Category Archives: My Writings.

Confessions of a Curly Gal: Deep Into The Curl

I wonder why a natural physical attribute in a human being could be perceived as “not good enough”? I wonder why a natural physical attribute in a human being would be perceived as “not professional” within the workplace? I wonder why a natural physical attribute in a human being would be perceived as “not feminine enough”? Yes, I am talking about curly hair, which I had talked about previously in another post.

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I wonder how in the world would this not be perceived as feminine.

My hair journey (ongoing btw) has started since I was almost 10 years old. Mom thought it was a good age to start chemically straightening my hair. One reason was because she had just given birth to my little sister and would not have time to properly take care of and tame its wild strands. The other was that she did not really know what to do with it. So I started concealing my naturally curly hair with harsh chemicals to have it pin straight. I was very young back then. I was happy my mom did not have to spend hours detangling my hair after every shower. I was happy I was able to style it easily. I was happy it looked healthy (not for long though). However, there was always something gnawing at me, that I was concealing a major part of myself…

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Yes, the process was agonizing. And the chemicals smelled horrible. The fact that they made every effort not to leave the chemicals for more than 5 minutes on the hair always left me dubious.

When I reached around 16 years (of chemically straightening my hair every 4-5 months), my hair was falling out. It was weak and fragile and far from healthy. It was then and there when I decided to stop the chemical straightening for good. I need to find a better, less damaging alternative. I still want the straight hair but without the harm. Almost all my friends had either naturally straight hair, or slightly wavy hair. No one had a huge head of curls like I did (and still do). All the dolls I loved to play with during adolescence (Barbie, My Scene, Bratz, you name’em) had straight hair. All actresses on my favorite TV shows had straight hair (Miley Cyrus, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Raven Symone…etc. I was a hardcore Disney kid). All models, TV hosts, and celebrities in magazines had straight hair. I wondered why I was the only one who had to suffer with her hair, why was it such a burden?

Why would I want to keep my curly hair then? It was the mere-effect, or the familiarity effect, a known concept in psychology, which means that you tend to develop a preference, liking, or convincing about something just because you happen to be exposed to it quite often. It was that simple and complex at the same time. That was one of the reasons why a huge majority of people preferred straight hair and thought it to be the better-looking.

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The never ending struggle.

A while after, the keratin treatment emerged and made a huge boom. It was marketed as being able to provide the straight look without the chemical damage since keratin was already an existing nutrient in your hair. It was all the rage in Egypt and most girls wanted to try it. I was one of them. I tried it two times. Once at a salon near my house. It was a nightmare. It lasted for 5 hours, of tears, steam, and headache. It did not do much really, as far as I remember.

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The process looks quite smooth here. But trust me, it was terrible.

The second time was at one of the top-notch salons in the Middle East. I said they would definitely know what they were doing. I paid 3k then. It did not do much as well. But they told me it was not a straightening treatment, so it was expected. My hair was way less frizzy, more tamable, and less curly. But not the straight look I had had in mind.

At this point, I had given up on these hair treatments. I mean, nothing was really working. It is either I get the pin straight hair with tremendous damage or merely less curls for a thousand pounds. I was quite disappointed at this stage. Then it hit me! A simple idea that had been right there the whole time: why don’t I just leave my hair the way it was originally created, no chemicals and no treatments? *Gasp* Do people even do that? Do I know any girl with naturally curly hair (not curled, as this mix-up really gets on my nerves)? But as I said, I was desperate and this was the only option I haven’t tried, so I might as well give it a shot. And that’s when my curly hair journey started.

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Quite a long journey indeed.

I was clueless. There was no one around me with curly hair to refer to. No one in the media to follow through her steps. How will I look like? Will I like my curly hair? But here’s the thing, I was not going to see my full-fledged curly hair before 2-3 years. That is the hardest part to endure. The infamous transitioning phase, where a woman stops chemically treating or heat straightening her hair and switches back to her natural hair. Your hair needs its time to recover from all the chemicals that messed up its original texture, to grow properly and naturally without interruptions. So it means I have to keep heat straightening to a minimum to give my hair a chance to relax and recover. It is a hard phase that requires much patience, effort, determination, and persistence. At this point, my hair was exhausted, weak, frizzy, and depleted. It was half curly (from the roots) and half straight (from the ends). This is the worst phase that any woman can find her hair in. You do not know how to style it. It falls out quite a lot. And again, it is very weak. Bur you have to wait, your hair deserves the recovery.

