Wednesday, December 27, 2017


This week I spent some time looking at my photo albums. During my PhD studies at Lancaster University, I visited many cities to present my research on Muslim televangelism. One city I enjoyed visiting is Freiburg in West Germany. I gave a presentation on 'the discursive construction of Muslim identities in televangelists' sermons'.  Here I reflect on some of the places I visited.

My journey to Freiburg started from Manchester airport where I flew to Stuttgart. I travelled by car to Freiburg and was impressed by the mountainous landscape and the pine trees, tall and grand. As I explored the city, I liked its distinct architecture that combined its old features with a modern character, for example, its cobbled streets and graffiti. 

In Freiburg, we visited the Black Forest, climbed up a tower and enjoyed a panoramic view of the landscape.

After participating in the school on sociolinguistics and presenting my research, I travelled to Stuttgart, the capital and largest city of the German state of Baden Wurttemberg. Maybe Stuttgart is already famous for being an industrial hub where companies such as Porsche and Mercedes-Benz are headquartered. Yet it also has many great museums that feature magnificent work of art. 

I visited Kunstmuseum, the museum of modern art that was relatively new as it was opened in 2005. The paintings of Otto Dix really struck me for their unique style. Dix depicted the suffering of war and was critical of the Nazis.  

Another museum I stopped at in Stuttgart was the museum of musical instruments. There, I recollected the contributions of African and Islamic music culture to contemporary musical tradition.

From Stuttgart, I travelled to another city, Ludwigsburg. There, I wandered through a park and at a distance, I saw a fairytale like castle called Favorite. 

Ludwigsburg is also home to Ludwigsburg Residential Palace, which is known for its Baroque style that can be seen in its architecture, furniture and wall paintings. It is a complex that has many parks and stunning museums such as the fashion museum and the ceramics museum.

Visiting the fashion museum was a unique experience to me. The light is dim and there are black walls throughout to preserve clothes.

In Ludwigsburg Palace, I was very lucky to enter a hall of classical sculpture that depicts Greek mythology.  I fell in love with the work of Christian Friedrich Wilhelm Beyer who worked in an early Neo-classical style. The sculpture of Apollo and Daphne was very memorable. I liked it so much that I regarded it as a gift for my journey to Freiburg and my participation in the (post-)doctoral school on 'Englishes in a multilingual world: New dynamics of variation, contact and change'.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Famous Egyptian cartoonists in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo

Of course, you have heard of the news. Last Wednesday, El-Qaeda and ISIS-related militants opened fire on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing twelve people including cartoonists, civilian and taking hostages in two places in France

Famous Egyptian cartoonists  have condemned the attack, siding with freedom of expression. On his Facebook page, Makhlouf noted that the four cartoonists were "among the most renowned cartoonists in the world. I am a cartoonist, Muslim, with freedom of speech and against murder".

In a recent article published by Al-Masry Al-Youm,  the two cartoonists, Makhlouf and Anwar, gave further insight into the French magazine. 

Satirical journalism, they pointed out, had a long tradition that dated back to the nineteenth century.

The French cartoonist Siné played an important part in the emergence of Charlie Hebdo. Siné took part in the France's student revolt of 1968 that was critical of the rise of capitalism and commercial values in the French society. He established, together with Georges Wolinski, L'Enrage that introduced a generation of cartoonists who later established Charlie Hebdo.  

Makhlouf and Anwar remarked that- in essence - Charlie Hebdo is hostile to any form of authority, whether it is religious or political. The magazine made fun of religious symbols, politicians and celebrities. The authors cite one quotation by Charb who was killed in the attack: "It is a right of any individual to be religious but what does not seem acceptable to us are the thoughts and actions of extremists".

Egyptian cartoonists have also expressed solidarity with Charlie Hebdo through their drawings. One drawing by Makhlouf portrays him raising a pen. The Arabic reads in "solidarity with Charlie Hebdo". Another painting by well-known Hicham Rahma satirizes ISIS.

You can view the drawings by Egyptian cartoonists, here.


Like many Egyptians, and many Muslims, I was aggravated by the terrorist attacks in France.

While  you may or may not agree with the publication of cartoons that satirizes religious symbols,  in a broad sense of the term "religious", what is rather certain is that the attack on Charlie Hebdo is an atrocity.  In this post, I pay tribute to the civilians and the four cartoonists who were murdered. I present below a short biography of them.

Georges Wolinski (aged 80 years)
Born in Tunisia in 1934, Wolinski began to draw political cartoons in 1960. Together with Siné, he established L'Enrage after the student revolt of May (1968). 

Tignous (aged 57 years)
According to Anwar and Makhlouf, before his death, Tignous was experimenting with a new technique of painting through the use of the computer.

Charb (aged 47 years)
He worked in different newspapers before joining Charlie Hebdo in 1992. He was the editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo from 2009 until his death on 7 January 2015. His cartoons has anti-capitalist and anti-racism themes. One of his cartoons is an anti-racism poster that reads: "I would hire you, but I don't like the color of ... uh ... your tie!".

Cabu (aged 76 years)
His drawings were first published in 1954.  During the Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962), Cabu was forced to be conscripted in the French Army, an experience that  shaped his anti-militarist tendencies. His popularity grew in 1980 as he took part in one children's TV programme, Récré A2.  


