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Saturday 5th of February 2011

 

As soon as my eyelids open flicker open, my second reflex is to grab my phone.

 

Did everything remain peaceful while I slept? Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease let things have remained peaceful, please, please, pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Did the thugs attempt and succeed in ruining the peaceful ambiance?

 

I click on my twitter application on my phone and scroll down through the posts. All seems to well. Thugs had attempted to cause havoc but were dispersed, due to warning shots fired by the army. (YES! PHEW! Could this mean that things will start returning to normal?)

 

I get up have breakfast and glue myself to lap top and continue typing …

 

Bec’s heads to Tahrir while Meeza and I go to Makani again, this time with her friends. I take my diary with me to write key notes for the days I haven’t filled in.

 

One of Mezza’s friends that has joined us is quite an interesting young man, with great intellect and a wicked sense of humor. He and Meeza have me in stitches. It feels good to laugh. I haven’t laughed like this in what seems a long time.

We talk about random things, but as always the conversation returns to the crisis at hand…

 

As much as I admire the people in Tahrir for their determination and bravery for standing up and defying the police, the crack down and curfew that has been put in place, and as much as I want to be apart of the movement, I can see how all those people being there are slowly bringing the country to a halt.

The situation is turning in to a double edge sword, if they leave they lose their ground and risk being persecuted and have everything go back to the way it was and all of this will be swept under the rug and make all of this disappear.

If, they don’t leave, then the people who run factories, business, the majority of the people in Egypt earns less than 2$ a day. The majority earn their money on a day-to-day basis by selling fruit and vegetables off of donkey carts, cigarettes from kiosks, news paper stands, taxi fares …etc. If these people don’t earn money and they along with their families starve, this revolution might take a 180 degree turn.

As you can see, there is a big dilemma. Do the protesters stay or do they go? It’s a tough call, a very tough call.

 

I look up and find that the café is looking more and more like a familiar scene of the past. It is full to busting. It has reached its full capacity but the people still keep on coming. The staff is finding it hard to keep up with the orders, there are only 2 waiters in the whole place and the staff is being over worked. The Sushi rolls are loose and not looking as put together as they should.

For a brief moment you forget about the crisis that is going on just kilometers away, the buzz of conversation and clinking of cutlery is entrancing and it makes it very easy for you to forget. A glimpse at the TV screen serves as a constant reminder and brings you back from the brief moment of déjà vu of times past.

 

More of Meeza’s friends join us and my friend Heba does too. Heba and I seem to be growing closer and bonding more these past couple of days than we have in the past couple of years. I enjoy her company, insight and the fact that we can agree to disagree.

I hope this friendship doesn’t die out any time soon.

 

I get two international calls. One from Ang calling to check up on me from Canada and asking what the situation is like here. I fill her in on all the details that I know and I give her my insight on the situation and re-assure her that I am fine. I miss her…

The Second call is from Nal in D.C, from the tone of her voice I can tell that she is not in the best of moods and that something is bothering her. She eventually tells me and I find out that she just received news that another friend of hers died this week during the protests due to injuries. I talk to her to try to change mood a little bit by making her laugh and smile. It works her voice is a little more chipper. Before we hang up she makes me promise to stay out of harms way. She has lost two friends already and doesn’t want to lose another. She says she will come and kill me herself if I go to Tahrir.

I give her my word…

 

It is so humbling to know that there are people who genuinely care for you and worry about your well-being. When friends from abroad take the time to call and check up on you almost daily, you can’t help but feel blessed.

 

The weather has turned, black clouds are now over Cairo. It begins to drizzle the bite of the window is harp and cold.

 

 

Is this a sign of what is to come?

 

 

 

 

Diary Entry 7
Thursday 3rd of February 2011

I wake up early and stare up at the ceiling in bed for a while before I get up. I try to leave the room as quietly as I can so that I don’t wake Meeza. I grab my phone and my diary and sit in the sitting room crossed legged on the couch in my PJs writing in my diary as well as typing another entry to post up on my blog on my lap top, while I follow tweets on twitter on my phone. (Multi tasking at it’s best!)

Over the course of the past few days I feel as though the country and its people have awakened from a long sleep. The Spirit and the pride of our Great Ancestors that seemed to have died after the 6 day war has been reborn and re-ignited in not just Egyptians in Egypt, but around the world. It’s as though the shades of 30 years have been lifted and everyone is seeing how deprived they have been of their basic human rights and the possibilities and potential that could be theirs if they call out and march for it.

In such a short time, the seed of rift and segregation that had been growing over decades had been ripped out of the ground. Muslim’s and Christians, Rich, Educated and Poor have been standing shoulder to shoulder, side by side day in and day out as one force, united for the first time in a long time.
The Muslim vs Christian paranoia almost seems to have evaporated as they stand side by side protecting themselves and each other from the attacks and blows that the Mubarak supporter are landing on protesters.

