Monday, February 05, 2007

cruel honesty

They say: "Honesty sets your free". Unfortunately, this statement could never be further from the truth that I know. Honesty can very well imprison, paralyze, and burn you.. without receiving anything you wish for in return, without getting any empathy from others, and without even anyone noticing your affliction..

One of life ironies..

Life is usually full of ironic moments. But it gets more bitter when this irony turns into heartache. I understand that one could feel hurt when someone hurts them. Clear, logical, and realistic. But is it comprehensible that you hurt someone.. and you find yourself feeling more hurt!!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

جزء آخر من واحة الغروب لبهاء طاهر

(على لسان كاثرين)
حانت مني نظرة إلى الأطفال الذين يلعبون. كم هي مريحة الطفولة! كم هو مريح الجهل! كان الأولاد يحفرون في الأرض قنوات يصبون فيها ماء و يضعون على حوافها غصونا صغيرة خضراء ليرووا بساتين تشبه بساتين آبائهم. ولكن أهم شىء أنهم لا ينسون أيضا بناء أسوار رملية عالية حول بساتينهم. يتعلمون الأسوار منذ الصغر. اما البنات فيلعبن على حدة بعيدا عن الصبيان. أسوار أخرى

لكني أحب منظر البنات الصغيرات و هن يلعبن. لا أرى الألوان البهيجة إلا في ملابسهن المزركشة الطويلة الأكمام. وددت أيضا لو أعرف كيف يجدلن للبنات هذه الضفائر الرفيعة الطويلة التي تحيط برءوسهن مثل تيجان مزخرفة. لكن من سيدلني؟ أمهاتهن؟ لا يسرن في الطريق إلا جماعات ذاهبات إلى مآتم أو أفراح و لا يظهر منهن غير عباءات زرقاء واسعة. كتل مصمتة تتحرك فى بطء و صمت مثل نذير قادم، فأود أن أصرخ حين أراها: أين البشر؟

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

فوق هاتيك الربى

This is a song by Fairouz that I've been listening to lately a lot at night.. before I go to sleep. It soothes me a lot and it puts me in a very calm and light mood.. the voice, the music, and the images that the words draw peacefully..

Is it a wish? A prophecy? Or maybe it is a mysterious inexplicable dream...

فوق هاتيك الربى - زكي ناصيف

أناجيك في سري و في القلب حسرة
ٌ و في العين دمع دافق غزير
و فوق الربى حيث التقيتك خاشعا
تصلي لمن فوق القدير قدير
سعيت إليك و في الفؤاد تهيب
لصمتك هذا و احترام كبير
فتبت إلى ربي الذي قال واعدا
ُ على المؤمنين كل عسير يسير

فوق هاتيك الربى في صفاء مقمر
ردد الليل ندائي يا حبيبي أنت لي
فوق هاتيك الربى في نعيم مسكر
رجع الطير غنائي لحنين الجدول

أنت لي أحلى أماني و أحلام شبابي
أنت لي شوق البوادي للنسيمات العِذاب
ِِِأنت لي غمر الندى في الربيع المزهر
أنت لي فيض الهناء و صفاء المنهل

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Bleu. Blanc. Rouge.

I watched this French trilogy for the first time almost 4 years ago, and since then I consider it to be one of my favorite works. I watched the first movie again today, and I found myself following it with the second and third movies in one sitting. The titles of the movies are based on the colors of the French flag, Blue, White, and Red, to represent the French revolution motto: Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity (liberté, égalité, fraternité). The common thing among the 3 movies is that they revolve around characters who are trying to deal with their personal losses and tragedies. The movies are directed and co-written by the talented Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski (The Decalogue; The Double Life of Veronique).


This one is starring the beautiful actress Juliette Binoche. The movie starts with a car accident, in which Julie (Juliette Binoche) loses her husband - a celebrated European composer - and her daughter. Due to her major loss, she starts to isolate herself from her life commitments, surroundings, and personal belongings, and even from love, believing that this total withdrawal from life would heal her heart and make her live peacefully and liberate her from the past. A line in the movie that perfectly expresses her state at that time: "I want no belongings, no memories, no friends, no love. Those are all traps." However, as her life progresses, her attitude starts to shift. Only through those people from her past and present life who care about her reaching out to her, facing her husband's past, completing the composition that he left and around which the movie and soundtrack revolve ("Song for the Unification of Europe"), and welcoming love again in her life, she could actually recover her life again. Only be exposing herself to her past memories and current obligations can she redeem herself.


