Some people think I’m weird. They ask me “Suhail, why Germany?”. Even some Germans ask me that questions. Most GCC Arabs like to go to the South of France or Spain. Or even London, where they understand the language, but few people go to Germany. When they ask me where I stay in Germany I tell them it’s a small town called Seligenstadt. I usually get a blank expression as a response.
So today I want to explain why I love this place. For those of you who don’t know, my mother is German. My siblings and I grew up spending our summers in Germany. It was such a huge contrast to life in Saudi and later in Bahrain (I lived in Riyadh until the age of 12 and then we moved to Bahrain.)
Life in Riyadh and Bahrain was fairly isolated. I never played in the “neighbourhood”, mainly because we didn’t live in a neighbourhood per se. We’d be driven everywhere by car and spent spare time with friends and family. But there was very little independence.
In Germany however we’d live in a real neighbourhood with real kids (if you know what I mean). There was a playground near my grandparents’ house and we’d spend hours and hours there. We’d also go out on our bikes and ride all over town. Sometimes we’d even ride to the neighbouring towns or into the surrounding forests. It was wonderful! Something I could never do back home.
And we did it all without adult supervision -not necessarily something I would recommend, but wonderful nonetheless. Life in Seligenstadt was one big adventure. I’d speak German with the local kids and you probably couldn’t tell I was a foreign kid. I sounded just like a German kid.
At the end of summer we’d go back to school in Riyadh and I want back to acting and sounding like a Saudi kid. It was a bizarre dual existence, but I loved it!
I feel privileged to come back to Seligenstadt and take my kids to the same places I used to play at. And they love it too. They’re overwhelmed with the greenery and natural beauty here (sadly, our natural beauty in Bahrain is slowly being murdered by overzealous property developers). Today for example, my wife and I took the kids for a walk in the forest, and then a walk through corn and wheat fields that are just 5 minutes away from where we live. They loved it! Laith kept running and running through the fields. It’s a great refreshing feeling.
I love the fact that my kids get to spend time with my grandparents. It’s so nice to see that both generations can be part of this. My grandfather is 90 and my grandmother is 87. Mashallah tabarakallah.
But I guess the biggest reason I love coming here is the nostalgia. Everything here reminds me of my childhood. Even the food here has special memories for me. I guess I’m one of few non-Germans who likes German food 🙂
Here are some photos. Talk to you soon!
Selma in a the garden of the local monastery.
Selma and Laith with their great-grandmother, Liesel Presser.