First night in Lisbon

Every time I want to travel abroad, I make a list of restaurants, cafes, bars and places to go to. I put a lot of focus on my restaurants list, I like to choose the local and hidden small restaurants, because I travel basically to eat. Through food, I get to know different aspects about the country or the particular city I’m staying at.
This time I went to this local restaurant where there were only Portuguese people, they were quite loud and excited about the football match that was going on, they chanted and banged the tables from time to time. The guys next to our table apologised and continued chanting. We said it’s ok and we actually banged our table with them. They laughed and raised their beer glasses.
I ordered the famous Portuguese grilled codfish and my boyfriend ordered a Portuguese stew. The portions were huge and I got shocked by the mount of food we got, we barely ate. The waiter came and seemed worry, I said ‘the food is very good, but it’s for ten persons’. He relieved and took away the plates and came back with the dessert menu, I choose bolo de bolacha. It was a big cake with layers of buttercream, I ate some bites for the tasting’s sake. The mood was chaotic, yet joyful. There were seven waiters in the small restaurant. If it had been in Sweden it would only have had one waiter. Spilled beer drowned the tables and bread flew across the floor! The guys continued chanting and some people didn’t get a place inside the restaurant, the waitress gave them beer glasses and kept serving them while they were standing in the street cheering the people inside the restaurant.

ثلج في حي أوڤي

يا كارهين الثلج، أنتم لم تعيشوا في الحي الذي اسمه أوفي لتعرفوا ما هو الثلج الرائع.. لم تجربوا المشي على القطن الناعم، ليس عندكم شرفة في الطابق الأخير في بناية من الخمسينات، تطل على شارع و حديقة يمر منها يوميا نفس الكلب و الثلاث قطط الوديعات.

أحب مراقبة الحياة من وراء شباكي، حوافه مليئة بالثلج، أرى آثار طيور القرقف، أشعر بالطمأنينة، لأن القرقف تلويحة الربيع القادم. شاب يرتدي سترة صفراء لامعة يزيح الثلج عن درجات السلم المؤدي إلى قبو غرف غسيل الثياب، يكمل و يزيح الثلج عن عتبات البنايات المقابلة للحديقة..

في الصباح، لم أستطع مغادرة سريري، بالرغم من تذمر قطي بولين و ركضه فوقي في محاولة استفزازي، كنت مثل المشلولة، تمارين البيلاتس في الليلة الماضية كانت متعبة، لكنني شعرت بالسعادة و الفخر بمجرد التضحية بالدفء و الكسل و الخروج في عاصفة الثلج.. بعد ساعة من خطط النهوض و توعداتي بقتل قطي، غادرت السرير و توجهت مباشرة نحو شباكي، كانت الجرافة القزمة تزيح الثلج عن الشارع و الرصيف، شعرت بأنني عجوز متقاعدة و أحتاج إلى دفتر صغير أسجل فيه تحركات الجيران. كان بولين يمشي حول قدمي و ذيله يضرب ساقي بلطف كأنها محاولة للتسامح بعدما جعل مني مرمى للركض و العقاب.. لحسن حظي أنني أحب الثلج أكثر من المومينز.

Odd Birthday

In summer I got a message from one of my Swedish friends who moved to America a long time ago. He wrote to me´: “Do you want to have coffee at Nytorget?”. I simply answered “yes, tomorrow at 10”, and just like that we met again as if he lives in Stockholm.

Last month I got an unexpected message from another friend who lives in Italy. She wrote to me: “I’m coming to celebrate your birthday in Stockholm”. We haven’t talked in four years, it was vague, I thought she was joking and I gave her my birthday date to make sure that she comes on the right day.A few days before my birthday, my boyfriend asked me: “why do you want to celebrate your birthday that late?” I got confused and asked him “what are you talking about?”. He said: “you want to celebrate with your friend”, and then I realized that I gave Nidaa the wrong day. It might be understandable to forget it, but not when you live in Sweden and your birthday is a part of your Swedish personal number.

However, I went to the central station to pick Nidaa. I bought a tulip bouquet and waited her for an hour, because she got lost at the airport and she couldn’t find the railway.We ran to each other laughing a lot, and since then we never stopped talking and laughing as if we knew each other ages ago.

First time we met was fifteen years ago, and since then we met only twice! Then we started talking only when I moved to Sweden and she moved to Italy. It was very strange to meet her again, this time we spent a week together at my home in Stockholm. We cooked together and did things like two perfectly normal girls, not like an artist and a writer. I took her to my favorite streets, cafés and restaurants. We were like two characters from a novel, she taught me some Italian swear words and suggested that we should meet next time in Lappland. We also listened to Italian and Swedish music while eating dates! 

Our language was mixed with Arabic, English, Swedish and Italian. We laughed ironically at it and switched towards the old Palestinian accents from back in Gaza.On last day, I took her to my old neighborhood and showed her my old home, I told her “I feel that I was born here in a previous life”. She said “I believe in the previous life”. 

At the metro station, we walked down the stairs while the musician was playing sad music, or it sounded sad because Nidaa was leaving back to Italy. As I said, everything was like from a novel. I hugged her quickly before the metro gates closed, she was crying a lot.

