The Jerusalem Series

Lighting candles in the Old City

The Old City of Jerusalem is always a hive of activity. As the sun gently rises over the distant hills, shopkeepers begin their commutes towards the city centre. Long days lie ahead, setting up shop in the empty streets.

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It does not take long for the crowds to appear -in their hundreds. Tourism in Jerusalem is very seansonal, depending on the events. As a holy city to three of the main monotheistic religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism – Jerusalem welcomes over 3.5 million tourists a year.

One particular afternoon three friends and I were making our way back home after a drink sage tea in the sunshine under a palm tree. It was a Friday, one of the busiest days in the week. We weaved our way through the crowded streets of Muristan, up towards Christian Quarter Road and as we turned onto the road we heard a voice call to us.

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“Hello, lovely family!” 

I have to confess that when we arrived in Jerusalem, we were instructed to avoid conversation with shopkeepers and to just continue walking. The four of us were used to ignoring this instruction.

“We are in spirit, mate” Mal replied.

“How lovely!” The friendly shopkeeper said smiling as he laid out his coloured scarves for display.

I started to smile to myself as we continued walking. When I arrived in the Old City of Jerusalem all those years ago, I was told to keep my head down and walk straight from place to place, I remember being warned that I should not talk to anyone and that I certainly shouldn’t entertain the idea of conversation.

Time passed and our friendship with this particular shopkeeper had grown. The shopkeeper and his shop became a safe haven for some of us when we were walking home. I should stress that it is very unusual to not feel safe in Jerusalem, however, if we ever felt intimidated or at risk of being followed we would calmly walk to the shop and wait there whilst the shopkeeper would send some of his relatives to investigate.

One afternoon, we discovered that the shopkeeper’s birthday was in the following week and we decided to bake him a birthday cake: this soon became quite problematic as we remembered that we did not have any oven.

So, we set to work on preparing a toffee cheesecake and to our surprise, it was a big success. After hours of searching online we found the perfect recipie.

Navigating the Old City thta busy Friday morning turned into more of a challenge than we had anticipated. We tried our best to make the occasion a surprise. As we turned off the bustling David Street onto Christian quarter road we stopped at the first shop and asked if we could borrow a lighter.

The shopkeeper looked at us quizzically and cautioned us not to smoke as it was not good for our health: we continued to explain the plan. The poor shopkeeper only seemed to be more confused by our explanation as we uncovered the cake and began to light some candles.

However much we had planned for this event to be a surprise, our shopkeeper friend had seen us coming from a distance. Unbeknown to us we had gained a following of roughly twelve shopkeepers who slowly followed behind: I am sure they were following us for a piece of cheesecake.

The best moment was seeing a smiling face emerge from the shop and stare in utter shock at the crowd of people who were singing happy birthday. Even some tourists joined in to sing with us. We sang together in Arabic and English and then we all sat down and began to eat. The street was filled with laughter, fun and of course – thousands of tourists.

I am so grateful for that one conversation with a shopkeeper in the Old City, as it led to our hilarious friendship which still exists to this day.

I understand an appreciate the caution of the organisation that I worked for, and I would advise you to walk around the Old city in groups or pairs if you have any concerns. I really do believe that the Old City of Jerusalem is safe, however I would not advise single girls to walk around the city alone at night. Please, exercise caution; there are always exceptions to every rule and although the characters in the story are lovely (and real) there will always be people who sadly wish to take advantage of others.


Jerusalem series
Travel

Wadi Rum

Jordan might be a small country, but it is filled to the brim with many breathtaking and beautiful sights. Whether you prefer the ancient ruins of the Rose City of Petra, or the hive of activity in downtown Amman, Jordan is sure to offer something to suit everyone.

If you ever find yourself fortunate enough to visit Jordan, I would recommend a visit to Wadi Rum – it is undoubtedly one of the most mesmerizing places on Earth.

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Wadi Rum  وادي رم‎  is a valley that is located roughly 60 km to the east of Jordan’s southern port city, Aqaba. Otherwise known as the Valley of the Moon, Wadi Rum is currently the largest valley in Jordan.

Since prehistoric times, many cultures have inhabited Wadi Rum such as the Nabataeans who left their mark in the form of rock paintings, graffiti, and temples. The West of Wadi Rum is most known for its connection with British officer T. E. Lawrence, who passed through several times during the Arab Revolt of 1917–1918. In the 1980’s one of the rock formations in Wadi Rum, was renamed “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom,” after Lawrence’s book written in the aftermath of the First World War.