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It starts out something as irregular and messy as the first picture, then with the right care and love, it flourishes into the beautiful ringlets in the second picture.

My knowledge of curly hair started to accumulate when I stumbled upon a phenomenal website called NaturallyCurly.com. It is loaded with stories from inspirational women who managed to transition safely and are happy with their natural texture, giving you just right encouragement and motivation. You will find an abundance of useful articles about curly hair types, maintenance, hairstyles, and tips. I never knew curly hair had types! I’m a 3B by the way.

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I owe the revival of my curly locks to you.

This was a gateway for me to learn all about the ins and outs of curly hair. I watched a hundred videos and read a thousand articles. I was genuinely eager to learn about my natural hair. I wanted to know it well so I can love it the way it deserves to be loved. It is a normal physical feature in my body the same as my eye color, body shape, and hair color are. I was doing all this out of love, not out of hate and refusal as before. I was excited to try all sorts of tips, products, hair masks, and hair oils. I did not even get upset when one of them did not work. I just knew it was a chance for me to keep trying until I found what my hair preferred the most. Honestly, I haven’t felt this positive about my hair since forever.

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I was mad about DIY masks and treatments. Tried numerous ones, from yogurt and honey to olive oil and bananas.

However, it was not all rainbows and unicorns. My hair looked like a mess and I had to leave it like that if I wanted it to grow out healthily. At this point, I had self-esteem issues. I went to school everyday without liking how I looked. At this point, I felt way more confident when I had my hair straightened for an event. When I look at my pictures during this stage, I find that I looked terrible. But I had to keep going and endure all this, so as to have the beautiful head of curly hair I am dreaming about for a while now. On a side note, I had the courage to show up on the picture day in grade 11 in my transitioning-phase hair, even though I had usually straightened it for this day. The picture does not look particularly pretty, but I am very and wholly proud of it.

After three years of struggling, low self-esteem, and perseverance, it was the fist time to see my full-fledged curly hair. My natural hair. 100% chemical free, from the roots till the tips. This stage did not come all of a sudden. It was quite a gradual process. I remember feeling ecstatic. This was actually the first time ever for me to meet my curly hair face-to-face, or head-to-face to be exact. And the good thing is, I liked it. No, loved it. I felt very comfortable at the thought that my hair looks gorgeous without any external factors (excluding the leave-ins, hair oils, and deep conditioners, but these are complimentary ones). There was a fixed hair regimen I had myself committed to. I was happy and satisfied about my hair for the first time in years. Now I can say that I feel equally confident with my hair either curly or straightened.

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My hair looks a lot like this texture, but in light brown.

But then came society and started to ruin it for me. Egypt is a country where a considerable percentage of its women have curly hair. But you do not see it because almost all of them straighten it. Curly hair is perceived as wild, untamed, unprofessional, playful, and not feminine enough. If you had a big event or an engagement party to attend, you had to straighten your hair. If you are the one getting married, you had to find a way to permanently straighten it because, “all men like straight hair.” Straight hair is less trouble and less maintenance, so this is what you should stick with. You have to pay heaps of money to have it chemically straightened. If you cannot do that, you have to head to the salon every week and have it straightened. Of course, it is not that absolute. But that’s the majority.

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Imagine a curly-haired girl in the middle of this picture, with less angry faces, and you have the regular situation.

People will not make direct comments about your hair. They will say things like, “You must take forever to style your hair,” “You look more beautiful with straight hair, why don’t you straighten it more often?” and things of that sort. I had just come out of a long and tiring hair journey and two of the most important women in my life, my mother and maternal grandmother, criticized me for leaving my hair curly. They both thought (and still and will forever think) that I look way more attractive with straight hair. I did not like that. I was comfortable with my naturally curly hair. I did not want to showcase something that was not inherent in me. I did not like the idea of adhering to a standardized and skewed version of beauty. I did not like the idea of narrowing down beauty to a single physical attribute. I did not like the idea of straightening my hair just because other people liked it more. I still do straighten my hair, but only when I want to and feel like it. I did not like the idea of killing the wonderful diversity Allah bestowed on us by possessing the same head of hair. I did not like either of this one bit.

I got mixed opinions from my friends. Some applauded me for my decision. Some preferred it straight. But no one was adamant about as my mother and grandmother were. I remember going through long and heated arguments, mainly with my mother, as she tried to convince me to straighten it more. As a result of these arguments, I sometimes would return home and look at myself at the mirror and cry. Was I maybe oblivious to the fact that I looked terrible in curly hair and that I needed to straighten it more just like my mom says? Did I really not look as beautiful as I perceived myself?

