I feel a bit nostalgic, last year in December I went to visit my home country for the first time since coming to Montréal.
I was shocked the moment I entered the "International" Airport of Damascus, I knew right away I was in a different planet.
I thought that my initial shock would pass away, but no, it went from one shock to another.
When I left Syria I was 7 years old, and I remember barely anything from there, while being born in Aleppo (second largest city), I lived all my life in a small town (300k) by the name of Al Qamishly on the border with Turkey and near Iraq.
That city became slowly invaded by poor and restless Kurds.
Everyone was telling me that Damascus was beautiful, modern, etc... well I can tell you that after seeing what Damascus was all about, I was not so thrilled to see the smaller towns and villages.
Oh well, here's the tale in pictures of a spoiled Montrealer in Syria:
First signs of western influence, laughed my ass off:)
It is believed there's something like 4000 mosque in Damascus alone... thats alot of highrises
THis is the Parlimant of the Syrian Republic... I took the pic without being noticed by the secret service dudes near me in an unmarked white car:D
A pedestrian only street, you can shop all you want
My host, Roudain
One of the most if not most important shopping streets in Damascus
The almighty Ministry of Economy and Trade... aka Mafia
...err Club not Clup
Steets in eternal old Damascus:
In Montreal we call that a ruelle, but its almost ten time smaller... yes people do live here
Notice the black exterior walls, they were white but because of the pollution they became black....
Satelite dishes paradise.......
Notice the mountain in the background and the dark area at its bottom...
the dark is in reality savage construction done everywhere without any control or restraint... sad, imagine the Mont-Royal like that...
Thats inside a restaurant on top of the mountain, sadly its empty because no one goes out in "winter"
Damascus at night from the mountain
Day one is over, i will post more in the coming days...
Have Some Champagne With That Brisket?
Montreal is just bubbling with Jewish culture
November 08, 2007
Jewish Exponent Feature
Ever since the Parti Quebeçois came to power three decades ago, bringing with it greater nationalism and stricter language laws favoring French, it's been easy to feel uneasy about Jewish life in Montreal.
The Jewish community has shrunk from a high of about 120,000 before that 1976 election, to just under 100,000 now. Many who left were the younger, well-educated postwar generation of Ashkenazi descent, who had been educated primarily in English. (Barred from attending the Catholic, French-speaking schools, they'd attended the English-speaking Protestant ones.)
But come to Montreal today, and you'll find a Jewish world that feels more vital than many American communities with comparably-sized communities. You can see live Yiddish theater, visit a new world-class Holocaust center and sample kosher restaurants serving everything from Chinese food to Moroccan chicken tagine.
The Jewish community in Montreal is one of the most traditional in North America. According to a report by B'nai B'rith Canada's Institute for International Affairs, the community has a remarkably low intermarriage rate (less than 7 percent) and a remarkably high rate of religious observance (50 percent keep kosher).
At roughly the same time that wave of Ashkenazi Jews left, about 20,000 Sephardic, French-speaking Jews arrived -- most of them coming from North Africa, especially Morocco. And with a continuing influx of Jewish immigrants, including as many as 10,000 Russian Jews in recent years, the city has maintained a vibrant Jewish culture that is now about 25 percent Sephardic.
In Search of 'Duddy'
Visitors looking for signs of Jewish life have several sections of the city to explore. Anyone interested in history will want to go to the Mile End neighborhood, the setting for Mordecai Richler's famous novel The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. Just east of Mount Royal Park is a five-street-wide area between the Avenue du Parc and the Boulevard Saint-Laurent -- the Jewish neighborhood for much of the first half of the 20th century.
The old neighborhood was increasingly abandoned after the war, as Jews started to make their way out to the suburbs. But Mile End is still home to a large Chasidic community. And it still looks a lot like it did when Richler wrote about going to Tansky's store for a package of Sen-Sen.
The rowhouses remain, with their outside staircases and little balconies. And some of the old haunts, like Moishe's Steakhouse and Schwartz's Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen, are open for business as usual. The Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre People come to Moishe's for the best steaks in town, while Schwartz's long, narrow dining room teems with crowded tables of patrons ordering sandwiches piled with smoked beef.
Several blocks north is the St. Viateur Bagel Shop, celebrating its 50th anniversary. It is open day and night, 24/7, and regularly wins the prize for best bagels in Montreal -- as much for the atmosphere as for the bagels themselves. You can see the flames coming out of the wood-burning brick oven, and watch the bagels being pulled out on a long-handled tray and then dumped into a long, sloping bin.
They still use the same recipe from 100 years ago -- hand-rolling the bagels and dropping them into boiling water for five minutes before baking. And forget about cinnamon-raisin or chocolate-chip bagels: It's sesame or poppyseed, and that's it!
For a completely different scene, head west out Côte St. Catherine Road to Snowdon, a neighborhood of duplex and split-level homes, where many Jews moved after the war. There, you'll find a small campus of Jewish community and religious organizations and cultural groups.
The Segal Centre for Performing Arts at the Saidye Bronfman Centre mounts plays of both general and Jewish interest, including an annual play in Yiddish. Montreal has the largest Holocaust-survivor population in Canada; across the street from the Saidye Bronfman are the Jewish Public Library and the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre, with 5,000 square feet of exhibit space. The library sponsors all kinds of lectures, readings, films, and live-music and other events for both residents and visitors.
