Tag Archives: Egypt

A Tale of a Drum and a Song: Exploring the Mesaharaty

Perhaps the first thing to come to your mind when you think about Ramadan is family gatherings, syrupy desserts, colorful lanterns and of course … the mesaharaty.

In this episode, I will take you on a journey to explore the history of the mesaharaty and his iconic drumbeat and special songs. But it’s not the story of a man this time, as it has always been over the past decades. Listen to my feature to know about the story of the most prominent female mesaharaty in Egypt.

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.

Chronicles Of A Writer In USA: Exposition

DAY 1:

Thursday, 7 April, 2016

It really hit me when I found myself dragging my luggage, papers and passport in hand, backpack on my back, and waving goodbye to my parents then disappearing into the airport without them. I am travelling solo (for the first time) to the United States of America (for the first time) to attend a journalism conference I was invited to (for the first time as well) and receive an award in my name (you guessed it, for the first time). Too much information to handle at once, right? Now allow me to tell you the story from the beginning.

This is how it all started.

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“Placed what and invited where?” That is what I said when I received this email.

Oh my! My audio documentary has received a second place on the category of Radio In-Depth Reporting for the Mark of Excellence Awards and I am invited to attend a journalism conference at Connecticut to receive my award, organized by the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ). This is something I would have never dreamed about. EVER. Even in my wildest dreams. But it is true and I need to do something about it.

So what about this documentary, you might ask? It was the final project for an Audio Production course at university, just one of the toughest and roughest courses I have ever taken. It used to consume all my energy, time, and ideas. I used to skip other classes and submit late assignments just to finish work for this one. Nevertheless, I got introduced to the fascinating world of radio and how captivating and powerful it is. I found a part of me behind the mic. It allowed me to talk and express myself minus the awkward social interactions and pressures, what could be better?

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Behind that mic is one of my favorite places.

I produced my audio documentary as an attempt to shed light on the sentiments of Egyptian youth after the revolution. The youth talk about their fears, aspirations, and doubts about the current state of Egypt in addition to their reminisces about the revolution. You know what? I’ll let my documentary speak for itself.

Now back to the award, my dearest professor Kim Fox was the one who encouraged me to apply and saw my work capable of competing at international competitions. When I first saw the email, I was dumbfounded. I did not know what to do. I even left it lying in my inbox for a couple of days. I emailed Professor Fox and she sent out an announcement to the entire department informing them about my award and asking them about possible funding opportunities. That was when my journey starting unfolding.

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This email was sent me less than a month before the conference date. During this very short and hectic period, I was supposed to finish my US visa requirements, apply for funding, actually acquire funding, make flight and hotel reservations, finish college work before leaving, and inform my professors about my trip and adjust my deadlines accordingly.

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Yeah, I probably looked something like this.

All these aforementioned tasks took out much effort, time, organization, and thought on my side. I wanted this opportunity so bad. It is a once-in-a-lifetime thing that cannot be missed. I am not gonna bore you with the details of how I got through all this at such a short notice, but to sum it up, I thankfully managed to get them done on time (and by on time I mean 2 days before my departure date).

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the School of Global Affairs and Public Policy (GAPP) at AUC and the Office of Undergraduate Research Fund for agreeing to graciously fund my trip.

And here I am, at the airport alone for the very first time, at 2 am sitting at the airport lounge, waiting for my departure. I was having mixed feelings about this. I was excited yet afraid. I kept thinking about all the possible negative scenarios that could happen to me while alone abroad. But then I reminded myself that mishaps are inevitable. That every trip has both its glorious and upsetting moments. And this was part of the whole experience. I also reminded myself that I am strong and savvy enough to deal with any problem that comes my way insha’Allah (and Oh I will face plenty!).

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I can and I will do it, insha’Allah.

My trip was supposedly going to be as follows: Cairo to Frankfurt to Newark to Connecticut. The trip to Frankfurt was pretty smooth. Travelling on Lufthansa was very comfortable and seamless. Frankfurt International Airport was quite huge. I had to take trains inside the airport to get to my terminal. As soon as I arrived, I asked about whether I’ll take my luggage and check it in again for my next trip. The attendant told me that since mine was a connecting flight, it will automatically be on the next trip to Newark. Good, less bags for me to carry around, I thought.

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They have quite a huge airport. Place: Frankfurt International Airport.

