The above photograph is the family tree of my good friend Mazin. Mazin and I have known each other for 30 years. We first met in Taiwan and later in Japan, China and England — where he lives now. My daughter and I visited him and his wonderful family in England this summer. And here, on a walk through a park, we took a picture of ourselves.
When I first saw Mazin on this trip, I greeted him with the standard Arab greeting, to which my daughter responded by whispering to me in astonishment, “Dad, you kissed Mazin!”
“Mazin is a dear friend, honey, and that his how Arab friends greet each other” I replied. She nodded.
Mazin is an Iraqi Arab whose father married an Welsh woman. Mazin was raise in Iraq until he was thirteen and then spent the next 8 years in England and then 5 years in China, where we met. During our summer stay with Mazin, he proudly showed me his family tree. It was wonderful as he used the tree to guide me through many of his family stories.
Today, back in the USA, my daughter and I watched the fantastic Saudi film Wadjda (2012). I was amazed such a film could be made in Saudi Arabia — it subtly criticizes much about Saudi culture. Watching this and other foreign films reminds me of couchsurfing where I get to step into other lives and cultures which I may not otherwise see. I get to taste experiences far different from my own.
The picture below is from the film. Here you see Wadjda looking at her father’s family tree as her mother tells her “You aren’t included, it only includes men’s names.” Later in the movie, Wadjda tapes her name to the tree, only to have it removed by someone else later. Saudi Arab culture has its very dark site.
Though very Arab in wonderful ways, Mazin is not a typical Arab by any stretch. In fact, you will note on his family tree that he has pictures of women members taped on. He proudly bragged about the women in his family as he told me stories. And Mazin has a fantastic relationship with his incredibly talented and beautiful Swiss wife, Pia.
But having met Mazin, and seen his family tree, I felt more involved in the film about Wadjda because I now knew the family tree tradition personally.
Wadjda is a great film — slow, with subtitles, but you’ll learn about Saudi Arabia in ways books and articles can’t teach you. Though I had to continually explain parts of the film to my daughter, she thoroughly enjoyed it. If you are more interested in the film, google around for proper reviews.