The 19 Best Restaurants in London – My Favourites

My favourite thing about London is food. Actually, one of my favourite things in life is food. When I think about what will I miss the most when I leave London, it’s definitely the restaurants. In terms of authenticity, variety of cuisines, and deliciousness, there are some real gems out there and they don’t always have to be the pricy options!

Almost all of my favourite restaurants were recommendations (let’s be honest, that’s how you find the real gems), so I’d love to share my recommendations with you!

Italian and Pizza

Homeslice
No question, this is (according to me) the best pizza in London! A gigantic size that’s screaming to be shared with someone you really like (don’t waste this delish pizza on someone who’s unworthy)! 20£ for a 20 inch pizza also fares really for the wallet, as it’s definitely a good feed for two!

Franco Manca
Despite being a (pizza) chain, Franco Manca is absolutely delicious. The best pizza in terms of value for money! I’m also a big fan of the No Logo-drinks, but mostly the deliciousness and reasonable pricing has me hooked!

Delicious by Franco
A family-owned restaurant in Kentish Town where every bite blows your mind. Both pasta and pizza are amazing. The specialties from Venice together with the charming service almost make you feel as if you really are in Italy. With regard to price, you have to invest a little more (around 15£ for a main, pizzas are a little cheaper), but they have special lunch offers and also 2-for-1 pizza deals on certain days.

Ciao Bella
My favourite thing about Ciao Bella is that you can sit outside in any weather. Having an awning and heaters is what makes this possible, and honestly, it’s just so cool to sit outside in March and enjoy pizza and wine. Located in a quiet side road in the Bloomsbury area near Russell Square, Ciao Bella has a very bohemian and almost vacation-like vibe. It also simply has a special place in my heart, as my boyfriend and I went there on one of our dates in the first week after we had met. ❤

Rosso Pomodoro
Another chain, but oh so delicious as well. This one specialises on food from Naples, and has a great pizza and pasta selection. They also offer cooking classes which sounds like a really cool thing, so if anyone has tried them, I’d love to hear about it!

Prezzo
Also a chain, one used to be near my old office, so it was a little bit of a lunch treat sometimes. They have a cool ‘healthy’ option, where you can opt for a smaller portion of your pasta or pizza and add a salad. It’s all about balance, right?

Indian/Pakistani

Tayyabs
Ahhhh, Tayyabs. Pure deliciousness, very reasonable pricing and BYOB. What more can you ask for? Tayyabs makes Punjabi food, it has a fantastic atmosphere and is always, literally always, buzzling and full. Located in Whitechapel in a little side road near the East London Mosque.

Dishoom
This one is probably no surprise, neither is Tayyabs really, both are very popular in my circles (filled with SOAS people). Dishoom’s Bombay dishes are mouth-watering, great service (chai is served for you while you wait for your table), amazing cocktails (and mocktails) and beautiful interior design in all of its five restaurants in King’s Cross, Covent Garden, Carnaby, Shoreditch and Edinburgh.

Lahore Kebab
Located not far from Tayyabs, in the Aldgate East/Whitechapel area, Lahore Kebab has fantastic Pakistani food. The interior design is a little more ‘plane’ compared to the other two, but the atmosphere doesn’t really suffer from that. It is a buzzling place with all kinds of different people enjoying delicious curries or grills!

Middle Eastern

Mandaloun
I’m not even sure if I should put this one on the list, as it’s already difficult to get a table outside where you can enjoy a shisha (being warmed under heaters). Considering what London sells as summer these days, the importance of heaters should never be underestimated. Mandaloun is in Westfield in Shepherd’s Bush, a Lebanese restaurant, one of the few places where you can also have a cocktail with your shisha. Many places in Edgware Road don’t serve alcohol and are definitely not as fancy as Mandaloun. I prefer their mezze selection over the mains, which are mostly meat/chicken with rice, but I prefer in general having a number of mezze to share! Cause sharing is caring, you know…

Maramia Cafe
Authentic Palestinian food from Ramallah, need I say more? They also have verrrry tasty Lebanese wines. It’s family-run and has a lovely cozy atmosphere. Located in Westbourne Park. I can recommend the Musakhan, the Künafe and the Maqloubeh. But honestly, everything there tastes amazing!

