We go down the steps of the Katara Amphitheatre, giving people nods and salaams on the way, We go past the stage where the Sufis are twirling in their white gowns, where there is an orchestra behind them belting out Arabic tunes. We reach hut-like tents that are draped in bunting of fairy lights and I give a confused look to Hassan as he nods towards Ami and Abba.
Abba is one of those men who are surprisingly gentle, but his tallness means he towers over most people. With his wide shoulders and thick neck, and with his square face, he comes across as aggressive but really, he is a gentle giant.
Ami… she is just beautiful, with a face which turned heads in whichever room she was in. She was my Disney princess whose golden-brown long hair tucked in a high bun, concealed by a loose scarf.
We say our salaams and make our way towards the centre of the tent. There is an air of concentration, heads crowded together, people sitting closely together on the floor with similar cushions to those outside. We take our seats near the front where there is a minuscule stage built. Abba brings us a tin bowl brimming with white froth, it has hints of cardamom and ginger it is warm, sweet, and refreshing, deliciously clean on the tongue. He takes his seat and tucks his feet underneath him; I mouth a thank you and he blows me a kiss.
I nudge Ami, giving her a ‘what are we doing here look’ and she kisses me on my forehead and whispers,
“I pulled a few strings and I requested this for you. I hope you enjoy it baby girl.”
I look at her confused and then from the corner of my eye I see a group settling on the stage and they capture everyone’s attention. And then it starts… they take turns to tell stories, stories of monsters, fairies, jinns, ghouls, each changing with each retelling as they mixed cultures and traditions. I have trouble keeping up because they go from Qatari dialect to English, Pashto and Urdu.
I feel like I can’t speak, I can’t breathe, I can only listen, because there’s just something about telling a story that let’s everyone’s imagination run wild. I feel my eyes burning and I look over toward Ami. She has Hassan’s head in her lap stroking his hair, just like when we were children, where she would tell us stories about these storytellers that transformed her into different worlds. Ami and I stare at each other, our eyes having a conversation. And now I look back to the group on the stage moving their lips and transporting everyone into an unknown world where somehow it all seems familiar.