Friday, May 17, 2019

العلبة الدهبية لو بتشوفك بطة ارجع أسد طويل - El3elba Eldahabeya

Death on the Nile

Asalamu Alaykom,

According to the cast and crew spent seven weeks filming at on location in Egypt.  Four weeks were on the steamer boat and three were at such places as Cairo (Giza), Luxor, Aswan and Abu Simbel.

Filming had to be stopped every day at noon for around two hours because temperatures reached around the 130 degrees Fahrenheit mark at that time. To accommodate this, make-up calls were scheduled for 4 am with filming starting at 6 am. On this, veteran actress Bette Davis once quipped: "In the older days, they'd have built the Nile for you. Nowadays, films have become travelogues and actors stunt men".

The whole movie can be found on the internet---though not on youtube.  Daily Motion has it with Korean subtitles (bonus to those readers who speak Korean).

Part 1

We meet all the characters.

There's great acting by such All-Stars as Peter Ustinov, Bette Davis, Maggie Smith, Mia Farrow, Angela Landsbury, David Niven, and Olivia Hussy.  The last one you might not recognize by name by she was the sensational "Juliet" in the 1968

By pass the opening credits which only show the waves of water.

The setting starts in England and end up in Egypt.  A horse ride and a climb up the Pyramids is a stunning visual.

It used to be that you could climb the Pyramids but now you are not allowed though some risk it.  You'll also see the Sphinx up close and (very) personal as there is a pause at the paws for a kiss.  Though the couple should ride off for Mena House, the famous old hotel mentioned in the book, we end up in Aswan.

It does occur to me that nothing shown in films with an Egyptian location help you to actually understand the logistics of traveling here.  Everything is patched together haphazardly because it's faraway and will be incomprehensible to the viewer anyway.  I hate that kind of thinking.  If movie makers would take some care about educating as well as entertaining the world would be a better place.

So somehow we are at the Cataracts Hotel in Aswan with its Oriental interior.  I always think of "Oriental" as meaning "Asian" but it means Arabesque as well. I did not visit the Cataracts this past Spring as the prices were ridiculous for even a cup of tea.  However, I did stand on the banks opposite for a photo op.  I love visiting places where famous writers were inspired.  It was during her stay at the Cataracts that Agatha Christie wrote, "Death on the Nile."

From the hotel, we are led out into the Aswan market and that is worth seeing.  You do get the feeling of the place.  There's a scene with the coppersmiths in which the heat seems unbearable.  The film could have done more to communicate the intense heat in Aswan.

The temperature, during filming, reached 130 Farenheit by midday.  Everyone had to stop for a couple of hours.  To accommodate this lose of time, they had to start earlier; make-up calls were for 4:00 AM with shooting beginning at 6 AM.  The make-up and costumes look great so the strategy worked.

The costume designs, by Anthony Powell, won an Academy Award in 1979.  He also costumed the last two Indiana Jones movies, Hook, and the live-action 101 Dalmatians.

The worst casting decision of the movie is for the Captain aboard their steamer "Karnak".  This man is INDIAN not EGYPTIAN.  I find this rather outrageous.  There would have been ample English-speaking comedic actors to pick from in Cairo but instead they cast the sing-song turban-wearing I.S. Johar.  

Continuing to ignore logic,

the boat heads for the Karnak Temple in Luxor before heading to Abu Simbel in one day.  That's impossible because the distance would be over days not hours.  You can't get too literal while watching this or you miss the fun.

It is fun to see the characters hoist themselves onto camels and donkeys to ride up to the ruins.  There's a great moment when Maggie Smith's donkey gets a jolly whack on the rump by Bette Davis' parasol.  I could have sworn that the troupe were headed to Philae, the temple on an island just south of the Cataracts, but it turns into Karnak in the next shot.  Might have been some movie magic.  Philae is mentioned in the book but not shown in the movie.

Part 2

The plot thickens.

The Karnak Temple, with all its columns, is like an extra member of the cast.  Even my husband sitting next to me had to say, "Great photography!" You do feel the sense of being inside this forest of huge pharaonic columns.

Later, that same day, the group disembarks at Abu Simbel.  Again, you feel the majesty of the place.  A strong wind whips sand about.  No one goes inside.

There is a mistake spoken by the German doctor, played by Jack Warden who will always remind me of, "The Bad News Bears."  Well, he erroneously says that one of Abu Simbel's statues whispers secrets.  It's not in the book that way.  Of course, it's screenwriter Anothy Shaffer who got that wrong.  I'll forgive him because the movie hums along nicely while keeping (mostly) faithful to the book.  That's a hard task!

Shaffer wrote the screenplay for one of my favorite Hitchcock movies, "Frenzy".  I hadn't known that.  I had thought he was the playwright of, "Equus," a notorious show about sex and horse stabbings.  Nope!  That was his identical twin brother Peter Shaffer.  The more successful of the two, Peter had been nominated for an Oscar in 1978 but won the following year for "Amadeus".  It makes me wonder if their rivalry might have been some of the inspiration for Charlie Kaufman's screenplay of "Adaptation." which features identical twin screenwriters.

Part 3

The murderous boat becomes the focus and not the location.

However, we do see an incredible overview of Karnak Temple from on top of the pillars.  You would never EVER be able to see this on a tour of Egypt so it's a real treat.

It would have been nice to hear authentic Egyptian musical instruments as their dinnertime entertainment.  The musicians are playing them but oddly the sound that comes out is dubbed.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Early Moments Matter

Asalamu Alaykom,

This actor, Ahmed Helmy, has become my favorite, family-friendly celebrity in Egypt.  He is always putting himself out there in a positive light.  God bless him and UNICEF.  

