Tagged interactions

A Brief Meeting With Alfred Mikhail, Puppeteer


(Photo By Sherif Sonbol, From Al-Ahram Weekly, July 1998
An evening stroll weaving in and out of crazy Cairo traffic. That’s what I needed. The sweet smell of second-hand sheesha smoke and some daredevil car-weaving had turned into an almost nightly ritual for me back in those days. I wasn’t expecting a change, but that’s when it always happens right? I walked out of my 5th floor apartment into the eerie, not-so-well-lit hallway, the same hallway where Mina and Maryam’s parents had slaughtered a sheep on Eid-ul-Adha. Do you remember that day? I made them balloon animals while they took turns jumping over the pool of blood. That’s one day I’ll always remember, I had just come back from Eid prayer at Masjid Mustafa Mahmoud to find a sizable pool of sheep’s blood in front of my apartment door. Not wanting to track any inside the apartment, I jumped over the puddle. I left the door open though, not because I enjoyed the scent of sheep’s blood, but because I found it rather amusing that a vast amount of blood was in front of my doorway and slowly spreading to the rest of the hallway.

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Lessons From Squealing Birds On Rollercoasters

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As I was about to get on the highway, a baby bird jumped onto the window ledge of my Civic. I could see it in my driver’s side mirror, and tried to nudge it off by letting my foot off the break a bit— nothing.

I made a left turn onto the exit ramp, and the baby bird hung on for dear life. In fact, it looked like it was enjoying itself, closing its eyes, its wings held back. At one point, it didn’t even look like a bird, just a ball of feathers flapping in the wind.

“WheeeeeeEEEEEEeeeeeeeee!” I heard it squeal. Yeah. No joke. Literal squeals of joy as if it was on a roller coaster, as if it was having the the time of its life.
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Christopher Walken Gives Good Khutbas. So Does Muhammad Asad.

“You were fast forwarding through your life long before you met me, big shot…” – Christopher Walken as Morty in Click

There are times in my life when the spiritual high dries up like a desert. I no longer feel the high. That, of course, is when the real challenge begins, as many have written and spoken before me. Can we continue to struggle through prayer, through life when we feel like we are in a desert with little sustenance? Or do we try to pass the time, seeking instead to fast-forward life.

I’m guilty of the latter. I’ve been fast forwarding through life for years. Whether it be through television, movies, the computer, or the phone, I’ve always found ways to escape living.

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What Do You Think of The Veil? Honor-Killing? Evolution? Etc.

Note: This is a guest post by KufiGirl

“So, you’re Muslim?”

I almost dropped my fork. “Whut?”

It wasn’t the question I was expecting. Not here, surrounded by balloons and bumper cars and screaming children and the blinking lights of ten thousand arcade games, all of them, I was sure, designed specifically to taunt me and my discomfort with both noise and crowds. For the last two years my daughter has chosen this horrible place to celebrate her birthday, and this year, like the last, I’d come along only with gritted teeth and a grim commitment to do my parental duty. Back when my child was younger, in kindergarten or first grade, I was shrewdly able to talk her into having a nice little sleepover with two or three girlfriends in lieu of a real birthday party, but now that she’s older that line’s not working; she knows the score and she wants her due.
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Making Niqabis Laugh

A Munaqqaba, or “Niqabi (image)” for short, refers to a woman who wears a veil covering the face.

I like making them laugh.

Whenever I spot a woman wearing niqab (sometimes over a dozen times a day here in Philly), I have this incredible urge to make her laugh. There is nothing more wonderful than seeing a niqabi’s eyes scrunch up in a moment of laughter. My first experience with this sort of situation was on a bus to Bahariya Oasis, about 5 hours southwest of Cairo in October of 2002. I had “stowed away” on a sold-out bus, hoping for the best. The man collecting tickets seemed a bit frustrated, but I paid him well. Since I didn’t have a ticket, I was forced to sit on the floor. I was positioned at the back of the bus, crouched on the ground, falling in and out of consciousness. Earlier I had heard the occupants of the back seats speaking about me… “the foreigner,” in hushed tones, thinking I didn’t understand. All of them were men, except for a niqabi with her husband directly to my left. It was relatively early on in my stay in Egypt, and so I was experimenting with ways to “open bridges” to meet the average Muhammad on the street, instead of hanging out with the upper-class of Egyptian society at the American University in Cairo.

One of the easiest ways to do this, of course, is to surprise them and then make them laugh.

I began to rustle around, making a bit of noise, and stood up while making sure everyone’s eyes were on me. I slowly pulled out a Qur’an.

“Enta Muslim?!”
“Aywa, ana BAKISTANI!”

They roared with delight. I turned to the niqabi, and I was greeted with the tell-tale signs of laughter: scrunched eyes. It was the only part of her face I could see.

This opened the doors to multiple conversations, an invite to dinner (it was Ramadan), and a whole lot of laughter. The largest man of all was the first to insist that I sit in a proper seat, and he would not take no for an answer. For the next few hours, the men in the back rotated turns standing, while allowing me to sit. That’s Egyptian hospitality for you.

Another eye-scrunch occurred in Philadelphia, while at my morning line assistant job. She drove up to drop her son off to the school, and I opened the door to let the kid out. I was excited to find a delightfully smiley niqabi! I don’t remember exactly what I said but I got a good chuckle out of her– a nice good comin’-straight-from-the-tips-of-your-toes chuckle. I didn’t even need the eye-scrunch to tell! The easiest niqabis to make laugh in the U.S., in my humble opinion, are the African American niqabis. In my experience they are much more laid back than the immigrant-niqabis who rarely return my salaams.