Posts by Miša Bitenc Hernčič

Selling the furniture

“I have a temporary solution. I called the boss, we can stay in his apartment, which is vacant all the time.”

I’ll spare you all my stages of grief for our home. From denial to an imaginary negotiation with reality… We had to leave the apartment we lived in for the last 3 years. Tamer was visibly relieved and tried to encourage me to see things with a more positive attitude. No more inconsiderate neighbors, no more noise from the owner’s apartment above us…

We had to start somewhere: first, we had to sell all our furniture. The dining table went first. A young couple came to pick it up, he was from Pakistan, she was from Canada. It was so funny to watch somebody else just starting their journey together in Saudi Arabia. Three years ago, we stood in their place, he from Sudan, yours truly from Slovenia.

Tamer posted ads online at a “Saudi flea market.” He used the photos I took and wrote descriptions with an asking price. We weren’t being greedy, but we weren’t naive either. We know far too well how buyers like to bargain for a much lower price. If you want to meet them halfway, you have to aim a little higher.

“How much is your final price,” asks the young man, while his wife carefully examines every possible scratch on the table and all six chairs that go with it.

Tamer smiles and replies: “How much can you offer?”

“Well, what’s the lowest you can go…” insists the buyer, and I can’t help myself but to burst out laughing: “Did you just fly to Saudi Arabia yesterday? We’re haggling here. If we give you the lowest price, it’s like shooting ourselves in the foot.”

We did meet halfway in the end. The dining table was followed by the bedroom set, then the water heater and the refrigerator… The kitchen counter deserves a very special chapter, how we ourselves bargained for it 3 years ago, it also went to a new home. We had to sell two air conditioners, a washing machine and a stove.

Nobody wanted our couches, on which we camped out until the very last day. Since we didn’t have the heart to put them out on the street as many people here do, Tamer finally gave them away for free. As long as they did not stay in the apartment, as long as they did not end up with garbage.

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After it was all done, we broke even. We got back as much as we invested three years ago. Alhamdulillah.

Time to move

One day in April 2022, we receive a text from our landlord:

“When your contract expires, I am going to raise the rent. It will no longer be 15,000 but 19,000 SAR per year.”

We thought, okay. At first, the 25% increase shocked us. But in the end we weighed our options and said “fine.” A quarter of Jeddah has been demolished to build more modern neighborhoods, rents are going up everywhere. We’d rather take that increase than bother with finding another apartment and moving. And don’t get me started on the cats…

September 2022, a quick encounter by the elevator:

“I changed my mind. I will increase the annual rent to 26,000 Saudi Riyals. The contract expires soon. What’s your take on it?”

Not a chance.

For this apartment, which we single-handedly turned from a hole into a home, while he didn’t fix the windows, neither did he repair the electrical sockets in 3 years, we had to change the sink and water heater ourselves… I could go on and on. For all the noise we put up with, first from the neighbors at night, then the every day noise from our very own stingy housing tycoon renovating his top floor for his own family… In return, he expects us to pay almost double the annual rent for all this crap?!

“If you want to get rid of us, just say so. We have been in this building for the longest time, our payments always without fault, all the other apartments have changed tenants during our stay. This is too high a price, so we will be moving elsewhere,” Tamer told him in his face.

“Well, let’s see how you feel at the end of the month,” the owner muttered, when Tamer had already turned away and entered the elevator.

Looking back, I don’t think he believed we would move. Tamer says that he probably thought money would not be an issue, because we always paid all the bills on time. Apparently, other renters must have procrastinated much longer.

Our greedy landlord must have miscalculated the finances of his little project on the terrace above us. After more than three months, his plans were nowhere near the finish line, so it must have hit him: “Eureka, I’ve got it! I shall raise the rents. I’ll have my idiot renters covering everything for me.”

Nope. Not a chance.