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Maybe I did not look as beautiful as I perceived myself?

Despite these transient moments of weakness, I managed to sort of build a wall around this aspect of my personality. I was genuinely convinced with the fact that I looked beautiful, sexy, and feminine with curly hair as much as I did  with straight hair. As poetic as this might sound, I felt that both textures of hair represented two facets of my personality. The straight hair represented the introverted, quiet, posh, and shy side of me, while the curly hair represented the passionate, driven, playful, and laid-back side of me. I liked having both options to do my hair at basically any given time. Henceforth, mom’s comments never really got to me. We would still argue from time to time, but nothing she said convinced me to hide this part of me again.

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Keep on rocking those locks.

On a not-so side note, there was one time I went to my grandmother’s place to get something (she lives in the same building). I was wearing my hair curly. She looked at me for a while and said, with all seriousness, “You can never wear your hair like that when you are married. Your husband will hate it. It is far from feminine.” I was appalled. I still remember the way she looked and the way she sounded when she said it. I remember feeling very wounded. She was not just talking about the way I looked in general; she was talking about my sexual appeal, shattering it into a thousand pieces. I remember being very angry and dismissing her hurtful comment (I am pretty sure she never meant it to hurt, though) on the grounds that her ideas about beauty are outdated and that no matter what I said, she’d never change her views.

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True that!

A couple of years later, I decided to put on the veil elhamdoleAllah. Arguments with my mom decreased to a great extent since my hair was covered. However, she would look at me questionably when I decide to go to the salon to have my hair straightened, even though there is no upcoming event. But that’s just the beauty of it, mom. I am free to wear whatever I like whenever I like. I am not adhering to any standards but my own.

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That’s right!

Now the journey has not (and I don’t think will ever) come to an end. I am 22 going on 23, which is the optimum age for suiting and marriage in Egypt. The topic of my hair still arises. I am still adamant in my opinion and so is mom. She is convinced that when it’s time for me to get married, I have to find a way to straighten it because, “that’s just what all girls do.” This does not seem right to me. What I do with my hair is such a personal and intimate choice. I don’t wanna go down the road of hair treatments again. I don’t want to hide this vivacious part of me again. As for my future spouse, I want him to accept me the way I am, accept the diversity within me, accept what I feel comfortable in.

I have written this lengthy post as a reminder, to the world and to myself. I am reminding the world that beauty is such a fluid term. No one has the right define it based on subjective opinions. No one has the right to shame someone else because of how they choose to look. And certainly no one has the right to deem a specific physical attribute “not beautiful enough.”

I am, as well, reminding myself that what matters first and foremost is how I view and perceive myself. People can say whatever opinions they want, but what I actually do is out of my free volition and beliefs. Femininity was never about looks, but attitude. When beauty resonates from the inside, all people will see and notice. I am leaving this here to constantly remind me of the love and appreciation I have for my curly tresses. They’re unique and special and they’re a part of who I am. And I am not willing to give that up.

And finally, I leave you with this amazing video from Dove, which reminds women to love their curls so they can pass on that love to their daughters. It is something I am planning to do with my daughter insha’Allah one day.

– All images are hyperlinked to their original sources.

Sugar, Spice, & Everything Nice.

Moments of sheer joy, merry incidents, happy souls, fleeting looks of admiration, sweet taste of anticipation: all this and much more envelope the joyous festivities of matrimony. Even though we often fear and sometimes even criticize relationships, but when they do take place, we just cannot contain our happiness. And I am speaking from the perspective of someone who is witnessing such unison occurring with one of his/her loved ones, not if it is happening to you my single friend!

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Well, not exactly like the guy in the middle 😀

When you are observing someone just getting into a relationship, especially if it is someone very dear to you (in my case, it is my beautiful cousin), you immediately notice the allure of beginnings and first times. The short subtle looks that say plenty. The jokes and teasing. The sincere hearty wishes of fulfillment and happiness for the couple. The joyous gathering of beloved family and friends.

Then you think about yourself. Who would be the person whom your family and friends welcome and celebrate? Who will you look lovingly at? Whom will your family invite to lunch and dinner at the terrace? Whom will your grandmother stuff his face with her mouthwatering food? Whom will your grandfather converse with about politics, culture, and arts? Whom will your brother and sister tell funny jokes about you to? Whom will your mother love from the bottom of her heart but simultaneously keep an eye on if he ever thought of hurting you?  And, who will take of your heart? Just a thought.

