ثابت — Tabeto detto Sabet — Sabet
The surnames written above are different but belong to the same family. This is a story about migration, the sense of belonging to a country and three different generations compared. The first surname, the one written in Arabic, was the surname of my grandfather. The second was my father’s for several years. The third one is mine. I have been working for some time on this project, which is based on my desire and curiosity to understand my origins, it took years to give answers to my questions and working on this project is helping me understand who I am but above all what it means be part of a family.
My grandfather’s dad was Syrian, his mother Palestinian and he was born and raised in Cairo, Egypt. Only recently my grandfather started sharing his past with me. When he was 18 years old, he left Cairo to migrate to Milan, Italy and there he met my grandmother Donatella. To let him open up with me and talk about his story, I had to convince him to go back to his homeland. For this reason, in November 2018, I decided to embark on a journey to discover my origins in the Middle East and I convinced him, after more than 40 years without seeing Egypt, to go to Cairo with me. During the days we spent together, thanks to the help of his best friend Magdi (who still lives in Cairo) we were able to get in touch with the new owner of the house where my grandfather grew up. After all these years, my grandfather managed to get home and according to his eyes, nothing had changed.
This is still an ongoing long term project that I am conducting through research of family books, old official documents and small conversations with my grandfather. He still doesn’t like to talk about what happened to his family because he is still suffering from his past. Since I was young, he used to tell me “when someone at school asks you where your surname comes from, just say it’s French”.