We are pleased to invite you to join us in marking the 70th anniversary of Nakba by exploring its meaning to many of us and celebrating Palestine on River Thames in Hammersmith between the 12th and 13th of May 2018.
Please join us and get involved.
Sheikh Ibrahim El Saqqa
Today marks the 30th anniversary of my father’s death. He passed away, aged 54.
I have never written about him but would like to remembe...r and honour his life and memory.
I feel compelled to do this now. I realise how lucky we were to have him as my family still live with his legacy.
This photo was taken in 1955 when he was studying in Cairo at the famous Al-Azhar University. He returned home to Gaza, a sheikh, with a highly respected degree in Islamic jurisprudence and a lifetime love of Egypt.
One of my clearest memories of him was his Thursday evening ritual of preparing his turban, the traditional headwear worn by religious scholars. He would hand wash the 100 metre length of gauze and take me up on the roof to help him hang it to dry. Once dry he would spend the rest of the evening carefully winding it around a metal mould held on his left knee. He was always dressed stylishly whether a young man in Cairo (as in this picture) or as a respected community figure and family man in Gaza.
On most Friday’s he gave the "khutba" or sermon at the Sayed Hashim Mosque, one of the oldest in Gaza city and the of burial place of the prophet’s grandfather. He would preach about life under occupation and neighbourly and social duties, using lessons from Arabic history. He particularly emphasised the importance of education.
After prayers he would come home and would spend hours preparing our late lunch. I would join him in the kitchen, preparing vegetables and roasting nuts. He had a real passion for food! His signature dish was fata – layers of fried bread, rice, nuts (almonds and pine nuts) and lamb – a rich luxury dish not to be eaten every Friday..
Sheikh Ibrahim El Saqqa was one of six siblings. Their father was a successful merchant from Gaza running his business from Beersheba as he supplied the Bedouin community of Negev desert with groceries, especially oranges from Jaffa.
There was a family house in Beersheba which is the focus of Suzanne El Farah El Kenz’s award- winning book “La Maison du Neguev”.
Although an Al-Azhari scholar, he earned his living as an Arabic teacher at UNRWA schools across the Gaza strip. He was respected for his knowledge of and facility with the Arabic language. He liked to remind people, in his frequent article for the daily El Fajr (The Dawn) newspaper and the monthly magazine, Al Shorouq of the beauty and richness of the language and was passionate about its place as part of the heritage of the children of Gaza.
My Father is always remembered by us for his generosity. He was fastidious about attending weddings and wakes and never said no to anyone asking for help. Our home was constantly full of people he invited home for meals and he loved hosting them.
He supported and sponsored many children who had lost parents, paying for their education and just being on their side as a mentor. If families were in dispute, Sheikh Ibrahim would be invited to mediate. He intentionally resolved problems so as to avoid involving the occupying Israeli military administration at the time.
My Father struggled with his health from his early 30s and yet he was the person who encouraged me to do want I wanted with my life.
He did not just give his permission for me to go to Spain at the age of 17 to study art with not a word of Spanish – he went every inch of the way to help me get there.
The 1980s was a different era for all of us and I remember vividly the day we travelled to Jerusalem together to request my visa from the Spanish Consulate. This journey is now unthinkable for any Gazan.
I wouldn’t be doing the work I do now without him. His legacy is still with us all, leaving us with a strong sense of community and nationalism, proud of our roots, culture and language.
He is sorely missed.
Souk has started wi...th fabulous art prints collection