New Year's Resolutions!

{ Friday, December 30, 2011 }
It's a cliche, I know, but I figured it couldn't hurt to have some good intentions for 2012! Of course making a list of resolutions once a year won't be sufficient to achieve my goals, so I'm planning on making a list every week of 5 goals I want to achieve (little and big things). If I've achieved a goal, I can cross it off my list, and replace it with another one, but if I haven't, I have to keep writing it down every week on my list. I think it's a good plan :) 

So, what are my good intentions for 2012? (The list is not in order of importance)

  • Learn to cook! -> I'll take cooking classes because Mum will only ever let me cut the vegetables
  • To help my mother with the housework
  • To find a way to be together with my partner permanently
  • To gain more knowledge about Islam
  • To get my driver's license 
  • To work on my thesis and graduate!
  • To write more
  • To spend more time on my inner life -> prayer, meditation
  • To work at least one day a week so I can have my own money
  • To do an extra effort to master Arabic
  • To work on my relationship with my parents and to be more honest and open with them
  • To make a conscious effort to enjoy life -> To make an extensive list of things I like and to do at least one of them every day
  • To at least start on learning Uzbek (native language of my partner and his family)
  • To be more assertive
  • To have the courage to wear hijaab
  • To read more books, also Arabic ones
  • To read an Arabic newspaper and look up the words I don't understand
  • To find out what I want to do professionally (kind of urgent :p) 
  • To think about what I want to do next year (work or study)
If I can achieve all of them, I will have a very successful year! (or is it just wishful thinking? :p)
In case I don't write anymore until next year (oh hahaha old joke!):

I wish you all a blessed 2012! May you and your family all remain in good health, may all your wishes and dreams come true and may you achieve all your New Year's resolutions! ;-)

Much love,


The Eternal Issue of Polygamy

{ Wednesday, December 28, 2011 }
I wonder, as a Muslim woman, can you ever be entirely sure that your husband is not going to take a second wife? You may think so, when you look into those familiar eyes, but who knows what life is going to bring? Maybe you'll go through a rough patch where your love for each other is not as it used to be, and maybe there are thoughts that'll come up that never occurred before. 

Since the issue of polygamy never used to be a part of my culture or worries, I'm having a lot of problems digesting it. I know for sure that I don't want to share my husband. The thought alone makes my blood boil. 
I know that I can make my husband promise, and put a condition in my marriage contract that gives me the right to divorce him if he should take another wife, but it doesn't satisfy me. It's like putting him in a cage and slapping him on the cheek, such things can have the opposite effect. The truth is, you can't force a man into anything, he's still going to do what he wants in the end. Women may think they can change men, and make them do what they want, but it's an illusion. He'll only resent you for trying. 

In my opinion, Islam still prefers monogamy. There should be harmony, mercy and kindness between a husband and wife, and we all know how detrimental polygamy is to all good things between a husband and wife. There are also two controversial verses, one stating that a man has to deal equally with all his wives, and the other that men cannot treat their wives equally even should they wish it. I'm not going to draw any conclusions from that though, since I'm not a scholar, and the fact remains that the Prophet (pbuh) and his companions practiced polygamy. I do know about the hadith that says that a man who treats his wives unequally is like a man who'll rise on the Day of Judgement with one leg shorter than the other one. I'd think those things would scare quite of few men away from polygamy (the fact that you can't treat your wives equally and the fact that those who don't treat their wives equally will be disadvantaged on yawm al qiyama) but who am I?

I want to be realistic in this. I'm not going to make my husband promise anymore to not take a second wife, I want to make him promise to tell me if he is considering it, and his reasons for it. I do think that's not too much to ask. I think it's better to make it debatable than to threaten him constantly. If he wants to do it, he's going to do it anyway. The only difference will be that he discusses it with you beforehand or not. 

What the hell?

{ Sunday, December 25, 2011 }
Yesterday I went out to have dinner with my lovely friend. She's having a relationship with a Somalian guy she met here and she excitedly told me that he would come tonight and that I can meet him! Great, or so I thought.
When we met him, he was indeed charming and friendly. My friend had told me that although he is Muslim, he likes to drink, smoke and has already slept with a lot of girls. That was fine with me, who am I to judge? But when we sat down to have a drink (after we made a whole detour because he wanted to find a place that served alcohol), my friend told him I was not Christian, but Muslim, and he stared at me incredulously. The conversation went something like this:

He: "What? You're not Muslim, I don't believe you!"
Me: "Err..yes I am"
My friend: "I told you the truth, she's Muslim!"
He: "Her hair is uncovered, so she's not Muslim!"


