People were shocked to see my recent photos from the great pyramids of Giza. “What? How on earth are you doing this?” I understand the surprise; this was just weeks after I shared pictures from a joyous holiday in Mexico, a more familiar and close location. But Egypt seemed too foreign, too far, too crazy in the time of COVID. But there we were, two up on a camel in the middle of the desert.
Egypt wasn’t always on the agenda. It became important after last summer’s road trip showed me that my son no longer wanted to travel with me in the same way. Nor I with him. He wanted friends, and I wanted help being the travel agent.
I did one day want to expose him to Arabic language and to Muslim culture. I wanted him to experience his own Iraqi cultural heritage, but I knew that wouldn’t happen in the near future. Iraq still didn’t feel safe, and I didn’t have the strength to take him there. Frankly, a trip that big feels is beginning to feel less and less viable, logistically and emotionally. I’m just not that into it.
Then I found out my dear friend Karen was organizing a trip to Egypt for traveling families. It wasn’t Iraq, but Egypt felt close. Or close enough. Plus, someone else was organizing it. And there would be other traveling families, individuals I’ve found again and again are my kind of people. Again, this wasn’t on my horizon, not even a remote item on my bucket list, but it started to feel like something we should do, something that Aiden should experience while I still had the strength to lead him and, perhaps more importantly, the finances to pay for it.
It made me think a lot about how we create experiences to expose our multi cultural children to their birthright and their culture. I know others do this and more. One family on our Egypt trip was a blend of Ethiopian and African American. They left for Ethiopia right after Egypt with similar goals of exposing their children to their history and culture. In Egypt they saw the beautiful African queens of Egypt, or beautiful relics, like a ceremonial rattle depicted in the temple of Nefertari that is still in use in religious ceremonies today in Ethiopia. I wondered how the remainder of their trip unfolded and what lessons they learned.
I am half French so I’ve made a concerted effort that my son experience France and his French family members. This is not only about culture but an imperative that he know and become somewhat familiar with extended family members who are still living. I don’t want my son to think I am the only family member alive. My son is also half Iraqi, so experiencing that culture is important. But without his father’s participation there’s only so much I can or want to do. But I do at least want to open the door. In fact I see the opening of doors – many and often – to be our main role as parents.
Aiden will make decisions down the line about what he wants to explore and how much he wants to know about the land of his father. I already bought him books and told him stories about the Iraq that I experienced. The rest is up to him. For now, he knows the feel of the desert winds and the look of men in dish dash. He knows the drama and the excitement of the Arabic language, and how people appear to be yelling aggressively but they’re really just having a conversation. He knows the taste of fresh dates and the sound of the call to prayer. He knows the depth and richness of history in these areas of the world, and the beauty of the landscape. I hope one day he sees him homeland. Babylon and Mesopotamia, the birthplace of written language, for which Aiden has such a gift. It’s not Egypt, I know, but those pyramids will not soon be forgotten.