Friday, August 31, 2007

There aint a bro like him

When I first found out Rehan was accepted to UofT 3 years ago, I had a million questions in my head. I wanted things to be perfect when he arrives in Toronto. All my friends were excited, and the MSA team rather pleased they'd be getting a new volunteer. Little did he know...
I realised that I didn't know a thing about Rehan. It seemed that through out my life we were all so busy with school that we rarely played with each other. Time had flown so fast, and there I was, wondering who is this kid who's going to change my lifestyle of 3 years, and everything else too.
My brother and I lived together for 2 years, and Alhamdulillah, they will always be among the best years of my life.
Right now, there's a lot of excitement at home since his days here are very few, and he'll be back in Toronto to finish his last year inshallah, with much shopping to be done (for example, I've to send wedding gifts for my friends who got married this summer, and dates from our farm here and what not!)
Even though I moved out in November last year, it didn't hit me that I've separated from him, mostly because we were both working on the conference together, and then I was in Toronto for part of the summer with him. But now, I'm sad :(
Both my brothers, though still young, are role models for other brothers, even though they can be awfully annoying most of the times. For all you brothers out there who have sisters, here are some tips to pick up ;)

My brothers are very protective and always getting us (me and my sister) treats- ice creams, chocolates, burgers, and all of this stuff over again. When Rizwan wakes up, no matter what time of the day, he walks into my room first to see what I'm upto. I rarely have to drive to anywhere, since both of them are always at my service, even if they were up all night and fell asleep just 2 minutes ago.
Rizwan has some amazing skills. He makes the best fruit juices, some times with very wierd combinations, and he can make salad enough for a herd of elephants, all elegantly decorated. All that chopping and cutting wont tire him. At home, I rarely cut fruits, it's either my parents, or Rizwan who do it for me.
They're a bunch of clowns with non-stop entertainment. Sometimes they can be scary, but let's not talk about that.

For the 2 years in Toronto with Rehan, and my friends know I can't stop talking about this, I never cleaned the washroom, except once, when he was out of town during his frosh week [and I remember calling up Sana, to ask her how to clean the washroom, since I didn't have to do it when I was in residence for 3 years, and she gives the phone to her brother Faraz. "Humairah, this isn't an easy job, I need to explain it to Rehan"]. It was Rehan who did that, along with brushing, vacuuming and mopping. Often, he'd help me with the dishes too. Sometimes he'd call and tell me, "Baji, don't do the dishes, I'm going to come home and do them". When I would be busy with exams, he'd cook... and Alhamdulillah, he's developed that skill well.
Many days of the week I'd come home late from work, after attending a meeting in some part of town, and he'd wait for me to eat with him. This is something Rehan has always believed in- Eating together.
I know I was always very busy, non-stop, and he was just amazing, mashallah.
Rehan did the laundry every other week, dragging the hamper across a few blocks to the laundromat, and picking it up when it was all done. During Ramadan, we'd walk to the Masjid together and back. Often, he'd have to go home earlier than me because of assignments or tests, but he'd always insist on coming back to walk with me. Those days, I'd always tell him not to waste time, and that I'd rather bike than walk to the Masjid, which I did often.

Sana, Faraz, Rehan and I were quite close. Sana and I would call each other up and complain about our brothers all the time. They both wanted to start a club called "Younger brothers against their bajis" or something...

Initially for him, my lifestyle seemed too dangerous. He'd try to set curfews for me, which of course, I'd always break, but I tried to stick to them so as not to worry him too much. If I was @ a friend's place and it got even slightly late, he'd call and say, "Call me when you're ready to come home, I'll come pick you up".

He's very dear to my close friends as well, always there to fix their computers, help them move, or run some other errands. In exchange for that, he'd have constant supply of chocolate cake and lasagna from them.

He's a 6'2 beardo... but very funny and full of life. I know I became upset at him a million times, and scolded him a numerous times, but he'd always take it quietly, and patiently. My brothers are truly one of the biggest blessings in my life.

The best of friends

Subhanallah, how great was Umar bin Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him). I read about him and try to emulate him as much as I can. And I came across this post below, and wondered, how good a friend I am? And this question is so apt, when my friends are going through so much at this time in their lives. May Allah be with them.

In old, worn out shabby looking clothes, Amir Al-Mu’minin, Ali Bin Abi Taleb, sat saying grace to Allah.

Abu Mariam, one of the servants, sat on his knees close to Ali and whispered: "Amir Al-Mu’minin, I have something to ask of you.”

Ali said: “What is it that you want to ask?”

Abu Mariam said: “That you throw away the clothes you are wearing. They are old and ripped and do not go well with your position.”

Ali Bin Abi Taleb put the tip of his clothes on his eyes and started to cry until his weeping was loud.

