When Worlds Collide (Naghem)


Dublin Core


When Worlds Collide (Naghem)


The ruby ring is my husband's, and he has worn it for the last 17 years. The smaller stone is mine, and it has a prayer engraved on it. The green 'elaegg' is my protection and sanity. When I went to Iraq in 2014, I was going through some of the hardest years of my life. I visited the Holy Shrines in Iraq and prayed. I cried and prayed. I got the 'elaegg' from one of the shrines, and that same night I had a dream about the Imam of that shrine. In my dream, he told me that he sent me the 'elaegg' as an answer to my prayers and as protection for me. Within a year, I met my husband, and our two worlds collided. It turns out that he got the ruby ring from the same shrine where I got my stone and the 'elaegg.'




English and Iraqi Arabic

Is Part Of

Immigrant & Refugee Stories

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Speaking English

My name is Naghem Swade. I’m the program coordinator for Services to Immigrants and Refugees at the Denver Public Library. I brought a couple items with me to be photographed today, and they all have significant meaning.

So the items that I had, and you can see in the photograph, the green elaegg isn’t as visible, it’s just kind of resting on my hand. And it’s a rectangle piece of cloth and it has gold engraving on it. And elaegg in Arabic means it’s just a special piece of cloth and it’s visited a holy shrine in Iraq. And it has the names of the Imams, the Imams, the Ahl al-Bayt, they are the family of the Prophet. Saints if you will.

Sometimes I’ll take it out, I’ll put special perfume on it so the smell will still stay the same. Whenever I’m sick, physically sick, whenever I’m stressed out, whenever I just miss home, it reconnects me back to the land that gave birth to me.

And then I have a really small stone and they call it heriz in Arabic. And the actual stone it’s marble with light brown and tan-ish colors. I can’t see it, but with a magnifying glass you can actually see the engraving of a prayer and it’s meant to protect whoever is holding it.

And then my husband has a ruby ring. And if you look closely enough there is a prayer engraved inside of it and it looks like there’s a face. And he’s been wearing it for the last seventeen years.

It was really interesting because I was talking to my husband about this project and I was asking him if he had anything. And as he was telling me about his ring, I was like, you got your ring from the same exact place that I got my objects from.

So I came to the United States in 1996 when I was seven. And I had visited Iraq in 2014 and I had gone at a time that was very difficult for me; I was going through a lot of life changes. And one of the reasons I had gone there was to visit the holy shrine and it was in Karbala.

It was super packed because it was a holiday season and I had just wanted to visit the shrine. And I was, you know, just very in love with the Imam of the shrine, the protector of the shrine. And I kept praying and saying, you know, “if everything is okay with me, if you accept me as who I am,” I was talking to the protector of the shrine, “I just want to be able to touch the window.” And somehow, like the crowds just parted and I was able to reach the window, and as I was walking, I had my hands up in prayer and this green cloth fell into my arms. And the ladies behind me, they’re like, “oh my god you got your wish granted, you got your wish granted!” And the pessimist in me was like, “no, no someone just probably threw it and it landed in my, in my hands.”

That same night I had a dream about the Imam of the shrine. He came to me in my dream and he was like, “Don’t ever doubt me again. You asked for something, and I gave it to you. And that is a symbol that your wish has been granted. Wherever you go, keep this elaegg, keep this cloth with you for your protection and for your sanity.”

And then I also from that shrine, I was able to get a stone and it had a prayer engraved in it. And then a year later I met my husband. And we got talking and our two worlds collided because he had gotten that ring seventeen years ago from the same exact shrine that I had gotten my elaegg from and my stone from.

And I keep it with me wherever I go now because whenever I am panicked, or I’m having an anxiety attack or I’m just so stressed out from work or family or whatever it is, I remember that moment when that flag, when that elaegg, fell into my hand, and just this wave of calmness just falls onto me. And I remember my dream and I remember what he said, and so I keep it with me wherever I go.

Coming to the United States as a refugee, and coming to the United States as a child was really hard because I had to leave my entire world behind and learn a completely new language. And it’s very expensive to go back home now, to go back to Iraq. And I miss Iraq. I have two homes. I’m a hybrid of two cultures. And sometimes I just want to go back to my roots, to the land that gave birth to me. I miss the smell. I miss the soil. And unless I’m willing to pay like $5,000 every year to travel back and forth, I can’t do that. So whenever I’m feeling homesick I take out this elaegg, I’ll borrow my husband’s ring, and I’ll take this stone that has the prayer engraved on it, and I’ll just, you know, I’ll rub the cloth on my face and I’ll just inhale because still to this day, four years later, it still has a very special smell to it. And it reminds me of home, you know? It reminds me of the place that gave birth to me.

It wasn’t safe. I had to, you know, my mother and I had to flee Iraq because of persecution. It wasn’t safe. But at the end of the day it’s still the land that gave birth to me. I have two homes. I have the country that opened its arms to me and protected me, and then I have the country that gave birth to me.

Speaking Arabic

The elaegg of Abu Fadl (the Imam) protects me. Sometimes when I feel tired or missing Iraq, I just smell the elaegg and I go back. I am able to travel back in time to Iraq some 20, 22 years ago. I remember my grandmother, my grandfather, my aunts.

It’s true that I am live in America. America is my country as well but Iraq continues to be my roots. The soil of Iraq, the ground of Iraq stays in my memory.

Whenever I miss Iraq, particularly whenever I miss the religious pilgrimage to the Holy Shrines in Iraq, the pilgrimage to Abu adul-Alaah al Hussein, I take out my heriz , my husband’s ring and my elaegg, and I find comfort. My soul is at peace. Every single sorrow and trouble that I was carrying on shoulders just disappears. Just seeing these mementos and smelling them, I am at peace.


“When Worlds Collide (Naghem),” Stories of Colorado, accessed July 6, 2022, https://stories.cvlcollections.org/items/show/10.