Play Your Orchestra

Let me tell you about one of my good days at work. I’m a dentist and one day at the beginning of the evening shift, I received 5 papers, which means 5 patients plus a full schedule of appointments. I started thinking: “How can I manage that, how can I see all this number of patients. Thoughts started to come to my mind, I got stressed, annoyed, angry at the front desk, why aren’t they managing it right, why aren’t they organized. How will I do it?!” All these negative thoughts and energy in less than 1 minute. I told myself “emmm… I think I will run away, opps, no that’s a childish thought, but I can’t do this and I wish I could run away”.

I walked away from my clinic to my colleague, I wanted to complain about it to my colleague. To get all the negative energy out. On my way I saw the lead of the department. She asked, “What is wrong doctor?” I started complaining with high voice and angry facial expressions. She calmly said, “Your clinic is your stage, play your orchestra!”

Play my orchestra! And there I was, I listened to the calming music in my head, and a smile was drawn on my face, then I told my assistant “Let the show start”. The day went smoothly and at the end we provided the best care to everyone.

Whenever you feel overwhelmed or overloaded with work or life, take a breath, listen to the calming music in your head, clear your mind and prioritize. Now, some of you will be saying: sounds good but how can we apply it. I would say As Oprah Winfrey said, “Make a decision and watch your life move forward”

Unexpected Expectations

Careless Birthday

Do you ever feel that sometimes life suddenly seems perfect, the unknown becomes exciting rather than fearsome and surprises are eagerly awaited and not nervously dreaded? Well, that is what I am feeling or experiencing, like I have climbed a big massive mountain and reached the top where I can finally rest and at the same time look down and realise the world is within my grasp.

My friend (the one I often write about – the encouraging, quirky, must try everything friend) came to take me out for my birthday, every year she plans different things; last year surprised me at home with another friend carrying specially designed Egyptian pyramid cake that had my name written on it in hieroglyphic. She knows that one of my wishes is to travel to Egypt so she granted me a wish, the year before she took me to see my favourite singer at a concert, can you see Dunia why this friend is so special, she is like a fairy that grants me what I want. Sorry, back to my birthday. So as I knew she will surprise me like every year, I was excited to learn how she could improve on the pyramid cake, but she did in a big way.

I did not know where we were going until the taxi dropped us off outside the actual place which was The Shard; Europe’s highest building, a sort of Burj Khalifa (the skyscraper in Dubai, United Arab Emirates) equivalent though not as high. It was the best surprise. You see Dunia, I have a big dream of flying across the globe on a magic carpet, so being at the top of London was the nearest thing I could get to be on top of the world, words fail to describe what I felt at the time.

Of course with any outing there is always a glitch or a situation of some sort, when we arrived at the Chinese restaurant on the 36th floor, naturally being disabled and a wheelchair user, I had to enter through the cloakroom; not ideal but I guess disabled customers are not as valued. Once we were led to our table both my friend and I just looked at one another in shock, the table was higher than my head! I could see the disappointment on my friend’s face who had gone to so much trouble to plan this surprise and it hurt me to see her frustration, I am used to such situation and have adapted myself to not expect much from people or places. I tried to reassure her that I can try reaching it and not to get upset but it was very clear that there was no chance of me reaching the table let alone eat from it.

My friend called the waitress and explained that she phoned four times to make sure the restaurant was fully disabled friendly, obviously the waitress was just static and in my personal view did not have a clue so said she will go and speak to the manager, who proved to be even more useless. The manager did not even make the effort to try or attempt to be helpful, or offer to check if any of the other restaurants in the Shard had bookings were disabled friendly, my friend got very annoyed so she said she will go and check other places in the building.

Sorry I know I stop at the most inappropriate parts but my carer has been standing in front of me waiting for a signal that she can carry me to the wheelchair then off to bed. Do forgive me but it is not nice to keep others waiting, especially when it is night time.

Love

Love Ghada AlShaiba_

Picture taken by Ghada AlShaibah

 

Love is not just a relationship…

Love is a mixture of feelings and words…

Words that are not necessarily said…

Words within every individual…

Love is the feeling of a mother towards her child…

A set of memories, feelings and purity…

Love of family and neighbors…

Love of friends, ancestors and traditions…

Love of home and religion…

Love is not just a relationship…

الحب

Love Ghada AlShaiba_

بعدسة غادة الشيبة

 

الحب ما هو علاقة عابرة والسلام ….

الحب مشاعر وأحاسيس وكلام …

كلام مو شرط يكون مسموع …

الحب كلام النفس مع ذاتها …

الحب عاطفة الأم لولدها …

الحب ذكريات ومشاعر وألوان …

الحب بياض وطهارة وعفاف ….

الحب حب الإخوة والأهل والجيران …

الحب حب الأصحاب والأجداد والعادات …

الحب حب الابن لأرضه وطنه وترابه ودينه…

الحب ما هو علاقة عابرة والسلام ….

الحب كلمة طاهرة لكل من عرف قدرها …

الحب باب الرشاد والصلاح… عندما يفتح من أصوله وبضوابطه … بين كائن كان … أرض … وطن … وجماد

 

إلى هند


بقلم إيمان عبدالحميد العوضي
Illustrated by @ashiiiuae

Illustrated by @ashiiiuae

أنا من الأشخاص الذين لم يعرفوا هند من قريب ، فقد كانت صديقة صديقتي فقط ، والا فمعرفتها كانت ستكون شرفا لي .

كانت هند شابة في العشرينات من العمر ، عضوة فعالة في عدد من الأماكن ، تحب فعل الخير ومساعدة الناس ، كانت تساعد الكثير من المحتاجين ، وتشجع جمعيات كثيرة وتعينهم على نشر الخير ، وتسعى على توسعة مجالات عملهم ،  تكتب عنهم في الجريدة ، وتجمع الأموال وتشارك في فعاليات كثيرة منها من أجل أطفال السرطان وسرطان الدم تحديدا.

شاء الله بعد فترة من انشغالها بهذا العمل أن تُصاب هي بسرطان الدم ، وقد ذهبت الى بريطانيا للعلاج ، وكنت أرى أهلها و أصدقاءها و زملاءها في العمل وخارج العمل يساندونها معنويا عبر شبكات التواصل الاجتماعي بشكل دائم ،  وقد وضعوا لها شعاراً باللغة الانجليزية في الانستغرام وهو “هند القوية” ، وقاموا بطباعته على قمصان وأظرف العيد ، وقد عملت هذه المساندة على تقوية عزيمتها وصبرها ، بالإضافة إلى الزيارات والهدايا المفاجئة التي كانت تهدف دائما  لرسم البسمة على محياها .

لقد رأيت حسابها في الانستجرام وشدني ، فقد كانت لها بعض الكتابات ، وأنا أيضا من محبي الكتابة ، فأحسست بشيء يربطني بها . أتذكر في زيارتي الأخيرة الى لندن كم كانت تخطر على بالي عندما كنت أذهب مع جدي لمستشفى علاج السرطان فكنت أدعو لها متمنيىة لها الشفاء العاجل.

حزنت كثيرا عندما علمت بوفاتها على الرغم من عدم معرفتي بها ، كما حزن الكثير مثلي على فقدانها ، لقد كانت وفاتها فاجعة هزت الخليج بأكمله ، وكنت أنا من بينهم .

في الحقيقة كانت هند محظوظة ، فقد أكرمها الله من بين خلقه بابتلاء صعب لكي ينقيها من جميع ذنوبها ، وهي أثبتت صبرا جميلا على هذا البلاء ، فصبرها ونفسيتها الجميلة  و ابتسامتها التي لم تفارق وجهها وشخصيتها أثرت على كل من حولها وكانت مصدر إلهام للجميع في حياتها  وحتى وبعد مماتها بشهادة جميع أحبابها ، حيث علمت الناس الكثير .  

عبرت احدى الجمعيات عن حزنها بوفاة هند قائلة :” إنها شجعتنا وساعدتنا على الظهور في الصحف و الشبكات الاجتماعية.”

سبحان الله ، إن الله عز وجل حين يحب شخصاً يجعل حبه بين جميع الناس ، وهذه هند أحببناها دون أن نراها أو نعرفها ، وسخرنا الله أن ندعوا لها بعد موتها ، فيارب سخر لنا من يدعوا لنا بعد موتنا .

رحمك الله ومسح على قلوب جميع أهلك وأحبابك ، وعوضك بجنان النعيم بإذنه ، وجعل .ملتقاك معنا جميعا في الفردوس آمين.

Flower Story

Picture taken by Ghada Al Shaiba

Picture taken by Ghada Al Shaiba

Does the flower have a story

Or it witnesses certain stories

Does the flower have a friend

Or it connects a friend to friend

Does the flower fall in love 

Or it strengthens stories of love

Does the flower have a story

Or it witnesses certain stories

 

هل للورد حكاية

Picture taken by Ghada Al Shaiba

Picture taken by Ghada Al Shaiba

ياترى هل للورد حكاية

أم أنه شاهد على بعض الحكايا

يا ترى هل للورد صديق

أم أنه صلة بين الصديق والصديق

يا ترى هل للورد هوى

أم أن الهوى بالورد ارتوى

ياترى هل للورد حكاية

أم أنه شاهد على بعض الحكايا

Empathy

Empathy seems to be the building block of positivity on any level of human relationships. Think of friendships, families, work relations, communities, countries, and the world as a whole.

Empathy is not about feeling sympathy for others, but rather about moving out of the zoomed-in perspective of our lives that we tend to have. It is ultimately about reaching a level of consciousness of the mind and soul that allows us to be positive contributors to the lives of others. It is about touching the soul of another person with the little gestures that we will only be capable of doing once we attempt to understand perspectives other than our own.

With that in mind, here’s a glimpse of the world through the eyes of myself and several others. Let yourself be transported into worlds different than your own, yet also all the exact same world:

  • A bullied kid playing alone in a playground somewhere
  • A family sitting together eating their favorite cake and being grateful for the blessing
  • An insecure, fragile woman staring at her reflection in a mirror somewhere
  • A worried father, somewhere in the world, waiting for his child to come home
  • Someone working in a foreign country calling their family back home to wish them happy holidays
  • A girl looking through old books at a library somewhere
  • A homeless person sleeping on the sidewalk somewhere waiting for his life to change
  • A couple spending their honeymoon on an island somewhere
  • Someone embracing the beauty of words at a spoken poetry night
  • A father trying to make things right with his wife and kids
  • Someone sitting alone on a table for two, laughing
  • Someone feeding the birds under the Eiffel Tower
  • People praying at the Holy Ka’aba
  • Someone volunteering in a very cold place, helping others and feeling very happy
  • People living in a refugee camp trying to survive
  • A man playing the guitar on the streets of Italy and being tipped by passersby

Pain and suffering, love and affection, happiness and sadness, and also, just pure quirkiness. All of those were the thoughts and emotions going on around us in the world, and inside every one of us.

I’d like to leave you with a quote by Rumi: “You are not a drop in the ocean, you are the ocean in a drop.”

May we all be guided to spread positivity, goodness, and empathy in a world that needs it more than ever before.

A Whole New World

Oh Dunia, I am bad I know, I have neglected you yet again and I don’t have a valid excuse except it has been a busy time for me – makes a nice change right? So let me just finish off the story of how I got on my first ever bus journey.

