How to Be Young Adults in Riyadh

Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea explores the stories of four young women who face various challenges growing up in the society that is Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. From arranged marriages, fashion, education, and so much more, the author shares a unique perspective on the lives of these women by structuring the novel through a series of emails . In a conversation between Rajaa Alsanea and an interviewer, she was asked “what inspired you to tell the story in this manner,” to which she replied, “ in the conservative Saudi society, the Internet, cell phones, and Bluetooth can be as important, if not more crucial than face-to-face communication.“

Arab culture is often defined by many things, but in this book, it is showing a side less talked about and discussed, the women’s side. In most Arab cultures, women are taught to be polite and shy and not talk about matters such as love and the heart. In Saudi society, where the story takes place, the topics of this book were “something that Saudis have been longing form but were never ready to put into action,” Alsanea says.

Saudi Arabia is known for its strict laws, especially on women and its freedoms and rights. In a guide to foreign female travelers titled “Female Travel in Saudi Arabia: here’s what you need to know,” it states that foreign women no longer have to wear abayas ( a long modest dress that covers head to toe) but local women due. May customs that are common in Saudi are mainly done in the name of Islam and have been on the government’s agenda since the 1980s.

In the book, there is a scene where all four girls are wearing abayas and dare to drive around the city alone in a rental car. Gamrah, is known as the most stereotypical conservative ones out of the group. Sadeem believes in true love and is a hopeless romantic. Lamees works hard and finds ways to get exactly what she wants, and is known for her success in all aspects of her life. Lastly, Michelle is outspoken and openly questions society’s restrictions/expectations. This scene showed a difference between the culture and older generation amongst Saudis. The younger generation choose to not adhere to such laws as women not driving and other social laws that they disagree with and they choose to challenge what they believe is right or wrong.

Similarly to Sex and the City, the famous book and movie series about a group of young American women blazing a trail for readers/viewers to be open and comfortable about topics such as sex and love. Alsanea not only opens those topics for conversation for discussion, but also brings in the aspect of religion and limitations. Most older generations in Saudi Arabia were not accustomed to casually talk about such topics. It was normalized to be shy of such things, but the younger generation has changed that.

Girls of Riyadh is ultimately about young women finding themselves through religion, love, culture, education, and relationships. There’s an want for fulfillment within their heritage and embracing the differences between generations instead of judgment. Alsanea gives women all around the world a sense of empowerment through the stories of these four women.


Caramel (2007): Heartwarming Movie of Five Women’s Struggle Finding Happiness

The film Caramel, directed by Nadine Lakabki, showcases five women who are united by a salon but dealing with issues surrounding family, love, and culture. The owner of the salon and wax specialist Layale, played by Nadine Lakabki, faces internal hardship when realizing her love with a married man will not survive and suffering when her family asks her about marriage. Nisrine, played by Yasmine Al Massri, is Muslim and engaged with a man she loves, yet is hiding a secret that she is frightened if anyone knew, she is not a virgin. Rima, played by Joanna Moukarzel, begins having feelings for a female client in which she learns more of her sexuality. Jamale, played by Gisele Aouad, is older compared to the women around her which she feels insecure about, and tries changing her look and lying about her period to make her feel young. The fifth woman who viewers understand is Rose, played by Sihame Haddad, who lives with her older sister and spends all her time carrying for her, putting her issues aside to have attention towards her sister. A light-hearted film filled with humor and moments of charm for each character comprehends issues within women that can be widely understood. These women all face unique challenges but still have love in their hearts for happiness. Setting in Beirut, many aspects in the film are from Arab culture that adds to conflicts yet are easily understood when knowing the norms in the Middle East. When Layale was wanting to celebrate her secret lover’s birthday, she visited multiple hotels to be turned down when asked for proof of marriage. Hotels in western culture do not require couples to prove their marriage because of the common dating practice. In the Middle East, couples are only to be together when they have wed, dating is not a practice widely accepted. Layale finds a hotel willing to offer a room but in an unpleasant business surrounding vulgar actions. This presents the social view of their relationship being improper and rejected.