Me: "What? What do you mean?"
He: "You are not Muslim, I don't believe you! You don't cover your hair!"
Me: "Do you want me to recite Quran to prove it to you or what?"
He: "Yes, go ahead!"
I recited Quran.
He: "Maybe you just studied it! You have to cover your hair!"
Me: "What? You drink alcohol!Do you realise it's haraam? Do you realise you can't pray for 40 days after you drank?" 

The conversation continued like this, with him not wanting to believe me and trivialising his own offences. On the way to my apartment, he called me "a bad Muslim" for not covering my hair! I tried to remain calm, but this was unbelievable! I don't want to judge others, but this was definitely a case of misogynistic hypocrisy gone wild. I just hope my friend ends it soon with him, because he's without a doubt one of these guys who wakes up one day wanting to get married to a saint-like virgin who's never been touched while they have been total douchebags but still think they deserve a girl like that because they are Muslim Men and all the non-saint like Muslim girls who are actually human are just sluts. I cringe for the future of Islam if these kind of knobheads with no knob multiply themselves. 

Since when did Islam become all about looks? Does he know anything about my intentions, that he can judge me like that? Is he in any place to decide who's Muslim or not? He was wearing a babypink sweater, did I tell him I don't believe he's a man because men-don't-wear-baby-pink*, I don't think so! 
Anyway, it's pointless to waste anymore time on him, I just needed to get this off my chest. I pray that *some* Muslim men will finally educate themselves on a word called priorities and stop humiliating women like that. In the mean time, I'm going to have a cup of tea.

* to use another stereotype

Morning Prayer

{ }
Dear God
Thank You for this wonderful new day
Thank you for all the blessings You have given me
Thank You for the roof over my head and the food on my table
and all the lovely friends and family I have
Please protect me from all harm
and let me be a blessing to others
Let me be patient, friendly and kind
and not leave anyone in the cold
Please forgive me for all the mistakes I made yesterday
and let today be a new beginning
Let me go where You want me to go and say what You want me to say
in Your name
Dear God
Thank You for this wonderful new day
Thank You for all the blessings You have given me

Picture of the Week

{ Saturday, December 24, 2011 }

She panted as she sat down and finally got rid of her too small shoes. Her feet were hurting, and so was her heart. She looked at the building in front of her, a bakery with yummy looking pies, cupcakes and fresh-made bread. The delicious smell that came out of that little shop when someone entered almost made her smile. Her mother always wanted her to wear those damn shoes, just to keep her from running around during all the posh family dinners she dragged her to. Tears burned in her eyes and she shivered, wishing she'd taken her coat. She knew Mother would be livid, not out of worry or because she was missing on her grandparents 50 years of marriage anniversary, but because of the embarrasment a rebellious child brings. Or any child for that matter. Mother hated loud noises, laughter, or nagging for ice cream. The little girl stroked her arms to chase the cold away, and put her feet gently on the road, still hot from the sunny afternoon. She stared intensely at the man selling pies in the bakery shop, a silent plea for attention. She didn't notice the older woman coming out of the shop until her slow feet stopped right next to her. The girl jumped and looked straight into the woman's faded sky blue eyes. "Where is your mother, little girl?" The woman's voice was gentle, with a mild note of curiosity. The girl stroked her hair out of her eyes and merely shrugged. The gray lady smiled. "Ran away, have we? Well I know how that feels!" She took a small cake with delicious looking chocolate cream out of the brown bag she was carrying. "Have a cupcake, that'll make the cold go away!" The little girl shook her head, "I can't take food from strangers, Mother said." Her voice sounded hoarse, without any color or intonation. She was afraid of the old lady's reaction, after turning her generosity down, but the lady was still smiling. "I wouldn't have turned that down in my day, you can be sure of that!" Her eyes went glazy for a moment, as if she wasn't really there. Then she sighed. "Listen, little child, if you're not careful, you're going to end up just like me, going to the same bakery you're whole life, trying to please the same people. Little girls are not meant to wear posh dresses they can't spill on or too small shoes. But you can't stay here either, waiting for life to happen while you're catching a cold." The old lady reached out her hand and the little girl took it. It was warm and soft. The old lady smelled of soap and apples, and she was wearing a pearl necklace over her blue dress, that sparkled in the last rays of sunlight. They set off together, the old lady slowly but steadily taking her home, while humming an old and forgotten song. The shoes were left on the street, until another girl found them, who had just about the right seize.   

