" A damascene rose": a poem tells Nizar Qabbani love to Damascus

Nizar Qabbani was born in Damascus, Syria, on March 21,1923,to a traditional well-to-do family. He was the second of six children.  His house was  located in Al-Shaghor quarters  of the old city of Damascus. His father Tawfic, a respected national figure, helped finance the national movement against the French occupation, and was one of it’s leaders.

While Nizar was a student  at Damascus university, he wrote his first collection of Poems entitled (The Brunette told me). But he earned his reputation for daring with the publication in 1954 of his first volume of verse (childhood of breast) . In his poems he always expressed resentment of male chauvinism, and often wrote a woman’s view points, and advocated social freedom for them.

Though he had lived in London since 1967, but the Syrian capital remained a powerful presence in his poems, most notably in “ The Jasmine scent of Damascus”.

Qabbani was a committed Arab nationalist, and in recent years his poetry and other writings, included essays and journalism, had become more political. His writing also often fused themes of romantic and political despair, especially when his second wife Balqis al-Rawi whom he loved very much, was killed in a bomb attack in Beirut, where she was working for the culture section of the Iraqi Embassy.

He had a big fame not only his two dozen volumes of poetry, or in regular contributions to the Arabic-Language newspaper Al-Hayat but in lyrics, sung by popular singers in  the Arab world.

Nizar Qabbani died in London of a  heart attack at the age of 75, and was buried, at his own will, in Damascus.

The following is an excerpt from his renowned poem :"  A Damascene Moon “, which reveals his deeply rooted love to Damascus

Green Tunisia, I have come to you as a lover
On my brow, a rose and a book
For I am the Damascene whose profession is passion
Whose singing turns the herbs green
A Damascene moon travels through my blood
Nightingales . . . and grain . . . and domes
From Damascus, jasmine begins its whiteness
And fragrances perfume themselves with her scent
From Damascus, water begins . . . for wherever
You lean your head, a stream flows
And poetry is a sparrow spreading its wings
Over Sham . . . and a poet is a voyager
From Damascus, love begins . . . for our ancestors
Worshipped beauty, they dissolved it, and they melted away
From Damascus, horses begin their journey
And the stirrups are tightened for the great conquest
From Damascus, eternity begins . . . and with her
Languages remain and genealogies are preserved
And Damascus gives Arabism its form
And on its land, epochs materialize

                                       Butheina Alnounou

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German Nobel Prize Infuriates Israel


Israel is widely believed to be the only nuclear-armed power in the Middle East, having  between 100 and 300 warheads. It refused to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or to allow international surveillance into its Dimona plant in the Negev desert. 

Israel’s illegal and dangerous nuclear program has been a serious threat to world peace and security, drawing criticism by many world leaders, politicians and intellectuals.

Gunter Grass, the German Nobel prize-winning author and one of Germany’s most influential intellectuals, published a new work critical to Israel and its nuke activities.

In his new poem "A Hero in Our Time", recently published in a collection of 87 poems, entitled Eintagsfliegen, Grass praises Mordechai Vanunu, an Israeli who blew the whistle on Israel’s nuclear program to a British newspaper.

­The writer describes Vanunu, the former worker at the Dimona nuclear facility as a “hero” and a “model”, admiring his decision to disclose  Israeli nuclear secrets to the UK’s Sunday Times in 1986. 

An Israeli court convicted the whistle-blower of espionage and sentenced him to 18 years in jail. Vanunu was released in 2004 but banned from travel or contact with foreigners without prior permission.

Meanwhile, Grass has been barred from entering Israel, and considered as persona non-grata because of his anti-Israel writings.

Earlier this year, the 84-year-old German writer steered a wave of outrage in Israel after publishing a poem entitled "What Must Be Said" , in which he asserted that the Zionist entity of endangers world peace.

In the poem "What Must Be Said", Grass says that he risks the danger of being called an anti-Semite because of his saying: 

Aged and with my last ink,
That the nuclear power of Israel endangers
The already fragile world peace?
Because it must be said
What even tomorrow may be too late to say…

According to him remaining silent over these dire circumstances is irresponsible and dangerous, so Gunter Grass decides to break the silence saying:

I am silent no longer
Because I am tired of the hypocrisy
Of the West…

In another poem, the German poet also points finger at his own country for providing nuclear submarines to Israel: 

Now, though, because in my country
Which from time to time has sought and confronted
The very crime
That is without compare
In turn on a purely commercial basis, if also
With nimble lips calling it a reparation, declares
A further U-boat should be delivered to Israel,
Whose specialty consists of guiding all-destroying warheads to where the existence
Of a single atomic bomb is unproven, (referring to Iran)
But through fear of what may be conclusive,
I say what must be said. 

