Hijabi in Cape Verde

I have finally came out of a long blogger’s block and I cannot wait to share all the content I have planned to bombard you with. My only problem is finding the time to sit down properly sipping on ginger tea (because that’s how I like to write on my blog, by the way for a relaxing tea recipe, click here) and actually write a post.

This post will be a quick update on my travel to Cape Verde in 2017. It’s not going to be however, a traveling post, although I will share some photos, instead I will share with you my experience of going to Cape Verde for the first time with a hijab (scarf) on.

One of my biggest fears when I converted and especially when I decided to put on the hijab was the reaction of my family. Although, to some aspect my family embraced me with open arms, I still went through rough times trying to proof to my family that this was a valid decision and not just a phase. To some extent I was lucky because most of my family lived abroad, so I was able to be free to choose what I wanted to wear without any ridicule. However, I was not able to hide in my cave forever and I had to pack my bags and face my family abroad. In 2010, roughly 1 year of my conversion, I had to go and visit my family in Cape Verde and Portugal. I remember having anxiety on the days leading to the trip and not being able to sleep with doubts of whether or not I should take the hijab off. I knew that if I would go with the hijab, I would have to be an ambassador of Islam which I was still very much a newbie and lacked the confidence to back up my decision for my conversion. I didn’t want to take on a very important role when I was not fit for it at the time, so I decided to take it off. Having said that, I still kept my clothe very modest, wearing a scarf around me to cover my chest and never wore a “traditional” bathing suit to the beach.

One thing I noticed through my decision to take my hijab off, was that I was becoming less confident and unintentionally confirming to the people around me that my conversion was indeed just a phase. From there on something had to change in me, I knew that Islam is the faith that I wanted to practice, I believe in the aspect of being modest and having to wear the hijab but now I had to show it to others. I know that I will not be a scholar in the religion but at least I had to try my best to represent it through actions if I am not able to do it through words just yet.

The stepping stone towards confidence in my hijab happened when I had my children. I am no longer just responsible for myself and I have to try to be the best role model that I can for my children. That was the setting factor for me, I no longer cared for what other people thought of me, even if those people are my family but my main purpose is trying to set an example for my kids. Even if I fail in everything in life at least I want my kids to acquire courage, confidence, compassion and love from God that they witness from their mother growing up. I want them to know that despite having a mother whose family are not Muslim, that I never let that have an affect towards my decision. That whatever my kids set their minds towards that they can achieve it through resistance, resilience, passion and love. If you want to know what I think about my hijab, I wrote a post, click here.

Enough writing and lets get into the fun part which are the pictures. If you want to see photos from my previous trips to Cape Verde, click here, here and here.

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Fun fact: I grew up with this car, this is my grandparents car and it’s older than I am.
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This is in the Island of Sao Vicente, in a village called Calhau
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Typical fishing boats

 

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My happiest memories are in the arms of these two. How gorgeous are they, I’ve never seen anything like it.
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My heart belongs wherever there is water
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Island of Santiago, Praia
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Cape Verde is a prominent Christian country with a very few minority practicing Islam. Most Muslim in Cape Verde are from continental African countries and some are Cape Verde converts.

 

 

 

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Eid Mubarak, 2018

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Happy belated Eid!

As many of you might know a couple of days ago was the celebration (Eid) of the end of Ramadan. Ramadan for those who might not know, is a holy month in Islam where the revelation of the Quran was sent from God by the angel Gabriel to the Prophet Mohamed (saw). During this month all Muslim are prescribed to fast from dusk to sunrise, abstaining from food, water,intercourse and provocative behavior during this period of time. Those who are sick, old, pregnant or nursing can opt out from fasting if one fears of his own health or the health of the baby. Those who cannot fast, should according to some Islamic scholars feed the poor for everyday of not fasting and if your reason not to fast is due to pregnancy or nursing than making up the missing fast is also recommended at a later time. However, there are differences of opinions on how a breastfeeding/nursing women should complete her missing fast, so I would make your own research if that is something you are interesting in knowing more about.

In this month, all Muslims are encouraged to increase their prayers, recitation of Quran and overall spiritual level and relationship with Allah (God). Also, in this month it is better to give to charity, ask for God’s forgiveness and His blessing and conduct good morals and overall behavior. However, being a mother of multiple little ones, all of the extra worshiping that should be done in this month can be a bit intimidating since we are already cramped for time. This is why I came to write this post to encourage us mommies and give tips and tricks, that I hope can be useful to you for your next Ramadan. As a nursing mother, I was scared of the impacts that fasting might have on my baby. I had concerns on whether the baby would loose weight or worst if my milk supply would finish.