A few blocks south of Côte St. Catherine Road is the commercial Queen Mary Road, which feels something like the way Mile End must have felt a few generations ago. There are charcuteries (delis that specialize in meats) where everything is labeled only in Russian, with vats of sweet-and-sour cabbage and trays of whole smoked fish and caviar. There's Israeli fast-food at Chez Benny and kosher pizza by the Snowdon metro station. Cell phones ring, voices chatting in French and Arabic more often than in Yiddish.
Yes, indeed, Jewish life in Montreal has changed, but remains alive and well. For more information, go to: www. tourisme-montreal.org.
Driving in Montreal is an experience
Posted By Marshall, Scott
Updated 1 hour ago
Driving in different places can be difficult to many people.
The fear of not knowing where you're going can be very overwhelming. Roads you've never seen before and higher than normal traffic can lead to high anxiety.
I was recently in Montreal and if you've ever driven there you'll already know it's an experience of a lifetime.
The cab ride from the airport to my hotel was interesting to start with.
The driver didn't use his turn signals. Most people will use them at least most of the time. It lets other road users know your intentions.
In Montreal, it lets other drivers know what your plans are early enough so they can speed up and block your move. If you're in Montreal you don't signal. That way nobody knows your moves.
We all know that fuel prices are higher than we would all like, so the drivers in Montreal decided to work together to save fuel. They follow each other very closely so they can cut down on wind resistance. Race car drivers call this 'drafting'.
The cab driver was driving close enough to the traffic in front of them that it looked like they were being towed by the driver in front.
I thought it was very nice of the lead driver, or drivers, to avoid suddenly stopping. That was nice of them, don't you think?
Most drivers would understand they need to have some response time from the driver in front if they stop suddenly.
You should leave more of a following distance if the driver ahead of you is unsure of where they are going so they'll have enough room to turn around as necessary.
As a side note, following further back also give you more to stop if the lead driver stops suddenly. We should all know that, right?
Now, I enjoy playing and watching sports like a lot of people do. I like the competitiveness of sports.
Being a pedestrian in Montreal seems like it's a sport to many of the drivers in Montreal, though.
When the cab driver was driving along the road and was about to enter an intersection, a pedestrian stepped off the curb right in front of us. There was no horn honking and only a slight swerve was done to avoid hitting them.
Maybe you need to drive as close as possible to a pedestrian when you're driving there? I didn't see the rules for this one, so maybe I'm wrong.
I may have exaggerated my thoughts here, but every event did actually happen.
The bottom line here is no matter where you drive, keep space around your vehicle and communicate to other road users.
Plan your route so you know where your turns are and get into the proper lane well in advance.
If you do all of this, you'll be safe driving - even while in Montreal!
Scott Marshall is the director of training for Young Drivers of Canada.
He has spent almost 20 years in driver training. For questions or comments regarding this column e-mail Scott directly at [email protected]
Je pense que ça va vous faire plaisir...
Globe and Mail Update
April 16, 2008 at 1:43 PM EDT
Montreal has edged ahead of midtown Manhattan to create an all-Canadian list of the top five office rental markets in North America in the first quarter of 2008, according to a study released Wednesday by real estate brokerage Cushman Wakefield & LePage.
Canada's five largest cities had the lowest office vacancy rates of the 15 major leasing markets in North America in the first three months of the year, according to Cushman Wakefield's data.
Downtown Montreal took fifth spot on the list with a vacancy rate of 5.8 per cent, but posted the largest year-over-year drop at 3.5 percentage points due to strong demand and a lack of new supply.
This caused it to squeak by midtown Manhattan, the strongest market in the United States, with an office vacancy rate of 6 per cent.
“Montreal has experienced years of virtual stagnation in the office leasing market. But slow and steady economic growth and a lack of new development over the past decade have transitioned Montreal from a tenant market to a landlord market,” Colum Bastable, president and chief executive officer of Cushman & Wakefield, said in a statement.
At a vacancy rate of just 2.6 per cent, Vancouver had the tightest downtown office rental market of the 15 cities included in the study. This was followed by Calgary at 3.6 per cent, Toronto at 3.9 per cent, Ottawa at 4.1 per cent and Montreal at 5.8 per cent.
The city with the highest downtown office vacancy rate was Dallas at 28.7 per cent, far greater than the next on the list, Los Angeles, at 13.5 per cent.
The sharpest rise in vacancy rate occurred in Calgary, growing to 4.5 per cent in the first quarter from a low of 1.4 per cent in the same period of 2007. Vacancies remained tight in Class A downtown buildings in the city at a rate of just 1.8 per cent.
Despite a weakening provincial economy and three new office towers under construction, Toronto's vacancy rates continue to decline, Mr. Bastable said.
The study also measured vacancy rates in suburban areas, where Canada's market was again tighter than that of the U.S.
Toronto's suburbs had the lowest vacancy rate of these markets in the first quarter at 7.2 per cent, followed by those of Calgary at 7.4 per cent, Ottawa at 7.5 per cent, Vancouver at 9.3 per cent and Montreal at 11.2 per cent.
The suburbs of Dallas had the highest vacancy rate at 21.5 per cent, followed by those of central New Jersey at 20.3 per cent and Chicago at 19 per cent.
“All of Canada's major markets are well positioned to weather an economic downturn. Years of conservative and prudent development, along with low interest rates, will work to keep supply and demand in relative equilibrium even as the economy and demand slacken,” Mr. Bastable said.