As well, Layale would give out fake names to not have people knowing her business, but this was not the first time in the movie fake names were used. Nisrine feels distressed with a secret she is hiding from her fiancé, confessing to her friends that she is not a virgin, something not alarming to other parts of the world but in the Middle East would affect a marriage. Noticing her family wearing hijab we can assume she is Muslim and is frowned upon to have sexual relations before marriage. In the film, Nisrine goes to the hospital in disguise, with support from Layale and Jamale to have hymen reconstructive surgery. Key elements in this scene are crucial in understanding the importance but shame in a procedure. When Nisrine is lying down having the procedure done, the camera hovers over her face to show weakened eyes, a morose moment staring at a woman filled with emotional pain. All three of the girls in disguise trying to keep secret their identities with fake names and sunglasses, especially from the medical staff. Nisrine picks up a French identity in which the nurse noticed and tried to communicate to Nisrine in French. The nurse knowing French is not unusual because of the history with Lebanon being occupied by the French, which resulted in French being a popular language spoken in Lebanon and used commonly with everyday conversations.

Rose’s older sister Lili, played by Aziza Semaan, is a charming character with unusual actions that would make the audience laugh, but the reason was not only for humor. Lili multiple time in the film mentions her fiancé she is in love with and waiting for, but she suffers from dementia and it is not real. Rose and a French customer begin liking each other and he invited her to a cafe, which was an important point in Rose’s character development because she changed every part of her appearance but ended up not going with the realization that she must stay and care for Lili, not leave but sacrifice her happiness for her sisters. This scene signifies women’s view of themselves believing they are not worthy of love while struggling with being true to themselves instead of painting an image people would want. Another scene with Rose and Lili that ends the movie with a unique hidden message is with the camera still as both are walking away in the streets, with Lili picking up paper and Rose to help. Knowing of Lili’s attachment to paper around the town like tickets on cars, which she believes are letters from her imagined fiancé, this scene presents the burden women carry from love and happiness while continuing to have faith. Rose helping her pick paper displays their love and helping hand with Rose wanting happiness for her sister, which is selfless and many women sacrifice their needs for the people they love.

Ultimately, the film portrays other issues with women from points that themselves have not caused but the pain from social ideas that women carry worldwide. Despite cultural differences, a movie with the title of a sugary dessert used for wax and symbolizing their anger, which Layale uses against the wife of the man she is seeing, can agree that it is a well-written film with powerful character growth. Characters outside from the main five have hidden pain as well that tie together different but combining agony. The film showcases a different enjoyable story for a dark topic that has survived for decades with viewers who have not felt the pain portrayed can understand through the terrific acting and loving characters. Many angles of women’s struggles were illustrated with intentions for realization. These struggles seem to go unnoticed and are as if an unspoken norm that was established, while if one woman decides to do something for herself and reach her happiness then she is viewed negatively for her being selfish or not traditional. A woman’s worth is valued with her strength of dealing with issues as she stays showcasing herself as content with her main properties for pleasing others. A film with many hidden messages for viewers to question and think about the reason Director Nadine Labaki adding these scenes, with different backgrounds and ages.

Sources: Caramel. YouTube. (2020, July 1). (2007, August 9). Caramel. IMDb.

Breakout on the big stage!!

What’s up in Arabic is keif al Hal. “Why is that important?” you may ask. It’s because it was the movie’s first original Arabic title. This movie came out in 2006 a significant time where the art and electronics were rapidly growing.This was the first ever movie made in Saudi Arabia. This movie is directed by Izidore Musallam, it also features the firstSaudi actress in cinema Hind Mohamed. This movie is about a brother and a sister. The sister isn’t shy and modern when it comes to romance and her brother is more traditional and wants to find love for her. This film was controversial at the time the movie came out. Saudi Arabia had restrictions on cinemas so they couldn’t watch it. This movie divided people.

The young generation who wants to accept modernization and the old heads who want tradition and continuity in religion and culture.And I’m not the only one who seems to think that. I also agree with Salah Fareed whois an author for Arab News said “Keif Al Hal is a comedy-drama depicting the tension between moderates and conservatives in the Kingdom and the conflict experienced by the young as they try to embrace globalization.” This movie also shows how little to no freedom Sahar has, Sahar being the leading actress in the film when her brother starts making almost all the decisions for her and also worries that she is having a secret relationship. This is also showing that modern vs traditional conflict.

