Wednesday, December 29, 2010

MAKING HIJRAH 17 "Egyptian Date"



Asalamu Alaykom,





The next Thursday, I had my first date...not a date...ok, kind of a date with Khalo.  I was ineligible for Ramdan iftars since his mother's freak-out.  So instead, we would wait until after dinner. 

I had memories of the Khan Khalili from seven years ago. In my mind, it was the bazaar out of Aladdin. It was old narrow streets and treasures hidden away in little shops. I was itching to go there these last weeks.

I was given a chance to take Mr. Boo to Khan Khalili. I hadn't taken him on my own as that seemed too risky.  Being with Khalo meant I suddenly had an all-access pass to Egypt.  Going to the ancient market seemed like the perfect plan on a Thursday night in Ramadan. What I should have thought about was that if it seemed perfect to me, then it seemed perfect to millions of other people.

People.

There are a lot of people in Egypt. There simply are more people. I have felt this in our neighborhood. Obviously, I felt this when we went to Masjid Amr on Layla tul Qadr.

But THAT NIGHT?! I have never in my life felt the crush of so many people. It was like everyone was rushing the stage--except there was no stage. Soon after we arrived, we found ourselves on a narrow street lined with shops. We were psychologically salmon swimming upstream while some other non-salmon like fish were coming the other way. Okay, I mixed my metaphors. Heck, it was so crazy that I think we were actually salmon rushing the stage. Bodies were smooshed together and if anyone person had become socially irresponsible, then the whole group would have perished.

Oh, and then a truck had to come through!

It was the three of us fighting for our lives. Thank God for Khalo. He held my sweet boy in his arms and helped navigate us through that mass. As soon as we could dart into a side street, we did. Eventually, we found the calm again.

Actually, the area was very different than how I remembered.  Seven years ago, I had been shopping for a wedding ring in Khan Khalili.

This time? No wedding ring. There was no reason to be there except just to BE. I could see the masjids lit at night with their beautiful architecture. We actually got to go in one, even though the prayers were all done.

Can you believe that I didn't go in any masjids seven years ago? None.

This time, of course, I've made it a point to enter in BUT in the women's section. Last night, I got to go in the men's section for the first time. I was amazed at the ceiling. There was NO CEILING! I think I saw some screening, but for about half the length of the building there was nothing up there.

Mr. Boo was fearless and walked right up the stairs to stand where the Muzzein does.

We exited the masjid to enjoy our snack of orange juice boxes and Egypt's favorite dessert: The Twinky. I had nothing to do with the purchase of The Twinky. We just needed enough energy to walk from there to Masjid El Hussein.

We were not going to go in to that masjid (especially since visiting the last one cost 5 LE). We were going to get some drinks at one of the many restaurants next to the masjid.

Seven years ago, I had not sat down and enjoyed a thing. It was all rushing around.

This time? We sat, my escort had his tea, I had some red drink (which I guess is popular in Aswan), and my kid half spilled/half drank his guava juice. We could sit and watch the people. We could also wave off all the sellers who came to show us their wares. One man came by with Islamic books.

I actually did buy an Al-Azhar approved Quran in English and Arabic with Tafsir. It seemed like a wise purchase in Ramadan. I had decided against bringing my Quran from home since I could just read it from one of the five versions I have on my computer. However, it just isn't the same feel of immediacy.

Mr. Boo was getting sleepy, so we left and walked some more. Time to go home. We were going to home on the bus, which is how we got there (with one stop to stand on the bridge over the Nile). We got to the place for buses but AGAIN was reminded at how many people were along for the ride. As soon as our bus pulled up, it filled up (get ready for more fish imagery) tight with passengers like sardines in a can.

Can you say clausterphobia?  Going out in Egypt can actually make you want to stay in.  Eventually, we made it back to our neighborhood.

Time for him to walk us home.  Mr. Boo had fallen asleep so Khalo was carrying the small floppy body as I walked along side.  I was walked within a block of my apartment and then told to walk home alone. 

REALLY?!

Yep.  He was serious.  Khalo handed over my sleeping child, apologized and said, "Masalama".  It felt like a walk of shame.  What was up with that?!  I was incensed.  So, he didn't want people to see us together, eh? 

I made it home, put the boy to bed and decided to shut the door on a man who didn't care much about me.


Chapter 18

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