Helwan, Egypt

How many days had gone by since her return? She had spent the last fifteen years abroad and had only distant memories from back when she used to call this place home. She used to be a timorous little girl who wore her hair in braids. She had not only left the country on account of the area’s political and social unrest but also because she had needed to gain insight on how to deal with the world’s contradictions.

She never had the chance to break free from her mother’s vigilant eye back then, save for when she sprinted. Her mother chose to deck her out in short Sunday dresses so that it would look like she hadn’t gotten any older; she wanted her to come to the realization that she had become a woman as late as possible. Was her mother concerned about her welfare or maybe afraid of what she would actually become? That was yet another question she didn’t really want to know the answer to. She had her sanity to thank for the fact that she could come to terms with leaving questions such as those provisionally unanswered. ...Read more

A Whiff of Farewell in the Air

Tablat, Algeria

You are headed toward the road flanked by trees. Your heart aches as you remember.

The sun slants across the mountains. You watch the roaring waterfall tumble down the cliff. A sudden breeze rustles the grass. You are not lyrical about what the bucolic setting bodes for the future. The landscape is blanketed in snow. The almond trees are in bloom.

Tablat’s spirit endears the town to everyone who has been lucky enough to traverse its streets. They come like migrating birds, which despite having had to circle around the world several times dare not cover the safe distances the different cultural worlds comprising our globe keep with one another.

On the day of your date, the air smells so sweet that it cloys your senses. We may be meant to be, you think, secretly wishing destiny will allow you to play a part in your own story. You step out the door and Tablat’s sparkling everyday nature unfolds before you. You bang the door closed behind you, careful not to slam it on your heart, which clings to the frame. You stride confidently down the lane. You are set on taking decisive steps ...Read more

Humanity, the Gist

Mosque at Al Moez Street, Cairo, Egypt

Lama was a very smart and curious nine-year-old girl, who despite her age was very cultured and knowledgeable about the world. Lately, the religious channels she watched on TV had been mentioning the word “humanity,” mostly apropos of charity work. She had also read the word on Facebook. It had been brought up in association with Daesh’s beheadings. Seeing it written and hearing people talk about it again and again made her ponder over the word’s meaning. She knew it implied something positive, but was there more to it?

She spent the rest of the day in a brown study, cudgeling her brain in an effort to crack the secret to what the word stood for, and before going to bed that night she went to her mother and asked her, “Mum, how would you define ‘humanity’ in a few words?”

Her mother smiled and replied, “That’s something that everyone has to figure out how to define for themselves. You know the meaning already. You just have to be reminded of it, like most of us nowadays. Think about what makes our country great and our ...Read more

The Kid and the Fortress

Bordj El Kiffan Algeria

Ahmed is a very bright and inquisitive six-year-old boy who lives in a city called Bordj El Kiffan—shortened as Bordj—which has amazing sand beaches and a formidable fortress.

The old fortress was built beside the sea centuries ago, during the Ottoman Empire. It was erected by soldiers and was once guarded by sentries who would squat down beside the majestic cannons that still crown the fortress today. Their snouts stick out of the bastion’s crenelated walls in order to deter outsiders from approaching.

In truth, the fortress looks snotty, standing there all high and mighty against the celestial blue backdrop that merges with the marine one. However, it probably deserves to feel smug after having gone above and beyond the call of duty to protect the burghers who hid behind its walls back in the day. At that time, the fortress deterred the enemy ships that had crossed the seas in hopes of getting a shot at desecrating the jewels ashore from approaching any further. It still stands to this day—well, “stand” is perhaps not the most appropriate word, given that its walls lean precariously against one another. Yet, ...Read more

Wisdom Tooth

Kobani Syria

“I beg you, wisdom tooth of mine, smash the pain that shoots up my spine as if it were a bar of cereal you needed to stay strong and healthy.”

It’s not like we are hardly a soul; we are thousands, millions of people. But our society has been split into four different sections by political boundaries.

Close to the city of Kobani, in a corner of the world where everyone had been sentenced to death, the miasma of defeatism had her surrounded. The indigenous Kurdish population had set up camp on top of a small hill serving as a defensive emplacement and had woken up the next morning perched at the edge of a bottomless pit.

