An Excursion to the Graveyard

Shanway WA Kafr Al Badranah, Ashmoun, Menofia Governorate, Egypt

Women stricken with grief and its derivates lose their ability to conceive. Plus, her husband started spending most nights away after their daughter passed. As it happened, he silently pressed their daughter’s doll into her hands and its hair had become the only thing that was able to lull her to sleep since. She uses the time awake in bed to figure out how she will manage to regain her composure the next morning. Her husband had gone to the wild and caught the snake that her mother-in-law had thrown at her to scare away the evil spirit she was convinced her daughter-in-law was harboring and free her from it, so that she could become pregnant again.

Her daughter’s complexion turned blue the last time she held her in her arms. She recalled kissing her on the forehead, smelling her hair, stroking her skin, which had started to lose its elasticity and moisture, and wiping tears from her cheeks ...Read more

A Dotted Sky

Bayt al-Suhaymi, Cairo, Egypt

The sun warmed her head. The asphalt boiled under her feet as she treaded warily down the street between rows of warped buildings which seemed to bend towards her, as if wanting to squash her, syncopate her and thus turn her into an expression that has lost its meaning. She was indeed already feeling the symptoms, for she could only think in phrases with a mangled syntax that impaired her ability to interpret her surroundings and left her standing in awe. She rubs against reality with every step she takes. She has become a weathered rock, whose alligatored surface has blackened over time. It was meant to happen; at some point she had to wind up getting used to the stench around her. She used to have high hopes for the future, in the past, and would have never thought she might one day turn into stone, the type one finds anchored to a bathroom wall.

She gathered her speed and arrived at the pedestrian street of Al ...Read more

In the Clouds

Jabal Yafuz, Yemen

I stuck my head out the window and looked up to the mountains. Their height and intense green color had us all filled with awe.

At some point, the road we had been following all the way from the city of al-Hudayda ended. My father parked the car and instructed us to leave the vehicle. We were going on a hike to the top of the mountain called Jebel Yafuz, which belongs to the range of the Raymah Mountains and is the one my parent’s village, which can only be reached by foot, is perched on. Before setting out on our excursion, we rented a donkey to help us carry our baggage and a few bikes for our parents to haul us children up the slopes with.

On our way up, I couldn’t help but notice the agricultural machinery the locals seemed to have built with their own two hands to work the fields. It spoke volumes to their resolve in making a living under harsh conditions.

A gentle breeze swept through the trees, whose top branches spread up to where ...Read more

Who Turned on the Tap?

The Egyptian Forensic Medicine Authority in Cairo, Egypt

What is that sound? It seems to be that of running water. However, I just went through the whole building to check that all the taps were turned off. It should be just me and the deceased in here. I strain my ears to identify the direction the sound is coming from. The autopsy room seems to be the source. I know it can’t be, because I was just in there, all the taps were turned off and nobody would have been able to enter the room since. I could swear I left it locked. Regardless, I go to the autopsy room once again and, to my surprise, find out that there is in fact a tap that has been left running. How can it be? There is no one there, other than the dead bloke lying on the examination table. He had been hit in the head by a stray bullet. Maybe it is his spirit, trying to drive ...Read more

My Dear Friend, Samson

Man leaned over green container, Directorate of Tourism, Latakia, Siria.jpg

When did I first see Samson? I can’t say for sure, for the lines that ran horizontally on his forehead have melded with those of the window of my room, which has been my favorite place to stare at while brooding over the subject of life for as long as I can remember. Every morning, I take some time to drink a glass of milk and cast a glance through the window at the the scarcely-populated street and its passersby, those early birds who most often are students, street cleaners loading the trailers they tow behind their crappy bikes with empty plastic bottles, and joggers, who seem to possess a gift for standing in the way of those rushing to the office.

