Reading has always been an essential part of my life. Although I don’t read as much as I would like, I always considered myself an avid reader. In the last couple of months, I was going through a dry spell. I didn’t want to hold on a book and sit to read. I realized it’s simply not something that relaxes me anymore. Until one day, when the homesickness acted all over the place, I grabbed an Arabic book from my shelves I bought the last time I went to my family of a known Egyptian author, Naguib Mahfouz; the Nobel prize winner for Literature, his books were mainly about Egyptian nationalism.
I’ve always been fascinated by our talented people who can reach the global scene just by telling their stories because if you think about it, Can anything be more authentic?I picked up one of his famous novels Zuqāq al-Midaq (Midaq Alley), though it’s very silly to start reading his novels at this age, I finally went for it. El callejón de Los Milagros or The Alley of Miracles is a 1995 Mexican film adapted from the novel, but I never watched it either.
The book tells the story of a Cairo neighborhood in the 1940s and the people living in it. Since Mahfouz plays in the cultural setting, you start to realize how little has changed in the city. How you recognize all the names of the neighborhoods, visualize the stores, and smell Egypt through the lines. The paradoxes between the characters’ expression and how they link together made me adhere to the book. Mahfouz tells the story of El-Malam Kersha, the strong drug dealer who hits his wife and kids but falls in love with every cute guy he sees, and how the community persevered gay people back then.
Or the story of Hamida, or later Titi, the orphaned gorgeous girl who sees herself more worthy of living her entire life in Al-Zokak (the alley), so she falls into prostitution without a grain of guilt or shame to ever crosses her mind. And the story of el-said Radwan, the religious person who tries to solve people’s problems without being condescending or patronizing. I admired the part when el-said Radwan gave a speech at the end of the book as he was leaving for Haj pilgrimage, and why he hadn’t gone for Haj so far, he said, “I preferred the longing for the beloved to the beloved himself.” Which reminded me of Paulo Coelho in Alchemist a lot. When the mèchent explained to Santiago why he hasn’t gone to Hajj so far by saying “It’s the thought of Mecca that keeps me alive!”
The freedom by which Naguib could write these stories still amazes me, he wrote a truth that the whole nation till now tries to bury. I don’t know how I haven’t read anything by Mahfouz before, I haven’t even read a book in Arabic in years. But the thing is, the more you grow up, the more you want to connect to your authentic self. You start to realize that whilst what you have been fed through the years by the media about the western world is great. But you, your country, and your culture are equally, if not more, astonishing… so connect to that. And tell me, what are the books or authors you discovered in the quarantine time?
A trustworthy beauty product recommendations I have discovered, tried and reviewed for you. Get your cocktail, write your reviews with me and forget yourself in this black hole. Keep your point of view coming, I will only stop if you did.