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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Silhouetting, Wadi Rum, Jordan

Wadi Rum, Jordan is what they say it is.  There, when tourists are not jeeping around, or expressing how beautiful and stunning this place is and when cameras' shutters shut up, then you can hear the sound of silence.  At night, and no matter how bright the stars communicate their presence you can still hear the sound of silence.  The sun was setting on the "Valley of the Moon".   Some were waving goodbye!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Oud and Tawlet zaher (big bellied guitar and backgammon) on Makhoul Street

So I made it to Makhoul Street (Mak7oul) in Ras Beirut, my street.  Now I understand why older people tend to have that sparkle in their eyes on occasion, a hesitant tear is the sparkle and yet, often, even the tear is smiling.  The sight, the smell and the sounds awaken memories, among other things,  of one's youth, past so many moons and suns.  I guess I had my share of those and found myself at the edge of a sparkle as I entered Makhoul Street.

The Mokhtar's office where I found Abou Faddoul's photo.
Looking at my little street without reconciling between what is and what was is impossible.  In my mind I see and superimpose pictures of the way I knew how things were.  Much of the street's structures and old buildings are gone, some have changed and very little remains the same.

Abou Faddoul and his shop (a pet store in 2010).
The fruit and vegetable vendor still comes pushing a 3 wheel cart using an old style scale.  I talked a bit to the vendor.  Over my stay in Beirut I got to see him set up at different locations.  Once I mentioned to him this old sound that I remember, sounded by another vendor like him:  "sabi3 el bubbu ya 5iar"!  his immediate reaction was: " Allah yir7amak ya .. ".  Apparently not just any vendor would go around calling on his cucumbers the same way and comparing them to the fingers of babies as if the call for the little cucumbers was unique to this man, as if it were a signature call that he, the vendor I was talking to,  associated with someone he knew and had passed on.."May God have mercy on you.. " was his reaction of his friend.

A different look, miss the "jarassiyeh" and the big bell
At the end of the street, Makhoul street and Abdul Aziz street, at that corner a seasonal 3 wheel carter would set up.  Corn on the cob, chestnuts, sour plums (janerik) and salt, green almonds and salt, shaved ice and summer drinks; but the smells that went up the street were those of the corn and chestnuts.  No, no such vendor anymore, not on this corner.

Abou Faddoul had red hair a Oud and a backgammon table, a general store and a bunch of friends, plus a unique air conditioning system..  I lived across the street from Abou Faddoul and looking down through the window I could see him and hear him play the oud often.  On a hot  lazy summer afternoon, the sun would be directly shining on his store but on the opposite side of the street, the sidewalk is shaded by a long wall that fenced in a building used as a public school.  Even though it's shady, it remains very hot from the noon sun pounding on the street's asphalt.  Abou Faddoul would bring a jug of water and with a right to left, left to right motion would sprinkle water on the hot blacktop.  The result is a cooling evaporating effect.  Now, there on the sidewalk, in the shade and the Abou Faddoul air conditioning system, Abou Faddoul and friends sit around a backgammon table.. yalla  habbel yek.

The Mokhtar's office sat at the corner of Makhoul and Jeanne D'Arc streets and recently closed down since the passing of Kamal Girgi Rubeiz.  This is one of the old buildings that remain on the street and there is talk of turning it into a museum of sorts.  The church was modernized and now has air conditionning, The Jarassiyeh is gone and so is the big bell.  The small bell remains for show.  The yellow stone columns were removed, two of them are used behind the church for decoration..

What I miss the most on Makhoul Street is my grandmother's jasmine tree.

- . - . -

all content ©  Simon Sakkab
Abou Faddoul's photo photog. is uknown. taken with permission.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Anatomy of a Bedouin Wedding

What's good news for two families is in this case very bad news for almost a small herd of sheep as the sheep made the menu honors for a few hundred guests of a Jordanian Bedouin wedding.

I stumbled upon this wedding by sheer coincidence.  I wanted to meet a Bedouin family and see how they lived but ended up meeting the whole tribe.

It was still early morning and the cab driver dropped me off where a Bedouin wedding was to take place.  There was a large or I should say huge L shaped tent or tents, lined with floor cushions to seat guests and they had rental chairs as well delivered for the evening activities.  A large Jordanian flag was in the center of the "court" area and a small stage.  At one point during my visit one elder asked me to take a picture of the flag saying "hatha 3aziz 3aleina" meaning this flag is very dear to us.

A man was at the edge of the tent looked my way as I was being dropped off, curious I guess as to whom this guest might be.  I walked towards him and told him how I ended up at his door step, except that there was no door.  He welcomed me and offered me some tea.

So we sat down on the floor cushions and I asked him to describe the differents activities involved in a Bedouin wedding.  I recorded this almost six minute description as he went through a Bedouin Wedding timeline.  Since it's in arabic, I will give a summary of what he said in english.

On Tuesday, the houses of hair (byout el sha3er), reference to the tents and the animal "hair" they're made of, are brought and set up, as well as the chairs.   Nothing special takes place on Tuesday night.

