WWPR member Rula Malky shares her personal experience
If I were told I was going to be a citizen of the world at a young age, I would have said “yeah, maybe not. Amman is my home!” As an avid traveler, my path was created partly by my environment and partly by my own doing. Born and raised in Amman, Jordan, I grew up with a great family and friends in amazing careers in radio and aviation. I was an absolute and staunch lover of everything Jordanian (and still am) until a job offer in Geneva, Switzerland changed my destiny. I remember telling my mom, “Don’t cry, I’ll be back in six months.” Nine years later, I got married to my American husband and I moved to the United States.
As an Arab American living in Washington, D.C., I have the privilege of experiencing the unique blend of cultures that permeate the city. D.C. is a place where people from all over the world come together to live and work, creating a vibrant and diverse community. It’s kind of like Geneva, Switzerland, but with a less transient feel. People here want to have a sense of belonging. Despite my fluent command of English, the moment I open my mouth, people know I’m not from here. According to my husband, I “barely have an accent and [my] English is far better than most people’s.” But I do get the, “Oh, your name sounds exotic,” despite that I have to spell it out all of the time, or “Oh, you’re from Georgia!” No, no. I am from Jordan. But I’m an Arab American now.
I find all of this amusing and not the least bit offensive or frustrating—until they start calling me Ruta, or Ruth or Robert!
Living in D.C. is an enriching experience that allows me to connect with others with similar backgrounds and learn more about the rich, cultural heritage that defines who I am. From attending cultural festivals to snapping a license plate that reads “Habibi,” to trying high-end middle eastern food, there is always something to do in D.C. that celebrates Arab American culture. I encourage anyone with an interest in diversity and multiculturalism to explore the many vibrant ethnic communities that call D.C. home.
Overall, living in D.C. as an Arab American continues to be a great experience and a personality-chiseling tool. After all, I am a citizen of the world.