This ad reminds parents who use cutesy baby talk around their children are doing them a disservice; that using an intelligent vocabulary gives them a better ability to communicate.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Giving Water

Asalamu Alaykom,

During the hottest week yet this summer, we had an errand to run.  As a family, we went down our street with the aim to catch an air-conditioned taxi.  My husband and son, being males, focused on the goal ahead.  I, being female, noticed the little boy too short to turn on a faucet.  The water tap, supplied by the mosque, was meant as a form of charity.  They hadn't figured on this small guy being all alone and thirsty.

Despite the fact that I got in trouble the last time I tried to help a boy in my neighborhood, I stopped walking.  I asked my husband to help the boy.  Ahmed went over and filled the cup---probably a germy cup since it's used by ever passerby---and gave it to the boy.  The boy drank without thanking anyone because that's what kids do.

I thanked my husband as he returned to me and we continued on our walk.

"Mom," my own boy began, "how did you even notice him?"

"Didn't you see him?" I asked.

"No, I can't pay attention to everything!"

I thought and then replied, "I can't either, but I do notice the needy.  If I can help, then I do."

Over Ramadan, I found so much solace in helping the mama cat and her kitten.  To give them water and watch them drink has felt so good.  I'm sharing the video at the top of this post because an eco-friendly man found a way to record just who it was drinking out of the pail of water he had been leaving.


Later, on the day we were running an errand, I saw that, across the street, the cart with the Eid hats and noisemakers.  It was still being pushed with hopes that someone...anyone...would buy.  I marveled at that and even turned my head to watch him as he went away.  Then, I saw his feet without shoes.  His feet were on city street's burning pavement and he kept walking along without any protection.

I stopped and asked my husband if we could help him.

"You're too soft, Mom," my son complained.

"Mashahallah," my husband corrected, "Your mom is so sweet."

However, he wouldn't join with me in finding a way to get the man shoes.  The man stayed on my mind the rest of the day, the week, and into today.  We had the money; we just didn't have the time.  Astragferallah.

If I see him again...

and then I wonder why I'm the only one who sees him.  Doesn't anyone else see those in need?

If you see him...

or anyone else whom you can safely help today, then please do.


My rescue mission expanded from the animal kingdom to the plant kingdom when I saw a plant in need of help.

Seeing living organisms in need of help isn't hard in Egypt because there is SO MUCH need.  Maybe there is in other places in the world----I certainly saw a lot in the U.S.  Because I'm still a foreigner in Egypt (and always will be), I perhaps see the need that others don't.

It wasn't hard to see this particular plant as it was stationed right outside my window.  It used to be that we had an openness outside our salon window, but building higher and higher became a necessity all over our neighborhood (and all over Egypt).  As the family with the three grown sons increased their levels, our view decreased.  We ended up looking directly at their balcony...and the plants.

The neighbor's youngest son is still unmarried, so he  hasn't moved in even though three plants are stationed on his balcony railing.  Two of the plants seem to weather the desert conditions pretty well.  Their leaves stay standing at attention.  Then, there is the other plant.  I think it's jasmine.  It wilts.  Not right away!  It tries to be like its buddies and take the heat like a cactus, but it can't.  When it wilted, I felt badly for it.

Could I knock on the door and tell the men's mother about it?

Not really (unless I wanted to be labeled The American Weirdo).

Could I talk to the wife of one of the brothers?  She lived one floor down and sometimes I would see her hanging out the wash.

She doesn't know me and might not understand me in our first meeting if I'm talking about a plant.

Couldn't I just disregard it?

I tried.

I failed.

I couldn't stop thinking that there was this precious little life that had brought me joy in this area where any form of gardening cheers me up.  I couldn't let it die!  I therefore did what any half-crazed American does:   I got my gun!

It's a water gun; a big Super Soaker from the States.  It's not the exact one in the photo, but pretty much like it.  We actually carried it back to Egypt with us when El Kid put up a fuss saying that he couldn't live without it.

It was fajr when I went into his room.  He was sleeping.  I stole borrowed his Super Soaker and filled it with water.  It has a pumping action that you have to repeat in order to build up the pressure.  I started it up and it WAS LOUD.  I could have truly woken up everyone---including my husband who had gone back to bed.  I knew that if I woke him up I would NOT be able to water the plant.

I primed the mechanism only a couple more times and then stuck it out the window.  That must have been a strange sight!  I wonder if anyone saw me in my prayer clothes with an atomic space-age weapon.  I pulled the gun back in when I realized that worshipers were leaving the mosque from fajr prayer.  It probably would be a bad deed to super soak faithful believers.

I waited.  I scanned the street.  No one was there and I didn't hear anyone coming.

I stuck the gun out of the window again and squeezed the trigger.  The water shot from our window to the neighbor's balcony.  It worked!  Now, I had to aim it better to get it into the flower pot.  Some of the dirt splashed out and hit the wall behind.  Oops!  I didn't mean to dirty their home.

I stopped and wondered if I should continue.  Could I get in trouble even if I was doing my best?  Ah, that's the story of my life, isn't it?  I decided that a living thing trumped outweighed a cement wall.  I shot again with better aim and no more splashes.  I gave some water to the other plants as well.  Didn't want them getting jealous.

I stood back and looked.  I don't know what I thought I would see.  It wasn't snapping back into shape like a slinky.  It was still wilted and I wondered if I had been too late.  Nothing left for me to do but go back to bed.

When the sun was up, I got up a second time.  My husband was already awake.  I went into the salon to see him and then I headed to the window.  I couldn't tell him.  I could only look furtively.  There it was:  the balcony with three plants and every one of them looked beautiful.

