Halaal food around the world

bread

When the bro and I travelled around Europe a few years ago, halaal food was not easy to find.

Maybe we didn’t do enough research beforehand, so we sometimes munched down on kabob or other non-local food, often from shops owned by immigrant Egyptians or Pakistanis.

Or we snacked on coffee shop tidbits.

Luckily, in London, we had a very sweet cousin who sent us off on our daily adventures fully stocked with home-made snacks.

It’s kinda sad not to be able to taste all the local food, but I guess we just have to focus on the people, the sites and the experiences, since halaal food is not always available when you’re not travelling around a Muslim country. I at least seek out the local teas, coffees and juices, to get a little taste of local fare.

coffee heart

Even when there are options available, like the myriad interesting halaal places in South Africa, foreigners may not even know they exist.

Too late for me for now, but hopefully this list will help me on future travels : if you’re off on a European adventure, here’s a list of halaal places to eat at in 10 European cities, an article by Muslim Travel Girl.

Enjoy, I hope it’s useful.

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This webbed life

How much time do you spend updating your social media accounts, curating content, grooming your online persona, choosing the perfect filter? How much time do you spend reading other people’s feeds, ogling their pics, lusting over their lives?

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Every once in a while I try to convince myself to get back online, to be a part of the conversation and make some digital footprints, but I always end up moving my Facebook app off the first page of my phone, trying to hide it away so that I don’t mindlessly click into the bright blue “F”. Because generally I will end up wallowing in misery when I see a post about the suffering in Syria, or some other latest tragedy.

Or, more uselessly, I will fall into the rabbit hole of catching up with what’s been happening with people I don’t see or make an effort to contact in real life.

I’m not sure what the point is.

And then, I keep coming back to this idea that I heard and that always pops into my head when I see competitions, or adverts or any other spammy type of thing on social media: if it’s free, then you are the product.

Why would someone try to give you something online? Often it seems to be straightforward advertising but it’s interesting how email addresses are now so highly prized.

People are not allowed, legally, to spam you without your consent. If you decide to unsubscribe from some newsletter, they cannot keep sending you their stuff. People can’t sell their email lists, their client databases. So now, to legitimately create a user list, websites often offer you something in exchange for your email address. They won’t just give you the secret to eternal youth, or the recipe for that perfect brownie. No, they make you type in your email address and then they mail it to you.

If it’s free, then I am the product.

Then I realise. I am not just consuming stuff online. The web is also consuming me.

Out from under my rock

SONY DSC

The best conversations for me are the ones that feel like they have no beginning and no end, you just start off from somewhere and end up at the next-where but there’s no hello, how-do-you-do… and no real endings or goodbye, just short interludes of real life and then picking back up right where you left off or somewhere completely else.

It’s been a while, but now I have adventures in baby-raising that may or may not make it into the discussion, and the world seems to be topsy-turvy as usual, with politics around the globe acting crazy, making me wonder how truth can be so much stranger than fiction all the time. We have that idiot Trump, our own local dilemmas with our dud President, Turkey going through an almost-coup, and racism all over the place going out of control.

It feels like a time to hide under a rock and wait for it to all blow over, but that’s probably not the  best approach. Firstly, things don’t seem to be blowing over, just escalating all the time.  And secondly, maybe we can contribute to the positivity and the sanity of the world. Do something sane and good today. Or just don’t add to all the chaos if you can. The world needs you 😉

Stocking up in Ramadan

Date photo

It’s almost upon us, that serene and blissful time of year… the month of Ramadan is just a few days away.

A public service announcement first – remember to check where your dates come from – be wary of eating kajoor coming from Israeli date farms, who sneakily use deceptive words to hide the origin of their products – I received a watsapp message warning me of dates with the label “Product of the West Bank” – this can be misleading, because the dates either come from Palestinians or Israelis.

