Diversions on the Path to Paradise Diversions on the Path to Paradise Diversions on the Path to Paradise Diversions on the Path to Paradise Diversions on the Path to Paradise

Monthly Archives :

April 2016

Two Days Have Passed!

150 150 Muriel

Saturday April 30, 2016

6:30 am

My body is still adjusting to the difference in the time zones. It is 12:30 am on the east coast of the USA, the time when I would have normally been getting into a deep sleep. Now, here in Egypt, I have been up since 4:00 am for fajr prayer. My ritual consists of first taking my thyroid hormone replacement medication (my thyroid was removed in 2008 due to cancer) with warm lemon water prepared by my daughter, then proceeding to the bathroom to perform ablution to prepare for prayer. Despite the fact that the obligatory morning prayer is the shortest, it is typically the one I spend the most time in performing. Prior to the 2 obligatory rakats (the prescribed movements and recitations of prayer), I also perform the 2 sunnah (the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him) rakats. It is reported that the 2 sunnah rakats before the fard (obligatory) rakats at fajr are worth more than all the wealth in the world! So I get those in to gain my daily wealth from Allah (SWA)! Additionally, my dua, dhikr and azkar (supplication and remembrance of Allah) can get rather lengthy and continues to grow as my prayers include my family, friends, acquaintances, strangers, the Muslim community, those suffering under tyranny and dictatorship, the soul of my deceased son and others I love who have passed on, and asking for Allah’s (SWA) continued blessings, grace, mercy, and forgiveness on us all!

Following this, I retreat to the garden for my morning cup of joe, a couple of fogs (I know, believe me, I’m going to quit with the help of Allah!), to see the sun as it rises and feel the morning breeze on my face. I have now completed my early morning process and the motivational juices to put fingers to keyboard are in full effect! Whew!

Gateway to My New World!

Gateway to My New World!

I wasn’t on the computer yesterday since the housewarming extended well into the night on Thursday. My daughter and I were the first to arrive at 6 pm and were greeted by the hostess very graciously. Sister S is from Holland; her guests included a sister from Poland with a 2-month old son (after having 3 daughters in a row), a sister from Zimbabwe (via the UK), a sister from Sudan (via the UK), and a sister who is Lebanese/Romanian. The conversation was lively and centered around their children and education. I listened attentively and shared an idea for an alternative, hybrid form of education. Responses were mixed; the Sudanese sister would send her children. The hostess presented some challenges that might occur based on the current educational system/political climate in the country. Homeschooling is highly desired but not is favored. There would be hurdles, but not completely insurmountable. A suggestion was made to do an after school/summer enrichment program. Hmmm, food for thought. I will continue to explore the possibilities.

The food was awesome and unlike anything I had ever experienced! We were seated around the table after casually sipping on fresh cucumber and melon juice. A small grill, unlike any I had ever seen, was in the middle of the table. Each of us had a small bowl of sautéed chicken, beef, and meatballs at our place setting, beside which was a mini pan and spatula for placing the meat to go on/under the grill. There were various condiments; peppers, scallions, mushrooms, and corn to be placed in the mini pan with the meat or eaten raw once the meat was cooked. Tossed salad, tabbouleh, bread, and dips of hummus and garlic sauce were delightful compliments to the meal. Our hostess stated this idea was a tradition passed down by her mother who introduced it during holidays in order to get the family engaged in communicating during the meal. It really works! During the time the meat cooked on the grill we talked and laughed a lot. Everyone was so helpful and engaging; it was a lot of fun, too!

Housewarming; a very intimate and enjoyable meal!

Housewarming; a very intimate and enjoyable meal!

Before we knew it, 10 pm had rolled around and everyone prepared to leave. My son-in-law picked us up and by the time we got home, it was after 11. We even sat up for a while talking before finally retiring after midnight. With less than 4 hours of sleep, we were back up for morning prayer by 4 am. Needless to say, we all headed back to bed after that! I didn’t get up again until 10 am, stayed up for and only stayed up for a short period. My son-in-law set up the new bed for me in my bedroom, so when he and my grandson headed to Jumaah, I decided to try it out. Completely dressed with my slippers on, I passed out on that bed and slept for hours! When I woke up, I was less than an hour away from asr (the afternoon prayer time) and still had not prayed dhur (the noon prayer). I scrambled to get myself together, said my prayers and by the time I finished, dinner was ready.

