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Madinah City Stories from the Middle East

Joumana Haddad

 

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'Madinah' - the Arabic word for 'city' - may conjure up labyrinthine streets and the hustle and bustle of the souq in Westerns' minds, but for the inhabitants of the Middle East it is a much more mercurial thing, and one that's changing today faster than ever.

 

Here - in ten urban stories set across the region - the city reveals itself through a vibrant array of characters: from the celebrated author collecting an award in the city that exiled him decades before, to the forlorn lover waiting at a rendezvous as goverment officials raid nearby shops, confiscating 'wanton' Valentine's Day roses.

 

Whilst engineers race to complete another 'world's tallest building' in Dubai, and American helicopters patrol the Martyrs Bridge in Baghdad, we realise it is the people, and not the landmarks, that define these places: like the language student in Beirut who tries to make a joke of being 'war-broken' to her friends, or the Israeli general who invites guest to his office to watch promo videos for the tank that will 'win the next war' whilst eating biscuits and reciting poetry.

 

For all we think we know of the conflict and exoticism of the region, nothing opens more doors to what we don't than its writing. Here, ten short stories by new and established writers have been selected and translated into English for the first time, to open just such a door...  

 

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