Habibi follows the lives of two slaves, Dodola and Zam (or Cham or Habibi). Dodola was sold into marriage at an incredibly young age. Though her husband could be cruel, she seemed to love him in a way.
He was employed as a scribe, and taught Dodola how to read and write. Her life there was peaceful, until a group of men raided her home. They cut her husband's throat, kidnapped Dodola and branded her as their slave.
During her time at the slave camp Dodola "adopted" a child. The kidnappers wanted to kill Zam (a baby then); Dodola wouldn't allow this to happen. She cared for Zam during their time at the slave camp. When she clawed her way to freedom and took her "son" with her. Dodola was 12 at this time; Zam was 3.
The runaways found shelter in a ship abandoned in the desert. Young Dodola tried to steal food from passing caravans; however, she was not so good at thieving, but from a young age knew that her body held some worth. She became known as the "phantom courtesan of the desert." Zam grows and begins to understand how Dodola is providing food for them. He begins to make trips into the village, which could keep him away overnight. It was during one of these trips that Dodola was stolen from her bed and taken to the Sultan to join his harem.
Dodola and Zam spent nine years together; however, it is their six years apart that gains the focus of the majority of the story.
Intertwined in the story of Dodola and Zam are full page of stories from the Quran and the Bible. The artwork in these pages is jaw dropping.
I was put off a bit by the incorporation of modern aspects to the book. For example, we are to believe that we are reading a story which occurs in the time of harems, desert caravans, and scribes; yet, also in a time of condos, water bottles, and Pepsi signs. I'm not sure what is going on with this bit.
Regardless of the confusion, I truly enjoyed this story, which is why I'm awake at 3:30am writing this...
I would recommend this book to... friends who are not offended by mature graphic novels. I would consider this a strange marriage of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights and The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie.
My favorite quote... "and God's followers worship, not out of hope for reward...nor fear of punishment... but out of love."