Ramadan Preparations, 2018

Ramadan is right around the corner and that means preparation for the holy month has started. There is a significant difference and momentum celebrating Ramadan in a Muslim country. The same goes to say for Christmas in a majority Christian country, the feeling is so contagious that even Muslim fall in love with everything about the season. The same goes for Ramadan in a Muslim country, there is an indescribable magnetic force that makes everyone excited for the holy month.

There a couple of traditions that I have noticed and began to adapt in my life, that happens in Egypt right before Ramadan starts. About a month prior to the holy month you began seeing grocery stores filled with Ramadan decorations and selling Ramadan’s popular foods, such as dates, dry fruits, juices, sugar, all types of flours and nuts and much more. People usually rush to the big supermarkets to fill their pantries with a month worth of supplies.

Women go out to shop with their children in search of that perfect outfit to wear for Eid day (the ceremony that commemorates the end of Ramadan). This allows the kids to get extra excited for Ramadan where most kids are given gifts, money and get to show off their new clothing.

Most people start uncluttering their homes before Ramadan, kind of what we do during spring cleaning in the states. This is a great opportunity to get rid of old unwanted items around the house and get everything tidy for Ramadan.

Lights and decor fill up the streets given an unique magical atmosphere to the chaotic country of Egypt. Lanterns, table cloths, pillows and much more with Ramadan patterns fabrics are sold everywhere in the streets.

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Photo taken by Mai Shasheen

Ramadan is not only expressed outwardly, many people start preparing spiritually as well. Many fast prior to Ramadan in order to gain a spiritual momentum before the beginning of the holy month. Others set daily goals and practices such as praying on time, reading the Quran everyday and doing charitable acts.

As a mother of three little kids and breastfeeding, fasting can be quite a challenge. As the kids don’t understand the strain that fasting has on the body, they still need to be fed, entertained and catered to while running on a very low energy. There are however, some hacks and tricks that you can have under your sleeve that will help you facilitate the process of fasting and provide more time towards your Ramadan goals and strengthen the connection between you and the Creator.

The best advice I got from a friend for Ramadan is to meal prep.  Having your veggies and meats already prepared in advance saves tremendous amount of time and hardship when you are fasting but have to feed your little kids. The kids still need to eat through out the day and one might need to spend more time in the kitchen during Ramadan than one may think. If we can make life easier especially while fasting than why not do it!

Get to organize what and where you will give to charity before hand. That might entail making a list of things you need to buy or give away and to whom or what charities you need to give to.

Fasting before Ramadan starts will help your body and mind adjust to not eating and drinking for the whole day before the holy month begins.Breastfeeding brings a whole new level of difficulties while fasting so seeing if I can fast before Ramadan is definitely a must for me.

Another challenge during Ramadan is your little kids inability to comprehend the aspects of fasting. However, there are a couple things you can do that can help your children understand that Ramadan is a special month. Decorations can be fun for you and your kids. Having the house filled with lanterns, lights, patterns and much more will definitely ignite excitement among the children. I bought a children’s book about Ramadan and I read it for bed time, no joke, everyday, so far no complains.

If you are living in the Middle East/ North Africa (I don’t know how Egyptian classify themselves geographically but that’s another topic of it’s own),than you know that Ramadan will be in the summer (summer heat starts in May and last until late August) and going out during day time can be difficult while fasting. However, the kids still need to be entertained, so what should one do? Minnie pools are always fun! They can play for a couple of hours in the pool and you can just relax next to them and catch up on the Quran readings. Some time throughout the day, you might find that you want to take a nap especially in very extreme hot places, a busy box is a way to go. There are a tones of busy box ideas on the net, just browse busy box ideas and you will find endless results.

This is probably the only time you want your kids to start going to bed later at night. You don’t want your children to wake up bright and early in the morning when you are running on 3 hours of sleep and have to fast throughout the day. That would be just, for lack of better words, hell!

These are some ideas I am sharing with you with the experience I have with my little kids. I would love to hear some tricks that you might have to prepare for Ramadan. Major advice before hand will be much appreciate it!

Happy Ramadan to all!

 

 

 

 

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Hidden Gem in Al Maadi, Cairo

If you are an expat family living in the old area of Maadi, one of the things that you might notice right away, is the difficulties of finding any public playgrounds for kids to play.  One of the hardest transitions for me, has been the lack of public green spaces for kids to burn off their energy.  Everything here seems to be privatized, where you need to pay an expensive membership in order to belong to any sporting clubs. There are a couple of public places where you have to pay a small fee but it might not be in the best of conditions and/or safe for kids to play in. Egypt does not have many public green spaces but in old Maadi you can find areas with gorgeous villas surrounded by exotic and local plants, trees and a couple of facilities that offer play areas for kids.

I found this literally hidden gem (since there are no signs at the door) online while searching for kid’s friendly coffee places. I came across Osana Family Welness or what I like to call “the pink door” or “the place” and fell absolutely in love with the place.

