Archive for the 'home' Category


Yemen Impressions: Shop ’til you drop… in an understated way

Yemeni are shopping… Oh you mean there are two upheavals going on!? Yemeni are also getting married, having babies, driving newer cars (bought in “dibei”), and if they have the mula attached to their household name then they are decorating…but in an understated way… Tariq Ali said there was wealth in Yemen but subtle in its use and careful in its presentation…

Says who!? Well the amount of department stores being built and used daily until the wee hours of the night, for one. Or better yet, the quality of the products being bought- take a stroll around “Turkish City” the Better Homes & Gardens Yemeni equivalent to Crate & Barrel, Bed-Bath-& Beyond, Macy’s, and Ikea rolled into one with a touch of Linens & Things, Sears, Spiegel and Home Depot/Loews… This store says “I know what I want and where it goes”…did I tell you that the female shoppers outweigh the male ones? In Yemen?! No!!! Yep…

So something is changing… I see it in the homes I visited in Sana’a – there is a distinction rising and its pretty interesting…

Guess its not all bazooka toting Houtis- by the way didn’t see one- the Houti nor the bazooka!

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Yemen Impressions: Saudi Airlines- a fiasco if Yemen is your destination

The odyssey of travel via Saudi Arabian airlines has certain demands

Pack light,
Be ready to change flights like you change your underwear,
Fight for your flights- [rights];
Take a whoppie cushion- your butt cheeks will thank you;
Be aware that its pilots can’t always land in Yemen- rain or shine;
Don’t travel with them during Ramadhan- you’ll think strategic planning wasn’t part of universal business lore;
Give your office, patients, clients a two week window for your return- when I wrote this note (it was Friday the 13th- they’re not superstitious right?) our flight had been cancelled twice in four days; eating up our one-week window down to nothing- a formal letter of apology from them was requested since we wouldn’t get home in time.

For an airline that had been known for its shining stars, even Yemania Airlines could teach them a thing or two- because them stars are a tad beyond tarnished.

Its back to flying via Emirates or its sister company- or anything -but not Saudi.

Oh and if you happen to be flying INTO Yemen via Saudi Airlines- cover your eye, nose, and mouth- they fumigate you like a pack of roaches… Darndest thing ever!

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going home

So everything set. The tickets bought. The bags packed. All the conditions set by my healthcare providers, met.

We are going home for an extended stay during the summer months. We will celebrate our anniversary where we first met and married.

We have tickets for the shortest route possible with as many accommodations as our wallets will allow.

My daughters will stay in NY because both have classes and summer jobs to maintain. Each has a few heavy duty state-board exams that must be completed by August 1st. So vacation for them will be, well, limited to say the least. My son has been stationed on the Pacific side so he will not be here to keep an eye on things. The girls are a solid pair- they’ll do what needs to get done with flying colors, as usual.

Since I may not be in ‘internet’ range (my blackberry has its moments when taken overseas), I may not be able to answer your comments if you have never posted before. All other friends will find they will not be under ‘moderation’ mode. The first chance I get, or firm signal to hit the peaks of Yemen, I will post some updates. Maybe even some pictures.

I thank a very special people who, a few months ago, eased my anxieties about this voyage for two very different reasons. You know who you are- I send you tons of warm hugs and kisses. Thank you again for everything. You are the best!

So my friends, without further ado, we head for the airport in the early morning, and venture into a land I love and by turns want to pummel its oddities. Wish me luck, I’m going to need it. Pray and make Dua, for those are of utmost importance to my continued well being- Allah will reward you. Insha’Allah.

Ma’salaama -Have a great summer!


service…be the change

I’ve been thinking in the ‘small wave”, wake-effect of the “Lactation” fatwa, of what some ‘scholars’ are doing to our religion, and the changing face of Islam they are presenting. The differing of opinions in my mind are good for creating dynamic discussion. But when one person or group undermines our humanity and tries to curtail our quest for understanding, belonging, and being in this world; putting us into spaces we would naturally feel uncomfortable or oppress and debase us – then I question that person or group’s intentions.

From the little I know about, for example, of Saudi society; I get the sense that there are two undercurrents flowing in opposite directions. Is it a reflection of the rest of the Arab world? I’m not so sure. Because other societies of the Muslim world are more open. Even in Yemen where there is still considerable illiteracy you still know of women in the public sphere- politically, socially, economically, etc. Women who work and are not stopped from striving. But then again, for everyone of these women who received an education and can fully function in society; there are countless other who don’t or can’t. In Saudi Arabia where education is at a higher level, it seems to be much harder to fully function because of all the ‘man-made’ additions to how Islam is practiced there. You would think this should not be the case. Unfortunately, as the ‘Lactation’ fatwa demonstrates- the basic problem created by such strict sex-segregation has a few ‘learned’ creating convoluted propositions to get around the fundamental issue they imposed on a society that no longer needs it, and would greatly prosper from it being loosened- sex segregation and tight control over the population’s ability and potential to create their own space within the structure of Islam.