It is all very novel, ain’t it? A new person entering the family, sharing your meals, jokes, gatherings, photos, and love. It seems a bit awkward in the beginning. You feel like you cannot be entirely yourself because of this new guy (You are like, who is he and why is starting to take my cousin away from me?). But leave the insecurities aside, you are happy. Genuinely and truly happy for her. The gleam in her eyes when he is around is priceless. The way he looks at her as if she were (and truly is) the most precious thing in the world is out-of-this-world. The way her mother is walking lightly from happiness and joy. The way her father looks lovingly yet jealously at the couple, wondering how he let that guy have his little girl.

Oh my, I cannot believe we are at this stage already, when we are greeting each other on relationships and engagements and not grades and graduations. May this new stage bring us all happiness, joy, solid bonds, and satisfaction.

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God bless our eternal bond insha’Allah! ❤

قمر اليوم

ويا قمرالليلة المُنير، حدثني عن بساطة جمالك وسحرك الذي لا ينفك أن يُبهرني كل شهر. بُح لي بحكايات من كانوا يستخدمون نورك قديمًا لتدلٌهم علي الطريق في عتمة الليل. احكِ لي قصص الأحبة التي كللتها بوجودك وحركت مشاعرهم بجمالك. قل لي كم عاشق استخدم سحرك كناية عن جمال حبيبته. اشرح لي كيف تَظَل مُنيرًا مُتألقًا وحولك دُجي الليل يُخيم علي كل شيء إلا نورك؟ سبحان الله الذي خلقك وأوهبنا العين التي تري جمالك.

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Enchanting. 

 *Image is hyperlinked to its original source.

أنا والبحر

يبهرني ذلك الكائن العملاق المسمى بالبحر…هو ملاذي الذي ألجأ اليه عندما أُريد سماع صوت نفسي وأفكاري دون مُقاطعة أو محاسبة. أعشق رائحته المالحة المُنعشة التي دائماَ ما تنجح في اشعاري بالهدوء والسكينة. أتلذذ بهوائه النقي الذي يدخل رئتيَ ويخرج حاملاً معه كل همومي وخواطري القَلِقة. ذلك الصَرح العاتي الذي يثور موجه ليستعرض قوته وطاقته الجبارة ويعلو صوته ويتردد صداه في المكان. دائماً ما يقولون إن البحر ليس له أمان، أن مهما عاشرته لن تستطيع أن تتوقع حركته المقبلة. يقولون إن سحر البحر وروعته وهيبته تَكمُن في غموضه وعُمقه الذي لا يتضح آخره، أوليس هذا هو الجمال بعينه؟ عندما يجعلك البحر تأتي اليه بنفسك كل مرة في محاولة منك لاكتشاف اسراره ولكنك تُدرك في نهاية زيارتك أن أمامك الكثير الي أن تَفُك شفرة هذا الكائن الساحر. برغم كل هذه القوة والعنفوان فهناك شيء واحد لا يستطيع البحر الا أن يكشف أوراقه أمامه وتصبح تصرفاته متوقعة مثل الكتاب المفتوح…وهي الرمال الناعمة الملساء التي يهدأ البحر ويستكين تحت قدميها. يتحول البحر عندها الي كائن وديع ويخبو صوت هدير موجه وتتمدد مويجاته الي أن يصبح رغوة بيضاء. الرمال الراسخة الهادئة تجبر البحر العاتي علي الانصياع والاذعان لقوانينها هي. وفوق كل هذا تري عين الشمس الساطعة تُشاهد هذا التناغم كل يوم ولا تمل من المتابعة. فهي تُدرك تماماً أنه لابد من وجود البحر المتمرد مع الرمال الرزينة حتي يتجلى لنا هذا المنظر الخلاب كل يوم.

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Verb مضارع

“هو ليه دايمًا اللي بيقدموا في القسم الإنجليزي أكتر من العربي؟ فين بتوع العربي يا جدعان؟!”

