I forgot to mention that, at the end of the wedding festivities, we went over to say our farewells to Areej's grandma, since we were leaving for Barcelona the next day. With big brother Amin as our interpreter, we did our best to express our gratitude for all they had done for us. Afterwards, she turned and said something to Amin. He then turned to us and said "She wants to give you something. She says pick something. Anything you want." We were flabbergasted, but quick to reply "Oh thank you, that is so kind, but really not necessary!" More talking between them, then "She's serious. She really wants to give you something." "But I can't think of anything!" Slight pause, then Amin turns to her with a sly grin, and points to the stack of solid gold bracelets on her arm. "You could give her some of those." Grandma jerked her arm back, as if stung. I jumped in, saying "No! No! We don't want those!" Then, off the top of my head, I blurted "Tea! I like your tea! You can give us a box of tea!" She stopped giving Amin the Evil Eye, and turned to give me the "Are you crazy?" look. Finally she gave me an "OK. Whatever." shrug, and said something to Amin. "It shall be arranged." Then, with a sly grin of her own, she told him to say "And, perhaps you can give her an American passport, so she can come and visit all of her family more easily." If only I could Habooba. If only I could.
The next morning we slept quite late, had one last breakfast buffet at the hotel, then went upstairs to pack. We sent a text to Austin and Areej, in the room next door, telling them to let as know when they were up and about. He texted back, telling us to come on over and keep them company while they ordered room service. "Are you sure that's OK with Areej? I don't want her to have to get up and get dressed on our account. She's gotta be exhausted!" "She says come on over. She's decent, and we're starving. We never had dinner, remember?" Not sure what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn't to find my elegant new daughter-in-law standing there in a tatty old pair of Austin's hilarious holiday jammies. Cracked. Us. Up!
Not long after they finished eating, Areej got a call from her mom. Apparently Habooba had requested that we all come hang out at her place until it was time for us to head to the airport. Before hanging up, her mom reminded her that it was a new bride's responsibility to continue looking her best whenever she left the house. From the rolling eyes, I'm guessing that her reply was something akin to my own kids' favorite, "What-ev-er!" She hung up the phone, then grabbed a pretty sari, saying "This is the great thing about tobes", as she pleated and wrapped it around her, completely covering her tousled hair and goofy garb. Just don't tell her mama!
We spent a lovely afternoon with the family, sipping tea and munching on a sweet similar to baklava (love that stuff!). At some point her uncle called to say he was sending someone over to collect our passports and luggage, and that we would be met at the airport later by someone who would "take care of us." When it was time to leave, Sabit handed us a sack, saying "For you. From Habooba." In it was, not one, but eight boxes of tea. It took a bit of finagling to fit it all into our carry-on bags, but we did it!
So, can anyone tell me how to make shay bi-qirfa with it -- the black cinnamon tea?
When we arrived a the airport, we were taken directly to the VIP lounge, handed our passports, boarding passes and baggage claim tickets, given our own comfy seating area, offered refreshments, and told that someone would be along to collect us when it was time to board. If only travel was always like this! A short time later, a woman came over and introduced herself as one of Areej's aunts. Apparently she was there waiting for a flight to Egypt. Turns out she is a member of parliament, and spends one week out of every month in Egypt.
An interesting family, are they not? Areej's father is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to the history of his homeland, and has built a family tree for them all -- one with over 1,500 names on it! When he was last there in Sudan, he took it upon himself to go and visit every single living family member within traveling distance. Everyone I met seemed to be up on current events, and probably know more about U.S. government and politics than we do! Most amazing, however, is their love for, and commitment to, family. One uncle said it so well. I was having a bit of trouble keeping track of which relatives were on Areej's mom's side, and which were on her dad's. Finally her uncle said "Mom's side? Dad's side? Not important! We are all family. Now you are family too!"