Growing roots

I have been in Saudi Arabia for almost 3 years now. It’s been so long that I feel like little by little I grew roots. Those thin like hair ones that you may be able to tear out and plant somewhere else, but you still worry – will they recover? I can’t really be sure, I don’t have a green thumb…

I’ve been here too long not to be shaken up a tiny bit by moving from Jeddah one day. Be it to Ljubljana, London or even Khartoum. You never know. Living abroad can transform you to such an extent that your soul remains a vagabond forever.

This photo was taken exactly 2 years ago. When the world was overwhelmed by the pandemic, when we had to wear masks in Saudi Arabia without a peep even outside. This day seems so long ago and at the same time just like yesterday.

My pilgrimage to Vienna

Three years ago today, I went to Vienna, ready with all the notarized documents from Sudan, and as the old Slovene saying goes: “I left my stomach at home.” It rhymes in our language and it means Vienna is such an expensive city, one must forget their hunger in order to get by there.

Early in the morning I went on a pilgrimage to 3 embassies in the Austrian capital: Sudanese, Slovenian and Saudi. First I stopped at St. Stephen’s Cathedral and treated myself to a cup of pumpkin spice latte in the nearby Starbucks – it was fall after all! The bus brought me from Ljubljana around 8.00 AM, so I had some time to spare before office hours started at all three locations.

I had 2 missions to complete: attesting our marriage certificate from Sudan and to apply for a Saudi visa. At first it went like clockwork, but at the last stop, things went downhill. Us mere mortals cannot simply walk into the embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, so I was basically headed to the certified agency that processes applications.

I enter a small office, where a man with distinct Arab features greets me from behind his desk. I present all the papers, my ID photos and start patting the envelope with cash in my purse on my lap…

“Two hundred and forty euros,” the bearded agent tells me with a heavy Arab accent, and at that moment I have to catch my breath.

“But, but… You told my husband on the phone that the whole thing would cost 180 euros.”

“Well hey, 180 € is for running the procedure. What about the shipping costs? We have to send your passport with the issued visa to your home address,” he explains to me with dramatic gestures.

“So shipping such a light envelope costs 60€?” I manage to utter the whole sentence without stuttering with a heavy dose of disbelief on my face.

I hold the bills between my fingers, I know that I only have exactly 240€. That’s it. I still need some cash for at least some water, if not a meal. Don’t ask me what happened with my bank card, I don’t remember. In any case, I found myself in a seemingly hopeless situation.

I call Tamer, who wants to speak to the agent. I sit in the chair listening to one side of the conversation in Arabic. When I hear Tamer’s voice again, I am relieved, because he tells me that everything is okay. I end the call.

“Two hundred and twenty euros,” the agent puts the matter to rest with a smile on his face, no mercy. No receipt either.

After completing the transaction, I sat down in a nearby park and called Tamer again.
“He charged me two hundred and twenty in the end…”
“What?! He told me on the phone that it would only be two hundred!”

Believe it or not, that’s how my first one-year visit visa to Saudi Arabia was haggled in the middle of Vienna. My Arabian adventure began for real just over a month later.

The right to choose. The right to bodily autonomy.

The world is on fire. On different fronts.

There is news echoing from Iran about the death of a twenty-two-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was killed by the notorious morality police because she refused to wear her hijab “properly.”

The Iranian people are protesting, despite their fear, Mahsa’s murder was the last straw.

The West starts to listen as soon as there is word of abandoning religious headscarves. Burning hijabs at protests is music to their ears for all aspiring Muslim women liberators, whether they like it or not.

Dear reader, I sincerely hope that you are here without the “buts, what-ifs” and similar excuses. Don’t count yourself among the free-thinking feminists if, in the hijab debate, you must always unapologetically add “what about those who are forced to wear it…” Forcing anyone is unacceptable, unforgivable. Next. Aha, “it doesn’t belong in our environment?” I know, it’s hard to look in the mirror. And it’s hard to stand up for EVERYONE’s rights. Even Muslim women in Slovenia, France and elsewhere.

