But What Happened to Eid Anyways?

The truth is, Eid didn’t change. Maybe there are few people missing from the less number of gatherings, but still. The main formula is quiet the same. But it is us. The growing up. The adulthood. But why?

When we were kids, our parents would work really hard into making us excited for the day. At my home we’d hang decorations on the walls, we’d fill the floor with colorful balloons, and we’d stuff the dining table with candy, chocolates and homemade cake. We’d fill the living room with balloons and play all kind of Eid songs. We’d prepare our new clothes, iron them and hang them on the closet’s knob along with the shoes, new pair of socks and underwear.  We’d wake up early in the morning, get dressed, go to prayer then my parents would take us to the toy shop to buy our new ‘Leibet el Eid’ or the Eid toys. We’d spend most of the days alone, with no or very few relatives in the city, not bothered since we have our new toys.

But now? Our parents assume that we are too old for providing us with such excitement. And they’re right. We are. We are too old to be waiting for such input from them. We are too old to understand that Eid is just a normal day and WE can make it exciting for ourselves. But there is one problem: we don’t know how to do that.

Eid for us was all about the new clothes, new toys and house decorations. The kind of things that would make a day exciting for a kid. But for an adult? No. We didn’t see how our parents got excited for Eid itself other than making it exciting for us. We didn’t see how they enjoyed it. We didn’t see them waiting so impatiently for that day the way we did. We didn’t see it and they never spoke to us about it till we grew up and complained at the Eids that we’ve missed. Then we heard they complain too and along the complaints came stories of their Eids when they were kids and how they got excited for the special day.

Suddenly it was clear to me why I am not only feeling Eid anymore but I can’t wait for the day to pass. Why? Because simply, it is a painful reminder that I grew up.

But can we, adults, get excited for Eid again? Of course. But how? First we need to understand why we got excited for Eid as kids in the first place: we were given the things that would excite a kid. Therefore the answer is simple: all we should do, as adults, is to give ourselves things to get excited for. Maybe we can start doing things that we wanted to do a long time ago but always couldn’t find the time. That painting we wanted to paint, that place we wanted to visit, and that trip we wanted to make. Call people we love and always ran out of time to do that. Spend quality time with the family. Explore the countryside, explore a new city, or just walk in a neighborhood we’ve never visited. Just do something that would make ourselves especially excited to wake up that morning.

Rituals

The morning rays sneak in shyly between the threads of the thin curtain fabric, hoping to land silently on her eyes. They slowly fill in the room magically turning it into a golden temple.

The little girl in pink pajamas jumps out of her bed. She calls for her brother: ‘Morning’s here!’ but he just moans and covers his eyes with a pillow.

She rushes to the window and slides the lid open. She sticks her head out and cool breeze calmly brushes her cheeks, plays with her curly hair tickling her face and she softly giggles. She sings to the skyline of the awakening city. She sings to the pigeons and birds. She sings to the only car waiting in the signal. She sings to the boy she likes in school who lives across the street. She sings songs she has written herself. Only she has never written down. She was afraid they’d be read. Therefore she inscribed them in her memory singing them every day in order to not to be forgotten.

***

The morning rays sneak in around the edges of the thick blackouts. She could see them touching the floor.  She tries to cover her eyes with her arm but the phone alarm bell rings off. She types in the password a couple of times till she finally sees the numbers on the padlock. She unlocks the phone and turns off the alarm.

She calls for her brother in the nearby room: ‘Wake up it is 10!” but all she could hear is a groan.

The young lady in pink pajamas slowly removes the bed cover and sits up rubbing her eyes. She reaches her phone and checks out the messages. She swears and puts it down. She wonders why she always checks the messages before getting out of bed if she knew they’d make her feel even worse. She goes to the bathroom and stares at the face in the mirror. Her vision slowly blurs.

Good bye, City Victorious

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This time I took a decision. I sent an email, received a reply. That was it. But I did it. I knew it would be hell of a commute but I’ve trained myself to lower the voice of worries in my head. To switch between my thoughts. To turn my head off when it gets too noisy.

And I did it. My stubbornness and fear of defeat kept me committed.

Of course, as expected, the commute was dreadful. Crossing Greater Cairo from its east to its west every day was exhausting. Cutting my way every single day through the main arteries of the city and staying sane in the middle of all its chaos was a daily contest. But every day I’ve decided I’d win. And the prize would be getting back home later that evening.

