UNESCO Finally Shocked about Destruction of World Heritage Sites in Syria

After more than two years of the crisis in Syria, the officials of UNESCO finally care about the destruction of history and cultural property in the country.

The United Nations (UN) and the officials of UNESCO are shocked about the damages to all the world heritage sites in Syria after they viewed several images of the destruction of some cultural heritage sites in the country, Martin Nesirky, spokesperson for UN secretary general, said on Tuesday, according to media reports.

“Irina Bokova, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said she was deeply shocked at news of further destruction of cultural heritage in Syria, particularly reports of damage to the Crac des Chevaliers, a World Heritage site," said Nesirky.

Bokova has also called for an end to the damage to World Heritage sites in Syria, he added.

"Irina Bokova calls upon the perpetrators to cease the destruction immediately and urges all the parties in the conflict to take necessary measures to ensure the safeguarding of this World Heritage site along with all of Syria’s cultural property,” Nesirky said.

Bokova also made reference to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and asked all parties in crisis in Syria to avoid damaging the cultural property in the country.

The Crac des Chevaliers is among six sites in Syria recently inscribed to the UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger.

 “The danger listing is intended to mobilize all possible support for the safeguarding of these properties, which are recognized by the international community as being of outstanding universal value for humanity as a whole,” UNESCO said in the statement.

The foreign-backed terrorists and especially the Takfiri militants and Al Qaeda-linked groups have great hostility to education and culture.

This destruction of World Heritage sites would not have taken place if the United Nations (UN) would have cared earlier about it and would have tried to stop the support by foreign powers for the terrorists and Al Qaeda-linked groups in Syria from the beginning of the conflict and the foreign-waged proxy war and terrorism against Syria.

H. Mustafa

Jiha helped people express their views

Jiha whose wit , fun and jokes still attract the attention of laymen and specialists alike in the Arab and Islamic World has not yet won the title he deserved.

The man represented the collective conscience of the Arab people for long period of time and centuries after his death . The Arab jiha , different from Egyptian and the Turkish Jiha , was born in the seventh century A.D. in the Arabian peninsula.

 He spent almost all his life in Kufa , Iraq . without any doubt the Turkish Jiha (Nasruddin Khouja) followed the footsteps of the Arab Jiha and benefited to a great deal from the rich legacy of the Arab Jiha left behind.

 Nasruddin Khouja was born in 1130 and died in 1200 A.D. The Turks paid much care and interest to their jiha and built a big mausoleum for him which is now a tourist attraction .With the passage of time the character of Jiha turned into a myth and an epic . Making fun, satire and practical jokes are the main characteristics of the Arab Jiha who turned into an inexhaustible source for modern Arabic satirical writings launched by Tawfik Al-Hakim and other Arab writers.

 Many people used to tell stories criticizing rulers pretending that they were Jihas' stories lest they should face punishment .

Jihas' character or even his name played an important role in helping people express their views and ideas regarding the ruling classes.

  Zainab  Makhlouf

Charming Symbol of Ramadan

One of the main charming symbols of the Holy Month of Ramadan in Syria is represented by the Mosaharati, a man who roams streets and alleys, especially in Old Damascus to awaken people for having a meal before the start of their fasting day.

Historically speaking, the Mosaharati is one of the oldest, most deep-rooted traditions found in Ramadan. The vocation first appeared during the Abbasid era. In the Fatimid era, the ruler issued a decree asking people to sleep early during Ramadan, while some soldiers were appointed to knock on people's doors and waking them to have their Sohor meal. Since then, the mosaher has been a basic characteristic of Ramadan in all Arab countries. Despite the decline of this tradition, especially in modern cities, the mosaher is still one of the many charms of the holy month of Ramadan and has become a constituent of its folklore to which people feel nostalgia just like other charms of Ramadan which started to be obsolete.

In the past, the Mosaherati used to go to a high place, beat his drum and cry calling on people to wake up. But as the city was expanded and enlarged, every neighbourhood started to have its own Mosaharati. As he reaches each house, he stands in front of it and calls its residents by their name names. The Mosaharati is greatly respected in his neighbourhood. He is considered to be a wise man capable of memorizing all the names of the quarter.

The people of the neighbourhood used to give the Mosaharati some food in the past, but nowadays he is given some money by the end of the holy month.

