Paintings at the Egyptian Geographic Society

Marche de Siouah par M. Bouvier 1932

Marche de Siouah par M. Bouvier 1932

طبع على ذمة محمد محمد أبو طالب بمصر

طبع على ذمة محمد محمد أبو طالب بمصر


A. Hebeisha

A. Hebeisha

Fatheya Zohni

Fatheya Zohni

Fatheyya Zohni 1906

Fatheyya Zohni 1906

Fatheyya Zohni 1906

Fatheyya Zohni 1906




(غالبا) نظير خليل  1917

نظير خليل

اعتماد الطرابلسي  30 رجب 1350

اعتماد الطرابلسي
30 رجب 1350

DSC_1833 DSC_1832


Pogradec and Korça nostalgia

Last September, I had the priviledge to visit Pogradec and Korca. I have been wanting to visit the South Eastern part of Albania for a long time, and I finally got the chance to pass by some of its main landmarks.

First, we headed for Pogradec. You start heading towards Elbasan, through an amazing scenery of the mountains, yet very dangerous drive with all the sudden turns and the scary cliffs.

I don’t recall most of the magnificent views, but there is one in particular that stuck to my mind. Close to Pogradec, the rail road crosses some hills through a suspended red bridge. It looks quite old with all the rust it has, but I bet the view must be spectacular.

After almost 2 hours and a half we finally reached lake Ohrid, which Albania shares with Macedonia. And the colour of the lake is just amazing! It is very light blue, and with the mountaineous backdrop, a walk on its Cornish is a treat.

We were lucky cause it is said that a couple of years ago the sewage of the city ended up in the lake, making it a sore to the eyes (and noses!), but Thank God this problem was solved. Plus, there were some new city planning going on, and improvements were on their way. I’m sure in a couple of years, Pogradec will be a highlight on the travellers map, or maybe it already is, and just because we came in the end of the season we saw only Albanians, don’t know for sure…

Heading back to Tirana, I had to pass by Korca, the cultured city of Albania. Unfortunately I didn’t have the chance to see and experience it fully, we had only a couple of hours to check it out. I passed by the first Albanian school (built in 1881), the first mosque, the famous orthodox church, and the first (and only) oriental museum in Albania.

Talking about mosques, it pains me that there aren’t many surviving historical mosques here in Albania due to the ultra communist era, and the ones that survived the historical massacre, not much has been written on their story, style, or any notable related stories. That’s why I was interested in visiting Albania’s first mosque, Mirahor mosque /Xhamia e Iliaz Bei Mirahorit. Built in 1484 by Iljaz Hoxha, an Albanian born in Korça who served in the Ottoman army, and earned the title Mirahor Evel (Head General of Chevalry), and afterwards he was awarded the Sandjak (administrative division) of Korçë.

Walking around the mosque, we saw a sign with an X over some lips. On a first glance, we thought that it was meant for tourists to maintain decency and not to lock lips in the vicinity of the holy place. But after translating the texts (Mos Puthni murin! Zoti nuk e lejon adhurimin e murit apo gurit!), which was translated via google into (Do not kiss the wall! God does not allow the worship of the wall or stone!). Absolutely right!

Finally we took a quick tour in Bratko museum. It was funny that on the door of  the museum there is a paper saying that if you want to enter, just call the guard on ….. . But before we start dialing the number, crossing our fingers that the guy would know a little bit of English or Italian, the guard / guide popped up, and left us on our own to be the sole visitors of this museum featuring the private collection of the Albanian-American Dhimitër Boria (1903-1990). Boria emigrated from Albania when he was 17, attending art school in Detroit before working in Hollywood in an early animation studio and as silhouette artist, and later on worked as a photographer for the US Army and the UN, which enabled him to travel the world and collect some interesting pieces, especially from Asia. If this museum was in some other country, I don’t think I would have paid much attention to it, but the curiosity of an Oriental Artifacts Museum in Albania was simply irresistible.

Here are some photos, I hope you will like it

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about Kulthum Odeh

In this time of turbulences, the last thing we need is pessimism, there is much work to be done, and so many troubles to be solved.  Generally, on this blog I don’t want to talk about politics, there are so many opinions, views, hidden facts, and conflict.

That’s why I needed some change, fresh air, I simply needed a story of inspiration. And I was very lucky to get to know the name of a woman who changed her destiny, and found happiness despite the surroundings, and above all this, she was the first Middle Eastern woman to hold the title of Professor!!

Her name is Kulthum Odeh كلثوم عودة, she was born in 1892 in Nazareth, Palestine, and was the fifth girl in a family that wanted desperately a boy, so you can imagine with what face they have received her. Added to that her parents kept telling her that she was not pretty, and that  she will end up as a maid serving her brother’s wife for the rest of her life مين ياخذك يا سلوله بتبقي كل عمرك عند امراة اخوك خدامه!!!