Do not celebrate Iranians’ burning of the hijab, because by doing so you are patting all the ardent Islamophobes on the back, who are already spinning the revolutionary events from Iran in favor of their own hateful agendas, scoring political points against what is foreign, against what is unknown.

Ironically, those same characters can’t think of a better explanation for the “proper” dress code of girls (and boys) in the classroom, than the headmistress of the Waldorf school (in Slovenia), whose statement about poor boys drowning in hormones resonated in the media in the past week.

Stand for Mahsa. Stand with the Iranian people. But their fight is for the right to choose, not against the hijab.

And stand up for Palestinians, for the women in Afghanistan, for the Uyghurs in China, for Muslims in India. But don’t forget about the Muslim women in the West, who are continuously being pushed out of public spheres, starting in schools and then in public institutions, where they are told with a sour face that they will not get a job as long as they keep their headscarf on. I will not waste my breath on much harsher direct humiliation some have to endure.

Feminism and the fight for equality are not a charcuterie board from which you take only what tastes good to you. Bon Appetit.

Across the Arabian Peninsula and back…

It only took me 8 hours. Yesterday I flew from Jeddah in the west to Abu Dhabi on the east side of the peninsula. And then back to the Red Sea coast.

“Can you go instead of me please,” I complained in vain to Tamer… in vain, because that was clearly impossible. In the last two and a half years, we have regulated my visa status in different circumstances under lockdown and later with regular extensions online and with flights to Slovenia and Sudan. This time, there was no choice but to fly somewhere out of Saudi Arabia on my own. I was considering a visit to some recently made friends in Dubai or Beirut, but for various reasons this plan did not materialize.

This whole thing was such an unnecessary burden for me. Tamer tried to encourage me about going on an adventure, all the while I was overthinking everything that could go wrong, from minor misunderstandings at the airport to catastrophic scenarios that would leave me stranded with no possible return to my beloved in Jeddah.

On the bright side, which made me less pessimistic, was my flight schedule, which dictated that I only had to wait 2 hours across the border in the United Arab Emirates. By no means too long for me to get bored to death, but also quite enough to reach the right terminal with a casual pace and still have time for the bathroom and sitting for a drink.

For some reason, even one day after, I still can’t believe how smooth it all came together. No delays, no misunderstandings.

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Well, on my first flight, my seat was booked right at the emergency exit. For the first time ever, a flight attendant approached me personally to remind me to carefully read the instructions for opening the emergency exit by my window. Does anyone else find themselves in such situations, feeling a slightly uncomfortable weight of responsibility, when you absolutely do not want an emergency landing to happen, but at the same time seriously premeditating your heroic grip on the handle of the window, on which the fate of all passengers in the vicinity will depend?

We landed in Abu Dhabi without any emergency, yet before landing, I pushed my assignment aside, somewhere under my backpack and pillow, which I placed under my head, and then covered myself with the complimentary blanket for an hour, stretching over all three vacant seats in my row. Slept like a real heroine.

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At the Emirati airport, as I said, I had plenty of time, made the exchange of 50 riyals for 42 dirhams and then treated myself with a (as one would expect in any airport shop) sinfully expensive coffee and 2 bottles of just as luxurious water. I drank one and took the second one with me on the plane, which is always a good idea, since one can risk serious dehydration, being usually served with only one miniature bottle and then seldomly offered another glass of water or another beverage.

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On the return flight, I sat close to the toilet; I later found out that Tamer reserved this seat on purpose as he is well aware of my recently overcome anxiety over using airplane bathrooms. Sitting closer to them means less chance of tripping over wide-spread passengers, which causes me an incomprehensible fear of falling in public, from which my shame-fearing soul finds it difficult to recover.

