Friday, August 26, 2011

I miss being able to escape to a private place when life became too overwhelming. Whether that meant going for an undisturbed walk, or holing myself up in my room and vegetating. I miss downtime. Downtime in Egypt exists, but it's collective, which means that you're in someone else's face while having your downtime. Apartments are generally too small, sidewalks to full, mouths too busy yapping to find a quiet moment of rest and contemplation, separate from all else.

I miss being alone.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I'm still alive

These are the days leading up to my walima, and boy oh boy did I underestimate the amount of things that need to be done.

The problem is, life in Egypt is hard. Yup, that's the crux of the matter. Getting stuff done here is so much more difficult than in Canada. It requires knowing people as opposed to just showing up and buying something at a store. You have to know someone so that you don't get ripped off or get stuck with a defective product.

Also, when moving into an apartment, you literally need to buy everything except the walls and the floors of the place. Nothing comes included, even doorknobs. So, as you can imagine, there was shopping to be done every single day for the past month.

Also it's really hot. And Egyptian culture is confusing, and I'm trying hard to navigate it without offending people in a major way. Pretty sure I've done that several times thus far. Oh well.

Also, my English is suffering in major way. Writing used to come easily to me, but now I'm searching for words that are commonplace. For example, I was about to type "searching" like this: "surching." And that's not an exaggeration (which I just spelled with 2 Xs instead of 2 Gs).

Life in Egypt is hard.

But Alhamdulillah, this is what was meant for me - so what state is appropriate except that of thankfulness, right?

(but it's hot)

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Til we Meet Again

I'm in Egypt right now...Ramadan in Egypt is different. When it first started, I longed to be back in Canada with familiar faces, getting Ramadan Mubarak emails and calls. It didn’t feel the same to be in a different country – the emotions that I had always associated with the beginning of Ramadan weren’t there.

It has gotten better in the past few days – I’m noticing interesting things about Egyptian culture and how it melts into the Islamic tradition. On the second day of Ramadan we went out slightly before maghrib to go to an iftar at my in-laws’ place, and the streets were like that of a ghost town. The shops were closed, there were barely any people walking about – the only people on the streets were young men wielding bags of pre-packaged dates to give to drivers of passing cars to break their fasts with. It was quite the sight to see men throwing little bags of dates into the open windows of cars.

Egyptians only bake certain kinds of bread in Ramadan. And only eat certain kinds of foods – the week before Ramadan, grocery stores sell massive amounts of oil (go figure) and Ramadan-specific foods including dates, Amar Al-Deen (dried apricot sheets, sort of like fruit roll-ups).

Praying taraweeh here is different, too. I prayed in the largest congregation I’ve ever prayed in at a famous mosque in Alexandria. The streets all around the mosque were blocked off and we prayed on the asphalt in rows upon rows of worshippers. And the imams…I can’t quite describe how it feels to be praying behind imams who sound like some of my favourite reciters. Imagine praying behind Abu Bakr Al-Shatri, or Muhammad Jibreel or AbdelBaset Abdel Samad.

To be honest I felt lonely when Ramadan first started. I missed my community, I missed the quirks of the multicultural mishmash that is Ramadan in Toronto. And I still miss it, but the thing that always brings me back is listening to the same Qur’an, the same du’aa, the same sweet words of celebration that surround this month. It reminds me that there is one thing in my life that is consistent no matter where I am. It makes me feel like maybe I’m not too far from home.