Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A Tram Ride to Manchester Old Trafford

My days in England were drawing to an end, I had seen too much but missed too many...As if I was having a good dream, I had to wake up in the end. I felt it was too early when I had to go to Manchester to confirm my flight reservation.

The contradiction of my feelings was summarized in the flight agent's question: "Are you sure you want to fly on Thursday?"...That was a tough yes/no question, and I knew that either answer would not make such a big difference.

After I managed to take what seemed to be the right decision, I had good four hours before my bus. I had no idea where to go in such a big, fascinating city, but the tram seized my attention. I remembered that early in the 20th century, we used to have such a thing running down the (at that time) narrow streets of Damascus. We were "Occupied" at that time... No doubt, we evolved ever since: Now we have some 30,000 micro-buses filling the used-to-be-nice-streets of the oldest city in the world…

Manchester Tram

At Piccadilly Gardens, I was staring at the list of different tram lines and stops. I remembered that a friend of mine has suggested Salford Quays if I had spare time in Manchester. I had no other choice, I got my ticket and went on...

Salford Quays was a nice, romantically calm place. It reminded me of the magnificent by-Thames wharves in London. Being located near the canal in the older part of Manchester, they used to be a kind of ship building dock. I was crossing one bridge there when a red sign in the horizon caught my eyes. It said: "Manchester United"!!!

Sir Matt Busby

It was a long walk before I reached 'Sir Matt Busby Way' and eventually found the place. I haven't been so excited in my whole life. I knew that at the other side was a huge stadium, home of the Red Devils. After a long period of hesitation, I decided that I should try to look inside and find a reception or something of that sort. I had no idea what was waiting for me!

ManUnited Trophies

It was another walk inside before I found the museum of Man. United. All the trophies, medals, formal shirts, and other memorabilia of the red team were there. I found the reception after a while...

- "Would you like to join the 4.30 tour?"
- "Would that go into the stadium?"
- "Yes"
- "And can I take photos?"
- "As much as you like"
- "One ticket then, please!"

Old Trafford

It was my first time to go into a real stadium. Although I couldn't get a ticket for the best-of-all-matches Menchester Utd. VS. Arsenal, I felt that it's not a bad thing to see an empty stadium! Especially if it was Old Trafford!

Commentators Stand

The tour itself was a great thing. I got to know lots of interesting things about Manchester United. The stadium, with a capacity of some 76,000 spectators, was the biggest in UK. Because of its location, it was almost completely destroyed in the second world war when the bombardment targeted the nearby ship canal. It was rebuilt and maintained afterwards, but the remains of the old part is still there as a tribute to the great history of the pre-war Manchester Utd. I learned about Sir Matt Busby, who was a football player and then a manager of the club for some 20 years. I heard about the Munich air disaster and other aspects of the team history. The enthusiastic fans of Manchester were something of a noticeable importance, and of course, the sponsors (now are AIG, and Nike, who runs the megastore as well). I became familiar with the anatomy of a stadium, the places of journalists and commentators, and the reserved seats for Managers and VIPs. It was 90 minutes that I will never forget.

Home Team Seats

I had to leave then: to leave Old Trafford, to leave Manchester, and eventually to leave England. I don't even know if I am meant to go back to any of them, I have nothing left but hope and sweet memories. I wish that one day I'll be able to take that tram to Old Trafford and watch the Red Devils playing a home game against Arsenal. You see, I couldn't but become a fan of Man. United!

Tram stop

For those of you who are thinking of going to England in the near future, please don't miss that chance. For Ascribo's sake, take the tram to Old Trafford!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Do you know Firas?

Some people really surprise me with simple questions: "Do you know Firas?"

When I moved into this city, the first question anyone would ask was: "Where are you from?". When my answer to that was Syria, the next question was: "Do you know Firas?". I was surprised, everyone: juniour doctors, nurses, medical school clerks, and even exchange students were showering me with the very same question. And to make things more tricky, there was one colleague who was supposed to come to the hospital after a few days. I didn't believe that every one knew him by name even before he arrived.

Then I had to ask the only logical question in such a case: "Who the hell is Firas?"...Well, it turned out that Firas was a medical student at the local university. Sure, I didn't know him.

I don't know why on earth everybody was asking me that question. What difference would it make if I knew Firas, or had another friend back home who, by chance, was named Firas too. To me, asking such a question sounded like asking someone from France: "Do you know Jacque?" Or asking a Chinese guy: "Do you know Chan?"

Finally, I met Firas. He was rather astonished that everyone knew him by name, and knew that he was from Syria. For me, I felt like I found a treasure. Not only because I can answer the question now, but because I learned a new trick.

The next time I met a student who said was from Scotland, I immediately asked: "Do you know Andrew?"...

I let you to imagine how puzzled he looked!