Ingredients of happiness from the Yemen I know
Manal Abdul Wahed Sharif / firstname.lastname@example.org (author)
I know as in any life there were fragments of imperfection to it, but perhaps those are what added rays to my spectrum of happiness. The beam I often saw was disconnected from material perceptions. The joy of running barefoot in a green wadi, or the novelty of watching froth pouring into a jar while my aunt hand-milked her cow back in our village, and when lucky would allow me the first sip.
A friend of mine used to say, “If you don’t belong to a village, you have missed a lot on real life.” That’s what Yemen really meant to me, “life in its basic form,” no need for glamour or frills, just a plain and simple life.
It took me a while to develop a taste for that simplicity, for very often as children our perceptions of abstract concepts are not holistic. However, certain aspects of the concept are understood when manifested in happenings and events. Thinking back, indeed it was a blessing not to have understood all that went on in the adult world.
On a few occasions the experiences I encountered were confusing, sometimes too painful when absorbed, but strangely it was something that kept on taking me back to Yemen and loving the Arab world.
A little boy pushing his vegetable wheel barrow and supplicating, “Oh Allah, you have endowed me with grace and well being.” This is something I’ve never seen in the eyes of mall pilgrims during the times of sales in the most glamourous material edifices.
A shopkeeper who is willing to trust a practical stranger when returning a piece of clothing if the fitting was not satisfactory, without the need to ask for money or a deposit.
I remember a friend once telling me when I asked her how she found Yemen, “Ask me how I found the goodness of Yemeni people... After all, isn’t it about the people?”
My relationship with Yemen is profound. It’s not mere patriotism because my affiliation to my religion is far greater. Moreover, I am painfully aware of the flaws which are too major to ignore in that crazily beautiful country full of contradictions!
I’ve often wondered why the tallest skyscrapers or biggest malls cease to amaze one’s intellect, or render anything enlightening for the soul after the very first minutes of eye contact. A mirage indeed. How could it be possible that walking in Khan El-Khalili, or Sidi Bou Said, or Al-Hamidiya, or Bab Al-Yemen provides one’s soul with so much tranquility, so much warmth and character, when one chooses to go beyond what meets the eye.
Indeed, it is like when the light of faith strikes a person’s heart, prostrating them to shed tears and mumble words of supplication in their purest form. Words that sometimes are not comprehendible but to Allah in that moment of reality. Only then does one realize that that form of serenity cannot be achieved unless the material flow is left behind, even if for mere moments.
Many tears have I shed for having left Yemen, but the more I missed it, the more I realized it never left me. For the simplicity I’ve always sought and which formed a part of my moral compass, has always left me during times of moral conflict with a smile of gratitude for having seen the somehow “purer” side of life.
My heart still dwells on what has happened, and is still happening, in our beloved lands of Arabia. And amidst all the grey clouds, I still find myself closing my eyes and remembering the boy with the wheel barrow, or the trustful shopkeeper, which helps me regain my faith in the goodness of our people, and have faith that the sacrifices across the region will lead to a long awaited better life that our people so much deserve.