Understanding the Middle East

Haven’t u missed me? I know, I know…You’ve missed me a lot…sorry..but, I’m back to with my small stories (I know you haven’t missed, but still…I will take the fact that you missed me as a postulate…you know…psychological satisfaction ;-D ). Actually Pallavi convinced me to write, she said that she loves my mails :-D…wow, I was flattered, not a bad compliment to receive from an English Honors student…not like most of you, who only want personal mails…but I promise, if you reply then my replies will be personal 😉 … you can’t expect me to be the one who keeps writing to everyone and doesn’t get any mails back, I also like to receive mails, not only you!!! So…want do you think…(still thinking, think fast…don’t be lazy, I know you got time to reply)…. 😕 It is not easy for me to write such long mails, with so much travelling, I need to take out some time each day and each day’s flow gets interrupted. I do it, so I can share my small learning of life with you, in hope that of getting replies about your experiences and adventure of life and learn from them.

Wondering where I am…HeHeHe…not so fast ;-D

Well…it’s been really long, I think last time I wrote was Goa…since then..wow..went to Mumbai for Roger Waters with Dharun…what a trip! We had a car for ourselves, that too only from 10 pm onwards…had a guy who eat my pasta and decided to invite me for dinner to challenge my food (I was honored)…BLAH BLAH BLAH…and how can I forget!!!! had another trip in my jeep with Mathur…Now if we combine the combination of these three entities (jeep, mathur and me), disaster is (I think) the only outcome…We decided to take the jeep to Jodhpur in the month of May, 6th of May. We drove that tank of my jeep whose highest speed is 91, we measured!!! (if you don’t know…my jeep is without doors… 😉 It was us with only 6 hours to sleep at our back in 2 days and 14 hours of drive in the Indian heat across Haryana all the way to the heart of Rajasthan. We survived of espressos at Café Coffee Day and Mr. Beans in Jaipur…the quantity we had, could have opened a whole sale shop of coffee with it. We met Mr. Sandstorms, who nearly decided to overturn us with his forceful blow; but how can we forget our meeting with Mr. Heat, he made us spend a bit of money on quite a few bottles of coolant. Mr. Accident was not friendly with us but he was kind enough to let us witness a very funny accident. There was this truck with was parked on the side of a two lane road, you know..india..and a jeep, moving at 30 km/h, tried to come on to our lane but saw us and banged the truck at 10km/h, with a face of cluelessness, which could just make you laugh… nothing happened, just a broken windshield…What I did in Jodhpur? Played a lot Fifa on Xbox!!!!!!!!!!!!

I left India on the 10th of May for Istanbul, the airport never looked so pretty..it was colorful, full of very funny people and the floor was smoothly moving left and right; of course, this is the description is the product of going to party just before a flight where booze was free, that too in an expensive place 😉 …Not bad eh!! A guy approached me at the queue for check-in, he had 120 kg of luggage and they were only two. He asked me if I could tell that some of his luggage was mine…so there I was with this guy arguing with the girl on the counter to let him go with his luggage…20 min were left for the flight and we were still there…was so much fun arguing all drunk, but I was logical ;-), actually I was good…finally he agreed to pay but, how can we forget, INDIA, they did not have the machine for credit card payments…call this and call that…call me the manager “be logical, c’mon, how can we carry so much cash, whose fault is it if you don’t have a machine, find me someone who is willing to give me a solution not someone who is just telling problems”. Finally they told us to pay in Istanbul at the arrival, which I think never happened (28000 Rs those two saved). We were the last to get in the plane. Must have been at the counter for around 90 minutes having our “friendly conversations”…I entered the plane and I was dead, can’t even remember the take off…

I had to reach Istanbul; dad, sister and brother would have reached me in a couple of days and mom was gonna come on the 12th… My responsibility was to organize the family arrival in Istanbul.

