Monday, November 14, 2005

Epitaph on the Wrong Side of the River

Was walking through a park, considerably lost ,as has become part of my daily routine, when i came across one of a thousand other slabs of stone, with lots of names scribbled on them and a statute of a struggling soldier untop.
The 'slabs' are usually a sort of monument for all those that died for king and country in different sorts of wars etc.
So anyways, as i rushed passed this one, my eye caught one name; "Rafa".
A few steps away, it suddenly occoured to me that "Rafa" is actually very close to "Rafa7" and could be the name of an Eyptian/Palestinian soldier! So i hopped all the way back.

Reading the names more clearly i found;


Gaza 1
Gaza 2
Beer Sheba
Bir Khu Weilfe
Hill 265

Except for 'hill 265' (they numbered them?!) while reading the other names, immediately the picture of palestinian children sitting on the ground cross legged calling out name and each of these countries came to mind. Taught to name them with precise articulation, they were always ready to indicate the precise location of their homes on an imaginery map, (or even draw one for you) as well as recounting all the landmarks and qualities and fruits each of these places were famous for.

Warmed by the memory but slightly alarmed, i skipped to the very first column that read;


Al Arish

This ofcourse sprung a little chorus of "baladiiii ba7ebaha, kol 7etta fe baladi.. balaadiii ya walllaaa..."
And ofcourse my heart skipped a beat with the memories of the smooth stretching sands of bahariya and dakhla and all the little hills and '3agabat' i had climbed with friends and family as we conquered them as our own..
as well as the sea shells on al arish's beautiful seashores, the spectacular red-cross stitch embroidery on the scarves and gallabeyyat, and the beautifully windy family vacation we spent there.

Reading on next there was;


Jordan Valley
Modawara (Hedjaz)

With this i was catapulted back to teh winding moutenous (or were they actually hilly?) streets of Amman (wonder if they attempted to re-number those!), and the tense yet mind replinishing week i spent in Aqaba with Palestine and the occupied territories only miles away, their lights shining through our view of the sea every night. So silent was the view, and yet so noisy and mind boggling their angry debates and internal struggles as they attempted to create a 'vision for peace' 'reconciliation' or 'co-existance' in the building behind us.
(Slightly daunted, as they were, by the recent events in Amman..)

Warmed by the memories, but chilled by the implications of their engraves on such a slab, i hurried over to the other side;

"To the glorious and immortal memory fo the officers, NCO's adn men of the imperial Camel Corps, British, Australian, New Zealand, Indian, who fell in action/died of wounds and diseases in Egypt, Sinai and Palestine"

Perplexed, I stood there for a long while trying to contemplate how it felt having so much of my warmest memories of a larger, more extended 'home', engraved on the slab, and an epitaph to those who threatened it on the other side..
How did i feel about their deaths?
i had always sympathized powerfully, with those that died in the WTC, the British/American soldiers that may have been brainwashed into fighting in Iraq, those forced to fight and stormed into trauma and PTSD's in Vietnam, even the israeli soldier that swore at me powerfully and threatened to crack my head open with a large stone in an ugly encounter on the borders of southern lebanon, had aroused much of my pity. He could not have been older than his late teens and was so full of anger and aggression towards someone he barely knew.

I could not feel anything human for these. i could not even try. Perhaps it was the sudden rush of warm memories and the (ironic) pride of finding 'names' so personal and close to heart engraved on one side of a stone, and a cold, chilly prospect on the other?

Shaken out of my trance-like daze, i decided to proceed with my treck, and asked a passer-by if she knew the way to my inteded destination.
She cocked her head to one side and squinted, getting her barings straight, then suddenly her face broke into a smile and she said;

"You're on the wrong side of the river luv.."

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Bab El Shams

An open evening with Elias Khoury seemed like 'another interesting thing to do', I had seen the movie and was infinitely moved, my own subjective love for a country and it’s people playing a huge part, the extent to which the movie exposed ‘real lives’ raw emotions, love , war, separation, and one of the cruellest realities in history another. However, I emerged from the lecture, eyes wide, heart racing, thoughts bouncing across my head in Brownian motion, and could not wait to share the events of the night to anyone who had the time for a good inspiration.

