What Happens in Marrakech…

So I’ve finally been to Marrakech, one city I’ve always wanted to visit, a very lively city with so many contradictions, a bit chaotic but it seems to be working out for them just fine. A unique city in its own way, and I thoroughly enjoyed being in a totally different Arab culture than my own, actually I suspect that is one reason I felt I was way out of my comfort zone, for I’ve never missed home like I did this time, in addition to the fact that I was very conscious of the physical distance and how much time and jet-lag it could take to get there. Actually the trip from Jordan to Morocco was something, especially the connection flight from Rome to Casablanca, here’s the picture: imagine a plane full of Arabs and Israeli Jews, I mean, if you were allowed to carry a knife on board you could’ve cut the tension with it. Boy do we Semites make each other uncomfortable! Well, at least nobody tried to kick me out of my seat and settle on it. And the cherry on the top of it all: An Italian crew. I mean, have you ever seen a plane that starts landing with people standing and moving around? Have I gotten into a public transportation bus to Napoli by mistake?

So, the reason I was in Marrakech was to participate in the women bloggers network meeting. I’ve participated in 3 previous meetings with this network and each time I come out from it having made new friends, met inspiring beautiful people and learned a whole lot. This time was no exception as I’ve had the chance to meet amazing women, some of whom I’ve met before and was delighted to catch up with again and others who I was meeting for the first time, and no matter how much you might disagree with them on certain subjects you cannot but admire and respect their courage and dedication, whether they were developing and running their own projects, fighting for women’s rights and freedom of expression, building their careers, etc. The most beautiful thing is that you get to connect with people on a human level, regardless of everything else, which puts to rest the myth that any woman hates every other woman unless it’s Oprah. The fact is, I was inspired and encouraged to start working on something I have never ever considered doing, but being among such a diverse and amazing group of people can give you a huge push and make you explore new possibilities. So it turns out that what happens in Merrakech actually goes way beyond Marrakech…

Back to Marrakech, as I said it’s a beautiful city, I recommend that you add it to your bucket list, and if you’re from the Estern part of the Arab world you might want to take it easy on the Moroccan food, trust me, it might be nice to have it every once in a while and it’s absolutely delicious but to live on it for more than 3 days in a row would probably make you don’t want to have it again for the rest of your life, our stomachs are not conditioned not to have rice on regular basis or to sprinkle sugar on our lunch, but of course if you’re in Marrakech you have to try all that because it’s all part of experiencing the city and the culture, so suck it up and deal with the upset stomach.

A Beautiful city and an interesting culture mean lots of pictures too, enjoy

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عن الشتاء

و للحنين فصل مدلل هو الشتاء. يولد من قطرات الماء الأولى على عشب يابس، فيصعد زفرات استغاثة أنثوية، عطشى إلى البلل، وعدٌ بزفاف كوني هو المطر. وعد بانفتاح المغلق على الجوهر، وحلول المطلق في ماهيّاتٍ… هو المطر – محمود درويش

What happens in Beirut…

And so it was my first time in Beirut. Difficult to believe since it’s only a 50-minute flight, can hardly call it a trip, but you know what they say: better late than never.  When I told people I was going to Beirut they started telling me how much they love it which made me imagine that I’d actually leave a piece of my heart there. Well, it is a beautiful city, very beautiful indeed, and I did have a great time and enjoyed my stay there, but surprisingly enough I didn’t fall in love with it, I had rather conflicting feelings, that is to say I was enchanted by some aspects of the city like the architecture, the nature up in the mountains, the sea, but at the same time there was something about it that made me feel uncomfortable and disconnected. And it wasn’t only me, other people who were with me or who have been to Beirut before had the same feeling as it turned out. The thing is, it seems like the Lebanese people have a problem accepting “the other”, I didn’t feel welcome, I felt like an intruder. Not all of the of course, there were some nice people of course but that wasn’t the case in general.

For example, out of the zillion people who had to check my passport at the airport perhaps a couple of them were nice while the rest made me feel like they wanted to kick me out of their country. That bothered Duaa, an Egyptian cartoonist who was with us during the whole trip, so much that when we were leaving she asked one of the airport officers why they were frowning, he answered: “We work around the clock, we sleep in crappy rooms, we’re underpaid, we don’t have health insurance, so what do you expect?”  I’m not saying this is an excuse to be rude to other people but it makes you more understanding.

