Assalaam alaikum, Alhamdulillah, Inshallah

I’ve heard a lot of people speak about how ‘unislamic’ muslim countries are.  Granted, there are many negatives, sometimes worse than what you’d experience in the States.  The positive is there however, for whoever wants to see it. 

 I remember reading an email of a transcribed lecture in which a shiekh was giving reasons for making hijrah.  One reason was the many ‘small’ benefits of being around others of your faith.  Just giving salaams is a small act of worship, and one you are much more likely to perform where most of the people around you are muslim.  It adds up.

Recently our phone was not working.  No idea why.  Asked the kids Arabic teacher to call ‘Central’, because even after more than a year of study, ‘ammiyah’ still sounds like jibberish to me.  I don’t know what she said, but very next day, we had someone at the apartment to fix the phone.  About an hour after the technician left we got a call: ‘Telephone yushagal (working)?’.  Me, ‘Na’am’.  Then, ‘Alhamdulillah, massalaama.’ 

Seems like such a small thing, but in what other environment would a telephone company employee thank God that your phone is working?  And wish you salaam before hanging up? 

Same experience with internet company.  DSL went out with no notice.  Dh calls the company.  The rep says, ‘We’re having some trouble but inshallah it’ll be fixed in an hour.’

I could dwell on the inconvenience of not having internet, but I’d rather remember that he said it would be on when God wills.  And it was. 

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Dust storms and ATMs from h%$#.

dust storm 

Last week I braved a dust storm to go get money from an ATM.  Really high winds, low visibility, dust in the eyes, etc.  Put the card in, select amount, out comes card, but no money.  Can this really be happening?  Egypt is notorious for having card-eating ATMs, I have lost my card TWICE.  Rushed back home, checked the balance and sure enough, the money was withdrawn.  I called the bank (Egypt Agricole) and was assured the money would be returned by the next day.  Next day, no money.  Another trip to the bank, an automaton-like receptionist just tells me I’ll just have to contact my bank.  My bank?  In America?  Even though that ATM is sitting outside your bank?  Alhamdulillah, very clear instructions from my bank, and very quick response.  Wouldn’t it be great to combine the best things from the west  with the best things from the muslim countries?

Rain, rain…

A British sister and I took the kids to the park yesterday, despite me having some sort of stomach bug.  I know of at least two other families who are afflicted with the same illness.  It causes either diarrhea or vomitting and horrid labor-like cramps.  Anyway, I took my son’s bike.  Basically we had to put it on the roof of the taxi.  The driver took one look at us (we have eight kids between us) and the bikes and asked ‘Tadfa’een kum?’ (How much will you pay).  I quickly told him 5LE, which is double the price, and he agreed.  At the park, Hadeeqa Tifl, we were charged twice the rate for Egyptians.  We used to pay the same, but now for some reason ‘foreigners’ have to pay more. 

The kids had fun on the bumper cars and riding bikes, and all of a sudden there was a downpour. It doesn’t rain that much in Egypt, but when it does, the streets become flooded partly because of the lack of street drains.  The kids could not resist stomping, jumping, even sitting in the puddles  The got so wet, we ended up walking home.  Even though we were all sloshing wet, it wasn’t unpleasant.  The puddles were mostly warm and the sun was out.  The worst part was crossing the streets with a crowd of kids, a stroller, and a bike, but we made it, alhamdulillah.

 Once home, there was even more water to deal with, the floor drain in the kitchen had backed up and the water flowed to the middle of the floor.  There was also a drip in the bathroom ceiling.  Last time it rained, we told the bawwaab (doorman) about the drip and he said he’d speak with the owners.  Later he came back and informed us, ‘it’s because of the rain.’  HELLO, I know that, the question is, WHY is the rain coming in?  Good thing it doesn’t rain much.

In the footsteps of the Sahaba..

We finally got out for some sightseeing last weekend.  This is only the second time in the two plus years we’ve lived in Egypt that we’ve been anywhere.  The first time was the pyramids (in my opinion a waste of money, drive to Giza and look at them from outside the gates!)

We visited the first masjid built not just in Egypt, but in all of Afrikiya masjid ‘Amr ibn al-As.  It was huge, the whole compound took up a block.  I tried and failed miserably to get a panoramic pic of the whole facade of the building.  A beautiful building with hundreds of smalls glass lamps hanging from the ceiling.  There was a janaza going on when we got there.