Before leaving the house in the afternoon, I brush my hair, make a few phone calls and drink a cup of coffee. He was always there when I stepped ...Read more

Life on Earth Should Come First

Entrance to the walled city, Oujda, Morocco

Leila was just over forty and her husband was still madly in love with her. He had never stopped feeling attracted to her, even though her body (having gone through three childbirths) didn’t look exactly the same as it had when they first got married. He made sure she knew how much he appreciated her by showering her with compliments on a regular basis. All things considered, one could say Leila had no reason whatsoever to complain about life, considering she had a doting prince-charming-like husband by her side. That is why, when she began to flinch from his touch every time he tried to show her affection, became squeamish about enjoying life for the sake of it, began to pray often and intensely, and eventually to shun human contact, he suspected something had gone terribly wrong.

Leila’s strange behavior began after she decided it was about time she learned to read and write. She started attending classes at an institute with adult ...Read more

Rewriting the History of Al-Anbariyin

Kadhimiya, Baghdad, Irak

We are born with two feet, one to sustain balance and the other to venture into the unknown.

I yelled rather rowdily when entering this world, for I was being born not quite gently into a neighborhood of Baghdad that was just a little bigger than the size of a pea called Al-Anbariyin. I was beautifully bred and grew up looking forward to leaping into the future. I spent my childhood and somewhat belligerent youth amid the historical walls of the wooden houses with stained-glass windows and mashrabiyas embellished with carvings overlooking the street. To this day, the smell of those narrow alleys follows me wherever I go. It’s a place that has been loosely portrayed in several sagas, of those which get to be passed down generation to generation, as cloaked in mystery under a magic cloud formed by the smoke the chimney of each house belches in the afternoon, the steam rising from the bath houses to where Queen Alia used to take her Read more

Oud Fragrance

House interior in Kuwait

The family, consisting of the father, the mother and the two girls, Nur and Zeinab, joined the grandmother, Mariam, around the dinner table. The exquisite fragrance of the spinach pies on the table made Nur’s mouth water. She knew her grandmother had baked them with her in mind. As soon as everyone was seated, she lunged over the table to claim a slice of the pie. She didn’t, however, gauge her impetus and hit the plate, which landed on the ground and broke into pieces. Her father got his dander up because he knew how precious that specific plate with a design of golden flowers was to his mother, for it had been handed down to her by her own mother. It was the plate on which she always served the spinach pies. He raised his arm to strike the one he deemed responsible for his rage, and she dove for cover to the feet of her grandmother. Nur sank her head in her grandmother’s lap ...Read more

A Reminder in the Barren Wilderness

Merzouga, Morocco

Tears trickle down his cheeks and fall on the ground, where they build a small puddle, around which birds gather to dip bread crumbs. No single water-resembling drop goes to waste here.

She says: “Men don’t cry.”

He says: “Like the sky. Perhaps we are all too proud for our own good.”

She says: “I will be gone forever, don’t expect me to return.”

They have grown up together. Something happened between them on his thirtieth birthday. He doesn’t know whether she still remembers. Now it feels like a distant dream, of the same nature as the blurred lines things have over here, with the same silky texture of the sand dunes engulfing Merzouga and the aftertaste of a sun that makes one squint.

He lights up a cigarette and sits down on one of the wooden chairs spread around the garden. Two days ago his old pal passed away, he has just learnt. It had been a long time since he had seen him last. He only came by when ...Read more

The Room

TV in room

Every time I sit down to write, my hand reaches for the remote. I can’t help it, it is almost an instinctive reaction I have to blank pages awaiting eagerly to be filled with words. I wish I knew what it was that drives me to turn on that annoying TV. Although, on second thought, it seems only reasonable to expect that the straight and stiff lines on the paper might have a hard time competing for my attention against the lively images on the screen. But even when I try and force myself to turn my gaze away from the screen and back to the paper, I am faced with mutiny by the muscles of my neck.

I recently bought a larger TV screen to enjoy the cinematic experience at home. The problem is that now movie plots feel so real that I can’t watch anything even slightly upsetting if I want to be able to sleep at night. Writing is the only thing that helps when I ...Read more