It took me five hours to reach Heathrow airport from Cairo. We landed safely. I finished my papers to enter so easily. The only thing that kept me in the airport for a while was my bag. This is the fun part, really. I could not find my bag on the baggage reclaim, waiting about fifteen minutes after everybody left, but nothing came up.
I got irritated as a taxi was waiting for me and it was quite late. I went to the help desk and reported it, they asked me what the bag looked like, to which I gave the silly answer, “A bag with a pink ribbon. Check on my pink ribbon, please.” After a few seconds, about three officers were searching for “the pink ribbon bag.” And there t was, on the track hiding behind a giant bag that concealed the pink ribbon from my view. The officers were very kind staying until I was sure to find my “pinky sign.”
Ugh, I have to take a bus??
Being late, I missed the taxi, which seemed bad at that moment, but it turned out to be a good thing later. This gave me a chance to try the bus. I stepped up onto the famous red English bus, one of the passengers voluntarily helping me get my bag in the vehicle. Everything went just fine. People were very calm, either reading or gazing outside the bus windows. The day was sunny, which comforted me so much.
On the way to hotel, we passed by famous touristic sites: Natural Historical Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, Trafalgar Square, London Eye, Big Ben, and I saw many faces: English, Arabs, Asians, and Chinese, women in modern fashion styles, others in hijab, and a few in niqab. All were walking in a systematic way, as if the day gets a set agenda that everybody knows. Life seemed smooth.
I felt I belonged to the “smooth stream of life”, so I took my camera and took some pictures. At this moment, I forgot about being stranger, I forgot about the seat belt! So the way was open for the beauty of the world to truly enter my eyes.
Reaching the hotel, I settled my things, and started to review my week. I had gotten a plan in advance, as I came to London to participate in the Islam Awareness Week, an intercultural program arranged by the British Embassy in Egypt. The program aims at getting two worlds to meet. I mean, it aims at helping Middle Eastern journalists to visit places in the UK, meeting with people from different walks of life, journalists, officials, religious experts, to be aware of the West and the Islamic discourse in general.
To sum it up, I think people working on this program got it a long time ago: all what is absolutely needed is awareness. And to be honest and direct, what is happening now to me is getting awareness in its best state. I am in the middle of everything, my eyes opened to the reality of things. So far, and after two days of meetings with Muslims and government officials, with people in the streets, regardless what their religions and nationalities are, I can say that knowing and living the thing is totally different from hearing about it from a distance.
I do not mean to be too positive and a fake sort of way. Of course there are life problems that everybody faces, Muslims and non-Muslims together; of course life sometimes seems tough, but this is life, it should be so.
What I am aiming for is discovering, without any presumptions. Being a Muslim first, a woman second, Easterner third, media worker fourth – I am here in London investigating the Muslim identity from a close position, with a clear mind, open heart, alert mood, and without being under any impression of any bad news I ever heard or theory I once read about.
It is a chance for me to release the tension, to hold a blank piece of paper, writing down my observations.
This is what we, as Muslims, in my view, need to do. To re-read the life we have been given, to question the challenges, and to stand for the positive example, as we are the part of the whole thing, like it or not. In this case, we have to take the responsibility to know things and not to take them for granted.
I am still lost in London, barely know how to go to Chinatown to get snacks, and barely familiar with the tube system. But more or less, I am not afraid to walk down the street, asking for directions, discovering the road I should walk. No worries! The belt is fastened anyways 🙂
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* This blog post is from the archive of AboutIslam.net