Monday, November 3, 2014

6 thousand views!!! & welcome back!

It has been a long time since I last posted on my blog. Two days ago, a friend e-mailed me saying that she has read the posts on my blog and she thinks they are authentic and enjoyable to read. This plus the six thousand views I have noticed on my counter (which is a good record I think for a relatively new blog) encourage me to write more posts in the coming days/weeks/hours. Many things, events and encounters have happened in my life (now imagine yourself by the seaside looking at the distance) that I would like to report them here, in my so-called "best friend"! From a book signing by a famous and great author, to travels in tiny and beautiful cities; to a group about mental health I attended recently; to a panel discussion about sign language in a popular sociolinguistics conference I went to a couple of months ago. "Well, get ready". Together we will travel through time back and forth. Who ever said it is late to write about anything? "Me"? I have always enjoyed being here.
And get ready for my coming "brand new" posts! "Stay in tune".

Friday, March 7, 2014

song of the day...


Et si tu n'existais pas,
Dis-moi pourquoi j'existerais.
Pour traОner dans un monde sans toi,
Sans espoir et sans regrets.

Et si tu n'existais pas,
J'essaierais d'inventor l'amour,
Comme un peintre qui voit sous ses doigts
NaОtre les couleurs do jour.
Et qui n'en revient pas.

Et si tu n'existais pas,
Dis-moi pour qui j'existerais.
Des passantes endormies dans mes bras
Que je n'aimerais jamais.

Et si tu n'existais pas,
Je ne serais qu'un point de plus
Dans ce monde qui vient et qui va,
Je me sentirais perdu,
J'aurais besoin de toi.

Et si tu n'existais pas,
Dis-moi comment j'existerais.
Je pourrais faire semblant d'Кtre moi,
Mais je ne serais pas vrai.

Et si tu n'existais pas,
Je crois que je l'aurais trouve,
Le secret de la vie, le pourquoi,
Simplement pour te creer
Et pour te regarder.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Monday, February 3, 2014

...Ali Baba..

When I am writing this, I am wearing my silver diamond ring, conjuring up her face- my mother- when I asked her to search for my earring that I have misplaced somewhere in New Cairo. Now that I am missing it, I can idealize it a bit; it was the ‘fairest of them all’, a ‘fantastic’ ‘triangle-shaped’ ‘very decent’ earring with amber stone in the middle.
I remember quite well that when my parents left me at the airport on my way to England, it was not the silver white ring that I am wearing now (which I bought from a small shop in Giza), but the greenish trapezoid-like silver ring that I bought from Turkey. It is not that I like the one I bought from Turkey less; I actually like them both.  
In a small purse, in my backpack, I carried the silver diamond ring to Egypt from England where almost ‘the whole collection’, ‘my treasure’ of accessories currently lie.
While dragging my bags at Manchester, looking at the sky, it crossed my mind that I must have missed something in Cairo; mhm--my earring - but what else? The phone charger? My passport?! I must have stopped for a while before remembering that I certainly cannot have forgotten it. 
After a couple of days when I settled in my room, my accessories were the first thing I arranged; I put them in sections in an empty chocolate box that my friend gave me as a present. Looking at the chocolate box, I said that apart from that earring, I am sure, I have not missed anything else- I assured myself as I put my treasure (rings, bracelets, and pendants) in place.
A couple of weeks later, in that hall at Lancaster, I imagined myself telling the life-guard- with –splashes of water in the background- that I forgot to take off the ring and it fell in the floor; ehm.. the water… the water swallowed it.
Looking at my hand, I went back to the changing room, opened the locker, and put the ring carefully in my bag.
I have thought a bit why it is my accessories that I love the most- it is not that all of them are in gold and valuable. I got most of them from small ‘not expensive’ shops in Cairo: the earring with orange stones I got from Kerdasa, a textile-center for making costumes; and the earring with red stones- I got from khan El-Khalili; this amber-like stone I am missing a lot now is a present from my mother.   
 It must have started long ago, in my childhood, my favorite fairytale scene was not that one - recounted by my mother- when the gardener married the princess but that of Ali Baba (one famous character in One Thousand and One Nights) who after walking in alleys and curved roads, is dazzled by pearl, diamond, and emerald.
It might be strange, really strange to write a post about missing my ‘amber’ earring (‘the fairest of them all’).
It will take me a couple of months more to see it –flesh and blood – in our house in New Cairo. The only thing is that during this journey I know I will encounter new things- and miss them. Missing things seems to be a life-style, a technique.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Sunday, January 26, 2014

By Rumi

You stepped on the ground

and the earth, pregnant with joy,

gave birth to infinite blossoms.

The cheering spread up to heaven!

The moon glanced amazed at the stars.


My heart saw Love

galloping alone towards the desert

and, shattered by love's majesty

fell in love with Love.


You brought release to the tormented

and offered the cup of joy to the sorrowful,

but they have long forgotten.

Tell me, if you are not to offer them the cup again,

what were  you trying to teach them?


P.S. Stay in tune :)


Friday, January 24, 2014

If the sun drowned

And it turned dark in eyes and souls 
And the way is lost in lines and circles
 Talk is the only clue
For more on Sheikh Imam..
Click here

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Portugal 4: About my birthday, watercress and the coriander!

