Written on the Palm of Her Hand

The Treasury, Petra, Jordan

She said, “Tell me, about your city, about the people living in it, about the beautiful girls I have to compete with for your affection. I want to know it all.”

We were sitting on a wooden bench in front of the Treasury, in Petra. She was constantly checking to make sure that her cochlear implant stayed hidden behind her hair. The sight of it certainly didn’t bother me. I thought she looked ravishing regardless. I didn’t want to risk ruining the moment by making her read my lips, especially considering that I wouldn’t be able to come up with anything to say that would live up to her expectations. Thus, I drew her hand to my lips and kissed it in an attempt to answer all her questions in one shot.

She, however, insisted, “Tell me about how this place makes you feel, with the candle lights, the plants that can be seen growing between the stones and the roar of the wind. You can’t just expect me to want to throw myself into your arms without proving that ...Read more

The Price of Happiness

In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

Amman, Jordan

He felt tired and it would take him forever to walk all the way back home, so he thought about spending the last dinar he had left after his excursion to the bakery on catching a shared taxi. It shouldn’t be hard to find one. He was, after all, in East Amman, where the high chances of finding a shared taxi around every corner to take anyone anywhere else were what made a visit to that crappy part of town worth while.

However, the warmth of the sun on his back felt glorious, more so given how terribly cold the past few days had been. Thus, at the last minute, he decided to hoof it.

He passed by the house where he had stayed for a few days a long time ago. He felt guilty that he didn’t remember exactly which of his relatives it belonged to, but, to be fair, he had a big family—14 members!—and, as mentioned earlier, it had been a really long time ago. Memories have this annoying ...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

Bater’s Story

Bukhariyeh Market in Amman, Jordan

His cart is brimming with neatly baked cookies and pies, which are covered by a thin insect-screening mesh. Every morning, he sets out at dawn while the city is still sleeping to earn his daily bread. He trundles his wheelbarrow toward the al-Boukharia market in downtown Amman. He pushes it through several neighborhoods before reaching the narrow corridors of the bustling market. To get his pies to be, bar none, the most delicious in town, he follows a secret recipe, which he has devised and fleshed out over the years with what his usual struggle to make ends meet has taught him on a daily basis and with what he has discovered tickles taste buds while simultaneously triggering sweet memories.

Bater’s father is already sixty years old, but his face is always wreathed in smiles that camouflage the signs of fatigue he accumulates throughout the work day. He greets everyone cheerfully as he plies his habitual route through the big market, whose shops are filled wall to wall with fine textiles, lustrous embroideries, and rare antiquities from ...Read more

Deus Ex Machina

Sabeel AlHoriyat, Amman, Jordan

The legs of the old man lying on the pavement were always in the way, but he never had the chance to chide him for it, because every time he stumbled over him, he was in a bit of a hurry trying to shake off his pursuers. It should be noted that the secret to mastering the craft of pickpocketry resides in having nimble fingers and in knowing how to become invisible. The scarf that covered the lower part of his face served the latter purpose. Apparently, the old man had no misgivings whatsoever about where on the pavement to plunk himself down in downtown Amman. He only feared that, by indulging his itch for settling in a fixed location, he would be making it easy for Ahed to find him.

He begged on the streets for a living, a trade for which the ability to become invisible can also come in handy. Usually, he could be found at the groceries market with a taqiyah placed over his sunburned face when he was conked out. At times he also sat ...Read more

The Grave

Baqaa refugee camp in Jordan, North of Amman

In just a few hours, a new day will dawn and the Eid will begin.

What have you arranged for this special occasion? Will your kids end up regretting the fact that they came into the world? They cluster around the section of the shop with the bags of sweets and refuse to leave and return home unless you cave in to their demands.

You are expecting your open wounds to heal on Eid even though they have been bleeding every day for the past year. They are slowly depleting your stamina. They have deprived you of the ability to think, which in turn has driven you to subside into a stony silence. From time to time it is streaked with the smoke from your cigarettes, which swirls around you and merges into a cloud that floats up to the corrugated tin ceiling of your room. Did you save something for your sisters? Were you careful with your calculations so that you would have enough to spare for the feast? This time you ...Read more

The Guffaw

Snow in Irbed, Jordan

The night was drawing to an end. John Doe stared at the screen of his mobile phone. The street outside was dark and covered in snow. He was at the mercy of his mobile phone. The electricity had been cut off weeks ago and the only technological item at his disposal was the device he was clasping. It had cost him 300 dinars, his monthly wage. He headed to the kitchen, following the dim light shed by the candles in the corridor. He stepped on one of them and swore at the candle and at the light. Then he dissolved into a bout of laughter. One could accuse John Doe of not having always led an exemplary life, but at least he looked on the bright side of things. When he learned that his wife had been cheating on him and that his son was calling him names behind his back, he merely jested about his misfortunes.

After he had bust a gut in the corridor, he continued on, cursing while moving forward toward the fridge, ...Read more

Once upon a Time . . . the Rose City

The ruins of the city of Petra, Jordan

I suddenly felt the pressing need to sit down on the saline sand dunes. The rising sun was shooting its bright rays through the stone walls of the colossal city. They stretched before me and fell on the gleaming surfaces of some discarded bottles. As soon as I saw the dimensions of the upper part, I lost all hope of being able to traverse the whole city on foot—assisted only by my two spindly legs. My blond hair was falling on my shoulders.

As luck would have it, after attending a public auction, I had come into possession of some old manuscripts drafted by a certain Dewey in 1830. I felt compelled to check the veracity of what my eyes were showing my brain by perusing those yellowed manuscripts, which bore witness to the fact that, however miracolous, the Rose City not only existed but had been standing since the 4th century BC.

She wore a bold purple that made the remaining stars in the sky flush. With her unveiled charms she flaunted her beauty, which surpasses the beauty women of flesh and blood are ...Read more

Abila of the Decapolis

Ruins of Abila's Archaeological Site in Jordan, near Irbid

On a glorious spring day, like those one only gets to taste in Jordan, we decided to go on a trip to the province abutting ours motivated by the joie de vivre floating in the air. The region is extremely compelling this time of the year, with the motley collection of indigenous flowers all in bloom.

While sitting opposite the most splendorous and overall sublime archaeological site to be found anywhere, I started to mull over the probable connection between the history of the place and its strategic location. After all, a medley of assorted civilizations have tainted the landscape over not hundreds but millions of years. I also remembered the teacher I had when I was younger who coaxed the school into hosting a whole team of American archaeologists for two weeks every year during the 1980s. Their job was to unearth all the lumps of stone, mosaics, and churches that I would see displayed before my very eyes half a lifetime later.

Up until he passed away, my dad had ...Read more

The Sunken City

Zeiraqun Archaeological Site in the North of Jordan, near Irbid

She knelt over him and pressed a last kiss goodbye on his smooth forehead. She had tried to coil the unappeasable course of time around her finger in order to enjoy the ride on their sweet-scented love boat a little longer, but destiny had condemned her to walk all by herself to where gigantic black menhirs cut the width of the lane in half. The stoniness of their bearing made them as precious as diamonds. How dangerous they would be if they could come alive! But no, the secrets they had been entrusted with over generations by globetrotters who stayed overnight in the sunken city are safe while the city itself is a place whose survival is constantly threatened by the collapse of the rocks its amphitheaters are carved into.

The words he had gasped while battling for his life echoed in her ears. She herself had been ready to drop when she had turned to him, waiting for his last breath to feed her the secret to vanquishing one’s fear of ...Read more