"To the impartial eye, the world not only seems an unlikely one-off phenomenon, but a constant strain on reason. If reason exists, that is, if a neutral reason exists. So speaks the voice from within. So speaks Joker's voice." - Jostein Gaarder

Saturday, December 06, 2008


I have been on this blog for more than 3 years already. It has been my little place of solace for a long time. But now, change is in order.

I am moving to a more comfortable, and accessible place.


Update your links, and follow me there to give you a quick tour of my new house.

I have to say, I will miss the blue lines of this blog.

Ciao Blogspot.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Their Golan

Syrian Bloggers decided to initiate a Blogging week about the Golan.

Here is my participation,

To be honest, I find it rather funny and comical, how all of Syria suddenly decided to remember this Golan a few years ago. Everyone at the same time seems to have gotten this divine message on how we are entitled to the Golan.

Are we entitled to the Golan?

Tell me, how are we entitled to that land?

We betrayed it. We (collectively) let it succumb to our enemy, we let its people down and we lost them their homes, their lands, and their families. We were the ones who turned its people into Nazeheen (refugees). We are the ones who left them in the most dire of situations, and continued watching our Maraya. We are the ones who turned our backs on them after we lost them their homeland, and we are the ones who continue to ignore their plight, and leave them living in the slums. We are the ones who continue to treat them like second-class citizens. And we were the ones who also turned a deaf ear to the plight of their courageous families who decided to stay in that land. We were the ones who ignored it for years on end, and then decided to dust it out of the box when we found it politically viable.

You and I, can lay no claim to the Golan. We have no moral right to that land.

But make no mistake; that land belongs, and will always do, to the brave men and women who stayed there, and refused to give away their ID cards for 40 years. It belongs to the disenfranchised and poverty-stricken generations of Nazeheen. Those who were thrown out of their homes, into this pathetic excuse for a homeland. They, and only they, can lay claim to that land.

They lay claim to the land, and they lay claim to our conscience.

We own not a single stone in that land, rather, we owe it to them.

Nevertheless, just as much as we have no moral claim to it, we have a moral responsibility to bring it back to them, kiss their foreheads and ask for forgiveness.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

When Will This Circle of Horror End?

Had Gadia - From Amos Gitai's Free Zone.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cynicism at its best

If you did not actually know for a fact that this is the real Walid bin Talal, what would your reaction be?

I watch his body language and the background, and wonder, what the hell?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Random Snippets of Life

I started writing computer programs back in 1993. My cousin Houssam had just come back from Germany with a Ph.D, and took on himself to start an information revolution in our sleepy Latakia. I was his first and most personal student. I remember those first few months quite vividly. I remember almost all the programs that we made on LogoWriter. That summer, I remember spending 8-9 hours everyday in front of those black and white screens. (Pixel-burners as they used to be called, because the monitor physical pixels would actually be burnt out if they weren't changed in a timely manner, hence the invention of Screen Savers!). My mom wasn't very impressed when my glasses doubled in thickness the next year.

Houssam, 10 years after coming back, went into depression, sold everything and moved back to Dubai/Germany.

After coming back from Syria this October, my Professor offered me to join his Lab. I am writing programs again (a little more complicated than moving a drawing turtle, but still programs). It feels just as satisfying as it did 15 years ago.


I love the Spring and Autumn time in Japan. Spring here (and autumn likewise) is an explosion of Color, rather than colors. What overwhelms you is not all the different colors that pop out of no where, rather, the intensity of that pinkish hue that overtakes everything. The cherry blossoms bring out all the spectrum of white and pink, they fill out the trees, the ground and the sky. Every single petal has its own distinct lifelines of pink, but all of them seem to flow together in perfect harmony.

Japanese spring comes unannounced, takes you by surprise, and leaves just as unexpectedly. In 2 weeks, you won't find a trace of that white blanket that used to cover everything... All that you're left with is Summer. Autumn, however, sneaks in much more slowly, the leaves start changing colors in early October, bringing out all the burning of red and the seriousness of brown. It takes over everything you see, by mid Noveember. Even the November sunsets, they all seem to be intertwined in some heavenly plot to paint the city tangerine. Autumn never really leaves, in the coldest of winters, there would still come Sundays where it feels as if Autumn is in full blow.


I find myself, more often than not, repelled by the argument that there is no fundamental difference between masculinity and femininity. And that the whole concept of Gender is a socially constructed type of myth.

I agree heartily that our own perception of Gender is terribly flawed and inevitably affected by centuries of conscious social imbalance.
However, that does not, in any way, negate the fact that even before human consciousness, gender was indeed a factor in self-perception, and that gender is rooted in the very concept of the sexual act.

I find it hard to believe, that through the 200 million years of evolution, since the first mammal, having one particular dominant pattern for sexual reproduction, had no effect whatsoever on the self-perception and even the evolution of both sexes.


