Saturday, July 18, 2009
Goodbye Ammo (“uncle”. Respectable way to address an older man in Arab communities).
The taxi driver is gone, old man talks to me all the way about Islam, the shiite and sunni differences and how we’re all one ummah, should never be divided. I enjoy his talk and I listen to it carefully. Some taxi drivers here in Beirut take my full attention when they talk during the ride, as if wisdom is speaking to me, while others take my deaf ear, especially the nosy ones with nonsense in mind.
But with this driver, my attentive face must have touched him in some good way like doves touch the spirit of dead souls … because, you see, with a face full of pride he says goodbye angel to me, then drops me off with a smile on his face like he was in the presence of something immaculate … Ah, if only I was immaculate, old man…
I’ve been coming to the beach on alternate weekends, though I’ve missed a couple. I’ve been working and volunteering like crazy to the point that I crash like a baby on weekends. Even my folks on both ends - Tripoli and the refugee camps - have been wondering where my crazy self has been lately. In bed. I promise, I keep saying to them :-)
The women-only resort was full as always. Brilliant blue jewels blanket the surface of the beach while the sun shines like yellow pearls over the water. The breeze is warm, the air soothing like a mother’s touch. A beautiful portrait. As always. This time I go straight to the indoor room where we keep our belongings in lockers to prevent theft at the beach. I put my stuff on the table and ask the lady for a key.
While searching for my wallet in my purse I somehow look up and I see a woman over there standing on the side wearing her prayer outfit. She's here to swim and duhr prayer time came in. She has a big plastic bag stretched in front of her. She was getting ready for prayer. Now. Stop with me for a minute.
Remember with me: this is not Canada or North America where the norm (generally) would be a line of women huddling up for prayer when duhr or Asr or whatever prayer comes in while they’re swimming either at a reserved pool area, or, at a privately owned pool that belongs to someone they know (in my experience, there are no womens-only beaches in North America).
In Beirut, things are different. First, see all those women, they’re not all Muslim. Some just come here to the resort for a change. On other weekends they go to mixed beaches. Other women are non –practicing Muslims who don’t pray. These are the majority here, unfortunately. And other women are like me – unfortunately, each time I come to swim, I pray duhr with Asr when I get back home.
And. There I was. I stood there watching that woman who brought her prayer outfit and was gearing up to pray. She saw me look at her. My face must have had a “thinking” look on it, or something, but whatever it was the woman did not like it. She must have thought that I was looking at her in disapproval. She is probably used to that --- because like I said, most women here who do not practice Islam (but are Muslims) not only do not practice, but they look down upon the ones who do. I'm speaking of what I sensed here.
Therefore, this woman must have thought I was one of them, looking at her in disapproval. Little did she know that in my mind I was saying, “is she praying? Oh my, is it duhr already? I didn’t hear the azan, oh man she’s so great I want to pray too. I wonder if she’ll let me borrow her praying outfit after she’s done…”
I was just about to utter the words out of my mouth and ask her if I can borrow her prayer outfit, when she finally “had enough of my staring” I think … because she picked up her stuff and walked away. Looking a bit frustrated. She did not pray. Must have gone to do so elsewhere.
All this happened so fast. As if in a split second. In a moment she was gone and there I was standing.
“Locker number 11”.
“You can put your items in locker number 11 but make sure to pick up your stuff before 6pm”.
…. The woman who was going to pray does not know me, and I’ll probably never see her again. Little does she know that she’s changed something in me. She reminded me that I like praying on time, let alone doing it because Islam says so. From now onwards, inshAllah, it is my intention to pray duhr on time at the resort when I go to swim.
That old taxi driver, he saw angels in my face. But I saw angels in her.
Angel, thank you for reminding me.