BEIRUT: The minaret of Aleppo’s ancient Umayyad mosque was destroyed on Wednesday, Syrian state media and a watchdog reported, with the regime and the opposition blaming each other.
An archaeological treasure in Aleppo’s Unesco-listed Old City, the mosque has been the centre of fighting for months and had already suffered extensive damage.
With insurgents and the regime caught in a stalemate in the key northern city, the ancient mosque has fallen in and out of rebel hands several times.
The Umayyad mosque was originally built in the 8th century but was apparently destroyed and then rebuilt in the 13th century.
It has recently fallen back into rebel hands, but has been left pockmarked by bullets and stained with soot.
Antique furnishings and intricately sculpted colonnades have been charred, valuable Islamic relics ransacked and ancient artefacts, including a box purported to contain a strand of the Prophet Mohammed’s (PBUH) hair, looted.
Rebels say they have managed to salvage ancient handwritten Quranic manuscripts and have hidden them.
On Wednesday, as reports broke of the minaret’s destruction, activists uploaded video shot at the scene, but there was no video immediately available showing the moment of the blast that caused the collapse.
As with multiple other attacks in Syria’s spiralling conflict, which the UN says has left more than 70,000 people dead, the regime and the opposition blamed each other for the damage.
State media said jihadist Al-Nusra Front fighters blew up the minaret, and accused the group classed by the United States as a “terrorist” organisation of seeking to blame loyalist forces.
But rebels, the opposition and activists all said the army was responsible.
“Tanks began firing in the direction of the minaret until it was destroyed,” one rebel said in a video posted on YouTube, insisting rebel snipers were not stationed inside the minaret.
“We were afraid that it would be targeted,” he said.
“The Assad regime has done everything it can to destroy Syria’s social fabric. Today, by killing people and destroying culture, it is sowing a bitterness in people’s hearts that will be difficult to erase for a very long time,” the video added.
Meanwhile, an activist who identified himself as Zain al-Rifai said he saw an army tank “fire several shells directly at the Umayyad mosque, including at the minaret”.
He also claimed the force of the explosion was magnified because of landmines planted by the army in the mosque complex before the rebel takeover.
“When the army was in control of the mosque, it planted mines across the complex. When the rebels took over, they demined the area, but couldn’t come near the minaret for fear of snipers.
“When the tank shell hit the minaret, it must have caused the mine to explode,” said Rifai, who works with the Aleppo Media Centre, a network of citizen journalists on the ground.
Responding to regime claims that the jihadi-Al-Nusra Front had blown up the minaret, Rifai asked: “Why would an Islamic group blow up a minaret?”
The main opposition National Coalition, recognised by dozens of states and organisations as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, mourned the ancient minaret’s destruction.
“The deliberate destruction of this minaret, under whose shadow Saladin… and (10th century Iraqi poet) Al-Mutanabbi rested, is a crime against human civilisation,” said the Coalition.
We were so efficient at the Mobile Botanical Garden that we had plenty of time to hit the nearby Mobile Museum of Art. Actually, we loved the whole park area; there is the Botanical Garden, the Museum of Art, also walking paths, a huge water . . . something, it might be a river or a large lake with a dam in it, I don’t know what it is, but it is a large amount of water. There are athletic fields and even some offices, not large office buildings but some smaller outlying kinds of state or county offices. It’s a nice park, it has a nice feeling, a lot going on.
It doesn’t hurt that it is one of the prettiest days of the year, not hot, not humid, and no mosquitos!
I love it that not all the art is inside the building. There is statuary outside, along the walking path, and this huge made-from-found-objects butterfly at the entrance. It is wonderful. As you enter the museum, looking through miles of glass out through trees at the water, you immediately think “what a place for an event!” thinking wedding, reception, small chamber group performance, etc. Truly beautiful spaces; I would show you but they have a really strict policy about photographing inside the building, so I didn’t.
They have some surprising pieces, surprisingly good for a small museum. They have some very odd pieces, par for the course in a small museum. They have an amazing art glass collection, beautifully displayed in a room with gorgeous natural light that allows each piece to shine. They had an exquisite visiting exhibit based on a Vietnamese classic, with intricate, ethereal pieces.