On Wednesday, the party starts in the evening. There would be some live music, and a lot of people would come.  There would also be what is called "Samer el Badawi" where old Bedouin poems are recited.  These poems are themed on praise, pride and any reference to the bride's beauty is kept on a very conservative side.
The party goes on, tea and coffee are served, and recently, from about 10 years ago they started getting
a videographer to continuously record the event and activities.  Throughout of course the women would be in the "stone" house (modern house), dancing and singing.

On Wednesday the bride goes to the "Salon" where the groom, and groom only, goes to pick her up from the "Salon" and take her to a "hall" where they have a party for the bride.  The groom and his mother offer and put on the bride gold jewelery at the hall event.  The groom is the only male present at this hall.  He would dance with the bride and later take her to her father's house after the "Talbiseh", as this party is referred to, meaning putting on the gold on the bride.

Thursday, which happened to be the day I got there, the  sheep pay the ultimate price.  Dinner preparations start on Thursday morning with the slaughter.  About 250 "mansafs would be prepared for the men and about 50 for the women depending on attendance.

At around 6PM, men and women separately board a number of cars and make the trip to the bride's house, or her father's to get her.  They would be going to the Mount Nebo area.  The groom's party would ask for the bride's hand (these are formalities) and the bride's father would put his head dress on his daughter as she leaves his house and puts her in the care of the groom.
The bride is brought back to the groom's father's house (where all the women gather).

My host omitted that after coming back from Nebo the groom is taken to a friend's house where he is bathed and dressed and another convoy of cars goes to get him with much celebration.

Later dinner would be served and around 10PM the groom goes to his father's house where the bride is celebrating with other women.  There, again, he is the only male allowed to see her, would celebrate and dance and then take her to his house which happens to be 40 yards away.

Friday, people show up after the Friday prayers, they are served lunch, more sheep, and the celebrations end at this point.  The bride and groom would soon thereafter leave for their honeymoon destination.  Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt is a popular spot.  Also Damascus or Turkey.

I was invited to attend the festivities later in the day and to photograph the activities except two things I was warned not to photograph: women (not that they mingle among men) and "happy" firearms that are traditionally fired in celebration but such practice is or is becoming illegal.

So this is the anatomy of a Bedouin wedding.  Another post may describe what actually happened along with some cultural observations and comments and still pictures.

Until then, salamu aleikom.

Anatomy of a Bedouin Wedding.

"Samer El Badawi" I couldn't understand one word and it's supposed to be Arabic!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Damascus Gate, Bab Al Amud. July 2010

It is named after something that is no longer there.  Its placement was a symbol of victory.   The name remained as a reminder of a long gone era.  This land's history is as such: 
they come, they see and they leave, eventually!
(but that's another story)

Location: Jerusalem, Al Quds

Bab Al Amud is the gate of the Column, in reference to the Roman "victory" Column that was placed by the Romans in front of the gate.    The column is documented in the Madaba Map:  A mosaic depicting the gate and a representation of the Amud that was there once upon a time. Is it burried waiting to be found or did it find a new home? Or was it recycled into another structure?
The present gate is made of wood planks (see photos below) covered by strips of metal,  It is fair to say they don't make them like this anymore!



Friday, February 4, 2011

The Perils of a Swiss Fondue

photo by Jana Daher

Swiss Miss and a Diss.

I took the TGV from Paris to Geneva just for the sake of experiencing the high speed train.  It had limited routes back then and that was years and years ago but can't seem to forget this old lady and what she said to me.  Apparently she thought, and may have had reason to believe, that americans are all alike in the way they eat things.

It was summertime still and I thought this maybe weird but I'm going to do it anyway.  I'm in Switzerland for a day or so and, even though it's summer, this warm wintery dish would give me some bragging rights.

So, as I sat down to savor my little treat, this old lady that sat next to me asked if I were American. Wow, I said to myself.  What gives?  Maybe having fondue out of season, sitting outdoors in the warm sun and looking like a tourist I guess.  I have always had this picture of an American tourist in my head..  a big fat guy, which I wasn't, no not then, a colorful hawaiian shirt, knee long shorts, sandles and a boisterous attitude.  Oh yes, hat and cheap sunglasses too.  Well, I had none of the above, so it must have been the out of season melted cheese.  That's what it is after all, melted cheese with kirsch perhaps.

As I confirmed to the nice old lady that I indeed came from the states she immediately said:
"Don't put ketchup on it".

She said it, not only as if to instruct me that that is no way to consume a fine fondue, but as if she would be insulted if I did add ketchup.

She calmed down when I told her that I liked my fondue straight up, and definitely no ketchup.  For her to take offense to ketchup, the poor old lady, she must have endured the sight of some ugly ass americans pouring ketchup over everything they ate, fondue included, maybe a million times and couldn't stand it no more.

If you're in Geneva and plan to use ketchup, be on the lookout for one Swiss Miss aka ketchup police!

Thursday, February 3, 2011