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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!

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Inception has cast a shadow over all the other movies that have come out this summer. People’s facebook statuses can’t stop raving about the amazing complex idea that is interesting and highly entertaining.
While I was away on vacation in England all I heard were the rave reviews about the new summer block buster movie, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Inception. To my unfortunate luck I wasn’t able to go to the cinema there but once back in Alexandria, I leaped at the opportunity when a friend of mine suggested that we go and watch it.
I have never known Egyptians to be so quiet at the cinema whilst watching a movie. The entire audience was in deep concentration and was captivated by the story line.
Christopher Nolan the director and genius behind the script has definitely increased his following after this mind-boggling, entertaining film.
The balance of the movie was flawless! There wasn’t a dull moment, the cast was perfectly selected and it kept you questioning everything after the credits and after you left the theatre and tucked safely in bed.
I know there are several people out there who have not yet seen the movie, so I am not about to spoil it for them, but the question on everyone’s mind and the cause of many on-line debates is. Was it just a dream?
Here’s what I was able to conclude from the final scene;

 1st point
The spinning top wasn’t his remember, it was Mull’s originally.
The golden rule is that no one should touch anyone else’s totem
2nd point
The spinning top continues to spin on a perpendicular axis when in a dream.
3rd point
In the final scene, in the beginning the top spun in circular motion and was about to topple, but it didn’t it continued to spin on a perpendicular axis, it defied gravity.
4th point
His children hadn’t aged since the time he had left them and they were wearing the same clothes from his memory.

So, dream or not a dream….what do you think?

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.