Lately, I've been having quite a hard time going to sleep early. Insomnia has plagued my nights for almost a month, while sleep deprivation ruins my few hours of sunlight.

It's a terrible feeling when you're rolling in your bed, thousands of thoughts seem to race around at that particular moment. You catch yourself, one too many times, conversing with yourself, or with a person that happens to be stuck in the back of your head that night. I have found myself, involuntarily, conversing with people that I haven't met in years, or people that I've only met once, a long time ago, just because I happened to land on their name, or facebook page before I went to sleep.

Every half an hour or so of futile attempts to sleep, or when my thoughts lead me to particularly painful or depressing memory, I light up my cell phone, look at the time, sigh, and shake all the thoughts out of my head. Maybe even open my macbook and take a look at my email. A glance at the clock and suddenly it's not 2:30 anymore, it's 3:15 now, 1 hour less of sleep.

Good night everyone!

Friday, October 03, 2008


Hypnotizing, is the word. Radiohead's concert was hypnotizing.

Listening to Thom Yorke chant Exit Music (for a film) with a completely silent crowd was a truly exceptional experience.

You can try the best you can
If can try the best you can
The best you can is good enough

Radiohead - Optimistic - Live in Osaka

And ofcourse, the most natural thing to wrap up an evening like this in japan was...

Friday, September 26, 2008

On Hope

Almost a year ago, I was sitting in the office of the head of the Political Security apparatus in Damascus, to get an approval for a new passport instead of that stolen in Thailand. I was sitting there, listening to him as he read out loud my father’s file, and counted the number of arrest warrants with his name. That was less than a week after my parents’ death.
He rolled up in his big fancy leather chair, and said, “What exactly guarantees, that if we do give you a new passport, you wont go and turn out to be an asshole like your father?” I closed my eyes, swallowed myself, and let my uncle do the talking.
2 days later, I walked out of the immigration bureau of Homs with a brand new passport, and the freedom to leave anytime I wanted. Less than a week later I was boarding a plane to Egypt and eventually back to Japan.

That flight was probably the worst, and darkest two hours I’ve ever had to go through. My sense of abandonment was the only individual thing I could put my hands on. Everything else was just blurry, and painful.
I looked around as I was leaving and couldn’t think of a single reason for me to come back. I couldn’t find any part of me in anyone or anything here. I remember thinking back then of what a pathetic, deformed and fragile generation I was representing.
Followed by the most terrible year of my life in Japan. I had to literally deconstruct my own sense of identity. This pathetic, deformed and fragile identity that grew through years of the most honest forms of make-believe and doublethink. One that promised to collapse under any pressure, to leave me, at 21, completely naked and defenseless, sitting in a plane heading nowhere.
I’ve hit rock bottom this last year. The feeling that took over me at these moments was one of utter homelessness. There was not a single place where I felt any sense of belonging, not even within myself.

Now, as I look back at last year, I realize that I’ve completely come a full circle since that October. While I am nowhere closer to reconstructing my own sense of identity, I do feel like I already have the means to do it. And it will take years before I fully comprehend why and how this happened, this sudden collapse of everything I knew as part of me.
During the last month I spent here, a tremendous amount of recovery happened. Walking through the narrow alleys of the old city of Tartous tempted me to venture into the few old houses that still survive in my own Latakia, to talk to their people and listen to their stories. The little camel arcs that I saw while I was walking through this strange mix of new ugly facades and old rocks felt like they were filling a real empty spot in my mind.
I felt so close to this place, I felt like we were going through the same exact crisis. My Latakia too had a collapse in its own sense of identity. It wasn’t sudden, and it was more like someone shattering a fine china plate, but the end result was almost the same. I, like many others now, was living on the very edge of the cliff. The whole country is living off the edge of a cliff.

The only thing that I can see clearly around me is this collective lack of belonging. This collective collapse of everything people were building as their identity. Not many are conscious of what is happening, but even them, you can see them desperately trying to hold on to anything that may be saved.
It is truly sad to see this happening, in a sense. But it also offers a real chance to truly change. To try to reconstruct together our own national identity, just as we do with our own personal one. To start critiquing ourselves, and our world more consciously. To dust off our own layers and layers of cement and ugly facades and look what’s underneath. To read our own history more critically, and reconnect with it. To regain a long lost sense of dignity and humanity. To try and let this generation recognize its problems, and express them.
It’s a monumental challenge. But it doesn’t seem like any of the people in power is willing to recognize it. Everybody seems happy to just surrender this place and its people to this strange mix of old wooden language, mazot and mega projects.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Two more weeks to go, and I am off to another airport. I am particularly looking forward to this summer. In many ways, it will be a much-needed closure, and hopefully it will provide me with, also, much needed inspiration and motivation.

This will probably be the last visit to Syria in a while. As I finish my second year here, I will have to pay more attention to internship opportunities and actually start thinking of my post-graduation plans, hence, less time to spend on airplanes to the Middle East. There’s no point in making assumptions though, I’ve learnt my lesson, that plans don’t always (almost never) work the way you thought they would. Nonetheless, just for the sake of argument let’s lose the cynicism for a while.

