Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Holistic medicine

A little pampering can never hurt you and can go a long way to improve your mood. Following the family ordeal in Amman, in addition to the stress of being in hospital at the same time as Abu Mazen ( aka Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian authority) who was there for a heart check at the Jordan Hospital. You should have seen the high security that day ! I decided to register for a one week facial beauty treatment at this wonderful place recommended by a friend when we went to Syria.

After all the laissez faire attitude regaining one’s joy in life is a pleasure. I enjoyed the daily sessions of deep cleansing , scrubbing , coloured masks etc.. ( OK guys don’t leave just yet it’s not girlie stuff .. be patient).

So while I was enjoying the feeling of a princess or star ;) I got to talk with the other customers, the health supervisors and the doctors . It was a lovely experience to just make pleasant conversation, no deadlines, no sickness, no responsibility.

But then I noticed that one of the doctors was not only taking care of the beauty of the face, he was dispensing advising about health and weight issues and sometimes private matters too. I noticed that the people hung on his words and that he did not seem like a cheat as his customers came back. He was doing Chakra, aura reading , magnetic field, macrobiotic food, acupuncture and all sorts of new wave holistic approaches. Seeing that some people were returning pleased with their results, the skeptic in me saw a challenge and wanted to check if he could he really deliver .

So I asked him for a diagnostic assessment. Usually I saw him spending at least 30 minutes with each patient He only spent about 10 minutes with me, I was expecting thingly feelings or any sign of supernatural powers, but non came forth.

This is the list of my ‘problems’ - according to him

1-I’m heading for high cholesterol
2-I’ m heading for a stomach hernia soon
3-I’m heading for gallstones
4-I need some more vitamins
5-My ovaries have a problem
6-and check this my libido is flat

Ok thanks Doc for the hints according to this I should head for the scrapyard and all that in 10 minutes !!!!!From 1-5 I could go have them checked I guess, but excuse me you know nothing of my libido ;) and maybe it is the total opposite ;-) . I was a bit offended as I fancied myself this sexy little thing . But then when I asked him how come my session was short he replied because I have a very well protected aura which is shielding me from his curiousity and he could not penetrate it to get detailed info. LOL so his diagnosis was all hearsay , what a relief . I have a feeling at the back of my mind that he wanted to flirt and found me too serious for his tast .....

I still let him talk me into installing some energy field metallic disks in different points of my body , a total of 8 . So I had to bear the astonished looks at the airport through the metal detector . I had to tell them I had a pace maker, too embarassed to say I was trying Ying and Yang :).

To give credit to the guy though my face was full of light a week later and though I’m used to men trying to flirt or follow me with the car or make a pass or ask for a date, but I was not used to seing ‘white’ British men kerb crawl behind me on Oxford street in Porshes and Mercedeses and Jaguars and actually say ‘hi baby’ …I thought that behaviour was reserved for Libyans ;) or maybe these were some druglords ? So it fell weird really and no my outfit has nothing to do with it : jeans , boots and a leather jacket are not exactly catwak paraphernalia .

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The one who loves me vs the one I love -UPDATED AGAIN

This month several blogger friends were dissecting the pressure they are made to feel to get married after a certain age , Nura for example was wondering if men were running out :) and in the process she says :

"Why is it that a girl can't just say NO I AM NOT INTERESTED when she is
introduced to someone she does not necessarily feel chemistry with?"

Redenclave had picked up on the topic as well and seems to be in the same dilemna as everyone is trying to set her up and bombarding her with questions, she says :

"Personally, I've had enough of playing the guessing game. It's a waste of
money & not worth the time. I may seem cold. But some guys are damn
Smokeyspice was in the same hot spot exactly a year ago , her account of what happened and her impression are pretty comical yet all absolutely true :

"In itself, reaching 28 would not be an issue...were I not ALSO Libyan,
Muslim, and unmarried. While none of these particular facts of my life have
alarmed me, they seem to be the source of much nervous tension in my

I'm sure this will in no end please my readers who were hoping for some matchmaking :) Here's your chance NBA: carpe diem .
Now this brings us to a vital question regarding marriage/partnership /concubinage ( to be politically correct with those who don't believe in it).

So you are a young woman of a certain age ( or maybe that does not matter anyway either), sooner or later one or several men will be thrown your way , whether by luck, fate, prior arrangement, accident or maybe " it's raining men". In all cases you are faced with a choice that will shape your life - what do you ? well read on to find out . But before you do check this :

* Disclaimer: it is not the intention of the author to offend the canine creatures and certainly not the male gender. OK you can proceed to the post now .

My Libyan girlfriends tell me, “Highlander, always remember to choose the man who loves you more, not the man YOU love more”!

