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Two Views of Fadi Zaghmout’s Debut Novel, ‘The Bride of Amman’


Fadi Zaghmout:

Happy about these two amazing reviews for The Bride of Amman by Safia Moore and Sawad Hussein!

Originally posted on Arabic Literature (in English):

Safia Moore and Sawad Hussain give their views of Fadi Zaghmout’s debut novel, The Bride of Amman, a bloggish book on life and sexual freedom in Jordan:

By Safia Moore

Zaghmout talking about his book. Zaghmout talking about his book.

Released in English this summer, Fadi Zaghmout’s novel The Bride of Amman is a sharp and sensitive exposé of Jordanian society through the voices of young people constrained by conservatism and blatant discrimination.  The confessional tone is entirely appropriate since chapters are allocated to characters, each telling their individually unique, yet linked stories, hopping between the present and the past, with one eye always on the future.  This structure privileges the reader with insider knowledge, and the fast-paced slices of life often read like private blog posts.  Indeed, Salma, described by her grandmother as “an unplucked fruit left to rot” because of her unmarried status at thirty, writes an anonymous, popular and highly didactic…

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10 blurbs from distinguished figures for The Bride of Amman


The Bride of Amman is finally out in English and I am more than happy and thankful for the endorsement of the following wonderful people. I am honoured for their words.

1. Hanan Al Sheikh, author of Women of Sand and Myth, The Story of Zahra, and One Thousand and one Nights:

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2. Shereen El Feki, author of Sex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World.

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3. Matthew Weinart, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Political Science & International Relations Department, University of Delaware:

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4. George Azzi, gender and sexual rights activist, co-founder of AFE and Helem:

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5. Fadia Faqir, author of Willow Trees Don’t Weep:

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6. Wafa AlKhadra, Professor at American University of Madaba, Jordan:

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7. Nermeen Murad, Chief of Party of USAID Takamol Gender Program; writer, columnist, gender and human rights advocate:

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8. Saba Mubarak, Jordanian Actress and Producer:

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9. Madian Al Jazeera, owner of the books@cafe, Amman Jordan:

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10. Sridhar Rangayan, film maker and activist, Mumbai, India

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The Jordan Times reviews “The Bride of Amman” and they love it!


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A review for The Bride of Amman on The Jordan Times by Sally Bland. Posted on 5th July 2015.

Full review:

The book cover displays the cognitive dissonance and inner conflict experienced by all the major characters in “The Bride of Amman”. While the title would seem to signal happiness, the face of the woman pictured next to it is full of anxiety and pain. Marriage, and all the expectations attached to it, is just one of the societal norms which author Fadi Zaghmout problematises in his novel.

Hard-hitting prose quickly draws the reader into the lives of four young women and a man living in today’s Amman. They are close friends and share many things, not least, the risk of total devastation if they do not abide by the rules. Some refuse to be boxed in by social norms and consciously make defiant choices, while others are unwittingly set on a collision course with family and society through no fault of their own. All are seeking love and respect. They start off as irrepressible romantics, but events carve hard, cynical edges on their souls, as they discover that it is hard to remain true to their values and dreams amidst pervasive social pressure to conform.

Leila’s happiness at obtaining her degree is marred when she finds that this is not enough for her parents, relatives and neighbours, who consider it only a prelude to marriage. It is not that she rejects the idea of marriage, but she had hoped for more recognition of her academic achievement.

Salma, Leila’s older sister, suffers from remaining single, and is deeply wounded upon hearing her grandmother describe her as “an unplucked fruit left to rot”, as she nears her thirtieth birthday — her “expiry date”. (p. 22)

The story shows that judging women only by their marriageability can have catastrophic consequences.

Hayat loses her job when someone reports on her relationship with a married man, leaving her feeling vulnerable and terrified at the loss of social respect and of income she needs to finish university and contribute to her family’s upkeep. Her vulnerability is amplified by her father’s sexual abuse, which colours her self-esteem and relationships.

Rana has a more analytical view of society than her friends: “I’m rebellious by nature… very conscious of the contradictory messages I get from the world around me. Everyone seems to want to construct my moral framework for me, in a society that strikes me as schizophrenic and very masculine. Whereas I’m a female, a young woman trying to feed a craving for gender equality and personal freedom.” (p. 38)

But her awareness doesn’t protect her entirely from the dilemmas she faces after falling in love with a Muslim — a love she must keep secret from her conservative Christian family.

Ali is also under a lot of pressure to get married. In fact, he does want a family, but his preference for his own sex means that a traditional marriage would be living a lie.

By letting his characters tell their stories, Zaghmout delivers a radical critique of society from a feminist/outsider perspective, producing one of few books written by men that convincingly convey the women’s angle. Michael Cunningham’s “The Hours”, Amitov Ghosh’s “Sea of Poppies” and Arthur Golden’s “Memoirs of a Geisha” come to mind.