I'm still going to celebrate Christmas

{ Thursday, December 22, 2011 }
I never really understood the requirement that a convert should leave Christmas behind all together, and not even visit his/her family on that day. 
I think it all depends on your intention. If you are going to celebrate the birth of "the Son of God", yes then we have a problem. As a Muslim, I mean, since that's not part of the Islamic belief. But my family never celebrated Christmas for that reason. Sometimes we went to church, but certainly not every year. Christmas is a time when my family comes together, and they don't even mention Prophet Jesus. We all go to my aunt's house, where we have dinner together. There is a quiz that my grandfather organises and a tombola, with small gifts for everyone.We talk about our lives and make jokes. I don't see a problem with that. Family is very important in Islam, so I don't see what's wrong in joining in. It's also a period of light when the winter makes everything cold and dark, and I've always quite enjoyed the atmosphere. I think you just make the gap between you and your family wider if you refuse to spend that special time with them. That's just my opinion anyway. 

Of course, this year, I won't be there, since I'm in Egypt. But I'm still going to have a special dinner with friends.   To me it's a time for bonding and being grateful for the friends and family you have. It's a time to think about what you have achieved this year before you celebrate the new year. It has very little to do with a specific religion. I'm certain that God will not punish me for sharing these moments with the people who are close to me. 

An exercise in forgiveness

{ Saturday, December 10, 2011 }
People often see forgiveness as a sign of weakness, a way of letting people "off the hook" without punishment for what they did. The bigger the hurt, the more we feel it's impossible to ever let it go. But if we think about it: who suffers the most from holding a grudge? Imagine walking around with poison all day, that can't be healthy right? It's very possible that the person we hate and hold guilty continues to live his/her life without a care in the world, and we end up suffering twice: once when we experienced the person hurting us, and now because we keep on feeling the pain of what they inflicted upon us.
When we keep this in mind, we see clearly that forgiveness is a strong act of self-love, an act that will change our life for the better. It's to let go of our role as a victim, and to start taking responsibility for our life again. It's living with the thought that that person might never be punished in this life, but that at least you won't keep suffering for what he/she did to you. And don't forget: what goes around, comes around. If a person does something negative, it will backfire at him/her, in some way or the other.

I found the following exercise to be helpful in accomplishing inner peace and serenity. I'm still doing the exercise, but in my opinion, it works. The original exercise says to do it in one time, but in my experience it's better to take your time for this, and to do one or two persons at a time. I also added some other things that I found helpful.

Take a paper and pen, or open an empty word document on your pc. Close your eyes and take some time to relax, to quiet down your thoughts and to ask God to help you with this exercise. Then, write the name of your father on the paper. Think about the past and which negative feelings arise when you think of him. Write those feelings and experiences down on paper. Then, write "I now forgive my father for this hurt". Try to mean it. Try to really forgive him, try to really let go. If you are having difficulties, pray to God to assist you. When you feel you let the experience go, go to the next negative feeling you have, and keep writing until you have no more negative feelings left. Then pray to God to bless your father and to give him peace, love, joy, a good health and all good things. If your father passed away, you can pray for his well-being in the next life. 
Then, take another paper and write all his good qualities down, and reread it several times. If you feel the need to send him a message after, by all means do so. 
Do the same for your mother and your siblings. Try to do this even if you don't feel negative towards any of them at first sight, you might be surprised what comes up. Then maybe some members of your broader family, and all other people who you feel hurt you in some way. I suggest you give yourself time to process your feelings and don't do everything all in once. You can also pray for the person you dealt with several times during the day, to enhance the positive feelings you have for them. 

- based on an exercise from Secrets of Fascinating Womanhood

When you forgive someone, it's doesn't mean that you automatically let him/her back into your life. If you feel there is a chance the hurt might be repeated if you trust this person again, then there is nothing wrong with banning this person out of your life. You can love a person without wanting to spend time with them. Remember, in the end, it's not really about the other person, it's about you and your well-being. The best revenge is to be happy!

Beautiful Music: The Mystic's Dream

{ Wednesday, December 7, 2011 }

Words and music by Loreena McKennitt

A clouded dream on an earthly night
Hangs upon the crescent moon
A voiceless song in an ageless light
Sings at the coming dawn
Birds in flight are calling there
Where the heart moves the stones
It's there that my heart is calling
All for the love of you
A painting hangs on an ivy wall
Nestled in the emerald moss
The eyes declare a truce of trust
And then it draws me far away
Where deep in the desert twilight
Sand melts in pools of the sky
When darkness lays her crimson cloak
Your lamps will call me home
And so it's there my homage's due
Clutched by the still of the night
And now I feel you move
Every breath is full
So it's there my homage's due
Clutched by the still of the night
Even the distance feels so near
All for the love of you.

