Every year around the holidays, I reflect on why I live in Alabama – home to the most down to earth people. (Also home to an odd sport called ‘foot’ ball, except they use their hands to carry the ball, and it’s not even a ball!)
I am often confronted by outsiders who raise their eyebrows awhile uttering the name of the state like they were under a spell: ALA-Baa-MA??
Yes. I do live here. Yes, I am an Arab-American. And yes, I absolutely love it. So without further ado, here are the top twelve reasons why I dig it where sushi is still called bait, and where you could be poor as a church mouse and still have a good time.
- My babies: I have three beautiful, smart, and sweet children that love this state and intend to make it their home, although the youngest has threatened to attend college in Australia. (Down under, or down yonder?)
- My friends: Having been a journalist for 25 years, I know a few people! Alabamians might be the friendliest folks around. (Except on football Saturdays, when it’s completely accepted to holler insults at your neighbors: You know, if you put up goal posts in your front yard, you can keep’em Alabama football players out.)
- My work: Journalism in Alabama may not be as exciting as New York or Los Angeles, but where else would you do stories about squirrel hunting and a hipster fashion designer. . . on the same day?
- My history: Having been born in Damascus, the oldest continuously inhabited city on earth, I appreciate Alabama history. From Civil War to Civil Rights, Alabama has chronicled a rich narration.
- My future: Alabama is on the precipice of becoming recognized internationally for many achievements. From the best higher education institutions, to leading industry and corporations, to a thriving tourism and culture scene. We have become a destination state. (I used to hear this when I moved here in the 80’s: Alabama? Honey, is that the one on the way to the beach?)
- My surprises: At least once a week, I am stunned after meeting someone or learning about an intriguing topic. Alabama is full of fascinating places, rich past, promising future, and people that make this state a cool place to call home.
- My landscape: In one state, and within a five-hour-drive, you can go from spectacular mountains and forests, to splendid and vast valleys, to stunning white sand beaches. From North to South to East to West, nothing about Alabama is monotone. You can literally float in space, and on the same day visit a peanut farm. Travel another hour and you could swim with the dolphins. (If variety is the spice of life, Alabama will make you holler and have a hissy fit.)
- My Ecosystem: Alabama ranks among the most diverse states in fauna, species, and wildlife. I know people who fly for hours to hunt here. Montana has nothing on us. (Except the cold, which they can keep.)
- My culture: Birmingham and other Alabama cities have been featured in national magazines and televisions shows for offerings like the Civil Rights Trail, Sports, craft beer, nightlife, and a rich art and music scene.
- My diversity: I love how I am treated here as an Arab-American: With deep respect and genuine love. The folks of this state have learned from history and are charting a tolerant future that includes all of us.
- My smiles: When I first came here from Damascus, I noticed complete
strangers smiling at me on the street. (‘I must be incredibly good looking’, was the thought in my head. Then friends broke it to me: ‘Everyone smiles here doofus.’) You don’t smile at strangers in other places, but it’s a requirement in the South. The people of this state may be the sweetest on earth.
- My Karimisms: Also known as my mess-ups in English. When I first came here, friendly Americans would ask me: How do you like it so far? “Yes, it’s pretty far,” would be my answer. What do you expect in a place where instead of “I’m busy,” you might say: “I feel like a one-legged cat in a sand box.”?
As you gather with your loved ones this Holiday season, relish in the fact we live in a country where our lives are protected, in a state where smiles and hugs are obligatory, and in a Crimson Tide/War Eagle universe where the preacher exempts you from loving your neighbor on football Saturdays.
I do love living in Alabama y’all!