The dancing cannibal

Grab life by the horns and dance your way through it. This line is how he convinced me to meet him, I was reluctant at the beginning, it was one thing to chat with him in the cosiness and security of a virtual world, and another to meet him in the real one. I asked him if he’s going to cut me into pieces and eat me for dinner; he said, only after the third date. And here I am, telling you my story, torn into pieces in his bed, lying by his side and feeling life in my veins for the first time.

Our deal was clear. He wanted to eat me. He told me how he ate the women he loved, that this the highest form of passion and union that anyone can ask for. He mentioned that he still has the heart of his last lover, and that he eats small parts of it every now and then to reignite their love. He doesn’t call himself a cannibal, it’s a crude word, he says, it has a judgmental tone to a civilized act of selfless passion, an act that only the purest of us will experience.

His charm is not the type that you stumble on from the first glance. He is tall, muscular and dark, probably had his good days look-wise, but age put his stamp on him, a beer belly, unflattering wrinkles and an unmistakable roughness. He is not particularly talkative either, and besides the women he ate, he did not have many good stories to tell. He does talk lively though, and he has a fiery look that burns under the skin when he speaks. That fire is what made me go back for a second time, after all, I trusted that I would be safe until the third date, and I was somehow hoping that there is more to that fire.

It was on the second date, when we danced, that I let my guards down. He knew his salsa. It ran in his blood, he walked it, smelled it, lived it. Every movement had a meaning, our bodies did not touch, they connected, mellowed together in an act of complete surrender from my side and complete control from his. I haven’t been there before but I knew where I was heading. His wrinkles were beautiful all of a sudden, I strived for his roughness and his look didn’t just burn under my skin, it undressed my soul, left her vulnerable and intoxicated.

He told me from the beginning that he thrives for the ultimate dance, the one where bodies are sacrificed in the most unequivocal form of love, a form that elevates the soul, that disdains time, society and prejudices. A form that doesn’t die.  My charming cannibal salsero! I thought, any reluctance I had to follow him to the end was forgotten after that first dance. What he was offering me was not death, it was rebirth in a superior state, a state that I never knew it exists, until I danced with him and allowed our two souls to touch. I knew what I was heading to and I did not just accept it, I longed for it.

That night, he took me to his home. He gave me a taste of his last lover. A piece of her heart. It tastes like love, he said. It doesn’t, I wanted to reply, it tastes like envy.

Then I was in his bed, I almost reached and touched my soul but I wasn’t there yet. We both knew that that was not the ultimate dance, not even close. We both knew that on our next date, the third one, my body would cease to exist, and when I reach with my hands, I will be able to touch my soul, and that she would be rosy, beautiful, feminine and divine.

I yearned for that third date. It was the right thing to do; after all, bodies are temporary luxuries, they are meant to expire. It’s words, dances and souls that live forever. He was not taking my body, he was handing me my soul, he was handing me a reason to exist and never stop again.

And now it was the third date. I was trembling in excitement and anticipation. It didn’t matter what I wore or how I looked, this was not a journey to the materialistic. Our bodies were just means to achieve a higher destination, all we really needed was that soulful music that I can now feel tickling my veins. We danced as if it was our last dance. Then we danced again. We didn’t kiss because kisses are sad and sadness is out of tune with the journey we were about to take. Our bodies melted together, unified, ecstatic and certain. And as the blood started to become agitated in our perishable bodies, we started to see the climax at the end of a dark alley. I saw the light and I knew that he did as well. I reached for the pinnacle, our bodies behind us, our souls liberated, then I put my hands firmly around his neck, and I took him with me. He smiled, thanked me with his eyes, and happily handed me his body and soul.

Love in the time of malaria

Remember that morning when I woke up and stopped loving you? Remember how we made love the night before and that I kissed you goodnight and I told you that I love you. And I meant it. Then we slept, and something happened.

That night, I had a dream. I was a little boy clinging to the tip of my sick mother’s dress. My older brothers moved the bed outside in the backyard because it was one of those unbearable hot summer evenings. The branches of the trees looked colourless and didn’t move, as if some artist drew them in a hurry on that reddish sky background then ran away from the heat. The smell of a sandstorm was still hanging in the air, as usual. The whole scene was usual except that my mother wouldn’t tell me the story of beautiful Fatma before sleeping, and that my brothers were gathering on the side with a look on their eyes that I was too young to identify as sadness.

