The Suit Jacket

Aden, Yemen

Back when I went to high school, I liked to envision myself as a dandy who would go to work every day decked out in a stylish business jacket, wearing dark designer sunglasses, carrying a leather briefcase and perhaps also sporting an edgy haircut. If someone would have asked me where exactly it was that I pictured myself heading to dressed like that, I wouldn’t have known what to reply, for all I had cared to imagine was the image I wanted to project one day.

After high school, I still hadn’t found my vocation and decided to take the same major most of my classmates went for. I wasn’t passionate about what I was studying, so I focused on saving the money needed to purchase the suit jacket that I had always fantasized about. As soon as I graduated from university, I rushed to the chicest boutique in town and bought the jacket of my dreams. It felt like entering a new phase of life, the one where I would gain public recognition and become someone with a very promising ...Read more

Dahab

Dahab, Sinai Peninsula, Egypt

Dahab was headed to the city after which she was named. Her father was the one who had chosen that name for her. He had loved that city and had spent most of his time there when she was still a child, while she had spent hers anxiously awaiting his return, which he would never announce in advance and could therefore always be about to happen. In exchange for her infinite patience, he used to bring her a gift whenever he decided to show up again: a necklace made of sea shells, a stone with her face carved on it, a colorfully-embroidered Bedouin dress … His departures were as unpredictable as his arrivals, and one day, he disappeared and never came back.

Dahab: the enigmatic city that had stolen her father and whose name she bore. Her father had picked it to be the place where he could be all by himself, where he didn’t want to be found, which is why she and her mother had never gone there to look for him and why she held it to ...Read more

The Luck Seller

Tafoughalt, Morocco

The news of her arrival spread like wildfire in the quiet town of Tafoughalt. Apparently, she sold luck for an affordable price. Some believed her magic worked, others didn’t and cast aspersions on her, but she didn’t let it get to her.

She liked to go for a stroll in the afternoon sun along the beautiful farmlands abutting our village. She could only be seen wearing a dark torn robe and an amulet around her wrist. Sometimes, she stopped to enjoy the spring breeze and listen to the birds warble. She then turned her head left to right, as if looking for something. She had chiseled features, partly thanks to the deep grooves time had carved into her face. She used a cane to walk and a sly grin to feed the town’s sneaky tattlers and get them to speculate about what she had to hide, as well as a small drum to advertise her services.

People came to her to ask for luck for a variety of reasons. Some wanted to be loved back; some, to pass their exams; some, to ...Read more

A Million

Library of Alexandria, Alexandria, Egypt

“Right before firing me, my boss suggested I try my hand at another profession. According to him, journalism required a firmer grasp of reality than the one I had proven to have. He was not a man to mince his words.”

Much to his relief, they all laughed. He was at the signing event of his book “A Million”, whose 10th edition had just come out, and the room was full of widely recognized authors on whom he hoped to leave a favorable impression. To that effect, he had even chosen to wear a rose on the lapel of his suit.

“I have been laughed at and called a fool ever since I was a child, but that has never dissuaded me from continuing to do what I do best, which is to retire to my cloud-based kingdom, where everything falls into place, for there I can assign new meaning to what I have been able to observe in the outside world.”

A person from the audience raised his hand and asked, “And where did you get the idea for ...Read more

You Don’t Change Horses in Midstream is How the Old Saw Goes

White horse statue in Shaibet an Nakareyah Markaz El-Zakazik Ash Sharqia Governorate

She was muffled up in the warmest coat she owned—a leather one with a fur collar. Yet, the low temperatures and humidity didn’t encourage lots of dawdling outside. Hence, the lively pace with which she forged through the mud and the puddle-riddled road.

She reached the place where she had arranged to get picked up, tore out a few empty pages from the notebook she was carrying—which she immediately tucked under her coat to keep dry, for it had started to drizzle again—laid them out on the marble stone seat where she was expected to wait for her lift and sat down on them with crossed legs. She didn’t want her butt to get wet.

Time passed, the rain got heavier and the increasing delay of her pre-arranged transportation lead her to fear that she would have to hoof the rest of the way. At some point, she decided that she had waited all she could afford to, and thus, stood up and left.

