During my trip to Cairo, and on the bus ride coming back from our visit to an Orthodox church and the Ben Ezra synagogue, my friend Dalia read a powerful poem called “Lam Alef” (the letters for “No” in Arabic) which I had to ask her to share with us. Hopefully Dalia will be sharing more of her writing seeing as she’s interested in being a part of this site.
I asked Dalia to translate this poem for our non-Arabic speaking readers to understand. She works as a translator for the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information,, so she’s very much used to translating text, even though translating poetry is a bit tricky.
This is her brief but powerful introduction to the poem she wrote:
I wrote this poem almost one month ago. It was my very first time to notice that our Arabic alphabet includes that letter; i.e. “Lam Alef”. The letter “Lam Alef” just looks like the famous word “La”; meaning “NO” in English. The weirdest part here is that in our primary schools, Arabic teachers (slaves of dictatorship) told us that “Lam Alef” is not among the 28 letters of Arabic alphabet. They were liars! They wanted to produce generations unable to utter the word “La”, unable to refuse the unlawful and awful practices of their government.Fascinated yet?
I wrote the poem in Egyptian colloquial, to help people to remember the magical “NO”. Unfortunately, or may be that is what was expected from the start, I received some threats. However, I just insisted to publish the poem and I did. You know what? It was so easy to say my “NO” [my Lam Alef], and those who threatened me were not able to do anything. Now, I am much stronger thanks to “Lam Alef”.
Here it comes:
Hearing her recite this out loud left me with goosebumps, it’s that good. Creative and original too, great job!
You may also want to read her contribution to the HAMSA Dream Deferred Essay contest, where she received a well-deserved honorable mention -
Lam Alef: http://www.mideastyouth.