She’s Fine Now

الَّذِينَ إِذَا أَصَابَتْهُم مُّصِيبَةٌ قَالُواْ إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ -القران الكريم 2:156

Who, when calamity befalls them, say, “Verily, to God we belong and, to Him we shall return.” -The Holy Quran 2:156

Last week, on the evening of July 27th, my eldest paternal aunt, Sayeda Abdoun, passed away peacefully in Egypt.

My father, who is there, tells me that her burial and funeral went as she had wished. He said everything came together smoothly, almost as if she had described what would happen when she passes.

Of course, he is devastated.

She was a second mother to him. It was her home where he got any of his studying done throughout high school and college before heading out to America. It was her home where my parents were wed. And it was her home where my dad preferred to stay during his visits after retirement.

I was blessed to have met the aunt I resemble the most back in 2011. We spent so many days and nights just talking about anything and everything like two girlfriends. Despite our age, generational and lifestyle differences, “Ametuh” as I’d call her, almost always understood me.

One afternoon, we were talking about shopping and she shared how as a young girl, all she wanted was to go to school wearing new shoes and carrying the prettiest bag. She was married young to a man she would love for decades after his death. So much so, she couldn’t even part with his clothing.

“I miss him”, she’d tell me. “He did everything for me, especially when I was sick after the failed pregnancies and difficult births.”

She was very much a homebody as she got older. Yet one night, out of the blue, she asked to join me on a short walk to see my eldest uncle. During our walk, she’d tell me about the roads and people that came upon our paths. After an eventful evening, we got home and I asked her if she was OK after such walks. And she said with a smile, “I’m fine.”

Ametuh’s life was not easy and her life’s story inspired me to pursue greater things than the “norms of society”. She fell for the norms, she didn’t go to school wearing new shoes and carrying the prettiest bag.

She lived through her two children after her husband’s passing, becoming a grandmother of eight and a great grandmother of nine. She wanted nothing but the best for her family. When all was good with them at home, she’d quietly go to her room and fall asleep. Should i go in to check on her, “I’m fine” was her answer.

As much as I’m heartbroken and saddened by Ametuh’s sudden passing, I know she is resting in quiet peace. I know she’s fine now.

Please keep Ametuh in your thoughts and prayers. May she rest in God’s eternal peace and light… Ameen.

W.I.S.S. – The Word “Spinster”

spinster [spin-ster] Disparaging and Offensive. a woman still unmarried beyond the usual age of marrying.  Arabic: عانِس، عوانس

Being a 34 year old lady, I’m again reminded of the word “spinster”. I’m convinced that the word must’ve been phrased by a very bitter person back in medieval times (be it in any language). The fact that the word is almost only applied to ladies makes me hate the word even more. It’s sexist, hurtful, divisive and discriminatory on so many levels.

The first time I heard the word “spinster”, I was 19 years old. It was said to me by an older lady with limited education whom wanted me for her son so he can move to America. I didn’t pay much mind to her at the time. Maybe because I knew what her intentions were. Or because I was too young to understand that word at the time.

That word really didn’t hit me hard until a couple of years later when it was said to me by someone I once liked and respected. From then on, I heard that word more often than necessary. When I decided to go to graduate school, I was told I would never find a husband. When I decided to travel, I was told that I wasn’t making an effort to find a husband. Every time the subject of marriage came up, I was reminded by random people to stop being picky because I was becoming a spinster.

This all happened before I turned 30.

As much as I try not to let it bother me, it bothers me. It’s derogatory and very offensive, more so to those whom actually are looking for someone to share their lives with but haven’t. I’m not alone on this as per my conversations with people between the U.S., Egypt, Qatar and beyond. Whom decided what age a lady (or a man) should be married? Whom decided that if you don’t have children before a certain age, your prime has come to an end? Whom decided that men only want to marry a lady within a specific age group?

I have relatives in Egypt that have passed this unbeknowth marital age for one of many reasons. One cousin has dedicated his life to his work and found it difficult to find someone from the humble country town whom would share and support his passion. Another cousin in the same town and of the same age sided with her demanding parents of unrealistic expectations which has caused a hault in suitors coming through the door.

Even though the culture in Egypt asks that both parties’ families share in the financial costs, there’s this pattern of making it more difficult than necessary to get married. Anything outside of marriage is haram but the halal way has been made to be so difficult, it’s almost near impossible. And those whom wait too long to be able to go about it the halal way? They’re now spinsters.