That watsapp message urges us to look further, to check whether dates are packaged on illegal date farms in Israel in the Jordan Valley, where Palestinians are made to work under terrible conditions.  I wish it were easy to support Palestinian goods, but we have to ensure that Israelis aren’t selling us stuff under false pretenses, hoping to make us think we are supporting Palestinians when in fact Israel is profiting. Maybe buy local, or from a Muslim.

The whole BDS thing is complicated, who knows where things come from, who gets harmed in the process and who benefits? And while we may boycott one brand or one store, others may be lurking, and we have no idea that they are also supporting Israel. I guess we have to do the best that we can with the knowledge that we have.

Apart from du’a, I’ll try to avoid as many Israel-benefiting stores as I can…I just wish I knew where to buy good thermal underwear 😦

Anyways, we’re supposed to be ready, stocking up our freezers and getting stuff organised so that we can survive the month. But apart from food, and the ironic overeating that happens in a month meant for abstinence, we should also have been stocking up our spiritual bank accounts and flexing those religious muscles, building them up for this cool month.

From Rajab, our attempts to better ourselves should be amped up, getting us ready to sprint through Ramadan with ease. For those of us who have been lax, and who are wondering where the time has gone…for those of us in a mad dash to make those first few samoosas…fear not – if we haven’t made the most of the time leading up to Ramadan, we can at least commit ourselves to making the most of the month when it comes.

After all, Ramadan is the season to stockpile your religious freezer, filling up on all things blessed, creating good habits to see us through the rest of the year. While we empty our freezers of food during the month, let’s try to fill our insides with goodness to keep us full for the whole year.

Headscarves and hijab

Scarves Istanbul

The annual World Hijab Day fanfare came and went and I barely noticed this time.  I guess if you’re not checking Twitter or Instagram, these things tend to pass you by.

I’m not yet sure what I really think about World Hijab Day, and the need to create events around solidarity and decreasing Islamophobia.  Should our actions and conduct speak louder than words and clothing?  Plus the concept of hijab is meant to be more than just a headscarf and more than just about physical covering, so there must be a deeper way to address and think about issues of Islam and its projection to the outside world.

Read this interesting article by Aaisha Dadi Patel in the Daily Vox: Muslim women, you don’t need to be validated by World Hijab Day.

She argues that the label “hijab” creates the binary of “good muslim/bad muslim” and that the focus on Hijab alone reduces the religion to a symbolic headscarf.

She ends saying “You don’t address a problem by dressing up. If you are an ally to a struggle, figure out a way to use your privilege to advocate for that struggle instead of making a mockery of it.”

What do you think?

 

Payback for the past

Like a lot of people, I do think our President is a dud.  It makes me sad that I really think he’s an idiot. If I just disagreed with his policies and didn’t think he was incompetent and a scoundrel, it might be easier to handle.

But that’s not the point of my rant today.  Even though JZee is corrupt and has been milking the system at the expense of taxpayers, what is really irking me today is this meme I saw recently.  Everyone keeps calling for JZee to “pay back the money”, some 20 million spent on his personal home in Nkandla.  But this image has stuck with me – the white lady smiling with glee because Zuma said that he is finally going to pay back the money.  “And you’re wondering when they’re paying back the land.”

Land

We can criticise our government all we want but the inequities of the past were never properly righted, and even though forgiveness may have averted a civil war, there is still the question of those countless people who benefited from apartheid, made loads of money, gained tons of advantages, stole all the land, and never had to pay back any of it.  They get to keep that.

Damn colonialism and apartheid, and this mess that we are left with.

And then another cartoon that irks me because it’s true, about reverse racism…

Racism

 

I wanna be just like mom

Do we all think that our moms can do everything, or is it just me? Mine can cook, bake, sew, paint, knit, move heavy furniture, laugh till the tears roll, work a full-time or a part-time job, raise kids, make a home, get two completely different degrees, wash a car and do her own taxes.  That’s just the start of it.  She also professes to have eyes in the back of her head, and is so convincing that some young boys believe her.

