Syrian Blogsphere on Culture: Old Damascus Campaign, Norouz Day and “Tleebeh”

In this past week, most of the Syrian blogsphere was busy sponsoring yet another campaign in favor of saving what's left of the world's oldest continuously inhabited city, Damascus.

The new plans that the Damascus City Counsel is trying to put to effect, include bulldozing two historic souqs (bazaars), Souq al-‘Amara and Souq al-Manakhlieh, both of which date back almost 700 years.

According to the city counsel, these developments are based on the French architect Michel Eochard's Damascus city planning, which date back to 1968.

The new move sparked protests not only from the residents of the old city and owners of the shops, but from levels as high as the Chief of UNESCO's World Heritage Center.

Ammar Abdulhamid from Amarji wrote:

This is not about politics. This is not about who’s in and who’s out, who’s in power and who’s in jail or exile, who’s rich and who’s poor. This is about the love of a city and of country, this is about what makes us all tick, what gives us all a soul, what gives us an anchor in this turbulent world. This is about protecting the last vestiges of our historical identity. If we give up on Damascus now, we will become like drifting hollowed logs in a raging river, with nothing to look forward to but an approaching abyss.

Abu Kareem from Levantine Dreamhouse wrote:

The 1968 plans have been met with a variable resistance from Damascenes since then, but even when parts of the plan was implemented, it was done carelessly. In fact UNESCO, which designated old Damascus as part of the World Heritage has been unhappy with the course of events in the past few years. The recent plans and the haste with which they seem to have been implemented have aroused protests but also some suspicions. Interestingly even government controlled media outlets have published articles critical of these plans. The plan when implemented will result in the loss of livelihood and displacement of thousands of Damascenes without plans for adequate compensation.

We stay in history, but turn a bit East, towards the Kurds of Syria, who celebrated Norouz on March 21st. Arima from Ha Ana Za! shares the story behind the celebrations…

He told me that the day commemorates a Kurdish hero's defeat of a hideous monster, which Evil had cursed with two snakes on his shoulders, and these snakes, each morning, needed to eat human brains. So every morning, two young men were sacrificed to nourish these snakes. Our hero revolted against this tyranny and set out on a quest to vanquish the monster, promising to light a fire at the top of the nearest mountain to announce his victory. Sure enough the monster was slain and the fire lit. In celebration a fire was lit on every mountain top for a thousand miles so all would know that they no longer lived in fear.

Abu Fares, in his new post, elaborates about the Levantine tradition of “Tleebeh”, The Asking of the Hand of the Bride… the tradition that dates back hundreds of years… with a very vibrant discussion in the comment's section of the post about the symbolism of such a tradition.

“Tleebeh”, the traditional way for a suitor, along with a group of men from his extended family to visit the home of a girl and ask for her hand in marriage, is one of the most meaningful social forms of behavior we still have here in the Levant. I need to quickly add that this original tradition is devoid of religion, although it is culminated for Muslims in the reading of the “Fatha”. It is practised in most traditional societies around the Mediterranean, Latin America, Africa and Asia by various faiths.

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