BULAQ is a podcast about contemporary writing from and about the Middle East and North Africa. We talk about books written in Aleppo, Cairo, Marrakech and beyond. We look at the Arab region through the lens of literature, and we look at literature -- what it does, why it matters, how it relates to society and history and politics -- from the point of view of this part of the world. BULAQ is hosted by Ursula Lindsey and M Lynx Qualey and co-produced by Sowt.
Women In Love and In Lust
We Wrote in Symbols: Love and Lust by Arab Women Writers brings together fiction and poetry by more than 70 women over a span of more than 1500 years. Editor Selma Dabbagh talks about why it’s hard to write about sex, and the difficult balance of reaching readers.
The digital launch of We Wrote in Symbols, published by Saqi Books, is scheduled for April 29, hosted by the Arab British Centre. Hanan al-Shaykh, Yasmine Seale, Saida Rouass, lisa luxx, and collection editor Selma Dabbagh will be there. There will also be a workshop launch with Marina Warner, Wen-chin Ouyang, and Emily Selove at Birbeck in June, as part of their Arabic in Translation series.
The collection drew classic works from, among other places, two anthologies: Classical Poems by Arab Women: A Bilingual Anthology, edited and translated by Abdullah al Udhari, and The Poetry of Arab Women from the Pre-Islamic Age to Andalusia, edited and translated by Wessam Elmeligi.
Shereen El Feki’s Sex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World was published in 2013.
Leila Slimani’s Sex and Lies: True Stories of Women’s Intimate Lives in the Arab World was translated by Sophie Lewis and came out last year.
Lina Mounzer’s “Going Beyond the Veil” talks about navigating the rocky territory of writing about sex as an Arab woman.
We Read Ramallah
The Book of Ramallah collects stories set in and around Palestine’s administrative capital, which, Maya Abu Al-Hayat writes in her introduction, “represents this mirage, this glimmer of hope that isn’t real, to many writers.”
Book of Ramallah, edited by Maya Abu Al-Hayat, is available from Comma Press. You can read “Love in Ramallah” by Ibrahim Nasrallah, translated by Mohammed Ghalaieny, at Bookanista. An excerpt from the introduction is available at The Irish Times.
An excerpt of Mourid Barghouti’s I Saw Ramallah, in Ahdaf Soueif’s translation, is available at Penguin Random.
An except of Raja Shehaheh’s Palestinian Walks is available through PBS.
“A Day in the Life of Abed Salama,” by Nathan Thrall, is at the New York Review.
The Present, directed by Farah Nabulsi and co-written by Nabulsi and Hind Shoufani, is streaming on Netflix.
Reading and Writing Behind Bars
“Writer, criminal, and ex-journalist” Ahmed Naji released two books in 2020: the speculative fiction novel (والنمور لحجرتي) AndtheTigers to My Room (2020) and the nonfiction work (حرز مكمكم) Rotten Evidence: Reading and Writing in Prison (2020).
Find more about Ahmed’s books, short stories, and essays in Arabic and in English translation at ahmednaji.net/
An excerpt of Rotten Evidence appeared in The Believer in Katharine Halls’ excellent translation.
Another excerpt appeared in The Michigan Quarterly Review.
He spoke about the book in July 2019 at an event in New York City.
Read a brief history of the court case against Ahmed at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP).
Ahmed’s “Re-Writing the Future: The Tanta Museum of White History” appears in Arts of the Working Class. It too was translated by Katharine Halls.
Midnight in Cairo
Raph Cormack is author of the soon-to-be-released Midnight in Cairo: The Divas of Egypt’s Roaring ‘20s, which chronicles the lives of many of Egypt’s biggest stars of the early twentieth century.
Midnight in Cairo is coming from WW Norton on March 9, and Saqi Books and AUC Press on May 6.
The Amar Foundation has an archive of Mounira al-Mahdiyya songs such as the one we end the show with, "اسمع اغاني المهدية"
You can take an online class with Raph about “Cairo in the Roaring ‘20s” in April 2021.
Raph also wrote about “Queer Life in Cairo in the 1920s” for the Gay and Lesbian Review.
Sex & Second Chances
Emma Ramadan translated two Moroccan novels in 2020: A Country for Dying by Abdellah Taïa & Straight from the Horse’s Mouth by Meryem Alaoui. They are very different books but they both feature sex workers.
Find more about Emma’s current and forthcoming translations at emmaramadan.com/translations-1
The Moroccan film Much Loved was released in 2015. You can read more about it from Aida Alami:Moroccan Film About Prostitution Creates Uproar.
Najat Bensalem starred in the film Raja in 2003 and was the subject of Abdellah El Jouahary’s documentary Raja Bent El Mellah, which came out in 2015.
Emma’s co-translation, with Chris Clarke, of Abdellah Taïa’s "The Rain"
Also Taïa’s "A Garden, While Waiting," which Emma translated for the PEN World Voices Translation Slam
“Crossing Boundaries: 10 Moroccan Writers” - the special section Emma put together for Words Without Borders
Cairo Modern: The Unstable City
We take a look at a new book about the architecture of twentieth century Cairo, and discuss the Egyptian capital’s past, present and future, and the way writers have shaped our view of it.
Mohamed Elshahed’s architectural survey Cairo Since 1900: An Architectural Guide is newly released from AUC Press, with a foreward by Mercedes Volait.
Elshahed’s longtime blog, Cairobserver, is a must-read for anyone interested in the built world.
Another recent book that maps Cairo is Humphrey Davies and Lesley Lababidi’s A Field Guide to the Street Names of Central Cairo; N.A. Mansour recently wrote about both A Field Guide and Cairo Since 1900 in “Two New Books Preserving Cairo’s Urban Landscape.”
Tawfiq al-Hakim’s The Prison of Life: An Autobiographical Essay, in which he describes his father’s time as an amateur architect, was translated by Pierre Cachia. Other Egyptian literary works that feature architects include Reem Bassiouney’s novel Mortal Designs, translated by Melanie Magidow, and Naguib Mahfouz’s play The Legacy.
Also discussed in this episode are Hamdi Abu Golayyel’s novels Thieves in retirement (trans. Marilyn Booth) and A Dog With No Tale (trans. Robin Moger).
Customer ReviewsSee All
Great Literature Podcast!
This show really is for anyone interested in literature. The 'Book Club' series is off to a great start!
Indispensable for anyone interested in the modern Arab world or in world literature. The hosts are up to the task of contextualising the works and authors. I’m always so happy to find a new episode. Small note on the May 7, 2020 episode: the person referred to as having written the script for the film Uridu Hallan , Hosn Shah, is a woman. Not Hasan.
What a gem
I'm always pleased with myself when I come across little unknown gems like this podcast. What a delight to listen to two smart women talk about books on a subject for which I've always had an interest yet know so little. Thank you, Bulaq, for bringing something new to the english-speaking book podcast world!