Thursday, August 23, 2012

Vacation in Turkey

So what’s a typical day in Turkey like?

First we have breakfast (this is an older picture but it’s similar, except we also had pide, a type of fatayer)

Then tea, then Turkish coffee, then we went to the bank, after which we stopped for a snack and a coffee.

Then to the city of Bursa to tour around. But first it was lunch time . . .

Now to enjoy the view . . .

. . . with tea of course.

Then my friend knew a place that had great lemonade and ice cream.

Gotta go, it’s almost dinner time!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Birthday Wishes

It’s my niece’s birthday so I always tell her a story . . .

Once upon a time, in a beautiful castle . . .

there lived a princess (and her little brother)

One day the princess looked out and saw that the people were cold and hungry as it had been a long winter. The princess decided to help them.

Then, her fairy godmother appeared.

“To make your wishes come true you need to go to the Dark Swamp and fight the ogre who guards a secret treasure”.

“Uh, whatever.”, said the princess, who had no idea what this crazy fairy was talking about. She immediately got on the phone to her legal assistant to start drafting legislation.

And mobilized social networks to gain support for her bill to subsidize food and heating oil

Knowing she would have to go to Ottawa, she researched how to best deal with politicians.

Some Members of Parliament were critical of her proposals but she made them see the merit of her ideas

When the Prime Minister held a press conference to dismiss the legislation, the princess interrupted him requesting a reasoned debate on the issues.

Then it was on to the Senate.

And with the passing of the bill the people were saved!

Then that crazy fairy godmother came back! “You little twerp! You’re supposed to do things the old fashion way!”

So the princess decided she'd had enough of her too

And gained her godmother’s fairy powers as well!

And she used them to get everything she ever wanted, which she shared with her Uncle Glen.

And they lived happily ever after!

Happy Birthday!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Eid 2012 – Holiday

I’m on vacation now in Turkey. A Turkish friend of mine invited me to his home in the city of Mudanya, on the coast of the Sea of Marmara.

It was a bit of a trip getting here. First we had to fly to Ankara, then take another flight to Istanbul, followed by a bus trip. Because it was Eid weekend the roads were jammed and what would normally take the bus 1½ hours took 4.

This morning is the first day of Eid so we had a traditional Turkish breakfast . . .

Then the day was spent either hosting friends and relatives or going to meet friends and relatives. This is standard for Turks during Eid (as it is with most Muslims). We’re currently at my friend’s house taking a break before heading out to meet his wife’s parents.

Eid Mubarak everyone.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ramadan 2012 – the Final Days

Getting that cold got me a bit behind on the work, so I had to start coming back in the evenings after Iftar just to get caught up. I'm going on vacation so had to get the outstanding stuff off my desk. Was annoying to have a few days that went: wake up, go to work, and go home and sleep, eat Iftar, go back to work.

With it being the last 10 days of Ramadan and many Muslims engaging in extra prayers in the evenings most of my Muslim friends really looked tired. One of them told me his sleep now consists of five naps that he manages to get in-between the various prayers, meals, etc. Another of my friends is now averaging 4 to 5 hours of sleep a day, stretched over 2 to 3 naps. Sounds exhausting.

So between work and most of my friends being busy with Laydat Al-Qadr prayers I haven't really been doing much this week. Thankfully my friend Murat and I both agreed to meet every evening after tarawih prayers to go for an hour-or-so walk on the Corniche for exercise. So far we’re up to 7 km a session. If I can keep the meals light I will probably lose a pound or so a week. Of course it's really hot out so by the time we finish walking we look like someone threw buckets of water on us. It'll get easier when the weather starts cooling down.

So reflecting on this Ramadan it was not as active as I planned. In the beginning I did stuff: saw the artillery shot, ate at a couple of ghabgas, saw the car display on the Corniche, iftars with friends, Garangao, but once the Olympics came on I got caught up with the Games and didn't go out as much. Getting that cold and having to put some extra hours in at work didn't help the final week.

Shame, I'm sure there was more I could have done for my 2012 Ramadan experience.

Anyway Eid approaches, and with it a vacation. I'll save the destination as a surprise for my next post.