Read the rest on Glimpses into the life of Umar Farooq The best of friends

Monday, August 27, 2007

Tied to be fit- Of Shoes and Laces

Still tying your shoes just the way you learned in kindergarten?

Maybe it's time to try a new technique. Many problems in athletic shoes can be solved by adjusting the lacing pattern, says Tom Brunick, a footwear expert and director of the Athlete's Foot Weart Test Center.

Below, you'll also find link to Ian's Shoe Lace Site for more details and images.

After you've chosen the best shoe for your activity, he says, "try customising the fit with these techniques":

Problem 1: High instep

Skip the criss-cross technique and tie laces at the tongue of the shoe.

Problem 2: Wide forefoot

Skip the criss-cross at the widest point of foot.

Problem 3: Heel slips in shoe

Use a criss cross lacing pattern, and use a loop-lacing technique on the last eyelet if the shoe heel feels too wide for your feet.

Problem 4: Narrow foot

Use a loop-lacing technique to double the laces over the midfoot area.

Loop Lacing Lock

Stick each lace end back into the same hole it just exited, leaving a small loop on the top side of the shoe. Now thread each loose end through the loop on the opposite side, pull to create a super-tight closure.

Ian's shoe lace site explains this in detail with images.

Pictures from Runners World


The name Maryam has come to be associated with many other not-so-Maryam-like meanings. My friends or aunts who have babies or toddlers named Maryam will surely agree.

There's one Maryam who's almost 3 years old now, who is the boss of her house. To anything her mom says, she always replies, "That's right mom!". Her mom calls her The Terminator and it's an extremely difficult task to take her to someone's place. Hence, this Maryam is mostly @ home, entertaining guests in cute lil pink frocks with matching bows. And if she likes you, she'll even feed you! Oh, and she looks equally gorgeous in her red chinese dress, complete with red slippers and a fan. Sigh.

Then there's Maryam who questions the scholars. She often goes to the mosque with her parents, and once, at Asr, after the Imam said, "God is great", in the loudest voice Maryam could muster, this 2 and a half year old started reciting her Fatiha. A few people shifted, trying to shush her up, but there was no stopping Maryam. Later, at home, her mother asked her, "Maryam, why did you embarass mommy like that? What would the Imam sahab have thought of you? "
"But mummy, the Imam forgot to read the Fatiha, and I was just helping him"

Maryam, who's just 3, and a regular visitor to my place, never fails to let everyone know she's in charge. Whether it's wearing other aunties' sandals and walking in them, or unlocking one of our 5 exit doors, or bounding up and down the stairs, she's always high on energy, mashallah. I'm always looking for excuses to invite her over. She climbs on to every chair there is to grab anything within her reach. Actually, that's what Maryam does best- balancing herself on a chair with one foot, tugging on to objects with a hand, and waving with the other. The other foot is generally suspended in air.

And let's not talk about Maryam my mother sends upstairs to wake me up in the mornings when she's visiting. She's as loud as my alarm clock and will have me on the floor in a matter of minutes if I don't get up. And then she'll pretend as if she was reading a book.

oh.. and Maryam who's so cute all over but she mostly clings on to her mother in the presence of strangers. We had a surprise party for a friend, and everyone sat down to eat. Amidst all the conversations, you hear a little voice saying, "Bismillah..." at the head of the table. It's Maryam, who's sitting in her mother's lap, ready to have her dinner.


Boldly Defying all Expectations

Tariq, this one's for you!

First came the 4 fingers, and then the 2, and then every variation possible, bringing the global world together, from Kit Kat Green Tea in Japan, Kit Kat Strawberry in Canada to Kit Kat Orange in UK and Kit Kat Chunky White in The Netherlands.

No complicated fusions of nuts, rice, caramel or nougat, just a simple, plain wafer and lovely, cocoa-y milk chocolate.
From the first dense and crispy bite, the subtle combination of tastes makes this bar a unique and fascinating snacking experience. The classic pairing of wafer and milk chocolate in a regular Kit Kat bar is a guaranteed winner in its perfect counterpoint of textures and taste. Adding other flavours to the mix is simply a bold and brazen risk that ends up working on so many levels.
The finger size allows the full flavour spectrum of the chocolate wafers to manifest itself in a truly wonderful way.
Kit Kat chocolate never becomes overwhelming or distracting. The balance of taste lets the cinnamon or the orange or the mint or any other flavour dance across the palette in a taunting, teasing way, until it finally settles in its rich, satisfying aftertaste.

Arguably, it is a different type of product, more biscuit than chocolate bar, making you feel slightly more virtuous if you have one with a cup of tea! It still does contain around 250 calories though, so it is not quite as virtuous as it seems ;)

Any review of Kit Kat would not be complete without a mention of their enduring slogan, “Have a Break”. This has been the subject of many different adverts over the years – my favourite being the one with the roller skating pandas (anyone remember it?!)

