A Book Review on Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge

Shof Elmoisheer (Instagram: @Bookish2525)

Shof Elmoisheer (Instagram: @Bookish2525)

Shof holds a Master’s degree in Marketing and a Bachelor in English literature. Avid reader of classic literature, her preferred type of fiction, along with psychology and marketing. Skilled at drawing, created a comic book, not yet published. Dedicated her Instagram feed to bookish recommendations. Fond of language learning, taught herself Japanese. In her column Thoughts of a Reader she reviews books, writes short stories, and talks Marketing.
Shof Elmoisheer (Instagram: @Bookish2525)

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

A Book Review on The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy, published in 1886.

Artwork by Shof Elmoisheer

The Mayor of Casterbridge was written by the British author Thomas Hardy, who is described as “the greatest tragic writer among English novelists”[i]. In fact, he is believed to be the source of the term “cliffhanger”. In one serialized novel, Hardy literally ended a chapter with a main character hanging off a cliff[ii]. His book The Mayor of Casterbridge was published in 1886, and is set in a fictional part of rural England called Wessex. Hardy didn’t need a cliffhanger for this story, however, because it started with a man auctioning off his wife and baby daughter.

This is how the story starts, “A young man and woman, the latter carrying a child, were approaching a village… what was really peculiar, however, in this couple’s progress, and would have attracted the attention of any casual observer otherwise disposed to overlook them, was the perfect silence they preserved. They walked side by side in such a way as to suggest afar the confidential chat of people full of reciprocity, but on closer view it could be discerned that the man was reading or pretending to read” p1

The hustle and bustle of a fair taking place in town attracted the pair. Having not found work, and hungry, they entered the fair field. The young man, Henchard, woke up the next day to find money thrust in his front pocket and his wife’s ring tossed on the floor. Fragments of last night’s occurrences crowded his mind. It was not a dream he realized, he had indeed auctioned off his wife and daughter.

Desperately he searched the town, but couldn’t find them anywhere. It all started with a drunken fit complaining about him being married so young. He swore never to drink again for as many years as he lived, and took off to the town of Casterbridge. Eighteen years later, the mother and daughter returned looking for him. Turns out, he was not hard to find, seeing as the man they’re looking for is now Mister mayor.

Funny how all of this mess is only chapter one; clearly there is more to the plot than just that. There are few main characters here, and with every chapter the story continues but from a shifting perspective, revealing their inner thoughts and feelings.

The major themes in this novel are past secrets, propriety, and honor. When Henchard moved to Casterbridge, the town’s people only know that he lost his wife. They are unaware of the exact circumstances that led to that, and now that he has become mayor he intends to keep it that way. If the complete story was made known, his respectability will be at risk. As the story goes, it is revealed that Henchard is not the only character with a dark past to conceal.

It is evident how propriety and honor were on the forefront of Henchard’s mind, and these values don’t always push him in the right direction. His desires and values are in a constant tug of war, yanking him this way and that. He is presented as not entirely good and not entirely bad, but simply flawed. And aren’t we all?

“A shocker” – if I had to describe this book with one word, that would be it. The twists in this book won’t fail to make you gasp every time. The Mayor of Casterbridge is a fast paced, thrilling read, with never a dull moment. It took me four unproductive days to finish this 360 pages long book, and it was worth every moment.


[i] http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/17/tv/cover-story-wife-and-daughter-for-sale-five-guineas.html

[ii] https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/10/travel/on-englands-coast-thomas-hardy-made-his-world.html

In The Name Of All The Rebellious Writers

Alia Al Shamsi (@aliaalshamsi)

Emarati Author and Photographer from Dubai. After receiving a BA in Photography from Griffith University she worked as a photojournalist for local newspapers covering regional and international news. In 2008 she gained a MA in Photo-Image from Durham University and has lectured photography as an adjunct at the American University of Sharjah. Her photography has been exhibited internationally and holds awards including: EDAAD Scholarship 2007, British Council Cultural Leadership International 2010 and 2011 Emirates Woman Artist of the Year.
Al Shamsi’s recently published book Alayah by Sail Publishinghas been awarded the support from Dubai Culture part of their printing and publishing movement “Reading in Arabic Challenge”.

