Family Home

I have found myself in Zahar, a village in Jordan just south of the Syrian border. This is where my fiancées family is from, and this is where they gather to grieve.

In Islam there is a three day mourning period. The women stay in the house and welcome female visitors, while the men do the same at a venue that translates as ‘court’. Arabic coffee and dates are served both sides. In the evening when all visitors have left, the men come home and everyone breathes a sigh of relief that the day has passed.

But I don’t want to get into funeral etiquette or traditions. Some things aren’t meant for sharing.

Zahar: deep green, the colour of olive tree leaves that line the curving roads, and whose rustling accentuates the domestic quietude of village life. The beige walls of square houses are speckled with sunlight filtering through vine leaves like daytime fairylights. Forget the word ‘poor’ that Ammanites bandy about; the crowing of chickens and the tinkle of cow bells are heavenly in a way money doesn’t comprehend. Countryside calls for a wonderful mix of practicality and imagination.

The house: wind whistles through red rust windows, and the water heater broke long ago, but age-old blankets were folded by a loving grandmother who did not know that they would come to her family’s rescue when she couldn’t.
A boy in a red keffiyeh bobs along on his donkey. A farmer bumps past on his red open top tractor. He reminds me that this is everyone’s summer family home, from Jordan to the South of France.

And while the paint flakes from the ceilings like Juddeh’s ashes blessing our sleeping heads, the morning sun bathes our wounds in childhood memories of tyre swings and we can walk into the next day clean and absolved.


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