Novels and fresh cucumbers

Not all who wander are lost

I park my car on the number three slot.  It is a muggy night in Beirut. I have had to drive against traffic twice to get here, obeying the delusional Waze which dutifully gets me to this alley, somehow avoiding the much-dreaded traffic.

I get my bags out of the rental. The Airbnb host is supposed to meet me in the open air parking, in front of slot three. I stand there, not sure of what to do next. Crickets. My phone rings, playing my beloved GOT ringtone. “Hi, it’s the friend of the host. He said that he went out for a quick chore. He will be here soon”.

Ah, the magic word ‘soon’. It could mean anything between fifteen minutes to three months in Beirut. Time obeys no rules in Lebanon. It is mostly a metaphysical construct. Operating on a separate parallel axis, like Hogwarts if you will.

As my doubts about my host ever showing up start taking over after thirty seconds of waiting, egged on by memories of years of frustration with the Beirut time warp, Fayez shows up. Smiley, giggling even, and announces; “Damn, I have the wrong key.”

“Excellent!” is all I could manage.

Zoom, he disappears again.

Bam! He’s back before I could think of any swear words to silently launch in his general direction.

He opens the gate to the little Airbnb with the tiny garden and the fairy lights in front. He tries to open the front door. He squeals with delight. “Ha, it’s already open!”  *Facepalm* was my eloquent answer.

We go in. “Electricity is now Dawleh. Government. When the electricity goes off, the generator will kick in.  It’s all automatic. You don’t need to do anything. If you use the AC and the other lights and try to heat water. It will click. Then you need to flick this switch. Okay?” *Sighs*

There’s a gas stove. “How do I light it?” was my seemingly impertinent question.  “With a lighter”, was the logical answer.

” I see no lighter anywhere”.

“Damn!” he says.

“Let’s go get one. This way you’ll know where the dekkeneh (corner store) is”. “Cool, let me grab my wallet. I need a few things for breakfast.”

We go to the corner store. An amused guy with a beard sits on a chair. “May I have a lighter?” My host starts ordering the rest of what he imagines I would want, he gets the cheese, bread, labneh, Arabic ground coffee (he only gives me the right to choose with or without cardamom), then we get honey, and half a dozen eggs. To watch this scene in the store with all the jokes and laughter, you’d think we were lifelong friends. We ask for salt. The guy brings out a two pound bag. My host says: “No, leave it. I’ll get you some salt from home.”

I pay. As we’re leaving, I ask the bearded shopkeeper. “Any cucumbers?”

“Try the vegetable store on the next corner. It might still be open” he says with lukewarm confidence.

Fayez energetically leads the way, carrying all my groceries, and entrusting me with the fragile eggs that I try to hold steady with all the laughter when he asks me NOT to comment or praise him for doing my shopping for me on the airbnb site. “There’s no way I’m doing this for every guest. Don’t tell them.” I am now sworn to secrecy (no promises about my blog though).

We go back to the flat. He says that I have a next door neighbor who’s staying for a week. We run into her as we go in. She’s a writer who’s half Syrian and half Dutch, lived all her life in London, and has just written a novel about a Syrian girl living in Damascus in the 70s. She asked whether I would be interested in attending the book launch in a couple of days. I asked about the details, and it turns out that the launch will consist of her reading passages of her book while her Greek friend sang (or did she say wail) passages in Greek, while projecting paintings by the same singer on the walls.  All the while, my Airbnb host is carrying all my groceries, having added fresh green cucumbers and pears to the mix, and muttering about getting me some salt from his home, and a new frying pan as the one in the cupboard is judged to be subpar, especially for such nice eggs.

Meanwhile, the writer and I discover we have a few friends in common. We casually talk about Trump, as one does. We promise to have cardamom-less coffee the next morning, and she hurries back to her flat as it seems that the Greek singer is getting hungry and needs to be fed, implying that said lady was kind of mad and she didn’t want to risk her going off.

So that’s a Beirut minute for you. Absolutely random, and kind of nuts. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And yeah, it seems I’m finally writing again. Just like that.


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Shoulisms's Blog


I used to heave
To my temptations
Ready to leave
For flesh is weakest

Thirst and Frustration

Leaving my peace
Forgetting my truth
For a release
The hazards of youth

Ever Seeking elation

And then Time after time
My detours deterred me
Till I saw the decline
And what lay before me

I saw what was not yet there
Saw my own rise and demise
Kingdom awaiting her wandering heir
Following shadows in disguise

Seeds of deception sown wide and afar
Ties of lies sewn at the seams of this war
The war that hasn’t ceased a day from the beginning of time
The ageless battle between light and night

We are all covered by the darkness of night
We are all illuminated by the Sun’s light

Sacrifice like the sun,
become your own star
burning itself
To sustain those close and far

Everything under the sun is bright except…

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It’s been long…

“It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.”

― John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent


“Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell.”

― Edna St. Vincent Millay



That is the main reason I haven’t written for many months. The grief that follows a sudden loss is a darkness that seeps through a person like a drop of ink in a glass of water. Purposefully. Yet in slow motion. Like fog on a September afternoon in one of Lebanon’s mountain villages. It comes in soft waves, much like the pain that follows losing a loved one. My loved one was a someone I spent my life loving, adoring, protecting, being the butt of his jokes, the target of his constant teasing…my baby brother.

