I put together a list that included the 10 most populated cities of each country (though tiny Bahrain only had 9 cities.) Then I used a random number generator to pick three cities to write about.
By doing this I hope to gain a better picture of what the Arab world looks like. In the US all we see of the Middle East is explosions but that does not mean the entire Middle East is exploding. Unfortunately because my project is based in news articles, it will be hard to completely get away from writing about explosions. In either case, I will do my best to portray a snippet from the lands where our civilization was born.
Population: 96,315 (8th most populated city in Lebanon)
Description from Wikipedia:
Jounieh is a coastal city about 16 km north of Beirut, Lebanon and is part of Greater Beirut. Jounieh is known for its seaside resorts and bustling nightlife, as well as its old stone souk, ferry port, and gondola lift which takes passengers up the mountain to the shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon. Above Jounieh, a small hill overlooking the Jounieh bay, is the seat of the Patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church.
August 4, 2014: Car Show in Jounieh! (The Daily Star)
Most people associate burning tires in Lebanon with road blocks and protesters, but on August 2nd and 3rd, the burning tire smell came from a car show held in Jounieh. As drivers showed off by drifting across the asphalt, onlookers held their camera-phones up high to get shots of their favorite cars.
Under the increasing threat of a Lebanese civil war, the show was not completely absent of politics. The John Lennon quote, “Imagine all the people living life in peace,” was painted across one car, followed by a small Lebanese flag decal.
The admirers of the cars indoors were serenaded by the drifters outdoors, as well as the commentator’s enthusiasm. “‘The smell, the sight, the sound!’ said the commentator, raising her voice over the loud engine’s roar and screeching tires. ‘I can’t explain it!'”
Population: 79,550 (2nd most populated city in Bahrain)
Riffa is divided into two parts; East Riffa and West Riffa. Most of the city’s inhabitants are Sunni Muslims.
East Riffa has many attractions, one such attraction is Riffa Fort, which is also known as Sheikh Salman Bin Ahmad Al Fateh Fort. The city has several shopping malls and two main shopping streets;
West Riffa is predominately a residential area. Most of the ruling family, ministers and business investors live there. His Majesty King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain lives there, as well as the Prime Minister, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa. Riffa’s famous clock tower is located in the centre of West Riffa.
August 11, 2014: Christian Testot, the Ambassador of the French Republic to the Kingdom of Bahrain, concludes his visit to his Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Prime Minister (all the same person.) (Bahrain News Agency)
At the royal palace in East Riffa, the Prince of Bahrain bid farewell to the Ambassador of France. The visit appeared to go well and according to the Bahrain News Agency, “Ambassador Testot expressed his gratitude for the wider support he has received in his diplomatic mandate to further develop bilateral ties between Bahrain and France.”
Population: 964,891(3rd most populated city in Morocco)
Fes or Fez is the third largest city of Morocco. Fes was the capital of Morocco until 1925. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is believed to be one of the world’s largest car-free urban areas. The city has been called the “Mecca of the West” and the “Athens of Africa”.
The Fes Music Festival has concluded its 20th annual show this June. The festival this year, which takes its inspiration from spirituality, humanity, and music and art, was Conference of the Birds: Journey of Cultures. The festival took its name from an “epic poem of some 4500 lines, written in Persian by the poet Farid ud-Din Attar and finished in around 1177.” Musicians and concert goers alike flew in from Africa, Asia, South America, and everywhere in-between to sing and dance together.
Some shows were visually spectacular. Opening night appeared more like a psychedelic musical (see picture) rather than a world music concert. Other events were rhythmically spectacular and featured singers that danced with their audience members. The music festival also hosted culturally and spiritually slanted discussions as well as events like a mini-marathon. The theme for 2015 has not yet been announced but festival goers, artists, and gurus are surely waiting with bated breath.
Edit Sept. 28, 2014: Another story about Fez here.