to the bone' ( oh and she got lovely eyes too check her blogger photo). Nisrin who's being philosophical " just found out yesterday that the sometimes weirdness can create the worst kind of fear, undefined....imagine me, laying in bed, thinking about the not so far fututre, unless less than 6 months is far.about if i'm ever forced into anything, i'd have to become financially independent.iu almost stopped breathing.i mean come on, i'm not even a graduate yet, i'd have to pay rent, bills, house thingies, and me thingies....ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh". Niklas a student and his views on wine production in Syria, I cannot corroborate his opinion because I don't drink but someone may be able to tell us if this is true or not "Syria pretends to produce something it likes to call wine (from now on referred to as "wine"). No one else in the world would ever label it that but they do. The quality of it is so bad that it's not even fitting to use it for carpet miscoloring". ODM or one disobedient Mofo as he calls himself is really a fast paced sarcastic guy , a Syrian Sandmonkey of sorts , here is a sample read the rest on his blog "I doubt the cedibility of everybody but I was looking forward for change in Syria. What the fuck happened?". Damascene and her conclusion on the Danish cartoons " knowing each other is UNDERSTANDING, understanding means ACCEPTING each other"; check also what she says about residence visas for Iraqis in Syria. Ayman who is a resident neurologist in the US since last year but likes politics he says "it takes no more than a mouse click for a Muslim to discover that not all Westerners are hateful racists and for a Westerner to discover that not all Muslims are blind violent mobs". Read the Syrian blogosphere condemnation of the demonstrations, 'not in our name' and the events that happened after the Danish Cartoons.

I also learnt that the red Armageddon type of sandstorm that hit Libya in February, reached Syria in April ...check photos here (I know nothing about meteoroligy but it looks just the same to me no ?).

So there is no shortage of information if we really wish to know about another country and culture, the Syrian blogosphere is rich and multilingual.

I'm currently compiling a few more posts about my recent experience in Syria before moving to Jordan again next week. Hope you will enjoy it, and let me know what you think of the above , blogs and all .
Comments and catching up with news

I'm reading your comments and replying to all. So if you were waiting for one you will find it in the corresponding post ..Also since I've been incommunicado from news and emails for a while I'm still recovering from the shocking news of the Dahab blasts and the Alexandria sectarian violence in Egypt among other news.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Power of prayer

Although this recent study seems to point out that prayer does not affect a person's recovery, I beg to differ. When you humbly, sincerely ask something from God he most certainly hears you and responds. Of course you have to know what to ask...

A week ago Highlander asked you all to pray for her , today I wish to thank you, your prayers performed a little miracle. Thanks to all those who emailed or phoned me. Special thanks to AlanK, Khadijateri, A.Adam, 7mada, Gatorbait, Redenclave, Winston, Adam , Libyan warrior, Hamed, NBA, Leilouta, Mohamed, Hale, Programmer_Craig and Trabilisia, and Twosret, especially that some of them are first time commenters.

It is these moments in time which separate true friends from passerbys, some surprised me others disapointed me. Last Sunday was the worst in my life, a routine check up turned a vacation trip into a tragedy, which was thankfully averted by the wonderful team of doctors in Amman -Jordan where I was for the last week. My heart was shattered when my mother asked us to pray for her and specifically requested from other family members to do it. I guess our mutual prayers (you and my family) did work . Thank God, thank you all you were great and God bless.

Highlander is back but still tired, blogging will be erratic...

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Highlander needs your prayers

I have half an hour to spare and decided to update you guys a little ... So yes I'm travelling and no I can't post much about my adventures in Syria and Jordan because of a family emergency ( for those who know pls do not discuss it in the comment section thank you ). So if you are atheist , Muslim, Budhist, Christian, Jewish , Zoroastrian or any other religion , pls remember me in your prayers I will need each and everyone . Until then Highlander will sign off .