Although this movie is controversial this movie is within the range of how Arab culture sends a message to their audience through media, poetry literature and films.This film using scenes to send out the message that young people can move forward and be entertained just like other young people in other nations. Prince Walid Bin Talal says “I want to tell the Arab youth that they can watch movies and also have the right to listen to music.”

This movie is a great example of what we learned in class about the arab culture where they use comedy or jokes to avoid controversy while also sending a message that it’s time to move on and change. This is a comedy drama with a hint of romance.The arab culture tremendously keeps progressing into a more accepting world of both the young adults and the older generation coexisting there was a time where Saudi female athletes weren’t allowed six years after this movie came out in 2012 there was one. And in 2018 it was the first time Saudi Arabia issued women driving licenses.Surely Saudi Arabia or even the arab culture is progressing.Whether it’s theatrically or women being allowed to have more of the rights they deserve.


Fareed, Author: Saleh. “Saudi Film ‘Keif Al-Hal’Getting Rave Reviews in theMiddle East.” Arab News, 27 Oct. 2006,Hassan. “Daring to Use the Silver Screen to ReflectSaudi Society.” The New YorkTimes, The New York Times, 28 Apr. 2006,.

More Than Just A Dance: Dabke

Dabke is a common Arabic folk dance that originated around the area of the Mediterranean coastline. The dance is based on synchronized leg movement and foot stomping. Performers are typically aligned in a straight line or semi-circle with joined hands. This type of dance is commonly performed at weddings and other joyous occasions. It is still commonly practiced today by different Arab cultures around the Middle East and the rest of the world. It was first created and practiced by the people of Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, the Kurdish, the Turkish and more. The story that explains the creation of the dance goes something like this. The people of the regions mentioned above usually built houses with tree branches and mud. Whenever the weather would change, the mud in the roof would crack, and family members and neighbors would come and seal the mud together by joining hands and forming a line together. Then they would begin to stomp the mud and hay into place and all sing together. Throughout the years the tradition continued to be passed down to remind people the importance of family, community, and tradition.

To the Palestinian people specifically, Dabke is more than just a dance. It is a from of cultural resistance. It signifies aspirations and struggles. It is a symbol of their history. Outside of Palestine, Dabke is a unique way of holding on to culture, tradition and the homeland. Many Palestinians that live in western countries are the descendants of refugees who are unable to visit their homeland. For these people Dabke has become a creative form of art that symbolizes courage and defiance against injustice. The physical arrangement of a group, the synchronized movement, and the joining of hands expresses a powerful narrative of unity, resistance and a love for life. The music and instruments that are played assist in expressing these emotions as well. Dabke music usually consists of powerful beats and lyrics that tend to highlight Palestinian pride. The rhythm of the music signifies when to do different stomps and movements during the dance. The popular dabke song “Dammi Falastini” by Mohammed Assaf contain lyrics such as “I belong to my people; I sacrifice my soul for them… My blood is Palestinian, Palestinian” (translated from Arabic). These lyrics help to convey a feeling of pride. Some common instruments that are used alongside debka performances are a tablah – a small hand-drumand a large drum that is hit with a stick. These drums support the repetitive rhythm of the music while highlighting the sound of the stomps. Together these elements create the vibrant atmosphere of debka. Debka is a way to reaffirm and preserve Palestinian identity. In addition, it acts as a symbol of solidarity to those struggling all around the world.
For the people that are still struggling against occupation in Palestine, Dabke is a form of creative resistance and protest. A good example of this is during the Gaza massacre, which killed more than 2000 Palestinians, a group of dancer-activists performed dabke in the center of the British Museum and in a large central London Barclays bank. This is a unique outlet for activists to express their concerns, instead of the traditional use of marches and protests. This is an innovative way to bring the attention of the public to the serious issues going on in Palestine. There are many incidences of the youth protesting the Israeli Occupation Forces by performing dabke in front of armed soldiers, tanks, and chaos. Their dance tells a story. The locking of arms, the powerful stomps, and the unified chanting illicit emotion and empathy towards the Palestinian cause.
It is beautiful that Dabke transformed from a way to repair the roof and flooring of a house into a symbol of love, life, and struggle. At first glance, it seems to be just a normal dance. However, after witnessing the raw emotion and passion that goes into the dance any viewer can see that it is more than just a dance.

