A Qatari family unit, and returning to its fold
The Qatari collective, it seems to me, is simply trying to be itself in a world that says it cannot, and there is nothing I identify with more.
I left America having fulfilled my dream of becoming anyone else other than who I was, and I promptly felt like I had to shed the layers of that identity as I got closer to Qatar and left the remainder at customs before entering the country. I moved back home with my parents and into my old room with its ’70s built-in furniture that my dad got with the house. It had been my eldest brother’s until he got married, and was later passed on to me in high school. The only change that ever took place over the years was the addition of white, patterned wallpaper to cover the cracks that slowly crept around the room. I had to make do with the furniture I had and the leftover antiques (or junk, depending on who you ask) that my brother decided were too valuable to throw away yet not good enough to take with him.
“…my life became split where I am some of these things around some of my friends for some of the time.”
I wanted to get rid of everything that existed there. I wanted posters of my favorite plays and artists hung up around a new study space and a new couch with a new lamp and maybe even a new bed. I wanted my things to be in my room, much like how I wanted to have styled hair without forcing it under a kefaya in that I simply wanted to do and be what made me comfortable in my own skin.
But I didn’t get to do or be any of that and my life became split where I am some of these things around some of my friends for some of the time. And then I always come back home in my white thobe that is more like the white canvas of my room’s walls: empty and eager to show itself. My life, for all intents and purposes, was drifting along in wait for permission to live it without knowing whom I needed that permission from.
As difficult as it was not being my whole self at home, it was not bad. Typically, I come back home after a 9 to 5 or more workday and right into the majlis with my dad. My dad is the kind of man who lives his life committed to a routine. He can be found at the exact same place on X day down to the minute of Y time of any given week, usually visiting friends and relatives. Each night the majlis would open for family visitors till late into the night, and I couldn’t be more blessed to share these days with him having not done so when I was younger.
“I am in my mid 20s and much like with my room I’m only allowed to do so much with my situation.”
Being grounded had its surprising upside. After the makeshift identity that came about while in the USA and the internal conflict that resulted from it, a steady dose of what it means to be Qatari entered my system. This came in the form of listening to earlier generations talking about a once upon a time that wasn’t that long ago in which Qatar was everything to them yet simultaneously nothing to history. Them and others are on hospital beds in living rooms of their own homes, and while some are better than others, constant care is needed. Younger generations, their children and sometimes their children’s children roam around them for constant care and with endless patience. Some pursue demanding jobs where they are pegged uninterested, and others their education, where they are reprimanded for not doing more. Day after day I see patience and persistence to a way of life that just happens to be different in priorities. The Qatari collective, it seems to me, is simply trying to be itself in a world that says it cannot, and there is nothing I identify with more.
I am in my mid 20s and much like with my room I’m only allowed to do so much with my situation. For the longest time I felt like my empty canvas itch to be painted but I feared to commit to one picture. What I struggled with was not necessarily painting the canvas as much as it was having the kind of paint that created the most representative picture. I’m slowly collecting those colours and while the painting is a work-in-progress, I know it will have a home.
Last month, two years after coming back home, I finally hung up my artwork, re-arranged what furniture I could and wrote part one of this very series from my new workspace.
Next: Mohammed reflects on how religious experiences around the world shaped his own worldview in A Religion of Pieces.