In Qatar, I’ve met people whom remained single simply for financial reasons while others were divorced but still paying back some hefty marital related loans. Unlike in Egypt, men here are burdened with all the finances to get married and start a family. As the culture here is very tribal, there’s this “keeping up with the Jones” mentality. If one family did something, you had to do the same if not better. Even if you couldn’t afford it, you borrowed for it. I know at least two of my friends whom have been divorced in under 5 years of their marriage just over financial troubles. They got married like the Jones, but they couldn’t LIVE like them. And those that choose to wait, refusing to be a statisic? They’re now spinsters.

In the U.S., it’s a real mixed bag between the cultures but the mindset of spinsterhood is still there. People are in awe when a 40 year old celebrity gets married. Did you see the rukous over George Clooney “finally getting married”?

However, from my personal experiences within the Muslim and Arab community back home, some of this ideology exists. If a man marries a lady beyond the age of 30, it’s as if he performed a charitable act. If a lady marries a man beyond that age, it’s because he’s rich or she couldn’t get someone her age. It can’t ever be because two people loved each other, God forbid.

Sigh.

And let’s back track for a second here, is it just me or do those that barrage us with “get married already” comments the ones whom are completely unhappy in their marriage? Seriously, I have yet to be approached by a happily married person, aside from my mother and aunties, about my marital status. Maybe it’s because those happy in their marriages know what it takes to be in a happy relationship. It doesn’t happen overnight. You don’t just marry the first person that crosses your path.

Maybe it’s because those happy in their marriages are happy because they actually lived their lives, learned to care for themselves before they were ready to share it with someone else. Maybe the happier you are, the happier your relationship. If you happiness depends on someone else, you will in fact be miserable in that relationship. Sometimes, one is not destined to be married with 3 kids living in a house with a white picket fence by the age of 25.

I can’t image being married at 25. Hell, I can’t image being married at 34!

At 25, while many of my friends were ready to join the marriage club, I was taking care of my family while starting graduate school. I was no where near ready to be married let alone even date at the time. People go through different phases in their lives at different ages. There really is no structure or time frame for one of the most important commitments in one’s life.

Let’s be honest, when the time comes, it’ll come. People nagging us into something you aren’t ready for doesn’t help. Using the word “spinster” only makes it worse.

So ladies, when a miserable hater comes at you with, “when are you getting married already?”

Just tell them, “I’d rather be a happy spinster than a miserable wife.”

Tarrington Spinster
image c/o  grave-mistakes.blogspot.com

AlJazeera Staff Sentenced in Egypt

On June 23, 2014, Sisi’s vision of “Egyptian democracy” were made obvious when AlJazeera journalists Peter Grest, Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Ghorab and several other journalists (some in absentia) were sentenced from 7 to 10 years for doing their journalistic duties.

Media preview
c/o @mohamed via Twitter

This sentencing comes despite complete lack of evidence of any threat to Egypt’s national security. This also comes after US Secretary of State, John Kerry visited Egypt’s President on the matter and of course, the issuance of military aid from the US, a total of half a billion US tax dollars.

Family, friends, supporters and journalists were forcefully removed from the courts after the hearing. Several images on Twitter have shown police angrily placing hands on camera lenses and chasing people out of the entrances. After going a few steps forward on January 25, 2011, Egypt has now gone several hundreds steps back on June 23, 2014.

I still have hope and know deep down that this not the end of the revolution. The struggle remains, the voices louder, the revolution continues.

Living the Confused Expatriate Life – Part 5

Living the Confused Expatriate Life
Part 5 of a Few… Hot Water
By: Ms. Hala

When I first landed in Qatar, I knew I would be learning a great deal. I didn’t realize that my first lesson would be a survival one, as simple as turning on a faucet.

Landing in the peak of Qatar’s summer months in 2012, after a long 17+ hour flight, I exclaimed to my host and his daughter that I needed to take a nice cool shower. They in turn responded, “If you want to take a (semi) cool shower, turn the faucet to hot water.”

“What?”

“Yes, hot water is warm, cold water is really hot.”

“Oh, OK? Was it installed wrong or is that just how it is here? I thought hot/left, cold/right was universal?”

