One of the toughest things I have ever done in my life was to leave Yemen a week ago. I still feel as if half of my heart- or more- is still in that beautiful, troubled country. One of the things that made it even harder was knowing that I was leaving my son, Mujaahid, and his family in Damaaj, still under the oppression of the Houthi blockade.
Our plane to Sana’a was scheduled for Saturday morning. Friday, late, the phone rang. It was Mujaahid; I immediately called him back on his cell phone, as the landlines were still down. Perched on the edge of an old couch pillow, staring at the pile of luggage in the middle of the room, I braced myself for my last conversation with Mujaahid for what could be a very long time.
“How are you doing?” Our traditional opening question. The answer to this one is always “Fine” no matter what might come up later to disprove the assertion.
I had heard rumors that the blockade had been eased, but I wasn’t sure if I could believe them. I waited for Mujaahid to mention something, but he didn’t. Finally I asked him.
“Why, what have you heard?” I told him, and he replied that yes, it did seem that an agreement had been reached- he hadn’t wanted to tell me until they were sure, so that I wouldn’t have false hopes. Yes, I did want to strangle him, just a little.
It turns out that Jamal Omar, of the UN had visited the village, as had several members of the Yemeni government. Apparently they had worked out a cease fire and deal with the Houthis for a temporary reprieve, at least. Aid trucks that had been held up for weeks were finally allowed through, and Mujaahid was looking forward to getting some food staples for his family the next day.
“It’s like light after dark,” he said. “People are walking around, talking, laughing again.” Indeed, I could hear people all around him, as he talked outside to get better reception. He told me about the food they expected to get.
“You know that saying about ‘hunger is the best sauce’. I thought about it every time I ate in the last couple of months.”
So it seems the ease has finally come after the hardship, insh’Allaah. I have not heard from Mujaahid since coming back, and am simply hoping that the cease fire led to an agreement, however temporary it may be. Am I worried? Well, maybe a little. Mostly I just miss my first born son, who was my partner in the days when it was just me and him in the world. I worry about little Suhayb, who was sick when last we spoke. I look forward to him and his family going down to Sana’a for a little rest and to get medical attention (“I’ll write my memoirs” he told me, that last conversation). I pray that everything will work out soon, knowing that Allaah is the Best of Planners. I look forward to hearing his voice again someday, insh’Allaah.
Until then, we wait, and we pray.
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