Latest News:
  • Welcome to ALT Magazine & Press: Hazawi Prize Announces 2023 Shortlist: (Sana'a, Yemen) - The shortlist for the 2023 Hazawi Prize for Yemeni Literature has been revealed, announcing the ten writers who have been selected as finalists for this prestigious award.
  • Now in its second yearly round, the Hazawi Prize recognizes exceptional contributions to fiction in Yemeni literature. Organized by the Hazawi Cultural Foundation, this annual prize aims to promote Yemeni literature and support creative writers.
  • This year's shortlist features both emerging and renowned Yemeni authors. The ten works advancing to the final round of judging are:
  • - Abdullah Faisal shortlisted for his novel, Spirits and Secrets.
  • - Aisha Saleh shortlisted for her novel, Under the Ashes
  • - Farouk Merish shortlisted for his novel, A Dignified Stranger
  • - Ahmed Ashraf shortlisted for his novel, A Painful Belt
  • - Ghassan Khalid shortlisted for his novel, A Sky that Rains Fear
  • - Hosam Adel shortlisted for his novel, The Lord of the Black Dog
  • - Asmaa Abdulrazak shortlisted for her novel, Shrapnels
  • - Abdullah Abdu Muhammad shortlisted for his novel, The Road to Sana'a
  • - Najah Bahkeim shortlisted for her novel, The Final Decision
  • - Samir AbdulFattah shortlisted for her novel, What We Cannot See
  • The winner will be revealed at an award ceremony in Sana'a later where they will receive $1,500 USD. Second and third prizes of $1,000 USD each will also be awarded. All shortlisted works are celebrated for chronicling Yemen's rich culture and wartime experiences. This prestigious prize continues highlighting the nation's thriving literary community.

The Enamoured Demon-Possessed – by Ahmed Abdu – Trans. by: Hatem Al-Shamea

The Enamoured Demon-Possessed
a novel by
Ahmed Abdu

Hatem Al-Shamea

Excerption from the novel


We believed in God and that dinosaurs could go extinct, and indeed it happened. However, they left behind herds of cats.

These were the words of Ibn Hathoot, uttered when he emerged from seclusion one day, venturing to inspect caves, hollows, fossils, murals, and the remnants of a sanctuary. There, he stumbled upon a book titled “Extinct Nations,” which chronicled the history of renowned peoples and species devoured by oblivion, including:

• The Native Americans, who turned black after being expelled by white lions, the original inhabitants of America.
• The Aboriginals, the indigenous people of Australia.
• The dragonflies, whose original habitat was the acacia, tamarisk, lotus, and camphor trees in the Nile Delta.
• The giants, the original inhabitants of a valley recently named “The Valley of the Dispossessed.”

It seems that the laws of cosmic upheaval dictate the extinction of beetles so that cats may thrive!

Ibn Hathoot proclaimed this after finishing a book on the theory of natural selection, specifically the chapter on “Evolution and Decline.”

Perhaps it is because those giants possess a single soul, while cats possess seven.

This statement was found within the pages of a book titled “Spirits and Ghosts.”

Naturally, alongside these creatures, a kingdom of vileness and degradation emerged, consisting of ants, lice, and fleas.

At this point, Ibn Hathoot came across a book entitled “Globalization and Vermin,” which he proceeded to rub with his feet—clad in worn-out shoes—in a rhythmic motion while leaning against the wall of a house, reminiscent of the copper scrubbing pan that used to visit our village once every few months before the age of aluminum.

The First Upheaval


Life is a dancing female…
And the earth is feminine, and the sky is feminine…
And “any place that is not feminized cannot be relied upon.” (1)
We say “the palm tree,” whether it is male or female, and we say “the bee,” whether it is male or female. But what is the male counterpart of a female fly?
The sky is pregnant with clouds, a lactating cow that drips rain. But the earth finds no one to plant the seed in it, as it teems with the desire for growth, overflowing with fertility. Women of my village tremble in their wombs and nurture, untouched by the showers of rain!
Fools speak their words, and charlatans speak their words, and scholars speak their words. And thus arose the confusion between the sea and the sun, the winds and the demons. They mocked the men of my village, the male dogs and the male palm trees. They mocked them, just as they mocked the Viagra pills and the virility herbs. They burned their nerves in a virtual world, their drool flowing over pornographic films and magazine covers, and the hunchback, Shamikh, laughed mockingly at everyone.

Sometimes I feel that life conspires against me and treats me harshly. I smile deceitfully at it, lull it, pat its shoulder, and tickle its emotions so that it closes its eyes to me and shows me mercy. But it persists in its cruelty. The cruelty of life towards me—is it a test for my body, my soul, or my faith?
My journey with fate began twenty years ago when the son of Al-Umda , the current Al-Umda, played a prank on me. He set me up to compete with him in a captivating love affair, but neither he captured her nor did I emerge victorious.

To this day, I still live under the curse of this experience – the suffering of my love for Faten, who refuses to leave me, despite the fact that I have a wife and she has a husband!

What should I do with a love that refuses to transform, that remains untouched by erosion or rust?

And who is responsible for its hold over me? Is it the mind, the heart, or the body?

The Al-Umda constantly keeps me in his mind and scratches my wound relentlessly. He believes that I am the reason for Faten’s departure from his life, when she rejected me out of fear of the dominance of a young man whose father is the Al-Umda. She rejected him out of fear for her own well-being.

Later on, the prankster becomes Al-Umda of the village, and dominance merges with manipulation.

I refuse to surrender to conspiracy theories. They are all blows of dice on a checkerboard. I detest calculations and speculations, and I keep my mind free from them. Meanwhile, I spend my life in the realm of reality. Sometimes, my soul finds solace, and I go to the creatures formed by the clouds on the canvas of the sky. Are they made of flesh and blood like the creatures of our village, or are these cloud formations originally inverted shadows of those creatures?
Al-Umda ‘s wife cinched the threads of conspiracy tightly around my neck, failing to express gratitude for my role in diverting Faten from her husband and winning her over for herself. Who is this Al-Umda’s wife amidst the ethereal creatures formed by the shifting and meandering clouds in the village sky? Is she the graceful gazelle, adorned with elegance? Or the striped giraffe, standing tall and distinctive? Perhaps she is the gray camel, possessing an air of quiet resilience. Or could she be the untamed mare that galloped across the starlit heavens and found solace upon the visage of the moon?

I cannot recollect whether I ascended to her velvety throne or if she descended upon my humble bed. She did not possess the allure of the village’s beauties, those who captivate my imagination and stir my instincts. She was not a Faten or Shireen, nor a Salwa or any other enchantress.

Does my instinct kindle for her solely due to her position? For instinct’s gaze is instinctively drawn to the essence of true beauty, above all else.
Or am I the one creating this conflict, this time in a dream, between me and her husband, as if I seek revenge by tarnishing his honor?

I have paved the way for the rest of the village’s women, the beauties and the commoners alike, to direct accusations at me. They claim that I sneak into their dreams, one after another, without knowing if their accusations are a compliment to her or a cover-up for her own scandal at their expense, regardless of whether it happened or not. The divorcee, the widow, and the spinster have also taken the opportunity to fabricate a collective charge against me before Al-Umda. They claim that I infiltrated their homes and bedrooms, violating their bodies individually and simultaneously!

The three of them attempted to recruit Faten, or the “disabled” as they now refer to her, to join them in accusing me. However, she refused and confessed that something like that happened to her, but it was never Hathoot’s son, that’s what she said. Did her confession absolve me out of love? Or was it out of fear for me? Or does she simply not want to engage in unrealistic affairs? Or perhaps she does not want to enter into a new kind of conflict, with me and Al-Umda, the “old-time joker,” as the protagonists, the one who was captivated by her beauty back then? Or was she afraid for me from her hardworking husband, the one-eyed, Mukafih, or afraid for him from me?
It would have been more fitting for her to engage with them in such a fictional event, as she is no longer desired in reality, neither by her husband nor by others. At least she could create for herself a semblance of feminine confidence within the realm of dreams, a confidence that takes her back to the days of her captivating enchantment before it faded away, and to her captivating beauty before it evaporated. A dream that is not admissible in courts or customary gatherings, and for which God does not hold us accountable, even if you were to confess it to someone, you would be met with a torrent of mockery aimed at your naked backside while you sleep!

If Al-Umda could persuade her to accuse me, he would have done so, but he knows well that she won’t comply. Not simply because she refuses to submit to him, but because there is something greater between her and me.

Her illness, her frailty, and the fading of her allure all coincided with the first complaint that emerged against me. After marrying the hardworking man, the one-eyed, her beauty began to wane and her body weakened without preamble.

“Didn’t Hathoot’s son visit you in your dreams, O Faten?”

