Monday,18 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1122, 15 - 21 November 2012
Monday,18 December, 2017
Issue 1122, 15 - 21 November 2012

Ahram Weekly

Sufi indeed

Soha Hesham discovers a mystic space

Al-Ahram Weekly

A Cairo dweller though I am, I found the Sufi Bookstore -- located right in the middle of Zamalek -- a full nine months after its opening. It is the perfect getaway for a day of reading with coffee (and breakfast or a snack if you so choose). The library includes a rich selection; and no one breaks your concentration. The name of the place left no room for doubt once I stepped in, Sufi music playing in the background, and many classics of Sufism immediately visible on the shelves. According to the manager and one of the founders of the project, Osama Mustafa, the idea had as much to do with showing Sufism for the non-extremist orientation that is as it did with anything.
Located on the first floor of one of Zamalek’s old buildings off 26 July Street  and furnished in retro style with ideal lighting and a relaxing high ceiling, each room with its own colour scheme, the space has five main rooms one of which, holding children’s books, is non-smoking. It is in the two connected rooms near the entrance, that the main collection of rare second-hand books is found. One of the two rooms in the other side holds the film collection and is equipped with speakers and a projector for screenings; it is also used as exhibition space and holds displays of handmade accessories. The last room, painted dark red, is ideal for reading.
“Sufi’s aims is to support new and young talents, offering them a place to build on their capabilities; part of our policy is to buy used books as we are especially interested in rare books about Sufism, spirituality, philosophy, art, history and psychology,” Mustafa says. “Sufi is a cultural space that holds various activities such as concerts every Thursday -- we have featured Mawlawya and Sufi singing shortly after our inauguration and later Egyptian groups like Masar Egbari and Eftekasat -- as well as film screenings every Friday night, poetry readings, seminars, book signings and exhibitions.”
Friday night is the weekly film screening at Sufi, and Ten was on the schedule last Friday, the 2002 production by the Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami. The film addresses the life of modern women in Iran through the example of a women’s taxi driver in Tehran. The eloquently simple film was shot with two cameras fixed on the hood of the car, one turned on the driver Mania (Mania Akbari) and the other on the passenger seat next to the driver, occupied by Mania’s son in the first sequence. The 91-minute film plays in the form of a countdown with large number on the screen; it is as such divided into ten sequences with ten conversations shot in one location Mania’s taxi. Kiarostami creates the same intimacy with the viewer via the tool of the car as he does in his earlier Taste of Cherry, the 1997 winner of the Palme d’Or, in which the protagonist drives his truck in search of someone to bury him under a cherry tree after his suicide.  
The first conversation takes place between the young boy Amin (Amin Maher) in the scene accompanied by the voice of a woman in the driver seat, however, the viewer doesn’t see her face till the very end of the scene: the boy’s mother, Mania, appears with her sunglasses and loose white veil, and they go on arguing all the way from school where she picks him up to the house where he leaves the car. Through the argument, Kiarostami introduces the story: Mania, apparently divorced from her child’s father, is married to another man whom her son dislikes, wishing to live with his father. During the argument the viewer only hears the hysterical tone of Mania seeing her son’s responses to the fight. Ironically, in the next two sequences Mania proves very understanding. Mania inevitably scans the attitudes of the women she meets in day’s work -- two of her passengers are her friends, but there is also a beggar and a prostitute -- presenting the various hardships of a woman in modern Iran.
Among people in the passenger seat is also a friend of Mania’s separating from her lover; she appears in two sequences of the film, with the last one appearing with a tight veil. Later showing Mania that she shaved her head, she appears without a veil to the sound of a conversation about love and jealousy between the two women. Kiarostami in his pure unadorned female-centred film positions the woman taking off her veil in the last sequence of his film, making a moving metaphorical statement.

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