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Seated by the window in my row was an old Sudanese woman, who was peacefully snoring away until takeoff, and soon after patted me on the shoulder without hesitation to let me know that she was thirsty. Since I didn’t understand at first, she started pointing at my one unopened bottle of water and to my initial embarrassment I first tried to call the flight attendant… Since no one answered my ping for quite some time, I said to myself: “Oh come on, Misha, give this woman your water already.” I myself was not really thirsty at that point, so waiting for regular service did not seem that bad.

While the meals were being served, the recently well hydrated lady ordered herself some tea with milk… À la Sudan, what else can one expect? Milk arrived in small packets, which, like other bottles and a sandwich bag, I had to open for her. “Alhamdulillah,” she said over and over each time I offered her my help.

Within the last hour of our flight, a younger woman in a floral dress and pink scarf gets up from her seat in front of me and starts talking to my elderly neighbor, invading my personal space, practically leaning on my shoulder, without a mask on her face. A relative. Possibly her granddaughter? It doesn’t matter, they knew each other. I have to admit, this was my first time witnessing a traveling hack called “throw grandma in the back seat and let a stranger deal with her.” At some point, this conscientious young woman starts pulling the cord of my headphones from under the screen above the seat in front of me. Sometimes I do wonder if I really lost my sense of human interaction during the pandemic, but this time there was no other explanation than that the missus escaped from another planet.

I grabbed the cable myself and let her know in a slightly sour voice that I understood I had to get up for the lady to go to the bathroom. Then the old woman took hold of my offered hand, her unwilling assistant did not see it necessary. She did however accompany her elsewhere, after using the bathroom, so that there was no climbing to the window seat again. Luckily, this plane was also pretty empty.

At 1 PM we landed in Jeddah. For the first time since I have been flying in and out of Saudi Arabia, disembarking along with all the passport controls ran like clockwork, without any nonsense and long queues. However, it is true that this time I only had my backpack with me, I usually had to pull extra luggage on wheels, and so it was much easier to move past other passengers. “Alhamdulillah,” I uttered at every obstacle overcome, every point won on my way back to my husband who was already waiting for me at the terminal.

“I missed you,” he tells me with a visible smile behind his face mask. Only a hug at the airport and then a kiss in the car at the parking lot. As if we hadn’t seen each other for weeks, and not only a few hours. I certainly had an adventure in the end, flying over 2000 miles in that short amount of time.

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Stepfordi Arabia

Cream colored boxy house and the same one just like it next door. And another one after that. Rows and rows of lined up tiny cacti in front of them, nicely positioned between spotless sidewalks and a road without a single pothole. Oh, and bicycle lanes as well! There are enough traffic signs for “drive slow”, “wrong way” and “watch out, speed bumps” that almost make you feel like you are at a driving school track.

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Two wire fences and a high stone wall separate this “Stepfordi Arabia” from the Saudi one. Upon entry, residents and visitors have to make a stop at two checkpoints with a ramp.

“Before you come visit us, we will send you an invitation to register through our community portal, and then you have to fill out a form. It’s probably easier to get to an American embassy,​​” our friend said jokingly, another Slovene woman who has been living with her husband in this campus city called KAUST (King Abdullah University for Science and Technology), less than two hours north of Jeddah, for the past year and a half.

“They might as well ask for the size of your underwear at this point,” she added, because she herself is already too familiar with the joys of the Saudi bureaucracy, which often gets on our nerves. And so it was, in addition to information from our IDs, Tamer also had to enter our car’s details, including the required data about the insurance policy.

We came in time for lunch to one of the previously mentioned houses, which we took a closer look at on a guided tour with our hostess. Tamer later asked me if this might be a Slovenian custom to show houses to visitors. I am embarrassed to confess that after two and a half years abroad I can no longer be sure of this. To each their own, I guess. But let me tell you, how I was left speechless at the very beginning of our visit at the entrance to the house, where three trash cans were staring at me. “Packaging”, “organic waste” and “other” was marked on them.

