Uncovering The Levant

Arabic Literature

Posted in News & Random Thoughts by mikelowrey on March 3, 2010

Recently I have been trying to find some Arabic literature that has been translated into English that goes beyond the normal One Thousand and One Nights. A quick search and I have stumbled onto this fantastic resource maintained by M. Lynx Qualey which contains an up to date record of Arabic literature that has been translated into English.

http://arablit.wordpress.com/

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Dimashq – Some Photographs

Posted in Syria by mikelowrey on October 28, 2009

Petra – Some Photographs

Posted in Jordan by mikelowrey on October 28, 2009

Blog…Inshallah

Posted in News & Random Thoughts by mikelowrey on October 28, 2009

Well, it seems that the pressures of studying, GRE exams and applications to graduate schools have caught up with me. Although I have piles of notes which need to be turned into ‘blog’ form and uploaded to this website, the updates are going to be sporadic at best. Ill put some photos up of my journey soon, and also some interesting new items I have come across from the Levantine states.

Lebanon Part 2: Beirut to the Bekka Valley

Posted in Lebanon by mikelowrey on August 2, 2009

Although we had a night of sleep jammed with interruptions, thanks in no small part to my Austrian friend, my companion and I set off in a service taxi from the Cola bus station in Lebanon for the Bekka Valley. Almost immediately we were bombarded with text messages from the girl who’s Lonely Planet we had ‘borrowed’ partly in retribution for the disturbed night sleep, but mostly due to having done no prior planning as to how we would travel to Baalbeck.

Getting from Beirut’s Cola bus station to Baalbeck involved the same hair raising drive through the mountains that we took on our way from the Syrian border to Beirut the previous morning. This was made more bearable by listening to Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds as we drove over the mountain pass at speeds which were quickly becoming ridiculous. The journey only cost 3000 Lebanese Lira (about $2) and took about two hours. We made the decision to stay the night in Baalbeck, one we would soon regret taking, and checked into a hotel room which cost $10 each. The hotel was like something out of a horror film, think in the vein of Hostel. We were welcomed by a very old man who without saying even a word took us up to the empty, smelly, dirty, and extremely run down hotel which he owned. The room we were given contained two uncomfortable beds, four pairs of well used slippers and an open bottle of water which seemed to have been in the room for a considerable amount of time. In spite of all these problems finding A room for $10 a night in Lebanon is something which cannot really be turned down. There are also plenty of other options on the main road of the sleepy town of Baalbeck for people who are travelling on a larger budget than we were. (more…)

Lebanon Part 1: Damascus – Beirut

Posted in Lebanon by mikelowrey on July 19, 2009

We left for Lebanon, as a group of seven, after the end of the week’s classes at Damascus University. On arrival at the bus station just on the outskirts of Damascus we were mobbed by a group of competing taxi drivers trying to ply their trade. After a few minutes of arguments between our group and the drivers, and the drivers between themselves we managed to negotiate a price of $60 for the journey to Beirut. The driver we decided a price with described his car as a taxi kabirah, a large taxi. After being driven by one of his friends to the car, we were greeted with a car that resembled a 70’s coffin, and was most definitely not the size he had described. Following a couple of minutes of arguments about the size of the taxi, seven of us squeezed in for the journey to the Syrian – Lebanese border.

In order to leave Syria we were forced to spend 550 Syrian Lira on tax; it later transpired that the tax was actually 500 Syrian Lira and the extra 50 seems to have been an involuntary donation to the guard manning the first of the border checkpoints. At the next border checkpoint we had our passports and visas checked. For the majority of the group I was travelling with this was rather painless, albeit a slow and drawn-out affair. For one of the people this border checkpoint proved to be the end of his trip to Lebanon. With his visa having expired 3 days previously, he was denied exit from the country and forced to travel back to Damascus. Although in some countries it may have been possible to just buy a new visa at the border without too much hassle, with this particular border it was not the case, and this highlighted the importance of having all of our documents in order when we were planning to travel out of Syria. Soon after this setback our driver confessed that he did not have the correct documents that allowed him to drive people over the border, as a result we were forced to cross on foot. The driver then followed us and the six of us quickly got in on the other side of the Syrian border. (more…)

Golan Heights

Posted in Syria by mikelowrey on June 28, 2009

The town of Quinetra lies within a demilitarized zone, close to the Syrian – Israeli border, which is mediated by the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force. The town was devastated by Israeli forces in 1974 and what remains resembles a town which has suffered a series of powerful earthquakes. After the 35,000 Arab occupants were evacuated Israeli soldiers removed everything that was accessible, and sold the plundered materials on to Israeli contractors. The majority of buildings were then flattened by bulldozers, although this is disputed the Israelis who claim that the majority of this damaged was caused during the time the two sides were exchanging artillery fire. The town remains as a monument to the seemingly senseless brutality which was suffered at the hands of Israeli soldiers during conflict over the territory of Golan Heights.

As is the case with visiting any similar sites in Syria, going to see Quinetra is not a particularly easy task. In order to gain access to the heavily guarded site it is necessary to gain permission from the Ministry of the Interior. On our first visit to the ministry we were greeted by a young man wearing a scruffy t-shirt and tracksuit trousers holding a rifle. Quickly we were turned away, as is often the case in Syria when attempting to negotiate the bureaucratic hurdles, due to the permission slips only being issued on the day of a planned visit to Quinetra. (more…)