Tag Archives: islam

Glitter and Lights

A very, very belated Eid saeed to all my lovely readers out there who do not follow me on Instagram or Facebook (I’ve already wished you a happy feast there). Since I failed to wake up super-duper early to manage to catch the Eid prayers in any masgid in Cairo (they’re at 5-or-so AM there which means way after fagr and way before it is healthy to get up and out of the house, as opposed to America’s comparatively comfy 9AM prayers), I tried to dress up a little to still get that Eid feel.

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My outfit was not the most convenient choice for the activities of the day. Although we started relatively light, hanging out at a coffee shop in decent El Maadi, things would soon take a turn for way dustier areas. Again, being the addicts of cheap, dirty kebda (liver) and sogo2 (spicy sausage) sandwiches we are (another reference to this addiction is to be found in the previous post), we just had to get food from an infamous place at share3 Muezz (a historical street by the El Husein or Khan el Khalily district). Taking the sandwiches to-go, we sat in a cafe in el husein eating them with some delish mint tea, to the sound of oud music. Not bad at all. Upon leaving and walking the narrow alleys back to the car, we found a couple of camels and horses for the residents’ kids to ride on (which I of course had to pose with).

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(Upper left: one of the slim streets off of share3 Muezz in decked out in all its sha3by charm, upper right: posing with some flowers prior to going out, lower left: My friend Bahaa is not only a computer genius; he also has one of the coolest hair styles in Cairo, lower right: one of the awesome, decorated camels of share3 Muezz)

We then went to Masr el gededa for some fresh juice (kiwi, yay!), after which we ended the evening in another sandwich store in another dusty area, Ramsis. My previously off-white maxi skirt had definitely done its duty sweeping the streets of Cairo that day.

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Square zebra print scarf: H&M, sequin blazer jacket: Mango, chiffon shirt: Vero Moda, zebra print belt: River Island, off-white maxi skirt: Zara, clutch: vintage, accessories: H&M

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Ramadan Around C-town

One of many reasons why I love Ramadan in Cairo is the many social events – iftar with friends and friends’ families, dish party networking iftars, and and after-iftar/sohoor events (as I’ve mentioned earlier, there’s no place like Cairo by night). Especially the startup/entrepreneurship community are good at these latter ones and so I’ve made it to quite a few of those, meeting some of Egypt’s bright, young minds. Among other cool community iftars, a vegan/vegetarian one at Bikya book cafe in el Maadi was very different affair as Cairo is probably not the easiest place for people avoiding meat.

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(What I’m wearing: pleated scarf: H&M, neck scarf: Forever21, chiffon shirt: H&M, embroidered/beaded tank top: Pull & Bear, lace tiered maxi skirt: Urban Outfitters, belt: ASOS)

What I also appreciate is the sense of community across the society this one month, evident in the free juice, candy, and dates handed out along the streets as the call for maghreb gets close. Even in the poorer, slum-like areas, people would graciously hand you small plastic bags of tamr hindi to break fasr on, something that came in handy while on the autostrad running late on my way to one of the above mentioned  events (see the below; we actually had a 5-minute stop in this run-down area)

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Lastly, but even more importantly, I love the late night tahajjud prayer, and I’m so happy I have friends who are able to convince me to tag along sometimes. Few things are more beautiful than worship with a Nile view. It is my hope that you all get to enjoy your last weeks of Ramadan, and make the very best of its awesomeness. I certainly will.

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(Picking out a quick sohoor before tahajjud with a dear friend in Metro market, Zamalek)

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Sharing is Caring/Be a Kid Sometimes

We are almost half-way through Ramadan. My oh my how time flies. Much time has passed since the last blog update too, leaving me with several outfits to post asap (keep checking in). My month has been wonderful thus far, but I’m basically never at home. I’m longing for some non-social, Imaan-only days, but I suppose I won’t see those until I get back from Cairo, iA (I love people but you know, sometimes it is good to have time for yourself to reflect and read a good book not related to my academic path).

