Zawa Mountain is a mountain range which comfortingly overshadows the village. Until recently it was a barren mountain, home to a few savvy chai stallholders who strategically positioned their plastic chairs and nargilas facing Duhok not facing the camp. That was something that always annoyed me, set your view on the city, ignore the tent dwellers on the other side of the mountain. The “haves” and the “have nots”. In the last few years, the mountain has become home to gorgeous, lush gardens topped off by a Bellagio style fountain display complete with ballroom dance music, which I have to admit is kind of cool, Duhoki style but with all the incongruity of the region, it fits. Sahla, Latifa and Salwa took some of our Sewing Hope ladies to the Zawa Mountain Park, some of whom had not left the camp in eight years, having the freedom to leave but nowhere to go, and no money of course. They all connected deeply with the rose garden, with nature, with the water. Listening to them share their delight in their two hour trip, I was able to allow my mind to delete the Vegas bit, and embrace the exquisiteness of the Song of Solomon, which although a song of covenantal love ( a very multi-layered song ) seems somehow to fit with our girls and their awakening to that which is beautiful.
“Arise my love, my beautiful one and come away. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come”
Song 2: 12
“Oh, I did not get enough of this beautiful place. It was such a peaceful and joyful time. I was surrounded by nature, pure nature, pure flowers, it reminded me of heaven. I did not want to leave.
Energy flowed into me. I breathed deeply, the stress left and I felt relaxed. Being away from the tents and the noise enabled me to think clearly, to see clearly, to focus on the good, those I love, those I care about.
It helps us to get out, and such a place totally takes us far from our routine, far from the camp, far from all the everyday life and struggle to survive. All of us from Sewing Hope are great friends and are very comfortable together, so to experience this wonder together was incredible. I returned home, carrying a piece of heaven with me.”
“You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride. You have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes.” Song 3:9
“I swear that today’s trip was very, very, very amazing and special. The weather was perfect, the flowers were from another world, our friends were amazing, the sound of the water was relaxing and cleansing. The sound of water washed our stress and our troubles away.
My heart was exploding with happiness, I was smiling and laughing, and my eyes sparkled reflecting the joy in my heart.”
“A garden locked is my sister my bride, a spring locked, a fountain sealed.” Song 4:10
“When Miss Lisa asked whether we would like to go to the gardens on Zawa, I wanted to, yet I did not want to go. My family, my sons are still missing, lost with ISIS so I am still in mourning. I did not want to hear music and I did not want to dance. The ladies assured me that this was not a dancing event, we were going to get out of the camp, and see something new, something of creation that would inspire us.
As soon as I saw the roses and the fountains, and heard the music, I realized that I had arrived in heaven. The way we all talked with each other was different. We did not talk about the camp or our problems, we discussed nature, the smell of the roses, the sound of the water. We went to heaven for a few hours, then came back. I would like to go to heaven again very soon.”
“Awaken north wind and come oh south wind. Blow upon my garden, let its spices flow.” Song 4:16
“The moment that I entered the rose garden I began to smile. I began to breathe, deep breathing. New air entered my lungs filled with the scent of flowers. It was healing. It was divine.
This was the best day of my life. I felt safe and secure, I have not felt that way for eight years.
There was such peace in this garden. I became comfortable and relaxed both physically and mentally. The time we spent here was amazing, I embraced everything in the garden and took it home with me.”
“Who is this who looks down like the dawn, beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun, awesome as an army with banners” Song 5:16
“This was the most amazing day. The weather was shiny and clear, the fresh air was healing. We spend a lot of time, happy time in the sewing room so between there and our tents we don't see much sky or have time to enjoy the weather. The sun was beautiful, not too hot, just perfect, the flowers, oh I remember their scent, like strong perfume, so very different from the smell of the camp. We were in heaven, with such joy, such delight, such comfort. We returned home refreshed and strong.”
“I compare you, my love, to a mare among Pharaoh's chariots. Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments, your neck with strings of jewels” Song 1:9
“The Garden resembled a woman, beautiful, elegant, its fragrance giving meaning to the surroundings, changing the atmosphere. I felt that I belonged in the park, I felt free, I felt embraced by nature, by all the goodness in the world. I felt the woman I was created to be. It was heaven. After captivity and eight years of tent living, it was heaven. I felt clean and free.” .” Zainab
When I need to breathe it’s a ‘go up higher' go up the mountain, gain perspective. My mountain is situated on the opposite side to Zawa, overlooking the Mosul dam which is actually evaporating at an ominous rate. I go up higher, to gain silence, to be able to look down upon all that crowds me in. Mine is a practical getaway. We thought it would be practical for our sewing ladies, we discovered it was an awakening. The winds of life were blowing, their names were being sung, they were being wooed, invited to live again, their banners that had been darkened and rolled up for years were being unfurled in glorious display. Our Sewing Hope ladies found their joy, found their delight in the beauty and fragrance of nature. As their spirits breathed, their souls came to life, opening the future to all that lay ahead. I sensed that a key, one of their keys, was being put in a well oiled lock, just ready for them to grasp at that door knob, turn and live. ‘
“The women were shocked when we arrived. They had never been to a park, they had no idea what to expect, it was a huge surprise. They didn’t know where to look, where to go, but when they arrived at the rose garden, they began to bloom like spring flowers. Flowers that had been tightly closed for a long time began to open. I saw their faces come alive, their eyes sparkle, they were full of joy and happiness. It was so hard for them to leave, to leave that heavenly place behind. They went towards our bus singing happy songs, holding hands, dancing but each one of them pausing, once, twice to look back to breathe a little more, to remember a little deeper, to take heaven home with them.” Sahla, Director of The Hope Centre.