The sweet looking French actress Julie Delby (Before Sunrie; Before Sunset) is starring in this drama-with-a-tang-of-black-sarcastic-comedy, along with the Polish actor Zbigniew Zamachowski. The story starts with a hearing in the courtroom that Dominique (Julie Delby) resorted to in order to get divorced from her Polish husband Karol on grounds of his sexual impotence. During the hearing, and afterwards, Karol was severely humiliated. He even became a metro beggar. However, he still loved Dominique. He decided to get back to Poland and start a new life there. Since his passport was lost, the only way to get back is to get himself into his friend's bag! The powerful and satirical scene of the bag on the airport conveyor adds to Karol's humiliation. After he went back and after he built his life anew in Warsaw and got wealthy as well, he started to think of a way to get even with his ex-wife (thus, Equality) and revenge his humiliation. Ironically, capitalist post-Communism Poland allows Karol to regain his dignity and potency!


Valentine (Irene Jacob) is a young model who's living on her own in Geneva, while her boyfriend is staying in London. Their regular phone calls show how jealous and obsessive he is. One night, while Valentine is driving her car, she ran over a dog. She examined the dog and through a tag around its neck, she identified to whom it belongs to. Later on, she goes to the dog's owner in order to return it, and she gets to meet a retired judge who withdrew from life and whose favorite pastime is to eavesdrop on his neighbors' phone calls. As she gets to know this man and through their long conversations, she discovers a lot of astonishing links between his past and her destiny. Although she strikes up an accidental bonding friendship with the retired judge (Fraternity), their relationship could also be seen as a non-declared passing platonic love relationship, despite the big age difference and all their differences. A very witty and intriguing story, and considered by many to be the masterpiece of the trilogy!

Trivia & Observations

While the afore-mentioned principles are the basis of the French revolution, we find that two of the movies are not even shot in France (Blanc mostly shot in Warsaw, and Rouge in Geneva). It goes even further than this as most of the dialog in Blanc is Polish. This could give and emphasize a sense of universality of those principles. Furthermore, the three stories show the need for human touches and for connecting and interacting with the surrounding people in our lives.

There are some common scenes and crossover shots among the three movies. For instance, in Bleu, when Julie goes to the court to look for her dead husband's mistress, she tries to get into the courtroom, but she couldn't. But when she opens the door for a second, we hear a man defending himself. In Blanc, it turned out that this man who was defending himself in the court is no one but Karol, Dominique's wife. The two stories crossed paths at this incident.

Also, in Rouge, there are seven people who survived a sinking boat, among them are the six main characters of the trilogy. So they're sharing a common destiny, which could imply the saving and progress of humankind through following the principles mentioned earlier. This scene comes a few minutes after another scene in which the judge's dog had seven newborn puppies.

Another scene that appeared a few times in all the movies is for an old crooked woman who can barely walk, reaching a garbage bin to throw an old bottle, which could signify people who try to get rid of their past tragedies. In Bleu, Julie didn't see her as she was daydreaming while sitting in a park. In Blanc, Karol saw the old woman, but he smiled at her cruelly. But only in Rouge that Valentine goes to the old woman to help her throw the bottle, emphasizing the principle of fraternity. The ending of the the three movies is also common, in which the main characters are crying and having tears running on their faces.

The soundtracks of the movies are so intriguing. While in Bleu the music is composed with an orchestratic flavor since the main character is a musician and a widow of an applauded composer, in Blanc there's a Tango theme, and a Bulero theme in Rouge. While the Tango dance is based on the male leading the female, this could be decrypted by the finale of Blanc where Karol has finally had his revenge over Dominique and he's now leading a free life, while his ex-wife is arrested.