Thank you for your patience.
Happy Easter

Many people accross the world are celebrating Easter Sunday today . So I would like to wish all my readers and my friends whom I have not been able to email (and they know why ) a Blessed Easter .

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The 15th of April ( Eldorado Canyon)

It seems that this date has become a permanent fixture on my blog ...see what I wrote about the US bombing last year and you will know why . ..

Anyway this year is a bit different than the preceding ones, why ? well Libya has decided to commemorate this event differently ..with a concert featuring Lionel Richie ...Talk about reaching out eh ? Well I do love the guy ... and as usual I'm missing all the fun in Libya because I'm in the Middle East ...aaah ..well next time .

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Internet Addiction

My mother who has lost hope of marrying me off to some nice guy and my friends and family, suspect I have a hopeless case of internetus addictimus.

See following symptoms from Wikipedia :

"-A need for markedly increased amounts of time on Internet to achieve satisfaction.
-Markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of time on Internet.
Withdrawal, as manifested by either A or B below:
(A) the characteristic withdrawal syndrome, 1, 2 and 3 below
Cessation of (or reduction) in Internet use that has been heavy and prolonged.
Two (or more) of the following, developing within several days to a month after Criterion:
(a) psychomotor agitation
(b) anxiety
(c) obsessive thinking about what is happening on the Internet
(d) fantasies or dreams about the Internet
(e) voluntary or involuntary typing movements of the fingers
The symptoms in Criterion 2 cause distress or impairment in social, occupational or another important area of functioning
(B) Use of Internet or a similar on-line service is engaged in to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Internet is often accessed more often or for longer periods of time than was intended.
There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control Internet use.
A great deal of time is spent in activities related to Internet use (for example, buying Internet books, trying out new WWW browsers, researching Internet vendors, organizing files of downloaded materials).
Important family, social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced in duration and/or frequency because of Internet use.
Internet use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical, family, social, occupational, or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by Internet use (for example, sleep deprivation, marital difficulties, lateness for early morning appointments, neglect of occupational duties, or feelings of abandonment in significant others)."

Mum blames the internet and computer technology for me being single, and even if this is solved , she thinks I'll end up this (below) way .....would that not be boring ?

Are you an internet addict ? check it out here . I think I'm a hopeless case ;)

Monday, April 10, 2006

Travelling to the Middle East

Dear All,

I'm off to Syria and Jordan ( perhaps Egypt too ) . So if anyone wishes to meet up there please drop me an email with your phone number and I will call you.
I will try to blog from those countries as often as possible (I'm officially on vacation right ? ) and provided President Bush does not decide to nuke Iran, or use those 'bunker busters' - whatever, as I'm sure this would escalate the security situation.

Also I realise I still have not posted my Tunisia trip account, well I'll write it up on the plane how's that for a promise ?

Please do not desert the blog , keep the other threads running, I'm reading you and replying as quickly as I can....
The Mawled ( Prophet Muhammad's Birthday)

Today coincides in the Islamic Calendar with the birth of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), generally Libyans do not celebrate birthdays although the trend has caughtup with us in the last decade especially children and teenagers and so 'fashionistas'. The Prophet however is remembered in the Muslim world in various ways.

"There is a difference of opinion about whether the Milad Un-Nabi should be a
time of celebration."

Some like in Saudi Arabia prohibit the celebration of his birthday and others make a great show of it. Here in Libya it is an official holiday - so yay we have the day off.

In my parents time it used to be celebrated by lighting candles and prayers. Families would gather and pray in union. Candles in Libya are decorated and called the 'gindil' ( literally the candle). Today and as far as I can recall, people have added other traditions to this simple Milud festivity. Firecrackers and fireworks which kids and youth enjoy , candles given to children and tambourines.

Darbuka or tambourine

Decorated Gindil & firecrackers

I do not know where the tambourine came from ( so if someone knows please tell us ) but I assume it is to convey joy with the music at the Prophet's arrival.

