In Calais

A Calais
Emmanuel Carrère, “In Calais”
Adelphi Edizioni

Fiiiiiinally I’ve managed to add a second book to my “read” list this year 2017!! Forty-nine pages of awesomeness I read aloud to my sister while on the beach on Easter Sunday. Forty-nine tiny tiny pages but nonetheless a published book, and one I gave five stars on Goodreads 😉

I had never had anything to do with Carrère before but now I think I might want to stumble into him again, in the future. Smart guy for sure, and I love the way he writes. Would also love to read him in his original French.

So what about the book? Since it doesn’t seem to be available in English (I feel privileged!), here’s a fairly literal translation of what’s written on its cover:

<<What I’m interested in is to be able to write a reportage in the same way I’d write a book>>, states Emmanuel Carrère. Thus, in the “Jungle” of Calais, he doesn’t tell us about the mud, the violence and the misery of the camp, but rather about all that is around it: the anger and frustration of a part of the Calaisians; the compassion and solidarity of another part; the factories and abandoned neighbourhoods; the enormous police apparatus; the mediatic circus; the “tourism of pain”. And he does it in his affable and direct way, with the look, simultaneously clear-headed and sympathetic, of who constantly questions everything – even himself.

I admit it: strictly speaking, this book isn’t about the Middle East. It’s set in France, mostly talks about French people, and is written by a French man. But… but… it does link to migrants and refugees that come from the Middle East, too; and I would highly recommend it a priori 🙂 …plus, it’ll only take less than an hour of your time and you’ll still be able to brag about having read one more book hehehe!!


See book details on Goodreads

Sad for Syria

After five weeks of absence / five weeks at my new job, I was finally 100% sure I would succeed in starting to post on this blog again (at least twice a week for now – to be increased). Yay. Small victories! Hello reader 🙂

However, as per my Mission: unthinkable, Monday is “read and comment MENA news” day and, well, I suppose you know what kind of news came out in the past few days. So I’m afraid I can’t comment but rather just share my utter sadness, once more but somehow more acute than usual, for the innocent people of Syria.

Of course, I still like to try and see the good in the bad – so

Oh, thank goodness to John Oliver’s ability to make us smile on certain topics. At least, I personally appreciate it.

Things can just get better… right?

Asfour by Aida el Ayoubi

It’s #ReviewFriday !!
My Arabic teacher has suggested that I listen to this song by Egyptian singer Aida el Ayoubi:

Aida el Ayoubi (Arabic: عايدة الأيوبي‎‎; born 1964) is an Egyptian singer, songwriter and guitarist. She also has German Kurdish heritage.[1] She graduated from The American University in Cairo in the mid-1980s, and gained fame in the early 1990s in Egypt and the Middle East. Aida el-Ayoubi is a graduate of Deutsche Evangelische Oberschule in Cairo and The American University in Cairo where she majored in Computer Science.

She completed three albums before going into a career hiatus following her first-born. She is well known in Egypt and many other Arab countries for her romantic music and her soft voice. She is best known for her hit song A’ala Baly which appeared on her first album. Aida’s heartfelt lyrics and beautiful, soothing voice were the keys to her success till this day. [Wikipedia]

so there we goooooo 😀

She also pasted the lyrics for me:

