Friday, April 15, 2011

MAKING HIJRAH 27 "Sick of Running Around"

Asalamu Alaykom,

There are few things worse than the red tape in Cairo.

When I first tried to marry in Egypt back in 2002, the red tape tangled us up so much that we gave up being legally married until we reached the States.  This time it had to go well.  I didn't have that option to avoid the red tape. We were here in Egypt and there was no possibility of marrying as two U.S. citizens. If I was going to marry this new man in 2009, then it was going to take a lot of patience to go through all the hassle.

Ahmed and I had gone to Al-Azhar.  We actually had to go and come back in a week.  My shahhaddah paperwork would be ready in a week.  That seemed kind of crazy to me that they couldn't just get it ready "while you wait," like a prescription at Walgreen's.

This time we would go without Mr. Boo.  His little legs, though powerful kickers, weren't much good at climbing that big hill to Al Azhar.  And I had learned that my husband-to-be wasn't much good at carrying him.  Sure, Ahmed could do it but his body suffered afterward. 

The man I was marrying would need an operation.  It was nothing life threatening (alhumdulillah)  but his ability to be on his feet, walking long periods of time and carrying heavy loads was diminished without the surgery.  We would marry in the Winter (inshahallah) and he would get it done in the Spring.  In the meantime, he would have to avoid those activities which caused him pain---unless he was running around Cairo trying to get married.  This was tough on him and I hated to put him through it.

Leaving Mr. Boo behind meant the first time we were alone together.  Oh, no one is ever really alone in Cairo but to be a couple instead of a little family was really a unique experience that day.  Once again, I had to thank Allah for giving me something I didn't want but needed to have.

We returned to Al Azhar and the papers weren't quite ready yet.  We would have to come back later in the afternoon.  So, we left. 

I saw the dome of a mosque nearby and pleaded with my man to pray dohr in Cairo.  Normally, when we would be out on the town, he would delay the prayer until we got home.  I am not of the same mind.  "Until we got home," is something that might never happen.  It's always better to do the prayer when you know you are given the chance.  Plus, I wanted to enjoy the gloriousness of a big masjid.

Joke on me!  All big beautiful masjids seem to have a "less is more" attitude when it comes to the women's section. 

I wondered what great Islamic architecture Ahmed was enjoying upstairs while I was in the basement with the women.  Alhumdulillah, we ladies found fellowship in our worship despite the surroundings.

After the prayer, we met up again.  It was really joyful  to see him again.  There is something about our relationship which always seems new.  I was (and still am) surprised at our partnership.

We started our walk back to Al Azhar when Ahmed saw a hospital entrance.  I was not looking forward to going into another Egyptian hospital.  A week before we had tried getting our medical paperwork stamped in a dark, over-crowded hospital.  The price was very high as well.  This time the hospital was light and bright and could have been mistaken for any U.S. hospital (except for the kitten running around). 

I wondered what kind of lab work was going to be needed and tried to do those deep breaths to keep from fainting.  Before, I have literally fainted when my blood was drawn.  I sat and waited anxiously. 

Another couple came by and the woman sat down next to me while the man went up the stairs too.  She and I were very different people.  Yet, we were both trying to get married.  She was actually more nervous than I was so I talked to her.  I was kind.  She calmed down.  Seeing her calm down made me happy. 

I was happiest of all when Ahmed came back and announced we could leave.  No blood drawn!  Money was paid (which was less than the previous hospital) and our paperwork was stamped.

We made it back to Al Azhar and got my new and improved shahaddah certificate. 

I thought for a moment to ask the sheik just HOW IN THE WORLD could Al Azhar in 2007 allow a couple who had divorced three times another chance?! Would knowing that the man was actually now married to another woman (me) with a baby (Mr. Boo) had made any difference?  Then, I thought of how the past isn't our present for a reason.

We left and debated where to go next.  The Embassy had already closed its walk-up service for the day. Can you believe it was only open until 11? Now, it isn't open at all.

I saw the Citadel in the distance. 

We took a taxi over and tried to get in only to hear that my entrance fee was 50 LE.  After marriage, I'd be 6 LE.  I fussed and fumed and left.  I really didn't have the endurance to keep going anywhere else. 
We had to return to Cairo and the Embassy another day.  In the beginning, I had thought that I wasn't going into Cairo enough.  There was so much to see and do, yet I stayed in Giza.  Now?  I was really not interested in going so often but we had to.  We left Mr. Boo again.  We had to leave early and make it to the Embassy right away in the morning.