Too much to take in on one visit! I think our favorite piece in the exhibit were some gorgeous silvery angel wings on a wall near the gallery entrance on the top floor. When you get closer to the exhibit, you see it really, REALLY is silvery – it is silver spoons! The bowls of the spoons form the outer part of the feathers, hundreds of spoons, and the base of the spoon the lower part. It is whimsical and surprising, and made me whoop a little (trying to be respectful in a museum ) with delight. We are eager to go back and to take our little grandson, as he gains in ability to focus his attention
Driving Directions From I-65
From I-65, take the Springhill Avenue Exit (Exit 5) and head west on Springhill Avenue. Go approximately 1 1/2 miles and turn left on John D. New Street (traffic signal). Take an immediate right onto Museum Drive. The Museum is the first building on the right.
Imagine you are a retired military man who likes birds and butterflies and gardens and photography and military history . . .
Now, imagine you can find all of the above on one island. Dauphin Island is a paradise for AdventureMan.
Imagine you are a woman who loves road trips, beautiful beaches, taking pictures, taking walks, beautiful scenery, especially beaches and wading birds . . .
And that is also all on the same island.
We can’t wait to go back to Dauphin Island. Birding season is just kicking up again, after the heat of the summer and the threat of hurricane season. The birds migrating south have their final rest on Dauphin Island, before heading out across the big Gulf of Mexico to warmer climates for the winter.
And there’s an old fort, too!
These forts were built to protect the American southern coast from a variety of enemies, including at one time, our fellow Americans. They are built solidly, with great big cannons.
So what is the fort defending against now?
There is another way to get to Dauphin Island from Pensacola, if you get there at the right time and there isn’t much of a line, because this little ferry can’t take a lot of cars. It goes to Fort Morgan, still in Alabama, but across Mobile Bay:
AdventureMan says the forts are built in the style influenced by Marc René, marquis de Montalembert, who is said to want to do for defense what Vauban had done for the attack.
One of our favorite places in Doha was Shar’a Kaharabaa, Electricity Street. Bombay Silk was there. the old Beirut restaurant was there and several very good and reasonable tailors worked there. All good quilters knew the Mumtaz Tailor, who had every notion in the world, and good prices, and knew where everything could be found in the chaos of his shop. You could always find parking.
I dared to take a look at Sharia Kharabaa this morning, and I shouldn’t have. It’s that bare spot middle left. Al Rayyan, at the top of the photo, leads to the Souk al Waqif. One day, the old picturesque Sharia Kharabaa is supposed to be a grand walk way to the Souq.
Early early in the morning we are up and ready to grab a bite of breakfast at the Far View Lodge and to take the 700 years tour. When we called for reservations at the Far View Lodge, the desk clerk asked if we would like to sign up for the 700 Years of Culture tour, and since Sparkle had told us that the tours fill up early, we signed up.
The light in Mesa Verde is beautiful at eight in the morning, and we were shocked when thirty-something people around our age (I guess we are all out exploring America!) got on the bus. Somehow, for $45, I had thought it would be a tour of five to seven people. I didn’t think so many people would pay so much for a tour!
The guide, Dave, and the bus driver, Leiter, were both local men, living in Cortez, men who double as guides a couple days a week to liven up their retirement. Dave’s depth of knowledge and investigative spirit was impressive; clearly he has a passion for the Ancestral Puebloans, and reads everything he can get his hands on. He has read all the latest studies and speculation, and as a farming man, he had some of his own down-to-earth speculations which he shared with us. It was all good stuff.
First, we went to look at early pit dwellings:
And then we headed off to visit some of the more and less famous cliff dwellings:
Look at the terrain – so similar to other places where similar dwellings have evolved . . . (Hint Hint: Les Eyzies de Tayak) There are cliff dwellings in almost every conceivable concavity.
From pit dwellings to small family dwellings, to multiple family dwellings, small villages . . .
And then, the old legend goes, they just disappeared . . . or did they? Dave, the guide, tells us that the Apaches and Navajos won’t come any where near the Mesa, that the mesa is full of old spirits, not their spirits. The Hopi, however, a little further South, have no fear; the customs and dwellings of the Ancient Puebloans are familiar to them.
It’s kind of like conspiracy theories. We all love a good scary story.
“And then, they all just disappeared!”