عصفور طل من الشباك قالى يا نونو 
خبينى عندك خبينى دخلك يا نونو
قلتله انت من وين قالى من حدود السما
قلتله جاى من وين قالى من بيت الجيران
قلتله خايف من مين قالى من القفص هربان
قلتله ريشاتك وين قالى فرفتها الزمان
عصفور طل من الشباك قالى يا نونو
خبينى عندك خبينى دخلك يا نونو
نزلت ع خده دمعه وجناحاته متكيه
واتهدى بالأرض وقال بدى امشى وما فيه
نزلت على خده دمعه وجناحاته متكيه
واتهدى بالأرض وقال بدى امشى وما فيه
ضميته على قلبى وصار يتوجع على جروحاته
قبل ما يكسر الحبس تكسر صوته وجناحاته
لتله انت من وين قالى من حدود السما
قلتله جاى من وين قالى من بيت الجيران
قلتله خايف من مين قالى القفص هربان
قلتله ريشاتك وين قالى فرفتها الزمان
عصفور طل من الشباك قالى يا نونو
خبينى عندك خبينى دخلك يا نونو
قلتله لا تخاف اتطلع شوف الشمس اللي هتطلع
اتطلع عالغاب وشاف امواج الحريه بتلمع
شاف جوانح عم بتزقزق من خلف ابواب العليه
شاف الغابه عم بتحلق على جوانيح الحريه
قلتله انت من وين قالى من حدود السما
قلتله جاى من وين قالى من بيت الجيران
قلتله خايف من مين قالى من القفص هربان
قلتله ريشاتك وين قالى فرفتها الزمان
عصفور طل من الشباك قالى يا نونو
خبينى عندك خبينى دخلك يا نونو
It’s too late/ I’m too tired and this is a bit too complicated for me to attempt a translation right now, but wow I love this! It’s such a sweet sweet song, hypnotic even!!!! And even without knowing exactly what it says, I can already make some observations:
  1. I think Aida is speaking Egyptian ammiya here, based on certain words
  2. She is also definitely pronouncing words in the Egyptian way, i.e. skipping the initial ق, going hard on ج and softer than I expected on خ
  3. She’s talking to someone called Nunu and mentioning windows, the sky, a house, time, the Earth, tall doors and something that this Nunu has! Yeah!!

I shall work on a proper translation as soon as I have the chance, in between my actual Arabic lessons, correcting my past homework and producing some other new one 😉 Meanwhile, I’m happy to now have Aida el Ayoubi in my YouTube repertoire hehe! Goodnight peopleee

Sporty, Middle-Eastern, women

I’ve never been a big fan of Nike. But yesterday I saw their new ad and I have to admit I just loved it. Sure, they are good at what they do and I shouldn’t be surprised about that – but at the same time this is actually something that could lose them some customers, and that certainly sparked some debate. You’ll understand as you watch.

The phenomenon has, of course, been talked about. Some articles keep it pretty short and neutral (this CNN one for example); some go a little more into detail as per what people’s comments have been on the issue (Huffington Post); TheDrum has the merit of mentioning the full names of a few of the incredible spostswomen featured in the ad; AlArabiyaAlArabiya adds some info to the current Saudi context on the matter;  and an official article on the Nike website gives insight on each of the sportswomen’s lives. Overall, my first Google research on this only produced positive results, with titles that focused on the ‘baldness‘ of this move and on its character of celebration, inclusion and empowerment.

And do you know what the great news is? Even my second Google research, criticism on new Nike ad, gave me some pretty excellent responses. The only negative ones referred to another Nike ad from last summer, with babies, which apparently backfired. As for the rest, keywords include

#millennials #powerful #challenge #stereotypes #daring #statement #success #culturalexpectations #pioneering #overcome #viral #overwhelminglysupportive #controversy #smashstereotypes #defy #trumphate

Real criticism only amounted, article after articles, to two comments made by random internet users- nothing terrible, either, one being clearly a personal opinion and the other a matter-of-fact statement that “this is not how things really are“. Yeah they sure aren’t for all women in the whole Middle East, and that alone, in my opinion, is exactly what makes this ad truly great; because who better than the media can inspire change by portraying what normal people cannot see or even dare to imagine in their daily lives?

Nablus Festival!!

Nablus Festival!!

Maaarhaba friends! Please allow me a little moment of (100% spontaneous) advertisement today: have you heard of the Nablus Festival before?

  • YES –> ok that’s excellent, good stuff
  • NO –> you will now!

Here’s a link to an explanatory video by organiser-in-chief Hakim Sabbah himself; you can also find more info on the Nablus Festival Facebook page or on its website. Then of course I could also just quote myself from my Nablus blog post back in December when I visited. Aaand if you can read Italian, there’s more on Hakim and his brilliant endeavours in my article both on my portfolio and on the website of the magazine I published it with.

Ah, if you’re more of a visual curiosity person, there, look at last year’s leaflet cover:

Image result for nablus festival 2017

and this year’s (I think)

Image result for nablus festival 2017

SO! Yep, no, am not going to tell you what it’s all about but come on, find out for yourself! Give this extraordinary Palestine-based event two minutes of your time and, if you can, think about going – if not to this edition, then to the next.

Go Project Hope, go Hakim, go Nablus!!!!!

So on January 1st I said this… whoops!

