Family Visit to the UAE

christmas tree in dubai all 4 of us


They arrived!

We hugged, and my heart swelled so big

that my feet were lifted off the ground.




First, son Isaiah and his dad, Sam, came.

sam isaiah and me in wadi

and then a few days later, the three of us went back to the Dubai airport to pick up daughter Eliza, and her boyfriend, Peter.

eliza and peter at the top of the burg

I wanted so much for them to see what I have seen, to know what I know.

I wanted them to discover hidden Arabia tucked into dark, narrow alleyways,

sam and isaiah in a cave

and ancient Arabia lying open in the desert under the sun.

isaiah at al hail castle

I wanted them to feel the energy of Dubai’s great magnificence,

view from the burg

and to feel the Arabian sun on their skin and the soft desert sand under their feet.

isaiah sunset at safari

I wanted them to taste the bitter, sweet, and salty foods from India and Syria,

and to smell the thick smoke from bohour chips and hooka pipes.

I wanted them to hear the silence of the wadi,

Isaiah in the wadi

the cacophony of languages in shops and on the streets,

the crashing waves of the Gulf of Oman,

eliza and peter facing sunset safari

and the blowing winds speeding through valleys and whipping through our hair.

4 of us windy safari

I wanted all of this,

and it was granted.


Hanging out with my children and their father here in the UAE where my life is hard to describe and even harder to explain was at once wonderful and surreal. We made many memories, but I believe that for me, at least, the best part of it all was when I was able to share with my family the joy of being connected with others in the most unexpected and surprising ways of all.

We shared a BBQ with my Pakistani friend (my driver), Zaheer, and his housemates.

4 boys at BBQ

It seems like a simple, even common thing: a BBQ party. But look deeper: the unlikely event that those Pakistani men and my American family would ever convene on a beach in a country foreign to all of us makes me know just how very uncommon our party was, and how the beauty of that moment is truly precious.

Because of the strange and wonderful friendship between Zaheer and me, which is also unlikely, the love ripped out from an already unusual bond and our circle grew bigger.

We cross paths with people different from ourselves all the time, but seldom do we truly  connect. And by “connect”, I mean STOP. LOOK. SEE. And BE.

To be in the presence of another and see him, and realize that you are seen, is an intimate experience that instantly breaks down decades, even centuries, of political, social, and religious rhetoric: words that create and confirm beliefs that build walls and keep us apart from one another.

With international travel, television, and the internet, we are no longer separated by geography; instead we are divided and boxed in by arbitrary lines defended by weapons and words. And yet, there on that beach in Kalba, Fujairah, where we shared the same fires, the same plates of cooked food, and the bottles water and cups of sauces, we simultaneously saw and were seen.

peter at BBQ


Through the delight of culinary familiarity and new taste discovery,

the act of creating,

and the gesture of giving,

spontaneous laughter expressed our

shared comfort and pleasure.

There on the moonlit beach, we connected.



That night left an imprint on the soul that resides within each of us and will forever be a light of hope, peace, and love.

My family arrived!

We explored,

and together we shared the wonders

of this strange place that is now my home.

My heart swelled so big

that my feet were lifted off the ground.

And then, in one swift moment, they left.

me with foot prints meliha

“Don’t be sad that it’s over; be happy that it happened.”

Dr. Seuss

I’ve always found comfort in this quote when sorrow over loss seems unbearable; and once again, I refer to this as my anchor as I navigate through the emptiness in my heart, the longing for my family, the emptiness of my apartment.

Indeed, I am truly grateful that they could come. Their presence here is a symbol of hope that I can endure a bit more, a surge of strength to give it my best shot as I continue in my work here.

Positivity and gratitude will guide my days as I hold these memories close to my heart.

me and eliza tree at safari

4 thoughts on “Family Visit to the UAE

  1. Becki Clock says:

    River, this is beautiful. I can share your emotions through this post. May I share this post with others?

    So glad you had a great time with the family. I think it was a very special time for all of you. It seems like a dream come true. And now you have the memories to cherish for ever.

    Love you lots, Becki


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