“It happened during my first marriage to the hardworking man, but it wasn’t Hathoot’s son, and I was in full health and allure. It happened once and was not repeated.”

The women’s question kept recurring to her, but she did not provide a definitive answer.
The accusations of the village women weigh heavily on my conscience, as they persistently lodge complaints against me with Al-Umda, one by one, rather than collectively. Their coordinated approach raises suspicions of collusion and conspiracy, casting doubt on the credibility of their allegations. Consequently, each woman follows in the footsteps of the other, until the trio of the divorced, the widowed, and the unmarried converge. Al-Umda consolidates the veracity of individual grievances, starting with his wife’s complaint, followed by those of the village women. The confirmation emerges from this diverse yet limited collective accusation, giving it the appearance of a phenomenon.

The three women sought Al-Umda’s validation, as if their predecessors’ accounts were not deemed credible. Instead of relying on the testimonies of numerous women, he chose to give credence to only three! Each of them bears her own anguish.

Should he believe his wife based on the complaints of the village women? Or should he believe the village women based on his wife’s accusation? Or should he believe all of them, considering the grievances put forth by the divorced, the widowed, and the unmarried?

These particular women should feel ashamed of such complaints, as suspicion may turn towards them, insinuating a desperate and lustful state that requires someone to fulfill it. They lack the comfort of warm beds to dispel the notion that they harbor such desires. As for me, the matter will remain confined to mere speculation in the eyes of the people, whether the rumors prove true or false. However, what reassures the three women is that this notion will not circulate in anyone’s mind, for there are presently no men in the village capable of extinguishing a candle!
The departed, despite their departure from this world and their detachment from it, visit us in our dreams. They possess knowledge of our lives, while we do not seek them out, thus lacking insight into their existence. This is a theory upon which we can build the invalidity of surreptitiously infiltrating their dreams.

As for Faten, or the inflicted one, Mukafih, the one-eyed, is but in the realm of shadow for her, yet she refuses to join their snitches. How could her husband fail her in reality, a self-inflicted failure on his part, and her lack of attraction? And yet, I succeed with her in the realm of dreams?

I, who long for our spirits to meet in dreams or in reality!

Perhaps she distances herself from me in the dream world, despite her impairment, because I abandoned her in the face of Al-Umda’s powerful influence, while she is the belle of the village, aware that I love her.
Or perhaps she is aware of her own truth, where even the devil pities himself from lingering around her, even in the realm of dreams, unless he chooses to be a modest devil, as we often say, “finding himself irresistible!” He refrains from planting doubts in the minds of men about her, and even if he were to do so, it would be nothing more than feeble desire triggered by the mere mention of a woman’s name.

And why didn’t she fabricate something that occurred to her immediately after her marriage, taking part in a women’s demonstration to justify her departure from virtue and her entry into the realm of indulgence, so that upon reaching my ears, I would hesitate?

The divorced and the widowed await the substitute man, while the spinster awaits the genuine bridegroom, and undoubtedly, they are in need of safeguarding their reputation. Perhaps it was the prevailing state of fluidity in the village, fueled by futile desires between men and women, that prompted them to do so. Would they sacrifice their honor in such audacity, depriving themselves of the pleasure of dreamlike kisses and the warmth of reality’s embrace?

Is the blush of modesty in a dream less delicate than it is in reality?

As for Shamikh who harasses women at the thresholds of houses, he will approach them, either abstaining or restraining himself!

Everyone is aware that Shamikh, the hunchback, harasses the village women at their doorsteps, and some of them even invite him inside forcefully, yet he refrains. Surely, she knows that she invites someone whom she does not fear. It is a known fact that he refrains, yet he continues to harass, and he harasses, yet he refrains, which is why they have not lodged any complaints against him with Al-Umda.
Why does he harass the thresholds of their homes, and why does he refrain? His abstentions, while he lingers near the realm of suspicion, shield him from their schemes. They entice him to enter their homes, knowing well that he is no better than their own husbands. Perhaps he refrains out of modesty or caution, not wanting to engage with them lest they accuse him and stab him with words he does not wish to hear. It is as if she tells him, “If only you filled your bed in reality,” daring him to approach me while she is by his side in the dream. He heard her words, then closed his ears. He does not want such a matter to become a topic on the tongues of the villagers, and people here will not think of him as impotent, but simply as Al-Umda.

Most likely, he became certain and convinced of her words, and perhaps his situation with her in their bed is what compels him to seek certainty. However, he did not want to directly punish himself because of his wife, so he blows in the face of an already smoldering fire. It would be more appropriate for him to ask himself, “Who among us is preoccupied with the other? Is it me or her?”

To resolve the matter, will he return and question the village women one by one, or will he summon them for a collective interrogation?

He settled for the deal with the spinster, the widow, and the divorcee. He will revive the accusation against them just as it was about to fade away, if it weren’t for his wife’s constant fueling. One of the factors confirming the accusation is that the three women come to me in seclusion during broad daylight!

Who led them to me in the dream, and who led them to me in reality?!

His punishment will be directed towards the three of them. He will remain silent about the village women to avoid provoking his wife, lest his disgrace is projected onto the village’s screens. Even if people make his wife a topic of conversation, considering the women of the village as a single collective entity, like a swarm of bees, can you distinguish the exact bee that stung you?
He knows full well that Shamikh, the hunchback, harasses the village women at their doorsteps. Ja’ran Al-Sahy, the elderly chief of the guards, informs him promptly about the sixty-year-old man’s interactions with teenage girls! However, he doesn’t turn his gaze towards him. Occasionally, he catches him lurking around his house, “And just last night, he was in front of the maids’ bedroom door, Your Honor, Umda!”

Al-Umda found himself in a dilemma that he couldn’t easily resolve. Perhaps this time the dust will rise above his head, as each and every woman in the village seeks to prove that she was the first, the initial victim. Each woman pressures him in this matter. I don’t know what difference it makes whether a woman is at the forefront of the scandal or at the end of it.

According to their accounts, Al-Umda’s wife was the first, and Fatin is supposed to be the second, or perhaps they are on equal footing. Although she confessed that her involvement came from a distance, away from me.
They flocked to him once again, one after another, and he would inquire of each one individually: “What proof do you offer? Does the image of today’s outcome adorn the wall of your bedroom, awaiting its appearance on the silver screen? And do we, simultaneously, hear the echoes of the university clock?”

Yet, amidst this confusion, he acquiesced, aware that his wife’s precedence would be enveloped in this mist. She would merely be one among the crowd, but I, I had the audacity to approach her first. Perhaps the notion would gradually dissipate, as collective memory shies away from venturing into this delicate realm concerning the village elder. If ever they dare to broach the subject, it would be through veiled jests. Al-Umda, in eager fashion, insists that the first one I had the temerity to approach was “Madam His Wife,” the one unafraid to seize the moment, to give life to the rumor.

An eye in paradise and an eye in hell, he savors it as retribution against me, only to retreat in shame from his own actions! So why, then, was he not the one who initially encouraged her? It is an accusation that besmirches the honor of the town’s Al-Umda, justifying the harshest retribution against me—a charge that exists solely within the realm of dreams, divorced from reality. And his wife, she shall be naught but a bee within the hive!

Since the day he assumed power, lurking in the shadows, he still harbors animosity from our conflict over Fatin during our youth. He believed he alone possessed the right to her, that no one else should dare to love her. So how could I, then, have the audacity to love Al-Umda’s cousin? Perhaps Fatin has long forgotten, but he shall never forget the one who stood as an obstacle between him and her, the one who cast an eclipse upon the moon!

He should have left for us, the common people, the love of girls from our own ranks—be they beauty queens. And he could have sought the daughters of sheikhs and dignitaries from the region, even if one had but a single breast. He could have possessed both the beauty queen and the one with a solitary breast. As for me, I possess only the one who reciprocates my love—one with two breasts and a singular heart.

He is humble, for he loved the one I loved.

He is arrogant, for he threatened her and engaged in a struggle with me for her affection.

And he is obstinate, for she did not return his love.
Her love for him was one-sided, an unbearable burden she carried. As his desperation grew, he resorted to threatening to mar her face if she dared to accept another man’s proposal. She trembled for her countenance, aware that it was entwined with my praises, my supplications, and my exaltations, even as its radiance waned. My love for her was ethereal, transcendent. And she recognized that she should not deny anyone who beheld her the blessings they obtained when uttering, “Blessed be Allah in His creation.”


Is it a form of rebellion for the village women to expose the reality of their husbands? They bring forth such a topic, one that never truly occurred, and they are accused of defiling purity. It occurs in realms beyond perception, prompting their swift complaints, assuming the facade of modest and reserved women.

