The past two weekends have been so fulfilling. The reason why? I have been living a normal life. Really I have been living the life that I should’ve been living all along- the one most women my age are already living, but Allah wrote it to be in this way, here in Egypt. Alhamdulillah.
I made a dear friend here when I was last visiting in April. My husband teaches her daughter English, and introduced us. She and I clicked very well. When I returned here (and got over my jet lag) I started spending weekends with her, learning how to cook Egyptian dishes and talking about how to raise daughters.
A week ago Saturday I was over at her house, where I tried koshary for the first time. Koshary is probably the most famous Egyptian dish known by outsiders, but I still was very unfamiliar with what exactly it was and why it was such a big deal.
I am finding out now that spaghetti noodles are a fixture in many recipes here, besides breakfast sharayah. It’s in koshary too….
…along with two other kinds of maraconi noodles….
….and lentils. I think that finally suffices the starch requirements!
So basically, koshary is a mixture of all of the above, served with a thin tomato sauce and (in my case) a small bowl of chili sauce. I was a bit surprised at the small sauce servings, when they were being paired with massive bowls of the noodles/rice mix. I was thinking American, figuring a decent amount would be needed to properly douse everything.
But I was wrong. The thin sauce is loaded with flavor, and when it’s stirred into the starches it actually distributes itself in a deceptively effective way. And the chili sauce…let’s just say you don’t need even a full teaspoon of that! The result is a dish that is packed with flavor and beloved by locals (and thankfully for me, in my efforts to cook well for my Egyptian husband- easy to make!)
Then on Sunday, my friend and I went to visit her husband’s cousin’s wife, also a dear friend. This woman, known as “Om Shady”, has her own private hair salon in the back of her apartment. She was such a sweet woman, and brave enough to take a look at my hair which hadn’t been touched by a professional in 7 years. (The reason for that is because that is when I started being serious about hijab, and there were no salons where I was living that were private enough to go for services).
Masha Allah, she did an amazing job, and it gave me quite a new look! I am really please with her but even more, I was glad to get to know another sweet woman with a heart of gold. While we were there, she also served us dinner (koshary again, but she made hers with fried onions to mix in). While visiting, a third lady arrived named Hala who had a passion for crocheting.
It was a really lovely evening, and for the first time in many years I felt like I had a normal life again, and that feeling only deepened over this past weekend.
On Monday there was an event called “Spring Holiday”, I guess to celebrate the beginning of Spring. I was here when it was being celebrated last year, and near where I was staying was a local carnival and kids playing everywhere. It was a very festive, family-centered celebration.
This time I didn’t go out, but Shukurah and I stayed home and visited with family. My brother in law has 4 children- 2 boys and 2 girls. They all spent the night and I got a chance to get to know the young ladies one on one.
I have never been an aunt. In my previous marriages, either my siblings in law didn’t have children- or the children were too distant to be a meaningful part of their life. My own brothers and sister have no children.
So getting to know these two beautiful young ladies was the first time getting a real taste of that. The oldest likes to sing, which reminded me so much of how I was at her age. Her younger sister is a bit quieter but no less adorable. After they left Sunday evening I resolved to make sure I had a guest bedroom ready for them anytime in our own apartment here.
Now that Ramadan is a month away, the local shops are starting to sell the Ramadan lanterns en masse. I can feel everyone getting more lively now that spring has arrived and the biggest Islamic holiday will soon be here. Until Ramadan begins, I hope to share more of what life is like here “normally” so that the turned up version of it during the holidays will be that much more delicious!