I don’t like absolutes; everything is relative, even identities. I was blessed with a mother and grandmother (the latter being my late Syrian Teta who taught me Sufism and told me endless stories about her life’s journey in Syria) whose philosophies in life (despite being worlds apart) include a lose definition of “identity.” I was raised “Arab” – all of the bed time stories my grandmother told me about my ancestors included exotic places like Morocco, Syrian women carrying their Safartaas (doggy bag) to Turkish baths where they spent the day bathing, chatting and eating; Lebanese, Moroccan and Syrian grandmothers who were so strong famous Sheikhs couldn’t look them in the eye when they argued in Fiqh, Hadeeth and other Islam-related topics. The stories were also about Sufi ancestors who hailed from Tunisia, Sufi relatives who married into the family of my mother’s – and who came from Palestine, Syria and elsewhere, Sufi leaders my grandfather loved and followed and who were buried in Egypt.
With those bed time stories of ancestors traveling Arab territories of every kind for the quest of Sufism, grandmothers who came from different parts of the Arab World, great grand parents who came from every corner of this part of the world, I was raised Arab, a half-Syrian Arab, to be more specific. This half has always carried great significance for me, because the narrator of all of the above mentioned stories was 100% Syrian (my late teacher and Sufi mentor, Teta). Moreover, we spent every single weekend, Eid, vacation, holiday, new year’s, labor day, (you name it), here in Damascus with mom’s family. I lived many years of my childhood believing we went to school in Amman (like Amman was our dorms), and lived in Syria (like Syria was our real home). For a kid, Syria was the place where all the fun and “dalal” (pampering) was.
Another post: On being 50% Syrian