children

I Am the Palestinian Mothers

Some people belong to worlds that are small and limited to themselves, their immediate families, their work, and perhaps a few small social circles.

I almost envy people who have such small worlds.

My world is comprised of myself, my immediate family, my extended family, a small number of best friends, a very large number of friends and social media contacts, and then every man, woman, and child living in Egypt and the rest of the Arab world.

It is a burdensome world I live in.

Some people are even less fortunate than me. Their worlds are so large that they encompass everyone on planet Earth and beyond. People like that have so much empathy it makes you and me look like unfeeling zombies.

I have been considering all this over the past few days. Why is it that, while I sit safely in my home in the UK, I can feel so down about everything happening in Egypt, Gaza, Iraq, and Syria? When bad things happen there, it is as if they are happening to my own family. No. It’s not “as if”. It is happening to my own family.

A few days ago I attempted to start a small creative writing project. I began writing about a woman who finds herself dead in a dark grave. It takes her awhile to gather her thoughts. Her head hurts. She almost immediately starts to think about her children. She lovingly tells us a bit about each one. And slowly it all comes back to her. In one group of paragraphs the woman is Palestinian, killed at home by an Israeli bomb while she gathered her children under her arms to protect them. In another set of paragraphs she is an Iraqi mother whose children watched in horror while she was raped then battered to death. In a third set of paragraphs the woman is a Syrian mother who died on a smuggler’s boat from hunger and sheer despair after having watched two of her younger children quietly pass into oblivion. I never got as far as writing all those paragraphs. I was physically incapable of getting that far. I put myself in the shoes of the first mother, an Egyptian woman not very different from me, who was shot while sitting in her car by thugs wanting the money in her purse. This is something that actually happened to the sister of a former work colleague of mine. I put myself in that mother’s shoes and felt so much anguish that I could not bear to continue to write. I could not possibly write about the other mothers. I would not have been able to hold myself together.

I’ve been wondering what it was in my upbringing that made me feel so close to other Arabs. (more…)

Very miscellaneous thoughts and random posts from my Facebook page

  • When I watch a group of non-Arabs dance to Western music, I usually tsk tsk them under my breath and fantasize that, after disapproving of their dance abilities for awhile, I slowly walk into the center of the dance floor, wave my hand to shoo everybody away, and say, “Move over, everyone. Let me show you how this should be done.” I then break into an elaborate Egyptian belly dance. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), I did not inherit a single Western or Egyptian dancing gene from my American mother and Egyptian father.
  • I’d like to work as a foot model. I really like the idea of making money by showing people my feet.
  • I had one of my very strange dreams last night. (more…)

26 Things I Learned in 2012 (and Thereabouts)

  1. Your family and your personal wellbeing always trump work.
  2. Your personal integrity is more important than a good salary.
  3. Love can be found on the tops of mountains.
  4. Never give up on the idea of finding your prince charming. He’s out there somewhere if you look hard enough.
  5. The very very hard times WILL be followed by good times so just hang in there a little bit longer. It will get better.
  6. Don’t worry too much about the details. Focus on the big picture.
  7. Sometimes your psyche and your body are yelling, “Give us a break!” Listen to them. Every now and then we need to give ourselves time to heal and to rejuvenate.
  8. Earth is such a beautiful planet. Make a point to see as much of it as you can manage.
  9. Earth is such a beautiful planet. It’s your responsibility to take care of it.
  10. Great friends are few and priceless. Hold onto them for dear life.
  11. Children are God’s greatest blessing. Treat them with respect and sensitivity.
  12. Be true to yourself. To do that you must know who you are. To do that, look within. Do not be confused by other people’s perceptions of who they think you are or who they want you to be.
  13. Value relationships with loved ones by keeping them strong. This requires lots of hard work. It’s worth it.
  14. To keep fit and healthy one must work hard and feel the pain.
  15. Don’t let the fitness of others demotivate you. If you continue to exercise, you can be as fit as they are one day.
  16. 70-year-olds who are consistent in their workout routines can be more fit than many 30-year-olds. These people deserve respect.
  17. Nothing bad will happen to you if you run in the rain or in sub-zero temperatures so just toughen up and get your jogging routine done.
  18. Live life. You only have one chance to do it.
  19. Don’t live your life through others. Decide what it is you would rather be doing and put together a plan to do it.
  20. There is nothing wrong with being 44-years-old and still not knowing what you want to be when you grow up (or wanting to be lots of different things).
  21. As you get older, your skin will droop and your hair will grow grey. Deal with it.
  22. When your country and your countrymen seem to be drowning in a sea of negativity, do what you can to be a drop of positivity in that sea.
  23. Democracy doesn’t come in 18 days. Hope and dignity do.
  24. Faith is a very personal matter. Do not let others tell you how your faith should be.
  25. Never dispose of common sense…especially when it comes to matters of faith.
  26. Do not allow others to dictate to you how your life should be lived, what you should believe, or how you should behave. They are doing what they want to do. You do what you want to do.

Save a Child Because You Can

Five days ago, I wrote a blog post about a child I’ve been seeing on my way to work who I was afraid was being abused.