Social gatherings are not a waste of time in the holy month, however. Creating a sense of community is not only beautiful; it very much pertains to the spirit of Ramadan. Looking beyond one’s private relationship with God, religion provides guidelines and regulations of social relations with the primary goal of creating just, well-functioning societies. How giving isn’t it to come together, to share smiles, food, knowledge, and worship?

Yesterday, we decided to try something a bit different. Rather than meeting familiar faces, a friend of mine utilized one of the social media options out there (Meetup) to put together a dish party (or potluck) at her place in Zamalek consisting of girls only from the mid-20s to the mid-50s (?), most of which were perfect strangers. Apart from the deliciousness of the savory and sweet dishes shared between us (yours truly provided makarona bel bechamel and oven baked stuffed chicken with apricots and nuts), rewarding discussions over the post-iftar tea and coffee led to new friendships and plans for additional gatherings. Despite the wide variation in age and careers the ladies were gems who I can’t wait to catch up with again. And Meetup? I’m definitely using it again; this coming week a very different group focusing on entrepreneurship and the new media are having a bigger dish party iftar, also in Zamalek. I’ll be there.

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(What I’m wearing: scarf: H&M, zebra print neck scarf: H&M, studded jersey-back shirt: H&M, neon print washed-out tank top: H&M, maxi skirt: Zara, gladiator sandals: New Look, wrist cuffs: SIMO – check them out! I’ll get back to doing a review of their gorgeous stuff at a later point)

When it comes to the two outfits in this post, you should notice that although the color palette is fairly different, a lot of the items are recycled in both, including the studded, beige shirt, the zebra square scarf, and the gladiator sandals. That’s what is bound to happen when one is traveling for an extended period of time, sadly. Nevertheless, try to reuse the items in your bags with different colors and cuts, and few will notice đŸ™‚

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Oh, and don’t forget to play. Be a kid sometimes. We had so much fun with this improvised childhood “device” (my friends and I could not recall the word for it in any language we know) created out of a napkin, makeup (for the outside colors; no fancy crayons here), and a pen (for creating the lame fortunes) while sipping tea and ramadan drinks in a cafe some hours after isha. Apparently, my friend is marrying the son of the bawab (doorman), another is marrying in underwear (astaghfirullah), one is being recruited to Western intelligence (the luckiest one), and I’m getting abducted by the same intelligence institutions. Ooops. Slightly closer to 30 than 20, I’m occasionally more of a kid than I was at the age of twelve (and I’m loving it!).

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(What I’m wearing: zebra print headscarf: H&M, fringed eternity scarf: Gina Tricot (Norway), studded jersey back shirt: H&M, tank top: H&M, tiered lace maxi skirt: Urban Outfitters, lizard clutch: vintage, accessories: River Island, Ebay, Icing, Urban Outfitters)

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My Colorful Ramadan

Many years back, I was convinced that colorful garments had no place in an appropriate Ramadan wardrobe. I would strive to wear black, black, and even more black (or at least similar somber colors). I suppose I fell into the trap of equating one culture’s garments correct “Islamic attire”, much too easily dismissing the vibrant and often quite disparate cultures of dress and customs that spans the Muslim World (if one can even use that word to describe such a vast, non-monolitic, imagined unit).

Fortunately, much has changed since that time, including greater religious and historical knowledge and education, more world exposure, and maturity, and by time I came to realize there is no religious superiority in the thobe and abaya over other modest options taken from the different Islamic hybrid cultures out there. See, Islam spread so rapidly over such a substantial and culturally rich area that it produced myriads of “shari3a-compliant” ways to practice; where cultural norms and traditions did not contradict or come in conflict with Islamic ideals, what existed was merged with the new. And that diversity I think is one of the most beautiful things about my religion – we should value it to its maximum. A modest Pakistani shalwar kameez is no less appropriate than a Gulf abaya, neither is loose-fitting Western clothing. Rather, those types of garments can be even more appropriate than that black gown depending on the context. When I wear black abayas with matching scarves in the US, for example, I’m at the receiving end of much more attention than what is the case with my day-to-day style (am I a princess? Is black required by my religion? Is it a special occasion?). And in a more colorful environment, opting for all black may similarly stand out more. On the other hand, in Yemen, I did wear black abayas (no niqab though – that would never happen) because that is what is the norm there (but wearing black for that long prevented me from enjoying it for years to come).

