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Posts Tagged ‘Al-Azhar Mosque’

Eid time in al-Qahira

September 21st, 2009 1 comment

I was talking to a friend about when Eid might be and that’s when I realized I could call the receptionist and find out the same information. He responded, “Yes, Eid is tomorrow.” I was so happy and called my friend to go out and buy some mehndi (henna). It was officially chand raat. We went to a few pharmacies to find it, but they were all for hair. The guy at the pharmacy insisted it could be used for the hand and kept telling us to use it with a “sa-ring”. In the back of my mind I thought he was telling us to use it with a syringe, but hoped it wasn’t. Then I had a confused look on my face and he just popped out a syringe to show me. My mouth just went open and the word, “Uhhhh” came out. He then reassured me that I don’t need to use the “needle” part. Obviously! That would be intensely inappropriate. It was interesting to see with how much ease he took out a syringe. I replied, “La shukran.” (No thanks). I took the henna in the form of powder (that’s used for hair) and paid for it. He didn’t have the exact change to return to me and popped out a mini packet of shampoo and handed that as currency. I was once again confused, but simply took the shampoo packet and walked out the door. I’ve never been given some shampoo packet as currency (bartering, really?) If only I can go to a restaurant with some friends and we could all look into our bags, put some value on our belongings and pay the check with it. (10 pounds of Vodaphone credit minutes? Maybe.)

So now my friends and I had henna in a huge pouch in the form of powder. We read the directions and had to mix it with water and let it sit for an hour. It was an interesting process. We created the liquid form of henna in a small cup and spoon, but now how were we going to put it on our hands without an actual tube. Should we have bought the “sa-ring” from him? I thought of using some toothpicks, but didn’t have any. We were able to find matchsticks. Yes, matchsticks. We put on henna with matchsticks and listening to some old-school pop and Bollywood music. Around 2am we ordered some Papa John’s, which was hard to eat with one hand. We managed.

We were supposed to be ready by 5:30am to leave for Eid prayer. We made plans to go to Al-Azhar mosque for prayer. Though, we were still putting henna on until 3am and finally decided to maybe sleep for an hour before we had to get ready for prayer. I caught some shut-eye for an hour before my alarm went off. I didn’t bring any special Eid outfits from the US, so I just put an outfit together with whatever I had that looked fun. We were waiting in the lobby at 5:15 to catch some cabs. We walked out to the main road. It takes less than a minute to find a cab anywhere around our area and most areas in Cairo. But today was Eid and we couldn’t find any cabs. We found one cabbie who told us he was going home to change and then he would go to Al-Azhar mosque. 5:30 was quickly approaching and we thought we wouldn’t make it to Al-Azhar since there weren’t any cabs coming our way. We decided that we would just go to the local mosque near the Nile River and just do our Eid prayer there. Just as we approached the local mosque, we found a cab. All five of us crammed in this cab because we weren’t going to find another one. We got to Al-Azhar just in time. It was incredibly crowded in there. The prayer was literally five-seven minutes, yet there were hundreds of people in this small, yet famous mosque. It took awhile to get in and out. The crowd reminded me of the Khan-el-Khalili market at night. Catching a cab on the way was much more difficult. We waiting in one area for about 20 minutes then decided to go to the other side of traffic and wait for a cab. We finally found one.

We went back to our dorms and ate breakfast at the local cafe. It was now about 8am and decided to sleep and wake up again around dinner time. Yes, my sleeping schedule is a bit disorganized, but I shall get it back to normal soon, Inshallah. We had dinner at the Pottery Cafe and watched a movie afterward. It was a nice Eid with some good friends.

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