Clinging on to her automatic assault rifle, she tuned her voice and began crooning Sibel Can’s “Berivan.” Her wisdom tooth fed her the lyrics like a prompter who had been hiding backstage, namely, at the rear of her woeful display of pluck. But regardless of how pathetic it might seem, succumbing to despair was not an option for her. She wouldn’t go without putting up ...Read more

Blue Litham

Hoggar Mountains, Algeria

His bleary eyes cast a plaintive glance at the rearview mirror. They stood out from the sea of blue folds belonging to the litham he wore around his head. For a second, it was as if nothing else mattered in the entire world but for what was going on inside those eyes, which reproduced the sky. We were both sitting close to the front in order to show the driver the appropriate turn for the road that led to the Hoggar Mountains.

Time was already dragging, and our destination still lay a considerable distance ahead, at the end of the mostly unpaved track that twisted before us like a frazzled cord clumsily trying to encompass the landscape. Here in the boonies, there was sand as far as the eye could see. I zoomed in on the reflection of Azooz’s veiled face in the mirror in a botched attempt to explore the mystery that shrouded his mien. My attempt had been doomed to fail from the start, but I had to confirm my suspicions before I could lean back in my seat and let my eyes stray aimlessly. ...Read more

The Yellow Building


It hadn’t changed much. The original yellow paint was peeling from its walls, which had gathered a lot of dust as of late. But, after all the paint had weathered over the years, it was well within its rights to decide to go into retirement.

Memories came flooding back as soon as I arrived at the school. I still remembered when I changed schools as a kid like it was yesterday. A government edict was issued that forced everybody to send their kids to the school closest to where they lived, and thus, since we had moved to a more rural area the year before, I had to transfer from my beloved old school to one that had recently been built around the block. Despite my best attempts, I couldn’t thwart the plans for me to attend the new school.

From the outside, the new school looked a picture. It was in the center of the village and was situated amidst lush vegetation. However, the inside had been swallowed up by an arid desert. It had no trees, no flowers, no birds, and no soul—just a concrete playground that was covered in yellow sand ...Read more

Thieves Rise at Nightfall, Isn’t That What They Say?

Ain El Kebira, Algerian countryside

I was folding clothes when a piece of paper came flying through the window and fell at my feet. As I picked it up, I saw it had something written on it. This immediately aroused my curiosity. The paper read, “Behind the forest, where the failed attempt to scrape the sky.”

I would have thrown it away, but then I saw a note on the side that caught my attention.

“Luke 9:11.”

I looked the verse up on the Internet: “But the crowds learned about it and followed him.”

My findings got me all keyed up at the thought of having chanced upon a treasure map. I had planned to spend the next day with my friend not doing much of anything but decided last minute to urge her to embark on an adventure with me.

“Hi! How are you, Tina? How have you been?” she greeted me over the phone.

“Good, thanks! Emma, I called to tell you about something strange that just happened to me.” For a second I balked at revealing my secret.

“Don’t hold back. I want to know it all,” she chimed in with enthusiasm.

“I found ...Read more

They Might Be Capering in the Clouds, Yet He Dreams of Returning to Mars and She to Venus

Wadi Rum in Jordan

Every month, they met to spend the night in the mountains. Nighttime in the red mountains was quiet and cold. They dreamed big—with their juicy encounters in harlequin settings—until spring drew to an end.

She had set off to climb the mountain at a blistering pace, and once she arrived at its peak, she flashed the blushing mountain an unapologetic smile. She was dizzy with happiness. After making sure there was no one there to see her, she closed her eyes and started spinning around and twirling. Thus, she would be able to provide herself with an explanation for her dizziness that she could come to terms with. Suddenly, she realized how many more mountains she had left to scale before she’d be able to find herself in a position where she wouldn’t feel out of place for wanting to sit on top of the world. Hence, she knelt down and prayed. It was not as if she were reaching for the stars, or even contending for a place in the sun, she just wanted to breathe easier and to see the ...Read more

The Palace

Faculty of Veterinary, Idfina, Egypt

Have you ever dreamed of swapping lives with a king? I realize it sounds childish. After all, everybody knows that the prince charming who cajoles a beautiful lady into marrying him and riding on his white horse is just a numbskull with a mop of blond curls who is featured in a cartoon. However, even though in some cases it might seem like ages ago, who hasn’t been a child? There is a palace here in Idfina. It was one of the many palaces that belonged to King Farouk, who reigned over Egypt and Sudan until the beginning of the 1950s.

My mother’s side of the family lived in Idfina, and every time we went to visit them when I was a kid, my uncle took me to his workplace: the palace. Back then, it housed the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. I reveled in the thought of one day discovering all the treasures that I was sure were hidden somewhere inside the building. First, my eyes always fell on the gates, which faced the rank-and-file houses. The path leading to them ran parallel to the Nile and ...Read more