Personally, I have stepped away from people or institutions that preach women are confined M&M’s -married and mothers only. Why? Well because these people are out of touch with reality. The world as we know it is far beyond tents, sands and prodigious amounts of offspring roaming the desolate and sometimes barren deserts. We have to understand for example that if a woman becomes a widow and she has no children from that marriage, she should not be subjected to total loss of the family and possessions she had come to care for. She shouldn’t have to feel obligated to completely fend for herself or remarry just because. Her new station means in Saudi her life loses meaning and she is left with memories only. The same goes for divorced women. Why should a woman lose rights to her children, even partial custody can be lost. Why should she be ostracized when divorce is a natural option in Islam, where the condition that now is never met is that of separating in a kindly manner without force or oppression. With Roman Catholics divorce was totally forbidden, in some countries until recently you couldn’t get a divorce if you had had a religious wedding ceremony- getting an annulment was nearly impossible- because it was literally ‘until death do us part’ married. But in Islam divorce is codified- so why do we castigate women when clearly it states both men and women can seek to sever their ties to their spouse? The ones that always seems to end up with the short end of the stick that is to beat them, are women. This concept is very non Islamic.

As Ummah, for it to mean something more than mere letters, we need to create spaces of inclusion and acceptance. Come to understand every situation by putting yourself in the shoes of others to gain some insight. Not blindly accepting every thing that is force fed to us- either by questionably motivated clerics or by social stigmas that have no bases in Islam. The other critical piece is this holding on to our nationality like a vice that only serves to isolate and strangle us; unable to hear the voices of sound reason. I say this because many people blame the West for all their problems, and at the same time use the West for all its endeavors- be it to keep us angry and humiliated or ignorant and despondent. To say ‘I’m 100% Saudi is meaningless. What does it really mean? That you are pure 100% Arab of the Arab Peninsula? Well good for you! But what does saying it do for your fellow Man? Does it help the destitute? Does it help empower the youth that have no avenues to let out steam by creating their own way in life? No, it doesn’t. All it does is just state you are separate from the rest of humanity. You’re isolating yourself from the rest of the Ummah, only seeing the walls you are building to confine and limit yourselves.

There are countless ways that a 100% Saudi can also be 100% Muslim of the Ummah, and 100% human of the planet Earth- its called inclusion. The are many more Muslims out here than there are 100% Saudi Muslims. Wake up!!! Smell the coffee! Yes, I know you don’t like Yemeni. But what did they do that you haven’t already done? I happen to want to learn more of this Saudi society with a penchant for closed doors and high walls. No wonder no one understands them completely- they won’t let you in! And at the same time they throw rocks from their inner walls as if they were being besieged. Not so…the world is smaller now because so many of us occupy space. The Village of Earth is very small indeed- you guys must be claustrophobic in there!

When I ask what would, could Saudis do to help themselves- some just point back to us as the culprits, using side tracking techniques of highlighting our short-comings and therefore trying to hide theirs. Well if we are the culprits, when will you pick up the courage to stop being the victim? What are the concrete things you can do to better your society? Not the individualistic mind set answers please. Even the ‘let the women do what they have to and we men will do what we have to’ is already creating a rift. Why? Because it rips apart a society, fragmenting and weakening it further. A House divided, Shall Fall.

No truer words have been spoken. And our houses are divided. We divide everything we do into ‘we versus them’. That is just as ‘individualistic’ as ‘every man for himself’.

-So if you’re so full of ideas, what would you do?- you might rightly ask. Well start with what you have. Start where you are right now:
If you have circle of friends, pool your resources to serve the poor.
Buy food or clothing for those who can’t. Create ‘soup kitchens’ for the hungry and destitute, and empower them by helping out to cook and clean- an honest day’s work for an honest meal.
If you have cars (this would apply to the men who are the only ones currently allowed to drive in mainstream Saudi society) get together and do a ‘Car Wash Day’ in another less affluent area and have the teen boys volunteer their time, donating the funds to the kids soccer team.
Heck put together ‘little league’ soccer teams!
Create cooperatives that would in turn benefit women in creating cooperatives of indigenous crafts that can be sold at markets.
Donate some of your time to teaching kids a new skill-
Since you men all drive why don’t you a group create a “Remedial Driving schools’ in your area for new teenage drivers teaching them the correct way to handle cars.
Men again could be better voices for their counterparts- stop the young guys from prowling- give them something to do- and while you’re at it- teach them better manners, be examples- role models.
Those of you who have studied or worked abroad hold informal meetings or ‘socials’ to answer basic questions your younger set may not know- Mentor them!
Get permission to do a street by street beautification drive- clear the trash-see a piece of paper or rubbish on the floor-pick it up and through it in the trash.
If you see a street hasn’t had its trash picked up, call the company that is suppose to and state the location; have your friends call too!
Finished eating and there is still lots of food on your plate- prepare or ask for it to be packaged for take out and give it to the first elderly and hungry person you find.