The evening was launched and moderated by novelist an historian; Tariq Ali. He began by asking Elias Khoury to read an extract from his book to the audience, after which a discussion would be launched.
Elias held up the book, looking at it sceptically and spoke to the audience of how "Amazing" and yet "Strange" it is to read a book which he's written in Arabic; in English.

"It's strange to find myself finding characters whom I’ve known and lived with for years suddenly speaking so many other languages.. and so much more fluently than I do!"
It seemed they had developed lives of their own, and continued to speak to thousands of people all over the world, in a million different languages.

The only common one being, that of humanity. This was, after all, a love story. The love story never told.

1. Kan ya makan... Once upon a time...

The story starts with Khalil, the son of Younis the main character, telling a comatose Younis bits and pieces of his own story.
Khalil told these stories in attempts to keep Younis alive, to save his own life! (as he was in hiding in the hospital and could only stay there as long as his father lived)

Khoury compared this to Shahrazad's One thousand and One nights, where she told the king stories day after day, so that she may entertain him enough to delay her execution one day after another.

Shahrazad, however told the stories of other people; people that did not exist. The idea behind Khalil’s story telling however was how he opened the story for other people to join in and contribute. And it is through telling their aspects of the stories that these people came to life.. they had a history a background, a character, feelings, a life; an identity.

Once Khalil mingled his story with those of all the others, the picture of Palestine was created, it's people, it's culture, it's music, it's events all came to life, living, breathing , existing in our imaginations.

2. A Love Story

This story is a love story. And that is all Khoury had set out to write. However, it was not only the story of Younis' love to Nahila, but Khoury's love to the Palestinian people.
“You open any TV or Radio station and you will hear the Arabs speak of the Palestinian cause, the Right of return, the situation in the occupied territories; they love Palestine. But the Palestinian people they love not. I wrote this book about my love for the Palestinian people.”

This book was about Younis, a Palestinian from the Village of Galilee, now a part of Israel. He married Nahila when she was only a child, an activist since young age, he spent his youth fighting the British. In 1948, he and Nahila are separated as he ends up as a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon, and she is stuck with her parents in law in Galilee.

“The strangest and most beautiful thing about this story is that 10 years into their marriage, and as Younis risks everything to go back to seeing Nahila, Younis and Nahila finally fall in love.”

“This is strange,” Khoury recounts, “because usually, ten years into a marriage, it is someone else's wife we fall in love with.. not our own."

3. A Language

In order to write this story, Khoury, spent much time in the refugee camps of Lebanon, particularly Shatilla, as that is where most Jalilee'ans had ended up.
He sat with the people of '48 , not only to hear the stories of what had happened and how it actually happened, but also to grasp the "Jalileean dialect" from it's nationals and make sure he uses it well in the dialogues in the book.

He looks back at the book as he mentions this detail, his nose a little wrinkled in perplexity;
"Yes, I was actually trying hard to investigate the Jalilee accent.. they don't really actually speak English as you might hear them now.."

4. A People: Om Hassan

The Passage Khoury was about to read us, was one of Om Hassan's. Om Hassan was a woman, who like many others, after the singing of Oslow, was permitted to return to her home-land, her village, her house, just to visit, just to see what had become of it.

Khoury explained that it was after this treaty and also in 1967 that the borders were opened for many Palestinians to visit their homelands and return to their displacements. At this time, many a home comers, would take video cameras with them to take shots of the place to take back ‘home’.
Overwhelmed with the experience and lack of experience in film making, the movies actually ‘showed’ very little. However, once taken back to the families, a minute of a poor shot movie would be translated into a million stories of the meaning and significance of each spot.
Thus it is through their stories, not the places, that their Palestine, their identity, their belonging came to life.

Om Hassan went to visit her house in the village, and though most houses had been demolished, hers was still there. Looking a bit newer, however.

Om Hassan surveyed the house , the garden, the tree in the backyard, saying very little as she reminisced the significance of all she saw.
Until they approached the house and knocked on the door.

