Meet Qais Ghanem, Author of Forbidden Love in the Land of Sheba and other stories
QG: I was born in Aden, a major port in the south of Yemen. I left home at nineteen to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. I returned briefly to Yemen, and went back to Scotland for specialty training. I then immigrated to my present home, Canada, by a stroke of luck. One of the resident trainee physicians at Queen’s University had a nervous breakdown, and his post needed a quick replacement. I applied and was immediately accepted. Thus I have been in Canada since 1970, with brief contracts in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Yemen. My last position was as director of sleep medicine at the Ottawa University Hospitals. Up to that point I had only written twenty scientific papers but no fiction. However, I have been retired for four years, but even busier than when I was working. I have two daughters and two grandsons.
BBB: What inspired your books?
QG: I believe I am blessed with the rare experience of having lived within two very contrasting cultures, and with speaking two major languages with complete fluency. I therefore decided to write in English to expose what goes on in the Arab Muslim Middle East, pointing out the stark contrasts in the structure and behaviour of the two societies. There is much that needs to change in Middle Eastern society.
My novels therefore deal head on with corruption, nepotism, absence of the rule of law and gender inequality in all its forms and the rampant denial of its existence. All this is framed within credible and realistic dialogue, some of which has actually taken place in my presence!
My only non-fiction co-authored book is MY ARAB SPRING MY CANADA. The novels are FINAL FLIGHT FROM SANAA (Sanaa is the capital of Yemen, where all the fighting is taking place right now!), TWO BOYS FROM ADEN COLLEGE (the name of my high school!) and FORBIDDEN LOVE IN THE LAND OF SHEBA (the ancient name of Yemen and Ethiopia).
QG: I have written three novels, where the main character has been a medical doctor, but a different one in each novel. In FORBIDDEN LOVE IN THE LAND OF SHEBA, the main character is Doctor Farook, an ophthalmologist who returns to his native Yemen after an absence of eight years in Scotland. His first cousin Hana, who had a teenage crush on him before he left the country, has been married off at fifteen, against her will to another cousin, aged thirty. He turns out to be a selfish abusive brute who is an arms dealer and who engages in secret criminal activity, covered up by the corrupt security services.
When Farook returns, the flames of Hana’s love are fanned again from amongst the embers. She attempts suicide and relentlessly chases him, despite the extremely strict taboo against extramarital relationships – for women.
Farook resists the temptation, but eventually succumbs, especially when he finds out that Hana’s husband has been sexually preying on his clinic nurse, whom he deports back to India when he discovers that she is carrying his baby.
Meantime, Farook reluctantly gets involved as expert witness in the rape, murder and organ harvesting of two female medical students one of whom was his patient. The morgue attendant at the university hospital gets framed for the murders and is executed, after his excellent defence lawyer is assassinated.
Hana’s obese and hypertensive husband suffers a brain hemorrhage and Hana attempts to leave the country in a hurry before she herself is assassinated. Why? It has to do with her husband’s enormous wealth from the arms trade, but most importantly because of how Sharia law would divide up his estate.
BBB: What are you currently working on?
QG: I have just started my fourth novel about a gang from the Middle East working out of London, which is involved in espionage and organized crime involving visiting dignitaries.
BBB: How can readers discover more about you and your work?
QG: My website: http://www.qaisghanem.ca/
My Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MyArabSpringMyCanada
My Twitter: @YemenNovels
Linked-In: Qais Ghanem, Author
Organizations: Current President of the Canadian Authors Association – National Capital Branch