There I was, new city, new language, with no information (the only one I had was the name of the area with cheap hostels) and a map which I tore from the flight magazine…Went to this area known as Sultanahemet, just next to the Blue Mosque (go there if you need to stay cheap, it is central and cheap. Dormitory is for 9 Euros, including breackfast). Wasn’t able to take much advantage of being alone…no party, no nightclubs, no striptease joints..just a normal tourist trying to save money :-D. Walked around 20km that day and slept 15 hours after that…well one thing of “the things to do with no parents around I did” smoking alone a Nargila…the world was again very strange and the movement of every object was so, so…so…sslllooowwwww…

Before I forget, the couples hug each other so much in Turkey, they hug as if they will meet again after ages; as if the man is going to war and his future is unknown…wow…hugs are long and so full of “tearful joy” (it is strange to explain, maybe coz it is a bit unconceivable for me). It is good to hug, no problem, be this DRAMATIC HUG is just…so…GIRLY!!! And they don’t kiss on lips but on the neck, neck kissing is a public act, even camera shops have picture of married couples kissing on the neck…of course they don’t kiss simultaneously, if that is what you are wondering. Turkey is a very interesting combination of east meeting west; it is a country which has tried to create a dialogue between different religions and cultures. Turkey is about accepting differences and understanding other cultures. The Ottoman Empire is not barbaric, as some of the films and media sometime project, but it is a culture of deep spiritual and intellectual enquiry. We should not forget that during the dark ages (for the west) these area were in the midst of their grandeur and that the renaissance (which was the rediscovery of greek and roman culture) was possible only because this Empire saved the roman and greek literature from being destroyed. It is very interesting to see how the respect of knowledge of the east meets the determination to develop and to the flavor of enjoying life of the Mediterranean . It is not too materialistic nor too spiritual, it is a mixing of practical meets aesthetical. What would aesthetics be if it was not practical and what practical be without being aesthetical? I was very fascinated by Turkey; I found it much developed and open to dialogue between cultures than I thought it to be. The blue mosque is fascinating its architecture and painting is enchanting; it feels like a place where spiritual enquiry has never ceased to exist. It feels like a place of devotion to know the metaphysical. The feeling of spiritual energy penetrates your skin which such a feather touch, that enchantment and desire to understand such energy are the most captivating emotions.

It is strange how only a small territorial change can make big difference, in culture as well as in geographical scenario. The whole cultural atmosphere was changed; entering Syria was like putting on a tighter underwear (guys are meant to understand this more)..a bit castrated 😀 … you could see many more covered women, a feeling of orthodoxy and the openness to other cultures was much more limited. It was as if they said “we allow you to understand us and respect our religion, but don’t try to make us believe in yours or try to create a intellectual dialogue between your and my religion. You stay in your place and I will stay in mine”. It is a cheap country but unlike India social discrimination between different stratums of society is not very visible. There are rich and poor but the feeling of superiority of one over the other is much less. People are very friendly but..but…BUT…if they stick on you they don’t leave…They are liked glued on you, Feviquick can even think of competing. So sweet that you feel bad to tell them to go away…not poor people, but rich ones too, it is as if they have so much of a desire to help other and time, that…wow…they tend to become quite a pain after some time. If you give them space you’ll land up to eating dinner with them and next day you’ll be sleeping in their house; which is very nice, but not if you want to be alone with your family and you don’t have much time. The two best places we saw in Syria were Damascus and a small monastery in the desert, near Damascus, known as Mar Musa. It is 1500 years old monastery which was abandoned 150 years back and put back to life by a Italian father few years back…strangely this guy might be dad’s school mate. Damascus is really pretty, small lanes which make their way in the colorful and perfumed markets of: spices, lamps, ceramics craft, carpets and real imbalsameted (I hope that is the word, in Italian it’s IMBALSAMATO) animals. Those animals which are killed then stuffed with a special material and kept as decoration; something very fascinating but cruel and brutal too.

Syria is a republic..well they say so…there are gonna be elections in a few days and there is only one candidate, the current president, who is also the son of the previous president..It is a pain in the ass, his photos are everywhere..when I say everywhere I mean it..on car windows, posters on roads, photos inside shops, t-shirts, everywhere!!! The only time you might escape from his sight is when you sleep…I didn’t go to any club..but they might just have his picture there too, which all psycadelic lights illuminating it…and his hand blessing you and saying “may you have a good f**k tonight”

Turkish girls are not that bad…but I’ve noticed that the people in these parts of the world have cheeks which are a bit too round…Syrians…well, the ones you see are interesting…Missed out on Lebanon…but I’ll be back some day!!! Jordanians are good, is what I remember from my last visit in Jordan. This time we just passed it to reach Jerusalem, which is where I find myself to be…

Syria does not allow you to get in if you have an Israeli stamp or visa on your passport and the way we have to go back is though Syria. It is very interesting how the political world works…In Jordan at the border with Israel they gave us a page with the exit stamp and took it back at the passport check and they did the same in Israel..so I find myself in Israel but on paper I’m in Jordan…I’m a spy.. ;-D.

