Short stories from Gaza describe life in the ‘world’s largest prison’

Author Nayrouz Qarmout’s stories are embedded in real events. (Shutterstock)
Updated 08 October 2019

Short stories from Gaza describe life in the ‘world’s largest prison’

CHICAGO: From the Gaza Strip comes a collection of short stories about growing up and coming of age in the “world’s largest prison.”

“The Sea Cloak and Other Stories” by Nayrouz Qarmout tells about a land where life is lived in bits and pieces, its joys cherished and sorrows familiar.

Each story is filled with vivid memories of places, events, scents, houses and people that if not recorded could so easily have been lost in time.

Qarmout begins her collection with a young woman watching the Mediterranean Sea, Gaza’s coastline brimming with families, tents and the smell of roasting sweetcorn.

The narrator’s family spends a rare day at the beach. She describes her sisters gossiping, her brothers grilling fish and talking politics and war, her mother tidying their tent, while her father gazes out to sea. The young girl wants to be free like the waves, and so in her black dress and veil sets out.




“The Sea Cloak and Other Stories” by Nayrouz Qarmout tells about a land where life is lived in bits and pieces. (Supplied)

Between a young woman attempting to discover herself in a place where her life is bound by politics and societal pressures, an older woman walks her donkey cart along a mountain path between the village of Al-Khader and the Efrat settlement to her grape vines, all she has left after the death of husband.

Life is tough near the settlements, relationships strained, and friendships cautious. Security forces shoot first and ask questions later.

In more than one story, Qarmout’s path to freedom is the one that leads to school and education. For everyone, life is lived amid rubble and painful memories but also with an innate resilience, to take care of their families, communities and themselves.

Qarmout’s stories are embedded in real events, her characters live through bombardment, gun battles, mortar attacks, disappointment, fear and lost love with heartbreaking determination.

One frustrated character, Ziad, said: “I stood up for my principles and for my liberty. So, tell me: Where is the land my father promised would be mine again? It’s getting further and further away. Peace has escaped. Hope has fled.”

Between the family who has spent a week in hiding and a young girl practicing patriotic songs, life is lived, even if it is difficult.

Qarmout is an author and women’s rights activist. She was born in Damascus but returned to Gaza in 1994.


Regional label Les Benjamins makes its Paris Men’s Fashion Week debut

Les Benjamins unveiled its Fall/Winter 2020 collection. (Supplied)
Updated 18 January 2020

Regional label Les Benjamins makes its Paris Men’s Fashion Week debut

DUBAI: Les Benjamins is a street wear brand that is very proud of its regional roots — and it showed its latest collection at Paris Men’s Fashion Week on Friday at Palais De Tokyo.

Although it’s men’s fashion week, the brand showed looks for both men and women. The creative director and founder behind this young brand is Turkish designer Bunyamin Aydin, who previously collaborated with Puma. The brand, which is set to open a store in Dubai, is a regular fixture at pop up culture events in the region, including at Dubai’s annual urban festival, Sole DXB.

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Aydin spoke to Arab News about the inspiration behind his latest collection.

“I love unfolding stories from the East that are untold and redefining culture by moving it forward. It’s like giving an update on our culture.”

Friday’s show was an important moment for the 30-year-old talent — he has previously shown in Milan, but this was his debut catwalk presentation in Paris.

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“Paris is the center of the fashion world, it is where everyone gets together and it also a right place to take a message,” he said.  

The show made a clear statement about how fashion has now become more diverse, global and inclusive in its attitude with its international shapes and cuts, from smooth leather trench coats to jacquard knit dresses.

Les Benjamins’ Fall/Winter 2020 is inspired by the 1970s psychedelic rock moment in Turkey. “What I call the Wild Wild East,” the designer said.

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Colors such as mustard yellow and pomegranate red are a nod to the Middle East, while the use of tapestry details  speak of the creative director’s heritage.

The fashion show reflected how mindsets are changing as we start a new decade.