IMG-20200208-WA0014“Tell me about yourself” is a question that I always struggle to answer. How much should we share in such circumstances? What kind of information do we reveal? To respond, we often polish ourselves, resurrect dead behaviors, and carefully selecting sought-after traits to appear desirable, pleasant, approachable, and of course unique. We hide the traits that we despise and we convince ourselves that this is the reality. We do this so often until it becomes part of our psyche, an alter ego of sorts.

Nevertheless, here is my attempt to share some things ‘about me.’

My name is Atiaf (أطياف) it is the plural for ‘Taif’ (طيف) which means spectra and “alwan al-taif“, means colors of the rainbow. Some Psychologists have researched the idea that names may influence their carriers. In my case, it certainly feels so. I appreciate color, without it a room feels sad and lonely. Any white wall looks like a canvass to me, waiting for someone to paint over it, or mount a photograph. Like an illusion, I often live in my head. Analyzing or overanalyzing situations and other times imagining stories and dialogues.

When asked “where are you from?” I can answer in many different ways, but I now like Taiye Selasi suggestion:

Don’t ask where I’m from, ask where I’m a local.

To answer that I’ll tell you that I’m a local of Sana’a, Jeddah, Washington D.C., Cairo, Tunis, Lille, and Brussels.  Hence, I consider myself a ‘world citizen’, yet at the moment, my world is focused on Yemen.  A country ravaged by war, while its people stand strong and smile in the face of adversity.

Today I am trying to capture these stories and simultaneously resurrect forgotten histories. Though my grandmother couldn’t read or write, the poems, short stories, and the proverbs she had memorized were passed down to her from generation to generation. They were stories of love, of war, of famine, of farming, of family dynamics etc. I hope to keep a glimpse of these stories alive through my writing.

Today I write to resurrect forgotten histories.  I write to forget.  I write to feel.  I write to become numb. I write to remember. I write to share stories of a misunderstood nation.  I write because I am blessed to be able to read and write.

In peace, love, and solidarity,


  1. This is wonderful Ataif, I don’t always get the time to read your articles, but when I do, I really enjoy it. It brings me back to my days in Yemen, effecting me emotionally, mostly in a happy knowing way. I am glad to follow and share your thoughts . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Atiaf
    I have spent a pleasant hour on your rich site as i was searching for information on women in Yemen. A thought-provoking, sad yet happy distraction. We forget stories at our peril – as they teach us how to live and about the consequences of actions. I am also trying to write – and I hope you are in a good spell with your own work.


  3. Hi,
    I’m an American student from Michigan. Our AP Government class is conducting a research project on various countries and I’m focusing on Yemen. I was just wondering if you’d be able to provide a brief summary about how poverty, corruption, and terrorism (the three main problems our class is researching) have affected your experiences with and in Yemen?
    Thank you!


  4. Wonderful to see your blog here, very inspiring and I would like to connect with you if possible -am a Pakistani social blogger and have written about Yemen war conflict in recent time, a link here at http://wp.me/p2Mxgu-1zc
    I will definitely look forward to hearing from you soon, all the best. Ma Salam!


  5. Hi Atiaf! There you are – at least I hope there you are. I’ve been thinking about you frequently these days (Yemen is so much and frustratingly tragically in the news) and wondering where you got to. I’m glad to see you are still around and still active in your field. I’m still in the UK – living in London and teaching in Canterbury – and I do hope that our paths will cross again. All best and I hope you are well! Karen (Karen Widess)


  6. Hi Atif, you have a beautiful blog. Im a college student in South Florida. My Arab culture class wants us to research different clothing people wear to weddings, everyday, and prayer. Instead of using a bunch of online sources I would love to talk to someone who has experienced the culture. Id love to chat
    Thank you!


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