Naharnet

Beirut Knights, Sitt Sobhiye Tell Tales of Dating Disasters and Village 'Bessara'

Beirut Knights and Sitt Sobhiye are two intriguing books that have been recently released by the Beirut-based publishing and distribution house Turning Point Books.

A very special date awaits you in Beirut Knights. It is all about real-life Lebanese dating disasters told with a cheeky twist and touch of rebellion.

Enter the world of Nadia and her friends and their stories about love, lust and everything in-between. All their catastrophic dating adventures are 100% true though at times it's hard to believe. From the surreal to the ridiculous and even amusingly tragic, these light-hearted tales paint a social fresco of Lebanon, dishing out the good, the bad and the ugly. In a marriage-obsessed nation with slim pickings, bizarre dates and wacky experiences, is being single really the worst fate?

The author, Jasmina Najjar, explains, "The pressure to get married is immense in Lebanon and drives many of us to endure 1001 dreadful dates and situations in the quest for a serious relationship. Nadia represents the many, who like me, were raised abroad and hence face a unique set of challenges while her friends represent different slices of Lebanese society.”

“Many stories are told from the perspective of women but some are from the point of view of men. When I started writing I simply wanted to entertain people with the catastrophic dates I have heard about over the years or have experienced first-hand. As I wrote, my vision evolved, expanding beyond this. We live in a country with a disproportionate percentage of women to men. A land brimming with its own set of dating trials, tribulations and restraints... and quirky characters. I wanted to send a message to the growing number of singles in Lebanon that being single is not the end of the world. On the contrary, it can be a fulfilling option in life. I also wanted to bring a smile to the face of people in a relationship who have experienced their fair share of dating disasters before they found their partner in life. We are all Nadia and her friends after all.”

Eleena Sarkissian, Marketing Director at Turning Point Books, adds: “Maya Fidawi’s insightful and lively illustration style beautifully compliments Jasmina’s sparkling and acerbic wit. It’s been a successful collaboration. Maya has been working with us for the past ten years and it has been a delight to see her skills and talent flourish.”

In Sitt Sobhiye, a Lebanese village faces a big problem: its fortune teller, Sitt Sobhiye, can no longer see a white horse in her coffee cup! If it is not found, the village girls may never marry. Farida, a strong and determined girl, is sent on a long journey to find a magical creature and restore harmony and order in her village.

Will she succeed in her quest? What great truths will she discover along the way? Follow Farida’s adventures in Sitt Sobhiye and the Quest for the White Horse. Enter a delightful world of imagination, and discover the ultimate destiny of Farida and her fellow villagers.

Illustrator and author Karim Al-Dahdah explains, “The inspiration for this story comes from my childhood, when I was surrounded not only by the pictures and words of classic fairy tales and Greek legends, but by majestic Arabian horses, bred at our farm. Ever since I was a child, I have been drawn to magical creatures and dreamy worlds, and I’m eager to share my vision with my readers.”

In another twist to the tale, Sitt Sobhiye, the beloved maternal character, eager to assist her villagers, is modeled on the fortune teller, or bessara, who plays a prominent role in traditional Lebanese culture. The bessara is conventionally an elderly and wise woman, who predicts the future by interpreting the patterns from the grounds of coffee in cups. Karim continues, “During my research for the book, I discovered that a fish symbol means good news will be coming, a goat announces a happy birth, a flight of partridges means the coming of misfortune, and an octopus signals danger. I’ve incorporated this symbolism into my story”.

Charlotte Hamaoui, Managing Director of the publishing house Turning Point Books adds, “I was captivated by Karim’s passion for this subject and the delightful illustrations, but equally importantly by the powerful messages the story conveys to our young readers. Farida, the courageous heroine, displays self-reliance and draws on her inner skills to determine her future, the villagers discover that they have the power within themselves to determine their fate, and the girls experience self-fulfillment through realizing their career aspirations”.

It is clear that Sitt Sobhiye is more than a Lebanese fairy tale, firmly rooted in Lebanese traditions: it is a story with a compelling and significant meaning to pass on to future generations.


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