Chapter 8

Welcome back KSA

 

When my plane left KSA and I knew I was not going back to KSA, I felt so upset. I never felt that I loved living there though. The sadness that swept me was related to my childhood memories. After all, it was that school that witnessed my very first innocent years. It was those teachers who made me love Arabic to the core. And although the country didn’t live Islam in its bestest ways, they taught the best version of academic Islam I could see until today. I thought I had waved good bye forever.

But because baba, who became a bit out of the system, chose to stay there as Egypt was not going to offer us a good sum of money to live in welfare, we had to go each year for three months to pay our being-his-kids taxes. I know it is such an ungrateful sentence from a daughter to his father who sacrificed all for his family. But it was the way I thought and felt. To take me away from my friends where I wear what I like and eat as much junk food as I wish for whole 90 days in the desert was quite a punishment for me. Baba on the other hand tried his best. He brought us a computer, another up to date Sony TV Japan made, receiver and he further took us out every day. We did a lot of shopping. I bought lots and lots of stuff that I needed and didn’t need. Still, it was the most boring month I had ever forced to live.

Khaled never came with us though. Baba and mama agreed to leave him at grandma. And whenever I complained they would say “you’re a girl and you shouldn’t be left alone at anyone’s house”. I never understood that especially when I saw how baba was a pro west cheerer. If he is praising their life styles, why doesn’t he praise their freedom and will power? The end result was that I had to travel and the seeds of jealousy, hatred and insecurity in my own nature which started soon to sprout.

I used to pack lots of books. At that time, I was fond of the series of ‘ragol al mostahel’ (the man of the impossible) and ‘malaf al mostakbal’ (episodes of the future) for Nabil Farouk. I loved the adventures but mainly I took refuge in the romance between the characters. Adham Sabry, who was an officer in the Egyptian intelligence, used to love his colleague Mona endlessly. He would rush to save her from all kidnapers. He would receive her between her arms to sob and pour all her emotions. There were no kisses and no hot scenes but pure love emotions that made my heart soar every time I read them.

Baba took much pleasure in talking to me too. He loved me dearly. He never said no to something I want. For him, I was the reason for which he lived. He did not want an ordinary daughter with dolls and beautiful locks. He wanted to convey in me a message to the world: work, work and work. Work everything and anything. Toughen to face the world because one day you might be alone just like him. In your home, be a plumper, electrician, cook, cleaner and rely on no one.

Yeah, baba was a real example for suffering and thriving in the world. He had a poor tailor illiterate dad, illiterate mother and 7 siblings. He used to look at his dad working hard to provide for his big family in the small village where they lived. His mother helped too. She sold milk from the buffalo they owned and used to make butter and cheese. She made the best version of ‘feteer’ (a kind of pie made in the villages) I have ever tasted. Baba used to tell me how she sat in front of the oven baking from dawn. Seeing his parents struggle, baba made his aim to be a physician, the first physician in his poor countryside. He did and joined the faculty of medicine. He always told us how he dearly loved and obeyed his parents. He would express gratitude through kissing their hands whenever he saw them. In his third year, his dad passed away. Although baba had an older brother, he was very irresponsible and couldn’t take the lead of the big human heritage. Baba worked as a medical representative to support his family. He made sure that his sisters continue their education despite his mother’s pleas that ‘there is no need to educate females, at the end they will get married and raise a family’. Yet, he insisted. Education and work consumed his thought that he believed leisure was an illusion and whoever sought it was deluded.  

Listening to baba was part of my pleasure; except that I believed there were leisure and fun. I respected his story and journey But I didn’t believe I was part of this sad full of work story. I didn’t want to be the completion of it. I wanted to sleep, relax, eat chocolate and chips, sleep, relax and eat chocolate and chips again. Baba to me was very strong. And I was so vulnerable; or I saw women should be so. Or the media and ancestors had extensively fed us this myth that it became part and parcel of us. Men should be strong. Women should be weak; there lies their beauty. Ah, yeah, I had always loved the sight of a woman fainting so that her lover picks her up, crying so that her husband hugs her or falling in trouble so that her knight comes on his horse to ride her off. Of course baba didn’t like that.

Although he appeared to be the model for toughness and strength, I always felt some tenderness lurking behind his strong face. That tenderness grew as the wrinkles started to draw its traces on his face. It showed whenever he hit or made me sad and came to kiss and make it up to me. Yeah, those emotions showed one way or another.

In our second visit to KSA, we learnt his mother, my grandma whom I always remembered as a flimsy picture of struggle of no impact on me, was so sick. We had to cut the vacation off and go back to Egypt. I accompanied him to the hospital. She was in the intensive care connected to tubes of some kind. She had wrinkles all over her face and hand. Because he was a physician, he was immediately allowed in. My small hand inside his, I went with him. His big tough strong hand shook at the sight of the small wrinkled body. He left my hand, bent and kissed the wrinkled hand. It took a second, but for me the bending and standing up actions took forever. His strong tough eyes wept like I never saw them weep before. His strong tough body shook like I never saw it before. And the image of the strong tough male figure shattered forever to me.

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