First it was mint, then watercress… then came the coriander. The mint lost its glamour when I moved it to a new pot. It became shorter with smaller leaves. In the corridor, I contemplated ‘watercress’, it had flat leaves that seemed to spread well on the ground. The coriander was slim and yellowish, but it happened that most of the time, I stopped to water it, it was looking towards the sun.

Compared to the watercress, the coriander was not breaking spaces; it seemed to be rather on its own, yearning for the sun. Worried about the coriander, I found myself watering it more, touching its leaves.  

Of the few things I have planted in England- mint, lilies, cactus- I said to myself- it is the coriander that I have enjoyed the most.

I was not sure if such a ‘revelation’ had anything to do with me going up that hill. I was looking a lot to the weeds, small bushes and inspecting the grass. Was I looking for ‘a revelation’, something like a lost coin, a plant ‘that is the most beautiful of all’, an extraordinary precious stone? I still don’t know what exactly I was doing there. I was listening to that song.     

It was about two lovers who separated and became friends. It was dark and bitter- let us say 70% cocoa. It was in my playlist; and when I listened to it on the way to Bom Jesus, I could not let it go. Each time, I would listen to a part of another song, get the mobile out of my pocket and select the song again. But after a while, I submitted, I selected; ‘play current song only’.

As I reached the top, where the church was, one thing I was curious to know if I was the only person who was here alone; all around, there were friends and a few couples. I got relief in seeing a man-his back to me- taking photographs of the church. He would soon be joined by another man. I said I would celebrate coming here alone. I left my backpack on a bench; and took a photo of it, the caption in my mind read ‘at the highest point of Braga’. I discovered a garden next to the church. In front of me a woman holding a broom, and at a distance, there was a fountain that was not working. I was still listening to the same song.

On my way back, it was the Beatles song (things changed, you know!)- this song where a man is surrounded by a crowd, I woud imagine a clown, blindfold, in a circle.

Had I said before that ‘I am weak in front of the tambourine’? As I walked, ‘two-foot small’ would rhyme as ‘fruit’ (please, do not ask how); I remembered plastic fruit that we used to have; women in belly dancing suits were tapping their feet-with bangles- on the floor; making the sound of the tambourine. I am sure, if I just carried on something would show up eventually. ‘Excuse me, excuse me, I would like to go to Giza Square? Yeah the Pyramids, making a triangle with my hands’. I crossed the road.       

When I came back from the hostel, the secretary knocked on my door and handed me the flowers and an envelope. I felt like a man handed in a baby for the first time. I told her ‘I don’t think I need a vase’. But she brought one. With a bashful smile, I stood beside the window; my eyes fell upon the fence of the nursery opposite the hostel. ‘I would like to talk to my mother now’. I remembered I cannot use my British number. I dreamt if I can draw a path that would take me directly to the ramp in our house- just to have a cup of tea with her, tell her that I got flowers for my birthday, and come back to work on my presentation.

This was the first international conference I would present at. It is (and stay away please) C.A.D.A.D. I had to do well in it- build a path to the pyramids in our house in Portugal. I contemplated the flowers.

To skip forward, the conference would eventually end, and I would leave the flowers behind (and was there a way that I could carry them back or make them live longer?).

One day later, I was lost in thoughts about my presentation, attending presentations by others, asking myself if I would do well.  In my queer thoughts, I was standing in a room; tangled up in wires, with people holding miniature robots, all around. Like a drawing for me by my niece that I carried from London to Lancaster to Portugal, the flowers were literally protecting me, as images, faces and spaces alternated.    

Friday, December 7, 2012

Intermission: what could I say here?

Perhaps it is because of this event (the panel I mean) that I am having soon that I seem confused and don't know really whether I should write about it or not. Well, well, if you think my name is Shaimaa Zaher, that is true but it is not completely the whole truth; the other name is El Naggar; last year (this year) I used to say it with a stress on El, followed by a pause, then N"aggar, with a rising intonation after 'N'; making a dive, like a fish in a small bowl, looking at what I identify as 'Us' in New Cairo, my niece on the table having lunch, and my brother telling me that I have to take the bowl home because he will be away in Alexandria.
This week, a strange thing happened; I dropped my family name as I was introducing myself in a seminar at university. In a way, it was heart-breaking; I missed the image of my father stepping the platform with his stick or feeling his hands trembling as we cross the street in New Cairo.
But then, two days ago, I said it the same way as I used to, my name on ink and paper: bold font, on a research paper (twenty pages..!)  in an important (that is how I see it) journal.
Please find the link below:
And in those historical moments, I would like to thank my family for their support throughout, my supervisors, colleagues, lecturers and friends at Lancaster ...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Portugal 3: On the way to Bom Jesus

Had it not been for that child, nothing would have been unusual: a father and a child having their lunch on a bench in MacDonald's on one sunny day in Portugal. The father took the child and went inside, soon the potato chips would be scattered; I would see pigeons and hear the monotonous sound of their beaks hitting the table. I took a bite of the sandwich, looked to the young ladies wearing the same style of blouse.

