The Prophet by Gibran Kahlil Gibran

“Life is indeed darkness unless there is urge,
And all urge is blind unless there is knowledge,
And all knowledge is vain unless there is work,
And all work is empty unless there is love”
Gibran Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

“The Prophet” is Gibran’s absolute masterpiece and the sum of his lifetime experience.
Upon its publishing in the US in 1923, it achieved immediate success. It impressed all readers with its highly spiritual and universal teachings, and for many years to follow, it was second in sales only to The Bible.

It was first written in English before being translated into more than 20 languages. The book took its name from a poem written to Gibran by a lady he loved greatly: Josephine Peabody, a poet who used to call him her “young prophet”.

This book was meant to be part of a trilogy:
-The Prophet; examining the relationship of man to other humans
-The Prophet’s Garden; examining the relationship of man to Nature
-The Prophet’s Death; examining the relationship of man to God

Throughout “The Prophet”, Al-Mustafa –who is about to take the ship back home- talks to the people of the Island of Orphalese about basic concepts in life, based on his own vision & understanding. He lectures them on Love, Marriage, Children, Giving, Sorrow & Joy, Friendship, Beauty, etc. Below are some quotes from that amazing book:

“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked”

“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding”

“Stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”

“Your friend is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving”

“Trees give so as to live, for to withhold is to perish”

“For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill?
Seek him always with hours to live.
For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness.”

“Love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation”

“They see only their shadows, and their shadows are their laws.”

Art by Gibran Kahlil

Pedro Páramo: Juan Rulfo’s Masterpiece

“No one knows better than I how far heaven is, but I also know all the shortcuts. The secret is to die, God willing, when you want to.”

Juan Rulfo is a name you need to know if you like literature, great literature!
Imagine this, all his life this Mexican author wrote less than 300 pages, two novels, and yet, he is considered one of the greatest Latin American writers ever, and one of his two novels, titled Pedro Páramo, is classified as one of the greatest literary works in the twentieth century!

Gabriel García Márquez once said that this novel is the one novel he would have loved to write himself, he wish it were his. The influence of Juan Rulfo on Márquez and all other Magical Realism writers is incredible.

Spoiler Warning

I just finished reading Pedro Páramo, a haunting novel about a man whose dying mother asks him to go visit his father in a remote Mexican village. He goes to the village to look for his father, asks all around the village for him, till he eventually realizes that his father and everyone he talks to in the village are actually dead people. Time does not exist in the village, and hence the nonlinear sequence. The dead do not lie or cheat because they do not have to, so, they only speak their essence. I leave with one more paragraph from the novel, and I strongly recommend that you read it.

“It was a long time till dawn. The sky was filled with fat stars, swollen from the long night. The moon had risen briefly and then slipped out of sight. It was one of these sad moons that no one looks at or pays attention to. It had hung there a while, misshapen, not shedding any light, and then gone to hide behind the hills.”

Pedro_Páramo

Published: A Tale of Two Cities (Granada & Cairo)

This year marks the millennium of the Andalusian city of Granada, founded by Berbers from North Africa (the Zirids) in 1013 as a fortified city during the civil war that ended the Umayyad rule over al-Andalus (present-day Iberian Peninsula).

Since its foundation and till it was taken by the Catholic Monarchs in 1492, the city had its ups and downs, its golden age and its doom. The Zirids, its founders, were once agents of the Fatimids that had founded Cairo earlier in 969. Only 44 years separate the foundation of both cities. To what extent were the Zirids (and hence Granada) influenced by the Fatimid culture? Did Granada resemble Cairo in any way?

My latest article in Ahram Online tackles this issue and many others. You can read it all at:
http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/65495.aspx

Inside the Alhambra

Remains of a mosque in Albayzin

The Zirid Portal of Elvira

The Paris Experience: From Notre Dame to the Louvre

Gallery

This gallery contains 119 photos.

I. Paris: The Ne Plus Ultra of Elegance No matter how charming you think Paris is, it still manages to exceed your expectations. In a city where art is at home, where culture found some of its most prominent pamphleteers … Continue reading

Published: The Story of Khartoum

‘Khartoum’ is definitely not the kind of city that would bring to your mind mental images of a dream destination. It lacks the rhythm of Cairo, the elegance of Beirut, the splendor of Damascus, the magic of Sana’a and the many charms of other Arab capitals, but that’s exactly the thing about Khartoum: go with no expectations and you will encounter many surprises, good and bad.

My latest article in Ahram Online sheds light on the Sudanese capital where two ‘Niles’ meet, becoming the Nile, and where episodes of the epic tale of al-Mahdi remain to be visible in Omdurman. The link to the full article is:
http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/64250.aspx

al-Mahdi's Tomb in OmdurmanDetail of relief from Buhen TempleThe Nile in Khartoum

The Fifth Mutation of the Book: From Gilgamesh to E-Literature

“We must learn how to borrow light from the blind!” – Excerpt from the Epic of Gilgamesh

The Epic of Gilgamesh was the first ‘literary’ work in recorded history, recorded on clay tablets. Thirty-five centuries after, the book lives its fifth ‘mutation’ as it converts into the digital format (after the tablet format, the papyrus, the parchment, and the printed book, born with Gutenberg) and confronts a technological big bang incited by a spectacular competitive scene.

The war between three colossi (titans) of the digital culture world accelerated the evolution and the development of the printed and the digital book business, and the consequences are revolutionizing the publishing model: Amazon, Google and Apples (AGA), are three of the most important global companies at the vanguard of changing the mode of spreading and acquiring knowledge and in changing cultural consumption and habits…a duel in the cyberspace with repercussions on the ground, where the current conquest is not for a territory, but rather for a language, the Spanish language, with a potential 500 million readers.

PS. The text above is adapted from an article in El Pais by Javier Celaya

Now, I leave you with more excerpts from the Epic of Gilgamesh:

“Words are flung out in the air
But stay motionless without an answer
Hovering about one’s lips
Or arguing back to haunt the memory
With what one failed to say
Until one learns acceptance of silence”

gilgamesh

Published: Napata, Land of the Black Pharaohs

There was a time when Egypt was ruled by Black Pharaohs (from the Nubian part of present-day Sudan). These pharaohs founded the Twenty-fifth Dynasty, which managed to reunite Egypt following a period of political chaos, before finally retreating against the advance of the Assyrians.

Everyone knows Tutankhamen, Akhenaton and Ramesses II, but names like Piankhi and Taharqa definitely deserve to be known. My new article in Ahram Online is the second of three articles about the Nubian Pyramids and the Black Pharaohs, this time with a focus on the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Gebel al-Barkal and Napata. Here is the link for the full article:
http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/63761.aspx

Jebel BarkalColumn crowned with Hathor - Jebel BarkalBarkal Pyramids 4