Bec’s wakes up and find me sitting deeply engrossed in my typing. He invites me to move to his room to continue working. I pick up my belonging and move to his room, claiming a place on the floor near an electric outlet. I get comfortable and resume typing while Bec’s busies himself with editing his photos taken at Tahrir. (I will ask him if I may post the link to his photos)
Bec’s father bursts in to the room urging Bec’s not to go to Tahrir today, he’d just seen and heard on BBC Arabic that the area in Tahrir was now occupied by the Muslim Brotherhood and that the President of Iran spoke and supported Egypt’s revolution.
My heart sank in to the pit of my stomach. Is this how it ends? Will this country of passion, history and potential fall and follow in the foot steps of Iran?
I call my mother and my friend Heba and tell them what had been relayed to me.
My mother exhales deeply and says,’ If that is what is going to happen then we have no choice but to leave. We can’t stay if it turns in to a state like an Iran’ She closes with me and goes to watch the news.
I tell Heba the same info and her response is ‘Oh boy…”

I left my laptop to go and listen to the news myself with my phone in hand (it goes everywhere with me) and yes…that is what the media was saying. For the first time since all this has happened all I want is to stuff face with comfort food, the craving for chocolate is at an all time peak! I resist … for now.
My mother calls back and says she’s been flipping through the channels and none of the English news stations have been reporting that… could this be a propaganda move?, an attempt to cause chaos and panic perhaps? The only thing we can do is watch and wait.
After hours of watching the news, typing and editing we both need a break. We decided to take yet another walk in to Korba. The scene is a little different today, it’s business as usual (some what). The hairdressers is open and taking clients up-until 2pm, cafes are open but not working in full capacity, but that doesn’t matter people are still willing to stand in line to sit in a café for a few hours rather than in front of a T.V waiting for the inevitable.

While we are there, Heba calls to say that she’s in the area. We meet up outside a very locked up Vodafone. Heba and I go in to Cilantro Cafe, while we wait for Becs to come back from the bicycle repair shop to exchange the tube we had bought yesterday for his busted tire. We sit and talk about how things are going politically and what direction we think it’s going in. Becs comes back and joins us and as do a few other friends of ours. We huddle around a small table as, Heba a relative of one of the leading oppositions leaders and a big supporters of his. She tells us about her experience on Friday when she accompanied her relative on the 28th for Friday prayer, he wasn’t allowed in to the Mosque and prayed outside in the street along with many others. Heba and her relative’s wife stand back and the riot police inch forward encircling them almost boxing them in. They push them down hard off of the pavement in the back. As soon as Friday prayer is over, tear gas is fired in to the crowd for them to disperse. Her relative is ambushed and they have no idea where he was or where he had been taken until much later. He had been held in the mosque along with the Middle East’s newest heart-throb, Al Jazeera’s news correspondent, Ayman Mohydin.
Reports of reporters being detained or arrested under the emergency law are flooding twitter along with many other protesters! OUTRAGE!!!

My friend in Alexandria calls me to ask how the night was in Cairo last night. I tell him that it was quiet. He informs me that his night was far from quiet. He had a full scale shoot out right outside his building from 3am to 7am. He sounded exhausted and his moral was low. He told me that thugs (looters or theives) were armed with machine guns. The neighborhood were no match for them but luckily the army took action and returned fire. 4 of the intruders were killed, a couple captured and the rest retreated.
A very tall, handsome and strapping UN judge came and joined us, he brought an interesting new insight on to what could happen if the President was to step down and leave the country. When he spoke he reminded me of a University professor commanding his student’s attention.
Closing time came too soon, we bid everyone farewell and stay safe before we went on our way. Before we continue on our way home, we stop and by two more boxes of cake mix. (I think I have turned Becs in to a Betty Crocker backing monster!)
He was so inspiring that when we got home Becs told his parent’s that he was going to go to Tahrir tomorrow and that was that! I really want to accompany him, but I know if I go and if the battles between the protesters and the pro Mubarak mob continue and something happens to me, I would never be able to forgive myself.

Tomorrow is another day, tomorrow is ‘Departure Friday’

Wednesday, 2nd of February 2011

In the early hours of this morning Mubarak addressed the nation and said that he would not run for president in September and will change the government.
The speech sounded reasonable, but something told me that things weren’t going to go down well with the protesters or the public.

Later that morning Becs and I decided to walk from his house near the Baron Palace to Korba to buy a few things and stretch our legs. I don’t know how inmates or animals in the zoo adapt or cope to being kept indoors for hours on end! I just can’t stand being in doors for 17 hours a day! It’s enough to drive you loopy!! All of this because of the curfew hours that have been set. It’s enough to cause cabin fever or claustrophobia!
I needed to be out doors, smell the cleanish air, walk around, do something different.
The feeling of being cooped up brought back memories of when my family and I took the last ferry-boat leaving Jeddah to Suez after the invasion of Kuwait in the 90s. Three days locked in the First Class floor because passengers who couldn’t get cabins were sleeping on the deck and the crew didn’t want them coming in doors. I don’t think I’ve ever been so bored in my life!

