Tag Archives: travel

Flowers and How to Love Cairo

This is sort of neat: one day I wore a flower print jumpsuit, the next day I found and posed with a bush looking pretty much the same as the other day’s print in one of Cairo’s tiny and random public gardens (small reasons for happiness, as you soon will learn). As you all probably know, Cairo is far from the greenest city in the world. Crowded, dusty, and noisy, with packed streets running crisscross between faded behemoths of apartment buildings, it is quite an overwhelming place for many a visitor, and an occasional pain for residents and returning enthusiasts. Still, Cairo remains my favorite city in the world. It is mine. It has soul. I wouldn’t trade it for the beauty of Barcelona, the hipness of Istanbul, nor the relatively organized-ness of gridded US cities like Chicago or New York.

Of course, surviving and coming to love the city is a matter of attitude. To be happy here, you need to adjust your expectations, learn to chill, and adopt a positive outlook. Yes, the city can be an eyesore in broad daylight; learn to appreciate the full potential of its splendor by night – the closer to sunrise the better, as you will have the city almost all to yourself. Cruise across the full extent of an empty 6th of October bridge as the night turns to dawn with some Oum Kalthoum playing in the background to fall in love with the city anew (I did this last Ramadan – traveling from a sohoor gathering in El Dokki after fagr to my place in El Rehab felt almost magical).

Stuck in the infamous Cairo traffic? Observe the various and highly creative forms of non-verbal communication you will not encounter the likes of anywhere else but here. Let your thoughts fly. Read a book. Call a long lost friend. There are many solutions to such a problem. And if you are suffocating from the pollution and noise, you need not look far for an escape. Get on a faluka (boat) from El Maadi (the non-motorized, quiet one) with snack and good friends, enjoy the priceless view and impeccably chill music in Sequoia at the edge of Zamalek overlooking/being surrounded by the Nile, or even better in my opinion (and waaay cheaper), pay five geneih (less than a dollar) to enter Al Azhar park at night (a true oasis in the middle of the city), grab a to-go cup of tea from the outdoor coffee shop, sit on the grassy hill overlooking parts of the city, and talk or reflect while listening to the taraweeh prayers of a hundred mosques (in Ramadan, that is).

 

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Learn to enjoy the simple things you may encounter in the city. Did the taxi driver actually give you the exact change back, including halfs or quarters? What a pleasant surprise! Particularly green gardens in between buildings and cars (like the one above) are to be appreciated. Stores that close at 11 or midnight? Yes, please. Oh, and perhaps the most missed aspect, according to friends who go back and forth or who end up leaving; anything and everything can be delivered to you. At almost any point of the day or night. Groceries, medication, or Mac Donalds at your doorstep? Why, of course. There are a plethora of other small issues to jump with joy over, of course, but I’ll let you discover those on your own (let me know if you already did – what is there to love about Cairo?).

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Scarf: Vida Hijabs (check out their Facebook page here), ethnic patterned kimono cardigan: Zara, leopard print top: Indiska (Norway), maxi skirt: Stradivarius, accessories: ASOS, Ebay.

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Scarf: Ebay, neck scarf: H&M, oversized shirt: Bershka, tropical flower print jumpsuit: Mango, ethnic black and white belt: River Island, accessories: Icing, River Island.

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Busy Busy Stopover + A Pretty Outrageous Situation

After a busy week in Michigan I made my way to New York for a short but eventful stopover in the City. I had slept for only two hours prior to traveling so I was pretty beat up from the get-go, but some napping on the plane and a little coffee (yuck) kept me going for at least the chief part of the day. Once there, I started my visit with an interview for Women’s eNews’ Ramadan special with the inspiring Hajer Naili; a fellow European, a journalist, and a model. Naturally, with the situation going on in Egypt as our meeting went down, we had a lot to discuss apart from her prepared questions. It is always a pleasure meeting bright, educated, and ambitious Muslim women, and she was no exception.