So what’s the theory behind this sweeping statement ? Well…..According to these ladies , “ALL men are dogs”. That’s pretty tough eh ?
Like you, I was puzzled at first when I heard it but over the years and from my observations I’ve concluded that there might be a grain of truth somewhere in this theory at least in relation to Libyan guys, let me clarify .

Apparently if you demonstrate to men love and affection they will think poorly of you and in the process break your heart ; because they might play at Romeo and Juliette with you but when it is time to settle down, it is going to be with someone either their mum has chosen or some girl they imagine has not been in love before [read is not promiscuous. Because take this … . If you show your love, you become in their eyes a woman of loose morals and an easy lay. Yep the less grave situation is that men would simply take you for granted and therefore you become a doormat . Libyan men prefer chasing a woman who will keep them guessing. A woman who will not put their mind at rest and show them how much she cares. Nope they would they would rather pine for her instead of enjoying mutual feelings of love . Isn’t that sadistic and plain crazy. Why do we like to torture ourselves, what happened to plain loving each other and being proud of it ?

I don’t think this theory applies to 'all' Libyan men, and certainly not to ALL men, because I have seen a lot of happy couples. But I’m wondering what criteria to apply when it comes my turn to choose ?

(1) He loves me and will take care of me forever ‘till death do us part’ , it’s an ideal situation as he will provide me with everything…but I only feel a sense of friendship and content with him.
(2) I love him to distraction and we always have a great time together but he keeps making excuses not to tie the knot…
(3) I feel/know he loves me ( but he has not specifically said it) and I love him too but I’m holding out before blurting it because of some stupid rule which says that the man should declare his love to you first

Is it the same all over the world ? Why are the simplest emotions turned into a melodrama? What would you do? accept the one who loves you and have peace of mind but no ‘umph’ in the relationship, insist on the one you love and risk have him drop you when he wants to settle down thus wasting the best years of your life ? Or wait for the perfect match the one who will be lover, friend and brother in brief the soulmate , no matter how long it takes- and then it won’t matter who says what to whom first, because from his voice or glance you would simply know. The only disadvantage with the third choice is sometimes having to wait a lifetime. Do you want to wait a lifetime for that chance at true love ?

Side note : PS I don’t know why telling someone is a dog is considered offensive in our culture maybe because it is equivalent to saying ‘she is a bitch’..

UPDATE- according to the 2006 Libyan census it looks like 'men outnumber women 102.6 to 100' which means that - no Libyan men are not running out ...yay plenty of fish ....

Update no. 2 7/6/2006: Apparently even Soad is having wedding blues
Calling Libyan bloggers :) - NEXT WEEK ?
Do you guys want to meet next week that is first week of June ? before world cup fever ? I suggest the new flashy coffee shop in Benashur street , I'll look up the name tomorrow.

(This post will be shifted up regularly until all Libyan bloggers reply )

Hey this idea just crossed my mind, are you guys and ladies ready for a meet up ?
Write to me your thoughts about it, let's brainstorm you vote yes or no ( and why?) . If it's a yes , what do you think is a good place and time ? Of course non libyan bloggers bloggin in Libya about their Libyan experience are welcome in addition to those visiting ;).

One thing though don't do anything until I'm back in Tripoli. I'll soon be there inshallah !

Oh and our readers can tell us what they think too.
Back to Tripoli

Folks I'm back home at last, hopefully I'll get to relax for a few months this time. Britain was , but we had too much rain and it seems that their spring and summer time were getting contradictory commands to the extend that hay fever season merged into on big one. It was hilarious seeing in the shops the offers on medicine " buy one get one free" :) . I never knew I had hay fever too but it took me a few days to get acquainted with it. I'll post little bit later some more things I managed to do in England this time. By I gotta go and thing about this blogger meet up , I know some of you already met in real life , but I have not met any of the Libyan bloggers yet. Cheers - as our friends the British say.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Tunisian Adventures

You have probably forgotten about my trip to Tunisia in March? And how I was supposed to write about it. Well I’m trying to catch on writing and all I seem to be doing is getting on and off airplanes and stamping passports.

Hannibal I tried your tip, but I can't even log in or get to the 'Wordpress' interface of the Maghreblog so now I'm just going to publish it here.

I think this recent trip to Tunis was the best ever especially that it was unplanned, combining business with pleasure. My only regret was that I did not contact the Tunisian bloggers early enough to arrange a meeting. I had missed their 11th meetup which took place before I arrived and they had a meeting after I left . However, as soon as I arrived I emailed Adib , who gave me his cell phone number and we got in touch , he said that he could not make it to Tunis until the weekend because he was very busy, but that we would stay in touch. Adib was really nice and we had a good conversation on the phone, but after I found out how much my business program was filled I decided I was not going to contact anymore bloggers as I could not even agree on a certain time to meet and they had their lives right ? In addition to Adib, I would have liked to meet Subzeroblue , but also Hannibal and Leilouta if they had been in Tunis , which we know they are not. I think all Tunisian bloggers are cool .

