It’s not everyday you go to a place where they say it all began.
A place where they say the Garden of Eden might have been, where Abraham lived, where civilization sprung up along with architecture and the invention of the wheel. We spent the day outside of the hospital, canoeing through the marshes on the Tigris River and meeting with local sheikh’s, eating lamb, drinking tea, and standing on the roof of the site that Abraham called home.
It was a complicated picture though, with military on every corner, and an AK-47 jammed in between the driver’s seat and mine.
Imagine trying to close your eyes and picture the Garden of Eden when police sirens and car horns continually bring every thought into submission. It was a good change, to be out of the hospital and instead of talking about the future and trying to cast a vision for healthcare, to instead listen and hear about the history of the land we’ve stepped into.
I found out that the man who directs our security once lived in the marshes we were canoeing through. His family fled there, like so many, to hide from Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi military. To save their lives they left their homes and cars for reed huts and canoes. I also found out that some of the doctors and politicians we spent the day with were once revolutionaries who rallied local tribes and cities to resist the regime.
From the time Abraham left it seems like the people here have been in one epic struggle for tomorrow.
But since the fall of Saddam they’ve been able to devote their resources towards development rather than just survival. Now these sheikhs and revolutionaries are the leading voices in developing health care, strengthening the school systems, and building stronger ties within their local communities.
The Middle East is a complex culture built on honor and with each day that we’re here, we see how they continue to honor those who have gone before them and also those who are following close behind. They’ve sacrificed so much to have today and they continue to sacrifice for tomorrow.
As hard as it was to try to imagine the past today, we got glimpses here and there. Sometimes it’s just as difficult to try to imagine the future but with each surgery and with each story we hear, we get small glimpses that let us know this is all going to be worth it.