Last month I visited Hussam, my brother in Belgium for three nights. I couldn’t write about that earlier, because I wanted to absorb my emotions, so I could write from a different angle about those wonderful days.
I packed my suitcase very carefully and made sure that the Dior perfume bottle that I had bought for my brother was in a safe corner. When it was my turn at the security check, they stopped me and asked me to open my bag and give them things containing liquids, I got annoyed because I forgot about that. So, I gave them my hair cream, face washing liquid and the perfume. They took the first two things and when they held the perfume bottle to check how much the amount was, I said if they are going to throw it, I will go to get everything back and go to the other exit to pay for the suitcase, because that bottle was a dear gift to Hussam. But they left me keeping it and I passed the gate to my flight waiting room.
Two hours later, the flight arrived in Brussels. I dragged my suitcase and was very nervous and excited to see Hussam. I didn’t find him there, so I sent him a message and he answered quickly that his car got broken and it will take a few minutes to come. I went downstairs to wait him close to the parking lot. There I was happy to hear the French language all the time, since I like it and reckon it being as music. After a while, I got a message from Hussam ‘Weenik?’ (where are you). I texted him back with my location along, but he still didn’t find me. Eventually, there he was, ten steps away from me, but we both didn’t recognise each other, which was quite funny and ridiculous. He was in a totally new look, his hair and beard were stained blond, and I was wearing shorts and having my hair without veil.
We looked at each other very surprised as if we were like two strangers that just had met. I got confused by how we had changed. We hugged each other without tears and went silently to the car. In the car Hussam asked me kindly ‘Can you please change your shorts when we get to home, I don’t want my friends to talk about me, I respect you, and you should accept me as I am’. I understood him and said, ‘It’s not their business, I wear whatever I want’. He said ‘We are Arabs’. Then I didn’t want to argue about that, because I knew that we are different and I had to respect his attitudes even if I didn’t agree with him.
It was my intention to travel with shorts and not changing my personality for my brother. I travelled without faking my appearance. I was glad that he didn’t get angry because I was without veil and he respected me. Yet, the Arabic man had his mind, he didn’t like my clothes, he had to accept me because we were in Europe where the equality and freedom should be. Apparently, I took that as an advantage for me as an Arabic woman who strives for her freedom.
When we arrived at his home, I changed my shorts and wore jeans to cover my legs! However, I was full of energy and even more when I saw Hussam going to the kitchen and started preparing dinner for me. It was unusual seeing him cooking, the Arabic brother was cooking for his sister!! He made me happy and proud, how much he had changed, that simple behaviour was valuable for me. It was the best ‘kufta’ (Arabic meat balls) I’ve eaten since I left Palestine. We were sitting at the table, the family feelings invaded me, I missed our old days when we always gathered for dinners and had long talks. But nowadays we are separated in different countries and everyone has his/her own life.
Next day, Hussam drove me around Brussels, we went to Atomium, it was wonderful from out and inside. First, we took the elevator to the top ball, then we went down to the beginning and took the elevator to the other ball. There were different exhibitions in every ball. When we left the Atomium, it started raining and it was the first time ever I saw what they call ‘devil rain’, it was raining in the street where we were, and in the other street, two minutes away, it was sunny!
I asked Hussam to drop me off at the centre of the city, he was worried about me. I said ‘I travelled alone, I won’t get lost’. He seemed surprised by his little sister. Again, how much we have changed since we left the Middle East! I can’t describe how great I felt strolling alone in the middle of nowhere, in a city I never been to before, I walked to Palais de Justice, it was closed for repairing, so I walked further and watched the city from top, then went to Avenue Louise and had a long walk until I got tired and took the metro to Grand Place and finally saw the Manneken Pis. It wasn’t as big as I had expected. It was surrounded by people who were watching it curiously and taking photos. I barely could take a photo and left it with a smile, wondering what’s the special about that little boy who’s peeing all the time.
Later, Hussam joined me and spent the entire day going from place to place in the beautiful Brussels, leaving back to home in Alts after having waffles.
The third day was the busy day in my stay in Belgium, I asked Hussam to drive me to Antwerp. I’m still very thankful to him, because he never seemed fed up or tired of me. I contacted a friend of me who lives in Antwerp and set an appointment to meet at 1 pm. I knew that friend since we were in Palestine. We met only once, but kept in touch through Facebook and through poetry, our common interest. The surprise was hiding there. When I got off the car and went to meet my friend, she was without veil. Without preamble, she said ‘yes, this is me’. I thought she should wear Hijab (veil) since she always posted her photos on Facebook with Hijab. She explained to me the reason, saying that she has the right to wear whatever she wants. Her siblings are still angry at her and they fight trying to convince her wearing the Hijab, even if they live far away from her. In Palestine, they phone, nag and disturb her. She said that she can’t show her photos in public without Hijab, solely to be respectful for her old mother who grew up in a conservative family. My friend got a high position job as a TV journalist, but she refused it, because she didn’t want to appear without Hijab, also only due to the wish of her mother. She said ‘It’s not my mother’s fault that her daughter is a rebel. I don’t want people there to bother her for the rest of her life just because of me, while I’m living my life happily in Belgium. I’m responsible for my attitudes here’.
My friend was one of many other Arabic female friends who have changed a lot when they moved to Europe. They started to see things from a different perspective, they started to be themselves, discovering their real personalities away from the patriarchal society. They became broad and opened minded, strong and independent. I was impressed by my friend, how she was very confident and successful being herself and making her dreams true.
The fourth day in Belgium was my last day, my flight was at 3 pm. Even though, I didn’t want to waste any moment without discovering new things, so I asked my brother to drive me to Bruges and from there I would go directly to the airport. It was definitely my favourite city. A small, gorgeous and vibrant city. I got to see Belfry, the huge tower that built during the 1200s, walking down to Burg Square where the architectural masterpieces reside. I felt like I was walking in a museum – I couldn’t take a Canal Tour though.
Before heading back to the airport, we had the exclusive Belgians oysters and mussels, then Hussam drove me to the Windmills, along the Ringvaart waterway between Dampoort and Kruispoort. It was my last joyful point to see in the city.
To that limit, my memorable visit to my brother finished with lots of fun and surprises in Belgium.