A Syrian couple’s quest to save the grapes of Raqqa

Warda Al-Jassem waters her grape vine, upon returning to her home. (AFP)
Updated 17 July 2017
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A Syrian couple’s quest to save the grapes of Raqqa

JAZRA, Syria: Since she fled her home near the militant stronghold of Raqqa in northern Syria more than a month ago, Warda Al-Jassem has been impatient to return — to water her vine.
Saving their grapes has become an obsession for the 50-year-old and her husband since fighting forced them to flee.
Their house is in Jazra, a western suburb of Raqqa, the Daesh group’s de facto Syrian capital from which a US-backed alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters is battling to oust the militants.
Al-Jassem and her husband, who have taken refuge in the Al-Andalus area some 25 km north of Raqqa, could not stop worrying about their grapes.
Accompanied by neighbors, she headed home over the weekend for her first visit since Daesh was forced from the neighborhood in early June.
Due to a heart problem, her husband could not join her.
“Since we left here, the only thing he wanted was to know what had happened to the vine,” she said.
“Every day he’d say ‘The vine is thirsty, it has to be watered.’”
So “I came back to water it,” she said.
The blue-eyed woman, her head covered with a black embroidered veil, eyed a trellis hung with yellowed grapes and parched vine leaves.
“They were dying of thirst,” she said.
Much of the fruit had faded, but some grapes, still green, seemed to have survived the intense summer heat.
A determined look on her face, Al-Jassem turned over the earth with a shovel. Then, using a bucket, she poured water at the bottom of the trellis to try to save the rest of the vine.
Only then did she smile, her mission accomplished. She urged her friends to gather those grapes that were still edible.
Inside the house, she hastened to recover a few precious items: Bags of dried mint and other seasonings.
Before leaving again, she filled a plastic bottle with heating oil from a barrel on the patio.


WWE stars soften up to Jeddah children to introduce anti-bullying campaign

Updated 25 April 2018
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WWE stars soften up to Jeddah children to introduce anti-bullying campaign

  • Al-Oula is a non-profit organization targeted to break the cycle of poverty
  • WWE stars sat down in front of 30 students from the institution

Jeddah: The children of Al-Oula –- a non-profit organization targeted to break the cycle of poverty –- had the most thrilling school trip as they came to see World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) superstars Mojo Rawley and Mark Henry in King Abdullah stadium on Tuesday.
The stars sat down in front of 30 students from the institution and softened up as they shared stories from their childhood and introduced their anti-bullying campaign “Be a Star.”
The stars shared personal stories and the difficulties they have faced.
Dean Muhtadi, 31, better known by his ring name Mojo Rawley, told the children: “We are different in many ways but sometimes you have to focus on the similarities and positive aspects of others.”
Mark Henry, 46, opened up about his past: “When I was young people would call me names and were mean to me, so I decided to become the strongest person in the world.
“I won three world championships in three different world countries that had nothing to do with each other and I am very proud of myself for not letting the mean comments get to my head.”
Henry was world heavyweight champion, and is also a two-time Olympian and a gold medalist at the Pan American Games.
Later the children had the chance to talk directly with the stars. Rawley is originally Palestinian, so he spoke in Arabic with some of the children.
Henry told one of the students: “If someone is troubling you, don’t give them the satisfaction of letting the comments or actions affect you, and immediately tell your teacher or your parents or any adult, and they will help you through your problems.”
The children then took pictures and were given tickets to the WWE Royal Rumble show on Friday.
“Jeddah is a very family-friendly and a culture-loving city, so I love being here,” Henry told Arab News. “The only difference is the language. Apart from that everyone is very nice and warm.”
On the Royal Rumble, he said: “Get ready for the best entertainment you have ever seen with your own eyes.”
“For someone who comes from an Arab background, this is a historic achievement and it will be remembered for ever,” Rawley said in an interview with Arab News.
“When I first found out that we agreed to a ten-year partnership, it was the coolest thing to find out.
“I am very fortunate to be a part of this long-term partnership which will give the citizens a long time to understand and give us enough time to develop our brand here in Saudi Arabia.
“Last year the show in Riyadh was a small, non-televised show but it was one of the coolest experiences of my life, so I am very excited to perform in this grand-scale show. It’s going to be an amazing show. It will rival Wrestle Mania, which is the biggest event of the year.”
Jana Marwan, a nine-year-old student, said: “Everyone told us that the wrestlers were scary but they weren’t. In fact they were very friendly. They taught us how to look out for ourselves and I had so much fun. I am thankful to them.”