Fellow bloggers take a corner of your blogs to dedicate to posting any and all ideas you have to create an atmosphere of giving, of being better humans, better Muslims in the Ummah and the world.
Encourage others to do good for their fellow citizens and ask them to ‘Pay it Forward’ coming up with more ideas and implementing them.
Have brainstorming sessions, at home, with friends, with colleagues on a few things you can do today to make someone feel empowered, appreciated, loved.

Let the ideas flow, some will be possible now, others will become possible when you believe them possible. Help others and you’ll help yourself. Dare to be different- dare to believe you can benefit society even in the smallest of action, and ask the person down the line to pay it forward.

I’ve started a page to connect us to other people around the world. There are two ‘vehicles of change’ I recently joined that are extremely helpful, created by groups of friends that want to be of service. Teach, learn, strive- if you can’t change the system change yourselves. ‘Be the change you would want in this world’.
Its all about Random Acts of Kindness and Paying it Forward

Global Oneness Project
Helps identify and highlight all the global thoughts out, by theme, on giving all of us a chance to be one and to be of service. ‘Think globally, act locally’

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Parenting, Tibetan Style…

  • Start with the spirit– Young children learn to prostrate themselves, hold their hands in prayer, and make offerings of candles, butter lamps, and incense, even before language occurs.
  • Practice Harmony– Children are encouraged to be harmonious first and foremost. Tibetan parents praise the act of giving and creating peace among siblings. Other nationalities often focus upon who’s “right” and “wrong” creating a sense of “justice” versus “harmony”. Tibetan children also learn about the continuity and preciousness of all life. Parents teach children to honor each insect, [each being],  Its common occurrence to see a three-year old in a class room “needing to leave” to bring a bug to safety outside and away from stomping feet.
  • Make everything meaningful- Mindfully parenting and honoring each step of a child’s development is the Tibetan way. Its thought that the more you celebrate milestones (first step, smile, mantra recitation, first doll made, first game played) the more a child is connected to his “beginner’s mind” or mind of purity. It is thought that joyful impressions upon a child’s mind calms his or her mental state, thus creating a safe, psychic space.
From Parenting, Tibetan Style by Maureen Heally – of Spirituality & Health


There is always a ‘first time’ you share with a loved one that through the years just gets sweeter in the retelling.

When we first married one of our roads was finding common ground in the things we loved to eat. Yemeni food is not world renown gourmet. Its what my husband, until then, had ever known. I happened to have a taste for many types of food. Living in NYC opens up your palette and the availability of the ‘united nations’ food buffet makes it just that much easier. But because of the winds of trade and shared histories colliding in Yemen; we quickly found common ground.

Spicy and hot foods, Basmati rice, potatoes, eggs, and fruits were all common to us both. The day I spotted Papaya at a road-side souk, I found heaven! The milk shakes I grew up with I repeated as soon as I got home. My husband would fork over precious riyal to get a chunk of ice, since at that time there wasn’t a fridge in our compound. There was a cold room- don’t ask me how it works, but it feels like a meat locker!

The women of the house would learn that not only was papaya good for your colon; it was your ticket to beautiful skin. I showed them how to mix a very ripe papaya with honey to make face masks! The tribe has kept bee hives for decades, so honey was plentiful. To this day everyone back home still uses these masks to clear and lighten their skin, and for burns and scraps the kids seem to produce out of thin air, it soothes quickly.

I would discover the thirst quenching prickly pear fruit of the Cactus, that my father in law carried one day in his ‘futa’ (the Yemeni male skirt) from the valley below. The family, once seeing my absolute delight at the taste, would daily pick them just after lunch, peel them, and put them in the cold room for my late afternoon treat. Yummy!

The one thing we had found in common was a taste for soft drinks. But the discovery would be made the first week we arrived in NY. We had gone food shopping at Pathmark. This supermarket, about 4 miles from our apartment, sold stuff my husband didn’t yet have vocabulary for. It was like watching a kid in a Toy Store. He would walk every single isle. Looking, touching, smelling, tasting! ‘What’s this?’ Ever present question. Sometimes I had the Arabic word, sometimes I was stumped. Plantains being one of them! Yellow, green, big fat ones, small stumpy ones. He would, later, get to taste them all comparing them to their banana cousins. Fried green tostones and mashed yellow ones with sauté onions are his favorite.

