Carrefour … More is More.
Signposts indicate that we are five minutes away from our destination. Sure enough the colossal cement block resembling a warehouse emerges into view. On the outskirts of Alexandria, Carrefour is so situated that those leaving or entering the city cannot miss it or resist the temptation of dropping in. The practical reason is of course that the construction of this gigantic building no way would have been possible inside the already bulging, overcrowded city.
A spacious car park is alphabetized and numbered for fear that people might forget where they had placed their cars in this uniform allotment. It boasts of endless row upon row of shiny cars whose reflection of sunlight during daytime is almost blinding. Entitled as the city centre, a number of multifarious shops that vary from restaurants, to clothes, to gift shops, including worldwide trademarks like Guess that sell shoes at a thousand Egyptian Pounds (L.E.) a pair, a multi Cineplex and a space that includes videogames and provides entertainment for children, encircle Carrefour.
It is obvious at a glimpse that this is no haphazard or whimsical business project that was established at the spur of the moment from the meticulous details and impeccable organization. It is well-known that Majed El Fouteem, the major mastermind behind this French global chain√É¬≠s expansion into Egypt, along with an expansive think tank, spent three to four years studying its viability, down to every last minute detail. (more…)
An Alexandrian Elegy
Mona inhaled the fairly fresh crisp air as she took big strides. She had taken up walking lately as one of her favorite pastimes. It was not that she enjoyed the physical exercise even though she did immensely, but her solitary walks and ramblings had become a metaphor for something else, for her need to “get out”, her way of coping with the unbearable bouts of restlessness that visited her. Walking helped vent her frustration, her disappointment at the way life had turned out, at how nothing had lived up to her illusory expectations, a viable even if a temporary release from the shackles and limitations that she felt encumbered her on a daily basis. Focusing on her feet, she often felt that she was trying to out stride time and place, at the same time trying to incorporate them within her whole being. What was she running away from? However far she walked she seemed always to return to the same place as if she were on a treadmill, walking on the spot. Mona shuddered as she zipped up her jacket feeling a strong gust of wind rattle through her; she had crossed over to the Cornice and could now view the sea with all its fury at close range.
There was something so beautiful yet so disconcerting most of the time about Alexandria in the winter. Today, it seemed that the whole of the city had been tinted or veiled with a thin film of murky gray. Mona blinked twice wondering if that grayness was within or without? Looking at where sky met sea, where water embraced air in a foreboding lock, where the ephemeral connected with the eternal, fantasy with reality, the mundane with the surreal …………the distinctive line that separated these two domains was smudged, bleary, making it difficult to discern, making it resemble an expansive grave of uncertainty. (more…)
The Blessed Month of Ramadan
Ramadan is the most precious month in Egypt.The streets are decorated with hanging lanterns, miniature ‘masjids’ and ‘kaabas.’ Long silver streamers run across the street from balcony to balcony, winking and gleaming in the bright sunshine. Television stations change their entire daily program to accommodate new shows and sitcoms made especially for the Ramadan month. Compassion fills people’s hearts, you feel God’s mercy washing over you with so much generosity.
There’s no doubt in my mind that this special month of worship is a blessing to Muslims. Islam is the only religion that has such a type of fasting; going without food or drink from sunrise to sunset for a month. And for those who fear torturing their stomachs during this time, I’m happy to say that medical studies proved that abstaining from eating or drinking for the amount of hours decreed by this month is one of the healthier things to our bodies.
Ramadan, a month of fasting and worship, is also a month of learning and discovery. Islam is a religion that takes great pride in learning. The very first thing God did for Adam when he was a complete human was to teach him the names for everything around him. It tells us in the Qur’an, ‘And He taught Adam all the names (of everything)' A second example of how important reading and learning is to Islam is the first word that Gabriel presented to the Prophet with. The very first word that came down from God to Earth him as the beginning to what would become one of the most miraculous books ever read was ‘Read! In the Name of your Lord, Who has created (all that exists)'. (more…)