It’s surprisingly been two months already since the beginning of the new year and, hey, remember? On January 1st I had said a few things about what I’d do to keep up my Arabic and all things (in my opinion) related. Now- we all know what it’s like with New Year’s Resolutions 😛 So let’s just review those for a second and try to make sure I keep on track:

  • I will do my best to utter and/or write at least one sentence in Arabic every day
    Hmm okay, I’m not doing too bad in this respect; I certainly do say or write something in Arabic most days, be it even just a whispered ‘bismillah’ or a text to a friend –> ✔
  • I will take some time to specifically read MENA news at least once a week
    Well do HRW and UNHCR newsletters count? If yes, … ✔
    but I could definitely make it more of a definite point *taking note on scrap paper*
  • I will actively look for jobs and/or volunteer work that require me to practice my Arabic and/or to be in contact with people from Arabic-speaking countries
    My upcoming job doesn’t need my Arabic, no –> ✘
    but I’m volunteering with Paper Airplanes to tutor a Syrian refugee in English, and on occasion Arabic does come in handy and she teaches me new words!! –> ✔
  • I will keep writing here i.e. push myself to find something mildly interesting to post every day on the topics I have set myself to focus on
    Yep! Finding it hard to stick to the daily schedule and -I know you must’ve noticed- I often just write three or four posts on one day to make up for lost ones, but I am more or less keeping this resolution going 🙂 –> ✔
  • I will study the Qur’an, page after page, at least twice a month and reach out to Muslim friends and other (trusted) sources to try and clarify whatever I may be puzzled about
    I have most certainly not done this, no; I think part of me just doesn’t know how to go on about it, actually, as I don’t even know my own religion that well and have many questions unanswered on that topic – so mayyyybe it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to be exploring something else before I’ve figured out step 1, don’t know. We’ll see but for now it’s definitely a –> ✘
  • I will learn more about refugee health, especially mental health
    A big X for this one too, but it’s also because contrary to expectations I haven’t found a job that has to do with refugees, so… hmmm big decisions to be taken soon –> ✘
  • I will try and cook some Middle-Eastern dishes and discover where in the city of Torino I can find the best falafels, shawarma etc!!
    Not done this and want to!! In my defense, my new place only got a dinner table two days ago and so far I had no reason to go and eat out – but yesss from this month on I shall abide to this self-suggestion! 🙂 –> ✘

TOTAL: 4✘ + 4✔

I suppose I just about pass the term 😉
Next report card at the end of April!

Where to study Arabic next?

Alright, alright- I haven’t even started my new job yet and I’m already thinking about my next big(gish) holiday. Soooo unprofessional. But it’s just because I can’t wait to be able to be in intensive Arabic school again!!!

Besides, I’m really just dreaming for now, as I certainly won’t be able to take said holiday before at least December this year. The nature of my new job doesn’t go well with long summer breaks so in the foreseeable future my main vacation time will have to be between October and May, and besides that, of course, I first need to work enough to actually deserve days off haha!

But. I do love to plan early, or to pretend I’m planning anyway; to create a wishlist of sorts. Here’s my current go-to list of next Arabic-speaking destinations… please do shoot further ideas and motivate them if you have anything else in mind!!

3. Morocco – not higher on the list just because the dialect there is super different from the Arabic I’m used to so far, and I feel that I should first get stronger in Fussha and Levantine Ammiya before I go get confused with different words and accents. But I had taken Morocco in consideration last year already, as an alternative to Jordan, and I’m still hot for it 😉Image result for morocco

2. Lebanon – perhaps not the safest place right now, though surely not the most dangerous either; veeery well renowned for its buzz & beauty. A must-see for me, just not too soon also because I don’t want to risk comparing it to Jordan too much, it being a neighbour and stuff. I can’t explain it well but it wouldn’t feel fair. My heart is and will always  be with Jordan because it initiated me to a whole new world (go Aladdin! 😉 ) – you never forget your first love, right? Image result for lebanon

1. EGYPT! It’s a no-brainer: I have connections there including my current Arabic teacher, it’s the link between ME and NA, and drama heroes Maha & Khaled from my Arabic books are from there!!! Hahaha. No, but seriously- I was also invited to a wedding in Egypt in 2011 and couldn’t go, so the country’s been waiting for me for long enough already. Image result for egypt

Let me start looking up schools… 😉 😀