Wednesday, March 30, 2005 

Ice Cream Cone...a Syrian Invention?

An ice cream cone is a cone-shaped pastry, usually made of a wafer similar in texture to a waffle, in which ice cream is served, permitting it to be eaten without a bowl or spoon.
The edible ice cream cone is popularly believed to have been invented at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, where Mr. Ernest Hamwi was selling Zalabia, crisp wafer-like pastries baked on a waffle iron. Because of the high demand, the ice cream booth next to Hamwi's stand ran out of dishes. Mr. Hamwi quickly rolled one of his pastries into a cone shape to assist his neighboring vendor. Within a few seconds, the cone cooled and hardened and THE FIRST ICE CREAM CONE WAS SERVED
There were several claims to the invention of the ice-cream cone at the fair; all made many years after the fact. Cookbooks generally credit Hamwi. The International Association of Ice Cream Manufacturers recognizes him as the inventor of the ice cream cone

Tuesday, March 29, 2005 

You Know You've Adapted To Syria When...

.You think that all coffee comes in tiny cups with mud in the bottom.
.You're the one honking your horn at the stop lights.
.You line up your car up on the white lines on the Autostrade.
.You think that $25 is an expensive restaurant meal.
.You park your car on the sidewalk and walk on the street.
.You realize that you don't need a prescription to get Prozac.
.You think it's normal to get cooking gas out of a bottle.
.You know at least 10 people who have had a baby.
.You think 60 hours is a normal workweek.
.You're not bothered when a car in the left lane turns right.
.Your everyday speech includes "Maelesh", "Bukra" and "Inshallah".
.You don't want to leave but it's time to go.


Want some Ozone?

A local advertisement paper ran this ad for chewing gum. Although there are some syrian food products with unusual names such as "Hum Hum", "Touch me", but this is the most unusual I've come across so far...Maybe part of the profits of this gum goes to the "Save the ozone layer" foundation...

Thursday, March 24, 2005 

Syrian Brocade

Design used for H.M Queen Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth II wore it on her Wedding in November 1947(given to her as a gift by the Syrian Government). The famous, hand-woven Syrian silk brocade has been known for centuries, and is perhaps the finest silk ever. Called by Arabs "brokard", it has the name generating from the old language, where "brokard" meant "the work of Brahim", as it is believed that the saint Brahim developed the fine silk many years b.c

In the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, Damascus, weavers continue to produce this beautiful fabric.

The whole craft is bound to the past. The looms do not differ much from the types first used. Nonetheless, the weavers continue to sit before looms following the intricacies of the cardboard master-pattern or, with a show of bravura, working from memory. They can be seen in Damascus weaving a variety of patterns, some of which have been in use for centuries. Each shop tries to maintain its own designs, but they are modified and copied from studio to studio. The merchant will guide visitors through the workshops and explain how the fabrics are woven. Then, at a counter, as though casually illustrating some point in his description, he will display two or three bolts and the visitor's will-power is weakened by the dazzling fabric…

Note: Maamal Naassan(or Naassan factory), the shop where the queen got her wedding dress fabric is still in existence. It is located at the end of Bab Sharqui in Damascus.

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Silent Treatment

A man and his wife were having some problems at home and were giving each other the silent treatment.

Suddenly, the man realized that the next day, he would need his wife to wake him at 5:00 AM for an early morning business flight.

Not wanting to be the first to break the silence (and LOSE), he wrote on a piece of paper, "Please wake me at 5:00 AM." He left it where he knew she would find it.

The next morning, the man woke up, only to discover it was 9:00 AM and he had missed his flight.

Furious, he was about to go and see why his wife hadn't wakened him, when he noticed a piece of paper by the bed.

The paper said, "It is 5:00 AM. Wake up."

Men are just not equipped for these kinds of contests.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005 

Mama's Hands

I saw you hide your hands in line,
Behind that lady fair,
I noticed too, hers soft and white-
Immaculate from care.
But Ma, I say, it’s no disgrace
To have workin’ hands like you,
And had she lived the life you have,
She’d have hands just like it too.

But her hands have never hauled in wood,
Or worked in God’s good earth.
They’ve never felt the bitter cold,
Or chopped ice for waitin’ stock,
They’ve never doctored sick ones,
Or dressed a horse’s hock.
They’ve never pulled a hip-locked calf,
Or packed water to the barn.
They’ve probably never patched blue jeans,
Or had worn ol’socks to darn.

They’ve never touched a young’n,
Or caressed a fevered head,
With hands so gently folded,
All night beside his bed.

They’ve never scrubbed a kitchen floor,
Or done dishes every day.
They’ve never guided with those hands,
A child who’s lost the way.

They’ve never made a Christmas gift,
Shaped by a lovin’hand.
They’ve never peeled apples,
Nor vegetables they’ve canned.
They’ve never worn a blister,
Or had calluses to show,
For all they’ve done for others,
And the kindnesses I know.

So you see, my dearest Mama-
Yours are hands of love.
And I bet the Lord will notice
When he greets you from above.

