As the world navigates strange waters, it occurred to us that, even in the worst of times, human endeavour will inevitably push to the surface. An era of self-isolation has seen people interact in the most unique and creative ways, with video calls becoming a new lifeblood bonding us all together. In a strange way, connections have become deeper as physical contact has been eschewed in favour of a face on a screen. But while the digital revolution continues, the human heart beating beneath it remains strong. This month, more than ever, we wanted to show that. So, we called people from the Middle East and beyond, chronicling quarantine tales from New York to Dubai, Cairo to Ramallah. Captured over video calls, each of these stories brims with hope and sadness, frustration and boredom, love and joy. In other words: the human condition in all its glory...separated, but never more together.
In this issue you will find first-hand accounts of life in lockdown from:
In many ways, it’s been a life-altering 12 months for Amr Youssef. Sons of Rizk 2 – the Tarek Al Eryan-directed action thriller – became one of the biggest box-office successes in the history of Egyptian cinema. For Youssef and his wife, the fellow actor Kinda Alloush, the tumult of Coronavirus has been an unexpected opportunity to exhale and reflect. With his big-budget historical Ramadan series – based on the story of the commander Khalid ibn al-Walid – put on hold, the coming weeks present a moment to reconnect after a years-long grind, and a chance to think about what comes next.
Abu Hamdan, aka Warchieff
Actor, model and eccentric Saudi creative Abu Hamdan – you’ll probably know him better by Warchieff – is a man in demand at the minute. Two features on Netflix and four million Instagram followers are proof positive of that much.
“Right now, I’m just adapting to what’s available,” he explains. “It’s funny, we used to believe that so many items we had were average or not really useful. The thing is, it turns out that we just never understood their real value...until now.”
Dr Mona Tareen
Working in palliative care means that she’s used to handling the toughest situations of all, and the hard conversations are simply part of her day-to-day. But these are unprecedented times, even for a doctor that faced the H1N1 crisis in the States just over a decade ago. Now a frontline health worker in the UAE, she battles the virus while the population stays at home – and when she’s finished, there’s home schooling to tackle.
Pam Nasr, Prod Antzoulis and Oumayma Elboumeshouli
The Middle East’s creative class is as ambitious as it is diverse. We gathered three artists we admire – with roots from Lebanon to Morocco to Cyprus – to explore how creativity looks and feels in uncertain times.
“Not Your Habibti”: that’s the phrase that sparked momentum for Baby Fist, the Palestinian apparel brand that’s opened crucial conversations on gender-based issues in the region. As the Coronavirus took hold around the world, Baby Fist manufactured and donated some 60,000 masks to the people of Gaza. The group’s 23-year-old founder, Yasmeen Mjalli, has been self-isolating in Ramallah, and musing about what the future of the movement could look like.
Subscribe to GQ Middle East on YouTube
Photography by Prod Antzoulis