26th of January 2014
I made it back to Cienfuegos again. I felt I needed to see the family from the Casa and my good friend Amet one last time before I leave. On the bus, it was unbelievable when I received a message from Amet asking where I was and if I will come to Cienfuegos again. He didn’t have a clue where I was but he sensed I might be somewhere around, he said.
I arrived in the early afternoon and headed directly from the bus station to the “Rastafari” gallery and over there I met Carlos who greeted me warmly introducing me as “our Sudanese friend”, we went looking for Amet at his home and on the malecon. Meanwhile he told me again about his project and how they finally secured a projector and it is now only about getting it from Norway to Cuba, he also told me how slow it was in the gallery, haven’t been able to sell anything all week. They depend totally on foreigners buying art and souvenirs to keep their gallery running. Carlos is one of those charismatic leaders types of figures, he has big dreams, very focused on his mission. He told me he stopped approaching tourists because they all assume he is just a “jinitero” and he doesn’t have energy nor does he feel the need to prove anything to anyone.
We finally found Amet, and we sat together on the malecon talking about all sort of stuff but mainly about women, his woman and mine and many more that passed by. I found out that on that other night in Trinidad, he wanted to spend the night at our Casa but the landlord refused. “He assumed I am just another black Cuban chasing tourists”. Amet offered me to spend the night at his place and I gladly accepted.
I – then – went to say goodbye to Yanitsy and Willian, the owners of the Casa where I stayed the first time I came to Cienfuegos. When Willian saw me on the street, he came running after me from the other side and hugged me murmuring my name that is still proving difficult for him to pronounce. He went in and told Yanetsy that he has a surprise for her. She asked me whether I got her greetings for my birthday – which I didn’t – but she showed on her phone that she sent it and she didn’t forget about me. It feels like family with Yanetsy and Willian, and I am glad I came back to say goodbye to them. We spent a good hour or so and then I said goodbye promising I will come back again one day.
I went back to meet Amet at the malecon, he then took me to his place apologizing in advance about how messy his room was, which I said is expected from an artist. His room was cosy and beautiful in the same way all Cuba is, rough on the edges, messy but charming in its own special way. He has his graffiti wall where he scribbled everything from poems to Bob Marley lyrics to random names and phone numbers, then there is a PC with its internals out (like my old computer in Egypt), a big unassuming bed, a rusty fan and a clothes hanger. We talked all night about everything from the girl he loves, the girls I loved, Sudan, Cuba, arts, gods, religion, ambitions …
Amet has a true pure artist soul. Artists in poor countries like Sudan or Cuba are just a pure act of cruelty from the gods. He has a very open philosophy and look on life, he told me about how racist and judging Cuban girls are, even black girls, and how that the first time he was told he is beautiful, was by a French girl. “Only then did I discover my beauty”, he said.
Amet and me have many characteristics in common, a contradictory personality in many ways, on one side, extremely open, on the other side very shy. And both sides manifest themselves in extreme ways that people can easily miss the other side. “It is my constant battle to combat my shyness” says Amet, but anyone who sees him on the dance floor can easily miss this shyness, the same way that someone who sees me poking random strangers into random conversations in Cuba, can’t imagine me sitting in front of a computer coding for 9 hours without socializing with anyone. We have multiple faces like most people, but I could recognize his multiple faces because they were familiar to me. We are both tormented in different ways and for no apparent reasons, but as our common good friend Betty once said “it is better to be tormented than superficial”.
He told me the story of his muslim name and how his Christian mom chose it because he was born on the same day as prophet Mohamed. She considered it an omen. He then went away for some time and came back with a delicious dinner for me which I was very thankful for. When I asked why he is not eating, he went back and came with a plate for himself, half-way through finishing my plate, I noticed he wasn’t eating. He told me he doesn’t eat much, he also doesn’t eat meat as an effect of Rastafari religion, he is not a Rasta, but “takes from each religion and culture what makes sense for him”. Cubans have an impressive liberal view on religion, I will go specifically to Cuba one more time to explore it more.
We talked about his pakistani friends, and how he feels they look down at his culture and country, something I confirmed when I met them the next morning, opening up to me as a fellow muslim, they were full of contempt for this culture that doesn’t know about the afterlife. I always find that attitude very arrogant and border-line ignorant, I consider it similar to the western subtle arrogance when looking to other cultures, maybe that’s why they will clash and fight until the last person standing. They are just too similar. Although in the case of the Pakistanis looking down at Cubans and their way of life, it felt even more ignorant and superficial than normal, because this Cuban culture has more tolerance, beauty and equality than any muslim society and that’s the core of Islam or any other religion.
Amet told me about his opportunity to go to Czech republic and how it could open new doors to him but he doesn’t want to stay there and can’t leave his mom, sister and friends behind… And I chose not to tell him that this is exactly what I said 6 years ago when I first came to Europe.