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

A rant by a writer who wants to be accepted with her mainstream writing style in the elitist world of academia.

Artwork by Hamda AlMansoori (instagram: @Planet64, twitter: @planetsixtyfour)

I love to write, therefore I write. However, the frustration in this unrequited love affair is the very problem of writing: my voice. My writings at the time sound too conversational; other times too mainstream and not structured enough.

At the very best, my editor for my thesis, after carefully going through my article, submits to my writing style and calls it journalistically consistent storytelling in its mannerism. I come back to my desk and again start to write in hopes that this time some revelation will occur, and I will find a way through this dilemma to more academic undertone.

My question is, what happens if I lose my voice in my writing whilst complying with the standard requirements of academic writing? Is it always necessary to be so systematic and structured? Can I not apply the same artistic freedom in using words like I would do so in creating artworks strokes.

I am frustrated. Yes, I am frustrated with this so-called academic language that doesn’t allow me to let loose and dance with my letters and words and say what I would say, and to hell with the structure.

I want to express myself and through writing, I want to lose myself to these aimless paragraphs and sentences. I want to tell stories and recall memories, take the reader on a journey, and find a common ground between the lines I type, even if my writing voice is a mix between creative and academic. I would want my writing to be less dry and more entertaining, or perhaps use the term edutaining where my reader will not dose off to the arid style of academia.

I want to blame my Arabic and Italian upbringing and that perhaps because of my heritage, my style is always drawn to that reserved to storytellers and storytelling. Perhaps having that cultural background has made me more narrative-based in expressing myself in the written word which has influenced my English, so I find myself using styles that are more conversational. However, this excuse falls. I would equally love to blame the fact that English is not my first language but how can I hold this true when my speaking skills go against that statement as I can easily and eloquently pass for a native speaker? I try to justify and I am not quite sure if these arguments will suffice and grant me pardon for my writing style in the world of academia.

I find myself again thinking of enlisting into a writing course, but part of me wants to be this rebellious writer that continuously sends articles that are abstract. I hold on to my style of writing as I hold on to an identity. My writing style is mine and this is me. I refuse to let go of my voice.

In conclusion, this is an article dedicated to all those who love to write and find the editing world a cruel cold world with people who pride themselves on being a grammar nazi or a judgmental editor. No, my advice is carry on writing and write some more and one day either two things will happen: you will finally learn to write as the academic, whom I seek to become, or maybe one day through consistency you will be able to find justice for this style within the circle of the elitist writers.

Serving It Soft. Soft Powers Vs Hard Power In Influencing Countries

Nasser AlFalasi (@nassakb)

Nasser AlFalasi (@nassakb)

Column: Just A Nassasary.
Nasser AlFalasi was born the year the cold war ended. For those who don’t know the year the cold war ended, Nasser’s columns in SAIL is exactly for that reason. Nasser’s undergrad was in Financial Services at the Higher Colleges of Technology. He then pursued his graduate studies at NYU, NYC concentrating in global affairs with a specialization in international relations and transnational security. His major interests include history and global affairs. Most of his columns will be in regards to those topics. By the way, if you haven’t already found out the year Nasser was born, its 1991.
Nasser AlFalasi (@nassakb)

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Explaining the importance of ‘soft power’ in adherence to ‘hard-power’ and their role in facing global challenges in the Middle East today.

Artwork by Aalaa Albastaki (Instagram:@lalaa_albastaki, Twitter: @AalaaAlbastaki)

I love Japan. But I have never been there; I don’t speak Japanese, and I don’t even know its economic or political policies in detail for me to love them. However, I have been exposed to a bombardment of Japanese culture that led me to my obvious statement: I love Japan.

Same goes with Turkey; I love Turkey not because of its politics or economy, but simply due to its delicious food and exotic ice-cream. I am sure I’m not alone in this. I know a fair amount of people who are crazy about Japan and Japanese anime, and have learned the language and are constantly visiting Japan. All this is a prime example of what the political scientist Joseph Nye coined as ‘soft power’.