That night, you also had a dream. You were a dress, a beautiful dress with all the vibrant soulful African colours. And you were worn by this beautiful lady who immersed you and her children and everyone around with love. A love that defeated the sandstorms and the malaria. You liked being the dress, you liked how you could bend the rules to make your lady look feminine and seductive. You liked how you got so hot under the cruel sun and how that got the blood boiling in your veins, how it made you feel free.

But dreams are tricky. Especially children’s dreams. My mother kept telling us beautiful Fatma’s story, the girl who had a dream, chased it and fulfilled it. For most of us though, dreams are just scribblings on the margin of a life, not important and often better ignored. But no one tells us, so we waste years chasing those childhood dreams, until we realise that beautiful Fatma is just fantasy, that moms do lie and that we – children of the malaria time – we don’t live for our dreams, we live despite of them.

In my dream, I was still clinging to my mother’s dress, and the malaria was making her sweat and shiver. I slept by her side, hoping I have another dream and that she has one, and in that magical moment where the paths of our dreams intertwine as they always do, in that moment, I would hug her and kiss her. Then I would smile one last time with my beautiful innocent eyes before they learn to become sad like my brothers’.

In your dream, you were still the dress around my mother’s body. And as the heat of her body went up, you started to agitate, you realised that this wasn’t the same heat from the sun, it didn’t give freedom, it suffocated it. You tried to let yourself free from her body, to abandon her, and when that magical moment happened and our dreams intertwined, I tried to  hold stronger to the tip of the dress, to you, I begged you not to abandon my mother, not to abandon me. But you already made your mind, you wanted your freedom and the malaria was too much to bear.

We then woke up at the same moment, struggling for breath. I was happy to find you by my side, to find out it was just a dream, I kissed you and I think we made love again. Then we slept.

This time when I slept, I had more dreams but my mother was no longer there, my brothers were far away and I was a man. There were beautiful fields, beautiful women and even some butterflies, you know, just normal boring dream … stuff .

This time when you slept, well.. you probably had dreams too. But they were yours, they didn’t cross paths with mine because we were no longer children, we were grownups, and grownups’ dreams do not cross paths and people don’t magically transform into dresses.

We were back to normal.

Still, when we woke up, something changed and I stopped loving you, and you stopped loving me.

* * * * *

Remember that morning when I woke up and stopped loving you? Remember how we both dreamt that we made love the night before, how we both dreamt that we kissed goodnight and said that we love each other. And we meant it. Then we woke up, and we realised that love was still forbidden in the time and land of malaria. Remember?

Mandela .. my god

Don’t dream of a beautiful world
Every Caesar that dies is followed by a new Caesar
And after every revolutionary who dies
there is hopeless sadness
and a wasted tear

Africa is a continent with no fathers nor gods.

An intimate beautiful primitive abandoned child of the universe that is its heart and soul, yet is deliberately left on the side of its history.

Africa is a sad story in its own African way, not a greek melodrama, not a loud hollywood fiction, just a subtle lump in the throat .. and a wasted tear.

I need an elite of poets and hungry people
to announce our anger or just sing a song
to the martyrs and the poor people
and to our son coming to add to the piles of refugees
to the hopeful in their prayers

The main characters in Africa’s story have always been the villains. From the villains who split the land apart to the villains who split the people apart.

A story of exploiters of all shapes, colors and types.

But Africa is a soulful spirit. A soulful tricky spirit, that despite all the sadness knows how to smile, how to dance and how to bring Mandela despite all the pain and the ugliness.

I need a new rhythm and a new instrument
that doesn’t break the harmony of this song even more
I need some beautiful lands for my drawing
and I need a sun that changes the taste of winter’s fruits

And in the midst of all the ugliness, all the conquerors turning “civilisers”, all the civilised turning liberators, all the liberators turning dictators, and all the dictators turning criminals. And all of us, giving up to get a taste of that fake dream north of the Mediterranean.