Mo Amer: The Arab-American Badawiin

Mo Amer, short for Mohammed is a Kuwaiti immigrant, born to Palestinian refugees, now located in Houston, Texas. Amer’s “Mo Amer: The Vagabond” stand-up special is a perfectly imperfect trail of understanding Amer’s personal experiences, perspectives and outlook on the world. The special, unlike many other comedy shows who joke around current events, Omer actively dives deep into many “hot” topics and takes head on the controversial topics many so readily sweep under the rug. These themes range from: immigration, political ideologies (ranging from regional and global spaces), racism, religious based profiling, popular culture phenomena, white privilege, Israeli occupation, the American healthcare system, personal trauma and psychological pain. Just a “few” topics that are all covered during the 56 minute comedy special. To call Amer a well-travelled and informed individual would be an understatement as we consistently find out that he himself is at the epicenter of the metaphoric melting pot that is our world.

The audience’s first encounter with the special was initiated by the welcoming opening music; a beautiful blend between traditional takht ensemble remixed alongside a lively hip-hop influenced beat offers this exhilarating blend of what is to come from our highlighted self-titled “Arab-American Nomad.” Despite the seemingly very different almost completely conflicting sounds Amer’s story actively displays a brilliantly harmonizing juxtaposition behind the opening music itself. Despite the pain and trauma Mo has faced and openly shares with his audience the style of how he displays his story and pain is incredibly reminiscent of the dynamic we have studied and researched in class in the past in regards to musical and theatrical shows in Arab culture. To provide a direct example from the show of how Omer actively breaks down politically correct barriers is by addressing head on that religious beliefs, identities and even skin color are politicized in today’s world, all in all just about anything or anyone that takes some sort of firm stand in their beliefs will be criticized or deemed political so why not just be you because the judgement is inevitable. There was a specific joke Omer had introduced that I personally found incredibly genius, the topic of this joke was travelling. Just as his own experience travelling was recurring as a famous comedian and as an individual with family spread throughout the world the recurring nature of travelling was emphasized as he continuously would return to the different experiences he had travelling periodically throughout the special.
My favorite traveling story was when he had visited family in Egypt and as he prepared to depart and return back to the states he was bombarded with packages from family to take back home. These gifts included “molokiyah” the famous Jew’s mallow, incorporated in different cultural dishes, packaged in large, flat Ziploc bags. The other gift was authentic Olive Oil. To Omer’s surprise the gifts had caused this sense of paranoia as he already had a seemingly deep fear of flying as a consistently targeted individual in these spaces. He was in an even more so increased state of distress as he found his family’s packaging of the molokiyah to resonate with “bricks of weed” as well as it being illegal to transport Olive Oil in his specific case, the fact that his uncle had written “Olive Juice” on the bottle had led to a greater state of nervousness on Omer’s end. As the climactic story continued on, despite all of the obstacles: the everso targeting from airport security and their dogs and other issues Omer makes it out alive with his “weed resembling molokiyah” in one hand and his “olive juice” in the other. Omer’s story tells of pain, trauma and struggling to fit in in all of the new and mind-boggling situations he ends up in; however, his story speaks of victory despite all odds and his perpetual desire to keep moving forward. 10/10 recommend!
Amarasingam , Amarnath. “Laughter the Best Medicine: Muslim Comedians and Social Criticism in Post-9/11 America.” Taylor & Francis, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs , 22 Dec. 2010,
Tabor, Richard. A Rabbi and a Sheikh Walk into a Bar…: Arab American Stand-Up Comedians in the Early Twenty-First Century. Order No. 1521951 California State University, Fullerton, 2013 Ann ArborProQuest. 24 Apr. 2021.

