Didn’t read part 1? Read here: Reflecting On The Journey
The following year, I travelled to Damascus and enrolled into an Arabic program to learn classical Arabic which is much more advanced than the north African dialect we speak. I spent five months in Damascus and never cried as much upon leaving a city. I lived in the heart of Bab Touma, the old city where the Ummayad Mosque and many other important monuments are located. I met artists, artisans, poets, businessmen, an eccentric Jordanian translator, an amazing French political science student and a Dervish. On my multiple visits to the Ummayad mosque I’d often come across this dervish and send my greetings. Six months later, I find myself in Istanbul and following the Friday prayer, I crossed paths with the Damascus dervish. We both smiled and as fellow travellers we acknowledged Allah’s plans. He spoke very little English but managed to invite me for an ice cream. I agreed. We sat, placed our ordere and enjoyed our ice cream. Very little was said in the conversation, after the ice cream was devoured we both half smiled and bid farewell, knowing we would never see each other again. My time in Damascus was well spent, I met people from Malaysia, Indonesia, Bosnia, Italy and more. I remember evenings well spent with friends and acquaintances. One day, my good friend Alan, the French political science student, invited me for dinner at his house; we sat on the rooftop of his apartment and discussed life, death and everything in between. We ate a whole chicken, listened to Mos Def, enjoyed the calls to prayer, talked about our love of the Middle-East and gazed upon one of the oldest cities in the world. I’m thankful for all the good people who have been sent my way and I do not believe in coincidence. I walk with firm conviction that everything has been meticulously planned and prepared. I have encountered very little hardships on my travels and I owe that to the Most High. I once met a Sheikh in Cairo who told me ‘Your parents prayers are your protection, Wafa.’
I wish I could capture people’s inquisitive looks, whether in Cairo, Damascus, Kuala Lumpur or Lisbon a veiled Muslim woman traveling alone is incomprehensible to many. I have just returned from Jamaica where I organized a women’s Yoga retreat; we retreated in the country side, roamed through the island and practiced daily Yoga. I met a few Italian and French women who were shocked to see Muslim women travel all the way to Jamaica for a Yoga retreat. Their confused looks were precious and their questions would not stop. I smiled and told them that everything was ‘Irie’- Muslims are not a monolithic people and they vary greatly; it was interesting to see them confused by the fact that we did not fit the image and stereotypes they had in mind. After almost a decade of travels, I have decided to organize yoga retreats in the Jamaican countryside with the help of a small Muslim community in St-Elizabeth. It is my wish to connect people and learn from them.
Saying that traveling has changed me would be an understatement; travelling has shaped the person that I am today. I would not be as confident, intuitive, romantic, or inquisitive if I did not travel. Most of my savings have gone towards funding my trips and I have never regretted that fact. Once in a blue moon, (which seems to come around often in our household) my mother likes to remind me of how little my savings account holds. I smile and think of Damascus, Cairo, the dervish, Alan, Bali and the breathtaking sunsets and beaches that are forever engrained in my memory. How could I regret such growth? Stop joking mama and thank you and dad for your powerful prayers. I owe you.
Ethos is fundraising, support us: igg.me/at/support-ethos