To this extent, the visage of Al-Umda’s wife is unveiled. Does she take the initiative to orchestrate such a spectacle before her husband? Or is it because she is the wife of Al-Umda, impervious to the shocks that ripple through her countenance, and no woman, regardless of the matter at hand, should precede her?

Perhaps they conspired together so that they would all follow her lead, causing their individual concerns to dissipate, transforming the issue into a widespread contagion that affects everyone. Catastrophe would descend upon me in one fell swoop. She knows that the village women will not betray her in what she has requested.

And they may seek to affirm that their desires overpower them, to demonstrate their capacity to receive and engage. Their “erotic” dreams involving me serve as evidence of what could materialize in actuality with their men, were it not for the impotence that has befallen them.

Reality lies dormant. Let imagination reign.

Even Al-Umda’s wife?

Yes. Is she not a woman?
Does misfortune befall me intentionally, or does it awaken the valor within their men, provoking them through me? Does it stir something they yearn for?

And are they certain that it is specifically me who infiltrates their dreams? Or do I resemble someone else? Faten, for instance, experienced such an occurrence once, yet she did not accuse me nor specify who it was. It is evident that the matter is unclear to her, hence her silence.

Perhaps I am indeed the one who sneaks into her dreams, but she does not wish to fabricate a narrative. It was supposed to be between us in reality, had I married her, and I do not believe she would flatter me in any way, even to preserve her honor.

What about those who harass them at their doorsteps in reality, and some of them inviting them into their homes?

If I were to say that I did not infiltrate their dreams, I would be sincere. And when they claim that I did, why don’t we believe them?


I am aware of my observations, movements, and actions in dreams. I perceive them fully. Upon waking up, the first thing I do is record what I witnessed in visions and things, and where I was, and the actions I engaged in within the dream, along with its characters and protagonists, and the conversations and deeds that transpired between us. Sometimes I do not immediately recall it upon waking up, and the dream may become lost, evaporating in the mist of the day’s concerns. And perhaps that dream suddenly leaps into my memory just by seeing anything related to it, like catching fragments of a song in my hearing, its melody or lyrics carrying any scent of the subject, or hearing a cat’s meow, a woman’s voice, a letter of a word, the braying of a donkey… Anything that carries a trace of the dream’s fragrance.

I also note the time of the dream, whether it is during the day or at night, and at what hour, whether at dawn, noon, evening, or the hour of magic. A dream or a vision, a gene or a habit inherited from “Hathoot” – my father, may Allah have mercy on him. I only lack capturing the moment in an image.
Al-Umda of the village lies in wait, scrutinizing me with accusations and allegations, even if they exist only in dreams and visions! Who is more deserving of blame? Am I the one who infiltrates their dreams, if that is true, or is it Shamikh, the hunchbacked who harasses them at their doorsteps in reality?!

It’s as if he wants all of them to believe him, saying, “What else could drive them to soil their garments with their own hands if not the truth of their words?” Then he speaks as if he is unaware, saying, “On the night when this assault occurs, while I am next to my wife, immersed in sleep, I feel a black magnetic aura surrounding me, tickling my body.”

Then his train of thought shifts, still in the same guise, and he says, “Why shouldn’t I believe my wife? When a hen dreams, it dreams of being in the grain and barley market, and when it awakens from its slumber, it clucks with joy or contentment, without complaint if it finds nothing. Here lies the difference between my wife and a hen.”

If Al-Umda uttered these words as he emerged from his slumber, he would surely be ashamed of himself. Furthermore, his wife does not want a feather on her head, especially in a matter like this, for she bears a feather on her head due to her social status. In a matter like this, no one claims to be immune, even in a dream. And even if she doesn’t confess to anyone, it will be evident on her face. Can she not turn pale or blush before the women of the town as they chatter about these dreams?

Drops of silent confession will trickle from the pores of her face.

Did her husband become angry with her today because of her contact with me, or my contact with her in the dream, as he is still resentful towards me? To the extent that he would expose his wife like this? Could it be that she urged him to reveal her secret, or did she reveal it herself? And which is better: for him to disclose it, at least to himself, or for her to openly declare it to the people?


AlUmda wants the three women, the divorced, the widowed, and the spinster, to believe him, knowing full well that their houses are not adjacent and that the spinster, for example, would not attract anyone, neither a devil in a dream nor a man in reality.
So how can they believe him in such a “parallel” situation, with this intertwined condition, unless they were in one house, in one room, even merging into one body?!

He tries to arrange the trap, saying, “Perhaps Ibn Hathoot left one house to enter another, then the third, and the roosters started crowing, so the period before dawn became prolonged. Each one experienced her pleasure alongside the pleasure of the others at the same time, to the same melody.”

“Ah, and when did that happen?”


“Does it mean that the three of you came together at the same time, at the hour of the roosters announcing dawn?”


“Glory be to God… the same timing as all the women in the village!”

Then he mutters as if he admits something, “And with my wife as well.”

Al-Umda’s tongue always precedes his thoughts, but here he holds it, not uttering this thought aloud.

Then he speaks like a philosopher or a mosque preacher, saying, “What prevents them from all coming to them in a unified dream? The Angel of Death takes the souls of millions in one moment and one presence.”

Faten, or the disabled woman, refused to follow the gossip of the three women, even though her ailment came from something like what they say happened to her at night, and in the morning, her beauty changed to paleness in her face and frailty in her body!

They offered her to join them, to become a different group of women, one divorced, one widowed, and another spinster. And one with a disability would join them too! They didn’t know that her husband, the one-eyed, Mukafih, was with her that night, his weekly routine. He was trying to approach the realization of the verse of justice mentioned in the Quran with his three wives. It was just a state of proof, no harm. That’s how he was with Sherine, “the mare,” and also with his customary wife, worthy of the title “mare.” People knew about it, but discreetly. Sherine took the title early, she took the first shot. We always settle for one symbol, and if she had appeared before Sherine, she would have stolen the spotlight.

His presence with both the mare and the disabled woman in one week meant something greater than just fulfilling the verse of justice with that disabled woman!

The situation of Mukafih with the disabled woman; a helpless routine presence, and with the mare and the disabled woman, a presence of impotent enthusiasm, or rampant impotence. The hunchback, Shamikh, took advantage of the opportunity of having Mukafih with her on this night. He continued harassing her at her doorsteps during the evening and night, as he only finds pleasure in harassing her at the doorsteps of her house in the presence of her man!
Why didn’t he go to harass Sherin’s door, as she was spending the night alone on that night, or to his customary wife, the mare?

What I finally learned is that the disabled woman said to the three women, “When Ibn Hathoot wants to sneak into one of the women of Mukafih, which one of us is more desirable and attractive? Am I the mother of the mare or the mare herself?”

Oh, your realism and honesty with yourself, Faten!

If it weren’t for your trust in your dormant charm beneath your skin, you wouldn’t have confessed to your rivals about their superiority over you in beauty and attractiveness now. Or has beauty become within your soul, compensating for what has been lost from your body?

Indeed, wouldn’t it be better for my subconscious mind to guide me, let’s say, towards that desirable mare? Especially since she was sleeping alone at that time, although it makes no difference whether she was alone or with her husband, as long as my mind is preoccupied with women in such a way, and surely its preoccupation with the beautiful ones is stronger?

I am only preoccupied with my wife out of love, and with Faten out of infatuation.

The divorced woman, the widow, and the spinster; the first one summoned me while in the frost of her divorce, the second in the darkness of her widowhood, and the third in the ardor of her longing for an experience she had not yet tasted. As for the rest of the women in the village, each one follows the chemistry of her own self and body.

“I sneaked into their homes and their dreams, and invaded their bodies!”

And this is what the town administration accused me of.

In dreams, do not blame me if you find your wallet in my pocket. Reach out your hand and take it without hesitation. Once I dreamt that I found a bundle of dollars, and when I woke up, I went looking in my pocket for the price of a loaf of bread and a bite of falafel.

Here, the plight of women appears when the divorced woman says that she can get rid of what moves within her belly, and the widow says it doesn’t matter to her if something moves in her belly. The problem for both of them was that I reminded them of the pleasure, enjoyment, and ecstasy they each experienced with their husbands at some point. And the spinster laments the scent of pleasure she experienced with me in the dream, deprived of it in reality, and her complaint was that I introduced her to a pleasure that was absent from her and that she had never experienced before, and perhaps she will never experience it.


And this world, a nuclear reactor… and a woman!

