Saturday, October 26, 2013

Where Have All the Young Boys Gone?

Asalamu Alaykom,

When he was four, I bought him Spiderman and Buzz Lightyear costumes.

He out grew them.

When he was six, I bought him Transformers and Power Rangers costumes.

After two years, he hadn't quite out grown them.

When he was eight, I didn't need to buy him anything.

"I want a new costume for the party," he requested.

"You have two great costumes you could wear," I reminded him.

"I want something different," he explained.

For a second, I tried to envision which new superhero he was dreaming of.

"I want a man suit," he told me.

I tried to compute this strange new information.

"A man suit?  Like with a shirt and tie?" I asked.

"Yes!  I want to look like a man."

I wasn't ready for that kind of transformation yet.

For a week, I deflected his questions regarding it.

"We don't have time to go shopping."

"I don't want to spend all that money."

"You already have costumes!"

All of those reasons were legitimate but the truth is that I still needed to have a boy.  He's my baby.  While I have been guiding him into being a responsible and independent person, I'm not able to release him into the world of men.  He's eight!

The night before the party, I went into his room to put together a costume of my own.  I grabbed his old pirate hat and hook.  I couldn't find the eye patch which I really wanted to wear just like Marie Colvin.  I found his pretend knife which he had insisted on buying with his own money; he had also insisted on coloring the plastic blade with a red marker.  I was going to be a pirate...a teacher pirate.


Well, after he learned that there would be no man suit this week, he finally agreed to try on his other two options.  He settled on the red Power Ranger---but without the mask.  I let down the hems that I had once had to tack up.  His arms and legs had grown mashahallah.

On Thursday the party was held after school.  I helped him into his costume; helped a few girls as well.  My boy and his friends posed for pictures.  They were so happy and excited.  They ran out to have fun on the trampoline; my boy's cape flew up and down with every jump.  I watched him with a huge smile on my face and video taped him.  I don't often video tape but I had a new understanding of how temporary this moment was.

The three boys waited in line anxiously for the haunted house.  One chickened out---but it wasn't my son.  At the end of their adventure with the scary seniors, the two survivors ran out with declarations of how brave they'd been.

"They tried their best but it wasn't that scary!"

I was so glad to get my boy back---my boy the Power Ranger

...for now.

Monday, October 14, 2013

10 of the Best Nasheeds

Asalamu Alaykom,

On this Day of Arafat, I'd like to share some of my favorite nasheeds.  These are songs to help us remember Allah.  Anytime is a good time to remember Allah.

 1.  A is for Allah  It's only right to start the list with the best known Muslim musician, British revert Yusuf Islam.  The former Seventies Superstar known as "Cat Stevens" has undertaken many endeavors to help in educating Muslim children including opening the first full-time Muslim school in England in 1983.  "A is for Allah," is an English alphabet song which teaches the meaning of many Arabic words and Islamic concepts.

However, don't overlook this song as something only for children.  No matter your age, you will enjoy its simple beauty.

 2.  Thank You, Allah  Here's Lebanese Swede Maher Zain and his very reflective, "Thank You, Allah".  It's a song many Muslims can relate to as it shows appreciation for the journey towards understanding Islam.

This version is instrumental, though he has also released the nasheed with vocals only (as some purists adhere to a voice and percussion only policy).  I like that Maher Zain sees his audience as very global and often releases the same song in three languages:  Arabic, English and Malay for his vast number of Indonesian fans.  If you want to read more about Maher Zain, check out my post on him.

 3.  Silent Sunlight  Though this nasheed is sung by Dawud W. Ali, it's really a joint effort between him and Yusuf Islam.  Dawud W. Ali is a Canadian revert with Scottish roots.  He re-purposed an old Cat Stevens song, "Silent Sunlight," into a revamped tribute to The Creator. Honestly?  I still get chills when I hear this song.

Check out all the great Dawud W. Ali songs which are available through Soundvision.

 4.  Madinah, Madinah  A nasheed doesn't have to be mellow.  This song by the Britsish group Aashiq al Rasul is very upbeat and fun.  Their name means, "Those Who Love the Messenger" and they have been performing since 1998.  The song, "Madinah, Madinah," talks about the city where the Prophet Muahmmad emigrated to from Mecca.

