7 years passed, still a best seller – Aroos Amman (The Bride of Amman)


Yesterday, an old time friend of mine, took a photo for “Aroos Amman” (The Bride of Amman” that shows the book in the best selling section of DNA Lifestyle Store in Al Abdali Mall.

I was happy to receive the photo and rushed to share it on all of my social media channels. The fact that “Aroos Amman” keeps on appearing in best selling lists after 7 years of its release, speaks volume. This is not the first time or place for it to be a best seller, in fact it was one of the top best selling books on Jamalon in 2012, the year it got released. It continuously appears in the best selling books section in the famous Jordanian bookstore “Reader”. It has been a best seller and a “recommended to read” at Virgin megastore for months. The audio version, made it to the most listened books list on storytel and the ebook is part of Abjjad’s all time most read books!

In Virgin Megastore Amman

The book been translated and published to English in 2015, and currently is getting translated into the French language, planned to be released next year.

Jamalon best selling list 2012

It has opened so many door to me, including securing an MA scholarship from the British Council to study in the UK in 2012. Invitation to different conferences and events in global cities from London, to Berlin, Salzburg and Pune

I have always wondered about the reason behind the success of this book. Why it ticks with so many people? It was my first to write, even before doing my MA in Creative Writing and Critical Thinking. It wasn’t perfectly crafted, and critics would point out the simplicity of its language or the shortages of the plot. Yet, it keeps generating strong reactions that surprises me till today, not just from my fellow Jordanians whom I mainly address in the book, but also from Arabs and foreigners from different countries.

For me it was a work of activism and I am more than happy to see it reach such heights. I wanted the voices of my characters to be heard, and they got heard. I wanted to give our youth hope, and for many I did. I remember a gay guy once told me that he keeps the book with him all the time, and place it next to his best when he goes to sleep as he feels protected by having it close by. That’s something I am so proud to hear. I remember a young woman once sending me a long letter stating how empowered she feels after reading the book and promising to stand up for her self and her rights. That’s also something I am so proud of. Even yesterday, after posting the photo of the book in the best selling list, I received a message from a guy who said it is his favorite book ever and that he remembers how he skipped his university classes and stayed home super excited to read it.

رواية عروس عمان بين الكتب الأكثر مبيعا في مكتبة ريدرز
Readers Bookshop

I don’t know what the magic in “Aroos Amman”. Maybe it has to do with giving a voice to a gay man that hasn’t been heard of in our society before, or hearing a Jordanian woman standing up to her body rights and sexuality, or maybe its magnifying our issues of gender and heavy social heritage, and showing how they have been affecting our lives negatively. I always say, I wrote it from my heart, and maybe that’s what made it tick. And I guess, thats what others see in it, like what a friend commented yesterday on the Instagram image, stating that it is successful because it is “honest” and “different”.

Thank you for all of the honest and different people who supported me and supported this book into such success. Hopefully we will seeing it reaching more people and maybe soon we will watch it as a movies on the big screens.. fingers crossed!

London launch for The Bride of Amman

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.

“The Bride of Amman” is out for pre-orders


I can’t believe that this is finally happening. The English translation of “Aroos Amman” is finally ready and up for pre-orders. It is already out there on Amazon.com (paperback)! and a publishing date is set on 21th July. I am so happy about the translation and so thankful for Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp who has done a great job in brining my written words into English. I am also very thankful for my publisher (signal8press) for the great work put into ensuring best quality of the English production. It was a long process but I enjoyed working with both of them and witnessed them shaping what I thought to be a good book even better.

When I first started blogging in 2006, I wanted to communicate issues of sexual and body rights that were not addressed by traditional media at the time. I could see how our cultural heritage and obsession in regulating sexuality is making an already tough life due to economical conditions even tougher. I wanted to open missed debates around these issues in hope of change. Few years down the road, I was able to collect my thoughts into a full story, a novel that came out in January 2012. At the time, I didn’t anticipate this success of Aroos Amman, and didn’t anticipate the huge amount I received. People seem to be fed up with the old doctrine that limits their body and sexual freedoms. They are happy to see someone bringing it up right front and are ready to fight for it themselves.

Today with the book coming out to English, I am hoping for a wider reach that could trigger even bigger change.

Thank you all for your love and support.

I dedicate this book to Arab young men and women: those who are struggling to conform, those who are fighting for autonomy over their own bodies, and those advocating for sexual rights.

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Behind the White Veil: Interview with Fadi Zaghmout


Interviewed by Tala Abdulhadi, posted on OC Magazine

Name: Fadi Zaghmout

Date of Birth: June 15th, 1978

Degree: MA in Creative Writing and Critical Thinking

Job: Information and Communication Technology Advisor

Currently Residing in: Amman/Jordan

Languages Spoken: Arabic and English

OC: How has your Creative Writing degree helped you develop as a writer?

FZ: The course had a critical thinking side where we read lots of critical essays. We had four main modules. I would say that the psychoanalysis module was my favourite. There is much to learn from Freud in terms of creative writing; ambivalence, the double, the uncanny, mourning and dealing with loss are some techniques I have developed. I also learned to cut down unnecessary words, and to focus on showing rather than telling.

OC: What inspired you to write Aroos Amman (Bride of Amman)?

FZ: Our heavy legacy of social values that is making our lives harder than it should be, as well as the social obsession in marriage and its effect on the lives of youth in Jordan.

