A young man sends me his picture standing next to a religious clerk. They are both smiling at each other. He is from Iraq and reads my Arabic blog on occasion. Why did he send me his picture with a religious clerk whom I don’t recognize? Is it because he thinks that he looks good in it? Is it because he is trying to tell me that he is a good religious man? Is the religious clerk somebody important that I should recognize and therefore he is implying that he has important connections to important people? I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, but it is just one of the surprises and mysteries of blogging in Arabic and there have been many.
It all started with me wondering why was it that there were thousands of Persian blogs and no blogs in the Arabic language. I started searching of blogs in the Arabic language and was able to discover only a handful. Why is it that Iranians are proud of there language and we are not? Why are we putting so much energy into having a dialogue with the west and no energy into having a dialogue amongst ourselves? Why? Why? Why? ….. instead of cursing at the dark reality I decided to attempt to light a small candle in the dark. I decided I would blog in Arabic ….. but first I had to train myself to type on my English computer keyboard with letters mapped to Arabic alphabet. It would take me 30 minutes to string two sentences together since I had to look up each character from a chart I had. (Alef correspond to h, Lam corresponds to g …. etc on my keyboard). I couldn’t blog like that and so instead I decided I would start by writing all emails to arab speaking friends in Arabic. Yes I am ashamed to say that I used to write all emails in English even to my own husband. After about a month I was able to type Arabic faster, about a paragraph in 30 minutes ….. “good enough for blogging”, I thought for myself. And that is when the next obstacle hit me. Everything I wrote was weak and poorly written. Soooo! this is what happens when you neglect a language for 15 years, you start loosing it. I suddenly realized that I haven’t written anything in Arabic for that long and it was showing in my writing style. My sentences were all short and abbreviated they way you would write in English only Arabic is supposed be a flowery, poetic and expressive language and my version of it was a brain sore. My own husband told me that he enjoys reading my English blog and can’t stand reading my Arabic blog because it is unreadable. He told me that most people that are reading my English blog would be shocked if they read my Arabic blog because of the difference in standards. He advised me to stop writing in Arabic to save my own face.
Luckily most people that read “Don’t shoot! …… I have another story to tell you.” don’t know Arabic and so the embarrassment was minimized. Despite the huge kick in the gut I decided to continue writing in Arabic; but this time I thought I would do less writing and substitute it with the equivalent of lots of hand waving in blog world and that is …… pictures. To compensate for my poor language, I would post pictures of my daily life and fun stuff that I do and that way I would only have to write just a little bit. Plus, if I talk about my children I could use child language which is suitable for my writing abilities. Wallah! … it worked and people started coming to my Arabic blog. My husband still refuses to read my Arabic blog because he still thinks it is crap but other people are reading it. He will come around eventually I think.
And then suddenly! …. as if by magic all sorts of Arabic blogs started to spring from all over the place. Egypt, Kuwait, Bahrain, Morocco. All sorts of blogs. Poetry blogs ….. tons and tons of blogs where the authors publishes his or her own poetry …. most of it is crap poetry but who knew that young arabs are so poetic …. I am talking love poetry that would put Maxican soap opera’s to shame. Religious blogs, fanatically anti religious blogs, technology blogs, random rambling blogs. Some with impressive and unique designs and others with run of the mill templates. Some with fiery political commentary and others with same old b.s. At first I used to try to read them all everyday but over time it became impossible. I tried to put links to many on my blog but the list of blogs that I read got longer and longer and I couldn’t keep up. Finally I stole an idea from Iraq Blog Count and started Arab Blog Count with a group of friend bloggers. So far we have accumulated over 200 blogs in Arabic and the list is growing every day.
Arabic blogs have been mentioned in a few Arabic news papers and even one Israeli newspaper. They have been a great source news of local events since most Arabic media is censored and is crap anyway, I frequently get more informed by reading blogs from a certain country that reading the online newspaper coverage. But most surprising of all has been the community feeling. Because the Arabic blogophere is still fairly small there is a sense of comradely between the bloggers. Although some of us strongly disagree with each other for the most part the discussion is civil and polite. I don’t get the “You are a whore and you deserve to go to hell” comments like I do on this blogs. Isn’t it funny that arab commentators would be more civilized than some American commentators? Considering the fact that Americans live in a democracy and enjoy freedom of speech from birth yet arabs living in the middle east have to endure horrid dictatorships and have no such access to a diversity of views you would expect that the situation would be the other way around? …. wouldn’t you? …… but life is full of surprises.
I can sense my writing skills in Arabic improving over time …. slowly but surly and I feel totally excited by the whole experience.