6 blurbs from distinguished figures for Heaven on Earth


My 2nd book Heaven on Earth is finally out in English and I am very thankful for the endorsement of these distinguished people, two of whom are leading the global efforts in combating ageing: Aubrey de Grey and Ira S. Pastor.

1. Aubrey de Grey, Chief Science Officer, SENS Research Foundation

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2. Ira S. Pastor, CEO BioQuark Inc., Rejuvenation Biotechnology Company

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3. Lara Matossian, founder and CEO of Sci Fest Dubai

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4. Zaid Bawab, Jordanian filmmaker, part-time lecturer, and music curator

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5. Batir Wardam, Jordanian writer and social-media activist

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6. Fadi G. Haddad, Jordanian film director and writer

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The Bride of Amman – Q&A with Translator Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp


The Bride of Amman – Q&A with Translator Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp.

Let’s talk about success stories: Interviewing Eman Hylooz


We are used to hearing inspiring success stories of people who dream big and achieve their dreams. Jordan has many young energetic talents, young men and women who dream big. I have started a series of interviews to highlight and support Jordanian young talents, my focus was the film and video production industry but I also realised that there are other stories that need to be told as well.

Abjjad is the biggest community for Arab readers, the website hosts pages for more than 120K Arabic books, 12K+ book reviews and more than 60K registered users.

Eman Hylooz, Abjjad’s founder, quit her job as a Marketing & Knowledge Management Senior Officer at KPMG 2.5 years ago to pursue her dream. She believed in herself, in the country’s promise to young digital entrepreneurs, and in the wide limitless promise of the internet. With a dream to create the biggest and only network for anything related to Arabic books Eman set herself up onto one hell of a journey.

1976900_10154998587600529_5282153144855872836_n copyIn 2011 World Economic Forum, I listened to Osama Fayyad, the chairman of Oasis500 (a seed investment company for the ICT sector in Jordan), telling the audience a story about how King Abdullah dared him to copy the success of Maktoob and create another 500 hundred success stories. At that time, I am sure that many of us had doubts, but today, we can witness many success stories growing through that Royal challenge. Three years down the road, and in spite of the turmoil in the region, Abjjad, is definitely shaping up to be one. Osama Fayyad must be proud.

I ran into Eman at Sharjah’s book fair in November and asked her the following:

FZ: Eman, it is good to catch up with you, you have been running around like a bee from one publisher to another, what are you up to?

EH: Good to catch with you too dear! Yes I have been meeting and talking to more than 200 publishers in the book fair all around the Arabic region! We are introducing a new product for the publishers, where each one of them can have his own page on Abjjad. They can sell their digital books on the platform too as Abjjad’s readers have been asking for this since the debut of the website. We decided it is time to launch this product and we did!

FZ: How many publishers where you able to sign with?

EH: We currently have digital books from 19 publishers and in the final talks with more than 40 publishers.

FZ: Do you think this is the best business model for Abjjad? how do you see it affecting the Arabic literature scene?

EH: The best thing is to introduce digital books inside Abjjad’s network, Abjjad1which will help in having Arabic copy righted digital content. This is something that has been missing in the region. This will definitely affect the Arabic literature scene dramatically, as there are millions of Arabic online users from all over the world who cannot reach to the Arabic literature because of living in different countries with limited access to Arabic books.

I believe there is a huge invisible segment of Arabic readers available online that publishers cannot reach via book fairs or paper books distribution among the Arabic book shops.

FZ: When I met you two years ago, you were just starting. Lots have changed since then, and Abjjad grew to be a huge success. How was the journey? Tell me more about Abjjad’s success I am eager to know.

EH: Oh… The journey =) It was very exciting sometimes and very harsh other times! Running an online business is crazy! As you need to be really fast to be able to compete. In addition to that, you need to seek investors and convince them to believe in you and invest in the online business field which is well known to be very risky!

I have been through a lot of experiences that made me tougher and more focused to reach the goal. Abjjad was only an idea in my head 2.5 years ago, now it is getting more than 700,000 page views every month and 200,000 visitors. As a company Abjjad has reached a valuation of $1 Million. Abjjad is ranked 3,864 in Egypt, 5,647 in Saudi Arabic, and 2,850 in Algeria. Abjjad is now recognized to be officially a book rating system by Google. It has a global rank of 88,525. Abjjad was able to get an investment of $240,000 from 45 investors all over the world, part of the investment was done through an online crowd investment campaign, where we got 134% over funded in 88 days!

