A piercing book: ‘What Have You Left Behind’ by Bushra Al Maqtari

Most likely, there will never be a more perfect, dramatic, piercing book on the war in Yemen than What Have You Left Behind (Fitzcarraldo Editions) written by Yemeni researcher, writer, novelist Bushra Al Maqtari.

The introduction – painful yet without pity and hyperbolism – is a slap in the face: all the lies naively told in order not to accept that war was – with a perverse logic – inevitable, the signals no one wanted to pay attention to, the country abandoned by those who knew what was coming, a nation militarized to the limit and then attacked by the Coalition forces in 2015.

Bushra Al Maqtari’s Yemen (the book covers the period 2015-2017) is a country under siege, blockade (of cities and nation), run by the economy of the black market, the war profiteers (local and diasporic), where people can die of diseases, hunger, silence, homeless, father-and-mother-less, a country of orphans and survivors with no answers, no balm to their pain.
A country where the basics – water, electricity, food – are a vestige of the past.

It is a Yemen of imprisonment, torture, forced disappearances, air raids and shellings. The shelling from Yemenis to Yemenis, just of different factions.

Bushra Al Maqtari – who has more courage than a battalion of millions – interviewed over 400 people traveling at her own peril, listened to their stories, gathered some of their testimonies in a book compiled by those who have no one listen to their cry.

Children died while playing in the street, families were buried alive under missiles targeting their homes, bodies were never fully recovered (or recognised or put together one last time), fishing boats and huts targeted by Apache helicopters, even a boat from Somalia carrying fleeing Africans was attacked.
And aid organisations absent. Totally absent. Nonresponsive.
You read of people living in shops, in converted schools or skeletons of former government buildings. On the street.
Mutilated families and bodies of Taiz, Aden, Sanaa, Hodeydah, of villages. Areas difficult to place on the map, though the geography of war targets anyone with the most accurate precision.

What Have You Left Behind is a haunting read with no answers, no cure, no explanation, where the culprits come from all sides and it makes no difference: war crimes are war crimes. There is no such thing as fair and just killing or understandable, justifiable killing.
It is a book of victims whose pain runs so deep it alters humanity’s DNA.

A must read.


Bushra al-Maqtari (بشرى المقطري; born 1979) is a Yemeni writer and activist who came to prominence as an anti-government protest leader in her hometown of Taiz during the 2011 Yemeni Revolution.

the bond

(You are)
just a few clouds away
behind dune sands
passed the leveled square tops of the region’s mountains
in the rhythm of the sun

(You are)
in each crescent moon
shade of palm trees
and tides of the Arabian Sea

(You are heard)
in the call for the prayer of every mosque
the bustling of the souqs
the opening of windows
shutting of gates
school yards, majlis, maternity wards
especially in the maternity wards
in the whispered words of devotion

(I dream)
the camel caravans bringing the tone of your laughter
the scent of your existence
the words you speak

(I rely)
on the moon, the sun, the rain, the winds, the people, the actions and deeds
to help us keep our bond

(to Yemen)

artwork Adel Al Maweri

Kisses to the wind

nothing you would take
everything you gave
hold me till I die
meet you on the other side

Pearl Jam


When they came to the village, I was no more than a baby.Before I could learn my own vernacular language and to worship our Gods residing on the mountains, before I could learn to walk among my people, my widowed father decided to give me, as a present, to a white couple visiting.

My memories start with them, the two intellectuals who brought me to the city.
I became officially Venezuelan with a name chosen randomly as the couple were jealous of theirs. The late registration implies no one really knew my age.
The moment I could walk, I jumped into adulthood, adjusting to barely saying the necessary and working constantly more. Always more.
The couple became my Mamaita and Papaito by name, but I know they only saw me as the helper, the hardworking boy who took care of their grandchildren around the house.
By law of enlarged families, I became everyone’s Uncle Victor, the quiet and always stealthy, physically strong, stoic boy juggling between buckets and brooms, asking for permission to enter the house, having food alone, sleeping in a room outside.
I soon learnt that between a slave and a helper, the line was too thin to make a difference and that I was not included in Mamaita and Papaito’s seven children: I would never be the eighth, no matter how hard I tried.
Mamaita was strict. She took care of everyone’s education, while Papaito ran a leather and wood chair factory, plus the farm. I broke my back in both places.
Years rolled fast and, after graduating, everyone left while I continued to stay, working.
Even Albania, the artist studying medicine in another city, left for good, never becoming a doctor. She had always been an artist.
When Albania moved to Miami, she started sending me some money but nothing could compensate the void.