An old woman, hair black, streaked with white opened the door, and much to their surprise , refused to speak in Hebrew and spoke to them in Arabic.

This woman was a Jew of Lebanon, who had lost her own place there in the civil war.
She let Om Hassan and her brothers in, and Om Hassan marvelled, as many a Palestinian did at returning to their homes, how most of the furniture and setting of her house, had barely changed.

This was a very powerful passage, powerful in the surge of feelings conveyed to us through Om Hassan, the fear, the disbelief, the ecstasy, the nostalgia, the memories.. and what i imagine might have been bewilderment, at coming this close, feeling this at home, and knowing that it was no longer yours, knowing that soon you would leave, and bid it's inhabitant good bye.

The power of the passage reached a peak, when Khoury described that upon finding out Om Hassan was Palestinian, the woman told her, (and i paraphrase)
"Return me to Beirut, and I would give you the WHOLE of Palestine!!"

How painful that must have been. If only it were hers to take. If only what was rightfully hers was hers to reclaim.

6. An existence

Rather than ‘telling’ their story, Khoury had always described how his characters came to life to him so that he suddenly felt they were speaking to him, that he was listening to them and conveying their stories to the others. With that, khoury emphasized that a writer's primary role is to 'listen' and convey, and not to 'tell'.

He had felt the strength of his characters and the pertinancy of their existence, when upon giving a lecture about the book, an old french woman called out from the audience asking Khoury to forget about literature and symbolisms.. "I really loved Nahila.. tell me more about her; the real person.."
Khoury laughed and explained that Nahila was only a character, had she been real, he would have married her, and not written about her!
Though the audience erupted in laughter, the old lady joined him once again, a little agitated, and demanded he speak to her of Nahila.
When once, again Khoury tried to assert that Nahila did not exist, the old woman stomped off, angry and exasperated..

"This.." Khoury explained "is the best thing that can happen to a writer.. that the people believe your characters, more than they would believe you.."
emphasizing the extent to which Khoury's characters had suddenly come to life.

Upon finishing the book, Khoury explained he felt very sad at finally having to part with his characters.
He also envied them. He envied Younis his Nahila, and Nahila her Younis. He envied them their struggle, their strength, their resistance, he envied them their love for each other and for their Palestine.

Question and Answer Session

1. This book was translated into Hebrew; what were the reactions to this?

Khoury explained that the reactions were actually very positive, the full stock of 5,000 copies were sold in one year and more were republished.

Khoury recounted a story of being in Canne, where the film was being shown, and at which point an Israeli woman stepped out at the interval crying and explaining to people that a number of mistruths were being communicated in the movie.

A younger man then walked up to her and told her taht he had just called his grandfather and asked him of specific events, and if this is the way they had attained their homeland, and his grandfather said to him;

"And how do you think Nations are built...?"

The book, to some, Khoury believed, was a discovery.

2. A recurring theme or thread that seemed to run through the story, was Younis' cries, "Men el Awwal", or "From the beginning" every time a significant event occurred. Will you tell us more about that?

The first way that Khoury explained this, was that every time something went wrong, it was to Younis, another Nakba, another mistake, another catastrophe, so it was as if it was happening all over again, bringing them back to the very beginning, the very big Nakba that must be overcome, for all else to be settled.

The Second, is that seeing that it is impossible for us to 'undo' history, we have to find ourselves a beginning to start from, to claim as our own. For the Palestinians to exist , they must begin. And through living and resisting, explained Khoury, they are beginning!

4. Must one be Palestinian to write a Palestinian story?

"I am not a Palestinain" explains Khoury as he reveals his Lebanese Origin.

He then tells the story of Margerit Duraz, a French writer.
Who , upon being asked as to her origins, post world war 2, claimed she was Jewish.
Margerit, was of course not Jewish, however it was because of the drastic events of World War II, that the Jews were seen as the most 'human' of all people..
because their stories as people, had become known to all, through their suffering.

And thus, wanting to be acknowledged as a human, and a wounded one at that, Margerit, claimed she was Jewish.

