3 inspiring feminist Arab women leaders that you need to follow


I have a great respect and admiration for strong women who are vocal about their rights, who have crossed boundaries and stood up to outdated cultural values, who never shied of saying things as they are. I have been lucky to meet few of them, and here in this post, I’d like to show my appreciation, admiration and love to these inspiring three ladies, who gave support to my work and honored me with talks by their side.

Mona Eltahawi

Mona Eltahawy is a journalist and social commentator based in New York City. She has written essays and op-eds for publications worldwide on Egypt and the Islamic world, on topics including women’s issues and Muslim political and social affairs. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, and the Miami Herald among others. Headscarves and Hymens, Eltahawy’s first book, was published in May 2015. Eltahawy has been a guest analyst on U.S. radio and television news shows. She is among people who spearheaded the Mosque Me Too movement by using the hashtag #MosqueMeToo. (source)

I have been connected to Mona via Twitter for years but only had the chance to meet her last March in NYC when I did a book event. I was over the moon when she accepted the invitation to moderate the session and she impressed me with her professionalism and eloquence. My admiration to her has only grew after I met her.

A group photo with Mona El Tahawi at LAU in NY – March 2022

Joumana Haddad

Joumana Haddad is a Lebanese author, public speaker, journalist and human rights activist. She has been selected as one of the world’s 100 most powerful Arab women by Arabian Business Magazine for her cultural and social activism. In 2021, she was on Apolitical’s list of 100 most influential people in Gender Policy. (source)

I have been a fan of Joumana for so long! I don’t know exactly when I fall in love with her. Probably when I first saw her talking in a show she hosted on New TV about gender and sexual issues. I then read her “Superman” and was impressed with her boldness and courage. Joumana is a legend and I was honored to appear in her show “Al Mamnoo3” (Forbidden) on Al Horra TV in 2019. At the time, my book Laila got banned from entering Jordan and Joumana gave me her support in this special interview that I will never forget.

My interview with Joumana Haddad on Al Horra News Channel in 2019

Shereen El Feki

Shereen El Feki is journalist and author, most notable for her book Sex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World (source).

I first met Shereen at Global Salzburg Forum in 2013. I remember flying to Salzburg from the UK when I was doing my masters to attend the forum. She arrived for a short time for her session and I was impressed with the way she speaks. She was promoting her newly launched book “Sex and the Citadel”, and I was intrigued when she told me that feminists groups in Beirut recommended “Arous Amman” to her. Later on, in 2016, when the English version “The Bride of Amman” came out in English, she was generous enough to write me a book blurb. I was also hosted by Basira in London for a book event, and she accepted our invitation to join the talk, which makes me happy, till today.

With Nahla Al Ajeli and Shereen Al Feki – London 2016
Shereen El Feki book blurb for The Bride of Amman

My visit to the University of Alabama


I wanted to write about this earlier but didn’t have the chance. I came back from the US last Wednesday. It was an amazing trip and I had a great time visiting the University of Alabama. It wouldn’t have happened without Cheryl Toman, Professor of French and Chair, Modern Languages and Classics. She is such a sweet heart and I am very thankful to her for inviting me.

In front of the library at The University of Alabama

It all started two years ago, in early 2020 when Cheryl messaged me on Facebook, telling me that she is teaching The Bride of Amman to her students at the University of Alabama in a special course about women in literature. I was thrilled to know this and she was planning to take her students on a trip to Jordan. She asked me if I will be there and meet them. Unfortunately that trip didn’t happen as we were hit with covid. But then fast forward till last summer in July 2021 when I did my book signing for the French version of the book L’Epouse D’Amman, I was surprised to see her attending the event. I was pleased to meet her in person and we had a chat during the event where she asked me if I’d be interested to visit the University and talk to her students who read the book. I said YES please! and she made it happen.

