It is said that where we find our hearts, we find our homes, but I see it as a limitation to hearts as well as to homes, just like limiting lands with borders and calling them countries. This is not a story of love and prejudice, but rather of geopolitics and globalization. It begins in the fall of 1915 in a small city in western Sudan named Aljneena, where The Arbab family lived for as long as they remembered – their grandfathers built its schools, their grandmothers attended every wedding that occurred in the last 20 years. But Ali, the youngest of seven boys didn’t feel the bond with his home city, he always wanted to travel and experience the world. “Our teacher told us that there are 6 continents on earth, I don’t want to be trapped here forever!” he once told his mother who needed an explanation of the word “continents” – one she never asked for.
Ali’s desire to travel the world for exploration might have been genuine, but the real reason that no one knew about was Zainab, the daughter of Hassanen and Amna, who lived in Goz Beida and only came to Aljneena once a week to attend the market day. Zainab’s sun-kissed skin and night-shadowed braids took Ali’s breath away. He would stand every Friday in the same spot and impatiently wait for the woman he loves to show up, guarded by her parents, holding the basket gently above her head and every time she would trip in her floor-long dress, his young heart would skip a beat. Their love story might not have been an earth-moving one, they were very aware of their insignificance to the world, but their small talks and their first shivers created their own world far from the rest of the universe.
After few months of the first time he laid eyes on Zianab, Ali decided to tell his father about his intentions to marry her. Usually these kind of wishes end up with the boy being locked in a dark room for at least a week and the girl’s father, notified about the intentions, restricts his daughter’s outings to funerals. But luckily, Ali’s father was a wise man who thought this extreme tribalism prejudice had some non-sense into it, so he allowed Ali to ask for Zainab’s hand and sent to tell her father to prepare for their visit. Despite the great difficulties that Ali and his father had to encounter to convince the elderly to accompany them, in December 1915 the Arbab’s travelled to Goz Beida, gathered around a fire in Hassanen’s backyard and discussed the marriage of Ali and Zainab.
The wedding took place in December, among their families and friends they were wed end entered their new house in Aljneena. The both of them lived happily for a few months until one day Ali came back home to find Zainab at their doorstep witting with one of Aljneena’s famous midwives who gave him a wicked smile and whispered “Congratulations! You will be a father!”. Their happiness was indescribable, and although they lived away from both their parents, Ali did all the housework and warned her from doing any hard work, especially in the first months of the pregnancy like Khala Asmaa, the midwife advised.
When Zainab was 5 months pregnant, the families agreed that she will give birth in her hometown with her mother, so her father came to take her back as Ali had to do extra work to provide for the new baby’s arrival. Little did they know Ali will never be able to see his little baby girl. When Zainab left in April 1916, she didn’t know that she was travelling to a whole other country as the freshly signed agreement of Sykes-Picot in May 1916 dictated.
In a blink of an eye, and for reasons they will never know or fully understand, the little family was separated by a higher power that they didn’t existed a few weeks before. An invisible border they were now forced to see had be drawn on they land, and Ali, had to ask permission from two governments to see his new born baby, a permission that could take months or years, and could as well never be given.