There was still about two hours until the next flight. So I had some coffee and a sandwich and sat there observing what was around me. It is always really interesting to watch people in airports, all gathered in one place for various different purposes. Some dread their trips because they are going to a place they’d rather not be, while others have been waiting so long for theirs. And don’t commit the mistake of thinking that people who travel alone are lonely, for you could be around people who make you feel the loneliest.

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Drinking coffee at a different country is always endearing. Place: Frankfurt International Airport. Taken by: Shaza Walid.

Honestly, I was afraid I would be stopped or questioned at the airport because of my veil. But thankfully, none of that happened, only some routine questions about the reason for my trip and accommodation and a casual check, nothing more.

Now it was time for my next flight to Newark, which would yet take eight hours! I bought myself one of those comfy travel pillows so I can sleep whenever I want to. This time, I was flying on United Airlines, which was amazing. Chairs were very comfortable and spacious, even though I booked an Economy class. The plane was not very crowded so I had an empty chair beside me to place my bags.

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Cool ride, huh?

The food was also great. And the flight attendants never left us to be hungry, giving us food and knickknacks every two hours or so. There were many Indians on the plane and it was interesting to see the flight attendants handing them vegetable dishes and fruits as snacks. How considerate of them!

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Cheese and crackers as appetizers. Taken by: Shaza Walid.
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Sorry for the blurry picture but the pasta was great. Taken by: Shaza Walid.
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This ice cream was heaven in a cup. P.S: It was dark because they had turned off the lights for people to sleep. Taken by: Shaza Walid.

Apparently, I am not the kind of person who can sleep soundly on planes. I actually sleep better in a car or a bus, a moving vehicle. Anyway, the flight was incredibly long and I was starting to get tired of flying. I had some Anthropology readings to do, in addition to The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, which was such an exquisite and eloquently written book. One of the few books that touched me to the core.

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They also had a wide variety of movies to watch. Yay! Taken by: Shaza Walid.
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This pretzel roll was everything. Or maybe this was what got me nauseous towards the end of the flight. Taken by: Shaza Walid.

Near the end of the flight, I started to get really dizzy. Because of traffic at the airport, landing took an extra hour. I usually get nauseous during landing so this delay was not to my best interest. I could really feel my stomach turning. I was afraid to throw up because I was alone. If I got tired, I would not find my beloved ones to my side. This thought was terrifying. However, I tried to distract myself by reading in my book, which to my fortunate luck, was at a part where Amir was vividly describing how he suffers from motion sickness and he knows for sure when he is going to vomit. What a timing! Moreover, I started hearing one or two people throwing up in bags because of the terrible landing. A baby to a Jewish couple also started crying nonstop the whole hour! Again, I exerted a tremendous degree of self control to prevent myself from vomiting, but I still kept the bag at hand in case I could not help it anymore. After an hour of dizziness and stomach-churning, I finally landed at the United States of America (particularly Newark Liberty International Airport).

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This is the sign I saw the minute I landed. It sent a shiver down my spine that I was actually at the States now.

Stepping foot at the United States of America felt enthralling. I was at the country that is considered one of, if not the, most powerful countries of the world. I was at the country which influences several aspects of our daily lives, restaurant chains, clothes, music, movies, series, politics, and more. I was at the country which my school and university, and thus my education, is affiliated with. It was a glorious moment, to be honest.

On a side note, it felt quite weird that I started my trip at 4 am from Cairo, a four-hour flight to Frankfurt, two-hour transit, then an eight-hour trip to Newark, and it was STILL noon. The day felt soooo long.

We stood in long lines for the passport check. No cell phone use was allowed, as you can see in the previous picture. When it was my turn, the airport personnel asked about many details that I was starting to get nervous. He asked about the reason behind my trip, where I was staying, how long I will be staying, how did I fund my trip, my parents’ occupation, and my invitation to the conference. He also asked me to take off my eyeglasses to match my visa picture. I was getting anxious and started to doubt if something was wrong with my papers. But then he gave me a warm smile and said, “Welcome to our country.” That was amazing.

I received my luggage and now it was time to take a 2-hour train to New Haven, Connecticut. Luckily, the Amtrak station was inside the airport and it was already paid as part of the flight ticket by the GAPP school. All I needed to do was print my ticket and catch my train. Boy, I was tired now. However, apparently Newark loved me so much it did not want me to take off until the evening…

Wanna know what delayed me so much? Wait for my next post to find out.

