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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Time Flies... Part 2!

We had stayed at the Museum right up until they kicked everyone out at closing time. It was still light out so we headed to visit the Al-Hussain Mosque. This was an important event for me because this would be the very first experience I had of praying in a masjid. Hasna, Summer, Shahd and myself went to the woman's section and made our way to the bathrooms to cleanse or wudoo for prayer. It was a bit hard for me because I was faced with the prospect of trying to go to the bathroom in one of these very strange toilets and I had decided at last that I didn't need to go, and would just make a general wudoo and be done. Here is a picture of what I mean.

My first experience with one of these was... well... difficult. It was my first night in Egypt on the way back from the airport and we had made a pit stop to relieve ourselves. When I opened the door and saw this as my means of relief, I became very distressed and confused because for one thing, I was wearing white jeans, the floor was dirty and muddy, and of course, as an American, we are used to toilet paper. My husband (fiance at the time) had paid 6 EGP just for a small box of tissue for me because I didn't know what I was supposed to do with the hose that was attached to the wall and sitting in a puddle of mud. lol. Thank GOD there are normal toilets here. Anyway, there I had made up the day's prayers as we had been traveling and were unable to pray at the standard times. The section was filled with many women and children and the kids were running around playing and the women were either praying or talking amongst themselves. I remember after praying, the group of us found a comfy corner and ate some chips together. There was a woman who had been going around asking people if they had seen a child. I remember Hasna telling me that the child had been missing from this area for some time and the mother must have been so frantic and desperate.

After this, we all went to meet inside the chamber of the tomb of Al-Hussain. There I saw many people gathered. And there were some strange things to be observed inside this section. A little back story, Imam Hussain Ibn Ali was the grandson and one of the last living descendants of our Prophet, Muhammad (pbuh) who had lived during and after his time. Hussain as is told in some Shia histories, had raised an alliance to overthrow the Umayyad Caliphate ruled over by Yazid 1. This ruler was believed to have distorted the true Islamic way and ruled over his people as a tyrant and oppressor. Hussain had wished to deliver the people from this ruler and re-instate the true Islam as had been taught by his grandfather, the Prophet, and he was meant to be the successor and leader of the Ummah but the brother-in-law of Muhammad, Muawiyah I, had gained support and battled against him and eventually Hussain wanted no more of battle and made peace with Muawiyah I and retreated to a life of peace. Yazid I was the son and successor of Muawiyah I and he had taken over rule of the Umayyad only to rule with an iron fist and even some of his own Ummah wanted his rule to end and secretly took to seeking Hussain and asking for his leadership as Imam in Kufa. When Hussain had decided to go with his family to fulfill this request as was his duty, he was stopped by the Umayyad army and he was forced to camp in Karbala with his family away from the river Euphrates and could not continue his journey. There, the army had taken some of his water supply, and when it had run out, he had requested several times to be allowed access to the river. They denied him and even had killed his brother, Al Abbas ibn Ali brutally, having cut off both his arms. And later assaulted Hussain with arrows, killing his 6 month old son. When he and those that were among him had become enraged and tried to fight the army, he was sorely outnumbered and nearly all the company was killed. Those who survived were made captives and slaves to Yazid I. Before his death, Hussain was recorded to have said "Don't you see that the truth is not put into action and the false is not prohibited? The believer should desire to meet his Lord while he is right. Thus I do not see death but as happiness, and living with tyrants but as sorrow." He and all the men of his company had been killed and beheaded.

Getting back to my story, in this tomb chamber, there were many people. Some of them, like me and my companions were just looking on at this monument with due respect and taking photos and video. But some of the others I observed were doing things quite out of the ordinary and we felt rather uncomfortable to see this. One child had climbed in behind the gate and people were giving her rings and other pieces of jewelry to rub on the metal castings of the tomb. Some were praying and kissing the bars of the gate surrounding the tomb. Others were crying and I couldn't understand their talk myself, but my companions told me that they were praying to Hussain himself! This astounded me! These were supposed to be Muslims. Muslims do not pray to men, alive or dead. We pray to one and only one. God! And to see these people committing shirk in this way gave me a very uncomfortable feeling. The air in the room was heavy and I felt I couldn't stay in there for long. Especially because this tomb was likely not even containing any remains of the Imam and the people there doing these acts seemed to me to be acting in complete ignorance. And that they were encouraging this child to do what was very wrong and sinful against Allah disquieted me greatly.

