My grandfather always wished to live and die in his home, his mud house, in the same plot of land where his mango trees and roses grew. A dark brown man from a small village in the Delta, inhabited by his extended family. His only belongings were a donkey, a mud house, and many children, considered a pride in his village at the time.
I sometimes wonder what is home for us, those who have been in between lands for generations. The more we try to make sense of it, the more unnecessarily burdened we feel. But the truth is we are entangled, in solitude, to so many places. Unlike my grandfather, I have no wish to die in a specific place, since my family is scattered everywhere and the mud house has since long been gone. When I look at my children, I think everywhere is their home, it’s a one big place of their little everything, maybe it’s the collection of border stamps on their little passports. I asked my son once where does he want to live? He told me he wants to go to Our Home, a little bit of everything. My daughter says I am her home. There is a beautiful line of old arabic poetry by Abū Tammām which claims that a man’s longing will always be for the first home no matter how many homes he has become familiar to.
For a family who travelled a lot but couldn’t afford sight-seeing, there wasn’t pretty much to remember about the countries we have lived in. But I do remember that we have once lived in a street surrounded by some beautiful mountains, and another time in a house with the desert’s sand extending on both sides of the street like a carpet. I connect to narrow alleyways by nostalgia or to the sound of a train passing by under an apartment we once lived in, somewhere in the world. Through all these temporary homes, I mostly, have memories of streets and houses, that maybe no longer exist. Tree-lined streets between social housing buildings we once lived in Constantine, with our building entrance stairs extending to their pavement. The stairs on which my father had chats with his university students, who passed by casually, about nationalism and about his father’s mango trees. The street outside our school in another faraway place on the other side of the world, Peshawar. The only happy vibrant strip of streets outside schools in the whole city, midst the isolation and gun shots on the borders. The small alleys with children playing in Cairo enveloped by the old buildings with mashrabiya and tiny flags colored by their small hands before cars took over. The mandarins trees in the streets of Tunis shading the local markets. The smell of coffee floating through the old streets of Berlin.
Everytime I try to make sense of home, I am thrown back to a moment of time and place where the space once embraced us. This encounter between the human and the small space overlooking his daily life routines. The name of the country is hazy but the memory of the event is vivid. Sometimes I think we should stamp inbetweenlands on our travel documents and not borders or countries. This is my story and my blog.