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This Taste of Honey - ذوق عسل

Dear Michael,

I send you a link to a very nice song. I found it today while browsing through Shava”s records (real old vinyl-type ones). It is by Esther Ofarim, an israelian singer who was very popular in Iran before “79. During the time of the last Shah the cultural and political relations between Iran and Israel were very intense and free of major conflicts. I very much like her song “A Taste of Honey” or ذوق عسل, not only because it has to do with my name.

Have a nice evening, enjoy the song


Ghazal my dear,

Thank you so much for this song “A Taste of Honey”. When I listened to it, it brought something inside me to vibrate, like an accoustic deja-vu: I knew that I heard this melody many years ago, it was the title-melody of a saturday-afternoon TV serie, not really meant for children, but we kids were allowed to watch it. Don"t know why the director had choosen "A taste of Honey" as the title song for this serie, which was an epic about the construction of a dam, and although it was a west-german production, it glorified the working heroes at least as much as we knew it from the socialist propaganda in our own country.  It is probably because I watched it every weekend while I was 10 or so, maybe over a period of more than a year, that embossed this melody in my memory for ever. But in the TV-serie, “A Taste of Honey” was played much faster, more jazz-style by a big-band and without a singer.
It was originally written by Bobby Scott and Rick Marlow as the intro for the New York premier of Shelagh Delaneys drama of the same title. It was covered by famous musicians such as Lionel Hampton, Quincy Jones, Chet Atkins, Woody Herman, The Beatles and the Hollies. Comparing  Esther Ofarims version that you found among Shavas collection of old vinyls with the "Harry James Orchestra" reording below one gets an impression about the broad range of musical styles to which the original song and the story of the play-wright had inspired singers and musicians.
The jazz big-band version by the “Harry James Orchestra” was a performance at the Ed Sullivan show in 1966.

By the way, which of the two persian words in the song-title means “Asal” ?
 عسل or ذوق  ?

It was interesting what you wrote about Israel and Iran and that they had such a fruitful and cooperative relationship during Shahs time. How do your parents see this ? I”m always surprised when I follow discussions on, most of the writers also express a view that is so much different from the anti-Israel stereotypes of the Ahmadenishad gouvernment. As usual, the people are much more tolerant and open-minded, whereas the active politicians like to keep the fire of hate and violence burning.

I hope you are alright, and you make progress with your PhD project and also with the project of your life.

Take Care,


Schah-Name. Heroic Times.

In 2010 the world celebrated the tenth centenary of the completion of the Persian "Book of Kings". Composed of more than 50,000 rhyming couplets, the "Shah-Nameh" is one of the greatest epics in the history of world literature. It is approximately twice as long as Homer"s epics and 20 times longer than the german "Nibelungenlied". The Persian epic poem covers a phenomenal time span, telling the entire history of the old kings of Iran, from their mythical beginnings right up to the conquest by the Arabs in 651 BCE. The epic was written by the Persian poet Ferdousi (sometimes spelled "Firdausi", 935-1020), who by his own estimation spent 25 years composing the work before completing it in 1010 BCE and dedicating it to the Ghaznavid ruler, Sultan Mahmud (r. 998-1020).

A Thousand Years of the Persian Book of Kings is held by the Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin and the Berlin National Library, to highlight the history of Firdousi's epic magnum opus and its significant role for the Persian national identity.

Shah-Nameh (The Book of Kings) is a classic among epic Persian poetry and recounts Iran's mythical and historical past. It was written in Persian at a time when Arabic was the main scientific and literary language of Iran.

The romance of Zal and Rudaba, the Seven Stages (or Labors) of Rostam, Rostam and Sohrab, Siavash and Soudabeh, Rostam and Akvan-e Div, the romance of Bizhan and Manizheh and Rostam and Esfandyar are among the most popular Shah-Nameh stories.

The exhibition, which will run until July 3, 2011, also displays a rich and extremely rare Sassanid collection of the Museum of Islamic Art, illuminating the historical past of the mythical legends, Artdaily reported.

Visitors will be able to see around 50 manuscripts and folios from the Keir Collection, the National Library, and the Museum of Islamic Art as well as medieval ceramics, textiles, metalwork, weapons, and artifacts from the Sassanid collection.