Momo
A Moroccan oasis just of Regent’s Street. Momo has a restaurant and a cafe area. I actually like the cafe area even better. The food in the restaurant is super delicious, but portions are rather small and not exactly cheap. There’s nothing better than spending a rainy afternoon lounging with mint tea in the cafe area.

Sidi Maarouf
Another Moroccan restaurant, Sidi Maarouf makes bniiiiine (delicious in Darija, the Moroccan dialect) tajine and couscous. Located on Edgware Road, you almost feel like you’re in a Middle Eastern/North African city anyways. While not cheap at 15£ for a main, Sidi Maarouf has a special treat in for desert, namely a complimentary fruit platter! So good!

Malaysian

Roti King
My latest discovery! After having a Surinamese Roti in Amsterdam and getting completely hooked, I’ve been searching for something comparable in London. Not with much success so far, Surinamese food seems to not have spread in London. However, I did find this amazing Malaysian street food place that has super delicious rotis! A chicken curry with two rotis is just 6,50£ and definitely filling, whereas the vegetarian dhaal with two rotis is even cheaper at just 5£. It’s located near Euston in the basement of a slightly dodgy Chinese place, but definitely worth it.

Steak & Fries (well, and Lobster)

Le Relais de Venise
As the title says, Le Relais de Venise serves steak and fries. No other options, but you don’t really need anything. Delicious, tender steak in a pepper sauce with loads of fries, Parisian style! There are three locations, one in Canary Wharf, one in Soho and one in Marylebone!

Steak & Lobster
Another one with a pretty straight forward menu, either steak or lobster with unlimited fries! It’s certainly a feast in a classy atmosphere. Three locations: Bloomsbury, Warren Street and Marble Arch!

£££

L’Anima
This is probably the most expensive restaurant that I have been to in London, but it was absolutely worth the money. Every bite was fantastic, amazing food and drinks, as well as fantastic service in a very modern desing. Located near Liverpool Street.

Breakfast

Bill’s
Not only a tasty place for breakfast (their buttermilk chicken is kickass!!!), but they definitely made it onto my list of breakfast places. Wide range of options, both sweet and savoury is super delicious. While Bill’s has different locations across London, the one in St Martin’s Courtyard is probably my favourite!

The Breakfast Club
All I can say is yum! If you can ever make it through the always seemingly endless queue, it’ll be sooo worth it. I’ve probably had the best pancakes of my life at the Breakfast Club!

I would love to hear about your favourites, good food always gets me, so let me know in the comments!

* ‘best’ should be taken with a grain of salt in this case, as it’s of course based on my humble opinion and limited experience 😉

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The Transformative Power of Shoes

Shoes – just one of your everyday items.

Nothing special about them. Or is there?

General wisdom is that “you are my what you wear.” We have probably all experienced this before. Who doesn’t feel more confident when wearing a blazer or a suit compared to how you feel in a hoodie and sweatpants? For some people it transforms more than just how they feel, it changes the way they walk, their posture and even their demeanor.

For me, personally, shoes have the biggest impact on how I feel. I was reminded of this recently, when I bought waterproof walking/hiking shoes which I will definitely need for my next adventure (a post about this is coming soon).

Once I put these on, I feel like I have no limits. I could walk for hours on time, just anywhere and nothing could stop me. Rain becomes my friend as I can jump into puddles without having to fear wet feet. Essentially, I feel free like a child again, unstoppable.

The difference to my work shoes, your average black ballerinas from New Look, couldn’t be bigger. Rain is certainly my worst enemy, which doesn’t really help when you live in London. Water seeps right through them, they have no footbed which makes them pretty uncomfortable if you intend to actually walk in them, they seem to magically attract all the dirt there is and let’s not forget that I have to tape my feet to ‘break’ the shoes in without too many blisters.

On that note, taping ‘endangered’ areas works wonders and Leukotape is certainly your friend if you walk a lot and want to avoid blisters.

