Smoke rises after an Israeli missile strike hit Gaza City on July 07, 2014.  Two Palestinian fighters were killed and another wounded late Sunday by an Israeli drone strike in the Gaza Strip, emergency services said.  The victims were among a group of armed militants who were targeted by the Israeli drone east of Bureij refugee camp, near central Gaza's border with the Jewish state, witnesses said.   AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS / AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS
Ibrahim Nasrallah’s Gaza characters struggle to decipher bombs from other loud noises. AFP

Book review: Women’s stories and wordplay abound in Ibrahim Nasrallah's Gaza Weddings




Some Gazans brag that they can identify a weapon by its sound, according to Randa, the character who opens Gaza Weddings.

The co-narrator of Ibrahim Nasrallah’s slim novel says she has no such talent. “I mean, when all the sleep you get is a tiny snooze that you manage to fall into by a miracle in the wee hours of the morning, how are you going to be able to tell the difference between banging on a door and bombs going off?”

Loud noises aren't the only things the characters in Gaza Weddings are unable to tell apart. The book, translated by Nancy Roberts and newly published by Hoopoe Fiction, is alternately narrated by Randa, an aspiring journalist, and her neighbour Amna. Both of them mix up people, places, deaths and times.

Gaza Weddings, first published in Arabic in 2004, is part of Nasrallah's Palestinian Comedy project, an eight-novel series in the spirit of Balzac's La Comédie Humaine.

The series has a wide scope, with settings that range from the fictional village of Hadiya during the 17th century Ottoman Empire to Gaza during the First Intifada.

Nasrallah's Time of White Horses, which opens in the 1680s and continues to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, is nearly 600 pages of deeply researched social and cultural history that, the author has said, took him more than two decades to write. Gaza Weddings is a markedly different book. This is a slender, ghostly novel, built around wordplay, swapped identities and women. The books are two different histories of two very different Palestines.

“A Palestinian living in the Gaza Strip… has experienced different political and social conditions to those experienced by another living on the West Bank,” Nasrallah said in a 2012 talk at the University of Sheffield. “I would say there are Palestinian peoples, and not a single Palestinian people.”

The two characters who tell us about the world in Gaza Weddings are Amna, a physical therapist who talks to her missing husband, and Randa, who speaks directly to the reader.

We see almost nothing of Randa’s identical twin Lamis, although even their mother can’t tell the two women apart. Only Amna’s son Saleh knows who is who.

Grown men are almost entirely absent in this novel. Randa and Lamis's father has been in an Israeli prison for years, while teenage Saleh's father is in hiding.

The boy was only two months old when his father was first arrested, and, since then, Amna has had mostly stolen encounters with her husband. She describes how he snuck up and followed her, hoping to have a few moments alone, and she no longer recognised him.

Amna narrates: “I remember that time when I didn’t know who you were, and I said, ‘Shame on you! What’s an old man like you doing running after a girl half his age!’ Then you started to laugh your head off, and if you hadn’t, I never would have recognised you.”

She keeps photos of her husband hidden, so that, if the Occupation Forces come, they won’t know what he looks like any longer.

The neighbouring narrators, Amna and Randa, are also confused about each other. When Amna first moved into the neighbourhood, little Randa thought she was an Egyptian film star.

Even when Amna’s identity was firmly established, Randa clung to the mistaken one. And even though years pass with them living side by side, Amna can’t tell Randa and her twin sister Lamis apart.

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Midway through the novel an unidentified man is killed, and Amna fears it might be her husband. The body is unrecognisable, and more than 20 Gazan women come to the hospital to claim it. Amna spends days at the grave with a large group of women. Within a couple weeks, they start to leave. 

“But I’m afraid that if I leave,” Amna says, “some other woman will come along and take him from me.”

Nearly all the deaths are difficult to identify. One of the twins is shot, but was Lamis or Randa? In the end, the narrator tries to keep both identities alive, pretending to be both herself and her twin sister. At some points, she is no longer sure whether she is actually Randa or Lamis.

The book opens as Amna comes to propose a marriage between Lamis and her son Saleh. Yet Amna makes her strange proposal not to Lamis, nor to the girl’s mother, but to her twin sister Randa. She doesn’t involve her son Saleh in the process, either.

As for Amna’s own wedding, the story she tells is equally strange. Her husband Jalal couldn’t get a permit to cross into Gaza for the ceremony. But instead of waiting for an opportunity to cross, as Amna urged him, Jalal smuggled himself into the Strip in a coffin.

Throughout, Gaza Weddings rushes breathlessly from anecdote to anecdote, raising a lot of intriguing possibilities but resolving few. Some of the humorous wordplay loses its force in translation, particularly when the witticisms are footnoted. And some of the intriguing stories about death and loss scarcely appear before they are gone.

Who is still alive at the end of the book? What was real, and what was wishful thinking?

Nasrallah's historical novel Time of White Horses is grounded in real-feeling layers of research, while Gaza Weddings is grounded in confusions, unreality and ghosts. Very different depictions of Palestines and its peoples indeed.

What is an FTO Designation?