These are also works on loan from the Berlin Museum of Asian Arts, the Berlin Museum of Ethnology and the Deutsche Historische Museum (DHM) and two German private collections. 
Berlin State Library's Oriental Department and the Museum of Islamic Art have seized upon the commemorations as an opportunity to illustrate the epic's influence in more than 100 magnificent objects, among them loans from the Museum of Asian Art, the Ethnological Museum and the German Historical Museum. The city of Berlin happens to preside over a unique collection of 'Shah-Nameh' manuscripts and single sheets, many of which rank among the most spectacular treasures of Persian book art anywhere in the world. Also on display are examples of decorative art that illustrate the epic's influence on the various areas of daily life in Persia. The exhibition provides profound insight into the world of the great kings and courageous heroes and illustrates just what a central role this piece of world literature plays for the Persian national consciousness, even today.


Haji Firuz aka Arthur Brown is doing the Norooz Fire Dance

Dear Ghazal,
On the occasion of the persian new-year, I”d like to send you some music.
Zoroastrian philosophy not only inspired Friedrich Nietzsche to write his central opus “Thus spoke Zarathustra”, but contemporary rock singers were equally influenced by this ancient faith. The idea that a divine spirit is present in nature, and it shows up in phenomenons such as fire or water had a renaissance in the era of new age and hippie-culture. Have a look at this wunderful piece of music by Arthur Brown (”I am the god of hell fire, and I bring you: FIRE”).
Arthur Brown, this very bizarre rock singer of the 70s considered himself a reincarnation of Zartosht (or Zarathustra). In the following performance Brown even tried to show up as Haji Firuz, the troubadur who ushers the persian new year with his songs and dances.

Once again Norooz Pirooz, Ghazal


Dear Michael,
Well, this guy arthur brown really makes a very wild impression. I have never seen Hadji Firuz wearing fire on his head: usually he always stays above the fire. Are you sure that arthur brown has any relation to Zoroastrianism? I asked my mom about this, since she knows a lot about Zartoshd. Her comment was, that arthur brown reminds her more of the european carneval than on traditional persian Norooz. To be honest, I also saw people at last years munich carnival wearing costumes like arthur browns “Fire-Suit”. The whole idea of the persian Chahar-Shembeh-Suri (the night of the last wednesday before Norooz) is to jump over the fire but avoid getting touched by the fire. The red colour of his dress, however, is very Hadji Firuz style. It symbolizes the healthy and powerful new life of the new year. Therefore, on Chahar-Shembeh-Suri persian people ask:

Give me your beautiful red color
And take back my sickly pallor!

سرخی تو از من و
زردی من از تو

The music is not exactly the style I would listen to in the evening, when I seek for some relaxation. Do you remember the Paolo Nutini concert where we went last year in Munich ? This I liked a lot, it was also rock, but it was more melodic. It was really nice, and it was a very relaxing evening. Exactly what I needed so badly during all this hard work for my master-project. I still listen to his music from the CD, when I need some rest and inspiration. 
Hope everything is fine with you. Soile was here to give a talk. She told me that you have very warm weather in munich now. Enjoy!
Ghazal my dear,

It is really already very warm here in Munich, 25 degrees, almost like summer. If I look out of the window, the cherry tree in front of the institute is in full blossoms.

I already suspected that Arthur Brown”s wild habbit is not really your most favorite style. You always prefer “calm” music, right. But somehow I like him, even so he did not produce a lot of songs: he became more famous for his weired stage acts (always using fireworks). Once he even set himself on fire and had to be rescued by the security guys with a fire-extinguisher. Even more notorious became an incident at the Montreux Jazz Festival 1971: Brown again played around with some firework and set the whole Montreux Casino in fire. This whole story was quickly absorbed by the band Deep Purple, who within a day or so wrote a song “Smoke on the Water”. This immediately became a rock classic and climbed the top-ten for several weeks. And of course for the garage-band that we had just set-up with some school-mates in the late 70s, playing on odd east-german accoustic guitars to which steel-strings and DIY pick-ups were mounted and everything plugged into an old Wehrmacht vacuum-tube amplifier, of course this song (or at least the first few cords of it) was just the right one to annoy all the neighbours.

