Friday, February 19, 2010

Flashback Friday: Life in Syria, as told by a Kazim al-Saher concert

Let me tell you about the time Jeremy and I went to a concert in Syria. On the face of it, it promised to be an amazing experience. The venue: a beach on the Mediterranean Sea. The cost of the ticket: a mere $20. Best of all, the performer: Kazim al-Saher, the Bono/Sting/Chris Martin of the Middle East. What could go wrong? I'm sure you can see where this is going.

Jeremy and I got to the concert venue - the fenced-off portion of beach belonging to Le Meridien Lattakia - plenty early, along with a few hundred other concert-goers. And we waited outside the gates there for quite a while, well beyond the concert's scheduled starting time. It was pitch black, because the generators that were supposed to be powering outdoor lights weren't working. We enjoyed the convivial atmosphere at first but as the time grew later and later, the large crowd was getting antsy and the complete darkness wasn't exactly promoting order and stability.

It was still dark, and later still, when someone official opened the gate to let another official slip in. That was a mistake. The crowd immediately pushed through to keep the gate open and stampeded past (or maybe over?) the officials. The situation suddenly became quite dangerous as I learned very quickly how it is that people get trampled to death in crowds. Jeremy and I did our best to keep up with the surging mass of people around us. It was literally run, or be run over.

We made it to the seating area and snagged some seats in the second row, near the aisle. I was pretty pleased about that, until I realized two things: first, that our seats were unsecured plastic while lawn chairs set in the sand, and second, that our resourceful Syrian friends were moving chairs from the back rows and setting them up in front of the front rows. I watched in a kind of horrified amusement as our awesome second-row seats became 10th- or 11th-row seats in the middle of an aisleless mass of chairs.

Did I mention that the lights still weren't working? The seating area was lit somehow, but the stage and the orchestra were in complete darkness. That might be why Kazim al-Saher didn't show up for a long time. But when he did, oh man. It was an awesome performance and an awesome concert, even when I went to go to the bathroom and they told me there weren't any, or when the ladies in the row behind me took drinks out of my water bottle without exactly asking permission.

When I think back to that concert, it reminds me of living in Syria in general. When you focus too closely on the details of daily life, you end up with irritations like the lights not working, or almost being trampled to death, or your seat not being where you thought it would be, or people stealing your water bottle. But on the face of it, you can't deny the fact that dude, you're sitting on a beach by the Mediterranean Sea, listening to Kazim al-Saher perform live, and you're doing so with hundreds of other people who are enjoying it as much as you are.

You're living in Syria.

And no amount of insignificant bumps along the way can take that away from you.

Now please enjoy this video we took of the concert. This is one of my favorite Kazim songs.

Note: I am thiiiis close to discontinuing Flashback Friday. I know I have more stories to tell but they are getting harder and harder to remember. I've been doing FF every week now for a year and a half so it makes sense that I'm running out of material, but it still makes me sad.


Liz Johnson said...

Ok, that is so awesome. I felt that same way when we lived in Mexico. Looking back at some of our experiences (or my mom's journal entries), it makes it seem so surreal or dangerous or annoying, but it was just living there - and you just went with it. It was awesome.

Like the time we went to the orthodontist but couldn't make it because a band of extreme Mexican separatists had planted bombs and barricades along the route. We just turned around and went home. No biggie.

Bridget said...

Liz, that is hilarious.

shabba shabba said...

I love it when girls say "dude."

Linda said...

Don't stop. Start making stuff up.

Kristen said...

What an interesting experience. Also, I like Linda's idea.


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