Friday, October 19, 2007
On Wednesday I had my dinner at the VIP restaurant of the University (a place visited quite frequently after all, thanks to all those official visits we have been receiving along the years- ministers, professors, ambassadors, delegations...)
[My weirdest memory from the place has been an evening coffee during which the President of that time invited the staff of the Faculty to discuss his agenda for the starting academic year- I think it was late October or early November- it was thoroughly in arabic, I could get quite much of the question-answer roll and could feel the shy tension of those professors who were addressing the Rector. I felt that the details of the particular issues that our Departments were facing could not be discussed. Therefore, I relaxed drinking my qahwa turkiyeh medium-sweet and eating a small petit four. Strangely enough, after ten days the president was replaced. Timing contains always the seeds of tragedy and farse.]
This time, the setting was quite different. The new President (Khalid Al Karaki) attended with some delay the occasion and I found him genuinely polite and dynamic. I found myself sitting with the German Section people, a further confirmation about my preference to German, among many Europeans. Next to us, the tables of the buffet, a big vase with artificial flowers, made of cucumber, tomatoes, lemons and oranges, it reminded me of that "Vatel" film with Gerard Depardieu. Quite impressive. Two young men were playing traditional tunes on an electrical Oud (first time I saw it so Dorian in appearance) and keyboards. The organizers delivered their speeches. A post graduate student recited poetry (wataniyeh- of the fatherland- but nice in its images). And, then, the President greeted the guests, ignoring formalities, and focusing on his guest of honour. An emeritus professor, Nasser (I tried to find his full bio and name, but up to now I have not succeeded), who in 1963 along with other six professors established literally the University, by founding the Department of Arabic Language and Literature. I was impressed by the warmth of the Rector's speech and the way professor Nasser received the honour. The way a teacher is honoured by his student. It felt nice and it showed some changes that have occurred meanwhile. He described a different geography of the city, a different feeling of pride and optimism about the passion for language and philology.
Then, because the evocation of the past was honest and the years of the reverse journey were many (40 almost), it started raining. A strong, yet calm, rain, as it happens when memory gets strong and honest. I reach home, half soaked, but it felt right.