Aleppo Wedding, Chapter 10

His mother had been told of the invitation before he left home, and was in two minds about it. She was extremely hostile to this outsider who had her son running all around the country after her, but she also realised that Sarah was someone from his years in England, about which he seldom spoke much, and she was deeply curious to see her. She did what any mother would do in these circumstances and arranged the most impressive lunch she could think of while commanding the presence of all her other children as moral support. She spent Thursday lunchtime discussing the whole business exhaustively with her daughters, but Abu Nury would not take any notice of the catty remarks, merely saying that it would be a nice change to practise his English.

Nury missed the trip to Aleppo Citadel, he had been once or twice before and was not an enthusiast. Instead he woke up late and went to the Friday prayers with his father and when they got back home he just had time to admire the beautifully set table and to sniff the good smells from the kitchen before it was time to collect Sarah from the hotel. She was waiting for him, looking pretty and delicate but dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. Apparently she had used up all her more formal clothes and had not thought to keep anything for this occasion, or to make use of the hotel laundry service. There was nothing to be done about it so Nury said nothing and saw her into his car.

When they arrived at the street Sarah was impressed with the building, and intrigued to see the place she had heard of so often. He opened the front door of their flat and welcomed Sarah into the entrance hall, where the sight of all his family dressed for a formal Friday lunch almost made her run back down the stairs. His mother greeted her politely but coldly, shaking her formally by the hand and speaking only Arabic although she had a moderate command of English. Nury translated, and looked pleadingly at his father, who took her hand in his and smiled warmly as he said, "Welcome, Sarah. It is good for us to meet a friend of Nury's from his happy time in your country." Then he introduced the rest of the family and continued chatting to her until the panicky look had left her face. She was very embarrassed at being dressed so differently from them, but his younger sisters were sympathetic and took over the conversation as they sat in the drawing room, with stories of lost bags when travelling, and the problems they had caused.

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