As I waited with my friend for either a taxi or a bus; my friend wanted a bus as she always pushes me to try new things and experience in life, I wanted the usual ‘safe’ option, which is a taxi. My friend won and got her wish as the bus arrived first and we were already late to the event that we had booked to attend, so I could not object. I was bit nervous, ok… ok, I was wrecked with nerves but I fully trust my friend and know she will never let anything happen to me so I started to gradually feel at ease and as we reached our destination I was very excited to have finally overcome my fear of travelling on public bus. I have to admit though Dunia, I don’t think I can ever ride a bus alone or even do it often.

Now we get to my favourite part of October; my birthday week. It is strange Dunia how when thing go wrong they do so altogether in one go and when things become right they occur suddenly one after another. I can safely say that my luck and perspective on life began to change as the month started, first I applied for an internship at a small publishing firm and to my great surprise I got it. No I was not being pessimistic but if you had gone through as many interviews as me Dunia and received the same amount of rejection letters then you will not be too excited about your chances. Yet I was proven wrong, the lady liked me and I will start the internship in two weeks, I was informed that if I work hard the firm might keep me on.

I am so excited and feel very blessed, more so after my birthday; my brother came from Zurich especially to celebrate the day with mum and I, he booked a restaurant – Indian, my favourite, and I received my birthday gifts from both him and mum, they were exactly what I wanted. I returned home feeling that life is about to get even better, not that my previous year was bad in anyway, it is funny people think that as you get older life becomes harder and duller but for me it is the opposite; so alright maybe health wise it is more difficult but there is a feeling of content and self-acceptance that only comes with age and that is how I currently feel.

On my actual birthday, mama made me chocolate cake and wrote my name on, I made 3 wishes (yes I know it is supposed to be one, but I am greedy what can I say!) I then received the best surprise from my niece and nephew – a video of them singing happy birthday and one in which they were making me a card. It was the best card I have ever received and most definitely the most sincere. The drawing on the card was of me driving the wheelchair with my nephew standing at the back (on batteries) and niece sitting in front (on the foot rest), and this in fact what usually happens, so the card reminded me of our summer days.

Now comes my birthday celebration with friends, which was equally one that I will treasure for a long time to come, but Dunia it is too long to write now and my elbow is hurting so I will continue next time and I promise it will be soon.

Ciao for now…

The Eldest

When you are the eldest among your siblings, you may feel the unfairness of why you have to do everything and try everything for the first time, why you are the first always? Without having the exact details on how things can be achieved. However, years after, you will laugh on such a way of thinking and will understand that there is always a bright beneficial side of the same.

The majority if not all of what you learnt in your life and the path your family always steer you towards are actually for the benefit of yours and what comes quickly will vanish and fade easily, but what comes from living the situation or trying it out yourself will be graved.

Award Winners Share Their Recipe for Success

Group pic

Taken by Go2 Publishing

A room filled with great business leaders from across the Middle Eastern, African and Asian continents being awarded for their great accomplishments, took place on the 5th of November 2014 at the Armani Hotel in Dubai at the 5th Middle Ease Business Leaders Awards.

An evening full of inspiration, taking Leadership to a whole new level.

Having spoken to some of the remarkable Award winners I have gathered some great advice which gives a great insight into entrepreneurship, its obstacles and rewards.

Princess Ade Garrick was awarded the Masterclass Women Leader of the Year.

With an astonishing personality this highly inspiring lady created legal consultancies and financial advisory services in order to create a bridge between the Middle East, West Africa and the rest of the world.

When asked, her key to success was clear, collaborations and mentorships.

“You are not alone. Mentoring those you need your support and looking for mentors is fundamental.” 

She explains, in depth, the importance of collaborations and corporations and advises everyone who would like to establish themselves as entrepreneurs to build relationships with likeminded people to exchange ideas and grow together.

When asked where she took her immense strength from, she stated women possess an extensive emotional intelligence, which comes from a variety of sources, including being a mother, a daughter and wife.

She takes a quote by Madelaine Albright;

“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”

and shares her own version of it:

“There is a special place in heaven for women who help other women.”  

Shaika Noora Bint Khalifa Al- Khalifa was awarded for the Emerging Woman of the Year.

The Chief Executive Officer of Medpoint Design speaks about how time is a factor and how it is crucial not to wait to build businesses.

Shaika Noora Bint Khalifa Al- Khalifa tells how she started working on her first enterprise at the tender age of 17 whist still in school.

The highly successful Bahraini lady doesn’t only have a very strong educational background, but also a track record in organizing award winning events and working on various projects in the GGC events industry simultaneously. Naming but a few, the Abaya Exhibition, the B-Training Event, and the Labours Day Event in association with the foreign embassies where 17,000 employees who were honoured on this special occasion organized by Medpoint.

”Being successful in business requires a lot of time and effort. The earlier you start the better. Even though challenges may arise you have to work through them and obstacles will disappear” on their own.”

Datuk Wira SM Faisal, eldest son of the late founder of NAZA Group was awarded the Global Business Icon of the Year

Speaking to Datuk Wira SM Faisal was not only a breath of fresh air, but also inspirational.   The insights from an accomplished young entrepreneur on how to build a sustainable business were received with great admiration.

His advice was always to keep going, no matter the number of challenges one faces. He remarked that many people see the lack of financial resources as their number one obstacle, but he encourages anyone with a vision to keep going, regardless of the rejections one may encounter.

Find something you like, your unique talent. A niche. Don’t rush anything. Don’t look for money, but merely to follow your passion and the right things will fall into place.

He continues to say, funding can be obtained through banks, angel investors, etc. As long as you follow your passion and keep up the right ethics everything will fall into place.

His principle for success is to always set short term, medium and long-term goals, and Datuk Wira SM Faisal remarked it is this that drives him. He highly recommends not only to visualize your goals, but once you have achieved them set new challenges that take you further.

Mohamed Ayub Khan the MD of Khansforge SDM BHD in Malaysia was awarded the Masterclass Enterpreneur of the Year.

Mohamed Ayub Khan has incorporated Khansforge, the Middle Easts leading steel grating manufacturer in October 2010.

His client portfolio includes major oil and gas providers, power plants as well as chemical plants and major industries within these fields, being registered with government statutory authorities.

When speaking about his accomplishments and future plans he mentions that his upcoming ventures are to create new manufacturing plants in the Middle East. He also mentioned that this is just the beginning and there will be much more to come Inshallah (If God willing).

The advice I have received form this notably modest leader, whose inspiration is gratitude for all his accomplishments, is simply to prioritise, to always work hard and no matter how much success you are blessed with to remain humble.

Picture taken by Go2 Publishing

Picture taken by Go2 Publishing

الأخ الأكبر

عندما تكون الأخ الأكبر، قد تحس بأنه من الظلم أن تقوم بتجربة  كل شيء لأول مرة وأن تتعلم المواجهة دون الاتكال على أحد، لكن عندما تكبر تكتشف أن كل هذا كان لمصلحتك وبأنه ليس ظلما. إن ما تتعلمه في الحياة وما ترسمه لك أسرتك يصب لمصلحتك

إن ما يناله المرء بسهولة يذهب ويتلاشى بسهولة، أما ما يتعلمه ويعيشه يستحيل عليه نسيانه

Tell Me Why

Tell me why can’t I hear your voice tonight

Tell me why can’t I smell that scent for a little while

Tell me why can’t I see your picture without a cry

Tell me why can’t I bring back those fun nights

Tell me why can’t I drive without the fright

Tell me why can’t I say all that I have kept locked inside

Tell me why can’t I bring back time and stay there for a little while

 

It Has You

It has you singing away

It has you believing it is going to be okay

It is going to go your way

Your mind is finally at ease

At a place where you believe

It is your time to shine away

To spark the world with your light

And brighten the souls of mankind

Dunia: The Birthday Girl’s Month of Firsts

raya4new

Dunia have I mentioned to you how much I love autumn and in particular the month of October, yes, I know, few times. But seriously there are only 3 things that I love about myself: the month I was born in, my star sign, and my name. So if anyone wants to annoy me or make me angry, then all they have to do is attack one of these.

There is so much to tell you, yet I have no idea where to start, but before I get to my birthday – favourite topic-, I will begin at the start of my beloved month. I had decided as you know after the departure of my niece and nephew that I will be active and rediscover many things around me, clearly I am too cautious and a creature of habit to do this alone and by my own accord. So thank god for my great friend whom I had often written about in the past. It is hard to describe her Dunia, and no it’s not because I don’t want to share her! Honestly, no words can do her justice, and if I try to do so, then you will think she is not real or a fairy tale character, something that I sometimes wonder myself, to me she is like a fairy or magic potion that grants me so many dreams and invokes within me a different side to my personality – a more daring and adventurous one.

There was an Arabic films week at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London so we decided to go and see an Egyptian film entitled ‘Factory Girl’ which was followed by discussion with the director, Mohamed Khan. Usually when I go out I have to prepare and plan my carers time, I need to make sure they can come to get me ready at specific time then make sure they know when I return. Plus I have to regulate my ventilator usage, I get severe headaches and breathless if I don’t use ventilator after meals. Therefore, when I go out, I either eat beforehand and use ventilator or simply use ventilator for 3 or 4 hours prior to leaving my house. These few hours will build enough energy that allows me to eat outside without getting too distressed or tired.

Anyhow, that day things went smoothly, I had my ventilator time, carer was punctual and even taxi arrived promptly. Once we arrived, we decided to have a picnic in the park opposite the venue, as the film won’t start for another 40 minutes. That was my first ever experience of picnic in the park at night, it was the most beautiful night I had experienced in a while, stars shining, ducks swimming in the pond in front of us seeking our crumbs, and the warm feeling of darkness that makes you feel no one else exists apart from you and your friends. I sense you don’t think it’s a big deal? Well it may seem trivial to you but for someone who is eternally scared to try new things and anti-change, picnic at night was the best experience ever, and I actually enjoyed it more than the film and event.

The next new venture was my first ever journey on a public bus! Something that I had always feared and tried my best to avoid but I had no other choice, my friends and I had planned to attend another event, this time was at the Geographical Society for a viewing of a Palestinian documentary. On this occasion, the taxi was not so reliable, in fact, it did not turn up so we tried to hail one on the street but obviously when taxis sees that I am a wheelchair user and need a ramp, I become invisible and they drive past. As we were stuck for some time, my friend said to me ‘right, we are going to have to take the bus’, realising the look of fear on my face she suggested ‘whatever comes first we will take, so if a taxi stops then taxi will be, but if a bus comes then that is final’. Oh Dunia, I can hear the bell, sorry will finish my tale next time. Adieu!

Dunia: What Will Be, Will Be

raya4new

After few days of moping about and getting sad at every reminder that the children had left, I came to the decision of ‘that is enough’, time to explore new avenues and regain my focus. I like to think that there is a time for everything; summer for me is discovering the emotional and maternal side of my character, whereas autumn on the other hand is exploring the strength within me and searching for a fresh start.

I began by making a list of things I must do; I love creating lists it gives me a feeling of importance or rather that I have busy day ahead, which is always a positive thing. I needed to do some PhD research, read some plays that are also related to my studies, write few articles but all of these things were not enough, I wanted more, not out of greed I promise you Dunia, but more eagerness to learn new things and meet different people.

Seeking knowledge and different experiences can never be a bad thing, but like everything in life if you get too focused on one task then you risk becoming obsessed, which can lead to disappointment. For years that was my problem, after the completion of my Masters degree I had this notion that turned into a life mission to find a job, work the usual office hours and be like everyone else. This is where the mistake lies, the urge to be ‘like everyone’ and lead a conventional life, maybe it is my middle eastern background, where life is systematic and has to follow the pattern of the majority which goes like, university, job, marriage and children and all at a certain age. Back then I was quite naïve and being a ‘people pleaser’ I wanted to make my family proud and at the same time, I wanted to be like the rest of the world.

