22 Sep 2016


Somedays I am sitting on my desk writing, my beige shawl draped on my shoulders, the shawl I always wore when I was pregnant with Jori, the shawl I still wear when I need warmth and comfort, the wooly shawl that survived numerous times of washing, oil paint, food stains and time, looking worn out and full of the love it carries in its stiches.

And somedays I am sitting on my desk trying to write, a light inside of me dimmed, a garden in my heart suddenly barren, its birds refusing to sing, my whole being uninspired, silent and brooding. As if unable to wake from a heavy troubled sleep, I see a way out but am unable to follow it, I hear the answers but am unable to accept them. Something much larger than me takes over me, I am completely and utterly in its grip.

6 Sep 2016

Morning run – Al Barsha Park

There’s something wonderful and lively about running in the morning. I’ve made a habit of it and found it a great energy booster. I still do the gym but sometimes it’s good to have the space to stretch my legs and just run, not tread mill run but the actual 'real' act of running.

The only thing I thought I’d miss about the UK was the accessible green spaces. Areas near my home, where I can just put on my running shoes and go. Since I’ve come to Dubai I’ve been using pavements and sidewalks for my morning run, until a friend of mine told me to join her on her morning run at Al Barsha park. The park is so ridiculously close to where I live, I have no idea how I’ve missed it! It’s perfect for morning joggers; the grass luscious and green, the trees and flower bushes manicured and well taken care of, the running lanes paved and smooth, the toilets accessible and clean. There are manual exercising machines! A little shop that sells drinks, groups doing yoga, clean benches and seating areas and a lovely man-made lake in the middle with little swan shaped boats.

I feel so lucky that I live close to such a gem. I’m looking forward to going roller blading with Jori there, as the paths are perfectly smooth for roller blades, bikes and scooters. And have barbeques and picnics with friends, and take long romantic walks.

5 Sep 2016

But is it really a choice?

I’m not approaching this narrative about wearing Hijab (head scarf) from a western, non-Muslim woman’s perspective. I’m an Arab who was born and raised in a Muslim culture (Kuwait) by two very strict Muslim parents. I was brought up as a Muslim, even though I have now lost my faith and am no longer practicing. I am also approaching it from a perspective of a woman who wore the Hijab and took it off because I felt like a hypocrite! I sin a lot, and I have no business pretending that I am a pious or modest woman.

When the ‘Burkini’ issue in France took over the media and most conversations, I kept hearing Muslim women say that ‘It’s our Choice’. That they chose to cover up and they continue to choose to cover up and no one should tell them otherwise. I was proud of how women fought for their right to wear whatever they wanted, for their right to dress modestly if they choose to do so. I think it’s very empowering how Muslim and non-Muslim women (who support the Burkini) responded to the French approach to women wanting to cover up.

What I doubt, is the question of Choice. When I was a little girl growing up in Kuwait and attending a Kuwaiti public school. I saw older women in my family (mother, grandmother, aunts, older female cousins) wear the Hijab. I went to school and was told by my Islamic teacher that a Muslim girl MUST wear the Hijab, or else will be brutally punished by God. As soon as I reached puberty, the pressure became more intense, all my class mates now wore it. When a girl in my class who did not wear the Hijab, came the next day wearing it, she was congratulated by all the teachers, given special treatment, showered with words of admiration and encouragement, and we (the non-Hijab wearers) were told to follow her example: ‘Look girls, look how modest and beautiful your colleague Muneera looks in her Hijab, her face is radiant and glowing with the light of Islam’.

At school I was told on a daily basis that wearing Hijab is one of the pillars of Islam. Therefore, you are not a good Muslim unless you cover your hair. The same things were said to me at home. Female cousins my age, my older sister and my younger sister all wore it now, and I was getting a lot of heat at every family gathering, at every meal: ‘Why don’t you be a good girl like your sisters and your cousins and cover your hair?’ and ‘What if you die without having fulfilled God’s wishes of modesty? You will surely burn in hell’ and ‘No good man will want to marry an uncovered girl’ and ’Good men prefer modest women, you’re not fit for marriage unless you wear Hijab’. The shaming went on and on..