سؤال طُرِح جهارًا بالفعل في أول اجتماع لنا كمُحررين للمجلة ونحن نُقارن عدد المُتَقدمين في قسمنا العربي المتواضع بالعدد الهائل في القسم الإنجليزي (تقريبًا واحد إلى خمسة) خاصةً وأن تلك الملاحظة ليست بجديدة على هذا الفصل الدراسي وإنما تتكرر بشكل مستمر حتى صارت نمطـًا متوقَّع. لماذا يكون الإقبال على كل ما يتعلق باللغة الإنجليزية أكثر؟ هل لأن معظم الأغاني والأفلام والكتب الدارجة صارت بالإنجليزية؟ نلاحظ أيضًا أن اتقان اللغة الإنجليزية أصبح من المهارات المُسلَّم بها التي يجب أن يتحلى بها من يرغب في وظيفة جيدة هذه الأيام. حتى المحلات والمقاهي المحلية الأصل تحمل أسماءً أجنبية (قهوة بلو موون؟ هاتلاقيها ورا مكوجي فرست كلين على طول).

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قررنا أن ننظر لهذا الموضوع على نِطاق أصغر قليلاً: جامعتنا الأمريكية. نظرًا للتنوع الرهيب الموجود داخل الجامعة من أساتذة وطلبة من مُختَلَف المناطق والبلاد تصبح اللغة الإنجليزية هي ما يجمعهم ويساعدهم على التواصل. وطبعًا لا نتجاهل حقيقة أن الجامعة أمريكية مما يَجعل اللغة الإنجليزية أمرًا واجبًا في كل التعاملات سواء أثناء المحاضرات أو خارجها. ولكن أين لُغتنا العربية من كل هذا؟ هل ما زالت تتبوأ نفس المكانة كما في الماضي عند الناس أم أن الوَضع تَغَير؟ كيف يَنظُر مجتمع الجامعة الأمريكية الي اللغة العربية، الذي دائمًا ما يلصق به الناس تهمة “الأمرَكة” (خونة وعملاء!) والإعراض عن الثقافة العربية؟ لأن هذا الأمر يستحق الدراسة، قمنا بتحضير استبيان أجاب عليه حوالي ١٨٠ طالب من الجامعة لنعرف آراء الناس في هذا الموضوع (وليه الناس اللي بتقدم في القسم الإنجليزي أكتر)

تَبَين لنا من خلال الاستبيان أن حوالي ٤٨٪ يقرأون كتبًا باللغة العربية بشكل دائم مُقارنةً بـ ٢٦ ٪ لا يقرؤونها على الإطلاق. ونري أيضًا أن ٣٣٪ يهتمون أحيانًا بتطوير امكانياتهم في اللغة العربية عن طريق القراءة والكتابة و٣٤٪ لا يفعلون ولكن يتمنون أن يطوروا أنفسهم في اللغة العربية. طبعًا لم يُقصَد من السؤال اللغة العربية العامية التي نستعملها في تعاملاتنا اليومية ولم يُقصَد أيضًا اللغة العربية الفصحى المُتقَدمة التي يستخدمها الكُتاب والشعراء ولكننا نقصد مستوى اللغة العربية المتوسطة التي تكون بسيطة بدرجة يفهمها ويستوعبها الناس وفي نفس الوقت تجعلهم شغوفين بالتَبَحـُّر في هذه اللغة العريقة. في رأيي، أرى أن هذه النِسَب تُبَشِر بعدد متزايد من الشباب المُهتم بإعادة الأهمية والمكانة إلى اللغة العربية خصوصًا بعد صدور عددٍ من الروايات والكتب في الفترة الأخيرة التي أثارت الاهتمام وجَعَلت الناس تقرأ باللغة العربية من جديد.

كما ذكرت مُسبقاً فإن كل المواد في الجامعة تُدرَّس باللغة الإنجليزية ولكن هناك بعض المواد الاختيارية المُقدَمة باللغة العربية سواءً عن الأدب أو التاريخ العربي. بالنسبة لآراء الطُلاب عن هذه المواد فـ٥٧٪ منهم لم يدرسوها من قبل ولكن ٧٨٪ ممن درسوها قالوا إنهم لم يجدوا صعوبة في الفهم أو التواصل باللغة العربية خلال المحاضرات سواء بالقراءة أو الكتابة. بالإضافة إلى أن ٤٨٪ رأوا أن هذه المواد تُطوِّر وتُقرِّب الطلاب من اللغة العربية. اهتمام الطُلاب باللغة يتناسب طرديًا مع محتوى المنهج وكيفية تقديمه وشرحه. هناك أيضًا جانب مهم لهذه المسألة أحببنا أن نطرحه وهو دَمج اللغة العربية مع الإنجليزية أثناء التَحَدث واستخدام كلمات من هنا على بعضاً من هناك حتى أصبح الموضوع “عادي”. ولكن هل هو فعلاً “عادي”؟ حوالي ٧٩٪ يستخدمون مصطلحات باللغة الإنجليزية أو بلغة أخرى أثناء التحدث بالعربية و٧٦٪ لا يرون حرجًا أو عيبًا في ذلك.