How did one person learn to do all of these things in the space of half a lifetime, while I can barely sew on a button and have trouble using a rolling pin, not to mention my aversion for invoices and organisation?

I guess we can all just try to live up to our mothers, and hope that some day we can do half the things they do with such ease.  I am not grateful enough most of the time, but when I stop to think about it, my mom is really a superwoman and my life would be quite a shambles without her periodic spring cleaning, food-dropping-off, kitchen-explaining antics.

It’s weird to be so different from a mother who is an extrovert and loves to be around people, when all I ever want to do is sit in a corner with my book or a pillow.  I was trying to explain to mom the other day about introverts and extroverts.  I used to think that introverts were just shy people and extroverts were just rambunctious and outgoing.  Turns out, that’s not accurate.

An introvert is actually just someone who gets their energy from solitude and quiet time.  An extrovert recharges by being around other people.  So while a group of people drains me of all energy and good humour, that is the perfect setting for mom to sparkle with energy and happiness.  No matter what my intentions, I don’t like visiting people, or going out in large groups.  I’d rather have tea with one or two close friends, or just sit on the couch with my sister as we rant at the reality tv stars that flood the media.

How do we find a balance in a family mixed with both introverts and extroverts?  That’s something I’m still trying to figure out.  I’m sure mom already has the answer though.

Tipping irritations

Change

Why do we need to tip?  It’s always been an irritation and was put into words in the movie Reservoir Dogs where Steve Buscemi’s character says that he does not tip.

He says he doesn’t believe in it and “if she don’t make enough money she can quit. … I don’t tip because society says I have to. All right, I mean I’ll tip if someone really deserves a tipping, if they really put forth the effort, I’ll give them something extra, but I mean this tipping automatically, it’s for the birds. I mean as far as I’m concerned they’re just doing their job. … She was okay. She wasn’t anything special. … Look I ordered coffee all right? Now we’ve been here a long … time, she’s only filled my cup three times. When I order coffee I want it filled six times …  They make minimum wage. I used to work minimum wage and when I did I wasn’t lucky enough to have a job that society deemed tip worthy. … You know what this is? It’s the world’s smallest violin playing just for the waitresses. … So is working at McDonald’s but you don’t feel the need to tip them do you? Well why not? They’re serving you food. But no, society says don’t tip these guys over here, but tip these guys over here….” etc

That’s part of my point.  If restaurants paid their staff properly and didn’t expect the customers (who are already paying for the food) to make up the shortfall, we wouldn’t need to tip.  Why must we pay the staff salary?

And that makes it difficult for the waitors and waitresses too, who don’t have a steady income and rely on unreliable tips.  But then, when they see university students or other kids coming in, do they give poor service because they know it’s unlikely that they’ll get a decent tip?

Can we save that money and give it to the poor or other people who don’t have jobs and aren’t supposed to be getting a salary?

Some restaurants are presumptuous enough to add the tip on to the bill – sometimes you may not even notice it and may give a tip on top of that.  Seems like shady hidden costs.

This irks me.  Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? I do always tip, but in my heart I always do it grudgingly.

Do you guys tip, and do you do it willingly?

This generation isn’t so apathetic after all

Hashtag

After the tumult of all of the #MustFall issues last year, it’s becoming obvious that people are fed up and that youngsters are starting to wake up and get active (does using the word “youngsters” make me old??)

University students in South Africa recently protested across the country, under the hashtag #FeesMustFall.

The poor quality of education afforded to black students has left a lasting legacy.  Students now at university trying to make their way through the system are plagued by the fact that their parents had very few opportunities and are often unable to help financially, and competition for bursaries are stiff.

Many bursaries assist previously disadvantaged people, but if over 70% of the population can be classified as previously disadvantaged, this means that only the best of the best black students have a shot at financial assistance.  But white students, and also privileged Indian students and others, with assistance from their families, their inherited privilege or easier access to other forms of funding, need not reach these academic highs to get a degree.

