Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The blood of Adonis

In April, the blood-red anenome, or poppy, flowers across Syria. Officially, Anenome Coronaria; in Arabic Shaqa'iq Noaman, or the sisters of Noaman.

According to legend still told in Syria, the flowers first sprang from the blood of Adonis, the Greek god with Semetic origins. After his death on Mount Lebanon at the tusks of a wild boar, Aphrodite sprinkled nectar on his body and each drop of his blood turned into a red poppy.

Every spring, the blood of Adonis infuses the landscape of Greater Syria.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Little Armenia

Tucked among the green mountain peaks straddling the Syrian-Turkish border are 13 villages settled 900 years ago by Armenians who ventured south from their homeland. The majority of their descendents have since emigrated to the United States, mostly in the 20th century, when Armenians faced genocide, expulsion and, later, rising Islamism.

Those who remain retain their peculiar dialect called Kasabli, named after the largest of the villages, Kasab, which is located in Syria. The language is not mutually intelligible with modern Armenian, having evolved in isolation over the centuries.

Today, Kasab is one of Syria's premier summer vacation spots, and manufacturer of famed laurel soap. It also boasts dramatic coastline -- mountains plunging into the sea, hiding beaches amid their folds. Last weekend I hiked with friends to one such beach, photographed above.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Campaign season is in full bloom across Syria. Candidates for the People's Council (national parliament) and their supporters have covered nearly every available surface – walls, trees, fences, light poles – with posters bearing their likenesses. Handmade banners hang above busy streets and across traffic circles. After a windy day, their message is lost in twists and furls. One Syrian friend dismissed the proliferation as an eye-sore.

As opposed to campaign posters in the West – where a name is often the image – political marketing in Syria always features a photo of the candidate. Sartorial choices may help potential voters choose: turban or business suit; head scarf or blonde highlights.

The parliament is elected every four years, and although minor party candidates may run, they are required by law to accept the leadership of the Baath Party. A majority of the 250 seats are guaranteed for the National Patriotic Front, which is comprised of Baath Party candidates and their allies.

The election is Sunday.