Amidst all of this ugliness, Africa, the tricky soulful spirit, managed to personify its true essence and innate beauty in the spirit, soul and existence of its only true child, Madiba.

Madiba is Africa’s only child and its only god.

And gods don’t die.

* Lyrics in bold are translated from a song by Sudanese band Igd Al Galad, written by Eritrean poet Mohamed Madani. RIP Mandela.

Sudan: When you corner a dictator!

For the brave students of Sudan, the 30th of January was not a normal Sunday. It was a day that could enter history. Inspired by the Tunisian and Egyptian revolution, thousands of Sudanese students dreamt of their own version of a Facebook revolution.

For Sudan though, the story has its unique complications with a regime that managed to take dictatorships into a new low. The regime, which is a military dictatorship that has overthrown democracy since 1989 , has a long history of misbehavings: The civil war with the south and the Darfur conflict are much publicized in the Western media but some of the less publicized crimes include dragging thousands of teenagers into the frontlines of a civil war in the nineties, hosting Bin Laden and his Jihadis for several years in mid-nineties, and last but not least the so-called Ghosts Houses where thousands of students, professors and activists were regularly tortured and killed. The head of the regime – Omer Albasheer – is being prosecuted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, he’s the first head of state to be prosecuted while in power. For the president and his regime, sticking to power is inevitable. The brave Sudanese students are faced by one of the worst kind of dictatorships: a cornered one.

On January 30, the first attempt for protests was brutally confronted by security forces. A student was killed by security men wearing civil clothes, he’s not the first student to be killed during this 22 years dictatorship nor the last I am afraid. Hundreds were detained for days, some of them still missing and reported to be under continuous life-threatening torture. Several attempts to gather and reorganize the lines of protesters has been made, but the major obstacle was that the fight – admittedly – hasn’t caught much momentum outside of universities.

The turning point – though – might prove to be a young brave Sudanese girl called Safia Ishag. She is a fine arts student who was raped by 3 officers from the criminal National Security Bureau for her role in organizing the 30th of January protests. She bravely decided to confront the regime with its crime in an emotional video. Safia’s bravery managed to unite people behind her, for the first time, the students’ calls started to make it outside universities’ walls. Several groups decided to take on the streets starting the 4th of March and they are seeking new ways to organize their lines against the density and brutality of security forces.

So how can we help? Believe it or not, but a Facebook share or a Tweet could be enough. The regime – like any other dictatorship – thoroughly targets the youth’s confidence, they force media blackout in order to stop people from gaining the momentum, they’ve learned from other dictatorships’ mistakes. In North Africa’s revolutions, social media played a crucial role in giving the revolutionaries the confidence they need in their battle. Knowing that someone out there listens and sympathizes with your cause can have a magical effect.

So Tweet, Share and Tell your colleagues, friends and family about Safia and her brave friends. It’s the least we could do to honor those brave warriors.

Random thoughts about Egypt

In Egypt, you always hear a variation of this phrase: “Egypt is bigger than anything”, it doesn’t matter whether the context is as serious as regional politics or a mere football game. Egyptians truly believe and think that Egypt is bigger than anything. And this is the soul of what makes Egypt, Egypt.

Egypt – in my view – is a land of striking contrasts. Egypt, along with Ethiopia, are probably the only two countries in Africa that existed before the British and the French decided so. It is not just political borders drawn by colonialists as it is the case of most other countries. On the other hand, Egypt has not been ruled by an Egyptian for more than 3 millennium until Mohamed Naguib took power.

Egypt was the center of all political and social movement in the middle east in the past century. When Egypt embraced liberalism in the early century, the whole middle east went liberal. When it went anti-colonialist, the whole region followed. When it embraced pan-Arabism, the whole middle east was after Nassir. And when it went fundamentalist, the whole middle east went fundamentalist as well. Like it or not, it all starts in Egypt, for good or for worse. This is in contrast with an apparently very stagnant political life that – in recent history – has no mention of any revolutions, no coup d’etat and a huge number of divine leaders who ruled until death.
Continue reading “Random thoughts about Egypt”

Hierarchy of human needs: Food -> water -> Passport

I must say that my obsession with getting a different passport is hardly unique to me. I could argue that it is actually the one thing that unite the majority of young Sudanese (if not African) of today. It is bitterly funny (and unlikely to be a coincidence) that decades after independence, the new generation of Africans is eagerly trying to get rid of the identity that our fathers fought for.

