I don’t know how old I was when it finally struck me that every person I pass in the street, in the grocery store, or on the street has a story of their own, but it’s something I’ve been fascinated with for as long as I can remember.
I’ve always loved striking up conversations with complete strangers and learning lessons about life from their life experiences. My friend George, an 80-something greeter at WalMart in my hometown, was a great example of the untold stories that hide inside each of us. He was a war veteran, worked on railroads, always told great jokes, was always ready with a warm hug, and was madly in love with his wife who was also in her 80s. He loved my headscarves, gave treats to my daughter, and always made sure that I had a reason to smile. Day after day he’d smile and wave at people entering the store and they’d walk past him totally unaware of his human-ness. We all do it. But I want to stop. I want to know everyone’s story.
Living in Riyadh has made my desire to know everyone’s story that much more intense. There are so many people here whose lives don’t matter and whose stories go untold. They’re invisible. No one thinks about the family the street cleaner left back home to come and work here or the children their maid hasn’t seen in several years. The cashier whose yearly salary is less than the 20,000SR Chanel handbag he’s ringing up has feelings, but no one cares about them. The baker standing in front of a hot oven baking bread every morning has hopes and dreams, but probably can’t remember the last time anyone asked about them. The Saudi widow with 6 children who she can’t afford to feed. The Saudi man who can’t find a job. The abused wife. The spinster daughter. The Syrian mother whose children were born and raised here, but can’t go to university since they’re not citizens. The American woman who came here with her husband knowing that plane tickets for her and her 3 children back home would never be affordable. The stay at home mom whose sanity is hanging by a thread most days. You get the point here. There are stories all around us and I want to hear them and share them with you.
My goal is to photograph and interview at least one person a month for the blog. It is of course taboo to photograph people, especially women, so I know it will be hard. Language barriers will also be something to overcome, but I’m up for it.
Faces may or may not be included. Names may or may not be changed. But stories will be told.
If you or someone you know would be interested in being involved with my project and you (or the someone you know) are located in Riyadh, please get in touch with me via email at undertheabaya @ gmail . com.
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