The Mosaherati usually should have a beautiful and thrilling voice to chant some songs that help in making people wake up.  He sings rhyming tales to wake people.  Among the most famous chants is "Awake, oh faster and praise God Almighty. Welcome Ramadan, month of amnesty."


Fahd Ballan: the voice of the mountain

Syrian and Arab people still remember the late great Syrian actor and singer Fahd Ballan, who was renowned for his national songs that call for adherence to land and love to the homeland and people. He started singing early in his childhood, and he used to sing at weddings and popular parties held in his village and nearby areas in Sweida city. Like most of his generation of artists who started their careers in the early sixties, he was exposed to a world of influences of those decades of music glory which was realized at the hands of important musicians such as Mohammed Abdel Wahab, Riyad al-Sunbati , Mohammad al-Qasdabji and many others. His voice and looks made him a symbol of masculinity and won him many acting roles in his youth. He was called by many music critics as the singer of manhood.

 In 1957, he tried to join the Syrian Radio but he failed in the interview for the first time as he tried to imitate Abdel Wahab and Farid al-Atrash. But later, he managed to pass when he sang songs based on the heritage of his city.

Ballan’s first song was composed by Soheil Arafeh in 1959 celebrating the first unity in modern Arab history between Syria and Egypt.

The song was followed by many national and romantic songs that gained him wide reputation all over the Arab world. In Egypt, Ballan achieved remarkable success as great singers and composers such as Mohammed Abdul Wahab and Abdul Halim Hafez admired his talent and unique singing colour.

Fahd Ballan had an amazingly strong and beautiful voice. Many people think that some of his songs including "Larchab Haddak Yal Motor" and "Irkibna Al Houssan" constitute the basis for the type of Arabic music that was later known as "songs from the mounts". Ballan’s voice was so sonorous and earthy like the land from which he came. It has its own effect, as he played with his tongue and basically, every part of his mandibles to create a very self-distinctive voice that even Umm-Khulthoum herself has said once that it was, "a new voice, nothing's like his voice in the Arab world".

Following his great success as a singer, Egyptian film production companies presented him with great offers to act in many films.  He starred in fourteen films along with Dureid Lahham, Nihad Qalei’ and the Lebanese singers Sabah and Najah Salam.

During the October War of Liberation in 1973, Fahd returned to Damascus and presented scores of national songs through many national and zealous songs that focus on the love of homeland and readiness to offer sacrifices for it.

At the end of the 1970s, he returned to his birthplace Sweida and tried to establish a branch for Actors’ Union there. Throughout his eventful career, he presented about 1000 songs composed by outstanding Arab composers such as Baligh Hamdi, Farid al-Atrash, Filmon Wahbeh and many others. He died in 1997 aged 64, leaving behind rich legacy for generations. The great Palestinian poet Samih al-Qassem described Ballan as a unique artistic phenomenon that could not be repeated.  He died of a brain haemorrhage leaving his legacy that is still loved by Arab audience.


Syrian Drama in Ramadan Focuses on Crisis

DAMASCUS- Defying the hazardous locations and risky circumstances Syria has been experiencing, the Syrian Drama closely touches on people's concerns and will be present during the holy month of Ramadan as usual, according to a Xinhua report published yesterday.

 Many Syrian drama shows, to be screened during Ramadan, will bring to surface the people's concerns and the repercussions of the 28-month-long crisis.

Despite the difficulties behind the filming, the Syrian drama went forward, according to Al-Thawra newspaper.

It recounted that some of the crewmen blanketed the narrow lanes behind the stage to sleep there and some others took the risk and went to hotspots in the country to cover footage.

"This year, some TV series shed light on the current crisis and got deep into its implications to reveal its social and humanitarian impacts, which has made them popularly demanded," the paper said.

Some 22 works will be aired in Syria throughout Ramadan, according to media reports, including a TV series by  famous Syrian director Najdat Anzour: "Taht Sama'a al-Watan" (Arabic for Under the Homeland's Sky), which consists of ten separate three-episode stories concerning the current crisis.

One of its episodes titled "Nezouh," or "displacement," shows the suffering of Syrians who were obliged to leave their homes seeking safer places in the country.

"We love watching Syrian drama during Ramadan.  It's diverse and lovely and fill up our time during the fasting day," Samar Makdissi, a mother of three, told Xinhua.

For her part, Nour Aji, a 30-year-old woman, wished the drama this year touch upon the current crisis more and inspire people to overcome the repercussion of the crisis.

H. Mustafa