Friday, October 1, 2010


Asalamu Alaykom,

The first day of Ramadan in Egypt was also going to be an anniversary of sorts.

 Earlier, in America, I had contemplated whether to leave or not, and if so...then when.  One look at the calendar and I knew that I had to (inshahallah) be in Egypt and by the first day of Ramadan.  It seemed like a sign.  The first day of Ramadan would also be the anniversary of meeting my former husband. 

Eight years!

So much had happened in those eight years!

And now?  I would come full circle and be ready to accept the start of a new life.  That's what it felt like to me.  I would open myself to whatever Allah had in store. 

The day began before dawn with a drum beating,  "BOOM!  BOOM!  BOOM!"  I had no idea that someone went through the streets waking everyone up so they could eat suhour. 

It was so intriguing to me that I actually tried to catch sight of the drummer to see what he looked like.  It took three mornings but finally I did spot the tall, thin man dressed in a white galabiya.  I saw him banging on his drum and smiled from my balcony as big as if I'd seen Santa Claus himself.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  I'm still talking about the very first morning of Ramadan.  I ate the food Mama had laid out for me.  Though she was no longer mine to claim, I loved her still for being the closest I'll ever have to a Muslim mom.  My own mother has never ever made me a suhour or shared one with me.  Mr. Boo's Grandma (God bless her) will always be special to me for sharing a part of my life which my own flesh and blood cannot seem to fathom.

We read Quran; her from a book and me from my computer.  We prayed.  We slept.

When I awoke, I couldn't believe the heat in the apartment.  What had happened?!  Turns out that my former sister-in-law was helping Mama cook a turkey.  So, my adjustment to the heat of Egypt now had to get bumped up a few notches.  I had to get used to the heat of Egypt with the oven on full blast.

I couldn't handle it. 


Mr. Boo and I readied to depart.  I had toured the city before so I promised them we'd be alright and we went to the beach.  It would be the second time I'd gone there.  As I thought about the moonlit walk I'd had before with my former husband, I remembered that this day was also the anniversary of us meeting.  In all the preparations of the day, I had pushed that to the back of my mind.  Now, it occured to me again but I knew that it was no longer the most important thing in my life.  Allahu Akbar!

We walked and we talked--in English, of course.  As we talked, we were stopped by a man who had overheard us.  He asked if I had any teaching experience.  I laughed.  Yes, I was here in Egypt to teach.  Turns out he was a recruiter.  If I wanted, I could interview for a position in this city.  I could live in the same city as my former in-laws.  I thanked him and went on my way, thinking of the irony; in the States I couldn't get a job to save my life.  Here?  I was being offered jobs on the street.

We had a beach to conquer.  The air was cooler by the waterfront.  I was so glad to be out of the apartment.  I thought about how funny life is.  My ability to identify my own discomfort (with places, jobs, marriages, and people) often meant change but it always felt better to get my needs met.  I could have stayed inside; melting away like so much turkey fat.  Instead, I had sprung us free to a glorious world of opportunities.

There was the ocean!  Majestic!  Subhanallah.  You see a lake and you feel good.  You see an ocean and you feel great.  The waves gently washed upon the sandy beach.  There was a relaxed easiness to the place.  I took off my sandals and felt the wet squooshy sand between my toes.  Off went Mr. Boo's shirt and into the water he went.  I took pictures of him cavorting in the waves.

"NOT TOO FAR!  COME BACK!"  I'd yell like the over-protective mother I had to be.

I was alone with my baby in the ocean.

I looked to my right and saw the honeymoon hotel where I had once been held by a man who would let me go.  It hurt.  It did.  It was bittersweet to see my boy...our boy...laughing and playing in the surf and not to be able to share it with a soul.  No tears.  I didn't cry or anything.  Those tears were done.

I collected some shells; thought of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's "Gifts from the Sea," and made a castle.  The castle would not last, of course.  For a time, it would be beautiful and then it would wash away.  No sadness in impermanence.  Nothing lasts forever.