 5.  All I Ask of God  Time to turn up the intensity dial.  Outlandish is a Danish trio of two Muslims, Isam Bachiri and Waqas Ali Qadri, and their Catholic friend Lenny Martinez.  Isaam is of Moroccan heritage, Waqas is of Pakistani heritage and Lenny is of Cuban and Honduran heritage.  While Maher Zain has different language versions of his song, this group often puts three languages into one song.  "All I Ask of God," is sung in both English and Spanish.

Their use of hip-hop beats and rapping will be able to reach some listeners that more traditional nasheed artists will not.  I like their unique style.

 6.  Every Night and Every Day  I've mentioned this nasheed on the blog before.  "Every Night and Every Day," is a catchy song which you'll find stays with you long after you hear it.  This singer at the microphone is Ramij Raja and though he has a good voice, he's not professional.  I included him in this list because it's good to remember that ANYONE can worship Allah with a nasheed.  You don't have to be a superstar.

I actually like this version better than the Mesut Kurtis rendition which I find rather overblown.

 7.  Fartaqi  This is one of the first nasheeds I ever listened to.  It is Emrati Ahmed Bukhatir singing in Arabic which somehow uplifted me even though I didn't know the meaning.

 8.  Forgive Me  Ahmed Bukatir is going to have the distinction of being on this list twice.  I feel they are very different offerings.  "Forgive Me" is sung in English and tells of realizing how blessed we are.  The video makes it even more compelling.

Sorry, Sami Yusuf!  I almost chose your song, "My Ummah" to be included on the list.  I truly do realize that there are many striving to sing for the pleasure of Allah.

 9.  A Land Called Paradise   If you think about it, these songs don't have to follow a certain musical  style.  There are many different ways to make a joyful noise unto The Lord.  The song, "A Land Called Paradise," is a country and western offering from Egyptian-American Kareem Salama.

This video was directed by Lena Khan, who I had the good fortune of interviewing last year.  She also directed the Maher Zain video "For the Rest of My Life."

10.  Allahu Allahu  This is a very short six-minute excerpt of twenty-four-minute nasheed from Pakistani master musician Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.  You might have heard his distinctive voice on collaborations with Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes," and also with Eddie Vedder on, "The Long Road, " and "The Face of Love."  Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan passed away in 1997.  May Allah be pleased with him and forgive him his sins.

This is classified is a "Qawwali" song from the Sufi tradition.  One thing I like about this video is how communal it feels.  You feel the ummah rejoicing in knowing who is The Greatest.

Subhanallah!  It is an awesome recording.  I do feel the awe of Allah when I hear it.  I can't help but smile and lift up my soul.  

I hope you will inshahallah enjoy the nasheeds I've shared with you.  

Wishing you and your family a Happy Eid filled with the knowledge that God is the Greatest and we who believe are continually blessed.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Crippled Muslim Men

Asalamu Alaykom,

Crippled Muslim Men

The man with the slow and unsteady gait
hurries on his way through streets
knowing the azan is coming.

Each shuffle with his half-limp body
moves him closer to the prayer hall,
believing it is his obligation to Allah.

I watch him from my window sill,
watch how he cannot keep a straight line,
yet he is following The Best Path.

Many a "Muslim" man stays at home,
rests his body all through Jummah
never admitting he's losing his stride.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

6th of October

Asalamu Alaykom,

Today is the Egyptian holiday of 6th of October.  Not to be confused with the 6th of October Bridge...

or the City of 6th of October.

Here in Egypt, WE LOVE the 6th of October.

Teachers and students especially love it because it's usually the first day off from school each year.  I, myself, am enjoying the end of my 3-day weekend with some hot popcorn and a lazy kid on a cold, sunny morning.

But I digress.  Let's start from the beginning.  Egypt and Israel were fighting over Sinai.  Saddat was in charge.  In 1973, he ordered an attack on the Israeli forces during their observance of Yom Kippur.  In the West, this war is called by that name, "The Yom Kippur War."  Of course, in Egypt it's known as "The 6th of October."  What's kind of weird is that it's hardly ever said in Arabic; it's usually said in English.