Hope you are happy, with or without me.


Dear Michael,

What a funny story to imagine that you played in a garage-band this deep-purple song. I thought western music was forbidden in the east ?  Was this what the neighbours found so annoying, that the young generation did not care any more about what is permitted and what is forbidden ? And you even had an old Wehrmacht-amp, I hope you at least removed the swastika from it !  Sorry, this sounds like you wanted to become the east-german version of "Rammstein".

Take Care
PS: Don”t know if I am happy. To know this exactly, one needs a measure. Somebody ones suggested that you are only happy when you don”t have to think about happiness.


Ghazal my Dear,

Are you about to turn into a rock-fan ?  It would not be the first time that I see how a very elegant, educated and smart young lady from abroad suddenly outs herself as a Rammstein fan. But by the way, Rammstein ARE east-german. They were all playing before (in other bands) so-called polit-punk, and by this they did not only annoyed the neighbours, but the whole political system in the GDR. In terms of music quality it all was not really breath-taking, but it all had severe political implications. Very much the same as nowadays in Iran, as described in the movie "No one knows about persian cats".

Take care, Ghazal



Hi Michael,
Nice picture, thank you.
I am fine thanx, trying to do a good project with phd and life. No I did not do anything special the 8th of march. But yes it was women day. It was also "Semla day", eveyone eats semla. Dont know what it is called in english.
But it is not my favorite. so i did not eat.

Oh, hope that B. will be better soon. Nice that I. went to the mountains. And hope the students have fun in munich.



Hi Ghazal dear,

Thanks for writing, and for keeping me up to date. I was thinking about you today, when I saw the pictures in TV how they measure children in Japan for radioiodine contamination in the thyroid. somehow, it has a lot to do with your MSc project here, don"t you think so ?

This morning on my way to the institute I was passing the BMW world, and they gave a Jazz-conzert there. It was an absurd atmosphere, hearing the music that tried to sound very relaxed (you would say "calm"), seeing the properly dressed Munich people with a self-confident expression of joy on their faces. They did very well ignoring the catastrophy that is going on on the other side of the world. It seems so far away, like news from another universe. But it will effect all of us, sooner or later, does not matter if it is 8000 km away like Japan or "just" 1310 km like Stockholm.
Such events are not part of our life planning, right ? We would be completely paralysed every morning if we would know the omnipresent danger of life beeing wiped away by earth quake, Tsunamis or blasting atom reactors. People could not love each other any more, I think, let away doing somethink creative like building a house, writing a paper or a piece of music, working on a 3 year PhD project.
Somehow we have to have the ability to ignore what is going on around us.

Is "Semla" probably the persian word for semolina,
سمولینا ?
It is coarsly grinded wheat or corn (like flour, but more like a granulate ?) If it is this, I have to admit I liked very much when I was kid, and still eat it if I"m a sort of very exhausted. You said you don"t like, but maybe it depends on how it is cooked. You have to try when it is cooked in sweet milk, then it is realy tasty.
It is a pitty very much, Ghazal, I never cooked something for you while you were here. You know I am very good in cooking a meal called Plow. I learned it from a friends mother, she was from Usbekistan, and Plow is their national meal. After I practiced several times, she invited me and I had to cook it again under her supervision. Than we all eat it and at the end I got a certificate from her (no joke !!!). I have to say, I probably do the best Plow in central europe, and this was also confirmed when I fed last year a whole birthday party of 45 people with it.
Of course I am as usual interested in the cross-cultural relation with plow, I knew it is very common in Turkey (Pilaw) and Aserbaidshan.
I asked Omid very often how it is in Iran. He just could not figure out the word.
But meanwhile I know, the persian word is Polo (I learned from, or
It is so tasty, you can not imagine (if it is done with lamb and with carrots and decorated with fresh tomato). I think you would have molten away, if I would have had the chance to cook it for you. Maybe another time I will do.

Is Semla day already the beginning of Norooz ? I"m going to send you something for Norooz, I hope you will like. It is in fact something that was originally yours, but you forgot it here, and I did some decorative work on it, so it looks more pretty now. It will be a surprise, I hope you don"t mind.