So what have I done in Tunis ? well when I was not busy at meetings I walked in the city , and managed to take a photo of a woman traffic <=warden. (It’s good I did not cause a diplomatic incident when I took photos near the Danish Embassy I did not even know it was there).

I wanted to take the metro , and here is what I found , in 'Jerusalem' street, I came accross this Church (photo) opposite 'Africa' Square and the Station’s name nearby is guess what ? 'Palestine'. Talk about coincidence.

I wanted to go to Carrefour ( a French franchise) the hip superstore ( mall ) in town and have a look at the young people hanging around there so I was told it would be only one stop . The metro was coming and I ran to catch it. Being not used to metros in plain air but only to the London underground where I knew how to pay for my fare. I assumed wrongly that it was like a bus , you pay the conductor or some kind of staff while on board. Imagine my utter embarrassment when I find after jumping (movies style), that I was an illegal stowaway – oops . Gosh I have never felt so ashamed in my life. The passengers kept telling me it was all right, it’s only one stop don’t worry just get off at the next station. I felt like a thief and I did not even know where to pay for that ticket.

Carrefour was nice, but was more hyped than I thought, I prefer Les Berges du Lac area ( hattip Aquacool) , they have nice cafes and terraces there. You have to know that it is very expensive real estate since the US Embassy has moved there from its former address ;). I found out this when I went to inquire about the procedure for a visa application. Too complicated. Check Khadijateri’s post here.

The weather was so beautiful and warm during the day (in March) that you could see the families and the kids on outings in the park. Here are some of my shots at the park.

I love this candy

I wish I could buy this house!

I did not go to the medina this time as I had gone there last year and found it to be similar to Libya. However some of my friends invited me to the Sidi Bousaid tourist village/area and I was not disappointed as the place was real pretty. The houses were still kept in the same traditional colours with blue doors and windows . It was lovely.

Having tea with loz ( nuts) at the Sidi Chabane café perched on top of the hill was a must. Tea with nuts is not new to me as we serve it In Libya as well. But I liked it anyway.

The view from Sidi Chabane Cafe

The next day I visited the marina and I thought many Tunisians must be awfully rich as it was full of yachts.

I noticed there are lots of stray cats in Tunis which reminded me of Leilouta and her cats posts and I took these two photos in her honour. In case I have not introduced Leilouta people, now you have her link so go see her she is loads of fun !

My Tunisian friend S took us out one night to a Lebanese restaurant for dinner, and I must say though the food was a mix of Syrian, Turkish Lebanese and Tuniso/European and not strictly Lebanese it was delicious and we laughed and sang . Some people also improvised a belly dancing session next to the live musician. I must say the guy was thrilled as the girls were really cute. Oh and if you are wondering did I dance ? I won’t answer and will keep you guessing ….

All in all Tunis trip was a success.

Bonus photo :)
Dating in Tunis ....
Lunch with an Iraqi blogger

A couple of days ago I contacted my good friend Iraqispirit to catch up on his news. We decided to meet for lunch and a chit chat. Over a plate of typically British jacket potatoes we unravelled all the news since we met last time. I was pleased to see that after a hiatus of almost one year he has tentatively gotten back to blogging. Iraqispirit let's get back to the old days.. I never knew the British had tortured the Germans and other prisoner after WWII, though my first impression is still to think the worst about jailers in general.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Full diplomatic US - Libyan relations restored

Of course it had to happen while I was away from any news outlet happily shopping for lipstick and ipods and books and boots all the essentials of a what a girl needs ... We can't forget I'm a girl right? Even Highlander needs to shop from time to time , especially if I'm in London. ( Note to Nura : Selfridges was fabulous as usual !).

"The US has announced that it is renewing full diplomatic relations with
Libya after deciding to remove it from a list of states backing terrorism." (

And so while Secratary Rice was making the following lovely statement , I was oblivious to this fact and to an interesting phone call ( but that's another story ;) ).

"I am pleased to announce that the United States is restoring full
diplomatic relations with Libya. We will soon open an embassy in Tripoli."

Read the rest of her statement here.

