Sometimes as I walk down the street and hear a car horn, I am transported back to a late cold night in Marghani Street in Eastern Cairo. The cold breeze finding its way through my black leather jacket, I pull my laptop case closer to my chest hoping to reach home before midnight. Sometimes, when I cannot breathe through the humidity in some summer days, I become the high school student managing to walk her way back home into a grey maxi skirt on the streets of downtown Abu Dhabi, breathing her way through a much tougher humid climate. Sometimes with a sip of Coca-Cola Vanilla, I am reminded with the joy of such sip while breaking the fast of a long Ramadan day a couple of years ago in Stuttgart, Germany. Sometimes in the supermarket when I come across the candy section, a vivid image of a three-year-old girl holding curly red strips of candy between her hands sitting in a car seat while her father drives in the streets of Orlando, Fl.

Sometimes, memories as such resurface into my mind. Sometimes with such memories tangled into my dreams at night, I loose the sense of place. Sometimes at night I’d hear my mother calling me from the hallway. Other times I’d hear a close friend’s laugh, or a song being badly sung in my undergrad studio and I’d laugh out loud.

Sometimes I wonder whether these days: my teary eyes the day I landed in America after 20 years, my heart dancing in joy catching a glimpse of Manhattan’s skyline for the first time, the first time I walked through Times Square unimpressed, the time I almost fainted and took an ambulance, the first night I slept in my own apartment after a whole month of a horrible commute with nothing but an air mattress and a pillow, and the happiness after submitting the last assignment of the toughest semester of my life.

Sometimes, many times, I don’t even believe that all of this have happened in such a short time.

But sometimes I wonder if these are going to be memories that would one day resurface in my mind.

(Photo courtesy: Marwah Garib)


Arrival Hall

As  we get our passports stamped, hunt for our luggage and stroll down the escalators leading to what has always been the best part of the journey, I try as I’ve always tried, to hold back my tears, and not fail my promise to myself to stay strong.

As my brother and I approach the arrival hall I see my father’s silhouette towering the crowd. My heart skips a beat, and my tears slowly build up in my eyes. I keep up with my brother’s jokes hoping to stay calm. My father sees us. He holds my youngest brother and pushes him gently below the fence separating the arriving passengers and their impatient relatives and friends. My six year old brother, Mohamed runs towards us. I automatically bend down and stretch my arms and he runs into me,  burying himself into my chest and locking his arms around my shoulders. We stay there for a while, until my brother carried Mohamed and sat him on the luggage.

When I reached my father, just as I did every time I reached him in the past five years, I ran to him, and buried myself into his chest. I closed my eyes firmly hoping to pull back the accumulated teardrops. But they were set lose. And my voice broke. I wept.

The world stopped. Time and place suddenly disappeared. And I am there forever. My father said a joke about my crying. A joke I never really hear. Only at that moment, I know that I can never feel more protected. At that moment my mind detaches from all its worries. My heart forgets what it has always feared. At that moment, I can feel the warmth of the world reaching me. Gently lighting my soul, bringing me back to life.

Five years later, I still cried when I heard my mother’s voice on the phone, when I hugged her as I arrived home.  Five years later, I take the journey I have always taken,  I fly on the same flight, through the same route, at the same timing of the year. Only this time, I know that I am not leaving, at least not at a specified date. This time, it is entirely my choice.


تأتي الكلمات متدافعة بسرعة هائلة لتألم رأسي. أقف لألتقط أنفاسي. ثم تأتي الهلوسات والتخيلات لترسم واقع يخبّئ معالمه الجدران التي أحتضنتني لأعوام لترسم غرفة أخرى يغلب عليها الظلام سوى أضواء نيون فاقعة محددة زوايها.

أسمع صوته متحدثاً، يتقطع ويتشوش بين الحين والآخر، في أول وهلة لم يمكنني فهم كلامه، ثم أدركت أنه يشتكي من قلة الوقت وكثرة المهام والأعمال. أحاول تجاهل التشويش وأركز في كلماته. ولكن سرعان ما تأتي أصواتاً أخرى من أنحاء الغرفة . لكن ليس بإمكاني تميزها، كلها مشوشة بعض الشئ ومتداخلة ببعضها البعض

أحاول التركيز. ربما سأفهم شيئاً! أدركت أن نبرة بعضها حادة، وبعضها هادئة، وأصوات أخرى تصرخ في الصوت الهادئ، وأصواتٍ لا تقف عن الجدال. تعلو الأصوات فوقها فوق بعض، فأشعر بألمٍ في رأسي مجدداً.

.أبحث عن صوته بين فوضى الأصوات، فأسمعه يضحك. أدور نحو مصدر الصوت فأجده يشاهدني من خلف عدسات نظارته.


I look at myself in the mirror and ask why I would ever be admired. I look at my pale face and the dark circles around my teary eyes and wonder why my cheekbones can be more visible today. I see my face and wonder why I am depressed. Why I cry every night before I go to bed. I look deep into my eyes and ask my very own self why I hate myself.

When I am around people I feel my soul detaching from my body. I feel elevated beyond the physical world. I’d then become so deep into my consciousness, that I lose myself. I would nod regardless agreeing, I would always fake a smile, a laugh or whatever that comes automatically to avoid people getting into my state of peace.

