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Sharif S. Elmusa

Bombast of Mass Slayer

[Art by Serwan Baran]

My name is Mass Slayer. I live in bombs and bullets, in cannons and rockets. I live in the nucleus of you. I could be an army, a lone wolf, or a terrorist band. I need not toil, pay individual visits, like the everyday Reaper. I stun as many as I can, in one go, I stun them on a street, in a bar, in a temple, in the battlefield, in the comfort of their homes-- and you could be there. Nothing pleases me though more than being in the news, and nothing ...

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What They Took

[An Elmusa family’s tractor: taken in al-Karamah camp by Anonymous in October, 1982 in the Jordan Valley|| From left to right: Author’s uncle (father’s brother, Sa`ad), Sharif Elmusa and his brother Ibrahim]

[Illustration by Tanuja Ramani, The Indian Quarterly] I was invited recently, together with nine other Palestinian writers and poets, to New Delhi to participate in a colloquium about the Palestinian condition, especially the role of memory and imagination for those of us who are refugees living in exile. This is a perennial question, which I have spoken to in different ways in poetry and prose. One angle I have not touched on in any detail is my relationship with ...

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An Update of Our Fall

[Art by Marwan Qassab Bashi (Syria)]

AN UPDATE OF OUR FALL The hair delicate The waves combed it As if composing lines Lamenting the deed The mouth is turned away From the salt and sand The ear a pearl’s shell The murmurs of the tale still wet To us he shows Not his bright face But his back At us he looks Not with the keen eyes But with the soles of the sandals A picture of parts An update of our fall The tiny palm of his hand Cupped Mute petals Beyond time Beyond border  

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Sharing the Nile Waters According to Needs

[The Nile in Egypt. Image courtesy of]

A ministerial-level meeting in Khartoum including Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan to establish mechanisms for further investigations of the consequences of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) downstream has concluded, on Tuesday 26 August. The gathering took place two months after Egypt and Ethiopia had issued ajoint communique that stressed the importance of the contested water of the Nile River for the two countries and outlined general principles for future moves ...

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Egypt’s Nile Blues

[Sunset on the Nile, Egypt. Image originally posted to Flickr by S J Pinkney.]

Ethiopia is forging ahead with the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile, which it began more than three years ago, despite Egypt’s protests.  Unlike Egypt, Sudan has not raised objections to the dam, reckoning that it could gain from the project by purchasing electricity, and perhaps reducing sediments in its own water reservoirs. Ethiopia’s actions have profound consequences for the rules of the game governing the Nile’s flow, ...

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How Long Does A Transition Last?


HOW LONG DOES A TRANSITION LAST? Do not write history in verse                   Mahmoud Darwish   Afterwards we shall sit on the ground to read all their hearts as though we were reading the history of the world for the first time.                   Yannis Ritsos   It all depends on the ...

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Rebels Beware of the Bears that Hug Your Generals

[1 June 2012, graffiti during the presidential elections showing Shafiq and Morsi as poppets controlled by a general (the joker). Image originally posted to Flickr by Gigi Ibrahim]

The young people of Egypt led the January 25 revolution, and the army inherited it first, then the army jointly with the Muslim Brothers. And now under the rubric of Tamarod (Rebel), they have spearheaded again the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi, which they could only — or opted to — do through the army and with the blessing of religious political forces and symbols that did not get along with the Muslim Brothers. The Brotherhood squandered the fortunes it had ...

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Sharif S. Elmusa


Sharif S. Elmusa is a scholar, poet, and translator. His recent research focuses on environmental politics and culture, including in Palestine. His latest publications include Culture and the Natural Environment: Ancient and Modern Middle Eastern Texts and The Burden of Resources: Oil and Water in the Gulf and the Nile Basin (editor, both Cairo Papers in Social Science monograph series, AUC Press). Elmusa is a poet, co-editor of Grape Leaves: A Century of Arab American Poetry and author of Flawed Landscape: Poems 1988-2008. His articles appeared in major newspapers in the US and Egypt. He was an occasional contributor to Al-Ahram Weekly and Egypt Independent, and currently to Jadaliyya and Mada Masr. Elmusa, who holds a Ph.D. from M.I.T is an associate professor of Political Science, at the American University in Cairo. He has taught at Georgetown University in Qatar, and at Yale. He is Palestinian by birth, American by citizenship, and moves between Egypt and the United States.