If you could change something about your home, without worry about expense or mess, what would you do?

If you could change something about your home, without worry about expense or mess, what would you do?

I would make my home bigger, brighter and in the middle of nowhere. I’d turn it into a farm/sanctuary with lots and lots of animals and I’d have a massive garden.

Lots of white furniture and bright colors. Go for a minimalist and chic decor. Everything would be organized and I’d have lots of cool kitchen appliances. Oh and a massive fish tank. And a playroom for my animals.

Ooooooh and maybe get a sauna, jacuzzi and indoor pool. Ugh, an indoor, heated pool would be a dream.


Middle East Defined

As noted by Rashid Khalidi, the term “Middle East” has become a source of contention and is seen as an unsatisfactory term to describe the region we now know as the Middle East and North Africa. Khalidi is correct in being sceptical of the term “Middle East,” as its definition is unclear. The World Bank uses the term “Middle East and North Africa” which encompasses the nations of Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, West Bank and Gaza, as well as Yemen. The United Nations Statistics Division, however, refers to the countries of North Africa separately from the countries of “West Asia,” which includes the Gulf countries, the Levant, as well as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. While the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Middle East Media Research Institute, the Central Intelligence Agency, the UN Refugee Agency, as well as Human Rights Watch all have slightly different definitions of what countries encompass the Middle East or the Middle East and North Africa, the larger questions are: Why do these organizations feel the need to define this region and what is the need to define this region?   

Hasan Salaam, an Egyptian-American lyricist made a simple and important observation in some of his lyrics stating, “No such thing as the Middle East… No matter where you stand there’s always something to the east of you.” The definition of the “Middle East” and the terms that are used to describe North Africa, the Gulf, and West Asia have changed throughout history depending on which nations are the current superpowers. It seems that the European and American bodies that set th term “Middle East” into place, wanted to create Europe and North America as the centre of the world, in which everything must be in relation to these regions, and that the terms “Middle East” and “the West” are all relative.

The “West” has consistently defined the “East” in their own terms, in order to better define themselves and in order to mark “their” territory. When the “West” occupied the “Middle East,” it occupied the languages and the minds of the people in that region because, now, in Arabic the region is referred to as al-Sharq al-Awsat, or the Middle East. The “West” defined the borders of the “Middle East,” the same borders that the “Middle Eastern” countries fight to defend despite the end of colonialism. They have let the “West” define who is seen as friend and who is seen as foe. By doing this, the “Middle East” continues to be the pawns of the “West” and still unknowingly caters to the “West’s” notions of how the “Middle East” should be defined.   

If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation where would you go?

If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation where would you go?


Right about now I would love to get away from everything. I hear Alaska is nice this time of year. I’d rent a cabin in the middle of nowhere Alaska and make sure I’m stocked with all the food I’ll need. Get some records, a record player, a bunch of movies and books and chill out.

Now that’s the dream…

Dissecting Orientalism

As noted by Anderson, Tessler and Halliday, regional studies are essential to the social sciences because they make broader analytical frameworks pertinent to the areas they comprise. Halliday brings forward his thoughts on the impact of Orientalism on the social sciences and makes several concerning points about the Orientalist debate.

Edward Said considered one aspect of Orientalism to be a certain depiction of the Middle East and East Asian cultures, that portrayed the East as backwards, exotic, uncivilized and in need of rescue.

“Orientalism provided a rationalization for European colonialism based on a self-serving history in which “the West” constructed “the East,” yet in Halliday’s critique, he refers to Arabs as one entity. This fails to address the non- Arab population living in the Arab nations. Before the modern Arab world existed there were a multitude of different cultures and languages spoken in the Middle East and North Africa region. As of recent statistics, there are more than 300 million Arabs in the MENA region, this number, however, includes the many ethnic minorities that do exist in the area, including the Kurds, Armenians, Aramaeans, Chaldeans, Turkmens, Cherkess, Turks, Zangians, Nubians, Berbers, Banyans, Haratins, Gnawas, Tauregs, Chechens, Romanis, Ajamis, Moors and Assyrians.[1] Halliday fails to address the demographics of people who were Arabized, such as the Berbers, as Berber languages were seen as inferior to Arabic. [2,3, 4] Just as the West orientalized the East to justify their colonialism, in turn the Arabs Arabized the Berber population as they too were and are capable of orientalist-like beliefs. Haliday’s failure to address this flaw and label of “Arab” is in a sense an orientalist belief because he has grouped different cultures together under one label.

