Nizar Qabbani wrote his epic poem "When Will They Announce the Death of Arabs" in 1994.
He was living in London at the time, far from his native Syria, watching the world he had grown up in and represented as a diplomat from afar. America had launched operation Desert Storm- a storm that lasts to this day- two years prior, and marked 1993 with the launch of 23 cruise missiles on Iraq. Qabbani will die of a heart attack in 1998.
In 18 stanzas, he explores the wishes and dreams he once carried, describes, however tribes and nations at war, that believe that secret services (like a cold, or a headache) are part of some heavenly order. He bemoans that the idea of the "Arab Nation" (possibly derived from the Pan-Arabist ideology that was crystallised during the Nasser years) has never come into being. He has been trying to draw a picture all his life, but his crayons have been taken away. He has watched wars- on TV, he has tried to imagine the idea of a peaceful Arab unio…
“You should have winked at her,” Aida said dismissively, as if such a possibility had been imaginable for someone as timid as I was. Tahia Carioca was the most stunning and long-lived of the Arab world’s Eastern dancers (belly-dancers, as they are called today). Edward Said, Farewell to Taheyya
My story with Taheyya begins in the summer of 2016, at Bulbuls Caféin Görlitzer Str. in Berlin. It ends two blocks down on Wiener Str 17.
Bulbuls is a café and art space around my corner that I have grown to like to sit in and drink smoothies (1). He had commissiond us- a crew of Syrian and Egyptian artists, as well as myself, to paint the walls inside the café. El Tenneen (the Dragon) is the one who ended up drawing Sheikh Imam, with the help of Salam Alhassan (known as Salahef/ Turtles) and Sulafa Hijazis (whom we call El Hayya/The Snake’s) beamers’ illumination. The Sheikh sits happily in the place to this day and Crew El-Zoo was born.
Tenneen had the advantage of knowing immediately what he wa…
Love is a big word that has been filled with so many meanings that for me to strain its contours by doing more than writing it out in pretty letters is to do it a disservice. There is much to discover about the content of the word- go out and find it for yourself and fill it with your own meanings, which only experience can give you.
Like religion, discovering love is deeply personal- books and people can help guide you, and give your understanding a foundation and context, but what love ends up being for you cannot be determined by anyone but you.