Walking in Heliopolis you would find it hard to believe that there was anything going on in the country, it’s relatively peaceful and quite. The presence of the armed army vehicles that were stationed at several important government building made it real.
Walking was refreshing, I could feel the blood circulating through my body again but as we approached the center of Korba I grew sad. People walking out of stores with boxes and bags full of provisions incase there is a food or water shortage. The traffic in Korba made things feel less out of the ordinary but seeing the store windows blacked out or empty and fast food restaurants and café’s with barricaded doors just brings everything crashing down again. Is this really happening? How long will this last? How long can we as a nation endure this? Will the government be heartless and not give in to the people’s demands? Is their intention to make people starve?
The line for the ATM machine is just as long as the queue from the local ‘Forn’ (which means oven, but it’s where you can buy (I believe) the subsidized cheep bread from)

As we walk around trying to find bottle of water to drink, Becs notices that his phone was sending him facebook notifications. He thinks his eyes are deceiving him so he asks a man waiting his turn to go in to a café if the net is back. He says yes it, the signal is weak, but it’s getting stronger. YES! The government took heed and listened to foreign delegates requesting that communication be re-instated!! What a relief, we can now communicate freely with the world again. Well, almost freely, I’m sure that twitter and facebook are being very closely monitored by Egypt’s Secret Service. I guess, I have to choose my words wisely or I’ll end up on their most wanted list.
Nal, my friend in D.C will be thrilled she won’t have to call us daily to check up on us and can communicate through social media. I call my sister to tell her to see if the net is up and running in Alexandria.

I try sending people a text message, but mobile phone services haven’t fully been reinstated yet.
To keep ourselves entertained at home we buy a couple of packets of cake mix, eggs and chocolate to make icing from scratch. Marie Antoinette’s quote of ‘Let them eat cake’ was sounding in my head for some odd reason. Well, if I can’t go to the protests I may as well make cake.
Back at home, I waste no time in yanking out my laptop, setting it up, plugging it in and getting connected with the world-wide web. HOW I HAVE MISSED YOU! I busy myself reading e-mails and messages of support and concern from family and close friends. I answer every single one of them. My sister has tagged me in  the album of newly uploaded pictures and I am horrified. The scenes of last Friday in front of the building where my parents and sister live is harrowing. The clouds of tear gas, the bus and the Muhfza (governors building) a blaze. I can’t begin to relate to the horror or the fear that must have been pulsing through them at the time.Pictures of a looted and semi destroyed Carrefour in Alexandria is also very disturbing. You hear tales about places that have been looted but when you see the photos of familiar places, it really hits home.
In the midst of replying to messages, Bec’s family switch from a movie to the news and we are horrified at the images that are being brought to us from Tahrir Square. It looks like a re-enactment of one of the war scenes from the film, Braveheart. When the Scots are fighting the British to gain independence, but this wasn’t fake, it was very real. Men and women claiming to be ‘Pro-Mubarak’ supporters in Tahrir armed and attacking the protesters, but wait what’s that men on camel and horse back as well? What the hell is going on? How did this happen? Who could condone such savage and violent behavior? Protest and speak your mind, pro Mubarak or not, but attacking people and throwing cocktail bombs is just not on!
The Irish/Sa3eedi (Saeedi is what we call people from Upper Egypt, like the Newfie in Canada) blood in me was boiling; the urge to fight back was rising. I want to be there to defend, take a stand, fight and protect those that are there trying to reform a country for the well-being of the people. The majority have been peaceful, helpful and respectful and these hooligans are just being darn right barbaric!
This escalates the urgency ! Things are going from bad to worse! I HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!!! My host family will not let me leave and my family will crucify me if I go, so the only thing left to do is what I do well and that is, write!
Let me tell the world and anyone that is will to read or listen about what is going on in Egypt through my eyes.So, I begin to type until the late hours of the night.

I’ll be damned if i don’t do anything at all! If I can’t be on the ground, I will do my part some other way!

Tuesday, 1st February 2011

Today is Gawly’s birthday, my phone reminds me and a smile creeps across my face, but then I remember he and his family left two days ago to Boston. If this had been any other Tuesday, our huge group of friends would be deciding where we would be going to celebrate, but because of the current circumstances we won’t be able to. A simple message on his profile page on facebook will have to do. Wait… we don’t have Internet connection. I guess, I will have to wait until I can find away to contact him, to wish him a belated birthday.

