Sunday, February 24, 2013


In 2004, I went on a trip to Syria, together with Arabic scholars and archeologists from Portugal. It was nice to find such a peaceful country in stark contrast with Iraq.
Syria’s treasures have crossed over the centuries and they show us the influence the Fertile Crescent has had on our Western civilization.

While in Syria, I had the opportunity to be ‘introduced’ to the Epic of Gilgamesh that dates to the days of the Sumerians who surprise us with their inventiveness, their cuneiform writing. Mind you, it was in the 4th millennium BC.

The search for eternal life, the paradise myth, the diluvia and the Noah’s Ark, the first report of the resurrection and the image portraying Saint George are parts of the epics inherited from the Hebrews. They became Bible stories that the Christians know so well.

The first Islamic dynasty, the Omayyad, elected the Great Syria as their kingdom and Damascus its respective capital. 

The next Islamic dynasty, the Abassids, rebelled against the Omayyad. At first, they did it on Persian territory but later they conquered Damascus. Abd-al-Rahman, the last Omayyad prince, managed to escape the massacre, and fled to the Iberian peninsula where he established a brilliant dynasty in Al-Aldalus. .

Damascus mosque (786 AC) was the model for the Cordoba mosque at Al-Andalus. 

Syria wooden norias - huge water wheels up to 20 meters in diameter built on the Orontes River - developed in the Byzantine period. Nowadays, we can still see similar ones in Al-Andalus, mainly in Cordoba, where they are called noras

And now Syria is at war! So much of our Past is over there and nobody knows how longer it will survive…

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


For professional reasons, recently I had to fly to Brussels where I stayed for one week long, enough time to have some free time after my hours of work.
When I arrived it was snowing and so was it when I took off. Amazing to me, considering that I live in a city that never sees snow.
I didn't get disappointed with the hotel I had booked online. I always do it and so far so good... It was comfortable and with an excellent location.
I was surprised by the large community of muslems that lives over there, mainly in the Gare du Midi area. Hardly could I believe my eyes as they set on a hamman with sepparate entrances for both men and women. Unfortunately, I couldn't take any shot as I had fear of getting in trouble if I had pointed my camera at it.
On Saturday, late in the afternoon, Le Grand Sablon Square, where a flea market had been held, was not crowded at all. The dismantling of the stalls had been almost concluded. 
By contrast, some of the many chocolate stores were crowded. Even though, I didn't see fat people. Perhaps they have some secret to keep slim, despite eating chocolates.

A bar-restaurant, at which the late surrealist Magritte and his artist fellows gathered frequently, was the highlight of my stay. I will never forget that delicious  hot chocolate I had there together with a Belgian friend.