Posts filed under ‘Egypt’

Adapting and Growing

We have been in Egypt for 17 days. I have gone through phases of travel: excitement, settling, homesickness, and adapting. Al7amdulilah.

 

 

Today Radwan and I start a new level at al-diwan. We had a written and oral test yesterday which we both passed. Guess what….We are not learning Fus7a!!!! Actually we are just learning lugha Faseeha. There are five levels of language. Three levels of 3amiyah (common language) and then there is Fus7a and Fasee7a. Fus7a is really hard to understand. Like no one can speak it. The Quran is in between Fus7a and Fasee7a. Even the sa7abah would ask the rasul saws about the meaning of words even though their Arabic was excellent.

 

Today is Thursday, our fasting day. Last night we began to implement a lights out rule at midnight. Moosa, May Allah Reward Him, woke us all up for suhoor at 3:30 am. We all ate cereal. Fajr at the local Masjid is the best breakfast. After Fajr, the six of us brothers read athkaar as-saba7 in our apartment. Each day we learn about the significance of one of the athkaar. Today we covered sayid Al-istighfaar. Its amazing how nicely it is worded. It helps us acknowledge Allah’s blessing and how dependant we are on Him for sustenance, protection, guidance and forgiveness. Al7amdulilah.

 

Jamal gave us a short talk about the biography of Abdullah ibn umm Maktoom, the blind sahabi mentioned in the beginning of surat 3abasa. Among the lessons from the story is the role of the caller to Islam is not guide but to convey the message, the authenticity of the prophethood of Muhammad pbuh because a mistake of the rasul is mentioned in what Muhammad pbuh brought. The story also warns against neglecting the sincere people in dawah to focus on rich, respected but stubborn people. Al7amdulilah.

 

Then we spent a few hours just chatting about different topics. We recited every story about we knew about Abu Bakr RA and Omar ibn Alkhatab RA on the authority of sheikh Anwar Alawlaki. Al7amdulilah.

 

The feeling of brotherhood is growing. We are a little family and I love each of the brothers. We help each other in our studies and in our deen. We divide responsibilities around the house between us. Hani is doing an excellent job shopping for us. Moosa is on top of our budget and finances. Yusuf and Ali cook it up for us. So far they made yummy French toast and macaroni. Al7amdulilah.

 

I7miding Allah,
Amr

 

ps. here are some pictures

 

holding hands in front of masjid alhussein RA

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masjid alazhar … we heard the khutbah there

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khan alkhalili food … fatta, kawari3, kofta wi fayrooz. we ran out of pepto bismo 🙂

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Hani hooking it up, gibna we bayd fe 3aysh feeno

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July 12, 2007 at 1:15 am 3 comments

^&*#*$%*^ BATHEEKH!!!

As I walked to class this morning there was a fruit seller… more specifically, a watermelon seller… Everyday, since I have made my walk to the learning center routine at 9:30 am or so, I have seen this guy and his donkey walking down the road as he screams something that I cant make out no matter hard I try…  Frustrated by my inability to understand him, I mad sure that today I was going to figure out this mystery so I got really close… It sounded like ‘yajafajabutneeeya!’  With his voice hoarse and his thawb soaked in ‘egypt sweat’ (i will write about this idea another day),  he repeated his one line lyric in a voice that simon cowell would be proud of… I inched ever nearer… BUT the closer I got the more I realized that he really said nothing… Just a sound that ended in a syllable that rhymed with batheekh… I tried to think if i could learn something meaningful about life from this experience and then realized something about communication… You really don’t have to say anything to be understood… every man, woman and child knew exactly what this man was selling when he shouted his inarticulate melody and as long as it was different from the teenshowki kid, the bbq corn man, the ‘used stuff’ people, the drycleaners and the gas guy and the vegetable seller: yafajafbutnee! would do just fine… At the end of the day, this watermelon man found his place in the world… He knew exactly what he had to do, how to do it and even how to be unique in doing so… He found his niche in this dunya… And because of that reason, I know he is far wiser than I…

On another note, the ‘bikya bikya bikya’ boys are really getting on my nerves… They dont even seem to be trying anymore… Their voices are barely heard through the cement walls that our apartments are made of… These premadonnas have a lot that they have to learn..

