Abu Junia

After a frustrating day- wanting to see some sights, and finding again that arranging travel here takes hours at a time- I had a wonderful evening. I went to Shibam, the walled city right next to the hotel, to wander around. I saw the 13th century palace there on the edge of town, but it was too late at night to see the souk. (I had wanted to see the frankinsence, as this town was right along the route of the old spice trade.) I had also wanted to see the tourist tower house, where they have a traditional home turned into museum, but I was too late for that too. Until a young man there in Shibam heard I wanted to see it. He took me to the house, found it locked, found the person with the key and the maintainer of the home, gave me a personal tour, and afterward, refused any compensation- I paid only the regular amount to enter the home, though it was far past the opening hours! I was so impressed at his kindness and generosity in time and refusing money. It was a total blessing.

Pictured here are a baby's bed, toilet (they are very tall- the entire height of the 6-8 story house!) and a pharmacy room where they store the drugs for the family. By traditional, they mean how people still live in their homes today. Then, as I was leaving, I saw two men talking, and greeted them. They wanted to know where I was from (wandering tribe), and we talked for a bit. I asked the traditional questions- Are you married? Do you have children? How old is the oldest? What is his name? And then greeting them by the honorific Abu Abdullah- the father of Abdullah, that being the oldest son.

And then, they asked if I was married. This is fairly common. I told them no, and joked that I am meskin, poor thing. Then, as is common, they expressed suprise that I wasn't married, and wanted to know why not. I told them I'm Christian, therefore I have to marry a Christian woman, and there aren't a lot of options for Christian women in my country. This is a conversation I've had many times.

But this time- he asked me, "Well, when you get married, what do you want to name your eldest son?" No Arab has ever asked me that before. I told him I actually hoped to have girls, and wanted to name the first Junia, and the second Narnia, insha'allah. To which he greeted me, Abu Junia.

I was just so touched and honored that he would do that, and it filled me with such joy, that, even though I don't have children, he would care for me that way by looking with hope for the future. In this Muslim man I met Grace, for he gave me a title I in no way can deserve.

Then I went back to the hotel, situated in a beautiful garden, and heard strange sounds of monkeys coming from the trees. But we're in the middle of the desert, just south of the famous Empty Quarter- called that because it's more empty than most deserts- so monkeys would be a little out of place. I looked closely in the trees, and saw the movement of something small enough to be a marmoset. Which then decided to get up and fly.

I sat there for moments and listened to the sounds of the bats talking to each other, as if they had complete language. I went to sleep, listening to the sounds of bats outside my window talking about the night they had planned.


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