Book Review: ‘Hookah Nights’ explores life in an ever-changing Egypt

In her latest collection of vivid short stories, “Hookah Nights,” author Anne-Marie Drosso takes her readers through Egypt’s political history. (Shutterstock)
Updated 19 November 2018

Book Review: ‘Hookah Nights’ explores life in an ever-changing Egypt

CHICAGO: In her latest collection of vivid short stories, “Hookah Nights,” author Anne-Marie Drosso takes her readers through Egypt’s political history. Through Drosso’s 14 stories, one journeys through time, beginning with the Suez Crisis, and ends up knee-deep in the Arab Spring. While each story centers on the politics that alter the country, each also touches on the people affected by those politics — Egyptians and foreigners alike.

From the dry, hot winds of the khamaseens — cyclonic-type winds — that cover Cairo’s streets in dust and sand and welcome spring, to the shores of Alexandria and the pull of the Mediterranean Sea, Drosso introduces the reader to the landscape of Egypt and its multifaceted characters. Her characters’ lives revolve around politics — they have lost and gained through their leaders’ decisions and have had their futures altered by the governing powers in Egypt. From foreign diplomats and unwanted international attention, to argumentative brothers, troubled spouses, wayward journalists, revolutionaries and home-grown heroes and villains, Drosso showcases the difficult decisions one must make in order to secure a stable future.

Drosso’s characters live ordinary lives, but each is driven by politics, whether they know it or not. Her stories are about adjusting to life in an ever-changing landscape as much as they are about the rule of the land. From Gamal Abdel Nasser to Muhammad Mursi and the rise of the military under Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, each story plunges head-first into Egypt’s streets to understand its complex politics.

Able to show Egypt in different shades of light, Drosso’s stories bring some characters together and pull others apart. She touches upon generational differences in thinking and explores how staunch minds can sometimes cave in the face of adversity and fear.

Drosso portrays a full spectrum of relatable citizens, their fears and joys transcending borders. Her stories weave in and out of one another seamlessly, as if moving from city to city, street to street, peering into windows of homes and the families that occupy them. The ever-present common thread among all her characters is the resilience with which they live in an ever-changing Egypt.

Drosso was born in Egypt and is the author of another short-story collection and novel. “Hookah Nights” was published by Darf Publishers.

 


Award-winning writers coming to Dubai for Emirates Airline Festival of Literature

British author Nadiya Hussain among guests at the 2020 Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. (Photo: AFP)
Updated 13 November 2019

Award-winning writers coming to Dubai for Emirates Airline Festival of Literature

  • The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is back, and it’s bigger than ever
  • The literature event will bring together an array of celebrated names in the literature world under one roof

DUBAI: The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is back, and it’s bigger than ever. Kicking off on Feb. 4 until 9 at the InterContinental, Dubai Festival City, the annual event has an exciting program lined up for the region’s bookworms.

The festival will bring together an array of celebrated names in the literature world under one roof, including TV presenter, cook and bestselling author Nadiya Hussain, explorer Ranulph Fiennes, visual artist and children’s book author, Oliver Jeffers and TV astronomer and space scientist Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock. What’s more, the UAE’s first Emirati astronaut Hazzaa AlMansouri will also make an appearance.

Ahlam Bolooki, the festival director for the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature said in an official press statement: “With the stellar line-up for the 2020 Festival, there is no better place to search for the answers, whatever your question may be. We have writers to entertain, inspire, challenge and excite people from all walks of life and of all ages.”

Tickets will be on sale to the public from Nov. 14.