Sharjah Day One: Feasting & Wafa’ Tarnowska

Today I am brimming with ideas.

Artistic, political, cultural, social – my mind is racing from such complex stimuli. I’m honestly having trouble keeping up with myself.

Once I’ve digested the big thoughts I’ll let you know, but for now, a brief note from last night.

First off, there was a brilliant feast at Al Qasba’s Shababeek. Honestly. The food was amazing.

I tucked in merrily as plate upon plate of salads and puffy, warm flatbreads [called Saj, they looked like whoopie-cushions and tasted divine] turned up.

When the fist-sized falafel [stuffed with spiced mince and shaped like footballs] and deep-fried doughy pockets of pine nuts & lemony greens arrived I thought I was in heaven.

The freshly squeezed strawberry juice rounded out one of the most amazing culinary adventures I’ve had in a long time.

After an hour of mezze, I was stuffed to the gills and positively beaming

…and that’s when they brought out the main course.

and then dessert.

I may never be hungry again.


That evening I also had the most amazing, serendipitous reunion.

After dinner, Anna complimented a woman in passing about her lovely shawl. It was brilliant – literally. Woven with fine [gold?] wires as black silk so it shimmered and shook.

We began chatting merrily about her involvement in the Fair, and experiences so far.

She was a writer [who daylights as a big wig lawyer], and until very recently, lived in the region for years.

As she spoke about her work it suddenly became apparent this wasn’t just any random author chat – we were speaking to Wafa Tarnowska – a Lebanese writer, and author ofthis stunning book.

Almost a year ago to the day, I was shown spreads of this as-yet-unpublished work in a ritzy hotel in Mayfair, in London.

I loved it immediately and wanted to launch the book at my festival. I even wrote her a rather pleading letter to that effect around Christmas-time.

A few months later however, I departed the Edinburgh International Book Festival for other adventures.

I was particularly sorry I’d miss seeing this event take shape when I left. We were planning an entire multi-media tour of the history of the Arabian Nights, and their various incarnations [talk about double serendipity, I brought up this idea again not long ago, having read this article on the subject].

Now, after a year and a lifetime’s worth of changes for both of us, here we were – on a bus, in Sharjah, talking of translation and Arabic language and children’s books.

What a lovely end to a magnificent first day.

Read a bit more about her in this interview, she is awesome.

If you happen to be in town, she’s also doing an event on Sunday at #shjibf.

2 Responses to “Sharjah Day One: Feasting & Wafa’ Tarnowska”
  1. Wafa says:

    Dear Sara

    Thank you for your lovely comments about my shawl and my book. i am immensely touched. i just saw it now. Will you be at the Emirates Festival of Literature in March? i will be giving a couple of sessions at the main festival and the Fringe as well. Many blessings along the way,



    • serasara says:

      Wafa’, hello! Glad you’ve found me out in the internet ether.

      I won’t be back in March unfortunately. I hope you have a lovely time. Perhaps another year, I would love to go back sometime.

      Maybe we’ll cross paths again in the UK in the meantime! x


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