I realise now that the worst thing you could do is follow the path of others or conform to the majority, because we are all born as individuals with our own unique trait and ability. Don’t think I am smart Dunia, it took me nearly 6 years to finally grasp that I should invent my own path and not be obsessed with job application. I had applied to more than 350 jobs at least and attended hundreds of interviews, which always brought my hopes up and led me to believe a job is within my grasp, only to receive a rejection email few days later. Often it made me feel low, I mean who likes rejection? Especially when you suspect the reason is your physical ability but can’t prove it.

Anyhow enough of the past and back to the present, I decided to get active, anything I see being advertised I instantly apply to, whether it is voluntary, part-time, paid, unpaid, freelance everything was my target. I have had people say to me ‘how can you work for free’ or ‘someone with a CV like yours why would you want such a position’, I usually reply with the same answer ‘my ambition is different from your average person, I don’t seek high executive position or big salary, I just want to learn a wide diversity of topics and leave this world having spread knowledge and awareness of various issues’. Do I sound cheesy or lame?

Oh no, I have a lot more to tell you but my laptop is flashing to alert me that battery charge is lower than 2%, and I can’t call mama all the way from her room just to switch it on electricity, so I better ‘save’ and ‘shut down’.

Nighty! Oh wait, guess what? It is my birthday in 3 days wohooo…

Further

The more I try to get there

The further it seems to go away

The further it seems out of reach

At times it feels like it will never be

These dreams seem so close yet so far

No matter how much I walk further

I just don’t seem to reach

I keep thinking of changing direction

Changing my destination

But my heart won’t seem to understand

It won’t let me turn away

So I keep walking

And I keep hoping

Yet the more I try to get there

The further it seems to go away

 

Dunia 6: Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn

raya4new

I am so sorry Dunia, it has been a while I know and I have no real excuse except one valid reason; my health has not been great but let us not dwell on that and let me update you on everything.

September is always a positively weird month, a big part of me loves it as it is the start of autumn; my favourite season and best time of the year (nothing to do with the fact that I am autumn born), it is the time when new things start, children and students begin new academic year, natural surroundings start their new cycle of change and there is a smell of fresh beginnings in the air. When September spells the end of summer, it means the departure of my niece and nephew back to their home in Dubai, UAE. Every year the same anguish of saying goodbye but this year it was particularly hard, not sure of the reason but I guess having them around for a whole two months, spending all my time playing, talking, going out and doing various activities throughout the day with them was not just a fun filled period for me, but it also provided a sense of purpose for my day. I had the responsibility of two young children, who needed entertaining and nurturing, while it was a big challenge but it was also an opportunity to escape my usual world and discover that I have a lot to give.

No, no, no Dunia this is not my maternal side because to be honest I have never had that urge to be a mother or get excited when I see babies, does that make me cold? I don’t think I am, it is just a feeling I was never born with and contrary to the popular belief, not every woman has to be a mother. I am digressing and this is a big topic that I will talk to you about in another post, for now back to my niece and nephew.

For almost 9 weeks, my whole day revolved around these two little souls, I would be woken up by them and would both get in bed with me, then they would listen to stories that I invent for them and after a while we start playing and singing. Breakfast was always a time for us to sit together which often resulted in a fight over who should sit next to me, and that was the theme of the day; them arguing over who loves me more and who should play with me. I loved sitting with them, teaching them everything that I know, trying to instill principals and moral values inside them, and talking to them like friends. I have never felt so wanted and loved as I do with these two beautiful angels, I entered a world of purity and unconditional affection and so I left or distanced myself from my usual surroundings.

I also got to learn a lot from these two little munchkins, I now know what and how to take a ‘selfie’ thanks to my smart niece, discovered who are ‘One Direction’ (not a great thing as I had to endure their music on repeat throughout the day), I got to know who are skylanders (Xbox figures), and the great book series of Dork diaries. I feel so blessed to have them in my life yet so sad at their departure, we clung to each other in tears and were given a ‘pinky promise’ that they will never forget their best friend and aunt and will skype me regularly.

My 4-year-old nephew also assured me that he will come every weekend, return for my birthday and will keep coming until I grow up and start walking then I will have to go and visit him. Hahaha this is what I will miss most, the innocence that visits me during summer.  Nighty my Dunia, I am getting a bit teary.

Prove It To You

I heard a voice

A voice telling me

To prove it to you

That I will make it

Make it bigger than you could imagine

Bigger than anyone could fathom

I had to prove it to you

Prove that all that you called me

Was nothing close to what I was

Nothing close to what I would become

All I knew is that I wanted to be right

To be my own version of right

Build my life on values

Values that my family lived by

Values that I created with time

I only had one chance

Only one chance to prove it to you

Dreams Of Two

The burden of an only child

Is the burden not many understand

Not many get

Not many deal with it

Because most families don’t have just one

One child to achieve the dreams of two

The dreams of both the mother and the father

So when your mother wants you close

You can’t say no because you are all she’s got

All that she wants by her side

And when your father wants you to continue his legacy

You do it because you are all he’s got

So you have to work hard

Work harder at life

Harder than your mind can take

But you keep going because you are all he’s got

You are the only one who can make them proud

You might be one

But you are the dreams of two

 

Dunia 5: On My Own

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Oh my god I am home alone Dunia!

My mother took my niece and nephew and went to visit my brother in Switzerland, where they will be joined by my sister and her husband; so the whole family will be reunited apart of me as I can’t travel for health reasons (will explain later).  I can’t lie to you Dunia, part of me wanted to join my family although I hid it and pretended to be happy and excited yet I really wanted to go. I love travelling, discovering new things and learning about various aspects of this world but I can’t, as I am only able sit in my wheelchair which is not allowed on the airplane since it is considered a potential health hazard, plus due to my breathing problem and usage of ventilator, flying will put me at risk – my doctor once explained the reason but it went over my head; all I know that high altitude decreases or affects Oxygen level (science was my worst subject at school). Therefore the final time I travelled and went on an airplane was before I started using a ventilator so I must have been 12-years-old, yes a very long time ago.

Aww don’t get sad for me Dunia, it is not such a tragedy there are much worse things in life to endure; it is something I was brought up on – to always consider the worse option and look at people who are less fortunate than I am. Being content is the cure for most things; another wise teaching from my mother. Plus Dunia, in reality, thanks to technology and modern facilities I can experience most things via the screen of my laptop. I also collect postcards and little souvenirs from all over the world and for this I rely on my friends and family; these are my most treasured worldly goods, which I value more than anything else.

Anyhow, back to my week long freedom, obviously I had a live-in-carer staying with me as there is no way I can stay home alone, but still I shall be in charge and responsible not just for myself but for the house too. I was excited and kept planning in my head all the things I wanted to do and the people I wanted to invite; although friends come when mama is here but we are never fully relaxed or free as she might come in and out of where we sit, so this was the perfect opportunity.

But you know Dunia, freedom and independence is slightly overrated, don’t get me wrong I enjoyed the break and the ability to do whatever I want when I want, the chance to catch up with friends over skype which sometimes is hard as people come in and out and hear my conversation. Yet I felt I was also alone; many of my friends could not come as they had plans, except one who despite having all her family visiting from abroad still managed to come twice during the week for few hours. During her first visit we watched a Palestinian film titled ‘Omar’. It was alright I guess but not wow and on the second visit we played backgammon; my favourite board game; before you wonder we left the game at a draw 4-4.

I also felt like a slight burden on almost everyone, my carer needed to go somewhere but could not leave me alone so she had to get one of her friend to pick up whatever she needed and bring it to her, then my sister’s mother-in-law cooked for me twice, and to be honest, I felt even my friend was pressurised to come and visit me. All these things made me realise that there is no complete freedom or independence for I shall always need the assistance of others, but at least with family, in particular mama, I don’t feel like such a heavy burden; I don’t know why, one possible reason is that family gives you unconditional love and care. I can’t wait for their return.

Oh no! My laptop will soon go into hibernation as it is running out of charge, I better switch off and save you before all is lost. Nighty Dunia!

Those Words

All those words that brought me down

Are the words that picked me up

All those words that burnt my skin

Are the words that sparked my heart

All those words that cut deep in my mind

Are the words that healed my soul

All those words that suffocated my dreams

Are the words that built my goals

Are the words that lit a burning desire

A desire to be bigger than those words

Dunia: Differently Different

Dunia is the weekly private journal of a girl born with disability, who uses a wheelchair and a respiratory ventilator machine yet is no different to any other person, read about her struggle, tribulation as she strives to seek independence. The character and events of the journal are pure fiction and bear no relation to anyone.

raya4new

Alright so it may seem like you are my ‘moaning bank’ Dunia, and all I ever do is complain to you but I think that’s is the main point of keeping a diary/journal; to off load all your negative feelings rather than bottle everything inside you. I guess Dunia you are like a psychologist! Haha, a more practical, accessible and cheap one to seek regularly and whenever I want.   Sorry not in an affectionate mood today, a mixture of anger and frustration has zapped all the nice emotions out of me, but I know you will understand and in reality there is no need for explanations or apologies, right? You are my confidante after all, so you will get my points no matter how complex they may seem. Where do I start? Right, the trip to the London Zoo with my niece and nephew.

The annual traditional visit to the zoo with the children during the summer holiday has no major significance except this extreme joy that can’t be contained inside me, at spending time with my favourite people on earth and at the same time teaching them new set of information.  The great thing about the Zoo is that it has so many animals that people refrain from staring at me as they are distracted by other things.

Well, that was the case until we passed some people who I discovered were Arabs when they started uttering the usual sentence of  ‘AllhamedAllah (thank god) we were spared this person’s suffering, we are so blessed yet don’t realise’. Hmm, ok I am all for gratitude and appreciating our situation no matter what it is but seriously is there a need to be so vocal and loud about it?? Thank God of course but silently, in your heart – I am sure you will be heard by God regardless. Plus can’t these people see the contradiction in their act; if you are trying to be pious and content then no need to hurt the feeling of the person that you see as ‘inferior’ to you!!

Don’t get me wrong Dunia I really don’t let things like that get to me, I have had a lifetime of it to the extent that I usually anticipate it happening and when it does I laugh in the knowledge that I am glad to be put on earth for people to realise how blessed they are, at least I have some kind of use! But this particular time I was annoyed as I don’t want my little niece and nephew to witness this; they are too innocent to see this side of human nature and they look up to me especially my niece who regards me as her role model, someone she aspires to be like and follow. To hear others claiming that they are better than me because they are blessed and chosen by God made her upset and she questioned why should they say such a thing? And is it true they are more blessed than me and if so why? Did I do something bad?

So many questions that I was not prepared for, mainly because I don’t want my beloved niece exposed to the ugly side of this world. I opted to say that we are all blessed and we are all happy with what we have and that is the right way, which is why we don’t want to be in other people’s place. I reassured her that her aunt is differently different from the rest of the world and that is a very good thing as she can always find me for I am like no other.

Oh my carer is here to take me to bed, but I still have so much to write, guess what Dunia, I am going to be home alone for a whole week! Sorry I have to go as my carer is getting impatient will fill you with all the details next time. G’Night!

Dunia: Justice and Equality

Dunia is the weekly private journal of a girl born with disability, who uses a wheelchair and a respiratory ventilator machine yet is no different to any other person, read about her struggle, tribulation as she strives to seek independence. The character and events of the journal are pure fiction and bear no relation to anyone.

raya4new

Well Dunia here we are again, I did not think that I would actually return – no offense but I am not good with commitments yet at the same time I guess it is a reassuring thought that you can escape the external world at a click of a ‘mouse’ button.