 “The hills on the right grew taller and sharper, a fair counterpart of the other side which straightened itself to one massive rampart of redness. They drew together until only two miles divided them: and then, towering gradually till their parallel parapets must have been a thousand feet above us, ran forward in an avenue for miles.”  – T.E Lawrence (Seven Pillars)

If you wish to loose yourself and escape the world of phone calls, text messages and life’s demands then take a trip to one of the many Bedouin camps. The hospitality that you will experience undoubtedly will be second to none!

My Recommendations: 

I would recommend that you travel to Wadi Rum with close friends or family, it is such a beautiful place to make memories.

Be prepared to ask questions about the Bedouin lifestyle and culture, your visit will be the perfect opportunity to learn more and listen to some fascinating stories.

You really should book a guided tour of the vast dessert and explore some of the most amazing sites and hidden secrets that the valley has to offer.

Sneak away from your friends and family and take a few moments to sit under the stars, I am sure that you will find it a breathtaking experience. I enjoy sitting and listening to the echoes of the valley or watching the sunset whilst listening to a good playlist.

If you are able to, try to stay in Wadi Rum for more than one night, it truly is a beautiful place to escape to.

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اللغة العربية

لماذا اخترت دراسة اللغة العربية

 

قبل ٤ سنوات قررت أن أدرس اللغات في الجامعة وفي رأيي هدأ القرار كان واحد من أهم القرارات في حياتي

في العام ٢٠١٢ سافرت إلى القدس من أجل أن أكون متطوعة في منظمة كبيرة في البلدية القديمة القدس

عندما وصلت إلى القدس ما عرفت كلمة في اللغة العربية. كل يوم عندما عملت في المنطمة سمعت كل الموظفيين تحدثوا معاً في اللغة العربية واردت ان افهم كل ما قالوا. قلت لاصدقائي انني أردت ان أدرس العربية وهم قالولي سيساعدوني. هدا كان الطريق التي بدأت أن أدرس اللغة العربية

بعد أَن انتهيت من العمل التطوعي في القدس خططت ان أَدرس اللغة الانجليزية في جامعة بانغور في شمال ويلز ولكن عندما بدأَت دراسة اللغة العربية وقعت في الحب مع هذه اللغة وثقافتها

مديري في القدس سألني اذا كان يمكنني ان ابقى في القدس من اجل ان اكون سكرتيرته. هو قال اذا بقيت في القدس المنظمة سيدفعون لي لدراسة اللغة العربية في كلية هند الحسيني في الشيخ جراح في شرق القدس. قررت ان ابقى في القدس لسنة اخرى

من ثم ادركت انني لا ارغب للدراسة اللغة الانجليزية في الجامعة. بدات لبحث عن درجات في اللغات من الشرق الاوسط

وجدت دورة في اللغات من الشرث الاوسط في جامعة مانشستر وقررت ان ادرس اللغة العربية واللغة العبرية مع بعض

الآن انا اعتقد أَنَّ كل شيء يحدث لسبب


Languages

Guest Posts, Uplifting and Encouraging

Release

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This is a poem that reflects the courage that one may need to step out, let go of old things and embrace new beginnings; it is dedicated to anyone who is on the verge of change. 

The child stood alone for a time,
Balloons in hand,
And quietness flooded the place,

Could she dare to let them go?
Blue, Yellow, Green.
Would she ever see them again?
Where would they go?

When would they arrive?
What adventures would they have on their way?
She could not know,
She would never know!

She only knew that the time they had spent together
had come to an end. 
With trembling hand, she raised up the first,
be blessed wherever you go!
So, gently was the string let loose
a gust of wind and it was gone. Forever.

The second seemed easier, a flash of yellow,
blurred by the sun.
Then it too was gone.
Drifting lazily along and up

With confidence now, the last balloon was raised,
and, with a small pause of reflection
and a thoughtful stare, 
it too was caught up by the breeze.
And its final course was set.

Still, she stood there, time being still,
contemplating,
remembering,
then, at last, she turned – and there they were,
the new balloons
orange, red and purple.
How beautiful they looked!
Waiting and bobbing in the breeze,
waiting just for her!

Slowly, she reached out
and took hold of the strings,
stepping forward
she let them move in the breeze,
ever so carefully, not letting them go.
Then, moving faster, she let them bob behind her
as she ran down the hill, 
into what the new day would bring.

