Glimpses of statelessness and belonging.
by Zahra Marwan
I’m from a place where flamingos naturally migrate to in the winter. A place that saw so much change between my mom’s generation and mine, it seems as mythical as orcas coming into the Arabian Gulf.
As children, my mom and her cousins would play in the courtyard of the cinema while the adults napped. One cinema showed Indian films, and another showed Westerns. A third cinema, perhaps, was their neighbor who would screen films for everyone outside of their house.
My parents were both born in Sharq, Kuwait. They lived in beautiful mud houses made with materials from the sea. Where archways were thoughtful and there were methods to keep the water cool. The Kuwaiti word for basement, sardab, comes from 13th-century Farsi, “cold water.” The interchange of cultures thrived for centuries. Streets were small and people walked to see each other. They could meander through the streets to the sea. The sub-dialect of Farsi that both of my parents could speak, particular to Kuwait, thrived in this community.
I, however, was raised in the less mythical Ardiya. A newly constructed suburb far from everything my parents loved and knew, extracted from their community, where most of our neighbors were Bedouins. I love the variety of tents they pitch in and around their homes. My parents got this house at a time when Kuwaiti women married to non-Kuwaitis were given property. Why was my dad non-Kuwaiti? Born there in 1948 and buried there in 2016.