Thursday, December 1, 2011


In the 2000 elections in the US, I had just turned 18. I was finally old enough to have my voice count. Growing up when Bill Clinton was running for president, propaganda in the community I grew up in had us hear repeatedly that Clinton is a pre-Jew basically meaning Clinton bad.
Then in the 2000 elections, George Bush was running against Al Gore with the vice president Joe Leiberman as his running mate. A very superficial teen at the time, I read somewhere that Leiberman was the head of the Zionist lobby in the US and my vote sure as hell was not going to someone killing Palestinians.

So, I voted AGAINST Gore in support of Bush.

Luckily, my ballot didn't go through because of technicalities, my inexperienced teen self couldn't bother to search and find out about the candidates. My young, excited self was just happy to have the chance to vote. My unversed, yet influenced mind was lazily under misinformed notions which allowed me to think I will be doing the Middle East a favor by voting for George W. Bush.

Thinking back to those times, I get nightmares. This is what had me rolling in fear of my second chance at a fresh vote. This time to my real home and nation, the one I live in and raise my children in. Egypt, as a whole, I feel is going through the same emotions I had in 2000.

My friends, who I love and cherish, yet probably may have different political directions than me, are, I fear, making the same mistake.

When voting for a candidate in the parliamentary elections, or the retake, I beg of you, do not use your vote as one against a candidate because while you are voting against someone, you are actually giving someone legislative authority, you are giving him or her your own voice. So whatever this person adds or distracts from the countries laws, in essence so are you. Most of the negative information you have of most of the candidates, is based on propaganda spewed at us from our media. We do not have as much of a chance to get to know our candidates but with as much time as we have we should try to get to know them.

Choose a candidate based on his/her credentials.

Based on what s/he is, not on what s/he's not.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Egyptian Parliamentary Elections

As I search for who I believe will be the most suitable candidate to represent me and every Egyptian with the vast differences between each and everyone of us I feel tired.
I feel overwhelmed with responsibility.
I feel like I'm back in college with the Student Union elections coming up.
Except this time its not about the amount of academic gain versus number of parties the SU will host. It's about peace, development, life and freedom.
Being deprived of all of these for so long I believe we should not mistaken our ability to vote as a privilege. It is actually a responsibility.
That responsibility is what has me panicking as we approach Nov. 28. I don't know how to make my decision. The last two times I took the step to make my voice count I basically blew it because my basis of choice was flawed from the beginning.
Everytime I remember that had I actually sent my ballot in the 2000 US elections I would've been one of the majority who put Bush into office. The reason I was going to vote for him was so lame, I am actually too embarrassed to reveal it in public.
The next time I voted I fully supported and backed one candidate over another in the Student Union elections simply because he was a friend of mine. Of course back then I had convinced myself and everyone around me it was because I truly believed in his capabilities. The truth is the candidate who lost and the one I did not support had a much better plan, better track record and would've been the better candidate.
This time I am on my own. I could take the easy way out and simply support the one candidate that the people around me support.There are so many opinions out there as to who will be the best representative in the parliament.
But there aren't enough plans out there to read. For some reason I can't seem to find information on all the candidates. Those who are not Internet friendly and simply take to the streets are different from the candidates who have all their activities online.
The media is so subjective that none of the mainstream papers or tv channels will give fair representation of the candidates. There are no debates to see candidates in front of each other and the whole process is confusing. Even the pages which explain the process are not all that telling.
The responsibility is overwhelming and as a friend of mine said, its as if we are being bullied into having a political opinion.
This time though I want to do things right.
I don't however know what the right thing to do is.
Voting is like parenting, you take a shot in the dark based on the books, (there are so many books with conflicting opinions you have to simply choose what makes most sense to you) or just do what your parents did before you.
At this point I can think of about 5 different conspiracies to put down as I struggle to study for the Nov. 28 test. But I won't go into them because now is not the time.
Is our time and effort worth spending for the unknown?
I truly do not know the answer to this.
One thing I do know from my experience with elections is they cause divisions. They cause hatred and anger between people. Splits and divisions that, in my opinion, SCAF has succeeded in nurturing between the people since Feb. 11.
So for the elections, if we do our research and manage to find anything, we will see that the goals are the same, the mission is one and action at this point is for the good of society. People may differ in their opinions of what is good, which is why we need to search well to find the proper representative of all these different people. BUT we need to remember that the days of personal gain on our account needs to come to an end, so let us not be puppets and fall into the trap of our inadequate media, ignorant gossip and do the work ourselves.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Its none of your business

