Shereen Malherbe

A wandering novelist


April 2016

MEE Feature: A new force rises in the east: Comic Con Dubai

Comic Con

‘Jason’ from the film Friday the 13th and ‘Leatherface’ from Texas Chainsaw Massacre pose with eager fans (MEE/Shereen Malherbe)

Darth Vader greets you in Arabic, a new generation of Middle East superheroes challenge America’s comic book domination, and Marvel’s legendary artist Stan Lee makes an appearance to show his appreciation for his legions of fans.

Welcome to Comic Con Dubai.

With the emirate city state’s World Trade Centre and Burj Khalifa as a backdrop, excitement and anticipation hung in the air as what has been called “the MENA region’s most anticipated pop culture event” kicked off on 7 April.

Dubai’s Comic Con 2016 was bustling with enthusiasts eager to see their favourite characters (MEE/Shereen Malherbe)

Excited children carrying Comic Con goodie bags and people dressed as comic book heroes formed an unusual sight in Dubai’s business district.

‘Spiderman’ – ‘Wolverine’ and ‘Rorschach’ are in character for their fans (MEE/Shereen Malherbe)

Inside the world of Comic Con

Inside, the exhibition hall was dominated by big names: Marvel, MBC2, IMG Worlds of Adventure and Geek Nation. As people bustled between booths and gaming stations, above our heads were screams from a zip wire as would-be superheroes took to the wire and made like Spiderman.

Young children to adults of all ages were wearing their favourite superhero outfits and stocking up on comic memorabilia from fan art to models and original pieces by artists and designers.

The IMAX Cine Club line was roped off with fans lining up eagerly to see sneak previews of movie trailers and the Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Scheduled for the evening slot at the Cine club was the event everyone was waiting for; a live broadcast session with Marvel comic book legend Stan Lee.

“Professional” Cosplayers – people who dress up as their favourite comic book characters – are always a popular fixture at Comic Con, and were dotted around the event posing for photographs with the enthusiastic crowds. I met Chun Li, a Philippine national representing Kuwait as a Cosplay competitor – with hopes of winning the top prize of 5000 AED ($1360). But it was not just about the money for Chun Li. “It’s kind of my hobby, it flows in my blood and I just love it,” he said.

A view from one of the main exhibition halls (MEE/Shereen Malherbe)

A Star Wars fan group, the 501st Legion, whose members had visited Comic Con around the world, said that “Dubai’s Comic Con is getting bigger and better every year and there is a lot of love here.”

Galactic Empire leader Darth Vader said farewell with a very Arabic, “Salam,” stopping patiently every time someone asked for a photograph.

The Star Wars fan group ‘501st Legion’ poses with Shereen Malherbe (MEE/Shereen Malherbe)

For more memorable and original photographs, “MBC Meets the Stars” provided the opportunity for fans to get autographs and photographs taken with their favourite celebrities. These included Summer Glau, Christopher Lloyd Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Veronica Taylor and Randy Orton.

International Artist

MEE spotted Jonathan Bolerjack, one of the international artists of Comic Con who had spent the last year working for Stan Lee. He told us that he was the “guinea pig” for the first Middle East Comic Con.

When asked how it compared to others, he said, “This convention is better than some I have been to in the States, but I think the more important thing is not how different it is but how the same it is. The fans are exactly the same. That is what I appreciate the most.”

International artist Jonathan Bolerjack was happy to smile for a picture (MEE/Shereen Malherbe)

MEE asked him about how Stan Lee felt about coming to Dubai. “He is a little too old to make the trek but he wanted to.”

The artists formed part of a close-knit community at the event, conversing with each other whilst selling samples of their artworks and making sketches of potential future comic characters, as well as commissioning pieces to sketch there and then to be designed as their very own unique hero.

– See more at:


BookFabulous Reviews Jasmine Falling

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‘And so begins a tale that is immersed in the history of an uprooted nation, that has seen the larger part of its people forced into fleeing their homes from the terror unleashed on the day Israel declared its state. For those Palestinians who chose to remain behind, the occupation’s incessant humiliations and intimidation continue to be an everyday horror and Jasmine’s father’s family is no exception.

‘Jasmine Falling’ is a multi-layered novel in that it oscillates between the unresolved political narrative related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the mystical, even mythical portrayal that seems tethered to any discourse or even work of literature wherever Jerusalem and Islam are concerned. And thus it is rather no surprise that the author conjures up the Jinn, and speaks of shadows and whisperings as if the place, Palestine, were a living breathing entity, a character holding its own within the structure of the novel, actively involved in the characters’ lives, etching its place into their individual narratives, refusing to be ignored.

