I met my Bedouin friend Hemaid several years ago when he invited me one morning…
The plane from Germany was late and I was really worried. I hadn’t seen my son Nelio since he came to visit me in Egypt exactly five years ago.
Nelio was born here in Egypt but left before he was old enough to remember anything. He transitioned from Egyptian life into German life and was raised in Duesseldorf. Now he’s ten years old.
It is very difficult for Egyptians to get permission to travel outside the Middle East. So I can never go to see my son Nelio. I always have to wait for him to come visit me.
Finally, my son walked out of the airport. After five years of never seeing him and always missing him, I wanted to cry but I caught my tears. He was the only thing I concentrated on as we rode through the dark Sinai desert to my home in Dahab.
Last time he was here, we went to all of the tourist sights. Nelio loved the Magic Lake. This is a spot in the lagoon where the water is very salty, almost like the Dead Sea. It helps your skin and can cure the body. If you sit in the water and breathe, the salt clears all of your bad energy. We spent the night at the desert. We played at the oasis. At the White Canyon he made me climb every hill. He would yell Daddy in Arabic and climb in German – Babba, kletten! Babba kletten! He wanted me to climb with him and I did.
Now he doesn’t want to do anything. I am so surprised by this and by so many things my son does now. I think when he was five he was more connected to nature, more interested in being outside. He wanted to run and wanted to play. Now, during this visit, he just wants to watch TV and play games on the phone. In just five years he has become a totally different person.
When my son Nelio says I love you Babba, I feel the whole world in my hand. I love to hear him saying I love you, Babba. In the morning when he wakes up he comes and says Good morning, Babba. Then he says, Can I have your phone?
When he’s not on his phone, I play with him and I feel like I’m a child. I don’t care who’s around me or what they think of me. I’m just happy to play with him.
I learn so much about my son Nelio when he is here, things I would never know if he didn’t visit me. He is very sensitive. He can’t handle it if anything dies. I killed a cockroach and he was very upset. He loves the cats and he loves the dogs but not chickens and ducks because he says they’re smelly.
Nelio loves spaghetti with tomato sauce and pizza with potato and onion. He likes to play Monopoly and he is good at chess. He likes music, he likes singing. His English isn’t very good, but I’m trying to teach him. He is good for his age and better at this language than many of the guys in Dahab.
My son also loves money. That’s something I’m worried about. He wants to buy something, anything. He invites me for coffee, he wants to spend money. He wants to have money and spend money. Unfortunately, there are only two ways to make money – become a criminal and make it the easy way, or become a businessman and make it the hard way.
Of course he loves cars. He wants to learn driving in his early age. This week one of our drivers here, he let Nelio sit in front of him in the car and pretend he was driving. Nelio loved this very much. I think I’m going to let him do this again. He felt like a king.
So many things about my son Nelio remind me of me. He’s a good actor. I was a good actor too when I was a child. Nelio will get a scratch on his arm and he cries as if he is going to die. I did this too. He is also nasty. I was a nasty child too.
I love it so much when my son comes to me and is close to me and touches me and holds my hand. He tries to play with me and I tickle him and he laughs, and that’s nice. But after this he says Babba, can I have the phone? He says it in English so I’ll be sure to understand.
I didn’t play games on the phone when I was a child. In my village when I was a child, I played with mud and dust. I made bracelets out of Coca Cola lids and cars out of ice cream wrappers.
Bedouin kids in the Sinai still do this. They play with stones or any material they can find. But I see modern kids on the the phone all the time. Nelio, he loves the phone more than me.
I am so very happy to meet Nelio again. Before I had him, I thought I don’t want to have children and I will never have children. I would hear my friends talking about the relationship between him and his child, saying he loves his child, he can’t live without seeing his child, when his child smiles the world smiles. I was thinking yeah, yeah, yeah, all this is just talk.
But now that I have Nelio as my son, I can understand the talk of the people. I don’t know how this is happening. If you are a believer in God or if you don’t believe in God, if you believe in nature, I would say nature or God gives humans these feelings. He did give us these feelings for the young ones. Even the feelings of the animals. Animals love the young ones.
This feeling God gave all the animals or the humans is to keep the our numbers growing. When we love the young ones, we care about them, we want more, and this increases us. This is the feeling we are given to keep our species growing, I think. This is the only explanation I find for my feelings for my son. Because I never thought that these feelings could be real, that you could love this young creature and want him to be happy, and when he’s not there you feel like a part of you is missing. Like really it’s a feeling that can’t be explained. But I believe the people who have children, they will understand. And the people who don’t, they will say what I said before Nelio. Yeah, yeah, yeah, just talk.
I want so very much to spend more time with Nelio. I want for him to live with me. When he is in Germany and I talk to him on What’sApp or Skype and he says I love you, Babba, it feels good. But when we’re together and he says I love you, Babba, it makes me feel wonderful. I like to hear it from him. I like to hear it a lot, that my son Nelio is saying I love you, Babba.