My name is Elias. A Hebrew name, they say. From Eliyahu. The ‘s’ was added in the Greek. They say it’s a Muslim and a Christian name both. Of a prophet mentioned in the Torah and in the Quran. A coincidence. It’s nothing more than a coincidence. I’m not a prophet, nor a saint, nor a righteous man. Nor sinner either, as it happens. I’m just Elias. Elias plain and simple. In some respects my life, like that of others, might intersect with the prophet’s story. In some respects, like others, it might not. The prophet’s life might, in some respects, intersect with others’ stories, and my story play no part in it at all. Everything’s on the table.
London. Four in the morning. It was cold but rainless. A typical winter’s night. Darkness had crept into every corner and the pale light of the streetlamps did little to dispel it. Everything was still, frozen in a deep coma. At this inhuman hour, all activity had ceased. Shops and restaurants had shut their doors, and even the swift, tireless motion of buses and trains had ground to a halt. In the deserted aftermath, the streets appeared longer and wider than usual. London was a city of ghosts.
My mother and father took a more relaxed view and would always tell me that it was what God had decreed for us and we could not defy our God-given lot. But I was never able to believe them, nor could I accept that my fate should be so very bleak.
We are shocked to learn of the passing of the novelist and short story writer Naima El Bezaz, at the age of 46, by her own hand. At first we could not believe it, though we knew of the debilitating depression she had battled with for years. The depression finally won. What a terrible and abrupt silencing of a courageous and talented literary voice. What suffering she went through as she struggled for years and years to stay true to her right to be critical, to break down social taboos that enforced a conservative environment for Muslim women, to write freely about her life, and her community, without self-censorship.
Gypsies! I first heard the word from Sheikh Jasim al-Ahmadi, the religious scholar. When I was ten years old, my family sent me and my cousin Saleh, who was nine months older than me, to spend our summer holidays at the sheikh’s home, for us to have fun and improve our Arabic. The sheikh had a kindly face and spoke as clearly as a BBC announcer.
For the first time I was conscious of the pain in my leg. I had been on my feet since I left my residence. I hadn’t dared ask if I might sit down, for fear of angering the furious detective and to avoid precipitating the flow of more insults from his mouth. I stretched out my hand to accept the case file, but the officer looked alertly toward the door, which opened then.
“You mean, all those dervishes don’t convince you? What about the engravings on the ceiling? And what about the prayer beads dangling from the lamps – you don’t like them?”He contemplated these points for a moment and then said: “I like them, but not because they have a Sufi style. In fact, I don’t believe there’s such a thing as a ‘Sufi style’. Sufism is a way of being, which can be taken anywhere in the world and to all kinds of people.”“So you’re not just a virtuoso musician . . .” she broke off as the waiter came up to them
For five days, he had heard Saudi aircraft bombing a camp in a neighbouring area. And two days ago, a truck carrying wheat had been bombed just a hundred and fifty metres from his house. He sensed that danger was approaching, and increasingly felt that the colour green spelt trouble, particularly after he heard on television that the aircraft were targeting homes whose owners were thought to be Houthi activists. The day after the wheat truck was bombed, he went to the market and bought three cans of white paint.
In the meantime, Sumayya had completed seventeen rounds of her tawaf, and she’d started to feel as though her legs were about to detach from her body and go on orbiting the Kaaba forever. She was walking in circles with no beginning and no end, in search of a Mashari who had melted into the crowd. She hoped against hope that she would find him in the spot where she had lost him, loyally circling around the same point that she was. Her face drenched in tears and perspiration, she lifted her hands heavenward and cried: “Lord, I take back all the prayers I’ve ever prayed. Just bring my son back to me!” Health, wealth, the promotion she’d hoped for, for Faisal, a second child after four miscarriages. She didn’t want any of it any more. Every few seconds she would check the phone in her hand, hoping it would ring, hoping to hear his voice saying “Mama?” and telling her where he was waiting for her so that all this terror could come to an end.
She said: “No! He is a lost boy, a boy without parents – stolen, I suspect. We are gypsies, as you know, thieves, and travellers in all remote parts of the earth. We go after the spring clouds and we run away from the rain and the heat. We can only live between seasons. Then my husband became frail and absorbed the customs and practices of the cities. I am talking to you about the man who is dying here behind me now.”