Eventually, I did wear it. Because I was told it was right thing to do. Because I wanted to please my family, because I was told it was my duty as a Muslim woman. Because I did not want to eternally burn in hell. Because I did want a good man to look at me as wife material and want to marry. Because of all the social conditioning, and the ideas I was breast-fed ever since I was six years old. So, No! it wasn’t a choice. It’s not a choice if everyone you love, trust and look up to, tells you that you have to do it. It’s not a choice if you’re threatened with eternal damnation unless you wear it.

4 Sep 2016

Finding my true direction

Recently I’ve been meeting up with frustrated writers like myself. The experience has been rewarding. I found The Dubai Writers’ Group on google meetups, we meet on Saturdays at a quaint little café called Shakespeare and Co.  

The organizer, Heidi, throws challenging writing prompts at us and allows us fifteen minutes to put down our thoughts for each prompt. These writing exercises – to my surprise – are so thought provoking, the fact that there is a time limit really does help the creative process. On other days we discuss our own work (writing projects) with each other and provide feedback. I enjoy these meetings immensely, the company, and the occasional banter which only frustrated writers understand and appreciate.

Meeting with like minded, multi passionate people here in Dubai has been a great help for my emotional health. Of course I still have my bad days, but the friendliness of the people I am meeting here in Dubai and the ease in which they open up to me and allow me the emotional space to express and be myself is just wonderful. I didn’t find that kind of kinship when I was living in the UK, people there are closed up, assuming, cold, distant and extremely unwelcoming.

I also recognize all my own efforts in finding such good people. First I searched for single mothers like myself and joined their group and the emotional support we provide each other has just been so healing for me, knowing that there are so many kindred spirits who had been through and are still going through the exact experiences as mine. Then I went searching for a writing group and insisted I don’t miss any of their meetings. This has also opened up a new horizon for me, they’ve given me faith to work on my novel again, after I had abandoned it due to multiple publishing rejections.

I’m starting my own poetry group ‘The Frustrated Poets’. We will meet weekly at my place and I’m really looking forward to meeting all the poetry lovers I hope my group will attract. It feels so good to be able to share my passions with people who are equally passionate, interesting and intelligent. It feels good to have found a better life, after all the alienation, to feel like a belong. Sometimes in the wind of change we find our true direction.

3 Sep 2016

Pink Stain

I need to wipe that stain. Where my compact blush smashed on the white tiled floor last night

I’m too warm and comfortable to crawl out of bed, my sheets are layers of love, my body tender and brooding

The dark pink stain on the gleaming white tiles, the sunlight steels a glimpse through the blinds and the dark pink stain shimmers

My cat jumps on my little desk, pushes my pencils and papers to the floor. A crash! I call him to me, another layer of love, a purring delight

There are e-mails, WhatsApp posts and feelings to attend to

There are memories, disappointments and a lot of laundry

There’s the important question of what to cook for lunch today?

And there’s the stain, the dark pink stain where my compact smashed, in my haste to leave the house last night. The familiar disappointment, a heavy sick feeling in my gut. Another boring date, another stupid man with nothing to offer.

2 Sep 2016

This is home

Woke up and reached out to my phone, there’s that lazy uploading circle going round and round again.

What makes a house a home?

The instinctive hand gesture reaching out to click on the kettle early in the morning,

Finding my cat hiding in the laundry basket,

Small burns on edges of new shiny pots and pans,

The familiar hum in the still of the night,

The take away down the road remembers your usual order,

Letting out along sigh of relief as you turn the key in the door after a long day out,

Napping on the sofa,

Waking up ridiculously happy just thinking of the prospect of breakfast.

This is home, I said to myself, this is home.