Friday, March 21, 2014

Egyptian Rug Shop

Asalamu Alaykom and Jummah Mabrook,

Come with me to the rug shop up the street.

I know that our street in the picture looks more like a beach than a section of asphalt.  It's yet another one of those "malish" moments.  "Malish" means "no problem".  Actually, if you look at the sandy street in positive light it's kind of cool to see all those tire tracks, footprints and pawprints.

This dog is mine.  His name is George.  I named him George because he looks like children's literature's Martha the Dog.  Get it?  George and Martha Washington?  Ya, well, when I am waiting for the schoolbus for 20 minutes it's a way to pass the time.

Sure, George is still a wild dog.  I don't bring him in off the streets; the streets are his home.  When I go out, I keep my eyes open for his return.  He has a slight limp, some sores show through his coat, yet he seems so happy.  Can animals really be happy living on the streets?  I think they can.

Let's keep going.

Jump in the microbus.  If you don't have the half pound, I'll pay for you.

This is one of those times I love Egypt.  No, the bus isn't loaded with a radio BUT it does have a duck puppet!

Here we are!  This is the rug shop.  The long building used to be all rugs but, since there are no tourists, a third of it is now devoted to tires.

The shop used to sell the kind of touristy rugs foreigners buy and bring home.  Now?  It mostly sells rugs that locals need to warm up their cold tile floors.

Look!  It just got a new shipment from the weavers.  The rug weavers are located in the countryside near Fayoum.  They work out there and then pile up a truck and head for the city.  There are still industrious people in Egypt and those willing to do business with them.  Those hard workers didn't give up; they just changed their strategy.

It's smart how they've added floor pillows to their stock.

I grew up walking on rag rugs.  There is something so homespun and beautiful about each line of color.

See what I mean?  Someone crafted that rug.  It is unique.  No where in the world is there another rug exactly like that and it's beautiful.

It would be nice if I were able to buy a rug like that at Target, but since we don't have Targets here, I'll buy from this shop.  Even if we did have one of the big chain stores, I'd rather buy from this shop.   The thing that charms me about a rugs here is that is a real person who lives an hour up the road from me made it and purchasing it very directly helps two families stay afloat financially.

There are other styles and colors.

I love this wall of fringe.

I want it but I worry how much of a dust collector it is.  Dust is a constant enemy in Egypt.  Ahhh...Look at those colors!  Gorgeous!

There are still some tourist rugs hoping to be bought.

I rather like that one.  Would I hang it in my home?  I don't know.

If you saw that rug in an art museum, would you believe it was valuable?  I bet you would.  Well, it hangs on a wall in a little shop in Giza without anyone to admire it.

Okay, this rug is a total tourist scene yet there's still artistry in it.

Just in case you weren't sure where you bought the rug, it's been spelled out for you.

"Did I buy that rug in Amsterdam? Hmmmmm....noooo."

"Milan?  I don't think it was Milan...."

"Wait!  Let me look at the rug!  It says EGYPT.  I must have bought it in Egypt!"

My mom would appreciate the simplicity of beige and cream lines.

For me, I love this patterned arrangement of colors.

I even love the blemishes.  I am soooo blemished and when I see it in life I feel like I've found a kindred spirit.

I really want this row of three hanging compartments.  If only I could figure of what to use it for....and then, of course, there's the dust issue again.  It's beautiful, though, isn't it?

There really is so much beauty in the world.  Going out in search of it means that you still have hope.  You still believe in a good world.  When you find it carefully crafted or artistically arranged, you are connected to someone else who cared and believed.

Let's keep on believing.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Someone like You

Asalamu Alaykom,

I bet that a few of you women can relate to this thought I had about X2.

As I was doing dishes, I wondered if I would ever take my ex back.

...if years from now, I was somehow single and he was somehow single...

No, I wasn't feeling like I could even then.

I squeezed out some more soap onto the sponge and decided to increase the stakes.

What if he was the last man on Earth?  Could I take him back if he was the last man on Earth?

I turned on the water and tried to envision that moment where it's just him and me on an unpopulated plain.

That Garden of Eden vibe only lasted a split second because I had a sudden realization.

Sure enough, I laughed to myself, if I was the last woman on Earth, he would still leave me for an alien!

Time to put the last clean plate on the drying rack.

No, I would never take him back.

Even in the warped recesses of my mind, there's no place for a man like him.

I'm not sure why Adele wants to sing of "Someone like you" because honestly if a man becomes your ex you need to find someone new.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Yousra's Other Brother

Asalamu Alaykom,

Since last September, I've been connected to an Egyptian family.  We've never met.  I simply connected to them through the internet.  I wrote about the family's martyred son Khaled Ben El-Walied.  Later, I interviewed his sister Yousra.

What you maybe don't understand is that the interviews I make are done over emails.  There are many emails going back and forth over time and often over many miles.  My wish, with whomever I interview, is to create an understanding.  In the end, if we understand each other, we forge the foundation of peace.  You simply can't have peace without understanding.

I have understood the family's plight.  They wanted to have a normal life in Egypt but the events of this past summer changed everything.  The family's young men, Khaled and his brother Ahmed, protested against what they saw as injustice in Egypt.  They were camped out at Rabaa with other anti-coup and pro-Morsi protestors.  It was during clashes that Khaled died.  