It had worked!  I had saved a plant.  Alhumdulillah.

Later that week, the neighbor man came to check on his future home and watered his plants.  After that, he forgot again and I shot again.  That time was funny because El Kid was sure that I was going to shoot the noisy children in the street.  Hmm...

I eventually told my husband.  He laughed.  He knows me well enough to know that he can't really stop me if I'm on a righteous kick.

For me, when I look out the window and see the healthy plant I feel a tenderness towards this fragile world.  It needs us to care.  I'm glad I cared---not just about the plant, but about everyone and everything that has mattered to me.  I hope I have done more good than bad in my life.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Why Janet Jackson Named Her Baby Eissa

Asalamu Alaykom,

Mashallah!  Mashallah!  Mashahallah!

Arabic people often praise God in threes for emphasis.  "Mashahallah" means that I'm acknowledging that something has come from God.  In this case, I'm soooooo happy for Janet Jackson and her husband Wissam Al Mana on the birth of their baby boy Eissa.

Why name him "Eissa"?

First of all, naming a child in the Arabic culture is VERY important.  Muslims believe that on the Day of Judgement believers will be called by their first name and father's name.  There are cases from the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) when names with negative connotations were changed.  An example from modern times might be a girl named Brandy (an alcohol) would be better to have her name changed as people will always associate something lascivious about her.

Janet has not said that she wants an Arabic name herself and she does not have to change her name ever.  I changed my name because I just felt done with who I had been before as if that time had been used up.  I didn't hate my birth name and it didn't have any bad meaning.

We don't know if Janet Jackson has come to Islam like her older brother Jermaine.  There had been talk of Michael Jackson (May God give him a rest in peace) coming to Islam, but that never was confirmed.  Janet does not have to come to Islam to be married to a Muslim man.  She was raised Christian and can stay Christian.

I see that at least one UK paper has announced that Janet Jackson converted (or "reverted" as I say).   Unless Janet Jackson comes out publicly to state that this has happened, I will not assume that she has.  It is not necessary to come to Islam in order to raise a Muslim child.  If she is accepting enough of her husband and his ways, then she will do just fine as Um Eissa.  This is her new honorary title meaning "Mother of Eissa" and her husband becomes Abu Eissa or "Father of Eissa".

Often times, women who marry Arabic speakers gravitate to a name in Arabic---maybe a translation of their name in English, such as Mary liking the name Maryam.  Maryam is actually the name for Jesus' mother (respect to her) and there is a chapter in the Quran named after her "Surah Maryam".

It is often a surprise to Christians that Isa Ibn Maryam (Jesus, son of Mary) is so revered by Muslims.  No, we don't believe he is son of God.  I never believed that so I wasn't a very good Christian.  However, we all respect him as one of the great messengers along with twenty-four others mentioned in Quran.  These men brought new laws from God to the people.  They are "Rasul" in Arabic.    

  1. Adam
  2. Idris (Enoch)
  3. Nuh (Noah)
  4. Hud (Eber)
  5. Saleh
  6. Ibrahim (Abraham)
  7. Lut (Lot)
  8. Ismail (Ishmael)
  9. Ishaq (Isaac)
  10. Ya'akub (Jacob)
  11. Yusuf (Joseph)
  12. Ayub (Job)
  13. Syu'aib
  14. Musa (Moses)
  15. Harun (Aaron)
  16. Daud (David)
  17. Sulaiman (Solomon)
  18. Ilyas (Elijah)
  19. Ilyasa' (Elisha)
  20. Yunus (Jonah)
  21. Zulkifli (Ezekiel)
  22. Zakaria (Zachariah)
  23. Yahya (John the Baptist)
  24. Isa (Jesus)
  25. Muhammad (mentioned by Jesus as coming after him)

You can read more about the list of messengers (peace be upon them all) here.   Most names in Quran have another pronunciation in the Bible.  Notice that "Adam" does not.  Obviously, these names are very popular with Muslim parents.  They do fall in and out of fashion like anything in this world.  Here in Egypt, I see a LOT of boys named Mohamed and Yussef but I've never met a Yunus.

Many Western moms who are married to Arabic men like to chose a name that still connects them to their world that they knew before.  Popular American names like David, John, and Zack become  Daud, Yahya and Zackaria.

Of course, because the names in English are transliterated from Arabic, it is the sound of the name that is being approximated.  That means that three boys with the same name in Arabic could have it spelled three different ways: Daud, Dawud, Dawood or Yahya, Yahia, Yehya.  

This is true with Janet Jackson's son too.  She chose the spelling Eissa, but it also gets spelled Eesa and Isa.  Which way is best?  I like how she spelled it and I'm pretty sure it was chosen after consultation with someone knowledgeable.  The way his name in Arabic


starts with the Arabic letter "ayn" which a diphthong, or a two-vowel combination that works together.  I can barely say it!  I basically cop out and say a  one-vowel "ah" for names that start with "ayn" like Umar/Omar, or Aisha.  Truly, it is supposed to be more of an "ah-ee" sound.  Therefore, writing the name as "Eissa" is the most correct, although all the news reports still seem to cop out on pronunciation as they have been saying "Isa".  

What I find interesting is that Janet Jackson could have named her baby "Yasu", 


that's the name for Jesus according to the Arabic Christians, but she didn't.  This signals a very real bonding to her Muslim man and a respect for his religion.  Her religion?  I don't know, but in the Muslim faith a child is the religion of the father, so her son is Muslim.  Janet Jackson is now out numbered by two Muslim males---thankfully, she's had lots of practice being outnumbered in her famous family.