But as I said I did enjoy my time there immensely, that’s a different subject. There were some perfect moments actually like the day we went to the mountains; the scenery was breath-taking, now I know where Fayrooz was coming from when she sang جبلية النسمة جبلية, her songs sound much different now. And there was that day when I woke up early and went for a walk alone by the sea, and then there was that nice old man who sells fresh orange juice, he actually squeezes it on the spot, so I took a large cup and sat down by the sea listening to the waves and thinking of everything that’s anything. There was also this museum we visited that’s located under a church in Solidere, it was like coming face to face with history and touching it with your fingers. The church was built over the rubble of other churches and buildings that were destroyed and buried down throughout history, since Beirut itself was buried 7 times by natural disasters like earthquakes and floods. There were human bones and even a full human skeleton of a dead warrior lying down where it was discovered. That chuRch was built over 7 layers of history which can be seen in the wall of sediments that shows pieces of mosaic stones, human bones, marine sediments and other things each of which indicate a certain era in history. I knew rocks were the record of the earth but it’s different when you see it with your own eyes.

But the main purpose of the visit was participating in a workshop with the Arab Danish Women Bloggers Network, as well as Beirut Urban Arts Festival which we were taking part in. It was great to see the bloggeresses again and to do something together. Yet, some of the women bloggers that I was really hoping to see weren’t given visas to enter Lebanon, which was very frustrating. 2 Yemeni bloggers and 1 Egyptian. But the most mortifying incident was what happened with one of the Yemeni bloggers, Afrah Nasser, who currently lives in Sweden. The Lebanese embassy in Stockholm called her and said that her visa was issued and that she could pick it up at the airport once she arrives in Beirut. So, she came all the way from Sweden only to find out that there was no visa waiting for her, and although it was the embassy’s mistake or whatever authority’s mistake she was denied entry to the country and was locked up in a room without even a toilet for hours before she was put on a plane back where she came from. Actually the plane took her to Istanbul where she waited in the airport for another day for the next plane to Denmark. So not only was she humiliated for something that wasn’t even her fault, she also had to go through 2 exhausting back to back trips. Imagine spending two days between airports and airplanes.

As for our participation in the festival some of our articles and the pictures we took were printed out and put on display, as well as a video that kept playing where we talked about blogging and whatnot. It looked pretty nice actually; you can see some pictures of that in the slideshow, as well as bits and pieces from this city that reeks with history, culture, creativity and most of all: contradiction

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My 2011 in Pictures

All in all, 2011 was an unpredictable year on different levels. On a personal level, I have never been a big traveler, so it wasn’t among my rational expectations that during this year I’d visit 3 different countries in 3 different continents, 2 of them for the first time, one of them being Tunisia,

which as it turned out was the country to light the match that will set the Arab World on fire. Even though the events had already started in December I guess nobody saw all what followed coming.

2011 was also a year of firsts. I have done many things for the first time and it made me learn firsthand how much you may regret it if you shied away from trying new things.

I’ve been thinking of a career shift for a long time, didn’t know that by the end of this year I would take a step towards that. Maybe not a career shift but a change in the nature of my work, which turned out to be a change in my life in general. I have been discouraged, but I’m thankful that I went ahead and did it.

I remember starting 2011 with some expectations that didn’t come true, but instead other things I didn’t even expect happened and it made me realize again and again that God always chooses what’s best for us, even if we couldn’t see it at the time. Therefore I’m starting 2012 with even bigger expectations, and I’m not afraid of being disappointed because I know that if they don’t materialize, then it’s for the best, and I’ll keep on expecting pleasant surprises.

Have an eventful 2012, in a good way

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That Occasional Cat Post…

It’s almost inevitable! You know, they are everywhere and they have the most expressive faces of perhaps all animals! You can’t help but post a picture or a video from time to time!

Today as I came home from work there was a surprise waiting for me in the back yard. he neighbour’s cat, which is technically a street cat they feed and lives in the back yard, was buried under a bunch of hungry little kittens cramming and fighting to get some milk from mommy.  Apprently mother cat wasn’t crazy about me taking photos of her post-natal drama, and surely enough she was afraid for her babies. If only she new I’ve never held a cat in my life! She gave me some scary you’re-so-dead-if-you-think-of-coming-one-step-closer looks!