It was through Ahmed, who actually is Dr. Ahmed, that I learned about his brother's death.  I was on Twitter and saw these sad tweets from Dr. Ahmed asking now famous photographer Mosab ElShamy  for just one more picture of his brother.  Did he have just one more?  No, he did not.

That moment was gripping for me because I really felt Ahmed's hope for one more split second of his Khaled while he was alive.  I then went to Facebook and saw how alive Khaled had been.  I saw the love others had for him.  In a way, I felt love for people I didn't know and had never met.  

I do call Yousra "sister".  I do feel that she is one strong sister in Islam.  I admire her great faith, mashahallah.

What do I do with the new knowledge that Dr. Ahmed has been arrested?  I learned of this yesterday.  It hurt my heart.  It did.  It hurts to learn of new suffering for a family that has already suffered so much.

The video shows him confessing to crimes with a table of weapons in front of him.  His family says he has been tortured into confessing.  I don't know.  I wasn't there when the crime was committed.  I wasn't there when he was arrested or jailed.  

God knows all.  I put my trust in Allah.  Whether or not Dr. Ahmed has committed any crime in Egypt, I pray for him and for his family.  I feel very sad that the surviving brother has been taken from them.  No sister should have to go through this ...and no mother either.  

I realize that by continuing to support the family, I run some risk.  I'm not sure if the risk is big or small.  What I do know is that I have a connection to a family in pain and I feel for them.  I can't abandon them as if they were a casual hobby.  Once I love people, I care about them for my entire life.

Should you care?  Of course you should.  You should care that Egypt has jailed so many in such a short amount of time.  Are they all guilty?  Only Allah knows.  Allah knows who is the terrorist.

Please, on Fridays, remember Egypt and those other countries struggling through change.  Pray for positive change using peaceful means.

I want to leave you with one of the greatest forces of goodness who has shared this earth with me.  Listen to him be such a GOOD person.

There's so much bad.  We have a choice to choose the good.  We do!  I haven't been as good as I can be and neither have you (sorry, but you haven't).  So, let's re-commit ourselves to staying good, pure and true.  

Let's acknowledge that this world often has hardships.  If you are in a hardship, thank God and know that staying straight on the Path of Righteousness is the only way out of that problem.  If you are not in a hardship, thank God and know that you can help others who are.

Ya Rab!  Ya Rab.  Ya Rabee.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Gay Word

Asalamu Alaykom,

It has been a long week of correcting Term 2 final essays.  I'm spending many hours pouring over words and deciphering what was meant and what was actually said.  Words are my life.

At the end of my day, I sat next to my third-grader son on the school bus.  I tend to be a little quiet at 3:30.  The rest of the bus, as you can imagine, is not.  There are the kids, the bus matron, and the radio all competing for the highest decibels.

"Mom," said the little voice next to me.  "What's 'gay'?"

My eight-year-old son wants to know what 'gay' is.


That's not something I saw coming.  It's been a long day and he's a little young and---

yet, I can't mess it up because it means the difference between clarity and confusion.

I'm honest with my kids and always have been.  I learned this from my biologist father who always told scientific facts as they were.

"Where did you hear that word?"

"I just did.  I don't know where."

Deep breath as the bus starts up and I begin.  "Gay is when a woman doesn't want to be together with a man as a partner; she wants to be together with another woman.  That's not me.  I wanted to be with a man for my partner so I chose Baba.  Baba chose to be with a woman for his partner (me) and not another man.  Neither one of us is gay.

That doesn't mean that someone who is gay is bad.  Sometimes people use the word, 'gay' like it means, 'stupid.'  I don't want to think like that.  Just because someone is different from me doesn't mean I have to call them names."

My phone was in my hand, and I realized that I had a photo on it that I had loaded, in order to show it to my eighth graders.  It was a picture of my best friend in the Virgin Islands.  I had used her photo in talking about memoirs but also as a segue to our current book about the Civil War (and issues of racism).  Now, I would use it once again.

"Did you ever see this picture?  This is my friend from the islands.  She decided that she didn't want a man.  She is gay.  She was really nice to me that year so I can't be mad at her for being gay.  That would be dumb of me.  She is who she is.

I have another friend, Ben, and he's gay too.  He has been very nice to me for so many years.  Should I hate him because he's gay?  I really can't."

El-Kid has been taking it in and then says, "I don't want to get married.  It's too much work."

I laugh, "Yes, it is a lot of work but it's nice too.  Baba and I are so different.  We're like salt and pepper.  I know it would be easier if we were the same but I like how he's got things that I don't have and I have things that he doesn't have.  It's kind of like having a right arm and a left arm; we work well together.  Wouldn't it be hard to have two right arms?  You'd look weird!"

El-Kid laughs.

"Allah made men and women perfectly for getting along together.  Allah made us differently so we can marry and have families."

"I don't want to marry a woman or a man.  I want to marry the TV."

Ya, he loves the TV.

"They don't have a word for that.  Besides, you're only eight.  It's not like I'm going to marry you off at 10 or something.  You've got time."

Yes, he has time but I didn't.  I was really on the spot today about a tough subject for grown-ups, let alone for kids.  I hope to God that it was what needed to be said.

May God bless all of those struggling as Muslims parents.

May God also bless all those gays and lesbians who have shown kindness to me over the years.

Lastly, may the two groups not see each other as enemies.