As beautiful a soul as I have ever known. Very much an eternal baby. Prone to laughing at anything and everything. Smiling even in his pain. A light seemed to shine from his face that even his rare haters were compelled to smile when they saw the mischievous grin on his green eyes that echoed his lips in spreading joy wherever he went.

A professional practical joker, I used to call him.  He elevated making fun of any situation to an art. I remember his friends were afraid to leave their phones unattended anywhere near him during the early Nokia days. The first thing he would do was to masterfully change their phone’s language to a choice of Chinese, Turkish, Korean, Amharic, etc…forever seen chuckling when his jokes were eventually discovered and his friends started begging him to change the phone back to a language they could understand.

His laughter was contagious like an out of control epidemic. No one was immune to it.

I remember when he was born. We were living in Byblos, I was the oldest child, I hadn’t turned eight yet when they brought him home from the hospital in a yellow baby carrier. I still remember my curiosity as my younger sister and I ran to the front door to see the brand new creature that was being ushered into our lives. He was shiny. That is the first thought I had when I saw him, a beautiful baby boy, his hair had blond fuzz and he moved his tiny head to watch us with his flaming green eyes. It was love and devotion at first sight. He was the jolliest of babies. He was mostly peaceful and a good eater. Yet he was accident prone and had his ample share of misfortune. He was pushed off a low-lying window by my older brother and dislocated his shoulder at age 3, he was pushed by the same older brother into a vipers’ nest and had his whole face and upper body bitten viciously and landed in the hospital at age 5.  He broke his arm, also falling while playing with the older brother on a ladder. I know you are thinking that there’s a pattern here, but I blame it on the way boys play.  Our George never lost his sense of humor no matter how in pain he was or what misfortune had befallen him.


I was in Dubai seeing his wife off at the airport when I last laid eyes on him. He and his wife and two young children were moving back to Lebanon and he promised that he would meet me at the movies to see ‘Interstellar’ in 4D. I bought the tickets. He was delayed and never showed up. I never saw him again. At least not alive.

I got the call one fateful morning in December-a week before Christmas. I was woken by the phone. It was my other brother. “George had an accident.”

“How bad?”

“Bad.”…”He’s gone!”

“Be quiet! Which hospital is he in? Who’s operating on him? Where did it happen?”

“You don’t understand. His car went under a truck. He’s gone.”


Not a word.

Not a breath.

“Hello, hello… ”

I dropped the screaming phone on the bed and froze.

Everything after that was a mix of slow motion, then fast forward, then numbness, then a sense of doom firmly Velcro-ed around my chest. A tightening corset of anguish. A lot has happened since then. Some good, many bad, and lately very bad.

Almost 16 months later, I am finally able to write. I wanted to write as he liked how I wrote. He always called me wherever I was to ask me about a letter he was drafting, I would be in Geneva and he would be in Houston and out of the blue, the voice on the other line would say that he’s calling from the Pentagon, State Department, Homeland Security, or whatever his practical joking self invented, I would be fooled for a few minutes, then we would laugh, and then he’d ask me to help him write something. We had a very special relationship of big sister that blindly accommodates the wishes of her little brother, her being the one who will protect him at all cost, forgiving any and all mistakes. And practical jokes, of course.

What is strange is this feeling I often have that he is there. Somewhere. I can feel his soul and it fills me with peace. I sometimes talk to him silently, feeling that he will be listening, not judging, smiling. Whenever I am in pain, and for a while now I have been, I seek him out and I wordlessly tell him what’s aching me. He is there. Always there. Like a phantom limb. He is the amputated part of me that was viciously severed from my life never to be replaced. No prosthetic will be needed nor requested. He is irreplaceable. No one is George. The dull pain of grief is always there in the deep folds of my mind. It comes slyly lapping at my heart like gentle waves on our beach in the North of Lebanon where I taught him how to swim. Pain never really stops for long, but it gets easier as time goes by. It gets easier every time I see his family and I know I will be devoted to them for as long as I live. They are him, and he is them.

The rough time I have been having lately has reminded me so much of him and my loss and has persistently compelled me to finally face my screen and write my long-neglected blogpost. It had to be about my George. It just had to.

A tough and excruciating torment we humans have to endure with that one fact of life.



Posted in Dubai, Family, Human Relationships, Kids, Lebanon, love, music, Philosophy, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

ISS vs ISIS ~ Worlds away

space shot 2 space shot 1

Ancient Palmyra is threatened with destruction by ISIS

Ancient Palmyra is threatened with destruction by ISIS

The acronyms of ISS and ISIS get mixed up and interchanged in my mind when I am reading my newsfeed on Twitter. The two sets of letters are so similar yet what they represent can’t be more different.

I was just struck by a beautiful set of tweets from astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) that showed what thunderstorms looked like from space. It was a beautiful visual display of our wondrous planet and its beauty that can be seen from up above, day or night.

I was once opposed to the uneven spending that readily goes to space programs by several governments when compared to meager humanitarian spending that was direly needed here on Earth.  I was naive in thinking that less spending on research and development and exploration of space would automatically mean more spending on humanitarian and development programs in our world.  That may not be true at all, it is far from being a U tube phenomenon.

Then I watch with dread the advance of the expanding dark cloud from the depths of hell called ISIS in our Middle East region. I can’t help but note the stark difference with ISS in what it stands for and signifies, in beliefs and practices. I am however thankful for ISS and the funding that went into making it a demonstration of what we as a human race can accomplish together. Then I see an opposing ugly reality of how that same human race can be when we observe ISIS and its atrocities on a daily basis.

