Chronicle of the Middle East and North Africa

Barefoot in My Shoes

Muntadhar al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist famous for throwing a shoe
Muntadhar al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist famous for throwing a shoe at former US president George W. Bush in 2008, attends a rally in Baghdad on May 4, 2018 for the “Marching Towards Reform” alliance between Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr and the communist party, ahead of the May 12 parliamentary elections. AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP

Hakim Marzouki

“What is the use of this world being wide if you are wearing tight shoes?”; A phrase said in the honor and reverence of the shoe as a guardian of the human foot that has been bloodied by running after preys and facts since the earliest times. Frenchmen use the phrase “I am good and fine in my shoes” as a metaphor for the extent of harmony and satisfaction in their condition.

The shoe is an “infrastructure” through which the man is evaluated and classified in others’ eyes. A man – as well as a woman – is known and defines self in appearance and grooming through the limbs, that is, what covers the foot and head, such as shoes and hats.

The shoe is a companion in roads and rides, waiting for you during sleeping and relaxing hours to accompany you on rides and tours. Sometimes it seems to me that my shoes are the ones who decide their rides instead of me. For example, a new shoe takes you to clean and bright places, while a worn-out shoe is reckless and may push you towards unpleasant places and situations.

The poet is “standing in his shoes,” as the Tunisian Muḥammad al-Ṣaghir Awlad Aḥmad said. He acknowledges and admits that “nothing connects him to this land except his shoes,” as the Syrian Muhammad al-Maghut wrote. He may walk “barefoot in his shoes,” as Taha Hussein wrote in his autobiography.

The status of the shoes’ owner determines how high they rise from the ground. Appearances and properties decide how close they get to each other. Some said that a short woman invented high heels for the sake of a kiss. Be that as it may, shoes spark cultures and thought patterns that are invented by minds and reduced by feet.

The ancient Chinese foot-bound girls in wooden shoes to keep their feet small as an aesthetic measure passed down from grandparents. American cowboys are proud of shoes that protect the legs and enable them to ride risks. As for athletes, circus players and ballet dancers have their shoes. In short, tell me what your shoes look like, I tell you who you are.

Tales and quotes about shoes were woven in an attempt to define the human in his various transformations. They are as a plant that rises and grows from a shoe, so this Cinderella forgets one pair of her shoes in the court of a prince in an attempt to confirm that love erases class differences. By this, they avenge the underprivileged. Those of Abu Al-Qasim Altanbury became a symbol of miserliness and ill omen. As for Honain’s shoes, they became an expression of disappointment in endeavors.

The Iraqi Muntadhar al-Zaidi was immortalized – or almost – in contemporary history by throwing his shoes at the US President George W. Bush during a press conference in Baghdad in 2008. Bush, who avoided the strike very quickly, commented on the content of the “shoe message” that his American culture lacks: “This is the strangest thing I have ever experienced in my life.”


The opinions expressed in this publication are those of our bloggers. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Fanack or its Board of Editors.

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