"I feel Palestinian, simply because I am a Human being.."

5. How long do you think the Palestinians can maintain their identity.. their culture, their customs their rights and their belonging..

"At least another 2,000 years... Just as the Israeli's have managed too.." replied khoury with a wry smile.

Throughout the seminar, Khoury kept emphasizing the importance of stories, and how the essence of an identity will always be best promoted and expressed, through them. We come to life through our stories, through stirring other's imaginations to see all the pictures, emotions and sensations in our heads. And it is through these stories and these memories that the Palestinians will continue to strive, resist and survive.

"Palestine needs more of these stories, than it does any other ideological discourse. This was my love story to Palestine. And in the struggle to verify our different versions of history, it is the story and not the history, that can prevail..."

Monday, November 07, 2005

On Home...(and polk-a-dot umbrellas)

I flicked open my brown polk-a-dot umbrella and held it up high, marveling as I did at how it managed to shield all four of us, giggling and snuggling, out of the pouring rain.
My umbrella, more a polk-a-dot statement, than a real mobile shelter from the storm, was usually barely enough to shield my own head. Looking at it now however; I realized it hovered above all of us, keeping the raindrops away.

A few hours earlier, other warm notions and concepts, memories and ideas had hovered above us all as we tried to revive the old "Eid" cheer with Ghorayebba, and a general "hey heyh heyyyyh" attitude. It is in warm get togethers, with people that not only share your 'origins' but your active state of belonging, that Eid, Ramadan, and even Masr, come to life and hover above us all, rather than seeming like a distant memory as one tries to revive it on his or her own.

My favorite ‘hovering memory’, was that of my last felucca ride in Cairo. Felucca rides with close friends were always ones to deeply refresh one's mind and spirit.

Catapulted by the wind into the very heart of Cairo, and yet experiencing it as an onlooker, rather than being trapped inside the grind, Cairo, or to me 'Masr' always looked and felt beautiful when seen as the Nile might see it.
The wind, breezing through us, sent both; wisps of our hair and our imagination wildly prancing, created the perfect mood for a final recollection.
We marveled at Magles qeyadt el sawra, Kobry el Abbas where the students of the 1919 movement were shot and fallen to their deaths, Cairo's age old hotels, the Manial Palace gardens, and other places that strongly signify all this country has experienced as it continued to develop and reproduce itself.
We spoke to the 'rayess' as we usually did and marveled, again as we usually did at his perspectives on our Egypt. This time he spoke of being an Egyptian from Alexandria coming to 'Masr' for work, and spoke at length of the implications of his reference to ‘Masr’ el nadahha, rather than greater Cairo. His accounts were as enlightening as previous accounts of how he was forced to vote, and yet others of how 'el nas el shoghayarra' in this country are always subject to the will and rule of 'el nas el kebeera'.

Would it always be like this?
Under another Mubarak term, if Ayman Noor had come to power, if the Muslim brotherhood tookover, if the current religious tensions increased...
Would we come back to find it different...?

Our visualization of the scenarios was strictly limited to how all this would affect our experience in our felucca ride. We were somehow in the heart of our Masr, and yet somehow viewing it from an outside perspective.

Would the Magles still be there, would the Kobry, would someone , would anyone remember their stories? Would the buildings change in colors, would more old ones be torn down? Would the pollution affect our wisps our wind, would technology decrease our humidity, would the rayess be replaced, would he have as much freedom to speak? His smile as wry, his accounts as pertinent..?

Would I ever return to find my Egypt as it was to me...
Would I recognize it? Would I hold it as dear?
Would I be the same..?
Would too many lost Eids and too many nostalgic nights and too many hovering memories return us to a home we no longer recognized?

"We are all dispossessed of our childhoods; we return to a remembered or imagined scene to find at best frayed edges and faded colors. I say 'at best' ; for many of us the changes are more than the effects of time and an altered consciousness " Ahdaf Soueif

My incessant resorting to Ahdaf Soueif and Edward Said's writings over the last week, did not seem to me as anymore than my regular interest in my two favorite writers, despite the endless reading lists provided to me by university that only came second to them...
Until I suddenly found myself, as Eid rounded the corner, frantically switching from one writer to another, basking in, and savoring their memories of Egypt, and particularly the Zamalek I love so dearly.

