Essay: The Holy War of Words

The Holy War of Words

Fairy tales in the West begin, "Once upon a time." In the Arab world they start, "Kan ya makan." The words mean "There was, there was not." That is, maybe it happened. On the other hand, maybe it didn't happen. Now you see it, now you don't.

Kan ya makan: the Arabic language is capable of magical effects. On a squalid Cairo street early on a cold, foul day, people greet each other with small bouquets of words: "Morning of blessings! Morning of light!" They have conjured a moment, and smiled, and passed, and then, poof! they are back on a...

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