Tuesday, November 2, 2010

MAKING HIJRAH 10 "Ancient History"

Asalamu Alaykom,

At three in the morning, I was awakened by the front desk.  It was one of those disorientating moments when you know that you are not where you should normally be--but you don't exactly know where you are.

I readied myself for the suhour.  It was on its way!  I was so hungry.  The massive tray came with meats, cheese, breads, foul medamnes and olives along with yogurt.  I ate my half.  The other half was for the sweet boy asleep in the bed.

There had been two twin beds for us but we crammed into one.  Co-sleeping is best at times of stress and I'd say that moving half-way around the world and leaving everything and everyone behind would qualify as stressful.

The azan sounded and I prayed.

I prayed for a good start to our new life.  I prayed for that elusive commodity of peace.  I prayed for protection.  I prayed for the people I had recently left on the coast and for the people I had left in America a week ago.

It had already been a week; a week since I left.  So much had been resolved by my visit to the family.  It was such a blessing to reconcile feelings of guilt and sadness; of wanting my son and me to be accepted and loved.  Ultimately, I realized my need for independence.

I had to start my new life on my own.  I fell back to sleep and planned on a nice long rest---which of course was not at all my son's plan.

"Mommy!  The sun is up!" was the news report he delievered to me.

"I know, Honey, but mommy needs more sleep."  I knew that I had to bribe him.  "When I get up, we'll go see the Pyramids."  And then I rolled over.

"I can see them now."  Mr. Boo calmly told me.  "They're out there!"  He pointed towards the window and sure enough (when I pried open my eyes) there were the Pyramids looking in our hotel window.  Amazing!

That woke me up with a start.  I might have been confused in the dark before the dawn, but this gave me no doubt.  I was definately in Giza.

The last time I had been in Giza was to see the Laser Light Show on the Pyramids with AbuBoo.  He hadn't wanted to do much in the way of sightseeing so I had pleaded.  We went that night and ate our chicken dinner while watching the show.  It had been fabulous---even with Italian narration---but it had seemed too surreal.

On my first day back in Giza, I wanted to remedy the past.  I wanted to walk through the Pyramids.  I needed to touch the hand-hewn rocks and feel history through my skin cells.  I was fasting but I was going to push myself in order to experience life full circle.

We walked out of the hotel without anyone asking where we were going.  Just like a teenager with new found freedom, I felt both the elation and the anxiety  What if something happened to us?  Would anybody know or care?

I walked to the corner and then realized how knowing where the Pyramids were and knowing how to get to them were two different things.  I backtracked to ask the hotel guard for directions.  It seemed close enough.  I just had to cross the street---

Wow!  The streets were so busy!  I was taken aback by the amount of speeding traffic.  It occurred to me that this would be a horrible way to die.

"She was trying to take her young son to see the Pyramids when she miscalculated and was rammed by a garbage truck.  Can you imagine?  It was her first day in Giza.  She was going to start a new life.  Sad..."

Alhumdulillah, no unfortunate accidents happened crossing that street or the next.  The sun beat down on us and I started a new fear of fainting from the exertion. 

Really?  I was going to live a life of fear?  As I walked with my boy, I knew that I had to conquer my fears and quick.  Things in motion stay in motion and allowing myself to be fearful would truly do me in more than any actual danger.

I could now see the gate to the Pyramids and it was uphill.  UPHILL?  I mean...sure it's the last remaining World Wonder but did it have to be so hard to view?

Just then, a young man approached and offered a horse carriage instead of a walk.  I had my money and was ready to pay but not as much as he was asking.  I had to bargain.  The dude was kind of a jerk and wouldn't believe me that I wanted a short ride for little money. 

In stepped an older man who agreed to take us for half the time and half the cost.  We climbed in and we started up the hill.  Oh, this was going to be grand!  Riding in style around the Pyramids!

"Ticket," the man told me in English.  Then he pointed to the office which was selling tickets.  I had to buy a ticket for my boy and me. 

OK, I'm not sure if I can blame this moment on fasting, jet lag or plain stupidity but I had not really realized that I had to buy a ticket in addition to the horse carriage.  I hadn't counted on it!  Suddenly, I had a carriage, very little money and no ticket.  In fact, I didn't have enough to buy the tourist rate tickets of $60.

I approached the windows and listened to all the American couples bicker and I brooded.  Hoovering around the couples were hopeful tour guides ready to be helpful (and paid for their helpfulness).  I was really a different commodity standing there; neither fitting in with the Americans nor the Egyptians.

My turn.  I approached the window.  The following transaction was in Arabic:


"Where are you from?"

"I'm from here now.  His father is Egyptian."

"You're not Egyptian.  $60."

"I didn't think it would be so much.  I only brought enough to pay like an Egyptian."

"Where is his father?'

"In America.  I'm here staying at the hotel and I'm fasting.  Please don't make me go back to the hotel for more money.  It's not possible for me to come back."

"Where is your Egyptian passport?"

"Him," I said pointing to my son.  "He's all the truth needed that I married an Egyptian."

One of the tour guides pushed the man at the window to simply take my money and let me in.

The ticket seller asked, "Where is your money?"

I pulled out my few coins and a five pound note.

He took it and let us in.  I now had only a couple of coins left but I had made it in to see the Pyramids.  I truly rejoiced in that rewarding moment of stubborn determination paying off. 

