August 11th, 2014

Saturday is Monday, and Monday is the busiest day of the week. CCC in the morning, Askar camp in the afternoon, Arabic lessons in the evening, and oud with Nedal in the night. It starts out like hell but gets easier as the day goes on. Our translator didn’t show up today, so the first couple classes were even more difficult than usual. But Giulia and I are picking up Arabic quickly, so we nailed at least a few of our objectives.

Oud was the best part of an otherwise long, humid day of work. We learnt the first maqam, called Nahawand. It’s similar to our Aeolian scale, but the third and fifth are a little flatter than we’re used to. I’ve grown attached to my oud; it has this beautifully expressive face, with an inlaid wood and mother of pearl design resembling an eye with a teardrop. Habib says the face of an oud determines the sound. I think he was referring to the material and shape, but my oud’s voice is just as sad and warm as its face looks. It fits well with the Arabic music, which as a rule emphasizes feeling and emotion as the guide to good sound.

After the lesson, we followed Nedal upstairs to drink tea and watch the urban sunset from his uncle’s balcony:
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His uncle was carrying a baby, and as we played with him the mother came, carrying the baby’s identical twin. Twins are extremely common here; I have three sets of twins among my classes, a set living on my street, and a set that walks by everyday on their way to work. And more often than not, they make an effort to dress the same way, just as these babies were.

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