The youngest sibling of my mother was the youngest aunt, Albania.
She was a painter with a pure soul; the only one who treated Uncle Victor with a sisterly love.
When my grandmother died I saw Victor cry endlessly: I understood he truly considered her as his mother. He left the house because my grandfather closed his heart and doors to him.
When I grew up, gone my grandparents, alone I set a goal: to buy the huge old house where we once resided and look for my uncle Victor to return the house he worked so hard for, to him.
Years passed, but I succeeded. I found him and struggled to convince him: he was very hurt, resentful. He had been hiding: it took me five years to find him.
I brought him with me, built a small apartment room and he lived with my children and myself until he died over a year ago.
One day that strong and grateful man whose skin hid age and endeavors, fell sick.
Health issues in my country are harrowing, I never knew for sure what my uncle had, but I assumed it was stomach cancer.
Vìctor was not treated in hospital because there were no supplies and I did not have resources to take him to a private clinic. I took care of him every night of pain, I became his nurse for several months, I attended his humble requests, I bathed him, injected him with pain killers, did my best to halt the bleeding. It was difficult, but I learned many things from him. He never lost his connection with the earth, nature; stray dogs came
every day to visit him because he brought them food from somewhere where he worked. When he was healthy enough, he met them at 5 pm while the dogs were already waiting for him. He talked to them, gave them names and food, while cats joined.
One day while he was in excruciating pain, he told me: Nena, (he used to call me Nena, Baby) teach me to pray, and I taught him to talk with God and the universe, which is the same for me. I took him to the patio and sat him on a chair among the trees. I bathed him and his innocent gaze was lost among the clouds and the sound of the birds, I know he enjoyed it. I also knew he was leaving. He would put his feet on the soil to feel the
connection and neither of us talked much. We just understood each other. He was in so much pain he asked me to pass ice to calm him down and I did.
Those were difficult months but they came with learning; I have never been so close to a person as pure as my uncle.
Due to my autoimmune condition I cannot enter hospitals, however I had to leave him there one day when illness was winning over him: he had a hemorrhage that with my precarious knowledge I could not stop.
He died alone, without me, that was the most painful part, but he and I had already talked about what was coming, I had explained how to surrender to the universe when the time came.
With a lot of effort I sent a funeral team to look for his body, I sent him to cremation and scattered his ashes in a small and beautiful spring.
I went with my children and said goodbye to him; when we threw his ashes and watched as the current carried them with it, I felt he was finally where he wanted to be, between trees and water, between birds and butterflies, free.
My uncle had never tasted freedom: he had been a slave, ripped from the jungle.
Now, whenever I go to the little stream where his ashes were scattered, butterflies chase me and land on me; my daughter says that it is the soul of my grateful uncle.
I am grateful for all the time that I was able to be near him.

I was born an artist, however my grandmother forced me to study medicine. I left university on my last semester, causing havoc.
I had a girl while still single: in those years and in a wealthy family, it was pure shame.
Victor would have done anything for my little, frail Brenda.
When I left Venezuela, I pursued my dream of becoming and artist and even if I only had 20 extra dollars, I sent them to Victor.
I was the only person to have ever hugged him, my elusive Victor.
The only person who has ever written him a letter, before I took my own life.

Albania always loved him.
One day, enraged, Victor told me that if Albania loved him so much why she took her life, leaving him even more alone.
The day I took him to hospital, he carried a small bag with his few belongings. He knew in our hospitals patients are constantly being robbed, but he did not care. When he died everything was stolen, including the letter that was in his pocket.
Víctor reached Albania knowing her letter by heart.

I still go to the water stream and look at the butterflies, each carrying words of love.

‘Victor: my brother, my blood, my memory.
Your name stands for victory, over love and innocence. When you were little, you were extirpated from your land, from your Indian roots, from your Pemon origins, to become my little brother.
Maybe you carry a vague memory of your brief childhood… and your shyness
does not allow you to say anything; how it pains me that thousands of km and miles separate us, but I remember with a special love your scanty way of speaking trying to put a serious tone to life’s simple things, doing hard work and light chores that no one ever valued and which fell into oblivion… but you were diligent to orders which you always fulfilled without delay or mistakes, who knows, maybe in exchange of a smile.
You kept sadness to yourself and shared your happiness with a land where you did not belong.