Egypt is taking its toll on me though…  I gave up on looking like an egyptiian because every taxi driver tries to charge me 30 bucks for a 3 dollar ride no matter how tight my jeans are n no matter how much chest hair i grow (just a joke :o) )… I started wearing basketball shorts and Hani thinks it might be a good idea if I drape myself in an American flag…  We started saying pop culture references in Arabic…(i.e. we translated the whole Captain Planet song’ … I am ‘Maya’ (i.e. water) and Amr is Cabtan Dunya….) I cant tell if my skin color is darker because of the sun or dirt and pollution…and my teeth are a strange yellow/orange color and I think I am going to write a letter to Crest to develop a toothpaste that fights plaque and dust… The Manga juice that I keep drinking (cant help it… too delicious) is not very good for an American digestive system and I have learned that a cup of water and ice is definitely the most amazing combination on earth…  On a good note, I cannot bite my nails anymore because of the thick layer of… well i dont even know what it is… stuck underneath them… Shibshib is officially the only footwear I wear…

An interesting observation: Egyptian men walk with more of a feminine touch and the woman walk more masculine (this is of course by the American perspective) but I found it interesting nonetheless… maybe its because the sisters here dont have the same mindset about flaunting themselves (alhamdulillah) and the guys are less worried about trying to look like they are ripped/buff all the time… 

I apologize for the extremely random thoughts but that what was on my mind… I have a couple of more insightful thoughts to come inshAllah,,, but at this time I have neither the patience nor the ability to stay awake to put them down here…

Missing home a little alhamdulillah…

Salams

yousaf 

July 11, 2007 at 9:23 am Leave a comment

My new experiences (part 1)

When I was signed up for this trip, I thought that the bulk of my experiences would be outside and around Egypt. Although I’ve spent a lot of time outside exploring Egypt, I was surprised to find that a large part of what has made this trip memorable so far has been inside the comfort of our apartment. So my trip has been two parts, in and out.

Outside, Egypt has been amazing. The people here are so hospitable that from an American perspective it is a little off putting at times. You expect the other person to want something in return but in reality they want nothing more than your smile and appreciation.

I love meeting people. Like Yousef said, I am indeed meeting crazy taxi drivers and other Egyptians whenever possible. After I learned to navigate the trick question “so which is better, Egypt or America?”, meeting new people has been an adventure in itself. A few of the people I’ve met:

Madam Shaymaa – A 20 something female Cairo native studying accounting in the U.A.E., she is one of the numerous Egyptians that has been affected by the west. I met her on my ride from Cairo to the village to visit my relatives. Although she isn’t very westernized herself, she sees Egypt’s westernization as its coming up in the world and sees America as sort of a parent, or final judge of whether Egypt has done a good job. We got on the topic of movies, and she talked about how bad Egyptian movies were but sounded hopeful that they were starting to get better (i.e. up to American quality. She mentioned a big cinema in Cairo. She was shocked when I told her I hadn’t heard of the place, she responded with “But everyone in the world must have heard of it!”.

Crazy taxi driver #1- A very friendly guy and very outgoing, some of the things we talked about were Egyptian slang, hand signals and (OMG) politics. I got the “Egypt or America?” question from him and told him that America is cleaner but the hearts of people in Egypt were much, much cleaner than America. He seemed unsatisfied with that, responding by joking that someone could pull down their pants in Egypt and take a cr*p in the street and no one would do anything about it. I can’t describe the hand signals because I’m limited to text, but maybe I’ll take video in a later post, haha.

Things got very interesting when we talked about politics. He said the worst thing about Egypt were the thieves. I said, like thieves that want to take your money? He said no, the BIG thieves. I realized what he was talking about and asked him if it was true that the government hires people to spy on Egyptians and their opinions on politics. He said it was very true and that you could be thrown in jail for saying the wrong thing.

Then I decided to get bold and asked him what he thought of Hossny Mubarak. He said “Howa ragul KEDA” (Basically means he’s a GREAT guy) in a REALLY sarcastic tone and gave a big smile and a thumbs up. And then I said something to the effect of “Oh, I thought he was a really terrible guy” jokingly, and he said “do you want to get us thrown in jail?” and then said “It’s ok I forgive you, I’ll forget you ever said it”.

