Friday, September 27, 2013

Artistic Arabic

Asalamu Alaykom,

Arabic is everywhere I look.

Some of it washes over me like so much nothingness but some of it stands out as beautiful art.

I love utilitarian art.  It is the common worker's pause when they can't walk away from their efforts without embellishing.  I love when I can see that someone added a lovely flair to the ordinary.

There are so many signs I want to take pictures of.  Before, if I saw something wonderful, I would return to that spot with my camera and take a photo.  Now?  There's too much hate/fear of foreigners and too few of them around.  There's a lot of suspicion now of those who are different and "yes" it is different to appreciate a wall.

With my new phone, I can take pretty good pictures.  So, I think, for the time being, I will be posting photos from my phone NOT from my heavy duty camera.  These next photos were taken through a bus window as we sped past.

Okay, so this attempt wasn't so good but I tried again.

This shows some writing better.   For years, I used to think that the writing on the wall was advertising something.  NOPE!  It's some dude's name.  Oh, well.  He did write it with exceptional creativity.

You can also see The Great Pyramid peeking out from behind the trees.

Here's a better look at The Pyramid through my bus window.  Yes, I know I'm blessed to live so close to an Ancient Wonder of the World.  Alhumdulillah.

I also feel blessed when I see this:

This is one of those murals placed outside public schools.  Some are done better than others.  I have always loved this image of brotherhood between Muslims and Christians.  Though words have been added over time, the basic message has survived Coup 1 and Coup 2.  It gives me hope that people of faith will remain united in Egypt long after all the chaos has fallen away. 

This is not from Egypt but rather from graffiti artist El Seed in Tunis.

Gorgeous color, composition and a complimentary placement make this an incredible offering.

This is another similar look.  It says, "Ya Rab!"

The next example from El Seed is really different.

What I love as much as the artwork is the outdoor sink below it.  This means that his brilliant calligraphy is accessible to everyone.  It's not in a gallery or in a private home.  It's not in a closed tome of creativity.  It's OUT in the OPEN for ALL.

 Many people first get to know the real Islam from feeling the power of Islamic art.

Alhumdulillah for the beauty of Islam, Arabic and the ability to share it here.

Friday, September 20, 2013


Asalamu Alaykom

It's Friday.  Alhumdulillah.

It's my first day off from a 6-day week of teaching middle school English.

It's Egypt.  Alhumdulillah.

Egypt on Friday means that there's civil unrest.  I tried to explain to an imam overseas how Friday in Egypt just doesn't have that "feel good" vibe.  He admonished me.  Yes, Friday is supposed to be a time of togetherness.  I get that, however it isn't the case here.

Yesterday, while I was getting ready for school, I walked out to the salon where my husband had on the morning news show.  I wasn't trying to catch any news.  I'm really too busy to do that.  Be that as it may, I saw a man lying down on a dirt road bleeding profusely from his side.  He was dressed all in white so the bright red blood was more obvious and out-of-place.

"Don't be scared," warned my husband.


"Da fain?"  I asked in Arabic.  We have a lot of these Arablish conversations.

"Kerdassa," he answered; never taking his eyes off the screen.


"Live on air," he said not realizing that was the worst thing to tell me.

"Delwati?!" I was trying to understand the situation before I went out on the road.  Kerdassa just isn't that far away.

"Don't be scared.  Don't be scared."

In Egypt, you simply can't be scared and keep going.  You have to focus on getting done what has to get done.  I went to work.  Everyone was talking about Kerdassa.

The man on TV whom I saw bleeding on the road, General Nabil Farrag, was dead.  He had been carried away by an armored vehicle.  His death was, no doubt, in retaliation for the crackdown on terrorism in the village.

Last month, the police station had been attacked.  You can see the burned-out ruins across from the masjid in the photo above.  Eleven officers were brutally slain (for which I can't link to any photos or videos because the images are simply too ghastly).


When I got home from school, I tweeted, "Inna llahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un," for the General who had died.  That phrase is what you say when someone dies.  It's a reminder.  "From Allah we come and to Allah we return."

I was sent an immediate reply that he should go to Hell.  That remark was re-tweeted many times over.


If someone really has done misdeeds, we don't need to wish them to Hell.  They are to be judged by Allah only.  To guess that someone is going to Hell OR to Paradise is dabbling in shirk; making yourself an equal to God.


We don't have to love someone in order to say, "Inna llahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un."  We should be able to say it about everyone since everyone will die.  We will die.  Only Allah Subhana wa Ta' alah will remain.

Today, Kerdassa celebrated for the cameras while more arrests were still taking place.

