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The Tumultuous Months of 2011

I know I haven’t posted anything since November, but thankfully, I’m still alive and in some ways I’m also thankful that I’m still in London. My beloved Cairo has changed so much since I left (is that a complete coincidence? :)) and I have no idea if I’ll return, but I wrote the following piece on 31 December 2011 and wanted to share it with you all here. It’s a little more personal than you might be used to, but it’s from me and about my journey in 2011. Enjoy. ~ LY.

P.S. I’ve split the post into several pages for ease of reading, so to read more, click the next page number.

Once upon a time, in a tale that held no fairies at all and in a world that is as real as the air you suck into your lungs, there was a young lady. For the sake of this story, we’ll call her LaYinka Sanni, because it’s quite a pretty name.

One night – let’s say on the 31st December 2011 – LaYinka sat to think back on the year and all that was dished out to her. For each month of 2011, she was able to mention an event that either helped to mould her, challenge her, shake her, enrage her, soothe her, console her, restrict her or free her. Each month had its own tale to tell, and in this story LaYinka recants them to you. Sit comfortably because LaYinka likes to talk, and it’ll be a long one!

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Unplugged

Unplug and disconnect – two verbs that refer to precisely what I had to do when reading about the current events in Tahrir Square; when it became all too much to bear. The fact of the matter is that I cry easily – my heart is easily stirred and my eyes involuntarily hit a switch where tears pour forth. I have no control over this whatsoever, and wiping away tears with my cardigan sleeves has been a recurrent action this week, and it reached a point where I thought, Khalas – bas keda! Enough.

It’s horrifying watching the news, seeing barbaric violence and total disregard for the sanctity of human life. This is not a case of drawing lots on religious or political leanings, it’s about the values that we hold as people – as humans.

I was present during the 25th January revolution, was evacuated and returned, and at every instance I knew that it was only the beginning of a bigger struggle. I will not get into the politics of Egypt for two main reasons:

1) I’m not an Egyptian, I didn’t live as an Egyptian under Mubarak’s regime and frankly I don’t know what it was like.

2) Whatever I say makes absolutely no difference to the lives of the people living through the revolution’s aftermath.

However, I will say that a true revolution takes more than presidential/ parliamentary/ military change – change begins at home, and thus there is the missing element: the revolution of the self.

And just as the fog that’s been hanging over the skies of London finally lifted today, I pray that the fog of sense is lifted from the eyes of SCAF, as well as the fog of deception to be lifted from the short-sighted who cannot see what the revolution should really be about.

Praying for peace, progress and security,

LaYinka S. (The Londoner)

Let’s Ride

Smooth hazelnut with a splash of vanilla – beneath me I could feel her strength and the direction in which she pricked her ears told me when I had wronged her.

She took me, yet I remained in control; I guided despite her being in the lead. I moved to her rhythm until we were comfortable to dance in time to the same beat.

Free.

In the great expanse of golden grains and rocks; amongst the load men of old had placed one upon the other; within the vicinity of the chambers of men who thought they’d never die, we ran and laughed with the winds competing against us in the opposite direction.

In a moment of stillness we touched, the melted chocolate of her gaze swirled within the darkness of mine and a tear fell. My apology had hastened itself despite me not releasing it from the entrapment of my throat. I placed a hand on her head, gently pushing aside the strands that had fallen between her eyes and rested lazily along the length of her nose.

She told me of how she’d been whipped, made to perform above the ability God had bestowed upon her, and kicked when her underbelly was plump with the swelling of a new life-form. She once resisted against me, thinking we were all the same: takers who gave nothing in return. But I stroked her, whispered to her, and refused to use the lash.

Standing unshaded in an expanse of nothingness, I professed my love for her, and she said for the final time, ‘Come, my love, hold my reins – let’s ride’.

– The Londoner

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Surviving Cairo

I recently received a message asking about safety in Egypt, how it was settling in as a woman and how I dealt with living in Cairo. The answer requires several blog posts, but I sent the following reply instead. This could be the start of a ‘Surviving Cairo’ series (sounds like it would need its own blog, actually, but let’s scrap that idea for now!).

I understand the concerns of your family regarding Cairo’s safety, as it isn’t in the most stable political position at the moment, and recent happenings are a cause for concern. However, I generally believe Cairo to be safe, and I honestly wouldn’t be here if this wasn’t the case (especially since my employer would have all British nationals evacuated as we were during the revolution!).

Having said that, I have what I believe to be the advantage of being a woman of colour and a wearer of a headscarf, and thus my experiences might be somewhat different from someone who is openly viewed as being foreign. People usually can’t work me out because I dress as a Muslim woman, I’m black (like a Sudanese or even Nubian would be) and thus do not get hassled or bothered… and people make the mistake of speaking Arabic to me as though I would understand! This is all until I open my mouth and English spills forth; I am more of an amalgamation than some can handle, so I stick to the ‘From Nigeria’, response when asked where I’m from – London is not believable!

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Past the Glass…

Today I had a session of people-watching in Starbucks in City Stars, one of Cairo’s largest malls – a westerner’s dream… or nightmare when the hiked prices slaps one’s face!

After some retail therapy in H&M (they had a sale on; the African in me couldn’t let that slide!) and flicking through books in Shorouk Bookstore, there was no better reward than a vanilla-laced mocha after so much work. *grin*

I loved sitting in their comfy armchair, sipping on my creamy hot beverage with my mind simmering with thoughts of nothing in particular as my eyes scanned people as they idly strolled past the glass…

… a Sudenese couple, arms interlocked in a knot of romance (say “ahhh!”), the woman tall and slender with thick black henna patterns stained on the sole of her feet that were slipped into high thin-heeled sandals that I would never have dared to attempt to walk in. They are married – this couple – her hennaed feet a sure sign that she was not available.

… a niqabi, elegantly adorned with her face covering, and a shield of black from head to toe. Despite only being able to see her eyes and her hands, beauty radiated from her and her measured steps alongside who I presumed to be her husband – a man who had a light patch of hair on his chin – not quite a beard, but not a goatee either. My guess is that he was Indonesian or possibly Malay; his distinct eyes gave it away.

… a group of what I call ‘rich kids’, who have parents who have more money than they know how to dispose of. Kids all kitted in gear that cost no less than 100LE a garment; carefree as they giggle, skip past and constantly tap away on their Blackberries.

City Stars dictates the sort of people I’d see there today; the vast majority of Cairo’s inhabitants can’t afford the luxury of purchasing goods from such ‘high-end’ stores, and it’s certainly not somewhere they’d choose to splash their cash. Yet, as I reached the sad end of my mocha, I wondered if – despite the money that can buy almost everything their heart desires materially – whether any of the people I saw today are truly happy.

– The Londoner