Monday, December 12, 2005


With 9 kms of traditional bazaar where one can buy from flu affected chicken to safety boxes, and a fortified citadel that from the 10th century awaits constant invaders, Aleppo can keep a traveler busy for a week. Nevertheless, it was not the architecture thatbecame that pearl of my sojourn in the city where Abraham milked his famous cow. But the encounter with islamic moral exempted from the secular character that prevails in Turkey.

We are used to listen about the reduced women rights in Middle East. What escapes media attention is that men don’t rake it either. To understand this you should see the face of my friend Hasan when back from a theoric class at the University whre he studies English Translation. “What is wrong, Hasan? Are you feeling OK? Why did you arrive earlier?”. He looks at me and says: “A girl…” “A girl what?” – I ask. So he says it: “She sat nex to me and she was only wearing a T-shirt. What can I do? I cannot marry her. So I left. “ Hasan, as well as my other friend Okbaa, believe that women should hide their charms in order to preserve community. Otherwise, Armageddon. We don’t even talk abouty the Christian principle of “thou will not desire your neighbors’ woman”, here it seems some God gets angry even if you desire yours. In these cases I appreciate christian moral hipocricy, that confronted with a similar holy staements decides to look sidewards. Here instead, they even seem proud of their sacrifice. Hasan is for example 23 and his experience with women is comparable to that of my nephew Nicolas, who is 11. He (tender!) defines himself in the peak of desire (adolescense here lasts until you are 25, if you are lucky) and remarks that in the last two years his girlfriend and him have agreed to hold hands. Pre marriage relations are banned and (you guessed) sex includes kissing.

In these lands uranium is more at hand than a simple summer girlfriend. “But, at University none of them…” I ask in amazment to my friend. But the asnwer again is No. Partying is not in the girls’ top of the rank in a country where Dr.Faustus would die from sadness. “If a girl decides to hace ilegal relations..who will marry her in the future? –my local friends explai to me. That makes me think that men here are at the geometric center of all this social stress. It is a self inflicted pain since the moment that they complain about the unreachableness of girls but then happily say they would return their wife to her father if she turns out to be unvirgin. But..”not even a kiss at closed doors?” I insist to my friend expecting some down to earth answer. His response triggers my laugh: with the worrying a that who talks about the rise of the oil prices he says: “There is much kissing in Syria…” Yeah, the problem of Syria is not Israel or Bush, not even Mehlis, but rebeld kissing students. In any case, they explain that marriage should precede sex, and a good social status should preced marriage, and so much of Syrian youth fin themselves studying medicine or laws, with not a very genuine interest…

All these chats happened in carpet covered rooms, chairless rooms. Everybody finds a place in the cushioned floor. Tea replaces beer. Amid that cultural otherness mate (an argentinian drink I didn’t expect to find here) appears. I almost fell backwards when I saw in Hasan’s kitchen a packet of the same brand I would buy in the shop across the street in my hometown.

From Aleppo I finally travelled south to the ruins of Ebla, one of the cities that triggered western civilization some 6,000 years ago. N the way I am stopped in each village by over-curious syrians that these days rarely see foreigners, and even less on foot. Each of them presents me what they have at hand. The owner of a grocery invites me to help myself from the assortment of fruits. Almost all invite me to halt for a tea and all withouth exception say “welcome to my country!” (their english rarely goes further, and my arab is not even enugh to say that). In the road the few private vehicules stop with readiness. At night people open the door of their houses, where dinners arrive in enormous silver trays. It is costumary to eat without knife and fork, using flat bread as pliers to lift the food, and without individual dishes. A man in the village of Daretazzeh had seen the Summit of the Americas on TV and was completely against Bush’s idea of creating a great and unique bazaar from Canada to South America…or at least that was his way of referring to the Free Trade Agreement.

In Ebla I visited an elementary school, thanks to the food shop owner, who spoke english and even some italian (since in summer he assists and hosts the italian mission that makes research in the ruins) Soon the kids at school spread the news: a parachutist has landed in the schools’ premises. The kids in the class “2 C” are more than happy the parachutist (me) has chosen their class room and approach with some fear to the parachute (my backpack). The girls, with their hair covered by colourful scarfs, occupy half of the right half of the class room, on the other half the boys are minority. Tey assume the parachutist is tired and leave biscuits over my desk. In Irak, the neighbouring country, children must look quite the same, I think. It is very easy to declare and support a war on people whose faces and smiles we don’t see. As usual the virus is on both sides: in the history lesson the kids are told to repeat a patriotic songs commemorating the soldiers who died in the 1973 conflict with Israel. The school book illustrate with full detail the fighter jets and tanks firing their missiles. As usual aslo, the graphic hides the blank of these misiles, the kids in the other side. It is necessary to hide the other side always… if you want to convince somebody to press the missiles’s button. The kids here I can say, don’t deserve missiles. But it’ s a peyy: they have oil under their feet.

3 comments: said...

Fascinating reading. Glad to learn about other cultures through the people you meet and questions you ask.

Excited to announce that you have been made a featured writer on digihitch:

Looking forward to reading much more from you, and helping many visitors to follow along with your travels.

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