With Arabic language Students at University of Alabama

I spent 4 amazing days in Tuscaloosa. Cheryl made sure to arrange for a full schedule with students, chairs, professors and lecturers in other departments too. I was blessed to meet so many wonderful people. We started the first day with a talk to students learning Arabic. And I was happy to meet Manasar Al Harethi, lecturer of Arabic, who moved to the US from Saudi Arabia. It was followed by a lunch with Cheryl and Chair of English department, Steve Trout (such a nice guy). And in the afternoon, same day, I met Myles Williamson, a PhD students in the political science department, who is writing his dissertation about global transgender rights. I had such a nice talk with Myles over coffee and was pleased to hear his thoughts about the topic. Later on at night, I was honored to meet the Waleed Hazbun, Professor of Middle Easter Studies, who is mentoring Myles, and generously contributed to the funds that made this trip happen. We met at a nice restaurant where we had a nice dinner with him, his partner Michelle Woodward (managing editor of MERIP/Middle East Report), and his political science colleague Holger Albrecht and his partner Dina Bishara (both teach politics of the Middle East, Dina now teaches at Cornell). I was happy to meet all of them.

A private talk with gender and race department students
A group photo with Utz Mcknight and Cheryl Toman and students of gender and race

I have to admit that the second day at the University was my favorite one. It was the day dedicated to the students of Gender and Race department. I can’t tell you enough how much I enjoyed talking to everyone in this department. Chair of department, Utz Mcknight, is such a wonderful and warm man. He makes everyone comfortable and at ease, and I could see his love and passion towards gender and race and how he embraces his students and empower them. I enjoyed in particular the first session he planned for us, a private talk with the students of the department at the Anderson room. We spent around two hours and had a wonderful and open discussion about gender and race and me and my writings. It was followed by a public talk in LIoyed Hall, which I wasn’t prepared for, but he thankfully tipped me on how to handle it. He said, “use this space the way you like. You can ask the audience for help if you want”. And this is what I did. As I am working on the sequel for Heaven on Earth, my narrator and protagonist is genderless. And since the sequel is set after 100 years from now, I asked the audience about how they see the future of gender. We ended up having a wonderful discussion about the future, all of the recent advances in technology and their potential effect on us. And I got many good insights to help me progress with the book.

Dinner at FIVE restaurant with students from gender and race department.

The day ended with a nice dinner and informal talk with the students of the department where Utz made sure I mingle with all of them. He was monitor the time and my location, and every few minutes, he kept on reminding that I need to switch table. Thanks to him, it was a memorable night.

I don’t want to forget to mention that Cheryl didn’t forget to hook me up with other professors during the lunches and I was honored to meet Alicia Cipria, Spanish Professor and Allesandra Montalbano, Italian professor in second day. And also Gina Stamm and Jennifer Car, French Professors, in third day. Amazing women, all of them.

We were looking forward to the last day as it was the day dedicated to Cheryl’s students who actually read the book. Cheryl planned two sessions, one for the students who read the book in English and the other one for those who read it in French. Unfortunately, the French class didn’t happen as we had a tornado warning. The University had to close early and everyone was advised to go and stay home that evening. Nevertheless, it was a great session with those students who read the book in English. I was so pleased to hear their feedback and answer their questions. Such smart students, full of curiosity and passion. I was happy to hear from them about their insights on women and gender from their own surroundings. We forgot to take photos from this session but you can find more photos of my US trip on my Instagram account.

It was an unforgettable visit. I had a great time and loved everyone I met. Despite the mainstream thinking of Alabama as a conservative state, the University is such a progressive heaven. I loved every moment of my stay there.

Same book – 4 languages


My baby traveled the world.

4 languages in 10 years.

Same book, same stories, same setting, different tongues.

From Amman with love.

عروس عمان 2012

The Bride of Amman – 2015

L’Epouse D’Amman – 2021

La Sposa Di Amman – 2022

ELF session: A Needle and a Thimble [photos]


It was a wonderful session yesterday at the Emirates Literature Festival. I was super happy to see friends, family members, and readers filling the room. My friend, Hani Yakan, did a great job in moderating the session. He introduced me eloquently and was right on point with his question which he masterfully prepared to take us through the one hour session.