We also visited the grave of Imam Shafi’i.  I didn’t get any pictures there.  I felt a little strange to photograph it, even though the building was quite beautiful.  Unfortunately people go there and hold on to the wooden frame surrounding the grave, cry and make dua.  The floor surrounding his grave is littered with money, pictures, and notes.  I had dh read to me and the kids about Imam Shafi’i the night before going.  He was born in Palestine, moved as a baby to Madina after he was orphaned.  He grew up there and later moved to Iraq.  He spent his last years in Egypt, masjid ‘Amr ibn al-As was one of the places where he taught. 

Entrance masjid Amr ibn al-As

hall-masjid Amr

mihrab-masjid Amr

mihrab-masjid Amr

 fountain-masjid Amr

Another Eid (Celebration)

 Milad Al-Nabi

A few days ago I feed the kids, got them ready for Quran school (3x a week), and sent them downstairs to wait for the driver.  Ten minutes, no driver.  After twenty minutes they troop back upstairs complaining she is not coming.  I call her cell phone, it’s off.  Later I find out she’d taken the day off for Milad Al-Nabi (Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday).  Islamically there are two celebrations or holidays, Eid Al-Adha and Eid Al-Fitr.  Of course, twice a year just wasn’t enough for some people so they added more.  Egyptians celebrate a large number of mawlids, not to mention other holidays, too many to name here.

Not the first time I’d been caught offguard by a holiday. I missed my first and only day of class during one of their national celebrations (I think some victory over Israel).   Today is Sham el Nessim.  Yesterday was Easter.  Schools, government offices, and of course drivers take both days off.

I can tell when Milad An-Nabi is coming because the stores and bakeries began to sell these really delicious and bad for you sweets.  And of course the dolls and horse figures appear.  People celebrate by giving both as gifts.

Spring is here! (and so are the roaches..)

It’s spring!  The sun is shining, colorful flowers are blooming on the trees, the souk is full of strawberries, watermelon, and tangerines (no grapes yet!).  And the roaches are back.  Cairo is an environment for roaches to thrive in.  Overcrowded, insufficient/inefficient trash collection provide an ideal home for the yucky creatures.  Not so much of a problem in the winter, spring seems to bring ’em back.   

One night, up without my glasses, I saw something big and dark run around the edge of the bathtub.  Thinking it was a small mouse, I start creeping closer fearfully.  It was really a HUGE roach.  So far, I have killed a few this year.  I *think* the large ones come up through the bathroom drains from the sewer.  The smaller ones can come from anywhere–neighboring apartments, grocery store, corner fruit and veggie stands.  I have personally seen roaches in Al-Mahmal Supermarket–on the floor and inside the deli counter.  I had one fall on me in Seraj Mall. 

If you don’t want to take them home, check your bags carefully after shopping, esp from the outdoor places.  Keep things as clean as possible, counters, floors, etc.  Buy some spray to put in areas where you see them.  Before you rent, check out the apartment carefully.  If the apartment is infested it may be hard to get rid of them.  They can breed under wood.  Make sure the wood is sound if the apartment has it.  AVOID ground floor apartments!  Not only are roaches likely, but rats and mice as well (plus people may steal your laundry from the line). 

Housekeeping and housekeepers

After moving here, one of the first things I realized is how much harder it is to clean house in Egypt.  The floors need to be mopped on a daily basis because of the dust.  Windows and furniture need daily dusting.  Egypt is a desert and there is a LOT of dust.  Basically it takes a lot more work to keep a house clean.  I was surprised by how many foreigners here employ a maid (known as Shugala).  Frankly I had looked down on the practice.  I like doing things for myself, and just didn’t really feel that comfortable with someone cleaning up after me.  Finally dh insisted if I couldn’t keep the house clean alone, to get help. 

I found someone through my kids’ arabic teacher.  A much older lady, I think she must be about 70 at least.  We pay 400LE (about $70) a month for her to come four days a week.  It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s more than most of the teachers at the school I studied  arabic make, and they are college grads.  I’m pretty sure the lady who cleans for us is illiterate.  Alhamdulillah, the house is much cleaner, but there are difficulties that come along.  First, do not expect them to do the work the way you do it.  I am veeery picky about somethings, especially dishwashing.  In fact, I go back over the cups, silverware sometimes, till it’s the way I want it.  Second, finding someone trustworthy can be difficult.  Even Egyptians are wary of who to let in their homes.  Ask around and make sure you find someone trustworthy.  Foreigners are often overcharged.  They will try to shirk on the work if you let them.  I have to walk a fine line between not being a dictator and still getting what I pay for.