A group of Astronauts and researchers from several nations, some of whom were previously warring, cooperate and work together for the advancement of human knowledge and science.

Meanwhile…down below in the deserts of our Arab land that historically gave the world so much in terms of science, mathematics, astronomy, literature and medicine, a group of intolerant ignorant thugs are doing away with a proud heritage and history of accomplishments in the name of nothing but intolerance, thirst for power and rejection of the other. The group up above is researching and studying in a space lab to own the future, the group down below is killing, pillaging and maiming to recreate the worst part of a distant past.

I can’t help but be frustrated by the comparison and what it means for the region’s populations, especially the younger generation in the Middle East.  Then in the midst of the darkening reality a bright light shines, illuminating the darkness. I read about the space exploration plans by the UAE, the plans for a Mars explorer aptly called ‘Hope’, and the world and our prospects as a region slowly become more promising and forward-looking. A few Arab nations’ investment in education, science, renewable energy, scientific research start coming slowly into focus and dwarfing the disturbing vile ISIS movement that is hopefully going to be self-destructive and rejected by a populace longing for a better future.

To the residents of a region where the skies are clear most of the year, where our star-studded skies dazzle our eyes every evening, I say ‘Look UP!’. And wave, one of our scientists might join ISS soon. And she or he might be waving back when overflying our lands.

Just look up.

ISSLogo-hires Earth-Space-astronauts-ISS

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A morning rushing to night

A Lebanese morning rushed into its final night.

Brigitte's Blog

An Homage to a Lebanese Icon we just lost…

Her name is ‘Sabah’. Morning. When I hear her name I remember a river, my dad with his then black mustaches, ducks floating idly by waiting for us kids to throw peanuts at them, small hotdogs, tabbouleh-our ageless Lebanese parsley-based salad. I remember trees, green lush poplar trees with thick trunks that must still have our carved initials. I also know it’s a Sunday. We always went to Kfarhelda in the hills of North Lebanon on Sundays. To a restaurant by a river. We travelled in several cars, coming from many directions, we met there. I loved how the summer Sunday trips were the highlight of our lives as kids. Lebanon was innocent then, or so it seemed. Sunday outings with family and friends and their kids. Swings, we were always fighting over the swings to push each other so hard…

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Urgent message to Arabs: Invest in education and scientific research

Increasingly radicalized youth in Tripoli's Bab el Tebbaneh

Increasingly radicalized youth in Tripoli’s Bab el Tebbaneh

Image credit:

Al Khawarizmi, the inventor of Algebra, from Arabic Al Jabr.

Al Khawarizmi, the inventor of Algebra, from Arabic Al Jabr.

Image credit:

I was looking for this article published by Hassan Hassan in Abu Dhabi’s English newspaper ‘The National’ in 2012 and have just found it again.  Hassan’s article is a response to a similar one published in The New Atlantis chronicling the decline of Muslim scientific thought after their enlightenment age, especially during the Caliphate era, or what Hassan calls: “Golden Age of Arabic science (800-1100)”.  It often frustrates me that a region that gave the world so much in the early sciences, maths, astronomy and medicine would now be struggling with a lack of meaningful scientific research and development or as the New Atlantis article puts it,

..roughly 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, but only two scientists from Muslim countries have won Nobel Prizes in science (one for physics in 1979, the other for chemistry in 1999). Forty-six Muslim countries combined contribute just 1 percent of the world’s scientific literature; Spain and India each contribute more of the world’s scientific literature than those countries taken together. In fact, although Spain is hardly an intellectual superpower, it translates more books in a single year than the entire Arab world has in the past thousand years. “Though there are talented scientists of Muslim origin working productively in the West,” Nobel laureate physicist Steven Weinberg has observed, “for forty years I have not seen a single paper by a physicist or astronomer working in a Muslim country that was worth reading.”

If the historical account is juxtaposed with the current situation of the rise of the brutal so-called  Islamic State, the intolerance, increase in poverty and displacement, added to that a noted under-development in the region, then the significance of the decline in scientific research and excellence in education can be seen with a different lens. Now it can be seen as adversely affecting a whole region and compromising millions of young people’s future.

The majority of citizens of this region, the birthplace of Islam,  are below the age of 30. A large group of them are uneducated, they struggle to compete for jobs internationally and are falling prey to religious-based recruitment and radicalization.  The poor are the most vulnerable prey. A case in point is the recruitment by ISIS of young men from Tripoli, a sleepy city in North Lebanon that has been at the receiving end of deliberate marginalization, shortage of development funding by successive governments and no meaningful schemes that would offer a glimmer of hope to its disgruntled desperate youth.

To counter the phenomenon of radicalization as an escape from the nightmare of desperate abject poverty and hopeless existence, there can be nothing but education, sustainable development and job creation. Countries in the Gulf are leading the way in investing in their citizen’s education, creating jobs, educating women and elevating them to positions of responsibility and policy making. The UAE’s Masdar initiative is a leading example for investment in innovation and research for sustainable energy resources, the country is also hosting IRENA, an international agency which concentrates on renewable energy. Universities with research facilities, albeit not enough funding yet, are sprouting in the GCC region, so is the advancement of scientific research in Qatar. The region needs more, much much more investment in research and development, not only in the Gulf countries, but in the Arab world as a whole. Turning the tide of the scientific decline in the Muslim world is not impossible, it is challenging, but nothing is impossible if there is the political vision and the will to make it happen.