Shafi- A friend of my cousin Mido (real name Mohammed), he’s my age. He had a completely shaved head, stylish glasses, and very very Egyptian features (like he looked like he came out of ancient Egypt). After watching an Ahly soccer game, Mido, his friends and I went to an Egyptian wedding. That was FUN. Even though I had no idea who the bride and groom were, I guess it was completely ok for me to get up on stage with everyone and dance with all the guys. After that, we went to a cafe to have fruit cocktails and get to know everyone better. There were 4 friends there, they were all great. All of them were friendly, funny, and intelligent but Shafi struck me the most.

Shafi is studying pharmacy at a college in Tanta (if I remember correctly). From the moment you speak to him, you can tell he is an intelligent guy, and if you talk to him a little more, you’d realize his ambition, which I didn’t see so much in the others. One of the things he asked about the most was what it was like to study in America, what the salary was there, and what college was like there. He talked about the fact that in Egypt, you couldn’t choose to do what you like to do. Based on a single score from highschool, you are more or less placed into your field of study. He didn’t outright say that we take the ability to choose our future in America for granted, but I’m sure he was thinking it.

It was obvious that Shafi really isn’t being challenged or able to work to his full potential in Egypt. He pulled me aside later that night to ask me about what options he had for moving to America to study. He told me about how difficult it was to go to America, and he loved hearing about the foreign exchange students that I’ve met at my college. He seemed willing to go to any length to be able to study in America.

That night, for the first time I realized how much we have in America. It never even occurred to me before then that if you’re blessed with intelligence, you work hard, and are determined, that in some cases you can’t get what you want. From birth we’ve had this idea instilled in our heads that you can pull yourself up from your bootstraps, that no matter what your position, you can achieve your goals.

But what if you just can’t?

I think of all the people I’ve met, Shafi impacted me the most. Personally, I’m very academically oriented, college was a default in my life alhamdulillah, not something that may or may not have happened. It was very humbling to realize that there are many many people out there smarter than me, with more potential than me, that just don’t have the same opportunities, I, or any of the people on this trip have.

“I am somehow less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.”
-Stephen Jay Gould

-Hani

July 8, 2007 at 9:43 am 4 comments

Egyptian cats

Cats in the street are a common sight in Egypt. As Americans, we are used to the idea that cats are a domestic animal to be caught, tamed, taken into your house and pampered. Here, cats are only a little bit above rats in terms of respect. The cats here hang out in piles of trash, fight in alleys, and gnaw on bone scraps on the curb. I think you get the idea.

I had a realization the other day. All of these cats I see every day, most likely they are all descended from the cats that were once worshipped by ancient Egyptians.

I have to say that again to give you the full effect. The ancestors of these dirty cats were once considered “gods”.

Whoa. I’ve never had such a powerful example this close to home.

I could leave this post at just that simple observation and let you interpret it as you like, but I’d like to comment a bit. I’m purposely reading too much into this to see what insight can be gained. I thought of two things:

1. No position, wealth, or glory on earth is permanent.

2. Your heritage is not you.

The first is a lesson that we see over and over but somehow seem to always forget. It is stressed in stories in the Quran, in stories like Thamud, ‘Ad, and the Pharaoh. All of these nations became arrogant in their possessions and it brought about their downfall.

The second point can mean many things. It doesn’t matter who your parents are, or what blood you have in you. In the end, you are only worth your actions, decisions, and beliefs. To think that your posessions are you, or your position is you, or your heritage is you, is folly and will lead you astray.

Muslims fall into this mistake very often. I think anyone from a Muslim community can testify to the fact that nationalism is a huge divider in the Muslim Ummah. Muslims often judge each other based on the country they’re from, not from their deen.

Another part of the idea that heritage is nothing is following blindly what your ancestors followed. In the Quran it is mentioned that the Quraish did not want to leave the religion of their fathers. So it was the same with every nation or tribe that was arrogant in their beliefs.

So we see the same thing in modern day. Every day, tens of thousands of babies are born that will never seek truth for themselves, and instead resign themselves to the familarity that they were born with.

Yeah I know I read too much into it… but it made me think anyway.