Said's Egypt, was that of the 40's, a place almost unrecognizable in it's description, save for the occasional streets and venues (such as the fish garden), where I could share the warmth in relating to their respective memories. Soueif's Egypt was that of the late 60's, and though the places were much more familiar, they had very little traces of Said's older extinct Cairo, and a few touches of the all the social and political events, that now constitute a significant controversial part of our history and shaped the Egypt we live in today.

It was through contemplating Said's, and Soueif's very different Egypts, that I suddenly feared, that mine too would become a memory...reduced to a set of notions and pictures in my head… and occasionally hovering above a group of our heads’…

I had extracted this quote from Ahdaf's account on Said's and her Egypt, and how much of it was now in their memory, how little actually still existed.
More accurately, I would say the quote extracted me.

It was not only the realization that as her and Said's Cairo's had slowly faded and frayed, that mine too might eventually as well, but I was also suddenly struck with, and slowly assimilating the fact that it is impossible to return to a childhood scene and find it the same in anyway.
Just as it is impossible to revive any notion , emotion, experience, perception or conception that was developed at a particular time or place, in a particular context that no longer exists.

Perhaps, then, It is best to preserve these notions, these memories, with all the people, places, feelings, music, and events that accompany them, safe and sound in our little memory boxes, and attempt in their warm light to create the same pleasant 'feelings' and 'situations' of the new context.

How, however would I apply this to my own home.
Would I bear to live in it, if I no longer recognize it? Will it be as easy to return?
Will I still feel part of it? Or will I like a foreigner, find it impossible to adapt, like a grandmother, constantly rant and rave at things 'were before'.

"The best is to consider that we have a home nowhere, and only then does one really love the world..." Edward Said (Out of Place)

To the best of my understanding, Said found his situation as an exile, one that worked to his extreme advantage, that "Never feeling fully adjusted, always feeling outside the this metaphysical sense is restlessness, movement constantly being unsettled, unsettling others" (Representations of the Intellectual) , this "willed homelessness" as he described it, gave him the power and ability to truly make the best of each of his experiences, to see the truths in all of them, rather than constantly compare certain experiences to others, holding them against each other, or simply trying to revive the old ones ignoring the new ones.

I tried to compare Edward's description of his "willed homelessness" to my frantic attempts to create the Ramadan and Eid atmospheres of my old life, what he would call "the earlier and perhaps more stable condition of being home" in my new one here in England.
It was my strongest blow and realization that I was quite far away from home, when I failed to re-create that atmosphere and homeliness and discovered that a new sort of experience was on call.

Perhaps if I stop trying so hard to link my Egypt, if I let go of the powerful notion of it as my only home, to which I must inevitably return, and for which my every effort exerted, every experienced endured was dedicated to, I would settle in more easily in this new world, and perhaps be a little less torn to return to my other.

Perhaps though Said's awareness that there was no home to return to gave him a "unique pleasure" and a heightened sense of awareness to all that went on around him, what I imagine would be a sort of 'emancipation', perhaps I too would be able to emancipate myself in realizing that as I was to grow and change, so would my country, and that for either of us, this change might not necessarily be for the best. But it makes us both wiser and richer.

I do not feel homesick in London. That is , I do not feel particularly 'exiled’ here, or much like an outsider. Perhaps, of course it is my conscious will to come and begin here, but also because it is the world with which's literature and language I have been introduced to the world. It was both the language of instruction of my education, and the country of which most of my literary background and experiences had originated.
The people, their nature and accent are no less familiar to me, than any other people I had grown up with, its transport system, its streets, its venues, not at all unfamiliar to my eye or mind. And perhaps these are all things one should be wary of to ensure that one is never too familiar, never too comfortable to feel the 'jolt' of awareness that unsettlement provides, to keep one alert and understanding, to keep one critical , skeptical, questioning, probing, unsettling those around them at all times.