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Conversations in the car

The best time to connect with your children is usually around the dinner table. They tell you about their day, you lock eyes, you eat, they talk some more, and it’s all nice and pleasant. Conversational even.  For amateurs!!  You want to hear the real deal about your kids – short of hacking their social media accounts – you do that by driving them places.  The car has become the confessional of our modern times.  They come into the car alone or with their friends, they acknowledge you at first, then as if you throw on Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak, they forget you are there. You become the driver, and too much is eventually shared in the confines of the moving vehicle. 

A disclaimer: Kids, you would think that there must be an agreed pact somewhere roughly stating that ‘what is said in the car stays in the car’ but you must expect that said pact is voided when your mom blogs. And has been ignoring her blog for so long so she needs material. And you’re it. Suck it up.

Here goes. Today’s victim is Monya (nothing personal, I just spend more time with her now that the older two are away).

[In Car. Daytime. Dubai.]

So, how was school today?

I have a new friend.

Really? Who?

His name is Tim.

Is he new to the school?

Yeah, he just came to Dubai. He is from Rwanda. Wait, maybe Burundi. No, I think it’s Rwanda. It’s where they have Horizon.

It’s where they have what?

Oh, my friend Tim is so smart. He uses fancy words to talk. He told me that in his country, Rwanda. they have a horizon. 

No way. And what exactly is a horizon?

It’s a place where the sun sets and it’s beautiful.

Awesome. And he said they only have that in Rwanda?

Yeah. I would love to go see it.

(Turn your head sideways, Dubai is full of horizon, I thought, but didn’t want to burst her bubble. I wonder if they have noon and gravity in Rwanda.)

Cut to…

[Car. Sunset. Dubai. Beach Road]

How was your day in school?

I love Jamie.

Um, okay. That was from the left field. Which Jamie? The same Jamie of last year who didn’t come to your birthday and threw your card in the bin Jamie? The boy who wears the same blue cardigan every single day of the year Jamie?

Mom, you don’t understand. I don’t love him because he is smart. I love him because he is beautiful. (She is so objectifying poor Jamie)

Oh, that makes it all better, I guess. (dripping with sarcasm)

(Dreamily): I just am, in love, a girl in love. With Jamie. All I can think of is Jamie. I keep staring at him, all through recess that sometimes he turns and gets upset. But today he said: Hi Monya. I loved it so much when he said hi. (long sigh, I swear)

You mean you stare at that boy all through recess? It’s so weird. Don’t you play?

I follow him around when he plays and I just look at him. He is so beautiful. I want to marry him when we get bigger. He is the boy for me.

But you haven’t met that many boys. There might be more good looking boys in the world. And smart ones too.

You don’t understand, Mom. He is the one for me.

I couldn’t help but search for the horizon and think of Rwanda.


Monya self portrait


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Breakfast in bed

My youngest will be having an early birthday party today. Her actual birthday falls on a school day this year. She is turning 8.  She is having a friend sleepover, she’s all excited about the cake and the friends coming, last night she and her friend Christine didn’t sleep till 11 pm.  I promised her that like every year, she will have breakfast in bed this morning. That news made her more excited, if that is even possible.

I was preparing for the party till late last night and finally went to bed at 1.45 am.  I was in an exhausted REM place when I got woken up by a very excitable Monya, dragging her dazed-eyed friend and the dog to my room and announcing: “I’M READY FOR BREAKFAST IN BED!!!”. I attempted to get out of bed when I noticed that it was still dark outside. I checked my phone, it was 2.15 am.  I was tongue-tied for a second, then gained my voice and asked the jumping bean of a kid to take her friend back to her room and go to sleep, as it was not morning yet.  Disappointment on her face, she shuffled out with her sorry entourage in tow.





5 something. “….MOM!! WAKE UP!!!”

“NO, NOT YET. BACK TO BED.” I felt bad for her friend, rubbing her eyes and looking all dazed. The dog was so happy with the hoopla in the middle of the night, expecting some food to be dropped by the sleepy agitated people around him.”

6ish. “MOM!! ….FAST … BED” drowned by the early morning Azan call to prayer from the nearby mosque.  I thought I was having an embolism. What the heck was the emergency number for Dubai? I need to dial it before I pass out! I fumble for my phone. Twix, the demented dog is looking at me, then barking to add to the cacophony of sounds all around.  I start harbouring homicidal thoughts featuring a canine.

Monya: “Okay, I will be back at 7”.

The delegation leaves. I have what felt like five minutes of peace when the shouts of Bed and breakfast echoed again at 7.

I now know what it must feel to be sucked into a Dennis the Menace comic and being the hapless mom on these black and white pages.

Now both my eyes are twitching uncontrollably. Excuse me while I go stock up on headache tablets.

Yeah, and Happy friggin’ Valentine’s Day.

photo-2 photo-4

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Why #Dubai?

Dubai, the largest city in the UAE, will be hosting World Expo 2020.

I was rooting for Dubai since the campaign started.

Why Dubai, you ask.

Short answer: ‘Why not?’

Longer answer: keep reading…

New York is the city that gives me a similar vibe as Dubai. How? It is fearless, cosmopolitan, daring, welcoming, a beacon for its surroundings, a dream factory, a refuge, a ‘Can Do’ type of place, where anything can happen.  And much does happen in both cities. Dubai now is what New York must have been like after the Great Depression. Waking up after the economic blow, it rose up, dusted itself up, and grew stronger than ever.  A lot of parallels are drawn in my mind between that magnificent noisy jewel of the West and this dusty stubborn Phoenix-like one of the East.  They are courageous, ‘saddle up anyway’ kind of survivors.