على الرغم من ارتفاع تلك النِسَب فقد تباينت آراء الطلاب بخصوص هذه المسألة، بعضهم يري أنه يجب أن يتحدث الشخص بلغة واحدة كنوع من الاحترام لها. البعض الأخر رأى أن التَعَرُض لثقافات وأفكار مختلفة يُحَتِم على الإنسان أن يستخدم أكثر من لغة في الكلام خصوصًا عند التحدُث عن مصطلحات تَخُص مجالاً مُحددًا. في حين أن كثيرًا من الطلاب رأوا أن استخدام اللغة عامةً هدفه توصيل المعني للمُتلقي فإذا وَصل المعنى بالطريقة المرجوة لن تَفرِق لغة عن أخرى وأن الموقف يُصبِح مُحرِجًا فقط إذا لم يفهم المُتلقي اللغة المُستَخدمة في الحديث. أردنا أيضًا أن نعرف كيف يرى طُلاب الجامعة الأمريكية مكانة اللغة العربية حاليًا ورأى ٧٩٪ منهم أنها بحاجة إلى إحياء أو تطوير لتُصبِح أكثر دِراجًا أو انتشارًا عن طريق تقديمها بشكل أكثر عصرية للناس بحيث لا تكون مُرتَبِطة فقط بالقواعد النحوية المُتطورة أو غيرها من الفروع التي قد لا يراها البعض ذات صلة بالحياة العملية إلى حدٍ كبير. بالإضافة إلى أن طريقة التدريس والمناهج إذا كانت مواكبة للعصر وتُحفز الطلاب على استخدام اللغة بشكل مُبتَكَر. من ناحية أخرى، رأى البعض أن إحياء اللغة العربية يجب أن يكون عن طريق الأنواع المختلفة من الأدب كالأفلام والكتب وغيرهم من الفنون بحيث تجذب انتباه الناس وتنمي تفكيرهم ومن ثَم اهتمامهم بلغة العرض نفسها. في حين رأى البعض الآخر أن الموضوع له علاقة بمركز الدول الناطقة بالعربية بين العالم وليست اللغة نفسها لأنه إذا كانت هذه الدول تمتلك سلطة قوية ومركز مؤثر بين الأمم لكان لتهافت الناس على تعلّم اللغة العربية بدلاً من الإنجليزية.

بعد النظر إلى الموضوع من هذا الجانب نستطيع الاستنتاج أن إعادة اللغة العربية إلى المكانة التي تستحقها على الأقل في مجتمع الجامعة يتطلب منا أن نُجَدد شغفنا بها ونعيد استحداث بلاغة ودقة ألفاظ هذه اللغة الثرية. لا يمنع أبدًا أن نتعرف بل ونتقن لغات أخرى من أجل التواصل وفتح أبواب غير محدودة لاكتشاف ثقافات وآفاق جديدة ولكن وجب التمسُّك بلغتنا الأصلية أولاً لأنها جزءٌ لا يتجزأ من هويتنا العربية، ثانيًا لأن هذا التمسُّـك اعترافٌ منا بحضارة عريقة آثرت في العالم أجمع، وثالثًا وببساطة لأنها لغة جميلة ورفيعة وقوية، لغة المتنبي ونجيب محفوظ، تحمل من المعاني ما قد لا يتحملها غيرها وتقدم تلك المعاني بدقة وإحكام وبلاغة كما السحر. وشهد على ذلك من تعلمها كلغة أم أو كلغة ثانية. فكما قال المستشرق الفرنسي وليم مرسيه “العبارة العربية كالعود، إذا نقرت على أحد أوتاره رنت لديك جميع الأوتار وخفقت، ثم تُحَرَّك اللغة في أعماق النفس من وراء حدود المعنى المباشر مَوْكبًا من العواطف والصور”.

وبرضو معرفناش فين بتوع العربي…

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You can read the article here on page 41

Muhteşem Yüzyıl: Art, Mystery, & Love.

If someone had told me three years ago that I’d be hooked up on a Turkish soap opera, I’d laugh at their face.

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There came a time in Egypt when Turkish soap operas and series started to invade our televisions and channels. You could easily notice that almost everyone you knew watched a series or two and does so almost religiously.

It all started with the Turkish soap
It all started with the Turkish soap “Noor Wa Mohanad”.