I do not feel like an outsider in London. But it is before I sleep, almost every night, that I recollect and reminisce bits and pieces of my Egypt, the one I am not too sure I will re-experience again..

I remember the owner of the kiosk in Aswan refusing to take money for my drinks after a short conversation,
I remember the women I worked with in a micro-credit project in Moqattam telling me that tomorrow was bound to be a better day, no matter how drastic her situation was simply because "no matter how dark it gets at night, the sun will come up every morning.." punctuating it with a smile..
I remember the little boy wandering up and down the Nile banks of Garden City, selling necklaces made out of seashells he collected off the beach 'back home' in Arish, where he lives on weekdays, and my internal dilemma of whether this is unjust child labor, or whether his excitement at the sales of his creative produce are worthwhile..
I remember how we were attacked in the last protest, my disbelief at the looks in the eyes of the amn markazy, and the shake in my belief of Egyptian 'values',
I remember my expidatory walks down El Ghoreyya with my father,
my love for downtown's architecture and all the various civilizations it symbolizes,
I remember how easy it was to go jogging in the club, or walk into any cafe and know I will meet someone I know..
how much I love our traditional walks in Zamalek..
how colorful and noisy and musical and chaotic my shisha infested Egypt was in Ramadan,
how easily a 'nasty' government official can be turned over with a smile, and strong attempt to break the sarcasm, and how you can be suddenly transformed from 'despicable enemy' to trusted confident as she starts to describe her husband with "Shuf el raaaagel.." (Will you take a look at what that man's done...")

I miss it. And I Love it.
And I am no longer optimistic about finding it again.
"At Best", because I too, will have changed.
Perhaps it is up to one to consider all with;

"Pessimism of the Intellect and Optimism of the Will". Gamsci.

Though one may see all the negatives or pitfalls of the situation, one considers all with the will to make it and see it in a better light. Or one is at least hopeful. Somehow.

No. I may not be 'homesick' in London.
But I cannot deny that every time Yenassam 3alaya el Hawwa men Mafra2 El Wady;
I think to myself; "Ya Hawwa, dakhl el hawwa... [1]"

[1] From Fairuz's Song "Nassam 3alayna el Hawwa"

Friday, November 04, 2005

العيد ب"حاله" جديد

I had tried as with many other 'notions' and 'experiences', to recreate my 'eid experience' here in London.. but failed miserably.
Maybe some things are best kept as memories.
Some notions, experiences, emotions and conceptions are best remembered at the time and place and context they were experienced at.
And maybe that isn't a bad thing after all...
Every situation, event and experience, is a direct result of the combination of people, the time, the place, and the person you are on the inside at that particular point in time.
Thus the effect of the experience, with all the music, culture and emotions that represent it, and are produced by it, are unique and special in their individual entirity, and cannot be reproduced.
We are, I guess then, to make the best of every new situation, and better yet, every new 'us' in creating 'notions' and 'experiences' that are particular to our new context.
"We are all dispossessed of our childhoods; we return to a remembered or
imagined scene to find at best frayed edges and faded colours" Ahdaf Soueif
Sometimes we even return to the site of a special memory, and discover we are so much bigger in size, that even the attempts to re-experience or relive , become distorted.
Perhaps then, it is best we savor those memories of how it once was, how it once felt, and attribute them to all their different phases, and strive in the warmth of those memories, to create new ones.
To recreate the same 'feelings' and similar 'experiences' making the best of all the new 'elements' of our new context.
The new people, the new music, the new context and the new 'us'.
They will be different.
But perhaps even in that difference we will create more memories worthy of a whimsical smile, and a yearning once again, for what once was.
"Pessimism of the intellect, Optimism of the will" ? Anotnio Gramsci

Eid Eid Eid....

I rushed into the tube station for shelter after another greusome and futile struggle against the wind, armed with little more than my polkadot (inside-out turning) umbrella.