I'm sitting at a cafe with my baby daughter Aisha. She's 14 months old. She's in a good mood so she's grabbing everyone's attention. I have my laptop, working and every now and then someone walks over to play with Aisha.
Aisha is wearing a long sleeve cotton shirt, pants and socks and sneakers.
It's September.
I am, as you all know, dressed in black and my face is covered.
A woman walks over and she's playing with Aisha, asks what her name is and then says, "and she's wearing long sleeves and stuff (about Aisha)." So I say yeah it was chilly this morning and I didn't want her to catch a cold.
So in an extremely judgemental, know it all tone she says, "yeah asl she's way too young for you to cover her up like that."
I smiled and let it go.
This happened 5 minutes ago. I am FURIOUS.
The woman decided she has the right to a) give her opinion on how I should raise my child and b) automatically assume I would dress my FOURTEEN MONTH OLD BABY in a conservative fashion because she's a girl.
And most importantly I am furious at myself for feeling the need to explain myself to a complete stranger because I chose to dress my daughter a certain way, regardless of the reason.
When will people learn to mind their own business?
When will people realize they can not automatically assume certain people will think and act a certain way because of the way they are dressed.
I really wish that woman somehow stumbles upon this blog and realizes that it is not her place to comment on how a mother chooses to dress her daughter or son. Judging is one thing, it is between you and yourself. I believe it's still wrong. But you don't affect anyone until you start acting upon your judgement.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Freedom Drivers

I visited Saudi Arabia recently, mid-May to be precise. It wasn't my first visit there. But it was my first time as a mother.
My family and I were going for Omra in Mecca, the smaller pilgrimage, and for a one day visit to our friends in Jeddah.
Previously I never thought much of the law against women driving. I figured it was a cultural thing, the women are used to it and that's it.
I never really felt it when I went for Omra except once when I was with my parents. We stopped at a rest house somewhere between Riyadh and Mecca and my brother and father were in the bathroom. My mom and I were waiting in the car. I think I was about 13 then, dreaming of the day I will grow up and drive, so I would jump at the chance to move the car even an inch or two forward or back.
The steering wheel called so I got in the front and my mom said, "don't even think about it, here they can put u and me in jail for just getting behind the wheel."
I thought it was weird and wrong but it's a law and we have to respect the laws of countries we are visiting.
The few trips we had afterwards were to Mecca and Madinah and there I never really got in a car except to and from the airport so we never felt the strain of women not being allowed to drive. We were tourists who got in a cab whenever we pleased.
(The perk of being a tourist anywhere you dont have to worry about driving in traffic or parking.)
However, this last trip which took place May 9th to May 12th was different. We visited friends of ours who had just moved to Jeddah.
I never knew the chain tied to a woman's ankle until I saw the constraints placed simply because she is not allowed to drive.
Once a very productive woman who organized her time, drove her daughter to school, got the grocery shopping done and went to work in the middle of all that, now must arrange her time to suit either her husband or a bus.
It isn't a problem for the women who have drivers and maids at their bec and call. The problem is with the average working class.
Women not being allowed to drive means spending at least 100 to 150 Riyals a day on taxis, which are not too safe for women to take on their own to begin with. Either that or the woman must wait for her husband to return from work, if he feels like it, so she can take a quick trip to the supermarket. She must rush before the shops close half an hour before and half an hour after each prayer. Which leaves her about an hour in between to do all the shopping she needs.
In general the country doesn't even work except for an average of 6 hours a day. Two hours in the morning from 10 to 12. Or really till 11:30 because the shops close for the noon prayer. Then they open again at 5, closing down at 6:30 in preperation for the evening (maghreb prayer). They open up again around 7:30 and shut down around 8 for the night time prayer (Ishaa). And open up again for two hours at around 8:30, 8:45 before they close for the night at around 11.
Life for women there is close to the life of a Palestinian in Gaza, governed by curfew.
While many people believe the right for women to drive is a small, insignificant problem compared to many other problems they have taken away from them, the truth is once it is solved many other problems will also be solved.
In war zones, in order to control the enemy, the governing body automatically places a curfew.
Women not being allowed to drive is their own curfew against them.
As a reminder, during the prophet Muhammad (PBUH)'s time, women travelled around the city on their own. There were no stories of women chained to their husbands, fathers or brothers. Women were productive members and leaders of their society.
It seems to me there is a fear by the governing men that the days of the Prophet will return to us and women will become active members once again.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Line Obsession