A HSP in Cairo

{ }

As a HSP (and I do believe this term really exists) life in Cairo is not always easy. It's very hard to find a place where it's quiet and peaceful. It seems like people are so fond of noise here, the way they abuse their carhorns. 
Luckily I have an apartment on the 19th floor, where the noise can't penetrate so much.
I know there are people who fall in love with this city from the first moment they get here. I agree that there are very beautiful monuments and places here, and people can be very kind. I remember that it was pouring rain one evening and I was stranded in an Etisalat shop. I needed to take a taxi back to my apartment but the taxi's were not stopping at all. So the salesman went out in the rain for me to stop a taxi. He started shouting "taks!taks!" to get their attention and there were some other men who joined in too. So I could just run to the taxi and get in straight away. Very nice of him.

You can never feel entirely comfortable though. You always remain the foreigner, and some Egyptians have pretty inaccurate ideas about Western women. I partly blame Hollywood for this. I never noticed it in Belgium, but movies often depict women as easy and passive. I went to the cinema here with my Egyptian friend, and the movie showed two men who went home with another girl every night. Every single one of them was willing to be seduced and have a one night stand with those men, and it just doesn't give a good impression.
There is a strong belief here that every girl who doesn't wear hijaab is cheap and wants to be harassed. Then again, even hijabi's get harassed. 
It's a nightmare to walk home when school is finishing. There are tons of schoolkids on the street. When you pass them, they start shouting at you "Hello! Hello! Hello! Hello! What's your name! Hello!" and no matter how much you ignore them, they don't give up. I've also had Egyptian girls touching and pulling my hair.
The police on the street stares at you shamelessly. They call you "muza" or even start singing to get your attention. It just doesn't make me feel safe. 

I've had some kidney problems here in Egypt, and I never had it in Belgium. I had to go to the hospital on my own, which was difficult for me, but if I look at it on the bright side, it helped me to become more independent. 

There are students of two different universities in my class. The students from the other university are given the chance to stay a whole year in Cairo, because their classes in Belgium can be given in Cairo. When I tried to imagine myself staying here for a whole year, I realised how worn out I feel. I am grateful for the experience I had, and Cairo is full of life, but I miss my country. I miss the green in my garden, I miss the food, I miss my friends and family and I miss my cat. Maybe when I actually return, I'll miss Cairo instead :p
I do wonder if my cat still knows I exist. 

An apple and an egg

{ Tuesday, December 6, 2011 }
I miss expressing myself. I'm so busy with school and with trying to manage life here in Cairo, that I don't even find time to listen much to my thoughts, or to ask myself how I feel about stuff. I have no inspiration either. It's like a rusty mirror. I just need to wipe off the dirt, and then maybe I can see myself and my thoughts clearly again. 
I can say how much work I have for school, how life in Cairo is proving to be bad for my health, but I want to talk about deeper things. I didn't intend this blog to be only a diary. 

Maybe I can say that my thoughts about religion are constantly changing, and that I definitely start to see it more as a private affair. I mean with that that I think everyone has the right to have his/her own thoughts about religion, and that others shouldn't interfere with it. It makes me angry when I see so called Muslims making dead treats to others because they don't agree with their orthodox Islamic way of thinking. God created us with a brain to think for ourselves. It's about your connection with God, so what are others doing in the picture anyway?

My curiosity let me to try two different ways of dressing as a Muslim girl, here in Egypt. Once I wore hijaab while going to Azhar park, and it felt different. I felt like I fitted in more, and people actually thought I was Egyptian. I also tried the black abaya and niqaab, while my fiancé was here (no, he didn't force me). We went to a Saudi restaurant and thanks to the niqaab I was wearing we could sit in the only secluded table available. I also wore it when we went to Citystars. Just out of curiousity. To be honest, it made me feel invisible. From being stared at all the time for being a foreigner (which I don't particulary enjoy either) to being totally overlooked by men. It was like I wasn't there, and that didn't give me a good feeling either. I also had breathing problems and needed to lift the niqaab a little from time to time. I can't see myself wearing it all the time. 
I like to dress differently, take on different identities and see how people react towards me. Maybe I do that to make up for the fact that I'm struggeling to find out who I really am and what I really want in life. That's a part of modern life, isn't it? To find out what you "really" want in life. It happens a lot in movies. A woman is depressed, and once she finds out what she really wants to do, bam! Success and happiness fall out of the sky like pouring rain. Whether this happens in real life remains to be seen. 

I realise I've been a bit random in this post, but I'm just flexing my muscles to get back in shape again!

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