 

 

-Hani

July 8, 2007 at 8:39 am 1 comment

Life continues fee Umm Ad-Dunya

~Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem~

Alhamdulillah wa salaatu wa salaamu a’la Rasulullah (S) wa a’la alehee wa as-habihi ajma’een

Im not the best of writers, so if this gets difficult/boring to read u can just stop like half way through lol, i understand dont worry.. I cant express some of the artistic beauty and the eloquence that some of the sisters have put on here and some of the humor others have put in their blogs, bes i thought i would try inshallah (someone has to have a bad one so we can truly appreciate the good ones lol). I came with the major intention of learning arabic and honestly not much else. I didnt realize the amount of Islamic things that was involved in the trip, so when i found out, my intention began to change and widen to a bunch of different intentions all under one major theme, which is correcting my Islam in general. Over the last year or so, i’d say i have noticed that i needed to change a lot of things about myself and correct certain things about myself, and ofcourse strengthen my deen. So now that im here, hamdulillah i can say not only am i trying, but i have people around me that are helping me and motivating me to do things that will improve my faith. I still cant believe the amount of brotherhood that we have so far.. almost a week (for me, two weeks for everyone else) and already i feel like i have 4 people that i can talk to about pretty much anything (my brother doesnt count lol). The things that usually stay with me the longest arent the memories of goin somewhere or doing some activity, its actually the conversations that i have with people.. those moments seem to last… so far we have all had some group coversations which were cool, but on top of those me and a couple of the guys would jus chill on the balcony some nights when we stay up till fajr and talk.. about life.. about family.. religion.. any and everything… and hamdulillah i dont think there is anything better than when you are traveling with complete strangers, that you feel like you can talk to someone about literally anythng.. Musa and i have had some awesome conversations, lol passed all the stories of fighting people and the funny stories about his friends doin this or that… and me and Hani have had an awesome convo the other night and hamdulillah me and Ridwan had a good talk tonight as well… and inshallah i think that so far these have been the three most memorable parts of my four day trip, lol and i’ll take 75% lol… i dont know how the sisterhood is, lol mad drama probably.. but its all good 😛

another awesome thing about the brothers, is that originally i honestly thought that i would just pay one of the sisters to help clean, or cook or something( i know that comes off as really sexist, lol but its true, i never really cleaned or cooked out of necessity) but hamdulillah everyone of the guys have been doing everything, with the exception of laundry which we send out, we have all been cooking and cleaning, lol including myself.. 😛

is it just me or does everyone we have encountered in Misr(not Masr) has seemed like the nicest people ever.. i dont know maybe its cuz we’re from jersey and everyone in the tri-state area (NY,NJ, and penn) are pretty mean by nature.. lol.. hamdulillah everyone wants to talk to us, and help us with this or that.. im almost confused by how awesome people here are… especially all the teachers of Al-Diwan, mashallah, i couldnt have asked for better teachers, and even the other teachers who are teaching me (realized i used the word teach a lot there) are mad nice, and they know me by name and like try to talk and help me with stuff, lol… i havent ever seen people go so far out of their way to try and not only help students but make them feel comfortable in what they are doing.. from amu waleed, to my teacher ustaz Ayman, to ustaz ehab, to ustaz mohammed ali, to everyone..
I love the tarbiyah and stuff that we do to better our deen by the way. Mashallah, Sr. Hiyat (hope i spelled that right) and Br. Amr have done an awesome job setting up this whole thing and keeping it interesting while not making it overly strenuous or structured, which allows us to do our own thing, and still benefit from the group… Another thing that will definetly stick out to me about this trip is the dua’a and khataras after fajr.. though everyone is mad tired and stuff.. i think those kinds of things is what people will gain the most from even if u accidently sleep during it cough(Hani)cough.. lol

ok so ya i just finished and then realized i thought of some more stuff lol… being here.. is a life changing experience, inshallah everyone will get that out of this trip.. and being away from my family, friends, my bed, my shower, my bathroom (which by the way im not gonna lie, when i originally saw the bathrooms i got just a little bit scared lol), my home, tv, and xbox lol, has given me a lot of time for self reflection, and inshallah i hope that it will give everyone else the same chance.. helps me to realize that though i miss home a lot.. as im sure that everyone else here does also for their own reasons, that we are here inshallah for the right intention, and like my brother said in the khatara about Maryam (A) that Allah does not let His slave down if it is done for the right reason… And inshallah dont underestimate the power of dua’a for anything, including feeling homesick, or feeling like classes are too hard, or something like that, its one of the most powerful things we as muslims have in our arsenal and inshallah we will all take advantage of the free time that we have been given by leaving the stresses of our life at home to the beauty of a foreign country….