I must have moved the falling strips of my hair behind my ears, covered my sandwich and sank in the bench. The boy, would come now and find his potato chips gone. I was still contemplating the shoulderless blouse of the young lady opposite me. Looking towards the sun, I  was free of my clothes; I became an X-Ray skeleton, shooting the birds. In a book, one bird was fluttering and turned into a giant creature with wings. I put my hands on my cheek. Why would bats appear in daylight? I turned my eyes towards the shade. The man and the boy appeared, passed indifferently by the table, and left. I put the sandwich and the bottle of water in my bag;  I would move along, I said.

I was climbing the hill. Before coming here, I knew the hostel was close to university and I would go on foot. A year and seven months, I became an explorer (not the Internet one!), a human with shoe skates, going from Greaves to Alexandra Park, from Scotforth to town, from Dr Michael Owen Street to Minho University, from Minho University to Bom Jesus on foot.
In my room, my eyes would fall upon my shoes and a small pot of mint on the window sill; I got the shoes from Clarks, in sales.  I would remember my mother, recycling papers, putting seeds of watermelon in our garden, teaching me over the phone how to grow the sprout of mint she gave me in a small pot in England. Does not she deserve a bit of shoe skating, move, move your muscles, I would tap my hips, when it got difficult in that slope towards university.

I put on my shoe skates, tightened them and started smoothly from the beginning of the road; I took a picture of a house covered with tiles; the other house had a checked fence with a fountain and a bare child.

My right knee hurts a couple of days before my cycle. Towards the middle, I was tired, checking the ground as if looking for a lost treasure. I saw paintings for Jesus, the suffering of black men; candles that are not yet lit behind a metal frame.

Three months later at Lancaster, I would pay the money to the young lady in return for a small card that I would show the driver each time I got on, an Id that I have to show to cross from border to border, from Scotforth to town, from town to university, in the same destiny with young men and women sitting on chairs, or clinging to yellow stands with small red buttons. Gone were the days of shoe skating. In the last time I was in Cairo, I proudly told my niece that I went to university on foot three days a week. What would I tell her now?   

Climbing those zigzag stairs, I saw them, their backs towards the Church, their faces towards town, like gods contemplating the world from above, overlooking the creamy church, I took my camera out, I stood still trying to comprehend the scenery… confused where to put the cover, thinking from where and how can I find the cadre, and press the button…

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The labryinth...the maze...

I don't know from where to start. This is about one verse from a poem, that I happen to know by heart almost three years ago (the verse not the poem). I came across the verse the first time when it was written in one friend's status on Facebook.

The verse literally says and that is my translation:
Whoever you love would be bewitched/ So choose whoever you wish to love.

For a long time, it has confused me whether 'you' in the line refers to the lover himself or the one he loves? In other words, was he confidently saying to himself that I know you will bewitch anyone you love, or was he addressing her/him/his beloved telling her/him that go and do love whoever you want ? The first one is a call on freedom really; the second is a call on submission (it is like saying, OK, Ok, go and love others and I will be fine!).

Between going to Cairo, to England, to Nottingham, to Lancaster, to Scotforth (a long way...) two days ago, it crossed my mind that it is most probably the second interpretation; you may think that someone is great (when you love him of course, or may be without loving him (let us say also her) but what startles me (still) was this (....) tolerance, this submission, the (frightening) idea that you are aware that you are giving your heart to someone, only to put it in the washing machine and turn the dryer on.

Today, with another movement from Scotforth to Morecambe (still places inside England), the verse kept repeating in my mind like a refrain of a song; by the time I went home, I was under the influence of the line, literally bewitched, and whom can you resort to in these cases except Google?

Curious to know how is the poet?
yeah yeah..I understand :-)

Please check the link below; the poet happens to be from Egypt by the way (and I swear by is a matter of sheer coincidence!).

You may like as well to check the music below:

Hopefully, enjoy

Wednesday, October 3, 2012 and explore!

A couple of days ago, I had my presentation in one conference in the UK, at the University of Salford; I am tempted really to tell you what my presentation was about and how the excellent audience reacted to it. But I  feel I don't want to. I would like to write about the conference itself.

The conference lasted for two days and in those two days, I got an idea of what opposition means; it is not only in politics but also in music and literature. The conference was truly combining many areas, and at one point, particularly in those presentations in which music played, I felt that the conference was celebrating opposition.

So.. you wanna know about punk music and how it can act like demonstrations? Or perhaps you are interested in knowing more about the struggle of workers in Egypt (with a rising country after all :-)? Or may be it will be bizarre to see Tahrir Square in Russia? No actually, I mean the Russian band, Pussy Riot?
It is all in your hands. The link below has the abstracts of the conference. Click, read and enjoy.

And oppose (oPpOse) when you feel you have to...   