Zaghmout’s book is not a literary novel like theirs; in fact, it verges on melodrama, but it is a story that needs to be told, a novel that obviously emerges from strong motivation to catalyse social change. Having originally written “The Bride of Amman” in Arabic testifies that his aim is to generate discussion, not simply to expose.

Transgressing taboos opens the characters up to new sides of their personalities and more positive ways of relating to others. “Are our ideas like clothes?” Leila queries. “They seem to fit initially, but they become too small for us as our awareness about our surroundings grows, and then it’s perhaps time to throw them off and replace them with new ways of thinking.” (p. 227)

While Zaghmout declares war on outdated social norms that complicate and sometimes destroy people’s lives, he does not declare war on society as such. The story points to a number of avenues for reconciliation if only people are open-minded and respectful of others’ individuality and dreams. “The Bride of Amman” is a brave intervention in a debate that is going on just below the radar. Let’s bring it out in the open, he seems to be saying.

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Untold Gender Stories in Egypt: Interviewing Mona Al Shimi #supportBussy


No one can deny Egypt’s influence on the culture of the Arab world at large. In the past 3 decades we have been witnessing a rapid growth of religious extremism, projection towards more conservatism, expansion of patriarchy and inflation of masculinity. The Arab Spring brought hope for change, with young women and men activists demanding more freedoms and rights. Unfortunately, our Arab Spring has been highjacked and the aftermath was devastating. Yet, young activists won’t surrender to darkness, because whenever and wherever there is injustice, there will always be justice fighters.

A group of young Egyptian want to challenge social taboos and bring up untold gender stories. It is a great initiative that I wholeheartedly support. I had the chance to interview Mona Al Shimi from Bussy and ask her more about this initiative and the crowd funding campaign they are running to support it.

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Fadi: Tell us more about Bussy

quotesMona: Bussy is a performing arts project/movement that documents and gives voice to censored untold stories about gender in different communities in Egypt. Women step on stage to share stories about harassment, rape, gender discrimination, honor killing, forced marriage, Female genital mutilation, motherhood, domestic violence, child abuse, mass sexual assaults and many others, from different communities and cities in Egypt.

Fadi: I bet that there are many untold stories here and there is a big need to hear those stories. Where did the idea behind Bussy come from? 

quotes1Mona: In 2005 Eve Ensler ‘s Vagina Monologues was performed at The American University in Cairo. While audiences felt very moved by the courage and honesty of its content, they longed for something similar coming from Egyptian culture, something they could personally relate to more. A group of students led by Naz Khan a foreign exchange student at the time decided to create Bussy to give a space for an Egyptian Vagina Monologues. Flyers were created round campus titled “share your story” with the option of anonymity given, and in 2006 Bussy gave its first performance at AUC theatre. Today Bussy is no longer a student organization, has expanded beyond AUC, and is no longer limited to women.

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Fadi: I just read a friend of mine on Facebook saying something that rationalises the globalisation of the feminist movement as a response of the globalisation of same oppressive agencies. Having said that, a culture specific flavour always exists. Who is behind Bussy? What’s your team like? 

Mona: We are a small team of independent youth led by manager and director Sondos Shabayek. She has completely dedicated her life to the project.

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Fadi: Why do you think there is a need for women and men to talk about their experiences that are related to gender?

quotes2Mona: From the moment we are born we are taught to invalidate our own feelings, our personal experiences… To deny our inner worlds, and only accept and communicate what has been presented to us as “normal”. By not sharing we each live in the illusion that our personal experience is shameful and that we are alone. As the mass silence continues this message of shame keeps getting reinforced and individuals suffer from extreme self-judgement. It’s very important to break that silence, challenge that message of shame, and give people a space to express and listen to the stories of others. It helps individuals heal and accept themselves, and on a larger scale breaks the social fallacy that’s imprisoning the masses.

Fadi: How do you think theatre as a medium can help brining these stories up?

Mona: Theatre is a very powerful medium in communicating stories. As opposed to other mediums it doesn’t only capture the content, but also the feelings of the storyteller in flesh and blood. Whether the storyteller on stage is telling his/her personal story or someone else’s, it feels real. Both the flesh and blood of the story and the storyteller are brought to life on stage. It has a very direct and intense impact on both audiences and tellers.

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Fadi: You are going to address taboo issues related to gender. Do you think the social climate in Egypt is ready for such stories?

quotes3Mona: We always have to be a few steps ahead from what the social climate is ready for, otherwise no significant change is achieved. However, it is also important to work gradually. Taboos come in layers, and if you follow the order of such layers in your unfolding process, it makes the process smoother. It is important to understand that the core objective is not to challenge the society, but to heal it.

Fadi: I like what you said about healing society, yet I am sure that you are going to face huge challenges in doing so? What kind of challenges are you anticipating?

Mona:  More of the same challenges we are currently facing; financial sustainability, freedom from censorship, and finding safe performance spaces.