Tommi Jo Casteel

Taken from "Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul"

Saturday, March 19, 2005 

High Muckymuck, and more

We use them every day, but where in the world and in time did some of our more colorful descriptive phrases originate?
by Eric Blair

A mountain man stood in the longhouse of a Pacific NW Indian tribe, staring at the banquet site. Noticing that all the food was piled up in front of one of the attendees, he pointed at the man and asked who he was. At least, that's what he thought he asked. The mountain man's native companion heard a different question. Supposing the white man was asking about the comestibles, he answered, "Hiyu mukamuk," which in Chinookan trade jargon means, "lots of food."

It was a simple mistake. The frontiersman asked about the man and the Indian described what was in front of the man. That mistake has circled the globe, since then. Refer to anybody as a "high muckymuck," these days, and people will know you are calling somebody a big shot. And, in a sense, you are, since that big pile of food was put in front of the tribal leader, and then distributed to the diners, as a symbol that all good things originate from the leader.
Here are some other phrases you've heard - and probably used. You may be surprised at what they actually mean. Like "high muckymuck," they date back many centuries. Judge for yourself if they make sense or are simply colorful stories.

During the 1500's, most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath late in May, and the weather was not yet warm enough to generate a serious sweat. Nevertheless, the church was filled with flowers, and brides carried a bouquet to hide the body odors.
Baths equaled a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all came the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water."
Houses were often single rooms dug out of hillsides, and had thatched roofs - thick straw, piled high, with little in the way of rafters underneath - that reached all the way to the ground. There were no barns in those days. Animals and people lived together. All the small farm birds and mammals burrowed into the thatch to keep warm. They lived in the roof. When it rained, the thatch became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall through. Hence the saying, "It's raining cats and dogs."
This might also explain the origination of canopy beds -- as protection against drips, the animals, or both.
The floor of these ancient dwellings was normally just dirt. Only the wealthy had something better - hence the saying: "dirt poor".
The wealthy had wood or slate floors which would get slippery in the winter when wet. Thresh (grain stalks) was spread on the floor to warm it, and improve the footing. A piece of wood or stone was placed at the entry way to keep the stalks from spreading out to the porch, hence the term "thresh hold".
Cooking was done in a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Refrigeration didn't exist. Every day they added things to the pot. Meat was expensive, so the pot contained mostly vegetables. Dry wood was not always available during the winter, so the fire was started only once a day. Sometimes the stew had food in it that had been in there for more than a week.. Hence the rhyme: "peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old."
When company came over, people would bring out some bacon and hang it to show it off. It was a sign of success that a man "could bring home the bacon." They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and "chew the fat."
Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the "upper crust".
And now the most colorful, and ghoulish, of them all.
Grave robbing was a common crime. Late at night, the poor would dig up the rich to see if they were wearing anything that could be sold. Guards were set in cemetaries -- thus we have the term "graveyard shift."
Legend has it that the term "dead ringer" refers to cord tied to the wrist of the deceased, and run up to a bell above the grave. This custom is said to have originated when, after a grave robbery, scratch marks were found on the inside of a coffin lid. A bell ringing meant a living person had been unintentionally buried and should be dug up. "Saved by the bell," is also connected to this tale, but more likely refers to the communications system in early hospitals, which actually did involve strings and bells.

Thursday, March 17, 2005 

Golan Apples

Syria was to receive on Monday the 14th of March its first shipment of Apples from the Israel-occupied Golan Heights. The arrival of the 15000 tons of Apples comes after months of delays and obstructions caused by Israel.

Syria had decided to buy the apples because of the difficult economic circumstances of Syrian citizens in the occupied Golan Heights.

Monday, March 14, 2005 

9 things to get over once and for all this year

1. Drinking 5 cups of coffee per day.
2. Feeling squeamish about going to the dentist.
3. At least two thirds of your self-consciousness about your wide feet, big stomach, out-of-control hair and lack of singing ability. Your flaws make you you.
4. At least half of your two-pack-a-day M&M habit.
5. Being guilted into things (except charitable ones, and even then only if you genuinely believe in the cause).
6. Allowing your straight-out-of-Dilbert evil coworker to get to you.
7. Asking everyone with eyes whether you look fat...
8. ...and expecting they'll actually tell you if you do.
9. Saying you're sorry for stuff that isn't your fault, damn it!


Forbes World's Richest People 2005

The ranking of the world's 20 richest people as estimated by Forbes magazine. Listings include rank, name, home country or state; age where known, wealth in billions of dollars and source of the money.

