journey

Nadia’s Maniacal Plan to Conquer Europe by Bike

Tomorrow is the day I set off for Lisbon, Portugal. I might not get to see much of it, which is quite disappointing every time I

A Facebook follower was very generous in helping me design this for a tshirt after my husband and I cycled from London to Paris last year.

A Facebook follower was very generous in helping me design this for a tshirt after my husband and I cycled from London to Paris last year.

think of it.

I’m freaking out. I spent most of the second half of yesterday holding back tears. I’m so scared. And for the gazillionth time I asked myself, “Why I am doing this?”

On the train on my way back home from a short wedding anniversary trip to London, I posted the following on Facebook (feel free to follow me on FB but I will have to apologize for not accepting friend requests) as my mind went round and round and round:

Questions that will soon be answered:

1. Can I enjoy myself when completely on my own? As in COMPLETELY on my own.

2. Can I motivate myself when I’m ready to give up?

3. When faced with a problem I do not know how to solve, is my solution to just break down and cry? (Yes is the answer to this one)

4. Can I be the kind of tourist who does ABSOLUTELY no shopping (except for food) for quite a long time?

5. How long can my back last sleeping on the ground?

6. How long can I last without a shattafa?

7. How much pain can I REALLY handle?

8. How long can I go without soap and clean clothes?

9. How much do I REALLY enjoy nature?

10. How long can I go without getting my eyebrows done without looking like an ape?

I have a very contradictive personality. I’m superstitious. I don’t want to tell people about my plans in case it jinxes it. I fear their collective evil eye. Yet I am, at the same time, a compulsive sharer. I want to be able to write about my plans and my experiences. It helps me process through my thoughts much better than keeping them to myself in my head. And I will not lie: I also need the support and encouragement of my friends.

So I’m just going to get it out there and tell you about this trip I’ve been planning for the past few months. If anything bad happens before, during, or after the trip, I’ll lay it on YOU, the reader, for your evil eye. So before you read any further, cleanse your heart, purify your thoughts, and send me nothing but good vibes. (more…)

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Struggling to Find My Calling in Life

It has been a very long time since I’ve known what I want to do in life.  I’ve been racking my head over it now for months, probably longer. And I’m getting absolutely nowhere.

Yesterday I came out of watching The Hobbit thinking that maybe what I need to do is spend the next two years learning Kung Fu. Then maybe I could go back to Egypt and use my Kung Fu superpowers to save the country from the evil dragons that have taken over the country. I really did decide this was going to be my calling. Those elves and their martial arts really got to my head.

Two days ago I decided that spending so much time on social media was not helping me figure out my calling. Perhaps if I cut back significantly I would be able to spend more time figuring it all out. I have been using social media quite heavily for several years now and it has definitely not helped me find my calling; the evidence being that it has gotten me absolutely nowhere. I did go through a phase where I felt that communicating through Facebook and Twitter had become my job. My husband once asked me to put down my phone and to focus on the moment that we were in – we were travelling somewhere. I replied, “But Colin. This is what I DO!” I have definitely been through phases where I have thought that my Twitter and Facebook followers were hanging on my every word. When did it become so important for me to communicate my every thought to a virtual world? Two days ago when I made my decision to cut down on social media, a thought came to my head and I struggled with myself for hours not to write down on Facebook. I told myself that if I still felt it was important later that evening then I could write it to the world then. I didn’t. The status would have read, “The women at my gym in the UK show hardly any emotion when they workout while I grimace and curse the whole time. I wonder what they are like during child birth.” Clearly this is a completely inconsequential thing to say. Before the Internet, that thought would go through my head and it would then die there. Now it comes into my head and I have to tell the world. What is that all about? I must admit that I am now relieved it is out there in the world through this blog post, though.

But no. I have decided that social media cannot be my calling.

I have not always been at a loss like this. (more…)

The Meaning of Life

I’ve been thinking about life a lot lately. I look at my own life and wonder if it has much meaning. It has meaning to me, of course. But does it have meaning beyond me? Will my brief existence on Earth have any meaningful short-term or long-term impact? Is it important that it does?

Life is such a strange thing.

There are points in every one of our lives where it just simply takes our breath away. These are different for each of us. They could be in the ecstasy of passing a difficult exam at school, or in the miraculous moments of giving birth to a child, or while standing on a mountain top, or while sitting with a dear friend, drinking tea on a long cold night, and laughing from the bottom of your hearts while remembering days gone by.