The shops were closed and the streets were empty. She seemed ...Read more

White Chiffon

Soft Beach, Qesm Dahab, South Sinai Governorate

The bus he had arrived in took off and with it disappeared all traces of civilization. On that sand beach, the official means of transport seemed to be camels and horses. In front of him, was a long row of thatched-roofed wooden huts overlooking the sea. He advanced towards one, knocked on its door and waited for it to open. From up close, it seemed almost a miracle that the cabin was still standing, as the logs with which it was built looked rotten. Since nobody was answering the door, he went around the hut, which lead him to stumble on an open window. He couldn’t help himself and peeked through it. Climbing inside the hut through its narrow window probably wasn’t the brightest of ideas, but the interior, towards which he felt strangely drawn, didn’t seem to be serving as a living space, so he decided to trespass anyway. Inside, his gaze fell on an old man, who was napping peacefully in a chair. His face was red and swollen. He considered waking him ...Read more

What Never Got to Blossom

Jezmatiyeh souq, Damascus, Syria

Why I have never felt attracted to women is still to this day a mystery to me. I started buying psychology books when it first became an issue in order to try and figure out what was wrong with me that I didn’t fit into the definition of a proper man. After seeing that they weren’t helping me with my condition, I went to a physician, only to discover that I was already beyond recovery.

The house where I live, which is the same one I grew up in, lies in the Jezmatiyeh souq, which is one of the several markets of the old Damascene Al Midan neighborhood. Among the many places serving local cuisine on the busy street the window of my room faces, the two most famous ones are the restaurant called Abi al-Kheir and the patisserie Abou Arab Haidar.

Today I turn fifty, but I am not celebrating it. I haven’t done anything special for my birthday in the last fifteen years, since the day I saw Hala for the very last time. She was the sister of my ...Read more

Green Canopy

Green Canopy, Ain Shams University, Faculty of Medicine, Cairo, Egypt

He opened the old book he had found lying on the stairs of an abandoned school and started skimming through its pages. It reminded him of the days of yore, when smiles would visit his face frequently. Suddenly, a dried rose fell off its pages. “This looks like a scene from an old movie,” he thought to himself.

He had found the building by chance and would never in a million years have been able to anticipate the treasure trove that it turned out to be. On his journey blundering around in the darkness up and down the school’s central staircase, he stumbled on a cork notice board with the logo of the school, an ad for a trip, a short essay and a paper with a table breaking down the results of some class speaker election pinned to it.

Back home, he made himself a cup of coffee, which he wound up spilling everywhere, as was his wont, to drink and savor the memories that his stop at the abandoned school had stirred ...Read more

A Descendant of the Anunnaki

Great Ziggurat of Ur, Nassriya, Irak

What I am about to tell you happened a long time ago and it all began the day the first foreigner arrived to Nasiriyah, our holy city. He drove a fancy car, and wore French attire and shiny shoes. Not long after settling in, he began to evince an interest in objects of historical value. Soon, people were flocking to him to show him the articles of virtu that they had inherited from their forefathers, which ranged from ceramic pots to stone figurines and old paintings. He paid in American dollars.

The news about this antiques trade spread like wildfire, and before long, it had encouraged half of the city’s population to dust off their shovels in order to go profane and plunder the graveyards of their grandfathers, who had up until then been resting in peace for centuries. They were willing to pull out all the stops for the few simoleons they might earn from basically giving away the artefacts they had dug out from what their ancestors had decided to take to their graves. As soon as they had stripped the corpses of ...Read more

Impossible Love

Girl's Profile in Aden, Yemen

Suad distractedly looked out the window of her room. She had loud music playing in the background, but she wasn’t paying attention to the songs’ lyrics. She absent-mindedly wound a lock of her black hair around her finger and ran the other hand over her face. Suddenly, a memory made her bronze cheeks redden.

Today was her little sister’s wedding day. Her soon-to-be husband had been sending her so many gifts from the Emirates over the past few months that both Suad’s and her sister’s room had wound up piled with them. The warm winds that swept through the city at that time of year had just started blowing. Suad wondered whether she was destined to find happiness in life.

She lived at home with her parents. Her father worked at Aden’s water purification plant and her mother had retired recently after spending 25 years teaching at a high school in Crater. She was proud of her forward-thinking parents, who had instilled confidence in her and allowed her and her sister to have a lot of freedom while growing up.

The aroma of black henna wafted toward her ...Read more