Now let me tell you why Dubai is a perfect city to host a world expo. Here one might argue that in the 21st Century the internet melted the geographical and communication divides that necessitated holding a world expo in the first place way back when, still, for us in the region, and for the world at large, this 2020 world expo bears a lot of moral, ideological and psychological significance.

Let’s get the geography, logistics and infrastructure argument out of the way. It has been explained ad nauseam by the organizers and by so many others supporting the bid because it just makes sense on so many levels.  The vast region of the Middle East, Africa and South Asia where Dubai is centered has never hosted an expo. Like ever. Infrastructure here is perfect for such an event. Five airports, hotels galore, state of the art facilities, connectivity, world class everything. That was argued and is well understood I hope by the countries voting.

What I would like to stress is the other, more nuanced, quite subtle undercurrent of the non-physical reasons that make this city the most natural place at this juncture to welcome a world afraid and weary of a region it does not understand. A misunderstood region and religion I may add.

Islamophobia post 9/11 is rampant in the World. Read the news. In Dubai, however, the world finds a real-life demonstration of what makes Islam, the true moderate Islam, a peaceful religion. It exemplifies what tolerance and acceptance of the other are in practice. This is an Arab Muslim country of the 21st Century. Come visit the UAE during Christmas time. You will see what we mean by coexistence in peace and harmony when Christmas carols are paused in the decorated shopping malls out of respect for the call for Muslim prayer, then festive tunes are resumed while shoppers of every background and ethnicity are free to worship any deity they revere.  This place is home to almost every religion, faith, creed and ethnicity, it is designed as a safe haven for residents and visitors who come to this land to make a living and end up making a life. A good peaceful life.  The World needs to see that.

Nothing is impossible.  This place has leaders and citizens who have embraced modernity, technology, advancements in every field and looked towards the future with a clear hope-filled vision  and a positive attitude while at the same time being anchored in traditions cherished as a source of pride and attachment to their desert roots.  Sky scrapers, malls, technological feats, superbly executed infrastructure, palm islands, super airports, are just examples of what a sleepy fishing village only a few decades ago could accomplish because of an outlook that is both courageous and forward looking. This is an Arab city that most Arab cities are emulating, or striving to emulate. The World needs to see that.

The opportunity that this country and this city have provided to millions that have come here in search of a better life.  They have found it.  Stories of Indian, Pakistani, Iranian, Philippino, Lebanese, Jordanian, Palestinian and many others, professionals, entrepreneurs, business leaders that came here with nothing but a bagful of dreams and determination and ended up on top of their game, having Dubai to thank for giving them a chance to succeed and build business empires. The World needs to see that.

Migrant workers who come here in the millions, whose own countries are not developed enough or not safe enough for them to make a good-enough living, come and work and live in a city that is housing so many nationalities that it has become the microcosm of our world. Little India, little Pakistan, little Philippines have sprouted in and around the city, that by going to these streets it is as if you traveled to these countries and experienced their sounds, smells and tastes. They are all here in Dubai. Coexisting, working, making a future.  The World needs to see that.

In Lebanese circles in Dubai, they joke that if Lebanon had Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid – the Ruler of Dubai – for a year, its problems would be solved. Some argue that a month would do. The Ruler of Dubai, like the other Maktoums before him and the ruling families in the UAE, is a visionary. They look into the future and plan from there.  They were doubted by people around them when they worked on development plans for their country, the creek, the port of Jebel Ali, setting up Emirates Airlines, building the airports, the skyscrapers, the metro, the Palm and other man-made Islands.  They ignore the doubters and naysayers from every side and seem to push on irrespective of obstacles, material or verbal.  They succeed, and get over slumps, learn, and succeed again. They did not make Dubai into a Las Vegas, a shiny playground in the desert, they instead made it into a New York of the East, providing employment, livelihoods, and yes, fulfilling dreams of many who come to it.

The World definitely needs to see that.

World, better come visit the country and make plans not to miss Dubai Expo 2020. You need to experience being in this land. You have a lot to see, learn and most importantly, understand.

Signed, a Dubai lover.

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A letter goes unheeded

History lesson for today:
Have you ever read this article on Palestine by Jordan’s King Abdullah 1882-1951 (the grandfather of King Hussein) published in the US in 1947 raising the alarm before the Nakba? Amazing reading. If only they listened to him.

This came to my attention after it was posted by Tim Hodges as an answer to a query on Quora: ‘Starting from the very beginning, what happened in the Israel/Palestine area?’ I must admit that I had never read this important article by one of our Arab Kings, and am surprised we don’t learn enough in Arab schools about this issue that is still plaguing our world today with its complexity and ramifications.


This fascinating essay, written by King Hussein’s grandfather King Abdullah, appeared in the United States six months before the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. In the article, King Abdullah disputes the mistaken view that Arab opposition to Zionism (and later the state of Israel) is because of longstanding religious or ethnic hatred. He notes that Jews and Muslims enjoyed a long history of peaceful coexistence in the Middle East, and that Jews have historically suffered far more at the hands of Christian Europe. Pointing to the tragedy of the holocaust that Jews suffered during World War II, the monarch asks why America and Europe are refusing to accept more than a token handful of Jewish immigrants and refugees. It is unfair, he argues, to make Palestine, which is innocent of anti-Semitism, pay for the crimes of Europe. King Abdullah also asks how Jews can claim a historic right to Palestine, when Arabs have been the overwhelming majority there for nearly 1300 uninterrupted years? The essay ends on an ominous note, warning of dire consequences if a peaceful solution cannot be found to protect the rights of the indigenous Arabs of Palestine.