We turned the corner, headed up to security check point for the guards to x-ray our bag and Mr. Boo decided to jump on the conveyor belt.  OH MY GOD!  What kind of crazy child jumps on the security guard's conveyor belt?!  The men completely freaked.  I guess not too many people had tried that!  Maybe we were both of us were uniquely pushing the boundaries of acceptability on that first foray into Giza. 

Our carriage driver was waiting for us.  Once Mr. Boo was done with the conveyor belt, we were allowed in the area.  The driver asked how much we had paid.  I told him and he laughed and laughed.  The sun was so hot.  I knew I had made the right choice to be under the canopy.

It occured to me how this Pyramid area was not meant for human life.  It was meant for the dead.  I felt the life being sucked out of me by all the heat and shadeless landscape. 

We stopped for a camel photo op which was way cool until the camel's owner got my half pound coin.  He hadn't figured how cheap I actually was.  I saw him again when we rounded the corner and made sure that he wasn't angry with me. 

Up and up we went.  As much as I wanted to stay in the cool of the carriage, I knew that my trip would not be complete without touching the stone.  I had to touch the stone. We got out. 

Plodding through the sand, I realized that sandals aren't really good for sand.  It was rocky and unmarked and I marveled how a tourist attraction 4,500 years old could still be so undeveloped. 

Never mind.  I was close enough to touch so I did.  I made Mr. Boo touch the stone too.  So many people dream of going to the Pyramids and here I was.  I hadn't walked amongst them before and felt like I had missed out.  But now?  Now, I had really lived.  I took a picture of our hands on the stone. 

I was offered a trip up stairs.  I declined.  My boy eagerly bounded upward.  I was worried.  What was up there?  A locked door?  GOOD!  Now, I wanted him down. 

Back at the carriage, the driver agreed to take a Pyramid picture of me.  Otherwise, my three-feet-tall  photograher's camera angles deform me into giant with huge nostrils.

We continued all the way to the Sphinx.  It was then that the driver told me that he was not going to wait for us.  If I got out to look around, then I was on my own.  That sucked!  I told him that I was fasting.  He told me that he was too and that he wanted some extra money to wait.  If I didn't want him to wait for me then he expected a tip.  What was my choice?  I got out and gave him the rest of my cash---it was under 5 pounds.  I was not going to feel cheated again by not really exploring.  I needed to feel the moment.

We got out and it was worth it.  The Sphinx is so historical.  How can you not?

The only problem were the souvenier sellers.  They were often pushy.  As we were heading out (both of us hot and tired and only one of us able to drink water), one souvenier seller tried hawking his wares and I declined saying, "Mafish floos".  I didn't have any money.  I really didn't.

He started meanly berating me and I lost it.  I told him, "Wallahi," meaning I was swearing to God and then I teared up.

I don't know why exactly.

It was the build-up of fear; of real dangers and of the unknown.  It was culture shock and adjusting to being on my own in a foreign country.  It was the realization that I'd been here before and I'd been taken care of then (but not now).  It was being Muslim in a Muslim country and having a Muslim treat me badly.

Another souvenier seller appologized for the previous man's behavior.  I didn't stop to say a word beyond, "Shukran" or thanks.  I felt so exhausted that I had to leave for fear that each minute in the noon sun was zapping my strength.

Mr. Boo, in my arms, had now fallen asleep.  I was fasting and carrying my four-year-old in the hot sun.  Not a good plan.  In addition to that, I wasn't totally sure where I had ended up.  Where was I?

Lots of taxi drivers offered to take me to the hotel but I was too scared to get in with no money.  I couldn't be that far away, right?  So, I started walking.  I walked and walked.  I walked until I couldn't walk any more.

I sat down on a step and got myself together.  I had to have a firm conviction.  I could handle this and get us back to the air-conditioned splendor soon enough, inshahallah.

I started off again.  All the shops looked vaguely the same.  I had to keep the Pyramids in view to figure out where I was.  I was heading in the right direction, but where was the hotel?!

It took seemingly forever to make it back to the hotel but we did make it.  Mr. Boo was like cement!  In we went and I was so happy to feel that air conditioner.  Mr. Boo was deposited on the bed and I took a cold shower to revive.  I would be able to get some food for our iftar dinner after I cooled off.

And then I remembered, "inshahallah."

Chapter 11


Um Zakarya said...

Assalamu Aleykum dear sis,

this picture made me smile, it actually reminds me of my son and me :)

And oh sis I couldn't stop myself from noticing you're still wearing your marriage ring.I guess some things are just harder to give up.

Lot of love

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom Um Zakarya,

I'm glad the picture made you smile.

The silver ring you see is actually a birthday gift from me to me; not a wedding ring. It's one of three since I have three children. Sometimes I wear two on my left hand and sometimes two on my right.

In 2008, I felt that I wanted a ring on my finger but that I didn't need to wait for a man to buy it for me. I spent a little bit of money at http://limogesjewelry.com for something simple. It's ambigous to others and meaningful to me.

Thanks for reading and commenting! Be sure to stop back for the next chapter. :)

Um Zakarya said...

Ohhh MASHALLAH sis, I now understand the meaing of te ring :)

I always read your blog, but I've been a lazy commentator these days.I'm looking forward to read the next chapter of your Hijrah INSHALLAH.

Lot of love.

Shabana said...

I've always wanted to see the Pyramids. That's awesome you had the chance. And it sucks that tourists have to pay so much for these attractions. It's like that in India at the Taj Mahal.