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The head of the family, the one working at the University, took us on a tour of the campus. “You don’t need to wear an abaya here, you know,” he told me as we got to the car. A similar remark came from his better half. Obviously they didn’t know that I had put on my newest, Eid abaya for the sole purpose of the visit, in which I also wanted to take some photos on our trip out of town. They may have forgotten about the fact, I don’t have to wear one or a scarf in Jeddah either.

I did however, notice a couple of debates on online forums, mentioning that in other smaller closed compounds the rules of “Western dress” apply and that the headscarves, abayas and, of course, niqabs or veils are forbidden on the premises. Imagine that… On the other hand, driving around KAUST we saw, among other things, a middle-aged lady cyclist who, under the scorching desert sun (despite the late afternoon), simply had to wear sporty attire so short, it only covered her buttocks. For God’s sake, why? Just because she can? She may prefer severe sunburn or perhaps an already acquired thighs like leather, though in her right mind she wouldn’t wear something like that somewhere in the West riding a bike.

KAUST is a self sufficient city with shops, restaurants and all the necessary infrastructure available to its residents. Just before sunset, for example, we also visited one of the recreation centers with a swimming pool and many sports activities. There, however, it became clear that respect for interculturalism is very much present, as detailed rules of etiquette can be read at the pool and in the locker rooms; changing clothes is acceptable only behind closed doors of private changing cubicles and not in the common area, modest one-piece swimsuits for women and shorts for men are permitted, it is forbidden to take photos by the pool…

The city and university were founded by King Abdullah in 2009; they are a home to people of more than 100 different nationalities. The university offers education to students of master’s and doctoral programs in the field of science and technology. There lie high ambitions and a vision for a sustainable future, but for now, after more than decade, it still seems to be only that, a vision. According to the founder, the late King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (1924-2015), KAUST is a beacon that will illuminate the path to a better future of peace, hope and reconciliation and thus serve the people of the kingdom and the rest of the world.

Who is being served with recycling, clean streets and all-inclusive benefits? Picture perfect neighborhoods for all (mostly Western-minded) foreigners within a militarily protected closed community can hardly be a beacon, when 99% of the Saudi population does not have access to its progress, cleanliness and comfort. Perhaps there are plans to step up their game and hurry to implement sustainable approaches outside of the two wire fences and one stone wall. Time for realization of the “Vision 2030” of the current king and his heir to the throne is running out.

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A hologram for the king – a review

At the age of 54, American businessman Alan travels to the city of Jeddah in the arabian desert by the Red Sea, where he hopes for his next big break after past career failures, a painful divorce and inability to pay for his daughter’s tuition. He wants to sell the latest state of the art communication system to the technologically ambitious kingdom, but when he arrives to the other side of the world, he is faced with an obvious lack of interest and so he and his team are waiting day after day to present their business opportunity to King Abdullah personally…

One of the few elements of realism in this film, which takes place in Saudi Arabia (where filming took place and some shots are also from Morocco), is the Godotesque principle of waiting for something to happen.

I have already written about this phenomenon (Bukra, Inshallah), the famous response “come back tomorrow… tomorrow, it can be arranged (Inshallah)” is something self-evident and expected if you live in Saudi Arabia. Nothing can be rushed, nothing comes with force. And this “tomorrow” can be repeated just like “Groundhog day”, which the main character’s everyday routine reminds us of.

From there on, truthfulness is thrown to the wind, starting with the casting of actors who portray the locals. An Indian woman in the role of a Saudi doctor, an American (of Egyptian descent) in the role of a good-natured Bedouin driver… It could have been done better.

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For some reason, American film and series productions have great difficulty portraying authentic Muslim rituals, which I can address in more detail on another occasion. Just one hint: it probably isn’t that hard to google, “how Muslims pray” or “what Muslims don’t do while praying.”

The fact that the story (including in the novel published in 2012) is set in 2010 may not tell the outside observer much, but all of us present in Saudi Arabia in 2022 may without a doubt deny and disprove a number of cultural practices, from the mandatory headscarf for women, to public executions etc. The problem arises when this modern depiction of the infamous Arabian kingdom is abused for everyday stereotypes that only harm the progress of international relations and increase fear of the unknown and less visited countries.