This is not a case for abaya bashing – believe me, I truly love those elegant, luxurious garments, and I wear them with pride – but it is a case for embracing the variations and aesthetics of all our hybrid traditions. Color is halal, as is black. So this Ramadan, in the Egyptian, colorful street context, I’m embracing the palette of the rainbow đŸ˜‰

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(What I’m wearing: Scarf: Forever21, slik zebra/leopard scarf: souvenir from Thailand, sleeveless tropical print shirt: Forever21, striped top: Urban Outfitters, dramatic flare palazzo pants: Urban Outfitters)

Now what did I do for the first and second day of Ramadan? Well, thanks to the lateness of my friend and I, we ended up searching for a taxi in the streets of Madinet Nasr, Cairo to go to Mo2attam (an area 15 minutes away) about 10-15 minutes prior to sunset. That search, as one may expect, did not turn out successful. First of all, at this time the streets are emptier than you will ever see them in daylight. Second, even if some unlucky taxi driver happens to still be out, he will most likely want to get to the closest food vendor or his family if in the area. Driving in the desert when he should be eating is not a wishful situation. Consequently, when the azan was called, we were stranded in the same spot with a glass of Tang (a sugary powder mixed in water) each, handed to us by some kids. Mine had a tiny fly in it, but given that it was a street drink in Cairo I did not have high expectations (3ady, ya3ny); hence I picked it out and drank with much gusto (survival of the fittest, yo).

A merciful driver stopped soon thereafter, and got us tons more of free street drinks sans flies before we reached our destination where a hearty 1st day Egyptian Ramadan meal with fresh juice awaited us. Gotta love the Cairene Ramadan spirit of giving and sharing, with or without flies.

We did not make it to taraweeh even though we planned to, but spent time with friends until late.

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(What I’m wearing: Zebra square scarf: H&M, bubble neck scarf: H&M, oversized top: Boohoo, pleated jersey maxi skirt: Unique Hijabs, rose metal belt: Urban Outfitters, accessories: Ebay, H&M)

The next day was taken up by a phone interview and school work, but we were better at timing; we actually made to iftar on time. Taraweeh was prayed in a cute mosque in Masr el Gededa, before hanging out in beautiful Zamalek, snacking on Egyptian traditional food, sugar cane juice, and tea with mint in a new, sha3by-style cafe with good friends. Life is good, elhamdlelah.

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(This is what an Egyptian Ramadan looks like – excuse the bad picture quality)

 

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Andalusian Adventures

First off; let me apologize for the lack of posts the last week. I’ve had some serious internet connection issues; the internet where i stay works for approximately an hour every day, and I prefer not to blog from my phone (first-world problems). I hoped to get my laptop connected in order to post some higher quality pictures, but since it is not happening you must bear with my phone cam pictures for now.

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Al Andalus/Andalusia/Andalucia has been amazing, mA! Not only is the program I’m attending really interesting, sparking numerous after-session discussions among the participants; since the time I arrived I’ve had nonstop fun out-of-class as well.

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(Just to make clear – I’m wearing beige baggy pants under this dress thingy)

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We’ve bummed around Granada, visited the breathtakingly beautiful Alhambra, and had a nostalgic daytrip to Cordoba, once the greatest city in Europe, (nostalgic because as a Muslim one is constantly chased around by the security guards while visiting the grand mosque turned cathedral there).

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Food is not always that great here, but to make up for it the ice cream is heavenly. I’m not exaggerating.

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I have less than one week to go here in Spain, including this coming weekend’s visit to Barcelona, and as usual with my longer trips I’m really getting short on outfit options. Oh well. You’ll see more interesting stuff from me in not too long from now, iA.

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