As far as ballerinas go, my work shoes are still quite comfortable, compared to other models. Maybe my feet just aren’t made for ballerinas though, because I’ve had this “breaking in” experience with any model I’ve had in the past.

What they certainly don’t do is fill me with confidence and make me feel unstoppable. It’s quite the opposite. Wearing heels to work would probably instill me with a lot more confidence, but certainly doesn’t score any better (rather worse) in terms of comfort.

One day, it might be worth investing in decent ballerinas with an actual footbed and give up on being cheap. It probably pays off in the long. Especially in terms of increased comfort.

My recent experience made me think though, why aren’t all our shoes waterproof?
All of our trainers, sneakers, etc., why aren’t they waterproof by default? Waterproof and breathable actually?

Especially in the UK, where it can rain unexpectedly at any time, it would make so much sense to have “by-default” waterproof shoes that don’t look like hiking shoes.

So why is that not the case? Why do so many shoes simply not feel like they’re made for a fulfilled shoe-life? Costs can’t really be the decisive factor, as my waterproof hiking shoes were only 30£ (on sale, normally 60£) but even the normal price is cheaper than many brand trainers.

Wouldn’t it be great if all our shoes would make us feel free and unstoppable?

Schuhe – eins von unseren alltäglichen Gegenständen.

Nichts besonderes. Oder?

“Kleider machen Leute”, sagt man. Das hat sicherlich jeder von uns schon einmal erlebt. Wer fühlt sich nicht gleich ein wenig selbstbewusster, wenn man einen Blazer oder einen Anzug trägt, anstelle der heißgeliebten Jogginghose? Bei manchen Leuten ändert sich mit der Kleidung sogar noch mehr als wie man sich fühlt. Ihre Art zu Gehen, ihre Haltung oder sogar ihr gesamtes Auftreten.

Für mich persönlich haben Schuhe den größten Einfluss darauf wie ich mich fühle. Als ich mir letztens wasserfeste Wanderschuhe, die ich definitiv für mein nächstes Abenteuer brauchen werde, gekauft habe, ist mir das wiedereinmal sehr deutlich geworden.

Sobald ich meine wasserfesten Schuhe anhabe, fühle ich mich frei, frei von Beschränkungen. Ich kann in ihnen stundenlang gehen, einfach irgendwohin und nichts und niemand kann mich aufhalten. Regen wird mein Freund, da ich in Pfützen springen kann, ohne mir über nasse Füße Gedanken machen zu müssen. Ich fühle mich frei wie ein Kind, unaufhaltbar.

Der Unterschied zu meinen Arbeitsschuhen, schwarze Ballerinas von New Look, könnte nicht größer sein. Regen ist definitiv mein größter Feind, was nicht besonders hilfreich ist, wenn man in London lebt. Wasser sickert sofort in den Schuh, er hat kein Fußbett, wodurch er für längere Strecken doch arg unbequem ist, zieht jeden möglichen Schmutz an und außerdem muss ich meine Füße tapen um nicht zu viele Blasen beim Einlaufen zu bekommen.

Hierzu noch ein Tipp, falls ihr neue Schuhe einlaufen wollt, es wirkt Wunder die Gefahrenzonen mit Leukotape abzukleben.

Dazu muss man sagen, dass meine Arbeits-Ballerinas noch relativ bequem sind, im Vergleich zu anderen Modellen. Vielleicht sind meine Füße auch einfach nicht für Ballerinas gemacht, da ich bei jedem Modell, das ich jemals hatte, ähnliche Probleme mit Blasen beim Einlaufen hatte.

Was diese Schuhe jedoch sicherlich nicht tun, ist mich selbstbewusster zu machen, geschweigedenn dafür zu sorgen, dass ich mich unaufhaltbar fühle. Eher das Gegenteil. Würde ich hohe Schuhe zur Arbeit tragen, würde ich mich sicherlich selbstbewusster fühlen, allerdings sind diese natürlich auch nicht gerade bequemer. Eher noch schlimmer.

