I own a rug from Syria.
It was a practical purchase when I lived in a hot desert country. The tiled floors of my apartment always seemed harsh on my feet, so I bought rugs.
This was more of a kilim, not an expensive woven rug, but beautifully made and colourful, dyed with vegetable dyes. As rugs went, it was pretty ordinary, so it suited its owner! I enjoyed its warmth in two desert countries and now it serves faithfully in our southern hemisphere home, splashing colour under the feet of visitors as they arrive.
Today, possibly for the first time, I have actually studied it. The dyes are fading. Who made the dyes? The weave is standing strong. Who was the weaver?
I had a number of Syrian Christian friends in my desert home. As a generalisation, initially they seemed hard to know and serious, but in our friendships, this was only the first part of the journey. Once they allowed closeness, they were firm friends, strong and true. And funny, oh so funny. I marvelled at how I could ever have thought them sombre.
I was frequently mistaken for being Syrian in my old neighbourhood. I am tall with reddish hair, and my Arabic is poor. So my terrible accent was often shrugged off as “Oh she’s not local – must be Syrian”. My Syrian friends thought this was hilarious. I’m from Yorkshire for goodness sake!
My local schwarma stand owner was Syrian, my local florist was Syrian, and after years of conversations about their homeland, I find I still visit Damascus and Qoms in my dreams. They are detailed dreams of an old city, with dark streets meandering through the souqs. Even now I see the jewellery, the rugs and the spices.
I regret I never visited them. Now I look at my rug and I see faces, of its anonymous weaver, of my funny friends, of the laughter. The long conversations of family, of their future, how they would return and build their homes, raise children and grandchildren.
I look at my rug again. At one end it is beginning to unravel. Perhaps it won’t take much for the threads to pull out completely. I am holding on to the hope that it will live with me forever, even if it is battered and bruised, even if the cats chew it, play with its tassles and hide from the thunder underneath it.
I find I am willing it to stay in one piece, conjuring the face of the weaver, of his family, of his country. I am looking at the pattern and gazing at history – who knows how many generations that pattern was given to? I am willing the pattern not to fade, not to die.
I own a rug made by a Syrian.