How Writing Changed My Life

By: Mohammed Al Dabbous, NAPED OE Team Leader

It all began in the fifth grade, when a simple, elderly woman began to pave the way for my writing career. That woman is my grandmother. The profound friendship between us was the ignition for me to write my first words on a “Bank Notebook”, gifted to me by a close relative. During the summer nights, after everyone went to sleep, we would prepare our favorite traditional drink, tea with milk, and spend our evenings with a bedtime story, narrated by a young-hearted, older woman. 

I remember the room that we sat in and can recall every single detail, from the dimmed lights to the blue traditional pillows, the tree-shaped carpet and the wrinkled curtains. The sound of the window air conditioner was interspersing with the warm words coming out from my grandmother’s heart. Once she began telling a story, I would prepare my cassette recorder and concentrate deeply on every scene detailed by her.  In those nights, we were accompanied by dragons, three-headed snakes, berserk oceans, rainy skies, colorful characters and beautiful scenery. When the myths became intense and the story saw a plot twist, we would go for a light snack to refresh our minds and get back to our world of charming fantasy. 

When the day comes, I would listen to my cassette again and try to rewrite the stories in a classic Arabic language, making me the youngest writer in a family of writers. My father is a poet and the first person to see my scattered letters and scrawled words. He always gives me an impressed look and a hug, one filled with pride and tenderness. Once upon a time, while I sat on his lap, he said:

“Did you write a new story today?” 

I held his hand, made a funny sound and said:

“No.”

Then he showed me a booklet written by Microsoft word:

“This is your first book, keep it up my dear son. I am so proud of you.” These words moved every single cell in my childish heart.

After my grandmother’s death, I made it a habit to gather with my mother and aunt to listen to the dearest sound ever heard. A sound that influenced the first words written on an old notebook and caught by an ancient recorder. I could see the tears in their eyes and the deep whining brought by lovely memories. 

When I was in high school, I began to travel and, therefore, a new writing journey began. I wrote about museums, nature, mountains, cultures, humorous moments and all the beautiful and terrible situations that I had experienced. I resumed writing in Oklahoma, where I was studying petroleum engineering, and worked on a journal. I was inspired by Oklahomans, who are nice people with a culture that resembles that of Arabia and by friends from the US, Nigeria, China, Columbia and Kuwait. I included a story of a Columbian girl who converted to Islam after a reading the Holy Qura’an, gifted to her by one of the Saudi students. I named that journal ““مبتعث سياحي, which means “The Scholar-tourist”. 

A while after this period, I received a call from a relative who told me a story about her husband, who was always influenced by his tragic childhood. This is when I began to write the story of “Ali” and practiced the same habit: recording. When he told me his story, I saw the tears in his eyes, especially when he spoke about his grandfather’s death. I published my first book, titled “لمّا يندمل”, which means “It was never healed”, referring to the profound wound left after all the tragedy that occurred in Ali’s life. The book was showcased and sold at all gulf book fairs, which encouraged me to write my second book, published a year later, called “المنصة 666”. The book was amongst the bestsellers at bookfairs in Riyadh, Sharja, Kuwait and Bahrain. In 2019, “Ghosts’ Kingdoms” was published in November in the Sharja Book Fair Inauguration. 

Writing is a sacred ritual for our souls. It allows us to express our deepest, inner thoughts and feelings and live in places that we have never been to. Writing will always be a friend of mine and a gate to the realm of imagination.