Author: Youssef Rakha

About Youssef Rakha

THE SULTAN′S SEAL ؏ (Arabic) Literature, Journalism, and Photo Art ؏ Everything without a name is (c) Youssef Rakha

Silk: Robin Moger’s Translation (and Voice)

Side Window

Side Window



The worms were there waiting the day we set out
With our luggage lighter than plastic
And hearts beating for the unknown.

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Cairo in Indigo: the Photo Poem (without the Photos)

Hipstamatic makes no sense.
In the idle grip of suspended motion—
endless traffic in stasis,
prosthetic limbs scratching against car doors—
what’s the use of predefined filters pretending to be the aesthetic technology of not much earlier times?
You want to play with the beasts.
Soul splashed on the asphalt, to dream your own dreams,
imagination feeding like ruminants.

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حرير: قصيدة جديدة


كانت الديدان في انتظارنا يوم انطلقنا
بعتادنا الأخف من البلاستك
وقلوبنا تخفق للمجهول.
خلف اللافتات التي أبينا أن تدلنا
وفي كل محطاتنا المرتجلة
كانت الديدان تعرّي أشجاراً صغيرة
لم ننتبه لوجودها في الفراغات.

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مريم الفرجاني: رسالة رقم عين

Windscreen Again

Windscreen Again

“ماذا عن الشك؟”
واحد من أسئلة بعدد جرعات أدب الإرهاق التي تناولتها قبل نهاية المساء.
من الجائز أن العقل ليس وسيلة للتفكير بقدر ما هو وسيلة لرد الفعل. أو بالأحرى، من المريح أن يكون كذلك، وأن نُختزَل في ذاكرة لردود أفعال.
ذاكرة معظم صورها مهتزة، لا لضبابية خطوطها وإنما لتفاوت أبعادها.

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RT @sultans_seal: Tweets through a glass pane


rakha_youssef_ 3

If not being allowed to have strong opinions is not I’m not sure what is

Western outrage at ‘s treatment of continues to shock and awe me. Where do you get off, people?

People who see the west as an end in itself are the mirror image of people who see it as the source of all evil

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Two versions of the Arab Spring in 100 words


Egypt was a dictatorial hell, 25 Jan put it on the road to heaven. It veered off under the MB, and 30 June was to bring it back on course. But then the military staged a coup to co-opt the transition on 3 July and turn Egypt into a hell again. No. Egypt is a military-based neoliberal client state with problems no matter who’s in power. 25 Jan was the pretext for coup No.1 which brought on the MB to make the west happy, 30 June for coup No.2 which got rid of the MB to make Egyptians happy. End of story.

Tes longs bras: صلاح باديس

photo 1

يداك الرقيقتان الطويلتان
التفكير لا يجدي
وفكرة الفراق المؤجل
تسكن الدار الفارغة التي تركتها
شيء سخيف أن اكتب عما عشناه
أن اكتب قصيدة غرام
عاشق خائب وبنت رقيقة
والنهاية معروفة لكل شخص شجاع

صلاح باديس

محمود المنيراوي: المجزرة السعيدة

أيها الكاذبون اتحدوا
واقتلوا كل الصادقين
اولاً اقتلعوا ألسنتهم كما تقتلع شتلة
يزعجكم شكلها
يغضبكم وجودها
وقطّعوهم وارموهم لكلاب الشوارع

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Writing the North African Experience


Centre for African Poetry: Let us begin by inviting you to humour our ignorance. The title of your 2011 novel is translated Book of the Sultan’s Seal, but we wonder which of the two names we have seen for it in Arabic is more accurate – khutbat al-kitab, or Kitab at Tughra?

Rakha: Kitab at Tughra is the title. Khutbat al-kitab means, literally, “Address of the book”; it’s a formulaic canonical phrase for “introduction” or “prologue”, which here and in old Arabic books doubles as a kind of table of contents; on the surface the novel is modelled on a medieval historical text. It may be worth mentioning in passing that the original sense of kitab, which is the Arabic word for “book”, means simply “letter” or “epistle”: every canonical book is addressed to a patron or a friend, and that’s an idea that is particularly meaningful to me.