I've only been to Kerdassa once but it was a nice trip and one that I chronicled on my Facebook back in the Summer of 2010.  After thinking of Kerdassa so much, I had to go back and look at those photos.  I wanted to remember that place before it become synonymous with terrorism, killings and arrests.

Some of the pictures have appeared before on this blog but never were they identified as being from Kerdassa.  The captions are left exactly how I wrote them on Facebook three years ago.

KERDASSA! The Galabiya Capital of Egypt! This is the first pic in a series of shots from a jaunt down the road to this "village" (think small suburb). One whole street is lined with galabiya stores. Then, we went to the weekly (CRAZY BUSY) market---but more on that later. Didn't buy this one, by the way. Too expensive. The one I did buy was 35 pounds and I hope to wear it on Eid inshahallah.

LOL! These painted galabiyas were for the tourist trade. Shikira, Nancy Agram and some village chick with a pot on her head---take your pick!

Happy me galabiya hunting. I want to go back---like NOW! Loved the town and the bargains. Wish I could spend a fortune and buy more.

Love this applique quilting. I adore it really. I just don't know about buying it in dusty Egypt. How do you maintain this? I would feel sad to buy it and ruin it.

Love the lotus design too.

Can you imagine this one? Wow! Too much handwork in this! I would love to gift everyone with one of these.

On to the market!

There is no real way to communicate through these pics how amazingly HOT and tiring it was to be at the market. Add to that confusing and (at times) scarey. I am not normally freaked in large crowds but this was intense.

LOL! OK...the story to this pic: We were going through the crowds and I was following a bit too closely behind Mr. Ahmed and....I stepped on his shoe and the sole came off. He was P--erturbed (we'll go with that word). And he started talking to everyone at every stall and I didn't know what he was asking for. Finally, he stops and goes in a little shop---shoe repair! This pic is him waiting to get his shoe fixed. He forgave me after he put it on again 

So many items and so many people. Really, a market is not a quaint little excursion for the casual tourist. It is INTENSE!

Could not! Could not! Could not get a pic of one of the many ladies carrying animals on their head. It was a WTH deal. Live birds in a box or in a pan squawking away as the ladies strolled through. This is the best I could do---sorry. It was a duck.

Here are the chicks hangin' out. I took the pic while waiting for Ahmed's shoe to get fixed.

I can't even begin to tell you how much I love this picture. LOVE IT! I am very respectful of people when I take pics. This captured the sense of busy hands without showing their faces. It shows the plenitude and the beauty of the colorful eggplants. I want this blown up and hanging in my home.

Camel toes. LOL! Sorry but this was seriously freaky. I went to take a picture of them and the lady uncrossed the legs. I said in Arabic, "OH NO! I like them the other way," and she re-crossed them. Ghoulish!  I just had to make sure you saw this real-life euphemism.

RUN, CAMELS! RUN! aren't running. Listen, Camels, you are not in town to give rides. The caravan has STOPPED! You must leave town NOW! Or...sigh...ok, never mind. I'll see you around (in the market).

The way this area of the market shows the upholstery fabric is to hang it from up high and create a kind of tent. Very wacky. And what's with the 50's print?

LOL! I was crackin' up about the lady bringing a turkey on the bus ride home. She was getting tight-lipped at my insolence and then I hear a noise. Sure, enough the lady in back of me had a chicken! She was nice about it and I took this photo. God bless 

So, after me taking the poultry pic, the ladies in the bus joked that I was trying to take a photo of a donkey. Ya, they joked in Arabic (like I didn't know) so I made sure to show the chicken lady this pic once I took it. No, ladies, I took a pic of a masjid---now hush up.

LOVED this masjid. This color green is so awesome.

Forgot to say that this is leaving Kerdassa. Almost broke my camera lens trying to take this shot.

Riding in the mini-van. My mom and dad had one when I was a baby. I used to get nostalgic for it when I'd see them in the U.S. LOL! They are all over in Egypt. No more nostalgia! I just want that pic of me as a baby next to the van. This is Ahmed getting the change.

Fields of Kerdasa

Really hard to see the Pyramids but they're there! See them in the distance? Pyramids = home to me. I'm five blocks away from them and seeing them feels comforting for real.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Remembering Rabaa

Asalamu Alaykom,

This year, I didn't write a blog post about September 11.  It is incredibly sad that 2,977 people died and we should never forget their lives were taken from them.  May God accept them to Jannah and give their families peace.

One month ago, in Egypt, there was a new and different atrocity that engaged my mind and heart.  I'm still thinking about Rabaa.  This was when the Egyptian security forces removed protesters.

I don't agree with everything from Side A or from Side B.  I'm not taking sides with any people.  I truly want to be with Allah.