Wherever you may want to be, may God bless you and I blow a thousand kisses to the wind as in an Indian ritual so that they travel through distance and land on your cheeks, to make your eyes shine and smile knowing that it was a message from your sister from your blood. I remember you …I remember … Albania”


Lilia Josefina Guanipa Cordero is a Venezuelan mother of three, a story teller, a fighter, a feminist and a compassionate soul. Not necessarily in that order, abosolutely not only this.
She is a friend who received me. And that will always come first.

The scarf

My beloved,
should someone ever hand you this envelope, do not lose balance.
I am leaving you my only possession, a scarf.
When you touch it, you will feel the caress of southern winds and calls to the prayer.

This scarf has been hugged by strong women, protected at times my shoulders, always a rebellious turf unwilling to comply.
It caressed ancient buildings while running for safety, it jumped on public transportation and came shopping, to work when we had one.
It has been washed every day and dried overnight, even in January, of all the months, the coldest.

It dried some tears, often not mine, and hid unwashed hair when we had no more water.It was a layer under deluges on which I always sprayed our favourite perfume; a way to brave the day together.

Should someone ever hand you this envelope, remember there is only one layer between you and me, now. The layer of time when you will join me, for eternity is ours.

I hope you felt my love in life.
Yours, forever, Z. 

The scarf now rests in H’s laboratory, in a cupboard with his finest leathers, locked.
The scents of leather, a mixture of birch, sweetness and earth combined with vanilla, Arabic oud, moss and rain.

The Southern winds the scarf captured now years back, fill the room with the perfume of two lovers.
Every morning.
H. looks outside and the sky displays clouds chasing different shapes.
He hears her voice: It is not ordinary at all to have a love to come home to

photo credit

Somewhere, in Africa

On the night of June 29, an African singer – paladin of anti-oppression, resistance music – a political activist, prominent voice of a local ethnic group which counts a considerable population of 25 million people, was shot dead in the Capital.
According to local media, investigations, arrests started immediately but so did nights and days of riots, destruction of property in the Capital and the region of origin of the singer. Hotels, restaurants, companies were systematically ravaged in the name of a blind ethnic and investment cleansing in the attempt to obliterate, overnight, successful entrepreneurial
achievements of other ethnicities.
The logic of blind anger.

On the morning of 30 June, the Capital was rocked by three explosions while many of the nation’s streets were filled with smoke and the accompanying soundtrack of operating machine guns. The usual way for police to disperse crowds when everyone revolts against everyone else.
Small shops closed. So did hotels, bars, clubs, flower stands, barbers, beauty salons and offices.
Public transportation ran as a ghost of itself. Time and people froze. Statues of past Emperors were beheaded.
Neighbourhoods quickly displayed batons, cleavers, stones. Citizens coordinated patrols; those who could afford the prohibitive cost, bought a gun with the excuse of protecting children.
The logic of force majeur self-defense.

Wounded people were rushed to hospitals carried on the shoulders of brave volunteers.
The very same morning, internet was shut down to prevent further chaos, violent speech, to avert the worsening of events.
The logic of a sharpened state of emergency (already declared to avoid spread of Covid-19).

The country theatre of violence remained in a double lock-down with no access to internet for over 14 days.
Human rights organizations expressed concern (don’t they always) calling for the leadership to immediately reinstall access to internet and blaming the very same government for the heinous murder of scores of civilians. Locally, the people continued to blame the police for not having protected civilians against ‘hooligans’.
On the domestic front, death toll figures were said to be released – if ever – in due course, with no rush.
The logic and timing of body count, especially in developing countries.

Foreign media barely covered the event on the first two days.
Had a European country been isolated for over two weeks from the world, with a death toll running in (at least) 250 people, the headlines would have been incessant, with the systematic bombardment of news and frantic analyses from an abundance of experts.
Had it happened in the Middle East, an intervention to restore democracy would have been immediately, unofficially and secretively considered (the unofficial boots on the ground). With the inevitable, despicable rise in arms sales.
Still, there would have been media coverage.
When it comes to Africa, there are few, foreign reliable experts. Their voices, in this case, were suspiciously silent.
What is most striking, though, is that journalists from within the very same continent were not given the space to explain, analyse, report, to correspond.
Status quo: hundreds of families spent months mourning loved ones in a country torn apart, burnt, ravaged by, what the local government later claimed was a sparkle generated by a separatist group.

