Monday, May 10, 2010
I have just returned from Turkey and Syria, the setting of my novel-in-progress. While in Damascas I met Abu Shadi, a storyteller who has been carrying on the tradition in the Coffee Shop Ainfora beside the Ummayid Mosque. (Among other things, this mosque houses a shrine for John the Baptist.) Since time immemorial Arab men gathered in tea houses to drink tea, smoke waterpipes and talk. Even under Ottoman rule they continued to maintain this aspect of their culture though the cafes were subject to scrutiny by their new rulers. Men whose wives were giving birth waited in the tea house among friends who would congratulate or console them, should the baby or mother die.
Storytellers, like series writers today, always ended their tales with a cliff hanger, so people would return to the coffee house the next night. Check out the Middle Eastern pages on my website in the coming weeks for more photos of this most expressive and conversant storyteller as well as to view a video of Abu Shadi telling his story.
---Meghan Nuttall Sayres