And the cultivator… they call her a bomb. They plant mulberries and harvest strawberries. They bury cucumber seeds and get watermelon. They plant pumpkins and the fruit turns out to be zucchini. They plant fava beans and get peas. Their fields abound with molokhia, arugula, fenugreek, tomatoes, squash, spinach, okra, beans, and lentils.
Many men in our village used to dream of threshing dry beans, but in the morning, they would search for their studs and not find them!
The male palm trees, whose precise pollen would fertilize the palm fronds, no longer scatter during the seasons of wind and pollination; in fact, they have become extinct. Shamikh emptied their heads of their white brain matter, then the storm came and toppled them.
Amidst this tale of fading strength, the men voiced their discontent, their grumbles echoing through the village. Meanwhile, the women, in hushed tones, exchanged secrets that spoke of their desires. It is the collective “men” we refer to, disregarding their individuality, for it is the label of masculinity that society imposes upon them. Did the women, with their feminine power, awaken a dormant courage within these men, shaking them from their self-imposed forgetfulness? As if they had been blind to their own realities, only to be jolted awake by vivid visions of their wives.

Yet, perhaps this peculiar dance of relationships was nothing more than a form of amusement, a facet of their playful banter. Each morning, or after a brief slumber, a husband would teasingly inquire of his wife, whether I, the clandestine intruder, had stolen a moment with her while he held her in his loving embrace the night before, or even as she turned her back, seeking solace in another room.

What vexed these men the most was the audacity of my presence in their wives’ arms, even when they lay right beside them! If such a transgression had occurred in a different chamber, perhaps they could have found solace in an excuse. However, when it unfolded within their own grasp, merely claiming to be lost in sleep would not absolve them. Deep down, they must have sensed the intricate world that unfolded within their wives—the very world in which they themselves resided—where secrets were tucked away in every crevice, every fold, and every hidden pocket. It was a world invaded by an unseen force, an enigmatic jinni.

The governing bodies of our town, preoccupied with their own concerns, turned a blind eye to the plight of Shamikh. They busied themselves with searching for the ethereal traces of their own breath, forever lingering in the air, behind closed doors and windows that guarded their homes.

And now, here we stand, you and I, as partners in this narrative. Did “Ibn Hathoot” grace your dreams last night? Or perhaps, in pursuit of solitude, you sought refuge in another room?

Ah… you withdrew to that alternate chamber, seeking an intimate encounter with him!

Yet, the more fitting course of action would have been to direct such words to your wife. Instead of fruitlessly chasing after the elusive vapor of your own breath in the air, you should have opened the door of communication, confronting “Shamakh al-Ahadab” red-handed. It mattered not whether he truly embodied the prowess he boasted of or carried within him an imperfection waiting to be discovered.

When Mukafih asked his customary wife, the mare, about the last time I had been with her, she replied, “He only appears to me in daytime dreams. He came to me the day before yesterday.” In response, he forbade her from sleeping during the day. Whenever drowsiness overcame her, he would stand over her head and shake the bell he had prepared for that purpose. The next day, he inquired whether I had refrained from being with her or if I had continued to visit her during the day. She claimed that her attraction towards me had transformed into encounters during the night.

Now, a thought challenges me, lingering on the surface of my memory, declaring my intrusion to her in broad daylight yesterday, while she insists that my presence was only during the night this time!

Another man questions his wife, “Why are you washing like that? Did this man come to you last night?”

The women’s complaints were solely about my nocturnal intrusions. I no longer engage with any of them during the day. Perhaps their subconscious minds no longer dream or occupy themselves with thoughts of me except at night. Or maybe each woman hides within a self-created tent of virtue during the day, and secret daytime encounters can only be dared by a daring man with a wicked woman.

Perhaps they felt ashamed, spending half a day drying their shame.

But what if another thought jumps to me—and it has actually occurred— that I was with one of them during the day yesterday? Surely, I am not myself, even if I am myself!

And what about a woman who has never met me, and I have never met her? How can she accuse me as well? I know all their faces from their frequent visits to my shop.

Every man mourns his own situation and the situations of others, while the women place their hands on their cheeks. The beings of the clouds—the velvet gazelle, the striped giraffe, and the gray camel—they have vanished into each other, dispersed, as if confirming the incident and awaiting judgment. The women of the village exposed themselves with me, something I did not feel. Thus, how many women refrained from exposing themselves?

The revelation of Al-Umda’s wife encouraged the divorcee, the widow, and the spinster to remove the veil of modesty from their faces. However, the veil of modesty is only lifted from the protected woman, even if it’s just a shadow of a man. I wonder, had the beginning come from the spinster or the divorcee, for example, would Al-Umda’s wife have been encouraged by one of them?
Men chatter on buses, in job offices, workshops, and shops. They do so remotely as well, through mobile phones and landlines. They lament or jest with one another. One of them used to shamelessly reveal his encounters with his wife, even if it wasn’t known that I had visited her in a dream. He would mock himself in front of his peers, equaling them in their impotence. The blush of shame had vanished among them, and the sensitivity associated with this matter had dissipated. No one possessed enough dignity to restrain themselves from reacting to someone else’s actions, except for the prideful few.

A man is not ashamed before another man, nor is a man ashamed before a woman. Even women no longer feel shame in front of other women. Men indulge with women through jokes, gestures, and innuendos, whether physical or psychological. Any man with any woman, they are all united by a shared pain. And since the pain stems from a common wound, the languages of speech, body, and silence have become one for them. They are equal in their impotence, which compels them to openly expose themselves and even bring their souls and sensitivities closer to one another.

A man confides in another man, or he confides in a woman, about his disappointment in himself and his inability to satisfy his wife. A woman confides in her friend, her colleague, or any man about her husband’s disappointment and failure with her. No one sees themselves in the mirror of another’s mockery. Everyone is safe from everyone else, except from those who infiltrate their dreams.

Is it necessary for such things to happen, for me to infiltrate their lives at a time when their men are overwhelmed by shame?

They speak as if discussing the intrigues of colleagues at work or the rising prices of cigarettes, oil, tomatoes, and potatoes, or the mischievousness of the neighbors’ children. They hoped that this openness between them would ignite their spirits, radiate warmth within them, and trigger a process of stimulation, heating, and excitement—sparks of initiation and arousal.

The three women—the divorcee, the widow, and the spinster—were excluded from this equation. Their problem in front of Al-Umda could be summarized as follows:
• How I intruded into their beds, which was considered a matter of security.
• That they would carry the burden of sin, which was a religious accusation.
• That I reminded them of what had passed, which was a psychological charge.
• As for the spinster, I had introduced her to an experience she was unfamiliar with, which was a human accusation!
And what has passed before their eyes is that I reminded them of the splendor of their husbands, the vigor of their youth, before the filth and disgrace spread among the men of the town, in a way that may never happen again, at least not with me, or perhaps it will happen again. For a man, while asleep, is moved by threads that he cannot grasp in his hand, and around him move puppets that he cannot touch, and he himself becomes one of these moving puppets. Or perhaps the vigor returns to a blind man, for example, who sacrifices himself once and invades the disabled woman, and it is agreed upon that I, and no one else, trampled upon her in a dream, while she is spared the audacious harassment at the threshold of her home in reality. If I were in the place of the valiant one, even in her state, I would not have brought her those harms; I would be content with my soul embracing hers.

And there may come forward to the divorced woman and the widow someone who reminds them of a genuine pleasure that they lack, and the audacious one with the hunched back sneaks into the spinster’s dream, not harassing her at her doorsteps in reality, or he squeezes a lemon on himself and includes her in the solace of his second wife.

If longing did not occupy a large part of the thoughts of the women of my village, they would not have summoned my vigor in their subconscious minds, a feeling beyond their control!

But the question is, why don’t they summon the audacious one with the hunched back as well, or instead of me? Or does he sneak into them with his own impulse? Isn’t it rumored in the village that he is exempt from what happened to their men in terms of impotence?

Everyone speaks spontaneously, as if they were waiting for the solution or the remedy from others, from those who are afflicted like them, although they know that the one who lacks something cannot give it. Perhaps this or that person reaches a piece of information from the program “The Magical Herb,” where marine biologists, wild herb experts, prophetic doctors, nuclear doctors, and psychiatrists speak. It also hosts charlatans or a prescription from a fortune teller or a delusion from a fortune-teller.

Air seeped into their heads through the pores of their impotence, and it began to create whirlpools that lifted them to weightless realms.


A syndrome of searching for sexual moments appeared among men, between wandering creatures around them and those who live with them. So they began to observe dogs, cats, rabbits, mice, frogs, lizards, and cockroaches. They noticed the mating of cockroaches, fleas, flies, and butterflies with each other. Surely among them are males and females, like us, and they also have desire and sexual longing.
This syndrome has heightened their ability to discern between males and females. They perceive these creatures as hermaphroditic beings that blend and intermingle, reproducing through reproductive organs, kisses, or physical contact. They even entertain the possibility of reproduction through the wind or the breeze, as if desire can be carried from one cricket, louse, butterfly, or fly to another, or transmitted through the medium of wool.