 

The Amman Series

Tracks and Tantrums – Amman Train Station

I’m feeling a little reminiscent today, so I decided to write about a sweet moment that happened during the time that I lived in Amman, the capital city of Jordan.

It was a lovely hot Wednesday in May. I was set to leave Jordan within the following two weeks so I wanted to make the most of every remaining moment.

In true creative style, I searched the Internet to find their list of places to visit in Amman – I wanted to make sure that I had visited as many sites as possible!

As I was looking, I found the Amman train station and Hijaz Railway line.

I absolutely loved learning about the Hijaz Railway and the life of Lawrence of Arabia whilst at university, so I did not need much convincing – I ran out immediately to get a taxi.

It sounds so simple, right?

The first step was to prove to the taxi driver that the railway station actually existed. He seemed very concerned that we would get lost and that I would be dissapointed. He was finally convinced to start the journey when I showed him a YouTube video of the station from over ten years ago!
After a long detour of Amman and quite a jolly conversation with the friendly taxi driver, I arrived outside two large iron gates.

I walked through the gateway and I was greeted by a guard; I spoke to him in arabic and could not help but notice the puzzled expression on his face.

The guard’s puzzled expression only continued to grow when I started to talk about my interest in the Hijaz railway. I began to wonder if I was in the right place.
After just under one minute I found myself booked in for a free VIP guided tour of the compound. My guide Musa was lovely and took it upon himself to explain everything in Arabic, as I apparently needed to work on my pronunciation.

“If you are studying Arabic in Jordan then I will not let you speak a word of English!”

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I followed him into a little room filled with old faded documents. There were train tickets, timetables, and route plans.
Musa was faithful in explaining every detail.

I can’t describe how it felt to hold different faded, brown tickets from the late 1800s between my fingers. The room was filled to the brim with information, pictures, articles and even an old suit that a conductor would have worn in the early 1900s. As you can imagine, I stayed in that room for a while.

After some time Musa looked at me in quite a curious manner and asked me if I was hungry.
Before I could answer I was ushered into a room of over fifteen men. There were train drivers, policemen, mechanics and even a cleaner or two. I stuck out like a sore thumb!

I was invited to sit in quite literally the center of the room and as I did I became fully aware of the unusual nature of this situation.
I was questioned for a while about everything, after all it is not every day that a strange visitor joins the staff for their lunch hour.

The questioning lasted for just over half an hour and I became so aware of everyone’s kindness and generosity.

Within a short time we were fully engaged in a lovely conversation that covered quite a lot of subjects. We spoke about marriage and about Islam. We spoke about career choices and the Arabic Language. I had already explained to them that I was a languages student; after some discussion they advised me to begin a Masters degree in engineering – I did not have the heart to tell them how terrible my science qualifications were, so I continued to smile awkwardly.

At one point, I found myself giving a grammar lesson under the request of two train drivers. A few members of staff were taking notes on scraps of paper.
When lunch drew to a close, I was invited to meet each of the train drivers in person. Each one gave me a firm handshake and a warm welcome. I was allowed to explore the various carriages and stand in the train driver’s spot – the whole experience was fascinating!

One of the sweetest memories from the day was hearing my name called from a distance, I could only just hear it over the booming engine sounds.

“Goodbye Sarah, study hard for your exams!” a train driver called as the big steam train was pulling out of Amman.

Everyone began to return to work and I also knew that I had to leave.

After saying goodbye to each and every member of staff, I walked outside to call a taxi.

It took thirty miniutes for a taxi to arrive, but somehow it all seemed worth it. I was tired but the day had been so wonderful!
For the final twenty minuites of my outing, I was serenaded home by a very angry taxi driver who was arguing with his son in law over the phone.
By the tone of the driver’s voice, it was very obvious that the driver wanted to curse and swear. However, due to the circumstances, he opted for a slightly more tame approach.
” ibn sarsoora” he screamed at the top of his voice, which translates to “son of a cockroach”.

As we arrived outside my apartment, the taxi driver turned around and apologized to me for shouting. We spoke for a few minutes and he ended our encounter by adding his welcome to those of the thousands of other taxi drivers that I had met along the way.

“Welcome to Jordan and enjoy your time here!”

I don’t think that I shall ever forget the day that I chose to journey to the train station in Amman! If you ever find yourself staying in Amman, I would certainly recommend that you pay the train station a visit.


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The Jerusalem Series

The secrets of the wise

Click here, to read more of the Jerusalem series.

Her heart is for the visitor, the traveler, the new mother and the newlywed. To the world, she is a normal woman, however, I know her secret!