He started off with the most important question that lies at the core of the idea of the book and subsequently the discussion of the session. What is gender? Whats the difference between gender as a social construct and sex as a biological one? And from there we moved to talk about the concept of the book. How, building on the complexity of gender and related issues, and its definition of being a set of attributes built over a single biological attribute (sex in our world), I decided to examine it and project it on another world where the human awareness develops differently, to divide gender per height, rather than sex.

That’s the core of the story of “A Needle and a Thimble“, a concept which allowed me to explore gender getting constructed differently. A world where two gender exist; tall people and short ones. A world where gender roles are strict, and attributes are divided per the hight of a person.

After explaining the concept and part of the storyline that takes us through a love relationship between the narrator and middle height (socially rejected) Tawalan. A relationship that follows how the narrator’s gender awareness develops as the storylines unfolds. Hani moved on to ask about important questions related to how I managed to create this parallel world. He asked about the language and the importance of language in developing our gender awareness. Knowing that Arabic language, which I wrote the book in, is a gendered language at its core. He also asked about the solution to the gender issue. Does it lie in a needed revolution, similar to the failed one I presented in the book? or it is an evolutionary process? He also highlighted the gender neutral language forms that started emerging in different languages around the world, asking if that is a natural progression or a forced one?

From there he moved on to asking me about my choice of narrating through women characters in my books, echoing floating criticisms of having male authors using female voices. And here we had the chance to discuss my other books, Laila and The Bride of Amman, which revolve around similar issues we deep sensitive in our society. Some deem them provocative, but that’s the issue of gender now, gender equality, body rights and sexual freedoms are hot topics, and the fight for a more tolerant and just society is a daily struggle.

One of the important questions he asked me is the difference between equality and justice. A discourse that opponents of women rights have been using a lot lately, emphasizing that women are different than men, and consequently it is more important to talk justice than equality. A very critical point here, which I answered from the concept of the book itself, we don’t set different laws for people from different height, do we? when it is clear that in certain situations, people of very tall or very short stature need special attention. In law, people are equal in general, and that what should be applied.

When we opened the questions to the audience, I was happy to hear good feedback from those who read the book. Two sisters said that the book made them realize how silly is the gender issue, when they have been taking it seriously for a long time. Others asked about the impact of creative work in shaping our reality. Which is better starting from reality in creating fictional words, or starting from fictional constructed worlds into shaping ours?

It was an interesting session, a nice discussion, and beautiful audience. Ended with a book signing and a nice dinner with my dear friends who came for support.

L’homosexualité dans le roman arabe : le triomphe de la moquerie


I like this article entitled “Homosexuality and the Arab Novel”, originally posted on Arablit blog by Marcia Lynx Qualey in English in 2015 and now translated and posted in French by Etienne Gomez.

Translator's Lodge

Par Marcia Lynx Qualey

L’Épouse d’Amman, traduit de l’arabe par Davide Knecht, L’Asiathèque, 2021.

Le premier roman du blogueur Fadi Zaghmout,L’Épouse d’Amman, en 2012, a été un événement bienvenu.

Pas seulement le roman, d’ailleurs, mais aussi le brio avec lequel Fadi Zaghmout l’a présenté dans les médias. Nadia Muhanna évoque ainsi sur son blog une interview à la télévision jordanienne quelques mois après la publication. La présentatrice ayant qualifié un personnage gay deshaz, Fadi Zaghmout a corrigé ce terme offensant par «muthley». À la fin de l’interview, la présentatrice utilisait un «vocabulaire plus inclusif».

Le roman cadencé de Fadi Zaghmout, traduit en français par Davide Knecht (2021), sert un projet social autant que littéraire, plaidant sans radicalité pour une plus grande liberté sexuelle et de genre. La lecture donne le sentiment que le plus important pour l’auteur n’était pas tant d’écrire un grand…

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Janna Ala Al Ard is getting an Italian translation by Future Fiction


I am happy to share this good news by the end of this year. I just signed an agreement with Italian SF publisher Future Fiction for the rights to translate and publish Janna Al Ard (Heaven on Earth) from Arabic into the Italian language.