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Next up (after considerable time spent checking Facebook, Twitter, and conventional news sources for Egypt updates), I had the pleasure of having dinner with no other than Sameer from Sameer’s Eats and a dear friend from the Granada program I attended earlier this summer. I then headed for some laughs at a comedy club with another sweetheart friend and fellow hijab blogger at ModHijabi, Sana, who so graciously let me crash at her place (thanks, girl), before ending the night with some fool (beans) and karkadeh (hibiscus drink) at an Egyptian-style venue (I was getting really sleepy and boring at this point).

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The next day started relatively early with a photoshoot for a Norwegian magazine. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures yet, but you’ll see them soon enough. The photographer was a delight to work with, and I hope to repeat it soon again. My sister and I lunched at a cute Brazilian place before I headed to JFK to catch my flight to Geneva (which is where the “outrageous situation” occurred – more after the collage).

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(What I’m wearing: Scarf: H&M, neck scarf: (some US store I basically never get stuff from so I forgot), oversized feather print shirt: Accessorize, scrunched bottom harem pants: ASOS, gladiator sandals: New Look, accessories: River Island, ASOS)

Ok, so now to the “situation”. I arrived to Geneva after hours of sleeping (the advantage of being totally exhausted when traveling is that one is knocked out on every flight and thus do not have to deal with the boredom of hours awake confined to a single seat), and spent the layover mostly napping as well. About 1.5 hours before my flight I thought to get myself closer to the gate, and so I proceeded to the passport control. Now being a citizen of an European country, I waited in one of the lines intended for these countries, where I shortly thereafter faced a female officer. I handed her my deep red, overused passport, which she aggressively flipped through to get to the picture page. Then she started screaming in French interspersed with English words, making gestures toward my head. “Take it off, take it off,” she demanded. I looked at her like she was out of her mind. “Excuse me, but this is completely outrageous. I’ve traveled for more than six years with this passport and my hijab without any problems in either the US, Europe or the Middle East, and now you are saying this?!” She kept yelling angrily, and so I stopped her male colleague. “Sorry sir, but your colleague here is being very unreasonable. She is asking me to remove my headscarf for no valid reason.” Her male colleague tried to convince me that this whole thing was Swiss law, and that since I in fact do not have a hijab on my passport picture due to it having been issued half a year before my putting it on, I must remove it, or at least expose my hairline for recognition purposes. He continued to reason that since I obviously had chosen it for myself since I didn’t wear it before, I should have no problem taking it off for them (really now?!).

In the end I agreed to show my hairline to the infuriated woman behind the counter provided that this was done in an enclosed space with only her present. “Of course, this policy of yours is based solely on your wish to see a Muslim woman take of her hijab as no other official has struggled to identify my face without a visible hairline. Despite your blatant discrimination, however, I’ll be willing to do show it,” I sneered. Apparently, this was not enough for the female, who kept on screaming at me in her native tongue. “Hey, I need an English speaker – the French did not colonize enough countries to make the language required in schools across the world” I added, much to the lady’s dismay. My demands were efficient; as I was escorted to the room we were tailed by another male colleague who waited outside. Getting to that point nevertheless took 15-20 minutes.

Once inside the room, I quickly lifted the front of my turban so that the hairline Nazi would somehow magically recognize me as the person in the picture. Unfortunately, it did not seem to work. “Off! Off! Take it off!,” she thundered, gesticulating wildly. At this point, I was like puuuh-leezzze. “I’ve showed you my much valued hairline, and at this point you should be perfectly able to recognize me. Now let me go, lady!” She screamed at the top of her lounges “Off! This is absurd! You could hide a bomb… Cocaine under there! Off now!” I gave her a look like she had turned completely insane. “Really now? Your argument was identification purposes. Your colleague accepted that I show you my hairline. This is the reason we are in here. You don’t work in security so stop it. This is discrimination and you know it,” I snapped back with a raised voice. She kept screaming  and I kept screaming back in refusal for some minutes until she finally gave up and opened the door to complain to her colleague about how “unbelievable” I was. I walked out feeling half way victorious but still shaking in shock over the treatment I received. What if I was not the demanding, difficult person I am? What if I would have given in – people commenting on my Facebook status said this is in fact a quite normal phenomenon in France, where many Muslim women end up feeling forced to remove their headcover right there and then, in front of everybody. I thank God for my stubbornness which again saved the day.

