Come see me at the Fringe!

It’s official. I am appearing at 16.15, 6 – 16 August at Opium Bar on the Cowgate.

Excited to share the stories of people and place from three countries I have lived in and loved.

You can see a link to some of the show here, published by the Glasgow Review of Books.

Look forward to seeing you there.

small version final poster

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Powerful video … from justice to disappearance in Egypt

I lived in Egypt in 2012 and I remember it as a place of hope and change. It was one year after the revolution and while there were large protests and unrest, there was also a sense of dreams being possible, of individuals coming together being able to make a change in their country and their community. There was art everywhere, creativity everywhere and a strong sense of commitment to justice amongst many people that I met. People committing to justice not only in words, but through actions – be in through business or protests these people were living justice and a fairer country in their day to day lives.

I remember interviewing an Egyptian activist for the first time and being so surprised at how beautiful his ideals were. Perhaps I was naive about what justified activism, or perhaps he was naive about what could be achieved in this world, but either way I remember mostly being impressed at how beautiful his words were; how much he believed in those bohemian, idealist words like truth, justice and hope and how he was, even on the day we spoke, putting his life on the line to defend them through street battles with SCAF.

This powerful video highlights how much things have changed in Egypt since the military took back power in 2013. Those activists who believed in truth are now being tortured and disappeared. When I remember the hope that grew so quickly after the revolution, when I think of the Egypt of 2012 I feel so sad to think that the Egypt of 2016 no one is able to defend those ideals; that they are disappeared not even for speaking out, but for seeming like they might.

Messages from the Top of Egypt, 2012

Top of Mount SinaiIn Sinai, the revolution seemed so distant, compared to the permanence of the mountains. As I walk up Mount Sinai, I keep thinking, Moses climbed this same peak. Moses looked out over the same view.

Men sit near the top of the hill, drinking and selling coca cola. There is a mosque and a church balancing carefully on each side of the summit. Neglected tourist stands cluster below. With reports of kidnapping, few tourists are making the journey here.

It seems more than a mere journey. The long bus from Cairo, the climb up the dusty path. In the mountains I travel away from my comforts, away from my distractions, away from the bustle of Cairo which has jostled me for the past eight months, where I have been fighting to make something of myself. The mountains make the media noise, the opposing opinions, the legal disputes, the urgent demands, the political arguments, the twitter updates, the waving flags, everything about the unrest seem so insignificant.

“They are impermanent questions,” say the mountains.

Do not worry about years, do not worry about days.

The mountains say, “Everything continues. Sit, wait, stay.”

The mountains say, “Look. Moses saw this sky.”

So I stop, and for the first time in a long time. I forget news reports and having an opinion. I forget about what I want. Instead, I look out across the mountain tops. Instead, I listen to silence.

Poem: Ribbons of Song

Although, there is the fading moon,
although there are new waves,
there is one man,
who will not watch the sky.
One man who sees the morning
inside his own heart.
Meets the day, travelling.

Fishermen in Alexandria, Egypt

A fisherman shake free hopes,
a boat motor plays a barrel drum,
hours fall into the bay,
one shard of locusts begins to sing.
Soon there are ribbons of them calling,
ribbons and ribbons of song.

Story: The Secrets of the White Desert

 “You must watch the night,” says the guide. It is all that there is left to see when we arrive. The day slips, dragging along the edge of the white rocks. We listen to Bedouin drums and make a cold camp under the many stars. See the dark masses of tall rocks, the bright eyes of a fox, imagine what layers and layers of sand could look like.

It is not until morning that we really see the desert: a lady in a light summer nightdress. The wind is fresh and clear, blowing lighting through her cotton. The tall rocks, sculptures of dancers, shaped by the wind.

Desert

Something unfurled, as we sleep. Each one of us awkwardly admit to discovering something. We try to remember, exactly the words of it, but whatever it was, escapes again, like a dream just gone. Holding on, does nothing to help. We grasp handfuls of sand, again and again, let it seep through our fingers.

The guide makes us scream, marking the sand with the wheels of the jeep, driving up steep dunes, driving down, we are all laughing. The desert picks up the lines we leave, reforming with us, around us. It lets our footprints lie for now. The next strong wind will carry them. The desert including us and excluding us in its way.

Lucky Dip: Ahmed Taha Egyptian Poems

This is a new regular post – a lucky dip into art, poetry, blogs to share some of my favourites.

The first Lucky Dip features Ahmed Taha, an Egyptian poet. The excerpts are from his collection The Empire of Walls (cantos and stories). You can also read more of his work online at Jacket Magazine, translations are by Maged Zaher.

The first excerpt is from a poem called the Portrait of Anwar Kamel. I find the image of the character of Anwar Kamel very compelling:

“How do you forget that you’re the one
who started departing
then invented your face
that we see so enigmatic
and the fingers that take refuge
in your eyes
whenever you hide
behind a stone table
or a silk coat”

The second excerpt is from a poem called:  The Wall of Dream. A comment on the other ways revolution can take place, by challenging social rules, an interesting comment for an Egypt is in full political revolt, without challenging its social standards or hierarchy.

“Just remember
before you start your daily path
that sex is not the only road
to revolution
however, it is the shortest one
and that women’s thighs are not the appropriate trenches
for class struggle.”