Saturday, November 13, 2010

Dead Cities

During our 3 day stay in Saraqib with our hosts Iyas and Hassan (cousins), we shared meals with their families, most of whom speak English quite well.

Breakfast is typically a spread of little dishes, olives, eggs, cheese, etc., served on a large silver platter and eaten with torn bits of tortilla-thin bread. Unique to Syria though is the favored qumin spice, a combination of cumin and sesame seeds; it is eaten by first dipping bread in olive oil then in a bowl of spice. Along with every meal are also tiny cups of dangerously sugary black tea, or the thick, salty, kaway (Arabic coffee).

With Iyas, Hasan, and Adel

Iyas' father is a peaceful, well-spoken man; together, we discussed politics, religion, the isreal situation, and many other topics. While he and Chris sidetracked into arabic grammer, I perused (yes Greg, at length) his translated Quran, specifically the section addressing women and covering. I noticed that the language throughout the book is written addressing You (men) and Your Women, which bothers me tremendously, and really makes me question how women can follow such a male-centered faith. I hold no doubt the Bible is written in the same manner, yet another reason I would never consider it's doctrine.

Iyas' father and Chris discussing Quranic arabic

The guys took us out to Serjilla, one of the 60 or so Dead Cities nearby. They are called the dead cities because they appear mysteriously abandoned, however, to me they were the same as any set of ancient ruins found throughout Turkey. In fact, we decifered that these are Lycian ruins with identical birdhouse stone tombs and similar iconography; the archaeological signposts confirmed that they date from the 4th century bc as well. While climbing around, Chris discovered that some of the stones have a hollow bell-like ring, perfect for a musical doorknocker.

Entering Serjilla, oddly similar to Turkey's Lycian culture

Pre-Christian symbols

Running around being goofy

Outside the temple

We explored the ruins, posing for photos along the way, then drove to a still covered Tell where the Ebla castle sits. I followed the very nimble trio of guys up the steep hill, looking out over the flat and dry Syrian landscape, before we called it a day and went home. Again, our nightly routine took us to the market, along with a crowd of their friends, for music, dancing, argila, and mati, little clay cups of Yerba Mate, drunk through metal filter straws, or messasa. I am shocked to find this meshing of cultures so distant- never having heard of mate drunk outside South America- only now learning that there are many Syrians working in Argentina who brought this tradition home.

Hookah time at 'the market'

Keep the mati coming!


Arlene said...

Give Chris the camera once in a while so we can see more photos of you. This journal is quite an undertaking!

Arlene said...

Iyas' father reminds me of dad!