We can be mediocre if our dads pay for our education, but not if we rely on bursaries (plus many students also have to work a part-time job to cover the cost of rent and food etc).

Lamenting the apathy of the youth post-apartheid, it seems that each generation just needs to find its own struggle.  Seen as obsessed with social media and inward looking, this 2015 group of students managed to unite, mobilising around the #FeesMustFall slogan and rising up to fight for a cause they could finally identify with.

Being “born free” we are not only free of the apartheid government and its racist laws, but also unshackled from the blind faith and loyalty that our elders seem to have for the ruling party, who are seen as the liberators by many who lived through the struggle against Apartheid.

The surprisingly uncaring attitude that our democratic government took was pathetic.  It was only when the movement became a big enough threat and the elders started feeling scared that the issues were partially addressed.

The hashtag #FeesMustFall became so ubiquitous that one clueless opponent actually filed court papers to have the hashtag interdicted.  How can you try to take a hashtag to court?

Many political parties tried to hijack the movement, but were rebutted by students who couldn’t care less which political party you come from.

Students united across different universities and also against the employment policies for staff at universities.  Workers (like the cleaners) at many universities stood in solidarity with students, while students took up the cause of outsourced workers (who have less protections and benefits than they would have if they were treated as employees).

But this is not just a story about South African students.  Why are US students, who supposedly grew up in a different world to South Africans, protesting these same issues?  These are not just third world problems.

Black students in the USA were protesting against racism too, but unlike in South Africa, they are not the majority.  The USA has been non-racial for not much longer than South Africa.  The civil rights movement of the 1960s may have succeeded in creating formal equality, but people are still prejudiced.

The three issues of racism, fees and outsourcing of university workers, issues that were protested against by South African students, are the same issues that were being taken up by students in the USA barely a month later.  It seems that our majority still lives like a minority, facing the issues that minorities in other countries face even though they should have more power.

When your father was a garden boy, and his father a garden boy, how can you expect to compete with the sons of the CEOs of big corporations, even 20 years later when everything is supposedly rosy?

The legacy of apartheid has not yet been overcome.  Just this past week there’s been more reports of clueless racists talking about “monkeys” on the beach.  Life sometimes seems too ridiculous to believe.

Matric results are out – the usual good news that is a little suspicious.  Like the Daily Vox says, “the battle for education starts long before University.

Expecting to reverse the history of…forever (or at least since the first day white people stepped foot on South African land, so many decades ago) is ambitious.  It will probably take a few more generations to overcome.  Let’s not trash affirmative action etc yet…I’m excited to see what the youth will do in 2016.  But also scared to see what other crap will emerge from lame racists all over the internet and elsewhere.

Beginnings…

Baby clothesline

New year, new life.

2014 was filled with weddings, and 2015 was kinda dry, but 2016 is set to be the year of the baby with 7 new ones coming to our family!

Trying to be a good “sacred vessel”, I did a search online and found some good advice in an article by Seekers Hub on duaas and surahs to read during pregnancy.

Briefly, Surah Luqman for the 1st trimester – it deals with advice to children, and Luqman (AS) was also very wise.  This is probably why this surah is recommended for when the baby’s brain is developing.  Next up, when the baby’s facial features are forming, Surah Yusuf for the second trimester.  Lastly, Surah Maryam for the last trimester, as labour approaches. It is also recommended that Surah Inshiqaq be read daily throughout pregnancy, plus Ya Lateef 129 times morning and evening.

Also, think happy thoughts, listen to good sounds, read a lot of Durood and Qur’aan and eat melon for a beautiful baby.  That’s the bare minimum that I’ll try to stick to.

There’s so much other advice out there about good and bad and everything in between, I guess just do what you can to stay cool and happy.  Something I found worth a smile was that someone recommended just looking at a picture of the Kaabah when you are too tired to be actively engaged in Ibaadat 🙂