August 2nd marked the 30th anniversary of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. The invasion uprooted my family’s life and changed the trajectory of my future. Like the nearly 400,000 Palestinians who lived in Kuwait at the time, we had a really good life in Kuwait. It was a life that was built around a large community of friends and family.
And the foundation of that community was my uncle Adel Samara. Khallo Adel passed away yesterday and with him a big part of that life left the world.
Khallo was an extraordinary man. He was so much more than an uncle to me — he was like a second father. The distance of diaspora meant that I didn’t have an adult relationship with him but so much of my childhood included spending time with him and his family.
When I think back of my memories of my uncle, I see him smiling and laughing. He had an incredible wit and sense of humor. He was the sort of guy who didn’t take himself too seriously and I don’t think he thought you should take yourself too seriously, either. He’d crack a joke at your expense but you’d laugh right along with him because you knew it was coming from a good place (and that he probably had a point).
What made Khallo so extraordinary was his life story. My grandfather passed away when Khallo was still in college. Not only did he manage to complete his degree in mechanical engineering, he also supported his family and helped raise his younger siblings. Khallo worked for years in the oil fields of Kuwait. I don’t say this lightly — but Palestinians like my Khallo built the Kuwait of today. Khallo’s expertise was so valued that when most Palestinians were getting expelled from Kuwait after the Gulf War, Khallo was able to stay. He loved Kuwait and lived the rest of his life there.
Khallo was ahead of his time. Long before YouTube or TikTok, he always had a camcorder stuck to his face, documenting anything and everything our large extended family was doing. He loved London and I remember spending hours as a kid watching his home videos of his family’s London vacations. When I finally made my own very first trip to London about a decade ago, all I could think every time I passed by a famous monument or square, “Oh I think I saw that in one of Khallo’s videos!” I really think that my own affinity for London rubbed off from Khallo.
Rest in peace, Khallo Adel. You were an amazing father, uncle, and brother. And your love and kindness impacted so many (more than you probably ever realized).