Egyptian-American artist Kareem Rahma’s hard-hitting haiku

“We Were Promised Flying Cars” is a book of haiku — poems consisting of three lines of five, seven, and five syllables. (Supplied)
Updated 23 September 2019

Egyptian-American artist Kareem Rahma’s hard-hitting haiku

AMMAN: Egyptian-American artist Kareem Rahma’s latest project is an encapsulation of this polymath’s experience and talents. “We Were Promised Flying Cars” is a book of haiku — poems consisting of three lines of five, seven, and five syllables — which Rahma then used his extensive experience of digital media (he’s worked for Vice and the New York Times, and is a cofounder of Nameless Network) to promote, using an app called Cameo, which enables you to pay celebrities (many of whom really stretch the limits of that term) to read/sing/recite whatever you ask them to.

“I heard about (Cameo) maybe 16 months ago, and I really wanted to use it for some sort of art project but I couldn't figure out what,” Rahma tells Arab News. “I had the initial idea to have celebs congratulate me on publishing my book but (that) evolved when I realized it would be much more interesting and dynamic if the celebs read poems from my book. This really tied it all together with the themes of the book, because misinformation will continue to plague our society and eventually we won't care, because we'd rather be entertained than informed — which is already true, but I think it'll get more intense. The difference between now and then is that, in the future, we won't care that we're being lied to.”

And so we have Anthony Scaramucci — a.k.a. The Mooch, briefly Trump’s director of communications in July 2017 — reciting “Unnecessary Memories,” which runs as follows: “Nostalgia is banned/Hindsight is 20-20/What’s the use for truth?”

“The lack of self-awareness is truly magnificent,” Rahma says. “Here is a guy who is a lying, sociopathic narcissist who made a name for himself by being a moron reading a poem about regret and the dissolution of truth.”

Rahma — born in Cairo and raised in Minnesota — has been writing poetry for the past five years. “I’ve always loved haiku because of how accessible it is,” he says of his choice of format for the book. “My goal is to express complex topics, philosophies and ideas by using the simplest vocabulary possible. I want my poetry to be for everyone.” The haiku forced him to “figure out how to communicate my thoughts more clearly,” he says in his book’s introduction. And when he found the way to do that, “I found real peace in having a path forward.”

Much of the poetry is, he says, “undeniably dystopian.” Take, for example, “Fun In The Desert.”

“The rich fled to Mars/They come back for Burning Man/Welcome to The Purge.”

Or “Out of Sight.”

“The Emergency/Came and took the poor away/We are happy now.”

But, Rahma adds, it also “allows plenty of space for humor, laughter and satire.” Sort of a haiku-version of “Black Mirror,” then. (He’s right, though, there are some very funny verses — “We love Muslims now/Ever since Ramadan became/A Bank Holiday.”)

“Ultimately it is an exploration of the world we live in right now and an attempt to predict our trajectory forward,” he says. 

Rahma says he came up with the idea for the book while he was asleep in a Beirut hotel room.

“I was being drawn to Beirut for artistic reasons,” he says. “I really felt like I needed to be there in order to come up with some new ideas, and in the middle of the night on my fourth or fifth night, I woke up and wrote down ‘We Were Promised Flying Cars 100 Haiku From The Future.’ When I woke up, I looked at what I'd written and the idea had merit. Once I came back to the USA, I began to write and it was very therapeutic and fun, so I just kept going until I had nearly 200 poems written.”

The next step was to select the celebrities he wanted to read his haiku. “Tara Reid, Andy Dick and Gilbert Gottfriend were all $100 and those were the most expensive. A dog called Puggy Smalls was the least expensive — $10. Jennifer Love Hewitt, Freddie Prinze Jr. and Tomi Lahren all ignored my requests,” he says. “I'd ignore my request too.”

Rahma hopes the book will “open the door for new projects beyond poetry” and says he has already been approached about turning “We Were Promised Flying Cars” into “some kind of television anthology, which is exciting to me.”

And he’ll definitely be heading to the Middle East for inspiration again. “I'm always being pulled there, energetically-speaking,” he says. “The Middle East has a magnetic energy to me.”

Birthday tributes for Halima Aden flood social media

Updated 20 September 2020

Birthday tributes for Halima Aden flood social media

DUBAI: Tributes from all over the world poured in for US-Somali model Halima Aden’s birthday this week. Models, actresses and designers have all taken to social media to wish the newly-minted 23-year-old a happy birthday. 

“Happy birthday, baby,” wrote Egyptian model and actress Salma Abu Deif on her Instagram Stories. “Love you always,” she added alongside a black-and-white snap of the two together.

Also taking to the photo-sharing platform to celebrate Aden on her big day was US designer Tommy Hilfiger, for whom the hijab-wearing catwalker recently starred in a campaign. 

Egyptian actress Salma Abu Deif wished the model a happy birthday. Instagram

American actress Larsen Thompson posted an adorable snap of the friends in an embrace, writing, “Happy birthday to my beautiful sis @Halima. You amaze me! Love and miss you!”

Meanwhile, US-Lebanese designer Eli Mizrahi posted an editorial from Aden’s instantly-iconic 2017 shoot with CR Fashion Book, captioning it: “Definition of a superstar! Happy birthday, @halima.”

“Thank you for all the birthday wishes,” posted the model on Instagram. “Alhamdulilah, 23 never felt so good.”


Thank you for all the birthday wishes alhamdulilah 23 never felt so good #jordanyear

A post shared by Halima (@halima) on

Many celebrities took to the comment section to share their well-wishes, including supermodels Shanina Shaik, Iman Abdulmajeed and singer Austin Mahone. 

Though Aden just turned 23, she has already achieved many career milestones.

The model, who grew up in a Kenyan refugee camp before migrating to Minnesota with her family aged seven, made headlines at the age of 19 when she was the first woman to wear a hijab in the Miss Minnesota USA Pageant, where she made the semifinals, in 2016.

Also taking to the photo-sharing platform to celebrate Aden on her big day was US designer Tommy Hilfiger. Instagram

She would go on to make her runway debut at Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 5 showcase during New York Fashion Week in 2017, becoming the first model to wear a hijab on the international runway.

 After her debut, she walked for a number of prestigious brands such as Moschino and Max Mara and was the first model to wear her hijab on the covers of major women’s magazines, such as Allure, British Vogue, Teen Vogue and Sports Illustrated. 

When she’s not turning heads on the runways or pages of renowned magazines, Aden, who was announced as a UNICEF ambassador in 2018, uses her voice and platform to advocate for children’s rights. 

But despite all of her exceptional achievements, it is clear that Aden is only getting started and is certain to be breaking boundaries for years to come.