The Jacksons had that naming convention of "J" names and in a way her son continues that with being "Jesus".  In America, a son could NEVER be named the English name "Jesus", even though the Spanish name spelled the same way "Jesus" but pronounced "Hay-sus" is given.  She got to be both very different and original, yet traditional at the same time.

Eissa (peace be upon him) brought light to the earth at a time of darkness.  His teachings helped guide the people back to the path they had already be shown by prophets before him.  I am sure that his example has helped both the Jackson family and the Mana family.

Now, Baby Eissa is uniting his mother Janet and father Wissam in a beautiful new relationship as parents that will bond them together as a family.

Please join me as I make du'a (supplication) for this new family.

May Allah protect Janet, Wissam, and Eissa and help them as they learn and grow together.  May Eissa be a healthy and strong child who becomes a leader in the world for better understandings between people and nations.


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Sugar and Sunnah

Asalamu Alaykom,

As Muslims, we spend a lot of time attempting to live closer to the way of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).  It isn't only in our devotional times that we need to emulate his ways.  We were given so much authentic information about his daily habits---more than for any other prophet (peace be upon them all).  Therefore, we observe the way he lived, or the sunnah.

He didn't eat refined sugar.  He just didn't.  The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), he lived a much healthier dietary life than we do.  Actually, no one really ate refined sugar until about a thousand years after he passed away.

Does that mean we should not be eating anything he didn't eat?  I'm not going to go that far, but we do have to look at following the sunnah in which the Prophet (pbuh) tasted the sweetness of dates and honey and was satisfied with that.

Is there a chance you could reduce your sugar intake?

That's what I starting asking myself.  I looked into it not as a diet---because "I don't die it, I live it".  I looked into it as a way to be more faithful.

I started researching.

How many teaspoons of sugar is the maximum a woman should consume in a day?

Six.  A woman is only supposed to have six teaspoons in a day.

Each teaspoon is the equivalent of 5 grams, so each day women have 30 grams of sugar as a limit.

Me?  I was putting two and sometimes three teaspoons of sugar in my coffee.  Half of my daily intake was done in the first hour of every day----and you know that I didn't stop there!

Now?  I put only put one teaspoon of sugar in my coffee.  You know how we add a little too much sugar if nobody's looking?  I bought some sugar cubes!  Those sugar cubes are measured to exactly be those 5 grams.  If it's tea, I use honey.  Therefore, I am reducing my sugar intake by at least 5 grams every day.

"A DROP IN THE BUCKET!" shouts the heckler from the nosebleed seats.

He's right, but every good intention for better health has a reward.

Let's do some math...I know, you used to hate math in too!  Somehow, though, it is comforting me in my old middle-age.

If I, in shah allah, give up one teaspoon a day then every six days it's like I've given up a whole extra day of sugar.  That's good!  That's not just a drop; it's the equivalent of giving up a whole day of sugar.

It wasn't just coffee and tea.  Look at this great graphic from Mother Jones:

I started looking into the juice I've been drinking.  Time Magazine looked into the issue as well.  Here in Egypt the sugar content is very high.  The juice is more like a concentrated syrup than a beverage.  I thought that I was buying  "Pure" juice because that's what it said on the label.  I was still bringing 12 to 16 grams of sugar in every juice box I sipped for lunch.

Do the math again!  Ya, so that's 2-3 teaspoons of sugar in every box.  It felt wrong.

The next time I went to the grocery store, I brought my reading glasses and spent some time reading labels in the juice aisle.  Sure enough, I could find a juice that only listed 10-12 grams sugar.  If I was able to eliminate 5 grams, then I stopped me from unwittingly ingesting another teaspoon.


If Yosra drinks a juice box a day during the school week, and she is saving herself from drinking 5 milligrams of sugar with every juice box, how much sugar is she eliminating from her diet every month?


5 x 5 = 25 grams a week or 5 teaspoons a week
5 x 4 weeks = 20 teaspoons
20/6 teaspoons maximum per day = 3 days.

Add that to the amount I'm already giving up in my morning coffee and it's 8 days total.  Could you give up sugar for eight days?  It would be hard, but it's not impossible if you simply view it this way.  You ARE giving the days up, but while only reducing rather than eliminating.

One thing you know that is just horrible is soda pop.  I've asked for my husband to stop buying it.  If we're out at a restaurant (and that's once in a blue moon) then I don't mind if we order it.  However, having it easily accessible every day, means that you simply will drink more of it.  Pop is just too high in sugar content to consume it on a regular basis.

Take a look at Coke and Mountain Dew.  Remember, the maximum is supposed to be SIX sugar cubes.  27??  30???

I tried to explain this in the staff room.  You know how people on a health kick are!  Right away, it was assumed that it was about weight loss.  It isn't!  If I never lose another pound in my life, I'll be fine.  I would like to reduce the strain on my body, however.  I'd like to eliminate thirst that seems unquenchable because I've had too much sugar.

 Sugar really isn't harmless Click to read some easy to understand research.

Am I noticing any effects?  I am more mindful of what I'm buying and eating.  I like that because that's who I strive to be.  I ate a creme-filled cookie last week and it was waaaaaaaay too sweet for me.  I hated it.  That's a good thing!  I'm less thirsty.  My jeans fit a little better this week than last---that's good because even though I'm not doing this to lose weight, I do want to reduce the belly fat that slows down insulin production (and leads to diabetes).

Maybe you didn't think of any of this before.  Now that you have, it's up to you to either look into your own sugar consumption or not.  The problem is that once you realize you could do better, you can't ever claim that you never knew.

