This book is heavy. Not only is it heavy of pages but it’s also heavy in illustrations, thought provoking imagery and giving a sense of surrealism. The constant play of Arabic, Qu’ran scripture and a story of two orphans born of two different lives brought together by the wickedness of humanity.
Dodola is a young female whom was sold by her father to be the bride of a scribe. The man was eventually murdered and his young bride was taken to be sold off as a slave. When Dodola was brought to the slave house, she found a young baby whom was doomed for slaughter for being unclaimed. When she was haphazardly given the opportunity to escape she returned and took the baby away. They wound up on an abandoned boat in the middle of the desert.
This young girl brought up Cham as her own. Although a child herself, she took great care in providing whatever she could for the toddler. As Cham grew up he struggled with his own “inner demons”, realizing a lustful side to which he wasn’t aware of. After witnessing Dodola being rapped by a man who was leading a caravan through the desert, he wanted to provide all that he could without ever mentioning to her that he witnessed this situation.
Dodola was soon enslaved and taken away to the Sultan’s palace, and made to be his favorite concubine. She becomes pregnant and had no clue what had happened to her adopted baby, Cham. Six years and Cham had put himself through Hell to find the girl he loves, but by fluke he becomes a slave for the palace although he hadn’t known at the time that she was there too. Years later after his enslavement he was given a task of aiding in the disposal of several of the Sultan’s unwanted women, he then allowed himself to finally free her from her prison.
This story tells more than a tragic love story, it also educates on some of the passages from the Qu’ran, the art is beautifully done and not extremely vulgar. Habibi also revolves around the stories Dodola told Cham to lull him to sleep, to help him through his hunger pangs, through her teachings of morality and ethics. The story progresses through nearly a decade or a bit more and it also shows the greed and industrial revolution of the Middle East. Women progressing from burkas and hijabs to more Western wear. Cham works for a water bottling plant, and industry that grows from the gift that was once free. In the background was always the same, famine and refuse.