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FZ: I am sure that only few people know you took a huge risk in quitting your full time job and investing your savings in Abjjad. You had no backup plan. I remember when you started you told me that you either succeed or succeed. You left yourself with no options to run away from achieving your goal. How did that go? How did it help in pushing you more and more and energize you to do all the hard work that got you here?

EH: This was a very hard phase, and keeps getting harder along the way! It pushed my limits in a very surprising way, whenever I get some flash back of some certain challenges I have been through, I still feel surprised of how did I survive?! It made me know myself better, and discovered that my abilities and much bigger than I thought.

FZ: I know that Oasis500 have been giving you much help and support but it was mainly your hard work that made this platform a success. Tell me more about your beginnings, how did Oasis500 help?

EH: Oasis 500 helped A LOT! When Abjjad was only an idea in my head, they helped me sculpturing it to show the business model behind it, test the market, and measure the potential growth. Afterwards, they helped in giving in cash and in seed investment where Abjjad became real and a potential product where I can grow it and seek for further investment. They provided mentorship and introduced me to a huge network that I would have never reached without them!

After 1.5 years, they actually reinvested again in Abjjad and helped me close my first round of investment too!

FZ: You know I am a big supporter for women rights and gender equality. When I see a young woman this successful my heart blossoms with happiness. I know that gender consideration was there in the beginning in Oasis500 strategy of supporting young entrepreneurs. But as a woman, how do you think it affected your journey with Abjjad. Did you face any challenges because of your gender? How did you tackle that?

Abjjad2EH: Hmmm… I get this question all the time, and I really have a problem answering it ☺ I believe that an entrepreneur life is full with so many challenges, your gender will never make it easier or harder, we share the very same headache! But to be fair, the programs that tackle women entrepreneurs are growing, and maybe this is adding some benefits to me in terms of getting some sort of sponsorships to attend global events, or some more highlighting in the media. Otherwise, I cannot see the big difference. I would add to this my own findings in this specific area, which really would create more challenges I believe is the marital status, because being an entrepreneur means barely seeing your family, so I really cannot imagine how hard it would be to have kids for example. This might create a huge difference.

FZ: What’s next for Abjjad?

EH: We are working on introducing the digital books, which means having more publisher on board, with more ebooks, which will need more technical work in terms of having mobile applications for those ebooks, and having Abjjad functioning well on the different kind of tablets and smart phones. This is 2015’s big step ☺

FZ: I know the sky is the limit, but what’s your vision for Abjjad?

EH: To be the biggest and only network for anything related to Arabic books! Combining all the readers, writers, publishers, and digital books in one place!

FZ:  Following one’s passion is a great thing, having a successful business must be very satisfying, topping that with a noble cause (building an Arab reading community) is something out of this world. How do you feel about that?

EH: When you say it this way, it makes me feel very proud! Yet, it scares me whenever Abjjad gets bigger every day, as that adds more and more responsibilities to meet people’s expectations! Books are great, and working for this cause makes the journey worth taking!

FZ: Amen to that Eman Hylooz, we are so proud of you.. wishing you and Abjjad all the luck in 2015 and beyond. Arabic literature has a future champion, a daring young woman entrepreneur. 

Janna Ala Al Ard – A Book Review by Mohammad Taha


I am happy to read good reviews on goodreads around my 2nd book “Janna Ala Al Ard” (Heaven on Earth).

Once I heard that Fadi is coming up with a new novel, I couldn’t wait to get it in my hands.. Since “Aroos Amman” Fadi left us with the warmest and closest book to our reality and society, and now, he comes up with this new masterpiece telling our future.

“Janna Ala Al Ard” is a totally different novel than his first. He takes us with him to his wide wide imagination of the future, and to make it even closer to us, he talks about Amman’s future in year 2091.

The genre of the book is Sci-Fi, however, you feel so attached and your heart melt with so many subjects that we might have shed our eyes to while it was all among us. He makes the reader appreciate what he has at the mean time, while at the same time he takes you on a ride of the future and makes you want it so bad.

What a lot of people don’t know about “Janna Ala Al Ard” that it will make you cry. Yes, a Sci-Fi book will make you cry and touch your heart if not with all the content, by some of the stories that you will surely relate to (a mother’s loss, the love for a brother, imperfection of a marriage, the drive to lust and betrayal, the arrogance of some, or/and the kindness and simplicity of some… And a lot more).