On their website, Future Fiction writes:

We give voice to stories from the future, inclusive narratives from over 30 countries and 10 different languages, which explore the ambiguous relationship between human beings and technology, the transformations of personal identity and social organization, the encounter between humanity and the scarcity or abundance of resources: visions that peer into every possible future.

I admire what Francesco Verso, co-founder of Future Fiction, has been doing in bringing voices of the future from all over the world together, and I feel more than proud to be one for these voices.

Future Fiction is a home for many of us who try to imagine the future.

Janna will be my second book to come out in Italian, after Arous Amman (The Bride of Amman) which is planned for Jan 2022 release by MReditori.

Janna was first released in Arabic by Dar Al Adab in 2014, translated to English by Sawad Hussain and published by Signal 8 Press in 2018. 

About Heaven on Earth:

The year: sometime in the 2090s. The location: Jordan. Aging is reversible thanks to major advances in bioscience and nanotechnology. But in a world where eternal youth has become a reality, complications arise. Journalist Janna Abdallah is at the forefront of these changes: her brother Jamal contributed to many of the medical advances that have brought such profound changes to humanity over the past few decades, yet he has chosen to forego age suppression in order to experience a natural death. Because reproduction is strictly regulated, the opportunity to create new life throws the Abdallah family into turmoil. Fadi Zaghmout’s best-selling debut novel The Bride of Amman was groundbreaking for its intimate, sympathetic treatment of women’s issues, homosexuality, and marriage in the Middle East. Heaven on Earth is no less revolutionary, at once a searingly personal account of one family’s struggle to embrace the future that is now, and also a look at the way Jordanian society has had to reimagine itself at the end of the twenty-first century.

More on Future Fiction:

Future Fiction is a cultural association of social promotion founded by Francesco Verso and Francesco Mantovani. Our project aims to disseminate and promote an interdisciplinary approach to the idea of ​​the future, using science fiction and speculation as bridges between today and tomorrow: a multicultural and transmedia laboratory of narratives that explore the ambiguous and symbiotic relationship between man and technology.

With the ambition of mapping the other “tomorrows” declined by every culture and tradition, Future Fiction organizes and participates in seminars, workshops, conferences, and congresses in Italy and around the world on highly topical issues related to innovation, anticipation, and speculation, thus contributing to the debate with articles, essays, novels, and anthologies, both printed and digital.

After more than 160 digital publications and 50 paper books, the project has become an excellent aggregator of content and a place of discovery for anyone who sees tomorrow, not only dismal dystopias and unlikely apocalypses but also an analysis and entertainment tool to find orientation. , among the incredible transformations that are increasingly impacting humanity at all levels, from the technological to the biopolitical, social, economic, and environmental.

Launching L’Epouse D’Amman in Paris [Photos]


I finally had the chance to travel to Paris for a quick visit where I met “L’Epouse D’Amman” translator Davide Knecht, editor Thomas Scholari, and publisher Philippe Thiollier (and his lovely mother who started the publishing house and proof read the French translation), as well as Clara Pero who is handling the communications and PR at L’asiatheque and doing a wonderful job at it.

Philippe kindly hosted me at their bookstore L’asiatheque for a book launch event where we read few passages from the book in both French and Arabic, presented the story and characters, and discussed the topic the book tackles. It was a very lovely night and we had a beautiful crowd. And I was particularly happy to finally meet Cheryl Toman, Professor of French and Chair, Modern Languages and Classics at The University of Alabama, which was a very pleasant surprise. Cheryl contacted me more than a year ago informing me that she has been teaching the book to her students and planning a visit to Jordan for the group. At the time I couldn’t make it to Jordan, neither did they as covid happened. Fortunately, we had the chance to meet in Paris. My good friends Naji Haddadin and Mohammed Sleeq joined and Naji put on the photographer hat and took these beautiful shots (more photos on my Instagram page).

I had also the chance to pass by L’Institute Du Monde Arabe bookshop and Gibert Joseph bookstore, and was happy to see them selling the book.

