Yasmine Ziadat | September 3 2016
A continuation of Part One: Storytelling with Teta
From the tale of how her Swiss mother Dora came to meet her Palestinian father Hanna in the 30s, to the stories of their family fleeing as refugees from the 1948 war in Palestine, here is Part Two of just a snippet of my Teta’s life.
Boats were the only transport that could take us out of Palestine at the time. Papa put us on the last boat, there was no space and we shared a cabin with another couple, this lady, her husband and children. I remember Micho and I shared the upper bunk. When we reached Beirut there was no place for us to stay. We went to my cousin’s house and stayed with them for a couple of months. It was tough. There was a Lebanese nun telling the children in the village not to play with us because we were poor refugees. One day Papa said “I can’t live here anymore!” so he put us all in a Vauxhall, a very small English car, we five all squeezed into it, we strapped our mattresses and suitcases on top and we drove back to Jericho.
There we are, the five of us!
In Jericho Papa’s cousin had an orchard and we stayed in that little house with no electricity, no running water and the bathroom was a hole in the ground. It was very very bad for my mama, she suffered most. We stayed there for two years. She had bad kidney issues. I woke up one morning and found her lying on the floor, no movement, sweating all over. There was a hotel in Jericho called the Winter Palace, it’s been demolished now. Anyway, I took Micho and Nani in the pushchair and I went to the Winter Palace. It was one of those old hotels that had a great big entrance, and so I stood in the middle of the reception and shouted “meen rayi7 3ala Amman?” (Who here is going to Amman?) I asked because Papa went to Amman to work and find a house for us and we needed him to come home for Mama. A man came up to me dressed very nicely and he said “ana rayi7 3ala 3amman yabinti shoo bidik?” (I am going to Amman, my child, what do you want?” And so I told him“roo7, dahrak 3ala al dabbas, oo odamak fee balconeh, oo nadi Abu Micho” (Go, stand with your back to the the Dabbas Shop, and facing you there will be a balcony. Call for Micho’s father.) The man went to Amman and gave him the message that Mama was very ill. We stayed in our house until Papa came at the end of the day. He had one look at Mama and drove up to Jerusalem immediately to get a doctor. I was just seven years old.
This is a picture of Mama when she was around 13 years old. I love this photo, isn’t she beautiful? It wasn’t easy for her, moving around. She had to cope with us three and she had authoritative people in her life who took over things. It meant sacrificing a lot of her own privacy, I often feel sorry for her.
We had a difficult life. In Jericho I would go with the daughter of the guard of the bayarra (orchard) where we lived and bring water from the nab3a (water spring) everyday. We went to fill the jarra, (jug), with fresh water for drinking and then we would wash our hands using a small barrel over the spring. In Jericho all the orchards were watered by canals so we were careful not to waste. We hung the barrel over the canal, we would fill it up, wash things over the river so that it would go back into the canal to water the trees. The walk was a good half hour, and I was quite small. We stayed about a year without school until they registered us in schools in Jerusalem. Micho and I would take the bus everyday at 6am to Bab Al 3ammoud, one of the gates of Jerusalem. We would go in to get to school, De La Salle Frere for my brother, and the Sisters of Nazareth school for me. I would take Micho to his school, leave him there, and then go to my school. Afterwards I would pick him up in the afternoon and then we would take the bus back down to Jericho. One hour on the bus.
Then we finally came here, to Amman. Papa saw a man living in a khaimeh (tent), and he was building a house next to it. Papa said to him “who are you building this for?”, and the man said “for my family so we can get rid of this khaimeh”. He then asked the man if he could rent the house for one year instead, and so he did. It was uphill in Jabal Hussein. In Amman our school bus would only come halfway up the mountain, so my father would put us kids on his horse halfway down the mountain, and then put us on the school bus. This is my mother and I on a bicycle in Jabal Hussein.
My father had a company called Medco that transported petrol and gas from Tripoli, Lebanon, to Amman, Jordan. He was doing very well at that time. Then all of a sudden the refinery started here in Amman and that reduced his work. He sold part of the company here and left the part that was in Lebanon, but work didn’t materialise in Lebanon either. He ended up selling everything and going to America by himself. The rest of us stayed in Amman and that’s where I spent most of my life after.
This love heart is from my 18th birthday. Mama made it, it says “Pour notre Casie, avec meilleur voeuse pour ses 18 ans, de Papa et Mama” (For our Casie, with best wishes for your 18th Birthday, Papa and Mama). This picture on the right was me with my closest friends on my Birthday too. A horse stepped on my foot just before the picture was taken!
Here I am, grown up, posing with my father’s Chevvy. It was so lovely, light purple and dark purple. I loved it so much. My brother always teased and called me Hind Rostum. She was an Egyptian sex symbol, the Arab Marilyn Monroe haha! See, I’m wearing the same trousers you’re wearing now, those high waisted trousers are still in fashion! I loved to dress up. Mama always made Nani and I beautiful flowery dresses. I was engaged around this time to your grandfather Albert. We got married in New York and had the four girls, Maysun, Nuhad, your mama Lina and Raghda. I liked to make them clothes the way mama made us clothes, and when you grandchildren were born, I did the same for you too.
Yasmine Ziadat is an undergraduate history and politics student with an interest in current affairs and sassing the patriarchy. If she’s not taking selfies or watching cat videos, you can find her exploring London in search of coffee, music and museums. You can follow her on instagram, twitter, or read her dardishi articles here.