“It is just not in the summer months. Qatar uses a water tank system, water gets hit by the heat pretty bad.”

Did I believe them? Yes but I had to see this for myself.  I turned the faucet right for cold and sure enough, without hesitation, steam of boiling water was rising. I then quickly turned it on right for hot and after a moment’s time, luke warm water was a flowing.

How am I going to survive this heat without cold water? I didn’t have this problem when I spent 4 long hot summer months in Egypt. If anything, the water was too cold and I’d turn on the water heater!

Sigh.

Here’s to my third summer living the confused expatriate life in Qatar. The water heater is turned off. The faucet is turned left for a sweet luke warm shower to start my day! Happy Thursday folks!

Single and Proud – My Comment

My friend posted on my Facebook this weekend the article titled “Single and Proud” by Rasha Dwedar on the marital status Muslim ladies are choosing, specifically in Egypt. My friend ask for my thoughts and here’s what I had to say…

Skimmed through the article which is exactly what I saw in Egypt… girls dying to get married only to feel stuck. Some get out, some stay put because they don’t know what else to do. I saw a girl put up with a really stupid, idiotic fiance because people envied how cute he/they were. Now she’s married, with a kid, and dare not continue dreaming of going for her masters or her high school diploma hubby will dump her. Those same girls then always ask me why I don’t want to get married and my simple response, “what for?” I know what I want in my life, I’m extremely independent and don’t need someone to “order me around or take care of me”. Until someone out there can share my vision in life, has great ambitions to go further in life and can give two shits what other people might think, then I’ll consider getting married. Until then, single and proud!

Do read the article, “Single and Proud” by Rasha Dwedar, and share your thoughts below.

Random Thought on Egypt…

“Today, I was just curious… Will my fellow #Egyptians be celebrating the greatness that is… ?”

Today, October 6th, in Egypt is the widely celebrated national holiday known as Armed Forces Day. The holiday is particularly the celebration for when we reclaimed the Suez Canal in 1973.

Today, I was just curious… Will my fellow Egyptians be celebrating the greatness that is Mubarak Tantawi Sisi this year as they’ve done so every year for the last 29 years 1 year 5 months?

Egyptian Forces crossing the Suez Canal October 6/7, 1973. Image source unknown.

Praying that my fellow Egyptians celebrate the real heroes of that day and not the phonies. Happy October 6th!

Public Response to Lacy Morris’ Huffington Post Article

Lacy Morris made me feel under accomplished at 31, thanks a lot!

If most of you have this odd love/hate relationship with the Huffington Post as yours truly, I’m sure most of you read Lacy Morris’ latest article in HP’s Travel, 30 Things Travelers Must See and Do Before They’re 30. Aside from making me feel slightly under accomplished at 31 (Thanks a lot Lacy), I felt the urge to share  my comments publicly for each of the listed items Lacy listed. I’ll only post the list (bolded) but you can click here to read Lacy’s full article.

1. Jump off something.
Right after you Lacy!!

2. See one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Accomplished! =) I’m from the great city of San Francisco so I’ve been blessed to have enjoyed some of the modern wonders like the Golden Gate Bridge amongst others on a regular basis, Alhamdulillah. (I miss you SF!) When I was 19 years old, I worked two jobs (yes that’s 2 jobs, 7 days a week!) to save and pay for my Mama and I to go to Egypt in April of 2001 where I experienced the longest surviving wonder of the world, the Pyramids of Giza. I went again in 2011 after the revolution and experienced history in the making… another world wonder in my book.

3. Party in Las Vegas.
Unless you’re paying for it Lacy, I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on a slice of Sin City.

4. Take a vacation that isn’t Spring Break.
Accomplished! Never did a Spring Break type deal so my trip to Egypt (see number 2) counts.

5. Attend at least one large celebration.
Accomplished! Every year I attend Ramadan gatherings and Eid prayers. Trust me, it’s a fabulous celebration with clothed, sober people! I invite you Lacy to join us in SF when I return for a visit from Qatar to celebrate Eid! (You’re also welcome to experience Qatar and add it to your list!)

OnTheBeach
Enjoying San Francisco’s Ocean Beach, covered up, in 2009.

6. Hit up a nude beach. I laughed to tears at this number! One, I’m from San Francisco, home of Baker Beach and never even considered checking that nudity out. Two, I’m a happily covered-up Muslim so the idea of going out without my hijab, let alone naked is extremely laughable.