FTO designations impose immigration restrictions on members of the organisation simply by virtue of their membership and triggers a criminal prohibition on knowingly providing material support or resources to the designated organisation as well as asset freezes. 

It is a crime for a person in the United States or subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to knowingly provide “material support or resources” to or receive military-type training from or on behalf of a designated FTO.

Representatives and members of a designated FTO, if they are aliens, are inadmissible to and, in certain circumstances removable from, the United States.

Except as authorised by the Secretary of the Treasury, any US financial institution that becomes aware that it has possession of or control over funds in which an FTO or its agent has an interest must retain possession of or control over the funds and report the funds to the Treasury Department.

Source: US Department of State

The specs

Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo

Power: 201hp at 5,200rpm

Torque: 320Nm at 1,750-4,000rpm

Transmission: 6-speed auto

Fuel consumption: 8.7L/100km

Price: Dh133,900

On sale: now

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Xpanceo

Started: 2018

Founders: Roman Axelrod, Valentyn Volkov

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Smart contact lenses, augmented/virtual reality

Funding: $40 million

Investor: Opportunity Venture (Asia)

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: SmartCrowd
Started: 2018
Founder: Siddiq Farid and Musfique Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech / PropTech
Initial investment: $650,000
Current number of staff: 35
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Various institutional investors and notable angel investors (500 MENA, Shurooq, Mada, Seedstar, Tricap)

A QUIET PLACE

Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, Djimon Hounsou

Director: Michael Sarnoski

Rating: 4/5

Mountain Boy

Director: Zainab Shaheen

Starring: Naser Al Messabi

Rating: 3/5

The specs

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo

Power: 268hp at 5,600rpm

Torque: 380Nm at 4,800rpm

Transmission: CVT auto

Fuel consumption: 9.5L/100km

On sale: now

Price: from Dh195,000

UAE'S YOUNG GUNS

1 Esha Oza, age 26, 79 matches

2 Theertha Satish, age 20, 66 matches

3 Khushi Sharma, age 21, 65 matches

4 Kavisha Kumari, age 21, 79 matches

5 Heena Hotchandani, age 23, 16 matches

6 Rinitha Rajith, age 18, 34 matches

7 Samaira Dharnidharka, age 17, 53 matches

8 Vaishnave Mahesh, age 17, 68 matches

9 Lavanya Keny, age 17, 33 matches

10 Siya Gokhale, age 18, 33 matches

11 Indhuja Nandakumar, age 18, 46 matches

Company profile

Name: Yabi by Souqalmal 

Started: May 2022, launched June 2023

Founder: Ambareen Musa

Based: Dubai 

Sector: FinTech 

Initial investment: undisclosed but soon to be announced 

Number of staff: 12 

Investment stage: seed  

Investors: Shuaa Capital

Director: Nag Ashwin

Starring: Prabhas, Saswata Chatterjee, Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, Shobhana

Rating: ★★★★

Sinopharm vaccine explained

The Sinopharm vaccine was created using techniques that have been around for decades. 

“This is an inactivated vaccine. Simply what it means is that the virus is taken, cultured and inactivated," said Dr Nawal Al Kaabi, chair of the UAE's National Covid-19 Clinical Management Committee.

"What is left is a skeleton of the virus so it looks like a virus, but it is not live."

This is then injected into the body.

"The body will recognise it and form antibodies but because it is inactive, we will need more than one dose. The body will not develop immunity with one dose," she said.

"You have to be exposed more than one time to what we call the antigen."

The vaccine should offer protection for at least months, but no one knows how long beyond that.

Dr Al Kaabi said early vaccine volunteers in China were given shots last spring and still have antibodies today.

“Since it is inactivated, it will not last forever," she said.

Green ambitions
  • Trees: 1,500 to be planted, replacing 300 felled ones, with veteran oaks protected
  • Lake: Brown's centrepiece to be cleaned of silt that makes it as shallow as 2.5cm
  • Biodiversity: Bat cave to be added and habitats designed for kingfishers and little grebes
  • Flood risk: Longer grass, deeper lake, restored ponds and absorbent paths all meant to siphon off water 
COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Haltia.ai
Started: 2023
Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
Investors: Self, family and friends

Cheeseburger ingredients

Price for a single burger £0.44
Price for a single bun £0.17
Price for a single cheese slice £0.04
Price for 10g Gherkins is less than £0.01
Price for 10g ketchup is less than £0.01
Price for 10g mustard is less than £0.01
Price for 10g onions is less than £0.01

Total 68p

Credit: Meal Delivery Experts

Indika

Developer: 11 Bit Studios
Publisher: Odd Meter
Console: PlayStation 5, PC and Xbox series X/S
Rating: 4/5

Watch live

The National will broadcast live from the IMF on Friday October 13 at 7pm UAE time (3pm GMT) as our Editor-in-Chief Mina Al-Oraibi moderates a panel on how technology can help growth in MENA.

