Essays and Features

Beauty Before Age Remains Dominant Casting Trend in Arab Film

By 
Naomi Pham

The presence of women on the Arab silver screen has historically suffered under patriarchy. Though the “male gaze” is not exclusive to Arab cinema and television, the marginalization of women on the screen has increasingly affected Arab discourse. Hiyam Bannout’s article “Masculinity Dominates Arab Drama and Marginalizes Women” in Independent Arabia explores the lack of veteran and older actresses occupying major roles in film. Arab actresses are “dramatically marginalized” once they turn 40, brushed aside in favor of young actresses at the expense of limited talent and experience, according to Bannout.

A Multifaceted Diaspora: New History Explores the Many Reasons for 20th Century Exodus of Egyptian Jewry

By 
Al Jadid Staff
 
Once home to as many as 75,000 Jews, today’s Egypt has a sparse population, with only nine Jewish Egyptians living in the country in 2021, according to the Jewish Virtual Library. Dr. Muhammad Abu al-Ghar’s new book, “The Jews of Egypt in the Twentieth Century: How They Lived and Why They Left” (Dar al-Shorouk, 2021, 476 pp) addresses the departure of Jews from the country from the early to mid-19th century to the present.

'Living on the Edge': Shukri Ayyad, Pioneer of Modern Literary Renaissance

Elie Chalala
Come this Summer, it would have been a year since the death of Egyptian writer, literary critic, and academic Shukri Ayyad at the age of 78, whose loss marked the end of a cultural era, that of the second-generation pioneers of the modern literary renaissance. 
 
Ayyad had great influence on Arabic culture, establishing a new construction in the world of Arab literature. “Ayyad combined an open-minded awareness of the literary and artistic achievements of the West with a profound and enlightened understanding of the Arabic literary heritage as well as the depths and breadths of Islamic thought,” commented Youssef Rakha in the English-language Al Ahram weekly. He was pre-eminently knowledgeable about the deep dialogue between the Arab and other cultures, Rakha noted. Ayyad was also more informed than anyone of his generation in modern literary criticism; this was the subject of his doctoral thesis, which he ended with a creative dialogue with the most recent of critical approaches, structuralism.

Jabbour Douaihy (1949-2021): His Literary Legacy a ‘Memory Lane’ of Lebanese Life

By 
Elie Chalala

Despite his battle against leukemia, Jabbour Douaihy's death at age 72 on July 23 came suddenly, a surprise to even some of his acquaintances. Douaihy wrote several novels throughout his life, and though he never intended this role, critics and friends regarded him as the narrator of Lebanese life. He wrote about aspects of Lebanese life that history books could only dream of capturing, detailing Lebanon throughout its various historical moments to its current state of dystopian ruin and collapse, a world seen vividly in his last novel, "Poison in the Air.”

Lebanese Government Brought to Reckoning on the Anniversary of Beirut Port Explosion

By 
Elie Chalala

Victims of the devastating Beirut port explosion have no answers or justice, even a full year after the disaster. According to Human Rights Watch, the August 2020 explosion at Beirut port’s hangar 12 decimated the significant sectors of the city, killing 218 people, injuring 7,000, and displacing 300,000. Despite protests from victims to find those responsible for the explosion, efforts to investigate have been thwarted repeatedly. Lebanon’s legal and political systems have allowed the officials responsible to avoid accountability, benefiting from a lack of judicial independence, immunity provided by existing laws, lack of respect for fair trial standards, and due process violations. As the Lebanese government continues to prove itself incapable of delivering justice, Human Rights Watch recently published a report covering evidence revealed in the 127-page report, “‘They Killed Us from the Inside’: An Investigation into the August 4 Beirut Blast” and calls for an international investigation.

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