VOICE FROM SYRIA
Snow in Damascus
As I stood at my the window watching the big snowflakes falling outside, I remembered how thrilled and excited I felt in the past about snow. Now, ever since the crisis in Syria started, snow no longer fills my heart with happiness. On the contrary, it makes me feel sad for the thousands of Syrian refugees facing the cold in their tents:
And then bitter snow,
More and more,
So much snow,
Burying tents of Syrian refugees,
The cruel, cold snow.
Everyone, in Syria, would rather have fuel and gas bottles fall down from he sky rather than snow:
If only it would snow gas bottles,
If only it would snow some fuel.
Instead of rockets and shells,
Falling on parks and schools.
As the crisis dragged on, snow not only caused agony to the refugees in their tents but also was linked to with the death of our neighbor who had a stroke in the middle of the night and died alone in the cold.
A Death in the Night
Snow quietly falls from the sky upon the town,
While the neighbor’s door is fiercely knocked
Screams and shrieks are everywhere,
Wafts of a stench fill the air,
Hurried footsteps come down the stairs,
Snow squeaks beneath the feet on the ground,
A man on a stretcher is carried into an ambulance,
As the siren lets out a wailing sound,
The ambulance disappears in the darkness of the night,
Amid of the echo of shells in the background.
It was very painful to think how he died alone without his family. He was patiently waiting for his visa so he could join them in Jordan.
He Died at Night
He died at night,
Silently upon his bed,
As snowflakes gently,
Touched his window ledge.
He died at night,
Alone in the cold,
While the snow covered
Damascus in a blanket of white.
Quietly, he slipped away,
As fiery shells flew
Through the dark sky,
Like shooting stars gone astray.
The recent heavy snowfall that swept Syria not only disrupted life for everyone, but prompted the Ministry of Education to shut schools and universities for two days. The snow not only silenced the guns and the planes but even the soldiers took a break and enjoyed the snow:
Damascus Snowy Day
Rather than ugly grenades,
Soldiers holding snowballs tight,
Aiming them far and near,
starting a friendly fight.
People walking in the snow,
Struggling to set things right,
Rolling in shiny bright snow,
Filling their hearts with delight.
Now the white snow ruled everything and everyone:
Snow blanketed the city of Damascus,
Snow blanketed Qassioun Mountain,
Snow silenced ugly guns and planes,
As it quietly ruled what remains.
Our three-day snowstorm this month made older Syrians remember what they had heard about the year of the ‘big snow’ which occurred in 1911.
The window pane fogged before my face and I recalled Tete sifting burghol from stones and insects, as she vividly described the large snowflakes falling from the sky of the year 1911 January 20th.
“Every snowflake” Tete said “was as big as a katayef”, an Arabic sweet that resembles a small pancake.
Tete was thirteen years old and was delighted to have so much snow for her and her sisters to play in. Yet, as the days passed the heavy snowfall continued on and off for nearly forty days, and no one was happy anymore.
Tete’s eyes widened as she moved her silver hair away from her forehead and said: “It usually snowed in Damascus in the winter, but that winter was exceptional. My father and brother had to shovel snow from the rooftops to prevent the ceiling from leaking. Sometimes the entrances of the houses were blocked and people were imprisoned in their houses!”
Tete let out a deep sigh as she remembered events of that distant winter: “As days rolled by, all the rivers froze and fruit and vegetables withered from the frost while sheep, chickens, cattle and donkeys died from the cold and hunger. As crops perished, famine, as well as diseases such as typhoid and cholera, spread.
We were among the fortunate families who had stored dried vegetables and kawerma, which is preserved cooked meat, but at the end we all suffered. Prices of everything went up and coal became a precious commodity to be given as a present to beloved ones.”
Somehow in a paradoxical way, Tete’s account of that severe winter reminded me of our present situation. The bitter cold weather, the soaring prices of essential commodities such as fuel and gas and the spread of diseases and poverty.
I wiped off the steamed window pane and looked at the city. It was dressed in a beautiful white gown, covering up all the sadness and the hardships looming over it. I smiled as I remembered Tete sifting burghol in her little red room. She was so good at sifting- she would sift away bad memories and concentrate on the good things in her life. We should all learn from my dear Tete and sift hatred and sadness from our hearts.
Just as the sun came out after forty days of non-stop misery and brought happiness into the hearts of the Syrians in the past, I hope peace and love will again prevail in Syria:
Snowflakes falling on Damascus city,
Washing blood stains and hatred away.
Snowflakes wrapping hearts with love,
For tomorrow will be another day.
Muna Imady was born in Damascus in 1962 to an American mother and a Syrian father. She has a BA in English Literature and a diploma in English-Arabic Translation from Damascus University as well as a Maitrise from the Sorbonne.
Imady has designed a beginners English reading course for children and has written several text books for teaching English as a second language to children. She has also written and translated many short Arabic stories for children which were published in several Arabic magazines.
She has been interested in folktales since she was a child and promised herself that one day she would write a book of the folktales she had collected. Imady lives in Damascus with her husband Dr Nizar Zarka and her three children, Nour, Sammy, and Kareem. She teaches English as a second language to young children and continues to collect folktales in her free time.
She is the author of the collection: Syrian Folktales
Works by Muna Imady
AIRMAIL/VOICE FROM SYRIA
A Damascene Baby Shower
A Damascene Story (Contest Winner: Every Family Has a Story)
A Damascene Wedding
A Damascene Wedding Shower Amid the War
A Death in the Family
Beirut in a Damascene’s Eyes
Damascus – February is the Month of Cats: Shbat Shahr Alattat
Poems from Damascus
Reactions and Realities: A Poet’s Perspective; A Visitor’s View
Snow in Damascus
The Three Spinners: A Syrian Folktale
What Will Be, Will Be