I am having the time of my life. Egypt has re-awoken my senses and confronted me with whole new worlds. Fellow members of the Convoy are experiencing similar feelings. Some of them tell me of their journey to the Masjid of Sayyidina Hussein in Cairo last night. They report on the Masjid being nestled in souks, the serenity within the Masjid, the tomb that is said to contain this great martyr’s head, the shoe keepers who demand a fee and the polluted water that is flowing nearby.
This morning they have also been quick to capitilze on our close proximity to the pyramids. The set off on horseback trying to conquer this wonder of the ancient world. They describe the horses as quite famished and one gets into quite a fit when describing how the owner lashed out at one of the animals. Their pictures show the pyramids like huge mountains on close-up. Yet they were meant to represent nothing other than tombs.
The young sparks are however looking at the pyramids through a different prism.They constantly refer to the oppression of Firaun and his illusions of grandeur. Inevitably, talk of Moosa AS is not far away. Could these young idealists be the Moosa’s to the Pharoahs of today, soemone asks?
After Iftaar, Moulana Igsaan is having an informal chat on social conditions in Egypt. He talks about half finished buildings in Cairo and deadly sandstorms that regularly engulf the city. He then moves on to discussing marriage customs in Egyptian scoiety and says that the Mahr barrier is quite high, with the parents of the prospective wife being the main beneficiaries. Divorce rates in Egypt are much lower than in South Africa, mostly due to the stigma associated with widows. He even recalls an encounter he once had whilst living at a friends place in Egypt. Out of the blue, he heard the anguished cries of a wife being beated. Stirred up, he asked his friend to intervene whereupon his friend warned him to go nowhere near or else risk facing the collective wrath of BOTH wife and husband!
I conduct an comprehensive interview with Moulana Igsaan for Cii and other media. Moulana takes time to reflect on the significance of the 22 August in the history of Masjidul Aqsa and shares all the latest the community needs to know about the convoy. After the interview, I tap into his vast ocean of knowledge on Palestine and hear him reveal unique insights on when the actual drive towards the Muslim conquest of Al Aqsa began. He traces it back to the Meraj and says that many major battles in Muslim history such as Tabuk, Mutaa etc. were all geared towards the objective of liberating al Quds.
We discuss rose water that is being prepared in Lebanon for the ceremonial washing of Masjidul Aqsa on its liberation and the mimbar that was hand crafted to replace the destroyed mimbar of Salahudeen al Ayyubi. He also shares with me news that a researcher has completely mapped out the route that Umar RA took to get from Madinah to al Quds and this is planned to be promoted as an educational tour.
I don’t dock my boat yet for the night. Together with two other crew members we decide to sip some coffee on the Nile. Getting there is the tough part. Streets are gridlocked most badly and only the option of a longer detour gets us there faster. We choose an open air eatery on the Nile and soak up the breeze whistling through the reeds. The true glory of the Nile however, I believe, can only become apparent with the start of a new day.
I have my first encounter with Turkish coffee and soon discover why fellow traveller Mohammed Sadeka deposited the last inch of the contents of his cup straight from his mouth into the Nile. ‘There’s sand in here,” I remember him cursing.
Our bill according to the menu should tally up to approximately 50 Pounds. Yet, when the physical bill arrives its exactly three times the price. Any explanation for the discrepancy? Certainly! Theres the menu charge for reading the menu and the entrance fee too for choosing to sit on the premises! Well, thanks for letting us know that you see us tourists as walking moneybags.
A faith boosting discussion we have on the banks of this river however, will forever remain with me. Whilst discussing the narrative of how Umar RA wrote a letter to the Nile ordering it to stop flowing if a pagan sacrifice was the cause of its flow but continue on its course, if the Almighty was the power behind it, Sadeka tell us about a similar story shared to him by a Saudi Jamaat. According to him, they were on the bowels of the Baltic sea, when a vicious storm hit and no amount of devotions was seeming to help. In fact, sometimes it appeared as if the storm was getting even worse as they made Ibadah. It was at this stage that the Ameer tppk a banana peel that was nearby and folllowing the Sunnah of Umar RA, etched a message to the Baltic sea on it asking it to calm down if they were sincere in their mission. True enough, the sea settled down soon enough. A powerful testimony of faith in both instances.
A mistake hearing the driver say the street we’re driving on is called KingFisher Street. In fact it is King Faisal Street and traversing though its narrow pathway takes us exactly one and a half hours to navigate. Theres no alternate route this time but there are incredible scenes along the way-huge piles of dirt in the island separating the lanes, children driving tuc-tucs and vespas, completely supservient donkeys dragging carts, neatly packed fruit stalls and trucks carrying really heavy loads of rocks. I was simply in awe at the Sabr displayed by my taxi driver who never flinched, cursed or showed any signs of agitation whatsoever in these 90 unending minutes.
Back at the hotel, we met up with a large contingent that had arrived from Lusaka and Johannesburg respectively thereby completing our group. We also somewhat naughtily start an initiative called the Hit List which tracks down fellow travellers who have been overcharged by taxi drivers and shop keepers. There is the brother who tipped a taxi driver so handsomely, that the taxi driver began heaping him with praise and almost kissing him, much to the disdain of the angry group. There was also the participant who paid a taxi driver 100 US Dollars instead of the required 100 Egyptian Pounds-a more than 5 fold difference.
Performing Qiyamul Layl this serene evening, the Surah that comes to my lips is Surah Taha and as the Almighty tells the story of Moosa AS, I begin to realise how much of this incredible story had taken place on the very land I am walking on.