These creatures connect and adhere to one another without shame. For instance, one may observe a mouse mounting another, a fly engaging with another fly, or an ant engaging in a sort of kiss as it scurries along. Why should they feel ashamed when engaging in natural instincts beyond their control? After all, do we feel ashamed when we drink or eat?

Among these creatures, dogs stand out as the most active in matters of sexuality. Cats have conspired with dogs at the expense of their own dignity and delicate reputation, forsaking their once sacred and modest heritage, which was honored in temples in Bastis or hills in the Eastern Province. Is it the kindness or naivety of cats that contributes to satisfying the desires of the “dogness” inherent in the instinct of sex and lust?

Dogs indulge in their instincts anywhere, from streets and alleys to corners and neighborhoods, even on garbage heaps and rooftops. They do not prefer to engage near rivers, seas, or ponds, perhaps to avoid being forced to enter the water and separate. They prefer the conflict to last as long as possible. The secret of water and its ability to dissolve such conflicts remains unknown to us. It appears that as soon as the male mounts the female, stray dogs and bitches gather around them. The males pant, and the females drool on the ground.

For those who are unable to indulge in their desires at the moment, another opportunity will arise with another female around any corner. What is certain is that they will not sneak into a female’s presence while she sleeps, as nature neither prohibits nor openly forbids it. After the moment of passion fades, they move in opposite directions, their desires subsiding. The victory goes to the stronger one, while the onlooking dogs wander around, sniffing and displaying calmness and astonishment, as if struck by an arrow of God. During these intimate moments, they cannot tolerate distractions, teasing, or scratching from the little puppies lurking between their legs. If provoked or harassed in such a state of madness and astonishment, they may become aggressive, although their bites would be maternal or nurturing.

Even cats have reached a point where they offer their backs to dogs. Cats have sacrificed themselves for the sake of dogs. When a cat lets out a piercing meow, it rushes to find the nearest dog, seeking refuge in its embrace.

Where are the ancestors of these creatures? What is the origin of their tiger-like skin? If only they had known the fate that awaited their offspring and descendants over the years and ages. Had they been aware, the last tiger would have taken measures to prevent the continuation of their lineage. They might have ensured the severing of the glorious lineage, preventing their breed from being ridden by a breed raised on vulgarity.
That canine instinct was the first manifestation of overt sexual savagery, which opened the eyes of village children, bachelors, and the hungry in the desert valleys. In cities, we now witness glimpses of this savagery on the public park grass, on the benches of the corniche, behind car tinted windows, and on television screens, wild scenes originating from dogs!

However, in the case of dogs, you will find that the one engaged with its mate is just one dog. You won’t find one dog licking another’s shoulder, another biting its neck, and a third waiting for an opportunity.

What’s striking is that village dogs are fortunate for two reasons. First, because they find everything “delicious,” consuming whatever comes their way, whether it’s a dead chicken, a donkey’s carcass, or a child’s excrement next to a wall. Second, because the males among them freely pursue their desires with females, in any street or ruin, whenever they desire and when their lust barks at them.

As for dogs like Bulldogs, Salukis, Saint Bernards, and other aristocratic breeds, they are “high-minded” types. They don’t eat just anything that crosses their path, nor do they engage in promiscuity. It’s not easy for the male to find his female counterpart anywhere. Therefore, they make reservations for him on the first flight to Rome, London, or Paris as soon as his desire ignites. This allows him to quench his urges there on one hand, and on the other hand, it ensures the preservation of the purity and nobility of the breed. No female dog carries his excrement, and no male carries the semen of donkey stallions. The sperm within a species is blind, not discriminatory. While the lower breeds may be classified within the dog family, the breeds themselves are strains, and strains form lineages. It is supposed that the fluctuations of desires align and correspond with the levels of sperm.

Voices cried out, demanding the liberation of those high-level males when their sexual hunger yearned for the local bitches. Their program included several clauses: the eradication of racism, the melding of veins within a single lineage, the lower branch blending into the higher branch. This would work towards dissolving the psychological knots and animosity in their social world, for those who felt inferior or those who were actually inferior. It would also work to break the nose of these superior dogs.

But opposing voices rejected the idea, and their arguments were as follows: Firstly, our “local” dogs may have contracted a chronic, imported disease that could be inherited, leaving behind other breeds. These breeds may be more ferocious, cutting off the legs of children on their way to school and playgrounds, or serving any interest of their owners from neighbors or shops. They may sever the path for men walking to mosques, workplaces, and jobs. Or they may forget their origins and be afflicted with a sense of arrogance and pride, causing them to deviate from their duties. They may roam around, circling houses and rooftops, by farms and behind buffalo pens to rid the burrows of rats and pests. Secondly, regardless of what is done for our female dogs, their offspring will never be free of the base traits inherited from their roots, at the very least the roaming around near walls and ruins.


But how do we interpret the accusations of spinsters, divorcees, and widows against me, as they have abandoned this shame and approached those creatures with frankness? Their accusations were not directed at me as much as they were complaints about the misfortunes of their own destinies. Perhaps the philosophy of those creatures in this explicit behavior stems from our contempt for them as insects and animals. They rebel against our low perception of them through this explicitness, and perhaps against themselves as well, as a way to assert their worth. They may even boast to us about what we secretly desire, but openly feel ashamed of and practice in secrecy!

What is the size of the male or female in those insects and animals that we can see or touch their reproductive organs? These creatures look at us, but they do not see us to hold us accountable or feel ashamed of us. Perhaps they see us, but they did not eat from the forbidden tree to become aware of their nakedness and cover themselves with fig leaves or gourd leaves. Perhaps they had their own forbidden tree, and indeed they feel the exposure of their nakedness, but they prefer honesty with themselves, not concealing what stirs within them. They do not like hypocrisy, even in their most intimate matters. They act according to their true nature or rather their instinct, displaying openly what we suffer from unconsciously.
The concern of men was not merely contemplation of the act itself, but rather an observation of the number of females for each individual dog or the number of males for each individual cat.

The hunchback, Shamikh disdains to engage in conversations of lamentation and mourning with them, nor does he pry into scenes of sexual interaction between those creatures. He looks at them with disdain as they participate in those sights, mocking them as they reveal their flaws. He makes them feel that he does not suffer from what they suffer. His mockery of them exceeds my mockery of the dreamy and lustful women who accompanied me. They would reproach him for his self-assuredness, or rather for his self-deception. What if they left him to deceive himself like this until he believes it, consuming the delusion that festers within him? Perhaps he would vomit the illusion that plays in his mind.

His wife Salwa shares the illusion. We do not know if she keeps pace with him, whether she follows his intellect or his ambition. She does not want to be his accomplice in time, a suitable bolt for this nail! And his true virility may be a facade, as he shields her from summoning me in her dreams through her subconscious mind, signaling that she was not among those who accused me before Al-Umda. My absence from her dreams or her lack of summoning me could be proof of his virility. I do not know if it is an agreement between them or a spontaneous act. The situation of the hunchback, Shamikh and his wife reminds me of the people in our village, when they hide their illnesses from each other. No one wants others to know about their illness, especially if it is cancer, a virus, pneumonia, shingles, or scabies. These diseases bring them closer to the obsession of death or disgust. They may even prepare shrouds for their owners. People with such diseases are excluded from the calculations of others; their opinions are not taken into account, and they are deprived of their share in any cake that is distributed, whether public or private. People may underestimate their children and covet their women, even after their death, by marrying them. They hide from their destinies and confine themselves, believing that those who fall ill are shameful and those who die from these diseases face divine retribution! So, these people and others like them have become in the realm of the dead or rather on the margins.

Women complain about the weakness of their men, Mukafih, the one-eyed, who is not truly one-eyed, Rafa’e, the lame, is not truly lame, and Shamikh, the hunchback, is not truly hunchbacked. Femininity is disabled, and feminism is active in cases that end with the birth of a sack filled with water!
Their bellies swell; that affliction I myself fell victim to. The hunchback, Shamikh, strives to indulge in it, but he fails to find it, even though he dares to present tangible evidence of his harassment at their doors. Men live in a state of cowardice, while women live in a cocoon of innocence. The members of the household finish discovering one swollen belly, only to find another in the same house or in the houses of their neighbors. There it is, this one or that one, supposedly on her way to giving birth. Her ninth month comes to an end, and the placenta descends as a sac filled with water!

And the woman waits for her breasts to be filled with milk. Will she find someone to nurse it? They throw the placenta into the flowing canals to ensure the flow of milk in the mother’s breast! And to create the illusion of a baby for her, they make a child out of fabric scraps and cotton. Whoever desires a boy, she makes it a boy, and whoever longs for a girl, she makes it a girl. In their homes, they celebrate by cracking salt, drinking milk, and eating cake in honor of the newborn.