The obsession with uncovering and undressing Muslim women could also not be avoided in A hologram for the king, as it is easier for the West to ignore the religious practice of wearing the hijab and modesty. Thus, the widespread belief that “the hijab cannot possibly be a voluntary act of worship,” can continue to live on and remain a fitting argument in any debate on the sovereignty of Muslim women.

Lawrence… Pardon – Alan of Arabia, unfortunately, does not bother to learn even a decent salamalaykum, while Arabic speakers manage to deviate from many other American depictions, in which we can anticipate only broken English, which work wonders to convince us of the lower intelligence / education of non-Westerners.

Tom Hanks, a “can do no wrong” and loved by many (myself included), does not disappoint with his performance, and Hologram for the King can undoubtedly convince a wider audience as a final product, as it has a recipe for a pleasant viewing experience with plenty of moments for comic relief, a predictable love interest and the expected bitter-sweet ending.

Bourek

Bourek is known, believe it or not, in one form or another with a similar name from Anatolia to the Balkans, in North Africa, the Middle East, even Israel.

The Balkans are imagining a kind of monopoly over the name and never miss the opportunity to educate the “ignorant” that bourek with meat filling alone is tHe OnLy rEaL bUrEk. All other savory pastries with filo dough (yufka) are pies, according to them.

Excuse me, dear ones. Shall we ask the Turks, from whom this Balkan delicacy really originates? All across the Anatolian Peninsula, “börek” is a salty pastry with any filling served with afternoon tea. What would Balkan bourek purists say about it there?

I will not bore you with even longer linguistic essays on how far into history bourek and its naming go, I will only hint that the name may be borrowed from Persian language, according to linguists, and historical sources testify to the origin of this type of pastry dating in the time and place of the Eastern Roman Empire before the 7th century.

Therefore, my dear ones – when I am in Sarajevo again, I will definitely order a spinache pie (zelyánitsa). But when I finally reach Turkey one day (not just the airport), I will without skipping a beat have myself some spinach and cheese börek. Also, when in my own kitchen in Jeddah, I am baking a burek, no matter the filling. And once I am back to Ljubljana again, I shall go to the famous burek place Olimpija to order myself the sinfully delicious blasphemous Ljubljana creation – pizza burek. And there’s nothing you can say or do about it.

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Ramadan 2022

April 1st

Ramadan is here. We wish you all the best from our balcony in Jeddah.

Today we drank our last afternoon tea, from tomorrow on we will treat ourselves to it after sunset. The month of fasting will bring challenges and sacrifices, lovemaking only at night, sweetness of dates as soon as we shall hear the sound of the adhan in the evening.

Ramadan Kareem to everyone. Let this Ramadan be generous, in English.

April 3rd

In the spirit of Ramadan, I want to share with you one part of a hadith, a narration from the Prophet’s companions, regarding fasting in this holy month.

Narrated Abu Huraira, The Prophet ﷺ said, “Fasting is a shield. So, the person observing fasting should avoid sexual relation and should not behave foolishly and impudently, and if somebody fights with him or abuses him, he should tell him twice, ‘I am fasting.”

Source of the hadith: Sahih al-Bukhari 1894

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April 20th

After a short break, I am fasting again. I had a severe case of tonsillitis and after I started to get better, I then got my period. All the good reasons for me to take the time off without fasting. I have to admit, the first day I started again was quite difficult.

Now it’s day 4. What a difference! It’s true, I am able to stay home. I can take time to rest. If only I wanted to. I really dislike sleeping during the day. One thing that is converting me into an incorrigible misanthrope is still our neighbors. Just before Ramadan started, a new family moved next door. Tamer says they probably had to be evicted from their previous apartment, and now they can scream all they want without any consequence, because they are related to our landlord (who still lives with his family above us, and the latter likes to move furniture and encourage children to do indoor sports in the middle of the night).

