My daughter is getting bigger mashallah, so we went to Ataba to shop for abayas. Ataba is a shopping district in Cairo. It’s like the New York shopping district on steriods. There are sections for clothes, electrical appliances, plastics, fabrics, books, and much more.
I was too intimidated to go there alone. Alhamdulillah my daughter’s Quran teacher offered to go with us. She also brought along her two young daughters. I’d had reservations about going on a Friday, but alhamdulillah it wasn’t too crowded. We took a taxi there, and got out in an area called Central Opera. A shoppers delight! I don’t like shopping, but at the prices you really want to buy stuff. We got a nice blue abaya for my daughter (they call them izdals) for 28LE (about $5). I bought an abaya also for 58LE ($10), the cost had been 65LE, but of course the ustadha being Egyptian, she had to bargain the price down a bit <grin>. There were cheaper abayas, from about 40LE, but the one I bought was a new design.
We weren’t finished shopping, but when the idhan was called, every shop begin to close. We went to pray salat al-jumuah. I usually don’t go to the masjid on al-jumuah. First of all, I’m frustrated by my lack of understanding even after more than a year of study. This is due to a variety of factors. One, my laziness. It’s just easier to communicate in English and I haven’t been as active in following up my study as I should. Another reason is the sound quality in most masajid. The khatib speakers are usually horribly unclear, to the point that if the khutbah was in English I’d miss some of it. Plus, as I stated before, I am far from proficient in ammeyah. But today, mashallah I understood so much! And it was a good khutbah too. About the importance of good iklaq. How Islam is like a tree, and the fruit of the tree is husn al-khuluq, sidq, etc. So I was happy that I went and was able to benefit (inshallah).
I purchased a nice bag in addition to the abayas (12LE!), and then we were invited to the teacher’s home in Shubra for a visit. We traveled via the Metro, the underground subway system. This is the first time I rode on it and it was surprising clean and fast. You would think you were in an American city. One nice difference are the women only cars, which are great so you don’t have to bump into men. The price was just 1LE. They don’t yet have this system in Madinat Nasr, but according dd’s teacher, it is coming.
Shubra is considered to be a ‘sha’by’ area. Those are the older, poorer areas of Egypt, which have a different character than newer places like Madina Nasr, Mohandessin, and Ma’adi. The streets are narrower, the buildings older and built with more character. You almost feel as if you are walking thru a movie set. It reminds me of the immigrant areas of Chicago, with their close set apartment buildings. Families live close together, there are small shops, not larger grocery stores.
Shubra is also known for having a large number of Christians. I did see large numbers of women without hijab, however that is not necesarily an indicator of what faith you are. One indicator I did see however while purchasing rice. The shop keeper had a small cross tatooed on his hand. You know the muslim shops because they are playing Quran in the background.
The teachers mother came by while we were there. She lived upstairs. She gave me an example of the typical tajmeel and takreem one can expect when visiting traditional Egyptian homes. “Ahlan, Ahlan, Ahlan.” Kissing my cheeks. “You light up our house, you light up all of Cairo.” She was small, old and charming and she kept repeating her welcome the whole time she was there.
We went home on the bus, another economical way to travel. 1 LE and 10 piasters (like pennies). I HAVE to learn the public transportation system here. I’ve been resistant, because what I see most frequently are there crazy driving ‘microbuses’ (vans). They go around yelling out the destinations, Ramses, Ramses!, and you jump in, liable to be crushed between male passengers.
I had some interesting conversations with the teacher. She asked why so many foreigners move to Madinat Nasr, why not go somewhere cheaper? She told me what I already know, the prices are higher because of the large number of foreigners. I told her the Arabic language centers are there. She replied that they are there because of the foreigners, if we go elsewhere they will too. Another reason for living in Madinat Nasr is the convenience. You have several malls, lots of grocery stores, hospitals, etc. But it is worth checking out other areas, instead of continuing to pay these sky-high rents.