9:00am

It has been one week since the #Jan25 protests began and a lot has happened in such a short amount of time. Another march is planned for today and they expect 2 million people to participate.
I have had my first full nights sleep in days. I feel re-energized and my mind is clear. I am feeling more like my old self, rested and able to function at my full capacity. I am ready for today.
I wake to hear that the prices of the basic necessities are beginning to sky rocked, mobile phone lines are expected to be cut again during the demonstrations. There are people who are selling fake police and military uniforms, fantastic one more thing for the public to worry about, when they are defending their homes, families and neighborhoods at night! Then I find out that they have closed all roads and railway lines leaving Cairo and other major cities to prevent people joining the protests here. That means I am stuck here indefinitely and will not be able to be reunited with my family, a blow to my heart, but I try to remain optimistic. At least I know my family is safe and I am too.
Some good news is that ATM machines are being refilled and will be operational today, so people can with draw money.

The family I am staying with are amazing! They are being very hospitable and making me feel comfortable and at ease. I almost feel as if I am part of the family. I just wish they would let me help around the house. I hate sitting around and being idle. It’s not in my nature and if my mother was to find out that I didn’t wash up after myself, I would never hear the end of it!
Being with Bec’s family makes me feel less home sick, but I still miss my family.
Bec’s family have a pet parrot ‘Cocco’, he isn’t comfortable with my presence and keeps giving me strange looks.
Becs’ Dad, Mr. G and I along with his wife discuss the current situation of the country and how fast things are declining.
‘Poussy’ is very motherly, always making sure that I’m not hungry or in need of anything. She, like my mother is a chocolate addict and this is going to be tough because for the past 5 weeks I have re-programmed myself to eat healthier and not consume any junk food or sweets.
Meeza, Bec’s sister is really sweet. She is sharing her room with me and has made space in her wardrobe for my clothes.
Bec’s and I have been friends for six years or more now. We were introduced to one another by my best friend. I think the reason we get along so well is because we have had a similar childhood and share the same interests. He is quite a character and very lovable. He has been going to the protests in Tahrir almost daily. He goes armed with his Canon camera and documents everything that is happening around him.

Becs asks me if I would like to go with him to Tahrir. I am once again facing an internal conflict, do I break my word to my parents and go to be a part of history and risk getting hurt and worrying them both in to an early grave or do I stay here. Having just recovered from a week of protecting and lack of sleep, I decided to stay, when I really would have preferred to be there to experience the energy, the unity and kin ship first hand.

1:00pm

Bec’s mum can not take it any longer, she is out of chocolate and nuts and needs to restock. I don’t hesitate in accompanying her to the store to stretch my legs, be outside and just breathe some air.
Bec’s family live on what is normally a very busy street in Heliopolis, but you would never have guessed it. There gas station deserted of it’s queues of customers, hardly any cars driving by, few people walking around and the sound of the tram’s clickity clacking has been silenced.
The store across the street unlike all the other supermarkets is well stocked, with peanuts, lib (it’s like sunflower seeds but white) and a variety of other nuts. We buy an assortment and a week or twos supply worth of chocolate.
We leave the store to head back across the road and try to make our way to Bec’s aunts house, but we are met with an unusual scene. The sidewalk and road are blocked with cement blocks, 2 layers of barbed wire, four tanks and armed military guards. The Middle section of Marghani street, where the Presidential Palace is, is completely blocked off!

It looks as though I made the right choice in leaving my house if the road is blocked. I would have been in-accessible. I doubt I could even go home if I wanted to.

2:39 pm

The Duty Officer from the Irish Embassy calls to check up on me and to see if I am in need of any assistance and that I am in a safe location. I told him about my harrowing experience two nights ago and gave him the address and land line of where I am staying. He asked me if I would like to be evacuated. I tell him that my family are refusing to leave, so if they stay, I stay too. He asked me to pass on his contact number to my mother, so she could give him her details too.

3:00 pm

Bec’s Grandmother comes up to visit and brings a box of chocolates for me. What a sweet gesture. I take one, so that I do not insult her and I offer the rest to everyone else.

5:00pm

I can’t stand sitting around any more!! I need to do something, if I can’t be out speaking out, then I have to be productive in some other way. I go to the kitchen and find therapy in cutting up fruits and making a fruit salad.

Nal, my friend in DC calls to check up on me and tells me the latest updates that she is reading on my facebook page. She tells me that she is now friends with my cousin in New Jersey, my long time friend and pen pal who also lives in D.C as well as my soon to be, brother-in- law Hatem. I find it amusing how a crisis can bring people from around the world together.

I call my cousin Tamer in NJ, to tell him that Nal has been passing on his messages and that I am safe and so is my family. He tells me that he forwards my news to a radio station there in the US and that he sent them my last e-mail before the communication black out and it was read over the air. I am touched and embarrassed all at the same time.
Not long after closing with Tamer, his aunt in Cairo calls me and tries to persuade me to stay with her. I would have done but I didn’t for two reasons, I have only met her twice in my life and my family know where I am and I am in good company.
Not long after closing with her, Tamer’s Dad calls from the U.S to offer some support and to tell me to be strong and hang tough, it’s a bumpy ride, but it will be worth while when it’s all over. He tells me that the world is watching and is supporting us.
I find comfort in his words.