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The Osana Family center is a facility that focuses on holistic approaches to health, mainly through many types of yoga, massages, acupuncture, facial and they even take care of your psychological health with couple therapy and many more. On their website, under their vision statement Osana said;

Osana aims to take holistic living to new horizons within the local community. By facilitating wellness in all its forms, we promote a lifestyle that exists beyond its walls and hope to assist those pursuing a wholesome life in achieving it.

This place also has great, fresh, organic, healthy food all made from a chef in house but most importantly they sell one of the best coffees in the area.

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My favorite part about Osana is the openness, it is surrounded by greenery and various spaces to sit and chill with a playground and a sand pit where kids can play away. To top it off, you don’t have to pay any entrance fee which is so rare around this area and the security guy at the gate is the most genuine and helpful person I’ve met at a working place thus far. Osana has a great working culture where all employees are qualified and trained to deal with customers with respect and in a polite way.

This is a truly special place and  no wonder why it is gaining it’s popularity and success through word of mouth. I can go on and on, talking wonders about this place that you would think I am getting payed for. The truth is, I have all the respect for a business that carters towards the overall well being of its community.

If you are in the area than come by and see all the hype for yourself. Make sure you check out their website Osana Welness Center. If you think they don’t offer what you want, at bare minimal, it is a place where you are literally chill, read a book and enjoy nature in this chaotic, brick jungle.

Language Barrier

Learning a whole new language can be pretty intimidating and challenging. For some people learning a new language is not a choice, some times it can be a means for survival. Moving to a whole new country is frightining having to adapt to a new lifestyle and culture not to mention the feeling of being lost and not being able to understand basic information.

My first encounter with a new language was when I moved to the USA at 13 years of age. Although I had my rough and shaky moments with the language, it didn’t take long for me to learn it. However, as I grew older, I took for granted my new founded language and dismissed the challenges that many in the USA have with it, especially with older people. There were many people who had spent decades living in the USA and still were not able to speak English and I could grasp my mind around that.

Until now, living in Egypt for almost 2 years and my Arabic is, I will put into words of one of my students, ” You don’t speak Arabic, you speak broken”. It’s common to think that learning a new language is the only challenge that one might have. But we are totally wrong, here are some of the challenges I’ve faced from having to learn a new language.

  • You are not yourself anymore! You are not able to make a joke, have deep intellectual conversation and express your feelings.
  • You might take certain facial expression, intonation or even some misunderstood meaning offensive. Often times when people asked me to repeat what I have said, I take it personally, as i they are mocking my Arabic, don’t ask me why that is but it happens all the time.
  • It can impact yourself esteem. When, I first started learning Arabic, I was so enthusiastic and proud of myself but as time went by there was an incident, where one person was being aggressive towards me and I was not able to defend myself, leaving me to feel useless in that situation.
  • Not everyone is nice to you during your learning journey. Many people don’t understand that you are not a local and can unintentionally contribute towards your insecurity with the language.
  • You feel isolated and incarcerated. What I mean by isolation is that you might have people around you but you are not able to make a deep connection because you can’t talk about your values, mission and build a common bond.
  • Incarcerated by your thoughts not being able to be express the right way. Sometimes you want to engage in political or philosophical topics but you can’t because your vocabulary in the new language does not allow you to.
  • Some times you just feel plain stupid. Yes, you might carry even a PhD degree but in a new language you might talk like a 3-year-old.
  • If you are in a room and everyone is talking in a foreign language at some point, you will think they are talking about you making you feel uncomfortable all the time
  • It is possible to spent years in a county and not speak the language. I used to think of this as something strange but now it’s happening to me. I try as much as possible to go places where I know someone will speak English or try to avoid situations where I would have to come out of my comfortable zone.

However, these struggles don’t even compare with the enormous amount of blessings and experiences that you will have by moving to whole different country and learning a language completely out of your comfortable zone. If I could give you advice if you are in the same situation as I am, would be to open your mind and try to be as unbiased as possible with a new culture. Don’t compare your culture with another one, just take the new culture for what it is. Try to use as much as you know from the new language in your daily life to build fluency and confidence. You will gain an enormous amount of knowledge that no books or school can provide you with.

I am not writing this post to discourage you from learning a new language or even moving to a new country. The purpose of this post is to first letting you know that if you are struggling with moving to a new country or learning a new languages and do experience some of these feelings then you are not alone. Also, another reason for this post is letting you know how some people might be feeling learning a new language that we might take for granted and how they are coping with having to move to a new country. I certainly didn’t pay much attention to this phenomenon until I myself walked in these shoes.

Let me know if you are leaving in a new country completely different from your norm. If so, do you have some struggles and what are some of them? Are you learning a new language and what is it? Comment bellow if you  have some tips for learning a new language or coping with a new culture.

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