1. William (Bill) Gates III, Washington, 49, $46.5, Microsoft
2. Warren Buffett, Nebraska, 74, $44, Berkshire Hathaway
3. Lakshmi Mittal, India, 54, $25, steel
4. Carlos Slim Helu, Mexico, 65, $23.8, telecom (he's of Lebanese decent)
5. Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud, Saudi Arabia, 48, $23.7, investments
6. Ingvar Kamprad, Sweden, 78, $23, Ikea
7. Paul Allen, Washington, 52, $21, Microsoft, investments
8. Karl Albrecht, Germany, 85, $18.5, supermarkets
9. Lawrence Ellison, California, 60, $18.4, Oracle
10. S. Robson Walton, Arkansas, 61, $18.3, Wal-Mart
11. Jim Walton, Arkansas, 57, $18.2, Wal-Mart
12. John Walton, Arkansas, 59, $18.2, Wal-Mart
13. Alice Walton, Texas, 56, $18, Wal-Mart
14. Helen Walton, Arkansas, 85, $18, Wal-Mart
15. Kenneth Thomson and family, Canada, 81, $17.9, publishing
16. Liliane Bettencourt, France, 82, $17.2, L'Oreal
17. Bernard Arnault, France, 56, $17, LVMH
18. Michael Dell, Texas, 40, $16, Dell
19. Sheldon Adelson, Nevada, 71, $15.6, casinos, hotels
20. Theo Albrecht, Germany, 83, $15.5, supermarkets

.For the eleventh year in a row, Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates toped the latest Forbes' Billionaires List with a net worth of $46.5 billion, slightly less than his $46.6 billion last year.

.The number of billionaires grew to a record 691 from the last year's 587, and their total net worth rose by $300 billion to $2.2 trillion.

.The United States, with 341 billionaires, still ranked No. 1 in the world.

.Saad Al-Harriri, 33, son of the late Rafik Al-Harriri ranked 548 with a net worth of $ 1.2 billion dollars. His late father ranked 108 on last year's list.

For more info, go to

Sunday, March 13, 2005 

Internet Speeds

Time it takes to download the Encyclopedia Britannica with these modems:

56K 27 hr.50 min.

Satellite 3 hr. 40 min.

DSL 1 hr.

Cable 30 min.

Time magazine, November 30, 1998

Saturday, March 12, 2005 


Meet Fulla, the first Arabic Barbie-like doll. She was made to look more like Arabic women with her lovely dark skin and hair and less like her blond Western counterpart.

At a well-known toy store in the middle of Abu-Rummaneh Street in Damascus, a prominent display is devoted to the Barbie-sized Fulla and six separately packaged outfits. The basic doll comes in modest clothes to respect Arab culture and traditions.

For more info on Fulla go to:

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The Ten Cat Commandments

I am the lord of the house.
Thou shalt have no other pets than me.
Thou shalt never ignore me.
I shall ignore thee whenever I feel like it.
Thou shalt be grateful that I even give thee the time of day.
Remember my cat dish to keep it full.
Thou shalt spend most of your money on toys and gifts for me.
Thou shalt always have your lap ready for me to curl up on.
Thou shalt shower me with love and attention upon demand.
Thou shalt do anything and everything it takes to keep me happy.

Photo featuring Jibneh and Soda

Friday, March 11, 2005 

Checkmate or Shah mat?

Many of us may not be aware that we use numerous words in English that actually originate from Arabic. Here are a few examples of words with interesting origins:

Checkmate: from Shah mat "the king is dead", from the Persian shah for "king" and the Arabic mat for "died"

Assassin (which means Murderer, generally somewhat professional; esp. one who murders a prominent figure): During the time of the Crusades the members of a certain secret Muslim sect engaged people to terrorize their Christian enemies by performing murders as a religious duty. These acts were carried out under the influence of hashish, and so the killers became known as hashshashin, meaning eaters or smokers of hashish. Hashshashin evolved into the word assassin.

Algebra: from al-jabr (literally "repairing")

Mocha (as in coffee): from al-mukhaa, a port in Yemen, noted for its export of the coffee to which it gave its name.

Gibraltar: from Jibal Tarique, the "mountain of Tarique" after the general who led the Muslim conquest of Spain.

Tariff: from ta`riifa "notification, price list"

Wednesday, March 09, 2005 

Blooming Apples

Even though it isn't spring yet, some apple trees of the Ghouta orchards in Damascus have blossomed. This was due to the warm weather we were experiencing. Later on these beautiful blooms will turn into delicious apples. Until these flowers turn into little apples, there is always a fear of the freeze that might destroy the whole crop.


Elephant Stew (just for fun)


1 Elephant
Salt and pepper to taste
2 rabbits (optional)

Cut elephant into small bite-size pieces. This should take about 2 months. Add enough brown gravy to cover. Cook over kerosene fire at 465 F. for 4 weeks. This will serve 3800 people. If more are expected, 2 rabbits may be added, but do this only if necessary. Most people do not like to find" hare" in their stew.

Written by Regina Hill for Almost Hommos


Speaker's Corner, Hyde Park

For over 150 years. Speaker's Corner has been one of London's most unique and eccentric attractions. Speaker's Corner was established to create a venue where people would be allowed to speak freely. Here, every Sunday people stand on a soap box and proclaim their views on political, religious or other items, sometimes interrupted and challenged by their audience.

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