There are some factors that led to the Egyptians’ fascination with such series. First, the plot lines are usually extremely interesting and well-constructed that one could hardly get his eyes off the screen. Second, the series usually feature marvelous scenery of nature, extravagant villas and apartments, and of course, handsome actors and pretty actresses.

One of the palaces featured in Turkish series. Marvelous!
One of the palaces featured in Turkish series. Marvelous!

Hence, it is easy to see why people get so attracted to Turkish series. Add to this the fact that Egypt has been through an age of cinematic and artistic recession that people must be thirsty for a good thing to watch. Of course, this does not mean that all Turkish series are awesome. On the contrary, some of them are really lousy. But we’re just trying to analyze a certain trend that emerged in the past few years.

What about my story with the Turkish series? I never actually was a series person, more of a movies person. But one of them managed to pull me in, to lure me into watching all its four seasons, and to leave me with a whole new perspective on Turkish drama. That one is: Muhteşem Yüzyıl, or as marketed in the Middle East, حريم السلطان.

Muhteşem Yüzyıl season 3 poster. Don't say you're not interested yet!
Muhteşem Yüzyıl season 3 poster. Don’t say you’re not interested yet!

“Muhteşem Yüzyıl” literally translates to Turkish as “Magnificent Century” or القرن العظيم. But of course, a series with that title would not be so appealing to the Arab audience and hence the alternative name. The century they are referring to is the period when Sultan Suleiman “The Magnificent” ruled the robust Ottoman empire (1520-1566). He was the tenth and longest-reigning sultan. During his reign, the Ottoman empire was at its political, military, and economic apex. He was well-known for his justice and supreme power. Moreover, he was able to expand the empire and conquer lands that were thought impossible to venture in. He was also a patron of culture, architecture, and poetry.

The real Sultan Suleiman
The real Sultan Suleiman “The Magnificent”.

What’s intriguing about this sultan is his marriage to a Russian girl from his harem who converted to Islam and gave birth to four sons and a daughter. Back then, it was not accepted that a sultan gets married to any of his harem girls. Thus, this girl, known as Hurrem Sultan, became one of the most influential women in Ottoman history. In a nutshell, the series revolves around the rise of Hurrem from a harem girl to a sultana and the conflicts that resulted.

The real Hurrem Sultan.
The real Hurrem Sultan.

Anyways, I’m not here to talk about the specific historical background of the series. If you are already interested, you can read more about the era of Sultan Suleiman here. What I want to do is pinpoint the elements that made me so attracted to that series. To begin with, the minute you turn on the series, you’ll be mesmerized by the extravagant palaces, the lavish gardens, and the exquisite clothes and accessories featured in the series.

Sultan Suleiman's palace room in the series.
Sultan Suleiman’s palace room in the series.

These Turkish folks have managed to subtly but successfully transfer the audience to the mysterious and enchanting era of the Ottomans. You’ll be equally amazed at the amount of clothes and jewelry and the exuberant furniture made for each episode and season. They have not overlooked even the most minute of details. Obviously, the production company was far from cheap when it came to that series.

Look at the intricate patterns and the vibrant colors of the dresses.
Look at the intricate patterns and the vibrant colors of the dresses.
An example of the accessories worn by the actresses in the series.
An example of the accessories worn by the actresses in the series.

Since it is a historical, but not a documentary, kind of series, it gives the audience a thorough overview about life under the Ottoman rule, Sultan Suleiman’s achievements, and the secret life of the sultan’s harem. Most of the names, events, chronological order, and relationships between characters are true to history. Of course, there are some events that are wholly the result of the writer’s imagination. However, the major things are true. You can know more about the historical figures and the actors here on the series’ official website.

What draws you even more to the series is the professionalism and the authenticity of the actors. They all seem to internalize their roles to a great extent, from the role of a harem girl in the background of events to the role of the sultan himself. They have the ability to act out the hardest and most complex of scenes with great skill. You cry, you fall in love, you grieve, you jump with joy with the characters.

One of the scenes in the series.
One of the scenes in the series.

Moreover, the fact that the series is over four seasons (without EVER becoming boring, which is something they deserve credit for), gives you a chance to know the characters up close and personal. You are familiar with how they feel, how they think, and what they want. You are able to closely monitor their developments, their ups, and their downs. The series leaves you emotionally involved with the characters to a degree you did not know was possible.

One of the most touching scenes in the entire series.  Watch the series to see for yourself !
One of the most touching scenes in the entire series.
Watch the series to see for yourself !