I joked to my daughter that they were leaning towards becoming vegan, since the last few days there has been no meat in the meals. She assured me that was not the case.

Fish Dinner, Egyptian Stlye

Fish Dinner, Egyptian Stlye

Today’s meal of curried lentils with a side of raw scallions, and cut-up baked potatoes with balladi (flat puffy bread) was delicious! If the meatless meals continue to taste like this, this really would not be a bad thing to do. The family rode out to the store after mahgrib (the evening prayer) to shop and get bouza roll (Thai ice cream), my favorite dessert.

Honey Oatmeal with Raspberry Sauce

Honey Oatmeal with Raspberry Sauce

April 28, 2016

150 150 Muriel

Thursday April 28, 2016

6:35 am:

My custom-made mattress arrived last night! My son-in-law brought it home and it is in my room. We’ll set it up today on a temporary frame until mine arrives in a couple of weeks. Bedroom furniture is custom-made to order as well. Soon I will have my own “space” in the villa! We get up at 3:45 am for salat-ul-fajr (the morning prayer) and I have been staying up afterwards for my morning cup of joe and a couple of fogs (I WILL quit, inshaAllah).

My view, having my morning cup of joe and...enough!

My view, having my morning cup of joe and…enough!

This is also my “me-time” for writing, doing my stretches, walking, and going over the plan for the day with my daughter. The grandkids are still doing exams at school so every day one or more of the 4 of them has to go for testing until May 22.

We are experiencing a “cool spell” for a few days – 80s during the day and 60s at night with no humidity. NICE! My granddaughter S will have a friend over for pizza at lunch, a little end of school celebration. R and M are graduating from the 9th and 6th grades, respectively, and there will be a bigger celebration at the end of May for them. Later this evening, my daughter and I will attend the housewarming (for ladies only!).

Reflections on My 1st week in Egypt

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Wednesday April 27, 2016

6 am:

A little less than a week ago, I arrived in Egypt. Now that the whirlwind has begun to die down, I can sit and put fingers to the keyboard to convey what the last seven days have manifested in my body, mind, heart, and soul.  The 14-hour trip was challenging. By that I mean being told at the check-in counter for Turkish Airlines that I was assigned a window seat. For me, at 63 years old, this meant climbing over/around another passenger for my frequent trips to the restroom as well as getting up to stretch on this 10-hour stretch of the trip from Dulles International airport in Virginia to Istanbul, Turkey. When I raised an objection, the young lady behind the counter informed me that I did not need to worry, the seat next to me is broken and no one would be assigned to sit there. Imagine my dismay in finding out that not only was the seat NEXT to me broken but mine was as well! Neither of them would recline nor did the audio work for the conveniently placed video screen directly in front of me! I made a very humble complaint and was offered another seat. However, rather than inconvenience other passengers, I remained where I was. After all, the flight left Dulles at 11 pm that night, I was exhausted and I expected to sleep most of the trip. And apart from the 2 main meals served (dinner soon after we took off and breakfast a couple of hours before landing), that’s exactly what I did!

Istanbul airport was a zoo, to say the least. Fortunately, I had requested wheelchair assistance from the beginning of my journey. Unable to walk or stand for long periods of time, this was the best option for me. Was I ever glad to be wheel chair bound when we reached Istanbul! Aside from the obvious language barrier (me speaking English and no Turkish; airport staff speaking Turkish and very little English), just maneuvering around the crowds and confusion was a major event for a healthy, walking person! In the airport, they have what is called an “airport clinic”. Not to be confused for a place to treat sick people, it functions as the holding area for persons with disabilities i.e. wheelchair bound, using a cane, old/infirm, and even those travelling with young children. The most disconcerting part of this arrangement is that the person that staffs this area holds on to your boarding pass and passport! No thank you, I don’t think so! I don’t care WHAT policy this is supposed to represent; I’m keeping MY ish with me in a foreign country! I will NOT be the one stranded and NOBODY know what happened to my stuff. Just let me know when the plane is boarding and I will present my OWN documents! And they don’t speak English either? Oh, heck NOOOOO!