-All images are hyperlinked to their original sources, unless otherwise stated.

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…

arabic

You can read the article here on page 41

“Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”

Each and everyday, women around the world are bombarded by messages that they should look a certain way, have their hair done in a certain way, wear their makeup in a certain way and so many other criteria they have to meet. The image delivered is always a woman who is tanned, slender, zero fats in her body, voluminous hair, dazzling white teeth, wide eyes, and full lips. The focus on women’s looks and how they ought to maintain it in a specific way has become the core of numerous advertisements, social media outlets, and even personal human interactions. Since the overflow of these messages can be extremely overwhelming, women have no choice but to try their best to live up to these impossible standards. Imagine the amount of scrutiny placed on women’s outer appearance!

 

Women being bombarded with messages and labels.
Women being bombarded with messages and labels.

Let us make this matter a little bit more personal and think about it from an Egyptian perspective. Here in Egypt, there’s not much of a difference. Women are also pressured to look and dress in a certain way. Given the fact that Egypt has a patriarchal society, one can notice that the issue of how a woman looks would have an effect on the male attraction she elicits and her prospects as a bride. Yes, it is that serious. Thus, I have decided that my project will be directed at changing Egyptian women’s attitudes about beauty and how they should embrace their looks and bodies regardless of the messages they receive, which always seem to convey that they are not good enough. My target will be Egyptian upper class girls and women from the ages of 18-25. I chose them specifically because they are the ones most heavily exposed to messages dictating how to look and are more likely to try to follow the unrealistic standards to attain status and prestige. I believe social psychology is the ideal medium to approach this topic because it will allow me to understand the attitude on a deeper level, gain an insight to how it forms and what makes it persist, and give me a chance to know how exactly to address the issue and solve it.

In my project, I will focus on trying to change women’s attitudes, which are evaluations of objects, people, or ideas, and not on specific behaviors that results from the attitude. That is because behaviors that women make to try to live up to the standards they have set for themselves are varied and numerous, so it will be broad to address the matter this way. As we know, any attitude has three components. The first is the cognitive component, which is people’s beliefs about the properties of an attitude object. In this case, we can say that women do all sorts of behaviors to fulfill the image imposed on them because they think that these specific actions make them more beautiful. They perform these actions because they think it is what every woman should do as part of her beauty regimen, even though some of them may be too unrealistic.

The second is the affective component, which is people’s feelings and values towards an attitude object. In this case, women adopt these irrational beauty standards to fit in within the norms of society. They feel they will be left out if they do not think about themselves in a specific way.  They follow society’s harsh rules to maintain their self esteem and feel good about themselves when they feel they have achieved what is required of them, even if it’s not what they want to do. Affectively based attitudes can result from operant conditioning, which in this case, is how society rewards women who try to achieve these standards through admiration. Consequently, women will strive to maintain these impossible standards because they are reinforced by society.

The third is the behavioral component, which is how people react toward an attitude object. In this case, women react to the beauty standards imposed on them by working hard to acquire the image delivered to them. They do that by plastic surgeries, tons of makeup, starving themselves, doing vigorous exercise, and many other behaviors that have negative consequences on women’s health and psychological state.

Now that we know all the components that comprise women’s attitudes about their beauty and outer appearance, we must address the question of where these attitudes come from and what makes them persist despite how wrong they can be? The media is definitely the first culprit when we think about such an issue. Whenever we turn to our televisions or scroll down our social media home pages, we see advertisements and public figures endorsing a standardized image of female beauty. We rarely see an Egyptian TV anchor or an actress whose hair is curly, or has blemishes, or not skinny or white. This further strengthens the idea that for women to look beautiful, they have to tick off a check list that includes limited beauty criteria. When girls see these images projected in the media, they tend to think that this is how they should look like all the time. Sociocultural standards of feminine beauty are presented in almost all forms of popular media, barraging women with images that portray what is considered to be the “ideal body”. 

Images are not what they seem.
Images are not what they seem.

That’s when social influence comes in. Girls then are affected by these messages and think of ways to look like the women they see in the media. Furthermore, the idea of finding a proper suitor is very much a crucial step in any girl’s life in Egypt, so mothers tend to pressure their daughters to look a certain way for this very purpose. Moreover, the social comparison theory plays a huge role in this matter. When we don’t know how to evaluate ourselves in a situation, we tend to look at other people who share similar characteristics as us and compare. That’s how the distorted beauty messages prevail.