The age of your nursing baby should be the first step on deciding whether to fast or not. My youngest was 9 months and I personally felt comfortable to fast as she is eating and drinking liquids. On the other hand if your baby is younger, feeding on demand and not eating, it would have been a serious factor on whether or not you would want to fast. With that said, there are people who still fast and are nursing their newborn. Personally, I found that fasting with babies that are 6 months or younger is harder on the mother but the baby will be fine. With all the research that I gathered from scientific to experience is that the milk will adjust to the fasting and will not impact your baby. With that said, mothers are the best of judge, so be super alert and attentive to ones body is the key. What I would recommend is to fast a couple of days before Ramadan to see how your body and baby reacts to the fasting.

Let’s say you are a nursing mother who has decided to fast and you and your baby are completely healthy than keep reading for some tips I have gathered that will help you throughout your fast.

First tip I would suggest, is regarding time. How can you use your time wisely? What are some things I can do to give more time to read the Quran and make extra efforts in Ramadan?

  1. Cut out social media platforms. If you are like me, I used to spend time looking through my Instagram while nursing. During Ramadan what I used to do instead was reading the translation of the Quran on my phone while nursing and I was able to finish the whole translation.
  2. When kids are playing and distracted try to read 1-2 pages of the Quran in Arabic (if you know how), at a time.
  3. Plan your iftar (breaking of the fast) ahead of time.
  4. Stalk up on groceries, especially during the first week where your body is still adjusting to the fast.
  5. Make goals for Ramadan. What would you like to accomplish and reflect on how that could be done throughout the month?
  6. Organize your house so it can be more efficient and less time consuming.
  7. Go out, don’t stay at home but do activities where the kids can play and you can sit down and retain some energy while you supervise, like the park.
  8. Change your kids bed time to later at night, so you don’t have to wake up super early. If you kids are older, you can wake them up to eat suhoor (breakfast) before dawn and they can try to fast with you ( all depends on the kid’s age).
  9. Make sure you nap at some point in the day, especially if you live in hot areas like Egypt, the heat and sun can have a big toll on you if you do not rest properly.

The next couple of tips are related to nutrition, how to eat well and stay hydrated.

  1. Never, never, never miss suhoor (breakfast before dusk). I know when you were young, you could sleep through Ramadan without waking up for suhoor but as a nursing mother that is impossible. Put 2, 3 alarm clocks if you have to, in order to be on the safe side.
  2. Eat suhoor with protein dense food. My suhoor would be something like; eggs, fool (egyptian beans) with bread, homemade granola that I made with oats, nuts, seeds and raisins on yogurt. Believe it or not that kept me very full throughout most of the day because of all the protein and fiber.
  3. This should be a no brainer but still people can undermine it, is drinking enough water. Being hydrated is the key to fasting while nursing. We are not our young teenage selves anymore and taking care of our bodies is a necessity
  4. Don’t forget your vitamins. I would take my multi vitamins in the morning for suhoor and calcium vitamins for iftar (dinner).

The next several tips are about refining a deeper connection and relationship with God especially during the month of Ramadan.

  1. Pre-plan what you want to achieve during Ramadan. For me, I wanted to finish reading the Quran either it would be in the English translation or the Arabic.
  2. I wanted to get the most out of Ramadan, so I disconnected mostly from social media and social outings.
  3. I wanted to make dawah (invitation) towards Islam. I spoke highly and passionately about Islam but most importantly, I wanted to encompass the examples I was preaching.
  4. I wanted to pray as much as possible, so I made sure I prayed the sunnah and taraweh prayer.
  5. Reciting the Quran was a prominent goal of mine during Ramadan.
  6. Making du’a and dikhr at all times.
  7. Paying close attention to my conduct being reflecting on my flaws and how I can work towards change.
  8. Increasing my knowledge in my faith in all type of aspects such as learning Arabic, memorizing the Quran and listening to lectures.

This was all possible only by prioritizing what was most important for me to accomplish during the month of Ramadan. I cut out the hours I was wasting in social media and watching tv. I also disconnected from my social atmosphere. I wanted to focus mainly on accomplishing all that I wanted for Ramadan and anything else could wait afterwards. I also redefined what I wanted to accomplish after Ramadan. Self growth was a huge goal of mine in the month, trying to pay close attention to my conduct and developing healthy habits. If you are like me, with little kids, nursing and wanting to have a deep connection with God in Ramadan than know that it’s ok to change the rules in your household, for example, letting your kids watch a little bit more t.v so you can concentrate properly in your prayer or rejuvenating your energy by taking a nap. This month is not about spending all day long in the kitchen so it’s totally acceptable to eat left overs and ask for help from your spouse and relatives if you feel like you cannot manage a proper iftar.

I hope all our prayers, fast, du’ah and extra efforts get accepted. I hope Allah alleviates all our hardships and blesses with ease. May He forgives us for our sins and shortcoming and may He keep us in the right path. May we see another blessed Ramadan! Ameen.

 

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!