Sunday, May 31, 2009

Life in Perspective

I dreamt he married a girl in a dark auditorium. They were wearing regular clothes because they had only just met a few hours before and decided to tie the knot. She wore a flowing skirt and hijab. They were excited, but I felt sad and worried for them both.

The next day she was walking with him, but wearing significantly less modest clothing - but still donned a hijab. I wondered judgmentally - why doesn't he say something to her? Why doesn't he advise her to be dressed like she was the first day? But he didn't.

The following day I was with her, and she had ceased wearing hijab altogether. She was wearing his jacket as we walked in the cold. Suddenly, she took it off and thrust it at me and said "I don't want it, Asmaa. You take it."

So I did.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

bearded bounce

I just realized that I can post graffiti from facebook onto here, even though it takes up more space than it's supposed to. I did this one for my friend a while ago and it makes me laugh...

Photo Summary of Egypt

Because I'm at my placement in Parkdale and I am trying to distract myself from the man who is talking to himself. And pictures are always a nice break from a blog's verbal diarrhea.

Very Islamic juice, mashaAllah:

Fruit stand:

Here fishy fishy fishy:

Cats are balled up in every corner and crevice possible:

Egypt is a place full of history...which doesn't necessarily mean they can spell it.

In case you forget who the president is:

And finally, the mosques are beautiful.

The end.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

can I please give up?

Naturally, a young woman in her 20's must desperately be in want of a husband. And as such, every relative in her family (and then some) plots and plans for her to meet a suitable boy. I've had my share of awkward marriage situations and stories.

I was recently in the motherland, and such a situation did aunt had expressed her desire for me to meet a particular fellow. Now, for many reasons that I probably outlined in detail before, I tend to glance upon cross-continental marriages with a weary eye. But when I was in Egypt, I was tired and I felt vulnerable. So I gave in. Yes, I buckled under the pressure and decided to venture into the unknown by meeting this dude a few days before I left for Canada.

Now picture this: I'm sitting in a room with not only a bearded male I have never laid eyes on before this moment, but also his mother, sister, nephew, and father; as well as my aunt and her husband. Each one glaring and evaluating my every word and movement. I felt physically sick.

The meeting was over after I asked the guy exactly three questions:

1. Do you ever want to move out of Egypt? "No" (I don't want to live in Egypt).

2. What do you think of niqab? "It's required" (I don't want to wear niqab).

3. What do you think of your wife working? "I'd rather her not work at all" (I want to work).

It was literally over in less than 5 minutes. And I was so mad that I let my family members even talk me into meeting this dude. Even when I'm writing this I'm mad. At this point, it dawned on me that my parents have no idea what I want in a husband. And that made me sad. And for those of you who are thinking "why don't you just tell them what you want?" - it's not that simple you jerks.

Anyways, can I just give up on this? My heart hurts and I'm so tired. Can someone just tell me I'm allowed to give up?
because it's a beautiful song, and it makes my heart feel melancholic.

There is a house built out of stone
Wooden floors, walls and window sills
Tables and chairs worn by all of the dust
This is a place where I don't feel alone
This is a place where I feel at home

Cause, I built a home
for you
for me
Until it disappeared
from me
from you

And now, it's time to leave and turn to dust.

Out in the garden where we planted the seeds
There is a tree as old as me
Branches were sewn by the color of green
Ground had arose and passed its knees

By the cracks of the skin I climbed to the top
I climbed the tree to see the world
When the gusts came around to blow me down
I held on as tightly as you held onto me
I held on as tightly as you held onto me

Cause, I built a home
for you
for me
Until it disappeared
from me
from you

And now, it's time to leave and turn to dust.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


The first thing I noticed when I came back to Toronto was the foliage. When I left in April, there weren't any leaves on the trees. And now they're full and blossoming. And there's grass and dandelions everywhere.

It makes me want to take my shoes and socks off and skip along and roll around in the grass until my face becomes red and puffy from allergies.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sometimes I wonder how I'll ever be a social worker when I can't even seem to manage my own problems.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


I'm leaving tonight back to Toronto, meaning I'll be back Wednesday afternoon inshaAllah. I miss Canada. I miss people being scared of the way I dress as opposed to guys checking me out regardless. But to my credit, I'm generally quite rude to guys who try to start up conversations here (mainly at the internet cafe where I am now).

For example:

Guy: is it hot or is it just me?

Me: yeah it's hot.

Guy: (yells to the owner: "put the AC on!")

Guy: it's a good thing you talked, because I thought you were a foreigner (nasty twinkle in his eye).

Me: (I look at him with no facial expression, and look away)

Guy: Fine (offended voice).

Okay it doesn't sound that just had to be there...argh Egypt is ruining my humour!


Thursday, May 14, 2009

I was dissecting my dua recently and I found that when I make dua, I always ask Allah by His Mercy and Forgiveness; not by His Justice. Because if He truly employed only Justice without Mercy, surely I would never get anything I asked for. I'm not deserving of any of the things I ask for.