While each of these movies can be seen on its own without the others and without feeling there's something missing, seeing them all together forms a beautiful image that is considered an artistic masterpiece in the European cinema through its history.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

جزء من واحة الغروب لبهاء طاهر

(على لسان كاثرين)
قرأت كل شيء عن هذه الصحراء و عن سيوة قبل أن نبدأ الرحلة - كل ما جلبته معي من أيرلندا من كتب الرحالة و المؤرخين و كل ما استطعت أن أجده في مكتبات القاهرة. اعتقدت أني لن أكتشف جديدا و لن يدهشني شيء. درست كل المكتوب عن الطريق و عن الآبار و الكثبان و العواصف، لكن الكتب لم تحدثني عن الصحراء الحقيقية. لم أعرف منها كيف تتغير الألوان فوق بحر الرمال عبر ساعات النهار، و لا وجدت فيها كلمة عن تحرك الظلال و هي ترسم سقفا رماديا نحيلا على قمة تل أصفر أو تفتح بوابة داكنة في وسطه، و لم تعلمني كيف تنعكس السحب العالية الصغيرة فوق الكثبان أسرابا مسرعة من طيور رمادية، و لم تتحدث عن الفجر، بالذات الفجر، و هو يتحول من خيط رقيق أبيض في الأفق إلى شفق أحمر يزيح الظلمة ببطء إلى أن يتوهج الرمل بحرا ذهبيا مع أول شعاع للشمس و ساعتها تنفذ إلى أنفي رائحة لم أعرفها في حياتي أبدا من اختلاط ندى الفجر بالشمس بالرمل، رائحة شهوانية لا تنفذ الى أنفي وحده بل تتفتح لها مسام جسمي كله فأكاد لولا الخجل، لولا أصوات رجال القافلة الذين استيقظوا خارج الخيمة، أن أمسك بيد محمود و أقول تعال هنا بسرعة! فوق هذا الرمل المبتل

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Crusades through Arab Eyes

I read this book and I joined its book discussion. I then wrote this book review and it was published in issue #5 of The Art Review (December 2006). It is a really enjoyable historical treat.. especially that it is written by Amin Maalouf, who is in my humble opinion one of the most talented writers in our contemporary times.


The Crusades through Arab Eyes

Amin Maalouf, winner of France's Prix Goncourt in 1993, is very well known for his captivating and spellbinding portrayal of history and fiction, with no lack of historical accuracy. Samarkand and Leo the African are two books written by him that have gained a lot of readership and enjoyed sound reputation.

The Crusades through Arab Eyes starts with the first Crusade in 1096 – when most of the Islamic empire was under the Seljuks ruling – and ends in 1291 when the Franj (Occidentals) finally left the region. During these two centuries, a lot of goings-on and episodes have taken place, and they have shaped the psyches of the people living in this region till this very day.

We cannot talk about the Crusades without focusing on religion. While the Crusades were endorsed by the Church in the territories of the Franj, how the Franj actually behaved when they captured many cities had nothing to do with Christian teachings. The book mentions the many instances when the Franj captured a city, and how they plundered it and massacred the local population, regardless of whether the victims were women, old men or children. Frankish armies captured Arab soldiers and beheaded them, despite the fact that their actions violated many of the treaties and truces they signed with the Arabs. Incidents of cannibalism had also taken place. On the contrary, when Arabs captured soldiers and citizens, they did not harm them, and they even set them free in return for collecting a ransom from the Franj (an act that was very common at the time), just like Salah el-Din did when he reconquered Jerusalem. He even set many of them free without requesting a ransom when he was requested by the Franj to do so; an act of generosity, which bestowed respect on Salah el-Din among the Franj as being a man of honor.

In another scene, religious freedom had been unconditionally enjoyed by the Arab Christians and Jews during Muslim rule, while, as Maalouf mentions, Muslims did not enjoy the same freedom during the Franj occupation. In fact, it was common for a Franj to attack a praying Muslim by turning him towards the east, away from Mecca – an incident that was recorded by the Arab chronicler and emir Usamah Ibn Munqidh as it happened to him inside al-Aqsa mosque. Even Arab Christians were not spared the wrath of the Franj.

The book doesn’t only touch on the Islamic-Christian conflicts, but it also acknowledges the internal conflicts among the Muslims, such as the Sunni and Shi’ite conflict. While the Muslim emirs and leaders at the time were resisting the Franj, the Assassins – Hashshasheen – (a sect of Ismailia Shi’a) considered this a danger since it could strengthen the Sunnis, which would subject them to mounting Sunni persecution. In many incidents the Assassins assisted the Franj against the Seljuks.

