In the heart of Arabia: Lesson from the little ones

tanoura

The Majestic Tanoura. Behind, traditional Arab seating can be seen.

January 2014

Dubai, Middle East

When two children enlightened me with love- and how universal it truly is.

After an adventurous evening of driving over hilly sand dunes with exciting songs to compliment each sharp turn, our desert safari finally came to an end, insync with the setting of the sun. Francis, our jeep driver pulled the car to a halt across a setting in the desert.

Sprawled across the middle of the desert stood a walled area of many colours and shades. Outside it looked quite ordinary; a modern day Bedouin village or fort. Inside however, the essence of life was encapsulated within the chatter of humans from all cultures, the aroma of mixed cuisine and of course, the cheerful sight of Arabic dances: tanoura and belly.

All across the walls of the walled area stood stalls reflecting the spirit of the Arab culture; some held food and others, articles. One of the stalls was a sandwork stall: the artist would ‘draw’ a picture inside a glass bottle by pouring coloured sand. Another held falafel and shawarmas- both highly valued middle eastern cuisine. A third offered cultural dresses, Aba’ya and a Thobe for tourists to try. And of course, there was a stall for henna too! There were also corners for sheesha for those interested, as well as various other food stalls.

In the very middle was a raised platform (the stage) surrounded by lights. Encircling the stage were soft mats, pillows and carpets with tables. This seating was very traditional to Arabia.

My family of four and I looked around, quenching our excitement and wonder by exploring the ‘mini village’. Except for mama, nobody could really pinpoint exactly what country we were from. Afterall, all we had on was jeans and a shirt.

So out I went on my own, getting my complimentary henna on the back of my right hand from the henna stall. And I was waiting in line for my mum and sister when it happened: two little girls no more than nine years, walked over to me and pointed at my henna,“Nice na?” they smiled. “Yes, it’s very nice indeed. Yours look very beautiful!” I beamed right back at them. “Thankyou so much! This is my sister, and we are both from India!” India’s a very lovely place, you have the Taj Mahal right? I grinned innocently at their cute little nods. “Where are you from sister?” they eagerly inquired. “I’m your neighbour!” I replied. I must admit they were good at geography. I was Nepalese, Chinese, Afghani, Sri Lankan, even American and British, also French. They were disappointed to hear I wasn’t German (I think it was their favourite country.)

When our guessing game was over, I finally looked at them directly and smiled, “Pakistan.” For a second it seemed as though a surge of emotions whirled through them. They froze, their smiles shrank, and their eyes gaped. “Pakistan?” they repeated. “Yes, Pakistan” I chanted, followed by a giggle.

That was all it took. The girls once more chortled and started an endless series of curious questions. Soon it was time to settle down for the Tenoura performance, and so we parted with hugs.

When it was time to bid goodbyes, the girls rushed over from amongst a large crowd. They bustled about, cackled once more and said goodbye with a furiously waving hand. I returned the gesture before we seperated ways.

 

It took two children under nine years  to shun prejudice and assumption at once, and make me realize how we have rigidly built our identities. They made me envision a world where we are kind regardless of borders- no matter how physical or nonphysical they are.

Perhaps love for one thing  need not be synonymous to hatred for another; that we may well be passionate for whatever holds value to us without breeding hatred in our hearts for things that do not align with our perspective.

Love really is universal once we let it be.

 

Happy Independence Day!
Peace and love.

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