Life Stories

Endangered Things of Beauty & the Beauty Response

”Never forget things of beauty”, I tell myself as I pick up my camera and prepare to capture images of beautiful things. But that is no longer enough. I often find myself thinking about how fragile beautiful things can be. This is a photo taken in Mostar, a city in southern Bosnia and Herzegovina that is situated on the Neretva River. It is a city of breathtaking beauty. Below is a view of the Old Bridge  overlooking the Neretva River. One can sometimes see local divers take the plunge into the river provided that there are enough tourists willing to pay enough money to witness the risky dive. That kind of bargaining can be painful to watch. In 1468 Mostar came under the rule of the Ottomans.  The city developed and flourished as an urban settlement during four centuries of Ottoman rule. Mostar is famous for its Old Bridge and Turkish house. The Old Bridge was designed by Mimar Hayruddin, an Ottoman architect, in 1556. During the 19th and 20th centuries Mostar was occupied by the Austro-Hungarians. The bridge was destroyed by Croat Bosnian forces in 1993 and rebuilt in 2014. For many people, myself included, the Old Bridge is […]

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Breast Cancer: Loss & Recovery

Breast Cancer can hit a woman really hard in her looks. It creeps up on you, an invisible tumor growing inside your body and all of a sudden a  surgeon is sitting right there in front of you and things begin to change really drastically. I had a high-grade tumor. We have to act quickly.   The tumor will have to be removed surgically. Fine. I can live with that. It didn’t take too long for her to say the C word. I don’t mean cancer. I mean chemotherapy. That’s when the break down really begins and you watch pieces of your body falling off piece by piece. The invisible would soon alter the visible and disrupt any notion I had of being an attractive sexual being. It begins with the hair. After the second cycle of chemo clumps of hair begin to fall out.  You wake up in the morning and one half of your head is scattered on the pillow like fallen autumn leaves.  It wasn’t working for me. The gradual loss was making me feel powerless. I went to a hairdresser who helps cancer victims and provides them with custom made wigs. We chopped it all off. Once and for […]

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Beyond Slut Shaming: Hala Mona

Mona Hala- an Egyptian actress and comedian- managed to get a lot of media attention for posting pictures of herself on Instagram wearing a bikini. Imagine that! Oh and did I forget to mention that she was on the beach? Even more shocking were the pictures she posted of her boyfriend with his hands ‘’inappropriately’’ placed on her butt. Horror of horrors! And all this at a time when the sexual harassment of women  has reached epic proportions on Egyptian streets. The voluntary touching proved too shocking for the easily shocked and the crude insults and self-righteous critiques began pouring into Mona Hala’s Instagram account. There are now youtube videos recapturing clips of her scandalous photos. Somebody actually took the time to put those clips together, as if spreading the memes that threatened public morality were an effective strategy for protecting public morality. In effect, it was an instance of slut shaming. Well, the strategy failed miserably. Mona Hala- far from being publicly shamed- made a mockery of the shaming process  itself and turned the tables on her would be detractors. And it failed largely because shaming depends upon the fear and duplicity of the shamed. Mona Hala’s real crime is […]

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Happy Mother’s Day

    My mother and I never had an easy relationship but I knew she was a pretty extraordinary woman. I learned so much from her and always admired the myriad things she could make with her hands from sewing, baking embroidering, knitting, to crocheting, ironing and decorating. When I was a little girl, she would take me to the souk and teach me how to choose textile, to match the right material to the right dress and to always consider what suited me. Looking back at those mini lessons I realize that she was teaching me how to be an individual, to focus on what looked right on me rather than what was in. There were endless dresses she made for me and endless ”probas” when I would have to stand still and try them on so she could get the exact fit because she was something of a perfectionist. Those pin pricks were probably the closest thing to physical affection between us because I would always squirm and didn’t like being hugged. My mom looked like a magician to me. She would get those old Burda magazines and take out the patterns that had thousands of squiggly lines […]

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