This book is a masterpiece that should be read and considered carefully as it holds within its folds a great amount of historical knowledge that is skillfully written and presented, and which imprints and lessons resemble, and transcend to, the current times.

Baudelaire & the power of words

A few days ago I watched some bits of an interview with Farouk Gouida - a very well known Egyptian poet - on Al-3aashera Masa'an (العاشرة مساءا). He was a close friend to Muhammad Abdel-Wahab, the late legend who is a cornerstone in the Egyptian music-making. In the interview, Farouk mentioned a discussion that went on between himself and Abdel-Wahab when they were debating which form of art is the most expansive and most difficult to master. Abdel-Wahab believed the form of art that fulfills this criteria is poetry, since it can include most of other forms such as music, painting ...etc.

Early this morning I was reading an interview with the novelist-dentist Dr. Alaa Al-Aswany in an old issue of The Art Review (issue #3). When asked about the people who influenced his writing style, Alaa mentioned many old and contemporary, international and local names of writers. One of the writers he mentioned was Charles Baudelaire, and he described him as: "the one who taught me how to draw a portrait with words rather than using paints and brushes".

I searched for works by Baudelaire in order to see how he wrote descriptions in his poetry. I found many works I liked, but one of them that I thought would be an example of how Alaa described him is the poem called Cats. I included the poem here..

* * *

They are alike, prim scholar and perfervid lover:
When comes the season of decay, they both decide
Upon sweet, husky cats to be the household pride;
Cats choose, like them, to sit, and like them, shudder

Like partisans of carnal dalliance and science,
They search for silence and the shadowings of dread;
Hell well might harness them as horses for the dead,
If it could bend their native proudness in compliance

In reverie they emulate the noble mood
Of giant sphinxes stretched in depths of solitude
Who seem to slumber in a never-ending dream;

Within their fertile loins a sparkling magic lies;
Finer than any sand are dusts of gold that gleam,
Vague starpoints, in the mystic iris of their eyes


Another poem that I liked by Baudelaire is the one called Afternoon Song..

Though your wicked eyebrows call
Your nature into question
(Unangelic's their suggestion,
Witch whose eyes enthrall)

I adore you still
O foolish terrible emotion
Kneeling in devotion
As a priest to his idol will

Your undone braids conceal
Desert, forest scents,
In your exotic countenance
Lie secrets unrevealed

Over your flesh perfume drifts
Like incense 'round a censor,
Tantalizing dispenser
Of evening's ardent gifts

No Philtres could compete
With your potent idleness:
You've mastered the caress
That raises dead me to their feet

Your hips themselves are romanced
By your back and by your breasts:
By your languid dalliance

Now and then, your appetite's
Uncontrolled, unassuaged:
Mysteriously enraged,
You kiss me and you bite

Dark one, I am torn
By your savage ways,
Then, soft as the moon, your gaze
Sees my tortured heart reborn

Beneath your satin shoe,
Beneath your charming silken foot
My greatest joy I put
My genius and destiny, too

You bring my spirit back,
Bringer of the light
Exploding color in the night
Of my Siberia so black

Saturday, January 06, 2007


I wrote this poem back in September 2003..



Longing for a prima donna's untamed hair
Flying over my shoulders and sleeping between my fingertips
Reciting a love poem for how much she loves to be confined in me
Listening to my heartbeats repeating her name

Longing for our long talks
About those faithful, and those not
Difference in accents and pronounce
When we say 'small' or 'boat'

Her name is full of light, guidance, and bravery
For those who lack any
Her logic is unbeatable
When establishing the thoughts of intimacy, love, and faith
Crashing the non-existing laws of each to null

Longing for her fingers mingling with mine in peace
Telling them lovely bedtime stories with happy endings
With my lips kissing her forehead and palms
To narrate my adoration to her presence

Longing for the look in her eyes
To see all the colors that nature has ever exhibited
For the kiss on her lips
When mine and hers promise each other not to be parted

Longing to sing her our song
While having the most beautiful walk of my life
For her way when saying pathetic things like 'good morning'
As if announcing the most important speech in history to free humankind

Longing to dance with her again
And hold her hands like a holy book
Swaying gently left and right
Praying that the moment never passes us

