Anytime during the day that I walk into the establishment, it would reek with the strong heavy aroma of roasted dark coffee beans with cardamon. Everybody around me has a frown on their faces, maybe from all the coffee they are drinking, and all men have some sort of facial hair.
Like visiting my grandmother, it is impossible for me to leave there in less than 20 minutes, regardless how simple my request is, whether I have an appointment or not, I am held captive of trivial talks of events, politics, markets, and internal office gossip of marriage and divorce.
If what I need requires a phone call to another department then I have to hear about upcoming holiday plans, updates of soccer leagues, and latest movies playing in the cinema, before getting into the core of the matter. I was later told that this is the unsaid protocol within the staff. Otherwise it would seem that the person calling would only call when he needed something which is considered a cultural faux pas. Apparently they seem to believe colleagues call each other for greetings and small talk and whatever business request they were inquiring about are side matter that happen to come up.
The curiosity that looms within the office is like the smoke of their cigarettes that incense the place. Like my grandmother’s neighbor who hides behind the curtains and eyes the entrance to see who have come and left and then calls her friends and says “Farida, do you know who visited Um Omar Read the rest of this entry
In the very early hours of the afternoon, on an idle rainy Friday, the American, Muslim-revert Imam interrupted the sermon and said, “brothers, today we shall have a New York City prayer.”
Perplexed, the prayers looked around wondering what on earth would this American Imam amongst the Arab crowd be referring to.
“A New York City prayer,” he continued, “is when you pray and the only concern you have is that the person in front of you has a clean pair of socks that day.”
Still the audience looked at him with one raised eyebrow.
To me, this was probably one of the most interesting sermons I had been to in a while, for Friday prayers bore the living daylights out of me. Not in an anti-islamic way of course, but more because lately I have started to feel that the depth of my religion has simmered down to speeches of common logic and sense, that need not an Imam to waste time thinking about, let alone preach.
I sit on the floor cross legged almost mesmerized, struggling to make something, anything, remotely interesting from the verbal patterns the Sheikh draws. My imagination would run wild trying heedfully to assemble spiritual enlightenment out of what is being said. Read the rest of this entry
When a man has found his bride, and his wedding is due, he shall hear the phrase, “cut off the cat’s head from the first night.” This phrase will be repeated throughout the wedding preparation, which for most men start before he even meets a woman.
The story goes that a man has married a woman, and on their first night, referred to as night of entry, he found his young, innocent bride playing with her cat, instead of nervously preparing to tend to her new groom. So innocent, so naive! In a sudden rage to protect his masculinity and ensure that the bride will shudder at his every request he held the cat and cut of it’s head! It’s not clear whether the cutting was done using a blade or in his bare hands, but from that moment on, the bride walked like a watch* (a description used pertaining to predictability and precision).
Days came and went*, and the cat head cutter’s brother got married. And lo, his new wife happened to also play with a cat on her night of entry. This brother was of weaker character, so upon seeing his new wife playing with a cat, he started to playful stroke the cat along with his wife. In realizing the kindness of her husband, the wife rode on her husbands shoulders and dangled her legs* (another weird description to signify manipulation). She would steer him into doing everything she wished for, to a point that he ran helplessly to his brother pleading for his help. His brother advised him to go home and to cut off the cats head.
In a moment of rage he rushed home, snatched the poor cat from his conniving wife’s hands and cut off the darned head. Read the rest of this entry