I worried how I would spend Eid Al Fitr (holiday culminating Ramadan) this year.
This Ramadan was hard. Being away from my family for the first time was difficult. Whether fasting or not, being with family for iftar (breaking of the fast) was always a blessing.
You do not realize how important some moments are for you until you are without them.
You are never really alone
I spent a great deal of time with friends and extended family during this holy month. On some days, I just wanted to be alone. At times, I cried myself to sleep.
I know it sounds cliché, but it felt good to let it out.
As Ramadan began to wind down, those closest to me in Lebanon began asking about my Eid plans. Knowing I was away from home, my aunt, cousins, and friends contacted me to ensure I wouldn’t be alone.
Ayta Al Jabal
I ended up going to my village, Ayta Al Jabal (Ayta Al Zutt) in the south of Lebanon with my uncle’s daughter, Mirvat Amen-Dimachk and her family.
Mirvat and her family are Americans who moved to Lebanon 12 years ago.
Not far from the border of Palestine, Ayta is a village that was under occupation for many years. The spirit of the people in south Lebanon is robust and resilient and evident in all aspects of their lives.
It is truly inspiring to witness their strength and fortitude. Being in their presence is uplifting.
Eid Al Fitr brought thousands to the villages of Lebanon for relaxation and family time. It was such a lovely sight to behold as families dined together and spent evenings visiting one another.
Not a village girl
I was never one for weekends in the village. I would go, kicking and screaming.
While on vacation in Lebanon during previous trips, I never wanted to leave the excitement and nightlife of the city.
Village life is very laid back. It is extremely rural and quiet as sheep and cows graze in fields and farmers harvest crops.
This lifestyle was from what I was interested in when escaping the confines of Dearborn, Michigan.
During vacations, I was only focused on reveling in the hustle and bustle of Beirut. I never sought the quiet time. I wanted the Middle Eastern action and entertainment that I could never quite find in the U.S.
No matter how many fun options Dearborn offered for an evening out, it was a dim glimmer in comparison to the exhilaration of amusement in Beirut. This was what drew me to the city, time and again.
A relaxing Eid Al Fitr
Now that I live and work here, I understand the need for that time away.
Eid Al Fitr was on Friday, June 13. It is a national holiday in Lebanon and many businesses close.
I drove to Ayta behind Mirvat and her daughters. The traffic was horrendous and the 1 hour and 45 minute drive took three hours.
It was my first time driving my own car to the south of Lebanon.
The breathtaking views while traveling up mountains to Ayta filled my heart with renewed love for the country.
Lebanon is exquisite in all its splendor and grandiose.
Comfort and Serenity
Upon arrival, we rested and sat on the patio, sipping coffee and enjoying the view.
Mirvat’s house is magnificent and inviting.
She has taken the art of using every living space and created cozy corners and nooks throughout the house.
A cousin here, a cousin there
My cousin, Farrah Mohamed (pictured with her daughter, Zeinab), lives in Ayta. She is an American who moved to Lebanon, as well.
Seeing her always is a beautiful reminder of home and our childhood.
What excited me even more was learning to navigate the village on my own.
Spending time with Farrah is something I always enjoy. In the past, we would only see one another when I visited. Our connection, no matter how much distance separated us, was always strong.
Alhamdulillah (Thanks to God) for the family that are also your friends.
No verbal filters in LebanonI have written of the lack of decorum and etiquette in the country. The obsession with appearance, materialistic things, and other people’s business is outrageous.
While visiting a home, I saw a cousin I had not seen since 2008. Upon greeting her, she made it a point to let me know that she did not recognize me because I was heavier when she last saw me.
Get a grip, lady. Seriously.
I have literally had the same face since I was 17 and got rid of my glasses. Nothing different here. Same cheeks, lips, eyes and bone structure.
I have not had cosmetic surgeries or made any changes that you could not recognize me. *eye roll*
I reminded her that people change over a period of ten years, and whether fat or thin, I still look fabulous. *flashing my smile*
Another relative who usually sees me on trips to Lebanon shook my hand like I was a stranger. She has not seen me in 3 years.
While one relative was shocked by my weight loss, another was shocked by my weight gain.
Dear God, give me some patience.
I was unhealthy and too thin three years ago. After some health issues, a few emergency surgeries and multiple rounds of steroids and medications, I had gained weight. Since gaining the weight, I have lost most of it.
This was not of interest to this particular relative.
Women in Lebanon are consumed by images of supermodels and cosmetically enhanced bodies. This fuels their desire to make people feel less “whole.”
Thankfully, my confidence is intact and I am comfortable in my skin.
Why so perplexed? It’s not your body
She exclaimed multiple times, “Yeee, Suehaila! What have you done to yourself? Why would you gain all that weight?”
I prayed, “Dear Lord, hold me back from taking off my shoe and launching it at her.”
Biting back the urge to remind her that she was not skinny or a Victoria Secret supermodel, I laughed.
Perplexed by my weight gain, it was as if her body was being put through a medical circus.
Ignore the ignorant
My sarcasm reared its ugly head. I am grateful for quick wit.
“I know my weight is overwhelming for you. Next time, I will ask God to spare me sicknesses that send me to the hospital, needing horrible medications.”
I continued my relaxing weekend and spent time with the family that mattered.
They say to pray for people who irritate you. I am sending some supplications up for her.
Things that matter
The eid (holiday) was spent driving through neighboring villages, visiting family and friends.
I spent time roaming through the village cemetery , searching for the graves of my great grand-parents and loved ones.
It brought comfort to my heart to visit them on the holiday.
Sitting in the quiet of the cemetery, I recited the opening verse of the Holy Qur’an, Al Hamd (Al Fatiha), over the graves.
In the stillness of the space, I am reminded how short life is. I pray that God reunites us in jannah (paradise).
Always laughter and smiles
My extended cousins (pictured here), some who I have not seen in over 20 years, all got together. I had forgotten how fun this part of my family was.
Seeing my great uncle Hussein Sabra’s children, and their children, was a reminder of the beauty of big families.
They are such fun! No matter what their situation or concerns in life, they smile, enjoy one another’s company and live in the moment.
The world could learn from them to appreciate every aspect of life.
I am grateful for the time I spent this year with family and friends. Even more so, I am thankful for the friends who have become my family in Lebanon.
This holy month brought me more blessings than I could have asked for.
My heart is full and I could not be more pleased with how this holiday turned out.