To recap, every day as I go to work I see a woman who covers her face with a face veil pushing a five or six year-old child in a wheelchair. The child is always asleep. Always very limp. Extremely and deathly thin. Face always covered. No way to recognize either the woman or the child.

I was seriously concerned that the child was being drugged – possibly even kidnapped – and used for the purpose of begging. I began tweeting and facebooking about the couple to try to figure out what to do. I was told by many people that it actually does happen in Egypt that children are kidnapped and drugged for this purpose. (more…)

Haunted by a Street Child

Ever since I’ve known Egypt, I’ve seen street beggars and street children. Story after media story has been written about them locally and internationally. They are so commonplace most of us don’t give them a second thought. The children come from broken homes, or have run away from home, or are kidnapped from home, or are simply used by their parents and extended families as a source of income. There are large gangs of beggars in Egypt. It’s an underground society. I remember an Egyptian movie made about them in the 70s or 80s that depicted beggars who played the role of a deformed person in need of money during the day who went home to a nice, fully furnished apartment in the evening.

In Egypt, we know all about the beggars and their underground society. Yet we continue to indulge them. And they are allowed to roam our streets freely. (more…)

The Life of a Divorced Parent

It is very difficult for a divorced parent to wake up in the morning to an empty house. As parents, we spend most of our lives complaining about all the hard work, the lack of sleep, the lack of peace and quiet, the problems, the multi-tasking… But not a single one of us would have it any other way.

A parent’s decision to divorce is one that is usually made over a period of years and one that is not made lightly at all. There are many repercussions to “ending” a relationship; one is that it never really ends when children are involved. More importantly, one’s children are directly affected by the divorce of their parents. While weighing the pros and cons of divorce, the best one can do is put the children’s interests above one’s own. Many people come to the realization that their children will suffer more from their parents’ unhealthy marital relationship or from living with unhappy parents than they would suffer from their divorce.

That does not mean there isn’t any suffering involved. It is DAMNED difficult afterwards. (more…)

Travelblog: Mother and Sons Diving Team

I’m a proud, proud mother. If motherhood pride had a smell, you could make a perfume of it and name it Mama Nadia.

Mama and her two boys

Today, my 10-year old and 12-year-old sons got their open water PADI certification. This means they are licensed to dive in waters as deep as 15 meters until they are 15. After that, their little bodies will have grown enough to be able to handle deeper waters.

We spent the Easter holiday in training in Hurghada in the Red Sea. The boys turned out to be absolute naturals at diving (in their mother’s totally unbiased eyes anyways).

(more…)

Taboo Topics 1 and 2: Giving Muslim Women and Children Choice

In Islam, Muslim men are given the choice of marrying either a Muslim woman or a “woman of the book”, which refers to Muslims, Christians, and Jews. However, Muslim women are not given the same choice. They can only marry a Muslim man. Why is this?

Most arguments that support this say that it is for the children; to make sure the children are raised as Muslims. The man, the argument goes, is the head of the household and it is he who determines the faith of his children.

But is this really true? What are the statistics (are there any to begin with?) of Muslim men marrying non-Muslim women and ending up with all Muslim children? How much of the non-Muslim woman’s faith is actually instilled in these children?

A more important question is this: why is it that we feel the need to brainwash our children (I apologize in advance for the harsh terminology but if you want to be truthful and sincere this is what we do) into believing in one religion? What is so wrong with having children grow up learning about more than one religion and making their own choice when they come of age? Is religion such a delicate and fragile concept that the only way for a person to believe in it is for that person to have it pounded day after day into his/her head from the day they are born?

So today’s topic is about choice:

Giving Muslim women the CHOICE to marry whomever they want regardless of religion, creed, race, or nationality.

And giving children – all children – the CHOICE to think for themselves and decide what they want to believe based on knowledge and faith and not on what they were groomed to believe is truth.

I will probably be “crucified” by some Muslims for even raising a topic like this. We believe in the word of God and the words of His prophet and we do not necessarily need to understand the wisdom behind them. I wonder when Muslims started making up that phrase. Since the dawn of Islam and until only rather recently, Muslims were allowed to discuss and philosophize about the most sensitive of topics; even about the “whatness” of God Himself. When was there ever only one truth in Islam? When was there ever only one understanding of the script? When did we stop relearning Islam and re-understanding it as times changed?

At the same time, other friends, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, will probably see these questions as very backward and long overdue. Many Muslims are way past discussing these “petty” issues and have gone on with their lives. And for non-Muslims, some might relate to a degree because their religions are not very different and others will not because they live with the times and are more in tune with the universality of the world and the intrinsic right to freedom of choice.

These two topics stem out of a discussion I had with a group of female Egyptian friends of mine. These friends and I have basically gone through similar phases as conservative Muslim women and are now going through a similar phase of questioning some of the most essential “truths” we have learned along the way.

So regardless of whether you are going through the same phase, or you are past it, or you never thought this needed to be a phase to begin with, I’m looking forward to hearing all of your input on this topic. And expect more to come!