Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bassem Sabry

Asalamu Alaykom,

From God we come and to God we return.

Yes, it's another person dying.  People never actually stop dying.  They are ALWAYS dying; we just don't know all their different names.  I know the name of Bassem Sabry and I want you to know him too.

You can read his blog, "An Arab Citizen."

You can read his tweets here.

I knew him from Twitter.  We had a friendly on-line communication from the very first week I joined.  He was welcoming from the start.  We tended to find the same things funny or meaningful.

He would take these breaks from Twitter.  I missed him.  I missed him because I don't really have friends here.  If he was gone too long, I'd check on him.  I would always welcome him back.  He became a kind of a friend.  He called us, "post-modern friends."  I was OK with that.

It wasn't that we were in constant communication; it was that I knew he would be there.  It's been hard to live in Egypt and not to have a network of people I can connect with on any meaningful level.  Bassem Sabry helped me to feel not so alone in an increasingly strange place.

I think I helped him too.

Louisa Loveluck@leloveluck
Interested to know which blogs people visit most for #Egyptcoverage. Thoughts appreciated. - 25 Oct
More Tweets
@leloveluck Twitter is for daily jolts of news. Blogs are for synthesizing WTH is going on. I read @Sarahcarr @Zeinobia@Bassem_Sabry - 25 Oct
Bassem Sabry باسم@Bassem_Sabry
@AfterHardship thanks Yosra :) means the world to me
12:46 PM - 25 Oct 13

When I read that I wondered if he was pulling my leg.  Was he being sincere?  I wrote an email.

Fri, Oct 25, 2013 at 3:47 PM

Asalamu Alaykom,

That was an honest "meant the world" comment?  I'm not good at reading snide so I'm taking it at face value.

If so, then that's cool.

I'm being honest.  I know that Sand Monkey gets a lot of readership but he's too slanted in his views.  I like that you are still searching for answers.  I am too.  I'm not exactly sure what's going on in Egypt.  I think that the people who say they do know are either lying (at least to themselves) or are delusional.  

Keep believing that your voice matters.  It does.  

Sometimes I worry that this country's events take too much of a toll on you.  Don't let them do that.  

My Best,


He wrote back.

Sat, Oct 26, 2013 at 6:23 AM

I'm fully honest with this. It did mean the world. Can't stress that enough ya Yosra.

I am honestly searching for answers. But I'm also searching for questions. When learning about writing years ago, I learned about Socrates who believed that a well asked question is a sublime art form and alone represents most of the path towards an answer. And the fact is: Egypt is confusing as hell, both morally and intellectually.

Other than that: Mahmoud provides an interesting angle much of the time for sure.

Definitely this all takes a toll. For two and a half years one - as are others - has been at the heart of all of this life and death, ups and downs, democracy and autocracy, success and failure, humans soaring and others sinking. It does break our souls eventually. But sometimes all such a soul needs is the honest gentle worried inquiry by a good person like yourself, and I'm grateful for that.

Thanks for letting me know I still matter :) I needed that push in the midst of this madness. Stay strong, sane, humane, and wonderful.


Yes, B., you still matter.  Even after your sad death, you matter.  Didn't you know that?

I'm not the only one who cares.

Time Magazine cares.

Al-Jazeera cares.

Mashable cares.

Huffington Post cares.

Dear Readers, I want you to care.  I want you to take a moment in prayer to ask for God to forgive Bassem Sabry his faults, to reward him for his good works and to grant him Paradise.

I hesitated to write this next part; in fact, I waited a couple of days.  Why?  It sounds a little too contrived.  If I were to write a story and think up some symbolism to add, I would probably add this.  The funny thing is, that I didn't.  I didn't have to make it up because it happened.

When I turned on Twitter this Wednesday and saw Betsy Heil's announcement about Bassem, I went into a kind of shock.  For some reason, I thought that maybe I didn't really know his name.  Maybe I needed to double-check my emails from him to know for sure that, "Sabry," was his last name.  It was a ridiculous thing to do but it was my last effort at keeping the truth at bay.

Upon seeing his name and confirming without a doubt that he had passed, I realized that the only thing I needed was prayer.  In a bit of a muddle, I got up from my desk and that's when my husband walked in the door.  He asked me what was wrong and I stammered that a man I knew on Twitter had died.

I made wudu and got myself into the darkness of the bedroom with our prayer rug in front of me.  I needed to focus on feeling connected to Allah; to accept the will of Allah.  With each movement, I did my best to submit to what had happened but the tears came.  It was when I was in sujud that I heard the crash.

