Things Are Not the Same

My metaphorical Riyadh retains its character as the years pass, while the actual Riyadh evolves. My friend of many years still goes back and forth. She tells me about the ongoing construction, the ever-increasing concern with security, and the simple conclusion that, “Things are not the same.” We’ve always planned that I will go back with her after I retire. Her Saudi husband can get me a visa, and we will revisit our friends who still live there, and our favorite places– Obeikan and Jareer Bookstore, the Diplomatic Quarter, Batha souq, Ateeqa fruit and vegetable souq in Riyadh, the new and expansive malls, and then, of course, Makkah…markers of the vibrant life we lived there, the life of children, husbands, homemaking, friendships, intellectual curiosity  and religious observances, all  swirling around yearly travels to the United States and other countries.

No, things are not the same. We regarded the first Gulf war as a terrible anomaly, never to be repeated and certainly not extended. We were there during that war, at least part of the time. We gave profuse thanks when it was over, when our lives resumed the order we’d constructed, when we could replace the cozy blanket of security over ourselves and our families. We were not oblivious to the greater social and political consequences of historical developments, but as two Western women– wives and mothers– we knew where our personal strength belonged, and we knew our limitations.

By the date of 9/11, I’d been repatriated to the US already for several years, somewhat settled again, and yet, that day showed me that “things” would never be the same again, not only in the United States but in the Middle East, as well. America would reel, then heal, somewhat, and surely take its revenge.   Another country– Iraq– would be blown apart. I didn’t know, then, that Iraq would come close to my heart, that I would become Grandma to two little kids who have an Iraqi father.  A third country– Egypt– would unravel to the extent that my ex-husband is still afraid to go visit his own mother there. My discomfort is personal, yet not even intimate as the discomfort–no, the torment–of those whose lives have been shattered, whose dear ones have been massacred.

I visited Syria in the late 1980s, stayed with the family of a Syrian colleague, and enjoyed a wonderful two weeks, during which they showed my all over Damascus in-between family meals that were more like celebrations than meals. I pray they are still safe and together, though I do not know, and I’m too cowardly to find out.

I visited Jordan, too, and a handful of other countries in the region, in good health and safety, not as a tourist but as a visitor to people who lived in those places. An acquaintance here tells me that Jordan is still safe, but I don’t know.

No, things are not the same. The distance between my metaphorical Riyadh and the actual Riyadh of my experience– and the Middle East, by extension–  has evolved into a chasm. If I look into it, I’ll see an abyss from which I’ll expect the fangs of Shaytan to rush up and tear my heart out.

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About Marahm

At first glance, I may appear to be a middle-aged American woman with kids, grandkids, a job in a hospital, and the responsibilities that come with all of that. Behind the image, which is true enough, I am fairly unhinged from much of American mainstream living, having spent twelve years in Saudi Arabia, years that sprung me from societal and familial impositions of narrow bands of truth. I have learned to embrace my sense of identity as a seeker, an artist, and a writer. I study Arabic and Italian language, because I love them, and I love their people, and I plan to spend more time in both the Middle East and Italy after I retire. I am a photographer. I write, and sometimes publish, flash memoir, and now a blog or two.
This entry was posted in Life, Memoir, Saudi Arabia, Travel and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Things Are Not the Same

  1. Muslim says:

    YOU said :………..I visited Syria in the late 1980s, stayed with the family of a Syrian colleague, and enjoyed a wonderful two weeks, during which they showed my all over Damascus in-between family meals that were more like celebrations than meals. I pray they are still safe and together, though I do not know, and I’m too cowardly to find out….
    ——-
    Me: Israel has stolen Golan Heights from Syria long ago,…Israel was like today ISIS on that day when USA has fed them with all its mightiness including military equipment,money and strategies to kill innocent people and ethnically cleanse Palestinians from their own land..As we are all aware that over 700,000 Palestinians are living as refugees in neighboring countries,,,These refugees, living like imprisoned animals in foreign land, never highlighted by western or world media as ISIS has exposed today.
    ISIS was brainchild of USA and its allies to defeat Assad or in real to say weaken resisting regimes which opposes expansion strategy of Israel and USA imperialism.
    (ISIS and Israel are two faces of same coin—> ( different religious belief or ideology, Mighty military power, advanced technology, favorable media and false propaganda doesn’t make one “crime of ISRAEL is divine” and the other “crime of ISIS is a crime”.)
    ———
    and YOU SAID—–> ……..I visited Syria in the late 1980s, stayed with the family of a Syrian colleague, and enjoyed ” a wonderful two weeks” , during which they showed my all ……………………though I do not know, and I’m too cowardly to find out….
    ———
    march 2015——-> A wonderful two weeks in SYRIA?…….THINGS ARE NOT THE SAME

    • Marahm says:

      Thank you, Muslim. You are correct. Your response: “As we are all aware that over 700,000 Palestinians are living as refugees in neighboring countries…These refugees, living like imprisoned animals in foreign land, never highlighted by western or world media as ISIS has exposed today,” points to another direction in this landscape.

      I knew and worked with many Palestinians who had ended up in Saudi Arabia. All of them had family members who had disappeared, or who had escaped to yet different countries. “Things are not the same,” for me today, yet for Palestinians, things have not been the same for entire families, for entire lifetimes.

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