Homs is famous for its iconic black stones. This is not a recent phenomenon: I remember reading a 17th century travelogue by Damascene traveler Fadl Allah al-Muhibi al-Dimashqi where he specifically mentioned how all the buildings were made of a particular type of black stone that he had never seen before. Along with Homs’s clock tower and the residents’ penchant for humor, the black stones of Homs became one of the symbols of the city.
The Homsi poet Nasib Arida wrote a tribute to his hometown titled “O Homs, O Mother of Black Stones.” Born in 1887, Arida emigrated to Brooklyn, New York in 1905 and was one of the founders of the Arab-American literary society The New York Pen League, of which Gibran Khalil Gibran would later become a member. It was during his time in New York that he wrote “O Homs, O Mother of Black Stones.” The poem is memorialized in the song below.