umm i think thats all for now, i dont really know what to post this under.. so i picked a bunch of categories lol.. and ya by the way i like this blog idea.. and i do realize i keep updating this one entry lol and all in the same night, but i read over it and see that i had to add this or take that out, lol so my bad 😛

Salaam

~Little Ittle (Little Yousaf)

July 6, 2007 at 1:47 pm Leave a comment

My moments of Awe

Well I’ve been here so far for a few days. I think it’s the 29th of June today (this is posted way after it was written). I got about three hours of sleep and I feel like I finally slept! Subhanallah! It’s so peaceful on our spacious balcony. The air is fresh and cool with a nice warmth to it right after sunrise. The shops are still closed. The people are not out and the streets are still empty (but, not in a lonely way). More like if the streets are awaiting the chaos of the day. Allah (swt) is watching and preparing us for what lies ahead. What will the day be filled with? Allahu Alim. But to add some more excitement, today is jumu’ah! So today will be my first Salat-ul-jumu’ah (insha’Allah) in a Muslim country! Yikes! And to think that I though it gets busy back in California at MCA! I’m excited to witness this massive act of worship in the midst of the most believers my eyes have ever beheld… Wow!

On another note, it’s funny to me how yesterday we went to a military museum and all I could take pictures of were the Arabic/English signs. I love the words as an artful expression. Even though, the signs were mostly simple ones like “Bazaar”. I still loved seeing how things translate. Also, how things looking totally different like Arabic ‘squiggly’s’ as opposed to English letters. And they sound so similar when read. Subhanallah!

My moments of Awe:

I saw my first big mosques. The first one we saw confused me, being an outdoor mosque amidst an old military site. I don’t think I really knew where we were going. I had just jumped in the bus knowing they were taking us somewhere. I think I realized after my initial visit to the mosque that we were not ‘outside’ of the mosque. Instead we were actually inside. Haha.

The other two mosques were right next to each other literally. They were separated by a single walkway. Though, they were both amazing. One had beautiful skylights letting the noor cut solidly through the shade. And that was just the pathway upon entering. Very appropriate in my opinion to attempting to reflect on the understanding of the beauty of Allah (An-Noor). Ya Allah!

Not realizing the order of our visits to the mosques, I want to mention what I can only think of as the “Malcolm X” mosque. A mosque filled with suspended serene globes of light. All strategically placed in a way that comforts the eye with the simple yet powerful act of beholding its’ surface beauty. Ya Allah! And then just to see ‘la ilaha ilallah’ artistically encompassed in a circle on the ceiling… only Allah (SWT) knows the happiness I felt. My reaction: 1) stare! 2) take out the camera 3) zoom-in 4) snap that lovely picture of ‘la ilaha ilallah’.

As we were leaving, someone mentioned the famous picture of Malcolm X making du’a in a beautiful Masjid with suspended globes of light…in Egypt! Subhanallah! All I could think of is that, “This must be the same Masjid!” I have to say something rhetoric but whatever here it goes, “It’s a small world!

I wanted to stay longer and try to replicate the picture but we had to leave. And so, I left the Mosque unwillingly. Overall, I wanted to retain the feeling of satisfaction and happiness in my heart. Alhamdulillah! Now that feeling has settled in. And settled just enough so when I think now about the whole experience, it drifts by and I get a taste of it. And that can only be brought by Allah (swt). Ya Allah!

July 3, 2007 at 12:46 pm 4 comments

Our Donkey Harry

Salaams,

My roommates and I have determined that our favoritest spot in all of Cairo (even though we’ve only seen about 1.2% of it) is our balcony. Alhamdulillah, watching the city from high, especially at night really makes you feel the spirit of the city. The balcony is where we read, study, eat dinner, laugh and just sit and listen to the rural bustle of our new home.

It’s from this very balcony that we watch our local donkey, Harry, in his morning ride down our street. Harry reminds me that life’s not all about just having fun, but about getting work done. Thank you Harry.

Loving the Arabic classes as well. Our mu’alim, ustaz Mohamed, is so funny and helpful.

More later….must go to class.

SALAAMS!

egypt-one-069.jpg

July 2, 2007 at 1:46 am 3 comments

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