In the year of Black Lives Matter, a conservative figure of 250 black, African people were slaughtered in the streets of a nation purposely not named as it would make no difference.
Over a hundred million of others were denied access to the outside world, proper information and media coverage.
The black lives of hundreds slain have not been deemed to be relevant enough, worthy, to international newsrooms: if Black Lives Matter on social media in a rare, overdue momentum, it is not so in the streets of an African country and in the offices of media establishments.
Indisputably, the logic of two weights and two measures.

photo: bruno costa, creative commons

The hawksbill turtle

Pampatar, Isla de Margarita, Venezuela – 1995

Everything is vivid in my memory, just like that night.
We had finished a long day of work at the beach kiosk, that’s how we used to call a beautiful little house made of mud and mangrove sticks, a churuata – a rural home – we named Ananás Caribeans Beach Bar.
That night it was just the three of us: Ernesto Antinucci, my business partner and friend, a young man named Roger who was our assistant and myself, Lilia.
We hadn’t closed the kiosk yet: we were still cleaning because it was high season. We used to work long hours with an early opening at 6 am, never knowing when the work would eventually end.
It was already dark, we hadn’t had dinner and the small local restaurants in town had already closed.
We decided I would make a small fire to roast some fish that we would catch immediately: the kiosk was just 10 steps from the seashore.
The boys helped me with the fire. We dug a hole in the sand and the fire started. We prepared a simple fishing equipment, I went with Ernesto; we took a garter harpoon, the flaps, and snorkel masks. I have never fished with oxygen cylinders.

I do not remember exactly who carried the lantern. The sea was dark, only the light of the moon illuminated us; the sky was dressed with stars which helped us a little. Those beautiful stars.
We were very excited and very hungry.
When we entered the water I suddenly remembered how afraid I am of the dark. Terrified.
Yet, we began to swim, not venturing far. The water was warm, a balm on the skin. Near a huge rock that emerged in the dark with each wave, there was an artisanal fishing basket about two meters deep, a trap that fishermen usually place for the catch of the day. It has a kind of funnel so that once the fish enter, they cannot exit.
We shone with the flashlight and saw that only a small lobster had entered. Had it been filled with fish, I am sure Ernesto would not have left there claiming that in the course of the night it would fill up again.
We continued swimming, did not see any fish of good size around us, just some, as small as our hand.

The sea was beautiful, enigmatic, a universe apart. However, I kept telling myself I was in the middle of all that immenseness: an intruder in the dark. I tried to control my panic, and every time I resurfaced to breathe, I looked into the distance at the light from the campfire on the beach, and then the sky and its vastness. Every element handed me calmness to rely on.

The sea seemed endless, immense, incredible, indescribable.

I submerged again and we went a little further.
At last we sighted a fish that was of acceptable size to feed the three of us. We tried to catch it with the harpoon, we failed.

I turned to my partner and spotted a huge and majestic hawksbill turtle skirting us. It passed by us again, seemed to say hello. I’m not good with measurements but it must have been about 80 centimetres long. Seeing the size of the animal reminded me that this was not my place, that I was in a foreign territory. I did not belong there, I felt panic again.

I beckoned to my partner and decided to return to the beach. Fear had invaded me.

I returned alone to the shore, swimming guided by the light of the campfire burning in the sand. Having reached shore exhausted. I lay down on the sand to rest looking at the starry sky.

I asked the boy who was in charge of keeping the fire burning, to enter the sea to be withErnesto who was alone in the water.

I remember being on the beach looking at the stars.
What a sight the sky gave us that night. I thought of my family: I had not seen them in three years, trying to find my way through life. I missed them, especially my grandfather Roberto, my best friend.

I must have fallen asleep, I ignore for how long. I was awakened by the screams from the shore: it was the guys. Ernesto was asking me for help as they were dragging something huge, like a big sack.

I ran to them in the darkness until, with horror, I realised what the loot was: it was that majestic and magical hawksbill turtle that now was dead on the beach.

I didn’t understand immediately, the men were fighting to drag her away and I was paralyzed, I couldn’t move. Is it dead? …I managed to say. I knew the answer.
It was the largest turtle I had seen in all my years of diving in the vast ocean.

I was confused:  had they really killed it? I could not understand, was too shocked to.

Ernesto went to the kiosk and returned with a machete.
I rushed away from the shore because I could not bear what I knew was about to happen. Ernesto was a fisherman; he was born in the city, the son of an Italian, but he was deeply rooted in the local culture. I tried to convince him, but the machete and everything which was about to happen was natural for him.