Even though I was probably branded somewhat of a troublemaker for politely demanding my documents, all went well. With no explanation, we were herded from the “airport clinic” in a somewhat crude looking transport apparatus (that appeared as though it may have been left over from the original Star Wars set or some other old sci-fi movie) and boarded the plane to Egypt, 25 minutes later than the posted boarding time. Of course this airplane would be a lot more comfortable, since it was only an hour and 45 minutes long. Go figure! Turkish Airlines won’t get my vote for the “Best in Europe” for 2016!

Ahhhh, Egypt! The people here are some of the kindest, gentlest you will find on Earth! From the time the plane landed and I was placed in the wheelchair, a young man by the name of Omar escorted and cared for me, taking me through immigration, getting my luggage, and getting them through customs without a stint! He delivered me, unscathed, to the front door of the airport and into the loving arms of my daughter, her husband and my 4 lovely grandchildren. Jidda Samira had arrived!

My son-in-law is a “strategic planner” by nature, which I love! One of my favorite sayings is “He/She who fails to plan, plans to fail”. So the next several days’ plans involved shopping/choosing/ordering/and purchasing everything I needed to make my bedroom quarters comfortable. After visits to IKEA (where the Adhan is called over the loudspeaker at prayer times), several furniture stores, and a mattress store over 2 days.

I settled on my choices to include a desk and shelving units from IKEA, a bedroom set (bedframe, nightstand, and closet) and a memory foam mattress and box spring from a bedding maker. H picked up and put together the IKEA purchases and assembled them in one evening! Everything else has been ordered and we are anxiously awaiting the arrival! In the meantime, my oldest granddaughter has graciously allowed me to stay in her bedroom until mine is officially completed.

Family meals of breakfast and dinner are a mainstay in the household. And let’s not forget the late night snack of bread, cheese, fruit and yogurt, or other delicacies that occurs more frequent than not! The fresh BREAD is to die for! H usually picks it up daily and brings it home for the next day. AND he does the majority of the grocery shopping, the norm for males in this culture. Boy, have I ever been deluded being born and raised in America! Late night jaunts can happen for a drink at the local juice bar or the Thai-inspired ice cream that has now surpassed hot apple pie with ice cream AND Cheesecake Factory cheesecake as my most favorite dessert on EARTH!

The past week has been filled with highs and lows, plots and plans, twists and turns. I am loving my new adventures and the beginning of this chapter of my life. I am still able to connect with family and friends via FB messenger (go Mark Zuckerberg!), whatsapp, and imo for those who care to download them on their smartphones; received word of the passing of my youngest uncle R (made me very sad); trying to figure out the hook for muriel.blogs (look out for the launching soon); praying/planning to make umrah to Mecca soon; and, finding out that single beds are not common here so I had to have a mattress custom-made to fit all the linen I brought with me from America! That was a tip I received from my daughter N before I left, to bring it with me. Just in case you’re wondering “Why doesn’t she just get Egyptian cotton since she’s in Egypt?” FYI- it’s pretty much nonexistent here and one of the top-rated EXPORTS for the country. Too expensive for the locals!

The weather has been somewhat kind. Only experienced a couple of reallllly hot days so far but there are more to come! When I say hot, I’m talking 101F and above. But who needs to go out on those days when EVERYTHING can be delivered to your door – groceries, laundry, pharmacy, food – even Mickey D’s, KFC, and Pizza Hut! Now if I can just figure out how to get some of that Thai ice cream I love delivered on those days…hmmm, something to ponder.

My daughter and I walked to 7 Stars Mall today, shopped for a housewarming gift for a sister, outfits to wear (under our abayas/overgarments) to the housewarming dinner party, my prescription meds, and then caught a taxi back.

I have been walking every day since I arrived, EVEN the day it was 106F! I typically go out early, around 7am. That day (yesterday), by the time my 2 grandkids and I arrived back home around 8ish, it was already 90 degrees! I won’t do THAT again. We even stopped for a cool drink at Gulf Market but that didn’t even help! I was exhausted and slept the rest of the morning and into the early afternoon. My walking goal is 60 minutes per day and so far, I have been successful in achieving it every day since I arrived. Mind you. I keep my Samsung S6 on me so that it measures ALL of my steps throughout the day.