Ma’arat al Numan, Syrian city of fame.

Sadly, two people reported killed in the Syrian town of Ma’arat. October 26th 2011

Ma’arat was the home of the  great blind Syrian philosopher, al Mari,  who had ideas not always popular with mainstream Islam. He was also a vegetarian which was and still is unusual in this country of the ubiquitous chicken. Al Mari was a sceptic and, some say, an aetheist. Here’s what he had to say about religion:

A church, a temple or a Kaba stone,

Koran or bible or a martyr’s bone –

All these and more my heart can tolerate

Since my religion now is Love alone.

He believed that religion was too tied up with war and maybe he was right. Ma’arat al Numan was invaded by crusaders who, during a very bad winter, resorted to cannibalism.

The story goes that al Mari travelled to Baghdad and on his return, passing through Tadmor, ducked to avoid the branch of a tree that he’d remembered from two years back.

From my upcoming travel book on Syria: My Home is Your Home.

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