Strawberry Smell

The Turkish show ‘Çilek Kokusu’ encompasses a story of two lovers who share many major differences in lifestyle, but they still find a way to be together. The show began in 2015 and is still being enjoyed by many viewers. It was written by Asli Engin and directed by Filiz Gulmez Pakman. Also, this show has been translated into Arabic and many other languages, and this shows how the power of the show is so meaningful that the writer wanted to share it across audiences of different cultures. Çilek Kokusu translates to strawberry smell in English, and this made me curious as to why the writer chose to name the show something so random. However, the love story between the two characters begins when an accident occurs while Asli, the female lead, is delivering a strawberry cake for her job at a pastry shop. Burak, the male lead, is involved in the accident and this leads to their first encounter, and the cake is all over Asli from the crash. From that moment, there was an energy of attraction to each other and the strawberry smell from the cake is something that is unique about the situation. The cake could have been any flavor, but I would like to believe that this fruit was chosen because it is often a symbolism of love and romance given its red color. I thought this was interesting when analyzing the concept of this symbolism through a cultural lens, because it portrays a meaning that is able to transcend across cultures.

The differences between Asli and Burak in this television series are significant to the drama of the show and easily draws the audience into the plot. Burak is a rich hotel owner, while Asli is a poor woman looking for a new job after getting fired from the pastry shop due to the cake accident. The opposition in social class makes the story line more interesting and gives viewers content in which they can relate to. In the Arab world, it is traditional for the women to rely on her man to provide for her and this show highlights the idea of this concept because the man in the show is able to provide the women with a new job at his hotel, as well as provide for her romantically. Also, the writer of the show uses humor to attract the audience and keep them engaged into the show because humor is a significant component to Arab culture, and it can be easily understood and shared with others. I enjoyed this show with my mother, and it gives us something to connect over because it contains content that we both find interesting. Especially during Ramadan, we need things to pass the time and this show has been a gateway for us to do that together.

Turkish TV series are often dubbed or subtitled in Arabic and this has become a popular genre to movies and shows. These shows are often enjoyed through satellite TV and this method of broadcasting is very common in Arabic culture. There are many channels in which Turkish shows are dubbed or subtitled for Arabic viewers because gives them more content they can enjoy from other similar cultures. The use of satellite channels has allowed the Arab world to expand their mediascape and share entertainment across the different countries, and this has played a major role on the socialization of the Arab world. They are able to share content and information much faster and enjoy a wider variety of television shows and other broadcasts. Therefore, being able to watch a show that was originally in another language shows how cultures are able to influence each other on multiple levels, and in this situation, a culture was shared through entertainment.



Umm Kulthum: A Voice Like Egypt


Was Umm Kulthum’s voice her only true impact on the People of Egypt?[The 3 pieces to the impact puzzle]

If you search for Umm Kulthum on Google, you will find a plethora of articles talking about her ever rising success up until today in the year of 2021. As a person born in 1904, who rose to fame in the mid 1940’s, one can truly believe that the only reason for her extremely successful career is her unique voice. Why else would her reign of popularity be referred to as “The Golden Age of Umm Kulthum”? However, why did her unique voice resonate so much with Egyptians? How did Umm Kulthum solely impact, not only the people of Egypt, but the people of the Middle East? With these questions in mind, I turned to the documentary titled Umm Kulthum: A Voice Like Egypt. A documentary produced, directed, and written by Michael Goldman in the year 1996. This documentary touches on many aspects of Umm Kulthum’s life, but we will focus on 3 main ones- which we will soon call, “the impact puzzle”. Once we talk about all the “puzzle pieces” individually, we will put them together and figure out Umm Kulthum’s true impact on the people of Egypt. Let’s get started!

The documentary took the time to allow us into Umm Kulthum life as an artist; who she was, her upbringing, and what provoked her to start singing. Using a narrator to mimic the voice of Umm Kulthum, she stated “people say I began to sing for the love of the art of singing, but that is not true. In the beginning, I began singing because we were in need”. Thirteen minutes into the documentary, and we already are able to see Umm Kulthum in the rawest form. The women who only performed on stage in expensive, high-end gowns was not always a part of that socioeconomic class growing up. We can see that she can relate to Egyptians down to the lowest level of wealth because she too, was once at that level. But what does Umm Kulthum’s socioeconomic class have to do with her true impact on the Egyptian people? It does! We must continue the review and put the pieces of the impact puzzle together.

Tarab, or ‘musical ecstasy’ as described in the documentary, is the main objective of arabic music. When combined with the correct artist, poetry, and emotion, it can be reached. Tarab is also an aspect of music that Umm Kulthum is easily able to achieve. Her singing is so articulate and sweet, yet strong and assertive that the audience cannot hold back. A fifteen minute song usually yields about two hours of repetition and improvisation to the audience’s likings. You may be thinking, ‘well of course. This is why she is famous- it’s because of her voice’. But I am here to tell you that Umm Kulthum had an impact on the people of Egypt with her singing and tarab in another way than just entertainment. However, we must look at the last piece of the impact puzzle to figure it out.

