Kite Flying at Jabal Al Qalaa (Citadel)

Kite Flying at Jabal Al Qalaa (Citadel)

A couple of weekends ago I was lucky enough to be part of the start of a new initiative. The aim of the initiative is to bring the diverse people of the city together and find fun and meaningful ways to connect and learn from each other outside of the traditional. What that translated to was that a group of friends and myself headed to the citadel to learn how to make and fly kites.

Arriving in the morning and seeing all the old friends arrive with their kids, walking over and meeting the other kids in the neighborhood youth center built up the anticipation to what was to become an explosion of colors, string, wood, and a lot of smiles.

I never expected kite making to be such an intricate science, and the way these kids made them made seem so easy, but kite making is exact, delicate and time consuming. What amazed me is the kids didn’t once use a ruler or measuring tool, they instead measured with the string they were using against the sticks. They used staples to put things together if they couldn’t tie them securely. And then when they were done with the body of the kite with string they made a tail. I learned that without a tail a kite won’t fly.

The kids were so giving and so full of information. Some were amazing teacher others were fantastic kite makers. But whatever role the children took on they gave willingly and freely. My friends and their kids all had a great time watching and learning, but what really made the difference to me was the connections they made with the people from the neighborhood over a labor of love and joy.

When we went to fly the kites everyone’s face was turned upwards watching their kites fly. Collectively they took pride in their efforts but everyone was overjoyed that they flew – the winds were not favorable that day. But despite the poor wind the kites fly high like the aspirations of everyone on that hill. I remember two women coming up to me and what they said “This is better than playstation” to her I say YES AKEED. The other woman said “my daughter has nevr been so happy”. Thank you to everyone for making it a great day.

But here is where I want to do a plug in about the neighborhood and the hill where we played. This is a small flat area, free of artifacts and ruins, it is not the best but it is the only place the kids of the neighborhood can play. Currently it is used a parking lot for the citadel and for RVs. If you want to help make the space free for all to play in and maybe even made into a community park then please contact Raghda Butros (raghda@gmail.com) an Urban Activist.

We each can make a difference go visit the space, understand the dynamics of the location, meet the people, and contact Raghda. Our children need to be outdoors need to play, need to grow. They have a right to all of that, help preserve those precious spaces today.

Flying kites is a thing I have never really done. I don’t know how to fly a kite let alone make one. This weekend I have the opportunity to do both in a community event in Jabal Al Qala’a made possible by Adraaj Amman. So if you want participate in kite making and flying free up your Friday morning. Places are limited so do confirm your attendance.

 

Date: April 10, 2009

Day: Friday

Time:10:30 am 

Location:  Jabal Al Qala’a

Meeting point: Citadel Entrance

Cost: JD 5- 10 (you will participate in buying materials for both yourself and for a child from the Local Jabal Al Qala’a Community.

 

Contact info: Raghda Butros raghda@gmail.com 079-6637377

Confirm by: Thursday 3 pm

Note: Children welcome

 

See you all there and get read to see your creations, and those of the kids’, soar in a beautiful spring sky.

 

This weekend me and a couple of friends decided to go to Damascus to see Ziad Rahabani in Concert. We unfortunately could not get any tickets so instead we made use of our time by walking through the old city and enjoying what old Damascus and its souqs had to offer. And I realize that when in Damascus there are things that I like to do, things that become ritualistic and others that are habits.

On my last trip I was introduced to a lovely popular restaurant called Abu Al Ezz (أبو العز) which serves the best meat pies or pastries, sfei7a. They come in a yogurt sauce or a tomato sauce. Both are delicious and well worth the walk down the alleyway past the throngs of people. When you walk into this place, you see an oven and three men continuously making the delicacy. But walk up a short flight of steps and you walking into a restaurant of three levels that can seat around 400 people if not more.

I love this little place at the end of Hamidieh. Its on your right just as you walk out to the square in front of the Umayyad Mosque. Here you walk up windy old basalt steps lined with all sorts of handicrafts and antiques. At the top of the stairs is a little deck that is also littered with goods and in the center, beautiful old chairs that you can sit on and look out to the square and the mosque from. I like this shop and it is a ritual of mine to visit it whenever I am in Damascus. I like to look around and walk through and try and see if there is anything I like. Unfortunately this time there wasn’t. anything that caught my fancy, but I still enjoyed the view from the top.

The Nawfara coffee shop and its story teller Abu Shadi are staples in my visits. I can never really tell what he is saying but for half an hour I am back in my childhood listening to a theatrical voice, tell a story of some hero or other fighting battles, reciting poetry and wooing women. I keep saying this, storytelling is a dying art that needs to be revived and this man may not be the best but he is one of a few, and infact the only one I know of who does this on a regular basis and can be counted on to present everyday at the same time and the same place, without fail.

Do you know Mahmoud Shahin? An artist and a writer who has a little shop where he sits every afternoon painting away as times goes by? I stop at his shop every time to say hello and chat for a few minutes. This is a wonderfully old man who has a lot to say in his own way about how the world works in words and in colors.

On this trip I also did something new. We all went to the National Museum. This is a huge complex made up of about 30 large halls full of all sorts of artifacts from different eras and civilizations. Walking through I was reminded of the museum in Cairo and of the artifacts in Jordan. And just as I thought oh boy not another stone I walked into the last two halls, where I perked up with joy at seeing beautiful old books, and scriptures. On them was writing in all sorts of Arabic scripts and illuminated in the most beautiful of ways. I enjoyed pouring over every page laid out. And just when I was done with that I walked into the woodwork room to see some beautiful old workmanship. So exquisite, so detailed, so beautiful, I love every piece of craftsmanship in that hall and if I could I would have taken them home with me. We were also lucky to see the art exhibition that was up for the month. Six halls full of Syrian Art some of it old from the 1920’s and 30’s and some of it new. The museum which at first I thought was going to b e a letdown, turned out to be a wonderful way to spend the morning.

Damascus is an interesting place. I don’t know much of it outside the old city walls. And I am quite content to keep it that way. But I did make it out and got to see a different Damascus. One that is new, modern, and glitzy. I kept thinking I was in a different world, and was very happy to return to the old part of town. It never ceases to amazes me how there are different worlds, side by side. Old and new, affluent and poor, modern and traditional all in one small space. I like being able to move between them, but my heart is an old one that likes worn stone and wood, old cobbled streets, and history etched in the atmosphere and peoples bones.