My family and I recently returned from a 6-week visit to our native Egypt. While in Cairo, we spontaneously decided to take a short getaway to Hurghada-city of the Red Sea. We made reservations at the Hurghada Marriott and purchased round-trip bus tickets for the following week.
We wasted no time the day we arrived. After checking into the hotel and changing everyone into their swimming attire we headed off to the beach where we would enjoy clean air, warm weather, and calm waters. As we approached the beach, we stopped at the “towel booth” located at the entrance to the beach, handed over 4 cards that we received when we checked in at the hotel, and received 4 towels for the day in return. Duaa who is 5 years old, and Mohammed who is 22 months old, were delighted and immediately began to play in the water and sand.
It wasn’t long before Duaa noticed a school of fish swimming around her in the shallow waters. She excitedly started to shout, “Look! Fish!” As she did so, a little girl around Duaa’s age ventured over to where she was, curious about all the commotion. Together, they observed the fish, and were both pointing at different things for each other to see. It wasn’t long before these two girls were building sandcastles together, taking turns filling up the sand bucket with water and lugging it back to the construction site.
Duaa was delighted she had found a playmate. Every morning as we arrived at the beach, she anxiously scanned the beach for her new friend until they found each other-and they played together all day long. They took snack breaks together, splashed each other with water, dug each other in the sand, and cried at the end of the day when it was time to turn in our towels.
I was happy to see my daughter happy, but there was something far more profound to me about their play than simply seeing my daughter having fun; it was how they were able to play, enjoy each other, communicate together-all without a single word of spoken language in common. Duaa’s new friend was from Germany; but the fact that Duaa was speaking English and her friend was speaking German, didn’t seem to matter to either one of them. In fact, they didn’t even seem to notice.
As I sat in my lounge chair looking on at their play, book open and face-down in my lap, sun in my face, my mind began to wander. I am amazed at the innocence of young children. Genuine appreciation for one another comes before inner pride. Guards are down, complexes nonexistent. They are not limited by language barriers and talking isn’t the only means of communication. I think about what I can learn from these two girls about basic social skills and resourcefulness. I wonder if two adults-“older and wiser” people- who don’t have a country or language in common, could ever get along so well? To Duaa, maybe this was just another day at the beach, but to me, it was yet another life lesson learned from my child.
Hagar Emira lives in Maryland with her husband and two young children. She enjoys attending Islamic halaqas, reading, learning new things, and spending time with her family.