Thursday, 22 September 2011

My Middle Eastern Morning

At 5 o’clock this morning I was greeted by the haunting beauty of the call to prayer. Each time I’m back in the Middle East, the first morning reminds me of how deeply I miss its soothing sounds.  It’s funny, the way something once unfamiliar becomes part of you.  The way its rhythm enters your soul and brings you a sense of peace and serenity.
It wasn’t always like that. I remember my first apartment in Ramallah (Palestine). It was right next door to the local mosque. At 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning, as it belted out at full volume, it felt like someone was standing right beside me, shouting wildly in my ear. In the early days, before I understood the language, the morning prayers seemed to be an assault on my senses, an attack on my liberties. It was implausible to me that the people hadn’t rebelled, hadn’t had a revolution against the 5am madness.

Over time, the calls to prayer became an expected part of the day. And then, especially in the morning, the call became a time that I looked forward to, a time that was deeply personal and soothing. Imagine this: in the darkness before the dawn, in the moments before sleep turns to wakefulness, the haunting, but soothing sounds of the call to prayer flow like the warm desert breeze through your open window. Your eyes are closed, but your mind is alive, and in these few moments, when dream and consciousness merge, the greatest ideas, the starkest images, and your intuitive inner voice – they all emerge and become one. Whether you rise, or roll over, those moments are the most precious of the day, for they belong to you, and only you.

I miss these moments when I’m not in the Middle East. I miss living in lands where 5 times a day, the call to prayer gives us permission to take time out of our busy lives and create a moment of stillness, a moment of quiet. It is in those moments when my creativity is at its best.
I’m so glad to be back.

                                                          A recording of the morning call to prayer in Dubai

Monday, 23 May 2011

My Egyptian Mother

I was born in Cairo.

Metaphorically, that is. A good way to put it would be to say I was re-born in Egypt, for she is the mother of my life long obsession with travel, discovery and adventure. I was re-born, or shall I say saved, at the tender age of 15, while on a high school trip through Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, Alexandria and their thousands of years of human history. For a young Canadian girl who had been nowhere, it was awe-inspiring, fascinating, fabulous, fantastic, terrifying, exciting and overwhelming all at once. At that age, I only had an inkling of how diverse the world was – that there were different foods, that people lived in different kinds of houses, that people spoke different languages and held different belief systems, or any system at all (I was raised by hippies!). The smells, sounds, flavours, and textures I discovered were a startling revelation that the world was a much bigger, infinitely more fascinating place than I knew it to be. I remember being greeted at the airport when I came home. I saw my Mom and instantly burst into tears. Looking back, I think those were pretty complicated tears. Tears of joy to be home and in familiar territory, tears of sadness for the new friends I had left behind, and tears of mourning. Mourning, because I knew that lost forever was the girl I knew to be ‘me’. Little did I know then, that I had been re-born. Egypt was my saviour; she saved me from a life of sheltered, small-town insularity by bringing me into a whole new world. A world that I’ve come to understand is beautiful and enlightened, yet cruel and ugly, all at the same time.

I’m 34 now, and I’m truly privileged to have traveled through more than 50 countries across five continents, and to have lived for extensive periods of time in six of those countries. Last summer, I made my 8th trip to Egypt and I saw not just how much Cairo, as a living, breathing city, has evolved over the years, but how much I have evolved, too. In memory of that small-town, 15 year old Canadian girl I once was, I’ve chosen to call this blog Bringing Home the World. Because, of every culture I’ve experienced, every person I’ve met on the way, every challenge I’ve faced on the journey, I have taken a little piece and brought it home into my own soul, transforming who I am and who I want to become.

Bringing Home the World is a random collection of my thoughts and experiences, fantasies and foibles, joys and rage while trying to figure this crazy world out. I hope you will join me on my journey, laughing out loud at my loopy adventures or crying inside at my tales of truth.
Sit back, enjoy the ride, but hang on tight…it’s bound to get bumpy.