Trying to find an underground rave party with some trance music but I think I’ll have to leave this experience for my next visit.

It is strange how so much happened in this little space, history speaks from these walls…every blood which died here is as if still alive; the energy, the vibrance, the desire to see your religion grow. It is the heart of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Baha’i faith and I might be forgetting some more and no one wants to give it away, it is strange how each quarter is completely different. In the old Jerusalem there are four quarters: Muslim, Jewish, Armenian and Christian; and each of them is special. There is a wall, known as the western wall, which is the most sacred place for the Jews, on top of it is the mosque which is built where, if I am not wrong, Mohammed went to heaven on a horse. It is supposed to be the most sacred place for the Muslims after Mecca. The Jews believe that the temple will be built again and the one who will build it will be the prophet. It is interesting how the three religions: Judaism, Christianity and Muslim are an outcome of the same stream. The Jewish’s sacred book is nearly the same as the old testament, Christianity, in fact, says that Jesus was the prophet who built the temple, not a real temple but a spiritual one and that Jews are stupid not to have recognized it. The Muslims accept all the Jewish prophets as well as Jesus and their sacred book is, a continuation of the new testament. The Muslim do not consider the three text as one but they accept the Old and the New Testament and consider the Quran to be sacred. Mohammed, in fact, teaches respect for the Jewish and the Christian community, which is why the Arabian and the Ottoman empire protected the Jewish community from being reduced to History. The Jewish consider both Jesus and Mohammed to be liars and say that their prophet still has to come, and till the day he doesn’t they will keep weeping on the western wall. The western wall is which is the only thing which has remained since the Jewish temple was first built by Solomon.

It is as history never stopped here and each wall narrates his history; each wall has: eyes, ears and mouth. There is the way which Jesus took when he walked up the hill with the cross on which he was crucified; where Mother Mary was born. Where since millenniums Jewish pray for the prophet to come. It is a city filled with small lanes and hidden places (caverns, underground passes, etc..) where people used to pray secretly and teach their belief or religion to keep it alive.

Jerusalem is the city which was not the product history but is the creator of history. Worth seeing once in your life.

I wasn’t able to send this message in Jerusalem and I find sending it here sitting in a more uglier place, not the roof of the hotel from which overlooked on the Old Jerusalem, while steeling someone else’s wireless connection, but I find myself to be in an internet café in Damascus. While coming back to Syria we stopped in Jordan for 2 days.

We had some problems with the camper, found a mechanic and by the end of the day I had lunch in his house (lots of girls ;-)…and two more people had invited me for dinner. If each house had such girls I would have accepted invitations for the next one month…but god is not so kind. I did not remember wrongly!!!! Jordanian girls are really pretty, amazing features and really good shape: every curve speaks. The Dead Sea is one more amazing thing, the way you have to struggle to keep your feet down otherwise you’ll be just floating around. The water is so f***king salty that you don’t even want a drop to go into your eye. But how can a drop, well at least 10, go into my eyes. IT BURNS LIKE HELL!!!!! Even if you mix a Kg of salt in one glass of water you won’t get such salty water. I’m gonna bring some water back to India 😉

I know, long mail…hope it was not too boring, I’ll try to write the next on with more interesting adventures. Hope to get a reply.

Nothing can beat the TRAVELLING DRUG, too addictive and very expensive 😉 but worth each penny of it. What would life be if enquiry of cultures stops, what would our culture be if it cannot be understood in comparison of other cultures. I believe that it is by cultural dialogue which crates harmonization and understanding of cultures that we can bring a bit more peace in this world which tends to forget the flavor of simplicity and the joy of life.

By the way…we played a bit of frizbi on the Syrian Border!!!!!

Lots of love

Fausto … just imagine 😉

June 2007

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