Another Welcome Aspect

Nimah and Aramco Friends Nimah Nawwab Gathers with Aramco Connections
Photograph Contributed by Nimah Nawwab

Poetry readings, book signings, attending poetry workshops, and conferences has kept Nimah Ismail Nawwab on the go as she crosses the United States with her newly published book, The Unfurling. Yet another aspect has heightened the experience as she embraced years long friendships with several Aramcons whom she considers her ‘Texas and Aramco family.’

On arrival in Texas, Aramco brat and publisher, Tim Barger, met Nimah in Houston, heading in from California, his home base. As the free spirited writer and publisher whizzed her through Houston and Austin, the two had several adventures as Tim tried alligator tail meat, got lost on the way to an Arab restaurant in search of sharwamah and tried to get Nimah to join him for his long daily 6 mile walks, to no avail, as the Saudi complained of the heat and humidity and opted for swims instead. The two discussed the book, readings and marketing throughout the coming days.

Nimah Nawwab Nimah Nawwab
Photograph by Bill Tracy

As the errant two returned every evening to their warm, generous hosts, Mary and Howard Norton, memories of the Austin segment of the tour took on special significance as the Aramco connection bloomed.

On arriving in Austin, Nimah gave private readings at Peter Speers’s home, the long time scholar and Arabist of Aramco and co-editor of the book Aramco and Its World. Speers tried to get a copy of the limited edition of the poetry volume, The Unfurling, as his eyes lit up on hearing the poems read aloud, but Nimah wanted to gift him with the final edition on its release. Speers, in a continuing journey of seeking knowledge, had Nimah searching through copies of the Qur’an to translate and locate a verse he has on his living room wall. Success at last after several volumes had both smiling in triumph.

Kay Abikhalid Kay Abikhalid
Photograph by Nimah Nawwab

Other readings at cafés where Nimah met Austin poets in the company of poetry editor and poet Kay Abikhalid also re-established another friendship with the gentle, enthusiastic Kay as she picked up the mantle of mentor and generously took Nimah on daily readings at Austin venues.

The café audiences were a departure for the Saudi poet from the more formal readings she had given to date in other parts of the country. ‘I really enjoyed the diversity of the audiences at the cafés as well as listening to emerging poetic voices. The crowds included students and academics, a good mix. The open mike concept, where the audience can actually boo one off the stage, is challenging. The best part in all is connecting with the audience and watching their eyes or seeing them nod, shake their heads and ask questions.’

Frank Fugate Frank Fugate
Photograph by Nimah Nawwab

Another private reading took place at Frank and Mary Fugate’s home where the strong and decisive Frank commented on the reading, the poems and their content. Frank noted how Nimah’s style of delivery added inflection to the poems which drew one into the pieces. The long time resident of Arabia wanted to get his fill of poems on the country and its people, urging her to read additional numerous poems which are not part of her usual repertoire.

Nimah continued her book readings as well as Aramco connections in Albuquerque, New Mexico where she enjoyed the hospitality and verve of the energetic Yvonne Boudreaux, the Aramcon who started SAVE, and her gentle, hospitable husband Ed Urbanski.

Greeted by the sight of Saudi and American flags fluttering across the side of the distinctive home, Nimah stepped into a realm of support and enthusiasm that has been a constant wonder throughout the trip.

The couple held a dinner for Nimah on her arrival. This was soon followed by another private reading, as a group of animal lovers got a glimpse into the world of old and new Arabia and gained new insights in the evolving life of the people and its country.

The reading took place in an informal setting on the balcony of the couple’s serene Italian style home. Ed noted that ’the poems are subtle yet direct, drawing one into the pieces,’ he commented that the setting sun and the gentle breeze added to the atmosphere and reminded him of campfire gatherings in Arabia.

Ed and Yvonne Ed Urbanski and Yvonne Boudreaux
Photograph by Nimah Nawwab

Yvonne noted that 'Nimah set the stage for the pieces by introducing and interspersing comments and explaining historical, social and cultural aspects which added to the reading as a whole. Hearing the poems after reading them added another dimension with the inflection and cadence.'

Later on she headed to another warm and generous couples' home Judy and O.K. Thomas where Judy got a group of former Aramcons together for a private reading . The group reminisced about the memories of decades in Arabia, the people and places they missed, and shawarmas as they heard a poem on the markets of Arabia which made their nostalgia all the more sharp.

As the trip drew to a close, the Aramco connection thrived and grew as group after group got a whiff of their life in Arabia once again.