#IqraChat The Map of Salt and Stars {Resource}

Reading Arab American literature is an important part of my life, as it helps expand my knowledge of my culture and history.

I recently read the book The Map of Salt and Stars by Zeyn (Jennifer Zeynab) Joukhadar to help me better understand the Syrian refugee experience.

This book moved me in ways that no book has done in a long time.

  • First, the journey involves not one but two young female protagonist, fighting odds well beyond their years.
  • Second, the chapters, for each country entered, include poems by the author that are beautiful and could stand on their own in a chapbook. I found myself reading them over and over again, often out loud.
  • Third, the assault scene was difficult to read, but I don’t believe our society discusses it in the open enough. Reading it brought back painful memories but opened up dialogue that was long overdue with my own teens.

I contacted the author and asked him if I could do a Twitter and Facebook chat online to discuss the book with others. A sort of book club, but not just in my living room or at a local restaurant, but one that anyone that wants to can join in.

Between now and February 26th, read or listen to the book, then join us on ACraftyArab Facebook or ACraftyArab Twitter where you’ll answer the following questions in time sessions (subject to adjustment):

  1. 8PM: What does the title The Map of Salt and Stars mean to you?
  2. 8:10PM: How do the two different timelines influence the plot?
  3. 8:20PM: Did having Nour as the narrator change the way you viewed the events of the novel?
  4. 8:30PM: How do the characters rely on their religion throughout the novel?
  5. 8:40PM: How is The Map of Salt and Stars like or different than other novels you have read about refugees?
  6. 8:50PM: What is the significance of the stone and why was it discarded by Nour?

To help find each other on Twitter and Facebook, we’ll all be using the hashtag #IqraChat and ##MapofSaltandStars. (Iqra is the Arabic word for Read.)

Please be sure to join us on February 26th at 8pm EST to talk about this riveting book.

Christmas in the Arab World {Resource}

The Christmas spirit is alive in the Arab world, and we have made a number of Arabic craft tutorials to teach about it. Christmas is even an official national holiday in a few of the 22 countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

Contrary to what is being shown in the media, there are multiple locations in the Middle East where nativity scenes are even seen in public places. There are also many visual Santa Claus imagery, who is known as his more universal name Papa or Baba Noël.

While it is common to think of the Arab world as only being Islamic, there are many Christians that live in the area. This is John of Damascus an Arab monk and presbyter from the 7th-century.

In Morocco, if you walk into a regular big city bakery, you may find buche de Nôel, a French Christmas cake. Rabat, due to it’s large population of foreign workers there, is often seen decorated with glitter, lights, Santas and other Christmas decor this time of year.

In Mauritania, Tunisia, Libya, Somalia, and Sudan, Christmas is not as common, however, a Christmas market recently opened in the capital of Algeria.

Egypt makes a big deal about Christmas since 10% of it’s population is Christian. People conduct a Nativity Fast for 43 days before Christmas, which occurs on January 6th within the Armenian community and January 7th for the Orthodox Copts. Families gather for celebrations at home and in midnight mass at church. Kahk el Eid is a common treat to share with loved ones.

Many would be surprised to learn that in Comoros, which typically celebrates Islamic celebrations that follow the lunar calendar, Christmas Day is observed by the Roman Catholic minority, with festive gatherings of friends and families.

Christmas in the Arabian Peninsula, consisting of the countries Bahrain, Yemen, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, is possible to find, if you know where to look. It’s true that in more conservative Islamic countries, it is not as visual, however, Christmas time in the UAE makes it’s residents feel like they are in a Christian country. While in Bahrain, many hotels offer Christmas brunch.

The Iraqi Cabinet added Christmas as a national holiday in 2018. However, the Syriac community has been in the Iraq since the Middle Ages. Here, Christians from the Syriac Orthodox Christian hold a celebration in Mosul, Iraq.

The Levant region of the Arab world has more Christmas activity, due to it’s location to the birthplace of Christianity, Bethlehem in Palestine. A parade is held through town on Christmas Eve, leading to the Church of the Nativity, an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Christians traditionally believe the church is built over the place that Jesus (Peace Be Upon Him) was born.

Very similar to their Christian brothers and sisters in the south, the Orthodox and Armenian Churches don’t celebrate Christmas on December 25th, but rather January 6th & 7th, respectfully. This leaves more time to see Christmas specials on TV or in the theaters that are in Arabic.

In Lebanon, Maronite Catholic are 35% of the population. Seen in more homes than a Christmas tree are Nativity Crib scenes. They consists of a landscape of a cave, rather than a barn or stable. There will also be spouts of chickpeas, broad-beans, lentils, oats and wheat that were grown from seeds placed on wet cotton/wool two weeks before Christmas.

Syria is slowly building itself back from the war. The Christians there that make up about 10% of the population are rebuilding their community’s Christmas spirit, celebrated on January 6th. Instead of Santa Claus, the Smallest Camel of the Wise Men is who brings gifts for the kids on the Eve of Christmas. Legend says that the Wise Men traveled in a caravan with many camels to Bethlehem. The smallest camel was exhausted, but determined. For his loyalty and will, he got the blessing of immortality and hence, on every January 5th night, the little camel brings gifts.

The country of Jordan also has a number of churches, most of whom use the liturgical year calendar, also known as the church year. This consists of the cycle of liturgical seasons in Christian churches that determine when feast days, including celebrations of saints, are to be observed.   Most hotels, shops and businesses in Jordan, especially the larger cities, will have some form of decorations and brunch specials.

Check out these A Crafty Arab Christmas s tutorial

Arabic Christmas Pallet {Tutorial}

Arabic Christmas Card {Printable}

Arabic Christmas Ornament

Be sure to visit A Crafty Arab on Pinterest to see more tutorials that teach about the Arab world.

Arabic Alphabet Coloring Book is Here!

Eight years ago, I printed the Arabic Alphabet Animal Poster and today I’m celebrating the self publishing of the Arabic Alphabet Coloring Book.


I always knew the poster would grow into other products to introduce the Arabic language to kids in a colorful, bright, and fun way.


Soon I went on to produce magnets and a successful Kickstarter campaign for game cards.


I also created the Arabic Colors Animal Poster and today I am excited to announce the debut of the Arabic Alphabet Coloring Book.


The new Arabic Alphabet Coloring Book features all 28 animals and their corresponding letter with a sturdy 125# cover. There are also two Arabic alphabet poster images inside, to help with original animal colors.


It also has a new coloring book Parent and Teacher Guide to help with each letter.  The paper is made from a 70# paper weight to withstand crayons or markers and each animal is printed on a single page, so there will be no bleed through.


Right now it is only available on A Crafty Arab’s Zibbet shop. I will update this page as more places become available.


Sign up for the newsletter to get the first three letters for free.


If you are in Seattle, a few copies will be sold at the Gates Foundation Holiday Marketplace on November 30th and December 1st. I am donating proceeds from each sale to help a local refugee organization, Salaam Cultural Museum. I will also made them a limited supply of Arabic Christmas Cards.

Shukran (Arabic for thank you) for supporting A Crafty Arab.