Sunday, 29 June 2008

Day 2: Material Life

I just woke up and it's 10:30am. Not very good considering in a couple of nights I will have to be waking up at 3am (insh'Allah).

So for this morning entry, I wanted to reflect a bit on how attached I've become to 'stuff.' There's this song by Zain Bhikha I love titled "Can't take it with you (when you go)" and I've always loved it because it shows how material we've become.

This is the view outside my window:

Houses in Yemen are very very basic, and look unfinished, as if they are half-built. Most are made of mud bricks, which are then painted over (as far as I understand) with something that makes them not melt in the rain. You feel that the houses are not only environmentally friendly, but part of the earth. And because-apart from the main roads-the roads are unpaved, dusty and rocky, you feel like you are in a very un-urban place. Being so close to nature is new to me, and definitely makes you more aware of how small you are in the grand scheme of things.

In Egypt, the only reason anyone would have a house like that is because they are too poor to build a better one. But here, I think another reason is because for many people, houses are just places where they sleep and live, they don't need to be incredible on the inside and outside—the need to show off isn't there. The environment in Tarim also forces many people into an ascetic mode of living.

The flat I'm in right now consists of two bedrooms, two tiny airport size bathrooms, one empty room (which I presume is for entertaining guests) and a kitchen. Each bedroom has two mattresses with a pillow, and only one of the bathrooms has a proper toilet; the other is just a hole in the floor. The kitchen has a refrigerator, cooker (gas though—don't think I've seen one of those in ages) and a semi-automatic washing machine. Because of the heat, there's an airconditioner in the bedrooms (alhamdulela!) but other than that the apartment is bare. No knickknacks, no curtains, no useless things everywhere. And you know what? It's enough.

Sure, I've realized how much I depend on 'stuff,'—("Oh, I need a mirror to tie my hijab. Oh, how can I hang my abayas with no hangers?" etc) but for the most part I relish this experience.

I've only been here a day, but I can already see that life here is so much simpler. The constant roaring in my ears that I always have back home (partially due to traffic—I haven't heard one car here), the constant drive to do this and this and this is simply non-existent. Simply because the place is so simple. I get up, I pray, and I feel like I can take my time. I don't have to hurriedly get dressed, drive to work at a break neck speed, stopping only to pick up a a sandwich, go to work, finish work, and head off to evening classes before trudging back home and doing it all again the next day.

At 10pm here, there's no one in the streets, which makes it easier to wake up for fajr. Internet access is minimal, and even then facebook, my biggest waste of time, is blocked. There's even something to be said for dressing the same (women in black jilbabs and niqabs and men in white jilbabs)—the time wasted matching clothes and getting dressed simply becomes redundant. Of course, this doesn't mean I'm going to want to give up facebook forever or dress the same way forever, but just that I understand the allure.

I've already fallen in love with this place. And with the Al-Rabie milk.

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