Syria’s capital, Damascus, is one of the most ancient cities of the world that are still inhabited. Formerly known as the Levant, the state of Syria was established after the first World War as were the other Arab countries in the region.
Khuloud Labanieh is a highly educated Syrian immigrant who has seen her share of difficulty in Syria and the United States. She immigrated to the United States in 1988 and has been here ever since. Khuloud discusses her decades long struggle with her identity and finding her voice. Khuloud also explains the life her children have lived in the United States, including her hopes for her sons and daughters, as well as her struggle to connect with her children. Khuloud contemplates the current Syrian revolution that has affected so many Syrian people, some of them her own family. She is very proud of her cultural background and explained what Syrian cultural clothing consists of. Khuloud states that in Syria they wear a manto. Khuloud expresses, “In Syria, I used to wear the manto because it wasn’t acceptable not to wear it… , when I came here, my husband said, I want you to wear a jilbaab. I never wear jilbaab before, so his mom brought- I think bought me two or three jilbaabs.” Khuloud considered wearing the jilbaab , but ultimately decided to wear long skirts or pants with a long sleeved top. Khuloud wears the hijab and believes that you need to be smart about religion and understand that you do not need to dress in a jilbaab or manto to be considered dressed modestly.
Sarah grew up in a Syrian-Christian household and very much appreciates her Arab heritage. On the subject of education, Sarah discloses that she feels her father’s reluctance to share his financial situation with her held her back in pursuing the dreams she had for pursuing the education she wanted, but she is content with the career and the life she now has. This is one reason why she tried to give her daughters the freedom to choose the college of their choice. When talking about religion and culture, Sarah indicated that she does not believe her daughters need to limit themselves to an Arab community or Orthodox one, but she raised them in her Orthodox faith and her husband’s Roman Catholic faith. Her religion and her culture play a big role in her identity, but they are not the sole factors she uses to define herself, Sarah considers herself to be American Arab because she was born in America. When asked if she owned any cultural clothing pieces, Sarah responded no. However, she expressed that her mother owned a cultural clothing piece known as a “kaftan.” Other than that, neither her nor her family owned cultural clothing pieces. Sarah mentioned that jewelry is considered cultural, for example, gold is a traditional gift given to the bride on her wedding day. Sarah explained that she buys her daughters gold bracelets with Arabic written on them because it is a part of her Syrian custom. When asked how she felt when she wears her jewelry, Sarah responded, “I feel like it is a part of my heritage!”