Nationalism. Umm Kulthum was a very loyal Egyptian citizen. She believed in the Egyptian government to the extent that she became close friends with the president at the time, Gamal Abdel Nasser, who supported her and her art just as much. President Nasser understood the power behind Umm Kulthum’s ability to reach millions of people directly, and so, he gave her every possible honor. In return, Umm Kulthum supported Egypt and the revolution. Of course you are wondering ‘what does Umm Kulthum’s nationalism and her association with President Nasser have to do with her impact on the people of Egypt?’ Well, this was finally the last piece to the impact puzzle, so let’s put it together.
For an artist to have the type of impact Umm Kulthum had, they must have done more in their lifetime than just have a unique voice. And this is something that we were able to extract through this documentary. We first talked about her coming from a low socioeconomic class. She remained humble throughout her lifetime- donating to charities, helping those in need. A scholar in the documentary mentioned how Umm Kulthum would “give benefit concerts for the poorer students at colleges without receiving any pay in return”. In dong acts like so, Umm Kulthum gained the love of many Egyptian citizens; and she physically changed many lives.
Secondly, we talked about tarab and how this word is literally translated to musicalecstasy in english. But, how does Umm Kulthum’s use of tarab while singing impact the Egyptian people? Everytime Umm Kulthum sang, people believed those songs to be about them and it resonated with them and only them. Umm Kulthum’s use of tarab freshens the emotions to any event that occurred in a person’s life- but the emotions differ for all. “… I got engaged when Inta Omricame out, it’s just a beautiful memory” one individual reminisced with glee, while another man stated “I was 18 or 19 when I loved a girl and it was a terrible blow for me”. He shortly bursted in song, singing verse’s of an Umm Kulthum song about healing from pain. Umm Kulthum found a way to be a vessel for the voice of Egyptians. Whether that was for happiness, sadness, fear, anger, etc., she left her mark in that way.
We lastly want to talk about Umm Kulthum’s nationalism. She cared about the Egyptian revolution and consistently found ways to support Egypt’s soldiers. Among many examples, a notable combination between impact and nationalism is after Egypt’s defeat to Israel in 1967. Umm Kulthum decided she would tour all Arab countries and raise money to rearm Egypt- in an attempt to do so, she raised more than 2 million dollars all to the Egyptian government. Revolution, justice, and peace, has always been important to the Egyptian people. Whether you scream it from the top of your lungs on the street at a protest or dedicate your life to Egypt in the forces, everyone is expected to fight. Umm Kulthum found her own way to fight. With her voice! She sang her heart out, and every last Egyptian will remember the impact she left as she sang…
“Give me my freedom.
Untie my hands. I gave, I held back nothing.
Ah, your bonds have made my wrists bleed.
I didn’t escape them, nor did they spare me”
References arrafz. “الشريفعمربصوت | وثائقيكلثومام
Documentary: Umm Kulthum, A Voice Like Egypt (1996).” YouTube, YouTube, 15 Nov. 2019,
“Umm Kulthum.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 30 Mar. 2021. Web. 22 Apr. 2021,
“’She Exists out of Time’: Umm Kulthum, Arab Music’s Eternal Star.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 28 Feb. 2020,

Mental Health in the Arab World

Mental health is a very stigmatized issue, especially in parts of the Arab world. This short story as narrated by Ameer Hamad proves that mental health issues shouldn’t be overlooked. People cope in so many different ways, and this short story shows how Anas is willing to build a castle to distract him from the issues going on with his family. Humans have various ways of coping. Religious people tend to be more spiritual, they meditate more and pray more whilst asking God for Guidance. These practices are very common in the Middle East as Islam is the most common religion in the Middle East. Muslims are advised to pray more and seek guidance from God. Others cope by spending time with their loved ones , some go to therapy. Mental health is a spectrum and there’s numerous ways to deal with it and this short story by Ameer portrays one of the million ways people cope with the ups and downs of mental health. Anas appreciates his friend Ameer for helping him cope with what he’s going on. The short story’s title is “The Wooden Castle” and here is a short summary and analysis of it.

