Born to be Hot

Raised eyebrow. Wide eyes. Mouth slightly ajar. I guess I have this effect on people sometimes – when I make outbursts like:

I wasn’t created to live in a cold country!

Although some people go into a mini state of shock when I say that, I still stand by my words: I simply do – not – like – cold – weather. There.

I was born in Nigeria, (Yes, you DID know. Didn’t you? No? Moving on.) and although I was raised in the UK and learned to deal with the weather tantrums, living in Egypt was an absolute breath of fresh air. *sigh* No, the air wasn’t fresh, but you know what I mean. It was cool… in the ‘cool’ sort of way. Ya3ny fantastic. I loved it, and despite being veiled and having a love for cardigans (which I miraculously donned in 40 degrees without sweating!), I was in a climate I believe God created me to be in.

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Befriending Sterling

“Stop thinking in Egyptian pounds!” she shouted, “you’re in London now!”

One would have thought that at that moment when my sister said that, I would’ve  had my eyes uncovered and become aware of the fact that I was no longer standing on Egyptian sand – no chance. The fact that I was wearing a wraparound cardigan and socks indoors as opposed to playing around with the air conditioner remote control was enough of a reality check – I am in London.

It’s been hard to stop thinking of things in Egyptian pounds. Going grocery shopping and seeing £50 and then automatically gasping at the thought that ‘Oh my gosh, I just spent 500 Egyptian pounds on food!’ hasn’t been easy to shake off, especially when it’s accompanied by ‘I only ever spent 300 ginay in Cairo! Rip off!

See my point?

But then… I think of the delight of being able to purchase wild rocket, piquante peppers and Twiglets with great ease. The heart really is being pulled in different directions, but it’s getting better, and the sterling and I are becoming reacquainted, and we’re trying to be friends. Trying.

– LaYinka S. (The Londoner)

London via Cairo via London

It has been exactly a month since I’ve been back in the UK. I actually have a super long post that I wrote during the 5 hour plane journey, but after having it reviewed by a close friend, I’ve come to realise that it’s incomplete. So, until I get round to editing and adding to it, I’ll be posting a few tidbits here.

I’ll be in London for a while – a long while – and despite the fact that my heart and feet are still firmly placed in Cairo, there is no denying that England is where I’m currently at. I didn’t have a farewell party or anything like that because I believe that I will be back, God willing. Many friends in Cairo were unaware that I was leaving and many in London were unaware I was coming – I can be a little reserved like that, but also I’m not one to cause a fuss.

There are so many comparisons that I can and will be making, and I doubt this blog will die, as it has been so faithful to me in allowing me the space to be able to share a little of Cairo with others. It’s still Cairo via London, and I’m in London via Cairo via London. 🙂

I hope you’re all well – please do touch base, I’d love to hear from you.

Much love,

LaYinka S. (The Londoner)

Priceless Sort of Eid

He toddled towards me, an arm outstretched to hand me the bright yellow balloon that had been dangling from his mouth only a few seconds prior. His eyes were wide with anticipation as he watched me transform the limp deflated rubber into a round, shiny balloon. His name was Yusuf, and he and his sister lived with other young girls at a small orphanage in Nasr City.I had been briefed about the orphanage the night before the visit, and was told about how clean it was and how well looked after the kids seemed, so I’d had the chance to build a mental picture in my mind and chose to visit on ‘Eid day with friends. Was I disappointed? Absolutely… not. The flat the children lived in was clean and furnished in a practical, child-friendly manner: comfortable sofas in the front room, a large dining table for them to eat at, and a bed for each child in the bedrooms. I wasn’t impressed, more like relieved, because all too often you hear horror stories of orphans being mistreated while living in complete squalor. Thankfully this wasn’t the case for the 8 children at this orphanage.It’s easy to visit an orphanage with a face of condolence, because technically the children have lost their parents in one way or the other. I didn’t delve into trying to find out why they were there or even how long they’d been there, as that wasn’t the purpose of the visit. We decided to inflate balloons for the kids, talk to them and play with them instead.

They appreciated the fact that above all else, we saw them as children, despite them being orphans, and most of them warmed to us as we ran about the front room chasing them, throwing balloons into the air and going on a tickling rampage. I had just as much fun as they did and my thought was, It’s Eid, this is what it’s all about.

They tried to hijack my ballons, so I hijacked theirs too.

Hearing their high-pitched shrieks, and seeing their wide twinkling eyes and their bright smiles on such a special day was a joy that I would gladly pay if I had the chance, because in reality, it’s priceless.

– The Londoner

After a day of fasting…

Thirst had been quenched, hunger had been quashed and my hope was that the reward of another day of fasting had been recorded. I’d filled my stomach with dates and a shrimp sandwich washed down with Mirinda and a bottle of water, and I longed to perform the sunset prayer to also feed my soul.

Finding a mosque in Egypt has never been a difficult task, and when out and about it has always been comforting to know that there would also be a space for females to pray in, unlike some mosques in London. In Old Cairo, there’s such an array of mosques to choose from, but that evening I settled on a backstreet mosque tucked deep within the back alleys of Khan el Khalili.

The women’s section was towards the back of the small, dingy mosque, partitioned with a curtained wall, and had been a place of refuge from Cairo’s overbearing heat earlier in Ramadan when I was close to collapsing during a walk in the area. There was nothing prim or pristine about the place, yet there was something that drew me to pray there.

The last time I had been in there, I was the only person in the section, however on this occasion I walked in to find two little bodies along the back of the small space.

I became distracted and my mind was preoccupied by their story: where they lived, where their parents were, how old they were, what their names were and how they’d found themselves sleeping in the mosque. I wondered whether they’d eaten, and spotted a bottle of juice by the girl’s head.

I’ve always been a believer that there shouldn’t be any street children anywhere, that they shouldn’t have to face such a tough life at such a tender age, but the reality is that they must. Many have to do it alone, with only charity from the kind-hearted getting them through each day. Others seem fatherless as they sit with their mother and siblings on street corners, desperately hoping for people to buy a packet of pocket tissues so that they can buy something to eat for the day.

A lot of the time, they flash you an adorable smile, and you cannot help but give them the half a pound they seek, but these two cherubs reminded me that the street life is often just too exhausting for these little bodies to take.

A colleague once commented on the number of mosques there are in Cairo and asked why there are so many – the question wasn’t one that I bothered to answer. Mosques are not only places of worship for the millions of Muslims in the country, but also places of solitude and refuge for those who don’t have as much as a roof over their heads. And unfortunately, these children are from amongst them.

– The Londoner