April 27, 2006

Paris and La Cuisine

One of the first things that caught my eye after landing in Paris this year was the interesting behaviour in the trains of Paris, Le Metro. Parisians seem to feel very much "at home" while in the Metro. Last year I saw a girl clipping her nails in the Metro, very casually.

Anyways, from Charles de Gaulle airport we took the train to the city centre which takes roughly 20 minutes or so. I noticed a very well dressed guy, suit and tie, hair in place, even shining, sitting on a seat further back. In his hand he had this huge 2 litre juice carton. He casually opened it and started pouring it down his throat like it was a small swift bottle of water.

On the four seats opposite him, a group of young girls all dolled up to go out were sitting. One of the girls takes out a can of something. Could be paint, could be hairspray, could be anything I think to myself. She takes off the lid and places the can in her mouth and starts spraying... Cream or cheese I don't know what it was. Ah well, bon appetit.

The fish burger at McDonald's (tragic I know, it was midnight, we were hungry...), it is actually smaller than the fish burger in Sweden yet still more expensive. I could hardly find it in the little teeny weenie box it came in.

Crépes!!! One of the best things about Paris is the "on the go" street food that's available. Quiche, Sandwiches, Crépes, Croissants and Pain du chocolat etc. In particular the Crépes that can be eaten either sweet or salty. They usually cost between 1.5 Euros up to 4 Euros, on the streets that is. In Chatelet there was a Bengali Crépe maker who made the best Crépe with mozzarella, basil and tomato.

Then we have the numerous Halal (Muslim equivalent of Kosher) kebab places and restaurants, mostly in the Montmartre/Barbés area of Paris. Turks or North Africans are usually the owners although I found this little Pakistani run Pizza Place. Of course I start speaking Urdu with them which resulted in us all getting free milk tea! All the pizzas had an added Pakistani touch to them. Lots of oil and spices. That my friends, requires a whole other post on how Pakistanis convert other foods into their own food culture.

At a Chinese place in the Bastille quarters, also known for their numerous Kosher restaurants and Moroccan Sephardic Jews, I was surprised pleasantly of course, by how aware they were of the food regulations Muslims have. She pointed me directly to all the non pig related foods.

At one of my favourite Chocolate and Pastry shops, Pierre Hermé, I was about to buy 6 pieces of a pastry called Cannelé. The posh but polite man in the shop stopped me and said “non, non, il y a de Rom!” (No, no, there is Rum in it).

That made my day…

*Blogger won't for some reason upload images. Will update with some pics later.

April 26, 2006

If lights go out inside of your heart,
In darkness you loose your way to me.
If sorrow drowns you and pulls us apart,
Who’ll be the sun that evaporates the sea?

Spiritual Poetry of The Subcontinent

Urdu Poetry by Mirza Ghalib

کہتے ہیں جیتے ہیں امّید پہ لوگ
ہم کو جینے کی بھی امّید نہیں

- They say people live on hope
we have no hope even of living

نہ گلِ نغمہ ہوں نہ پردۂ ساز
میں ہوں اپنی شکست کی آواز

- I am neither the rose of melody nor the tone of an instrument
I am the sound of my own breaking

Punjabi Poetry by Bulleh Shah*

Masjid dhaa de, mandir dhaa de,
dhaa de jo kuchh dhendaa,
Par banday da dil na dhaanveen.
Rabb dilaan vich rehnda.

Demolish the masjid, tear down the temple,
destroy everything that can be destroyed,
but do not break a person’s heart.
God Himself lives within people’s hearts.

*With thanks to Koonj

April 25, 2006

No Harm

“There is no harming or returning harm for harm [in Islam].”
(Prophetic saying/tradition)
- Calligraphy work by Muhammad Zakariya. You can read about this American convert to Islam, and one of the greatest calligraphers in modern times, here.

Mawlid in London

After the cartoon controversy, like predicted, Islam is even more on the menu so to speak. Swedish television acknowledged the Mawlid (birth) of the Prophet by showing the movie "The Message" (Al risala) and dedicating the whole evening to Islam.

The Islamic month Rabi-ul-Awwal (closest thing to April), is when the Prophet pbuh was said to have been born. Across the Muslim world it is customary to somehow acknowledge that day by either increasing in worship or singing spiritual songs dedicated to the Prophet Mohammad, either privately or collectively.

Mahabba Unlimited is organizing, I believe, it's second Mawlid in honour of the Prophet in London on the 30th of April, at the Wembley Conference Centre. Tickets can be purchased online.