I was not surprised really as I could see it coming. I'm not sure yet what are the implications... except that with and embassy in Tripoli, Libyan visitors to the US would not have to go through the hassle of a trip to Tunis or Malta, while US visitors can get their visas quicker now hopefully :)

To the Sandmonkey: Private

Dear SM , this is a note to tell you hamdillah 3ala salamet your dad, I have tried to phone you, and leave a comment on your blog , but this is the message that I've been getting for the last 48hrs . Any help from the techies out there ?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Readers turning bloggers and a good cause

I'm always pleased when anyone of my readers and friends takes the plunge and becomes a blogger. The latest one to do so is another of my favourite readers, non other then the immensely persuasive Maya ( yep ladies and gentlemen).

Maya's corner that's her space, so I wish to welcome her as a blogger friend from Bulgaria . Maya is passionate about many thing. Among the new causes she is involved in is that Belarussian dissident Michail Vashekevich who has been refused asylum in Bulgaria and according to her is in grave danger. So go check out his story ( especially my readers from Europe) and see if you can help her in any way. Good luck Maya !

Now if only we can persuade, NBA, Programmer_Craig and Twosret to have their blog.....

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Postcard from Britain

Ok everybody just sending you a big hello from the country of fog and rain, I just got here and the weather is surprisingly sunny today. Wanted to let you know that I have replied to your comments in all posts below so thank you. If anyone wants to meet up I'll be here in London for about a week, so just email me and I hope we can arrange something.

I still owe you the Tunis post - this is getting embarassing( please Hannibal tell me how I can post it on Maghreblog I know I have the password but I am unable to use the interface).
The post is ready, but only needs to add the photos . ...

Then you can hear about what the Chakra specialist told me...

The calling Libyan bloggers post will continue to move up ...

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Journey to Amman and back

Travelling to Amman ( Jordan ) from Damascus ( Syria ) is easy by car , that’s why if you are in Syria you should not waste the opportunity to do so ( or vice versa).The journey takes no more than 3 hrs approximately from the Baramkeh Taxi center in Damascus to the Abdali Taxi center in Amman. Then I usually take a cab to Swefiye in the 7th Circle my favourite shopping – café etc.. place or Shmessani to see my friends.The car you take from Baramkeh is a 5 seater sedan and we pay the fare of 500 Syrian Lira ( = 10 $) each. If you take the car for yourself then you pay the full fare of 2500 SL. Which is what I do , ‘cause I like my privacy , and I don’t like to wait for other passengers . Plus not all complete strangers are dark , handsome and interesting ;) some are complete creeps, heavy smokers and general *sses. This year the price was 3000 SL for the car to ourselves because fuel prices have risen twice in one week- just my luck – thanks to Iran’s nuclear standoff with America and the war in Iraq. Also if you pay the 3000 SL , you get to use the A/C .

In the last few years a new regulation has been launched for travel to and from Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. For example AM you take Syrian cars from Syria and PM you take Jordanian cars from Syria. The theory behind this schedule is that in the afternoon , the Jordanians get to go home, while in the Syrians return in the afternoon from Amman. In my opinion this has put unnecessary strain on drivers and passengers, because taxi drivers hassle you to get passengers and also because if for example I’m in a Syrian cab at the Jordanian side of the border before 3.00 PM the driver will not be let in until 3.00 PM sharp. It really is that bad. This has nothing to do with the war on terror and everything to do with the economy. This is so inconvenient, because it prevents me from the choice of which car I want to use when I go to my destination and the time suitable for me. If I go to Jordan I would rather use a Jordanian car both ways because their fleet is more modern and if I go to Lebanon I would rather use a Lebanese cab as the driver would drop me right in front of my hotel and not at the Port Taxi center., and if I return from Beirut I would prefer a Syrian cab as he would sometimes agree to put me at my final stop and not a Baramkeh. So you get the picture?

Anyway, the weather in the second week of April was quite hot in Damascus so I requested a car with A/C and I would pay the difference. The Baramkeh station master personally assigned one of his cronies to us. I gave the driver our passports for registration and asked him to switch on the A/C because the car was boiling hot in the parking while we were waiting.
Driver: ‘not now maam , the engine will overheat, will switch it on as soon as we move the car’
‘OK!’ I said , his explanation sounded reasonable , In light of how ancient this Dodge was. ‘Stop suspecting everything and everybody Highlander…’.

Oh boy I should been my usual paranoid self, because Syrian cab drivers ( not all OK some are the epitome of kindness) have lately become worse than Egyptian ones. Even a bad economy does not warrant such treatment. And so we drive out of Baramkeh and into the suburbs.

