Return to Riyadh

800x600_pulsate1.pngAfter I repatriated to the United States in 1998, I began dreaming about returning to Riyadh. These were night dreams, and they all had the same plot. In the dreams, I wanted– needed– to get back to Riyadh, but I couldn’t. I’d forget my passport, or forget to pack  my bags, or pack too many bags, or miss the airplane, or get on the wrong airplane, or get on the right airplane but land in the wrong country.

My dreams progressed over the years. I’d actually land in Riyadh, but then lose my way through the city. I’d get lost in the neighborhood I used to live in; I’d encounter new construction that confused my knowledge of where I was supposed to go. I’d finally find my apartment building but could not find my apartment. I’d find the hospital in which I was supposed to work, but could not find the laboratory to which I was assigned. I’d worry that my supervisor would think I hadn’t arrived, and give my job to someone else.

I’d find myself in Battha without an abaya. I’d want to buy food but had no riyals, only US dollars. I’d want to phone my friends Asma and Sharon, but I’d left their phone numbers in the United States, or if I had the numbers, could not remember how to use the public phone.

You get the idea.

I recorded these dreams in my journal, and named the series Return to Riyadh.  

This summer, I described the recurrent dreams to a friend of mine who is a psychologist. She suggested that the dreams were trying to tell me something  important, and I wasn’t listening.  I didn’t believe her, because I could indeed go back to Riyadh any time, as a worker or a visitor. My repatriation was deliberate. Consciously, I was committed to rebuilding my life in my own country, but unconsciously, discontent churned, and it was all about Riyadh. Why?

About Marahm

At first glance, I may appear to be a middle-aged American woman with kids, grandkids, retired from a job in a hospital, gratefully relieved from the responsibilities that come with all of that. Behind the image, which is true enough, I am fairly unhinged from much of American mainstream living, having spent twelve years in Saudi Arabia, years that sprung me from societal and familial impositions, and narrow bands of truth. I have learned to embrace my identity as a seeker, an artist, and a writer. I study Arabic and Italian language, because I love them, and I love their people. I still dream of spending more time in the Middle East and Italy, though the dreaming now seems more real than the possibilities. I am a photographer. I write, and sometimes publish, flash memoir, and now a blog or two.
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7 Responses to Return to Riyadh

  1. Maybe because you loved to be “free” to yourself and what you loved about RHiyad you subconciously wish to go back. I lived in Lebanon 3.6 years and now living in UAE I still see pics of Lebanon and wish to run back. I would if the economy was thriving better and no wars or internal disputes because there I was free to just do what I wanted and visit my friends all the time and just be myself. Here I haven’t made a lot of close friends and we have very few family here. I miss the closeness of Lebanon and maybe you miss certain things too. ONe thing I’ve learned about dreams is to listen to them! DO waht they say and see if they stop. Take a small trip to Riyad and see how you feel after that (if you can afford it). 🙂 I love your site/blog

  2. marahm says:

    Thank you! You understand. You understand that to be “free” does not mean to be free in the American sense of the word, though American style freedom is certainly not incompatible with the kind of freedom I write about. Free to be oneself has nothing to do with abandoning personal discipline, or bucking the mores of the dominant culture. It’s about looking into the self, and having the courage to accept what you find, and developing the resources to bring out whatever is good there.

    Making new friends via the blogoshere is one of those resources!

  3. Hning says:

    I would have liked to comment on one of your posts – all of which are so rich with such familiar images and sounds that if I did just posted a comment, it would have done you much injustice.

    So I posted a memory instead.

    And I thank you for inspiring me to write it.

  4. Marahm says:

    You are so welcome, Hning, and I invite you to post here anytime. In fact, I would be honored to read your responses. You are a gifted writer, and a sensitive thinker. Making your acquaintance opens my spirit a little further.

    Sheepishly, I ask one mundane question that is nagging at my left-brain dominant orientation: How do you pronounce your name?

  5. hana says:

    As we pay highest prices ever at Gas Pumps, the Saudi’s languish with stock prices moving up for the fifth straight day

  6. Hning says:

    By far, this has been my favorite piece on recurring dreams that I’ve ever seen on the Internet, and only Nobel Prize winners could the melancholic nostalgia.

    I still come back here from time to time, and even link here because it’s so precious. Thanks for keeping it.

    And where’ve you been? The last article you posted was on May 13th! That’s three weeks ago.

    Hope you haven’t caught a serious bug and that you’re doing alright. It’s been a rough Spring, hasn’t it?

  7. Marahm says:

    Hning, you are so sweet to ask about me and to revisit my blog! Thank you, Sister!

    No, I haven’t got as good an excuse as illness to explain my recent neglect of my blog. I confess that I’ve got smitten with making fractals and other other-worldly images.

    Also, a third grandchild arrived five months ago. I’m spending as much time as I can with the grandkids because they grow so fast. I don’t want to miss anything.

    However, you have reminded me of my original purpose for starting this blog; you have inspired me to dust it off, give it another polish, and add a few more arms and legs.


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