My Weekend in Tripoli (Arabic Music and a Failed Meeting)

Prose written by Saad El-Asha on Monday 17, September 2018

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An account of certain events happening a few years ago. I suspect there should be minor grammatical errors as I haven't edited the text.

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I look down the sofa on which I’m sleeping and it’s 2 AM on the cell phone. It has been four hours since I slept in the hall of my Tripoli residence. My room isn’t ready yet. I was too tired to clean and tidy up. Up until 5:30 I had a series of dreams, separated and orchestrated by short awakenings, as usual. In each brief interval I thought about the day, flying from my hometown of Bayda to the Capital. It has been over three months since I was here. And of all the six flights I have taken in this country, this was the first to take place on a weekend. Since childhood I haven’t spent a “weekend”. This was no exception. My first dream - which in one way or the other made me recall the day, so I have to mention it - was about a friendly conversation I had with an old man. A guy my age was sitting there. The conversation took a place in an educational facility (I wouldn’t call it a university; it was too liberal to be one) where in another “room” a group of students – apparently – were waiting for me to do students stuff. For some reason I was summoned by the young man, a friend perhaps, to have a friendly smiley debate on the history of modern Arab music. Sonuvabitch, he was a great moderator, gesticulating with Hmmms which served as understated refrains. In fact, it wasn’t a debate. The oldman was just smiling and sometimes laughing. Sonuvabitch didn’t say a word. For some reason, again, my words were eventuated to carry on a conversation too invisible for a dream. An unspoken assumption, as Seamus Heany said. I was arguing that when historians of Arabic music try to educate the viewer in mainstream TV about the subject, they adopt a pedantic view. Look who’s talking. That they had witnessed the pre-Sayed Darwish era, going through each development year after year until this day (In this dream, Mankind, as it appears, can live up to 150 years or so). I was critiquing the fact that we never had counterculture in our music, neither in Egyptian nor Levant music. It wasn’t supposed to be a natural response to that of the 60s in some parts of the world, but as an inevitability of history, as a product of human nature. But, goddamn it! Why did I say that! (Why was I there in the first place?) . I did know that throughout the “Arab World” we had always had prominent leftists even before 1967, but all popular musicians had to revere the nationalists. I also argued that old people do so because they’re dying to be wise. The oldman laughed. Cool bastard. Naturally, I sometimes make fun of things out of admiration. I think that’s why all my male best friends are older people. To get back to my weekend, I think the dream, in a way, was influenced by a chat I had that night with a Moroccan friend in Standard Arabic. Surely, the conversation was humorous, for who hath the heart to converse in Standard Arabic, unless it be a comical venture! And this, by its own terms, brings me again to my uncle, an author professing to reinvigorate the Arabic language to be incorporated in the 21st century. But enough Arabic stuff now. I came to Tripoli for few things including a visit to my uncle who had been kidnapped here for five days. Since early adolescence I’ve always been expecting the worst. That’s why I’m seldom disappointed. I knew that when I get here he’d be back in Bayda. He’d been trying for weeks to get back to hometown since the day he was released. He had failed until the day I arrived. The Aura, it’s called; the state in which an epileptic feels a seizure brewing but can do nothing. It’s better said in Spanish, El Aura. I don’t speak Spanish, natch. It was a weekend, as I mentioned, like all days. All past experiences are repeating themselves. My body is still officially anti-Libyan-airports. Taxi drivers are bemoaning the state of the country and want Ghadafi back. This isn’t a shallow remark. MY taxi drivers are always the same. I failed to label them; careless ignorant bourgeoisie? (Yes, I said the word in 2014). New experiences could’ve happened, but I’m never disappointed. It wasn’t without its pleasures, though. I visited my mother once again, and I watched a very good movie before leaving, it was about GTMO. It made me do a list in my head of all the reasons why any soldier, anywhere in the world, would join the army. But that’s another story. It’s messy enough. I wish I had met my uncle. I wish that the plane took off in time - as if I hadn’t foreseen it wouldn’t – so I could watch El Clasico (I don’t speak Spanish). I wish I hadn’t been sick so I would tidy up my room and watch a movie. I wish I had a Nikon (It’s not an advertisement. It’s the only camera I’ve used) to take adorable photos of adorable children in adorable situations on the plane. But, hey, my uncle is now officially safe in our quiet, peaceful and boring hometown – not that Tripoli is fun. And today I resumed reading my book that I had despondently left, untouched, for over two weeks. Sometimes it’s give and take.

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    Pretty well written for no edit. Oh, is this a slice of your character? Just curious.
    Sort of. At the time.