According to Nye, “soft power” is the use of economic, social, and cultural drives to influence the decision and thus the power over people or states. ‘Soft power’ is more than just persuasion or the ability to move people by argument; it is also the ability to attract, and attraction often leads to agreement. (Nye, 2004)

As you may have guessed, ‘hard power’ is the opposite of ‘soft power’, and ‘hard power’ utilities military action to influence the decision and action of other states. True, it’s mostly wars that people remember in history; however, you’d be surprised to realize how big of a role soft power plays in maintaining and forging peace and prosperity.

The United States’ soft power is driven primarily by economic and cultural platforms. Mc Donald’s, Coca Cola, Hollywood, the message of freedom and liberty, university teachings, and even news which revolves largely around the US and its affairs. All these are forms of ‘soft power’ that play a major role in persuading other societies and states to adhere to the common values and goals of the US.

Historically, the Middle East’s soft power was a major influencer in tribal affairs. Back then, poetry was a tool used to convince or influence the action of other tribes. You would have poets roaming from village to village just to spread a certain message about a certain tribe in the form of poetry. Another form of soft power was marriage, which without a doubt played a major role in forming peace and influencing other states or tribes.

However, I believe that the Middle East today lacks in its ability to spread its soft power effectively. Our arts and culture are rarely known, our language is losing its voice with the younger generations, and our economic power is dwindling. Losing our ‘soft power’ means we lose respect and voice in the global field – beyond the fact that we even lose our own identity. I have met countless Arabs who claim that their identities have been shaken because they didn’t know how to speak, write, or read Arabic.

However, to be realistic, a state must use both ‘hard power’ and ‘soft power’ at appropriate times to combat various challenges. Take ISIS for example; if the Middle East fought ISIS only through ‘hard power’ we would have caused another vacuum of a war-torn country whose radicals and extremists spur. However, the use of ‘soft power’ to deny and teach against the outgrowing violent methods of ISIS deters any further threats. Joseph Nye coined it perfectly when he stated “The distinction between ‘hard power’ and ‘soft power’ is one of degree, both in the nature of the behavior and in the tangibility of the resources. Command power—the ability to change what others do—can rest on coercion or inducement. Co-optive power—the ability to shape what others want—can rest on the attractiveness of one’s culture and values or the ability to manipulate the agenda of political choices in a manner that makes others fail to express some preferences because they seem to be too unrealistic.” (Nye, 2004)


Nye, J. S. (2004). The Benefits of Soft Power. Retrieved 2017, from http://hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/4290.html

Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Reem Al Suwaidi (@LumeiRee)

Reem Al Suwaidi (@LumeiRee)

Column: Habillez-Moi (which means “dress me” in French)
Reem is a fashion fanatic. She used her talents of critiquing to start a blog called “We Voice Fashion” along with a partner that shares her views on the world of fashion and design. Through her column, she likes to explore fashion in a philosophical way at times.
Reem Al Suwaidi (@LumeiRee)
Reading Time: 4 minutes

A story of two children in the midst of war, family losses, and how the radio affected lives. Minor spoilers included.

Artwork by Nouf Bandar Elmoisheer (Instagram: @naufba)

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is a historical fiction novel about the beginning of the Second World War and its aftermath. Doerr’s story is centered on two children, and set against the background of the war; specifically in France (Paris and Saint Malo) and Germany.

The plot focuses on a blind French girl Marie Laure Le Blanc and a German orphan Werner Pfennig, they meet at some point in the story. Marie Laure and her father both struggle to stay alive amidst the chaos. Throughout the first part of the story, Marie Laure’s father focuses on building a miniature model of the city to help her navigate the city on her own. The counterpart storyline tells of Werner and his journey from an orphanage in Zollverein to the military training school National Political Institutes of Education in Germany. While Werner is at first fascinated with the concept of being accepted into a prestigious school, he soon realizes that it is the exact opposite of what he thought it was. His talent in radio mechanics is soon used as a weapon to kill French and Russian soldiers, to his horror. The contrast between the two storylines are explicit: Marie Laure’s day-to-day filled with hope and support from loving family members contrasts Werner’s own harsh lifestyle in the dark reality of Hitler’s Youth during wartime.

