“So where else should we visit here in Jeddah that I haven’t been to, Bahrom?” I asked my trusted colleague, office driver and my go-to guy if I ever needed any help whilst living in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia – like when I needed some Arabic phrases to help me get a good haircut. Bahrom, who speaks fluent Arabic, Malay and a bit of English, originally hails from Indonesia and has been living in Jeddah for years. He’s in fact pretty much settled down here in Jeddah with his 2 wives and families.
We're planning a “day-out” trip exploring Jeddah with my friend and former colleague, IW, who’s in town for some consultancy work, before he leaves for Malaysia for good.
“Pernah pergi melawat makam ibu Hawa?” Bahrom asked me in Malay if I’ve ever visited Hawa’s mother’s grave.
“Makam ibu Hawa? Siapa tu?” Hawa’s mother’s grave? Who’s that? Why would I want to visit someone’s grave?
“Ibu Hawa lah. Tak tahu ke?” Hawa’s mother. Don’t you know? He’s perplexed that I didn’t know Hawa. Like really, should I?
“Hawa, isteri Nabi Adam?” Hawa, Prophet Adam’s wife? He continued.
It was then I realised that he was talking about Eve, Prophet Adam’s wife. Not some unknown mother of a lady named Hawa, but Mother Hawa, which is Eve’s name in Arabic (and Malay too). Ibu (mother in Malay) with a capital I, not just any ibu. *facepalm*
“Ooh Hawa! Tapi kenapa panggil Ibu Hawa bukan Hawa sahaja?” Why do you call her Ibu Hawa and not just Hawa? The moment I asked him the question, I remembered that Bahrom is an Indonesian, and Indonesians tend to address older & well-respected women with the title “Ibu” before their first name.
But he actually gave me a different answer altogether.
“Sebab dia ibu kepada seluruh manusia lah.” Because she’s the mother for all mankind-lah, he replied with the accented “lah”, sounding more and more Malaysian than I do.
The truth is, until that moment, I didn’t even know that Eve's final resting place is here in Jeddah, and that there’s actually a grave somewhere in the city. Like, come on, we’re talking about the Eve here who, like Bahrom said, is the mother of all mankind. How come no one has ever told me about this before?
And I told Bahrom so.
“Tahu kan, Jeddah ni namanya daripada Hawa?” He asked if I knew that Jeddah was named after Eve. “Whaaaatttt? Jeddah is named after her? What do you mean? What are you talking about?” Jeddah certainly doesn’t sound like Hawa, or Eve for that matter.
Apparently, there is a couple of explanations about the origin of the name of the city of Jeddah, and the more popular one is that it was derived from the word “Jaddah”, “grandmother” in Arabic. And the grandmother in this case, as Bahrom told me, refers to Eve.
I can’t believe that I only found out about this after almost 1 year of living in the city. I wonder if I’m fast becoming one of those expats who live in their own bubble (or compound) or one of those locals who take things for granted because you know, “it’s there, and it’s not going anywhere, anyway”. Either way, I just have to go and see the place for myself.
“Okay, bolehlah kita pergi nanti.” Okay, let’s include that in the plan.
This is the tenth blog entry under 'Ramblings from Saudi' series.
'Ramblings from Saudi' is a series of blog entries originally written when I was living in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for one year from 2007 to 2008. While the entries under this series are not exactly travel entries, (I hope that) they tell stories about life in Saudi Arabia in general as I personally experienced them.
For other 'Ramblings from Saudi' entries, click here.