What We Are Reading Today: A Face with Two Shadows, by Zoha Shabat  

Updated 12 May 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: A Face with Two Shadows, by Zoha Shabat  

At a time when Saudi Arabia is rebuilding its entertainment industry and restoring the theater, I came across an original play written by a young Saudi woman in a time where published Arabic plays were quite scarce.

Zoha Shabat wrote “A Face with Two Shadows,” for a literary competition, winning the first-edition reward that enabled her to publish the play in 2017.

We as readers get to tune into the protagonist’s thoughts via interior monologue and watch him grapple with the presence that haunts him throughout the play, before an all-out battle takes place between him and the shadow.

A very striking element in the play is the dismissal the protagonist, Khalid, faces from others in society, and also from within himself. He seeks help but refuses it when it is offered to him.

The book cover and illustrations introducing each chapter are designed by Amani Al-Ghoraibi, whose art relates to the story beautifully, summarizing the plot of each chapter.

I would be very curious to see how audiences react to a live performance of the play as it faces taboos head on, in an ever-changing Saudi Arabia.


Book Review: Recalling a magic carpet ride through South Asia

Updated 21 October 2018
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Book Review: Recalling a magic carpet ride through South Asia

BEIRUT: This evocative title, which conjures up images of the iconic Silk Road, is only a foretaste of what you experience in the book. “Beyond That Last Blue Mountain” recalls the extraordinary journey of Harriet Sandys. At 19, realizing she was completely unqualified, she wondered what a girl from her background could do. Hearing about her brother’s trip to Afghanistan and reading Wilfred Thesiger’s “Desert, Marsh and Mountain” and Eric Newby’s “A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush” fired her imagination, and she decided to make that journey.
Four years later, in 1977, a letter inviting her to visit the archaeological sites of Afghanistan changed the course of her life.
After learning how to repair oriental carpets, she worked for the Afghan Refugee Information Network and decided to assess the situation of Afghan refugees at the North-West Frontier. Touched by their extraordinary stoicism, she organized exhibitions of Afghan embroideries and carpets and opened a shop.
However, many of the NGO carpet-weaving programs produced rugs of inferior quality which were unsellable. Harriet wanted to find an alternative project that women could do at home. The Ikat silk-weaving project was born. Over 12 years, she traveled through Pakistan, setting up the project despite problems and setbacks. She miraculously recovered from bacterial meningitis and pursued her humanitarian aid projects in Iraqi Kurdistan and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
After her departure, the silk-weaving project, contrary to all expectations, thrived thanks to the courage of Saleh, a 17-year-old boy she had trained in Peshawar. He brought the project back to Afghanistan and became a master weaver. The Afghan fashion event held in London in 2011 highlighted one of his creations, a stunning dark-green silk evening dress decorated with calligraphy.
“Oriot,” as she was affectionately called, defied danger, traveling in and around war zones with almost no financial support.
“Had I pondered too long and too hard on all the dangers and difficulties I might have encountered … I would have remained a secretary, regretting missed opportunities,” she said. Brave, humble and compassionate, Harriet Sandys touches our hearts in this moving true story.