20 Years Apart #3


Waking up. With one eye open and the other still closed, I consciously dream of my sister’s arrival. I rush out of bed and speak to my older sister about today’s plan.

We headed to baba’s house, had some delicious manaeesh (a popular levantine food consisting of dough topped with thyme or cheese. It can be sliced or folded, and it can either be served for breakfast or lunch –> as defined by wikipedia and as approved by me).

Having it the first sisters’ hangout, my sister and I took Aish to buy an abaya. A brown abaya with little trappings on it was the one she chose. It seemed like it was hung there waiting for her to arrive from the states. Hugs and kisses every minute, we took the escalators down and there it was, Aisha’s famous memory of teta; Bakhoor.

The Abaya that called Aisha’s name out!

Aisha told us a story illustrating what this scent meant to her. It was when she visited the Saudi embassy in LA to arrange for this trip, that she had smelled bakhoor and instead of conversing with the person there; she was given napkins and some time to freshen up from the unexpected burst of tears. Those tears that unfolded the 20-year-long memory of teta, were now triggers that made us smell more than 10 different kinds, then hopefully triggers to live the memory once again by visiting teta’s old home that is currently out for sale!

That night, we went to the Edge of Arabia Exhibition where I literally took my sister’s hand and walked her around in an attempt to introduce her to my world; or at least to the world of artists in Jeddah. I wanted to show her the art that not only was hung on walls because it demonstrated talent and ability but one that stood as a symbol of the Saudi culture. Touring that exhibition, I thought, would highlight some of our most important cultural issues, from women matters, international perceptions, taboos, political ideas and religious conceptions. We had dinner afterwards with our American friends, which worked perfectly in gradually bringing together a blended texture to this family reunion.

Cassettes of old days, religious guidelines! "Ba6el"

World map with global perceptions

Let Us Talk

The next morning, Baba took Aisha for a walk by the sea (Jeddah’s corniche). It was a glamorous afternoon preparing us for our Aunt’s early dinner, which was arranged to introduce Aish to her family’s famous delicious Lebanese cuisine, which included, kebba bel seneya, fatta bel hummos, fattoosh and hurraa osbaoo.

Great Food, Wonderful Company!

After showing Aisha my room at mama’s house, the basement area where my friends and I hang out as part of the artists’ underground culture, mama spoke to her about the past. When she was born a year after I was born, when divorce and marriage happened just like that and when history shaped an interesting present life that I am experiencing as I type in this post. We took her downstairs to the saloon where her mom and my mom had the talk. And many more talks. Life is “stranger than fiction”.


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