There are other points in every one of our lives when we are enveloped by a darkness we may think will never end: the death of a loved one, being unemployed, losing everything in a natural disaster, or, for some, simply failing an important exam at school.

And there are all the ups and downs in between: (more…)

Is Doubting Religion Something to Fear?

A few times now I have been contacted by mainly younger Egyptian friends who are feeling down or are in a semi-panicked state.  They confide in me, as if telling me a deep dark secret, that they have doubts about religion. They are scared. They are frightened to tell anyone about their doubts and thus be judged and told they are going down that slippery road towards hell that we keep hearing about. They are frightened that having doubts means they are indeed on their way to hell.

They have doubts and they have absolutely no idea where to turn. Sometimes they do not know where to start to address these doubts. In our culture, we have been taught from a very early age that even though Islam is a religion where there are no intermediaries between one and His God, we can only get information about our religion from “trusted” Islamic scholars. We are often not encouraged to do our own research into questions of religion lest we stray the way and stumble into ideas and information that we are not strong enough to handle or not knowledgeable enough to differentiate what is “right” in that information from what is “wrong”. (more…)

Who ARE you?

Who are you?

No. Really. Who ARE you? Do you know? Do you REALLY know?

How have you lived your life?

Day-to-day? Go to work, come home, sleep, go to work again? Zombie mode?

Or have you thought about “stuff”? Why are you here in this world? What are you really meant to be doing? Is this all there is?

Have you tried looking inwardly? Have you tried getting to know yourself the way you try getting to know your best friend, your spouse, or your child? Do you just figure you already know yourself? Or have you tried to peel away the layers that have accumulated over the years like grime; each layer representing whom someone else wanted or expected you to be and so you complied? (more…)

Why I Have Decided to Live My Life and Why That Doesn’t Mean My Life Is Perfect

Sometime around my early to mid-thirties, I decided I needed to make some changes in my life. I was a fulltime mother and housewife at the time. And I was more than happy to continue doing that indefinitely. I absolutely loved, and still do, taking care of my children and managing the household. But I had come to the realization, observing my and my siblings relationships with my own parents, that children grow up and go on to have their own lives. If I didn’t find something to occupy my time, in addition to my children, a day will come when I will feel very alone. I was also feeling a need to be financially independent. At the time, my thinking on the matter wasn’t feminist in the slightest. I wasn’t thinking that I needed to be my own independent person and part of that independence was my financial independence. I simply wanted to have enough money to buy a nice shampoo every now and then without my husband complaining about how I was spending “our” money. And I wanted to be able to get my children nice things when I wanted to.

Shortly after I came to these realizations, I began to work. Becoming a career woman radically changed my life. (more…)

How the @#*! Does One Go About Discovering God and Religion?

There’s nothing like the death of a parent to smack some sense into you. Or maybe, rather, to smack confusion into you. Or perhaps it’s more like smacking you into realizing

Michelangelo's Finger of God

you need to confront the confusion you already had but did not want to face.

My father taught me almost everything I know about religion; i.e. Islam. I did my own readings, of course. I had a phase of about six years while studying medicine in university when I became a bookworm of Islamic knowledge. Just the other day I decided to organize my personal library at home. I thought I’d organize my books according to subject. I came across the books I bought during that time and I was horrified. Besides a number of books that guide one to the best methods of preaching Islam to others, and other books about how to purify oneself to a place of high moral and ethical standards according to Islamic philosophy, there were books such as Leadership and Following in Islam, Dying with Passion, and The Methods of Ideological Invasion. My books were chosen usually as either required or recommended reading by Muslim Brotherhood “sisters” and “brothers” who were mentoring me at the time. It was pounded into my head that one should not stray from books written by certain authors so as not to have my head messed with, basically, by writers following a non-pure path of Islam. And since I was still young, impressionable and pretty much ignorant and incapable of making up my own mind for myself – or so I was made to believe – I was instructed to follow the advice of those brothers and sisters who were more worldly and knowledgeable than me.

Many years later, I now clearly see how cult-like that part of my upbringing was. My head became lazy. I turned into a person who resorts to certain authorities on religion, i.e. Islam, rather than figuring things out with a mind open to all possibilities.

(more…)