It has been a strange week, a mixture of good, bad and weird. It started with me being slightly ill, well, I got an infection on a pressure sore wound that I have on my elbow (long story but it is chronic and will never be cured as long as I use my arm) so I am on a course of antibiotic for two weeks and have to use new dressing for the wound and had to go to hospital to have the elbow looked at by a so called ‘best’ doctor in the field. I fail to understand how hospitals and health profession lack the basic care elements; first, I was ignored by the receptionists who chose to ignore me and direct their questions to my carer, as though I am an invisible creature. Then the doctor just did not seem that interested in my wound, in fact he asked me “why do we see you here if we can’t operate on the wound?” I gave him a puzzled look then said “as you might have read from my medical notes I can’t have any form of surgery due to respiratory complications and I am seen regularly to keep a close eye on the wound”. That kept him quiet. Not that I came out from the hospital with anything but an appointment to be seen again in a year. Useful right? How weird that people all over the world travel to London for medical attention, I wonder if they have similar experiences.

Having the infected wound made things more difficult but I was determined not to let it ruin the last few weeks of my niece and nephew stay with us in London, I love these children more than anything; they are the source of joy, love and hope. Whenever I feel at a loss or come close to giving up I remind myself of these two precious creatures that regard me as their best friend and their reliable buddy.

I put my pain aside and we went to the Natural History Museum where the children got to see the big dinosaur zone, in contrast to my hospital visit, the museum staff were a world apart to the medical ones; friendly, polite and helpful.  I also witnessed a positive type of discrimination where I did not have to queue to enter the museum or to see the dinosaur just because I am disabled and a wheelchair user, this irritated my 9 years old niece who voiced her concern that ‘it is not fair just because you are on a wheelchair you were allowed to pass all those people that had been waiting for ages’. I smiled and explained that being disabled you are restricted by time as you need to return for your carer’s arrival, plus you experience more pain and discomfort as sitting for long time will cause that. I looked at my niece and was reassured by her beautiful and caring smile that yes it makes sense and discrimination is not always bad.

You know Dunia, I have come to the conclusion that life is fair but the world isn’t. Do you get what I mean? We are given what is best for us, what we as individuals can tolerate, but the world or rather its inhabitants tarnish the fairness of life. I really need to stop now as the elbow is in so much pain I can no longer type…

Within The Withered Flowers

All by my lonesome

Nobody around

Away from danger

Safe and sound

 

Always in my room

I do not leave

Pursue not my goal

I do not achieve

 

A loner’s life

Is void of joy

Emotions I had

Computers destroy

 

Never fulfill

My hearts desires

Never could I

Make them transpire

 

A grandfather clock

I hear its chime

Wasting my life

Losing my time

 

To change ones self

Leave old habits

To change ones self

Create new status

 

Reflection of a mirror

What do I see?

An image of potential

Half the man I could be

 

To start anew

Chase a dream

Difficult it is

Not easy as it seems

 

A new journey begins

A tale unfolds

This story of mine

Begs to be told

 

This thorny road

Leads to salvation

To reach my goals

And avoid starvation

 

Within the withered flowers

A garden of gloom

A rose stands tall

It prospers and blooms

 

Without darkness

There is no light

Outside the tunnel

The world is bright

Over My Shoulder

Looking over my shoulder

Every night I can’t rest my eyes

Afraid to dream

Afraid for this reality to fade

To become a distant memory

So I lay awake

Hoping to hold on a little longer

Hoping for this reality to get stronger

Hoping to take over

The dark past that used to haunt over

That used to make nights darker

That heart of mine so much weaker

So I keep looking over my shoulder

Just a boy

He was just a boy when they took it away

They took his confidence and tore it away

It made him weaker by the day

Those cruel words went a long way

It was constantly stuck on replay

It all just slowly ate away

It took over his nature and shaped his way

Till there was no character left to display

It turned him into the man he is today

A cold hearted soul covered in grey

If only he could have walked away

He was just a boy on that day

Dunia: Un-Belonging

Dunia is the weekly private journal of a girl born with disability, who uses a wheelchair and a respiratory ventilator machine yet is no different to any other person, read about her struggle, tribulation as she strives to seek independence. The character and events of the journal are pure fiction and bear no relation to anyone.

raya4new

So now that I found a name for you what comes next? You see Dunia I am very new to this personal writing and honestly, I’m not quite sure why I am doing it. For years I have gone with the flow, taken each day as it comes, letting things go to please people and allowing others to control me. I have never felt I can fully open my heart to anyone, fearing that I would upset them, or knowing that they could not understand me. And I am not sure I trust them enough either. I don’t like being judged or misunderstood; yes, I know, who does? I just rather have a quiet and peaceful life.

I will not introduce myself to you but hopefully you shall slowly discover who I am, that will be easier as I doubt anyone is able to fully portray themselves. Name and age are irrelevant information in my view; they are just labels that society likes us to have to ease the process of categorisation that every human falls prey to. I have come to realise that age is just a number that seems to dictate what a person should be doing – Well not me, as in the eyes of others I am merely an undeveloped child (untrue, my body does the things female bodies do), a weak soul that needs guidance and protection. Is it because I am a woman in a male dominated world? Or a Muslim in a largely secular country? Or an Arab in a non-Arab country?  Or quite simply because I am person living with disability? I don’t know the answer, although I have tried to figure it out in my head many times; all I know is that I have a deep feeling of un-belonging. I remember years ago during my undergraduate seminars at university, I came across a quote from Toni Morrison’s ‘Beloved’ where she says ‘there is no weaker voice than a black illiterate woman.’  Well, I am not sure if I agree with Ms Morrison. Has she ever tried seeing life through the eyes of others? How can she make such a judgement? Reading that made me so irritated that it put me off the book completely. I am not saying I have it tougher, but being educated does not guarantee you a ‘voice’; it is much more complex than that.

It was Eid couple of weeks ago, not the most exciting thing in London, Eid represent nothing more than the end of Ramadan, it lacks everything that I once knew of Eid as a child, maybe as you grow older the things that once made you happy fail to do so again, or possibly the experience of Eid in the west is quite different to the East, or it could just simply be that Eid is for children. I did not do anything special but the reason I am mentioning it was this comic incident, I got asked by a girl I met recently as to how ‘disabled people celebrate Eid?’ Hmmmmm! I did not know what to say or how to reply, all I managed to do is burst into discreet laughter!! I wanted to say that I along my alien friends do wheel spins on planet Mars. Hahaha! Yes, I am mean and sarcastic but not rude.

Dunia, I am tired now from typing, so I will bid you adieu.

Dunia: The Great Escape

Dunia is the private weekly journal of a girl born with disability, who uses a wheelchair and a respiratory ventilator machine yet is no different to any other person, read about her struggle, tribulation as she strives to seek independence. The character and events of the journal are pure fiction and bear no relation to anyone.

raya4new

Dear Diary,

Oh… nope… this won’t do. Let me start again.

Dear… hmmm… who? I always used to read novels in which the protagonist would keep a diary and would address it as such-‘Dear Diary’.  But that to me seems so impersonal and cold, a bit like our society, which I want to escape through this venture of personal writing. I have never thought about keeping a diary or even writing my private thoughts for a few reasons; if you write something it becomes more real, and I have always tried to retreat into my imaginary world which offered me protection and hope. Plus, I often think, ‘What would I write?’  My life lacks the excitement I read about in books; it is rather simple and routine-based. So what would I write? The most important thing for me is my physical ability (not great).  I rely on my mother, family, helpers and carers to bring things to me and store them back on shelves, drawers, cupboards, etc. So how can I trust anyone with my diary that has deep thoughts and emotions that I want to keep to myself? Human curiosity can’t be contained no matter how good and honest is the person; isn’t it natural to be intrigued by very personal writing, especially if it is written by someone you have come to consider to be your ‘private property’!

But suddenly, I realised why I am obsessed with how things are supposed to be done; yes, stories (and maybe history?) give us a very romanticised idea of diaries. But mine should be real and reflective of me. The laptop diary! That is the perfect solution, word document rather than pretty little rectangular shape book with lock on the side, instead of the cute key lock I will have a password that no one will know. Yes, it is different but that is me, I always have to find alternative ways to experience what many others take for granted.

Ah, I forgot to mention that I was born with physical disability. I mentioned it in passing before without divulging into details, but is it such an important piece of information? Does it make a difference and should you, my ‘diary’, know that? Maybe not, as I have only just ‘met’ you. Argh!!!  I still haven’t figured out a name for you, I don’t feel comfortable with ‘diary’ – it’s like seeing a person and referring to it as human all the time without personification. You will be my soul mate, so let me introduce my other soul mates alongside you: well there is Wheelie, my electric wheelchair. She is very kind and quite a free soul; then there is also Nippy, my ventilator – she is super special. I always feel safe when she is around and gives me real feelings of strength and protection. She is like the cuddly toy people take to bed with them. Nippy, I use at night as soon as I am in bed until I get up in the morning. It helps me breathe as my lung muscles are super forgetful (not to mention lazy), so when I sleep or if I exert energy they get tired and almost go on strike, but then Nippy comes and pumps air into them and makes them work.

Let me think – who else must you know about? Laptop, ipod and mobile phone are my best friends too, and then we have little collection of cuddly dolls/figures. So now you have met my worldly goods we can…WAIT! I have found the perfect name for you. ‘Dunia’! ‘Dear Dunia’ sounds so perfect!  ‘Dunia’ means ‘the world’ in Arabic, Urdu, Farsi and several other languages. So you will become my exclusive world that no one else will enter without my approval, my Dunia.

Seeking A Path

Picture taken by Mohammed Alahbabi

Picture taken by Mohammed Alahbabi

Life always hides its most exquisite beauty in the simplest things, yet our eyes always seek beauty behind more complicated and mind intriguing things.

Seek simplicity and you will achieve happiness through being content. Be realistic at the same time by accepting the simple things that you have in hand and you are able to reach. Accept what is in reach, endure it, be thankful for it, and it’s never wrong to go higher a step to gain more in life, but never take what you had or have in hand for granted, always look back, smile, and appreciate.

While you go on higher in your life, always put in mind you were somewhere and you took a path to finally reach where you are today. Never forget your past and what you have been through, because that is what made you the person you are today.

