Syria Journal – The bleak desert highway

Tuesday May 7 2019, Palmyra, Syria

The shelling had been non-stop from sundown to sunrise. Despite global headlines announcing the looming defeat of ISIS, dozens of  soldiers have been killed in swift ISIS raids in the steppes surrounding Palmyra recently.

Luckily we only learnt this after our visit.

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External link to The hidden lives of Arabs in Cuba

The hidden lives of Arabs in Cuba

This article was published in the Middle East Eye on August 26, 2019. By Alex Ray Amid the brass and percussion that echoes along the Paseo del Prado, Havana’s main drag, another sound can be heard. That shrill celebratory cry is the zaghrouta, the distinctive ululation Arab women let loose at weddings and other special events. Continue reading The hidden lives of Arabs in Cuba

The gardens of Damascus: can Syrians reconnect with nature?

An edited version of this article appeared online in the Middle East Eye on May 26, 2019.

By Alex Ray

“When people pluck these flowers, it’s like they are plucking my heart,” said an emotional Fareed Notafji as we drank sweet, strong ‘labourer’s tea’ in front of the guard shed at Damascus’s Botanic Gardens.

The sound of the fast-flowing Barada river accentuated the gardens’ dreamy setting beneath the old city walls.  The location made it possible to momentarily forget the ongoing war outside the Syrian capital.

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A taxi driver told me: “It’s not the traffic, it’s the people.”

by Alex Ray

“Look, it’s not the traffic, it’s the people’s character,” the Amman taxi driver told me, as the beaten-up Nissan crawled from glitzy Abdoun to the core of the capital at Jebel Amman. The remark caught me off guard; he was the second taxi driver to deliver the same line that day.

Such frank self-criticism was comforting and took us straight past “Where are you from? What is your job? Are you married?” and into the melange of factors contributing to Amman’s often-aggravating public culture. Continue reading “A taxi driver told me: “It’s not the traffic, it’s the people.””

Amman Journal – Queen Alia International Airport, 11am

by Alex Ray

From the outside the booth looks respectable. Signposted in English and Arabic it creates a focal point among an expanse of empty concrete. Recent arrivals gather, anticipating onward – or perhaps return – journeys. Continue reading “Amman Journal – Queen Alia International Airport, 11am”

Snapshot: Amman’s scrap collectors

by Alex Ray
Below a five-star hotel in the West Amman suburb of Shmeisani, three young boys spend their Saturday morning scrounging for pieces of plastic, aluminium and other metals that can be sold for recycling.

Marwan sorting rubbish

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