Me – assertively: ‘Please switch it one now we are no longer in traffic jams and your engine cannot overheat ..’
Driver: ‘not yet - a few you more kilometers please’
Me: ‘what do you mean not yet ? I specifically requested the A/C if you cannot deliver then please turn back. I don’t wish to wait anymore. It is stifling hot .’
Driver: ‘ sorry maam , A/C is not working yet as I need to install the “belt” at the garage just round the corner, process won’t take more than 10 mins tops.’
Me – exploding : ‘What ! you deliberately lied to us at the station?
Driver: ‘mine is the only car with A/C’ – he was lying through his teeth .
Me – getting political and angry : ‘you are providing a bad image about Syria . I will stop defending you guys to foreigners now- this is unethical please turn back.’ I can see now how my response would look stupid to this illiterate taxi driver he could not careless about Syria’s image , he only wanted my money. What was I thinking ? that I was at some party discussing academia or on some forum with bloggers ?
Mum- under her breath: ‘For God’s sake shut up with your stupidities.’
Driver: ‘please I swear only 10 minutes, and if you’re not satisfied don’t pay me’

After a quick consultation with the other passengers ( family), we decided to give him a chance. So we went to the nearby garage where the mechanic got on with his job. Half an hour later in the seething sun and the car was in no way near being ready, I doubt it had an A/C the guy was installing too much stuff, or this A/C has never been used since 1973.

Me: ‘what’s up ?’
Driver: ‘We’re just going to pop at the next door mechanic and install something else’.

By that time we became kind of subdued , I realized that the area was one huge garage, there was no public transport in site, the people looked rough . We had already wasted 2 hours and it was not fun with the sun getting hotter than ever . We should have been already at the border and were going to miss all our appointments. But when 5 mechanics were pouring under the hood I lost my (legendary) patience. Fortunately a taxi had just come to be serviced and I activated my plot. First I collected all our passports from the glove box, then ordered everybody out of the car. Then I approached the taxi to be serviced and asked him if he could take us back in town , to which he agreed. I walked to our car booth and tried to open it to take the luggage , but it was locked .
Me- to myself : Damn !
Driver- sprinting towards me incredulously : ‘what are you doing ?’
Me: ‘getting my stuff out , sorry we’re leaving , can’t wait anymore’
Driver: ‘ but but we are soon ready , I swear’
Me: ‘we no longer wish to go to Jordan, you made us miss our appointment, you have to choice either to take us back to the station or leaves us here’
Driver: ‘wait..’
Me: ‘are you going to give us our luggage or not? Shall I call the police?’
Driver- probably thinking how dare she and looking menacingly at me: ‘what?’
I can see mum darting nervous glances, this is a very rough area filled with his buddies, what am I doing threatening a guy 3 times my size? We could be murdered here and no one would hear about it – it was a trap.
Me – more firmly: ‘please hand me our luggage, we do not wish to travel with you anymore, you can continue repairing your car in peace’
Driver: ‘just a few minutes more’ He was trying to bully me.
Me: ‘look I’m sorry you lied , and made us miss all our appointments , I don’t think you want to take us for free do you ? If so I would be willing to wait as it would offset the hotel overnight stay. On second thought you can keep the luggage I don’t need it ! I’m outta here .’
I may have overdone it but my sense of fairness and justice was really hurt. I was glad I had not paid him in advance as well. Anyway the driver was the first to let his gaze down, he opened the booth and gave me our luggage and watched as I walked straight to that other cab across the road with whom I had already struck at deal.


The Syrian –Jordanian border crossing.

