A few days ago, a notification appeared on the screen: it was exactly six years since the first Mashallah articles were published. This was at the end of November 2010, still before Mohamed Bouazizi made the fateful decision to put himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid, Mubarak was made to step down and Libya saw the end of Gaddafi’s over four-decade rule.
Much has happened since; so much that chronicling even a fraction of it would be an overwhelming task. Mashallah has done something else instead. We have traced and collected less-told and surprising stories from all over the region; stories of overlooked everyday events, inspiring projects and unknown places or individuals. Six years went by fast, as did 700+ published stories, and we are looking forward to at least as many more. For now, here is a list with our favourite all-time reads, from each of Mashallah’s co-founders and current and former editors. Enjoy!
Clément Girardot, founder and editor
What to wear on a revolution by Amani Massoud
This is definitely one of the best texts we have published; the personal testimony is striking and you can really feel the unfolding of the Egyptian Revolution.
Tehran by night by Claudia Willmitzer
I love the aesthetics of these pictures: the colours, the way the photographer captures people, texture and emptiness. It is a kind of poetry, but with pictures.
Moroccan graffiti – Thami Benkirane’s fascinating world
I found this when browsing the web looking for photo series. The photographer explores the artistic possibilities of double exposure while documenting Moroccan daily life. Fascinating work.
Filling Dubai’s blanks by Rana Jarbou
Our goal is to publish unexpected and surprising stories, and this one about graffiti in Dubai really shows some unexpected phenomena and small acts of dissent in a business-oriented city.
Jenny Gustafsson, founder and editor
The anti-capitalist iftar by Clément Girardot and Gregory Dziedzic
I like the story of the anti-capitalist iftar because it portrays the energy and devotion that came out of Istanbul during the Gezi Park days. The feeling that change is possible, and that it must be done together.
Scenes from a Damascene subway by Lilah Khoja
This is one of very few non-journalistic stories we’ve published, but as always with good fiction, it tells you a lot about the real world. The beautiful thing with this story is that it shows a Syria far from the horror and pain that the country is going through now, and lets us, if only for a brief moment, imagine a peaceful and prosperous future.
Dream in pink – Jamal Penjweny’s wondrous world
We have featured several of Iraqi artist Jamal Penjweny’s works, and they are all very powerful. His portraits of Iraqis, whose lives have been torn apart by years of conflict, always show so much love and sensitivity.
Isabelle Mayault, founder and former editor
Mecca calling by Newsha Tavakolian
Because Mashallah takes you to places no one else can get to.
Because Mashallah tells you first where to look for the upcoming dissent.
Micheline Tobia, founder and editor
Portuguese in Lebanon – Near to the wild heart by Gabriel Semerene
We’ve always heard about the millions of Brazilians of Lebanese origins, but what about those who decided to come back home? It was one of those topics that I, and as a matter of fact most Lebanese, didn’t know much about, and I found their story fascinating.
The gentlemen of Kuştepe by Engin Gerçek
I love this photo essay because I felt it was one of the best ways to put faces to people affected by urban gentrification, in the privacy of their living rooms. And did you notice these absolutely awesome socks in one of the pictures? A must have.
This is a very powerful take on how occupation impacts the Palestinian people’s lives. I had never read anything about women giving birth at checkpoints, or how some were sometimes delayed for hours before being allowed to go to a hospital. Samar Hazboun’s photo essay puts a face and names to the lives forever marked by this injustice, and her take shook me up deeply.
Ismaël Abdallah, founder and graphic designer
Smelly feet by Bahia Beauvais
Smelly feet is a slight little break among the other more serious articles on the website. It’s a little souvenir, full of freshness and love.
Erotik sinema boom by Clément Girardot
This was one of the first articles on the website and the perfect example of the Mashallah spirit. A strong historical research on a humorous and off the wall subject, but always anchored in the news.
Beyond the explosions – Remaining Syria by Cihad Caner
This article about Syria, written 3 years ago, sounds even more bitter and sad today. I love how inhabitants reappropriate these feeling so through pictures with a poetic dimension.
Ella Wind, former editor
The desert Pullmans by Lilah Khoja
I love the blend of history with strong narrative writing, the visuals, and the way it fit into the Routes series on the website. Though I often shy away from historical nostalgia, I think this piece fully deserves all the romantic nostalgic feelings it evokes.
I actually love to go back and read this Gezi live blog now – I have done it a few times actually. The focus on the art and social commentary around Gezi brings you back to the excitement of that original, unexpected event. It helps you to revisit something that has become cemented in your mind and see it with the fresh eyes of not knowing what comes next.
A weird fandom – Old Turkish “remake” films grow international fandom by Clément Girardot
Clément has a knack for ‘cultural investigation’ pieces; this is a nice example. I like his many pieces where he finds some Turkish cultural phenomenon out in the either and goes back to meticulously track down its origins and creators. I’ve sent this piece out to a few 80s-movie-loving friends over the years to convince them to watch the Turkish remakes
Jay Cassano, former editor
The allure of the Armenian apricot – Nostalgia for a fruit by Liana Aghajanian
Turkey’s bird super-highway by Alexander Christie-Miller
Namasté Dubai by Jenny Gustafsson
There’s lots to pick from Jenny, but I love the photos here.
An exhausted machine – Outsourcing bread in Istanbul by Jay Cassano
This is still one of my favorite things I’ve ever written.
Sophie Chamas, former editor
Geographies of war by Jad Baaklini
It was part of our ROUTES series, a Mashallah News project that is quite close to my heart. For me Jad’s piece for the series embodied a lot of what Mashallah News was trying to do as an alternative publishing platform, pointing out the people and narratives that have been silenced by dominant political and media discourses. Focused on the Lebanese civil war about which both too much and too little has been said, the piece contemplates those whose experiences of the war cannot easily be explained with recourse to the divided city narrative.
Scenes from a Damascene subway by Lilah Khoja
Another favorite of mine is from our fiction series. I love this story because it is both tragic and hopeful. It reminds us of the mobility we lost with the establishment of modern Arab states, and without which the regional identity ‘Arab’ has becoming little more than an empty signifier, deprived as it is of the experiences required to shape it. But the piece also dares to dream of an improbable but not impossible tomorrow, a practice that fiction allows and that in and of itself is productive, I think, for giving us something to aspire to.