Madian Al Jazerah memoir is a tale of hope in a world of colliding identities. A must read!


Are you this? or are you this?: a story of identity and worth.

When Madian’s agent Lara from Hurst Publishers approached me in early April to provide a book blurb for this superb memoir of Madian, I felt honored. I knew Madian for a long time, and I consider him a good dear friend. I have always respected him and looked up to him for what he did for the gay community in Amman. To be chosen as one of the few people to provide a book blurb for his book meant a lot to me.

I was intrigued to know more about this great man and expected a good read, but once I started reading, I could’t stop. It was a draft version of the book that I read on my phone screen, and it hooked me till I finished it. It wasn’t only a good read but a great one.

Few days later I emailed Lara the blurb, which she thankfully edited to appear at the back cover of the book as:

This is the story of a great man, full of emotions, pride, dignity and determination. A tale of hope in a world of colliding identities; a must-read!’

Fadi Zaghmout, blogger and author of ‘The Bride of Amman’
Back cover of the book

These two lines of-course don’t do it justice, as it is much more than that. Madian takes us on an emotional journey of a man who is as delicate as a flower and as strong as a rock. A man who grew up in a world of colliding identities, carrying them over his shoulders, molding them into a beautiful mix, and riding them to turn every ugly incident he faces in his life into a colorful ray of light. Madian grew up as a Palestinian in Kuwait, a moderate Muslim in world that have seen Islam drift into extremism, and a gay man in a homophobic surrounding.

The combination of these three identity pillars might not be an exclusive identity to this man, but the way he handled it and lived it, is what makes his story gripping. There is an undeniable tone of pride in Madian’s words. He is a man of integrity and love, and his human side shows in every decision he takes along his life journey.

What makes this read enjoyable is that it is honest and intimate. Madian doesn’t shy from telling personal stories related to him, his family and his close friends. He talks about his life in Kuwait, and what meant for him to grow up in a country that he doesn’t hold its citizenship. How the security of his childhood home gets shattered when Iraq invades Kuwait, forcing him and his family to move to a different country. How he ends up living in a country where he holds its citizenship yet it is not the country of his origins. How he faced his own fears and came to terms with his sexuality. And how he navigated all this misfortune by holding onto the anchor of the loving family he has.

He might not have always made the best decisions, and at times, he let fear guide him, but he has also shown much talent, and it is here where we can see his utmost pride. Most of us know him from the haven he created in Amman – Books@cafe. The first internet cafe in the region that grew to be a hub for tolerance and acceptance. A place that shaped Amman in the past 20 years and empowered many of us to stand up and fight the exclusionary culture that tainted our lives.

Are you this? Or are you this?” might be the active expression his mother used when she asked him about his sexual preference. A reflection of how mainstream thinking in Jordan and around the world used to define what is an acceptable sexual behavior and what is not. But the title is more than that, and the story is more than that. It is the story of all of us, of how we tend to categories and place people into neat boxes to complete and perfect our views of the world around us. We feel comfort with simple stories, black and white ones that either accept people or reject them. We tend to ignore the complexity of the human condition and focus on one simple characteristic – are you this? or are you this?

The world is full of choices, and the nature of things are seldom binary. If you are to choose today, I’d advise you to choose to read this book. It is an emotional enjoyable read and there is much to learn from Madian and his life.

I wanted to be one of the first to review this book. Hope you enjoyed reading it.

The book is out for orders. You can order your copy now from publisher’s website directly by clicking here.

A new review and 5 stars for LAILA!


Happy to receive this new review for Laila today on goodreads by Lana Swaiss.

A review for LAILA on Goodreads

Another provocative book by Fadi!


