Ana mohafetha - I preserve.

These two words carry more meaning than anyone could ever imagine, especially to those of us living abroad and away from home. In a way, the definition of home for us changes from a physical attachment to an emotional one. It becomes more than just the land we were born and raised in, it manifests itself into the identity we attach ourselves to.

Therefore, home is identity it is the culture that formed itself over many years and was passed down unto us. A living memory of our ancestors that joins us wherever life takes us.

And this living memory joined me in 2015. Since then, I have lived in three countries, currently residing in Germany. As I travelled, I met many people on my path and had interesting interactions along the way, Ive faced challenges that shook me to the core, and Ive become the person who I am today all without the memories ever leaving my side.

Every new home I lived in, I pulled out the bukhoor(incense) and went all around the house to make sure it smelled like my parents home. I made sure I had all the ingredients to the food that my aunts made for whenever I had guests. I played the music of legendary Saudi icons Mohammed Abu and Talal Maddah while wearing a farwa(traditional long coat) for when the weather got a bit chilly. During any Eid, I would dress up and take pictures and sit with friends and family.

So home comes with me, and it never leaves.

Its when I excitedly share my memories of family parties and gatherings to others who want to know more about what we do. Its when I feel joy of any achievement made by my peers, as if its my own. Its when I feel sad for the loss of a member of our community.

Even when Im physically far, Im emotionally close to home.

Home is identity.

Its when I sit with my husband and have some tamir and qahwa(dates and traditional coffee)telling him stories of how I grew up and listening to his stories. Its when I have dinner with my friends and immediately grab the check afterwards and proclaim that it’s on me. It’s when I use my Arabic at times, and say words like ya’ani and khalas.

I preserve the memories of home.

Memories of family member and friends that have passed away, their stories and voices never leave my mind. Every moment I get, I share these memories joyful they may be, sad, or even laughable. And so everywhere I go, I carry my home with me.

I preserve my identity, because what more is there to cherish than home?

Living in a foreign country can be difficult at times, but whenever I remember who I am and where I come from I feel that I can overcome any challenge that comes my way. For our ancestors survived the scorching desert and the hunger that came with it as they travelled across the peninsula. And this memory alone gives me the strength to carry on.

It gives me the strength to preserve home.

Special Guest Contributor:

Ghada Al-Muhanna is a Saudi writer, Media and Communications officer at the Saudi embassy in Berlin, and an advisor to Diriyah Gate cultural project. She also runs a popular social media account that explores Saudi culture, old photos and their many stories.