I finish my last final on the late afternoon of the glorious day of July 31st. I drink myself into absolute unconsciousness and spend August 1st enjoying my hangover without worrying about homework, linger around the apartment and pack my stuff.
At the early hours of the morning of August 2nd, I head out to Osaka, dragging three bags (?). Spend the day with the wonderful Bulgarians of Kansai, and then jubilantly take the train to the airport the next day.

This is my tentative plan for the next couple of weeks.

It will be a well-packed summer.

August 2-9, Kuala Lampur, Malaysia (I am using Malaysian airlines, and I couldn't resist stopping in Malaysia on the way). Which will include spending another one of those random birthdays in random places with random people (I still haven’t made up my mind whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing).

August 10-15, Beirut, a little trip down memory lane.

August 15 (hopefully), off to Latakia and then off again to Damascus for what is arguably the highlight of my summer, Ziad Rahbani, Live in concert.

August 22-25, back to Beirut for a blogging conference, and more importantly have a chance to catch up with the wonderful Sami, and try to drag him for a few days in Latakia.

The rest of the trip, try to rediscover the places, the people and the language. Which will probably include:

- Spending much time on coach-buses between Latakia, Homs, Damascus, Aleppo and the beautiful little sister of Tartous.
- Many lazy days on the beach, or somewhere in the greenery of Kasab.
- As little coffee as possible, and in that same spirit, as much alcohol as possible.

But, for now, Let me get back to my Assembly homework.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

On Paris

Seeing our President in Paris gives me a whole set of mixed feelings. It isn’t hard to notice why this is a big event for Syria and Syrians. Ending a horrible 3 years of speculations and dreadful possibilities. The Syrian regime has come out unscathed, stronger and definitely scored much higher than its foes on the credibility scale (ironically enough, that is). They shouldn’t take all the credit though, for what better enemies could you have than the imbecile trio of Bush, the Saudis and the March 14ers. Having the Saudis in a coalition that was oh-so concerned with human rights violations of the regime, was no less comedic than having the March 14ers whining about foreign intervention in Lebanon, and the sectarian nature of Hizbulla. Nonetheless, it would be futile not to admit that they have successfully navigated the most treacherous of waters. As to why did we have to venture there in the first place, that will be up for discussion and disagreement for years to come. No matter what you have to say about them (and there is a lot to be said), I can’t say I’m not enjoying this break from that constant stream of ignorant (if not flat out racist and hypocritical) media portrayal of Syria.

On the other hand, as beautiful and elegant our First Gentleman and First Lady look together as they walk down that red carpet, I can’t help wondering whether people like Michel Kilo, Anwar al-Bunni or Aref Dalileh even cross their minds as they smile and shake hands. As they walk triumphantly through the streets of Paris, what kind of a country do they think of, that country that they left behind. What do they think of that? The poverty, the corruption, the pollution, the monopolies, and the stagnant social, educational, political and cultural life. What about Seydnaya?

I know this post might raise some eyebrows. But I think, it is very sad to see how we are coerced, everyday, to live our lives in that narrow space of black and white, wrong and right. I, for one, don’t feel like I can play that game. That being said, it does not mean that I am simply neutral. I am, and will always be, strongly opinionated. The fact is, I would feel like a hypocrite if I had to tweak or modify (no matter how little) my own sense of the world just so I can join one of them (camps), and be “opinionated”. It would be, and let me quote Wassim on this one, more like “Political cheerleading”.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

It’s hard to write, if you’re not reading. A very simple fact.
The last book I read was Pamuk’s Snow. It took a lot of effort, and resilience to finish it. I’m not sure why, at any other time I would’ve devoured it in a day. The story is beautifully written, and the scenery is breathtaking. Nonetheless, it took me 43 days, to be exact, to finish it.
I’ve never been this far away from the written word.
I miss the thick yellow pages of our Library. My father had a passion for the old novels printed in the 1930s-1960, when paper still had a texture, when every book had a distinct smell. He passed that down to me.
I spent hours on end flipping and reading Churchill’s war memoirs. I loved the smell it left on my fingers after I put it back on the shelf.
It was Jubran that put my little heart’s ache into words. I was 10, and she sat behind me in class, the most beautiful girl that ever wore that brown uniform.
I loved reading them times and times again. It was all too easy for me to start over from the beginning and go through the story as if it was the very first time. I might have read Farewell to Arms more than twenty times, yet it never failed to shake me all over again.
I can’t help thinking of all these characters, not characters, but people. All these people that I’ve come to meet, and care for. It’s disturbing to think they’re all nothing but a product of one’s mind, just like Sophie in Sophie’s World.
The words of these novels feel so far away now, but that distinct smell of age lingers on. It reminds me how tired I am of, and how terrible I am at this passive game of waiting.