The writing process
The Witch Doctor of Umm Suqeim, a 150-page collection of short stories from UAE expat Craig Hawes, is a witty, astute and evocative glimpse into the many facets of Dubai’s multicultural society. From decadent villa pool parties frequented by Levant revellers, to the taxi driver torn between watching a cricket match and dealing with the partiedout passenger asleep in the back of his car, these relatable, beautifully crafted insights shine a daring light on how old and new, Emirati and expat, traditional and modern, manage their precipitous balance.
This is the author’s second foray into the world of fiction (he’s also written radio drama) and it would be no exaggeration to call it a verbal work of art. With sharp metaphors, intricate details and astute observations, Hawes’ prose carefully unwraps the lives of those Dubai dwellers so often overlooked, taking the reader down a thought-provoking road-less-travelled.
From hostesses, construction workers and squaddies to Shaikhs, businessmen and journalists, each autonomous story confidently unveils the private world of Dubai’s many nationalities and complex class levels. The city’s diversity also makes the short story the perfect format for his message: “There are so many different communities and ethnicities living in Dubai that trying to encompass all those things into a novel would be a little overwhelming,” says Hawes. “The short stories allow you to fictionally address a wide range of characters.” Having originally moved to the UAE in 2003, Hawes returned to his hometown of Briton Ferry, Wales, in 2007, and began writing his Dubaibased tales six months later. He initially intended to pen a couple of short stories for competitions in the UK “to test the waters and see if I could even write fiction,” he explains.
Having put pen to paper as a journalist before, he was pleasantly surprised and understandably bolstered by the judges’ reactions: three of his short stories went on to scoop awards. Hawes was shortlisted for the Bristol Short Story Prize 2009, a runner-up in the 2010 Rhys Davies