Nuumani last saw Lyena, now 37, when she was just four years old.
Both Nuumani and Lyena were in Muscat for a two-day visit from Dubai where they finally met, when Muscat Daily caught up with them to talk about their emotional reunion. “I feel like I am born again. I thank God for giving me my father back as I had lost all hope of finding him,” said Lyena, while clinging to her father affectionately.
Nuumani, who worked for the InterContinental Hotels Group for 27 years, met Lyena’s mother, a Liberian during an assignment in Liberia and the couple got married.
Shortly after they relocated to Kenya as part of his work, where Lyena was born in 1976. “Lyena’s mother was not comfortable living in Kenya because of the language and culture differences. So, she went back to Liberia, while I stayed back and completed my assignment,” Nuumani said.
By the time Nuumani returned to Liberia, he and Lyena’s mother had grown apart and they decided to separate. “Even though we separated, I used to meet Lyena and her mother often until 1980. Soon, civil unrest began in Liberia and people fled the country in large numbers.
“I also moved out of Liberia and returned to Kenya. I lost all contact with my daughter and her mother. I tried a lot but there was no way of finding my daughter. All I had was just a photograph from her childhood days. I came to know that they had fled the country but had no clue where they could have been.”
Years later Nuumani moved on and remarried and it was his Kenyan wife Jameela who helped him reunite with Lyena. “I had lost all hope of finding my daughter but Jameela, who works at a cosmetics shop in Dubai, was determined to find her. Every time, she handled Liberian customers she would narrate how I was searching for my daughter,” he said.
“Then a few months ago, a Liberian lawyer and his wife walked into my wife’s shop and as usual she told them my story. They jotted down the details and promised to help, which they actually did. Once in Liberia, they put out a message on the radio and, as fate had it, one of Lyena’s relatives heard it and contacted her and her mother in London.”
Nuumani said that both his daughter and her mother had moved to London after fleeing from Liberia.
“The lawyer got in touch with us and reconfirmed the details through my birth certificate and childhood photographs. He then contacted my father, who called me after that. I will never forget that call from my father. It was such a wonderful day when I spoke to him. From then on, we started planning a meeting,” Lyena said.
These developments took place during Ramadan, but it took a few more months for them to meet as Lyena’s passport was expiring and she had to renew it before she could be granted a visa to Dubai. “I could not wait to see my dad but finally the day came and here I am, as happy as I could get,” she said.
She is now married and has an 11 year old son.
On whether she tried looking for her father, Lyena said, “My mother tried to reach daddy by calling the hotel where he worked in Kenya years back, but each time they would say he was at a different place and she never got through to him.
“So, we just left the past behind and started a new life in London.”
According to Nuumani, attempts to find Lyena did not yield results as she had adopted her stepfather’s surname. “Now that she has found her real father, Lyena now plans to change her surname once she goes back to London,” said Nuumani, holding his daughter’s arm firmly and trying to hold back his tears.