Eines Tages lohnt es sich wahrscheinlich etwas in Ballerinas mit einem richtigen Fußbett zu investieren. Langfristig gesehen ist es der erhöhte Komfort sicherlich wert!

Eine Frage began ich mir zu stellen, nach meiner letzten Erfahrung, und zwar, warum sind nicht alle unsere Schuhe wasserfest? Vor allem natürlich Sneaker, Sportschuhe, usw. warum werden die nicht automatisch wasserfest hergestellt? Wasserfest und atmungsaktiv?

Vor allem in England, wo es durchaus schonmal unerwartet anfangen kann zu regnen, wäre das so super praktisch, wenn einfach alle Schuhe wasserfest wären und eben nicht unbedingt wie Wanderschuhe aussehen.

Warum ist das nicht der Fall? Warum hat man bei so vielen Schuhen das Gefühl, dass sie einfach nicht für ein erfülltes Schuhleben gemacht sind? Die Kosten können eigentlich nicht der springende Punkt sein, denn meine wasserfesten Wanderschuhe haben nur 30£ (im sale, eigentlich 60£) gekostet, aber selbst der Normalpreis ist noch günstiger als viele Markenschuhe.

Wäre es nicht großartig, wenn wir uns in allen unseren Schuhen frei und unaufhaltbar fühlen würden?

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Walk Unafraid

Do you know the feeling when you just completely and absolutely fall in love with a song? The music, the lyrics, everything, it just speaks to you, captures your feelings?

That’s what happened to me last week when I was watching the film “Wild” (can totally recommend it!!) (and yes, it’s from 2014 – I’m usually a little behind on films and series, and there is a whole lot of stuff that I’ve never seen, so films are not a good topic for small talk with me)! One of the songs in the soundtrack is a the cover of a R.E.M. song by one of my favourite duos, First Aid Kit and it’s just soooooo amazing. (My boyfriend might be a little sick of it by now because I’ve been kinda listening to it on repeat for the last few days, but it’s just so awesome, everytime again, so what can I do?)

If you want to listen to it, which I would totally recommend, here you go:

I also really love the scarf of the blond girl, but let’s talk about the lyrics. If you see a scarf like that somewhere though, please remember to let me know, I wantssssss it.

I’m still totally blown away by the lyrics, so let’s have a look at them:

As the sun comes up, as the moon goes down
These heavy notions creep around
It makes me think, long ago
I was brought into this life, a little lamb
A little lamb
Courageous, stumbling
Fearless was my middle name
But somewhere there I lost my way
Everyone walks the same
Expecting me to step
The narrow path they’ve laid
They claim to

Walk unafraid
I’ll be clumsy instead
Hold me, love me or leave me high

Say “keep within the boundaries if you want to play”
Say “contradiction only makes it harder”
How can I be
What I want to be
When all I want to do is strip away
These stilled constraints
And crush this charade
Shred this sad masquerade
I don’t need no persuading
I’ll trip, fall, pick myself up and

Walk unafraid
I’ll be clumsy instead
Hold me, love me or leave me high

Love love love the lyrics. I really feel like we all were little lambs initially, we were fearless until something happened and we started being scared. Being afraid to follow our dreams and instead started being limited by our imagination. Making our dreams more realistic. And practical. I mean, come on, who has practical dreams? That’s so not what dreams are for. I am in favour of being practical and follow your dream is just so cliché and doesn’t really help you if you feel like you’ve lost your way and you’ve lost yourself.

Buuuuuuut you gotta stumble, fall, pick yourself up and walk unafraid of breaking the boundaries that others have laid out for you, if you want to be passionate about what you do and if you want to be happy. I know, I just wanna be happy, sounds pretty cheesy too, but trust my quarter-century-wisdom (well, other people say it too) happiness is the key to life. What’s the point of life if you’re not happy while you’re living it? So you should at least try to make it happen, as much as it is in your power. Of course, shit happens and we all go through tough times, but happiness should be what you want to achieve in the end.

You have to find your own way. Stumbling, falling, it doesn’t matter how, but it has to be yours. If you stick to the narrow path laid by others, it is not going to work out. And I’m a firm believer that we all had this conviction in us, at the beginning, when we were fearless little lambs. But the ‘system’, school, university, whatever it was for you, it does its best to get that out of you. You gotta fit in to succeed in the system.