7. Spend several days with only what will fit in a backpack. Lacy, let’s hear about your days with only what will fit in your backpack.

8. Swim in the ocean.
I can’t swim but I’ve visited several beaches during my travels so… semi-accomplished!

9. Sleep somewhere where you have to light a fire to stay warm.
Lacy, YOU sleep somewhere where you have to light a fire to stay warm!

10. Do some sort of adrenaline sport.
I moved to another country at 30 on my own dime… doesn’t that count Lacy?

11. Hit up one of the Caribbean islands.
Are you going to pay for Lacy? If so, let’s go and it can be “31 things I can do before I’m 32!”

12. Take one ultimate road trip.
Accomplished! I’ve done several road trips from SF to LA and back, the last one being when I was 29.  When I was 24, along with my Mama and sister, we road tripped from NY to the Carolinas and back. I do not recommend anyone to do that drive… ever!

13. Go somewhere alone.
Accomplished! My first flight alone was a training in Michigan at 20 then getting paid through my freelance work throughout California and parts of the US before I traveled and moved to the Middle East. I emphasize that those trips within the US were paid for by a third party otherwise I wouldn’t have ever been able to afford it as a college student. I doubt anyone under 30 can travel alone without a friend who can at least help split the costs of hotels and food.

14. Take a train somewhere.
I’d like to take the Trans-Siberian Railway (across Russia) like in Paulo Coelho’s Aleph. Let’s go Lacy, your treat! 😉

15. Go to a music festival.
I love music and have organized a few concerts but I’ve had dumb drunk people ruin one too many shows for me. You want me to go to a  music festival where drunkenness is encouraged? No thanks!

16. Have one iconic Americana experience.
I’m a Muslim Arab American whom has traveled through USA airports… if that ain’t enough “Americana” experience then what the hell is?

17. Go to at least one of the Smithsonian museums.
Now that’s on my list but I haven’t set a age deadline for it.

18. Summit a mountain.
San Francisco Twin Peaks, that should count… and I know how to get myself back down too!

19. Be able to name your top five dream vacations.
Wait, I thought this was a list of travel experiences we should have accomplished before 30, not draft them out. I’m confused Lacy…

20. See a game at a classic ballpark.
San Francisco turned the classic Candlestick Park into Monster Park (a football field) before I could afford to start going to cheer on my world champs, the SF Giants.

21. Visit a neighbor to our north or south.
Yea I would’ve, really, but no one wanted to pay for it.

22. Do something so adventurous that it requires a doctor’s visit.
Accomplished! Took my Hep C shots at 19 before my trip to Egypt. (How sad is that?)

23. Save pennies to go somewhere you really want to go.
FYI Lacy, it cost more than 200 pennies to go down the street.

24. Go to New York City.
Semi-Accomplished! I have family in New Jersey and NY’s Staten Island so we’ve done the ferry rides and walked some parts of Manhattan. I have yet to stand in the middle of Time Square or eat from NY’s famed Halal Food Trucks/Carts. I did bus it between Brooklyn and Staten Island, but no subway rides.

25. Sleep under the stars.
Never done it but during trips to NJ, my grandparents had a nice front lawn where we gathered during those hot summer nights over good conversation and star gazed before the mosquitoes kicked us out.

26. Eat an iconic city meal.
I’m from San Francisco… all the iconic meals come to us damn it!

27. Know all of the best places to take tourists in your home city.
Accomplished! One place tourists should go to in San Francisco aside from the 49 mile scenic drive is a small lovely corner in the heart of the city called Maiden Lane where some really nice spots to eat are located! You’re welcome Lacy!!

28. Have one close encounter with a wild animal.
I have three brothers, one sister and 3 cats split between two countries… that’s enough wild animal encounters for me.

29. Do something you can’t tell your parents about.
No comment… my Mama reads this! =P

30. Know a dance well enough that you could keep up with the locals.
Accomplished! When I was in fifth grade, I was part of the cultural dance troupe where I learned Chinese Ribbon Dancing, Irish Celtic Step Dance and traditional East African Tribal Dances to name a few… I still carry and remember everything I learned in that troupe to this day… best year of my elementary life!

8 1/2 (maybe 9) out of 30… not bad, huh Lacy?