Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Lonely No More

the curse has been broken…
Another Aleppine Blogger, majnun halabi, has finally joined our Syrian Blogsphere…
I am no longer the only Syrian Blogger from Aleppo, and I couldn't be happier, not only for myself, but for the great city Aleppo who should have more and more Bloggers.

Now, the question is: from which Syrian city, other than Damascus and Aleppo, do you expect the next blogger to be?
I would say Homs…

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Ave Maria, Gratia Plena

The Virgin Mary
(The Greek Catholics Cathedral in Aleppo)

Aleppine School of Icons-
The Theotokos

According to the Christian’s Calendar, the month of May is devoted to the Virgin Mary (Mariyam).

Each year In Aleppo, many Christian girls and women choose to commit themselves (nedzer) to Our Lady Full of Grace.
For the entire month of May, they would only wear a traditional modest blue dress, with a white rope as a belt (blue and white are the two colors usually associated with the Virgin Mary), and participate in the Rosary prayers being held daily in all churches of Aleppo. Some of them also choose to adhere to certain fasts or participate in charity works.

Muslims also believe in the Virgin Mary, and some of them visit the many shrines that were built for her in Syria (such as the one in Sednaya, outside Damascus).
The Holy Quran has devoted an entire chapter (Surah) to Mary (Surat Mariyam), from which I have chosen the following verses:

[19:16] Mention in the scripture Mary. She isolated herself from her family, into an eastern location.
[19:17] While a barrier separated her from them, we sent to her our Spirit. He went to her in the form of a human being.
[19:18] She said, "I seek refuge in the Most Gracious, that you may be righteous."
[19:19] He said, "I am the messenger of your Lord, to grant you a pure son."
[19:20] She said, "How can I have a son, when no man has touched me; I have never been unchaste."
[19:21] He said, "Thus said your Lord, `It is easy for Me. We will render him a sign for the people, and mercy from us. This is a predestined matter.' "

Mosque and Church

Al-tawheed Mosque and St. George Basilica in Aleppo

This one is for Roba.
It is a similar view to the one you have just posted (I have a better one here).
I guess we are all very lucky to be born in this part of the world…

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Historical Snapshots: Ibrahim Hanano

Ibrahim Hanano (seated, middle), leader of the Aleppo Revolt against the French Mandate (1919-1921) pictured in Aleppo with veteran revolutionaries from the Syrian Revolt of 1925-1927. Seated next to Hanano is Sheikh Said Hababa (left). The picture was taken in August 1934, one year before Hanano's death in 1935.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Aleppo vs. Damascus

Old Street in Aleppo

Old Street in Damascus

The following is a part of an article that I have found recently on the net, and is related to Abu-Remmaneh's post about the differences between Aleppo and Damascus.
I do NOT agree with everything in it, and I Apologize in advance to anyone who might be offended by it.
I personally find this rivalry between Damascenes and Aleppines very humorous (just look how far some people are willing to go!!), and would love to hear what Damascenes think of Aleppines (especially the accent!!):

Today, Aleppo is a distribution point for neighboring countries' goods, and a market for the hinterland's bounty: cotton, grain, pistachios, olives, produce, and sheep. A local proverb conveys the city's legendary mercantile bent: "An Aleppine can sell even a dried donkey skin."(never heard this one before!!!) Aleppines hone their age-old rivalry with Damascus, arguing that they are craftier merchants than the lazy Damascenes.

They also claim to be more open and blunt, as even their dialect reflects. "The Aleppines speak more like men, the Damascenes like women," runs a saying that contrasts the northern city's harsh, emphatic Arabic with the softer Damascene drawl. The Aleppo accent is graceless and clipped, says a Damascus merchant in all earnestness, because the city lacks the bountiful flowing water that formed the fluent Damascene people...


Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Kingdom of Heaven

Syrian Actor Ghassan Massoud (Saladin)

I don’t know about you guys, but I am really anxious to see this movie....
I have been getting a lot of e-mails from friends in the states who are also waiting for the opening on May 6, and they are very excited to see Syria’s own Ghassan Massoud playing Saladin.

