How I packed for 4 years

To those with dreams to pursue or a loved one to support, to those packing their life in a bag to call a foreign land home, to my friend Hanan who recently moved to the U.S with her husband,

I am writing to you.

Two bags, thats all we checked in when my husband and I decided to move to England in 2014.

Packing for lengthy periods of time can be difficult, it is hard to decide what to take and what to leave behind. I had boxes filled with pictures so dear to my heart, tangible things from my travels, my favourite books, our first movie tickets and my son’s first scan pictures. While all these sentimental belongings were things I wanted to bring with me, I ended up taking none.

Not to mention the clothes, shoes and bags I wanted to pack. Because really, how are you supposed to leave behind your favourite things for such a long period of time? Clothes will go out of fashion, so will shoes, bags and jewellery .. what a waste right?

It was during my last week in Abu Dhabi, I was sitting between a pile of clutter when my father walked in, he stared, put his hands in the pockets of his Kandoora and asked if I was planning to take all this with me.

The sigh I let out at that moment was painful. My sore felt dry, my lungs tight my eyes stung. I don’t know I told him.

“Pack for a week,” he said.

Little did he know, it wasn’t the clothes I was unsure about leaving behind. It was him, my mother, my family, my friends, voices, scents and basically a lifestyle that I was comfortable and happy with.

A few days later, I did as I was told and packed for a week. I left behind 24 years of memories to make new ones. As difficult as it was, I felt liberated. Nothing to hold on too, but a lot to look forward too. I thought of all that was waiting ahead of me as words that will soon fill in the blank pages of a new chapter in my life.

I was homesick for month’s, my heart felt as heavy as the weight I was carrying in my tummy (My son and not a burger). I was longing for everything I left behind. Anything I would have brought with me would not have lessened the pain I felt so often. I missed our family gatherings, rooftop nights with my cousins and cruising around with my friends. Looking back, everything I was yearning for was not something I could have packed in my suitcase anyway.

A little more than a year later, I have pictures of my son filling our apartment, a few more of our recent trips around England and over a dozen books filling our shelves and windowsill.

While I do miss the smell of Arabic coffee in the morning and Dukhoon too, the aroma my morning coffee leaves behind is growing on me. So is the smell of the baked cinnamon apple chips i made this morning.

Home has become a feeling rather than a place to me. A feeling that grows with every memory we are making. It is the feeling I get when my son is seated in his highchair, my husband and I at the dinning table enjoying a meal or deep in conversation. Place me anywhere in this world with my little family, and it becomes home.

Surely, it all depends on the person you are, how long you’ll be away for,  what you consider the essentials and what you think is important for you to have. Some their spices, other’s photographs, perhaps their dukhoon or arabic coffee. Whatever it is, know that wherever you are in this world, you will find what will make you feel at home and less homesick. Sooner rather than later, that void in your heart will be filled, it might be a new ritual, a coffee spot, the corner of a library, a friend, a lover, who knows what will come along your way during this journey of yours.

And it might just be that the next time you pack to leave for your next permanent or temporary destination, that lump you felt the first time you left a place you called “home”, you might feel again.

Hanan, I hope it doesn’t take you so long to feel at “home” and once you do, will you write me to tell me all about it?

Your friend,






12 thoughts

  1. Omg .. Dhabya i dont know how to explain what I’m feeling right now as i sit here and read this beautiful piece of writing. You were talking to me and it felt as though I was talking to myself .. Every emotion exactly right.

    Thank you for giving me a sense of Hope and more importantly a sense of Home ❤️


  2. Hanan is married?? Mabrook Hanan!! This journey is everything you will make of it, be happy, be hopeful, and when its time to leave, you wished you could stay longer xx
    Dhabya, thanks for this post, i got teary as it truly is how i felt when i left home as well. Beautiful blog! and keep it going, you inspire me to do the same

    Love, Wed x


    1. Yes she is <3. Thank you Wedad, the beginning is painful and the end of the journey will be too, so true what you said.
      I'm so happy to know that my post inspired you!


  3. Your words made me smile Dhabya. When you have to leave so much, in what you call home, then departure becomes so hard. I remember leaving four a month to accompany my husband on his buisness training course. The first few days, were hard. I then decided to take the courage and explore my surroundings. By the end of the month, i saw my self much more settled. I sarted to make slight relations with those who i see often. The lady in the laundry knew that all the blouses i gave her were for hanging, and not folding. The lady who sold fresh figs at the corner of the street smiled everytime i passed by. All those who were strangers at the beginning, were not anymore. Everything needs time, and every expirence will come to an end. I packed for a month, and days slipped quickly. You’ll look back one day, and smile as i did!


    1. Salama ❤ thank you. I have a Palestinian friend who whenever I told her how much I missed home, she would remind me that this and the following years areايام من العمر and then I realise that I should be making the most out of it. Just like you mentioned, smiles into hello's and soon those familiar faces became friends, even streets became less foreign, and mostly our apartment became home.


  4. Dhabya this is exactly how I felt when I left home after marriage to London. I cried. A LOT! But never in front of him. I missed my family and friends so dearly, but I soon got used to the environment and had a routine of my own. Today I wish we could go back and relive those days (I always tell him to go get a second PhD. :p)

    ماشاءالله كتابتج وايد حلوه وتشد الواحد 😍


    1. I know I will be missing the life I will leave behind when we are back for good too! Im trying to make the most of it now. Thank you Hind ❤


  5. I hope you take my criticism with an open heart.
    As a writer myself, I believe that your writing style is very sweet but the experiences are deeply sugar coated, while for sure pretty, your words do not show the deeper truth that lies within your soul, whrn I’m reading your piece touched me as a spoiled crybaby would when losing his cookie. True writing shows a deeper complex than leaving comfy home to another comfy luxurious place. Please be real and don’t waste your breath on the shallow experiences.
    And sorry if I sound harsh, but that’s how u grow better, with honest comments.

    Keep it up.


    1. I believe the beauty of words/literature in general is that it is read with a different heart, mind and eyes everytime. How you felt about my piece and writting style is just another way it could be read and interpretad 💙. Thank you for taking the time to read my piece Shamsa. I do hope you still pass by again to read my posts and perhaps watch me grow better as a writer.


  6. Dhabya, I am reading your post from Mclean, VA, my home for the next… I’m not sure how long. Your post summarizes my feelings for the past seven years. Though it was extremley challenging and heart-aching in the beginning, I am enjoying it now and making the best of it. Please keep on writing, this post certainly made my day. 🙂


    1. It makes me happy to know my post made your day 🙂 .. It does get easier doesn’t it? I sometimes think settling back in the UAE will be difficult after those 4 years are over!


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