Reflections on the bus from the airport in Istanbul

As I sit on the Havas that will take me to Istanbul’s city center, I think about all the different versions of me that have sat on the Havas on this ride. The one that had come just out of law school and had nevere stepped foot in this country before, the one that was returning from the disappointment of being denied a student visa to study at LSE, the one that came back from watching Fahad get married, the one that was returning with sadness after a visit to Feraz who was living in London, the one that was filled with joy after returning from an anniversary trip to Romania. And now there is this version. I thank God for each day He lets me live of this life and for providing me with some much guidance, helping me to grow and discover more about myself and more about the world. 
I am coming to stay with one of my oldest friends, Nadiya, and am going to attend the wedding of another friend, Selin, who was my anchor and my sidekick when I first arrived to Turkey in 2009, in desperate need of a friend. I love new friends because they are fresh. There is such an excitement in learning their stories, peeling their layers and finding what lessons they will teach. But there is a very sacred place for old friends. Nadiya knew me when I was a child with buck teeth and big plastic glasses. Although we weren’t friends when we were children, we share the common experience of having grown up in the same community and cultural context. We met-met when I was 18 and a freshmen at Oakland University. Nadiya stopped me in the student union, recognizing me from the musjid, and asked me to come to a Muslim Students Association meeting. I attended the meeting at which Nadiya promptly denied having ever invited me to an Eid party at her house when we were younger. As I recounted the Eid party, Nadiya quickly realized I had been there. Instead of being embarrassed she just laughed. I liked her genuineness and after that meeting we were joined at the hip.
Over the next years, Nadiya came to know everything about me. When I got married, everyone told Feraz that he had big shoes to fill because Nadiya was like my first husband and she had done a very good job taking care of me. It was true. Maybe because she was older than me, or maybe because she had been cooler than me when we were young or probably because she has the type of personality that makes you want her to love you, I admired Nadiya and was always happy to let her take the lead in our adventures and our friendship. In return, she was extremely loyal and took great care of me. She knew all my favorite things, she could order for me in any restaurant, when I was down, she knew exactly how to make me laugh again. In every prayer, I would ask God, please preserve our friendship.

In 2006, I visited Nadiya in Singapore, where she was living at the time. There we made a pact that we would travel together throughout our lives and since then we have seen Malaysia, Egypt, Turkey and Kenya together. I’m not sure what adventures this trip will bring but I pray it is just one of many, many more. When I am with my dear, old friend, I am reminded of the beauty of our youth, the innocence with which we lived our lives and the great hope with which we took every step.


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