There's gray areas "makruh" in life when you're not sure if something is right "halal"  or wrong "haram".  When one person dies, you feel like you might not have all the facts.  There might be a reason you don't know.  You wonder who is right or wrong.  You realize that only Allah can be The Ultimate Judge.

When a handful of people die, you still can wonder if there was a legitimate reason that those particular people were killed.  Could it be that those people were wrongdoers and killing them was justified?  You don't actually want to believe that their deaths were done without provocation.

Tens of people die?

Hundreds of people die?

A thousand?

When is the moment we STOP and say, "There can't be a justifiable cause for so many human lives to be taken at one time."  Is there a magical number when you can't stay indifferent?

Amnesty International says the number of people who died a month ago in the Egyptian clashes is 


Let me break that down for you:

That's one thousand and eighty-nine homes where people sit with wardrobes full of old clothes from someone who will never wear them again---yet, they can't be thrown out because that's all that's left.

That's one thousand and eighty-nine family members at least who remember a little baby being born and blessed.  Maybe it's a mom or a dad, or an aunt or an uncle who remembers.  Maybe it's a brother or sister.  Whoever it is, they remember all those milestones of a naughty little boy,

of learning how to behave in kindergarten,

of becoming a responsible kid,

of growing older and taller,

of starting to achieve and ----where did it end?  How many of those dreams did those one thousand and eighty-nine achieve?

That's one thousand and eighty-nine graves filled with Egyptians killed by Egyptians.

Astragferallah.  Israel doesn't need to kill off any Egyptians in 2013 because Egyptians are doing it to themselves.

It was called a, "clearing," the way other countries before called it a, "cleansing," but it still feels like a dirty business.  We should not continue with our lives as if their deaths had to happen.  Take a moment to remember Rabaa.

1,089 people died in a one-week span in Egypt during August, 2013.  What is your feeling?  Do you still feel or have you become numb?  Let's not lose our humanity.

Never before have I placed a photograph of the dead on this blog.  I haven't because I've always found it very upsetting.  I didn't want to be upset and I didn't want you to be upset.  Yet, I want you to see the life and death of Khaled Ben El-Walied.  Somehow, I feel differently about his picture.  Look at him after he had passed into death.  This man was mashahallah a beautiful man and in death he only became more beautiful.  Subhanallah.

I didn't know him.  I only learned about him when his brother, Ahmed, was contacting photographer Mosa'ab El Shamy on Twitter and I fell upon their interaction.

Thank you very much for your heroic effort , you did photo me & my brother who was killed in in 2 different places !

My brother is in the IMG 3040 , the martyr with red shirt at the left , is there a better shot for him ,please ?

Do you hear the hope for just one more picture?  That's all Ahmed could hope for...just one more picture.

Thank you for reaching out. I'm so sorry to hear about your brother. Is he the one in the background? Don't have a better one.

I find it incredibly sad that u r searching for ur brother's image I realize what love n hope that takes. Peace

Maybe we, as human beings, can't fathom what 1,089 people dying means.  Maybe we can only understand what the loss of one beloved brother means.  In the same way that Anne Frank symbolizes the atrocities of Germany in WWII, maybe you can have Khaled Ben El Walied symbolize Rabba.

If you don't agree with my choice, feel free to choose someone else.  There were 1,088 others.  Some were women.  Some were children.  All of them were loved.

May Allah forgive the believers on both sides of the struggle.

May Allah give us in Egypt increased iman faith and  show us the way hadiya.

May Allah right the wrongs in the world and knock down any oppressor and release the oppressed.

May Allah heal those still grieving and prevent more times of sorrow.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

No Prayer Rug

Asalamu Alaykom,

I've had a couple of days of feeling too much.  I feel more than I think.  A lot of women are like this.  We get stuck in memories

I've had a lot of memories which hurt.  Here in Giza, I sat in my overstuffed chair in the corner and got lost for a minute or two.  I was back in 2002.  I had thought I'd married a Muslim man.  We had moved into a new home together back in the States.

I had gone shopping at the Somali mall with my two children. My girl was five and my boy was eight.  I was shopping for hijabs.  I didn't have but two.  For some reason, I had not bought any in Egypt.


That just hit me.  I had been in Egypt for two weeks and hadn't bought one hijab.  I was actually wearing hijab in Egypt but my new husband didn't buy me one hijab.

So, I was alone with two kids in the Somali mall.  It was filled with...SOMALIS.  Go figure, right?  I was this really white, really clueless new Muslimah mom.