Longing to read Jubran for her ears
Speaking of marriage and its forever-young child named 'happiness'
Of the heavenly wine that God pours
From a man's eyes to a woman's heart

Longing for her chest caressing my back
Her alabaster arms cuddling my neck
With her eyes peeking over my shoulders
Showing me the way ahead

Seven wonders.. seven sins.. seven days
My favourite number keeps flashing everywhere
And today it is reaffirmed

All what's left now is irreplaceable memories,
Gifted treasures helping me discover my own treasure,
And an eight-month picture of the most beautiful angel
That God has ever sent to me

Longing to kill this longing
And be with her again.. and again

September 11, 2003

Thursday, December 28, 2006


Whenever I feel sad, somber, or out of tune.. or whenever I'm in a calm mood, I come home to my room, turn on some dimmed lights.. light up some incense.. play some light music.. and in a few seconds my mind starts thinking of many random and various things..

Sitting in this atmosphere now, I can only think of one thing.. yet my mind has never been such congested and confused..

Monday, December 04, 2006

إلى أمي

أعشق هذه القصيدة التي كتبها الشاعر محمود درويش و غناها الإنسان و الفنان الرائع مارسيل خليفة. لسبب أو لآخر أتذكر هذه الأغنية كثيرا هذه الأيام

أحنُّ إلى خبز أُمي
وقهوة أُمي
ولمسة أُمي
..وتكبرُ فيَّ الطفولةُ
يومًا على صدر يومِ
وأعشَقُ عمرِي لأني
إذا مُتُّ
!أخجل من دمع أُمي

خذيني، إذا عدتُ يومًا
وشاحًا لهُدْبِكْ
وغطّي عظامي بعشب
تعمَّد من طهر كعبك
وشُدّي وثاقي
بخصلة شَعر
بخيطٍ يلوِّح في ذيل ثوبك
عساني أصيرُ إلهًا
إلهًا أصير
!إذا ما لمستُ قرارة قلبك

ضعيني، إذا ما رجعتُ
وقودًا بتنور ناركْ
وحبل غسيل على سطح دارك
لأني فقدتُ الوقوفَ
بدون صلاة نهارك
هَرِمْتُ، فردّي نجوم الطفولة
حتى أُشارك
صغار العصافير
درب الرجوع
لعُش انتظارِك

Saturday, November 25, 2006

separate unrelated moments

I wrote this last January, a few days after the year has started. However, it is a timeless post since these little pleasures will always make me content at any given day...

sipping a nicely brewed coffee with the right proportions of ingredients.. a warm and soft hand holding mine in a cold weather.. a nice short poem that speaks of feminine beauty and passionate love.. meeting people that are so tolerant to others.. a tender song that can make me hum and sway.. a cozy and intimate chat with a friend where we share our weaknesses and fantasies and silly stories.. having some tea with mint in a calm atmosphere after a nice meal.. being tucked in bed and reading a nice book that makes me wonder what surprises will be discovered in the next line.. looking at someone's eyes and discovering thrugh their tender looks how much i mean to them.. getting to know new people and finding we have a lot in common regardless of religion, culture, or the way we were brought up.. having an instant same wavelength with someone whom i meet for the first time.. smelling herbs on my way to hussein.. having a warm chat with someone i love until we discover that a very long time has passed so quickly.. remembering some delightful memories from a previous event or trip.. the moment i get tears in my eyes when i feel God's mercy and forgiveness.. thinking of someone and suddenly finding this person calling or emailing me.. the look in a girl's eye after our lips touching and enjoying a long kiss.. walking in the rain and letting some rain drops touch my skin.. sailing in a feluca in summer, at sunset, with a clear sky, and enjoying the night lights of charming cairo.. doing a favor to someone and finding a look of appreciation in their eyes and a pat on my back.. turning on the radio to find my favorite song playing.. walking into a place and finding strangers' eyes looking at me and smiling as if saying: 'i was waiting for you'...

* * *

i'm so at peace with myself tonight, it's unbelieveable! but at least now i know the influence on me of listening to fairouz while tucked in bed with dimmed lights. if i am sane enough i'd say all the experiences and moments above are my new year's resolutions... for them to repeat again and again. i immensely, wholeheartedly, enjoy each and every thing i mentioned above. i'll call this year a year of quality time and precious moments.