في هذا العيد، سأعيد نفسي بالذاكرة

Picture taken by Abdulla AlMehairbi (@3bdulla_m7airbi)

Picture taken by Abdulla AlMehairbi (@3bdulla_m7airbi)

(1)

في هذا العيد سأعيد نفسي إلى ذاكرة

..بيتنا القديم

ورائحة البخور

..ولحية جدي البيضاء

ومفرش والدي في “الليوان” بالقرب من الهاتف

..والستارة التي تفصل ليواننا وغرف النوم

(2)

سأعيد نفسي بالذاكرة لصبغة الجدران الزرقاء

..”وعامودين أثنين كنا نتكئ عليهما لنتابع برامج التلفزيون لقناتين أو ثلاثة .. أغلبها تعود لتبث أغنية صفاء بالسعود “أهلاً بالعيد

(3)

..سأعود لذاكرة فرحتي ب”كندورتي” البيضاء ونعلي الجديد

مروراً ببيوت الجيران نجمع عيادينا بعد أن نجتمع في نقطة

ثم يبدأ المسير

درهم

٥٠ فلس

كانت تلك عيادينا وفرحتنا

..ثم نستظل بشجرة نَعد حصليتنا من العيد

..وبيدنا كيس بلاستيكي يحتضن حلويات من بيت بائعة الفريج أم عصام

(4)

سأرجع نفسي

لذاكرة يسكن فيها والدي

تفوح منه رائحة دهن العود ولمشهد تقتنصه أخواتي في تهنديم ملابسه وتبخير ثيابه

..”وتسكير معاقم ” لباسه

(5)

..سأرجع بذاكرتي إلى حاجتي لإحتضان والدي ولكن الخجل يمنعني من ذلك

..تماشياً مع أن العادات ترى في ذلك نقصاً

سأعود لذاكرة تقبيلي يديه وجبينه وكتفه

..وافتراش أرض مصلى العيد بسجادة بجانب سجادته والترديد مع جمع المصلين

الله أكبر الله أكبر”

لا إله إلا الله

الله أكبر الله أكبر

“ولله الحمد

وبعد الفراغ من صلاة العيد

..نهنئ بعضنا بالعيد

Running

All these tears running down your eyes

While you keep running down a track

The finish line is so close

But your body can’t see it that way

You’re just so tired

Trying to run faster

Trying to drag your legs a step closer

But your heart’s telling you

You’re running the wrong race

Running the wrong track

Running without faith

 

 

Words of Life

Picture Taken by Mohammed AlAhbabi

Picture Taken by Mohammed AlAhbabi

Life have taught us and will always teach its lessons till the day we die. It’s life’s way of making us who we are and what we are today, and probably what we would be remembered for after we depart it.

After learning your lessons moreover in life you will have the experience of really making the good choices in your life and leaving what’s not in your favor. That’s how humans evolve, by experiencing and learning from their mistakes or even the positive actions they do.

We as the “superior race” call ourselves superior and on top of the life cycle. We seek perfection but yet point at others’ flaws, we seek happiness but yet we focus on sadness. We aim for success but get weary from trying hard and giving up.

No one said life would be easy, no one said that you will have everything you want in life. That is not how it works, you suffer to be comfortable later on, you work hard to achieve your goals, you cry to be happy later on, you endure pain so that you get stronger and overcome even more hard struggles.

We are who we shape ourselves to be, we are who we believe that we will be, we are in the end mortals that seek to get the best out of everything and anything in life. We are in the end humans, that’s how God made us. Humility is a virtue and that is why we are called humans.

It Is All

Waiting is what you fear so silently but it is what will make you certainly

It is all that will make you

It is all that will save you

Patience is what you lack so badly but it is what you need so sadly

It is all that you need

It is all that you see

Love is what you hope for so desperately but it is yours distantly

It is all that is yours

It is all that is mine

In Memory of Our Founding Father

Painted by Faiza Al Ankar

Painted by Faiza Al Ankar

“It is my duty as the leader of the young people of this country to encourage them to work and to exert themselves in order to raise their own standards and to be of service to the country. The individual who is healthy and of a sound mind and body but who does not work commits a crime against himself and society”, the late Sheikh Zayed may he rest in peace. The quote listed above summarizes Sheikh Zayed and his mentality. Unlike many other rulers of the time and region, he was very unique. He had all the wealth in the world and instead of keeping it all for himself and family, he decided to share it with his people and country. Many say that wealth corrupts people; the late Sheikh Zayed has proven otherwise. Sheikh Zayed went from being a simple man with little possessions to swimming in wealth over night; he managed to stay humble and focused on his goal.

The UAE was in a critical situation at the time, people barely had clean water and food. The economy was weak due to the short life spans of people and the overall feeble population. Sheikh Zayed was aware of this and instead of taking his money and keeping it for himself, he began enriching the lives of his people. He granted every Emirati a couple pieces of land for homes and businesses, he secured every Emirati a job and hired expats to teach in western educational systems to educate all his people. During all of this Sheikh Zayed remained humble and down to earth. He was often seen in pictures praying on the desert sands as well as sitting on the floor with commoners discussing their problems and advising them. Sometimes during mealtime, he would feed his children or guests first and wouldn’t mind having a small portion in the end. There were many instances in which Sheikh Zayed could have done something to only benefit himself, although not once has this happened, unless it was something very minor such as getting his health in check. This is what made him so different and successful.

Under his rule the UAE expanded and flourished. The deserts turned into gardens and the land that was once the home of sand now holds some of the world’s most prominent skyscrapers. The country now holds over 200 different nationalities and has become a key tourist attraction. Both nationals and expatriates find comfort in the safe streets and neighborhoods of the country. Saadiyat Island holds the most luxurious hotels and resorts of the world as well as one of the most prestigious universities, the New York University of Abu Dhabi. Al Maryah and Al Sowwah Island that house one of the world’s best hospitals, Cleveland clinic and shopping centers that hold worldwide brands. In the year of 2013, an estimated number of five million people traveled through Dubai’s International Airport. Listed were just a few examples of how far the UAE has come and all thanks to our father Zayed, may his soul rest in peace. Even though it has been ten years since his passing, his legacy will live with us forever.

Spoons

Apparently, a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down in the most delightful way, yet I’ve never seen the combination on any pharmacy nor supermarket shelf. To mention sugar would ignite a debate of health & safety and bring about countless theories, reports and mimes so I’ll steer clear of that topic.

However, the device of measurement intrigues me; spoons. These interesting culinary devices can be found in various shapes, sizes and materials yet their purpose is simple; to dispense a dose.

Responsible parents aspire to give their children large doses of love, attention & education and conversely low dose of TV and junk food. Naturally parents would want to shower their children with all their love and no spoon would ever be big enough to shovel that dose. In Dubai, we try to give our children the best education possible and may even make sacrifices ourselves to ensure that they get the best available education. Our best intentions are driven to give our children all that they deserve and though that may mean working harder or longer we will always try to give them our attention however distracting Twitter or Pinterest or Facebook may be.

Now some parents due to the luck of the draw of life, may be able to give their children everything effortlessly yet may fail in the art of teaching their children the value of things they have attained. This failed education is instantly recognisable and measureable in later years and could portray their parental upbringing in a relatively negative light.

The dosage of parental love you receive is generally immeasurable, who can tally the prayers of a mother or the toils of a father? Yet receiving less is not a sign of neglect, far form it, the micro managing of a parent-offspring relationship is by far the hardest thing to balance for fear of backlash (we all remember our rebellious teenage years?) Hence only when a child matures or has children of his or her own do they realise the equilibrium a parent tries to negotiate to ensure that their child is neither spoiled nor neglected.

Being born with a silver spoon means you have more opportunities to make more choices compared to your peers, so make the most of the advantage. If you haven’t learnt how to stir with your spoon, don’t spit it out but at the same time be sure not to swallow it as you will most probably choke and stunt your growth.

Be Generous During the Month of Giving

give a meal

Yes, it’s that time of year again in which families become closer, abstaining becomes essential and faith in God grows stronger. The holy month of Ramadan is around the corner, what is your goal for Ramadan this year? To recite the Quran fully three times? To attend prayers in the mosque daily? Or to let out the juices of generosity and give back to society. If you are currently reading this article, you live a very fortunate life. In which you have a healthy set of eyes and a mind capable of processing such knowledge. Perhaps you are relaxing and keeping warm with a cup of herbals or at work getting caught up with the latest news. All of these are things to be grateful for, grateful for the roof above our heads and the food in our fridges, it is time to give back to people who may not have as much of us.

As young Muslim children we are taught at an early age to fast, at the ages of seven and eight, we fast half a day and try to prove to our elders that we can make it until Iftar time. As we get older and grow more mature, it turns into an annual ritual. Although many wonder why is it that we were told to fast? There were actually multiple reasons, although one of the most important was to feel the hunger and agony of the less fortunate. We are required to fast from dawn till dusk, abstaining from food and drink. Although there is much more to fasting then not eating, it is a mental cleaning, we are required to think holy thoughts and refrain from committing any crime, even if it is as simple as telling a white lie. When we fast, we feel weak, low in energy and it is difficult to function, it is extremely difficult for working people especially if they were hooked on caffeine. All of this is served to remind us how privileged we are, and how we should give back to people who live their lives malnourished.

The GiveAMeal Campaign will begin this year on the first day of Ramadan and will span over the thirty days. The objective of the GiveAMeal Campaign is to provide a healthy and well balanced meal to the workers and laborers of Abu Dhabi. Through this experience, Emirati nationals and expatriates will come together and work during fasting hours to give a meal to the less fortunate of Abu Dhabi. This way the true meaning of Ramadan will be felt and we will be giving back to the people who have helped build our society. One cannot go through a simple day without making an impact on the world around you, so let it be positive. It doesn’t need to be huge or recognized by everyone, one small act of kindness could change a person’s outlook of life, you could give them hope.

Support the GiveAMeal Campaign on intstagram “giveameal” and twitter “giveamealad”, volunteers needed, contact Giveameal@hotmail.com for further information.

My Experience at Intel ISEF

Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed honoring the winners of Emirates Foundation's Think Science Competition

Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed honoring the winners of Emirates Foundation’s Think Science Competition

We were like those who had climbed a mountain and reached the top. When we looked down we still wanted to go higher to realize our goals. Despite all the achievements, we still have an ambition for more. That is my way of looking at things. These aren’t my words; they are the words of the great leader, our father Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan AlNahyan, may peace be upon him, that have actually inspired me all through the way and throughout our journey.

Noise filled the hall as the crowd cheered and applauded, praising many great scientific accomplishments. I suddenly heard Dubai’s name echo and rise amid the loud cheers and claps. I soon lost the sense of time and flew back two years ago where it had all started. Asking questions, solving problems, finding solutions and forming hypotheses regarding what was going on in our own backyard. That was the first lesson we learned, ‘The Scientific Method’. At the time we didn’t get it. We wondered why it was so important, why it had to be frequent and an everyday thing. Little did we know, without it we wouldn’t have come to where we are today.

When we first started to brainstorm we had no idea where this project would take us. By the time we’ve completed our Science Fair project we were satisfied with where we’ve reached, we hadn’t realized how much more we were capable of, how little we have had attained. We were our own enemy as we drew our limits, restrained our possibilities and chained the opportunities. The world was offering us so much more than we thought we were prepared to tolerate.

Our friends’ cheering, as we stood on stage alongside the rest of the winners, led my mind to be brought back to the present. The people we have experienced the journey with were standing, celebrating our success. I saw the joy and pride in their eyes, just like I once saw faith and support in the eyes of the very people that made the whole experience worthwhile. They are the ones that believed in us and saw the potential we didn’t know we held within. They are the ones that revealed to us the truth behind the limits we defined ourselves by.

Every time we were about to fall, every time we thought we couldn’t handle it anymore, they were there to help us regain our strength, stand up and continue the walk. Every time we considered giving up, every time we considered throwing it all away, they were there to reassure us that we have what it takes to keep moving, that we are capable, and that we are strong. They were always there to remind us of our passion and how it’s much stronger than all the obstacles we could ever face. Our loving friends and dear families, as well as our supportive mentor, were always there to remind us of our dream to achieve and our desire to succeed.

They are the ones who taught me that success isn’t what many people envision it to be. Instead, it is the bits and pieces you pick up along the way. It is the effort you put into something, the time you spend creating, and the skills you develop as you go. It is what inspires you and whom you inspire as you pass by. It is the long nights, restless days and the many trials that go wrong before they go right.

Every moment of the journey is an achievement. Yet the greatest of all achievements, I believe, is the moment we brought the United Arab Emirates the victory it deserves, as we received the second grand award in the category of Environmental Sciences in the world’s largest international pre-college science competition, the Intel ISEF. The moment we proved to the youth of our society that there is a place for them out there among global leaders and scientists, and the moment we proved to them that they can do it, because if we can, so can they.

