“And what would you really like to do?” I was asked by the interviewer.

“Well truth be told, I would really like to pursue photography,” I replied, a bit too arrogantly.

“No. Let me rephrase. What do you really want to do?”

I looked back through books of my thoughts, jotted down across various types of paper and ink (mostly black), and through characters I have left behind in the digital realm. In 2004, I quoted the late Alone Shepard – a remarkable woman who has shaped my approach to writing since I attended her “Media Writing” class that year – in the preface she has written for our college literary magazine, Realms:

“Writing is in its essence a speech act, shaped somehow into form, where it can become art. Poetry began as song.

“Why do we want to sing and speak our thoughts? And why do we want to shape them into the form of written language?

“Many might answer that we write to communicate, which is ultimately true. Strangely though, writers never say this. Writers will instinctively talk about a deeper level of impulse, more interior, and more invested with intention and need. Writers will talk about a kind of compulsion to write – even if no one ever reads the words. Sometimes, it seems, it is enough to have spoken to oneself. As one of our Realms writers, Kinan, says, the writer’s first impulse is “I desire.”

Desire. It is what drives the world. It is what drives us to do what we do, buy what we buy, say what we say, and eat and drink to our heart’s desire, as it were.

In 2005, I was given enough motivation to express my feelings through writing; I have been a pawn in a lover’s chess game of five. The fascinating days of college. When no one believed my narration of the events, I set out on a small crusade to fulfil a desire in me — a desire to be heard… by myself. In 2005, I was a completely different person than I am today. I was a different person two years ago. I was a different person a few months ago. In my core, though, I could see the little boy I have known all my life. The little boy who looks out from my right eye to look into the left as I face the mirror. My eyes chase each other, each yearning to talk.

Seven years ago, when my feelings had the better command of my language, I have written:

To write what we have suffered an enjoyed is to endow our memories with the duration of our existence. We write so we can read and reread, so that we can remember in secret, and then weep in solitude.

And today, this is why I am rewriting, again. Reading what I have been writing all the past few years shook my core. I am a different man, but the same man. The pages of my journals – digital and traditional – have been too empty. I chat away my years and never write something tangible. People dedicate their tweets to their children – something admirable, and cute, for sure. But my 40K or so tweets add nothing of true value. Not as much as a few pages of any journal entry I have been writing since I learned I could write about unicorns waging wars against each other.

We spend the days “fixing things” that need not be fixing. In an age that conditions us to have results now and deliver results within impossible deadlines, we lose ourselves to work that only benefits the pockets of a few, while we empty the pockets of our souls. My time has not been mine for the past few years, but now, I write this in the office, with emails coming in, and new deadlines and calendar appointments coming in and out. The best time to have a break is when we do not have time to.

And today is as good a day as any.

“You know what, Kinan,” Ms. Shepard told me as I walked her to the car after class, “I see you an old man, sitting in your chair on the porch of your nice little house, writing Hallmark cards.”

Probably not Hallmark cards, but when I close my eyes and see myself in the future, I do not see myself as an old revered photographer, or a market leader in whatever field I am in now or will change into; I see myself as exactly that: sitting in a chair, in front of  a little white house.



Image credit: 81. pen and paper by geronimo89

At the End of the Hour

Earth Hour. And although I would like to look at the brighter side of things — pun intended — I find it increasingly difficult to appreciate a cause that revolves around hype. I am not here to say Earth Hour is nothing but a social movement; on the contrary, I do believe in the cause. The faith I lack is in how people would maintain their commitment to the cause a long time after the lights are back on.

And herein lies the problem: we want to feel part of something that is much bigger than us; we participate, and when it is over, so is the participation. That is not to say that everyone will go back to heavy consumption, but through observation it is safe to assume that when Earth Hour is over, the majority of people will go on like nothing has ever happened. Unless the event coincides with a solar flare that will fry out the grids (and not just read on the news that they might), I hardly doubt many people will go beyond the hour. Just like when a large proportions of Muslims who observe Ramadan and fast all day end up binge-eating after sunset, missing out completely on the concepts of preservation and discipline. Dare I say that the amount of food wasted daily at Iftar around the world can feed a continent for that day? Food for thought.

So how are social causes any different? Yes, it is all nice and fun to be part of something — but where is the belief and the passion that go along with it?

Perhaps, then, wrapping the event around a challenge is actually a good idea; when you commit people to a challenge, they’re more likely to commit to the cause. And in the recent years with everything “going green” trending worldwide, all these green movements are starting to shape up. The fundamental reason behind this is what while the majority of people will go on with their power-hungry lives, those who go beyond the hour are making an impact. They’re spreading the awareness and are becoming role models for other people to follow.

The underlying principle here is not necessarily “saving the planet”; it’s about discipline in consumption. Let it be power or water  or food or whatever resource. Earth is truly finite. Our lives are finite. Every single aspect of our lives is composed of fleeting moments. Why is it when the water is cut off, we manage to brush our teeth and do the dishes and other things with a bottle of water, whereas when it’s flowing out of the tap, we’re opening the tap all the way?

Earth Hour — and most other things like it — are not just an hour-a-year social movement; they’re habits. So make conservation, and discipline, your habit.

Shifting Paradigms

It’s almost 1 AM, and I sit at my desk at loss of words for what I want to write. A maelstrom of thoughts storm in my mind, leaving me confused and battered as the ebbs of the day sail me to long hours of introspection. This is not a post for me to talk about these political movements that are shaping our world. Nor am I going to talk about how, every day, I feel there is something bigger out there for me to do, to discover, and to shed light on. This time, there will be no rants about nonsense that bothers me every day. And there will be no talk on the meaning of life or uncovering The Truth.

