It’s the first selfie I took a few days after arriving home from Qatar last summer. I was still jet lagged, silly excited yet overcome with emotions.
This week marks 20 years since I’ve taken the decision to don the hijab.
I’m not posting this rant to celebrate, brag or showcase my sense of religiousness because all of that is mine and mine alone. I am posting this rant because I’ve been asked by many of my readers/followers/fans of all faiths alike why I have donned the hijab and how I’ve stuck to it for so long.
I made this decision on my own at a young age when I learned the basic Islamic guidelines of hijab. So of course, there was a few times where I’ve checked the rearview mirror, reevaluated my decision and came to the realization that hijab was a part of whom I am. So much so, that taking it off would not allow me to be myself. Hijab was not a fashion statement of mine -although I am quite fashionable thank you very much- but it’s a part of whom I am as a Muslimah, a part of whom I am as a person.
Sticking to it as a teenager wasn’t always easy. However, I didn’t mind having to explain why I was always covered up, that I was not hot in that and no, I didn’t shower while wearing that. I did learn during that time that when one believes strongly in something, one does find themselves making every effort every day towards that belief.
My belief was to be myself. It didn’t matter whether anyone else approved of it or not. It didn’t matter the dictated trend or what everyone else looked like. My belief was to be myself.
I’m loud. I’m spontaneous. I’m family oriented. I laugh at almost anything. I’m very highly educated. I’m happily single. I’m 21 years old for the tenth time. I’m bilingual. I’m multicultural. I’m always hungry. I’m living on my own in another country. I’m too cool to be reckoned with. I’m simply amazing. I’m all that and more in my own hijab.
One of the main reasons for hijab in Islam to be seen for your inner beauty, intellect and soul rather than your outter beauty alone. I know that no matter the look I decide to take-on at any given time, it suits my inner beauty, my intellect and my soul perfectly.
This week marks 20 years since I’ve taken the decision to don the hijab. This week marks two thirds of my life, worn proudly.
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!)
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 that 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 an 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?