Samir Naqqash's stirring novel Tenants and Cobwebs nostalgically commemorates the lost culture of an ancient Iraqi Jewish minority living amidst a majority Muslim population in 1940s Baghdad. The plot unfolds during a time of great turmoil: the rise of Iraqi nationalism and anti-Jewish sentiment fueled by Nazi propaganda; the Farûd, a bloody pogrom carried out against Jewish residents of Baghdad in 1941; and the founding of Israel in 1948. These pivotal events profoundly affected Muslim-Jewish relationships, forever changing the nature of the Jewish experience in Iraq and eventually leading to a mass exodus of Iraqi Jews to Israel in 1951.
We were surrounded by a truly festive atmosphere in which everyone felt an indescribable, overwhelming happiness. Our morale was sky high, and eyes gleamed with optimism and hope – two things that Yemenis had missed bitterly for the past thirty years. I caught this infectious delight, which coursed through my spirit. For the first time in my life, I felt I was standing on free Yemeni soil.
On this night, on this chair made especially for her, Saloma shines. Her eyes are sultrily loose, either spontaneously or deliberately, and fixed on the bride. Her bejewelled ikfa2 hairstyle shows the size of her braids under the embroidered veil. Her gold nose-stud, shaped like a flower, is an inseparable part of her nose. And her confidence . . . Aah, her confidence. There is no doubt that her nine chickens are asleep now
Hanna Mina, an eminent Syrian writer who chronicled the lives of the poor and oppressed in dozens of books as one of the first Arab novelists to employ social realism, died on Tuesday in Damascus. He was 94.
Many women crossed paths with his, and in the midst of his longing they glowed then fizzled out, leaving behind fallen momentos from which he made a wax monument of the woman he coveted. His deep passion, confused but solid, began with a painful obsession with a woman he called Sheherazade, the one perpetually beyond reach. His infatuation gave way to a slavish resignation that came with the expected pleasures but drained the soul in a series of attachments to women where he sought some of Sheherazade’s
'It's wonderful that an august specialist magazine such as Banipal has been active for all these years, providing an outstanding service that essentially has nothing to do with commerce or profit-making, but aims to build bridges between the Arab world and Europe through the English language. "I’m proud that the first creative writings of mine to be translated into English appeared in the pages of Banipal magazine, and the magazine continues to offer texts by Iraqi creative artists who are my colleagues, and by a large group of other Arab writers from a variety of countries
Sitting on the sofa, reading the same page 24 as she has been doing for days, my mother was suddenly old. I haven’t grasped how my mother grew old. We went to sleep and she was young, we woke up and like that, she was old. Had she aged over night? Is one night enough? Is a handful of dreams from a single night enough for a person to get as old as this? I say that it’s lucky she became old at night and not in the middle of the day, for instance, as I would have been terrified.
The selected works in “Literature” include four narrative works: ‘yakfi annana ma’an’ (At Least We are Together) by Egyptian writer Ezzat el-kamhawi, published by Al Dar Al Masriah Al Lubnaniah, Cairo (2017); in addition to two more titles published by Nofal- Hachette Antoine, Beirut, namely ‘ikhtibar al-nadam’ (Remorse Test) by Syrian novelist Khalil Sweileh (2017); and ‘al -shaytan yoheb ahyanan’ (The Devil May Love Sometimes) by Saudi author Zainab Hifni, published in 2017; and “anaqeed al-ratheelah’ (Grapes of Vice) by Mauritanian novelist Ahmad Hafid, published by Arab Scientific Publishers Inc., Beirut, 2016.
When he had come to Suez four years earlier to work in the cultural centre, he had had a vague dream that he would find himself in this isolation and that he would sort out the chaos into which his life had descended. He hadn’t dreamed of any major change or great deeds, but he had said that cutting off his ties to Cairo would help him see things differently and that he would at least be able to adapt to the new reality and, most importantly, he would be able to put in order his relationship with the past.
This view is by no means exclusive to Aslan: in a cultural community characterised by its flattery and narrow interests, Alaa al-Deeb is widely regarded as a saint. Litterateurs of various generations view his writings on them as both an endorsement and a recognition of their talent. Indeed, what earned the late novelist his well-deserved stature was his objectivity and keenness to encourage the new voices in which he saw potential.