The One and Only Ruba

Abu Shkhadem, Palestine

What can I say about Ruba? She was the very first Arab friend I ever made, the friendship forged in the air on my way to the Middle East that first time. Within hours I was holding her son at immigration to Jordan so she could attend to getting herself and her two children through customs. She told me on the plane ride that I should come stay with her in Palestine, to which I replied that she shouldn't say that unless she was really prepared for me to show up on her doorstep one day. She expressed her sincerity, and I mine. A few months later I called from Ramallah, the big city in Palestine, and within an hour she had sent a cousin to meet me and get me on the bus out to her village.

Ruba felt like an old friend immediately, and I was welcomed to her home like family. She lives in a big multi-family house with her in-laws in her beautiful hillside village that is surrounded by olive groves, and is on a turn in the hillside that also houses Birzeit University. I was reunited with her daughter Malak and soun Yousef, and got to meet her husband Haitham, and all the rest of the family. Her cousin Haneen, pictured in her abaya in her kitchen, was quickly a new favorite of mine. Going to stay with her felt like going home for a little break. We had big family dinners, watched Arab Idol, played dress up and hung out with her enormous extended family.

Ruba was born in Palestine, spent much of her younger years in Southern California, and returned to Palestine to be married. She loves clothes and fashion, doing make-up and is going to cosmetology school. She is a fun and playful mom and her daughter is vibrant and hilarious. Family is big in the Arab world and it was really great to get to witness the dynamics of her huge but close family, clearly a family that measures their lives by time spent together. I hope to see them again soon.