Another concerning point unaddressed by Halliday was the effect Orientalism had on MENA academics, researchers, journalists and writers, as well as what happens when these people serve an Orientalist agenda. For example, Joumana Haddad is a Lebanese poet, translator and the creator of the Jasad quarterly magazine. She is also the editor of the cultural pages of the Al-Nahar daily paper. In her book I Killed Schehrezade: Confessions of an Angry Arab Woman, she attempts to debunk stereotypes of Arab women in the West, yet she also enhances the eroticization and orientalization of Arab women in her magazine’s erotic portrayals. She aims to show that the “typical image of Arab women is not all wrong, but rather incomplete,” but her argument and actions found throughout the book leads the reader to believe that she herself believes Arab women are oppressed.[5] She orientalizes herself by grouping Arabs with Muslims together, as not all Arabs are Muslims and not all Muslims are Arabs.

While Halliday, Tessler and Anderson addressed many issues faced by academics studying the Middle East, their concerns seemed self-centred and short-sighted, seeing as little focus was given as to how their research can influence ideologies held by MENA researchers and politicians, as well as affect the lives of the people living in the regions they study.

[1] The Islamic Human Rights Commission. “IHRC – Minorities in the Arab World.” Islamic Human Rights Commision (IHRC). 27 Jan. 2004. Web. 17 July 2011. <http://www.ihrc.org.uk/show.php?id=989&gt;.


[2] Weiss, Bernard G. and Green, Arnold H.(1987) A Survey of Arab History. American University in Cairo

Press, Cairo, p. 129.


[3] Harich, N., E. Esteban, A. López-Alomar, P. Moral, A. Chafik, and G. Vona. “Classical Polymorphisms in Berbers from Moyen Atlas (Morocco): Genetics, Geography, and Historical Evidence in the Mediterranean Peoples.” Annals of Human Biology 29.5 (2002): 473-87. Print.
[4] BBC NEWS. “Africa | Q&A: The Berbers.” BBC News – Home. 12 Mar. 2004. Web. 17 July 2011. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3509799.stm&gt;.


[5] Haddad, Joumana. I Killed Scheherazade Confessions of an Angry Arab Woman. P. 31. Lawrence Hill, 2011. Print.

When #Insomnia Strikes: How I Make Myself Sleep


What time do you get up in the morning?

I get up when I need to get up these days. It all depends on what I’m doing that day. It’s also even more dependent on when I finally fall asleep.

I count my blessings on the days that I can sleep because I do have bouts of insomnia and those are the absolute worst. My insomnia episodes were so bad at one point I had to go see a doctor.

When I was in high school I could get up at 5:30 am, no problem. But then in college is when I started having problems getting up in the morning. Much of it was due to lack of routine, fluctuating schedules, being bogged down with so many assignments and stress.

After college, I still had a difficult time waking  up in the morning and that was largely due to overworking. I’d be working 3 jobs at a time and would pass out at night and feel completely unrested and exhausted in the mornings.

Here are some tips I use to fall asleep and wake up:

  1. Create a routine. Let your body get used to the idea.
  2. Keeping the room as dark as possible.
  3. Stay away from the phone, computer, TV, etc.
  4. Have some chamomile tea or other soothing warm drink a few hours before bed.
  5. Do not chug water right before bed. I drink water before bed, but only a tiny amount so I don’t have to get up a bunch of times to pee in the middle of the night.
  6. Stretch before bed.
  7. Exercise earlier in the day or evening. Working out right before bed wakes me up.
  8. Shower in the evening so you can go to sleep clean and not have to worry about getting up early the next day for a shower.
  9. Turn off your phone notifications.
  10. If you’re a procrastinator- Stop! I know, I know. It’s easier said than done, but it’s impossible to sleep when you have all these plans and stress running through your brain.
  11. If you’re like me, music wakes you up so don’t listen to any high energy music before bed. Or invest in an alarm clock that plays loud music to wake you up in the morning.
  12. Don’t go to sleep angry. Try and settle your scores before trying to sleep. If that’s not possible try and get your anger out in other ways. Think journaling, meditation, video games, talking to a friend or working out. Whatever works for you.
  13. Make sure you are dressed for the weather. If it’s cold, dress warm and keep extra blankets closeby to keep warm. If it’s warm, sleep in light breathable clothing or put an ice pack in front of a working fan to get an extra cool kick from your fan.
  14. Eat healthy. Junk food will often make you feel sluggish. Don’t have caffeine in the evening. Keep away from the high sugar foods before bed and don’t eat a heavy meal before bed.
  15. Aim to wake up earlier than you actually need to so that way when you hit the snooze button, you still have a bit more cushion time.
  16. Plan out your next day’s schedule, outfit, breakfast or whatever else you need to get ready for the next day.
  17. Don’t be so hard on yourself. We all have our good and bad days.
  18. If you’re not getting your fix of Vitamin D during the day, you might want to invest in a sun lamp. There are sun lamps that come with alarms and help gradually wake you up in the morning.
  19. If nothing works, and you can afford to, go see a doctor. There may be an underlying medical issue as to why you are not sleeping enough or not able to get up in the morning.
  20. And lastly, don’t stress. And don’t stress about your stress!

