Fajr at the nearby Abdul Rahmaan Masjid is the best conceivable start to the day. The Imam is visually impaired but his emotive Quranic recitation grips me immediately. Rivers of tears flow profusely too, when he makes a most amazing dua. I undertake to perform most Salaahs here and to record a few recitals if possible.
Not sure if this would qualify for our hitlist, but it all started with a simple request to a taxi driver to take me to an electric show to buy an adapter. He took us to the closest row of shops, but it was too early to find anything worthwhile and thus we returned. Another taxi driver pounced on me and promised results, this time with a $40 price tag. I was desparate and thus obliged.
Ismail was a most genial host. Great command of the English language and with thick guest books on the dashboard of his car replete with compliments from satisfied customers. The man is clearly popular among European tourists. He takes us on a safari indeed, but his full comprehension of our questions makes the experience worthwhile. For instance, he reveals that the great number of incomplete buildings across Cairo stem from landowners putting up the structures with no prior permission and thus having their construction stalled prematurely. When asked about a statue we notice in a public square, he instantly chirps out that it is of Nagiub Mahfouz, a “man who was awarded the Nobel Prize from Europe for flattery!”
His connections are solid and we manage to get the wire we require. But en route home, he is more concerned about another connection. Yet again, a marriage related discussion rears its head and Ismail, almost against logic, beleives that I would make the perfect spouse for a young Egyptian girl whose religious family he knows well. I don’t want to know anything about it, but despite my impassioned protestations and spurred on my my companion Ziad, he seems to make a call to the girls mother. The girls mother says it is a bit of a short notice, but after Taraweeh wouldn’t at all be a problem. I breathe a sigh of relief knowing the immediate threat is allayed. But Ismail will still remain persistent, claiming a bit later to have received a call back from the girls mother inviting us and requesting to know exactly when in the evening we would be coming.
Fortunately Zuhr time is upon us and we luckily find ourselves very close to old Cairo and the historic Masjid of the Conquerer of Egypt, Sayyidina Amr Ibnul Aas. An imposing structure with historical character, I somehow feel Masjidul Aqsa will look similar to this Masjid. It is great to know that a member of the Africa 1 Convoy is visiting Africa(s) #1 Masjid. Itikaaf inside is in full swing and the bathrooms are also clogged with Mu’takifs hoping to take a shower.
2 hours later and with my cable plus a Ziyarat and a marriage proposal in hand, Ismail drops us off back at the hotel. He however invites us over for Iftaar tonight. We don’t want to dissapoint him. On the menu….grilled duck!
Before that we attend a major meeting of Convoy members. Since the different teams have been travelling independently of each other, this is the first time the entire convoy is assembled in one place. Moulana Igsaan Hendriks pays special tribute to the members of the land Convoy who have not seen comfort for 3 weeks now. He goes on to tell some incredible stories of how individuals went the extra mile to propel this Convoy. His most telling words for the afternoon are that the choice of Convoy team members is ultimately by Divine selection and “we are a family put together by the Will of Allah.”
30 minutes prior to Maghrib, Ismail arrives and takes us home to a block of flats 5 minutes away. It does appear quite dinghy like much of the surroundings, but the door is wide open for us. We are hosted by his widowed sister who has in addition to the duck prepared a rice dish called fetash. Whilst we wait for Azaan, the pictures on the wall prompt Ismail to reveal more about his personal circumstances. He used to work in reservations for Lufthansa in Germany, which explains his good knowledge of German as well. However, the passing on of his wife led him to give up his job and return home to look after his children. His sister is also widowed and he has dedicated himself to catering for all her needs. In addition, he lost his mother on the 8th Ramadan this year and this had left him with a huge vacuum to fill. He tells us that part of his Eid this year will involve going to the graveyard to pray for her.
Many skinny cats run hurriedly around the house whilst a Quranic recital is played on the huge radio in the lounge. For probably over a century, the radio has occupied a privelaged position in Egyptian homes and still today it is as pervasive as ever. Masaajid and homes switch to the feed of the Quran Kareem Channel prior to Iftar and Suhoor and break and start their fasts based on its cues.
The meal is lovely and the duck is very juicy- something to quack about! At the time of Maghrib, Ismail discovers that I am a Hafizul Quraan. I lead the Salaah and from then on, the nature of discussion changes. He talks of his spiritual trials and tribulations and asks me to recite even more Quran. It can only be considered an honour I am totally unworthy of, when an Egyptian from a country with such a rich Quranic heritage requests to listen to the Quran from you.
Ismail has another plan. He would like to host a mass Iftaar for poor people at the Masjid he built tomorrow with a menu of rice and camel meat. But he would also like me to lead the Maghrib Salaah and recite over the microphone. I am dumfounded.
I head off for the Masjid and am again privelaged to be in the congreation of the blind Imam who today recites in Taraweeh from Surah Zumar. After performing some Rakaats, it is announced that the balance would be completed at 2am tomorrow.
Back at my hotel room as I type the last words of this journal entry, I hear a knock on the door from Junaid-one of the youngest brothers on the Convoy. He tells me that he too has been to MAsjid Amr ibnul Aas today-but for Taraweeh. He has managed to perform Taraweeh Salaah in the first Saff of the crowded Masjid and to put the cherry on the cake the Imaam for Witr was the legendary Sheikh Mohammed Jibril.
Light upon Light. Allah has truly Blessed us all to be part of this noble Convoy