Saturday, July 11, 2009

The air I breath

On this day, 27 years ago to be exact, my life changed for ever. I had my first child. Cruel labor pains and the joy that followed were just a taste of what to come. A kind of love that hurts so bad but at the same time gives you so much happiness that you're not sure whether to cry or laugh out loud. The Arabs say “our kids are our kidneys walking on the ground”. I say “my kids are the air I breath”.

God, You deserve my thanks for all the blessings and grace you shower us with. And I do thank you for them all but above all I thank you for the air I breath. Please God bless them with loving You, your prophet Mohammad, and their fellow humans of all color, race, religion. Bless them with happiness, a healthy long life, success, wealth, a loving spouse, and great kids.

One more thing, please don't test my belief or strength through my kids. I admit, I am weak. Having them away from me for most of the year is hard enough. Please be their protector and savior wherever they go. And one more thing, please never deprive me of the air I breath.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


In line with what I wrote in the previous post, one of the few graduates of the year 2009 is my dear Fayza. Fayza became a member of my family over forty years ago when she came with her mom who did various domestic work at my parent’s place. The unconditional love of this woman to my parents, my sister & I, our husbands & kids is phenomenal. But this is not why I believe Fayza is a far better human than I.

When I go back to Alex, my hubby, kids & I stay at my mom’s place. Needless to say, the amount of housework needed for this army of guests is backbreaking. Knowing that at least four out of the seven occupants of the house (I will not name names) are OCD patients obsessed with cleanliness gives you a vague idea about the about of work needed to keep everyone happy.

Moreover, the family trusts no one else to go clean my sister’s place at the North Coast (el sa7el el shamali), and this year, I too asked her to clean an apartment that we had but did not use for years, to have it ready for some guests who were spending a couple of weeks in Alex.

To top it all, her daughter’s wedding coincided with all this. Yet she refused to take more than two days off to take care of that.

Now some people might argue that all this could be explained by the kind treatment & generous pay she gets from the family. But here is what makes her a better human than many people I know including myself.

I walked quietly into the kitchen, of course to find something to nimble on until lunch was ready, and I found Fayza in the corner, praying, thanking God (a few “Ass Holes” such as myself might think “for what??”), and even praying for a long and happy life for each one in our family.

I love that woman. And I have no doubt that she will be rewarded for accepting & making the best out of the tough hand she was dealt in this life. And above all, for not having a grain of envy or hatred in her heart. Fayza has passed her exam in life.

I am not that sure that I’ve passed mine.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Back to school

Let’s imagine what would happen if we all went through the existing education system, yes that same one that we all hated, but this time around, we will apply two modifications to it. First, no exams are required to move from one grade to the next. Passing or failing will be left to the judgment of each student. The only exception is at the final graduation. And second, your graduation could come at any random date!!

I have no doubt that most students would gladly agree to switch to this new system. It seems extremely fair and self assuring to be able to evaluate oneself in stead of being evaluated by others who might be unfair, prejudice, or apathetic. At first glance, this looks like a great system with great potential. This relaxed environment will definitely bring out the best in each of us.

Unfortunately, this system will now work. It will fail because of the two character traits that are deeply founded in all of us, Vanity & Selfishness. Most of us will simply believe that we do deserve to constantly move to a higher grade, even when all the signs suggest that we don’t. And when we see fellow students miserably fail their graduation exam because they never prepared for it, we would confidently say, “this will never happen to me!” Moreover, when we see others who need a little help in order to advance, most of us will just turn our backs to them, if not even climb on their shoulders to reach higher.

In other words, the system will miserably fail, not because it is a bad system, but because the students misunderstood the true meaning of an education.

Well, the good news is, I have no authority to apply this system to the education system in Egypt or anywhere else. The bad news is, I believe that we are living this system. We live in this world with one goal in life, to be better than the others. And we actually convince ourselves that we are. I am better looking because I fit the beauty standards. I am better than the followers of other religions because I am a Muslim. I am a better Muslim because I have a prayer mark on my forehead. I am a better Muslim because I am veiled. I am better at my job because I was promoted. I am smarter because I had higher grades. I am better because my ancestors built the pyramids. I am better because I am the boss. I am better because I am a man. I am better because I have a foreign passport. I am better because I make more money..…………

Some of the above may be true when comparing people. But none is true comparing humans. To be a better human one has to believe that: “I can only be a better human when I love my fellow humans as much as I love myself.”

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Spaghetti Sandwich

I went on a touristic tour of old Cairo with my hubby & kids and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. Old Cairo is much more beautiful than I ever expected it to be. I’ve seen parts of old Cairo before, but this visit was different. The trip felt like going on a ride in an open air museum, and I enjoyed every moment of it. I wish we had enough time to visit each and every one of the mosques we saw since each one had a distinct character and was beautiful in a very unique way. The mosques we actually visited were El Sultan Hassan aka the Obama mosque, al Hussain, and Amr ibn el 3as mosques. The latter left a lasting impression on me, not because it was the most beautiful, nor because it was the one where I had an exceptional spiritual experience, it actually touched me for a different reason.

While hubby & the two boys were inside praying, I was outside admiring the facade of the mosque, and trying to figure where the Hanging Church, and Ben Azer’s temple - that along with the mosque form the Multi-Religious Compound - were. Ms. Paparazzi (aka Noona) went around the mosque taking pictures of anything and everything. I noticed that next to the mosque was a Zakkah committee, specialized in supporting orphans, and a large number of women, old & young, were waiting in line to get to a window to receive what I assume must be a monthly allowance for the orphans they support. To me, this small building was as beautiful as all the mosques we saw. I was more than glad to see that in spite of my belief that the dominant flavor of Islam in Egypt now-a-days is a superficial one that exaggerates the importance of appearances and minimizes the role of the Muslim in bettering the society, yet a good number of well to do Muslims must be regularly paying their due Zakkah in order to sustain such a project and many like it around the country.

As I was admiring the beauty of Zakkah at work, Nouna returned followed by three young girls. Mai, Heba, & Habiba. She had asked if she could take pictures of them, and they gladly agreed, and then followed her to where I was waiting. We talked and Noona gave them some candy that Habiba said she will eat after she finishes the sandwich she had in her hand. This made me glance at her sandwich and what I saw lifted the thick veil of apathy that covered my eyes. Habiba was eating a spaghetti sandwich. Only then, her shabby and worn out clothes, and her bare feet completed the picture of poverty & deprivation that my mind was programmed to ignore. I know this might sound stupid since there are many more visible & tragic signs of poverty that we see every day, but the vivid image of Habiba eating her all carbs sandwich is still tormenting me. Stuffing my face at Chilli’s and paying over L.E. 500 for one meal for a family of five less than an hour earlier has definitely added to my guilt.

Most probably I will never see Habiba again, which means I will never be able to influence her life in any meaningful way. Yet she generously gave me a gift that I will cherish forever. Hopefully her image will continue to remind me to appreciate what I have, and to remember my duties, and pay my dues towards the less fortunate fellow Egyptians.