Eid, and my personal celebration

luscious dates and sunflowers - what more could a woman want?

Ramadan and fasting is over, and now there are three days of Eid (Arabic for festivity). Siwa is a happy place, its eternal sand tones brightened and sparkling with clusters of young girls dressed in their elaborate, jewel coloured, lace lavished dresses and the men in new white robes and pants, topped with embellished waistcoats. Families and friends gathering and celebrating together, and this little patch of green in the desert feels at peace, despite the conflicts in the wider world. I have some troubles in my life, but I also have so much still to be thankful and happy for.

Tomorrow is my birthday. I have been here for just over nine months, and in many ways I am very different person to the one I was last birthday. Of course that sounds like a cliché as everyone changes daily, but I truly have grown far more than I ever anticipated, in ways I can’t begin to explain on the blog.

As writing remains my comfort, my inspiration, and my ongoing education hand in hand with my daily life, I want to share a poem which a dear friend in Australia reminded me of recently. Cavafy’s strong connection with Egypt (of Greek parentage, he was born, died, and lived some of his life in Alexandria) has always made this a special poem for me, and now it has new resonance.

As Cavafy hoped for his readers and life travellers, the road I have taken has already been “long,
full of adventures, full of knowledge”. Siwa, Egypt and the people I have met and grown to know and love here have forced me “not to hurry the voyage” and through my change of life here I “have understood what Ithacas mean”.

ITHACA

When you set sail for Ithaca,
wish for the road to be long,
full of adventures, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
an angry Poseidon — do not fear.
You will never find such on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, and your spirit
and body are touched by a fine emotion.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
a savage Poseidon you will not encounter,
if you do not carry them within your spirit,
if your spirit does not place them before you.
Wish for the road to be long.
Many the summer mornings to be which with
pleasure, with joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase the fine goods,
nacre and coral, amber and ebony,
and exquisite perfumes of all sorts,
the most delicate fragances you can find,
to many Egyptian cities you must go,
to learn and learn from the cultivated.
Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your final destination.But do not hurry the voyage at all.

It is better for it to last many years,
and when old to rest in the island,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaca to offer you wealth.
Ithaca has given you the beautiful journey.
Without her you would not have set out on the road.
Nothing more has she got to give you.
And if you find her threadbare, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1911)

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