And on a side note, after reading the autobiography of Malcolm X and watching the whole first season of Boondocks, I find myself very angry at white people. I need to check myself before I wreck myself.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Egypt list

I like lists. This is a list of random Egyptian facts and/or stuff that has happened to me:

1. People can somehow always tell I’m not really Egyptian right when I open my mouth. Apparently I have a very obvious accent. People ask me where I’m from, and I always indignantly say “ana masriya” and walk away. The thing that makes me wonder though, is that in Canada, I’m Egyptian. In Egypt I’m Canadian. Talk about the fluidity of identity.

2. A taxi driver offered me his son’s hand in marriage.

3. I started reading Malcolm X’s autobiography in a taxi (the same taxi where a marriage proposal was made. I had to look busy). Brilliant book thus far, and that’s not surprising.

4. I prayed Jumu’ah at this mosque that’s nearly on the seashore. And we prayed outside because there was no space left in the mosque. Have you ever prayed with so many other Muslims while in the presence of the sea’s breeze? It’s something else. During Jumu’ah, lots of stores are closed (some aren’t, naturally), and the streets are unusually empty. There are merchants that set up their stalls on the street outside the mosque, and right when the imam finishes the prayer, you can hear them all begin shouting in unison and promoting their sale items.

5. Insects: today I got my first flea bites. I’ve kind of been waiting for them, it’s some kind of rite of passage for me. I probably contracted them yesterday when we were walking through this market that sells chickens and rabbits. And I was being eaten alive by mosquitoes in the first few days I was here. My face was literally swollen – I got bitten several times on my nose, forehead, cheek, and my eyelid. Bloodthirsty wretches.

6. As I’m typing this, I’m hearing asr’s overlapping adhans from two or three mosques in the vicinity.

7. A falafel sandwich here costs one pound. That’s the equivalent of...about 22 cents.

And for the naysayers who always assume travelling to Egypt = getting married, my ring finger is still bare. Although the taxi driver’s son seemed like a fair prospect. Hmm.

Twelve more days here, then I come home inshaAllah.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

In the remembrance of God

Alexandria is a beautiful city. This time of year is not as crowded as usual, although I still fear for my life (i.e. that I’ll be run over by a car) whenever I’m out. The weather is also quite lovely – sunny and warm during the day, but still enough breeze and shade to be comfortable.

I received some sad news a few days ago, and the beauty of this city began to wilt before my eyes. Regardless of how many palm trees were set against the horizon, or how bewitching the crescent moon looked in the night sky, I couldn’t derive any joy from it. Before the sad news, everything was an adventure. After it, every day seemed like a chore. Every trip to the corner store to buy bread or milk, every taxi ride and outing felt meaningless and empty.

When I’m sad, I don’t binge eat or want to lie in front of the television for hours on end. I don’t want to complain to people, or “drown my sorrows.” I’ve tried all these routes before (except for drowning my sorrows), and none of them make a positive difference. Food loses its sweetness; television numbs one’s mind momentarily but achieves no effect; complaining to people often makes matters worse, especially when they agree with your sadness, therefore serving to reinforce it.

I keep to myself when I’m sad here. The days are quiet and my heart is uneasy; there is no daily bustle to occupy my mind and limbs or good friends to distract my thoughts. It’s not a loneliness that I can describe in words; rather, it’s something you need to touch, feel, and experience yourself.

These days I’ve been replaying the verse in my mind: “ala bi dhikr-illahi tatma’in al-quloob” “verily in the remembrance of God do hearts find peace and comfort.” When I take the time to reflect on this, I find it quite fascinating how I sometimes try to circumvent the most obvious solution to my problems.

I cannot physically rectify the circumstances to soothe my sadness; I cannot speak words of apology to anyone or offer any material goods as reparation. I am completely powerless to change the sad news. What humbling moments this sadness has exposed my heart to! It has reminded me that it is only Allah who has power over our affairs. And when we are confident that things will turn out a certain way because of our own efforts, that confidence is often shaken by Allah’s ultimate Will.

I believe that these things happen to shake the foundations of our disobedience. Only the sin of true arrogance could have made me believe that I was in control of my future. And although there is a silent but profound sadness in this heart, I will still always believe at my core that Allah is the Most Merciful. I remember the verse: “‘asa an takrahu shay’un wa huwa khairun lak,” sometimes you feel hatred towards the things that are actually good for you. And sometimes you feel love towards that which will bring you harm. Allah’s Mercy could very well be manifested in the thing that hurts you the most right now. Perhaps this hurt is the seed to something beautiful.

My sister had a baby girl that same night I received the news, right before fajr. Feeling the weight on my heart, and watching my sister go through labour pains, it dawned on me that this life is not meant to be easy. At every turn there is some new challenge, some looming hardship. But we are made out of difficult times; easy times do not mould the people we become. Adversity is what makes our roots grow firmer into the ground. Adversity waters the soil so that the branches of our Iman may reach up towards the sky.