Looking back now I tell myself: My crime? Not insisting enough.

I went to the campfire. The beach was the sole witness of the horror which was about to happen. I hid behind the flames of the fire, in the dark of night.

The time that elapsed seemed like hours, long hours, maybe it was only minutes:  I was suffering everywhere.

Did I try to change the course of the events? Yes hell, yes, I did. Without succeeding… perhaps I should have insisted more… I will never know.
I only know that when by the time the turtle reached the shore, its fate was sealed.
A huge amount of meat was chopped off and the shell displayed as a trophy on the roof of the kiosk.

Ernesto insisted that we cook a part of that meat. I obeyed.  I did it with horror. Maybe at that time I didn’t have the willpower to say no to a man’s command, that’s how they raised me, I guess. Within an hour the innocent victim’s stew was ready.

What happened? There was no way to eat that meat that tasted bitter, so bitter that not even the hungry hunters could swallow a single piece.

Maybe I didn’t know how to prepare it, maybe I had no cooking technique that only local women mastered. Maybe it was my energy and my sadness. Ernesto was a native of the island: he directed the phases of the stew.

 We ended up arguing until we reached the sad conclusion no one should have ever killed the turtle, it should never have been uprooted from its habitat. Ours was a heinous sin, a shameful crime. Whatever it was that failed us that night, it mattered no longer. It was too late.
We just felt a deep sadness: we had been submerged by a deep silence.

What happened, the course of events, the taste of the meat will always be a dark mystery to the three of us, pure criminals.
We never spoke of the subject again.

Many years later, light years away, when my oldest son graduated from high school he asked me for permission to get a tattoo and I told him that yes, of course, it was his body and he was already of legal age. He is not a very communicative boy and I did not ask him what he was planning to have drawn.
The day he returnt from the tattooist, all the memories flooded into my mind and I started crying: on my son’s chest, on the side of the heart, was the hawksbill turtle submerged in watercolour. Beautiful and free like the first time I saw it.
I have never told anyone about that night and I do not even recall having spoken to my son about turtles in general.
Was the tattoo just a coincidence? I doubt.
Now the turtle swims on my son’s chest, right there, close to his heart.

Lilia Josefina Guanipa Cordero is a Venezuelan mother of three, a story teller, a fighter, a feminist and a compassionate soul. Not necessarily in that order, abosolutely not only this.
She is a friend who received me. And that will always come first.

photo: Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)” by Kevin Bryant, Creative Commons

”I paint my love for Yemen”, Wissam Al-Ansi

I will start my story from the end, because its beginning was beautiful and, somehow, beautiful stories become ordinary.
I am a visual artist; there are times I wish I never drew due to the many disappointments I constantly face.
My name is Wissam Al-Ansi from Yemen, Dhamar Governorate.
I was born in 1982.

I was an employee at the Education Office in my governorate until 2014; times were difficult already, then.  In 2015, when the war broke, salaries were cut and education and health system deteriorated.
The most painful part, though, was what the air-raids did to my children: they suffered in a way only those who have experienced war can relate to.

We held tight to the family, the area, the people. For over 2 years, we hoped and prayed but, at times, leaving your life behind is the only way to continue living. That life, in that context, was a death sentence, especially for my children. They are only children.

We sold everything in Yemen and we jumped into the unknown moving to Cairo (Egypt). It was June 2017.
Life in Egypt… Definitely, we enjoy security and peace, but living remains a difficult matter. I do not have a job or financial income, and the sale of paintings is very rare.
Occasionally I meet with a Yemeni friend, just one friend. Life of those who have fled a war is never smooth.

Since I moved to Cairo, I have never been idle: I participated in more than twenty exhibitions. It is my way of contributing to the world, through my art.
I held two personal exhibitions in Cairo on Yemen and Yemen’s heritage: there is so much beauty untold about my country. Covid, though, stopped all cultural activities. Before that, I had personal exhibitions at the French, Italian and German Cultural Centers.

Wissam Al Ansi portrays the life of everyday Yemen, with
 women play a central role in sustaining the family
Women always played a special role in Wassim Al Ansi’s art: their’s is the fabric of the family

Recently, I thought about making a portrait painting for the President of the Federal Republic of Germany and applied for approval to hold a personal exhibition on Yemeni heritage, but Covid, again, stepped in and I am still waiting for approval and better days.

