Thursday, September 9, 2010

Day 30: Farewell Ramadan

I have never been good at goodbyes. I put them off for as long as possible to avoid any excessively emotional reaction.

Today was the last day of Ramadan. This year, Ramadan really slowed down time for a month and let me think clear, set a few priorities straight and know what I really want from life.

And so, as the new moon has been sighted, today marks the last day of Ramadan and start of a new chapter in my teenage life.

It breaks my heart what is currently happening in with Terry Jones in Florida with his Quran burning on the 9/11 anniversary.

Many people here have reactions like “funny how ignorant a man can be when he lives in the most powerful, educated country.”

For some reason I have a gut feeling that if this pastor actually carries out his heinous plan something terrible will inevitably happen.

I think the thing many people in the West don’t know about the Middle East is that we aren’t raised to take religion as a joke and that means any religion.

In Islam we believe in Jesus, Moses, Joseph, David, Solomon, the Bible and the Torah and although almost no one in Egypt is Jewish, no one would ever burn or even bad mouth the Torah.

Coptic Egyptians literally treat Eid (the celebration after Ramadan) as if it were their own, calling their friends to wish them a happy Eid. This is unlike in the United States, where it’s okay to make a joke about Jesus.

Honestly, I hope Mr. Jones backs down. There are so many other ways to send a message, and being intolerant and radical is not one of them.

In this post are also a few pictures of a group that is very, very dear to my heart. Two of my best friends introduced me to Geel Al-Amal, which means Generation of Hope. It is a great religiously motivated non-profit organization that does amazing things to help their community.

The sub-group I am in is called Law Sadakna La-Sabakna. I know that’s a lot, but it means, “if we are true, we will prevail.”

It’s a group of around 25 young women between the ages of 15 and 30, all of whom are dedicated and passionate about their religion and helping others.

During the month of Ramadan, under the guidance of our amazing Yasmine, we passed out hundreds of bags of high quality food to an impoverished village to last them about 20 days.

We packed and distributed them ourselves. For the last 10 days of Ramadan, we went to the village daily to pack meals for iftar.

According to some of the leaders of the village, there were families who used that meal to eat the whole day. For me, that’s when I truly felt the intensity and the depth of what we do.

I also want to introduce everyone to Eid.

It’s our Christmas, our Hanukah. Its full name is Eid Al-Fitr and it starts tomorrow right after the Eid Prayer which will take place tomorrow at 7 a.m. and continues for three days.

Everyone calls or visits their family and friends to say, “Happy Eid,” and greetings vary from country to country. Kids go out to amusement parks or upper-class resorts, depending on their social class, but everyone finds a way to celebrate.

It’s probably the only time of year that everyone on the street looks happy. Despite difficulties, everyone is in the mode of celebration. We also eat excessive amounts of Eid cookies, otherwise known as kahk.

The making of these cookies, in all their varieties, is a tradition all in itself.

Women from the whole family get together before Eid to make massive amounts of cookies to distribute.

This is my favorite part, sitting in the kitchen with my grandma and aunt – three generations of Egyptian women making dough.

So yes, there are currently about four large containers – and an Egyptian container really contains large amounts – of yumminess in the kitchen waiting for attack tomorrow morning with the usual shay bel laban, or tea with milk.

Children and young members of the family also get a present of money known as edeya, given by relatives for Eid. And this is where I wish I had a bigger family because in Eid time, more uncles and aunts means more ca-ching.

Another favorite part is the new clothes. In Eid almost everyone, at least here in Egypt, makes sure they have something new to wear for the holiday.

Even if they are poor, they will manage to get at least something.

It’s just captivating what the streets look like in Eid. On the way to my grandparents house on the first day of Eid, I always notice the new clothes. You can just tell by the smile on a girl’s face that her dress is new.

New pajamas are another tradition. Similar to how there are movie specials about Christmas, in Eid, the TV is full of old Egyptian comedy plays which are just hilarious.

My family pretty much celebrates by being together and eating the cookies while watching a play. It’s nothing extravagant, but we all enjoy it.

And there you have it – Eid in brief.

It’s been just amazing writing this journal and by far the best part of my Ramadan.

I’m so glad I got to share with everyone something from the Middle East. Thanks to Youth Journalism International for giving me this opportunity and to everyone who has commented and engaged.

Till Ramadan of next year, Happy Eid everyone. :)

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