No food that has been made lawful to us can be declared "haram" or unlawful by us.  I'm not saying that sugar is haram.  Eat and drink it bismallah (in the name of Allah).  Only, realize that we are supposed to be people who live by moderation in all things. Obviously, we, as a society,  have not been moderate in our sugar intake.

Maybe you have battled and won---good on ya!  Maybe you're like me and you're in the throes of the struggle---keep going!  If you haven't ever given it a thought and now you're thinking about it differently----let me know!  I'd like to know if this post has a positive impact on your life.  I hope it has.

Love and Light!

UPDATE:  While talking to a co-worker, she helped me realize that the sugar content listed is really deceiving the consumer.  For example, the drink in my hand was 250 ml but the nutritional information was only for a 100 ml serving.  Therefore, the 12 grams of sugar listed needed some math.

12 x 2 = 24 (to change sugar grams from 100 ml to 200 ml)

12/2   =   6 (the additional 50 ml)

24 + 6 = 30 grams of sugar

All of a sudden what seemed like a good deal was horrible.  Instead of imbibing 2 teaspoons of sugar, I had been drinking 6 teaspoons of sugar!  Even though I was reading labels, I was misreading---and I'm an educated woman who is really investigating.  Imagine someone with less ability trying to figure it out.  It's almost as if the beverage industry has something to hide...

Therefore, take a second look at those labels!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Chinese and Islam

Asalamu Alaykom,

The Great Mosque of Xi'an

When I was teaching at an Islamic school in Florida, I was appalled at how the Muslim children in my English class couldn't read a story about a Chinese-American boy without making fun of Asians.  No matter how much I stopped and corrected, the ill treatment continued.  I am a firm believer in teaching children (and adults) not to make fun of anyone; act only as you would if they were standing in front of you.  That fifth grade class got a surprise writing assignment:  write a page on Chinese Muslims.

One of the more interesting facts we discovered back in my classroom is that there are actually 10 million Chinese Muslims which means there are more Muslims in China than there are in Saudi Arabia.  Think about that!

Here's an article from Emel if you'd like to read more in depth on them.

Maybe from that time of standing up for my Chinese brothers and sisters, I have developed a special affinity for them.  They have NO REASON to be Muslim other than they feel it necessary for their soul.  These days, there is a crackdown in China which is squeezing them and testing their faith so please make du'a for Chinese Muslims.

Today, I'm researching some Chinese language for my upcoming lessons on Hung Wu, the founder of the Ming Dynasty.  Hung Wu helped to build The Great Mosque of Xi'an .  It's pictured at the top of the page and it's really an amazing testament to the spread of Islam.

Here are some pictures of the inside of the Great Mosque of Xi'an.

I once again became enlivened by Chinese Muslims.

Take a look at this:


I find that character quite simple and beautiful.  I found it when I was looking up the word for "to answer".  Yes, it has that meaning but it also means

to circle
to go back
to turn around
to return
to revolve
Hui ethnic group (Chinese Muslims)

It's the word for Chinese Muslims!

Isn't that great?!  It is like "revert" in that it is someone returning back.  The symbol looks exactly like what it is--a turning around in a circle.  It is like tawaf; the ritual circling of the Kabbah.  If you think of it as such, then see how the inner symbol is a square THE KABBAH.  Subhanallah.  I see that.

I found it on and, being the curious person I am, started to search for more.

Here are some of the most important words in Islam written in Chinese.

This is actually how to write Kabbah

Traditional 克爾白

Kè ěr bái
Ka'aba, sacred building in Mecca


Ān lā
Allah (Arabic name of God)

Traditional 伊斯蘭

Yī sī lán


Kě lán jīng
Quran (Islamic scripture)

Here's something that blew me away.  The word for the Muslim Holy Book in Chinese is not "quran" because that word already has meaning.  If you say "quran" in China, it means quiet, still and silent. 

Traditional 闃然
qù rán
still and silent

 How amazingly true is THAT?


qīng zhēn
halal (of food)


cháo xiàng

Qibla (Islam)

The Qibla is the direction Muslims face while praying and it is to the Kabba in Mecca.
To me, it looks like the faith of 回 has an open door to reach the inside and isn't that a beautiful way to think of the qibla?

To go on Hajj has an interesting connotation. 

Traditional 朝覲

cháo jìn
to give audience (of emperor)
retainers' duty to pay respect to sovereign
hajj (Islam)

Isn't that kind of interesting?  The same words for hajj are what you'd say if you were going to visit a head of state---like an emperor...or a caliph.

Traditional 哈里發

Hā lǐ fā
Khalīfah or Caliph (Arabic: successor), head of state in Caliphate  

It brings an earthly understanding of how important going to Mecca is.

Traditional 麥加

Mài jiā
Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Traditional 聖地

shèng dì
holy land (of a religion)
sacred place
holy city (such as Jerusalem, Mecca etc)
center of historic interest


Yē lù sā lěng

Someone who goes on hajj gets an honorary title and here is that.


hǎ jí
haji or hadji (Islam)

This is getting ready for the Eid at the end of Hajj.

Traditional 古爾邦節

gǔ ěr bāng jié
Eid al-Azha festival of sacrifice on tenth of twelfth month of Muslim lunar calendar

If you're racking your brain on which Eid is "Azha", it is known as Eid-Al-Adha here in Egypt or as the Eid Kabeer the big holiday when the sheep are slaughtered at the end of Hajj.

There are the other observances of Islam like fasting in Ramadan. 