The novel begins with an excerpt from Philip Beck’s The Burning of Saint Malo, and German politician Joseph Goebbels’ quote about the radio, as if to foreshadow the coming events of the story. The characters in the book seem all too real, and the author’s penchant for detail is magnificent in itself. He takes the reader through the alleyways of Paris and invites them to marvel at museums and gemstones.

What I loved particularly about Doerr’s writing style is the richness of it, and the fact that he kept his chapters extremely short but also efficient enough in delivering the content of the chapter. He incites fear when things take a turn and also creates a feeling of warmth when the characters rejoice at the end of the war. In addition, the author accurately describes the nature of the characters to the point of familiarity, but he has done so with refined features instead of putting them off bluntly.

One thing I did not at all enjoy was the tragic ending of the book. The author took the story in an entirely different direction than what I initially expected, to the point that I’ve had to put the book down a few times for fear of the worst. Nevertheless, Doerr was successful at portraying what life was like for both the French and the Germans, even describing some excruciating scenes with precision and vividness. He does good to not gloss things over and tells it as it truly was during the aftermath of the war, leaving no leaf unturned.

I have to admit it’s been quite a long time since I’ve read such a wonderful book and much praise must be given to the author for bringing life to these characters and creating an attachment between them and myself. Ending it with my favorite quote from the book: “The brain is locked in total darkness of course. And yet the world it constructs in the mind is full of light. It brims with color and movement”.

The First Night Alone With My Baby

Shurooq AlBanna (@Shuroooq)

Shurooq AlBanna (@Shuroooq)

Column: A Moment of Contemplation
Shurooq, an Emarati from Dubai, has been on a journey of self-discovery ever since she shifted career from Science to humanitarian where she found joy. Her interests include traveling and foreign films. Shurooq’s column is influenced by those distinctive moments that give a deeper perspective on life.
Shurooq AlBanna (@Shuroooq)

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As a first-time mom, the writer shares her daunting experience the first time she was completely alone with her baby overnight and how she struggled.

Artwork by Hamda AlMansoori (instagram: @Planet64, twitter: @planetsixtyfour)

Last December, I was about to spend my first night alone with my 10-day old son. As a first-time mom, everything about the baby made me nervous. I kept questioning my ability to take care of my newborn all by myself. What if he wouldn’t stop crying? What if I collapsed from exhaustion? What if I needed the toilet whilst holding him?

My sole responsibility was to get my baby through the night safely. Even though anxiety ate at me, I calmed myself by repeating: “How bad could it be?”

My night started peacefully at 8:00 pm. The baby was fed, burped, and asleep. Twenty-five minutes later, he woke up crying: slow cries with abrupt pauses. What was wrong? Was he hungry? Did he need a diaper change? Was he in pain? Parenting books described 7 cries, but to me, they all sounded the same.

I tried changing his diaper, which calmed him and made me realize he was uncomfortable with his wet nappy. Twenty-seven minutes later he cried again. I picked him up and tried soothing him by singing Humpty Dumpty, Fairouz, Madonna and even Eminem songs. Yet, he only calmed down when I sang Happy Birthday. Oh, my son. The Happy Birthday song is eleven months too early. Every time I put him down thinking he was asleep he’d start crying again. My arms ached from carrying him.

Around midnight, he finally fell asleep and I decided to go to bed myself. Little did I know that the night was just beginning. Every time the baby cried and became fussy, I got out of bed to check on him and calm him down. By the sixth time, I started feeling dizzy. This wasn’t going to work. So I moved him to my bed despite the fear from co-sleeping stories I heard of. To be safe, I built a fortress of pillows around the baby so I wouldn’t fall asleep on him.

With his third stretch of crying at 2:45 am, I started feeling bitter as my exhaustion was so profound. At 2:57 am I was considering who to be cruel to and call: my mother or my husband? I was specifically bitter at those perfect moms in social media. They didn’t even have dark circles under their eyes. How is this even possible?