After the completion of the seventh-day celebration, the boys will be engaged to the girls! Shaima to Haitham, and Haitham to Shaima, Nahed to Amr, and Amr to Nahed, and may God bless them.

The mare, the fierce blind woman, the traditional one, had lost her only companion who came at the end of the era of virility. Misfortune did not give her husband enough time to bring forth another male child. He was among the first men who dreamed of eating a pig’s thigh! And with the advent of the era of misfortune, her belly swelled, and day after day, the watermelon grew and donned the skin of the yellow cantaloupe!

In her ninth month, she gave birth to the water sac, and as soon as she saw it beneath her, she exclaimed with joy, “Oh, my moon, oh, my moon, oh, my moon, for my beloved, my baby.” And after the water sac burst, she sent someone to throw the placenta into the flowing water. She purified herself with the cold water mixed with rosewater. It was a cold January, and she combed her hair and applied creams to her face. Then she fashioned a baby, bearing the features of her deceased child whom death had snatched away. She would occasionally smile at him, sing to him, and talk to him.

The fools apologize, the charlatans are astonished, and the scholars strike their hands together. A wide-ranging debate unfolds between gynecologists, midwives, Quranic scholars, and the readers of One Thousand and One Nights. It extends to believers and atheists, surrealistic artists and logicians. The village is engulfed in a wave of arguments between men and women, each with their own word:
“Who inflated your belly like this?”
– I do not smell the scent of Ibn Hathoot in the amniotic fluid.
– Nor for Shamikh, the hunchback!
– So where did he come from?
– If you lie to me, I will divorce you immediately.
– If you don’t divorce me, I will divorce you myself. The shadow of the wall is better.
– Confess, or you will already sit beside the wall.

Women engaged in seeking divorce and separation from their husbands, and the woman did not hesitate to express in explicit terms that if this person who is attributed to her were placed inside her nightgown, there would be no movement of desire or longing!

The divorced, the widow, and the single women stood defiantly, objecting strongly: “One of you will sit with her hand on her cheek in the shade of a wall. Wasn’t the shadow of a man better?”

Speculations and conjectures increased around me, just like any man surrounded by mystery, and people spent half their time debating about it. No, let my soul depart to its Creator before it causes turmoil. Indeed, people compensate for their inability to interpret puzzles and strange phenomena by issuing numerous fatwas, speculations, and consuming various types of food and delicacies. So, if the puzzle involves flying dishes, or human beings who spontaneously combust, or furniture that moves on its own in rooms and corridors, then the solution lies in consuming plenty of cumin, berries, sweets, and black eggplants!

And if the puzzle relates to the fate of a country/nation/people… then excessive smoking of rolled cigarettes and indulging in sex and drugs is the remedy. Of course, in our case, men are exempt from this, as they compensate for it with the crackling of gum and mastication!


The village council convened and said: Since he is the only remaining stallion in the village, and since it has been proven beyond doubt, with all the evidence and testimonies, including the testimony of the single women, the divorced, and the widows (with whom we have not experienced lying), and it is unreasonable for them to conspire against Ibn Hathoot or anyone else in such a sensitive matter, and between these women and those, the testimonies of the village women came forward. It is him and no one else who is capable of this, who possesses the mechanism for it. He is the one who impregnated our women, uncovered our secrets, exposed our vulnerabilities, and stripped us naked. His punishment should be nothing less than the castration of his member, so that he becomes like us.
Their opinions about me multiplied, with one view suggesting my expulsion from the country, and another view proposing the castration of me, just like an unruly goat. Some even believed that my castration should have taken place since the beginning of the pandemic, so that I would be among our women like the temptations in the harem of the sultanic palace. They argued that castration would bring deprivation to the body, torment to the soul, and shame among people. Then there was another view that advocated confining me to my house. Finally, they settled on banishing me to the desert wilderness.

Their decision stated, “He shall be bound with an iron chain to the old jameez tree at the edge of the wilderness for twenty-five years, until his flame extinguishes, his vigor fades away, and his essence dissolves.”

The eldest sheikh objected strongly to this accusation and rejected the judgment, as did the hunchback, Shamikh.

They circled around me like they would circle a chicken thief, leading him to the police station, or like they would escort a groom on his wedding night. What instructions were given to the roaming dogs, the prowling hyenas, and the stray cats to wander in my scene? Did these crowds come to bid me farewell, to ensure my banishment, or to relish the moment of my confinement to the chain on the ancient jameez tree?

They drive me to the wilderness, just as a raging bull is driven, leaving no crumbling wall unjumped, or like a ram experiencing excessive electric shocks. They decided to isolate me from the pregnant ewes. White leaves resembling mulberry leaves were emerging from the openings of my robe—from my sleeves, collar, pockets, and beneath the robe—fluttering around me. The leaves continued to emerge and scatter since our departure from the village until we reached the ancient jameez tree. It was in its season of ripeness, with reddish-brown fruits adorning its trunks, branches, and twigs, resembling pomegranates and clusters of grapes.
The people traversing the streets and alleys that the procession passed through, and the farmers toiling in their fields, stretching towards the fringes of the wilderness, chased after the ethereal leaves that danced away from my attire. These immaculate pages, scattered by the whims of the wind, were deftly collected by some, meticulously folded like intricate origami, and nestled into the recesses of their pockets.

How did these leaves emerge from my garments? Where had they concealed themselves? Who slipped them into the hidden crevices of my pockets? Could they have sprouted from within me? And how did they navigate their way through the labyrinthine apertures, akin to swarms of mice rapidly emerging from scattered burrows and interconnected passages when confronted by scalding water or serpents?

The retinue accompanying me descended upon the succulent fruits with the voracity of locusts, as if their arrival in the wilderness or their approach to the venerable Jameez tree were forbidden, and my journey became an opportune moment for their indulgence.

They shackled me to the ancient tree with chains, an assemblage of restraints befitting the mightiest of beasts of burden.

If only they had stationed me near a well to draw water instead of this hollow vertigo, or tethered me to an irrigation canal, the desert surrounding me would have transformed into emerald pastures, teeming with sheep, cows, and goats. The people departed, leaving the wilderness to be serenaded solely by the whistling wind. The nascent tremors, the rustling of Jameez leaves in harmony with the surrounding arboreal tapestry, the silent symphony of the universe liberated from the cacophony of humankind.

And there, standing before me, was the venerable sheikh!

“Were you part of this procession, my lord?” I inquired.

“Nay, my son. I have awaited your arrival here since the morn. These people do not regard leaves, whether white or green, nor even a virtuous camel.”

Upon their departure, my master, Jacoush, whom I had concealed beneath my robe, grappled with the lock. He endeavored and persevered, yet to no avail. The lock, stout and its mechanism desiccated, weighed no less than five kilograms, and only the wheels of a train could render it asunder.


As though the continuity of my existence held significance to the governance of the land, they selected this tree and this locale. An ancient Jameez tree, ensconced at the periphery of the wilderness, beneath which lies a wolf’s den that grants me respite from the wintry chill, a hand-operated water pump, and a profound barrel pit crowned by a circular wooden lid, allowing for the descent of a prodigious pomegranate seed!
Clearly, it is a tree of self-discipline, a means to instill certainty, and a means to tame the souls of those who have strayed from the inhabitants of the desert and the surrounding villages.

They used to bring me food once a day at noon. I would satisfy my hunger with what my fingers could reach during the season of Jameez, whether it was green or ripe. My hands could not reach all the branches of the Jameez tree due to the length of the chain that bound me, so I would throw stones at it, causing some of the fruits to fall. But how could I reach the fruits of the neighboring mulberry and prickly pear trees, or the scattered patches where watermelon and papaya grew? Sometimes, those who passed by the nearby mortar would occasionally provide me with some fruits from there.

For several days, after the departure of the “locusts” who accompanied me, I gathered what had been scattered around the tree, as if my tree sensed the hunger pangs that afflicted me. It would offer me sustenance from its core and between the cracks of its bark, along with the morning dew: formations of pure essence, crystalline droplets frozen with the morning dew or in the winter days, liquid in the heat of summer afternoons, a transparent and delicate gum, the color of tears, with the consistency of honey from bees; a taste of clover flowers, a single grain or droplet of it, in the size and shape of young girls’ bosoms as they enter adolescence. Honey from bitter milk!

Sometimes, after sunset, some of the devotees would secretly bring me food and drink, or they would pick some fruits from our surroundings. Oh, if Al-Umda knew about it, he would chain them next to me.

