Ramadan Series-Day 17

I used to roll my eyes upon hearing my friends telling stories of Ramadan in their home countries. Part of my attitude was due to ignorance, not knowing what Ramadan was like in a Muslim country. The other was triggered by jealously upon hearing stories about family gatherings and traditions that I was not able to create with my non Muslim family.

This is my second Ramadan in Egypt and I must say that my friends were right, celebrating this month in a Muslim country is very different than in the United States. However, there are both cons and pros being in these two countries during the holy month.

Pros of Ramadan in Egypt;

  • The whole country evolves around this month. People are able to go to work a little later and/or come home early to break their fast. Image result for ramadan in egypt
  • The streets are lighten with Ramadan decorations.
  • After breaking the fast, the streets are filled with excitement and movement.
  • Eating many traditional foods and sweets
  • People are more prosperous towards each other. This month is also a great month for giving charity. Therefore, people make a great effort to feeding the poor, giving money to beggars and donate unwanted stuff.
  • There is less chaos during the hours of fasting.
  • Family/friends visiting each other to break the fast together.
  • Three days off to celebrate the end of Ramadan

Image result for ramadan in egypt

 

Image result for ramadan in egypt

Cons of Ramadan in Egypt:

  • The daily routines get thrown out of the window. People stay up in the late hours at night and wake up super late.
  • The heat is beyond unbearable.
  • People tend to eat a lot and unhealthy during this month defeating the purpose of eliminating excess consumption and building empathy for those who do not have food to eat on a daily basis.
  • There is a stigma for eating in public for the people that exempt from fasting, for example, if you are a pregnant woman, breastfeeding mother, sick, on the menstruation cycle or even a Christian it is very hard to eat in public without judgment.
  • As a woman, you are not able to assist the Friday prayer and the extra prayer at the mosque

Pros of Ramadan in United States:

Image result for ramadan in united states

  • Routine, the fact that it is Ramadan does not change the daily duties and responsibilities that need to be preformed. Although, the country does not change to support the Muslims during this month, actually can have great benefits, such as being organized on what you need to do towards your Islamic practices throughout the day and how one is going to accomplish the goals one sets for himself during this month.
  • Getting invited to friend’s house and enjoying a different culture and traditions while breaking the fast.
  • Going to the mosque and praying the extra prayer as a woman.
  • More changes to demonstrate Islam in a positive away and break the misconceptions seen in the media. Image result for ramadan in united states
  • No judgment if a Muslim is walking down the street holding a cup of coffee.

Cons of Ramadan in the United States:

  • No understanding from your job if you all the sudden are less productive and tired at work.
  • Breaking the fast during break time which sometimes consist of a 30 minute break, where we have to eat, drink and pray.
  • Life doesn’t stop in this month so if one is not organized, one can loose many opportunities for extra good deeds, charity and prayers.
  • No payed holiday for celebrating the end of Ramadan unless one uses his own vacation or personal time.
  • Not hearing the call for prayer and enjoying the Quran being recited in the streets.
Disclaimer:These are my personal experiences in both of the countries during Ramadan. It isn’t by any means a whole representation each of these countries.

P.S: I would love to hear what Ramadan is like where you live. Comment down bellow, where you are currently living and what are your Ramadan traditions.

 

 

Ramadan 2017 Series-Day 2

Today was very difficult to fast. For some reason I was not able to sleep during the night. I am not sure if I got an indigestion due to my late snack or the reason for not being sleepy was caused by my late nap. I also think I have a lot of energy after my dinner and should have done some light exercises.

Despite how difficult today was, I was able to sustain my fast. However, today’s post will not be about my challenging fast while pregnant but about something that I have stuck on my mind. Ramadan is a perfect opportunity to break bad habits but yet right after time to break the fast people quickly fill up the coffee house (or whatever they are called).

These coffee shops that men frequent so much here in Egypt is still a mystery to me. It just baffles me how men waste so much time in these coffee places, playing games, smoking shisha and cigarettes. I can’t stop and wonder where are the women married to these men. The obvious answer is that they are home but I can’t fathom conforming with the idea of my husband spending his time at coffee shops while I at home taking care of domestic work.