There was a kind of wudu from the waves.  I ran in laughing.  My long, flowing skirt was not really a bathing costume but it didn't matter.  Many, many things simply didn't matter any more.  I was "here" and I was loved.  Maybe I had wanted love from a man and felt satisfaction when I received that love.

Now?  I did want the love of Allah.  I did.  I needed that blessing more than I needed any man. 

I looked behind my shoulder once more.  There was the beautiful masjid I had seen from my hotel.  I had never gone inside.  I made up my mind to pray inside the masjid.

I had lost track of time there on the Mediterrean coast.  Not only did I need to pray asr, but it was almost time for magrib.  I prayed and prayed again.  I was expected home!  What had I been thinking?  Okay, I'd been making peace with past and the present.  But I was in a bit of trouble. 

I walked out of the masjid and the streets were dead.  I mean NO ONE.  I had walked so far.  My mother always would tell me not to swim out farther than you can swim back.  Well, at the end of my fast, I was too far from home and too tired.  I couldn't walk back...but I had to.  We had to.  And if my little guy couldn't handle the walk, I would have to carry him.  There was no other way.

Off we went and I hoped it was in the right direction.  The setting sun made shape-shifting shadows on every shop.  I was surprised at how I was losing my way. 

"Ya Rab!"  I prayed to Allah. 

Here was my first day of fasting and I was really screwing it up.  I hadn't cried earlier but I could feel the tears well up in my eyes now.  Then, I heard the clop-clop-clop.

A horse carriage!

I jumped in and took the ride.  I told him where we needed to go.  He started off.  With every minute I wondered of what was happening now at the house and how much this was going to cost me in the end.  He began to give me a tour of the town.  I had to stop him.  No, I really needed to head back home.  The jolly old guy could barely understand me. 

I put my camera away and, in doing so, found Saleh's business card which I had been given the other day at the barber shop.  I called him and he gave the man directions.  I thanked God once again for the seemingly unconnected incidents which have always been planned to aid the believers.

Alhumdulillah, we made it home.

Chapter 7


Yosra said...

I received this comment from Aisha:

Assalamu alaikum, it's from Allah that I came across your blog, ~I'm revert from UK and a mother of two thinking of making hijrah alone! Wanted to go to Saudi but don't think it's possible alone, now thinking of Alexandria, please email me if you have time inshaAllah

Asalamu Alaykom Aisha,

Alhumdulillah that you felt the presence of Allah through my blog.

We do have a lot in common and one reason I write the blog is because I know there are readers out there in the world who need to connect with like-minded people.

I would never in a million years advise a single mom to go to Saudi. I got very VERY close to going (look through my "freaking out" section and I think I've got some entries in there about my waffling back and forth).

I am very happy in Egypt. It's not a strict country. There is an easiness to moderate Islam here. I feel the religious freedom. Christians live and work along side Muslims. Hejab is anything goes---including none at all. I hear azan five times a day and feel the Muslim vibe throughout my day.

It's not a perfect country. Islam is the perfect religion but there is no such thing as a totally Muslim country. However, as long as you have a LOT of patience and a sense of humor, it's a terrific place to live and raise your child.

If you have a college degree and three years of classroom experience, you can get a work permit to be a teacher here. Employment is super easy to find for native speakers. You will always be in demand. You can do tutoring on the side for extra money if you wish.

There is also an abundance of eligible men to choose from---I'm just sayin'!

I didn't include your email here because I didn't want you to get any hassle from your posting. Generally, I don't email readers.

If ever someone needs to reach me privately, place DO NOT POST at the top of your comment and I'll read what you need to say. I'll post a reply here or on your blog (if you have one).

Wallahi, being a single Muslim mom in a non-Muslim country is tough. I wish you all the best in making a decision about hijrah. Pray istakarah and look for your direction. I believe you would feel Allah's blessings fall down upon you like a spring rain.

Anonymous said...

Yosra....what happened when you got home??