 I read a short story by Ameer Hamad. The Title of this story was ‘The Wooden Castle’. The story first seemed very basic however as I re-read it, I understood the deeper meaning behind it. Ameer always had a dream of building himself a castle, to him it was just something he wanted to do. His best friend however, had deeper reasons to build a wooden castle with his friend Ammer. Anas’ parents were going through a divorce so the idea of building a castle would distract him and then eventually be some sort of escape route for him. As for Ameer, it was just something that he wanted to do. There was no motive or anything that was pushing him to do so. Ameer and Anas started collecting wood to build their castle, they both seemed very excited about it. They both decided to build their castle near a property belonging to Anas’ grandfather and Anas’ uncle would give them wood to build their castle as well. Both of them were saving up money for their castle as well and it was going very well until Anas requested the money that they were saving because he was moving. Ameer felt very betrayed and the story ends with the forest burning. This forest had an endless amount of wood needed for the castle.

At first, the story might just seem like two boys just building a castle. My initial thoughts about the story was how Ameer was so oblivious to what was happening in Anas’ life. Anas was a very troubled kid. Both kids had different outcomes for when the castle would be completed. Ameer would have just completed a regular task whereas Anas would have a little place to get away from when his parents were fighting. To Anas, peace is home. He feels at home when he’s with his friend Ameer. He also believes that he will be at peace when the Wooden Castle is completed therefore helping his friend is somewhat a journey to better days. This goes to show that although they were both headed down the same road, the outcome for both kids were very different. Towards the end of the short story,  Anas promises his friend that he’ll be back in two years with his mom. After his parents divorce was finalized, he would move in with his mother.  If Anas had told his friend about his dilemma earlier, Ameer would have been able to come up with a solution to help Anas out and this was why he felt betrayed. The wooden castle  symbolizes the goals that Anas and Ameer want to achieve. Saving up the money, collecting wood, asking Anas’ family for help, all these tasks symbolizes the steps to success and peace. Ameer would get a sense of accomplishment from finishing the building of the castle whereas Anas would finally have a peaceful place just for him. Anas craves for some space, throughout the story you’ll read about how enthusiastic he is about the castle. Due to the toxic environment In his house, he and his mom move to a temporary home and his uncle tears down their house. He tells his friend that he’ll be back in 2 years and he will have his own room soon. Since he comes from a very toxic household, he really knows the importance of space. Arab culture is still very ancient and traditional, some of them don’t really believe in mental health issues.  Some parts of the Arab world believe that If it’s not a disease with physical symptoms then it doesn’t exist. Anas’ mental health is affected severely by what’s going in his family. Ameer is oblivious to what’s happening to Anas however he would’ve definitely helped his friend if Anas opened up sooner. I read an article about mental health in the Arab world and its complications. I read that mental health patients often try to express their mental health issues in the form of physical symptoms. The lack of mental health services despite the high income per capita in Middle East nations is very alarming. Anas who was going through so much at a very young age would still have PTSD from what had occurred even when he had fully grown up. It’s a good thing that he had confided in his friend. Most people tend to keep to themselves due to the stigma of Mental health and I hope things change. At a time like this, we need to be more understanding and be better friends to people who are going through tough times.


TAYEA’: How Society Can Turn People into Savages

When Tayea first came out it was the biggest show during that time in Egypt. People reacting to the unexpected twists would share their thoughts to Twitter which caused it to be the number 1 trending topic in Egypt. This show is one of my favorite if not my favorite Egyptian Drama Show. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone. Whether you are emotional or not this show will bring out all of your emotions. The show is extremely accessible. It is available on both Netflix and YouTube.

Tayea, an Egyptian doctor played by Amr Youssef is put in prison for a small crime he committed on purpose. We later find out that he put himself in prison for protection. In upper Egypt, when there is a murder instead of reporting to the government revenge has to be taken from the family of the killer. For example if someone would have murdered your father to take his revenge called “Tar” he would kill the murderer’s father so he could feel the same pain that you have felt. This is the dilemma Tayea was put in.Tayea’s father is a “Dallal” which is a person who has the gift to find gold/tombs that are underground. Tayea’s Father along with another man worked for Harby. They both disappear which causes both families to think that their father was killed by the other man and the other man fled town. This causes the tension of “Tar” between the families which causes each family to attempt to kill someone from the other family. Tayea being the oldest son (the man of the house) is the main target. Harby is a man who illegally smuggles and sells Artifacts to people.The government wants to take Harby down but needs to get enough proof. They send Tayea on an undercover mission to get evidence on Harby.

