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Guest Feature: Mona Oraby
One happy and exciting thing to share up top today: Malaka Gharib, writer, journalist, cartoonist, and an illustrious guest of the newsletter last year, has a new graphic memoir coming out called “It Won’t Always Be Like This”.
I was fortunate enough to have read an early version of Malaka’s memoir, and it’s incredibly vulnerable look into how Malaka explored her identity at a young age as an American girl growing up with her Egyptian father’s new family. It’s a beautiful time capsule of her childhood memories, and it was one of the most heartfelt things I’ve read — I truly loved it.
I promise you will not want to miss out on her memoir! Preorder it here and check it out!
Okay friends, let’s get right into it. I am so excited to introduce this week’s guest feature: Mona Oraby!
Mona Oraby is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Howard University. She is a scholar of law and religion, currently finishing a book about claims to recognition advanced by Coptic Orthodox and Baha'is in modern and contemporary Egypt. Another forthcoming project is an illustrated book based on the multimedia series, "A Universe of Terms," convened at The Immanent Frame (TIF). Hosted by the Social Science Research Council in New York, TIF is an open access publication on religion, secularism, and the public sphere and she's served as its editor since 2017. Mona teaches courses on Middle East politics, comparative law, religion and global politics, and law and society. She holds a PhD from Northwestern University.
I mean, read all of the incredible things Mona does and tell me she’s not one of the coolest people. I’ve been following Mona on Twitter and I always appreciate her presence, her perspective, and just the mutual appreciation for our culture and our societies. And selfishly, I asked her to share her go-to songs for the newsletter just to have an opportunity to connect with her. And y’all, Mona’s music does not disappoint!
1. What is your favorite song right now?
I have two. "Glorious" is by Sudan Archives, a self-taught violinist based out of LA who draws inspiration from Sudanese fiddlers. Her songs are super experimental and hypnotic. I'm also a huge fan of Felukah. Her recent single "Allaya'teek" with The Synaptik is fire. All three creatives push the boundaries of language and communication, which resonates deeply with me.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
"Jouwana" by Bu Kolthoum and "Kont Fakra" by ElBouma. Both are about the traumas of loss and violence. In the case of "Kont Fakra," the lyrics-as-chants name an intersecting violence based in the difference of race and gender. These are songs that compel the listener to listen and never forget.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
"Home" is many places and many things for me. It's all the cassettes my mother brought with her when we traveled by car, which we did a lot when I was a kid. It's also all the films set to music that I grew to love because my mother loved them. We spent many cathartic hours driving between cities and countries and watching these films when we got to where we were going. The songs that remind me of home (surprise, surprise) are about movement. They also feature in films. Nagat's "Ya Mesafer Wahdak" and Abdel Halim's "Gana el Hawa" are two of my favorites.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
I didn't realize until I was much older that a song over five minutes is long. Or that the repertoire of songs I grew up listening to was based in experiences of my parents' generation. I memorized the words to Warda's "Haramt Ahebak" before I had any reason to relate to what she was singing about. Just imagine eight year old me getting down to this song. Ridiculous. Yet the song is so good.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
Dina Hayek's "Ya Teir el Yamama" is high on a very long list. The song has an irresistible early 2000s sound.
Big shout out to Mona for joining and sharing her song selections! All of Mona’s songs will be included in this week’s playlist, so be sure to take a listen. Check out Mona on Twitter and support all of her work!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Flows by Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Artists 🎧
Al Kawn Janni Maak - Elyanna
BARBARY - Marwan Pablo
Warda - Plylist
Atoul - zeyne
Yoom - Blvxb
Aloomek - Marwan Moussa
MAAK - Tagne featuring Manal
Wino El Hob - Balti featuring Melly
Wayn Ma Wayn - Waleed Al Aasal
Hate Our Love - Queen Naija featuring Big Sean
🎤 Vibes by Latinx & Hispanic Artists 🎤
FLOW CALLE - Farina
WOW BB - Natti Natasha featuring El Alfa and Chimbala
My Mother - Sarina featuring LATENIGHTJIGGY
Isla - Lara91k
La Llorona - Natalia Lafourcade featuring Silvana Estrada and Ely Guerra
Una Noche en Medellín - Cris Mj
La Cabaña - La K’onga
Oye Mi Ritmo - Goyo
Te Espero - Prince Royce featuring Maria Becerra
Nieve - Feid
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
Night Away (Dance) - A1 x J1 featuring Tion Wayne
King - Florence + The Machine
Calm Down - Rema
Letter To Ur Ex - Mahalia
Ride With Me - Pip Millett
slideshow - Amindi
Fils de joie - Stromae
Un-thinkable (I’m Ready) - Alicia Keys featuring Drake
Still Loving You - Scorpions
Intro - DigDat
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
The Way In book shop, once an oasis of quiet in a street full of chaos, closes its doors after 51 years - Farah-Silvana Kanaan, L’Orient Today
“It was a huge part of my teenage years, I used to drag my mom to Way In every Saturday to buy magazines. And they always recognized me and knew what I came in to buy.”