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Fortunately, my anger and disbelief was soon washed away by getting on my EgyptAir flight to Cairo, Egypt… But still; outrageous and highly unacceptable.

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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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DC Days

I really enjoyed my brief time back in Washington DC, a city where I spent a summer back in 2010 doing a pretty fun internship before the route of academia had become clear to me. Not only did I eat well every meal for the entire time I was there (fancy Turkish/Mediterranean at Zaytinya, delish Mexican/El Salvadoran, yummy Ethiopian, and hearty Chinese), but I stayed comfortably as well (thanks, Zoha, for hosting me the last day <3), and saw wonderful friends (including girls I met at the FFF show and my lovely former boss in MBC, Nadia).

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(Zoha and I outside Zaytinya, me looking slightly homeless at the Lincoln Memorial – I had to remove my shoes after a whole day of walking, my NYC elephant ring and the White House, screen with verses from holy texts at Dulles Intl’ Airport, Ethiopian delicious food, and me being excited about a blend of three juices at the same place)

DC is clean, chill, and full of interesting people, but the dress code is unsurprisingly much more muted there as opposed to NYC. I love the city as it reminds me slightly about Europe, but the weather is extremely humid, making life uncomfortable for hijabis at even moderate temperatures. I can’t believe I walked for a half hour to work everyday in that mess in the middle of the summer.

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(This outfit is loose, casual, and suitable for sightseeing minus the shoes. I messed up my right foot severely after running around on them the whole day and thus had to wander barefoot around on the National Mall in the evening. What I’m wearing: scarf: H&M, neon kimono: H&M, neon and cream knitted top: Mango, acid wash dungarees: River Island, fringed ethnic embroidery bag: TJ Maxx, front zipper ankle boots: Aldo, accessories: Urban Outfitters, New York, Yemen).

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(Unusual combinations make the best outfits. Here I’ve coupled a dressy jumpsuit with a casual, washed-out denim shirt, feathers, and neon details. What I’m wearing: scarf: Unique Hijabs, denim shirt: Forever21, jumpsuit/dungarees: Boohoo, oversized neon clutch: ASOS, studded ankle boots: RIver Island, accessories: Ebay, ASOS, Zara)

What is for sure is that I have to visit both DC and New York ASAP by myself. I didn’t even get to catch up with or visit a fraction of the people and places I know and love. Au revoir, America. See you in a month’s time.

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(On the plane, ready to sleep until touchdown in Europe)

 

 

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Throwback, Sort of. Chicago with Raquel Evita

Raquel has been a supporter, friend, and sister-in-arms since the days of the original Hijablog, y’all; I’m talking about that brief blogging stint the summer and fall of 2008 (I did a post of her style back then)! We have only met twice in-person, but she is really my kind of girl, despite minor disagreements. In fact, we’re on twinnie-terms (the first time we hung out, everybody and their mother – excuse the outdated expression but it is quite apt here – thought we were sisters). Not only is she a die-hard activist, she also owns more bling than any other person I know (I mean, look at her hijab here – it should be pretty obvious). Simply put, Raqui is awesome, and she’s  always there to offer sisterly advice (thanks, chica!).

Below are some pictures from our much awaited second meeting in Chicago earlier this year (we actually tried to meet up last summer before one of my trips abroad, but it ended up being a big failure, taxi fares to nowhere, problematic phones, and confused airport staff thinking they were seeing double included). All in all this was an awesome day of shopping, dining, and discussing human rights and Muslim matters – the perfect balance of glitter and substance.

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What Raquel is wearing: Scarf: NA Exclusive Abayas (custom made), coat: DKNY, top: Zeena, pants: Marshall’s, bag: Miu Miu, accessories: Michael Kors, India

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What I’m wearing: scarf: Ebay, faux fur scarf: H&M, leather jacket: Pitaya, fringed lace kimono: Bikbok (Norway), sequin peplum top: New Look, batik skirt: River Island, purse: Forever21, accessories: ASOS, H&M

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