Saturday, 16 August 2008


This is what I'm looking at right now:

It's gorgeously idyllic. I’ve just spent a weekend doing absolutely nothing. A day swimming in the pool, and a day swimming in the sea. A night sleeping till noon and a night lying on a hammock trying to make out the summer triangle constellation.

I know that I deserve a weekend off before I go back to work tomorrow, and that this weekend is basically my holiday, but I can’t get over the fact that Tarim seems so so far at this moment. Looking at the palm trees in the garden is like pressing on a bruise near my heart.

Summer in Egypt is the time of bumming around and literally doing absolutely nothing other than having fun. People wake up at noon, spend all day at the beach, and then all night chilling, not going to bed before dawn.

Being on the north coast in the summer, seeing everyone dressed so revealingly was honestly a kind of shock. After living with people with so much modesty it just seems so crude to be walking around half naked. So much flaunting of the flesh, and honestly it makes me despair about how low we've sunk and how far we have to go if we want to get ourselves out of this pit we've dug ourselves into.

On the (all female) beach, I had fun. But once I found myself singing along about them apple bottom jeans and beautiful liars along with the DJ, I had to take a step back.

It’s so easy to get sucked back into everything you say you want to stay away from. But this is the period where I have to be strongest, where I have to formulate the habits I want to keep. I don't want to slip back into my normal life; I don't want to have the incredible experience of Tarim register as no more than a blip on the radar of my life.

The lives of (most) people in the social circles I'm part of are fake and hollow. Oh yes, they're definitely glittering and extravagant, but they're empty.

We were invited yesterday to one of the ‘social gatherings’ my family frequents, and it got to a point where I couldn’t take it anymore. The gossiping, the aimless conversation that was absolutely devoid of purpose, the fake laughter and the vapidity of it all got to me.

So I took off to sit outside and look at the water, only to hear pounding stereo music in the distance. Like I said I would, I miss the silence of Tarim.

Eventually we left at 2:30 in the morning only to get stuck for an hour in traffic on the way back (and this is a highway) because of a concert Egypt's most famous singer (Amr Diab) was giving.
And this was the night of the 15th of Sh'aaban.

I’m laughing on the outside, having fun with my family and friends, but on the inside I feel off-kilter. Tarim seems like it was a million miles away, and I miss almost everything about it. I want to hold on it to it but with every passing day it gets further away. It's like holding on to a dream when you wake up, or like Bastian in the Never ending story trying to hold on to his memories. If Tarim was a well I took water from, then it's like trying to hold on to that water which I’ve simply cupped in my hand. My Yemeni housedress has become my security blanket, but I can't hold on to it forever.

I find myself thinking to myself: did it really happen? Did I just spend 40 days of my life in one of the purest places I will ever visit? A place where you feel the entire universe conspires to help you be the best you could possibly be?

I just had a big Egyptian breakfast with my family and then the indulgence of eating grapes while sitting on a bar stool in the pool. I can hear the waves crashing on the beach and I have the sun on my face and a breeze on my back. Insh'Allah I'm going to go have a seafood dinner while watching the beautiful sunset on a shore in Alexandria. I’m happy.

But would you believe I was happier trudging to Dar al-Zahra in the blazing heat dressed in black from head to toe and getting by on three hours of sleep? Perhaps it was a different kind of happiness, but it was definitely a more ‘full-bodied’ happiness, a richer kind.

Tomorrow I go back to work, and the real real world.

This will be my last entry. I think I’ve fulfilled the request that I write some of my reflections after my return, and any more will just be dragging out the inevitable: that things have to come to an end sooner or later.

Today there's going to be a lunar eclipse. They say du'aa is accepted then. So my du'a today, as it was on the last day of the Dowra when it rained, is to go back to Tarim one day. I said once that I wanted Tarim to come back with me. Today I'll add on to that: I hope that Tarim came back with me and that it will stay with me.
Ya rab.

1 comment:

Nazeem said...

Assalamu alaikum sister,

Thank you for documenting this trip. I just spent the last couple of hours reading the entire blog.

I am from Melbourne, Australia. Perhaps you know one of the girls that attended the Dowra with you (sarah) that is also from Melbourne. She's one of my best friends - and is leaving to get married in Indonesiia today.

Anyway, I really really thank you for having written this, as I am leaving for Dowra inshaAllah in two weeks.

May Allah continue to bless you with clarity and patience.

Thank you once again, sincerely.

Wassalamu alaikum,