I have a long term project on the go. It’s called Humans of Mayo and is based on the well-known Humans of New York. I have a website – www.humansofmayo.com and a Facebook page – here. Do pop over there, have a read, share our stories and don’t forget to hit the LIKE button to follow along. If you’d like to be a Human of Mayo, drop me a line.
“I was born in Dublin and lived there until I was 6. Dad is Arabian, our family is originally Palestinian and mam is Irish. So, we moved to Kuwait when I was six years old and lived there from the age of 6 ’til the age of 15.
On the 2nd of August 1990, my life took a really strange, sharp left turn
At the time, my plans were, go to Kuwait, go to secondary level in Kuwait, or the equivalent of secondary level in Kuwait, and then go to university in Ireland. That was the plan, my plan, my life plan … and it was written in stone, as far as I was concerned … and it was always spoken about … ‘Oh, you’re gonna go to college in Ireland.’
I used to do swimming and archery and I was very good at it. I was going for a competition on the first of August and I remember standing beside an Iraqi kid – this freaks me out to this day.
On our final race, the final heat before the full race the next day, we hit the water … 50 meters… I did it … and won … that was it. So I’d got my place in the big race.
But this little guy beside me, I couldn’t believe it – he’s never swam as fast in all his life … I never … I could constantly see him catching up to me, and I said to his brother, ‘What did you say to him before he hit the water, because I’ve never seen him swim like that’.
And he said, ‘I told him that Saddam will look after him if he won’.
And I thought this was a bit bizarre, right. So, I went home – 14 years old and said ‘Mam, this guy said …’ and I told her the story. She said ‘Don’t worry ’bout it, he was just getting him going … or whatever.’
The next day – the second of August 1990, my alarm clock went off and I heard a guy on the radio reading the Koran, where normal music used to be playing … right. And I thought, the radio is broken or something … so I got up out off bed, went out to mam, and herself and my sister were sitting on the end of her bed listening to BBC World Service.
I said, ‘Whats going on?’ and mam said Iraq had invaded. And I said, how … what … eh – and she said, ‘No, they’ve invaded, there’s a war on’.
So, when you’re 14 years old and someone says, there’s a war on, you just go, right, what’s for breakfast and where’s dad? ‘Oh, your dad was called into the hospital and breakfast is downstairs’.
So, we lived in Kuwait during the war. Right up until the Iraqi soldiers were putting young men on the frontlines and mam said … Irish mam to the core … just went, ‘I’m not having any of that. Lads, we’re outta here.’
And we got on a bus in Kuwait and went cross country to an airport, and from there flew into London. And about, 24 … 26 hours later, we were in Balla and my life here started. Mam is from Balla.
And that’s my strange, sharp left turn.
That’s how I ended up here, in Mayo. So, my whole plan of going to secondary school, going to college – that got changed. I did my junior cert and my leaving cert in Balla and went off to Dublin to study to be a sound engineer … which is about a million miles away from what I’m doing now which is a story for another day”