Demolition of Beirut silos given green light by judiciary – but rejected by blast victims - Sunniva Rose, The National
Economy Minister tells 'The National' the Cabinet is studying the legality of the destruction of damaged structures.
Lebanese stuck in Ukraine left to their own devices - Lyana Alameddine, L’Orient Le Jour
Many Lebanese have been stuck in Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion, trying by all means to leave the country.
Safe sex: the latest casualty of Lebanon's economic meltdown - Tala Ramadan, Thomson Reuters Foundation News
A sharp devaluation has hiked the cost of imported birth control supplies including condoms, raising fears of a wave of sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies.
Exploring the World of Lebanese Wine—Beyond Chateau Musar - Courtney Schiessl Magrini, SevenFiftyDaily
New energy, a return to indigenous grape varieties, and experimental techniques make it high time to explore the full spectrum of Lebanon’s wines.
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
Middle East streamers are reeling after Twitch blocks their payments - Jessica Lucas, Input Mag
The platform cites “certain tax information” discrepancies for the payout freeze. Arabic gamers feel betrayed and frightened.
Qahwah House: A Yemeni cafe bringing New Yorkers together, one sip at a time - Zainab Iqbal, Middle East Eye
“It's not a mosque. It’s not a community centre... It's just a coffee shop, but that's what makes it special,” says one coffeehouse regular.
Why Algeria imploded at the AFCON- Maher Mezahi, The New Frame
The North African side had a disastrous showing in the tournament they entered as title holders and favourites. With the World Cup qualifiers on the horizon, can they rise from the ashes?
What Rashida Tlaib Represents - Rozina Ali, The New York Times Magazine
She changed the Israeli-Palestinian debate in Congress by reminding her colleagues of the human stakes. It’s a burden she would rather not carry.
Uptick in suicide deaths in Kuwait points to social stigma around mental illness - Rose Chacko, The New Arab
*CONTENT WARNING: This story may feel triggering given the topic.
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
Foo Fighters Made a Horror Film. Because Why Not? - Sara Aridi, The New York Times
Dave Grohl shares how the band went from filming funny music videos to making “Studio 666,” due Feb. 25, and discusses a coming album.
‘The Mirror of the People’: Sudan’s Artists Document Street Protests - Claire Healy, U.S. News
Artists across the country have been chronicling the violent political upheaval that has roiled the country since 2018.
In this long-read feature, AZEEMA’s Digital Editor Dalia Al-Dujaili sits down with two Palestinian creatives, Reem and Sereen, who are changing the way Palestine is perceived through its art, fashion and culture.
Sellame Yassine Photographs Morocco’s Vibrant Skateboarding Culture - Aravin Sandran, GQ Middle East
Sellame Yassine discusses his fascination with film photography, the evolution of Morocco's skateboarding scene as well as his ambition to shoot documentaries.
Dubai-Based Rapper Freek on What It’s Like to Make a First Album - Yassine Hariss, Mille World
Meet one of the pioneers of Arab Drill
📚 Other Reads 📚
Coverage of Ukraine has exposed long-standing racist biases in Western media - H.A. Hellyer, The Washington Post
“This double standard is so evident in how we as Westerners engage in international relations. Far too often, we dehumanize non-White populations, diminishing their importance, and that leads to one thing: the degrading of their right to live in dignity.”
The human toll of war - Heba Gowayed, The New Humanitarian
“Long after conflicts slip from global attention, the displaced continue to pay the price.”
What Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court Appointment Would Mean for Black Americans - Christina Carrega, Capital B
If confirmed, the Supreme Court’s first Black woman would bring more than diversity to the nation’s highest bench.
How Airplanes Became the WNBA’s Biggest Scandal - Howard Megdal, Sports Illustrated
The Liberty’s repeated chartering lightsof f, a violation of CBA rules, is a window into the state of ownership in the league.
No Free Coffee is building a community out of streetwear and coffee die-hards - Josh Madden, Alternative Press
No Free Coffee encompasses everything from community to streetwear, and it all takes inspiration from Japanese cafes and Italian wine windows.