Recent additions are - I was surprised to see :Christmas trees !

Fireworks are a big thing here in Libya, something like the 4th of July in the US but minus the organisation and safety , unfortunately we have too many accidents because of this and children end up in hospital.

Anyway I'm hoping all will go well this year, and wishing you all a Happy Mawled Nabawy Sharif ( or Milud). I've been to the market yesterday and took the few photos of the stalls which you have been looking at and which were doing great business with 'Milud' things . Enjoy another 'gindil':)

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Outstanding Libyan women: brain and beauty

Blogger Hanu was recently featured in the Mideast Connect online magazine ( hattip Suliman) because of her work as Managing Director of the Tibra Foundation whose aim is "to organize community-sponsored supportive projects to benefit women of the Libyan community and highlight their achievements." One of the main achievements of Tibra is the "Tibra Awards [..] an annual program that highlights the success of Libyan young women, and through which the Libyan community recognizes excellence and achievement in these young women.
The Tibra Awards project is completely funded by donations and conributions from members and friends of the Libyan community" .

Please go to the Tibra website and make a donation, you will be sponsoring your Libyan fellow-women .

What I enjoyed most was reading about these talented women , below are two examples only you will have to go to the site and click on all the brainy beautiful Libyan women there, you would be astonished :) I can promise that - guaranteed to erase a few stereotypes .. ...

Here is Nisma's statement...
"As a little girl, I didn’t understand why I was the only one who didn’t celebrate Christmas, why I was the only one easting weird spicy food at lunch time, rather than the usual peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I couldn’t understand why my name was the one that teachers always mispronounced when taking attendance. There was a time when I tried to hide being different, to just fit in and be “normal.” Now, as a young woman, I embrace my diversity, and couldn’t imagine who I would be if I didn’t have my culture or religion to give me guidance."

and Olaa's statement...
"My body tingled as I imagined the might of God. I was able to feel a bond of love and trust between my soul and my creator. Flowers of calmness and comfort bloomed in my heart as birds of depression flew away; I have never felt so secure and protected. I then realized that no matter how much injustice and cruelty will spread in this world, God will always appear in the light of righteousness and defeat the darkness of wickedness and evil with His enormous power and mercy. Such lessons are things that can never be learned in books, only through experience and observation, so they are the most valuable and the most precious lessons we will ever learn in our life. "

To find out more , please click on the 'Spotlight' and the 'Awards' features I promise you will not regret it....

One more thing , Hanu is a prime candidate to figure among these special Libyan women.

I would personally nominate Smokey, Dunia, Nura and Hibo , but also Khadijateri for having proven herself more Libyan than any Libyan women I know :). Bravo ladies ! you rock ...
More about the solar eclipse...

Under the heading of Highlights on the website of the US Liaison Office in Libya ( aka embassy), I found this interesting piece of news which I copy pasted because it was on the front page with no specified link (see photo also, courtesy of USLO website).

"Fred Espenak, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, spoke to an overflowing audience at the Tripoli Planetarium on Friday, March 24 on total solar eclipses. His presentation, featuring stunning film of the almost twenty previous solar eclipses he has witnessed, was enthusiastically received by an overflowing audience eager to hear about the nature of eclipses. Mr. Espenak, known throughout the world as Mr. Eclipse due to his unparalleled expertise on the subject, highlighted that Libya offers the optimum viewing location for the upcoming total solar eclipse on March 29, 2006, particularly from the two sites of Jalu and Waw an Namous. "

"Ten scientists and television personnel from NASA have arrived in Libya and will be conducting joint scientific activities with their Libyan counterparts in Waw an Namous. On the 25th of March the scientists presented lectures on Solar Weather and met with professors and students at Al Fateh University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering. On March 26 they will be meeting with Libyan scientists at the Center for Remote Sensing and Space Exploration before heading down to the desert to view the eclipse."

Of course I'm back from Tunis, will post about the trip with some photos soon...