But the times, where you were rewarded for hard work in school with a lifelong secure job are over. And that sucks, doesn’t it? You can work your ass off and still struggle finding your way. But you know what?

While that deal is from the table and it seems unfair, it’s also a fabulous chance! The system is not gonna reward you for fitting in, because the deal is goooooone. So break out of it and find your own path. Life is short. It may feel really long sometimes, but essentially we don’t know how much time we have. There is no time to waste.

You don’t wanna be 45 and realise you were never in the driverseat of life, because you were always trying to please others, your parents, your partner, your children, etc.

You don’t know how long you have to live. So, YOLO or what? Nah, my friend. I don’t mean it in a give-no-fucks-just-seek-all-the-thrills-be-a-selfish-asshole-kind-of-way, nope. You should do your best to be your best self, always.

Instead of saying life is short, so I can be a selfish asshole to everyone and just care for me, it should be the opposite, you should focus even more on what makes you happy and how to be the kindest version of yourself. We’re all humans and humans live in relation to each other, so I will never believe anyone, that being a selfish asshole will ever make you happy.

Kindness (to yourself and others), empathy (for yourself and others), and compassion (for yourself and others), those are the things that make you happy. And these are universal for everyone. Without self-care, you can’t give anything to others. You’re never going to regret spending the time helping others out, because that’s real human connection and we’re wired to find that rewarding. And I’m not talking about giving yourself up and always putting others’ needs before your own. That’s just a facade, that’s not honest. You help others to feel good about yourself. Whereas if you actually feel good about yourself, you help others without any ulterior motives. Without asking, oh, but what’s in it for me?

The successful people I admire are the ones who haven’t forgotten who helped them on the way. And trust me, there is always someone who helped you. Maybe you’re convinced it’s your hard work that got you where you’re at, and surely it wouldn’t have been possible without hard work, but we all have (and need!) people who help us. Who believe in us enough to give us the two minutes to pitch our idea, who read our works, who introduce us to others and who share their experiences with us. Nobody makes it on their own. That’s not how humans work.

In conclusion, break out of the narrow path, walk unafraid, stumble, fall, pick yourself up and keep walking! You are f***ing special and you’ve got something special to give. The world needs people who use their gift and follow their passion!

And the world definitely doesn’t need more investment bankers and financial traders (never understood why you’d choose a profession where you literally only work for your own benefit or even worse, to make rich people richer). And yes, if you didn’t know before, I’m quite opinionated (which is kinda why I have a blog in the first place I suppose). However, I am open to discuss my opinions (doesn’t mean I change them, but like I said, happy to discuss), so if you feel that my characterisation of the financial industry was incorrect, I’m happy to listen to why you think it’s great for the world and humanity!

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Update

Hi guys,

It’s been a long time since I started this blog in January 2013. Originally, I wanted to share my experiences during my semester abroad in Morocco with my friends and family, so a blog seemed to be an obvious choice.

My interest in the Middle East was a bit of a niche interest at the time, at least in my personal environment. The events of the Arab Spring had of course moved the Middle East and North Africa more into mainstream interest, but I still struggled finding daily news, websites and blogs that were focussed on the region. Honestly, that was proooobabbblyyyy me not finding them. Even writing this nearly pains me because it sounds as if I was quite stupid back then. We all have to start somewhere though, right?

In hindsight, I simply didn’t know the right people, I didn’t even use Twitter, and I just didn’t know where to look. (In my defense, I am a village girl after all and to this day the street in the village where my parent’s house stands does not have access to fast internet, so maybe that’s why. They say it’ll finally happen this year, as the village is on the list to get the right kind of cables, but well, they’ve kinda been saying that since at least 2010. Also, I’m going off topic…)

It seemed like a great idea to create a space where I could compile all the interesting articles I was finding (Like I said, I was slowly getting there. I did find interesting articles covering the region back then. Realistically I should have been drowning in them, but we’ll cut my poor-old-maybe-a-little-naive self from back then some slack.) In any case, I started this blog with the intention to write about my experience living abroad in Morocco and pretty much everything else I thought about when it came to the Middle East and North Africa. And boy, it was exciting to have my own blog and to be able to create the space exactly how I wanted it to be. (If you want to read a fun post, I can recommend this one about the time when I tried to use argan oil as sunscreen. In my defense, Google said it was used as a natural sunscreen. Probably not by pale Northern Germans tho. Up until this day it is also my most-googled article, so hopefully I have prevented some other fools from trying and saved them from skin cancer.)