“As the Arabs see the Jews”
His Majesty King Abdullah,
The American Magazine
November, 1947
I am especially delighted to address an American audience, for the tragic problem of Palestine will never be solved without American understanding, American sympathy, American support.

So many billions of words have been written about Palestine—perhaps more than on any other subject in history—that I hesitate to add to them. Yet I am compelled to do so, for I am reluctantly convinced that the world in general, and America in particular, knows almost nothing of the true case for the Arabs.

We Arabs follow, perhaps far more than you think, the press of America. We are frankly disturbed to find that for every word printed on the Arab side, a thousand are printed on the Zionist side.

There are many reasons for this. You have many millions of Jewish citizens interested in this question. They are highly vocal and wise in the ways of publicity. There are few Arab citizens in America, and we are as yet unskilled in the technique of modern propaganda.

The results have been alarming for us. In your press we see a horrible caricature and are told it is our true portrait. In all justice, we cannot let this pass by default.

Our case is quite simple: For nearly 2,000 years Palestine has been almost 100 per cent Arab. It is still preponderantly Arab today, in spite of enormous Jewish immigration. But if this immigration continues we shall soon be outnumbered—a minority in our home.

Palestine is a small and very poor country, about the size of your state of Vermont. Its Arab population is only about 1,200,000. Already we have had forced on us, against our will, some 600,000 Zionist Jews. We are threatened with many hundreds of thousands more.

Our position is so simple and natural that we are amazed it should even be questioned. It is exactly the same position you in America take in regard to the unhappy European Jews. You are sorry for them, but you do not want them in your country.

We do not want them in ours, either. Not because they are Jews, but because they are foreigners. We would not want hundreds of thousands of foreigners in our country, be they Englishmen or Norwegians or Brazilians or whatever.

Think for a moment: In the last 25 years we have had one third of our entire population forced upon us. In America that would be the equivalent of 45,000,000 complete strangers admitted to your country, over your violent protest, since 1921. How would you have reacted to that?

Because of our perfectly natural dislike of being overwhelmed in our own homeland, we are called blind nationalists and heartless anti-Semites. This charge would be ludicrous were it not so dangerous.

No people on earth have been less “anti-Semitic” than the Arabs. The persecution of the Jews has been confined almost entirely to the Christian nations of the West. Jews, themselves, will admit that never since the Great Dispersion did Jews develop so freely and reach such importance as in Spain when it was an Arab possession. With very minor exceptions, Jews have lived for many centuries in the Middle East, in complete peace and friendliness with their Arab neighbours.

Damascus, Baghdad, Beirut and other Arab centres have always contained large and prosperous Jewish colonies. Until the Zionist invasion of Palestine began, these Jews received the most generous treatment—far, far better than in Christian Europe. Now, unhappily, for the first time in history, these Jews are beginning to feel the effects of Arab resistance to the Zionist assault. Most of them are as anxious as Arabs to stop it. Most of these Jews who have found happy homes among us resent, as we do, the coming of these strangers.

I was puzzled for a long time about the odd belief which apparently persists in America that Palestine has somehow “always been a Jewish land.” Recently an American I talked to cleared up this mystery. He pointed out that the only things most Americans know about Palestine are what they read in the Bible. It was a Jewish land in those days, they reason, and they assume it has always remained so.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. It is absurd to reach so far back into the mists of history to argue about who should have Palestine today, and I apologise for it. Yet the Jews do this, and I must reply to their “historic claim.” I wonder if the world has ever seen a stranger sight than a group of people seriously pretending to claim a land because their ancestors lived there some 2,000 years ago!

If you suggest that I am biased, I invite you to read any sound history of the period and verify the facts.

Such fragmentary records as we have indicate that the Jews were wandering nomads from Iraq who moved to southern Turkey, came south to Palestine, stayed there a short time, and then passed to Egypt, where they remained about 400 years. About 1300 BC (according to your calendar) they left Egypt and gradually conquered most—but not all—of the inhabitants of Palestine.

It is significant that the Philistines—not the Jews—gave their name to the country: “Palestine” is merely the Greek form of “Philistia.”

Only once, during the empire of David and Solomon, did the Jews ever control nearly—but not all—the land which is today Palestine. This empire lasted only 70 years, ending in 926 BC. Only 250 years later the Kingdom of Judah had shrunk to a small province around Jerusalem, barely a quarter of modern Palestine.

In 63 BC the Jews were conquered by Roman Pompey, and never again had even the vestige of independence. The Roman Emperor Hadrian finally wiped them out about 135 AD. He utterly destroyed Jerusalem, rebuilt under another name, and for hundreds of years no Jew was permitted to enter it. A handful of Jews remained in Palestine but the vast majority were killed or scattered to other countries, in the Diaspora, or the Great Dispersion. From that time Palestine ceased to be a Jewish country, in any conceivable sense.

This was 1,815 years ago, and yet the Jews solemnly pretend they still own Palestine! If such fantasy were allowed, how the map of the world would dance about!

