Identity theft

I am sobbing over credit card receipts.

I am still in Dubai, so I don’t have to take such care with all those numbers that add up to some kind of identity. If anyone took the trouble to fish it out of the garbage here, and then tried to actually use the information, they’d be given 1000 lashes, jailed for 10 years, then deported.

But still. I rip those pieces of paper into bits. I separate the first three digits from the last six digits of my social security number and put the two pieces of paper into separate garbage bags. It feels like I am ripping my soul into two.

Who am I?

Am I the equal of my bank balance? In which currency?

Am I the translation of Lisa into “Liza”? Or just the SSL encryption of my father’s name?

I am having to put myself into boxes, AGAIN.

I am having to squeeze, consolidate, throw away the parcels of my life. AGAIN.

I don’t want to leave Dubai. I want to stay. I want to be fluent in Arabic, to read the Quran again next Ramadan a little better. I want to walk every week on the beach.


I want to feel the sand of parking lots under my shoes. I want to shake my head again at the skyscrapers in Dubai Marina, the ones that were not there three years ago.

I even want to keep reading the crappy Gulf News, because I want my newspaper to tell me about the Middle East, and watch for subtle signs of lessening self-censorship.

I want to answer phone calls like the one I had today, from a man representing a research center in Abu Dhabi inviting me to a press conference, who said, “My dear, I hope so much to see you there.” He’s never met me, we’ve spoken twice on the phone, but he addresses me with the same tone of voice that a favorite uncle would.

I feel such loss that I can hardly bear it. My liver hurts. I love the Middle East, despite everything. I cannot shake the feeling that I belong here.

Who am I crying for?

2 thoughts on “Identity theft

  1. PS As though to cement my feelings, my mobile just rang: A call from a Sudanese colleague in London. He is also moving, back to Khartoum, and we comisserated about the pain of time and aging and change and boxes.

    He was in Khartoum recently, and when I asked him how things are there, he said: “You feel less pressure when you are there than when you are outside.”

    For sure the outside world never knows the place.

  2. Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer has been imprisoned in Alexandria, Egypt,
    since November, after posting to his website statements calling for
    equal rights for women and protection of free speech, as well as other
    statements critical of the Egyptian government. He has been denied
    bail and faces a long prison sentence if convicted of the charges held
    against him.

    Amer’s trial is scheduled for this Thursday. An informal group of New York City residents are joining together in solidarity for a peaceful
    protest of the government of Egypt’s treatment of Kareem, and to plead
    for all charges against him to be dropped. The protest has been
    organized for this Wednesday, January 31 at 3:30pm, in front of the
    Egyptian Consulate in New York.

    For more information about Kareem Amer, visit http://www.freekareem. org, and
    to sign an online petition to the Egyptian government, visit
    http://www.petitiononline. com/kamer

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