After reading ‘Bride of Amman‘ as a citizen of Amman myself, I remember reading the book from the eyes of the different characters. Each character is so real and depicts true struggles people face in Jordan everyday behind closed doors. It made me connect to a book in a way I never had. The same applies to Laila. Without giving too much away, Laila is the main character, a strong woman who has found strength and courage to be true to her sexual desires, her strength as a provider for her family and fought the gender stereotypes within her home. This character resonated with me deeply, because I know there are so many Laila’s in Jordan that are just as hidden as she is. As an avid reader, I read a lot of books, and reading about sexual fantasies or dominant women in the bedroom is quite common in many English books. But to read about an Arab woman is quite different, because this issue, like many others, is taboo in this country. Fadi so openly talks through Laila about what it is like to be a strong woman in Jordan, what it is like to be a scared yet masculine man like Tariq, and what gender roles look like in a Jordanian family.

 As an avid reader, I read a lot of books, and reading about sexual fantasies or dominant women in the bedroom is quite common in many English books. But to read about an Arab woman is quite different, because this issue, like many others, is taboo in this country. 


I am proud to be a somewhat far relative of Fadi’s, and I remember when members of our family read the book (Jordanian family members), they warned me about the explicit language and uncomfortable events that take place throughout the book. I didn’t find them uncomfortable or strange. Instead, I found this book liberating, and it is very naive to think that the events within the pages of this book are uncommon, strange or unheard of.

 I found this book liberating, and it is very naive to think that the events within the pages of this book are uncommon, strange or unheard of.


I would highly recommend this read, if not for women to find strength within themselves, but for men and women to redefine what masculinity means, and that dominance is by no means a measure of masculinity or superiority, whether in or out of the bedroom.

L’Epouse d’Amman is out in French!


Originally released in Arabic in 2012, “Arous Amman عروس عمّان“، was deemed controversial for it depiction of a main gay character and support of women’s sexual freedoms and body rights in Jordan. For me, it was a work of activism where I combined stories of people I know, events I witnessed, scenes I developed, and narratives I have discussed for years on this blog.

Best Seller Virgin Megastore Amman 2015

I was pretty much happy about its success, and overwhelmed with people’s reactions. From women calling me and thanking me for expressing their feelings, women who felt empowered after reading it, other women who endured same situation of different characters and gay men thanking me for helping them accepting their sexuality. It was like talking about the elephant in the room, everyone wanted to talk about “Arous Amman“, and they wanted others to read it. It was our story and it spread fast, getting sold out in few months, a second print release in October by Jabal Amman Publishers, and hitting the top 10 best sellers of Jamalon’s that year.

The book’s success wasn’t only local, and soon after, Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp was in a trip to Amman where she picked it up and loved it. She contacted me, asking me for permission to translate and excerpt to submit to Words Without Borders Magazine, which she did. I was happy with her translation and recommended her when I talked to Marshall Moore from Signal8Press who was interested in getting the book translated and published in English.

Gays the world bookshop London

The English translation of “The Bride of Amman” was released in 2015, and Ruth arranged for me a great launch schedule in the UK. She did a great job in marketing the book when it first came out, and contributed to its exposure and success big time. The book seen success in English as much as it did in its Arabic version, getting a wider audience and being added to the reading list of students in different universities around the world.

Like Ruth, Davide Knecht, read the book few years back and he approached me stating his interest in translating it to Italian. At the time he couldn’t secure an Italian publisher, but he was able to secure a French one – L’asiatheque. I was happy to sign with them, and after two years of work, the book is finally out in French as L’Epouse d’Amman. And like Ruth, Dave has been doing a great job in promoting the book. The publisher as well did a great job in getting the book out in an amazing shape, securing the rights for the a brilliant mural painted by the famous German artist Akut. A huge mural located in Downtown Amman, with a message to promote gender equality. Entitled “We are one“, a perfect match to L’Epouse d’Amman.

We are one mural – downtown Amman
Copies of L’Epouse d’Amman

Davide connected me with an Italian publisher too who was interested in the book last year but plans were put on hold due to Covid-19 situation. Other translators have approached me over the years to translate the book to German and Spanish, but nothing came out of it yet. I hope the release of the book in French would open the doors to other translations in the coming years.

The book has its way to success, and seems to have a magical appeal around it. I am so grateful for everyone contributed to its success.

Thank you.