I think I am addicted to travelling. I am not sure which I like most. The excitement of discovering new places and new foods? Or the fun of meeting new people who often become new best friends? Or just revisiting places and people that I love? I returned from China with plenty of great stories and memories and lots of new best friends including delightful Joanna Lee and Ken Smith who I met through an old best friend now, Rabih Alameddine. Joanna suggested we meet at the Hong Kong film festival press conference, a glitzy occasion where we became fleeting best friends with Miriam Yeung who had starred in the weirdest film ever, Dumplings, where she plays the role of a former TV star who eats dumplings made with feotuses in the search for eternal youth! Then we left her and the glamour of the film world to go to a wet market after which we hopped from one great place to the next, tasting all kinds of delicious things.
Only two weeks in London and already my travels seem very far away, with the only vivid memory being a big hole in my leg where I banged my shin against one of those posts designed not only to stop cars from parking, but also to make pedestrians trip over! Still, I had many wonderful and memorable moments during my months in the Middle East including one on the way to Apamea, in Syria when I spotted a group of farmers burning frikeh (green wheat).
The last time I had seen frikeh being burned in the fields was back in 1982 in Qalb Lozeh, one of the dead Byzantine cities near Aleppo. The only difference between then and now, was the setting: totally magical and ancient in Qalb Lozeh, and rather modern and charmless in Qal’at al Mudiq where we had stopped. The building where the farmers lived was modern and unfinished like many of the buildings in the Syrian countryside, and their farm equipment was scattered everywhere, bulky and rusty. The farmers were great though, dressed in a funny mix of traditional garb with modern accessories like the women’s hats, and very jolly and welcoming.