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A Reply to Mr Al-'eryan

Dear Mr Al-'eryan,

Your letter to your beloved Fajria brought tears to my eyes, filled my heart with a strange mixture of happiness and sadness ;and put me in a semi-sedated state of being as it struck a chord within me. It reminds me of too many similar sad stories; stories I witnessed myself and stories I heard from here and there. But before I share with you and the dear readers some of these stories, I would like to take the opportunity to thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing such a spellbinding fascinating story of True Love and Faithfulness. I thought the days of such Love have gone long time ago and the days of Such Gentlemen no longer exist apart from pure fiction and fantasy movies, as we are living in an era where honesty, faithfulness and sincerity are scarce and rare qualities, where love is traded as a cheap commodity, where True Honest Feelings are regarded with a raised eyebrows and too many questions. It seems that this era of fast food, disposable materials, pollution, the third vision of the crazed ghadafi, the Hamajia rules etc., has contaminated our emotions, feelings and even belief : Faithfulness is pure weakness, honesty is total stupidity , love is a mere myth, cheating is cleverness, dishonesty is total shatara, love is pure business. Your precious story, just as it filled my eyes with tears, it brought hope and delight to my heart and soul, as it assured me that True Love still exist and Real Gentlemen are still around. Maybe hard to find them but sure still around.

Your story reminds me of thousands of similar sad stories in our homeland. I've always wondered: why most people seem to undermine the crucial role of Love in building and strenghtening relations between people, not just between two persons but a whole society. Love and sincerity is what we Libyans lack; Love for our homeland Libya and its people, sincerity in our actions to hasten its salvation from the rule of the crazed Khadabi and his ruthless gangster.

Back to our Sereeb. I always wondered why we ,Arabs in general, seem to be doomed in Love!? From Majnoon Laila (Amorro 'ala al-diari, Diari Laila, Uqabbilu tha jidari wa tha al-jidara....), 'anter Wa 'abla (Wa laqad thakartoki wa al-rimaho nawahilo..), Kuthair 'azza, and thousands of brokenhearted people who gave a lasting fame to their Love Stories in unforgettable breathtaking poems, to more thousands and thousands of brokenhearted people whose their only solace is to listen to Um-Kulthom (wa ba'aeed 'annak hayati 'athab...) shed a tear or two, sigh bitterly and remember with a faint smile the catchphrase of Ghawar Al-Tosha: wa yedrab el hob sho bi thel... and his tragic-comic love story to Fatoom hees bees.