And I survived. Actually, I didn’t only survive, I did enjoy it. For the first time in forever, I felt that I was living in Cairo. For the first time, I would watch the city wake up every day hopefully attempting to function in the chaos. I would admire the skyline swallowed by the darkness of the night, and little dots of light would gradually shine decorating the city. For the first time, I become part of it. Part of its daily rituals. I’d see its buildings, one after the another, happily coated in fresh white paint. I’d see the hopeful new sets of traffic signals in its streets and the new interlock blocks on its sidewalks.

Riding along 6th of October Bridge every day was a constant reminder and a daily farewell to the city that had me for the past five years. As I pass by Maspero I remember analyzing the area behind the massive television building. As I glimpse the Ramses Hilton tower I am reminded of the day we climbed up to the top floor to gaze at the city from above. As I pass along the Ramses Road, I see that Greek Orthodox Church I once walked by and was overwhelmed by the details on its facade. As I pass through downtown, I can see its maps in my head,  Khedive Ismail’s ambitious plans, directly recalling history class and the thick Italian accent of my history professor. Passing by the striking orange façade of the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, I instantly picture my semester four children’s museum design project coming out of the ground beside it. I can almost hear the kids playing in its stepped gardens with the ancient Egyptian farming equipment.

As I approach Ramses Square, I remember the day I came here to get a plan of sewage lines from the Greater Cairo’s Sewage Company and being dragged from one office to another until I reached a big air-conditioned office with a man in a suite behind a polished wooden desk who hardly looked at me and managing to get out of the building with the plan in my hands. In colors. I remember standing in front of the building wondering how to get back home.

As I pass by the train station, I remember that day trip to Alexandria and the first class train with the exceptionally wide leg room. I remember my friends and I making fun of the station’s newly but horribly renovated interiors while waiting for our relatives to pick us up.

The panoramic views of Cairo roll by frequently disturbed by the gigantic billboards. But the massive Al Nour Mosque, in Abbasiyya, with minarets piercing the sky doesn’t fail to capture all eyes passing by. In the distant background, lie Al Muqattam hills, overlooking the city. The Citadel, by the hills being the city’s guardian, and my 11-year-old-self staring back at Cairo from above that hill.

We slide down from the bridge to land in Heliopolis, Oh Heliopolis. My all-time favorite district. The gem of Eastern Cairo. Oh Heliopolis, Oh the endless memories.

My last days in the city, I am reminded with the endless times I studied its maps and satellite images, the endless analysis and site visits. The accumulation of my five-year study of Architecture and Urban Design in Cairo.

Today, I say good bye. Good bye City Victorious. ­

A Story of Losing

I stared at my face in the mirror and tears rolled down my cheeks. That reflex that took place every time I see what has been left of myself in the mirror. I stared into this lifeless greyish face that has lost its round youthful cheeks and brushed my fingertips along its edge. That time, I could feel the bones of my skull. I could feel my cheekbones and the edginess of my chin. My eyes followed my finger and I saw a visible rib cage. I looked at my knees and I could clearly see the bones.

Who is she?

I looked back at her face, or what’s left of it, and my tears blurred it out. I sat on the wet bathroom floor and put my arms around myself. And wept.

A couple of months later I am back at my parent’s house. I stare down at the changing digits on the glass weight balance and the number on the balance is a number I have always wanted to see. A number I knew that if I have ever gotten to see I would have reached the perfect weight.

I have lost 8 kilograms in just a couple of months. Something I would have never ever imagined would happen to me. I haven’t even tried to go on a diet in a very long time. Thus, reaching this perfect weight without trying was a beautiful surprise. A beautiful surprise from a horrible depression that has swallowed me for the past couple of years. But sometimes, sometimes, there is a beautiful ending.

Miracle

Photo Courtesy: New York Times

Photo Courtesy: New York Times

She heard a voice calling from far away. It kept coming nearer. Her body kept shaking. She felt the ice cold floor underneath her and the wet wool blankets that wrapped around her. She knew it was a miracle. She hoped it was a miracle. She hoped her deadly journey had finally come to an end.

