Adonis Diaries

Memoirs of a Shia Woman

Posted on: August 31, 2020

Memoirs of a Shia Woman

Tell Mr. Wehbeh: “Bahia has finally landed”

Hameed was seriously considering returning home to Lebanon: He just learned that his mother Zahia had passed away

Actually, the reason Hameed travelled to New York just after WWI was to convince his elder brother Wehbeh to return home because his mother was heart broken: Her favorite eldest son has left her over 10 years ago and never showed sign of coming back for a visit.

News in the early 1920’s reached the toiling people overseas many weeks later.

An employee in Wehbeh restaurant in New York informed Hameed that a lady outside wants to meet with him. The worker said: “She is a lady

On seeing the lady, Hameed felt a confusing impression of having met this woman when he was pretty young.

The lady greeted Hameed in English “Good morning” and resumed in a Lebanese Arabic slang: “Saida, Saida Mr. Hameed. Where is Mr. Wehbeh?

Hameed memory rewinded to over a decade ago, a scene of his father holding a whip, ready for action, and his brother Wehbeh raising a chair. The father spitting and shouting”Adabsis” (A turkish work meaning evil, naughty…)

Hameed recalls crossing the narrow streets in the city of Tyr (in south Lebanon) in the Manara block, and a young girl walking the opposite side of the street. The girl looked briefly at Hameed. And here he is hearing the lady saying: “Tell Mr. Wehbet that Bahia has finally landed”

The story of Wehbeh Ne3meh and Bahia, the daughter of Simon the Copt, took place a few years before WWI. Wehbeh never witnessed the horror of this war or the famine that harvested a quarter of Lebanon’s population, and the onslaught of the locusts…

Wehbeh was a Muslim Shi3a and Bahia was a Christian Orthodox.

They fell in love as Wehbeh was accompanying his Christian fisherman friend Hanna (John) to the church on a Sunday.  Bahia dressed and walked differently from the girls Wehbeh saw in the city.

Since there was no chance for their families to agree on their wedding, this potential couple decided to elope and try to manage later a reconciliation between the families.

Wehbeh was to rent a room in the next city of Saida and wait for Hanna to bring Bahia by sea.

Wehbeh waited for three days and nights by the seashore, at the port, barely sleeping for fear of missing the encounter. He finally gave up and surreptitiously returned to Tyr by night in order Not to meet any person and find out what was the problem.

Bahia was to be engaged to Iskandar, a old 55 year-old Christian man, and Wehbeh was apprehensive that the secret meeting was discovered and Bahia was hurriedly made to marry a man she didn’t care to live with.

Bahia stayed at her aunt. Bahia was to prepare a bag of her belonging, drop it at Hanna’s house, and join Hanna by nightfall to be whisked away on his small fisherman boat.

At the last day, Hanna had a terrible bout of bad conscience, sort of committing an unforgivable sin: He  will be blamed for a mix marriage, considered an enemy to his religious sect, and banned from the city…

Hanna met with the priest and confessed. They both knelt and prayed for hours. The evil Shaitan (demon) was defeated. Only the priest and the aunt knew about the scheme: It was not proper to spread the news…

Wehbeh decided to leave Lebanon and ended up in New York.

These thwarted  love stories based on religious differences were common before, and current even today, and will last for another century.

Note: This story is taken from “Memoirs of a Shia Woman” by Raja2 Ne3meh (Rajaa Nemeh). Hameed will become the father of Rajaa

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