Tayea is seen as a disgrace by his mother because he does not believe in “Tar”. He believes it is immoral and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. The two main conflicts in this story are both Tar and Harby’s illegal smuggling. Harby also has a Tar he’s been patiently waiting for. His daughter was murdered when she was pregnant, so he is waiting for the murderer’s daughter to get pregnant in order to get revenge. The dilemma is Tayea’s love is that woman, So her father disapproves of her getting married so Harby does not take his Tar.

The story is filled with suspense, drama, action,and romance. The Director Amr Salama brings out the best of each actor. None of the actors overwhelm one another. You can see the point of view of both the protagonist Tayea and the antagonist Harby who is played by Amr Abdel Galil. I found myself sympathizing with Harbyat some moments but furious with him atother moments. This caused an internal conflict with me as the viewer. My favorite character is Tayea’s younger brother Fawaz, who is played by Ahmed Dash. Fawaz falls into the hands of Harby and works for him which is his way of protection.You can clearly see Tayea’s character development go from a man who will do what’s right even if his reputation is on the line, into a man who is filled with rage and only has revenge on his mind. Tayea’s character development shows that external pressure from society can turn a person into a self destructive machine.One of my favorite things about this show is that there are no filler episodes. Everything happens for a reason. There is a scene in every intro to each episode where we see a young boy stranded in the desert. We do not find out who this is or what is the purpose of these scenes until the last few episodes. This example and many more like it fill the show with foreshadowing.The bombardment of foreshadowing leaves the viewer constantly critically thinking about past episodes and how they connect with what is currently happening at any point in the show.

An Insult That Led To Jury?

Films capture perspectives we are not always able to view. The imagery and messages behind a specific film can lead viewers into learning or becoming motivated off of one film.Since the Lebanese film, The Insult directed by Lebanese cinematographer, Ziad Doueiri came out in 2017, it was already shortlisted for the foreign-language film Oscar. The film shows off the effects of the Labanese civil war setting in the modern day and how even minor interpersonal tensions can become a national trauma. In this film it shows a Lebanese Christian man, Tony and a Palestinian refugee, Yasser as they conflict. The film shows how one small altercation can become so much more than one simple insult.

This film began on a Beirut residential street, where a man named Tony Hanna and his pregnant wife stay at. The crew’s foreman Yasser Salameh notices an illegal pipe on Tony’s apartment and offers to go out of his way just to fix it. Even after Tony slams the door in Yassers face, Yasser still decides to fix it without Tony’s permission.The story really starts when Tony is breaking his own pipe leading Yasser to insulting Tony. This then leads out to bigger and more complex conflicts.

I was surprised that one small insult can be taken to court and why Tony felt so scared of Yasser.In the beginning when Tony slammed the door in Yasser’s face, it seemed to be about his beliefs. Even after the first trial Yasser went to Tony’s garage to apologize and Yasser ended up punching Tony in the gut. Tony then told Yasser “I wish ArielSharon had wiped all of you out” who is the Israeli general, proving this was about religious differences.

When the second trial happened, each man became accused of religion or a religious community.Tony was represented by a lawyer named Wajdi Wehbe, a famous Christian trial lawyer, with a large legal team. And Yasser was represented by Nadine Wehbe, a brilliant young attorney who is Wajdi Wehbe’s daughter. Which caused more dispute in the courtroom. Once the second trial ended it provoked a violent outburst from each religious community.

The cultural differences of Tony and Yasser caused a miscommunication that led to the trial to begin with. The film shows a great example of the fragility of society in Arab countries like Lebanon even after its civil war, and is less about the court case itself. The issues with a hatred of another kind can lead to a lot of drama. It seems clear that if Yasser was not a Palestinian refugee the situation would have been less chaotic. The question that remains is why individuals of opposing groups must take things as far as political differences when emotion comes into play.

Works Cited