Isabella Hammad’s debut novel pays homage to Palestine

It is a look into Palestinian history, from the onset of the First World War to Palestine’s independence through the eyes of a young man named Midhat Kamal from Nablus. (Supplied)
Updated 11 August 2019

Isabella Hammad’s debut novel pays homage to Palestine

  • The novel is brimming with exquisite details, from France to Nablus, from the politics to the people

CHICAGO: From Isabella Hammad, winner of the Plimpton Prize for emerging writers, comes an exceptional debut novel, “The Parisian.” It is a look into Palestinian history, from the onset of the First World War to Palestine’s independence through the eyes of a young man named Midhat Kamal from Nablus. His life is one long journey that will force him to endure aspects of himself and the landscape around him with an analytical eye, and one that will help shape him, his future, and the ever-evolving political future of the Arab world and Palestine in the 20th century. 

The novel begins in 1914 when Midhat is traveling to France to attend medical school at the University of Montpellier. The son of a wealthy merchant named Haj Taher Kamal, Midhat loses his mother at a young age, is raised by his grandmother and attends the Mekteb-i Sultani boarding school in Constantinople. Although he has experienced a lot before he leaves Nablus, France forces him to look at himself as a possible doctor and as an Arab in Europe. Things may be different in France, but there are similarities between the Nablus countryside, with its hills and dry greenery, and Montpellier’s mountains and small streets.

With the world at war, Midhat’s life takes unpredictable turns along with the lives of those around him. He falls in love, faces betrayal, leaves France and comes back to Nablus only to find that the British have now taken the place of the Turks. The backdrop to this story is one that is pivotal to both Arab and Palestinian history. And while France serves as a prestigious opportunity for a young man, Midhat realizes that not everything is always better in Europe, especially during wartime. 

Hammad’s novel is brimming with exquisite details, from France to Nablus, from the politics to the people. She has captured an entire era, one of the most crucial moments in history through the eyes of Midhat, his Teta and his friends. Through him, there is a sense of ever-evolving change where lives are taken and given, villages and cities transformed, and governments made and broken.

There are layers of stories in Hammad’s debut novel, which pays homage to an ancient land where multiple faiths and hopes have turned the soil. The land in Nablus is riddled with structures built and half-built, indicating it is a place that has endured time and its people. 

Manal Shakir is the author of "Magic Within” published by Harper Collins India.


Sole DXB highlights: Melody Ehsani’s latest sneaker collaboration inspired by Egypt

Streetwear designer Melody Ehsani takes inspiration from Egypt for latest sneaker collaboration. Supplied
Updated 07 December 2019

Sole DXB highlights: Melody Ehsani’s latest sneaker collaboration inspired by Egypt

  • Los Angeles-based Melody Ehsani recently debuted her hotly-anticipated Air Jordan 1 sneaker in collaboration with Nike
  • The recently-debuted sneaker was inspired by a recent trip to Egypt in March

DUBAI: In recent years, the market for women's streetwear has grown, however, the category is still largely dominated by the male market, as well as male designers. But one designer hoping to change that is Los Angeles-based Melody Ehsani, who recently debuted her hotly-anticipated Air Jordan 1 sneaker in collaboration with Nike.

The streetwear designer, who is of Iranian descent, is the latest woman to collaborate on an Air Jordan sneaker, and one the first women to design a shoe for the Nike-owned brand, alongside the likes of Aleali May, a stylist and model who was the first person to create a unisex Jordan Brand shoe.

As part of the brand’s “Fearless Ones” holiday collection, the shoe boasts an eye-catching detail — a removable gold watch set to the time 2:30, a nod to the basketball legend Michael Jordan. But the iconic basketball player isn’t the only one that Ehsani decided to honor in her collaboration.

In fact, the sneaker was inspired by a recent trip to Egypt, when the law-student-turned-designer accompanied her husband, Red Hot Chilli Pepper bassist Flea, during the band’s unforgettable performance in Giza in March.

The shoe boasts an eye-catching detail — a removable gold watch set to the time 2:30, a nod to the basketball legend Michael Jordan. Supplied

“The pyramids are the most obvious inspiration,“ Ehsani shared with Arab News. “I know it sounds cliché, but once you are there and you realize what the actual scale of them is it’s incredible. Those stones look so small in photographs, but in reality each of them is several stories tall,” she mused.

“Just being in the presence of them made me feel so insignificant and served as a reminder that the world is so much bigger than us,” she added.

Ehsani, who visited Egypt for the first time several years ago, reveals that her second trip to the North African nation was a very special experience.  "I had gone seven years earlier and there were a million tourists, but this time I went with my husband and we got to go on private tours of the pyramids and it was a different and very special vibe.”

Meanwhile, the footwear’s multi-colored red, pink, orange, green and blue panelway was actually inspired by her rainbow manicure during the trip.

Additional details include a hand-written message in marker on the midsole that reads, “If you knew what you had was rare, you would never waste it,” a piece of advice she’d gotten from one of her best friends.

Additional details include a hand-written message in marker on the midsole that reads, “If you knew what you had was rare, you would never waste it.” Supplied

“I was so inspired by that quote that I just wanted to share it with the world,” revealed Ehsani. “Whenever I come across something that’s really inspiring to me, I tend to use my products as a platform to share that information.”

Before the sneakers were released, they had already had a resale price worth $480. To put that into perspective, the original retail price was $130. The high demand served as proof that there is a great market for women who love sneakers, and it’s finally starting to get acknowledged. 

 “Growing up, there was so many things I wanted that just didn’t exist, and shoes were a part of them,” she stated. “A lot of times I had to buy kid’s sizes or the stuff that’s available to women always feels like an afterthought. There’s a whole ‘shrink it and pink it’ phenomenon when it comes to women’s footwear.”

However, the accessories designer is hopeful. “But what’s really great is that since I started eleven years ago, there’s been a dramatic shift in that people are finally starting to identify that there’s a problem. It’s almost like we were asleep on the couch, but now we’ve woken up.”

The sought after footwear, which debuted on Nov. 15, is available for purchase at Dubai’s premiere streetwear festival Sole DXB, which wraps up on Dec. 7.