Traditional 封齋

fēng zhāi
fast (in several religions)
Ramadan (Islam)
see also 齋月|斋月[Zhāi yuè]

Traditional 齋月

Zhāi yuè
Ramadan (Islam)

Traditional 爾德

Ěr dé
Eid (Islam)

Traditional 開齋節

Kāi zhāi jié
Eid ul-Fitr (Islam)
Hari Raya

There are the words for the observance of prayer.


qīng zhēn sì

Traditional 教長

jiào zhǎng
imam (Islam)
see also 伊瑪目|玛目[yī mǎ mù]

When I looked up "wudu" this is what was brought up.

无毒 Traditional 

wú dú
lit. not poisonous

I love this!  I don't know if this is what you'd say to speak about the Islamic absolution but it's very cool to think of the literal meaning as not poisonous.  I always imagine my wudu as cleaning off the toxins of the day so this has real meaning to me.    

I looked but couldn't find "hijab".

This may or may not be what a hijab gets called.

Traditional 蓋頭

gài tóu
head covering


cháo xiàng
Qibla (Islam)

The Qibla is the direction Muslims face while praying and it is to the Kabba in Mecca.
To me, it looks like the faith of 回 has an open door to reach the inside and isn't that a beautiful way to think of the qibla?


Traditional 頂拜

dǐng bài
to prostrate oneself
to kneel and bow the head (in submission, supplication, worship etc)

Traditional 唸珠

niàn zhū
prayer beads

I looked up the prophets (peace be upon them all). 

Not all were listed and for many I used the Christian names for them.


Yà dāng

Traditional 諾亞

Nuò yà


Traditional 亞伯拉罕

Yà bó lā hǎn
Abraham, father of Judaism and Islam in the Bible and Quran
same as Ibrahim 易卜拉

Just from seeing a few names, I can guess that 亚 means prophet or something like it.


Yī sā gé
Issac (name)


Mó xī

This one made me laugh.  I know it isn't pronounced exactly the same, but in English, "moxie" means a force of character, determination or nerve and that CERTAINLY was Nabi Musa/Prophet Moses (peace be upon him).

Traditional 亞倫

Yà lún
Aaron (name)


Yǎ gè
Jacob (name)


Yē lì mǐ
Jeremy or Jeremiah (name)

Traditional 約瑟夫

Yuē sè fū

Joseph (name)

Traditional 約納

Yuē nà

Traditional 施洗約翰

Shī xǐ Yuē hàn
John the Baptist


Yē sū


Mù hǎn mò dé
Mohammed (c. 570-632), central figure of Islam and Prophet of God

It is incredible how Islam spread to China.  We can thank Abi Wakas (ra) who went to China and died and was interned in China.  Read more about him here and about the mosque he founded here.

There is a hadith (although of only deserving the grade of "fair" believability) that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, "Seek knowledge, even as far as China."  For certain, Islam encourages knowledge and learning about other languages and cultures helps us and helps the ummah.  Why China specifically?  It is unfathomable that it could have been brought to such a far flung place by a sahabi...but it was.  Subhanallah!  If a sahabi (ra) can travel so far a distance, when travel was so long and dangerous, to such a diverse group of people and BRING ISLAM and have it remain for centuries in their hearts, then what can't be done?!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Ramadan Tips

Asalamu Alaykom,

Ramadan Kareem!

Whether this your first Ramadan or your fortieth, I'm hoping that it is meaningful for you inshahallah.

I would like to share a few ideas that have worked for me in Ramadan.  As I think of more helpful hints, I will add them to this same post.  Check back later for additions.

You can also read through my extensive Ramadan postings from previous years.

Using Time Wisely

If nothing else, Ramadan teaches us that we are not limitless bundles of energy.  We slow down from our lack of water and food and we WILL slow down in our lifetimes.  We have got to use our time wisely.

One of the beauties of Ramadan is that you can see the stupidity better than at any other time of the year.  This doesn't happen right away---because materialism and the mainstream are flowing through our veins.  It takes a couple of weeks for those feelings to drain from us, but if you've been connecting to Allah in prayer and through the Quran, it happens.

In the last days of Ramadan, the time you waste becomes apparent.  The energy you could have directed better abso-freakin-lutely hits you in the face and makes you think differently.  The amount of clutter you've hoarded trips you up and forces you to ditch it immediately.

Use these days of clarity to see how your little corner of the world could be better.  If you want change DO IT NOW before dunya pulls you back down like so much gravity.  You really don't want to be stuck in exactly the same spot you were in before the month begin.  What's the point of being alive if you're stagnant?  Remember how to be organic and changing with a new outlook to match this new time in your life.

Get rid of whatever no longer serves you---be that clothes, emails, friends, social apps, bad habits, or unhealthy feelings and actions.  Ramadan is many things for us---a boot camp, a vision quest, a deep cleanse---it would be a shame if the month ended without us having met the challenge to change.

Imagine:  It's the first day of Eid.  Looking back on your month-long fast, what do you wish you'd accomplished?  What did you hope to achieve but didn't?

Now WAKE UP!  It's not Eid yet.  Just like Ebnezer Scrooge realizing that the future has not yet come to pass, you have time to make a positive difference NOW.

Sandwich Maker

I gifted myself a sandwich maker on my last birthday.  I couldn't get my husband to see the value in an appliance because he reasoned, "You can just heat up sandwiches on the stove."  While he is right, I am so glad that I bought this time-saver.  I can make food quickly for us in the morning faster than if I was using the stove or a toaster over because the heat is so concentrated into such a small space.  Mine has two modes:  pocket sandwich or grilled sandwich.

Today, I heated up foul medamnes, the Egyptian dietary staple, with left-over rice and half a slice of cheese inside half a pita bread.  I added a little bit of seasoning and olive oil.  It went onto the grill plate and came out steaming hot; an Egyptian burrito, if you will.