So I was having fun with my blog, but over time I lost the urge to write. I lost the sense that I had something to say, let alone something that was sort of useful to the world, and if you scroll back on my most recent (not that recent anyhow) posts, you’ll see that by that time I was mostly reblogging other people’s posts or sharing other people’s articles.

I also got a little disillusioned with the whole blogosphere as it was growing so massively and a lot of bloggers seemed to be only in it for the collaborations. I mean, I understand that you need to make money off it if it’s your JOB, but collaborations are a tricky business. Of course you can write in every post of your collaborations that you really wouldn’t recommend it unless you were convinced of it, but sometimes that is just hard to believe. A recommended article in that subject matter is this one. It’s in German though. A quick summary if you do not happen to speak German. The title says “How advertisement destroys the blogging scene.” Coral, a big detergent company, asked bloggers and ‘influencers’ to post with their favourite Coral product. And now you have a bunch of bloggers or wanna-be celebrities posting with Coral and their boyfriend in the hotel bed, pretending they just happened to promote Coral because they like it so much. Kinda ridiculous in my opinion.

So, I didn’t really feel like writing on my blog anymore, because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a “blogger”. I’m still not sure I would identify myself as a blogger, but that’s probably for the best, as I haven’t been blogging for the better part of the past three years. Also, busy with life. Great excuse, I know.

Anyways, my blog, that I had liked so much when I initially started it, seemed like a relic from my past and it didn’t quite seem to fit anymore. Which is why I have now decided to give it a bit of a makeover and make it fit me now, and not me in 2013. You see, I do claim of course that I have changed in the past four years, and we all hope for the better. At least I do know now where to find amazing articles about the Middle East and North Africa, some of my favourites are Carnegie Endowment, the Middle East Eye, Al Jazeera English, Jadaliyya and Qantara (and yes, I do not read enough Arabic sources. Which I really should be doing, also to improve my Arabic. Such a struggle, man.).

Lately, I have been reading more blogs and watching more vlogs (I still get pretty annoyed at too much advertising in them, but in those cases I think it’s often good to remind yourself, that if you don’t have anything nice to say it’s better to not say anything at all. As of course everyone can decide what they do with their Youtube channels and blogs, and I can choose to read or watch it, so if I don’t like it, I can just not do that. Instead of leaving nasty comments. Can someone explain to me this obsession people seem to have to follow others (be it on Youtube, Instagram or wherever) just to tell them how shit the content is they make? How is that a good use of your time? If you don’t like the content that person makes, don’t watch their videos and just unfollow them. We’d all be happier with that, I think.) I am rambling here though, and I’m not even sure how relevant it is to my point, but it needed to be said, so bear with me.

Back to the point, I’ve decided to revive my blog with a more general direction, more of my thoughts, less focus on the Middle East. Although I do have quite some thoughts on the Middle East, so it will probably still feature every now and then at least, but it will no longer be the main focus. Another reason I want to revive my blog is because I have a pretty big something coming up – which I will discuss in due time – that will most likely inspire me to share some thoughts.

So watch out on this space and stay tuned!

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Hezbollah in Syria: a game of high stakes

Strife

By Kitty Veress:

000_Nic6455785-e1432745822842-635x357 Hezbollah members mourn during the funeral of a comrade who was killed in combat alongside Syrian government forces in the Qalamoun region. Photo: Times of Israel (published under fair use policy for intellectual non-commercial purposes)

The Western world has been quick to label Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria and Iraq as nefarious and threatening while failing to consider the wider strategic implications. A more comprehensive perspective is needed to evaluate the risks and opportunities the extremist Shi’ite group faces in its support of the Syrian regime. The potential benefit of establishing itself as a regional power and battle-hardening its troops needs to be weighed against Hezbollah’s risk of physical and ideological overexpansion that might expose the group’s vulnerabilities and ultimately endanger Lebanon’s defence capabilities.