She truly is a special character in her own right. One of a kind. Traditional yet open-minded, thoughtful and deliberate, she has the renowned reputation of welcoming many guests to her home. A conversation with her is guaranteed to be filled with laughter, humor and great wisdom. I have never met someone so willing to share what she has.

The last time that we spoke, she mentioned how happy she felt as she entertained both friends and family. At the time, sixteen of us were gathered in two small rooms.

“I am grateful for all that I have received, so why should I not return the blessing?” she said to me.

“If you can ever do anything Sarah, you must show people, true love, remind them of their own worth in any way that you can!”

These words have stayed with me for quite a time. After all, they are powerful words, spoken by a woman who has known much suffering and pain, spoken by a woman who has had no choice but to be brave and journey through each challenge courageously.

Not many people know of her story and even fewer people know of her life.

Before the night fades and the sun begins to rise in the indigo sky and before the Fajr prayers echo between the city streets – she awakes and begins to prepare breakfast.

No two days are the same, and there is no telling who will come to visit and who will come to stay.

As she glances into the mirror whilst fixing her red, long wavy hair, a lifetime flashes before her eyes. Her lifetime. Her legacy. She remembers the stories: the pain, the challenges, the passion, and survival. As she sweeps her hair behind her ears, she glances over and views the several pictures of her family hung on the wall: her daughters, her sons, her pride and her joy.

The thudding sound of the rusty courtyard door awakes her from her reflection. The cleaner is arriving, humming softly upon entry carrying fresh produce from Baab Al – Amud (the Damascus Gate.) She greets the cleaner and welcomes her.

Click, the Fairuz tape begins to rattle in the player – and the cleaner begins to work and sing. Her strong voice echos throughout the house and out into the courtyard:

خدني ولا تخدني الفرح عالطريق حبك بيحصدني وماعندك رفيق

“Take me, joy is on the way, my love for you consumes me and you don’t have a companion”

And so she works – the meals, the visitors, the preparations for her family. Hours fly by and there is still more to be done. She joins in the cleaning, the sweeping.

After a while, the first neighbor arrives dressed in a suit and shiny black shoes that he has just polished. He is an Eritrean; he works late at night in the city center. Unfortunately, he does not own a television, so every Tuesday he comes to watch the latest news played on the Eritrean channel. He adjusts the channels and she starts to prepare the tea.

Colorful pictures flash before the unlikely pair.

“This is my city, my country. We have hotels there, people can visit..”

A myriad of colors floods the screen. As she listens to the music, she imagines what it would be like to wander through her friend’s distant-sounding homeland.

The kettle begins to sound indicating that the tea is finally ready.

They converse in broken Hebrew and Arabic whilst she pours the steaming tea into two tall clear glasses.

The flickering television continues to reveal the secrets and gems of Eritrea.

The neighbor leaves just before One o’clock, and she continues cleaning. After eating a little food, the maid prepares herself to leave, fixing her hijab across her face. Their eyes meet and they exchange a soft glance of warmth.

“See you tomorrow, Insha’allah”

As the day progresses her family begin to arrive. They come with their friends, their daughters, their sons. Within minutes the house is an array of different languages – Hebrew, Arabic, and some broken English – yes, all are loved here. ALL ARE WELCOMED HERE.

Some of the family stay for a few minutes, some stay for hours.

It’s 7:30pm and I walk up the stairs, three neighbors sit gathered around her. Those gathered smile and laugh together with her, she looks so radiant, so poised.

“Ahlan Sarah, habibti”

The neighbors shuffle to create some room and a chair is pulled up. We talk together in the courtyard whilst sipping our hot Arabic coffee. As my eye wanders, I see a white flower falling from the plant growing on the wall. Jasmine. It sways in the wind, slowly and softly falling in front of her, landing perfectly on her knees. When she sees it she smiles. She clasps the sweet flower in her hand and smells it with closed eyes. As her eyes open she looks at me, with a smile. Grasping the flower, she slowly places it into the corner of my hair. Her eyes are sparkling and she is beaming.

A wise woman once told me she was grateful and how she wanted to repay that blessing by loving others. A wise woman once told me to remind others of their worth. A wise woman once told me to love others unconditionally. The same wise woman has never once seemed unfulfilled. I have never once caught her on a quest to find herself, her identity or her calling – she is already aware of all three. I have learned her secret – counting our blessings does not guarantee us an easy life, however, it does give us the strength to find fulfillment in a world that does not revolve around ourselves. After all, to live is to love.