When we were at the supermarket’s soda section I grabbed a six pack of Pepsi. You know the one’s with the plastic chokers around the top of the can.

‘Ah, pespesi!’ My husband said smiling at something he recognized from our mountain of purchases cresting almost to his chest. Hubby is 6’2″.


‘Pespesi!’ He repeated pointing to the cans.

‘Oh, yes rohi, Pepsi.’ Another thing I quickly learned was never to correct him, just repeat the word he was misprouncing in its correct form. He eventually got it- usually by the fourth or fifth time.

This one would be different.

‘Yes Hayati, pespesi.’ He was pleased, already savoring the idea of a cold one.

‘So rohi, when we get home how would you like the Pepsi- with ice cubes or should I put a few in the freezer until they’re ice cold?’ I asked walking towards the next isle where the dairy products started.

‘Hmm, well I’ll have the first pespesi with ice. The other pespesi we can put in the thalayah’ – the word refrigerator not negotiable at the time, ‘so they’ll be cold tonight for dinner.’ He stated, pushing the cart behind me.

‘Oh ok. So pespesi with ice it is.’ I conceded.

‘I thought you said it was a Pepsi?’

I chuckled, ‘Ya Rabbi!’


Rainy Days and Sundays…

Like the Song – “rainy Days and Mondays” today has been a cold and dreary day in NYC. Even our dog Caesar was not up for a long run; probably still tired from yesterday. We’ve spent it in pyjamas watching movies and eating just about everything. That waistline isn’t going to go down at this rate. We have also basically congregated around the television our laptops, magazines , and newspapers as complementary fare. Reading blogs and answering in them during commercials, or parts of the movie we have already seen and want to skip over. Interrupting each other as we come across something of note. 

I have been worried about Susie back in Saudi Arabia, because her husband has undergone by-pass surgery. A frightening episode to go through by all means. Please send some good vibes and prayers her way. Her blog has always been of interest to me. She is not at the moment a high-powered multi-tasking woman, but stay at home like many of her counterparts in KSA – Arab or otherwise, after living most of her life in the States. And I can see the things that can delight or irk you when living in places like KSA. Her latest ‘moment’ with an interaction between her husband and his physician an example of when profession, culture and gender meet at the boxing ring. My husband certainly didn’t approve of the physician’s behavior, regardless of long-standing friendship. The ‘joke’ was in bad form. I agree and am truly sorry Susie had to face an issue that was unnecessary considering the outcome resulting in her husband’s subsequent surgery. 

At times I wonder if our world is less tactful because we see and know too much and can voice it; or because we have weathered down our parameters of what is prudent to say. Thought is free, but spoken words pay and demand a price. 


Earth Hour has come and gone. We didn’t even get ‘a blink-out moment’. But we did decide to have a late ‘candle lit’ dinner for the family, once our guest had left. We peppered our conversations with the day’s moments, basking in some quiet time. Candles can make that happen, guess the glow is mesmerizing enough to put you in another mood, time, and place. 

Bottom Fish


Western view of the valley below us


Since we like to watch those eco-documentaries, ‘Life’ the Discovery Channel’s latest mini-series has been scheduled for tonight. We’ve been talking more about the environment, especially thinking of the diminishing water tables in Yemen. All of which is in direct proportion to the increase in Qat planting and population growth. More of the first than the latter. We have seen how the eco-system in Yemen has been depleted and scared not only by increased Qat production, but by garbage that can’t be contained properly – cascading down once beautiful mountains. Or by the inability of Yemeni to come up with recycling companies to keep the plastic bags from choking the few trees that are left! My husband and I agree that when a population ‘forgets’ how to deal with waste, subsequent health issues, and uncontrolled or regulated farming practices – all goes to pot real fast. 

The Manhattan of the Desert


But the literacy level in Yemen has not reached a ‘tipping point’ where old reliable and traditional methods can be recovered and used, nor where newer ecologically friendly ones can be used to their advantage. Wind mills is one I would like to see some entrepreneurial person take on. There is enough wind blowing at good speed to keep them going to power up the country. But the society has been high-jacked by commodities and Qat their population sorely spends on. Not to mention its political atmosphere, too complicated chameleon – like to make sense of at times. Though Tariq Ali tries to make some sense of it in his article this weekend in the London Review of Books review called “Unhappy Yemen”. Please read it and let me know what you think. 

Rainy days and Sundays. How was your day like?

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