Hezbollah

Created in 1982, Hezbollah was originally a resistance group against the Israeli occupation in Lebanon. Since then it has become a prolific global…

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On returning from Palestine – by Omar Robert Hamilton

http://www.madamasr.com/opinion/returning-palestine

At the border it is always the same questions. Do you have another name? Do you have another passport? What is your father’s name? What is his father’s name? Have you ever been to Syria? Lebanon? Morocco? What are you doing here?

I used to feel sick for days before coming to Palestine. Would rehearse my answers, shut down my Twitter page, print off hotel reservations, eject SIM cards. I spent four years’ worth of interrogations claiming to be making a film about the restoration of a church in Nazareth. This time, I would think each time, they will Google me. This time, the Israelis will turn me away.

For eight years, we’ve been bringing people to the Palestine Festival of Literature. International authors, artists, publishers arrive in late spring, put on a festival in English and Arabic with their Palestinian counterparts, and leave having understood what decades of spin and lies and obfuscation have worked so hard to hide. They leave understanding how simple it is, what’s happening here.

For eight years, the visiting authors’ first experience of apartheid is at the border. White faces and Northern names cruise through with welcomes and visas, strange Southern names and un-white faces sit and wait and answer questions about their lineage, are led through interrogations probing for an inconsistency, a nervousness, a reason to turn you away. Every year, without exception. You can call it security if it makes you feel better, but I won’t.

Eight years I’ve been doing it, and it is always the same. So much has happened in the world, but the border stays the same. When they ask what I have come to do, I say words like “arts,” “culture” and “workshop” in a variety of floral combinations. Words that sound harmless to these men with guns.

Are they, in fact, harmless?

Maybe they are Googling me. Maybe they know the whole truth. I wish, sometimes, that they would turn me away.

They want to disappear Palestine. Keep people away. The old will die and the young will forget. And they think it is working, this disappearing of Palestine. There is no airport to fly to, no arrival stamp in your passport, no website with travel tips you can trust. Google Maps does not know the names of the streets in Ramallah or how to drive to Nablus, it will only direct you toward the settlement-cities and military prisons. Where is Palestine? How do you get there?

In this age of nation-states and easyjets, Israel works to fracture both the land and the idea. Palestine is the West Bank, Palestine is Area A, Palestine is not Gaza, Palestine never existed, Palestine is a confusion. You cannot understand it. You must forget it.

But it is the idea that is strongest. Palestine is every breath from the Galilee to the Naqab, Palestine is every child born in a refugee camp, Palestine is Ferguson, Baltimore, Tibet and Western Sahara. Is that a strength — being strongest in idea? Or is it the last breath before death?

The idea of the Apache, Inca, Arawak were strong once, too. Are strong today.

“Just go to Israel,” I could say, when people ask me how to get to Palestine. “Just go and talk to a Palestinian and you’ll be in Palestine.” But what would they see? If you drive north from Jerusalem to Haifa, you will see a rolling grassy hillock to your right. You would not know that the Wall runs underneath it. You would not know what it looks like from the other side.

Israel is a colonist’s exercise in landscaping on a national, messianic scale. And so the landscape has to be translated for the visitor. This, I would tell you, is a road that only settlers can drive on, these are rooftops from which Palestinian flags are banned, this is an olive grove burned by settlers, this is a well that has been filled with cement, this is my friend who cannot come with us for dinner in Jerusalem and these trees hide the ruins of a village taken in 1948, and there, on that hill, is an apricot farm and there, on the other side of the Wall, is where the farmer lives.

Driving through the West Bank I look up at the settlements, small cities coiled around the top of the hills, watching, waiting. Palestine is the topography of war, the exodus of people up the mountain, the valley a tank can’t cross, the coastal plain to flood people down. The land is defined by war and Israel shapes the land for the war to come. The settlements wait for the signal from their higher ground.