From the thousands and thousands doomed love stories of Imraje' wa Hania, Ali wa Sa'aida, Mas'ood wa Mas'ooda..etc, I remember two. These two stories are close to my heart as I witnessed them and played a minor role in their development; one when I was a little girl of seven, the other when I was sweet sixteen.
The first story took place in the mid-late Seventies in the region of the Green Mountain, where we used to visit our grandparents every summer and spend the whole three months of school holiday roaming the green valleys of that beautiful Mediterranean small town, where gaily coloured flowers, apricots, peaches, almonds, and white musky and purple grapes, which twine on frames in front of houses and in back gardens (Jinanaat), grow; climbing the giant oak trees and collecting its bitter oak nuts; playing gleefully Ana Al-Nahla Wanta Al-Daboos on Al-Bindira at the centre of the old Souk; playing one of our childish tricks on Sidi Ali who owns a shop in the middle of the Souk and sells everything one can think of, from needles to Halwat Bar Al-Turk and trying effortlessly to distract his attention and sneak inside his shop (Magharit Ali Baba, as we used to call it) to snatch a piece or two from the irresistible mouth-watering sweet, to be chased and promised a very good tareeha later on; and slipping away frivolously to the seaside to have a quick dip in the azure-blue water and build great castles on the silky sands and under the eternal blue sky, to be caught later on and herded into Al-Hosh Al-Barrani and washed thoroughly under the running cold tap water, while auntie Noria threatening us ,as usual, with grandpa’s Mahogany Bakoor: if you do it again I will mince you. And, of course, we will do it again.
Every summer I was looking forward for such a Sindibadi adventure, but I was most eager to see again Jazeel, my grandparents' next-door neighbour. (I have changed the name for anonymity reasons) Till now I still remember Jazeel with her angelic beauty; she had the most beautiful big eyes I ever seen, the most wonderful long raven black hair. She was only sixteen but had a life and a duty of a grown up woman. She had been taken out of school when she was ten, when her mother died and ever since she became a mother to her six brothers and sisters and a maid to her step-mother. He was an older cousin, who used to join us every summer to the usual trip to Our Grandpas' House. Enthusiastically, he will load the old truck (Kaukab al-sharq, as Mom used to call it) with all sort of stuff, from Ghideed, to 'usban shamis, from Dwida to Rowina and not to forget to safely tie the terrified ram and ensure its safety along with the driver's. Voluntarily, he will help Mom to pack the suitcases, prepare the sandwiches for the four hour journey, and make a very strong cup of tea for my dad to ensure his cheerful mood and keep at bay any last minute change in temper... wa 'alai lee meen mankam masheen al youm. No one knew the secret behind the unexplainable boost of energy of Cousin Hameed every time we set off to the Green Mountain, of course apart from me. Although I was little and was not fully aware of what was going on, I was cousin Hameed's confidante and trustworthy messenger to his sweetheart Jazeel. I still remember his shaky hands, twinkling eyes, and tremulous voice: Reem, give her this letter and take what she gives you and don't let anyone sees you. Bahi! Sallim khaiti!
And I still do remember that sad summer, when we heard of the marriage of Jazeel to her cousin. Her wedding day is like a black and white movie, full of bitter-sweet memories. I shall never forget that moment when I squeezed myself between the crowd of women surrounding her; she looked like a princess just escaped from One Thousand Nights and a Night, like a Monalisa just painted by Leonardo Dafincci. I approached her and whispered her name, she held my hand and squeezed it gently, then looked at me with those big eyes (as my grandma used to say: itgool imsharethen majnoon). In them I saw misery, fear, and everlasting sadness. As for cousin Hameed, he got very ill and no one seemed to know what was his illness; of course he recovered but he never sat a foot in that town again and few years later he left the country all together.

The second story is of very two dear persons to me, family members. All I can say, he and she grew up together and day by day they seemed inseparable. Almost everyone in the family new their passionate story and everyone seemed to be happy for them. In their teens, anyone could see the burning passion in every movement they made, every word they said. In their twenties, he could no longer bear being away from her, so he sent his mom to ask for her hand. We all were excited for them and no one anticipated the surprising outcome. Although her family knew that they both are head over heels in love and everyone in the family knew that he is for her and she is for him, when he sent his mom to ask for her hand, they said: No, we don't have a daughter to marry off. Her mom threatened to cut off the breast that fed her, if she ever marries him, her father said nothing; she became worriedly ill. He went mad, grew a beard, and left home to the nearby desert, camping with a very close friend. All the old family members ('agal Al-'aila) were summoned for an emergency meeting to find a reasonable solution; they went to her family talked to them, threaten to cut off the relation with them, even though they were part of the family, but all their efforts were in vain. Every family member cut off his/her relation with them for few year and both families cut off relations for years. Well, he got married, had children and tried to forget, despite the image of her name and his engraved on his front door; something he did years ago when he started building 'Their Nest'. She got married as well and had children. They both have lovely children and decent partners; they seem to be content but we all know that that wonderful sparkles in their eyes had gone long time ago. Few months ago I called, he answered. How are you? How is life over there? He said: Alhamdu-lillah, well, it is existing, not living ya Reem. That sums it all, I guess.

We never forget our loved ones, the first love, all the tears, the smiles, the long nights and the soothing voice of Al-Sit, but life goes on and that is a blessing from Allah Almighty.

Dear Al'eryan, a heartfelt thank you for sharing your amazing story with us. I wish you and your beloved family joy and everlasting happiness. I, as well, pray to Allah Almighty to help our people in our beloved homeland, Libya, and hasten its salvation from the Butcher of Sirt and his crazed stupid thugs, so our people can live a dignified life and relish the wealth and prosperity of our country and that we the exiled can return to Our Dear Land to build it soon, Insha-Allah.

And Happy Eid to everyone.

Reem El-Badia

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