A Message from the Lady of the Sea

Juliyana Beach, Benghazi, Libya

I was in a café admiring a glorious sunset over a calm sea. Most of the people who had come to spend the day at Juliyana Beach had already left and I could just lean back and enjoy the peacefulness of the surroundings. The smell of grilled fish wafted out from the neighboring restaurants and through the café’s old wooden-framed windows, even though there was no wind blowing that day. I was reading a book about Libyan history, while listening to the classical music drifting from the café’s speakers. Suddenly, I came across a paragraph that caught my attention:

“Legend has it that the Juliyana Beach owes its name to the older daughter of the English consul Libya had in 1850, who, apparently, was a spoiled blonde of unparalleled beauty. When she was just seventeen years old, she went out for a swim in the sea and drowned. The beach was renamed after her to keep her memory alive.”

It was already night—and a rather ...Read more

Wadi el Kuf

Wadi el Kuf, Lybia

On a night that, despite the full moon, seemed darker than nights are per se, all the most powerful necromancers of this world gathered in a secret location at the bottom of the valley known as the Wadi el Kuf. They had been eagerly awaiting that night’s arrival, because, according to their codices, that was the night the gates of hell were supposed to be unlatched, which only happened once every thousand years. They were certain that night was the night in question because all signs pointed to it. People had lost their sense of common humanity and nobody cared to distinguish between good and evil any longer.

After blessing the ground under their feet and muttering some incantations, the necromancers sat to wait for the gates of hell to swing open. Seeing that no fireworks ensued, they fixed their gaze on the three highest-ranking necromancers—the Buddhist, the Jew and the ISIL acolyte—by way of asking for guidance.

In an attempt to talk the devil into opening the gates of ...Read more

You Are a Fucking Christian!

Benghazi, Libya

Naguib was sitting in front of the shop trying to shoo the flies away as black thoughts kept popping into his mind. They wouldn’t be as easily scared off as the flies. Every time he succeeded in pushing one aside, another one ran in to take its place. “Looks like I am screwed,” he said to himself and let out a long sigh of despair.

Suddenly, a man walking down the road notorious for leading to hell started singing softly, “Broken hearts wear long faces with vacant eyes.”

He stopped in front of Naguib’s shop and asked him, “What’s up?”

Naguib snapped out of his trance and replied, “Everything’s fine.”

“This place looks like no man’s land to me.”

“That’s because this is indeed no man’s land.”

Naguib’s friend Muhammad, who was sitting in his car with his mother and sister, shouted to the man, “Naguib’s this town’s only king. That is beyond dispute.”

Naguib smiled and said, “I beg to differ.”

The man entered the shop and exited moments later with a pack of cigarettes and ...Read more

The OEA, the Joint, and the Old Turk

The Martyrs' Square, Tripoli, Libya

This is the story of two individuals who despite sharing 25% of their genome lived in times that seem eons apart. She is standing in the biggest and most famous city square, which has received different names over the centuries. It is bordered by historic buildings. One of them is notable for tracing its history back to the pre-Islamic era, while another one, the red one, flaunts a plate noting that its construction dates back to the era before Christ—veritably before history itself started to be recorded.

While history runs its course, Sara must wait. She is meeting a man who has promised to get her a joint. Over here, hash is a definite no-no for women. So are cigarettes in general. Smoking is strictly forbidden. Forty years ago, she used to hang out with friends and smoke in this same square. It was allowed back then. Furthermore, in front of where she is positioned right now, there used to ...Read more

The Beauty and the Gazelle

Winner of the “One Thousand Nights and Awakening” literary contest

tripoli-mermaid-sculpture-closeup

This was over eight years ago, before the statue of the Beauty and the Gazelle was stolen from the heart of the city. She was the last naked woman to parade along Tripoli’s history. I was in the car with my father. He is a traditional man from ElKedoua, a rural region 40 kilometers outside of Tripoli. Despite all the obstacles standing in his path, my father had done well for himself. He had grown up to be a doctor, although he had once desired to become a pilot. Every time he saw a plane cruising the sky he would yell, “Look at that plane! Do you see it? Isn’t it just stunning!”

I remember the shape of his black and narrow eyes, as well as the dark bags under them. I didn’t understand them until recently, when my dreams turned into nightmares that belied their true nature until right before the end.

During my teenage years, we used to hang around the ...Read more