Monday, February 01, 2010

Egypt Journal: Children in the Siwa Oasis

Ragheb, Mousa, Moustafa, Rabiah

Ragheb and Mousa

The Screaming Game


Ragheb in Sunglasses

These four kids, all from the same family, ran up on me when I was at the base of Siwa Mountain (the old Berber fortress in the heart of Siwa. Siwans descended from Algerian Berbers generations ago, and have retained much of their culture in this desert oasis. In fact, Siwi, not Arabic, is their first language.) We played around for awhile, and I let them take a bunch of pictures with my camera. Though most of the pictures were blurred, they had a ton of fun pointing and shooting, and learning how to use the viewfinder. They also loved to see their own images light up on the LCD sreen.

At one point they started playing what I've called "The Screaming Game," which was literally just that. They all started screaming, but couldn't contain their laughter for long. It's a fitting game for Siwa and Egypt as a whole, actually. For, even though life is tough for the vast majority of the people here, their ability to smile, and to embrace one another is quite remarkable.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Egypt Journal: The Siwa Oasis

Siwa Sunset

Siwa Oasis Salt Lake at Sunrise

Siwa Mountain: An Old Berber Fortress


True Love

Egypt Journal: The Great Sand Sea, or There's Something About Nothing


Sea Shells on the Desert Floor (80 million years old)


A Grain of Sand


Rolling Dunes

Friday, January 29, 2010

Egypt Journal: The Great Sand Sea & The White Desert


The desert is a paradox. It dwarfs us in an expanse of sand, under the endless sky. Makes us feel so small, disconnected and insignificant. But we must remember that even a minute grain of sand came from a stone, which broke from a boulder, which fell from a mighty mountain.

And we, too, come from something much larger than our own individual selves.

Since I've been here in Egypt, this lesson has been made so clear to me, time and again. Bedouins in the Sinai mountains, Alexandrian car mechanics, Siwan safari guides and Cairo football fans, all have pulled me into the fold. I like to think that their kindness comes from reflecting on the cycles of life. We are born into this human body; we grow old, together, and pass on, leaving behind a little of ourselves in everyone we've come across. We are monuments to our own shared past, and what we leave behind is dependent on the zest with which we have lived, the people we have shared with.

We are living history.

Here in the White Desert I'm thinking of my Amma, and June Jordan. They, as much as any others, inform my thoughts and feelings. Inspire my actions and interactions. Though they have withered away physically, both from breast cancer, their legacies are tangible.

The extent to which my life will be meaningful depends upon my own abilities to share what they have passed on to me. Namely, that alone I am small, indeed, but the deeper I connect to the People of this Human Body, the greater Life can be.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Cairo Journal: Crossings


I love the anarchy of Cairo. In so many ways the people here, despite living under a true life dictatorship, are freer than we are in the states. I say this because there is an imperative here for one to make their one way, and an understanding that everyone else is trying to do the same. This creates an atmosphere of tolerance for behaviors that, in the US, are sources of major frustration.

Crossing the street, for example, is much more than a Pythagoran attempt to get from Point A to Point B. It's a statement of purpose, a declaration of intent that everyone around respects. People generally don't wait for traffic signals--whether on foot or behind the wheel--instead they wade out into the waters, letting one car pass, stepping in front of another which will gently swerve to the right or left, pushing the flow of traffic with it. The lanes are merely suggestions. They represent orderliness, regulation. Control.

But people are not meant to be controlled. We are not meant to have our lives contained within four walls--the apartment, the elevator, the cubicle--where we avert our eyes from our neighbors'.

That old Greek mathematician may have been correct, that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but here one learns that there are other things to consider beyond physical distance. In a place like this, where human interaction is a form of currency, weaving amongst the human tide opens the path for new, uncontrollable possibilities. For, we must see one another, work with one another, and trust one another to act in ways that are mutually beneficial.

It's a recognition that your journey is as important as mine, and I see you making your way.

And we're both going to make it. Insha'allah.