The final Hadith of the Day

Abu Hurairah narrated that in Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: "When the month of Ramadan comes, the gates of Heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed, and the Satans are chained." (Sahih Muslim, The Book of Fasting)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ramadan 2012 – Day 22, Illness

Well I have developed a cold, which is a pain. So far it's not a very bad cold but I have a sore throat and I'm coughing a little. Now would be a good time to research fasting while being ill.

The Qur’an clearly states if you are ill don’t fast:

Observe fasts for a fixed number of days, but if any of you is ill or on a journey, the same number should be made up from other days. . . . (Surah 2:184)

The next verse also repeats what was said above.

But what exactly does it mean by "ill"? Minor sniffles? On death's door? Here's what various sources on the internet has to say:

• This [section of the Qur’an] implies that you physically are incapable of fasting on one or more days

• The Quran did not mention any specific kind of sickness and did not describe the sickness which exempts a person from the fast during Ramadan. Therefore, a person suffering from any ailment whatsoever of the stomach, side, eye, heart, etc... may apply this stipulation. The Quran contains a general statement and does not specify the severity of pain or degree of danger involved.

• One of my Qatari friends had a small headache one day so I asked him why he doesn't just break his fast and he said that you should only do it if you feel really bad and you just don't feel that you can keep up fasting because of the illness He said he can live with the headache so he kept fasting

• Internet forms generally agreed with my friend. Most commentators were of the view that you should continue to fast for mild ailments, only breaking your fast if you feel ill enough that you really shouldn't continue fasting.

So far my cold isn't too bad. I'll take a nap this afternoon and that should get me through till Iftar. If I develop a fever or it gets much worse then I will stop fasting. No point in killing myself.


Hadith of the Day

Ramadan is not the only time you can fast, there are many other fasts as well. The toughest one, which almost no one manages to follow, is the fast of the Prophet David . . .

Abdullah bin ‘Amr narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: "the best fasting with Allah is that of Dawud [David], and the best prayer with Allah is the prayer of Dawud for he used to sleep half of the night and perform prayer for one third of it and sleep the sixth of it. And he used to observe fast every second day.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Book of Fasting)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Ramadan 2012 – Day 20, the Final 10 Days

The last ten days of Ramadan are extra-special days. The belief is that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to worship more during these last ten days, even praying all night. So many Muslims dedicate more time to prayer on the last 10 days of Ramadan. If I have this right, prayer and doing good deeds at this time gives greater rewards in Heaven than at any other time. I had texted some friends last night to see what was happening and one of them responded after 11pm saying, “Praying”.

Some Muslims do a kind of 10-day spiritual retreat known as “Itikaf”. The time is spent worshiping, performing extra prayers, and reciting the Qur’an. Some Muslims practically live in the mosque for those 10 days and I've heard that some Qataris book vacation time from work to perform Itikaf. Many mosques will remain open for 24 hours a day so people can perform Itikaf.

There is also a belief that during the last 10 days of Ramadan there is a special night known as Laylat Al-Qadr. Prayers during Laylat Al-Qadr are worth 1000 months of prayer (Qur’an, sura 97:3). However it is not known ahead of time which night of the last 10 of Ramadan that Laylat Al-Qadr falls on (I am a bit confused on this point as I'm not sure how then people determine after-the-fact which night it was). This also encourages people to devote themselves to prayer on the last 10 nights, so they don't miss Laylat Al-Qadr.

Not all Muslims perform Itikaf or do extra devotions at this time. Some of my Muslim friends are, but not all.


Hadith of the Day

Of course Laylat Al-Qadr is in the Hadiths . . .

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's messenger (peace be upon him) said, "whoever establishes prayers on the night of Qadr out of sincere faith and hoping to attain a loss for words than all his past sins will be forgiven.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari, The Book of Belief)

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Ramadan 2012 – Day 19

I haven't posted for a while because there is nothing much new to report. I'm hooked on watching the Olympics so I spend a lot of my time watching the games. I have gone out for dinner with friends or played squash occasionally but nothing new that I haven't blogged about before. The Olympics is close to finishing so once that's done I get back to the usual routine.