Abstracts LInK:

cONfeRence LiNk

P.S. My posts about Portugal are still ongoing!!... please stay in tune...  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Portugal 2: Nail Polish

In front of the bus stop I stared at the poster of the woman: She was wearing shorts, holding a glass of wine and leaning to the shoulder of what I imagined her husband. Unlike my expectation of how a model in an advertisement would be, her hands were free of nail polish. Her neck apparently had some wrinkles; maybe she was in her forties, or that’s how I thought as I closely inspected the poster waiting for the bus. I remembered a discussion I had with my brother ten years ago; he liked the transparent type of nail polish that gave the nails some glitter without actually adding color. I remembered that in my make-up bag, I put my ‘purple’ nail polish.  I was haunted by a lady that resembles me sitting at the yard of the Department of English at Cairo University; sitting in the bus, I was awake watching the curves that the driver moved through; no I don’t think ‘you will be kidnapped’, I said to myself, as I followed the yellow lights.
In the morning, I noticed that the woman in the hostel was wearing a white nail polish, like Rania, my friend at school, and like the woman at Fayoum where I was doing my medical check before travelling. Desks with some cups of tea are what I remember of the office where the woman asked everyone to leave the room before she wanted to talk to me; ‘how could you put your purse like that in your bag? Have not you heard of motorcyclists that grab women’s bag’? She pulled a purse hidden underneath her blouse, ‘you see this; I am no longer putting money in my bag’. Like a child questioned by a teacher at school, I told her that I would certainly take care next time. I went out of the building, putting my purse carefully in my bag. I nodded to the taxi driver, ‘maw2af masr law sama7t’.
On my way, in Portugal, I already stopped many people asking about the way to town; I was holding the map, telling one person after another; I would like to go to the centre, ‘centro’ and ‘Bom Jesus’. One man asked me to cross a bridge, another to keep straight forward; the young lady at the roundabout was different; why speak Portuguese when you can use gestures? A circle is a roundabout; and a movement of your hands up means a hill; ‘I always believe in the younger generation’, I told myself as I sat beside an old man reading a newspaper, ‘I would like to go to Bom Jesus you know’... ‘If it is a distance and I will go up the hill, I would rather eat first’, ‘Yes and you can take the bus to town from Bom Jesus when you get there’. I wondered if I could sit there for some time or head to Macdonald’s. ‘Going up the hill does not seem to be easy’. I paused at the traffic lights thinking which way to go.         

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Portugal (1): My name is Red!

As for my umbrella, I got it from One Pound World in Manchester; I was on my way to Portland Street for the VISA interview when it started to rain heavily. The first thing I thought about was taking the bus… but when I saw One Pound World an advertisement moved like a banner in my head: ‘With a pound or more you can get an umbrella for life, for life, and enjoy walking… enjoy walking in the rain..’ I went inside, had a look around and did not see umbrellas. I asked the shop assistant; he pointed to a stall: red and black umbrellas were lying in a cardboard box; I quickly grabbed the red one, paid the money (a pound and half by the way!) and walked –diligently- figuring out my way to Portland street! I finished my VISA errand and in a matter of two days, this red crab became my favorite Hunny Bunny; the new umbrella!

But it broke in one windy day at Lancaster; it was exactly when I was past the bus stop; it turned inside out and while pulling the umbrella up towards the sky, its junctures were torn leaving one of its steel metal bare without a cloth; I inadvertently tried to pull the cloth to cover it but it obviously needed to be stitched. In the next day, my old umbrella- that my father gave me- broke too; I threw it in the bin at university and for seconds afterwards I thought if my father would be cross if he saw me throwing his umbrella. I obviously needed a new one.

In New Look, I looked anxiously at the umbrellas on the stall: brown with some yellow dots. I was willing to pay eight pounds (with some thinking really :)) but the red colour of my umbrella kept flagging in my mind:  it is red, clear red like the Egyptian cotton t-shirt I bought from downtown Cairo and like the coral pendent I had from Khan El Khalili when my mother was with me. ‘I will think about it’, I told my friend.

In the morning, I put my accessories in my bag and remembered to put red thread and a needle; I was in John Lennon’s airport four hours ahead; and what good circumstances like these to fix my great fantastic red project?! I put the thread in the needle’s eye, asking myself if I have ever seen a human stitching something in an airport. The café and the policewoman were the last thing I saw before my eyes would be blocked by waves of red color; if I know how the stitches are done in the old junctures, I can fix the torn ones… In the swimming pool in Cairo, going from line to  line, I moved through one light hazy blue colour, everything was smooth till I got to that plucked ceramic towards the middle, a dark spot, a deep whole, a whirling centre of a hurricane, I took my head out; the policewoman was looking at me.

When I reached Portugal, it crossed my mind that fixing the umbrella was a sign that things would be fine. It was 9.30 in the evening; the bus would come after an hour and half and when I would get to Braga, it would be almost twelve. This is ‘45 Dr. Michael Owen’, the taxi driver said as he parked the car; he gestured that he would wait for me till I got there; I passed the small gate, talked to someone over the phone, and went back to the main entrance, ‘all is fine, thank you’ I waved to him.

