The Vow Between A Sister and A Brother

"Tariq Al-Ruwamid"

In 1961, my father was on his way to one of the grocery shops in the city of Kabao, when he ran into Khalafallah Zawawi, who told him that his cousin, Khadija El-Fiky Yehia, had fallen ill and was in critical condition. Khadija wasn't just his cousin; she was also his milk sister–they had been breastfed by the same woman, which tied them together as siblings. My father changed course at once, crossing the alleys of Isoker to climb up the hill to her house at the peak of Arqoub. 

He walked into his sister Khadija's house, and went straight to where she was lying in a feverish pain, moving between states of consciousness, surrounded by her neighbors and relatives. It was his first time seeing his sister in such a tragic state. The fact that she was several months along in her pregnancy, combined with the absence of a doctor or hospital in the area, only exacerbated his panic.  

He left in a hurry and headed towards Tigighit, where the late Issa Qanjour lived. Qanjour was one of the few people around with a car for hire, which locals rented to move products, passengers and even patients. When my father arrived, the car was being loaded with goods. My father took Qanjour aside and asked him to change his destination and drive his sister to Yafran Hospital, the closest to Kabao. It wasn't easy to convince Qanjour’s client, but my father's status, and his humanitarian request to help a woman and her baby, as well his willingness to compensate him for changing course left the man no choice but to postpone the shipment and give my father a chance to save his sister. As my father rushed back to his sister’s house to get her ready for the hospital, Qanjour unloaded the car in preparation for the trip to rescue Aunt Khadija. 

It wasn't an easy trip from Kabao to Yafran; they had to drive across 170 km of potholes, quicksand, and landslides. When the car arrived at Yafran Hospital, a group of English doctors and nurses attended to my Aunt Khadija. Meanwhile, my father and Khadija’s husband went to pay their respects at the Zariba family home, which belonged to a friend of my grandfather's in Yafran. This was a well-known tradition; historic relationships that date back to grandparents or ancestors connect families across different regions or cities. Such visits ensure that these familial relationships persist, and nurture values of friendship and companionship. 

Aunt Khadija stayed in the hospital for a full week, where she received intensive treatment to first of all, save her life, and secondly, to save her child. When the doctors saw that she was out of danger and was beginning to regain her strength, they discharged her, and she returned to Kabao with her husband and brother–my father. Aunt Khadija's mother had died when she was just a few months old, and left her to live with, and be breastfed by, her sister (my grandmother).

Weeks after this incident, Aunt Khadija gave birth to her fourth son. Because she felt she had to perform some grand gesture to thank her brother, she named her boy Jumaa, after my father, who had come to her rescue and left everything else behind to save her life and the life of her son.

On February 8, 2005, my father died and left us a family of his dearest relatives, consisting of four sons and one girl, whom Khadija had left behind. He was always thrilled whenever Khadija, his cousin and sister, visited our house. They would sit side by side, sharing stories and unloading their worries, and they were always happy to recount their childhood memories–even if most of them were harsh. As for us, we love spending time with Khadija's family–we stand by them in happiness and in grief. An extension of our family, we are proud to call them our relatives.

Born in Kabaw, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Arts and Media from Tripoli University, and a master’s degree in Multimedia from the University of Perugia, Italy. He worked as a photographer and journalism trainer with news channels and agencies. He chaired the Board of Trustees of the Septimus Prize from 2018 until his passing in 2022.

Tariq Al-Ruwamid
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