We hear on the news that Mubarak is going to address the nation… yeah I’ve heard that before! I bet he decides to speak when the men and young lads are down in the street on neighborhood watch duty, putting them-selves in danger to protect their homes, families and neighborhood. How considerate!

😉 I should have made a bet, he didn’t come out to speak until midnight?! Who does that!?

Dear readers.

It has been the toughest 8 days I and everyone here has possibly ever experienced! We regained full access to our cell phone services and internet just hours ago. I am safe and well…but we are still not out of danger there is more to come over the next few days.

I have been keeping a diary and will be posting soon.

IrishAlexandrian

As I mentioned in my previous post, there is too much going on for me to go in to great detail, so I am posting the e-mails that I am sending to family and friends abroad with the summary of what is going on.

If you want to follow-up to the minute updates, i suggest you get on to twitter or get an account. To follow the events of what is going on in Egypt, do a search for Jan25, it will give you all the latest updates of what is going on, on the ground, pictures, web sites to see videos. Please retweet information that is confirmed and reliable for people on the ground.

I have been following reporter ianinegypt and benwedemen from CNN on twitter, they are very reliable.

There is a very high possibility that lines of communication will be cut, facebook, twitter, Blackberry messenger, phone lines and internet maybe down. If you hear nothing from Egypt tomorrow, the action will speak for itself.

Last night was a long night in Cairo and Egypt.
Protests across the nation took place.
In Cairo there were several protests in different places.
In comparison to Tuesday, Wednesday was a louder cry and the police
were a lot tougher than they were before.
As one CNN reporter said, ‘NO RESTRAINT’ was being used.
100s of protesters were detained and some are still missing. 6 deaths in total.
The area that was the worst was Suez. It got out of control, police
station was burned as well as another government building.

Thursday (today) has been a quiet day, thus far.
People took the day to sleep, rest and stock up on supplies.

Others have purchased another mobile line, bought extra phone
batteries, gas masks and a few other necessities.
Instruction on putting a locator (GPS) on your phone, so that your
family and friends know where you are at all times have been
circulating in case of being arrested, so that people know where you are being held.
Other instructions are how to behave during the march.

A warning went out earlier this morning that Blackberry messenger
would be suspended, and this came true not too long ago.
Twitter is also down at the moment. Facebook is down.

*Blackberry Messenger and twitter are back up and running on Blackberrys. (for now)

Mohamed El Baradei is returning from Europe today, to join the
Egyptian people in the March scheduled after Friday Prayers tomorrow
at around 1pm Cairo local time.

Another strong rumour circulating is that shops have been instructed
to close tomorrow and mosques have been told/warned to suspend
Friday prayers. I have just come back from getting some extra
groceries, just in case the rumour is true. I will go out and get
batteries, candles, flash light and a box of water shortly.
(I could be over doing it, but I’d rather be prepared). All of this
brings back memories of drills in Saudi Arabia during the 1st Gulf
War.

I am expecting more actions will be taken to limit civilians
communication with one another.

Everyone is being encouraged to take part in the march. I would love
to join, but I know my parents would be worrying themselves in to an
early grave and it just isn’t worth it.
Secondly…with the way things are currently going in Suez, I suspect
things might turn ugly here. I’d rather be some where away from tear
gas, bullets and the risk of being beaten.
From here, I can communicate with people inside and outside of the country.

I will try to keep you all updated on my well-being 

Much love,

The month of fasting known to the Muslim world is coming to an end. With less than 24 hours to go we eagerly wait for the sun to set and for the four days of festivities of Eid El Fitr to begin.

Eid El Fitr ‘The festivity of purification’, I think is the best way to translate the name of the occasion. If you haven’t read my previous writings about Ramadan or know nothing of the month, then this won’t make any sense to you. So, I will try to give you a brief summary. Ramadan, is a month where Muslims world-wide fast from sunrise to sunset, (are not allowed to consume any kind of food or beverage during sunlight hours), this strict act of discipline is to remind them of their blessings, to relate to those less fortunate of themselves, as well as time for reflecting on one’s acts and behavior for the past year. This month is special and sacred to Muslims because they are able to ask for forgiveness and erase their sins for the past year. Hence, the celebration of being ‘purified’.  

How is Eid El Fitr (or the small Eid) celebrated?

Days before the end of the fasting month, families go out and buy Eid clothes, to wear on the first day of the feast. For Non Muslim’s the best way to interpret the act is as new clothes that you receive for Christmas or wearing your Sunday best. Traffic in Egypt after Iftar and the Taraweeh Prayers is always manic! People will be shopping for gifts and clothes.