I have gathered some information about the film from the internet. I also found an interesting interview with Ghassan Massoud (I couldn’t find a single photo of him except for one on the film’s official site but I didn’t know how to steal it)

- KINGDOM OF HEAVEN is an epic adventure about a common man who finds himself thrust into a decades-long war. A stranger in a strange land, he serves a doomed king, falls in love with an exotic and forbidden queen, and rises to knighthood. Ultimately, he must protect the people of Jerusalem from overwhelming forces, while striving to keep a fragile peace.
- Shot in Spain and Morocco
- The film’s Budget is estimated to be $130 million
- Filming started January, 2004 and finished May 2004
- Directed by Ridley Scott
- Cast: Orlando Bloom (Balian of Ibelin), Eva Green (Sybilla), Liam Neeson (Godfrey of Ibelin), Jeremy Irons (Tiberias), Ghassan Massoud (Saladin)…

- Interview with Ghassan Massoud:

While British academics and fundamentalist historians in the west attack Ridley Scott's film "Kingdom of Heaven", one that they described as a free prize for Osama bin Laden as it shows Arabs as civilized through the depiction of Saladin as a noble knight, Arab voices and newspapers fear the movie would be just another in the line of stereotypical movies that negatively portray Arabs and Muslims.

The Syrian actor and director Ghassan Massoud - who plays the role of Saladin which occupies 35% of the movie - speaks up, and he expected the Arab voices that attacked the film to ask for the screenplay, or ask him [about these issues].

Regarding the concern of some Arab voices about the negative portrayal of Arabs and Muslims he was asked:

Did you have these concerns about the film?

“Of course I did. As soon as I got a call to meet the director via Ms. Nashwa Al-Rweiny, I had concerns about any negativity towards Arabs and Muslims in the film, and I can't participate in something like that, then I read the script putting in mind that we can't provide the audience with a sterile historical character, because in Arab drama we tend to paint a historical figure that does no wrong. The character has a high degree of balance, and has a great deal of respect from the screenwriter and the director, and I had a prolonged discussion with the director only to discover that British culture has a great deal of respect for Saladin as a noble foe to Richard the Lionheart as [Saladin] sent him his doctor as well as apples and honey from Damascus. I'm responsible for every word I say in this conversation, but cinema is essentially the art of editing, so if the director wants to, he could produce a bad image in the editing room.”

You told me you helped reshoot some scenes?

“I suggested that we reshoot two of the scenes, the scene of Saladin entering Jerusalem while soldiers are running around looting the palace, which happens in all battles, during which there were some papers falling into the fire. I stopped and told the director that in Arab Islamic memory, Hulago burnt Baghdad and its library - burnt the science, culture and civilization - and I can't accept that Saladin is portrayed to do the same. He told me he was sorry if that had happened and I told him it did, so he rewound [the shot] and we saw some papers clearly being burnt in the fire. He reshot the scene and said, ‘I respect Saladin and I can't depict him as such.’

“In another scene, Saladin walks to find a cross on the ground, so I asked about it and he said it's part of the set. I then suggested that Saladin lifts the cross from the ground and puts it on a nearby table with respect as the scene could be used against Muslims later. Then we did the scene, but then [Ridley] Scott told me it's better to do it entirely without the cross because someone on the set said by that we'd make Saladin even better than Jesus, and that’s how it was finally done.”

How did you prepare for the role?

“I have and still read many books and references about Saladin, and I have seen the work of Nagdat Anzor - "The search for Saladin" - as well as Youssef Shahin's "Al Naser Salah el Din," which I have seen more than once. But what I think is that we usually deal with a historical figure as a mask, which means that we always portray a character that does no wrong. My opinion is that behind the mask we love and respect there's a lot to be known. As for Saladin, his charisma and appearance before his soldiers and people is the mask where most of his character is apparent, but what would we find if we follow him to his tent and find him all by himself?”

So you mean there's not much divergence between your thoughts and the director's thoughts about the character?

“You might think I'm exaggerating when I say they were nearly identical because this man [Ridley Scott] proved that he respects Saladin and strongly admires the idea of chivalry and nobility of the man.”

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Happy Easter/Joyeuses Pâques/Christós Anésti

Dalí’s “Nuclear Cross”, 1952