It's hard to get children to eat suhour, but if it's a sandwich it goes down easier and faster.  This one sure did!


Big straw in a tall glass of orange juice and vanilla yogurt goes down quickly!  My favorite brand is Activa because it has live cultures and that aids in digestion.

With Children

Book Making

It's not too late to sit down with your child and make a book to chart their Ramadan experience.  Project learning is one of my favorite ways to teach so the information sticks.

Decorate the cover however you wish, but keep it peaceful.  It's OK to tell your child that Ramadan can't let everything in.

Inside, leave the first page for your index page.

At the top of the second page, write Ramadan and then both years----with Hijrah calendar dating and Gregorian dating.  Explain how both count from an important time in history.  This year marks 1436 years since the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) took his followers from Mecca to Medina.  This year also marks 2015 years since the birth of Prophet Jesus (pbuh).

Use a ruler and a pencil to make a graph for their chart on fasting and prayer.  Mark in pen the days of Ramadan and explain how we can't know for sure how many days Ramadan will be.

Write tally marks for each prayer they do on time.

Write a comment for any Islamic knowledge gained that day, for instance which surah you read from or memorized.

Have another page for good works.  On our first day of Ramadan, El-Kid went through his old clothes and readied a bag for the boy whose mother sells produce on our street.  We had a good conversations about the poor.  Even working people can be poor and we need to free up our unusable blessings to those who actually could use them.

For sure it's proactive to set goals.  "Begin with the end in mind," is one of Stephen Covey's effective quotes for successful people.  What does your child want to accomplish over this Ramadan?  If there are no hopes, then instill some dreams.  It can be something as simple as having their friend over.

Decorating Drink Bottles

Drinking is a key to Ramadan's success.  The day before, we bought some expensive yogurt drink in very non-ecological bottles.  I almost didn't buy them because of that.  However, some of our packaging is re-usable and these were.  I washed out the white, sturdy plastic bottles, peeled off the plastic sleeve, and my son then took permanent markers and decorated each one with our names.  He wrote "Ramadan Kareem" on them as well.  He was very creative!  I like crafts if they are practical and this certainly is.

Finding Apps  

Browsing the app store for Islamic apps brings the love for technology into Ramadan.  For us, we are using two different apps to help memorize the 99 names of Allah Al Asma Husna.

Making Dawah 

In multi-cultural settings, like my son's international school, there are many different religions.  It's important for our children to share who they are without preaching who someone else has to be.  My son's best friend has two Christian parents.  I'd like to invite them over to share iftar with us.  Sharing iftar dinner with your child's non-Muslim friend is a way to demystify your family for those whose opinion really does matter.  Yes, you do want your child to have friends whose parents understand that the generosity and acceptance you teach your child is a part of your Islam (not an exception from it).

If you're not able to have dinner guests, then still have a play date.  It's easy to think that your fasting child can't have friends over, but then YOU become the friend.  A short time together breaks the monotony.

Study Quran Together

Have time to read aloud the Quran and to discuss it so that it is alive for your child.  It's not enough to hear the words, they have to be understood.  I have been having the most amazing conversations with my son about faith, which we wouldn't have had except for Ramadan re-focusing our lives.


The iftar is the dinner meal after the fast is over.

Be Proactive

Many of us are used to thinking about what to make for dinner when we become hungry.  During Ramadan, there needs to be more forethought.  The meal planning has to start from the night before with thinking what you DIDN'T eat that night.

Menu Planning

Balance is key to everything in life and your diet needs to have a variety during a month-long fast or you and your family will suffer physical repercussions.  It will be hard to get everything in during the meal, so see the whole day, from suhour to iftar, and later the dessert, as needing to be planned.  We tend to overdose on carbs while neglecting fruits, vegetables and protein.  Think of what hydrates and helps with hydration.

Great Meals

Vegetarian Night

As much as Egyptians believe that every iftar needs an animal protein, I can't handle it.  Islamically, we are not to make our stomachs an animal's graveyard.  One night, I had to take a break from the spread downstairs.  I planned a meal of wild rice and lentils with sauteed veggies along with a fresh fruit drink.


After fajr, I soaked brown lentils in one bowl and wild rice in another.  I love wild rice!  It's got a lovely, earthy flavor which makes me feel so healthy from the first bite.

I also made the drink.

I already had the apricot drink "amar al deen" made and refrigerated and I added the thickest gloop at the bottom.  I did NOT add any sugar.  It doesn't need it!  I peeled two apples and cut them up into small, bite-sized pieces.  I added cut up dates and dried figs.  I also put in raisins.  Both the figs and the raisins can have tiny stems, so I carefully removed those.  It got to chill during the day in order to get ready for breaking the fast at magrib.

An hour before iftar, I sauteed the wild rice in a glob of butter and a vegetable bullion cube.  I then added the lentils and enough boiled water to cover the mix and covered the pot.  While that was cooking, I washed white rice and let it sit.  After I could see that the wild rice had started to expand, I added the white rice and more water and stirred.  I brought it back to a simmer and then cooked it as I would white rice (letting it steam for 20 minutes on low heat).

While the rice and lentils were cooking, I cut up veggies in an angled way into large, thin strips.  I used a small eggplant, two zucchinis, two small green peppers, a large carrot, and a small onion.  When the rice was done, I put on a large fry pan of oil on to heat and sauteed the veggies along with a bay leaf, a ton of rosemary, some oregano, salt and freshly ground pepper.  When the veggies were tender, I turned off the heat.

While the rice stayed hot, I left the veggies to cool down.  After breaking the fast with dates, water and prayer, I plated the food easily.  We enjoyed the meal while watching the last episode of Colin Firth's Pride and Prejudice.