Image result for coffee shops in egypt

Image result for coffee shops in egypt

It is a very strong tradition here in Egypt and I believe it goes back to pre-Islamic times. It is the biggest entertainment for men. In fact there are numerous reasons why men frequent coffee houses, such as;

  • A quick meet up with friends. The coffee place is  perfect for a quick chatter and catching up with a friend without having to host him in the house. Egyptian men are very protective of their wives and even close friends would hardly frequent a married man’s house unless he is bring his wife and kids and the whole nigh yards.
  • It’s a place where men often talk about business, work related topics and politics
  • To enjoy a cup of coffee and tea before or after anything. For example, going to work, let me drink a cup of tea even though I just had one at home. Coming out of the Friday prayer, one might think, “Oh that was a profound sermon, let me grab a cup of tea and ponder about it”. You get my point
  • In some cases people are plain addicted to the shisha and games that these coffee places offer to men.
  • To watch a popular football game

Image result for traditional coffee shops in egypt

Before you wonder how unfair it is for the Egyptian women, I must tell you that there are coffee places for mixed gender where a women can enjoy a cuppa tea or coffee and even some shisha. The demand for these coffee shops are mainly shaped by the men.

Image result for traditional coffee shops in egypt

During the holy month of Ramadan your deeds and sins are doubled and I wonder if it ever ponders in these men’s heads that what they are doing should be avoided especially during Ramadan. Since good deeds are counted as doubled, the time wasted at the coffee shops could have been used to spending time with family, helping the wives around the house. Where bad deeds such as hurting your self and wasting time in meaningless games will be counted as doubled as well.

These men stubbornness to frequent the coffee houses even in the holy month makes me question their intentions during Ramadan. Sometimes, I feel that Islam is infused in their culture so much so that most people can’t distinguish what is Islam and what is culture unless one remains engaged with his religion and builds a constant knowledge in Islam.

Nevertheless to say, I hope you are having a wonderful Ramadan and that God will accept you fast, prayers, good intentions and good deeds. I hope God will make us an unbreakable and strong community. May this month be a blessed one for you and may it bring you closer to your Creator.

Expat vs Immigrants

Image result for melting pot in New york

I once had someone ask my thoughts on the difference between expats and immigrants. When I was searching in the internet for blogs of people who had moved to Egypt so that I could get a glimpse of their experiences to prepare me my move, I came across the word “expat” a lot. Once in a blue moon no matter how many years you have lived in an English spoken country, you will learn common words that you have no idea how you have missed it before. Expat was one of those words that I have never heard or learned throughout the 16 years of living in the US.

Growing up in USA I was always revered to as an immigrant or a green card holder. Every time I would hear that word “immigrant” or “green card holder”, I would grouch my teeth, as it always made me feel inferior or marginalized. I faced a lot of discrimination and verbal bullying for simply being an immigrant. So when she asked me what my thoughts on expat vs immigrants were, I immediately went back to that bad feeling I had with the word “immigrant”.

She had told me something interesting which got me thinking. “Expats are always revered to white people and immigrant are for the people of color”. Although to some extend she is right, she had never lived in America and didn’t know that even white people that are not born there are revered to as immigrants. Off course, class status, country and your purpose to moving to the United States can have an affect on how people precede towards your migration. A Saudi Arabian, Angolan, Chinese, German student who is privileged enough to study in the United States is revered to as international student. This student is not here to stay and take away the jobs of hard working Americans, in fact, these students are very good for the American economy because they come here, their government or rich parents pay for the schools and they often spend a lot of money.

Now a white Romanian who has migrated to the United States in the hopes of catching the “American dream” will face a lot of obstacles and discrimination as  a Latino would, holding the same purpose for migration.

However, when moving to Egypt, I faced something very different. Expats are those who have a special passport from either “USA, Canada, UK, German, European Union and some others”. Are also the diplomats, international lawyers, petroleum employees and international companies that hold employees from overseas.

Every other immigrant are either refugees from Middle East, East Asia, Sub-Saharian Africans and what we like to consider as “others” for the very minority groups.

With this I felt very uncomfortable as well, when all the sudden I was given privileges and priorities for simply being an American passport holder. Throughout my life in United States, I had to fight harder, had to over come many obstacles because I didn’t have the same privileges as someone who simply was born in the US. You can imagine how strange it is to all the sudden have the roles switched on me.

I like to tell people that I am a Cape Verdean American Muslim revert, living in Egypt who’s lives very much like an Egyptian woman. In other words, I am a little bit of both, not quite American and not entirely Egyptian. You can expect this to be very difficult for me, as I don’t hold the same privileges that any other Americans or expats would, living in fancy places and putting their children in expensive international schools nor do I share some of the same values or perspective in life as many Egyptian woman do.

So, there you have it, these are some of my thoughts on “expats vs. immigrants”. What are your thoughts on this subject? Do you feel the same or different? What are your experiences and feelings with theses two words? I would love to hear your thoughts.