April 24, 2006

Lisa Chappell

The former actor and lead in the Australian drama series McLeod's Daughters has changed career paths and started singing. I am mentioning her here because you will most likely never hear about this non-mainstream singer from the land down under. Enjoy!

April 23, 2006

Happy Birthday, Shakespeare

Today, 442 years ago, William Shakespeare saw the light of this world and the world would come to see the light of his works. I cannot let this day pass without a post in honor of the playwright that inspires me the most. He left behind him 37 plays and 154 sonnets, the following being my absolute favorite:

Sonnet CXVI.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error, and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

-William Shakespeare 1564-1616

April 20, 2006

Arabic? I don't think so.

I can't get enough of the Paris Mosque. It's simply a European gem few people know of. You take the Metro to station Place Monge and from there it's a short walk. If you ever visit Paris don't miss it. They have Hammams, Turkish baths, and a restaurant worth visiting as well.

The Muslims of Paris interest me a lot. They are mainly of North African descent or from West Africa, and what's striking is how French they are. True, few of them spoke a word English and those who did, truly "zoundid lajk zis". But what's even more interesting is that their Arabic was more or less hard to understand. We couldn't communicate with each other (with few exceptions) at all unless I used my broken French and they their broken English.

What effect this must have on the people of France, and Muslims of France in general. They are more or less linguistically isolated from large parts of the world. I noticed people from the Middle East having trouble understanding the Moroccan or Tunisian Arabic.

Actually there were a lot of funny examples. In Arabic, fish is called samak. But no, the Moroccans wanted to eat hoot, which means whale in classical and mainstream Arabic! They even call small sardines hoot!

One of the girls we met at the Media Seminar I attended kept repeating a word all the time. At first I thought she was just slow on the uptake because she had asked me in Arabic once when my flight was back to Sweden, flight being in Arabic Tayyarah. I told her "7 o'clock".

So during the whole day she kept saying "tayyarah tayyarah" in the most weird times and totally out of place. So I kept telling her "It's 7 o'clock!"

She just looked at me like I was the weird one. "What are you talking about?" she asked me. "My flight of course", I replied. "I didn't ask you about your flight?" she continued. "Yeah you did, you said tayyarah."

Apparently, in Tunisian Arabic, tayyarah means excellent... (something so good that it's high up in the sky like a plane)

We were at a restaurant and a Tunisian guy says he's thirsty. Fair enough, give the guy something. So he asks in Arabic for a dabbousa. In classical and mainstream Arabic dabbousa means needle. After the tayyarah incident, I'm ready for anything. Apparently bottle in Tunisian Arabic is called dabbousa.

Last but not least... let us not forget our fellow Moroccans. In the Middle East, and among Arab Muslims in general, the expression Allah yateek el aafiyeh (May God give you health or goodness) is used a lot, either as a thank you or a well wishing good bye.

Me, I wanted to be polite of course, so I wished Aafiyeh on many of the North African participants at the seminar. In return I only got cold stares of shock.

Apparently, I wished hell fire on all of them...

April 18, 2006

Home sweet home

Greetings people! I'm finally back. Will update in a bit.

April 04, 2006

Shaykhspeara in Paris

Paris Mosque, built in the early 1920's
I am off to Paris, City of Love and Lips, and will probably not be able to write in a while. I will try to send a post if/whenever I come across a computer. "You're not going to the Sahara desert", I hear some of you say, but nevertheless... :)

The Stravinsky Fountain in Paris, outside of
the Modern Art's Museum, Centre George Pompidou

Take care fellow bloggers!


April 01, 2006

Sleep Talking

An Indian couple in the village of Falataka are having troubles with their marriage. You tell yourself, what else is new?

The husband in question had uttered the word "divorce" or Talaq three times in his sleep. According to the local Muslim
(mis)leaders of that particular village, the sleepy utterances are enough to dissolve their marriage.

Perhaps husbands in India will go to bed wearing a mouth covering from now on?...Unless of course they really wanna get divorced. If that's the case they simply have to say; "meri jaan (my dear), I didn't mean what I said but, the Molvis (imams) said that we are divorced and we have to follow what they say".

The interesting thing in this case was that the wife herself said she heard him utter the words three times in his sleep.

"Allah himself has joined us," Aftab said, according to an official at the center. "My wife may have mistakenly heard me shouting talaq. I don't remember uttering it."

Tsk Tsk, poor Aftab. Amnesia can be such a tough thing.

However Zafaryab Jilani, of the influential All India Muslim Personal Law Board, has said the pronouncement of talaq must be intentional.

Duh! Once again the Muslim (mis)leaders forgot the whole "Action is based on intention" part. My my, must have slipped their minds.