Abu Fares is a real Tartoussi (from Tartous) as he likes to describe himself and is one of the most genuinely admired bloggers on the Syrian blogsphere. In a little more than a year, his blog had already reached out to every other single blogger. With his delicate sentences, and creative postings he has become by far the most popular blogger in town.
Now for someone who feels that “talking about politics is like visiting a dentist”, to be able to attract the people from so many different places and currents, in a country like Syria where politics puts everything else on the backburner… for his blog to become a place where all these people come to enjoy the small details, the human details of Syria that we largely forget… it must be a very extraordinary place, and sure thing, it is.
His posts are as varied as the lives of us Levantines, from the Olive Trees to Shanklish, from Faith and Spirituality to his own Horoscope Roundup. He let us into a world of delicacies and beautiful details.
Q- Abu Fares, tell us about your blog? What is to you?
A- My blog is one of the most significant outlets where I can express my feelings and attitudes about different issues. The ideas behind some posts are reactionary in that they invade my mind on the spur of the moment and I instantaneously start writing while others are cooked over a slow fire and eventually mature enough to be worth sharing with others. Not all posts are equally created. However, I wouldn't say that I have ever regretted any single one. Blogging has become a very engaging hobby and at the exact same moment of publication an immense sense of satisfaction and relief overwhelms me. Not for long though, as I very often start wondering what to write next.
Q- A person with your experience has definitely given a lot to the blogsphere, what has it given back to you?
A- I really don't know whether I have given too much to the blogsphere. However, I have to admit that it has given me a lot. Even more important than expressing myself is the opportunity to read the self-expressions of other bloggers. Anyone who enjoys writing more than reading is, to put it bluntly, an idiot. I especially enjoy the writings of my fellow bloggers who have accumulated a reading conscience. I think that blogging is a win/win proposition in both of its manifestations: reading and writing.
Q- As a person, where does this blog touch your real life? Where do you draw the line? and how?
A- My blog is very personal even when I don't write about myself. Writing about Tartous is personal, so is writing about women and all the simple and complex pleasures and misfortunes of life. We all have our, not necessarily malicious, yet dark sides. I'd rather talk about the good times than the bad ones. Even in real life I'm this type of person. Bloggers and casual readers do not have to read me when I'm in the wrong mood, although at times, I unwillingly cross this line.
Q- A very important question would be, in a country like Syria, how are you able to stay away from politics?
A- I don't think I stay away from politics, I rather circumnavigate some sensitive topics in a way where I do not offend the “others” too much and at the same time, where I do not jeopardize my own wellbeing and safety. There is a lot to read between the lines in some of my posts. However, as a rule, I follow a tactic of a great journalist, the late Saeed Frayha. His political and/or social criticism of the other is like a pinprick. It's meant to draw attention, but never to cause any serious bleeding.
Q- Blogs in places like Egypt, Iran and many other places have played a major role in stirring all kinds of social and political debates, and bringing them to the surface. Syrian blogs have come short when it came to reaching out to people inside Syria, how do you feel about that? How can we change that?
A- Indeed, blogging is still short of stirring the stagnant political and social status quo in Syria. Among others, I'm to blame. The first fact is that most blogs are written in English and that by itself makes the readership base elitist in a way. In all honesty though, and I'm in no way evaluating my fellow Bloggers, the wide spectrum of available blogs vary in the quality of their content. Unfortunately, a considerable proportion of the “better written blogs” are overly pessimistic and negative. Their insistence on instigating change in society is intellectually confrontational and coercive. On the street level, this type of writing is, in my opinion, worthless in the eyes of the Syrian society.
Q- Back to Tartous, what makes it so special as to say “Syria without Tartous, Arak without Mezzeh (appetizers)…”?
A- I'm a person with deep roots. Had I been from Karatu, Tanzania or Chittagong, Bangladesh I would've been as attached to those places as I am to Tartous. If a person doesn't take pride of his birthplace, doesn't have an overwhelming affection to his hometown, he or she is missing a vital link to the past, present and future. I'm a nobody if I were not Abufares from Tartous. Besides, I'm truly in love with my city because of who she really is, a place of magic and splendor. Over the years my passion for her has turned into compassion. She and I are growing up together and the tear and wear are showing on us both. She's my home. She's my only home.
Q- Abu Fares, two weeks ago, we celebrated your blog's first anniversary. Where do you see your blogging experience taking you next?
A- When I first started on my blog I wasn't going anywhere in particular. Blogging is very similar to riding my motorcycle. The trip is always more interesting than the destination. With the burdens of the little things that make up a life and with the long working hours I just hope I can find the time to continue blogging as long as physically and emotionally possible.
Q- A final thought?
A- Abufares said… the world according to a tartoussi is the name of my blog and this is exactly what it's about. I have given myself a wide open window to write about almost anything. I try my best to convey a sense of humor in my writing. I don't succeed all the time but I always try. I have an ethical obligation not to post anything I don't enjoy writing. This is the only and maximum guarantee I can offer.