Fadi: You started a crowd funding campaign to overcome the financial side of this initiative. I hope you succeed in securing funds needed to keep this initiative alive. Do you have a certain goal or objective that you want to achieve? How many women and men are you going to reach to? How many stories are you aiming to bring up to the surface?

Mona: So far we have gathered stories from over 500 people in 5 cities and held 20 performances. We aim to expand those numbers, explore more cities, more rural areas and reaching out to those who are isolated and unheard. Next year we are aiming to travel to 3 new cities, collect a 100 stories, and hold 4 performances.

On the longer term we also hope to expand to other artistic mediums. We plan to upload are full archive online in order for everyone to have access to the stories, and eventually create a book in English and Arabic with a selected collection. We also hope to upload filmed testimonies online and keep filming more. Despite the power of theatre, these mediums are more accessible to a wider scope of people, and that’s why we need to expand horizontally.

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Fadi: The campaign is nicely done. It is touching to see young men and women demanding a safe place to tell their stories. So far, you have secured $4,414 out of $70,000 goal and you have only 13 days are left. What activities are you planning to meet your goal?

Mona: We’re trying to reach out as widely as possible on social media round the world especially to those passionate about our cause.

We’re also selling small symbolic items, holding garage sales, and collecting contributions in different events and gatherings round Cairo.

And we’re still brainstorming daily to find more creative ideas to support our campaign. We’re really trying our best!

Fadi: I hope the readers of this blog help in making this campaign successful. Who are your current supporters?

quotes4Mona: Though our circle of support is small, we are grateful for their loyalty without which we would not have been here today.

Famous Egyptian Actor Khaled Abu El Naga has been a major support since 2010, when he co-produced Bussy videos with famous Egyptian producer Mohamed Hefzy. Khaled continues lobbying for Bussy till now.

The Greek Campus, and Goethe institute have kindly shared rehearsal and performance spaces in the past and continue to support our cause.

We have also previously received financial support from the British council, the Swiss Embassy in Egypt, Frida, and Pioneers of Egypt.

Fadi: Thank you Mona. That is a noble cause what you are after. I hope to see Bussy successful and copies/expanded to come other countries in the Arab world.

Readers, if you enjoyed this blog and feel passionate about sexual and body rights, then go ahead and support Bussy here. Let’s help them succeed.

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“The Bride of Amman” Giveaways!


I am excited about the launch of “The Bride of Amman” in English. It is already up on Amazon.com for pre-orders in both a paperback version and as a kindle version. I have also created today a giveaway of two copies of the book, you can enter by clicking here The Bride of Amman (you just need to be a US resident.

My publisher has also been running his own giveaway on goodreads offering another 2 free copies which you can enter by clicking here The Bride of Amman

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Jordan re-launched! Dreaming big again..


Jordan survived the global financial crisis, the arab spring, the war in syria and the emergence of ISIS. It has been a difficult 7 years since the global financial crisis hit the country in 2009. At the time, it took us 2 years to understand the toll of the crisis and start putting our economy back on track, but the region was boiling, and the arab spring erupted. Arab regimes crumbled one after the other, countries collapsed, and civil wars erupted.

The Jordanians regime felt the heat of the arab spring. The risks were too high this time. Demonstrations hit the streets every Friday for more than two years raising high slogan that didn’t shy of calling for the fall of the regime. The government struggled to please protestors at the beginning and meet their demands. Promises after promises were made, some for legitimate demands, and some not, some been kept and some been forgotten. The regime acted wisely and didn’t use brute force to silent protestors. There been some violations but they managed to cool down the streets and overcome the arab spring.

With the regime’s focus shifting from economical development into maintaining the country’s stability and manoeuvring the political pressure, the economical situation struggled. Tourism dried, ICT sector fall off, the film industry growth lost momentum, and refugees’ influx added to the rise of unemployment rates. Jordan seemed to be losing all of the development that happened between 2000-2009.

It was only last year that the regime felt secured that it is over the arab spring. Finally, its focus is shifted back now to the much needed economical development.

The World Economic Forum is taking place now again in the dead sea. It seems that the government has put some efforts into planning for a rapid economical rise to seize the chance of such an important global gathering of investors. The video issued highlighting completed and upcoming major projects and opportunities in the country is high quality. It shows high profile investors and economical leaders who testify positively in favour economical opportunities in the country. Jordan is about to rise. It is re-launching.

Re-launching Jordan focuses also on reviving tourism. The Jordanian tourism board has been doing some nice work recently using social media, inviting bloggers and prominent tweeps and instagram celebrities to show what the country has to offer. They did a good job by teaming with Tarab 3al 7atab, a Jordanian talented young group, to produce this cool commercial:

King Abdullah has just appeared on CNN two days ago emphasising the human capital of the country. He said that he hopes to attract Jordanian talents who left to work in other countries back.

With much hope and believe in this country, we are happy to see Jordan re-launched. Jordan is young, resilient and has big ambition. God bless Jordan!