The journey does not stop here; in fact, success is a never-ending journey, and to us it has just begun. It is our mission to inspire the youth and the younger generations to take the lead in achieving their goals and obtaining their dreams. It is our honor to be a part of the legacy of our incredible leader Sheikh Zayed AlNahyan, and to support and encourage our generation to carry on the march.

The Beauty Of Your World

A child describing his world:” in the morning I see the sun, the blue sky, mummy and daddy smile. During the day I love to run around and play with my siblings. Sometime I pretend to be a super hero, famous football player or doctor. Mum said if I do my homework right I could be a star, like the stars in the sky.”

Don’t you admire children’s pure soul?

A child may cry for a moment and with a little attempt from you to make him/her laugh, he/she would laugh and make your heart smile.

Have you ever wondered where do children get their positivity from? Do they think about yesterday’s problems or stress about tomorrow’s work? All they remember from yesterday is the new behaviour or skill they learnt. And they believe that if they live today doing things right, they will get the reward tomorrow from parents or school. Yesterday gives you a lesson, today a living moment and tomorrow a reward. How simple is life when you look at it from child’s perspective.

It seems like we were born with positive attitude, however, as we grow up we tend to go with our negative thoughts and fear of failure and judgment.

Some of you will be thinking now that this approach will be very difficult for an adult to adapt to with all the responsibilities he/she has, but believe me all it needs from you is to keep trying, try to find your inner peace. You might fail hundreds time but you will get there if you keep trying.

“You only run out of chances when you stop trying” Brian Tracy.

It is up to you; you could just live your life with all the stress, worry, and guilt and complain about it. Or you could take an action and try. You could be a follower of your inner fears or creator of your peaceful world.

An adult says: “believe me the universe is the cause of all my problems. Everything around me is the cause of my failure. My boss hates me. People always disappoint me. World is full with wars. I’m tired of life.” Blaming the universe attitude, did it work? Do you think it will help you solve your problems or overcome your fears?!

It only gets you into a stage where you lose hope and motivation and you decide to set down and stop trying. “Don’t die before you are really dead” Brian Tracy

Make a change today. First let’s say “thank god for giving us this life” and then think about a change you could make today. For example, greet everyone at work with a smile. Or study for your exam with a belief that success is your destiny. Or if you are worried about your responsibilities, make a list of it, write what you can do about it today, do it.

Live a life of beauty. In the morning, admire the sunrise, the blue sky and the smile of the people you love. In the evening, enjoy the sunset, the stars in the sky and a meal with who you love.

Your thoughts … make them positive

You choices … live them

Your decisions … never regret them

Your thoughts, your choices and your decisions reflect the beauty of your world.

Hope

Taken by Mohammed AlAhbabi at Wadi Baih November 1, 2013

Taken by Mohammed AlAhbabi at Wadi Baih November 1, 2013

For every day the sun rises, there is always an opportunity that is born for a person.

This opportunity might be the chance of correcting something,

being a better person by doing a deed, a new job, a new baby, and it goes on.

For every person, opportunity has a different definition,

whether it was success, love, or a lifetime decision.

For all of the opportunities and the chances out there,

what keeps these opportunities remain as a belief of happiness,

and why good always comes after taking them is simply: hope.

Hope is what fuels all of the dreams, and what keeps people going and always seek for the better.

Hope comes in different forms: love, humility, kindness, contentment, patience, and it goes on.

So never lose hope, because if you do, you lose your humanity with it.

When They Don’t Smile Back

I Smile At Strangers And Feel Awkward When They Don’t Smile Back

I always knew that a smile is generally an expression of positive emotions, which can uplift a soul, who in turn passes that energy to another.  Smile is like medicine that spreads quickly and heals the wandering soul. It’s contagious and acts like an antidote for the lost and unhappy. It’s a silent message of love. It’s a symbol of hope that there’s still good people around.  I like to smile and always make sure I greet someone with my smile. But I’m also guilty of being careful, protective and untrustworthy. I too have my days. But I realised when I keep my smiling face the problems or circumstances gradually fade away or solve themselves. Therefore, when I smile to someone who doesn’t smile back I think it’s kind of rude, but I usually tell myself if they don’t, then maybe they are just having a bad day. Unfortunately, people here do not like it when you smile; they take you for being mad. I got the general idea; I smiled and didn’t receive a smile back. I’ve noticed that a lot either while ordering a meal or being in a shop or even in the whole way when I smile or even talk with a smile people have this approach of looking down at me, not only directly, but indirectly as well.

What has happened to this nation (not friendly anymore)? Why don’t they smile? Yes, life is not always a bed of roses, it’s hard, full of burdens, but whose life is not?

Nowadays I don’t know whether to smile or not. It was said that our face is the mirror of our inner ego. I always smile and it’s not fake, it’s coming from my inner state. I like smiling and I think everything must be done with smile. However, when you smile people may be doubtful about it and they may assume strange things. To smile means to cheer up and never give up. It is hope. Even when you are in a bad mood or you are angry, smile, it makes you will feel the ease.

Smile as often as you can whenever you can. You don’t need special reason to smile. Just keep on smiling. Life is a camera, keep smiling and never give up!

Facing Change

Fog obscures my blurry vision

Haziness blinds my sense of sight

Absent thoughts cloud my understanding

Drifting from felicity to fright

It is a silent figure, approaching at a rate

Faster than the palpitations in my chest

The winged animals that would not abate

That refused to settle in their nest

It looms, it threatens, it lies overhead

Escalating my sense of dread

But when it arrives, will the fear have fled?

Will the worry have long been shed?

And when the time comes to renovate and rearrange

How will I face change?

I’d gotten used to the monotone

The hum of everyday routine

Then look back and see I’ve grown

A future I never had foreseen

The comfort of the familiar

Off it they try to make me wean

Terrified and anxious,

I lie somewhere in between

The apprehension of my approaching fate

Leaves me in a somber state

And through all this, I can’t help but debate

Will it be worth the wait?

When shifting tides and welcoming the strange

How will I face change?

Silently, it signals it is near

And although my view is far from clear

I am a warrior, forced to adhere

I reach inside of me, pull out that blade and spear

I am armed, I’ve got my gear.

Embedded in me, the second I was born

The gift of being lost and torn

Because how else will I attain myself

If not shredded and worn

If not lost, how can I be found?

How saved if not first drowned?

Spectrums shimmer after the clouds first weep

A dawn awakens when the darkness has gone to sleep

A universal law, it runs beyond deep

Moments last in memories, but nothing

is ours to keep

Moving is weary, but I’ll stay on my feet

He wouldn’t have created me

If I was to exist complete

If everything came easy

I’d never raise my palms

I’d never taste the sweetness of

prayer or the assurance of calm

I’d never feel the bliss of giving him my trust and certitude

Of sending my faith skies above

no matter the altitude

Perhaps fear is nonexistent, a result of attitude

Feverish proclamations we happen to conclude

The unknown is less terrifying

When you know it’s already been recorded

And I know now what I face

Is more valuable than any gift I’ve ever afforded..

So I thrust myself, gear and all

Into the tomorrow I was sure would make me fall

The shadowy figure has never seemed so small

With newfound confidence, I’ll leave it in his hands

He’ll know how to arrange

I know now how I’ll face

Coffee Making & Photocopying Skills

Every parent wants their child to rise and shine, to reach their full potential, to excel in everything they do, not so that they can take pride in their offspring but to see their heirs succeed knowing that they are well within their capabilities.

Even though we want to champion entrepreneurship and praise leaders who have the stamina to succeed by simply finishing, we neglect to see that the seeds of choice need to be sewn at an early age so as to foster a yearning to succeed. Yet we continue to do a disservice to the next generation to a level that is extraordinary and yet we want them to be top of the tree, how can this dichotomy be possible?

We are all students of life and as we continue to learn new skills and ways of doing things we become masters of some and casual observers of others, however there has to be a starting point. A point where the journey of discovery, takes learning outside of the classroom. So how do we foster a culture of learning and yearning to succeed? Internships; experience through exposure.

I had the fortunate experience of getting a part-time vocational education in a family business from when I was 11 years old and continued to receive it until I packed my bags for University. Did it steal my childhood; maybe, though it gave me such an insight and deep understanding through which, Alhamdulillah, I was armed and ready to enter the real world. The mentoring I received as my exposure grew was exponential and this created a portfolio of experience, which let me make choices. I could start choosing the things I wanted to do and the things I didn’t. I could tell my parents what my aspirations were and refrain from saying “I dunno”.

The UAE is a melting pot of cultures and this diversity is a fantastic opportunity for the next generation to become equipped to tackle tomorrow’s problems. Being an intern in a cosmopolitan working environment will educate you of the nuances, which you may never experience in your home country.

Internships are not about coffee making and photocopying skills, they’re about mentoring as well as skills acquisition.

Silenced Bitterness

It’s quite sad that I have to forcefully elbow myself out of my current state and towards a subterranean lair of deep blues, all for the hopes of bringing my despicable self to sit down, and write something. This time however, I decided to take advantage of my surprisingly dormant wraths, which recently decided to imitate a volcanic eruption.

Whilst I am aware that I undeniably do not have a place reserved within the written world, nor do I intend on getting a hold of one, I keep finding myself guided to a blank document. Truthfully, I think that subliminally, it’s me trying to remove myself from the veiled grief, if I may.

That being said, I don’t want to keep regurgitating the typical rants of the victimized teenager, even though that’s probably going to be the destination of this post.

For the past few months, I’ve adapted a method that drove me to ‘self-content’, or so I thought. I said maybe, just maybe, if I pretended to be this conforming, compliant individual, I might actually fool myself into acceptance.

I’d accept the unsolicited meddling that followed the loss of my parent, I’d accept the despairing looks that never failed to corner me, and I’d accept that the frameworks of my household would not align with your ‘typical’ family. I might even start to believe the idea that my household did, in fact, correspond with the norm.

Mariam, the nincompoop, expert at fabricating false facades, fails to smother the worn-out seed of woe that’s holding her back from self-satisfaction. Funny.

With every family gathering, I’m always left with this feeling of overwhelming, transcended exhaustion. I bite my tongue in the arc of conversations. “I have to keep mother happy,” I remind myself. If I say something, chances are, I prompt the domino effect of fury. Mother needs not to add more anxieties to her doubled list of worries. After all, considering the unfortunate circumstances that left her anchored to three kids, and forced her to take on the responsibility of both parents, I at least owe it to her.

In terms of myself, I’m bitter.

This metaphor of perfection, a leader in her workplace, the epitome of independence, an incentive to many, is constantly stifled and throttled when it comes to drawing a line with anything concerning her children.

Appalling is understating the fact that I’ve become accustomed to the scheduled frenzies after the Morning Prayer. It frustrates me so much. I see her removing herself from the emotional distress, and into her work she delves, assimilating it as the only companion that would offer her distraction from them. A painful truth that no one would ask for.

If that’s their attempt with filling the void of fatherhood, then it’s about time that someone reported back of their progress.

It has almost gotten to the point where I can taste the bitterness seeping from my sour reality.

But all that I can do at this very moment is play my infamous cassette of silence, and quench their neediness to meddle. I think I can safely say that my mother did a plausible job at raising all three of us with the help of no one but herself. People associate chivalry with knighthood, but just the mere thought of having no one to share the stress with, the inescapable pain, the restraining responsibility or even the bliss that parents encounter with raising their children, mother, I praise you for exhibiting the true meaning of chivalry.

 From here, I leave you with silence.