Suddenly, around 5:20 am, he went quiet. The most amazing thing happened immediately after: he smiled whilst looking directly at me. My heart melted at the marvel of that perfect moment. I couldn’t think of anything more perfect or beautiful than that moment when the baby smiled. That smile may have been a relief after finishing his ‘business’ but it was magical. Despite nearly collapsing from exhaustion, this was worth it, a million times over. Nothing compared to it.

To every first-time mom out there who is doubting her ability to take care of her newborn: it is scary and tougher than any book ever mentions. You should only deal with it one day at a time. And do not be afraid because your natural motherly instincts will kick in, for there is no greater love on earth than that between a mother and her baby. Trust me, you can do it, one day at a time.

The Role Of 3D Printing In Medicine

Hamda Yaser Al Awadhi

Hamda is a nineteen years old Emirati and a third-year international affairs student at Zayed University. Hamda’s interest in writing articles began when she lived and studied in France. The four years in France taught her to respect the diverse opinions surrounding her, yet to always acquire her own personal opinion. Hamda enjoys discovering different topics surrounding culture, history and world issues.
In her column “The Oblivion” she covers topics in world issues, theories and philosophical topics.

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

Three-dimensional (3D) printing is a manufacturing approach that includes layering of substances to create an object, that has been recently used in the healthcare sector due to several factors such as its low cost and facilitation of different processes.

Artwork by Hamda AlMansoori (instagram: @Planet64, twitter: @planetsixtyfour)

Three-dimensional (3D) printing is a manufacturing process of layering substances such as metals, ceramics, and living cells. Today, 3D printing is used to create different medical tools such as customized implants, personalized prosthetics, and medical devices. 3D printing is considered a revolutionary technology, as it helps in medical fields with patient education, physician training, and surgical procedure planning.

Additionally, 3D printing is used to manufacture different medical equipment from customized implants to personalized prosthetics, as it is time efficient, easy to obtain, and cost efficient. For example, researchers from the University of Toronto were able to produce low cost and easily modified prosthetics for developing countries such as Uganda (Meskó, 2015). This shows that 3D printing will permit a wide range of consumers to afford certain medical objects that were traditionally expensive and hard to acquire.

3D printing also assists in patient education during the consultation as it enhances the doctor’s illustration and facilitates the patient’s understanding of complex medical situations. Moreover, it allows medical students to have a better understanding of complex pathologies with anatomical models, and also aides in physician training as the medical students can directly apply procedures on the models. Additionally, 3D printing helps surgeons in decreasing surgical time by pre-assessing and planning of surgical treatments (Debecker, 2016).

3D printing technology has been used for the first time in the Middle East by doctor Yaser Saeedi, a consultant urologist at Dubai Hospital. Dr. Saeedi used 3D technology amid a medical operation on a 42-year-old female who acquired a tumor in her kidney. Using 3D technology resulted in avoiding the complete removal of the kidney as Dr. Saeedi was able to approach the tumor exactly and determine the most efficient way to remove the tumor. Dr. Saeedi also points out that 3D technology decreased the operation’s period from four hours to three hours (Crompton, 2016).

In conclusion, 3D printing is an innovative manufacturing process in medicine used nowadays, as it facilitates different procedures and is cost-efficient. Furthermore, 3D printing is a process that is believed will transform traditional manufacturing processes in different domains such as healthcare, architecture, and aerospace, as it provides an easier approach to different processes.


Crompton, P. (2016, December 12). 3D-printed kidney helps save patient with tumour. Retrieved February 15, 2017, from Gulf News : http://m.gulfnews.com/news/uae/health/3d-printed-kidney-helps-save-patient-with-tumour-1.1943919

Debecker, S. (2016, February 15). 4 Benefits of Using 3D-Printed Anatomical Models in Your Daily Practice and the Evidence to Back Them Up. Retrieved February 15, 2017, from Materialise: http://hospital.materialise.com/blog/4-benefits-of-3d-printed-anatomical-models/

Meskó, B. (2015, February 26). 12 Things We Can 3D Print in Medicine Right Now. Retrieved February 15, 2017, from 3d printing Industry: https://3dprintingindustry.com/news/12-things-we-can-3d-print-in-medicine-right-now-42867/