الاثنين، أبريل 20، 2009

I Remember Shamu

I Remember Sham El Nessim

I remember that my mother would wake me up with the Strong Smell of an Onion, freshly cut in half! She would place the freshly cut onion near my nose ... so I would breathe in the smell and of course wake up ! Sometimes, it was my uncle who did it. My uncle usually would usually wake up quite late. But not on Shamu. He would come up early in the morning on that day, perform the "onion fright" ritual and then we would all go out.

I suspect that this tradition she inherited from her mother and my grandmother, Aziza, from fayoum, from her mother and so on ... I think this symbolized a process of driving "evil" spirits away with the strong smell ...In a way, it is a sobering moment ... the strong smell sobers you up and you realize many things about life.

The food itself symbolized life, prosperity and death ... The eggs - colored with so many natural colors - we usually used herbs or tea leaves or onion peel to dye the eggsAn egg represents life ... or the PROMISE of life ... did colored eggs represent the diversity of lives each of us would lead? We loved coloring the eggs, the boiled eggs of course. Sometimes when there is a crack in the egg, the color would sneak in and paint a thin spider-web shap on the egg white. Some bread rings or "semeet" would be baked with colored eggs inside.

The food also included green leafs - such as Lettuce or Malana (Green Chickpea) or Termis or Foul Herathi (Green Beans) ... symbolized also life, prosperity and freshness of the spring and the Harvest to come ...

The salted fish ... a little like mumified bodies of the dead ... did they symbolize the after-life? or the preservation of life? Where one life was to enter our bodies and take yet another journey in the circle of life? That one day we also are mortals. Such that we must now enjoy life and always remember that we are mortals?

I am not sure what it all meant ... but it was a day of joy ... often public places were too crowded ... but it was a must to go out ... people would often go to take a ride on the Nile. Often there were accidents when boats were overloaded because of the crowds. The Zoo and Kanater Khayeria were popular destinations which we never dared to visit on that day.

I remember that religion was important ... in the sense of the values of goodness, kindness, compassion and love ... not in the sense of exclusion, hatred, external costumes or fake facades ... Mothers ... women of Egypt, played an important role in preserving the culture and the language ... when the language was banned ... mother spoke the beautiful natural words of the land in the ears of the youngsters - and reminded them of the traditions ... my mom always spoke about the seasons and the weather in terms of the Egyptian months ...Amshir and Hatour and Keyhak etc.

Celebration of Shamu must have been the most vivid ancient tradition to survive. The Nile Day, or Wafa'a El Nil is no longer celebrated, it is only Shamu that survived. Thanks to our mothers ...

We must remember ...

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