The Passengers

We, the human race, are passengers on this earth.

We came. We conquered. We enslaved. We killed.

We nourished. We built. We invented.

We abused. We eradicated. We flourished.

We, the human race, are monsters within our own humanity.

We, the human race, the passengers, are the cause of chaos and the cause of prosperity.

We are a phase. A passing moment. A drift.

We are a breeze caused by a butterfly that turns into a tornado some decades and continents later.

We are the creators, and the destroyers. We are compassionate, and we are cruel.

Amongst us lie the innocent and the devious.

Amongst us lie wrath, rage, love, and yearning.

Amongst us lie those who beg for something greater and those who want nothing at all.

Those who seek a purpose and those who beg for theirs to end.

Those who await answers and those who ask questions.

Those who thrive and those who fail.

We, as the human race, have done so much, yet done so little.

We tried to answer everything but came up with countless more questions.

We categorize and we disarrange.

The faults lie within our own errors, and virtues lie within our deeds.

We choose what to make with what we have.

We chose to give or to own.

To demolish or preserve. We have strength. We have power.

We are humans. We are the passengers. The powerful passengers.

 

Breakfast Memoir

A friend of mine sent me a picture that reminded me of this post I wrote 4 years ago, 2 years before my grandma passed away. So I thought of republishing it here in her memory, and because I miss her so much.

——

Written on April 20, 2010

I miss the days,, I miss the memories,,
I remember when we were kids; we used to travel to Bahrain on Eid Holidays to visit my mother’s side of the family. I remember the old neighborhood, the streets the family compound. I remember it all.

Neighborhood: Al Budaiya. Family compound: Habib Hussain Bushehri. The compound consisted of a main house for my grandparents, 3 houses for my uncles, a swimming pool, and a farm. I remember them all with every little detail.

I remember the yard area in the middle of the compound, where all of us, the grandchildren, would gather and play all kind of games. I remember the farm area, us exploring around the plantation and the water stream, feeding the goats, and making fun of the chicken. In fact, if I close my eyes I can remember the smell and the feel of it all.

I remember I used to stay at my grandparents house when I went for visits with my mother & siblings. I remember how grandpa & grandma would compete to be our favorite grandparent. Grandma used to get me the little gold rings and bracelets. Grandpa used to get for us all kind of toys, potato chips, chocolates, and juices. I remember it clearly that it brings tears to my eyes. They competed, but we always loved them both, and secretly used to laugh at their competition.

I remember our special breakfasts. No matter how early we woke up, my grandma was always awake before us, and the house would smell of freshly made tea and milk pots, and breakfast being prepared. The breakfast menu rarely changed, but we always craved for it and found it exciting. Looking back, I still crave for the days my grandma was healthy enough to prepare it for us.

I remember the wait until everyone is awake, the call to gather before serving the breakfast, the dining sheet being laid on the ground, the tray of tea & milk pots along with cups & sugar, and then us sitting around that dining sheet. The food would then be escorted in, dish by dish, smell by smell, and view after view. The delicious freshly made brown chapati (type of bread similar to pancakes only more flavorsome, originated from India), the tastiest plain omelets cooked with butter which you could smell from all over the house, the yummy Bajela (fried broad/horse beans), the juiciest Nekhy (boiled chic peas), and the undeniable craft spread cheese, which was an essential element of any breakfast back then.

I long for that breakfast, for the days when such breakfast brought us all together, when that breakfast was a pure source of joy. I long for that breakfast.

Artwork by Emily Wang (Instagram: @ emmkins)

Artwork by Emily Wang (Instagram: @ emmkins)

——

My grandmother passed away on the 26th November, 2011. I found out about it in one of the worst ways; When I woke up in the morning and started checking my blackberry and the BBM’s status updates, I found statues and statues being updated one after the other by my cousins mourning her passing away. I remember I screamed: no, no, no! But of course, that didn’t change the fact that she was gone.

You’re always in our hearts and on our minds, and we miss you every passing day. May God have mercy on the kindest soul that is yours.

In loving memory of Badriya Bushehri, this is my tribute to you.

Hello Sail By The Masses

As you all know, I’ve been running Sail eMagazine (I’ll refer to it hereafter as Sail) for 4 years now. We made a name out of that many aspire to be part of. Sail is an Emarati monthly online magazine (potentially soon to be bi-monthly). This meant few things:

  • Writers and illustrators have to be Emaratis
  • The writers, illustrators, editors, have to commit to monthly editorial cycles
  • Articles have to talk about the community, culture, or creativity

But with the growth of the magazine, more people were approaching us to join, whether Emaratis with different genres of writing, Emaratis who couldn’t exactly commit to monthly submissions, or even non-Emaratis with good content.

SAIL_ByTheMASSES_400 width

As the demand grew across time, we decided to expand to “Sail By The Masses”, which would be different in the following aspects:

  • The frequency of publishing will depend on the amount of articles submitted across time, it can be daily, weekly, or every few days. This keeps the readers on their toes to keep coming back and read what’s new
  • The sent articles will not go through the same thorough editorial process that Sail goes through, instead it will be published as is, except of course, if it crosses censorship limits of politics, religion, or sexual matters.
  • The publishing door will be open for any kind of writing genre.
  • No regular submission commitment is mandated, writers can submit as and when they wish.
  • Anyone can publish with us, regardless of nationality and country of residence.
  • In terms of illustration, the door is also opened for illustrators and graphic designers. If they read an article that they liked, they can email us to ask to illustrate it, and if we confirm that no other artist is already working on it, then they can reserve it to illustrate for it, and the resultant artwork will be added to the article along with the artist’s name.

As with Sail though, some commonalities still exist:

  • The readers can participate with their opinion commenting on the articles, and can suggest constructive feedback to the writer on the topic and style of writing
  • The piece published with By The Masses shouldn’t be published on another publication, with the exception of the writer’s personal blog if the writer wished to publish it there as well.

I truly believe in the power of writing! And I truly believe even more in the power of reading! So let’s make more of those two, and lets bring it to more than just me and you, let’s bring all the writing and reading to the world! Let’s read and write more!

Join us and send your contributions or queries to ByTheMasses.info@SailEMagazine.com

We can’t wait to hear from you!

What Is My Identity

If I were to be completely honest, I have spent my entire weekend thinking about what makes Maryam’s identity? What makes this little naïve seventeen years old’s wretched identity? And I found my answer, sourced in a single characteristic that has sort of rebelled against everything that I have been raised to believe was right.

So, as to begin, my name is Maryam Abdulaziz Bin Sougat Al Falasi. I come from a tribe, and a family, of poets and all kinds of lovers of the written word, like my late grandfather and my great uncle who are both poets. And it’s only wonderful when it’s not. See, this passion and love for words is absolutely spectacular, but something else tagged along with it, and it’s something I like to call: Extreme Conventionalism. And although being conventional is wonderful, it does come with its rough ends. Because with conventionalism comes traditionalism, evidently, and traditionalism carries a certain set of characteristics that are required in every individual. My family and my society carry these characteristics with pride. And here, is where my problem arises: I don’t carry these characteristics with pride. Because I am required to have so much pride I could blow up; to be so nationalistic I might as well turn into a flag; to be so in tune with my own culture that it becomes who I am. I cannot be any of these things. I don’t feel, in any manner, connected to my culture. And this is the honest truth. The reason behind this is sourced in the fact that I am an introvert. Now being an introvert (the rebelling characteristic that I have mentioned above.) means being an inward-thinker, and my society is forcing me to be an outward-thinker. I have tried so hard to be this Epitome of Perfection Extrovert, but it just wasn’t my thing. It wasn’t who I am.

Through this, through trying to fit into a mold that was not crafted for me, I have understood that I was born to not fit into a mold at all. That I cannot be a part of my society the same way an atom is a part of a sea, but I can be a part of my society the same way the wind is part of the forest. It is not exactly directly relevant to the forest, but it is still a fracture of it. And even though people have regarded my introversion with distaste, and a thousand different people tried to ‘fix’ my innate habit, I am still fond of my introversion. My introversion, I have realized through this, is what made me who I am—what crafted my identity. It allowed me to look at my society wonderfully, because it has given me the same pride, the same nationalism, and the same understanding of my culture but in a different form that suits me best.

To further elaborate, even though my country’s language and its culture haven’t influenced me the same way it has influenced my peers, it still has its mark. This might sound awfully silly, but because both my parents have Bedouin relatives, and Bedouin carry their pride in their language, my parents’ accent has a touch of Bedouin, and so naturally, my accent has a touch of Bedouin as well. And even though it is rough and archaic, it does have its own flare—it is its own source of pride. Here is where I sourced mine, in our own unique language. It made me look at my country in an entirely different light. It made me feel that I can be a part of it, that this language serves as the connection between my society and I.

So I have come to the conclusion that an identity, to me, does not have to be a set of pre-constructed notions and characteristics based on other people’s ideas of who an individual must be, but a set of characteristics partially derived from a nation’s culture, and partially derived from the individual’s own journey into self-discovery and understanding.

Vulnerability: The Birthplace of Creativity

When you think of the word vulnerability, what runs through your mind? Fear, weakness and exposure. It is very rare to come across a person that is proud of their vulnerabilities. In my sixteen years of existence, I have met many who have concealed their thoughts and dreams because they would rather be accepted and meet society’s norms instead of being in a situation in which failure was a possibility.

Many are afraid to state their opinion, try something new or even be themselves because they would rather stay on the safe side of things. Were you ever put in a situation where you were asked to share your thoughts but didn’t because you thought you would sound stupid? Or have you visited a new place and avoided an activity because you thought it would be difficult and humiliating. Everybody has. Many crawl back into their shell and would try to avoid these situations. By constantly saying no to new opportunities, a habit is built; we begin to get comfortable, this is why they call it the “comfort zone”.

Countless people do not understand that our vulnerabilities are our opportunities for growth. By taking chances, making mistakes and admitting to them we learn something new. We then excel as a person, we become stronger and after awhile we turn invincible. Imagine if you took that job in the new city you always wanted to visit, but didn’t because you were afraid. Imagine if you went to that party you wanted to attend, but didn’t because you didn’t know anyone. Imagine if you gave that public speech about your million-dollar idea, but didn’t because you were shy.  These are the decisions that shape us and create us. Failure should never be feared; anyone who is now successful has once failed. Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney and Oprah Winfrey are all famous failures. Imagine the world without any of them and if they were too afraid to speak up and peruse their most outrageous dreams and ambitions.

Vulnerability is the birthplace of every positive emotion in our lives; if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable we allow empathy and love to enter our lives. When we speak of our fears, we can access comfort and reassurance from the people we love. If a friend were to come and tell you about an embarrassing situation she experienced, instead of replaying with a bunch of “I told you so’s” be comforting and present, accept what he/she are saying. This will eliminate the shame with this feeling and make the person feel more accepted, she would be willing to continue on with whatever brought her this negative feeling.

It is important as parents, siblings, friends and spouses to support each other positively, especially when dealing with someone’s delicate thoughts or doubts. The last thing you would want to do is break the person’s self-confidence. Push them and comfort them, try and eliminate the feeling of fear.

Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, change and creativity. Without breaking out of the box there would be nothing new, life would be boring and repetitive. Next time you seem hesitant about making a decision, say yes before your mind creates a list of things that could go wrong. Even if you failed, it would be better than not trying.