Now I want to present a painting of a Yemeni woman with traditional clothes, to be sold at an auction:  50% of the amount goes to the benefit of poor families and widowed women who lost their husbands and sons because of the war. The other half would help me go by and allow me to sustain my father and mother who are suffering because of the war.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-4.png
The painting Wissam Al Ansi is selling, donating 50% of the proceeds to vulnerable widows and mothers who have lost their children

It is true that our life now is difficult, but the love for the homeland always prevails over everything.
My wish is to succeed in serving art and society, spreading the message of peace and tolerance, and preserving our heritage and civilization. I want to embrace the world with Yemen’s beauty, for all to see.
I can only paint what belongs to me: both land and people… my Beloved Yemen.

For further information on Wissam Al-Ansi’s work, on the auction, his dreams and what sustains him, please visit his facebook page
WhatsApp: 00201154294403
email: wesamelansy@gmail.com

Amedeo Vergani

Amedeo Vergani was an Italian photojournalist. Actually, so much more.
He covered events in the Balkans, Africa, Middle East, conflicts and worldwide natural wonders. He followed the sub-Saharan nomads,  was curious and the world spoke to him; he was passionate and a compassionate fighter: he never forgot any of his fellow photo reporters while working for the Union, teaching for free, helping everyone, known and -mostly – unknown.

Amedeo Vergani - Wikipedia
Amedeo Vergani

His language was coloured, his voice loud, due to the age difference paternalistic at times; he never failed to make me laugh.
When his work was being published internationally, he remained disarmingly humble and curious.
Our telephone calls lasted eternity.

Amedeo was the first one ever – and the only one – to dare call me a Catho-Communist. I was outraged. ‘Come on, that is our upbringing. We are dual’.
I never told him which of the two I could not digest and, throughout the years, I have often questioned how true was his statement.

Blinded by the sun, I see a woman.
Must be I am tired and melancholic, but I think of a Madonna with child.
As if my holy juxtaposition were not enough, in one of my acts of recurrent, utter stupidity I seem to master so well, I look at the horizon thinking Amedeo might be laughing. I blow a kiss to the sky. Just in case.

For every woman raped in every war

know their names.
learn them by heart.

Systematic weapon of war
without a registry
to keep the stories together

Too many are their names
in the careless stream of news
That registry should feature
grandmothers, daughters, siblings
some a few months old

Words on paper
their names
a million times over
Spread their names
to never allow oblivion

The voices hushed now
their screams muffled then
hand on mouth
a punch to knock their soul out
a Kalashnikov in the mouth

Women’s skins
dark, olive, red, white as the moon
but the moon could not help them
least, their god

Even the sky stood silent
when countless men
broke her leg bones
while raping her
She was just 10 years old

The dance

Image preview
Women of the Dassenech Tribe, Omo Valley of Ethiopia

For Giovanni swirling and singing O Sole Mio under a pouring sky at the end of April 25 (Liberation day from the fascists) rally in Milano.
For Peter who took me to Nottinghill Carnival hoping I would dance in the streets, not get lost and, perhaps smile. Occasionally. Just that one time would have been enough.
For the Masai who told me I just had to jump. Upwards, better.
For Antonio who kept patting the sweat off his forehead because I could not dance to a valzer and preferred the chair of a cheap Italian restaurant, in a neon-lit night, surrounded by bottles of Martinis. Not mine.
For Mamoon’s mother who tried to teach me a Yemeni dance on a Friday afternoon while we were chewing qat, while I stumbled in my abaya, barefeet, feeling oversize, graceless, praying for the embarassment to end soon.
For Madam Suher on the river Nile who thought mellow waters and more wine would convert me into a belly dancer. Or a far less shy person.
For Saeed who thought we could be best dancers ever in Rub Al Khali desert. Camels our witnesses, sand on our feet, sweaty hands intertwined, my body filled with antihisthamine.
For the guy in a dive bar in Lalibela holding the microphone who underlined publicly I was terribly ugly, but still wanted to dance, microphone off.
For Dominga, 75, who told me ‘un paseo, una discoteca’ (a stroll and a disco) might find me a husband.

For all the times I ran away from streets, people, concerts, aerobic classes, frantic moshing and dancefloors: it just was not the right moment.
In the meantime, women of Dassenech tribe are dancing, inviting me to join.
This could be the right moment.

(Omo Valley, Ethiopia)