As i regained my composure, i spotted a little stand with a vast array of chocolates, sweets, cookies, drinks, nothing i wanted in particular, but everything that could meet my fluttering, no longer fasting, heart's desire :)
On approaching the stand i was welcomed by a realy warm smile and the tradional "Oi Love.."
sounded a bit like an irish/scottish drawl, but, then again, what would i know :)

I picked out a pack of chewing gum, and looked at the salesman inquisitively, "That'll be 40 pence, darlin'"
I smiled back again, always touched at the affectionate "passing endearments"...
I spotted a pack of tissues, and figured, that too would be a worthwhile purchase,
"And those?" i asked..
"Sure Darlin', would you like it in pink or orange.."I smiled, touched again, as he decided pink would suit me best..
I payed, and he returned the change with much affection and warmth and kindness, transmitting what i felt were phsychological 'hug vibes' all the way.

As i prepared to leave, he cocked his head to one side, looking a bit unsure, then with another strong beam and mispronounciations, awkwardly blurted:

"Eid Saeed?"

I reacted with a sharp intake of breath as my eyes widened, my eyebrows raised, my mouth stretched wide on either side of my face and my chin dropped considerably..
Yes, my face, had grown considerably.
He had uncovered my best kept special secret.
Elnahardah eidey :)

I smiled and loudly very excitedly replied "Aywa! aywa! Thank you!"
and attempted to send back as many hug vibes as i could.. as he stood there beaming back at me, proud of his gesture.

I stood back waiting for my train and kept trying to figure out what gave me away?
Where they my extra-neat curls i had laborously attempted to tame this morning for the occassion?my crisp, well-matched outfit?
My complexion?
Maybe, my favorate azza fahmy necklace, given to me by my mother on my last birthday; a string of green and purple semi precious stones, and a big dangling pendat that read "Al omr el Salem" in beautifully caligriphied arabic..

Nonetheless,i sat in the train, catapulted, for some reason, into a string of childhood memories of all that eid ever was.
My father bouncing on our beds (my brother and i) on eid mornings chanting
"Eid eid eid..
eid eid eid..."

Picking out presents in our favorate toystores and being told "dee ba2a men teyta..." "dee amo mamduh.."
And i would wonder incessently, did teyta from egypt somehow predict i would choose those toys but tell dad to let me pick them out on my own, ultimately believing i had chosen my own presents?
Choosing to believe in magic, fantasy and the power of my special family's crystal balls, i would never bother to ask.

Later on , in the Egypt eid's, the eideyya that was popped into our pockets, in the joking "here's your ba2shish for today manner.." or ta3aly bas 3ayzaky fe kelma..

The ka7k i would remind myself every year, did not agree much with my tastebuds, but can never seem to resist every time it comes 'round.. for three consequative days, before i remember again, "Maba7ebuhush aslan!!"

The family trips to the desert, sitting in a circle, each telling bits and pieces of a story and coming up with one ridiculous bundle..

The little presents i would buy family members (whom i couldn't offer '3eideyas) depending on 'what' i felt 'represented' or 'reminded me' of whom..

The all day family get togethers, of one meal after the other, when at teh end of every ramadan we remind ourselves that we were sick adn tired of food.. come first day of eid, it was food fest once again!

Za7met sherra hudum el eid that hit cairo once "wala lessa badry badry ya shahr el seyyam.." started to play on radios and tvs..
all the new frilly dresses and neatly piled "2ossas" on little girls' forheads, and the perfect "bedal el geysh" or little suits worn by little boys..

The concept that no matter what was due where, no matter what had to be done, first day of eid was sacred "nothing to do-ness" and complete familyness..
and no matter how much of it's splendour it had started to loose as i grew older, i always woke up wtih a tiny lit special feeling inside me...

Being away from "it all" and my family in particular, the fact that life didn't stop, and that london seemed quite indifferent to my special little secret, made me feel forgotten by all eid's splendours..
as if i was too far away for it to reach me..

But i wore an outfit, not new, but very recently purchased by my last shopping spree with my mother.. (my favorate shopping partner!)
I went out for breakfast and treated myself to a warm espresso and scrumptious chocolate chip cookies with my best friend..
and plan for a special dinner with my entire warm, loving family, all encapsulated in one very special heart and soul mate.