From the streets, the gates of the Old City loomed into view. They towered above her with locks clamped on either side of the open doors. A raven squawked from a perch on its walls, the sound splintering through her bones as she entered into the maze. Smoke hissed and escaped the kebab shops, shisha smoke blew from the lips of old men, drawn from decorated glass bulbs… The shops were made of the same mould, cut from ancient stone and formed from the natural concaves in the rock… The place itself felt familiar. It had barely changed in thousands of years despite the wars, crusades and occupations. A feeling of déjà vu crept into her bones, reminding her of the nightmares she used to have all those years ago as a child … ‘Don’t forget your heritage here, Jasmine. Don’t forget the land’s heritage. It is part of you’. Her father’s voice resonated in her head’

What distinctively sets this promising author’s work apart from other recently released, arguably more polished fiction on the same subject is her intelligent choice to include the narrative of ‘the other’. There is a belief many share that literature opens up the world to readers, it allows them to ‘hear’ and ‘see’ and ‘feel’ the different points of view with regards the same event offering multiple perspectives on the world that may not be possible in real life.

As such, the beautifully written letters of ‘Bert’ to his papa – possibly my favourite bits in the book – elevate not only the author’s writing style but also reflect a mature, confident writer behind them who believes in fair play. That said, there is no doubt where this author’s allegiances lie, and what her powerful messages are about; love, hope, resilience, faith and human compassion. Shereen Malherbe is one promising writer who is a definite contender on the scene and one to duly take note of.’


Jasmine Falling on BookFabulous 2016 Fiction List

To read the full review by Rana Asfour, visit the beautiful BookFabulous site.

An interview with Filmmaker, Nijla Mu’min


With an accolade of awards and recognition for her screenwriting, including her work in progress film, Jinn which has already received several high ratings on the industry script database, Shereen Malherbe speaks to filmmaker Nijla Mu’min about her new highly anticipated first feature film.

SM: Tells us about your film Jinn in a snapshot.

NM: Jinn is a coming of age dramedy about a carefree black girl whose world is turned upside when her mother converts to Islam, sending her on a quest for self-definition. It’s a fun, fresh exploration of identity, Islam, millennial culture, and first love.


SM: Where do you draw your character’s experiences from?

NM: Some of my character’s experiences are loosely drawn from my experiences growing up, specifically around her introduction to Islam and the complex and multifaceted world she is brought into. Summer’s experiences also mirror mine in relation to identity- I never felt, and still don’t feel, that I fit neatly into one way of being. I am fascinated by the duality and intersections of identity, and how categories don’t fit people.

SM: I agree with that perception that categories don’t fit people. I read a tweet of yours saying if you want to know why i’m making @JinnFilm, here it is. this is how i resist.’ in response to American politics, so was your character Summer written to be representative of America’s current relationship with Islam?

NM: No, I don’t feel Summer is representative of America’s current relationship with Islam, though I do think that her journey and conversion in the story does connect to some people’s own process of learning about Islam in this country. There’s a lot of misinformation and stigma at the moment, so as some audiences go on the journey with Summer, hopefully they come away with the complexity and nuance that she does. But I try not to crafts stories and characters on a macro level. It’s all about specificity in emotion and in growth. In that, people are able to relate and connect.

SM: I think that it is a great point, to focus on specificity in emotion when telling stories.

How do you find those emotions and interactions to build ideas for your films?

NM: It’s about taking every opportunity to observe and document the life and people around me, which influence my art and filmmaking. Stories come to me on the subway, looking into the eyes of strangers at a bodega, or in observing a wordless exchange on the street. I also keep a journal and write things down to remember them. I also love photography and poetry so I work with these images and build a world around them.

SM: How important is it to be out and about involved in your community?

NM: I think it’s really important to be in the world, and engage with others in the world. Whether that’s through walking down the street without headphones on and no cell phone, or going to a screening or a dance performance and letting someone’s movement impact your soul, or smiling at someone because you felt their spirit. Human interaction is necessary to break down some of the barriers we face every day. The more we can take in one another, the more we can be human to one another.

To read the full interview visit Muslimah Media Watch

On the BelAhdan Show

My appearance on the BelAhdan Show with Ahmed Tharwat, I discuss how my visit to Palestine inspired me to write my debut novel, Jasmine Falling.

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