If I want to talk about this book, I will need a whole new book to describe how sad I was that it didn’t have more pages as I just didn’t want it to end.
Its highly recommended, and I salute you Fadi for the great work.. Please keep inspiring us.

Winter of the World for Ken Follet


I would say that Ken Follet is by far my favorite writer. He came to my attention in 2007 by Oprah Winfrey when she selected his book “The Pillars of the Earth” for her book club. When I picked up the book, I couldn’t put it down despite its 1000 pages. It was as she put it back then “a page turner”. Two years later I read the sequel “World Without End” and was reminded of how exciting reading for Ken Follet is.

Ken Follet writes history fiction, the first two novels I mentioned above addresses a middle-age England and shows the power struggle of the elite at a time where the Church dominated the political and social life in Europe. There are so much parallel lines to draw between then and today’s rise of Islam and state of Arabic world. As George Santayana once said “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”, we have obviously failed to learn anything.

That goes too for Ken Follet century trilogy, “Fall of Giants’, “Winder of the World” and soon to be released final instalment in the trilogy “Edge of Eternity”. In the first book he covers the state of events in World War I, in the second – the subject of this review – covers World War II, and the third one will be addressing the cold war.

Why do we fail to learn from History?

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I remember when they taught us history at school how they addressed World War II. It was a major chapter on modern history but cut down for a brief main points to memorise back then: The reason behind the eruption of the war, the major countries involved, and the results. It was never complimented with any fiction recommendation to read in order to grasp a better understanding of what happened at the time.

In comparison, in my Creative Writing and Critical Thinking MA, I had a course entitled “The Novel and History” that focused on World War II. I read many novels that gave me a closer understanding of what happened in different areas affected by the war such as the state of affairs in Poland prior of the German Invasion in “The Tin Drum” for Gunter Grass, or the life in the international settlement in China at the time of the Japanese invasion in “When We Were Orphans” for Kazuo Ishiguro.

Understanding history is never an easy task, but outlining it the way they teach it in our schools is a total failure. I personally believe that reading historical fiction is the best way to learn history and if you ask me to recommend the best fiction to understand World War II, I would say without hesitation “Winter of the World” for Ken Follet.

Brutality of war

In his previous books, Ken Follet never shies in showing the brutality of wars and conflict, but he tops himself in this book. There is nothing that matches the effect of the death of a dear one in the hands of his beloved. Follet knows that very well and used it in many incidents in the book. He toys with the read, keeps us hanging with a glimpse of hope that a certain character, who had gone through a brutal torture would make it and live, only to kill him abruptly showing us the insanity of human beings.

In a scene towards the beginning of the book, he successfully depicts the brutality of the Nazis in a concentration camp. He shows how corruption and hatred unite to punish a gay couple who owned a restaurant in Berlin at the time of the rise of the Nazis. A corrupted police officer forces the owner to sign off the restaurant to his brother by torturing his boyfriend in front of him. He blind fold the victim in a wired surrounded area and let savage dogs eat him alive in front of his boyfriend. When the boyfriend surrender and agrees to sign on his ownership in the restaurant in order to have the chance to hold his boyfriend who was brutally attacked, he kills the boyfriend in his hands.

In a similar incident he kills one of his major characters, Walter. Walter is a German who comes from an aristocratic family, fought in the front line for Germany in World War I, and opposed courageously the rise of the Nazis. He gets his brutally beaten in his old age and throws him at the doorstep of his home, only to die in the hands of wife.

There is no shortage of brutal scenes in the book, and that’s a good trick to give a glimpse of the horrors of the war. The most brutal and hard wrenching one I would say is the scene of Carla’s group rape. It is the most shocking brutal scene I have ever read that combines the ambivalence of hatred and love of humanity.

Ideologies and today’s events

The book shows us the rise and fall of Fascism in Europe. It highlights the conflict between communism, democracy and fascism. A deep ideological battle that is not far from today’s ideological battle in the middle east between religious fascism, nationalistic fascism and democracy. I guess that is a stage of a society maturity where it struggles to define the appropriate path for its future. Unfortunate this madness that precedes adulthood leaves a big scare behind it.

One thing that you can’t miss readying the book is seeing the similarities between the brutality of the Nazis towards the Jews and the brutality of Israel towards Palestinians today. It feels that no one has actually learnt from history and that we tend to repeat it more often than we think.

Human history is full of brutality and heroism. We can be mad and sane at the same time, we murder and we build. We never learn and learn much. We print our past with blood, but hope for a better future. I just hope that one day, we could put all that madness behind us, and champion love.