I’m Amazing

I was in a palace full with all type of luxuries; everything I ever wanted was there. I thought it was heaven. I was so happy and excited, trying everything and enjoying everything. I was so busy doing everything I ever wanted that I did not notice if any of my family or friends were around. Then I started looking around me. I wanted to share all that luxury with someone, anyone, but there was no one to share with. I started to feel bored. Every day was the same for me. It became depressing. I decided that I will spend my day searching for people. I was shouting loudly: Mum, dad, family, friends… but no answer. I kept calling out names; no answer and suddenly; I opened my eyes and I saw my little sister laughing at me and she said: “it seems like you were having a bad dream”. Oh thank god it was just a bad dream.

Have you ever imagined a life without people? Without family, friends or strangers?

We all know that life is a journey, so I won’t talk about that, but I would like to talk about the people you meet through your journey. Be nice to them, because every single person will teach you valuable lessons in life. I want you to know that yes every single person is special, but what make you more special is the people around you.

The people you will meet in this journey will stay in your heart and mind forever, some you will remember their words or their helpful actions and others will challenge you to be a better you. All of them, Treat them well. Some people will be there the whole journey; some will be there a period of time to show you the path. Some will be there for a moment to give you inspiring moments. Some will have completely different view about life and will keep arguing with you. They will help you understand that different is not wrong. Accept every single person and be nice.

Can you count the number of lessons you learned from your parents. They accept you and love you unconditionally. Your siblings may tease you, argue with you, laugh at you and laugh with you and believe me they will wake up the hero in you. There are the people who you will call strangers and then end up as friends. You meet different kind of friends. A friend who Give you a shoulder to cry on, wipe your tears and then push you to continue your journey. A friend who will value your ambitious and teache you to slow down and enjoy the moments. A friend who tells you eventually everything will be fine. One will teach you that there is no limit for creativity. When you love your talent you learn to improve it and there is always time even when you have a busy life. A friend full with fun spirit will teach you that ambitious is not boring so dream big.

I’m sure you have met one or more of those people, and learned so many life lessons from them. So please say to them “thank you I appreciate you in my life. And …

If you think I’m amazing, look at the people around me. They are the one who makes me glow.”

Marriage; Every Girl’s Dream?

Marriage is an issue of great concern for many Arabs and almost an essential aspect of their life but marriage for a person living with disability represents a totally different concept.

As a woman born with physical disability, I felt there is a need to address certain points concerning the matter of marriage.

The main point that I feel should be addressed or made clear; is the difference between the teachings of Islam and the inherited cultural ideas and tradition.  It is important to recognise every individual in their own right, who whether they have a partner or not, will be questioned about their actions on their own on the Day of Judgement.

Marriage undoubtedly is a blessing, like anything that comes from Allah (SWT) such as wealth, health, children, job and so on. Many people dream of it happening, but not everyone, and some people go on to have a long and happy married life while others fail.

I have met people who left me with the notion that the Muslim world regards marriage as an essential element of one’s existence. However there are prerequisites including equality between the partners in physical ability/health, hence disabled people are excluded to a certain extent.

Marriage, like any other aspect of life, is an ‘option’ and should not define your personality or how religious you are. We should not support this cultural teaching by attaching an Islamic tone to it, instead we must seek to change attitudes, educate people about disability and raise awareness of what life with disability entails. After all, Islam is a religion that promotes knowledge, education and equality.

It is important to learn from historical facts to understand our present and develop our future, specifically where disability is concerned. During the high centuries of the Islamic civilisation a significant number of blind, deaf or physically disabled people played notable roles as philologists, transmitters of the law, teachers, poets, and social commentators. They included Abu’l Ala al-Ma’arri, Abu Uthman Amr bin Bahr (Al-Jahiz), Bashshar ibn Burd, Ibn-Sirin, Qatada ibn Di’ama al-Sadusi, Muwaffaq al-Din Muzaffar, and Thalab, and all were important contributors to our modern civilisation.

Atta Ibn Abi Rabah, who was black, could not fully walk and was partially paralysed, was known as the greatest Mufti in Mecca. Inclusion was offered to everyone regardless of their physical ability.

Later, at the Ottoman court in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, deaf servants taught sign language to courtiers and sultans when it became a recognized means of communication; this was during a period when Western Europeans were still debating whether deaf people were capable of learning anything or thinking as rational beings.

How did things change so dramatically within the years, and why does the idea of marriage for someone with disability cause more of a problem in an Islamic society than in the non-Muslim world?

I have grown up repeatedly hearing: ‘getting married is completing half of the deen (religion)’. I can’t verify the authenticity of this Hadith, however hearing this Hadith made me feel I am lacking half of my faith, because essentially that is the meaning behind it. Surely whatever comes from Allah is a blessing, and if it is not written for you then that should not reflect your devotion to Islam; simply it means Allah does not see it as beneficial for you.

Marriage is inherently a protective ‘tool’ that stops people from pursuing sexual desires outside of wedlock; committing a big sin in Islam.  Muslims are encouraged to marry in many ayat in the Quran, yet simultaneously there are ayat that warn people about marriage, their partner and of their children. ‘O you who believe! Verily, among your spouses and your children there are enemies for you; therefore beware of them’ (64:13).

I come from a family that does not see marriage as a necessity. In fact, I was brought up with aunts who have stayed single out of choice. I never viewed marriage as an essential element of life or a ‘dream’ that is out of reach.

Seeing many single and independent women around me erased any thought of being either different or deprived of an opportunity because marriage is not for everyone whether you are disabled or not.  Marriage, like any feature of this life, is a test, similar to staying single. The action of each individual is what really matters and plays the decisive role in marriage being a completion of ‘half the deen’ or a source of danger as the Qur’an warns: ‘Your wealth and your children are only a fitnah, whereas Allah! With Him is a great reward’ (64:14)

We can seek wealth, jobs, marriage or any other opportunities but we shall only get what Allah has planned for us. A believer should follow their heart and let it be their guide, as we can never judge and should not judge who is good or bad, simply because we will never know. It is logical to choose someone who has a similar way of thinking, personality and beliefs to ourselves. Again, the Qur’an does not state that we should marry people who are same as us; in fact it encourages us to mix with people of different social status. While it does not mention specifically people with disability but the idea still prevails, wealth, ability, appearance should not be the basis of our marriage choices, ‘They may marry the righteous among your male and female servants, if they are poor. GOD will enrich them from His grace. GOD is Bounteous, Knower.’ (24:32) It is society that dictates rules and unfortunately invokes the feeling of superiority in individuals, who view themselves as ‘better’ than some.   The Muslim world almost punishes people who are ‘different’; an act that goes against the principle teachings of Islam and certain individuals seem to almost condone and accept such attitudes, whereas we should reject and change it, through education.

I often hear people claiming to be following the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) yet they are very selective as they forget that the Prophet married someone older than him, who was richer than him and had married before. In our current time and among our society this is rarely seen.

The Prophet’s behaviour towards disabled people is an example for us to follow, as well as the shinning record of Islamic history’s many examples of people who, while having some kind of disability, were included and had prominent status in society.

Such as the figure of Abdullah ibn umm Maktum, who was blind and was among the first to accept Islam and was devoted to the Prophet (PBUH).  Abdullah was appointed to be one of the muezzins. On several occasions, the Prophet placed Abdullah in charge of Medina in his absence. This is just one example of inclusion that shows how people with disabilities are looked upon and treated in Islam.  Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum’s being blind was not a hindrance in his ability to carry out his duties.

There are many cases of people getting married to a person of similar background and ability then go on to suffer from domestic violence and abuse, surely in such scenario staying single is a better option. Choosing someone similar to you does not guarantee happiness. Furthermore, to suggest that the best and practical way of introducing marriage to people with disability is for the ‘deaf to marry deaf and blind to marry blind because it would be difficult for a deaf to communicate with non-deaf person’ is just something that I can’t accept. If you love someone surely learning sign language should not be an issue? In fact you would do anything to enter their world.

As I write this article I am trying hard to think what would be my ideal husband, something I have never thought about before. I could not. No matter how hard I tried to envisage a figure, I am unable.  May be I shall find my soul mate with someone disabled and may be not, but I will not let it be a factor in my judgement.

I do recognise that tradition and culture make marriage, for disabled people, a difficult concept because of misled assumptions that a disabled person might not bear children and if they do the child might be disabled, forgetting that everything in life is a risk, who is to say that a person will bear a healthy child?

Another ‘cultural’ idea is; marriage relies on a provider and someone who takes care of the house etc. So people assume that whatever role you take, a disabled person might be limited in both. In marriage, people complete each other, who’s to say a disabled and a non-disabled person don’t complete each other. Where one may be strong physically the other is emotionally/mentally strong. Society needs to be taught to look beyond appearance and accept people who are of different ability.

The Prophet (PBUH) met a woman who complained that she suffered from epileptic fits. She expressed concern that her body would become exposed during such episodes. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) offered the woman two choices: he could either pray to God that she could have access to paradise if she patiently resigned herself to her condition, or he could ask God to heal her. She opted to continue to bear her condition with patience but also asked the Prophet to pray that her body might no longer become exposed to the view of strangers.

This story highlights three important points; first, it illustrates the value of forbearance on the part of the person with the disability. More importantly, it affirms the right of individuals to draw attention to their special needs and to speak out for their rights as a matter of social justice. Finally, the story points to the important role of advocacy and the support which the wider community is expected to provide to the individual.

We need to move away from cultural habits and views, leave prejudice and discrimination behind and focus on our own individual acts and collectively as a society to make the world better.  Ultimately reflecting on some of Islam’s teaching in seeking knowledge, promoting equality and showing compassion. ‘Men who are humble and women who are humble, and men who give alms and women who give alms, and men who fast and women who fast, and men who guard their modesty and women who guard (their modesty), and men who remember Allah much and women who remember – Allah hath prepared for them forgiveness and a vast reward. (Quran surah al’ahzab 33:35)  This is what matters, what we do with the life we are given.

Education is the key that made Islamic civilisation one of the greatest but unfortunately it has fallen prey to prejudice, cultural and traditional teachings and misguided views. If every person should marry someone of similar situation then we should go back a few decades to the days of racial segregation! Where is the co-existence? Is this equality?

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Speak To Me

Speak to me,

Argue with every innate bit of reasoning you have left inside

Try and fail to convince me that the world around me has no purpose

No creator, no founder, no guide

Every artwork has a painter

Every book has an author

Every glacier is bigger on the inside

So what makes you think

That this world has something to hide?

If every object has a creator

How can you not surmise?

That we’re part of something greater

That lies in front of our eyes?

How does the sun know when to rise

Or when to put it’s light away

How does the moon know when to glow

And when to make the way for the day

How does the sky change it’s clothing

From grey to white to blue

And do the clouds alone release their sorrows with rain

Soaking the world through?

Do the winds decide which direction

They’d like to pursue

So the trees decide which leave to keep

And which to strew?

Does the weather have a change of mood

Every once in a while?

Does it turn hot then warm then chill

According to what’s in style?

Does the earth shake when it’s angry

Does the lightning strike when it’s mad?

Does the ocean spill its feelings

When it’s feeling kind of sad?

Who orders your cells to work together,

Or do they just decide to, alone?

How does your body change its shape

Do you wake up and find you’ve grown?

How does your heart contract and expand

Beating fresh blood to every part of your being

How do your legs know just when to move

How does your brain process what you’re seeing?

Did you think you came here for no purpose,

Given blessings you can never count,

Taught to feel, love, and give,

And feel emotions to an abundant amount,

Just here to live, then die once more,

Like a guest just at the door,

Created for nothing bigger, better, in store?

Look around, take a glance

At not the big, but just the small

Can this world have just existed,

For no reason at all?

Look inside, try to see

The potential meant to be

Try to figure out the deeper, stronger, meaning of “me.”