Social comparison theory.
Social comparison theory.

In addition, we can easily notice the Egyptian girls’ obsession with taking photos of everything they do and in everywhere they go, the phenomenon of Instagram and the selfies. Girls are tempted to put themselves in the spotlight more often. On the other hand, the self awareness theory will say that when people focus on themselves, they evaluate their behaviors and put them in comparison with their existing ideas. When girls focus on themselves this much, they tend to be very critical when it comes to their appearance and work extra hard to eliminate any negative attributes they detect, even ones that may be considered unique or beautiful about them.

The selfie phenomenon.
The selfie phenomenon.

As we have seen, the unrealistic beauty standards puts too much pressure on women and makes them prone to low self esteem and distorted perception about beauty so it’s high time we try to change their attitudes about themselves, prove to them that they are beautiful no matter how they look like, show them that the standards they are trying to maintain are fake. Changing such an attitude that is deeply embedded within the Egyptian society will not be something simple. I think the best way to do this is through persuasive communication, which is communication that advocates a particular side of the issue. Women should see the other side of the story. In order to make the message more effective, the central route to persuasion should be focused on. The message that corrects women’s wrong ideas about beauty should be made relevant and personalized to them, so then they are more likely to concentrate on the content of the message. Women should be provided with facts that will help them be convinced with the content of the message.

We should reassure our Egyptian women of how beautiful they are, all natural and all unique !

Egyptian women.
Egyptian women.

– All images are hyperlinked to their sources.

“La Moa’khza” Film Review.

“La Moa’khza” , which means “pardon me”, is an Egyptian expression that is used when talking about something inappropriate, a taboo, or simply as a way to wryly apologize for something. It also happens to be the name of the newly released Egyptian movie, starring the young Ahmed Dash and Kenda Aloush. It is written and directed by Amr Salama.

"La Moa'khza" Film Poster.
“La Moa’khza” Film Poster.

In a nutshell, the movie addresses the case of the Christian child Hany and his struggle to adapt in a new governmental school after he has spend all his life in an international school, having to transfer after his father passed away. Social influence can be noticed instantly throughout the movie’s plot. First, Hany feels tremendous pressure because he cannot ‘fit in’. He does not tell his classmates about his religion for fear of rejection, since they are all Muslims. He had to succumb to their different kind of culture, way of speech, dress code, and behavior codes. He constantly tries to impress his classmates even if his actions are not in accord with his beliefs or standards, one time by devising his own plane, by learning to sing “Shaa’bi” songs, by beating up the toughest kid in school and many other incidents. Even when he was home and his friends were not around, the pressure to behave similarly to them still haunted him, even with his encounters with his mother.

To Conform Or Not To Conform.
To Conform Or Not To Conform.

On the other hand, his schoolmates, who belong to a vastly different social and economic level, hold a certain construal about upper class boys. In the beginning, they perceive him as different and refuse to integrate him with them, simply because deep in their minds, they have come to believe that people from different social classes shouldn’t mix. Moreover, we can see how Hany keeps using the attribution theory when he decides to not tell his friends about his religion. He keeps telling himself that he will work on building a strong foundation with his friends first then he will let them know. He keeps apologizing to the statue of Jesus Christ and asks for his forgiveness. He used his schema because he was subjected to an ambiguous situation, which is his new school, and had to act in certain ways to be accepted in the group, which is to behave exactly like his classmates. In addition, Hany’s attempt to participate in the religious chanting competition, despite the fact that he’s Christian, exhibit his extrinsic motivation: he did not actually participate because he enjoyed Islamic religious chants; he participated because he wanted the approval and admiration of his friends.

Moreover, we see how Hany’s mother makes external attributions when she tries to know why her son has cut his hair or answers back at her. She doesn’t entirely blame her son for his actions but deduces that he behaves this way because the school, his environment, is affecting him in some way.

Christine, Hany's mother, is trying to find what's wrong with her son and help him get over his problems.
Christine, Hany’s mother, is trying to find what’s wrong with her son and help him get over his problems.

All in all, I believe that the movie was deep and insightful that one cannot simply analyse it in one post. This movie triggered many thoughts in my head. As hilarious and funny as it was, it exposed a lot of painful truths that maybe we have been oblivious to or simply negligent of. It’s a must watch!