Here's the movie my husband and I stayed up late watching on Friday, "Al-Tariq Ela Eilat" or "The Road to Eilat".  It's from 1997 but it seems much older.  It's an extremely reverential treatment of the events.

The funny thing is that comedic actor Mohamed Saad, "El Limby," appears in his first role as a newly married solider.

Saddat and Mubarak helped win the war.  Therefore, to commemorate that victory is to idolize two former presidents:  Saddat and Mubarak.  Depending on the political climate of the day, the focus shifts on whoever is most in favor.  This year, it was Saddat.  However, the basic premise is that Egypt is strong through military might and military leaders.

The Anti-Coup Colalition, still angry about things like the overthrowing of the democratically elected leader, kidnapping, imprisonment and murder, will be protesting today.  Of course they will.

The incredible thing is that the "President" of Egypt----can you name him?  I can!  Adly Mansour.  So, Adly Mansour has made a statement for all Egyptians to go out on the streets and support the army.  He says that anyone protesting on October 6 will be considered an element of foreign influence.

So, guess where we are?  WE'RE HOME!  I always celebrate a day early or a day late in Egypt.  I never want to be in the mainstream and especially not on an Egyptian holiday.  Body crushing crowds are not my thing.  That goes double on potentially dangerous days.

Yesterday, is when we went to 6th of October.  It was for a dentist appointment but we made the most out of our trip.  We've been exploring the city's Mall of Arabia for the last year but haven't really ventured out beyond those walls.  I'm glad we walked around 6th of October...even if it was the 5th.

To get to this suburb, we traveled, from Remaya Square, which is next to the Pyramids, up Fayoum Road and then El Wahaat Road.  This takes us from the lower middle-class to the upper middle-class and then some.  Take a look at the scenery on the side of the road:

Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Al-Haram any more.

The area is constantly being built up.  Here's a masjid  under construction in the distance.

There's so much open space!  That's a major difference between where I live and where I escape to.  You can find some breathing room.

I took the guys to their dentist appointment.  It's the poshest dentist office you can find.  It's not that I needed, "the look" of the place.  I just wanted a clean place where I could avoid contracting hepatitis.  It's a big problem among dentists in Egypt.  For four years, I didn't go to a dentist because of this.  Mr. Boo had never been to a dentist his whole life until this year.  Yep, that's bad.  He had one cavity.  Everything is under control now.

After the dentist, we walked to a few home stores along the street.  It was on our plan.  I need to fix up the kitchen with some actual cabinets instead of plastic shelving.  We looked into installing sunshades too.  We didn't buy anything.  We only got ideas.

My Syrian co-worker had told me that I had to stop in at Salloura, a Syrian sweet shop.

Look at that GORGEOUS graphic.  Oh my goodness!  This is the bag full of 115 LE worth of treats.

Look inside.

My husband wanted all these heavy cakes.  Syrian sweets aren't as sugary as their Egyptian counterparts.  I like that.  Egyptian treats are soooooooooooooo sugary you can't taste the butter or the nuts.

Here's another box.

Love the look!  Love!

Okay, but there's also something inside which is just as wonderful.

This is the box I am dipping into when nobody is looking.  Do you see those little rings?  Those are my undoing.  They are savories with little black bakara; nigella seeds.  They melt in your mouth with a buttery, salty goodness.

While we were getting these packaged up, I eyed the Syrian ice cream.  Yes, we also bought ice cream.  Well, Mr. Boo is getting over a cold so he got the strawberry sorbet.  I got the ALMOND ice cream.  I love almond-flavored anything.  No pictures of those.  We simply ate them up.

Along our way to lunch, we stopped in at a stationary store.  The biggest stationary store chain in Egypt is Samir wa Ali. I like them but there's a joy I get from visiting a quirker place like Bernasos With Samir & Ali, you know you'll find the normal stuff but you never know what you'll find in another stationary store.