Something had fallen and shattered.  My husband was in the kitchen and he had broken a glass.  I knew there was only one thing it could possibly be but I pushed it from my mind so I could re-focus.  I needed to pray.  

My mother says that there is a very real psychological shift when glass breaks.  It has happened to me before.  I have felt that moment before when the crash of glass has snapped me into a new mindset.  I felt that in my prayer.  I felt that I must be very careful with my thoughts and not let them run away from me.

I also felt how symbolic the moment had been.  For three years, my husband had used only one glass mug for his tea and he's been unerringly careful with it.  Emblazoned on the mug were the Egyptian flag and January 25, 2011.  Originally, it meant a lot to him.  Later, it made him feel let down.  Either way, both the mug and the Revolution were his.  

Bassem Sabry had done so much to push Egypt forward beyond January 25.  Many of his tributes called him, "optimistic," but I think of him as more of a realist.  Things simply had to get better... but then they didn't.

At the exact moment I was praying for the soul of one of Egypt's most devoted sons, who fell to his death, our home's only symbol of the Revolution fell and broke.  It didn't fall onto the ground, oddly enough.  My husband told me later that it fell into the garbage.  More symbolism?

It is so fitting that it happened.  Subhanallah.  Allah is the best of planners and gives signs all the time to those who believe.  Alhumdulillah for everything.  Alhumdulillah.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

You Could Be Egyptian

Asalamu Alaykom,

Take this simple test to determine if you actually are Egyptian and just didn't know it.

1.  You are a man in the middle of the street in Cairo.  What are
     you doing?

   a.  Crossing the street
   b.  Talking to your friends
   c.  Smoking a cigarette
   d.  Texting
   e.  b, c, and d

The correct answer is:  e.  b, c, and d

You are in the middle of the street talking, smoking a cigarette and texting.

However, if you are a woman in Cairo, it is entirely possible the answer is a. Crossing the street

...while balancing a package on your head.

2.  You are a woman in Egypt and your toddler falls down the marble steps.  What do you do?

   a.  Loudly blame the preschooler playing with him
   b.  Tell the child, "Malish" it's no problem
   c.  Hold the child in your arms and rub the bump
  d.  Put ice on the bump
  e.  All of the above

The correct answer is:  e.  All of the above

After your toddler falls down the marble steps, you loudly blame the preschooler playing with him, then tell the injured child, "Malish," while holding the child in your arms and rubbing the bump, and afterwards put ice on the bump.  To be thoroughly Egyptian, try doing all four within the first minute and then repeat as if on loop.

3.  The lights go out in Egypt.  What do you do?

   a.  Sit where you are motionless.
   b.  Make tea on the gas canister by the light of your mobile phone.
   c.  Use a battery-powered flashlight or lamp
   d.  Blame the former government
   e.  b and d

  The correct answer is e.  b and d

When the lights go out in Egypt, you make tea by the light of your mobile and blame the former government.

4.  You are a woman in Egypt.  Both you and your friend are going to have upcoming weddings.  How do you plan accordingly?

   a.  Discuss calendar dates together.
   b.  Let the fiances discuss calendar dates together.
   c.  Pull calendar dates out of a hat.
   d.  Let the other woman choose.
   e.  Have the wedding together and choreograph a dance routine for the guests.

  The correct answer is e.  Have the wedding together and choreograph a dance routine for the guests.

Do not attempt this in America.  While the dance moves are not difficult, the mere act of putting together two brides at the same celebration has been known to be deadly.

5.  You are a woman giving an interview on the street about Egypt's current state of affairs.  Whom do you blame? 

   a.  Nasser
   b.  Mubarak
   c.  Morsi
   d.  Sisi
   e.  Obama's mouse

The answer is  e.  Obama's mouse.

6.  You are giving a man giving an interview on the street.  How do you end 
your camera time?

   a.  Ask for donations to your favorite charity.
   b. Give a shout out to your family and friends.
   c.  Smile and wave.
   d.  Spit.
   e.  Jump on a bus.

Watch for the correct answer.

Yes, the answer was e.  To end your interview time, you jump on a bus.

This quiz has now ended.  How many letter e.  did you answer?  The more you answered with e. the more chance you have of actually being Egyptian---and just not knowing it.

Let me know if you have other question ideas.  I'm sure there are a few!