Later she sent me a message telling me that it was the best week she had since she left Gaza. It made me tear up and I felt wonderful.

Visit Nidaa here:

أريد أن أصبح غنية

‎أريد أن أصبح غنية
‎في وقت قصير
‎فلا مزيد من الانتظار
‎لأساعد الناس
‎في الهروب من بلادهم المنكوبة
‎بالحروب و الدكتاتورية و البطريركية.

‎لا بد و أن هناك نساء
‎ينتظرن مساعدة ما
‎سوف أدخر قروض الدراسة
‎و أرسلها إليهن
‎كي يشترين على الأقل فوطا
‎دون الحاجة إلى سؤال أزواجهن
‎لدفع ثمنهن.
‎يا له من حزن
‎أن تكون خصوصية المرأة
‎عارية و محشوة في محفظة الرجل.

‎سوف أدخر أيضا مصاريف تذكرة المواصلات sl
‎أخطط جديا أن أبدأ بركوب الدراجة
‎و أرسل نقودا
‎إلى شباب يأكلهم القلق
‎و الخوف من المستقبل
‎هل ستكفي النقود لشراء فلتر ماء؟
‎عندئذ يمكنهم بيع مياه نقية
‎و ادخار بضع النقود
‎للفرار من الحي الفقير
‎ثم من المدينة
‎ثم من البلد كله…

‎كم أنا غارقة في الأحلام المتعبة
‎مثل بطة بين أمواج عالية
‎أقضي ساعات طويلة
‎في البحث عن عمل
‎لا لأشتري بيتا
‎أو أسافر إلى رحلة صيفية
‎كما يفعل الناس في مدينتي الوديعة
‎بل لأساعد أشخاصا لا أعرفهم
‎و لكنهم لا بد و أنهم ينتظرون شخصا لا يعرفونه
‎سوف يساعدهم يوما ما…

My water history

Today I went to practice swimming at a private pool, it was so terrible. Whenever I dunked my head under the water, I got panic as if I was going to drown and die.

Following a cognitive behavioral therapy might help; If I look back at my ‘water history’, I will find only forbidden stories of women swimming in the sea. As a part of the society where I grew up in the Arabic culture, women weren’t (and still) allowed to swim. Yes, there are many red lines on the Arabic women freedom list.

I was a child when I used to go with my family to the sea and I was allowed to hold my father foot while he was swimming, I don’t remember that I was afraid of water. Later, I followed my brothers to the sea and it was different, they pushed me into the waves and dunked my head under the water. That can be the reason behind of my water fear.

I lost the safety when I was a child and I could never work on getting it back since I grew up and joined the women with the forbidden list of things.

A friend of mine used to tell me ‘relax and become one with the water’, but I reached a point that I can think of my cat and dunk my head under the water, but it didn’t work. I thought: well, I survived three wars. If I think of how many bombs could kill me, I will feel brave and dare to face the water.

I know, sometimes, I’m strange.. after two hours in the water, I realized that wars are much easier than becoming a friend of the water.

A spider pretending to be a woman

Today while I was working, I heard my cat, Bullen, making noises in the other room. I thought it must be a bird teasing him on the balcony. A few minutes later, I took a stretch break, I went to the other room, Bullen was chattering, he was staring very curious at the curtains, I looked there, got so scared,  screamed ‘no, Bullen, come here, please’. Bullen didn’t care and he was trying to jump up on the curtain to hunt that huge black spider.

I ran fast, pulled Bullen from the curtain and scurried to my office room and locked us in it. Bullen got annoyed with me, he started miaowing loudly and scratching on the door, he really wanted to get out and catch that horrible spider.

I said ‘ok Bullen, let’s just take a quick look at the spider’. I carried him and slowly stepped out to the other room, I looked at the curtain, the spider was hanging on the corner and swinging on invisible threads. I rumbled ‘no, this’s terrifying’. The spider walked down and started running across the floor, I ran back to the office room and locked it again.

I opened the door a little to check the spider, I saw it walking freely to the kitchen, it opened the fridge and took a slice of my smoked ham. I got so annoyed, that’s my favourite ham, strangers are not allowed to eat my favourite things.

The spider turned back and looked at me, our eyes crossed, I slammed the door, my hands were sweating a lot. Bullen was standing beside me and smelling the floor, my legs started shaking, I thought the spider crawled into my room, but no, Bullen was smelling something else. I opened the door again, the spider was smoking, that’s unbelievable, the smoke detector will start chirping, that cranky spider should stop his unacceptable behaviours, even so rude that he started spitting at the wall.. what did I do to deserve such a day? The spider climbed up my shoe and laced it, he pretended to be a woman, he wore my shoes and went to the toilet, I spied at him from the corner, he was putting lipstick on his thin black lips. I screamed ‘no, that’s my beautiful lipstick, leave it’. The spider threw it and shouted at me ‘I’m beautiful.. a beautiful spider’.

I got shocked to hear his voice, Bullen seemed to not hear anything, he was still scratching on the door.