But Dave thinks they didn’t disappear, that maybe they just moved on. Maybe too many years of drought, or maybe the soil they were farming gave out. Maybe they heard life was easier a few miles down the road and just picked up and moved a little on down the road . . . which seems to me to be a more logical, if less romantic, possibility.
Anyway, one of the things I really liked was that these ancient peoples, whoever they were, built their dwellings in locations and styles similar to the pre-France people of . . .umm . . . err. . . France.
I need to add a footnote here. This doesn’t happen to everybody, but it happened to me. Once I got to Grand Canyon, activities that I normally do without batting an eye began to be harder. I am a walker and a hiker, but any time I had to hike uphill in the Grand Canyon, I was huffing and puffing like a geezer. “Oh no! Oh no!” I was thinking to myself, “I must have some terrible respiratory condition! I’m suddenly getting old!”
Not so. As it turns out, I am just sensitive to high altitude. I should have known. I drove through Colorado once, and my eyes turned bright red, tiny little capillaries in my eyes burst.
At 8000 feet, in Mesa Verde, I could function, but sometimes found myself huffing and puffing. As soon as we descended a couple thousand feet, I was fine. Leiter, the bus driver, told me that many athletic teams train at high altitude so that when they perform, at a lower altitude, they will exceed themselves. It is such a relief to be able to move fast now, and not puff. I always took it for granted before. Not now.
I’ve been listening to a very painful report on National Public Radio, Under Suspicion at the Mall of America, a report about counter-terrorism measures being taken at the Mall of America, a huge mall, in Minnesota. One reason I’ve always wanted to go there is that I think I remember it having a huge, huge swim area, with lots of water slides and wave machines, and it just looked like a lot of fun. When I look at the mall map, I don’t see any pool area. You know malls – they change, and it’s been years. It was probably a liability issue.
So this is the ten year anniversary of 9/11, an event so awful most of us barely want to think about it. There are some things that just go so deep, you could get lost in the horror of it all. Officials are warning of the possibility of anniversary acts of terrorism, and Mall of America has always felt itself to be a vulnerable symbol, due to its name.
This is a lengthy report of “suspicious” incidents at Mall of America. They make me want to cry. You can read the report, but if you listen to the audio (you just click on the audio symbol) it is a richer, more detailed report. Listen – and weep.
Below is an excerpt:
A Missing Cellphone
Yet look what happened when Najam Qureshi’s father came under suspicion at the Mall of America.
Najam Qureshi was born in Pakistan, but he’s been a U.S. citizen since he was a teenager. Today, he manages computer systems for a major company near Minneapolis. He and his family live on a pretty suburban street.
Najam Qureshi’s father came under suspicion at the Mall of America after leaving his cellphone in the food court.
In January 2007, an FBI agent showed up on his doorstep. It turned out that a few weeks before, Qureshi’s father had left his cellphone on a table in the Mall of America’s food court. When the mall’s counterterrorism unit saw the unattended phone, plus someone else’s cooler and stroller, guards cordoned off the area. Qureshi’s father wandered back, looking for his phone, and the RAM unit interrogated him and then reported him to the Bloomington police. In turn, the police reported the incident to the FBI. The documents we obtained show that the mall’s reports went to state and federal law enforcement, in roughly half the cases. The incident with Qureshi’s father led the FBI to want to question Qureshi himself, in his own home.
“He asked me if I knew anybody in Afghanistan. And that was kind of like, what?! And, then he asked me if I had any friends in Pakistan,” Qureshi says.
The FBI also asked him if he knew anybody that would try to hurt the U.S. government, according to Qureshi.
“My reaction in my mind, was, ‘How dare this guy in my house, come in and say this,’ ” he recalls.
But mall officials stand by their program of identifying suspicious people.
“You’re talking about a handful of people that are complaining, out of the 750 million plus that have been through these doors since 1992,” Bausch says. “And we apologize if it, you know, if it caused them any inconvenience, I mean we really do.”
“Unfortunately the world has changed,” says Bausch. “We assume you’d want your family and friends to be safe if they are in the building. And we simply noticed something that we didn’t think was right.”
A commander with the Bloomington police said these reports would be kept on file for decades. When Qureshi found out that the 11-page report reading “suspicious person” would be kept that long, his eyes filled with tears.