So we arrived at Nassib Syrian border . Everyone was friendly and professional from the customs to the immigration people. It used to be the same at the other side on the Jordanian border of Jaber, so I was expecting that it would be even swifter as they had more modern equipment . But lo and behold …there were too many checkpoints and too many people frisking our car and I mean inside the handbag as well. They never used to that before. They even got the elderly out of the vehicles. Before you could go stamp their passport without the officer having to see that person because anyway at the last checkpoint someone would check that the passports matched with travelers but now even sick and old people had to be hauled off to the immigration building. So we go there and I find quite a change, new computers , new desks, new tiles and of course at every booth you have a standard issuance biometric retina reader and digital camera and a thumb print reader. Cool man , I don’t even have the choice now not to have my biometrics registered on principle. I can’t protest because I really needed to go to Amman. Well que sera sera I just hope those guys know what they are doing and when they are sending that info to the CIA and to the Mossad and to Interpol they don’t actually mix it up with an Al-quaeda suspect. Welcome to the realities of the War on Terror, Jordan as the gatekeeper of the wannabe jihadist to protect America and Israel. These are not my words these are the words of the Jordanians themselves who are not too happy about this added waste of time on their border. So a process which should have taken at the most 10 minutes when the border is empty and 20 minutes when crowded now takes from 2 -3 hours. I am not kidding. This is how long I had to wait. They told me next time it would be shorter as I have been registered – yeah sure but there will always be a whole bunch of people whom I had to wait for . To make things worse I was made to wait even more because I was Libyan , so I had to sit like a pariah with the Iraqis on a bench. They were having a hard life too. I must admit that the staff was always very polite, even while ignoring my request to speed things up. I mean it was not nuclear engineering but merely a stamp, plus my passport was just lying there on the guy’s desk for hours an he would come and go , take a smoking break, coffee break and not even glance at it. And then he just handed it to me. We were classified into Jordanians, Syrians, other Arabs ( that’s me) , foreigners and diplomats. With the foreigners the guy was deferential and laughed and joked and they were breezed through. I noticed that always happened in several Arab countries , and no 9/11 has nothing to do with it , it used to occur even before. So the day I am breezed through a non –Arab airport or for the matter an Arab airport which is not reporting to US central command I will know that we are finally democratized. On a side note, (beginning of rant) a classmate of mine had went on a business trip to Dubai and upon presenting his Tunisian passport was greeted with a ‘sorry sir you have no visa’.
Friend: ‘but are we not Arabs ?’
Immigration officer: ‘sorry sir these are the rules’
My friend was going to miss his deal and he wasted all that money on airfare etc.., so he remembered that he also had a US citizenship so he got out his B passport : ‘will this do ?’
Immigration officer (talking in English now and with deference): ‘of course sir, why did you not say so from the beginning that you are American, you are welcome , hope everything is to your satisfaction .Enjoy your stay’ .
Friend : ‘ But I’m still Arab you know’
Officer: ‘yes yes but this says you’re American, walk right through please’
My friend was very very angry , and every time he remembers this incident his blood boils. I have nothing against foreigners, but please is an Arab going to walk right through at the a US port of entry ? This is not a criticism of the West , but a criticism of us Arabs before you all start bashing me ( end of rant).

OK where was I ? ah yeah passport ready and we drive to Amman. Of course we are very very late so when I recount our adventure to our hosts , they tell us , ‘oh you have been registered too ? well these are straight orders from our masters in America, this is what they want and we are complying. They are forming a database about us’. OK guys I don’t know if this is a conspiracy theory or not but I tell you this is the gossip around town and knowing that the government of Jordan has no choice but to cooperate with US security agencies ( and Israeli ones for that matter) because of signed treaties I’m not really surprised. I mean there has been a horrible terrorist attack in Amman a few months ago, and Iraq is just across the border and Syria has become persona non-grata…so it all fits together. …


When we returned to Syria a week later we made the mistake of taking a Syrian car too early, that means we reached the border from Jordan side before 3.00 PM and were turned back . Yep we actually had to park on the side road and wait for the officer manning the check ppoint to decide whose face he liked and whom would he let in. When at 3:00 PM our driver tried to get in he shouted at us and he said it will be 3 when he decides it is even if he had to leave us on the side road till next day. The guy was really obnoxious and sadistic and though it was not his job to search the car as this was done by the security and customs people at the next checkpoint he took out every single item even underwear and threw them all over the place. The poor drivers could not say a thing as he would use his authority ( and arms) to accuse them of anything. I must say he was equally rude to a European diplomat as well who made the mistake of driving in a Syrian car. Well I could not take this treatment and I asked him to search my stuff and to please return everything to its properly place , you should have seen his face he almost hit me and said that if I did not get in the car he was going to spill every single possession of mine on the tarmac. The other passengers are by now asking me to cool it and grabbing me by the arm. I took his name and rank and filed a complaint as soon as I reached his boss at the next checkpoint, torturing travelers is not his job he has to be civil . By then I was very very angry so was in no mood to be chatted up by the immigration officer. That guy was holding me up because guess what ? I did not smile at him …doh . Do I have to be dopey eyed with every immigration officer? Is it not enough that I was polite and civil? What now I have to wink , pout and run my fingers through my hair and look from under my lashes ( no idea how this is done by the way). Was I being discriminated against for not having a hijab , for looking hot and yet at the same time not playing the part of a hottie ? Was that too much for this guy ?
Grrrrr. Someone heard me complain and he said : ‘have you read the news today ?’
‘No’ I said , so he replied ‘well when you read them you will know why have these people been edgy’….

Well we safely passed all those hurdles. The Syrian border seemed like heaven in comparison. The men there did not even look at me.

Ten days later

When I returned to Amman ten days later, the process was faster at the Jaber border because of course I was already duly fingerprinted, again I ran into very polite and nice staff, but we still wasted hours at the border, because I left Damascus at 7.30 AM and reached Amman at 1:00 PM ( that is too much) .I felt immense pity for those traveling by bus. Our journey back and forth was with a Syrian driver whose politeness, decency and consideration erased the bad memory of the earlier catastrophe. He could not have been a driver all his life !