And I won’t sit here and talk about how terribly hypocritical I feel about going to eat sushi in Dubai when my own parents in Syria probably have little to go by on (and they’d never say). I won’t talk about how many times I’ve cried reading the news and how many texts and phone calls are beings written and made to make sure my friends and family are OK. There is really little point in expressing how difficult it is to go to work every day, to study, to go to gym, to do some photography work, and pretend and live life as though nothing is going on, because life is going on for me as it is for everyone in Syria and Palestine and every place in the world where a rocket falls.

Complaining about how little time there is to get anything done and have time for myself is something I’ve discussed many times and still fail to grow the balls to say “no” to things and pay attention to myself. And talking about all the “inconveniences” of life is really just arrogance because there are a billion things I forget to be thankful for and all these “inconveniences” are imposed or self-imposed perceptions.

Saying “sick and tired” and being sick and tired of being sick and tired really will not solve anything.

Christmas Story

I was doing some shopping rounds down at Ace Hardware when I spotted their traditional Christmas setup: a miniature village situated around snowy mountain caps. The handiwork was quite admirable; it was obvious that a lot of effort had been invested in the creation of the little village. Having changed my mind on what I wanted to do with my custom-made gifts for this year, on my way out I decided to take some photos with my phone of the setup. Later that evening, in a café , and while shifting through the photos, a story started to build up in my head. Though uploaded on Facebook at the time, I thought I’d share the narrative with you here as well. Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!



Our story begins on a fine White Christmas morning in Nomsburg, a calm village cocooned between Mt. Nomsingheim and Mt. Table Nom. Little Johnny, like all boys his age, is being dragged by his mother, Alice, to visit the family. “Holidays are all about being with family,” she says, trying her best to keep hold of Johnny. “But where’s dad! He’s not coming! And neither are Charlie and Jen!” Sad little Johnny; he woke up late this morning.



Robert was busy with his choir, singing all sorts melodies in an attempt to instill a feeling of warmth in the bitter, cold day. Robert is no stranger to bitterness; he’s not leading the life he aspired to live, but has to. Often, he parallels his life with that of Alice whenever she comes to church, carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. Everyone in Nomsburg knew of her marital problems; her husband, Tim, has pretty much been the catalyst in creating everyone else’s marital problems. Only problem with Robert is that he has to keep his problems to himself.



Meanwhile, Charlie and Jen are having a blast at the local fair, the only place in Nomsburg with a green patch of land. “Glad we woke up early,” cheered Charlie gleefully at his sister, “Imagine having to go see Aunt Betty.” Who would blame them? Aunt Betty is not exactly a role model for anything that’s good in the world; the only reason she’s not dead is because God doesn’t want her up there. “I know, good grief I would murder myself,” Jen replied dismissively. “Now give me that popcorn.” Fun times for Charlie and Jen. Sad little Johnny.



Stumpy (yes, the Gnome — you think I’d keep the little guy out?) has a nice life. Though everyone looks down on him — more than looking down at him — he’s actually a happy midget. He has no debt, he quarrels with no one, he has no Gnomette to make his life miserable, and more importantly, no one gives a shit about him so no one ever meddles in his life. Lucky midget.



Tim. Classy man with a refined taste in china, tea, tobacco, and hats — but not in women. He slept with everyone in Nomsburg except Alice… well of course he had to when Charlie and Jen had to be conceived. Not Johnny though; that sad little kid is a bastard. Poor little Johnny. Anyway, Tim had no intention of going to see Aunt Betty either; he believes she should stay in an asylum. Probably why she lives in Nomsburg.



In the bigger picture of things, though, Nomsburg is a charming, peaceful little place… until Johnny finds out who his real dad is anyway. But no one cares about his dad. He’s just a Gnome, after all.

Driving East

Eid Al Adha’s timing was perfect: my sister was out of town, I was off from college and from work, I had no pending freelance photography to do, no family commitments, friends all busy with their families — it was the perfect opportunity to sit, relax, and do absolutely nothing for once. Even my exam, due on the 14th, has been put on hold because I really needed the break.

After spending the first day sick in bed and the consecutive days uneventful (but wonderful in being so), the clouds rolled in and thundered their way into the Emirates overnight. Early morning, I woke up to the gloomy skies and damp air. True to the weather reports, it was going to be a rainy day.

I had a few errands to run that day — little things like laundry, cleaning, and some other “item fetching” from several malls and places — but decided to take the opportunity to set out on a journey to the Eastern Regions that I have been planning for quite a while now. I visited the area a few years ago during summer, but have since loved to go again in the cooler months. I knew that the sky would make the trip much more memorable, and so I packed in some sandwiches and some water, armed myself with my camera (which I did not use) and my phone camera (which I extensively used) and headed east.

Driving East

When I stopped by the gas station to fuel up, I thought of documenting this trip — why not? It was a ride of contemplation; I thought about many things on my way and enjoyed the ride. When I arrived at the mountainous areas, I felt I was in heaven; living in flat-Dubai makes you truly appreciate other forms of landscapes. Even the desert was different, with dunes dwarfing the Land Cruisers trying to conquer them.


It has been a refreshing journey — one I have been looking forward to for months. My soul felt refreshed; I really needed this. The whole journey took me around eight hours before I headed to Ajman to visit my best friend, after which I headed back to Dubai for a well deserved sleep!

Here are the tweets and some more photos — enjoy! (might take a bit to load, and if it doesn’t, refresh!)