Welcome to Sugar Street!
Sugar Street Review is a new, online magazine dedicated to the culture of the Arab world and the wider Middle East.
The region, rarely out of the headlines, brings to mind images of conflict, contrast and turmoil. However, the Middle East has an extraordinarily vibrant arts scene that is often sadly neglected by Western media.
Here on Sugar Street, we aim to bring you the very best new writing from and about the region, giving insights that, we hope, will help you find the same pleasures that we have and garner a greater understanding of a simultaneously complicated and beguiling part of the world.
In addition, Sugar Street Review also includes articles and reviews on restaurants, recipes and all things food. Of course, it would be remiss to forget about other important parts of the rich culture of the region and, as such, we will also feature articles and reviews on film, art, travel and much more besides as well as interviews with both new and more established authors.
The term ‘The Middle East’ often leaves people somewhat confused. The traditional definition stretches from Egypt at is most westerly point, Cyprus and Turkey to the north, Iran to the East and Yemen in the south. However, the term is often used to include the rest of North Africa including Sudan and Djibouti in addition to Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is also sometimes erroneously used synonymously with the Arab world. On Sugar Street we are less concerned with geography and more with art, culture, history and politics and, as such, are quite fluid in our interpretation.
Whether it be the flamboyant and mischievous Al Jahiz, the 8th Century master of Arab prose, 1001 Nights detailing the struggle of Scheherazade as she regaled story after story to save herself from death at the hands of the evil Shahryar, or The Qu’ran before, the area has a rich literary history.
The 20th Century witnessed the Arab Renaissance (al-Nahda) instigated by the great Lebanese emigrant writers Khalil Gibran and Mikha’il Na’ima to name just two. This was continued, perhaps most significantly, by the Cairene Naguib Mahfouz, winner of the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature (the third book in his Cairo Trilogy gives the site its name) and by countless others such as Mahmoud Darwish, who used his writing as an outlet for his struggle and his anguish, with the loss of Eden as a metaphor for his native Palestine, and the prolific Elias Khoury.
More recently, we have seen new authors such as the American-born Libyan Hisham Matar, whose 2006 novel In The Country of Men was short-listed for both the Man Booker Prize and The Guardian First Book Award, and the phenomenon that is Khaled Hosseini, receiving international acclaim. In addition, recent efforts to promote the literature of the region have included the introduction of The International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF), which is run in conjunction with The Booker Prize Foundation, and was won inaugurally in 2008 by Egyptian novelist Bahaa Taher for his book, Sunset Oasis and The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. Indeed, even the Hay Festival, started in a little town on the Welsh border, has now spread its literary web as far a field as Beirut.
The region has also given rise to some of history’s greatest civilisations, whether it be the Ancient Egyptians, the Ottomans, the Sumerians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Phoenicians or the Nabataeans to list a few. Traces of this can still be seen in abundance today, both through their cultural legacies and through some of the finest archaeological remains imaginable such as the pyramids of Ancient Egypt or the great Nabataean city of Petra. Perhaps, even more significantly, the area is the birthplace of the three major monotheistic religious in the world today. In fact, out of the seven main monotheistic faiths, only Sikhism has its origins outside the confines of the traditional definition of the Middle East. It’s also home to some of the world’s best cusines!
So, join us here on Sugar Street to find out more, not just about the history of the region, but how the myriad of traditions continue to drive it forward!