“If you can ever do anything ________, you must show people, true love, remind them of their own worth in any way that you can!”

البياض نصف الحسن بيت الظالم خراب ولكن بيت المحسن عمار

The house of a tyrant is a ruin but if you are charitable you are rich.



Jerusalem series

The Jerusalem Series

ما هو الصديق الأكبر من الأخ؟

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“إذا كان بإمكانك الحصول على شئ إضافي واحد في حياتك، فما الذي سيكون لديك؟”

أجابت: “أتمنى أن يكون لدي أخ

كيف يمكنني أن أعرف أنه سيتم الرد على طلبي؟

كان صباح يناير مشمسا عندما توجهنا إلى مدينة جديدة للمرة الأولى

احببة ان اتعرف على مدينة جديدة وقد دعتني صديقتي إلى بيتها وكنت ممتنة الفرصة لمشاهدة مدينة لاول مرة

التقينا جميعا في المدينة وذهبنا لتناول وجبتنا الأولى معا. جربنا أيضا أيس كريم محلى شهير مصنوع من قصب السكر

وفي وقت قصير أصبحنا أصدقاء رغم أنني لم أتكلم بالعربية ويتكلموا القليل من اللغة الإنكليزية

لقد عدت إلى منزلهم عدة مرات لأكل المقلوبة اللذيذة أو أشرب القهوة على الشرفة أثناء مشاهدة غروب الشمس الذهبي فوق تلال القرى المجاورة

في غضون ذلك أصبحت أختهم وأصبحوا اخواني

وكثيرا ما نجلس معا، ونضحك معا ونرقص معا أحيانا

غالبا ما ندرس معا، وسيكون هناك العديد من الكتب العربية والإنجليزية والرياضيات والعلوم المنتشرة على الطاولة

عندما أنا عدت إلى إنكلترا لم يتوقف التعلم – هو تلقى فقط يبدأ

كل بضعة أيام هم أرسلوا صور لواجبهم المنزلي وسألوا أسئلة عن قواعد اللغة الإنجليزية والمفردات الإنجليزية

أجبت على أسئلتهم بإرسال رسالة صوتية عندما كنت أمشي إلى الجامعة

في المقابل،انا أيضا رسلت لهم صورا لواجبي المنزلي وسألتهم أسئلة، أنهم أجبوا عليها فورا

من الصعب أن نعتقد أن سبع سنوات قد انقضت

لقد كانت السنوات السبع جميلة وأنا فخورة جدا بإخوني

بدأ بدر عامه الثالث في الجامعة، وهو مشيد جدا بمهارات إنكليزية استثنائية وهو في طريقه لتحقيق أشياء عظيمة. كشاب موهوب، ماهر ومتحفز، أنا متأكد من أن بدر ستصل إلى مرتفعات الأوساط الأكاديمية

وتخرج اياد من المدرسة الثانوية وسيبدأ دراسته الجامعية في غضون أسابيع. لقد عمل بجد وهو مثال رئيسي على المرونة والتصميم. إن مهاراته في مجال الأعمال استثنائية ولا يمكنني الانتظار لمشاهدة ثمار عمله الشاق

هادي هو مستكشف بطبيعته ولا يزال أمامه سنوات قليلة قبل أن يكمل امتحاناته. لذلك ليس هناك سوى وقت لطبيعته الفضولية والفورية أن تنمو. ويتعلم هادي من خلال تجربته ولا يفتقد أبدا فرصة لتحدي قدراته

أنا فخورة لأن لدي هؤلاء الإخوان في حياتي

انا ممتنة لرحلات التسوق، وليالي السينما، وسباقات بوليوود، والرحلات، والمكالمة على الهاتف

ناهيك عن مساعدتهم ودعمهم المستمر في دراستي وتأييدهم لكتابتي

لقد كان من الجميل مشاهدة كيف يمكن أن تؤدي اللطف وحسن الضيافة البسيطة إلى صداقات أقوى من الكلمات

لقد كنت متهورا لأشهد استعدادهم الكبير لمساعدة ودعم أخت لتحقيق أحلامها

إخواني, انا آمل أن أساعدكم بنفس الطريقة التي ساعدتوني بها على مدى السنوات السبع الماضية

أنتم خاصتان بالنسبة لي وسأعتز بمحادثاتنا وذكرياتنا إلى الأبد

الصدّيق يحب في كل وقت. اما الاخ فللشدة يولد

A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.


Jerusalem series