Falling through the cracks…

I hope this post finds you all well. It has been a while, hasn’t it?

So as some of you may know, I have been accepted into the MA in Middle Eastern Studies program at the University of Exeter. I have searched the University of Exeter website concerning funding and scholarships. I searched the funding database and am not eligible for any of those scholarships. I contacted the funding office months ago when I received my offer to inquire about funding and was advised to search external sites for scholarships. I have searched many other sites for scholarships and I don’t seem to be eligible for any of them. In order to confirm and hold my spot in the program, I have to pay a nearly $4,000 deposit. Last year, I only made $8,039. Do you see my challenge?

I have literally spent more than 40 hours combing through scholarships I am not eligible for. I’ve been searching for scholarships since 2011 and have been coming up short.

You may be asking why I opted to apply to a British university as opposed to an American university. I applied to the University of Exeter specifically because of the European Centre for Palestine Studies and to get the chance to learn from and work with Ilan Pappe.

I would obviously be an international student  at Exeter. And like many other American students, I have a considerable amount of student debt. I have well over $70,000 in student debt. I have American citizenship, as well as Israeli citizenship. And as a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship, I am not eligible for many scholarships afforded to most Arabs. This has been made clear to me by quite a few funding bodies.  The only scholarship I slightly qualify for is the Edward Said scholarship (although the deadline has passed), but seeing as I am not currently residing in the Middle East, the scholarship requires non-current residents to provide proof from a future employer that I will return to Palestine after receiving my degree. This is not exactly simple seeing as I cannot guarantee myself a job in 1-5 years time.  I couldn’t even guarantee myself a job now. I cannot apply for American scholarships meant for minorities because Arabs are considered White and therefore not a minority. I have found a few scholarships that consider Arabs to be minorities, but I have been disqualified from those for reasons like not being an undergraduate student, being over the age of 25 or not attending a U.S. university. Many Israeli scholarships are advertised in Hebrew, which I do not speak or they require you to be a current resident. The only Islamic/Muslim scholarships I can find are meant for either undergraduates or meant to be used at U.S. universities. I cannot seem to find any scholarships for Middle Eastern Studies students at the postgraduate level. I currently work at a university teaching Arabic and I have even asked them about possible funding opportunities for me, with little luck. I applied for recent graduate scholarships from the university I received my previous degree from and did not receive any. When I inquired why I didn’t receive a scholarship, I was told that their is a preference towards non-UK universities.  Other scholarships I applied for– I have been disqualified from because the degree program I recently attended did not run on a GPA system and a GPA was required for the scholarships. It runs on a High Pass, Pass, Low Pass, Credit and No Credit basis. There is no way to calculate a GPA. I have also filled out my FAFSA application, as well, but last year was prevented from taking out further loans and I’m not sure if things have changed this year.

I was supposed to attend an Arabic Language program this academic year but was forced to take a year off to save money because I was unable to fund my studies. I do not want that to happen this year again and while I have saved up some money, it is not nearly enough to cover my expenses for the year or even grant me a student visa to get to the UK.  My difficulties in saving money have stemmed from my inability to find a full-time job, the effects of Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy and general life occurrences.

Even if I am approved for loans this year, I wouldn’t be able to access that money until the start of the academic year; still making it impossible for me to pay the deposit to save my spot. I have every intention of continuing onto a PhD, hopefully at the University of Exeter.  And I really do not want to miss out on this opportunity.

This is why from the bottom of my heart, I am asking for tiny donations to help me fund my studies. Even $1 would help. I wouldn’t be asking if I didn’t absolutely need it. I find it incredibly embarrassing to ask for money, but find myself incapable of finding another way to fund my studies.

You can check out the link below to learn more about my professional goals and my volunteering to do community service in exchange for donations.

Pretty please check out my link to my Go Fund Me page and  share it with friends.