New York doesn’t fascinate me, and I don’t think about the Eiffel Tower. Trips resemble “family gatherings” in Arab cities

On the map of my dreams I drew many cities, and as I grew older I changed my map. Sometimes it seemed to me that I was the companion of Ibn Battuta in the wonders of travel, and that I got lost in London with Muhammad Afifi, and I returned as a student on scholarship in America, “a sticky bang” , where Hala Sarhan was, and I spent 200 days around the world accompanied by Anis Mansour, in addition to the travels of Jamal Al-Ghitani and Ghada Al-Samman To which I say, the body is not just a suitcase, memory is likewise.

With the passage of age, some desires die when our outlook on life changes. I am no longer attracted to visiting New York or hoping for the Eiffel Tower. My heart no longer beats with the hands of London’s Big Ben. I do not deny the beauty of developed cities, not even cities with ancient history or tourist cities, and I wonder: How long does that fascination last? I believe that people have the biggest impact on our memory, not places.

I haven’t been to Damascus yet, but when I do, I won’t choose to stay in a European-style hotel. I will look for an old Damascene house or as the people of the Levant call it the “Arab House”, and in Japan I will choose a hotel of a traditional style, the floor is covered with a mat of rice straw, I wear yukata , wooden shoes, and sleeping on floor mattresses, as the idea of ​​voluntary travel appeals to me, and I think: How What would travel be if you don’t live those details?

An intimate place that sums up the world

I never thought of visiting Jordan, even though it is home to Petra, one of the seven wonders of the world, as well as the ancient city of Jerash, and the Dead Sea, which is still a mystery to many. However, the idea of ​​visiting Jordan has not left me since I got acquainted with the Shams Community, or the “Shams Community”, that intimate place that you feel sums up the world.

Saad Abu Al-Hassan, the founder of Shams Society, who is interested in building and maintaining communities and has studied design and fine arts, told Raseef22: “Shams Society tries to bring people together regardless of cultural and social backgrounds, and around the idea that each individual has the ability to make a positive change for himself and for society.” “.

About the initial phase, Abu Al-Hassan says: “The idea started in 2015, when I was involved in a six-month study program in Kenya’s Nairobi. By nature, I love cooking and eating and the atmosphere of ‘getting everyone together’ get’ around the dinner table.”

He continues: “Once upon a time I invited friends of different nationalities and cultures to the breakfast table in Ramadan, and at the end of the day I thought how much we need such gatherings that include cultures and discussions. It is true I called “Table Shams” started in Kenya. The idea was that We bring together people from different countries and cultures who prepare food and then discuss a social issue that interests them. My graduation project at the time was titled “How can food be simple and useful?” I cited this experience.

Before, during and after the “Shams Society”, Abu Al-Hassan subscribed to websites and platforms, through which the traveler can get to know people who offer him free accommodation in their homes, he says: “I hosted many people in my life , and when I was traveling too, there were those who hosted me with the same The way I made many friends.

I haven’t gone to Damascus, but when I do, I won’t choose to stay in a European-style hotel. I will look for an old Damascus house, or as the people of Levant call it the “Arab House”, and think: What would it be like to travel if you did not live out these details?

He tells about the beginning of the project in Jordan: “When I returned to Jordan, I did not think of repeating the experience, until I noticed an old and abandoned house, estimated to be a hundred years old, built in the old Ottoman style. Because I studied design and arts, I had the feeling to rehabilitate the house and hold activities.” Social in it, and when it was ready, I started to host social and cultural events in a safe environment, through which we break the norm, as it introduces different models outside the framework of family, friends and colleagues.

There are problems in the way of the founder. At first some scoffed and laughed at the idea, and there is a financial cost involved in rehabilitating the old building, and challenges about the local community, and will it accept and deal with this experience?

Youthful family atmosphere

One of the basic ideas in “Shams Society” is to create a family atmosphere between the volunteers and the guests. There were those who stayed for days, others for weeks, and some for months. Some of them traveled and returned and repeated the experience. Some of them decided to settle in Jordan afterwards, and others tried to stay as a matter of experience and experience and took it with them to their country.

The project has helped many foreigners and new residents in Jordan break the feeling of alienation and loneliness by getting to know people from the local community. Abu Al-Hassan added: “To support financial sustainability and cover the costs of events and presentation, we rented some rooms on days when there are no activities. We started with one room, then two rooms .”

Note that there are groups that visit Jordan for cultural tourism or alternative tourism, and they specifically refer to “Shams Society”, then he added other activities, such as educational trips and nature retreats.

With the Corona crisis and during the quarantine period, many activities and events were suspended, and the cultural sessions became online. Abu Al-Hassan says: “Many circumstances concerned me personally and the team in general.”

He adds, “I will continue with this project. Although I will move to Germany, I have an idea to bring German society together with the refugee community. The idea of ​​Shams Society can be applied everywhere.”

He believes that the idea of ​​”Shams Society” can be generalized everywhere, and that he will transfer it to Germany, the country where he will move to live.

In Beirut

The Syrian journalist and program presenter, Muhammad Ali Diab, had a similar experience in Lebanon through “Beit Sham”. Much respect and culture.

The idea started with Diab in 2019, after “Beirotian Exile” brought him together in one house with his two friends, Wasim al-Sakhla and Muhammad Asrawi, who came from Damascus.

Abu Al-Hassan hosts people who share the preparation and eating of food, as well as enjoy the arts, raise topics for discussion and exchange experiences and stories, an experience that changed my outlook and my motives for travel and travel

The suggestion came from Wassim, who had previously had a similar experience. There was fear to implement it, but he did not hesitate for long. He says: “We created a Facebook page called ‘Beit Sham.’ We started with small details, such as pictures, and creating the intimate atmosphere and warmth that exists in our Syrian homes that we left behind. ”

The first visitors were friends of their friends, in addition to those who came to Beirut, and did not bear the cost of the hotel. They mostly stayed a day or two, after which the guest traveled to his destination.

“Our house was open to all nationalities and was not limited to Syrians. We were visited by people from Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq and Yemen, and foreigners from Italy and France,” says Diab.

Diab moves between several houses. Each house had different specifications, and they were all in the Hamra area. The first house consisted of two rooms, a salon, a kitchen and a bathroom. They shared the room with the guest, or they spent the night in the salon.

Diab says in a dreamy and poetic language: “The most beautiful thing about Beirut is its miraculous ability to gather all the contradictions in one container. For example, it is not surprising to discover recently that the Syrian novelist Lina lives in the same neighborhood. Houyan Al-Hassan. A street separated us from the warehouse of her dreams.”

Diab and his companions felt the need to develop the idea, so they held events and activities, such as showing a movie or presenting a specific topic for discussion and exchange of ideas about it, he says: ” We share food, and we leave an open space for discussion, music and laughter. many visitors.”

Diab and his friends say goodbye to many of those for whom “Beit Sham” was a passing station, and they have not forgotten them, like a Syrian young man who was forced to emigrate because of the worsening conditions. He stayed in “Beit Sham” for two days before traveling to “Tahwesha” al-Omar in Turkey. He knew about the house through the Facebook page.

Now, the idea didn’t end, but it stopped temporarily after Diab’s marriage, and he had a private life in Beirut, and his partner, Muhammad Asrawi, lived in Canada, and Wassim finished his master’s studies and went to Syria returned.

Diab concludes his speech: “I still long for those days, and I wish the idea would continue. The house was like a small homeland. A homeland that we dream about and draw its details in some way. Everyone who our passing during our stay in the house touched us. Everyone has a special story and experience.”

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