During one of these intervals, the mare, a resilient woman, placed food at the far end of the chain, as if she saw that the amount of food would not be sufficient for me, or she wanted to feed me from the scattered abundance of the desert around me. And here I am deprived of it. She tapped a twig on which desert watermelon fruits grew, plucked one and rolled it towards me. The next day, during her interval, the widow told me that Al-Umda had sent a request to Faten, the disabled wife of the resilient man, but she refused to go to him. The little bird that informed him did not specify which of the three wives of the resilient man exactly? He should have inquired. He could have sent a request to “Shireen,” for example, but he found an opportunity and sent a request for Faten!! Perhaps he wants to test his heart. Will its old beats resound when she stands before him? Or has he lost interest in her, and will his “new heart” allow him to reprimand her? He contented himself with reprimanding the resilient man and threatened him with imprisonment if any of his wives repeated such actions. How did Al-Umda find out? The sky did not reveal anything except stars at noon, and the earth had nothing but the herds of Satan.
They did not leave my bail of provisions to my wife, and I do not know who took care of her needs all these years. In the first fifteen years, they used to send my food and drink with the beauties and belles of the village. They deprived my wife of bringing food for me, even once a month, even though she was counted among the village’s beauties and she had the right to come to me. She alone, without all the other women, the noble and the beautiful; looking into her face is a charity, looking into my wife’s face is a charity, and looking into “Faten’s” face, despite its withering, is an act of worship!

They said that her presence with me would dissolve in my psychological and physical chemistry, so her presence in front of me would be natural. Mostly, a man does not see his wife, even when his cheek is pressed against hers. No one sees themselves! And they want to burn my nerves with the beauty of others, to create chemical reactions, both physical and psychological, within me!

She used to come to me in my dreams, but I don’t remember going to her. The world of dreams is unrestricted spaces, free from constraints, and whoever directs me to my wife directs me to others as well. So I didn’t occupy myself with these concerns when awake, so as not to get entangled with them in my dreams, neither with my wife nor with others. So why shouldn’t that be evidence of my situation with the women of the village?

And why doesn’t my wife sneak into my dreams as proof of their sneaking into me?

My wife comes to me openly in my dreams! It is not a form of sneaking. She comes with her feminine charms imprinted in my instinct and her psychological features imprinted in my mind. She takes the form that corresponds to the fluidity of the state we do not possess. It is as if she formed herself in the guise of all the beauties of the village. I am fully aware that it is her and perhaps my realization, perception, and distinction of her amidst all those who merged into her or she merged into them is the evidence of my purity from women I never felt in the first place.

If the devil had a testimony here, what would he say about a matter whose field is the fertile field where men and women graze together?!

If the path were that easy, then Faten, the disabled, my old love, would be more deserving of this meeting. Even if she did not sneak into me, I would have met her on the corner of the dream, simply because my soul merges with hers, even for a few minutes. Her body no longer tempts anyone. She remains in my eyes as the beauty of the village. Isn’t this evidence of my innocence from others?

She admitted that there was sneaking and intrusion, but she denied that it was me. Does she not want her knife to share in my slaughter?

I did not feel that I went to any of them; my feeling here cannot be relied upon. And perhaps I did go to them outside of my awareness, as they claim. Their claim here cannot be relied upon.
The women of the village had no intention but to prove that they were still capable of interacting with their men. They wanted to test themselves in illusion until their husbands could truly join them in reality. Among them, there were those who tested the possibility of their bellies swelling for the first time, and those who washed themselves with the water of pregnancy to prevent rust. Some of them had already carried and given birth during the prime of their youth, while others longed for the pains of childbirth, even if it ended with a sack of water. And it is strange that a woman would pick up some pebbles and place them under her tongue, breaking within herself the oppression of pregnancy.

If only the women of the village had gathered and presented themselves in my wife’s form, and if only the complaint had come solely from her. Surely, my wife felt me, and even enjoyed it. It is unreasonable for the divorced, the widowed, and the unmarried to be more revealing and transparent than her. I enjoyed the encounters with her, the one I truly felt. I was deprived of her in reality, so the unseen compensated me with her in my dreams.

And it was her whose belly did not swell with the arrival of a sack of water in my dream. My meeting with her does not fall within the concerns of this amorous touch!

They want to entangle my instinct and desire with the realistic images of the village’s beauties, with emotional and sexual sensations when they come to me in this seclusion.

One of them was eager to place the food tray at the far end of the chain, just within the reach of my fingers, in case I threw myself and crawled towards it, as if they were feeding a lion. Then she would turn and return to the village’s tribes, dragging her femininity behind her in coquetry and seduction, making sure not to enter the realm of the chain, remaining at the outermost range. Thus, I would continue to treat the movement while lying prostrate, like a snake writhing on a glass surface, until I could attract and capture the food tray. They slaughter my masculinity and hang it for the birds to peck with the talons of desire, forbidden yet desired, available yet undesirable, psychological and biological laws. The village is full of men and youth, so why do they send me food and drink through the women, especially the beauties among them?!
My being was almost filled with femininity, as men and young boys never ceased to come here throughout the seasons of barren land. They either came to pluck the green berries of the wild jujube or to gather them after they ripened, along with the mulberries, prickly pears, and melons. But their scents disappeared as soon as they left. The scents of women, however, remained woven into the fabric of this place until the next day. The leaves of the trees absorbed their various fragrances, and the wild herbs became saturated with their scents and breaths. Each flower absorbed and retained the fragrance that suited it from every woman. The desert became a garden of women, or rather a garden of their scents. If the perfume factories took from it and created perfumes, and if women started perfuming themselves with its fragrance, then our scent would be returned to us, and some of them would say, “This fragrance is us… women.”

Perhaps my vision and experience of the sand, rocks, desert animals, and beasts are what maintain my psychological equilibrium.


After they place the food tray in this manner, some of them pause for a few minutes to tell me news of the village. Shireen, the “filly”, the wife of Mukafih, said that her husband no longer arranges marriages. The girls in the village can now be counted like grapes by the quarter kilogram, while the males are counted by the fingers. They are either those who came before the pandemic or the sons who have not yet been bitten by manhood and have shunned marriage!

Even the grown men no longer approach a spinster, a divorcee, or a widow. The attraction that pulls planets together has disappeared. Shamikh’s heart of palms has begun to sever the threads between masculinity and femininity, killing the instinct that attracts the butterfly to the light and extracting the sweetness from the figs, jujubes, and mulberries. She also said that she now consumes Shamikh’s heart of palms, trying to spare her beauty and femininity from longing for her husband, instead of torturing herself and him together. And her husband submitted to the inevitable and started indulging as well.

The intensity of femininity in me increases with the chatter of the divorced and widowed women with me. Do they mean to inject me with anti-oxidants for desire and lust, hoping for another encounter with me behind the curtains of reality? As if the encounters in dreams have become suspended for me!

Will the series of conspiracies against me ever end?

I smelled a strange scent in the food, a scent that I only smell after intercourse, an unfamiliar taste on my tongue. It was the spell of Salwa, the wife of the hunchback, Shamikh. I don’t know if there was something mysterious behind it that she conspired in, or not. I returned with her the food she brought.

Was the reason for my imprisonment here nothing more than a dream?

It is a shame for the administration of the town to imprison me in this cell on charges of adultery in dreams and visions!
The conversation with the divorced woman is never without regret, as she couldn’t endure the restlessness of her young husband. She played a major role in their separation. She doesn’t eat Shamikh’s heart of palms, which he consumed to ease himself from an intense, burning chemical reaction that he couldn’t resist. Before consuming it, he would approach her, finding her like a raging bull, with severed horns, legs, and manhood!

In one of her episodes, she said to me, “Do you think Al-Umda imprisoned you here for our sake, me, the spinster, and the widow, and the rest of the women in town?” No, it was because of what he heard from his wife while she slept next to him. She mentioned your name with delight, and that rarely happened between them in their real encounters. He would caress her, finding no one else with her, while she merged with you, oblivious to his fingers until you withdrew from her or from near her, disappearing into the air. He confronted her about what he heard and noticed, but she sealed her lips and stared at him in astonishment, almost leaping at his face. And even now, she continues to search for that moment in her subconscious mind. On the following day, upon seeing Al-Umda’s stallion riding a female buffalo that its owner had brought, she remembered what had transpired between you and her.


Years passed, alternating between scorching heat and biting frost, as I revolved around the tree. I became like a lost star in space, my world boundless, and my orbit unsteady. Until my feet created, by the force of time and movement, a compressed circular loop in the sand around the tree. It resembled the path in which the buffalo or cow would walk while tied to the mill before the era of irrigation machines. A circular trench, so my only option was to revolve around myself, with no linear movement. A circle where one who walks in it will never reach its end. My body and joints must move, a movement centered and along the length of the chain. I give myself complete freedom, sometimes leaping upward according to the length of the chain and clinging to the nearest branch to play the game of the swing. The circular trench is almost covered when one sits in it. It could be a refuge for soldiers if war were to break out, may it never happen. War untangles the complex web woven in fragile threads, causing laws to fall and new laws to arise.