I understand that marriage is a means to regulate sexuality, yet and while exaggerated in importance, the institution of marriage in Jordan is pretty limited. We have no civil marriage that recognises inter-religious, non-religious or same sex relationships. Women are expected to be virgins, and preferred to be young, along with so many other silly constraints. It also reinforces patriarchal society where it is expected that the man to provide a home and cater for all of the wedding expenses and post wedding daily financial responsibilities.

OC: Each character in Aroos Amman seems to have its own identity, socially speaking. How would you describe each narrator in terms of identity?

FZ: Laila is the achiever; a woman who plays it right, does what society expects from her and excels in it. Salma represents women who struggle with the social obsession with marriage. Hayat is a social victim who is forced to break out the social boundaries, whereas Rana is the contrary of Laila. She follows her heart rather than playing it by the rules. Ali represents individuals with two sides; one that is highly appreciated by society (being a man) and one that is highly condoned (his homosexual desires).

OC: The works of authors are always reflective of the writers’ own lives. Which character is most reflective of you? How is that?

FZ: I think there are different parts in each character where I somehow reflect myself.  For example, I’d like to think that I am visible in the positivity, determination and honesty of Hayat, the rebellious and adventurous nature of Rana, and the activist social sensitivity of Salma.

OC: Why do you choose to write your novels in Arabic, but blog in both English and Arabic?

FZ: My blog tackles issues of gender and sexuality, and therefore gained more support from English reading audiences. When I read Arabic newspapers, especially local ones, I rarely see liberal voices that call for individual and sexual freedom. That is why I started using Arabic on my blog. I also realized that my English language is in not good as my Arabic. I can express myself much better in Arabic. I don’t think that I am capable of writing an entire book in English.

OC: What is the basis of your decision regarding which language to use when writing your novels?

FZ: I think it has to do more with my level of proficiency in the language. I am a native Arabic speaker and can express myself much better in Arabic. In addition to that, I am writing for an Arabic audience and publishing in an Arabic market.

OC: How did you come up with your latest short story It Was Just A Kiss? What messages were you aiming to send while writing it?

FZ: I had to deliver both a critical essay and a creative piece for my dissertation. For the critical part, I did a psychoanalysis read for the father/son relationship in two prose; The Kite Runner by Khaled Al Husseni, and When We Were Orphans by Ishiguro Kazuo, studying how a father figure affects the death drive of the son. I tackled the subject from a gender identity perspective.

The creative part had to be related. I thought of reflecting the father/son relationship into a mother/daughter one. Instead of a dominant manly father as in The Kite Runner, I came up with the character of this mother who is overly feminine.

OC: When should we expect your next novel?

FZ: I am hoping for a release date in September or October of this year (fingers crossed).

OC: Could you give us a brief description of your upcoming new work? Is it similar to any of your previous works in any way?

FZ: Sure I can. I would say it is different than Arous Amman. It tries to read a future where science can control the aging process and prevent dying from old age. On one hand, we have this huge shift in the paradigm of death while on the other hand we still have the same other variables that make us human beings. It is called Janna ‘Ala Al-ard (Heaven on Earth).

OC: If you had the choice of changing one thing about Jordanian society, what would it be?

FZ: I would heal the relationship between men and women.

OC: What advice can you give to aspiring writers?

FZ: I would advise aspiring writers to question everything around them; to deconstruct common truth, belief systems, social values; to be creative and bring us new stories that we haven’t heard before. That doesn’t mean writing a novel is an easy task. It requires discipline and dedication. There is no time to waste worrying about things. So just write, write, write, and worry later.

Fadi’s Top 5 Books:

Angels and Demons Dan Brown

The Pillars of the Earth Ken Follet

The Passion of New Year Eve Angela Carter

1984 George Orwell

The Kite Runner Khaled Al Husseni

Favorite Artist: Elissa

Favorite Movie: Halla’ La Wain

Favorite Dish: Fattet Makdoos

Favorite Author: Dan Brown

Dream Vacation: Seychelles Islands

Best Birthday Gift: A book with many white papers and a hard cover with my name on it to start writing my first novel.

Favorite Dessert: Knafeh

Guilty Pleasure: Bread

Most Embarrassing Incident: Once I was shopping and met an acquaintance. I said hi and we talked a bit. When I was ready to leave, I wanted to say goodbye. I approached him as he had his back to me. I poked his back, and he turned. He turned out to be someone else. I said bye and left!

Pet Peeve: Laziness

Your Biggest Fear: Death

A review by Merissa Khurma: Aroos Amman


عروس عمان

Such a nice review.. thank you Merissa

Congratulations, Fadi, on a well-thought out and neatly woven novel. You have captured the most intricate and most intimate layers of our Jordanian social construct in an emotional and deeply stirring tale of many tales. You have done a marvelous job in deconstructing our society’s norms through each character’s thoughts and feelings that are often unheard, unsaid and almost always dismissed if ever expressed vocally. Amman Bride, to me, is about identity…how your gender in our society defines your identity and thereby decides FOR you, your status, your role, your boundaries, your lifestyle, your behavior at times and your scope of activities. What is most inspiring about your women characters Laila, Rana and Hayat is their inner strength to challenge society and to overcome their inner most fears, confusion and hesitation not only to find peace and happiness but also to try to understand who they really are as Ammani women. Ive always believed in the power of human stories to instigate change; change of attitudes and norms towards gender inequality (especially women) which, continues to delay our growth and evolution as a society. Amman Bride is a breath of fresh air for the struggling survival or should I say revival of the Jordanian novel, which deserves our full support as Jordanians. When I read the Girls of Riyadh a few years ago, I thought to myself; I wish I can write the Jordanian version. You beat me to it! Congratulations once again and I look forward to your next one inshallah.

Salamat, Merissa Khurma