However I did take the opportunity to finally enter “The Ballot", the lottery for tickets at next year's Wimbledon. I just want to once in my life say I was at the Wimbledon tournament. Here's hoping it works out, I would love to go to Wimbledon.

Tomorrow, ghabga at a hotel. I’ll keep everyone updated.


Hadith of the Day

This might be, in part, why Arabs don't hang up pictures of people on their walls . . .

Narrated Ibn ‘Umar: Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said, "Those who make these pictures will be punished on the Day of Resurrection and it will be said to them, ‘Make alive what you have created.’” (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Ramadan 2012 - Day 16, Olympics

In one of my earlier blog posts about Ramadan I stated that the weekends are more challenging than the weekdays because I needed ways to distract myself while fasting, something going to work did quite well. Weekends are trickier, it is too hot to go outside and if I sit around at home there's a risk I'll start raiding the fridge.

Good thing the Olympics are on as it really makes the days go by quickly. I don't normally follow any of the sports shown in the Olympics (except tennis) but when you get it all together for the Olympic Games it becomes a lot of fun to watch. By flipping channels I can go from basketball to beach volleyball to track & field to rowing and get caught up with all the drama. Speaking of distraction, did anyone else watch that Federer / Del Potro semifinal match? 4 1/2 hours! That occupied my afternoon. I didn't even feel the need to get a snack.

Watching the Olympics lets you see some once-in-a-lifetime ups and downs. I caught the tail end of the women's trampoline competition today to see a Canadian catch gold, saw Serena Williams absolutely crush Maria Sharapova, watched the US / Nigeria basketball game, and watched the Qatari ladies sprinter go down injured in her first race. Qatar did win a bronze medal in a men's shooting event and the local papers had tons of coverage. I also like seeing British athletes do well because then the crowd goes wild. It looks like London is putting on a pretty fun Olympics.

As for Canada they managed to get some early medals this time (in 2008 it wasn't until I think the 8th day that they got their first medal) which has staved off some of the usual criticism by Canadian papers of how Canada does at the Summer Olympics. Canada tends to get around 12-18 medals in the Summer Olympics and to date they have 9, no wait, 10 (won a swimming silver medal as I was typing!) so they appear to be on track.

As for tonight my Turkish friend called around 6:10pm. It turns out he had just woken up, and since he hadn't prepared anything for iftar I invited him over as I was in the middle of preparing some food. We ate and chatted for a while, mostly about the Olympics (and why Turkey hasn't won any medals yet) before he headed off to tarawih prayers.

Back to work tomorrow. (Wow, a Brit just won the women’s heptathlon around the same time as another Brit won gold in the men's long jump -- the stadium is going insane!)


Hadith of the Day

It's titled "The food of one person is sufficient for two persons" . . .

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said, "The food for two persons is sufficient for three, and the food of three persons is sufficient for four persons." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, The Book of Meals)

Friday, August 03, 2012

Ramadan 2012 – Day 15, Garangao

So why else was I at Katara that evening? Because it was also the evening of Garangao.

On the 14th night of Ramadan, it is custom for Qatari children to dress in traditional clothes and go door-to-door and receiving nuts, sweets or money from homeowners. In that respect it is similar to the Western holiday of Halloween but for Garangao children dress traditionally (no masks, no weird costumes), and there is no atmosphere of horror/macabre that surrounds Halloween. Children may also sing songs as they go from house to house, with the songs having Islamic themes, like blessings Allah will give you if you are kind to the children.

Also, Garangao is definitely for children. Unlike Halloween adults don't go dressing up in costumes and attending adult Garangao parties.

With it being the middle of summer it is dang hot out, a bit too hot to be making long journeys going door-to-door. So some places held Garangao functions for children, such as Katara. It still meant being outside but at least kids didn't have to travel too far to go door-to-door, and it was easy to either duck into some air conditioning or stand near some of the cold air blowers that Katara had set up all over the place.

Here's some pictures. Because it was so dark most of the pictures I took were blurry but even more importantly it was difficult to take photos that would not have Qatari ladies in them since they were always with their children (you should never take pictures of Qatari ladies without permission.) I figured taking pictures of the ladies handing out candies was okay because everyone seemed to be taking photos of them.