Though these words would ruin any little girl’s self esteem, for Kulthum it pushed her to study more, and back then, the girls who didn’t have good suitors were the only ones to be sent to school. After finishing her primary school education in Nazareth, she moved to the “Russian seminar” collage in the city of Bait Jala.

She was sixteen when she finished her schooling, and when returned back to Nazareth to work as a teacher at the Russian Association. During that period an Assembly of inspectors used to visit the schools, they were sent by the Russian society.
She started then publishing articles in several magazines such as “Alnafaes Alassryah” in Haifa, “Alhilal” in Cairo, and “Al-Hasnaa” in Beirut.

Kulthum fell in love with the Russian doctor Ivan Vasilev who worked at the General Hospital in Nazareth, and they were married 1913 though her parents strongly opposed. And this is something that perplexe me. I understand that getting married to a foreigner is unorthodox, but they didn’t expect her to get married altogether. Plus, she was 22, and through to their standards, she was almost a spinster.

Anyway, they fell in love and decided to get married regardless of the many barriers between them, and moved to Russia. After the October revolution and the outbreak of the civil war in Soviet Russia, Dr. Ivan ‘Kulthum’s husband’ volunteered with the Red Army. But he fell ill 1919 by the break of typhoid epidemic and died after 5 years of marriage, leaving his wife and their three young daughters struggling on their own. Kulthum worked the land to provide for her daughters, and continued her academic education assisted by a number of Russian Orientalists, lead by Kraczkowski, who met her earlier in Palestine.

She became a lecturer of Arabic language at the University of Leningrad (Petersburg) after she has acquired her PHD 1928. After that she founded the institute of Arabic dialects at the University of Moscow. She was the first Arab woman to hold the professor title! I don’t know how this little piece of info isn’t known for Middle Eastern women..

Kulthum visited Nazareth 1928 and went round Palestine and was welcomed by a number of Palestinian pioneers, thinkers and writers of “Al-saaleek Cafe,” that used to be a forum for Palestinians intellectuals in Jerusalem. Amongst them was Khalil Alskakini, Adel Jabr, Lindly Saliba Aljawzi,and Georgi Halabi.

Kulthum defended the right of her people. When the Soviet Union acknowledged the state of Israel in 1948, Kulthum sent a strong letter of condemnation to Stalin. The feedback came instantly by an order of imprisonment. But her Russian academic friends headed by the famous orientalist Kraczkowski stood by her and secured her release. According to her family members, she was arrested and detained at least twice during the Stalin reign.

After World War II, Kulthum moved to Moscow, where she continued teaching at the university, and was an active member of the Association of Soviet cultural relations with Arab countries. She won the “Medal of Honour” 1962 on her seventieth birthday, and before that she won two gold medals in recognition of her research and efforts. She died on the 24th of November 1965 and buried in a cemetery for VIPs in Moscow, her grave head stone was engraved in Arabic, and the words translates‘ An example for the living to follow’.

Some of the reasons I was very interested in knowing more about her, is the sweetness in some of her words. By chance I found an article she wrote and sent it to El Hilal magazine about happiness (below), I so want to know more of her writings though.

 لقد استُقبِل ظهوري في هذا العالم بالدموع. وكلٌ يعلم كيف تُستَقبَل ولادة البنت عندنا نحن العرب، خصوصا إذا كانت هذه التعسة خامسة اخواتها ، وفي عائلة لم يرزقها الله صبيا. وهذه الكراهة رافقتني منذ صغري. فلم أذكر أن والديَّ عطفا مرة عليَّ وزاد في كراهة والدتي لي زعمها أني قبيحة الصورة. فنشأت قليلة الكلام كتوما أتجنبُ الناس، ولا همَّ لي سوى التعلم، ولا أذكر أن أحدا في بيتنا دعاني في صغري سوى “يا ستي سكوت” أو “يا سلولة” ، وانكبابي على العلم في بادئ الامر نشأ من كثرة ما كنت أسمع من والدتي “مين ياخدك يا سودة. بتبقي طول عمرك عند امرأة أخيك خدَّامة”. وكان ثمة شبحٌ مهولٌ لهذا التهديد، إن عمتي لم تتزوج، وكانت عندنا في البيت بمثابة خادم. فهال عقلي الصغير هذا الأمر، وصرت أفكر كيف أتخلص من هذا المستقبل التعس، لم أر بابا إلاّ بالعلم ولم يكن سوى مهنة التعليم في ذلك الوقت تُباح للمرأة. وقد كانت العادة قبل الحرب أن من يكون أول تلميذ في المدارس الروسية الابتدائية يتعلم في القسم الداخلي مجانا وبعدها يحصل على رتبة معلم. فعكفت على العمل وبلغت مُرادي. والفضل في هذا لوالدي، إذ إن والدتي المرحومة قاومت بكل ما لديها من وسائل دخولي المدرسة.