A Portuguese man showed me around the house. The lights of the stairs turned out automatically like those towards the gate at the  the house of my brother in New Cairo. The two-level bed reminded me of the room in a camp I went to in Sinai. In bed, I stared at the chair. I moved my hand slowly to switch off the lamp as if I am having difficulty reaching it: ‘earth is really small and boring, and they keep saying oh I have been to this country or that country when it is really a matter of tiny small cities’. That was my confession- to a secret audience- at night, but in the morning, things seemed to change…


Monday, July 9, 2012

The Voice

In the darkness something was happening at last. A voice had begun to sing…
Sometimes it seemed to come from all directions at once. Sometimes he almost thought it was coming out of the earth beneath them. Its lower notes were deep enough to be the voice of the earth herself. There were no words. There has hardly even a tune. But it was, beyond comparison, the most beautiful noise he had ever heard. It was so beautiful he could hardly bear it. The horse seemed to like it too; he gave the sort of whinney a horse would give if, after years of being a cab-horse, it found itself back in the old field where it had played as a foal, and saw someone whom it remembered and loved coming across the field to bring it a lump of sugar…
Then two wanders happened at the same moment. One was that the voice was suddenly joined by other voices; more voices than you could possibly count. They were in harmony with it, but far higher up the scale: cold, tingling, silvery voices. The second wonder was that the blackness overhead, all at once, was blazing with stars. They did not come out gently one by one, as they do on a summer evening. One moment there had been nothing but darkness; next moment a thousand, thousand points of lights leaped out--single stars, constellations, and planets, brighter and bigger than any in our world. There were no clouds. The new stars and the new voices began at exactly the same time. If you had seen and heard it, as Digory did, you would have felt quite certain that it was the stars themselves which were singing, and that it was the First Voice, the deep one, which had made them appear and made them sing.
'Glory be!' said the Cabby. 'I'd ha' been a better man all my life if I'd known there were things like this'.
 The Voice on the earth was now louder and more triumphant; but the voices in the sky, after singing loudly with it for a time, began to get fainter. And now something else was happening.
Far away, and down near the horizon, the sky began to turn grey. A light wind, very fresh, began to stir. The sky, in that one place, grew slowly and steadily paler. You could see shapes of hills standing up dark against it. All the time the Voice went on singing.
From The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician’s Nephew. For more about Narnia, click here

Thursday, June 28, 2012

To my friend Nami!

I knew later that when I arrived, it was such a cold day in many winters, 27th December, 2010. But I really did not feel it. I was literally insulated: one thick cotton sock, three cotton shirts, pullover, a coat and a hood. Every time I saw the snow out of the window, I smiled heavily as I remembered the sun I left in Cairo. I was leaning over my two bags, ready to get them down. A British woman-the landlord- was waiting for me outside; I got into her car like a pregnant woman in the last months, I had a stomachache from Manchester and was dying to get into a house, any house which has a bathroom.
She put my bags in a room in the first floor, I was confused whether to ask first about the bathroom or give her the money. I took the money from a yellow envelope in my backpack. The bathroom was upstairs. When I went down, I could not find my envelope. I searched my backpack and opened my first bag; granules of sugar were splintered all around my clothes; I saw my mother looking at me.    
In that context, I met Nami, my neighbor from Japan who would soon leave the house to work as a tour guide in the Lake District. In my mind, England was a new place and the house was old. I had to pull a rope to turn the lights in the bathroom and do the same thing to turn on the shower: first pull a rope, turn a circle that adjusts the temperature, and press the button; and do the same thing again to turn it off. Our house in New Cairo had a horizontal design but here it was all vertical: the kitchen and the TV area were in a floor and the room and the bathroom were in another.
Before leaving, Nami showed me the way to university, ‘Bailrigg Lane’ was certainly a label, a post, but for the first time I went to the university, it was a crossroad, either to wander among trees or go to university. I stopped to take a picture of the place. Remember that this is where you have to turn, she said.
Stepping on the cobbled streets of town, Nami classified shops into types: ‘Home Bargain’ is good for chocolate; Sainsbury’s is for grocery; Marks and Spenser has good quality but is more expensive. Because of her, I would refuse to get Toblerone from Sainsbury’s for 1.70, ‘I am sure I saw it in Home Bargain for only a pound’. ‘Before she left, my friend Nami told me from where to get what’. I laughed; my eyes fell on Sainsbury’s bags as we went out.
When I visited Nami in the Lake District, she was planning a tour in Europe: Poland, Czeh, Germany and Spain. I love Spain, I said. On the Internet, she looked up the prices.  ‘I am actually not sure I can make it, I will see the photos when you come back’, I said evading looking at her face.
Nami has now left England and promised to visit me in Cairo. It was not a small thing after a year and a half in England, when I told Nami on Skype that now, now, I am drifting South, not to Spain, but to Portugal!
Stamping passports, packing and unpacking, watching the clouds, feeling the airplane touch the ground, sending a message that ‘I have landed safely’ seems to me now part of the journey, an inception, a dream within a dream, a step forward Nami, isn’t it?    

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cotton 100%


I walk in a long road, around me heavy purple trees. When I realize I have walked for long, the road opens up into a ground on which many walk quickly. Beside me, there is a young man putting on the headphones, waving his hands with enjoyment. I approach him to ask in which road I am and where I can go. He gestures to me to move forward. With lazy steps, I go on. Silence prevails.

When I opened my eyes, my brother was sitting in the reception, holding something in his hand. Half asleep, I thought it was the kitchen tab, which leaked water. I recognized he was sorting out some papers. I remembered the cup of tea I promised him. I went to the kitchen.

