Who is Maha?

Many of you have been asking a very profound question regarding the name of this blog:

“I don’t get it. Who’s Maha?”

And this is something that I’ll admit I should have addressed from the get-go.

To answer this question, I could list for you all the conventionally important biographical facts about Maha, like how she is a character in the book (it is literally called ‘the book:’ Al-Kitab) used for Arabic language education in America. I could tell you that Maha is a Palestinian-Egyptian woman living in the United States, that her father works as a translator with the UN, and that her grandfather was an army officer. I could also tell you that Maha admits on camera that she often feels lonely, that she is jealous of her friend Leila’s pool, and even hints that she is wistfully in love with her first cousin.


Maha, Arabic textbook character and fashion icon, gives the camera a taste of her signature stare.

Or, I could tell you what Maha means.

Maha is our rallying cry: our point of unity and mutual understanding as Arabic students, engaged together in a struggle against the brutality of FusHa grammar and endless vocabulary lists. When your classmates became sluggish and discouraged mid-semester, simply dropping that Maha-ism seared in the minds of all—“ana ash3or bilwa7da”– would set off a round of giggles that immediately softened the pain of verb conjugation tables. Every time the word ضابط – ‘officer’ – was spoken and heard, one person in the room was inevitably unable to restrain themselves from blurting out Maha-ism No. 2–“dhabet KBEEEEEEEER fil jaysh,”–much to the delight of their peers.

Indeed, we are all blessed with fond memories of Maha’s uncanny ability to lighten the mood, despite her consistently melancholy disposition in the videos we watched weekly about her life.

I don’t think that her creators expected that a cult of personality would emerge from Maha’s piercing gaze and blatant social desperation, but we owe them our thanks. We owe them our thanks for creating a character that both quietly reflected how our social lives’ suffered as we plunged further into the abyss that is Arabic study while simultaneously uniting us around a common experience of sweet, sweet suffering.

We salute you, Maha, for all that you do.