Ursula Lindsey writes about culture, education, and politics in the Arab world, and cohosts BULAQ, a podcast on Arabic literature. She has lived in Egypt and Morocco and is now based in Amman, Jordan. (October 2019)


Egypt: Between Order and Chaos

Volunteers clearing trash and debris from Tahrir Square the day after President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation, Cairo, February 2011

The Buried: An Archaeology of the Egyptian Revolution

by Peter Hessler
Most foreign correspondents are in a rush—hurtling along with the news, racing to meet deadlines. They rarely have the opportunity to step back from the moment. Peter Hessler had the uncommon luxury of being able to spend five years in Egypt, from 2011 to 2016, reporting for The New Yorker …

Coup de Théâtre

The Comédie-Française performing Sa‘dallah Wannous’s Rituals of Signs and Transformations, Paris, May 2013

Sentence to Hope: A Sa‘dallah Wannous Reader

translated from the Arabic and with an introduction by Robert Myers and Nada Saab
In the spring of 1967, Sa‘dallah Wannous, a young Syrian journalist and playwright, was studying theater at the Sorbonne in Paris. That June, after Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, it gained control of Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Sinai; about 100,000 Syrians were driven …

Is Tunisia Ready for Gender Equality?

Demonstrators on National Women’s Day, Tunis, August 13, 2018. Earlier that day President Beji Caid Essebsi had announced that an inheritance equality bill would be submitted to parliament.
On January 14, the eighth anniversary of the Tunisian revolution, I joined the crowds passing through metal detectors to gather in Tunis’s Avenue Habib Bourguiba. A few people carried pictures of protesters killed in 2011. Children waved little Tunisian flags. At one end of the avenue, a concert was taking place. Most political parties had set up stands, and there were speeches about how much the revolution had accomplished so far (from parties in the government) and how little (from the opposition). Strangers in the street engaged in polite but animated political arguments, and small groups leaned in to listen. Eight years after the Arab Spring began in Tunisia, this is the only country in the region where such scenes of spontaneous public debate can still be witnessed.

Restoring Morocco’s Past

Ahmed Bouanani, Paris, 1962

The Hospital: A Tale in Black and White

by Ahmed Bouanani, translated from the French by Lara Vergnaud, with an introduction by Anna Della Subin

The Shutters

by Ahmed Bouanani, translated from the French by Emma Ramadan
In 1967 the Moroccan writer and filmmaker Ahmed Bouanani contracted tuberculosis and was confined for six months in the Moulay Youssef Hospital in Rabat. In 1990 he published a novel, The Hospital. In the first lines, its unnamed narrator tells us, “When I walked through the iron gate of the …


The Lebanese Street Asks: ‘Which Is Stronger, Sect or Hunger?’

A Lebanese anti-government protester, draped in a national flag, sitting atop The Egg building overlooking the Mohammed al-Amin mosque and the Martyrs’ Square, Beirut, Lebanon, November 14, 2019

“Sectarian leaders have been keeping voters captive,” Karim Emile Bitar, a political scientist and professor at Lebanon’s renowned Saint Joseph University, told me, when we met for dinner in Beirut in mid-November. “If you are pessimistic you can say that sectarianism will be back with a vengeance. That this [series of protests] is a mirage rather than a miracle,” he said. And if you’re optimistic? “You could argue that we are witnessing the emergence of a post-sectarian Lebanon, and that citizenship has finally prevailed over narrow communal affiliations.”