They used to send women to me as the subject of my accusation and punishment. And now they have no hesitation in sending them to me in the emptiness of the desert. They are brought to me, and they were the cause of my ordeal from the beginning. The beginning was with the beauties in the early years of my punishment! They come to me in reality, so it is only natural that they come to me in dreams.
Is this not another rule upon which we build? In the villages, the law states that the male does not come to the female; rather, she is brought to him. So, based on this principle, are they now sending them to me? Perhaps the thinking of the men in my village has been influenced by the scent of the environment in which they live.

The female announces herself and insists on the announcement. Whether she is a buffalo, a cow, or a donkey, her owner drags her through the mills and canals to a neighboring village. He is told, or he already knows, that there is a male waiting for her. During the journey, you will find the female in a state of joy and delight. She gallops, her hooves almost biting the heels of the one who drags her. She knows where she is going. She releases her bray every few steps, raising her neck high as if she is removing the burdens from her ears or clearing anything in her way. Perhaps she raises it proudly and arrogantly, boasting of the pleasure she anticipates, in front of the scattered animals in the fields and along the road. She tries to summon the act and savor its taste until it happens shortly after. It has been over two years since her last “heat” request, so she does not allow a male who has passed by her, or one who is called to her, or even herself going to him, to mount her except when biology dictates the creation of an embryo and the moment of conception. There is nothing wrong with the pleasure of copulation.

Sometimes, a male sneak into the female’s dream, and in the morning, she announces to her owner her need for a real mate! She feels that she is going for this purpose, and it cannot be anyone but him. The sign for her is that she leaves her village’s land for another village, and it is her owner who drags her. However, if she is sold to a farmer or a butcher from outside the village, the one who drags her will not be her owner but the “stranger” who purchased her for breeding or slaughter. Then she will walk behind him with slow steps, constantly panting towards his face from left to right, and her nose will be close to the ground as she walks. She may try to glance from any angle with half an eye, hoping to catch a glimpse of her owner so she can reproach him. How could he let her go so easily? At least he should accompany her in her final moments with him, to her resting place or her destiny.
It is neither acceptable nor reasonable for the stallion to continue roaming the villages and hamlets, searching for a female seeking “mating rights.” This is due to the preservation of his social status, as he is the only stallion in the village or perhaps in the entire region. Only the prominent figures and some dignitaries raise him to enhance their social prestige and maintain the circle of glory and pride. On the other hand, their females do not rely on ordinary stallions, as they possess their own breeding bulls, which they constantly require for reproduction. So how can Al-Umda’s buffalo allow a stallion from another village, or even from her own village, to mount her? Moreover, the excessive roaming and searching exhaust and fatigue the stallion.

Before, the donkey used to wander, roam, and sniff around until it found a female donkey to mount. When the male ducks saw the female ducks, they would approach them while they were in their yard, displaying their grandeur and honor. The donkey decided to create a social status for himself similar to theirs, as he was no less than the male ducks.

Furthermore, the stallion may fail to complete the mating process, and if he fails in his own domain, it would limit the spread of the news, causing him temporary depression.

As much as I am saddened by the accusations against me concerning the women of the village, I am equally delighted by my success with them and the preservation of my stallionhood. I am like a wolf that has not fallen prey to them yet, even if it’s only in a dream, as they claim.

I ponder how the villagers will perceive me when even in a dream, my reputation is shaken. Al-Umda eagerly awaits the day when rumors circulate that I consume Shamikh’s heart of palms, as he desires to remember the events that transpired between us because of Faten’s involvement.
The stallion will not have a second chance if he fails, according to the laws of animal interaction. The female’s owner will refuse to allow him to mount her on the same day, until he brings her back again after a few days. Moreover, he is a solitary stallion, and on his way, he encounters countless females. Despite his dignity and majesty, he will remain waiting for them, and he will be deeply saddened if he hears about mad cows or castle fever.

On the journey back to the village, the female will walk behind her owner, lowering her head in silence. We do not know if she is saddened for herself or sorry for her stallion. And when the stallion’s owner wants to relieve himself of the headache, one buffalo will rest, another will be underneath him, and one will be on the way. He decides to stop this process either by selling him or by castrating him, an idea that was suggested during their meeting when they passed judgment on me. Castration could be a remedy for an unruly stallion!

He may ultimately get rid of him completely if his failure repeats. His spirit will be broken, his urine will dry up, his bones will protrude, and he will be slaughtered. This is if he wants to feed people something like plastic. Selling him would mean continuing his feeble activity, while castration would be a permanent disablement for him. They wanted to cast me into the desert like this, to become a stage of plastic meat!
Away from the bloated bellies of their women, or being the only stallion in the village or not, who can resist the temptation of a colorful woman? Who can prevent his saliva from flowing onto a woman exuding the pearls of femininity, let alone in this aridity?

“Among the desires that people adorn is the love for women…” Quran, and “I have not left behind me any fitnah more harmful to men than women.” And “Fear the world and fear women, for the first fitnah of the Children of Israel was caused by women.” And “What I fear most for my Ummah is women.” These are authentic Hadith, even if we assume weakness in the chain of narrators, and they are not weak. (Narrated by trustworthy narrators).

That fear is upon you, O men, the fuel and incinerators and furnaces of life. As for my village men, they live in bodily peace and burn internally. The hunchback, Shamikh, immediately extinguishes it, and thus the men of my village emerge from that fear.

A tinge from a bewitching feminine world, so do not lift your eyes except to a female, and do not lend your ear except to hear the voice of a woman. A woman calling from the balcony of her house on the pickup truck, a woman shouting in the market about her merchandise, a woman announcing the latest fashion trends on the screen, another one about a powder that washes whiter, a woman performing on a stage or contorting on a screen, and a girl must be half-naked for a magazine cover, and she will be the one calling your number at the bank window and announcing the arrival time of the train, and she will say, “The mobile phone you requested may be closed, its sound reserved for singing and music, and all the manifestations of joy.”

Females from the world of people, and females from different worlds: butterfly, dove, ewe, cow, chicken, turtledove, ant, bird… Even the male of some is revealed by the feminine “taa” to be examined, revealing the masculinity of the cat, yet we refuse to call it a cat, and some say to her, “Bissa!” (a feminine form of cat).

And we say “butterfly” for both male and female… as if the entire fly species is a single fly, whether it is male or female, with the feminine “taa” (ـة) indicating its gender. And all bees are referred to as “bee” (نحلة), and all cats are referred to as “cat” (قطة), all of them being feminized regardless of their actual gender. Even the heavens, “and He made the moon in them” (وَجَعَلَ الْقَمَرَ فِيهِنَّ),” and the birds that swim in space, “none can hold them back” (مَا يُمْسِكُهُنَّ), and from the Earth, “like them” (مِثْلَهُنَّ), and He created the heavens and the Earth, yet they do not comprehend “His creation” (بِخَلْقِهِنَّ).
Gone are the days when we would behold the male butterflies, adorned with vibrant wings, engaging in flirtatious dances with their female counterparts. No longer do we hear the melodic coos of male doves, serenading their companions with their delicate beaks. The majestic bulls and mighty buffaloes, once fervently mounting their females, have become a rare sight.

I delve into the realms of instinct, primal urges, and the purest desires that reside within both animals and humans. These desires exist beyond the grasp of suppression and intimidation, whether imposed by the fiery depths of hell or the sharp fangs of laws, regardless of whether they are religious, governmental, or societal in nature. Women, deserts, dark nights, scorpions, aridity, winds, cold, and displacement—all are intertwined in this intricate tapestry. Just as the body has its needs and rituals, so too does the soul possess expansive territories in which it roams freely.

Perhaps the soul is blessed with greater fortune than the body, for even if it were confined to narrow spaces or constricted boundaries, it possesses inherent qualities that enable it to expand, penetrate, and soar unhindered by restrictions. Conversely, the body recoils at the presence of walls and remains bound by chains. When the soul breaks free, it yearns for vast continents to wander, oceans to traverse, and clouds to tread upon. Its thirst for exploration and liberation is insatiable. Thus, our intricate plight as humans lies in the clash between the oppressive laws of confinement and our ceaseless yearning for freedom.

Here, in the depths of our existence, lies the eternal struggle… Here, in the depths of our existence, lies the eternal struggle.


Al-Umda: is a title given to the head of a village and used be appointed by the government. Al-Thajjah – a Novel written by Fikria Shahrah – trans. by Hatem Al-Shamea

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shopping Cart