Hamda Mustafa



Government will spare no effort to help Syrian Drama

Syrian art, including drama, is part of the Syrian information tools. It has been able for decades to convey the image of life in Syria and to convey messages to the Syrian society with all its components and try to fix the damage done to the society by different factors.

The relation between the Syrian artists and the media is deeply rooted. However, due to the current crisis in Syria, this relation suffered some problems that need to be solved. These problems and the honest and important role of artists in shedding light on the social, economic and political life of the Syrian people were the focus of the meeting held recently between Information Minister Omran al-Zou’bi and a delegation from the Syrian Artists Guild.

The meeting tackled the state of Syrian drama, the Guild's work and preparations for the upcoming production season.

The actors suggested suitable mechanisms to overcome obstacles hindering Syrian drama, particularly in light of the pressure exerted on Syria, with the Minister affirming that the government will spare no effort to help Syrian drama and noting that the Legislative Decree No. 33 for 2012 issued by President Bashar Al-Assad helps reduce burdens in drama production and create an environment that enhance it.

Following the meeting, Minister al-Zou’bi said to al-Ikhbariyya TV “We are planning for the coming years to make the Syrian drama in a state of prosperity and to improve the conditions of the Syrian artists in a way that appreciates their creative works, efforts and sacrifices during the past years.”

Fadia Khattab, head of the Artists’ Guild said “we met to discuss our troubles and to point to the problem and try to solve it in cooperation with concerned parties with the purpose of avoiding more troubles and enhancing the situation of art in our country to a higher level.”

Actress Antwanet Najeeb said “everyone of us talked about what troubles he or she is facing and things will hopefully be better to all of us.”

On how they view the stance of some of their colleagues who chose not to stand by their homeland within the crisis and left the country to take opposite stances, actor Mustafa al-Khani said “everyone is free about his political view. He can choose either to be opposition member or a supporter to the government, but he or she isn’t free about his national view. Our belongingness to the homeland should be clear, unquestionable and undoubted.”

“Having different viewpoints is something positive so long as it serves Syria’s interest and contributes to the progress of the country,” al-Khani said, stressing “the country can’t be built by arms, blood and conflicts, but by dialogue and by us being closer to each others.”

Actress Tulai Haroon said “ Syria is like the mother who cared a lot about her children and offered them her best. She should not be stabbed in the back and betrayed by her own misled children, She must be offered as much good as she deserve.”

For his part, director Najdat Anzour said “the national sovereignty of the country is a red line. All can be free about their opinions, but if the issue goes further and is developed to damage the country’s national side, we all will be against them.”

“The door is still widely open for the artists who left the homeland and took irresponsible stances against their country to come back to their motherland which will embrace all but those who insist on their mistakes.'' added Anzour.

The meeting is seen by all the artists as an important initiative to bring back the wheel of drama in Syria to the right track represented in the goal of serving the homeland and the Syrian citizens and of helping to get the country out of the crisis.

The difficult circumstances Syria is currently passing through are very strange for our society and this necessitated from all of us to exert more efforts to expose the conspiracy our country is being exposed to and point to the causes of the crisis and try to refer to a solution.

Hamda Mustafa

Damascus, What Are You Doing to Me!

My voice rings out, this time, from Damascus
It rings out from the house of my mother and father
In Sham, the geography of my body changes.
The cells of my blood become green.
My alphabet is green.
In Sham, a new mouth emerges for my mouth
A new voice emerges for my voice
And my fingers
Become a tribe

I return to Damascus
Riding on the backs of clouds
Riding the two most beautiful horses in the world
The horse of passion.
The horse of poetry.
I return after sixty years
To search for my umbilical cord,
For the Damascene barber who circumcised me,
For the midwife who tossed me in the basin under the bed
And received a gold lira from my father,
She left our house
On that day in March of 1923
Her hands stained with the blood of the poem…

compiled by:
Butheina Alnounou

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Barada, oh father of all rivers
Oh, horse that races the days
Be, in our sad history, a prophet
Who receives inspiration from his lord
Millions acknowledge you as an Arab
Prince . . . so pray as an imam

Oh eyes of the gazelle in the desert of Sham
Look down. This is the age of lavender
They have detained you in the pavilions for a long time
We have woven tents from tears
God has witnessed that we have broken no promise
Or secured protection for those we love

Nizar Qabbani

                 Butheina Alnounou

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