Life is a mystery, don"t you think so ? But it is also a big revelation, occasionally.

Take Care, Ghazal


PS: I will never say again "poor Ghazal", this was stupid, I know. You are stronger than you appear, and it is good for me to know.


Ascending Moon above Munich Skyline

Hi Ghazal, my Dear,
Hope you are doing well with everything, with your PhD project and the project of your life (the later I always consider much more important, of course). Did you celebrate 8th of march in Sweden, the international womans day ? It is supposed to be to honour all working woman, therefore you deserve some congratulations as well.

I did a photo of the ascending moon above the Munich skyline. Don"t break out in laughter, please, but we have the TV olympic tower (the two red lights on the button right), that could be considered a bit of a skyline.

Du you remember we went up the Olympic tower last year in summer, after we bought the persian carpet. I than hoped very much they will close the tower behind us, while we were on the platform in 200 m height, and we would have to stay there the whole night through.
But I guess you would have been very much scared, wouldn"t you ?

What else ? B. got serious ill, had to stay at home for a week. I. is also at home, cause her boyfriend is there and they went to the mountains. O. is busy with the red-fluorescent cells. Mike and me try to entertain the students. I"m always sad that somebody like you will never be there again.
Take Care



Help request: What means "Ey Vay !"

At university I had a very good friend from Jordan. He was palestine, much younger than the rest of us physics students and extremely gifted. But he did not only had an extraordinary mathematical talent, he was also very familial with classical european music and literature. On the other hand, he had a very firm opinion about Israel, whom he completely refused the right of existence. About the last point we had a never-ending intellectual fight, whereas for most other issues, philosophy, science, values of life we felt quite similar. During the friendship with him, Ismail, I learned a lot about tolerance and that different points in some aspects of life does not has to result in a confrontation, but in fact can be a gain for both. I knew that he was muslim, praying 5 times a day, and he knew I am bloody atheist, drinking a glass of wine here and than and having sympathy for Israel.

Thanks to his permanent supply of records from west-Germany, I used to visit him to listen to some rare pieces of music. Once he brought from his shopping trips to West-Berlin Strawinskys "Le Sacre du Printemps", played by the Berlin Philharmonics. When I heard the first tunes by the oboe, with the sudden entry of the rhythm strings, I got completely struck. Maybe this day I had already a glass of wine, but together with the music I felt more and more like in one of the fairy tales of 1001 nights. Inspired by the idea of the "Sacre" I asked Ismail if he knew something about this new student, which must be from another muslim country, because she sits the whole afternoon in the state library wearing a head scarf. But I told him that even though she wears the scarf, one could see how beautiful she was and that she had the most amazing blue eyes. So I asked Ismail if he could find out her name, what he did, but only after telling me that any further intentions to meet her were very likely a waste of effort. Anyway, a few days later Ismail came to me and said "The girl you saw at the library is Samira. She is from Syria, and daughter of a high ranking Baths party leader. They are all instructed not to make any personal contacts to ordinary germans. And by the way, all of us foreign students coming to your country also had to sign an agreement in the east-german embassy, promissing that we will avoid any privat relationship to german student-mates or people on the street. So you see, even our occasional get-together to listen to music, talk about quantum-mechanics and Einsteins philosophy and to argue about middle-east politics, all this might be already illegal. What you think they will call it if you start here to court a student girl from Syria ?". In my naive understanding of friendship (and in these times friendship in the official speach of politics meant "friendship between all peace-loving nations") I just rejected his very rational arguments and the next day went to the library again and asked the girl "You are Samira, right ?". Under her scarf I almost could see how she wrinkled her brows, since it appeared that except of her name "Samira" she did not understood a single word. What I did not knew, that except of Ismail, who spoke fluently several languages and quickly made the brilliant jokes in german, most of the foreign students from rich countries had their privat translator, who sat next to them during all lectures and seminars and therefore making any attempt to learn the language of their host country superfluous. Therefore, our first conversation was very limited. Today I have to laugh about my silly idea to seduce a girl with the only arabic phrase I knew: "Salam Alejkum". But at least I could invite her to "coffee", which I was pretty sure must sound similar in arabic. She shook her head and said "Chaj", which fortunately I knew from russian, where it also means "Tea". So we went to the library buffet, which was located in the basement and had the chic of a station toilet. I could imagine that for her drinking a tea or coffee had another cultural implication, and this filthy buffet with its fuggy smelling air would hamper the last bit of delight, even of this third-class tea. Therefore I made signs to her to leave this filthy room with our cups and sit outside on the concrete stairways of the old library building.