The darkness has surrounded her for a couple of days now, along with the crashing waves, the constant cries of little children, the illnesses, the throwing of dead bodies into the sea to keep room for the ones alive, the striking hunger, the crushing sound of thunder, and the sound of bombing she still hears wherever she goes. She knew she would be risking her life, but she couldn’t care less. She had nothing to lose anyways because she had already lost it all: her home was bombed, her newborn child was slaughter in front of her eyes and her husband was taken hostage and was never seen again.

She heard heavy steps approaching. Then someone was standing beside her. She could make out two tall silhouettes and a neon light in the background that was directed on a waving flag with three vertical stripes: red, white and green. A man’s voice shouted but she couldn’t understand. It was a language foreign to her and she was immediately sure that it was the miracle she had hoped would happen. She was in a safe land.

Beautiful Worries

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As I was lying in bed last night, I heard sentences in my head that sounded good enough for a blog post. All I had to do was get up and search in the darkness for a piece of paper and a pen and write them down or reach for my cell phone on the night table and type them in a memo. Even though I always do that, this time my legs were glued to the soft cotton sheets and my arms laid helpless on my sides.

The words kept coming and going through my head.  But my laziness/sleepiness completely defeated me and left me to ignore that interesting thread of thoughts that I hardly find these days and migrate back to my worries of finding a good job, staying in touch with my friends and planning out my future. Those worries that have blinded me from the enjoyable things this summer. Those worries that consumed my every prayer this past Ramadan and my every waking moment. Those worries that usually gave me headaches and made me lose track during conversations. Those worries that I try my best to keep aside and enjoy my morning cup of coffee and my late night movies. Only to feel nothing but guilt.

But then I keep reminding myself that the beauty of these days is in their uncertainty, in the not knowing where I will be living next month or the one after. It is the beauty of such a point in one’s lifetime where the roads cross, the paths alter, the direction shifts to feel this complete freedom, the nonbelonging to an institution. To wake up in the morning knowing that today you can chose a completely different path. Today you can do something you’ve always wanted to do. Today you can be someone else if you may chose so. The beauty of such a point in one’s lifetime is knowing that today you can change your life.

إلى عالم الراشدين، أكتب إليكم

إلى الآباء و الأمهات، إلى المعلمين والمعلمات، إلى إدارة الجامعات،

إلى أصحاب ورؤساء الأعمال، إلى المديرين والموظفين،

إلى عالم الراشدين

أما بعد،

اليوم نخرج إليكم بعد سنوات من تدريب وتعليم، بعد أحلام رسمناها كل ليلةٍ بأقلامنا البريئة و بمخيلاتنا الواسعة المتفائلة. اليوم دفعتنا السنوات التي قضيناها في مسيرتنا التعليمية نحو باب الخروج إلى عالمكم. ذلك العالم الذي طالما سمعنا عنه من خلالكم. طالما سمعناكم تتحدثون عن ظلمته، عن المنافسة الحادة القاتلة، عن الحقد المتوغل في طياّته، عن خبائث بعضكم لبعض.

وطالما سمعنا شريط سخريتكم عندما نحكي لكم عن أحلامنا، عن الغد الذي رسمته مخيلاتنا التي توسعت عن حدود أفكاركم. طالما شاهدناكم تضحكون. طالما تظاهرنا بأننا نسمعكم عندما تدفعون كلماتكم المحبطة في وجوهنا. طالما تظاهرنا بقوتنا وصمودنا على أفكارنا وآرائنا، ولكن طالما بكينا في وحدتنا، وعزيّنا مساندتكم لنا، ولمستقبلنا، ولمستقبل أولادنا.

طالما أخترنا الصمت، وكان السبب انتظارنا انتهاء دراستنا، وأن الوقت لم يكن أتى بعد لتحقيق طموحاتنا. ولكن اليوم، جزعنا عن الاستماع إلى آرائكم المحبطة. جزعنا عن تظاهرنا السابق. وجزعنا عن صمتنا.

في مفترقِ الطُرقات هذا، أسألكم أن تدعونا نختار نحن. دعونا نشاوركم إن أردنا ذلك. دعونا نطارد أحلامنا. دعونا نرحل إن أردنا الرحيل. ودعونا نبقى إن أخترنا البقاء. دعونا نُحب ودعونا نكره. دعونا نقول ما نريد، ونفعل ما نراه صائباً.

مع أولى خطواتنا في عالمكم، دعونا نحيى حياتنا وليس حياتكم، دعونا نحقق أحلامنا وليس أحلامكم.