And for someone interested in the intricacies of human relations and psychology like me, this is the ultimate treat. I personally felt some void after the series was over. Moreover, I never cried as much in any series before (I’m not gonna tell you what I was crying about though :D)

If you are an artistic person, you’ll instantly be magnetized by the beautiful symphonies played during the series. Each symphony is a work of art, seriously. The fact that a specific piece of music is related to a certain event or special moment in the series makes you all the more attached and fond of it.

Ibrahim Pasha, the Grand Vizier, playing the violin.
Ibrahim Pasha, the Grand Vizier, playing the violin.

What is even more interesting is that they do not use modern instruments or highly technical beats in the series’ music, which further reinforces the historical and classical atmosphere of the series. I actually downloaded some of these masterpieces on my cell phone and I listen to them whenever I feel like I want to engage myself in some ethereal music (Some of my thoughts about music in this previous post). You can listen to some of these tracks here:

Another thing that attracted me to the series is the diverse image of beauty they deliver. Despite the fact that the series is set in a period in history that did not allow the actresses to wear makeup on the set (the obvious kind at least), each actress possesses a different and unique of beauty. They do not all have the same Hollywood smile, or slim physique, or long straight hair, or any of the other archetypal attributes of beauty we are bombarded with nowadays. Chapeau!

From left to right: Hurrem Sultan, Hafsa Sultan, Mahidevran Sultan, and Khadija Sultan.
From left to right: Hurrem Sultan, Hafsa Sultan, Mahidevran Sultan, and Khadija Sultan.
From left to right (top): Mihrimah Sultan, Nurbanu Sultan, and Mihronissa Sultan. (Bottom): Fatimah Sultan and Shaherezad Sultan.
From left to right (top): Mihrimah Sultan, Nurbanu Sultan, and Mihronissa Sultan.
(Bottom): Fatimah Sultan and Shaherezad Sultan.

Last but not least is the timeless love story of Sultan Suleiman and Hurrem Sultan, which is what Arab ladies swoon over…that and the incredibly handsome actors (including me tbh).

Center: Sultan Suleiman. Top to bottom (right): Prince Beyazid and Prince Mustafa. Top to bottom (left): Prince Saleem and Prince Cihangir.
Center: Sultan Suleiman.
Top to bottom (right): Prince Beyazid and Prince Mustafa.
Top to bottom (left): Prince Saleem and Prince Cihangir.
Left to right: Prince Mohammed, Bali Bey, Yehia Chalijali, and Ibrahim Pasha.
Left to right: Prince Mohammed, Bali Bey, Yehia Chalijali, and Ibrahim Pasha.

They both fought hard battles and compromised a lot of important things for their love to thrive. And don’t think that their life was all roses and poems; there came times and months went by when they would not look at each other’s faces or communicate with each other by any means. However, it was an against-all-odds kind of love but not the cheesy type. He wrote her heartwarming poems, chanting about his eternal love for her, and she did the same.

The timeless love story between Suleiman and Hurrem.
The timeless love story between Suleiman and Hurrem.

You can clearly see that their love was one of the main motives behind some of the major decisions they made. One’s existence and well-being depended on the other. She turned his life upside down and he did the same to her, in a good way. It was one of those stories that filled your heart and stomach with butterflies. Of course, they are other heart-wrenching love stories in the series that also take your heart to places faraway, but that was the major one which other stories revolved around.

The love story of Prince Mustafa and Mihronissa Sultan.
The love story of Prince Mustafa and Mihronissa Sultan.
The love story of Prince Saleem and Nurbanu Sultan.
The love story of Prince Saleem and Nurbanu Sultan.

All in all, I can honestly say that I enjoyed every second of watching that epic series. The series plays a huge role in inciting people’s curiosity about the Ottoman history and makes them more keen to read and learn more about it (Yes, I’m talking about myself here). Moreover, it made people all the more interested in paying a visit to the timeless city of Istanbul and see the magnificent palaces shown in the series such as the Topkapi Palace and the different mosques built in honor of the sultan, sultana, and princes. Consequently, we can clearly see how Turkey succeeded in utilizing a tool as powerful as drama to provoke people’s interest in its heritage and attract tourists to its amazing monuments. I recommend watching “Muhteşem Yüzyıl” for anyone who wants to take a trip down the history lane and enjoy some superb acting, a suspenseful plot, and soul-cleansing music.

Topkapi Palace.
Topkapi Palace, Istanbul.
Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul.
Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul.

– All images are hyperlinked to their original sources.