Archive for February, 2010

Turning a blind eye no more

As more buzz awaits the city, the streets bustle with activity

From new construction projects to a modern transportation system, as well as regulations to regulate a smoking ban, the people of Damascus are asking many questions about the way things are being handled and the prospects of things to come.

For someone living in Damascus and cares about it, I surly have something to say about this subject.

This emerging activity is part of an increased  development momentum that has seen the signs of  a renewed interest in modernizing  infrastructure as well as investments geared towards  enhancing the environment, which is a very pressing issue for the government right now.

The idea is that a premature and ill-planned jump into the unknown,will be inevitable as decision-making is still in the hands of very few people who are coming up with a lot of grand schemes but have no vision concerning the end result .

take for example the new Syria Towers project.

there is much to be said concerning the validity of such a high rising structure amidst a sea of poorly planned buildings and a congested area.

I wonder whether or not there is something concrete for such a project on a large-scale to be base upon (and pun intended!)

I am all for a modern and a vibrant trade/finance/residential/whatever center, but I want to point out the fact that this project will be just another eye sour for us (the Four Seasons Hotel comes to mind!)

my view point is that the existing area should be a starting point for an integrated and well-planned scheme for development for the whole city, it  is most suitable to serve as a connecting point and has a strategic location near the SANA building, and is centered very well near all the important areas of Damascus, so why not have a full-fledged scheme for turning this area into a well-planned and developed urban center with a vision of a town down, isn’t this better than just constructing a skyscraper for the sake of  it!

Legacy of the past..promise of the future

..we say that:
Our beloved Sham has been a home for years uncountable.
Our beloved Sham has given us the old city which is the oldest inhabited city in the world.
Our beloved Sham has endowed us with the ever enchanting Barada river.
Our beloved Sham has offered us the gorgeous Qasioun Mountain.
Our beloved Sham has been, is and will be a true and extraordinary example of mutual coexistence of various people belonging to diverse cultures, religions and ethnicities.
The list goes on and on.

well, I say..
and what do we have to do in return?

well, I only can speak for myself. for me the answer is not easy.
..and the moment will come when we start to realize that we have been murdering our city in the name of love of “Sham” and that is precisely the moment we realize how much we owe it to our city to open a new page together to return the favor of this great home!

My thoughts for the coming stage

For any development to happen in any city, first we should have a basic ground to build upon it.
To lay this ground we ought to be aware of our strengths and weaknesses.
I think we have to cast a vision of urbanism on Damascus. (what a heavy phrase!, but I didn’t find any other, suggestions,anyone?:))
seriously, we should think of Damascus as a city. try that for a moment…think. of. Damascus. as. a. city, a. “madinah”

Done?
ok

the building units for a new reality for Damascus to be reborn as a modern city will have to draw on our already existent strengths which are enormous. We have talented professionals in almost all fields: architecture, engineering, fine arts, scientific research and so on.
we have energy and people who are willing to start projects on their own, I mean: we don’t need any foreign firms to build our buildings or power plants or even our cars and that is in principle and practise and I am pretty sure you agree with me on this..

Now we also have to deal with our weaknesses and the most important weakness that we have is that we don’t take the first step. and that’s it. that’s the only weakness point we have, believe it or not:)

what should be done?

I think the way forward is going to be full of exciting work and cooperation. I am really hopeful that the people will take charge, which will pave the way to realizing (sooner rather than later) our desire to break out of the state that the city has been subjected to for the past decades and open the doors for a new era for all of us to part of something totally new and exciting, called the city of Damascus:)

today’s news

The news should be fresh, relevant and have a personal touch..those are the kind of citizen journalism that blogs all all about, so here are some as an attempt to kick off something to that end on the Syrian blogsphere (ambitious? I already know that:P):

– The 7afryat ( tunnel construction work) at the Kafarsouseh roundabout are still going on with much vigor. the neighborhood seems to be suffering from noise and pollution (smoke and noise pollution).

– As art exhibition abound all around the city, you’ll have to be carefull in choosing the really good from the ordinary. head for the Finnish Institute for a really interesting one.

– On the political side of things; no real news could be found. and I’ll leave it at that:D

Damascus popular hangouts

groups of young people are filling the streets, they pass you by talking in a care-free manner..a sight not usually seen in Damascus before.

While I was in a couple of art galleries I managed to look for what is it that bring people together and how the art scene can bring young people out and create a space for having conversations and and exchange that was difficult to have before.

yesterday I made a comment that sparked a debate. it was in a screening of a film in a cultural center.

Today I have nothing particularly interesting to do, I am thinking of continuing my journey into song writing and maybe calling my friend to have hot chocolate in Chocolate Bar.

that what we do, culture.

The month of February holds the promise of a new cultural activities.

you see, my friend Sam (who is now in Denmark) used to introduce me as a “cultural addict” and he was right, well that what I appeared to be at least.

My story with following the cultural activities (they are called so right?) started way back in 2004 when I used to pay regular visits to the French Cultural Center in Damascus, I used to get all their brochures which have the events and exihibtions organized by the Center for each two months.

fast forward to today, I still go there. actually just today I passed (intentionally) in front of the center and saw the new exihibition.

However, the current cultural scene is not what one hopes for and that because of many reasons : first the people changed and the quality of the activities changed.

When I say that the people changed I mean the kind of people who are interested in culture got a little disinterested and fewer and fewer are going to events or attending concerts.

a related fact is the decreasing number of good quality culture, that is (and I don’t purport to be a judge here) the events are more focused on the exposure they offer to the organizer rather than the actual content. well, that in turn has many reasons and is regretably part of a drive to empty the cultural scene of its viberant and educating role to be just another item on a “cultural” agenda.

take for example the latest Palestinian cinema days by the Goethe Institute, I thought the event was very much directed to serve an agenda by catering to a certain segment or group of people living in Damascus, and I say living because most are not from the city.

I say that because I talked to a friend after one film was over and the film was not to his likeness, which is understandable given that the film had a certain message and a very political one. although I have to admit that I found the film to be very good (it is called “salt of the sea”).

my point is, we should refocus on the needs to further a local cultural movement and not one that is diverted by media concerns.

media coverage will naturally occure and this blog is here to report all the good culture that is to come:)

my first observation

Today I went to the Assad Library and then I had a work meeting in the afternoon.

the work meting was brief and a new project is on its way, so I was glad for the good news and as I left the cafe where the meeting was I decided to not go directly back home but to continue walking.

one thing you notice when you live in Damascus is how people are crammed into small spaces :small microbuses, narrow streets and small shops, even the cafes are somewhat stuffed (I think).

creating a healthy public space is one of the major obligations for a sound urban environment, and that is a very important issue that no one seems to notice or care about.

take for example the traffic jam that has been created due to the construction of a tunel (so I have learned via Twitter!) and that blaguing the city with more congestion and causing more hassle.

I don’t know how many times a tunnel has been built, but we have a bunch of them and in my opinion all are redundant and ugly, because I don’t like going underground.

when starting a new project like this one, the government should provide sufficient explanation about the reasons for it and the benifits that the project would render, I even tried to look every where in the newspapers when I was at the library and couldn’t find a proper article about this.

my point is:  infrastructure  should be a balance between the need to develop the city while maintaining that it is conducted in a way that is responsible and responsive to the need enhance the public space, and that is a matter that we all have a stake in.