Pig is not at the Table

Don't be the pig at the table and eat until you're full.  That moment when you feel comfortably full is better than the I-can't-move full.  It is Islamic to push yourself away before you are fully engorged.

Keeping Hydrated

This year, Muslims in the Northern Hemisphere will be seeing the longest fasting days possible.
Since it's summer, staying hydrated and keeping children hydrated is really important.

Frozen Grapes

Love this!  Wash them and freeze them.  It's that simple!  Smaller is better and of course seedless is important.  To make it easier, freeze in portions.  I have a set of small, plastic bowls with lids which I separate the portions into before putting them into the refrigerator in the morning.

While you can certainly eat frozen bananas, I don't recommend it during Ramadan because it's so easy to become constipated during the fasting season.  Bananas do not help with this problem---in fact they make it worse!  Children, who love bananas as much as monkeys, don't understand the correlation yet of what we eat affects how we feel and might overindulge.  It is best not to offer this alternative, in my opinion.

Frozen Yogurt Drops

This is another winner.  Get yogurt that it's too sweet and blob dime-size portions out onto a plastic tray or plate.  This gets frozen for a short time.  Pull it out and use a fork to pry them off the plastic bottom.  You might have to let them thaw just a bit.  Have individual containers ready to portion off the amounts.  They stay in these cute, little drops and they stay very cold.  The key is not to make them too large because the coldness is really too much with the larger blobs.  Smaller is actually better.  I have tried using plain yogurt and it isn't good.  Some fruit flavor is a nice ending to the day.


Of course, the danger is in buying jello from the regular supermarket in the West and then you run the danger of eating pork gelatin.  It's worth a trip to a halal market to stock up on all the flavors.

Jello is one of the best deserts to serve after iftar dinner and prayers.  It is so refreshing.  You can serve it either alone, or layered up with yogurts or fruits.  You can even put fruit into the jello.  I froze mine the other day and it was fun to eat that way too.  I use those same small, plastic bowls with lids (which I used for the grapes) for this too.  It saves me time later to organize the after-iftar while I still have my wits about me in the morning.


Buying popsicles is a good idea.  It's fun to make your own.  I've got Nesquick and oatmeal cookie popsicles in the freezer now.  The key is having a REAL set of popsicle forms---forget about propping some stick into a cup covered with tinfoil.  The form that I have now is connected in one unit (like an ice cube tray but deeper).  I put that on top of another tray in the freezer just in case there might be spills.  Take it out once frozen, let it thaw enough so you can release it from the form.  Then, you can place them in a container until you're ready to eat it.


In America, Tang only used to come in Orange.  Is that still the case?

We are so blessed in Egypt to have Tang in so many flavors.  Currently, we've been busying Mango Delights---both the Mango, Orange and Strawberry combo along with the Mango and Watermelon combo.  I love the variety!  What's cool is that the company comes out every Ramadan with special flavors.  We've been buying them all:  Tamarind, Hibiscus, and Apricot.

I make a liter of Tang and separate it into small plastic bottles I've washed out.  They then get popped in the freezer in the morning.  Later, after we've eaten dinner, they come out again for whoever is thirsty.  What's nice about preparing them in the morning is that I can forget about them all day.  After dinner, I can take them out again so they thaw a bit before offering them.  Ice cold Tang is better than any pop or sweetened juice for quenching thirst.  The low sugar is the key.

If you want to be fancier about serving it, then keep it in a pitcher, but pop it in the freezer until it's slushy.  Having it icy is really the key.

Stay Away from Dehydrating Drinks

Not all drinks are getting you hydrated.  Take a look!  Some drinks are classified as diuretics, like coffee, black tea, and sodas.  Your body needs to flush their toxins out, which means eliminating them through urine.  The sweeter the drink is, the more need to send it out of your body---with that water you thought you were getting.

Eat Your Water

It isn't only drinks that keep you hydrated.  Some foods are really excellent in that regard.  It isn't just watermelon---although, that has a 92% water content.  Cucumbers have even more with 96% and they are great with yogurt for suhour in the morning and with salad at iftar.

Click the links and read up on what you could be adding to your Ramadan diet to keep hydrated.


Pancake Pockets

I just made up that name.  If you can find a better name, let me know.  I used the aforementioned sandwich maker like a griddle for cake batter.  I used two eggs instead of three, the melted butter, milk, and only about a third of the package.  The trick is to not over-fill the cavities in metal plate.  While the first batch of four individual little cakes is cooking, I took out some raspberry jam and chocolate spread.  When the timer light turns green, I could take the cakes out with a tong and place them onto a plate to cool a little.

I then took two tiny teaspoons and put a dab each of raspberry jam and chocolate spread onto each cake before folding them over.  I kept doing this until the batter was used up.  Arranging the completed pancake pockets in a ring around a circular plate looked pretty.  The report from the guys was all good---alhumdulillah!  I served these with a cold coconut drink.

Reaching Out

Writing THOSE emails

After being shown the Holy Quran by Angel Jibreel/Gabriel, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did not get to stay in the cave.  He had to leave and commune with others.  That's a lesson for all of us because we all have a friends and family on our contact with whom we are NOT in contact.

Ramadan is the perfect time to reach out---for the sake of Allah.  Wish every Muslim on the list, "Ramadan Kareem" and tell every non-Muslim that you were thinking about them during Ramadan.  Ask for forgiveness from anyone who stopped speaking to you because of some falling out.  Thank anyone who showed you kindness in your life.  Some people are inspirational to you but you haven't really told them---do it!  If it's someone who has moved away, let them know you miss them and ask how they are doing.  Make it simple and short but above all---heartfelt.