Ladies of many house holds will be preparing and baking traditional desert, (which is HIGH in calories, but very tasty) to offer visitors. The desert is called ‘Ka’ak’, which means cake in English. It doesn’t look or taste anything like the cakes you may be familiar with. Each Arabic speaking nation has its own unique way of making it. In Egypt is best described as a cookie/biscuit made out of semolina and stuffed with ground dates, nuts or some times Turkish delight. On the outside it is sprinkled with powdered sugar.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ka’ak)

On the dawn of the first day of the month after Ramadan, (Shawal), there is a special prayer, most commonly known as ‘Salat El Eid’ (Eid Prayer). “Eid prayer is performed in congregation in open areas like fields, squares etc or at mosques. No adhan or iqama (call) is to be pronounced for this Eid prayer, and it consists of only two rakaʿāt with additional 6 Takbirs. The Eid prayer is followed by the khutbah (sermon) and then a supplication (dua) asking for forgiveness, mercy and help for all living beings across the world. The khutbah also instructs Muslims as to the performance of rituals of Eid, such as the zakat.[9] Listening to the khutbah of Eid is necessary (wajib) i.e. while the khutbah is being delivered, it is haraam to talk, walk about or offer prayer.[10] It is then customary to embrace the persons sitting on either side of oneself, whilst greeting them. After the prayers, people visit their relatives, friends and acquaintances.”  (The above quoted paragraph is from wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eid_ul-Fitr )

The greeting that is said to those celebrating Eid is ‘ Eid Mubarak’, (Blessed Feast), ‘Eid Saeed’ (Happy Eid) or ‘Kul Sana Wa Inta Tayib’ (Happy New Year).

Traditionally after the prayer families will go to the cemetery to pay their respects to their deceased family members and then go home to enjoy breakfast together. Once home, families either exchange gifts or give money. Children often receive money from their adult family relations; this is known as ‘Eideya’. People will go and visit relatives, neighbors and friends often taking with them ka’ak, other deserts or gifts.

On the second and third day of Eid families usually go out for a meal. In Alexandria the restaurant or meal of choice would usually be fish. The reason for it is because for a whole month Alexandrian’s have avoided eating it because it’s salty and would make them feel very thirsty the following day and it would make their day of fasting more difficult.   Another popular out would be to go to the cinema, to watch the newly released Arabic movies for the feast.  A word of warning to those whom may consider venturing outside their front doors, the food courts, cinemas and arcades in the Malls will be busier than ever!

Now a days fewer people spend time visiting relatives and go away for the Eid vacation. Popular vacation spots are Alexandria and the beaches along the Red Sea. I personally try to avoid the popular vacation spots because, it will be overly crowded. When I go away, I like to go somewhere, where I can relax in peace and not have to worry about bumping in to colleagues, students and other people I know.

During the Eid most shops, banks and all businesses are closed for the first three days of the feast, much like Christmas and New Years in the West and Europe. If you aren’t going away and intend on staying in town, then I suggest you do your shopping before the holiday begins.

For those of you who celebrate Eid, I wish you all an Eid Mubarak and for those of you who don’t, just enjoy the time off!

Published in the September 2009 issue of (in)sight Magazine.

Why Can’t It be Ramadan Everyday?

A few nights before Ramadan,
And all across the nation,
People were bustling with anticipation.

They’d hustle, they’d bump, they’d swear as they drive,
Men fight with each other as well as their wives.

Boyfriends continue to ruin girlfriend’s lives,
With their cheating and lies, Oh, what a surprise!

Girl’s eye their competition with looks of despise
Stay at home Moms cook up rumors and lies

You liar! You thief! You crook! You stinker!
Are the words we hear and are left to linger.

On the eve of THE night and with a blink of an eye,
Halos are out and consciences rise
All must be good, for Ramadan has arrived.