As you can see the candies and nuts are kept in sacks or wide baskets and children will typically receive a big handful, a much bigger portion than kids at Halloween get.

As things started getting busy I unfortunately had to go to attend that ghabga that I mentioned in my last post.

For more information about Garangao, and some nice pictures, here's some articles that were in the newspapers today:


Hadiths of the Day

Be kind to children . . .

Narrated ‘Aisha: a bedouin came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and said, "You (people) kiss the boys! We don't kiss them." The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "I cannot put mercy in your heart after Allah has taken it away from it." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, The Book of Good Manners)

Narrated Usama bin Zayed: Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) used to put me on one of his thighs and put Al-Hasan bin Ali on his other thigh, and then embrace us and say, "O Allah! Please be merciful to them as I am merciful to them." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, The Book of Good Manners)

Ramadan 2012 - Day 14

The night before I met up with a friend to play squash. It always amuses me that during Ramadan you meet up with people at 10 or 11 at night play sports but what can you do? There's no way to exercise during the day when you can't drink water. I don't think in the West you'd find at 11pm on a weekday the Squash Centre booked solid.

Last night I had a small Iftar then headed down to Katara and stopped by one of the galleries there that was showing an exhibition titled "Olympics through Media". It had it displays going through every Olympics since 1896 and the various developments in photography and television technology that occurred with them, as well as some displays of pamphlets, medals etc. from those games.

Overall I suppose I found it too small. Each Olympics essentially had one panel with a few paragraphs and displays of some photos or short film and a small display of memorabilia. It was interesting enough but I kind of expected more. Some of the old cameras were pretty cool but I'm not a connoisseur so I wasn't sure how rare or valuable the cameras were.

There was another reason why I was at Katara but I'll get to that in my next post.

Afterward it was off to the new St. Regis Hotel, where a company was hosting a sohour at 10pm (which really would make it more of a ghabga than a sohour but I digress).

This is why I had a small Iftar because I knew this would be a big buffet dinner. I think the hotel did a pretty good job and while there was plenty of food it didn't go over-the-top so hopefully there wasn't a lot of wastage. They also had an omelette station, which some people got a bit odd -- breakfast food at 10pm? Well, I figure for many Muslims this would be their first major meal of the day so why not? I had an omelette.

I find that my sleep schedule is getting more and more out-of-whack. The naps are getting longer which makes it harder to go to bed at night. I now find my afternoon naps going around two and half hours and then at 1am I can't sleep – I just lay in bed. This wouldn't be such a bad thing if I didn't have to get up at 6:30am to go to work! Now that it's the weekend I was able to sleep as late as I wanted to, which turned out to be 10:30am. I'll try to only have a short nap today and get my sleep schedule back on track.


Hadith of the Day

Don’t drink alcohol . . .

‘Aishah narrated: the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) was asked about Al-Bit [which I assume is some type of drink], he said: "All drinks that intoxicate are haram (unlawful to drink)." (Sahih Muslim, the Book of Drinks)

Ibn ‘Umar narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: "He who drinks liquor in the world and does not repent from it, will not drink in the next world unless he repents." (Sahih Muslim, the Book of Drinks)

Anas bin Malik reported: I was serving Abu Talhah, Abu Dujanah, Mu’adh bin Jabal, and people of Ansar with a drink prepared from ripe and unripe dates. Then somebody came to them and said: "News has come, liquor is prohibited." (On hearing that) we drained it the same day. (Sahih Muslim, the Book of Drinks)

Anas reported: the Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked about the use of liquor from which vinegar is prepared. He said: "No (it is prohibited)." (Sahih Muslim, the Book of Drinks)

Wa’il Al-Hadrami reported: Tariq bin Suwaid Al-Ju’fi asked the Prophet (peace be upon him) about liquor. He forbade its use and he expressed hatred that it should be prepared. Tariq said: "I prepare it as a medicine." The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "It is not medicine, but an ailment." (Sahih Muslim, the Book of Drinks)