As prison dramas go, one immediately sees why Jacques Audiard’s A Prophet has garnered so much praise, not to mention a flurry of prizes, since it hit the big screen in 2009.

When you are on a plane, trapped in the clouds, you are nowhere. Not really nowhere: you are somewhere, a moving point in space mapped by some sophisticated cartographic technology, but you are detached from everything that transforms spaces into places; in a sense you are detached from reality, it is suspended like you within an atmospheric cushion.

Great poetry, even when it is beholden to power, is a voice of dissent. This dissent need not be political; indeed, it is more often the dissent of beauty, insanity, individuality, or emotion. But from its place at the margins, poetry can occasionally move into the centre, where it gives voice and dress to the identity of a people.

Days are wrapped up in the cold darkness long after sunrise. I fumble around in the kitchen to get myself a cup of tea, as B. listens to the news. A young street-vendor has set himself afire in a remote underprivileged part of Tunisia because the police would not let him sell his fruit.

The fourteenth-century Maghrebi philosopher of history Wali al-Din ‘Abd al-Rahman Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406) has been thought by many to be the most profound thinker Islam has ever produced.

Morocco’s Arabic name, ‘al-Maghreb’, emerges from the root gh-r-b, which denotes concepts including the west, distance, and alienation. ‘Ghareeb’ means strange. ‘Ightirab’ means living outside the Arab world, whether in the west or the east. ‘Maghreb’ also means sunset, dusk, the evening prayer, the time at which the daily fast is broken.