You can find out more here

'Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore'

Rating: 3/5

Directed by: David Yates

Starring: Mads Mikkelson, Eddie Redmayne, Ezra Miller, Jude Law

Review: Tomb Raider
Dir: Roar Uthaug
Starring: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Daniel Wu, Walter Goggins
​​​​​​​two stars

'My Son'

Director: Christian Carion

Starring: James McAvoy, Claire Foy, Tom Cullen, Gary Lewis

Rating: 2/5

UAE v West Indies

First ODI - Sunday, June 4
Second ODI - Tuesday, June 6
Third ODI - Friday, June 9

Matches at Sharjah Cricket Stadium. All games start at 4.30pm

UAE squad
Muhammad Waseem (captain), Aayan Khan, Adithya Shetty, Ali Naseer, Ansh Tandon, Aryansh Sharma, Asif Khan, Basil Hameed, Ethan D’Souza, Fahad Nawaz, Jonathan Figy, Junaid Siddique, Karthik Meiyappan, Lovepreet Singh, Matiullah, Mohammed Faraazuddin, Muhammad Jawadullah, Rameez Shahzad, Rohan Mustafa, Sanchit Sharma, Vriitya Aravind, Zahoor Khan

US federal gun reform since Sandy Hook

- April 17, 2013: A bipartisan-drafted bill to expand background checks and ban assault weapons fails in the Senate.

- July 2015: Bill to require background checks for all gun sales is introduced in House of Representatives. It is not brought to a vote.

- June 12, 2016: Orlando shooting. Barack Obama calls on Congress to renew law prohibiting sale of assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines.

- October 1, 2017: Las Vegas shooting. US lawmakers call for banning bump-fire stocks, and some renew call for assault weapons ban.

- February 14, 2018: Seventeen pupils are killed and 17 are wounded during a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida.

- December 18, 2018: Donald Trump announces a ban on bump-fire stocks.

- August 2019: US House passes law expanding background checks. It is not brought to a vote in the Senate.

- April 11, 2022: Joe Biden announces measures to crack down on hard-to-trace 'ghost guns'.

- May 24, 2022: Nineteen children and two teachers are killed at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

- June 25, 2022: Joe Biden signs into law the first federal gun-control bill in decades.

Living in...

This article is part of a guide on where to live in the UAE. Our reporters will profile some of the country’s most desirable districts, provide an estimate of rental prices and introduce you to some of the residents who call each area home.

SCHEDULE

Thursday, December 6
08.00-15.00 Technical scrutineering
15.00-17.00 Extra free practice

Friday, December 7
09.10-09.30 F4 free practice
09.40-10.00 F4 time trials
10.15-11.15 F1 free practice
14.00 F4 race 1
15.30 BRM F1 qualifying

Saturday, December 8
09.10-09.30 F4 free practice
09.40-10.00 F4 time trials
10.15-11.15 F1 free practice
14.00 F4 race 2
15.30 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi

The specs

Engine: 3.0 twin-turbo inline six-cylinder
Transmission: eight-speed
Power: 503hp
Torque: 600Nm
Price: from Dh400,000 (estimate)
On sale: now

LAST-16 FIXTURES

Sunday, January 20
3pm: Jordan v Vietnam at Al Maktoum Stadium, Dubai
6pm: Thailand v China at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain
9pm: Iran v Oman at Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi

Monday, January 21
3pm: Japan v Saudi Arabia at Sharjah Stadium
6pm: Australia v Uzbekistan at Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain
9pm: UAE v Kyrgyzstan at Zayed Sports City Stadium, Abu Dhabi

Tuesday, January 22
5pm: South Korea v Bahrain at Rashid Stadium, Dubai
8pm: Qatar v Iraq at Al Nahyan Stadium, Abu Dhabi

Armies of Sand

By Kenneth Pollack (Oxford University Press)
 

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices

Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed

Kibsons Cares

Recycling
Any time you receive a Kibsons order, you can return your cardboard box to the drivers. They’ll be happy to take it off your hands and ensure it gets reused

Kind to health and planet
Solar – 25-50% of electricity saved
Water – 75% of water reused
Biofuel – Kibsons fleet to get 20% more mileage per litre with biofuel additives

Sustainable grocery shopping
No antibiotics
No added hormones
No GMO
No preservatives
MSG free
100% natural

DMZ facts
  • The DMZ was created as a buffer after the 1950-53 Korean War.
  • It runs 248 kilometers across the Korean Peninsula and is 4km wide.
  • The zone is jointly overseen by the US-led United Nations Command and North Korea.
  • It is littered with an estimated 2 million mines, tank traps, razor wire fences and guard posts.
  • Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un met at a building in Panmunjom, where an armistice was signed to stop the Korean War.
  • Panmunjom is 52km north of the Korean capital Seoul and 147km south of Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital.
  • Former US president Bill Clinton visited Panmunjom in 1993, while Ronald Reagan visited the DMZ in 1983, George W. Bush in 2002 and Barack Obama visited a nearby military camp in 2012. 
  • Mr Trump planned to visit in November 2017, but heavy fog that prevented his helicopter from landing.
SPECS

Engine: 1.5-litre turbo

Power: 181hp

Torque: 230Nm

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Starting price: Dh79,000

On sale: Now


The Arts Edit

A guide to arts and culture, from a Middle Eastern perspective

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