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
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.
“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.
Spring has sprung late this year in Amman, with the first noticeably warm day being April 7. The markets are full of strawberries, green almonds and local garlic, below is what Amman’s central fruit markets sound like on a morning stroll, as vendors vigorously announce the prices of their fruits and vegetables. Continue reading Sound of Spring
Jutting out from the eastern side of Amman’s Jebel Weibdeh is a partially used car park with a twist. Each level of the exterior displays a line of an uncredited poem written in Arabic. Continue reading “Amman’s Urban Poetry”
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.
A tiny blue and grey Tourist Police kiosk sits at one end of Culture Street, a 350 metre strip of low-rise apartment buildings in Shmeisani, an inner suburb of the Jordanian capital Amman. The area attracts tourists mostly from the wealthy Gulf states: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the U.A.E.