Walking in Memphis! But do I really feel the way I feel?! They got catfish on the table, They got gospel in the air. Reverend Green!! be glad to see you when you haven’t got a prayer. Boy, you’ve got a prayer in Memphis.
Cher – Walking in Memphis
“Everything is different in Damascus, that city has its lights that dazzle you, you’re standing in the middle of the street, and you see the shinning lights glowing on the background of darkness; as you walk, they mesmerize you, and they start creating hallows of gold around them, that shines all the way across the dark blue skies. There is nothing like the skies of Damascus, they are so clear, so clean, so dark at night and so bright in the mornings. They are dusted away by angels in those wee hours when only wolves are awake. Just so you would wake up in the early minutes of sunrise; see the drop of dew sliding, like in an amusement park, on the windows and on the cold iron bars of the stairs; right next to the small plants my grandmother cherish and protect with her own life.
Damascus is a dream that doesn’t come true but for the deserving. It’s a city of hopes and love, hiding deep within the corners of Bab Sharqi, on the rooftops of Al-Hamidieh, and in the jars of spices of Mehdat Basha. Damascus is a song only the true listeners can hear.”
— The way my boyfriend, originally from Damascus, would describe his mother city.
“Aleppo is driving in the middle of night, with your music loud enough to wake the dead, and enjoying a breathe of freedom. Aleppo is the guy singing for 16 hours, nonstop, those hard, untouchable, Qoudoud Halabieh, while people enjoy their Arjileh, mimicked across the world, but never the same taste. Aleppo is the city where children play peacefully and safely until late hours of nights. Aleppo is checking out the cute girl in the corner, and she checked you back. Aleppo is the bizarre taste of a first kiss, the electrifying feel of a first touch, the deep inhale as you fall in love for the first time.
Aleppo is a lady standing on top of a tower, and her hair is long. She let it down only for the worthy, and only the worthy can climb it all the way up to the top. Aleppo is a magician that doesn’t reveal his secrets. Aleppo is a goddess standing in the middle of the desert, and surviving for the past million years.
Aleppo is the deep laughter of a child who is playing, tirelessly, pika-poo with his parents for the very first time. Aleppo is the musical noise of cars honking at me; yet, I’m lost with Aleppo, and cannot be found.”
— My friend Jay, the way she would describe her love for Aleppo.
“Alexandria is a mermaid, with blue hair, spreading her magic over the waves, and calling you to come, as you might never come back.”
” Istanbul is my sister, waiting at home, with a sweet smile, takes care of me when I’m down, hugs me when needed. We might picker, but our love is eternal.”
“I might hate Beirut, I surely cannot afford Beirut, I sometimes feel cheated by Beirut, but Beirut is my city. It’s where I’m from, it’s where I belong.”
— Some friends I crossed paths with before.
As I prepare myself to the next chapter in my life, getting myself ready to explore yet another city around the world, trying to see how will I fit in the big puzzle such cities provide. I hear people speak about their mother cities; and I fall in love of their versions of the cities that carried them while they were young. Mostly, I find myself joking inside of my head about the misleading concepts they have for a city they usually idolize based on childhood memories that are most probably twisted and added upon with layers of time and changes that they might actually never been real after all. Yet, like Frida Kahlo, in one of her most important paintings, I cannot help but wonder about the roots of me. Where do I see myself? Which city do I foolishly idolize. I find my answer to be void all the time.
The dream Frida is trying to produce here is of her, rootless, only belonging to herself, while her ideas, her relationships, her life, is growing out of her simple and shallow body; leaving scares unhealed by the time, and streams of blood that cannot be ended.
Is it me? Am I the problem? Touring the world might have given me much, but it also took away from me the ability to delusion-alize oneself into believing in a concept of a city, where cities are merely locations on a map that are bordered according to the political and historical twists of fate. Cities are rocks, dust, water and fire gathering to create yet another meaningless corner of the world. Why does it mean so much to others, while it means nothing to me? Why do I lack the need to belong to an entity; a city, a nationality, even? I cannot figure that out.
Cities are landmarks to the primitive notions of human needs to gather for protecting, food and shelter. Knowing that, however, do not help me understand why, this notion of belonging, is haunting me, yet again, as I’m preparing my next move away from yet another city.