“It shattered an image of the U.S. that I had, fundamentally. I don’t know, especially when I saw some of these reports. It’s definitely bothersome, how small things can just, you know, trickle up that quickly, and all of a sudden you’re labeled. And once you’re labeled, you’re basically messed up, right?”
“I think I need a hamburger,” I said to AdventureMan as we were tucking in to bed. I can’t even remember the last time I had a hamburger, but I think it was in April, 2010, at the Red Robin in Pensacola.
Red Robin . . . YUMMM. One of the best ad campaigns in history, in my mind. Pure repetition, a little humor to re-inforce the memory, all positive. Anywhere you go in America, you can say “Red Robin” and someone will say “Yummm.”
I have a personal relationship with Red Robin. When I was a student at the University of Washington, long, long ago, the Red Robin was very near the university, near enough we could walk, even, and even though it was a bar, they weren’t very strict about carding people, and oh, they had the best burgers. It was pure comfort food. They also had a wonderful deck, so on the rare and beautiful spring days when final exams were coming and we just needed to blow off some steam, the Red Robin was one of the places we headed.
Yep. . . a little stoned.
There were old wood floors, not the shiny kind of good wood floor, but the old fashioned cheap kind, sort of spongy when you walked on them, and usually covered with stuff that had been spilled. No, not exactly your family kind of place, it was a college student kind of place.
It was YUMMMMM. Now, I won’t need another burger until September 2012 or so.
Sadly, as I was looking for some photos of the original Red Robin, I learned that they closed down the original on March 21, 2010. So sad, but I suspect it just didn’t suit the image of the new, family oriented Red Robins, more than 400 of them around the USA. But they still serve a good burger.
I still get e-mail from I Love Qatar.com and even though I no longer live in Qatar, I love their e-mails, I love hearing about what is going on in Doha socially and culturally, and I love this fresh, enthusiastic group of people who promote having fun and learning more about Qatar.
In today’s e-mail was a reference to this lovely video collection by Mballan which I recommend you watch when you have a few peaceful moments to enjoy it – he – or she – has found some magnificent sights, and the collection is beautiful. I only wish more of the selections were identified; I could recognize several, but far from all. Enjoy . . .
I don’t know why I am suddenly getting a lot of hits on an old post I wrote when we had an earthquake in Kuwait, and discovered that Kuwait was vulnerable. Somehow, we thought Kuwait was a low risk earthquake area. I thought about it a lot, on the 10th floor of my tower in Fintas, as I watched how other tall buildings were being constructed.
If you need information on earthquakes and / or tsunamis in Kuwait, here is the best place to start: click the blue type
This is what I love about long road trips with AdventureMan. We have hours together in the car, and you just never know where the conversations will go.
We saw a lot of barns. Most of them are red.
“Why are barns red?” AdventureMan asked. “Like we just accept that barns are red, when we are kids and we are told to draw a barn, we reach for the red crayon, why is that? Why red?”
So we looked it up at the next wireless stop and found the answer on Wiki answers:
Centuries ago, European farmers would seal the wood on their barns with an oil, often linseed oil — a tawny-colored oil derived from the seed of the flax plant. They would paint their barns with a linseed-oil mixture, often consisting of additions such as milk and lime. The combination produced a long-lasting paint that dried and hardened quickly. (Today, linseed oil is sold in most home-improvement stores as a wood sealant).
Now, where does the red come from?
In historically accurate terms, “barn red” is not the bright, fire-engine red that we often see today, but more of a burnt-orange red.
Farmers added ferrous oxide, otherwise known as rust, to the oil mixture. Rust was plentiful on farms and is a poison to many fungi, including mold and moss, which were known to grown on barns. These fungi would trap moisture in the wood, increasing decay.
Regardless of how the farmer tinted his paint, having a red barn became a fashionable thing. They were a sharp contrast to the traditional white farmhouse.
As European settlers crossed over to America, they brought with them the tradition of red barns. In the mid to late 1800s, as paints began to be produced with chemical pigments, red paint was the most inexpensive to buy. Red was the color of favor until whitewash became cheaper, at which point white barns began to spring up.
Today, the color of barns can vary, often depending on how the barns are used.
My dad and grandpa have been farmers their entire lives and they used to tease us kids that the barn was red because it was the most noticeable when the snow was falling sideways and you could barely see because of the sleet and hail.