148. My story

It’s been a while since I last wrote anything more than the random updates on Instagram and Facebook. I’ve opened up this “Add New Post” page so many times, only to save the little I managed to write as a draft before closing the page.

I’ve so many things to write but so few words to express.


Maybe I should start at a safe place. Somewhere I know emotions wont overwhelm me. Because that’s what it is, really. I’ve been and, perhaps, am still overwhelmed with emotions, so much so that my safety guards have gone up.

*Wooops too many things happening right now. Time to get the walls up. Survival survival.*

That isn’t a good thing for writing you know. It means the words become stunted and the flow nonexistent – like right now.

But I’ve got to start somewhere. If there’s anything I’ve learnt, it’s to force myself to make the first step towards cracking open and healing.

Oh but who am I kidding? There is no safe place to start.

Everything about this requires some form of feeling.

From talking about my experience coming back home to actually continuing where I left off in my Alhambra series, there is no void of emotions. It’s just the way I see and experience the world – everything is emotion-laden. I live and understand my reality through the things I am feeling (or not feeling) and that just puts me in a precarious position every time the jar gets a bit too full.

I think I’ll put off writing about coming back home to a later time. Reentry is a process that I’m still going through. Everything is still fresh and raw and well, I don’t think I have the capacity to write about it just yet. I can tell you one thing though: It isn’t easy.

So let’s go back to where I stopped in the Alhambra series:

Court of the Myrtles

The Court of the Myrtles (Patio de los Arrayanes) has received different names throughout time. Its current name is due to the myrtle bushes that surround the central pond and the bright green colour of which contrasts with the white marble of the patio. It was also called the Patio of the Pond or the Reservoir (Patio del Estanque o de la Alberca) because of the central pond, which is 34 metres long and 7,10 meters wide. The pond divides the patio and receives its water from two fountains (one at each end of the pond). Most inscriptions that appear in this patio are praises to God or to the emir.


I was having a tough time getting started on this particular place because I was deliberating either to stay honest to the memory and emotions associated with it,  or to just share it superficially. I remembered then my intention in actually documenting the entire journey and experience abroad so choosing the former was well, the answer.

Actually making the choice was the easy part. Going forward with the decision took a lot more.

Admitting weaknesses is never easy but I’ve got to honour the experience and share what is real. What is real is that travelling alone is not all flowers and candy. It’s not all fun and excitement. Many are keen to share the lifechanging moments and the euphoria of independence (and God-dependence) during their solo travels – and I’m guilty of this too – but less are vocal about the tough parts.

Nobody really wants to talk about the moments when they look instinctively beside them to excitedly share about what they just saw and realise that there’s no one. Nobody mentions the moments  they look across at a couple or a group of friends taking in the sights and the yearning that pops up within them. Nobody gives credit to the inner strength necessary to actually remain sane while travelling solo.

So this is my voice. This is me telling you what actually happened in the Court of Myrtles.

This is my story.

The moment I walked out of the Gilded Room and into the court, I stopped in my tracks. It was as if walking through the previous rooms had been a process building up to this climax. I couldn’t breathe; it felt like I was having an out-of-body experience.

I don’t know what it was. It could have been the beauty of the court (because trust me, these pictures do not do it any justice)… It could have been the fact that I was finally in the place where lots of pictures synonymous with the Alhambra are taken… It could have been the pond.

It could have been many things in one.

But in the moment after I regained equilibrium, I felt an intensity I’d never felt before.

It was so intense, I needed to pass it on to another person; I needed to share the load. I turned to my side, eagerly wanting to rope someone in to share in the profound moment. I saw no one, lest for the couple next to me, and I crashed. As swiftly as the intensity enveloped me, it too left me high and dry in an instant.

It was the fifth day into my SeekingSpain solo journey – I’d never felt any more alone.

I breathed deeply a couple of times, tried to take some pictures to distract me from the dreaded emotion and stared up into the sky, hoping for some form of strength. All my survival mechanisms kicked in; I didn’t allow myself to feel anything out of fear.

It was only after I got my picture taken by a sweet lady (who’d gladly obliged upon my request) that something within me clicked. That short social encounter with a stranger, that exchange of smiles and few words, led to it – my moment of epiphany.

I realised I needed to allow myself to feel

It was time to face all the emotions before I can finally move on from the breakup and get the most from the solo trip. In order to get where I needed to be, I needed to get through the current state, crash and burn, let go of the burden, and then rise up again.

I needed to allow myself to be weak, before I could be strong again.

While in Malaga and in the first 2 days in Granada, I was still too caught up in the novelty of travelling solo in Spain. There wasn’t time to dwell on the drama that had happened/was still happening. I was experiencing new things, meeting new people, getting used to the whole idea of taking on the world, one city at a time.

But as I walked through Alhambra, I knew I’d already settled into a semblance of a rhythm. Yes, every day held something new but I was waking up to the same notion of growing and exploring day in day out. Cognitively, my brain was finally able to handle all the new input and address the existing issues.

It was time to take the spiritual journey seriously.

It was time to start healing.

As I walked toward the Hall of Barakah (Blessings), I was mentally coaching myself to take the first steps. I tried to recall the meditation techniques I’d once been taught and started taking deep measured breaths. I said my selawats and zikr, knowing with all my heart that I wanted this journey to be guided by the Merciful and Wise One.

I got to a quiet corner in the Hall of Barakah (which was thankfully quite dark) and slowly, I opened up. I closed my eyes and opened my soul. You may have probably heard of the saying “Cracking open your soul and letting light come in”. That was precisely what I did. When all the emotions came rushing in, I felt like the wind was knocked out of my stomach, my eyes flew open, tears started flowing and my body convulsed into sobs. After hanging on and keeping strong for so long, I caved in and started crying over what was lost. It was a horrible, horrible feeling. But I knew I was giving it the attention it deserved. Finally, I was grieving.

The amalgation of the beauty of the Alhambra, the acute awareness of being alone and the desire to heal became the final push for me towards release.

After the sobbing and convulsions stopped, thankfully, a sense of peace and calm enveloped me. Half the load had been lifted and I could stand up straighter. For the rest of the day, I was seeing the Alhambra with a clearer set of eyes. Henceforth, I was finally open to the lessons I was meant to learn. I’d taken the first step – the most important step to take.

This may seem like a bunch of hogwash for the sceptics but oh well, this is my reality. I have always been deeply spiritual and in touch with my inner voice – that is my gift.

This is my story.

And I’m so glad that, at long last, it has been shared.

It’s good to be back again. I hope it’s not too late to wish all Muslim readers a blessed Ramadhan. May this month open doors for improvement and be the impetus for us to change for the better. (:

2 thoughts on “148. My story

  1. Pingback: 164. Generalife | Raise your sights.

  2. Dear Atikah,

    Without doubt, you are a pioneering Muslim woman, showing other Muslim women out there how it is done while holding on to faith. Through your travels, you found God. He is the man you met at Sarajevo, He is Ene, the woman you met in Langkawi, He is Adin, He is the couple you met in Mauritius. From your stories, and your struggles – I have a sense of what you are struggling with, and as someone who enjoys reading your blog, I just want you to know that there will come a day when you awake, and for reasons unbeknownst to you, what you are struggling with would become lighter, and eventually, it becomes as light as a feather, or as dismissivably as swatting a pesky fly. When that day comes, you would have found your answer, look at the people around you when you realise this. They are your answers, and there He is, God. Always there.

    Love lots and Godspeed.

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