It’s a pity that this year I could not organize to meet Jordanian bloggers , maybe another time.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

In solidarity with Alaa and the 47 others

Reader Frenchman on Sandmonkey's post about Arab unity caught my eye , he said something which highlights the situation brilliantly: ( but please read the whole comment).

"it is very easy for you and I to sit in our ” comfortable chair(s) in the
USA ” and suggest that the only way for change is action, I empathise
greatly with the Arab youth who want change but face very real consquences
for active action.[...]The days of the likes of Mandela and Ghandi might be
gone, because while unhapiness with the status quo in many area of the
Middle East are prevalent, many [..]are living decent lives. It
is very hard to give what they have up.[sic]"

I don't read blogs for a few days and look what happens? a real and a virtual war is being fought before our very own eyes. I don't think any of us is shocked at the arrest of Alaa and the other demonstrators in Egypt. However, until I saw it for myself ( on the blogs) I simply believed that Alaa and Manal led a charmed life and nothing would befall them. Guess I was wrong. Although I rarely read their blog and aggregator ( not a reflection on its worthiness really - just personal taste), I must admit that I am shocked and saddened by these news, to say the least because you feel you kind of knew them personally.

If you wish to participitate in the campaign set up for them please check Sandmonkeys blog here too, he has all the links and the updates because he is nearer to the action and knows what he is talking about.

To get back to Frenchman's comments which were intended for another post ( as already mentioned) , I allowed myself to quote what I believe is a poignant tribute to Arab bloggers solidarity.

"we respect Arabs and empathize with the difficulties they face, especially when
their minds are open but must pretend to a degree that they are not in order to
walk through their daily lifes in the Middle East without consequences."

So in addtition to the civil action adopted as outlined by SM, I hope that our prayers for safe return will help too.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Post your favourite poem

Alank K has taken the initiative to start a meme 'your favourite poem'. Well the one which immediately crossed my mind in English is this one, I think it embodies the concept of the hero... and of course I've got a weak spot for heroes .


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling

If I was asked to choose an Arabic one it would be this one by Antar bin Shadad - I love this guy ( tribalism , heroism , love and all ..)

UPDATE : PS I forgot to say that readers and bloggers can consider themselves tagged and post their favourite poem(s) or a poem they wrote if they wish ( thanks Libyanwarrior).

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Syrian trip.... the story

It was Prophet's Muhammad 's Birthday when I first arrived in Damascus a few weeks ago. I don't think I ever recall being there on that occasion before, so it was lovely to experience it. This year even by Syrian standards the celebrations were extraordinary. Syrians usually hang placards praising the Prophet and caligraphy from the Qu'ran about him.Like other Muslim countries they congregate in the Mosques to pray for him ( but there are no fireworks in Syria- only plrayers incantations 'dikhr' and sufi style singing). This is done in rotation , not all mosques are allowed to celebrate simultaneously. Also Syrians hand out sweets and candy on this occasion till the end of the month which is an additional reason for my gaining weight this month ( apart from the one mentioned here ). I mean if paserbys and shopkeepers do it - how am I supposed to say no to all those goodies?

This year's celebrations were bigger as Syria's Christians stood in solidarity with their fellow Muslim brothers thanks to the Danish Cartoons ( whom we are never going to get rid off it seems).....

I was eager to see for myself how Syria has fared since my last visit of December ..Those were the good days prior to the murder of Hariri and the hysteria accompanied by warpath cries which we have been hearing since from the usual people. I'm not going to speculate about who killed him anymore . I wanted to study what happened during the past 12 months. It is not a secret that I love Syria. So what did I find ? Syria is still as beautiful , but thanks to the international meddlers business has been sluggish- who do you think will suffer? your average citizen of course. The gold marker which is usually a hub of activity is heavily affected. Although gold prices have risen worldwide, this never prevented Syrians from buying. This year the decrease is so sharp that the lovely pieces have disapeared from the windows to be replaced by Zirconium , and 12 karat gold and not your standard 18 and 21. So sad.
Still Syrians I noticed are resourful people.


Iraqis have almost doubled since last year, and the commodities prices have shot up accordingly.

As for the internet situation, it's very good I would say. If you have an account with the main provider ( state) you will have a fast dial-up connection, on a monthly contract ( If you pay more you get ADSL). Another choice would be using prepaid internet card from Aya a private provider, which is also dial up but faster and uncensored. Another choice are the numerous cybercafe strew all over the city .

The weather has been gorgeous - spring , clear and sunny, but very cold in the evenings.

With regards to mobiles there are two main providers : Syriatel and Areeba . For less thank 10$ you get a sim card and you can use prepaid units. Both have roaming agreements worldwide , however only Cingular in the US can send and receive in the Middle East.