Italians might claim England, which the Romans held so long. England might claim France, “homeland” of the conquering Normans. And the French Normans might claim Norway, where their ancestors originated. And incidentally, we Arabs might claim Spain, which we held for 700 years.

Many Mexicans might claim Spain, “homeland” of their forefathers. They might even claim Texas, which was Mexican until 100 years ago. And suppose the American Indians claimed the “homeland” of which they were the sole, native, and ancient occupants until only some 450 years ago!

I am not being facetious. All these claims are just as valid—or just as fantastic—as the Jewish “historic connection” with Palestine. Most are more valid.

In any event, the great Moslem expansion about 650 AD finally settled things. It dominated Palestine completely. From that day on, Palestine was solidly Arabic in population, language, and religion. When British armies entered the country during the last war, they found 500,000 Arabs and only 65,000 Jews.

If solid, uninterrupted Arab occupation for nearly 1,300 years does not make a country “Arab”, what does?

The Jews say, and rightly, that Palestine is the home of their religion. It is likewise the birthplace of Christianity, but would any Christian nation claim it on that account? In passing, let me say that the Christian Arabs—and there are many hundreds of thousands of them in the Arab World—are in absolute agreement with all other Arabs in opposing the Zionist invasion of Palestine.

May I also point out that Jerusalem is, after Mecca and Medina, the holiest place in Islam. In fact, in the early days of our religion, Moslems prayed toward Jerusalem instead of Mecca.

The Jewish “religious claim” to Palestine is as absurd as the “historic claim.” The Holy Places, sacred to three great religions, must be open to all, the monopoly of none. Let us not confuse religion and politics.

We are told that we are inhumane and heartless because do not accept with open arms the perhaps 200,000 Jews in Europe who suffered so frightfully under Nazi cruelty, and who even now—almost three years after war’s end—still languish in cold, depressing camps.

Let me underline several facts. The unimaginable persecution of the Jews was not done by the Arabs: it was done by a Christian nation in the West. The war which ruined Europe and made it almost impossible for these Jews to rehabilitate themselves was fought by the Christian nations of the West. The rich and empty portions of the earth belong, not to the Arabs, but to the Christian nations of the West.

And yet, to ease their consciences, these Christian nations of the West are asking Palestine—a poor and tiny Moslem country of the East—to accept the entire burden. “We have hurt these people terribly,” cries the West to the East. “Won’t you please take care of them for us?”

We find neither logic nor justice in this. Are we therefore “cruel and heartless nationalists”?

We are a generous people: we are proud that “Arab hospitality” is a phrase famous throughout the world. We are a humane people: no one was shocked more than we by the Hitlerite terror. No one pities the present plight of the desperate European Jews more than we.

But we say that Palestine has already sheltered 600,000 refugees. We believe that is enough to expect of us—even too much. We believe it is now the turn of the rest of the world to accept some of them.

I will be entirely frank with you. There is one thing the Arab world simply cannot understand. Of all the nations of the earth, America is most insistent that something be done for these suffering Jews of Europe. This feeling does credit to the humanity for which America is famous, and to that glorious inscription on your Statue of Liberty.

And yet this same America—the richest, greatest, most powerful nation the world has ever known—refuses to accept more than a token handful of these same Jews herself!

I hope you will not think I am being bitter about this. I have tried hard to understand that mysterious paradox, and I confess I cannot. Nor can any other Arab.

Perhaps you have been informed that “the Jews in Europe want to go to no other place except Palestine.”

This myth is one of the greatest propaganda triumphs of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, the organisation which promotes with fanatic zeal the emigration to Palestine. It is a subtle half-truth, thus doubly dangerous.

The astounding truth is that nobody on earth really knows where these unfortunate Jews really want to go!

You would think that in so grave a problem, the American, British, and other authorities responsible for the European Jews would have made a very careful survey, probably by vote, to find out where each Jew actually wants to go. Amazingly enough this has never been done! The Jewish Agency has prevented it.

Some time ago the American Military Governor in Germany was asked at a press conference how he was so certain that all Jews there wanted to go to Palestine. His answer was simple: “My Jewish advisors tell me so.” He admitted no poll had ever been made. Preparations were indeed begun for one, but the Jewish Agency stepped in to stop it.

The truth is that the Jews in German camps are now subjected to a Zionist pressure campaign which learned much from the Nazi terror. It is dangerous for a Jew to say that he would rather go to some other country, not Palestine. Such dissenters have been severely beaten, and worse.

Not long ago, in Palestine, nearly 1,000 Austrian Jews informed the international refugee organisation that they would like to go back to Austria, and plans were made to repatriate them.

The Jewish Agency heard of this, and exerted enough political pressure to stop it. It would be bad propaganda for Zionism if Jews began leaving Palestine. The nearly 1,000 Austrian are still there, against their will.

The fact is that most of the European Jews are Western in culture and outlook, entirely urban in experience and habits. They cannot really have their hearts set on becoming pioneers in the barren, arid, cramped land which is Palestine.

One thing, however, is undoubtedly true. As matters stand now, most refugee Jews in Europe would, indeed, vote for Palestine, simply because they know no other country will have them.

If you or I were given a choice between a near-prison camp for the rest of our lives—or Palestine—we would both choose Palestine, too.

But open up any other alternative to them—give them any other choice, and see what happens!