This is the side of Ramadan that puts me in a bad mood. I resent this selfishness with all my being, their audacity to affect others with their choice to live at night and sleep during the day. And no, we can’t afford a conflict. And so, I can only sleep in shorter chapters. 3-4 hours at night. Maybe 3 more in the afternoon. Today, for example, I didn’t sleep at all during the day. As I write this, I look at the clock so that I can fill the water cups in time and prepare a bowl of dates. A little over 10 minutes to the adhan left.

On the other hand: this month is being pretty good to us. Or is it just that our point of view is such that we can recognize blessings in everyday things?

April 22nd

How can you be sure, that you are mastering the Ramadan fast?

When the alarm wakes you up for sahúr and you don’t overthink what you’re going to eat. Leftovers from the previous day, freshly baked bread from last night with a spread or just oatmeal with nuts and fruit… Don’t forget some juice / smoothie and water.

And what’s the most important part?

You don’t panic. You are not gulping water down because you have been hydrating enough with various fluids beforehand. You don’t count down the seconds for the last sip.

Why? Because you live across the street from the mosque, from where the muezzin’s voice often echoes a minute or even two too early. Adhan means fasting has started, regardless of the exact time on your phone.

When that no longer surprises or upsets you, when you are calm and ready for a new day, then you know, “I got this.”

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April 30th

Tomorrow is the last day of fasting, the last day of Ramadan.

We ate a little less this month, but rested more on the other hand.

I kept up the habit and continued to learn Arabic, which I started during last year’s Ramadan.

We captured and took 5 feline neighbors for neutering.

We visited the park a few times, we also treated ourselves to iftar in a restaurant a couple of times.

And yesterday we finally went to the historic part of town again, to see the decorated streets with lanterns. We were delighted to discover a shop selling traditional sweets on the way, and so we stocked up for the upcoming Eid.

“Will we have these for guests or for gifts if we visit anyone,” I asked Tamer… The look in his eyes was telling me of a different plan.

When we got home, he had already opened the bag. “It needs a taste test,” he said.

So today I had to hide the sweet treasures, as I’ve done in the past. Being the house squirrel and all that. They can wait at least until the end of Ramadan! I placed them in… No. I can’t tell you. Tamer also reads my letters, so I have to keep this secret to myself – at least for another day.

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May 2nd

“I’m afraid you were right,” he tells me while sitting behind the wheel.

We’re running late again. We were stuck in traffic, everyone rushing to the same destination – Eid prayer at one of the lovely mosques by the sea.

I, already in such a bad mood, was not making the situation worse. “Maybe we can reach another place on time, if there is one just as nice nearby…”

Oh, why was I frowning? Because I couldn’t wear my new abaya for Eid! It is customary to wear something new or the best you already have in your closet for such a holiday. However, because the dumbasses in the store overlooked and failed to remove the magnetic tag, it remained nailed to my new wide sleeve. So by wearing it like that, I would be mortified if anyone saw me in public.

“I can try breaking it with a hammer,” Tamer offered immediately. Alas, there was no time for such risks. We were already late for other reasons. I was convinced that, just like last year, e would be missing Eid prayer.

But Tamer did not give up, he managed to escape the caravan and tried to reach the nearest parking lot from a different direction. Successfully! And more importantly, on time.

There was an echoing sound of takbeer coming from the minarets of the nearby mosques, the wind was carrying “Allahu Akbar” from all sides.

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My bad mood vanished completely when the imam’s voice sounded the prayer, much nicer than the one we have in our neighborhood. For such a voice, one would open a window on time for every azan and listen with pleasure day after day.

“What a beautiful morning. I’m glad we made it,” Tamer remarks as we are heading back to the car.

“Yeah, yeah. You did everything in your power, just so I would not be right again!” Good thing, I can be wrong sometimes.

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