فهل كنت سعيدة في حياتي؟ نعم. إني وجدت في نفسي خُصلتين هما من أهم العوامل في هناء عيشي: الإقدام على العمل مع الثبات فيه، والمحبة، محبة كل شيء، الناس والطبيعة والعمل. هذه الخصلة الثانية هي التي تساعدني دائما في أحرج مواقف حياتي. إن تذليل المصاعب لبلوغ المراد هو أكبر عوامل السعادة. فإذا اقترنت هذه بسعادة من يحيط بنا أيضا، فهناك هناء العيش حقا. قضيت خمس سنوات بين أولئك البنات اللواتي كنت أعلمهن. وقد أحببتهن حبا ساعدني على أن أعيش مع كل واحدة منهن بعيشتها الصغيرة، وأن أساعدهن على قدر طاقتي. وقد قابلنني بالمثل، فكنت دائما أرى وجوها باسمة ضاحكة وكن يرافقنني في كثير من نزهاتي. وأذكر أني زرت مرَّة إحدى صديقاتي وكانت ابنتها تتعلم عندي ولها اثنتا عشرة سنة من العمر. ووجدت صديقتي في الفراش. فأخبرتني في أثناء الحديث بأنها غضبت أمس على ابنتها إذ قالت لأبيها : إذا ماتت أمي فتزوج معلمتي، فهي تكون لي أما… شعرت بسعادة لم أشعر بمثلها من قبل ملأت قلبي، إذ إن أولئك الصغيرات يحببنني كما أحبهن. وفي وقت فراغي كنت أزور أطراف المدينة، حيث يعيش الفلاحون، وأتفقد أطفالهم الصغار المهملين وقت الحصاد، وكان قلبي يتقطع ألما عندما أرى تلك العيون الملتهبة بالرمد ، فأغسلها بمحلول حامض البوريك، وبعد تنظيفها أنقط محلول الزنك عليها. أظن أن بعض الأطباء الذين لم يجعلهم الزمن آلهة بل ظلَّوا بشرا ، يدركون تلك السعادة التي كنت أشعر بها. عندما كنت أرى بعد أيام تلك العيون سليمة صافية، وتلك الأيدي الصغيرة تطوق عنقي . هذا الشعور كثيرا ما كان ينسيني تعبي ، عندما كنت في ساحة الحرب في البلقان وفي روسيا . ألم أكن سعيدة لتعافي كل جندي، أو لتخفيف آلامه ! ألم يرقص قلبي طربا عندما كنت أزور المريض وأراه متجها إلى الصحة، وأرى عائلته سعيدة لشفائه ؟ بلى إني كنت أحب الجميع فأتألم لآلام كل فرد وأفرح لفرحه، ولهذا لم تشعر نفسي أنها غريبة، مع أن لي مدة طويلة في الغربة.

والأمر الثاني، وأهميته لا تقل عن الأول وهو حسباني أن كل عمل شريفا، فلست أخجل من أي عمل كان، ما دام غير ماسِّ بشرفي ولا بشرف غيري. ولا أذكر من قال من الروسيين: ينبوع الحياة في داخلنا. فيا لها من حكمة بالغة. نعم، إن ينبوع الحياة فينا، فإذا قدرنا أن نروي جميع مظاهر حياتنا به، صارت حياتنا وردة زاهرة تتغلب برائحتها العطرة وجمالها على الأشواك التي هي كثيرة جدا في طريقنا. فلا تؤلمنا هذه الأشواك كما لو كانت وحدها. ومن لا يرتوي لا بُدَّ له من أن يقف كالعطشان فتجف حياته وتصير صحراء، والسعادة كالسراب فيها يركض وراءه فلا يصل إليه ولو كانت لديه الملايين. تعلمت أن أجد الجمال في كل ما يحيط بي، طبيعيا كان أو من صنع البشر، فجمال الطبيعة كان دائما يسَكِّن اضطراب نفسي، لأنه رمز الخلود، وأما صنع البشر فإنه كان يجدد قواي ويكسبني إعجابا بعقل الإنسان، فأنكب على العمل كالنملة. فأنا، ولا مبالغة، كنت في جميع أطوار حياتي سعيدة أشتغل راغبة لا مُلزَمَة.