A Letter to our Daughter, Hayat

[Our baby girl, Hayat, was born on January 15, 2017.  This is a letter Ali wrote to her before she was born.]

Dear Hayat,

You haven’t yet arrived but you’re all we can think about. It has been nine long months and somehow it doesn’t seem real that we will finally meet you in the coming days. But when you do finally decide to show up, it’ll be during one of our grand projects. As you’ll soon discover, your mother and I are frankly crazy. Every couple of years, we start some major project that involves us leaving the comforts, serenity and peace of Canada for some odd corner of the globe. This time around, we have run off to the hot deserts of Doha, Qatar – the place that you will soon call your first true home. But there have been quite a number before that. China, Egypt. Your mother has the distinction of having traveled to eight countries with you tucked away in tow (Yes, she’s crazier than your father 😀)!

But there is some method to our madness. We take on these grand projects because we fundamentally believe challenging yourself to deal with something new, something foreign, something difficult is ultimately what makes you a better person. For us, the vehicle is to move into territory completely or partly unknown to us and to enrich ourselves and hopefully, enrich those around us. Life, so we see it, is your canvas. It is your opportunity to create and alter the world around you, whether near or far, in the image you see fit. More than just routine, consumption and pleasure seeking, life is about trial, effort, newness and creating joy in the best way that you can. The most important piece of advice we can offer you, now and from the moment we have taken our last breath, is to cherish it. Every day, every moment to the best of your ability.

And that’s why we named you Hayat. Hayat means 'life' and it’s meant to be an eternal reminder to you to seek inspiration and purpose. We could think of no better way to impart this important message to you other than to have it represent you.

But there is more.

Hayat, just the thought of you conjures up so much happiness inside of us. In so many ways, you’re the most exciting grand project we have ever undertaken. Also, you are literally the combination of your mother and I! Half-Pakistani, Half-Iraqi, (hopefully) die-hard-Canadian, your identity is something that already makes us proud. What you choose to make of it, through your own expression and personality, we’re sure will make us even more excited and happy. Which is why we selfishly named you Noor al-Hayat (نور الحياة) – the light of life.

While we know we have imposed on you the life long cost of having to explain your weird name to your classmates (we hope to just call you Hayat 😀) we wanted your name to reflect what you mean to us. The love, the joy, the excitement you represent to your mother and I just because you come from us. The light of our lives. The bond of parent and child is immense and we are just coming to fathom it now. Without even knowing you yet, without evening having seen your face, we love you. We cherish you. You, Hayat, are our Noor.  

When this message receives you is unclear. But we owe to it to you to explain our choices. And it all begins with your name. We hope that in some measure, this makes clear to you why we selected the name we did and to share what the insights and values that inspired us to chose this name.

Our dearest Noor al-Hayat – we wish you a life of happiness, meaningful challenges and earned triumph.  You are forever the light of our lives.


Baba & Mama

Ali & Batoul

Husband and wife wedding photographers for the adventurous couple.  Based in Ottawa, Canada and travelling worldwide.