The Month of Ramadan is upon us again. T’s a time for giving to the needy as well as a time for forgiveness and reflection. I love this time of year because families gather and spend some quality time with one another, break their fast together at Iftar and the gathering can some times go on until Suhour. People give willingly and in abundance to the less fortunate and what I love even more is that people’s tongues are curved!
From sunrise to sunset people pay close attention to what they say out loud to others instead of damning someone’s house to fall down on them and flaring in to a temper and cursing every member of another person’s family! (You know which words I mean! We’ve all used them!). People are more conscious of their actions and use of words. Our day to day lives are stressful, there are times when you vent and say things that can be really hurtful. You’re always on the go and rushing here and there for appointments and social gatherings. Spending an hour or two with the kids when they get home from school to ask how their day was and what things they learned, is something you would love to be able to do, but you have to work late or you can’t because you have to get your hair done and have a manicure done for a dinner party you’re going to. Guy’s don’t think you’ve been let of the hook so easily! The men have business appointments at all crazy hours. Then there’s the male bonding time with buddies and there’s also maintaining that Baywatch chiseled physic by paying a daily pilgrimage to the gym. Be honest, most of you would much rather watch paint dry than be stuck at home listening to your mothers moaning, kids running round asking endless series of questions and your wives nagging.
There are two things that truly amaze me during this incredible month. The first is how ‘good’ everyone becomes. The tangled webs of deceit cease to be spun, hell even the thieves stop stealing. It’s as though a wish or a spell has been cast where everyone becomes honest and angelic, like Jim Carey’s character in the movie ‘Liar, Liar’. The second thing that completely throws me is how by some miracle and with a wave of a magic wand, during Ramadan people make the extra effort and can find the time to help the needy, spend time with their family, and be courteous and kind to others. Now, if memory serves me correctly there are 24 hours in a day every month of every year, no matter which calendar we go by. So, could someone please explain to me ‘Why is it ONLY possible in Ramadan and not throughout the year?’ Surely, if we all spoke nicely to one another all year round, there would be less rudeness and negativity and there would be more cheer and it would set a better example for the younger generation. If we gave more to others throughout the year, we would feel better about ourselves all year long instead of just for a month. If we did practice the lessons of Ramadan throughout the year we would appreciate everything we have and count our blessing, instead of constantly complaining and wishing that we had more.
I know what you’re probably thinking, “She’s one to talk. I bet she doesn’t practice what she preaches!” I will admit that I am not a saint! I was just as guilty as everyone else. However, this time last year that changed. I decided that if I can be genuinely good for a month, then what is preventing me from doing it all year? For the past year I have made the effort to be more respectful and giving to others. Honestly speaking, I do feel better about myself and there isn’t a day that goes by where I forget to be grateful for the people that I have in my life and the blessings I receive. So, if I can do it. Why can’t you? You can’t use the excuse that it costs too much because it doesn’t cost anything to be courteous and time doesn’t cost you a piaster either. The resources you need for the job, you already have; it’s ‘YOU’.

Happy Ramadan Everyone!

One of the most popular outings other than eating out at restaurants in Cairo would be the cinema. If our eyes aren’t glued to the television you will find us at the cinema. Egyptians love watching the latest Hollywood Block Busters and Arabic Box Office hits.
            Going to the cinema most of the time can be a pleasant break where you don’t have to think about work, the kids and other day-to-day dilemmas and stress. It gives you a chance to zone out and just focus on the surround sound and the images that flash before your eyes on the big screen, now a days that isn’t always the case.
Over the past decade people’s social etiquette and consideration for others seems to have been totally abandoned. There have been a countless number of times where I and many other acquaintances and friends of mine have come out of the theater fuming at how thoughtless and irresponsible some people can be for not switching off their mobile phones, taking the call in the middle of the film and having a loud conversation while others are trying to concentrate and enjoy the movie, also constantly hitting the back of the chair among many other things.
         An old friend of mine, brought this issue to light by posting it as his status on face book the day after he had gone to watch a movie and had not enjoyed the experience, due to parents having brought their young children to a late night showing. His status read;

Can anybody with children please explain to me what the pleasure (for the parents or kids) is, for bringing kids to a drama movie at the cinema from 10:00 pm till after midnight? Because I wonder why children seem not to like it that much… of course, as a single person, what do I know??”

Karim’s status started a flood of comments on his status that a semi debate began.
Some of the responses that he received were the following;

 Ahmed wrote; “It is very simple ya karim …the parents want to watch the movie and they have no place to leave the children in .so they are ‘obliged’ to take them welly ye7sal ye7sal :))) (what happens, happens) “

Loutfi wrote; “I experienced the children during a movie from midnight to 2.00 am. In Europe they will not allow the children in at all”

Nancy who is a mother wrote; “I had a big fight in the cinema once because of that and talked to the cinema management, but they treated me as I am the crazy one!”

Mai, a mother of two wrote; “This is totally wrong I don’t agree that kids go to movies with their parents.”

Tamer ‘s response to the debate was; “I think the parents are envying the singles that they still can enjoy their time and go for a movie. It is not only for drama movies but also for those that definitely doesn’t suite children at all, and not only from 10pm, but also @ midnight till 3am where it is not healthy @ all to take children where they should be sleeping……so the parents … doesn’t care about their children neither about their health nor how they raise them as definitely what they will see will affect their character @ that age………one last thing, they don’t even bother themselves to keep them still, but they just loose them like demons in the cinema playing and making hell of noise!”
Aysem’s input was; “Kimo I applaud you! I would have thought EXACTLY the same thing. I think we live in a society where having children is revered to the point that other people’s needs and personal space is overlooked at times. I’ve encountered this in so many situations, I always laugh to myself when I see an army of mothers and babies congregating next to me in a cafe, whilst the offspring wail like hyenas and basically cause a riot, much to the discontent of the other patrons. It’s especially irritating when I’m trying to spend half an hour to myself, reading the paper or a book…Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to sound like a ‘Bah Humbug’ scrooge character, but I think that sometimes, people with children feel that they transcend social confines of what is proper. I.e. there is ‘them’ and ‘everyone else’ and Boo to you, if you don’t accept that. Regarding your cinema experience, I’m sorry, but if it’s past a certain hour, and they can’t find someone to watch them, maybe they should just stay home?!”