Chatting with my brother was a good way to retrieve my self-confidence. Like a cat rubbing itself against the clothes of her master, I sat beside my brother, asking him about the countries he has never been to. I moved my hair back, looked ahead as if I was searching for something. I thought it was Switzerland. I gazed at my brother’s cheek as he talked about the Scandinavian countries. The little scar on his cheek seemed a sign that he would keep traveling. I conjured up the drawing of a child clinging to a crescent in the sky. I took a deep breath, fascinated to see that my brother traveled to almost all of the European countries. I was still gazing at the ceiling as he told me about the Egyptian cotton shirt he bought from England. The traces of water leak on the ceiling seemed inspiring: there were clouds and the rectangular figure was an airplane. My brother put the cup back on the table. I was still looking at the ceiling.


Everything is immersed in light: the marble, the glasses of shopfronts and the white glowing face of my sister-in-law. As soon as I enter the shop, the shop assistants follow me like my shadow. In the past days, I used to baffle them, by moving to the right and turning quickly to the left, or asking the shop assistant about a size I know the shop does not have, so I take sometime as they look for it. Here the shop assistant stands a bit far from us giving us her back. My sister-in-law hands me a grey blouse. It suits me well, she says, cotton 100%. I tell her in a low voice that that its price is almost all my salary. I raise my voice, adding that I do not like the grey color.

Was the shop assistant eavesdropping though she seemed not interested in our talk? I watched her in bewilderment holding the calculator, telling us that after the discount, the price of the blouse would be only six hundred pounds. We walked out. In the corridor, I imagined myself asking the shop assistant if she would force someone to buy some stuff s/he did not need. I hoped I could travel tomorrow, not after six days.


 Lying in bed, I hold the mobile, deleting all his messages with enjoyment. Now I discover that my room, unlike the reception, has no leak. I conjure up his face.  I do not even think he wears cotton shirts. I remember a striped shirt he wore once, but its gloss appearance makes me say that there is synthetic material in it, nylon may be. I myself, all these years, have bought clothes without noticing which type of material I wear… I put the mobile phone on the table and close my eyes. I stand beside the closet, get out my clothes, pile them up, hold each piece and throw it up in a circular movement. I turn to hug the pillow. Like a drunkard, I say that nothing compares to the Egyptian cotton.


In downtown Cairo, I go shopping like a person haunted for long by a riddle and wanted to sort it out. In the sixth or seventh shop, I changed the question from “I am looking for cotton blouses” to “I am looking for blouses”. The shop assistant gave me a sarcastic look when I told him the shirt on the stand was not of cotton. I read him the shirt’s label. He said in an ironical tone that clothes made of cotton were many. There is a brand of blouses named Toffee or Tofs. I repeated the name after him. Nervously, he uttered Tofs, Tofs!


As I opened the door, I hoped that my brother would be inside to show him the blouses I bought. I got them out carefully and put them in front of him. He felt the cloth with his hand and said surprisingly it was of cotton. I laughed as I asked him about his opinion of me: each piece was not more than fifty pounds! I went to the room. I admired the features of my face as I passed by the mirror. I lay in bed, listening to the throbbing of my heart.


Throughout the past days, my brother kept telling me that I would enjoy traveling and there was nothing to fear. Would he call me a child if I phoned him? I breathed deeply counting the spots of light on the plane’s wing. I recounted an exercise I trained myself on in the past days. In moments of stress, I gazed at something, imagining myself someone else. The young woman who resembled me then was sitting reciting verses of the Koran; she was the one who kept staring at the bright light in the corridor, while I myself fluttered between flowers like a butterfly in daylight.

At the Bosphorus, I sat, contemplating nature around me. I thought how fear seized me in the airplane. Besides, it took me a long time to decide to travel. My eyes wandered towards the sky and the lovers passing. When I felt a cold breeze, I rubbed my right hand against the left one. I took the mobile to send a message to my brother. I came across his name. It came to my mind that may be I meet him by chance wearing a striped cotton shirt.

Now I am in a shop downtown Cairo. There is a clash between a man and woman. The staircase is narrow and the man stands in the way. The woman inside asks the shop assistant about export blouses. He gestures to a queue of blouses, made of Chiffon. Perplexed, I ponder before asking him about the products of Tofs. I leave. On my way, I linger contemplating the ornaments of the old buildings, hearing the beeps of cars and the humming of cafés. I kick a small ball in the street and tell myself that my soul must be in another place, a bird wandering the sky; below it, a blue area that resembles the Bosphorus. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Spring mania!

And how would you celebrate? A strong cigarette, cannabis?! Some good wine?
Poor me, I never had those! I will simply dance, not the anxious-like dances of the West :-) but the generous dance/s of the East. When I move my hands in the room, I feel myself dancing in Beet El Sehemy; and when I move my shoulder back, I get a landscape view of the Nile and with a round movement of the hips, I would see that yellowish purple building in Tahrir Square as magical as I have known it. In short, my heart has gone maniac. It ... all... all because of her.


Thursday, March 8, 2012


i touch the clouds, spread it out between my fingers like yeast in the hand of a baker, i walk, find the key to sesame cave, i hear water drops, i get deep to your heart, closing the doors to the past,  the sunset will cover egypt, Jordan, palestine, all dissolve in a lingering colour, like that of lanterns at night, i wear purple, you wear blue, in the morning, the dogs on streets will disappear, carried over by balloons in the sky, i look at the trees and look at your lips, my heart whirls like a dervish, i  lean my head on your shoulder, contemplating the trees, in triangles...     