Related post: Phantasmagorially Exotic

Mashed Potatoes & Cajun Gravy- Popeye's Style


1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup ground chicken
2 tablespoons minced green bell peppers
2 cups water
14 ounces beef/chicken broth
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon flour
2 teaspoons milk
2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh coarse ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 dash dried parsley flakes

Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large saucepan. Saute the ground chicken in the oil for 4 to 5 minutes until cooked and add bell pepper to the saucepan and saute it for 1 minute.
Add water and broth to the pan. Sift cornstarch and flour into some water and whisk it into the pan.
Add remaining ingredients and bring the mixture to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer gravy for 30 to 35 minutes or until thick.

Mashed Potatoes

Boil the potatoes with some garlic cloves. Mash them over low heat and add some ground onions and garlic. Add cream until the potatoes look rich and creamy.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Essentials of a Personal Gym

Often, starting an exercise routine for the first time is just a matter of acquiring the right equipment for use at home.

Contrary to popular belief, a home gym doesn’t have to consist of a large, expensive multi-station weight machine and an equally pricey stationary cardio machine like a treadmill or elliptical trainer. In fact, you can get an equal – if not better – workout with inexpensive, portable equipment.

Start out with a well lit space big enough for you to lie down. Here's a short list of equipment you'll need:

  1. Exercise mattress: If your floor is not too hard, you can replace it with other types of mats.
  2. Free weights: You can find a starter set of dumbbells with 5, 8, and 10 lbs weights that come with their own, easy-to-store weight rack.
  3. A Good Exercise Book: None of this equipment will do you any good if you don’t know how to use them safely. Please make safety your priority and understand how your muscles work. An excellent book is: Strength Training Anatomy published by Human Kinetics [They're definitely an industry leader in the field of fitness]. This book has lots of exercise moves with different equipment, but you can generalise the moves and perform them without the machines. More importantly, the book has diagrams for all the muscles used for each exercise and lots of safety techniques.
  4. Music: If it helps motivate you. I've found music quite useful during work outs, but here in the UAE, many exercise classes do not use music at all. Besides, the best thing to do would be to replace music with remembrance of Allah (as suggested by Majid who's a CanFitPro Personal Trainer Specialist and a Nutrition and Wellness Specialist)
  5. There are other equipments you can add as you get comfortable and build a routine: stability ball, skipping rope, balance board and resistance tubes. All of these are quite effective and have innumerous benefits.

Some Tips:

  • Keep 2 bottles of water and a towel nearby.
  • Make sure you drink water every 10-15 min of work out.
  • If you're doing cardio, it's best to do them in your shoes to reduce the impact on your knees.
  • Also, keep a gap of 1-1.5 hours min before and after meals to exercise.
  • Please raise any health concerns you may have with your doctor before beginning a exercise program.

For my work outs at home, I just use:

  • water
  • a mattress
  • appropriate clothing
  • shoes
  • music
  • and of course, a timer

The next thing I would add would either be a skipping rope (but I fear knocking things over) or resistance tubes.

Beginners should note that because the use of free weights involves more complex body movements, the chances for injury are greater with free weights than with machines. It is therefore important to get instruction and supervision from a certified professional until you become familiar with how to use them.

Next: Of Shoes and Laces

Friday, August 24, 2007

Is your car here?

Watch out for MyBikeLane Toronto!
I never knew that cars stopping or parking in bike lanes was an offense.


I've seen very few (abhor-able) emails of this nature, but this is the first one that I've read from an HR personnel!

Immediate requirement for a reputed Architectural Multidiciplinary Practice in Al Ain for a PA secretary to work for the MD, Female with a minimum 10years experiance with an excelent of English Langues is exencial.
The ideal candedate should be European Femail with excelent in Inglish and at report writting and possess excellent comunication skills and motivated and keen in the work in a rapidly growing organization with opportunities.
Please send your Email CV with Photos.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Gulf web trends

Poor website owners getting jail sentences for no fault of theirs just because someone posted comments on their websites against some government official.
A few recent cases in UAE and Kuwait:

Rights group decries jailing of UAE Web site owner

DUBAI -- An Arab human rights group called Wednesday for the quashing of a one-year jail sentence against a Web site owner in the United Arab Emirates, who was also fined $19,000 on defamation charges.
hearing in the appeal against the sentence handed to Shehhi, who was ordered to pay a fine of 50,000 dirhams ($13,600) and Dh 20,000
in compensation to the official, is scheduled for August 26, the local press reported.