My personal obsession started as a Sudanese boy in Egypt. The ultimate dream for most of us – as teenagers when you really start feeling the burden of your inherited identity – the ultimate dream was getting an Australian, Canadian or American passport (these were the main alternatives). We all had a story of a “Sudanese” who immigrated to one of those countries and when coming back to Egypt/Sudan/wherever, being harassed by a policeman, he “courageously” shows his Carte Blanche to misbehave in the third world: his newly acquired, hardly fought for, digitally signed, Holy Passport.

Being in Europe and having the possibility/mood for looking back at things and thoroughly analyzing them, I remembered my Economics teacher in school. He used to love to explain Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs, he liked to emphasize how we – the lucky ones who made it that far at school – how we lie at the bottom of that pyramid (since we were even deprived of the basic need of sex). Regardless of the sexual dilemma in these countries, our teacher always emphasized the value of respect of others to go beyond the first level of the pyramid and how it is what makes fulfilling the rest of the needs a possibility. He couldn’t be more correct.

Lack of respect of others is at the heart of it. Whether it is the ugly policemen of Khartoum who give themselves a divine right to beat the hell out of a woman because of wearing trousers, or people thinking that they are higher than the rest because of tribe or religion, or simply a teacher at school beating kids to fulfill his own lack of respect to himself. Lack of respect – on a higher level – is what made Apartheid, it is what made genocide, it is the cause for the rise of the likes of Bush and Bin Laden, it is what made Hitler and what will make the next Hitler.

This lack of respect creates anger. And it only takes a businessman and/or a politician to transform that anger into something more devastating.

My teacher never proposed solutions to fight this lack of respect, he was not the solution-proposing type of dude. Others – being more idealistic – proposed revolution, the majority clung to Religion as the solution. I was not as courageous as the first group or as naive as the second one, my solution was more pragmatic, it goes somewhere within the line of “Get a fucking passport, climb that bloody pyramid and show your passport in the face of that ugly policeman”.

But regardless of the means, all of us share the same goal: it is absolutely vital for us to climb that pyramid and it is absolutely vital for us to gain the respect of others (and eventually self-respect). It is a need as crucial as food, water … and sex I assume.

to be continued …

Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs
Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs

Memoirs of a bloody foreigner (1)

Well, I arrived to England. New hopes, dreams and more importantly, new stories to be told.

Arriving at the airport, I was stopped by the Home Office dudes, courtesy of my Sudanese passport of course. They – as they put it – wanted to check if I was there for the right reasons. Being an expert with those fellows, I knew all the right answers. But thinking about the question, I thought about what would my true honest answer be, I figured out it could lie anywhere between “I have a great job waiting for me here” to “I am after a British passport that would spare me your bullying”, but none of those answers was even close to the truth.

At one of those rare revealing moments, it hit me. I was there because it really didn’t matter. As high as Theresa May and her dudes could think of their country, for me, it was just another step along … some road. I was always a foreigner and I will always continue to be. No passport, no job, no family will change that, because …..

(cheesy Steven Seagal movie theme song)

…. because I am the ultimate bloody foreigner!

I was a foreigner as long as I could remember. I am not talking about any victimized feelings here, rather about a feeling/state of mind that I always did my best to emphasize, it is the feeling that was (for me, someone who believes in almost nothing), it was the only driving force in most of my life. Being a foreigner gives me that adrenaline feeling that I thrive for but more importantly, it adds the tiny bit of spice that makes a good story great.

What changed in that revealing moment, is that I suddenly came to terms with “me being a bloody foreigner”. I might have been a victim of it once or twice, but I have a luxury that few foreigners have: I choose my terms. And even though I – admittedly – have all the doubts of the world in my head but I know enough to appreciate the rare gift of having a choice.

Thanks Mrs. May.