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Cotton candy


To me, it was like a summer resort: spacious balconies… bricks and stones on the entrance, a sign that "there are yet things to be done". In the sunset, I liked to go up  the roof and contemplate the silence.

It took me a month to realize that we moved to the wrong place, I could no longer go to downtown Cairo as I used to. There were many mosquitoes at night; "what difference does it make if you live in New Cairo or in the countryside?"


At noon, I always heard his music; why would he care to come to such a quiet place to sell “cotton candy”; I asked my mother as I was reading a book. Busy arranging stuff in the kitchen, She did not reply.


My room overlooks the main street. When I hear the music,  I know that "the ice cream man" has come; he would park and leave in short.  Today was unusual, two children bought ice cream. On the Internet I searched for the music of a cotton candy peddler. I found one! 

* Photo of the ice cream car, taken in Scotforth, England

Friday, January 27, 2012

Bic pen!

I have tried this before: put a blindfold on my eye in our apartment for a couple of minutes. I was trying to write a short story about  blindness; I grappled with it for some time and in my hope for writing, I came up with this idea. It took me minutes walking through a long corridor: from my room to the reception, it was dark but for a shade of light. The corrdior was stright;  it was not an easy task, though. Passing by my father's room, I stumbled over cardboard boxes across the corner; I took off the blindfold.

Those few minutes may have helped me come closer to how a person feels when he loses eyesight, I did write a couple of paragraphs afterwards, but I could not complete the story.

When Ahmed Harara, the dentist who lost both eyes, one in Mubarak's time and another in SCAF's time, was on TV, someone wrote on facebook "just put a blindfold on your eyes for sometime and you will realize the sacrifice he has made". I mumbled to myself "Ah..!I have tried this before! I am a step ahead!". Sitting on my desk contemplating his sunglasses on the screen, I walked off the computer talking to myself on my way to kitchen:"some have to lose their eyesight, some do not.. that's's all roles that we have to take part in".

Reading at night is a usual scene in my world. Quite often, I would fall asleep while reading a book with a pen inside. Recently, I developed hallucinations, "What if the pen came out of the book into my eyes while falling asleep? Will you be happy if you lose your eyesight as well?" I talked to myself when I woke up one morning and found a book quite close to my face. Between being awake and asleep, I would struggle to put the book on a shelf close to me, but I didn't always get it right.  This morning, the first thing I saw was Bic pen, close to the wall, away from me...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The butterfly

The butterfly

The boy peered at the darkness of the room. When he realized that the lights were all turned off and that his parents were in bed, he put aside the bed covering, lit the lamp and from a wooden box under his bed, he got the drawing copybook and the color box. He held the brush, mixed colors and when the butterfly did not appear, whirling around the light or feeling his drawings, it came to his mind that the butterfly was hiding somewhere, and that light would attract it.

When time passed and worry pierced through his heart, he looked at those places where the butterfly may hide: the pictures hanging on the wall, and the window from which a ray of light came as a car or bus passed. When he checked these places and he did not find it, he mistrusted the sound of his reason, telling himself that it did not fly away and it would come soon to share him his drawings. She used to come everyday and when he lit the lamp, he glimpsed her, flitting towards the light with her colorful wings. She kept swirling as if she was afraid from stopping and did not know where to stand. She would then fall upon his hand as if she found a place to rest on, only to fly again, fluttering her wings, touching a spot of colors here or a figure there.

When the butterfly was with him, he felt he drew beautiful paintings, more beautiful than his earlier drawings and the drawing of his classmates at school, more beautiful than the paintings of his teacher whom he loved, even more beautiful than the paintings of Van Gogh whom his teacher knew and talked about as if he was one of his relatives or friends. And the butterfly flitted around him all night as he kept mixing colors and drawing lines and figures. When tiredness and sleep overcame him, he would put his drawings in the wooden box, greet her, and turn off the light. And when he woke up in the morning, he always talked to her and sang her the morning song.

And when he got back from school and fell his shoulders burdened with books and homework, he worked and studied because he knew that when the night came, he would find the butterfly that shared him what he loved the most…to get the colors and draw.

At night, he drew whatever he liked: flowers, rivers and seas or he chose not to draw and stay up blending colors, discovering new ones. In his mind, he would think that days passed, and he became a famous painter. He stood in a hall, bigger than the hall of his school where he displayed his paintings. He would glimpse his parents at a distance smiling and clapping their hands in delight. But when the time passed and the butterfly did not appear, he felt that all his drawings and colors were pale and the sea would not turn blue and the flowers red until it fluttered around him and his drawings.

He looked for the butterfly everywhere: beside his drawings, colors and books, beside every ray of light creeping in his room. Even when he lit the light of his room curbing his fear that his parents could wake up and find him awake; even when he stood up on the chair, and examined the walls and gazed at the ceiling, he did not find it. Only then, he felt as if a heavy stone was on his heart and that the world turned to deep black color he could not erase whatever colors he poured over it. And whatever he would do, even if he went to the his parents rooms, cuddled up in their bed and cried all night; even if he stood up, wore his clothes, and went to his school to wait for his teacher whom he loved and understood…nothing could make up for the gloominess of his heart. He realized that the butterfly’s absence was real, that it flew away and would never come back.

 Photo taken in Alexandria, Egypt.