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Who #Sisi Is In Under 200 Words

Sisi Rayyisi Sisi Rayyisi Sisi Rayyisi Sisi Rayyisi Sisi Rayyisi

Sisi and his supporters are the reason 30 June-3 July took the popular revolt against political Islam in an illiberal direction (though considering the clear and present danger of Islamist war-mongering and terrorism, something to which the neoliberal world order as much as homegrown activists for democracy and human rights remain blind, it is hard to imagine how else things could’ve been done). I do think that, had he made it clear that he was not interested in becoming the leader and kept his position in the army, Egypt’s interminable “transition” might’ve been somewhat smoother. That doesn’t mean he is not what lowest-common-denominator Egypt deserves, and is. The claim that support for Sisi is due to media manipulation is one of many Western fantasies about what’s happening in Egypt. A religious military man, very conservative, very opposed to subversion, let alone violence or (ironically) war, and more or less loyal to the July order that produced him. A strict boss with a somewhat premodern idea of right and wrong, a patriotic sense of community, and plenty of prudence (not to say guile)… Surely that is what Egypt is about.

حكاية مصر الآن



ذات يوم عُزِل الرئيس المنتخب للجمهورية الثانية. كان منتخباً لكنه كان طائفياً. كان منتخباً وطائفياً لأنه إسلامي وكان يؤسس لدولة الخلافة متأخراً ثلاثة قرون. عزله الجيش لأن الجيش هو السلطة القادرة إثر انهيار التجربة الديمقراطية. لم يمر عامان على التجربة حتى انهارت. هكذا تتعاقب الأحداث في دولة الانقلاب بعد ستة عقود كاملة من حدوثه، حيث الرئيس هو الزعيم والبوليس والإعلام الموجّه. بعد ستة عقود يتنحى الزعيم فيسلِّم السلطة للقيادة العسكرية.

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One Flew Over the Mulla’s Ballot

@Sultans_Seal wallows in his lack of democratic mettle

Time and again, since 30 June last year, I’ve come up against the commitment to democracy that I’m supposed to have betrayed by appearing to endorse the army’s intervention in the outcome of Egypt’s second revolution.

Time and again I’ve had to explain what on earth makes Egyptians think that Washington and Tel Aviv are secretly in league with the Muslim Brotherhood to decimate the Arab world along sectarian lines and bring death and destruction upon innocent Egyptians as much as Syrians and Libyans in the name of human rights—presumably to the benefit of that impeccably democratic and profoundly civilized neighbor state where racist, genocidal, militarized sectarianism does not present the world community with a human-rights problem.

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Imogen Lambert: “They tweeted martyrdom with lattes”

Tower of Babel

And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do; and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined…

yrakhahipa 6

Photo: @sultans_seal

Night bites my shoulder. I turn to you, through a nylon window
To a state of limbo, there on a map
Under rivers of paper
We never drown, gazing on bridges
Night hugged my waist, like my mother, wailing
Where are our parents?

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❁ Here Be A Cyber Topkapı ❁

Cairo, the City of Kismet
Adaweyah, the Shaabi Music Legend
Requiem for a Suicide Bombmer
The Strange Case of the Novelist from Egypt
Revolution: Nude, Martyr, Faith
Youssef in the Quran
The Poetry of Ahmad Yamani


On Fiction and the Caliphate

Towards the end of 2009, I completed my first novel, whose theme is contemporary Muslim identity in Egypt and, by fantastical extension, the vision of a possible khilafa or caliphate. I was searching for both an alternative to nationhood and a positive perspective on religious identity as a form of civilisation compatible with the post-Enlightenment world. The closest historical equivalent I could come up with, aside from Muhammad Ali Pasha’s abortive attempt at Ottoman-style Arab empire (which never claimed to be a caliphate as such), was the original model, starting from the reign of Sultan-Caliph Mahmoud II in 1808. I was searching for Islam as a post-, not pre-nationalist political identity, and the caliphate as an alternative to thepostcolonial republic, with Mahmoud and his sons’ heterodox approach to the Sublime State and their pan-Ottoman modernising efforts forming the basis of that conception. Such modernism seemed utterly unlike the racist, missionary madness of European empire. It was, alas, too little too late.

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