Coming and Going

It’s water dried up and no goodness came from it,
And the land become ugly and deserted
We went looking for the land of the west,
I am on my howdah in my camel in hiding,
We came to Egypt, since then we became yours,
And there is no more coming and going

Al-Sirah al-Hilaliyyah,

How is it that moving from one place to another has become stained with shame? I remember when I was younger, most of the tales we used to hear in our village in Egypt were about courageous families moving from one place to another, fleeing something or the other, pursuing knowledge or trade, travelling after love or after desire and so many more. The most beautiful of which Al-Sirah al-Hilaliyyah, which narrate the tale of the journey of a Bedouin tribe, Bani Hilal from Najd in Arabia to Tunisia and Algeria through Egypt. I would listen to it on the music of the traditional Rababa and be glued to the storyteller. I would be mesmerized by the tales of courage and heroism of Abu Zaid al-Hilaliy, El Zinaty Chalipha.

My father would so passionately tell us the story about how his great great grandfather immigrated from upper Egypt to the Delta where his family is settled now. My grandmother would proudly tell us how the sacred route of the Holy Family passed through El-Zagazig and Belbis in the Delta and Egypt, and tell me stories and stories of their trip, of how blessed everywhere they stepped upon became and how everything turned gold. Tales and tales of courage, migration and movement as if we humans owned the world, no borders stopping us. When has migration become such stigma? When has it become so frowned upon? When has it stopped being so courageous and soulful?

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