I was at the police station making a passport for Aisha who's 8 and a half months and she was with me.
It was one of the hottest days, if not the hottest day in spring. Going I knew the temperature was 38 degrees celsius. For some reason the place was packed.
Aisha's fascination with paper doesn't make it easy to fill out her passport application. Perched on my left lap with the paper on my right a pen in my hand, my backpack on the floor between my legs and squeezed between three women with children talking over me. I try to fill out the application with three different addresses I attempt an even bolder feat and succeed. I take out my passport and Karim's ID to see the exact addresses used.
Balancing everything I manage to finish with a few minor mistakes here and there. I go into the official's office to get an approval and find out something is missing. So he, seemingly annoyed, hands me the application and points out what's missing and I ask him if I can complete it in his office. Like a parent who begrudgingly must approve of something, he lets me sit.
He keeps calling me Mama which is annoying.
Aisha is happy at the chance to pull at the paper again.
I fill out what needs to be filled out he glances at my eyes to make sure its me and tells me to go to window 5.
For a moment I'm happy this is almost over.
Window 5 is a line for women. The woman behind the counter is very very slow. I realize this approaching the line because it is so long.
The place is packed (I said that before). The rows of benches interrupting every line. I walked up to the line and infront of me a mother is carrying her 2 year old son. He is smiling and ready to play with anyone . He wants to play with Aisha, then play peek-a-boo with me and his mom was also very friendly.
While we were playing a woman walks up to the line and stands in front of me and the woman. I tell her, excuse me there is a line. She says yes I know and just stands there. So I tell her you're behind me. She says I know I know I aggressively tell her please go to the back of the line now. She says ok and goes and I continue to play with Daniel (We are on first name basis with the children now) and another woman comes and stands in front of me. Daniel's mom tells me the woman was there before I came and she had to go photocopy something.
Normally in line etiquette if you leave the line thats it. You start over.
I'm obsessed. I know.
But this time I decided not to say anything.
Aisha got heavy, the line behind me was growing and the people were pushing me into the people in front of me.
Meanwhile at the window a girl was debating with her mom and the official about which picture looks nicer.
Everyone seemed happy for some reason. I was getting more and more annoyed but I didn't want to seem rude, which I'm sure I already did because of the line thing (I tried to organize the line at a point in time).
The girl with the picture left.
Then a man went up to the window. So I asked the people standing, who that is.
They ALL said don't worry he's with the hagga.
So I let it go.
Then it was Daniel and his mom's turn. Aisha started crying.
It was hot and she wanted to drink.
It was stuffy. She wanted to leave.
So did I.
So the woman behind the counter, who I was by then annoyed at because she's so slow, said she would take me first because of the baby.
They told her it was my turn anyway. Of course the woman who went to photocopy her paper was standing and didn't say anything and so I had my papers done and needed to photocopy stuff (why they don't tell you that when they hand you the application I still don't understand.)
I went to photocopy my stuff.
Another line.
I'm not stuck to the guy in front of me. We are in a makeshift room under the staircase of a building. Another person decides to cut in front of me. (Maybe I have it written on my back "cut in front of me"). So I tell him there's a line.
Like everytime, the answer is I know I know.
I went back and kept thinking I don't want to be a hypocrite. I have to stand in the even LONGER line!
Hoping with all my heart there is a way out. Annoyed with myself at having principles, a woman says 3addy ya binty i7na mewaf2een inty ma3aky el baby.
So I rush to the front of the line. Give my papers, pay and leave and as I'm leaving I'm thanking everyone but they are not really answering.
I realized our people (Egyptians) don't know how to stand in line. Are no where near organized beyesta3bato everyone around them.
But in the end the kindness is constant.
This time I left embarrassed at myself wondreing when should one speak up and when should one shut up?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

It's a cycle

It really is. I've had children for a little over 5 years now. Every year there are days I have absolutely nothing to do. Because of my children I can't just up and do anything I want. At the same time nothing within the realm of my lifestyle is available for me to do. Then there are days that I have SO MUCH to do but am tied down because one of my kids is sick. I finally started a routine. My house is clean and tidy. My kids have school and practice. I have the dinner schedule down and my time is organized. Which cleared up so much time for me to do the extra stuff that makes me feel normal a human being in our society. I opened up my calendar last Wednesday and filled in all the days. I looked at it and was proud that for once my engagements were adult oriented. Last week, my older daughter had to stay home. It was fine because I knew she'll be going back inshalla. It was a pleasant time to spend with her. So Wednesday, the week ended and I was happy to have stuff to fill my calendar with. Then Thursday my baby daughter got the chicken pox. So I had to stay home with her. Now this week, I still have to stay home and my older daughter got sick again and had to stay home with strep throat. I guess its good to embrace the extra time I am given. A chance to catch up on my writing maybe. A chance to teach myself how to spend time with myself effectively. It's definitely a disciplining experience. A lesson on patience and on surrendering to the will of God. That no matter how you plan and schedule someone else has other plans for you. However, I don't intend on giving up completely. I submit. But I work on this Earth and answer to a boss. I make my own calls and go back to Him for guidance. If things are ok they are smooth. If not something gets diverted and I go along with it. Especially if its out of my hands!