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The land we once had

Alzabadany means “the Good” – a land that doesn’t let a seed lie in vain, but nurtures it until it grows to become a tree and gives its produce to the good people.

I’m from Alzabadany and lived there, but alas, I didn’t know its value, until the waves of Syrian displacement landed me in London, the city in which I might spend the rest of my life.

I’m an architect, who likes to travel and live fully, and thank God, I come from a wealthy family. In Syria, I never needed a thing. My father liked the fields and liked growing things in them – he gave them so much of his time, even at the cost of his day job as engineer. He tried so hard to make us follow him, but I was lazy and easily became bored. I avoided any work to do with agriculture. The land was in my opinion worthless.

In Alzabadany, a man can walk into any orchard, smell the dewy green leaves, hear the water and the goldfinches and eat all kinds of fruits and vegetables from around him whenever he wants, as much as he wants.

I never appreciated this blessing until one day in London, when I wanted some grapes. Starbucks had 13 grapes in a plastic pack priced £3 = 1,800 S.P !!! I stood there. In that moment, my whole life in Alzabadany played in my head. I pictured all those clusters of grapes, the apricot trees, peaches, cherry, walnuts, mangoes, pears, apples of all kinds.

I remembered the time I used to walk over the stream that wound from one tree to the other. I remembered its voice and the sound of the leaves, as if they were playing music together. I used to reach out and eat whatever I wished.

I looked around and saw the people standing in line looking at their mobiles. I felt sorry for myself, bought the few grapes and sent a photo to my father in Turkey. I told him: “Now I know the value of our land, Dad. But now we have no land. Alzabadany is gone, Dad…”

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