No poll, however, will be worth anything unless the nations of the earth are willing to open their doors—just a little—to the Jews. In other words, if in such a poll a Jew says he wants to go to Sweden, Sweden must be willing to accept him. If he votes for America, you must let him come in.

Any other kind of poll would be a farce. For the desperate Jew, this is no idle testing of opinion: this is a grave matter of life or death. Unless he is absolutely sure that his vote means something, he will always vote for Palestine, so as not to risk his bird in the hand for one in the bush.

In any event, Palestine can accept no more. The 65,000 Jews in Palestine in 1918 have jumped to 600,000 today. We Arabs have increased, too, but not by immigration. The Jews were then a mere 11 per cent of our population. Today they are one third of it.

The rate of increase has been terrifying. In a few more years—unless stopped now—it will overwhelm us, and we shall be an important minority in our own home.

Surely the rest of the wide world is rich enough and generous enough to find a place for 200,000 Jews—about one third the number that tiny, poor Palestine has already sheltered. For the rest of the world, it is hardly a drop in the bucket. For us it means national suicide.

We are sometimes told that since the Jews came to Palestine, the Arab standard of living has improved. This is a most complicated question. But let us even assume, for the argument, that it is true. We would rather be a bit poorer, and masters of our own home. Is this unnatural?

The sorry story of the so-called “Balfour Declaration,” which started Zionist immigration into Palestine, is too complicated to repeat here in detail. It is grounded in broken promises to the Arabs—promises made in cold print which admit no denying.

We utterly deny its validity. We utterly deny the right of Great Britain to give away Arab land for a “national home” for an entirely foreign people.

Even the League of Nations sanction does not alter this. At the time, not a single Arab state was a member of the League. We were not allowed to say a word in our own defense.

I must point out, again in friendly frankness, that America was nearly as responsible as Britain for this Balfour Declaration. President Wilson approved it before it was issued, and the American Congress adopted it word for word in a joint resolution on 30th June, 1922.

In the 1920s, Arabs were annoyed and insulted by Zionist immigration, but not alarmed by it. It was steady, but fairly small, as even the Zionist founders thought it would remain. Indeed for some years, more Jews left Palestine than entered it—in 1927 almost twice as many.

But two new factors, entirely unforeseen by Britain or the League or America or the most fervent Zionist, arose in the early thirties to raise the immigration to undreamed heights. One was the World Depression; the second the rise of Hitler.

In 1932, the year before Hitler came to power, only 9,500 Jews came to Palestine. We did not welcome them, but we were not afraid that, at that rate, our solid Arab majority would ever be in danger.

But the next year—the year of Hitler—it jumped to 30,000! In 1934 it was 42,000! In 1935 it reached 61,000!

It was no longer the orderly arrival of idealist Zionists. Rather, all Europe was pouring its frightened Jews upon us. Then, at last, we, too, became frightened. We knew that unless this enormous influx stopped, we were, as Arabs, doomed in our Palestine homeland. And we have not changed our minds.

I have the impression that many Americans believe the trouble in Palestine is very remote from them, that America had little to do with it, and that your only interest now is that of a humane bystander.

I believe that you do not realise how directly you are, as a nation, responsible in general for the whole Zionist move and specifically for the present terrorism. I call this to your attention because I am certain that if you realise your responsibility you will act fairly to admit it and assume it.

Quite aside from official American support for the “National Home” of the Balfour Declaration, the Zionist settlements in Palestine would have been almost impossible, on anything like the current scale, without American money. This was contributed by American Jewry in an idealistic effort to help their fellows.

The motive was worthy: the result were disastrous. The contributions were by private individuals, but they were almost entirely Americans, and, as a nation, only America can answer for it.

The present catastrophe may be laid almost entirely at your door. Your government, almost alone in the world, is insisting on the immediate admission of 100,000 more Jews into Palestine—to be followed by countless additional ones. This will have the most frightful consequences in bloody chaos beyond anything ever hinted at in Palestine before.

It is your press and political leadership, almost alone in the world, who press this demand. It is almost entirely American money which hires or buys the “refugee ships” that steam illegally toward Palestine: American money which pays their crews. The illegal immigration from Europe is arranged by the Jewish Agency, supported almost entirely by American funds. It is American dollars which support the terrorists, which buy the bullets and pistols that kill British soldiers—your allies—and Arab citizens—your friends.

We in the Arab world were stunned to hear that you permit open advertisements in newspapers asking for money to finance these terrorists, to arm them openly and deliberately for murder. We could not believe this could really happen in the modern world. Now we must believe it: we have seen the advertisements with our own eyes.

I point out these things because nothing less than complete frankness will be of use. The crisis is too stark for mere polite vagueness which means nothing.

I have the most complete confidence in the fair-mindedness and generosity of the American public. We Arabs ask no favours. We ask only that you know the full truth, not half of it. We ask only that when you judge the Palestine question, you put yourselves in our place.

What would your answer be if some outside agency told you that you must accept in America many millions of utter strangers in your midst—enough to dominate your country—merely because they insisted on going to America, and because their forefathers had once lived there some 2,000 years ago?

Our answer is the same.

And what would be your action if, in spite of your refusal, this outside agency began forcing them on you?

Ours will be the same.

The author of the letter, the first King of Jordan

The author of the letter, the first King of Jordan

King Abdullah I with the King of Saudi Arabia, Saud bin Abdul Aziz

King Abdullah I with the King of Saudi Arabia, Saud bin Abdul Aziz

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