I found this big, sturdy book of Arabic and English words next to bright photos.  It was only 12 LE.  I haven't found one example of Arablish!  I thought I might use it with the little kids at the house, then I started wondering if it might be good for me too.  Later, I saw my husband reading it over.  Really, good materials make everyone excited to learn.  

I also found this long sheet of famous faces from Egypt.

My husband almost didn't let me buy it because of Morsi having his face on one of the stickers.  I told him, "It's history!  The pharaoh is on it too.  You don't have to like somebody to remember him as part of history."

Here's the rest

Kinda cool but---

Really?  Has there only been ONE famous female face in Egypt.

No Om Kathoum?

Okay, that first pharaoh might be Hatchepsut.  I'll have to ask.

I asked.  It is Hatchepsut.

We also got a free map of the area

It was time for lunch.  The Syrian sweets were just an appetizer.  On to McDonald's.

We were mostly interested in going there for the Happy Meal toys offered from Despicable Me 2.  My boy wanted them and I wanted him to stop asking me about them.  You can buy the McDonald's toys for 7.5 LE and I swear you will NEVER find a better toy deal in Egypt.

We got the one in the Happy Meal and bought three more.  Here they are once we got them back home.

It was an expensive journey to McDonald's---around 73 LE for the food and another 22.5 LE for the toys.  We don't do it all the time.  On average, we eat out once a month.  No, it isn't always American fast food.

We were going to eat downstairs but made the trek upstairs and I'm so glad we did.  Look at this gorgeous view!

Masid Al-Husary is beautiful.  Mashahallah.  The McDonald's restaurant in 6th of October is very well designed (no joke) but nothing beats that masjid.  We celebrated the day together with that view.

Then it was time to go.  We had taken the taxi there but took the bus back.  It's better for me to go by taxi because I can tell the driver to slow down---if I have to...and I usually have to.  The bus driver we had yesterday went insanely fast for about 10 minutes.  I said my prayers.

Once the traffic made him slow down again, I calmed down.  I looked out the window.  I saw someone throw garbage out a car window.  It caught my attention since I'm American and littering is akin to killing your countryside.  I tried to see who would do such a thing.  It was a little car crammed with elderly Egyptians all eating dates together.  It's date season here now.  They were talking, eating, and throwing out the pits.  I smiled.  I loved them.

There are times I really love Egypt and I mean REALLY.  I didn't on Friday.  I did on Saturday.  It's like any relationship; the trick is to keep buoyant and keep exploring new ways to stay in love.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Respect Rap

Asalamu Alaykom,

Sometimes a white girl in Egypt just has to rap.

Respect Rap

You say I ain't got no respect from you

Tell me, Honey, what I gotta do?

Dress in your threads?

Put in your weave?

Smile when I ain't got one?

Is that how you deceive?

See, don't kid a kidder

We all know who we are

You think I'm a good-for-nothing

but I'm a SUPERSTAR!

You feel real weaselly

like Buffy's Mrs. Beasley;

fake smile on your face

keeping the stuffin' in its place.

Leave me the hell alone.

Don't need to go and pick my bone.

Go find some slaughtered meat

it's not me you're goin' eat.

I fell ya breathin' down my back

where that knife you've got is at.

No, I'm not into hatin'

no need for you to be fix-i-atin'.

I ask Allah to give me sabr.

Bless my mother and my father.

Protect my hub, my kid,

and on my anger keep a lid.

You can roll on like some deodorant.

Go back to wherever you've been sent.

I heard ya but it ain't computin'

All your words just sound like tootin'.

I'm gonna keep on keepin' on.

Find out where I will belong.

Whether I'm doing well or going to hell

it ain't your job; don't tattle tell.

I'll see ya 'round and act as if

We haven't had this little tiff.

The best revenge by far

ain't to smash you with my car.

No, I don't want no dent

best revenge is I won't resent.

I'll live my life as I do please.

I'll ask for forgiveness on my knees

from you?  Ah, Girl, please!

I'll ask it from Allah,

The Creator of you and me.

Or, rather me and you since

I get top billin' on the marque.

Next time you be trippin'

remember not to go slippin'

up when you choose me

to try to slam because I'm FREE!