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Half of My Heart Is Devoted to Vietnam

Wednesday, 23 November 2011 12:34

The Ambassador of the State of Palestine to Vietnam, Saadi Salama Altumaizi received us in his French-styled old villa shaded by rows of green trees near Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi. During our talks he recalled his good memories of the time when he lived and worked in Vietnam.

In 1980, after graduating from high school in Palestine he came to Vietnam to study at the Vietnamese Language Faculty, Hanoi University. During that time he also worked as an assistant for the representative office of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Hanoi and since then he has been attached to PLO’s external relation activities.

During his early stay in Vietnam, Saadi Salama Altumaizi fell in love with a Hanoi girl with the beautiful name Kim Oanh. Shortly after meeting her he returned to his homeland to join the resistance war. On September 20, 1982 he came back to Hanoi and on September 26, 1983 his wedding ceremony with Kim Oanh was organized. It was interesting that the Master of Ceremonies at the wedding was Professor Hoang Trong Phien, Head of the Vietnamese Language Faculty of the Hanoi University, who taught Vietnamese to Saadi Salama.

Now the Palestinian-Vietnamese family of the Ambassador has four children, including eldest daughter Hanan (her Vietnamese name is Kim Yen) who was born in Laos and got an MA degree from the Sorbonne University (France). The second daughter is Rina (or Kim Anh) who is taking a post-graduate study, majoring in international commerce, in Toulouse (France). The third daughter is Hanin (or Viet Khanh) who was born on September 2nd – Vietnam’s National Day. The youngest son is Ali (or Viet Ha) who is studying in France with his mother.

The Ambassador said happily: “My family uses multiple languages, greeting in English, saying goodbye in French, speaking at meals in Vietnamese and telephoning in Arabic. But the two main languages used by the family are Vietnamese and Arabic. My children are proud of bearing the blood of Palestine and Vietnam, the two countries having a glorious history of struggle for national independence.”

Saadi Salama Altumaizi is fairly keen of Vietnamese cuisine. His favourite dish is grilled meat with vermicelli because he said it has typical Vietnamese flavours from vermicelli, meat, vinegar, fish sauce, etc. Every time he receives guests, whether diplomats or friends, he always treats them with traditional Palestinian and Vietnamese dishes.

The Ambassador said that he and other diplomats from 11 Arabian countries which have representatives in Hanoi established the Arab Cultural Centre in Vietnam. In addition he nurtured many big cultural plans, such as translating some cultural works from Arabic into Vietnamese, taking the Palestinian Football team to Vietnam to participate in a friendship match to be held in September 2010 and inviting a Palestinian artistic troupe to Vietnam to perform. He took a delegation of Palestinian cooks to Vietnam to attend an international cuisine festival held in Vung Tau in July, 2010

Talking about the struggle for national independence of the Palestinian people, Ambassador Saadi Salama said: “In the Palestinian language my name Saadi means happiness. The path to independence of our Palestinian people is still thorny but I believe in the Palestinian revolution.”

Answering a query about his sentiment to Vietnam, the Ambassador said frankly: “My heart has two halves and I devote one half for my Palestinian fatherland and another half for Vietnam.” It is the reason why he wishes to serve as a bridge connecting Vietnam with Palestine in particular and with the Arab world in general throughout his 5-year diplomatic term in Vietnam.

Story: Vinh Hung