Posts Tagged ‘Damascus’

Putting Syria on the Map

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I have been doing some intensive cartography lately. Yes, I’m literally putting Syria on the map.

Going to college in Damascus was a frustrating experience for quite a long time. I did not know the city nearly as well as I should have. I didn’t live in the heart of Damascus, but 30 minutes by servees (a microbus used for commuting in Syria) on a good day. When meeting people in parts of the city that I did not know, I was often too stubborn or too ashamed to ask for directions or help getting somewhere. That always ended with me asking questions to people I’m more comfortable asking, but also less likely to be able to help me; or walking aimlessly and asking people in the street who were as clueless as I was. Going to a new theater or cultural center was always a process of finding out the address and the best way to get to and fro the designated activity location.

Well, not for long. Thanks to Google’s Map Maker, other location-recognition-impaired people won’t have to suffer like I did. I’m now one of a group of volunteer users, or citizen cartographers as Google likes to call them, who  have been drawing the entire map of Syria on Google Map Maker. We’re highlighting points of interest, businesses, streets, neighborhoods and just about everything in between. Eventually it will be available on a high quality, easy to search Google map that’s free to use for all people and platforms that have an active internet connection. There’s an intimidating learning curve to Map Maker; roads are hard to draw and they disappear after you first draw them because they need to be moderated before they show up. This means having to draw roads with no visual clues of your previous work. Drawing on water is a close analogy.

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A Few Thoughts to Inaugurate my New Blog

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The Shorty Awards are unique awards for the Twitter community in several categories ranging between humor, entertainment, art, tech, politics, and many others. This year the politics category is on fire with Ali Abunimah becoming a finalist in the competition by popular vote. He basically swept the rug from under the feet of a racist Zionist spreading misinformation like a perfect propagandist tool while claiming to lead a “Jewish Internet Defense Force.” The problem is that David is blatantly racist, although he’s doing a poor job denying it; Most Jewish organizations/people are ignoring him or even outright shunning him. If you happen to have a twitter account and want to help Abunimah maintain his lead in the final round of votes you can go to the his shorty awards page and vote for him from there. Make sure you mention the reason you’re voting for him (e.g. because he supports equality and human rights.)

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I have been in the US for over seven months now. Sometimes a friend asks: “Do you miss Syria?” I always think about that and reply by saying that more than anything I miss the people (and sometimes the food). What makes a homeland is the people inhabiting it before the land itself. In a recent conversation with a Syrian friend whom I’ve never met, he was saying that he didn’t want to leave the country because he didn’t want to have to adapt to a new world and new people.  Distance is becoming more and more irrelevant everyday. People of different cultures are becoming less alienated with every click of a mouse in each forsaken corner of the world. The only real challenge that traveling entails is leaving behind those whom you care about the most; Language is acquirable. Cultural customs are a breeze to get used to. A job or an education are attainable. But how easy is it to brew an indifference towards those closest to you?

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To motivate myself into writing more than one post a month over here; I will start a series of posts about the different projects, websites, and organizations that I have been involved with to various degrees recently.

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I really wanted to include something about Syria in this post, so I looked at Syria-news for inspiration. I can’t say that the news have changed much: Corruption. Embezzlement. A vicious circle of useless talks with Western officials. Another honor killing. Another major traffic accident with dozens injured or dead. The Minister of Social Affairs and Labor, Diala el-Hajj Arif, is still an imbecile; I hate her with the heat of a thousand suns.

Things haven’t changed much.

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سَأعيشُ رَغْـمَ الـدَّاءِ والأَعـداءِ * كالنَّسْـر فـوقَ القِمَّـةِ الشَّمَّـاءِ
أرْنُو إلى الشَّمْسِ المُضِيئةِ هازِئاً * بالسُّحْبِ والأَمطـارِ والأَنواءِ
لا أرْمقُ الظِّلَّ الكئيـبَ ولا أرَى * مَا فـي قَـرارِ الهُـوَّةِ السَّــوداءِ

نشيد الجبار (هكذا غنّى بروميثيوس)،   أبو القاسم الشابّي


Concert: "Echo of Gaza's Children Screams"

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I got the following via email, asking me to publish it here.. I gladly comply

Dear ECHO Members and Friends,

ECHO Musical Cultural Association in collaboration with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) invite you to support the children of Gaza by attending the following fundraising concert:

Concert: “Echo of Gaza’s Children Screams

Performers: - The Syrian National Symphony Orchestra

- The Syrian Military Band

- The Choir of the Higher Institute of Music

Venue: Opera Theater – Dar Al-Assad for Culture and Arts

Date & Time: Tuesday, February 3, 2009 at 7:00 p. m.

All proceeds of the concert will be allocated to Gaza’s Children through the UNRWA.

Ticket prices are as follows:

- 20,000 SYP (rows: A to F)

- 10,000 SYP (rows: G to V)

- 5,000 SYP (first balcony and lodges)

- 1,000 SYP (second balcony)

Tickets will be sold at Dar Al-Assad from Jan. 25 to 29 (09:00 to 15:15 hrs).

This event will be televised LIVE by the Syrian Television.

Thanking you in advance for your kind contributions,

ECHO

Musical Cultural Association

I just need to add that I’ve already went to a musical performances by The Syrian National Symphony Orchestra, The Syrian Military Band and The Choir of the Higher Institute of Music. They are all amazing and the cause is worth the unprecedented ticket price. GO!


Palestinian Scarf, Resistance 'a la mod'

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Scarf

Picture taken from a magazine ad for a local radio station.

Today, you can hardly walk the streets of Damascus without passing by quite a few young men and women wearing Palestinian scarves, which at one point became a symbol of the resistance and the “Fida’ees”, a symbol of freedom fighters and an ever lingering dream of returning to Palestine which constituted an integral part of the identity of many Arab generations.

But are they really wearing Palestinian scarves? as I recall the original scarf was white with black patterns exclusively, while the ones you see everyone wearing on the streets of Damascus come in a variety of wild colors to appeal to the different tastes of fashionable Damascenes, and to mix and match with any colors of the shirts or shoes they might be wearing. The symbol is now reduced to a mere fashion statement, it is what the “cool kids do.” and the irony of it all is that you can hardly find anyone wearing the original white scarf, which is by their standards plain and totally not cool!

This reminds of something that happened with a friend of mine; he saw someone (a college student) wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt, so he asked him: “why are you wearing this T-shirt?” and that guy replied: “أخي بالمجمل أنا بحب المطربين الأجانب” [dude, I like foreign singers]!

My friend and I developed a habit of yelling “حيو الفدائية” every time one of those fashionistas pass us by in the street.

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