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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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Turkey for Thanksgiving

I have wanted to travel to Turkey seen I can remember and this past thanksgiving I was lucky to spend 2 days in Istanbul in route to Cairo, Egypt. The first though that came out of my mind as soon as I exit the international airport in Istanbul was “I want to live here!”. The streets are so clean, the Mediterranean sea brings a pleasant and a peaceful melody, and the birds feasting among the blessings of the mother land.

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captured from the taxi but you can see here how clean the street is

I knew there was so much to see in Istanbul alone and so little time. To shorten the commute time, I booked a hotel as close as possible to famous touristic attractions. In actuality choosing a hotel is very hard as there are hundreds of hotels within short radius of each other but we settle for a simple yet cozy Tashkonak Hotel. This hotel is located less than a mile from the Sultan Mosque what is known to be the Blue Mosque. In fact, if you go to the balcony of the hotel you can see the Blue Mosque and the majestic Mediterranean sea.

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view from the hotel’s balcony

We arrived in Turkey around 7AM and got to the hotel around 9AM and rested until 1 PM. After we were some what well rested and when I say well rested I mean my daughter who slept the whole flight and slept in the hotel right when we arrived (to me as long as she is rested I will be ok). We were starving as we missed breakfast time that the hotel offers but we were even more excited to venture around the city. So we eagerly left the hotel to go see the blue mosque and we had to turn around immediately because we could not walk with my daughter’s stroller. The roads in Istanbul are made out of bricks and are very narrow, there are rarely any side walks. Luckily, I have read about this prior to our trip and brought a  babycarrier along. We strapped our daughter around us and it was a success! I highly recommended if you have an infant that has yet to walk.

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turning around to the hotel to get the baby carrier

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Our first sight seeing was the Blue Mosque and I cannot even express with words how beautiful this piece of architecture is. Not even pictures can capture it’s true magnitude but I hope the pictures can serve as a small sample. Off course, there are far better pictures online taken by professionals but I think that the stories behind the pictures bring a different level of interest.

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After seeing the Blue Mosque, we could not sustain our hunger anymore. We found a very cozy restaurant hidden in a corner of a small street which name I do not recall. But I must remark that restaurants hidden somewhere in a corner are my favorites and I was not disappointed. The restaurant was a mixture of both Turkish and Afghani food; we tried some fresh kofta and a plate that looks something like a pizza (I do not know if it was the place but everything just tasted so fresh). I apologize but I was not able to take any photos since I devoured the food in 2 minutes. Having filled out stomachs we walked in the directions of the Grand Bazzar and we stumbled upon a man selling freshly pressed orange and pomegranate juice in the streets (my mouth was at awe of how delicious this juice was). We also tried roasted chestnuts sold everywhere.

There is something very remarkable about the Turkish culture that I did not mention before and I am not sure if you will notice without having a child. But everyone and I repeat every Turkish loves kids and not only do they love children, they will also demonstrate quite bluntly their love for children. A male flight attendance playing with your child non-stop might seem slightly rare due to the fact that he is a male but it can be easily forgetful. However, once we landed in Turkey everyone both male and female stopped to play with my daughter; from the taxi driver to the hotel staff (the cook befriended with my daughter and even boiled and smashed an apple for my daughter to eat) to the housekeeper proudly showing us a picture of her daughter on her phone. There was not one single person in the places we visit that would not stop to play with my daughter regardless if they understood English or not (their face expression while they spoke Turkish was easily understood). This might take some more time to observe but it seems as if the society manifests around children and family. It is quite normal for anyone to help you if you have a child. A perfect example is when I was passing through the airport security in Turkey, and the airport security personal offered to hold my daughter and showed her to all of his coworkers while I was tying my shoes. Coming from United States you can understand my hesitation and anxiety for a complete stranger to hold my daughter. However, their sincerity towards the love for children looked so effortless and my anxiety faded away some what.

Getting back to the places we visited, we walked to the Grand Bazaar after having visit the Blue mosque but it was closed, I believe it closes around 8 ish PM. So we decided to go back to the restaurant to get some more rest. As we walked back to the hotel we crossed the blue mosque at night and I must say that the scenery is quite magical.

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We had plenty of time before departing to Cairo and decided to visit the Grand Bazzar again after breakfast. The name of the place “Grand” Bazzar does serve its justice as it is very grand, huge, in fact you need many hours to go all around the Bazzar if not a couple of days. Now, the Bazzar consists of your regular boutique that contain prize tags and pretty consistent trendy style clothing. You also will find small little stores and bigger bazars in which both you can negotiate and bargain for a good prize. The Turkish salesman are very aware that what they sell are very good and rare products so they will not accept a fairly low prize deal, in fact if you bargain for a very low prize they will get offended. I think that the best way to bargain with a salesman is for you and the salesman to get out of the bargain with a good deal (not too low and not too high). The Turkish people like to converse and ask for your story so if you have time, have fun with the bargaining, share your story and also ask him/her questions about Turkey culture and traditions. If you take time to engage a conversation with a salesman  you will soon find yourself in the middle of a good conversation while sipping on a hot tea and you will definitely leave with a good bargain.

I was certainly pleased with my short trip and I can confidently say that I want to explore Turkey further. I like to be a tourist as it is fun to explore historical sites, monuments and breathtaking sceneries. However, I take more pleasure in trying to become a native of other nations, dwell on the cultures and traditions and mostly learn new languages. I hope that the next time I travel to Turkey, I will be able to talk and bargain more with salesman, take photograph of people and enjoy the beautiful country. I will leave you now with some pictures to enjoy.

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