The watchful visitor will soon understand that every inch of the land is monitored, controlled, prepared for. Every dimension of life is mapped and manipulated. Air, water, electricity, money, food, movement, education, ideas, love — none are free. The occupation of both the present and the past is a complex operation.

But it is more complex to hide a simple truth: that one people are trying to wipe out another.

That, in the end, is all there is to it.

When you cross Qalandia checkpoint, all becomes clear. The first time for me was in 2008. I was stunned by its brutality, the explicitly dystopian design, the razor wire and metal runnels and video cameras. By the inescapability of it. Four tight metal corridors offer themselves to you, each leading to a revolving steel gate. The metal is close, pushes up to your shoulders. Two people cannot fit in this animal run. There’s no way back, no way sideways, no way to talk, just wait your turn, wait to see what lies beyond that steel gate. There is only you in the metal corral and your own existence between the bars that strip you of pride or philosophy and leave you only as a body, a body facing forward and being herded in toward a reckoning.

In an abattoir they don’t let the cows see what’s waiting for them. They don’t want to scare them. It’s bad for the meat. Not here. Here your humiliation is laid bare. You must all stand and watch each other, grow weaker through each other’s weakness. The metal gate at the end stays locked. You wait together for permission to move, for the green light to buzz, to step forward into the deeper bowels of this slaughterhouse of dignity.

I cried the first time I got through. I came out into the sunlight and broke into tears.

Qalandia hasn’t changed in eight years. But other things have. Gaza, BDS, Netanyahu, Obama. Years of Palestinian deaths and Israeli words and American excuses. Enough has changed to fill a book with words. And yet nothing has. One people are still trying to drive another out of existence.

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Sir, you guys will not remain like little goldfish in the European fortress – Fatou Diome

http://africasacountry.com/that-moment-when-senegalese-writer-fatou-diome-kicked-european-union-butt/

“These people whose bodies are washing up on these shores, – and I carefully choose my words – if they were Whites, the whole Earth should be shaking now. Instead, it’s Blacks and Arabs who are dying and their lives are cheaper.

The European Union, with its navy and war fleet can rescue the migrants in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea if they want to, but they sit and wait till the migrants die. It’s as if letting them drown is used as a deterrent to prevent migrants from coming to Europe. But let me tell you something: that doesn’t deter anyone…because the individual who is migrating as a survival instinct, who believes that the life they are living isn’t worth much, he’s not afraid of death.
Sir, you guys will not remain like little goldfish in the European fortress. The current crisis tell us that much. Europe can no longer close itself as long as there are conflicts elsewhere around the world. Europe can no longer live in opulence where there are so much unmet needs around the world. We live in a global society where an Indian makes a living in Dakar, someone from Dakar makes a living in New York, and a Gabonese makes a living in Paris. Whether you like it or not, this process is irreversible.

When you are a White Canadian or an Argentine and you come to live in France, you are an expat… But if you are African, or Indian, or Afghan, and you come to France or Germany, you are in immigrant, no matter the circumstances. It is the representation that Europe does to the Other that feeds xenophobia.

And the Schengen visa that you speak of – You will let me finish!—this visa gives me the opportunity to be invited to give talks in your universities if you find my brains convenient and profitable, but it bothers you that my brother, who may not have the degrees that I have, but who may want to maybe come to Europe and work in construction, that idea makes your countries schizophrenic. You cannot divide the migrants between the useful ones and the poisonous ones.

Also, you see on the headline the flow of African migrants arriving in Europe but you don’t speak of the Europeans going in Africa. That’s the free flow of the powerful, the ones who have the money, and the right kind of passports. You go to Senegal, to Mali, to any country around the world… Anywhere I go, I meet French people, Germans, and Dutch. I see them everywhere around the world, because they have the right passport. With your passport, you go anywhere around the world, and act like you run those place, with your pretentious demeanor. Stop the hypocrisy. We will all be rich together, or perish together.”

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