Or despair.

I have been depressed for a long while now. I have learned that after reading a couple of articles on the topic and taking a couple of unreliable online tests just for the sake of entertainment and showed many of the symptoms mentioned.

And I don’t know the reason behind my feelings. I don’t understand what have made me reach this point.

I have a life that many people would dream of. A great, loving family, a great house, good education opportunities, great upbringing, and a pair of green eyes in Egypt. My parents provided me with the best. And love me unconditionally.

Yet, depression and loneliness haunt me wherever I go.

Every time I speak out loud about my depressed self, people would laugh at me and ask why a girl like me would ever be depressed. They’d tell me that I don’t have the right to feel so.

As if it was ever my choice. As if I have every wanted to be stuck in this state. As if I have ever liked it.

‘Then change yourself’, they’d say.

I’d laugh.

Do they think I have never tried? Do they even know what happens every time I try?

Here’s what happens: I receive shots of negative thoughts from my head which destroy me. I end up this lump of flesh with zero self-esteem. The grey scale world around me would blacken and the concept of pleasure would disappear. The slightest thing that would usually make me happy won’t. The only feeling I get is numbness.

I would watch the streetlights blur, the colors fade away, the objects unfocused and text dissolving into white papers/screens. I would lose the slightest sense. I would skip the smiles, the laughs, and most forms of human contact.

I would end up living with altered versions of real people in my head. We converse, we joke and we fall in love.

And constantly destroy each other. Rip each other’s souls apart.

I am held captive. Not in the walls of my room or my house. Not in the fences of my gated city. Not in the boundaries of my country. But I am held captive into my soul. I am held captive in my thoughts. And my innermost self.

Our Paper Cities

         One summer day she told us that we’re going to do a ‘project’. The word was very much unfamiliar to me but she explained no further. Instead, my mother took us to the nearby stationery shop and we bought some colored sticker paper, markers and a cardboard box. She cut the box open and flattened it. Then, she cut stripes of black sticker paper and stuck it into the middle axis of the cardboard base and later surrounded it by green paper. She then went to the kitchen and got some empty plastic bottles and cardboard boxes and turned them upside down. She told us to bring our toy cars and drive them through the roads. She built us a paper city.

     A couple of years later my brother and I would jump out every morning of our bunk bed to the other side of the room where it took almost half of the room’s floor. 
We’d ask ourselves on which side should the overpopulating city expand? Is it from the side where the roads end in a severe dead end? Or the other side where the park lies with no parking spots? Does the city need more buildings or green spaces? Or more parking spots?
     After a short high-pitched argument we’d tear a fresh page out of our least used school copybooks and tape it along the decided edge. With our pencils and crayons as our tools, we’d lengthen the roads, draw new building plot limits, sidewalks with innovative patterns and garden spaces. We’d measure with our toy cars the street lanes and the parking plots. We’d roll small pieces of paper and glue them to the road to create humps. We’d make paper street signals and paper trees. We’d fold other fresh pages of our least used school copybooks into four parts and draw windows and balconies then glue it to the building plots.
And that’s how we spent our days for years.
Fifteen years later, my brother and I are in an architecture school. Now, with fancy modelling tools and computer renderings.

The Problem with Growing Up in the United Arab Emirates

I grew up in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. I loved everything about it.. the perspective it has given me, the cleanliness and safe life. However, every country has its problems and here are the problems with growing up in the UAE:

1. Wherever you travel, you’re never impressed.

No really, you aren’t. The UAE now has the highest quality streets, buildings, materials, paths, services.. etc. And the most luxurious too. Paris’ Champs-Élysées for instance, is such a disappointment to the residents of the UAE.

2. International differences don’t  ‘wow’ you.

When you grow up with a tiny international community.. you learn to accept the differences unconsciously.. that you become the difference.. which leads us to the next point..

3. You’re international..

You know that strong sense of identity you’re parents might have? you don’t. Because you grew up with an international community

which happens to be my school’s name.

4. you become more knowledgeable (culture wise) than most people in any other nation. You’ve tried different foods, you celebrated different holidays, you saw different clothing and maybe tried them on too.

5. If you’re an Arab, you’d definitely be speaking more than one dialect.

Plus that general dialect spoken among the youth.. which is basically a mix between different dialects.. I am Egyptian and spoke Shami ( a mix of Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian and Jordanian) dialect fluently that nobody thought I was Egyptian.

And you’d be speaking your own dialect with an edge that can be spotted by residents from your country. I’ve always been spotted as an ‘outsider’ especially in my first years in Egypt.


Not sure whether these are actually problems or advantages, but growing up in the UAE has definitely affected me 🙂



وحشني صوته في الشقة.

وحشتني حكاياته، قصص طفولته أيام م الدولة كانت دولة، م العزة كانت على راسنا

مدرسته لما كان التعليم مش تعتيم

أيام النصر

أيام الإيطاليان

وحشتني قاعدته

قدام التلفزيون

وحشني إزاي أنا زيه

وحشني شِعره


تصليح نحو الخطابات


وحشتني يا جدو.