A couple came by the store where I had been shopping.  The man started talking to me. By coincidence (though we know there are no coincidences) his unusual first name was the unusual name I chose as my new middle name when I came to Islam.

You don't have to chose a new name when you come to Islam.  I did.  I needed a fresh start.

I was nice.  They were nice.  It was nice being nice.  In that moment, the man offered to buy a gift for each of the kids.  For my little blonde girlie, he bought a two-piece white hijab.  For my bespectacled boy, the man bought a green prayer rug.

Back Egypt, sitting in my chair, in the moments after magrib,  I thought about that green prayer rug.  Where was it now?  I remembered that I left it back in the States.  I couldn't take everything four years ago.  It must be in the storage unit now.  Whatever I left with my mom was placed in storage this Spring.

I was sure I'd have a prayer rug in Egypt.  As I sat there, in the darkening desert breeze, I realized for the first time that in 2002, I married a Muslim man who didn't have a prayer rug.

Why didn't he have a prayer rug?

I started to make excuses for him----like how I always used to.  He lived with a group of guys.  I bet they shared a prayer rug.  He used any rug available.  He didn't have to use a specific rug.  He...

didn't pray.

You know, if you tell yourself a lie long enough, you believe it.  I really believed I married a Muslim man in 2002.  I came to Islam and I thought I came to embrace the same faith as my man.  The truth is that he had let go of his religion.  In many ways, his letting go meant that he could find me.  Alhumdulillah for everything.

When we brought that green rug back to the house, it became our family's prayer rug.  It belonged to us.  We used only that.  We used a prayer rug bought for my son by a stranger.  God bless both my boy and that brother in Islam.  We didn't pray on a rug bought by my husband.  We couldn't do that because he never used his money to buy a rug.

Come to think of it...

he didn't have a prayer rug in our apartment in Egypt either.  We prayed on a small circular rug in the hallway.  It was big enough for two people.  He had originally bought that with his first-and-current wife.

It's funny, when you think about it, how a prayer rug is rectangular.  It focuses your attention from where you are to where the Kabba is.  It's straight.  It's directing energy.

A circular rug scatters energy in all directions so it is unfocused.  It means that all things are important at once without differentiation.  If you stand on a circular rug, you are sharing yourself with everything and everybody indiscriminately without making a conscious choice.  That was our first prayer rug in our first home.  It was only for two weeks.

Our home in America was from November, 2002 until November, 2006.  That's four years.  Now that I've lived in Egypt for four years, it's giving me some perspective on what those other four years were about.

I was happier with that man.

I was sadder with that man.

In the end, I'm glad I'm not with him.  Alhumdulillah.  Not everything you want in life is good for you.  When you get out of a bad situation, you might still be stuck in a lie.  It might take you years to realize the truths of what you had...and what you didn't.

We didn't have a prayer rug.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

I Was Sad Because I Had No Shoes

Asalamu Alaykom,

Rarely have I watched a 4-minute video and had it stay in my mind as much as this video.  I talked about it to my son when he was whining.  I referenced it again tonight.

My husband's teenage niece was crying because she can't go out at night.  This isn't because her mom is over protective it's because the girl is losing her eyesight to Retinitious Pigmentosa and can't see well enough to navigate safely.  Her older brother has the same problem.  It's been going on for years and it will keep going until they are blind.  Yes, there is a real reason why you should not marry your cousin.

So, I told this girl how everyone has a problem.  She can't leave the house at night because she can't see well.  I can't leave the house at night because I'm not Egyptian.  I told her how there's a beautiful girl at school who seems to have everything yet she has lost her mom.  Don't wish to trade your life with another.

That's what this video is about.  It's short and bittersweet.  I recommend it for kids (and grown-ups) who complain about their life.

The phrase, "I was sad because I had no shoes, until I met a man with no feet," is very old and it has Muslim origins.    WikiAnswers has more information:

This quote is most certainly based on poetry from the Gulistan,  "Rose Garden" of [Persian poet] Sa'di. The book is from 1259 CE, so this will predate any other attribution out there.  

The original source for this saying reads: 

I never lamented about the vicissitudes of time or complained of the turns of fortune except on the occasion when I was barefooted and unable to procure slippers. But when I entered the great mosque of Kufah with a sore heart and beheld a man without feet I offered thanks to the bounty of God, consoled myself for my want of shoes and recited: 'A roast fowl is to the sight of a satiated man Less valuable than a blade of fresh grass on the table And to him who has no means nor power A burnt turnip is a roasted fowl.'

By the way, two million Syrian refugees would probably love to trade places with you and your family right now.  Say, an "alhumdulillah," for whatever you thought you were suffering and a "Ya Rab!" for those who have it worse.