My first experience being in a Muslim Country was visiting Egypt in 2011. We arrived in Cairo at night, and the weather was beautiful and balmy. The drive to our hotel went right past Mubarak’s Presidential Palace, which felt surreal since this was right after the Revolution in which he had been cast out of office. We stayed in the Marriott, which was right on the Nile, with a wonderful view. There was a lot of energy in the city from the deck of our hotel and wonderful foreign sounds…. And in the morning and evening we would hear the Muslim call to prayer, broadcast throughout the area.
We met our guide that night…. Gigi, an amazing, brilliant Egyptian woman who was Christian. The head of the tour was a Muslim man, and they were friends. Together they took very good care of all of us. She informed us that on our first day that we would be sticking near the hotel since 15 million people were expected in downtown Cairo to vote for their resolution, since the Government was in major upheaval. Gigi said she was 46 and was voting for the first time in her life…. finally saying no to her government. She sided with the more radical protestors who felt the resolution did not go far enough. But it did end up passing by about 70 percent. Ultimately, it did not turn out well for any sort of democracy. The people are still living under a dictatorship.
My friend Becky and I wandered in the streets near the hotel and took a few photos of the voters. The men and women were in separate lines. They ended up with a pink fingertip if they voted, so all day people were holding up their pink fingers, so thrilled and excited to have voted. Everywhere we went, Muslim women were out and about with one other woman or a small group. Their burkas were all colorful and only covered their heads, but not their faces.
They were generally very friendly. The only ones who were not were those dressed completely in black with the burka covering their faces. I was told they were the ones from Saudi Arabia. One actually yelled at my friend and me. She did not approve of us for some reason. (Not to imply that would be the case with anyone in black from Saudia Arabia. It was just our experience at the time.)
The men were generally very interested as the two of us walked around the safe areas, and they obviously have no laws or rules about verbally harassing women. It was a common experience there. Being a tourist in a Muslim Country or any country is very different than knowing people there who are friends. I would have liked to really meet the people and converse with them. Living in the L.A. area, I see Muslim women all the time and have often wished I had a way to connect more deeply.
So I am thrilled that Ani Zonneveld is coming to Unity to discuss the Islamic faith. It is so misunderstood in our western culture, just as I am sure Christianity is in theirs. The opportunity to learn from a Progressive Muslim woman who is also an activist is a rare opportunity.
I hope you join us at our 10:30 a.m. service. If you can’t be there, be sure to listen to the podcast on our website.
Love & blessings,