Our conversation resembled very much the one between Robinson Crusoe and Friday: pointing to various things around us we would give them the names in our two languages. This way I learned that chestnut was "chestanub", honey is "Al Asal" and eyes are "orjoun". We probably met several times in and outside the library, and I was following Ismails warning that inviting a girl that wears a head scarf anywere else could cause a serious problem for both sides. But even the occasional encounter between the two of us on the stairway outside the library must have attracted the attention of some watchdogs from either her or my country. Somebody must have been concerned that we might find our own very individual interpretation of friendship between the nations. And they might have also kept a record of the progress we made in our conversation, which became more and more intense, but absolutely ununderstandable for any outsider, who would have tried to sneak into our talks. For our own use we had created a sort of german-english-arabic Esperanto, that to anybody else must have sounded as a completely cryptic code. But I never considered, and neither did Samira, that Ismails advise not to meet each other somewhere else than at the library for moral reasons was indeed the most foolish thing to do. Because we were sitting there like on an open display: visible for everybody who wanted to keep a record of the frequency and intensity of our short, but regular meetings. And this was perhaps seen as an open demonstration of disobedience, for two totalitarian countries a heresy much worse than would have a secret get-together been.

The security forces acted fast, silently and efficient: without any warning Samira was send home to Syria with a couple of hours notice. And since we did not had telephone, let alone e-mail or mobile in the mid 80es, she could not even say good bye. I also had forgotten to give her my address, since for us the stairway of the library was always the natural place to meet. After a couple of days not seeing her I asked Ismail if he could find out what happened to her. His legendary talent in physics has made him an admired student not only for us, but in particular for most other foreign students from middle-east countries as well. So it took him only a short talk with a guy from the syrian students group to find out that Samira was back home. The explanation was that she came to Germany only for a short summer school in aerodynamics, and this course had finished now. Funny enough, the books she always read at the library were all about high-energy nuclear physics.

Ismail with some degree of satisfaction said: "You see, I told you never try to court a girl with a head-scarf. You have to wait until somebody of her family lifts her scarf for you". When I told him, that Samira ones already shifted her scarf backward, showing with or without intention some of her chestnut-coloured, curly hair and that she might not fit into his conventional idea of a modern girl, he band backward, started laughing and said "Oh Boy". Ismails "Oh Boy" was a sort of final sentence of this short but inspiring relation to a girl with a head scarf that she was just about to lift without any help. It was like the two words "The End" on the final credits of a nice, long movie.Until recently, and still entangled in the belief that a german-english-arabic Esperanto is an easy way to bridge language-boarders I was convinced that "Oh Boy" means just "Oh Boy", a very common vocative in english with a connotation that lays somewhere between compassion and admonition.

But only recently, 24 years later, I heard again this phrase, and now it sounded more like "Ey Vay !". It was during an interview with one of the students who took part in the 2009 demonstrations in Teheran, shown in Ali Samadi Ahadis wonderful movie "The Green Wave". And here, the interview was subtitled, and I had to learn that Ismail was using the same "Ey Vay !", meaning "Oh God" when he commented my reckless idea of courting Samira. In these years in the late 80es the islamic "revolution" in Iran was just 10 years ago, and occasional reports about police forces in Teheran that would fix womans head-scarfs with pins on their head were taken as US propaganda. Caught in the memories of Samira and her rather lavish usage of her scarf I did not had enough fantasy to imagine that a few strains of hair leaking under it could provoke a violent and inhuman reaction by the police. And I could not imagine that 24 years later an iranian student would talk about much worse violence on the streets of Teheran, using the phrase "Ey Vay !" to express complete frustration and disgust.