There are several different versions of the story of the location of where Hussain's body and head were located. Many believed his body and head were buried in Karbala, Iraq together inside the Shrine of Al-Hussain. Others believe that the head is in one of several different locations including this tomb, but absolutely nothing concrete to support the idea that any remains lay here. There is information that this particular mosque in Cairo was built over the burial grounds of the Fatimid Caliphs. These were a wide spread people of Algerian origin who were responsible for the conquer and conversion of many to Shia Islam. This was found out in the excavation of the sight of the Mausoleum or tomb chamber of Al-Hussain which dated back to 1154 AD. The rest of the mosque was built in the 19th century. I guess no one could possibly be sure where these parts of this particular man rest, but we as true Muslims would not concern in this. We know that he was beloved by his Grandfather, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and we believe he did his best in life to remain true to the truth of Islam and so we can have faith that he reached the paradise in one piece.

After leaving this mosque, we decided to get some food and so we went down the famous street known as the Khan El-Khalili Bazaar. Here we ordered some good old Egyptian food, and sat outside the dining areas on a bench and all ate together. Then we took a long walk down the street and marveled at the stores that lined this street. There were stores that sold Egyptian replicas and such, many different kinds of things. There were many that sold Hookahs or Shisha's as they call them here, of all sizes shapes and colors. There were incense burning in the air, and vendors called out to passers by to intrigue them with their stocks. I remember stopping at one shop and there was this adorable cat, I bent down to pet him and was amazed when he didn't run away quickly. He nuzzled my hand as if he were my own. So sweet, that was the one and only contact with a friendly cat I've had in Egypt. Most of the cats and dogs here are strays and very wild. They are everywhere, in the cities and towns, but they are not friendly. It breaks my heart to see so many without anyone to care for them. They dig in garbage cans and live in the streets.

When we were all tired out from the day's long adventures, we decided there was no way we would travel back to Diarb for three hours at this rate. And so arrangements were made. And here is where I got to ride for the first time ever, a tuk tuk. What is a tuk tuk?? THIS is a tuk tuk.



Well, this is an example of one. The ones around here aren't usually painted like this but you see them with sound systems and light displays bumping through the streets of Diarb and other small villages or cities, blasting Arabic techno and other kinds of music. These are great little inventions and I want one. lol! Summer, Shahd, Hasnaa and myself all squeezed into the back of one of these little rides and rode through the narrow streets until we came outside the door of our destination. The guys met us there and I was informed that the girls and I would be staying in a separate house from them. This seemed strange to me of course, and I wasn't keen initially at being away from Sayed, but we said our salams and I slipped inside the doors with my companions. There we met two teen age girls who's appearances really surprised me. They were quite light skinned and haired, and if I were to have guessed their heritage, I would have assumed German. But they were apparently born and raised Egyptian and of course spoke fluent Arabic. I had hoped they spoke English but that was not the case. They were both quiet and shy but very kind. They set us up in a bedroom and I went to the bathroom to wash up from the day and change into a night gown that had been provided for me, as I had not packed for a night over, and then we all sat together in the living room. The girls talked to my companions and I joined in conversation (translated of course by Hasna) from time to time. I showed them the photos we'd taken from the day and from my wedding and they enjoyed. Then it was time to sleep. I had spent a little time lying awake thinking about the day's events and there was no definite plan as to what we would do the next day although talk of visiting the Pyramids was in the air. And needless to say, I was highly excited at the prospect. I fell asleep after a while until waking in the morning.

Guess I'll make this a 3 part series because this post is quite long. Please stay tuned for our day 2 adventures in Cairo! And thanks for reading!

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