Syria was also getting ready to celebrate the Western and the Coptic Easter fest which were one week apart. I missed the former since I was in Amman Jordan that week.

The journey to Jordan and back deserves a post entry on its own...boy how things have changed...please wait for it... and also to hear about my experience with a reikki /energy /reflexology master...what brought me there in the first place ?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Meeting bloggers

The blogosphere is a mysterious and exciting place, you read about people, their lives, ideas , theories, hopes, ups, downs , everything and some you like others you can't stand.

Those that you like you become addicted to as NBA says, to the extent you want to meet the authors . Since 2003 when I started blogging, I've gotten to know several bloggers in real life and we are great friends. I've also met a few of them in person and it felt just like meeting an old friend of yours.

Soraya from Syria has become one such 'old friend' ( not that she's old ;) ). With her sweet unassuming ways she managed to convince me to meet a Syrian blogger after my initial reticence.

Check how Soraya did it and her impressions on the meet up on Sunday evening.

The first time time I heard her voice, she was everything I expected. I first wanted to meet at a hip cafe called 'Pop One' were you have a wireless connection - sort of to set the theme as bloggers and all that - but then we ended up at this cafe where I heard many artists went ( please remind me of the name !). I felt so relaxed as the ambience was wonderful . Okay I'm going too fast here let's roll back...

So because of heavy traffic Soraya and I kept in touch by cell phone to the meeting place . It felt like those James Bond movie where you are supposed to wear something that the other would recognize. Thank God for mobiles it is so much easier. We were supposed to meet near the Stefanel boutique , but unknown to me there were two in that street , so each of us was waiting for the other near a Stefanel shop. Then I walked the few meters to where Soraya was, I described myself basically and she did as well. And there she was... I recognized her immediately from her gorgeous eyes - PS for all those who are wondering the rest is pretty too- but then ladies from bilad al sham are renowned for the natural beauty. My friend DM used to call them houriyat ...

Soraya is as bright and charming as I thought and as she comes out in her blog. I was at ease immediately...the conversation flew from travels , books, men, movies, blogging, internet, our countries , friends, studies ..I wish I could have stayed more but maybe next trip ? Anyway we are going to keep in touch now and if only I could convince her to come and visit in Libya.

Soraya you are welcome to my home- plus you don't need a visa see ? how cool is that ...

Monday, May 01, 2006

Between the lines

"يقول المثل الشعبي" الى يبدلك بالفول بدله بقشوره

This is still relevant why do we wait حتى يردنا الحيط ?
An article in the Economist

A few days ago reader 'mb' sent me this Economist article about Libya. Basically it talks about changes since 2003.

There are some points which I believe are slightly innaccurate having lived there myself.
For example:

"From 2003 until his removal this week, a respected American-trained
economist, Shukri Ghanem strove, as prime minister, to shift policy towards free
trade, privatisation and greater openness. As a result of all this, shoppers in
Tripoli, the capital, no longer queue for rations in state-owned stores, but
choose what they like from well-stocked private markets."

Rations ? state owned stores? Yes we did have what we call 'jamiaa' or cooperatives were you buy state subsidized essential food items which are : oil, tomato paste, pasta, rice , semolina and sugar but in large quantities a 30 kg bag of sugar or a box of olive oil . These are so cheap compared to one can of olive oil in the supemarket. We still have those by the way along with the supermarkets or private shops. The private shops have been back along with the supermarkets since the 90s at that time they contained mostly Egyptian and Tunisian imported stuff with the larger supermarkets having everything under the moon for the right prices. So yes maybe not everyone could afford it but we had/have a choice. However, yes lately more markets have mushroomed at every corner and their prices are getting competitive too.

"Since the end of UN sanctions, imposed in 1992 over the Lockerbie affair,
they can fly abroad on holiday. They can even visit the United States, now that
diplomatic ties have been partially restored after a 23-year break."

Ok wait a second, sanctions or not sanctions the Libyans went abroad for holidays, by car to Tunis and Egypt then flew to other destinations or by boat to Malta then flew to other destinations. And even during the sanctions they were able to visit the US if they wished and went through the tiresome process of travelling to another country to get their visas. Well Libyans still need to get their visa via Malta or Tunis anyway.

“'I met a guy who spent 15 years abroad, and he said he recognised the same
potholes as when he left,' chuckles a Tripoli taxi driver".

Come on every Libyan knows that as soon as you learn to avoid a pothole after hitting your car countless time, the next time you will find it not there and there will be an unexpected one a few metres farther ;).
Anyway it was a cool article I just wonder at times were do all these papers get their sources of information from .