The Lady With No Face

Her shop was around the corner under our apartment complex in Tyre…

She used to have a very long ladder and a long stick with a hook at the end to grab the endlessly meticulous stacked clothing…

I am not sure if you have had a similar experience before but there is a distinctive smell about high quality, packaged clothing…I can close my eyes right now and know exactly how it smells like. The cotton socks with a metallic fastener at the toe tips, perfectly ironed and placed in stacks… the new undershirts with no brand name what so ever on them, but stacked in color and size with wrinkle free polyester bags.

I remember that she wore a “mandeel” or a sheer scarf that showed a good portion of her hair in the front, that she was always in a suit with a blazer and a short skirt as well as leather flats… but maybe because I was between 3 and 4 at that time, maybe because I was way too young, I remember more details about her body than about her face…

I wonder if kids know us by our shoes, not by our faces?

In my blurred mind; the lady with the best shop for Eid Clothes in town, Salaam Ajami~ had no face, she only had a figure, a welcoming and classy vibe, and definitely a warm tone.


I share this with you because we are now in the last week before Eid and as a mother the first thing I think about is how to prep my kids for Eid: clothes, Eid money, night before Eid pajamas, Eid sweets, and many other privileges that we get to enjoy and to be honest most people in the world don’t, or at least not all together.

I wonder about my mom who was an Elementary School teacher and who made probably less than $200 a month at that time, I wonder how she always managed to keep the best quality clothes, and perfectly coordinated clothes on me. Everything was spot on; the shirt, the undershirt, the brand new skirt, the pantyhose or ruffled socks; almost always, the nail polish the night before, the head piece, and the shiny shoes.

How did she do it? Was it because I was her only daughter? Or was it because she was the daughter of a seamstress and appreciated fine clothing, or because we lived in a place and time where Eid meant a reason to celebrate, to go all out and to give it all you got.

As I became older, Salaam Ajami’s store faded from my memory.. and the shopping avenue we lived on in Tyre became larger and more modern, we started going to more expanded shops that we not a tiny corner like Salaam’s but also had fine quality clothing and the kindest people like the Hachem’s (Em Hassan and Abo Hassan)… now that I think about it, all the memorable shop owners had one thing in common; extreme generosity and kindness..

The best thing about this Eid shopping experience wether I was 3 or 13 is that it was almost always followed by a visit to my mom’s principal and best friend; taunt Effat. She lived on a strategic corner at the top of the shopping avenue in Tyre and still does as we speak.

Whenever we would be done, we would go visit her and share our findings sometimes. If we had something missing she would graciously offer help or make recommendations on where to find it. We used to sit on her extra narrow balcony and somehow fit multiple chairs, and oversee the busy street we were shopping at few minuites ago. Taunt Effat always welcomed us with multiple goodies but I cannot forget the one thing she always had; fresh and cold juice. She also had someone very special, her husband Abo Hadi whose heavenly birthday was yesterday. Abo Hadi was a staple of our city, was extra loving and welcoming and made everyone feel like a president; even children like us at that time.

The week before Eid was an experience full of love, care, community, and warmth. It is a tradition I try to pass on to my children, by making that week extra special.

But this year, there is something stuck in my throat and on my chest and for some reason, I cannot enjoy this time of the year like I used to…

Trust me.. I am trying.. my kids deserve the kind of childhood I had and better… aren’t we supposed to be better parents every generation?

I cannot blame war, because my parents did all of this in the middle of an ongoing war themselves and in the middle of a highly stressful occupation…


But it was different.

So different.

We are living in times right now where we have to watch or even read and hear about people that live on the same Mediterranean you once lived on losing every form of the life they once knew… their homes, their businesses, their family members, their hospitals, even their children are massively dying - if not losing limbs…

Have you thought about how will the kids with no limbs or even worse the kids with “no surviving family member” feel this Eid?


Their shopping avenues are all burned down to ashes, and some of their parents are gone, the memories are forever gone and irreplaceable.

I have …

I have been thinking non stop about them.

I have been thinking about this other girl who shared the same sea I once lived on and how she died at the age of three and I am here still alive.

Her only sin is that she was born on the wrong side of the sea.

I know that this is not the first time (even though it may be one of the worst times)  this happens to our people, our childhood, our memories, and I know exactly why this happens to us.

Our guilt is that we love our homeland, our guilt is that we appreciate the smell of Eid clothes, our guilt is that we cherish our people, and the only way to defeat people with this much love is to replace it with hate. Replace the sunshine and warmth with smoke and fog, to change your memories from “The Lady with No Face” to replace it with a reality of “My Life Without Limbs”.


 When Al Abbas Ibn Ali; the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, went to the Euphrates to get water for his thirsty nieces and nephews, during the war on his brother Hussain, they cut both of his arms in an attempt to stop him from getting the water. Al Abbas grasped the water pouch with his teeth and nothing would refrain him from getting it to the children despite his severe injury. The only thing that stopped him was when an arrow struck the pouch, draining all its water.

 Al Abbas did not go back to the tent and lost his life in the middle of the dessert because he did not want to “break his promise” to the children.

Fast Forward…

Al Abbas’s story lived forever and now 1400 years later we still remember it as a story of dignity, sacrifice, and loyalty.

I wonder what stories people will end up telling about their memories of Eid?

They say history is written by the winners. Is that true?

Is the winner that who wins the battle?

Or is the winner that who gets to tell the story?

I hope you enjoyed a glimpse of my Eid memories and hope to help spread Eid joy and clear the fog with you this year.

Am looking forward to reading your comments below.

I Love You - Always,


*Some photo credit above of the city of Tyre goes to the Tyre Page 


  • Iman Ismail

    A mesmerizing story that brings back overwhelming feeling of nostalgia and reminiscing of childhood years back home !

  • Ahmad Bazzi

    What a great opportunity to have this shared memory and reflection. Truly masterful journalism of the heart as always! Thank you for that.

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