As Allah would have it, there was another couple getting married that day.  A wacky American and her Egyptian from the 'net were trying to marry.  I heard how she had only known him a month (which beat my crazy short-term relationship of four months).  I was surprised she was handling it all so well.

"Oh, my medication helps," she said with a smile which meant she was going to feel OK no matter what.

My husband had bad feelings about her intended husband but there's nothing you can say or do in a situation like that.  People only believe what they want to believe.  I thought that it was very nice of her man to help my man fill out the complicated paperwork. 

It took only four sheets of paper to get it right.  LOL!  I screwed up three sheets with typos and he screwed up one.  In the end, we thought we had it all right and took it to the window.  Time was ticking.  Soon the doors would be shut.  Alhumdulillah, all the blanks were filled;  Arabic, English, numbers, and names.  From the other side of the glass, I told an Embassy worker with long blonde hair how I wanted to marry and she stamped her approval and smiled as we left.

We went by taxi to another building to get another stamp.  We thought we'd see the other couple there but we had just missed them.  They were on their way to the marriage hall that day so they were zooming through the process. 

Us?  We thought we would get that stamp and get married another day that week.  No hurry.  No need.  There would be plenty of time for us to be married during my Winter Break from school.  We got the stamp and returned before rush hour.

Later that week, we made plans to get married with Ahmed's brother and his boss as the witnesses.  We jumped in the taxi and went downtown again.  I had stopped counting how many times this was.  Al Azhar twice, Embassy made it three and now this was fourth.  This would be our final time inshahallah.

And then it happened.  CUE THE VIOLINS!  We went in to the room to stand in front of The Guy Who Marries You and he stopped.  No, he could not marry us.  There was one blank not filled in on our U.S. Embassy form.

One  blank.


Are you joking?  Okay, so we hadn't filled it in but the Embassy had approved us so it didn't matter, right? 

No.  It mattered.

By having the guy Ahmed didn't like help us fill out the form, we had let down our guard.  We had trusted someone else to be smart and allowed ourselves to be stupid.

I asked to speak to someone else.  Ahmed and I waited and conferred as we waited.

I got to speak to the supervisor.

He told us we would have to go back to the Embassy.  Of course, it couldn't be today.  It would have to be after their Christmas break. 

Oh, no.

I asked to speak to someone else. 

Ahmed was now ready to throw me out the window but I persisted in my oh-so-American, can-do attitude.  I wanted to see the head of the department.

Sure enough, I saw him and I pressed my case (like the good lawyer Mom always wanted me to be).  I got the judge to sympathize, laugh, and agree to many things BUT in the end he told Ahmed to take me away.  Good thing I didn't go to law school, Mom.

We returned to the Embassy.  This was now trip number five.  No longer fun at all, those trips to Cairo.  A drag.  A horrible dirty trick drag.  All those times, to think that I was going to get married.  To get ready like that day would be "the day" only to find out that it couldn't be was too sad.

The Embassy was closed.  It had a different schedule than I had understood.  Holiday hours.  I was deeply dissapointed.  Ahmed was silent.

Silent men are not good for me. 

When Ahmed spoke it was some blocks later when we were entering Tahrir Square.

He spoke in Arabic.  He told me that it was obviously not our naseeb to marry.  Why would God place all these problems for us if He wanted us to marry?

I couldn't take it any more.  I broke down in public---in the most public place you could be.  I broke down hysterically.  I sobbed and moaned and almost wailed.  My spirit was sucked out of me and replaced with sorrow. 

I barely made it to the bus station with Ahmed that day.  My head was lowered and I kept tearing up at the misfortunes.  Why would life be so endlessly unfair?  How could it be that other couple got married last week when we didn't?

I entered into his mother's house.  She was the one who didn't want us married in the first place.  She would be happy at this turn of events, I thought.  The food was still on the table from lunch.  I touched nothing.  I was so tired.  I felt horrible.  I felt dizzy and out of sorts.  The bottom of my life had fallen out.  I went to lie down in the other room and my body felt racked with a dull pain.

All I wanted to do was sleep.

Chapter 28

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