Everyone in my family spoke Arabic, and they spoke it with a relatively uniform accent. Therefore references to our Turkish, Kurdish, North African heritage didn’t really make sense to me until later in life. When I visited my great maternal aunt (Khalto Najah), I heard some speak a different language and took notice of their strange names that didn’t sound Arabic. Names like Jwan, Zaza, Farhad, were common. I attributed these differences to Khalto Najah’s husband; she had married into what I thought was a strange bunch. Their entire neighborhood was called (Kurdish Ally) Haret ElAkraad. Later I would come to know the language they spoke was Kurdish, and my Maternal great grandmother is Kurdish.
An’a Radia was fair, tall and had a strong frame. One of two sisters and five brothers who were on average 6 feet tall. An’a Radia She was unique for a women of her time. An athletics teacher, traveler and sports enthusiast, I grew up seeing photos of her playing tennis, posing on a running track, on a cruise ship and piloting a glider plane. At the time, I didn’t think much of it. Later, I would come to realize how unique she was and how much of her passion for sports, travel and adventure I carried in my genes. She seemed to live a non-conventional lifestyle.
The Turkish influence is felt most in our cuisine. You can only identify half the names of our dishes as Arabic and the other half as mispronunciations and Arabization of Turkish words. Imam Bayuldi, Yalanji, Shish Burak, are but a few of the many dishes An’a passed on to her daughters, who carried through making the dishes and teaching their daughters.
An’a Radia’s height, skin tone and features, complemented Jido Naim’s. He was dark, short and built like a short distance sprinter. Jido Naim’s family ascended to Damascus from North Africa. His father came from a town in Libyan, mother had Egyptian Nubi lineage. While he was born in Syria, spoke Arabic with a Syrian accent, he had an affinity to North Africa. It hit me that his roots were Libyan after watching the movie Omar Almukhtar. I suddenly realized the hat and scarf he wore, that looked out of place in Damascus were traditions he carried from his Libyan forefathers.