Jan 5, 2014

The Tourist Is BACK!

Group picture of (part of) the team that helped restore the Saeh Library in Tripoli

Whenever I transfer pictures off from my camera’s memory card, I tend to name the transfer with whichever occasion that took place the moment the shots were taken at. I had never thought a day would come when I’d label my transfer “Saeh Beneath the Ashes”, the shock and trauma of that instant are still indescribable. But as I – and many others – had promised, the Library will be clean and will for sure shine like never before, in little to no time. Hence, today’s transfer was called “Saeh Renovated”, and it’s only the second day after the incident :)

Being there at the library the whole day long and having to process so many pictures, gives me little time to get comfortable enough to remember tiny details and narrate about this and that of all the funny and silly moments throughout both days, today and yesterday, but all at the same time I can’t stop myself from transferring to whoever couldn’t show up, how exhilarating it was to be among that bunch of white-hearted guys at the renovation of Al Saeh Library.

Summary of yesterday's best shots.
Last scene I could recall of the day of the protest was that fund raising basket Mutaz was holding. What happened afterwards was simply astonishing. Forgive me for not being able to elaborate much, but here’s some bits and pieces. Today witnessed one of the hugest restoration campaigns I ever took part in or witnessed. A couple friends came straight from Beirut in order to help us through. Surrounding neighbours were all enthralled in helping us, providing us with water and coffee, playing some music to keep us up and running, and to be there for us whenever anybody needed to leave something back in a safe place. The organizers had played a very good job in drawing the lines for all the participants to keep things under control. What brought me to being all emotional the most was the few individuals that asked me not to take their pictures, feeling a bit curious to know the reason they threw me off with the most shocking excuse: "we're here to work, not to be photographed".

All in all, yesterday and the night before had a stench of darkness to them, all while today was a happy and bright day :) Oh how long has Tripoli been waiting for such people all flowing with great spirit and good intentions..

I love each and every single person that stepped foot there today, that lifted a box, packed a book or simply made any difference. Again and again, this shall never make any of us feel it's enough or we've done our jobs. It's a never ending process, to change ourselves in order for the world to become brighter. I feel so delighted to have met the people I've been with for the last couple of days, for they are more humane than any of those who claim to be.

I leave you with some of the best shots of today's efforts.

Jan 4, 2014

The Tourist That Shall Never Leave

I never had thought I’d see the day when I mourn the library. I’m still literally traumatized, two hours later, convincing myself what I had heard about burning down the library was inaccurate, that some agencies are exaggerating and that it could be some ignorants were trying to cause damage to a shop nearby. It was all until I laid eyes upon that photo of the flames hurling out of the library’s door in that tiny alleyway, that I believed the news.

The moment I heard of the news, and since I was at my place in Beirut, I packed my stuff instantly and tried to head back to Tripoli. To my bad luck, 40 minutes on the highway weren’t enough to get me a bus to my old city.. I felt so powerless I sat on the sidewalk and started shivering. A little while later, and just moments ago, the news was confirmed, the books are to ashes now, the old library is gone.

I want you to understand it’s not about the books. Yes the books are worth a lot, a lot of money, a lot of effort, sweat, night shifts and endless passion, yet it’s not what matters at the moment. Those who dared to burn down the library have actually burnt their heritage altogether, their reputation as muslims, and what for? For having the library promote a book that is allegedly (yet still unconfirmed) against the prophet, no matter how propagandish this is.
I’m more than sure Father Sarouj will go out shortly to the public, with all his might and compassionate smile to say “why are you worried about the books? They’re just books.” He’d be totally right, it’s the people we need to worry about, individuals with minds as sick as being able to burn down an old library.
To whoever that had touched my library tonight and set it on fire, you’d better set us tripolitans on fire from now on, for we are the library and not only father Sarrouj.

Here's a couple facts:
- Father Ibrahim used to have a Quraan on his desk, for personal use, along with a couple books of Duaa, specific to Muslims. He used to read that constantly.
- The library has over 80,000 titles, not copies. The total amount of books exceeds this figure by far.
- One of the most resonating things he ever said was "Let the muslims go back to the rulings of their prophet, and I'd be the first one to declare my Islam"
- Father Sarrouj is one of the very few non-muslim persons that know about Islam far more than the majority of muslims around me. These conversations with him might go on forever.
- It's know about Father Sarrouj that he's a highly intellectual individual, to the point that he had absorbed not only the rulings and teachings of Islam, no matter how diversified they are, yet also all schools of communism, Marxism, Sufism, Judaism, Greek mythology, you name it.
- Father Sarrouj inherited the library from his father, who had started the library at the same place, but with the difference of holding not more than 4,000 titles at the time.
- First verse to ever descend upon the prophet of Islam Muhammad (pbuh) was "إقرأ" which translates to Read/Recite

Make sure to join us tomorrow for the first in a series of actions to do the least to support Father Sarrouj..
كفانا صمتاً! - إعتصام غضب إستنكاراً للتعرّض لمكتبة السائح التاريخيّة

That library was all I still got left from the stench of my town's golden days..
Below is a series of never-before published shots of the library during my second visit there.