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A life that once was...

They say kids don't really remember anything before the age of five. It's called childhood amnesia and it's totally normal. However, I recall the first few years of my life quite well.

eating a traditional Levantine dish called Mulukhiyah
Me eating a traditional Levantine dish called Mulukhiyah

The taste of my grandmother's cooking, the smell of my grandfather's tended garden, the sound of my uncle's camera clicking away with photos of our family…

It was those first few years of my life that stole a piece of my heart and let it lay rest beneath the soil of our family homes in Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

posing for the camera
Me posing for the camera

I was two when we moved from the Middle East to Australia, and five when most of the visits back stopped. I grew up reminiscing about a home that once was, holding onto a lasting memory of a heart once full.

Migration is nothing new to my family. We carry the generational trauma of colonisation, occupation, and immigration on our sleeves. From one day peacefully tending to our farms in the small villages of Palestine, to torcher at the hands of the Israeli occupation, to the great migration of 1948, we fled into the diaspora only carrying in our hearts a Palestine that once was.   

But as Palestinian poet Rafeef Ziadah said, "we teach life, sir".

So, life is what we made.  

But the missing piece in the heart of a Palestinian is never truly fulfilled.

When I remember life behind the photos of myself as a child, Palestine was in the heart of our family home. It was in the food, in the décor, in the speech, in the stories, in the clothing, and most heartbreakingly, in the news.

We were no longer on the world map, but Palestine was, and still is, on the lips of people across the world. To this day, the news is the only lifeline we have to our homeland.

Those memories of my childhood are what put me on a perilous journey of a lifetime to fill that gaping hole in my heart. The thought of one day returning to Jordan has played on my mind time and time again.

To relish in its familiar culture and glimpse our Palestine across the salty vastness of the Dead Sea is the great return I hope to make in this life.

Dead Sea (Palestine in distance)
Dead Sea (Palestine in distance)
Souvenirs in Petra, Jordan
Souvenirs in Petra, Jordan
Tea in Bedouin camp, Wadi Rum, Jordan
Tea in Bedouin camp in Wadi Rum, Jordan

Amman, Jordan
Amman, Jordan

But, time does not leave life as it once was. My family has aged, some have moved across oceans seeking better lives, and many have commitments beyond their control. As for myself, becoming a second-generation immigrant means that I will remain suspended between a world I once belonged to and a world I have grown accustomed to, yet I will never belong to either.

It leaves me with a feeling I can only describe through the lump that forms in your throat when you’re about to cry, the watery eyes full of tears held back, the longing for a love long lost because it wasn't the right time…

These photos live as a testament to a happiness that could exist and a clock that never stops ticking.


I dedicate this piece to my dearest uncle.

Thank you for capturing and preserving the happiest days of my life.

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