          I, like Karim am single and I don’t have any children of my own therefore unable to give a reasonable explanation, as a parent but because I am a teacher and I do work with children and a long side parents. I may have the ability to see things from more than one perspective. So, here is my take on the situation.

        As an educator I deal with children on a daily basis and in the midst of class discussions, I am often shocked to find that most of the children in my class (7-8yrs) go unchaperoned to the cinema and have also seen movies that I go to watch, which in my opinion is appalling. Films are rated for a reason. The reason being that the material shown is not appropriate for them. I can understand that parent’s want to go to out and enjoy life and not feel imprisoned or bound to their children and want to break in their daily routine. Parenting is one of the most tough stressful and demanding jobs. Therefore understandably they need a couple of hours of release. That is what date nights or girl’s/boy’s nights out are for. So why don’t these parents organize or preplan a day ahead of time so that they can have someone look after their children while they spend quality time with their significant other or with their girlfriends/guy friends.
       I am completely opposed to the idea of parents taking little ones to the cinema; they don’t take in to consideration the viewing pleasure of the other cinema patrons who have paid good money to watch the film of their choice. Never mind the poor unfortunate children who are most probably tired, bored, scared and shocked. These parents are being just plain selfish in only wanting to please their own needs and desires. They also don’t think that children at a young age fully comprehend the material that is being shown, WHICH IS PURE DENIAL!!!! Children are more aware and alert than adults and which is proven by the behavior of the younger generation today by their actions and vocabulary they use in the playground and amongst themselves.
Taking children to horror, ROMANTIC or action packed films can lead to nightmares and have them waking up in the middle of the night terrified for days and weeks on end. This surly just adds to parental stress, it can also lead to developing phobias.
For example, my parent’s were very careful of what they permitted my sister and I to watch when we were younger, but my sister some how with out my parents knowing watched the horror movie ‘Jaws’ and twenty years later she is still terrified of swimming in the sea because she has a fear of being attacked by sharks.
     Another thing that is totally wrong is keeping young children up past 8 or 9 pm which is extremely unhealthy for their physical and mental development. It is a medical fact that children need at least 8 to 10 hours of sleep every night. As a teacher I have had children fall asleep in class, grouchy and unable to concentrate because they haven’t had a decent nights sleep. The problem is a lot of parent’s are not privy to information about what is and isn’t good for their child’s development and the MAJORITY don’t give a toss anyway. Similarly when going to a restaurant or public place at any time of day and find children are left to their own devices and are tearing through the place like Tasmanian devils. This behavior happens for 3 reasons a) they are bored and need to be kept occupied. (b) Their parent’s haven’t taught them how to behave or corrected their behavior (c) they are craving their parent’s time, affection and attention.

So, the question now is; “What do we do about it?” Do we walk away from these instances, just complain amongst ourselves and throw our hands up in the air in defeat because we doubt no one is going to listen to us or do we be assertive and take some form of action like Nancy did?

Karim’s response to his many posts was ‘I really respect Nancy who talked to the management of the cinema. a friend of mine told me I should do the same yesterday and of course I didn’t, expecting to get a reaction such as the one she got.  So, should we stop going to the movies and buy them on DVD or just accept the fact that there is selfishness, no law or consideration for others and get used to having kids around us if we want to go to the cinema?”

Nirvana’s response to Karim’s question was; “Like Nancy, keep talking to the Management and make an issue and maybe they will do something one day; like enforcing some laws.”

Jacqueline added “Be positive, complain to the management, hush the annoying children and parents or anything else that shows your disagreement with what’s happening but never let them lock you at home 🙂 I always hush the others and I always complain though it was useless most of the time but it makes me feel better than just accepting the fact.”
Change never occurs if we sit around and do nothing. If you take a stance, like Nancy did and let your voices be heard and if the management of the movie theaters are flooded with complaints or a boycott takes place, they will be left with no choice and will have to take your complaints seriously and make some changes if they don’t want to lose their paying customers. We could also suggest to the management to have a viewing once week where all children under the age of 18 are not permitted to enter the cinema after 9pm and have it posted at the ticketing desk so that parents know not to bring their children and people like ourselves are assured of a peaceful and stress free night of watching a movie without kids running up and down the isles or wailing and squirming in the their seats.

I would like to thank Karim for bringing this discussion to life and to all of those who permitted me to quote them.