Artifact One: Hanna’s Little Kaaba on a Glass Stand Interpretive Label: We Begin at the Center of the Journey
ARTIFACT ONE: HANNA’S LITTLE KAABA ON A GLASS STAND INTERPRETIVE LABEL: WE BEGIN AT THE CENTER OF THE JOURNEY
HANNA STARED AT THE TEENY gold Arabic calligraphy that skirted a quarter of an inch from the top of the black plastic cube set on a glass platform.
Perhaps gazing at the souvenir Kaaba could ignite the feeling of being in Mecca with her dad this past summer.
Alas, no—all it did was make her want to run to get a magnifying glass to see if any of the Arabic words on the souvenir were the actual ones from the actual Kaaba in Mecca. She sighed and put the Kaaba back in its blue velvet pouch.
She would have to start at the start.
She pulled the laptop from the coffee table onto the couch she was lying on, stomach down, and began two-finger-typing the introduction for her social studies project.
The Mecca That Started It All
By Hanna Chen, 8B, Ms. McMann,
Doha International School
The mecca of basketball is Madison Square Garden. The mecca of fashion is Paris (or New York or Tokyo, depending on who you ask). The mecca of movies is Hollywood. Or, for a lot of people, Bollywood (which is in India). Or Nollywood (which is in Nigeria). (But for me, the mecca of movies is Japan, because of Studio Ghibli.)
I hope you get what I’m trying to say. In case you don’t, I’m saying there’s a common thing here: It’s that they all use the word “mecca.”
What people mean by the word “mecca” is a place where lots of people, thousands, millions (maybe even billions as well [maybe in the future]) gather for a certain thing. Like basketball or fashion shows or making movies.
But I wonder if people even know where the word “mecca” actually, originally came from.
It came from Mecca with a capital M, the place in the Middle East where people have been gathering for thousands of years to visit the first site of worship in the world still standing (according to Muslim people).
For this project on a place that the world doesn’t know enough about, I’m going to talk about Mecca, the real city. The city that started the trend of using the words “the mecca of” something.
In this essay, I’ll share some photos of Mecca in the olden times (meaning around the seventh century). But the pictures themselves won’t be from the olden times. They’re actually from my brother’s project
“Adam!” Hanna lifted her head up from the couch. “Adam!”
When there was no answer, that sensation in her stomach began, the one that felt like she was getting pinched with mega-big hands from the inside. She set her laptop on a cushion and jumped off the sofa to run upstairs, anxiety pressing harder as she headed to her brother’s workroom.
She knew he’d told her not to worry, that he was taking his medication, that his multiple sclerosis was under management, but Hanna was never satisfied until she saw for herself. That he was okay. Always.
The workroom door was ajar, and she peeked inside. Seeing only Adam’s worktable with his latest project spread out, a 3D map, and not him, she pushed the door open wider.
He had earbuds in. And he was sitting on Hanna’s old pink chair, talking to the laptop on his knees, his back to her.
Hanna came up behind him to find out who exactly he was chatting with.
The girl on screen immediately smiled wide, her big eyes lighting up on seeing Hanna. She was beautiful in a breezy, effortless way. Her hair lay center parted into curls that framed her long oval face, the ends reaching down to her waist. Under a shaggy gray cardigan that slipped off her shoulders, she wore a white cotton sleeveless crop top, its scooped neck revealing smooth dark brown skin and a tangle of thin necklaces, including one that had a tiny golden goose hanging from it.
Zayneb, who’d been playing with the goose, her forehead furrowed as she explained the latest drama in her life to Adam, now dropped the pendant to wave at Hanna.
Adam tapped his earbuds to disconnect them from the laptop before turning around to his little sister. “There’s something called knocking?”
“I called you a thousand times,” Hanna responded, still smiling at Zayneb. “What’s the exact date you’re getting here to Doha? You’re coming for Thanksgiving, right?”
“Yikes, Hanna. I don’t remember saying that.” Zayneb lifted her cardigan up on her shoulders and pulled down her top. Her midriff just hanging around for Adam’s view was one thing, but she wasn’t too sure about Hanna seeing it.
“But you said you guys are gonna spend Thanksgiving together?” Hanna turned to Adam.
Adam leaned back in the chair and rubbed his face, hoping it hadn’t turned red when Hanna crept up like that—when he’d been staring at Zayneb and the way she’d let her cardigan fall away so artfully.
She was in Chicago, so far from him, when all he wanted in the entire world was to be with her right now.
And, actually, for all time.
He set the laptop on a side table and leaned farther back into the pink chair, almost sinking into it. Then he crossed his arms.
“I’m so sorry. I just don’t have enough of a break from school to spend all the time I want to with you in Doha, Hanna,” Zayneb said. She was buttoning up the cardigan and trying hard not to glance at Adam’s face—an action she knew would set her off in peals of laughter.
Adam could tell Zayneb was avoiding his gaze.
Adam loved Hanna, but her mini-auntie ways often interfered at the exact moments when Zayneb and Adam were trying to enjoy some time to themselves.
It drove him bonkers that Hanna hadn’t realized they didn’t need her “chaperoning” them, or finding out—and being in charge of—all their plans, or just being an oblivious third wheel.
His little sister knew that he and Zayneb had had their nikah done—she’d been there at the ceremony—but she sure acted like she didn’t understand what that meant.
For Zayneb, though, this was the least of her troubles.
She preferred this trouble—this “Auntie” Hanna—over the turmoil that was waiting on the other side of the door to the bathroom she was in right at the moment.
“So you guys are not seeing each other?” Hanna bent and jutted her head in front of the laptop screen, blocking Adam’s view of Zayneb completely. “At all?”
Adam sat up and leaned to the side and caught Zayneb’s eyes from over Hanna’s shoulder.
They smiled at each other, a secret dancing in their eyes.
Only a few more weeks.
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