There's little ka7k, little heyssa, little 'pause' from it all...
But i'm sure it took my family alot of effort to create that atmosphere for us, that eventually implanted itself inside me, and all around me..

Some things are just what you make of them :)
And some occassions are worth making the best of...

Eid saeed awey :)

Thursday, November 03, 2005

عيد .... وبأى حال جئت يا عيد؟

Amazing how your throat constricts and a pool of tears can immediately fill ur eyes upon a certain 'thought'.
Almost like a 'sadness button' is pushed, triggering the tear duct hose, and pulling the throat muscles back.. Making way for the flood of warmth and wetness, and occassional intakes of breath that can relieve chest heaviness like nothing else.

It's eid today. And I guess motanaby's phrase " و بأى حال جئت يا عيد" resonates in my head, for many meanings which he may not have even alluded to..

وبأى حال جاء عيدى...أحقاًِ جاء عيدى؟؟
لن أجده بعد
I thought to myself this morning, if it is "Eid" that comes or "el" "eid"...
If it is merely 'eid' that comes, than it is an event, and in reply to the question "El nahardah eid?" you can either answer ' yes' or 'no'.. the question of whether or not you celebrate it, goes back to you..
However if it's "el" "eid", than it is the time for it.. it's the time we've been anticipating and waiting for and it 'comes'.
The notion of the 'coming' of days and occassions, was revealed to me as quite delusionary this ramadan. I waited for the 'ramdan feeling' to come and it never did..
Eventually though, it came to make sense.
Ramadan started late october, and no day was realy any different than the other; it's just the series of events that hit Cairo in ramadan that hit you like a wave and take you through the summersaults and turbulences, the peaks and troughts, the ecstacy and the mere starvation, one day after the other, till your thrown on the sunny shores of a warm comfortable and even lazier eid...
Eid meant family, above anything else, it meant new clothes. It meant kahk, smiley faces adn cheerful moods regardless of what might be going on inside you..
It meant going out somewhere new, enjoying old familiar warm, favored company..
We didn't get to buy our new clothes here, as it just never seemed to gain enough priority to push it up the list..
There's realy no time for spending much time together as there is work, and a number of other commitments taht seemed to have pushed themself above el eid, no matter how high up i tried to push it, at least on the day that was attributed to it.
It scares me.
It scares me that something is practiced beautifuly and sacredly my whole life through, and suddenly on discounting a few physical experiences (a meal with a loved one, an outing, new garments), i loose it...
Needless to say, i have not made us worthy of a 'eid coming' or a 'eid visit'.
And so i start my day alone, with clothes that wear me well, with little excitement, except for the fact , that once again, i can have my cheese sandwhiches for breakfast... my cookies whenever i please.
The day is no longer crammed into it's last few hours; the world is mine to explore and experience any time of day..
But what if it never comes again?
What if i can no longer enjoy the 'break', the way everything stops, and all pays head to family traditions, to big gatherings, to little work and much play, to laughter and ka7k adn jokes and laziness and phonecalls and giggles, warm hearts and the excitment of wearing something 'NEW'.
The carefreeness that can turn us all to children.
Life proceeds normally in this busy london where everyone is going or coming from somewhere.. and where i to shall join in, on my somehwere... and back again.
Maybe it'll all stop for christmas. And there will be taht laziness and specialness... Maybe i should start investing in trees and gifts under the trees.
Will it matter?
It will not be about the event that christmas stands for, but all that christmas at teh heart of it signifies. It will be about warmth, togetherness and the excitment of making someone happy and the anticipation of all that has been done for you...
We make our own worlds; true.
Perhaps my eid was warmer and more significant than that of others...
Will i re-experience it once i return to Egypt? or does it change shape and form, as my role as my parent's daughter adn a member of that warm nuclear family changed shape and form as well as i tore myself out of it...
Or maybe it's floating around in all the confusion floating around me as i unsettled all the dust that are my values, priorities, objectives adn aspirations as i make several new steps on unfamiliar, but much cherished grounds...
I guess only time will tell.
Time for my legitimized cookies..