Kuwaiti bloggers tortured by Kuwaiti secret police

Bashar was detained because of a comment written about the Amir of Kuwait, Shaikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, on his website's forum by an annonymous person, it was deleted by Bashar because of its inappropriateness but he was 15 minutes late deleting it, the police held him accountable even after it was deleted. As for Jassim he was released but beaten severely and blind folded and forced to use his fingerprint as signature to a document he couldn't read because of the blindfolds.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Spacing Wire

I've mentioned this before- I'm into Urban planning and I simply love this (Canadian) site: Spacing Wire

Saturday, August 18, 2007

My Dua cards collection

I keep a Qur'an stand (rehal) on my prayer mat that has my Qur'an and dua cards. My mother probably has memorised all these duas, and she knows the dua for each ocassion, event, problem, need, etc.. I just refer to one of these booklets. Every now and then mummy will find some new set of duas for me to add to my collection.

So, first is my Qur'an, which was a gift from my friend Ehab.

Fortification of the Muslim: A really famous pocket dua book for all ocassions.

This book is a bit incomplete, it has selected verses from the Qur'an for medical problems such as asthma, throat infection, eyesight, etc. But the name of the Surah is not mentioned against the ayahs. However, there are no references what so ever in this book, so I can't say it's very authentic. I read it very ocassionally, just to see learn how and why they're referenced the verses to a certain problem.

Morning and Evening Prayers of the Prophet (pbuh) are a standard list of masnoon duas. Best time to read them is at fajr and maghrib. It includes some of the popular duas such as ayat-al-kursi and sayyid-istighfar.

Two very important every day supplications in the life of a Muslim- Dua for Guidance, and Dua of Need. Read it every day

My favourite: Duas from the Qur'an. It has the duas made by the Prophets, and other duas that Allah (swt) has asked us to make. I like these duas more because they are ayahs from the Qur'an; you can recite them with proper tajweed and feel the power of the words that Allah (swt) send down for us.

Duas for protection (from all types of evil). It's amazing how many different types of dua the Prophet (pbuh) taught us. Subhanallah!

Duas to protect you from depression and sadness :)

Duas to protect you from the evil eye.

Masnoon duas: A collection of beautiful Sunnah duas with Urdu translation. I have posted my favourite one here.

Al Hisnul Hasin: Again, a very popular book. Although, I'm a bit cautious with some of the duas where you have to recite them a certain number of times as references are often left out in this book. At the end there's a really nice section on what the Prophet (pbuh) has said on the excellence of reciting some of the chapters of the Qur'an.

This is the same collection of Morning and Evening invocations except it's with Urdu translation and I keep this in my bag. [It's smaller in size than the other one]

This booklet has all the duas for travelling: for the marketplace, before entering a masjid to mounting your vehicle and en route. I keep this in my bag too.

I have PDFs of these cards, so drop me a note if you need any.

Friday, August 17, 2007


اللَّهُمَّ ذَكِّرْنِىْ مِنْهُ مَا نَسِيْتُ وَ عَلِّمْنِىْ مِنْهؤ مَا جَهِلْتُ وَ ارْزُقْنِىْ تِلَاوَتَهْ انَآءَ الَّيْلِ وَ انَآءَ الَّنهَارِ وَ اجْعَلْهُ لِىْ حُجَّةً يَّا رَبَّ الْعَلَمِيْنَ

Allahumma dhakkirni minhu ma nasiitu, wa 'alimni minhu ma jahiltu, war zuqni tilaawatahu anaall-laili wa-ana' annahaari, waj'alhu li hujjatan ya Rabbanal-alameen

O Allah! Make me remember which of it I have not been able to know; and grant me its recitation during the times of the day and night, and make it for me an evidence. O Lord of the Worlds

Alhamdulillah I finished reading the Qur'an today (don't ask me when I started it!) and I made a special dua for all my friends.


I was looking for a file in my PDA and found this grocery list that mummy dictated to me a few weeks ago:

hari mirch

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Amer @ DSS Photo Exhibition

Amer's photographs have been selected for the DSS (Dubai Summer Surprises) Photography Exhibition. I'm excited, I hope I can go to Dubai this Friday to check it out!

(MENAFN) The Vice-President of the Deira City Centre in Dubai said that around 150 photographers of fifty participants hailing from different countries are taking part in the DSS 2007 Photography Exhibition, Khaleej Times reported.He went on to mention that this is the third consecutive year the event has been held and the first and second year events were held in Burjuman.It is worth mentioning that visitors to the Deira City Center have increased by ten percent this year and the center is giving away an estimated total of $136,100 every week.

For the love of ants

Khudooma from the Emirates Natural History Group had some fun with fire ants:

During finishing my visa paper last month in the British Embassy, I walk to the opposite mosque from the embassy to pray, after I get out and during fastening my shoes, I notice a reddish ants on the floor, they look different, so I wondered if they are new to me, I caught one of them to see if they have any special effect but nothing happen, I follow them to their colony in the mosque out wall, I touched by my finger the door step of their colony and suddenly several ants walked over my finger, The ant tend to grab the skin with their mandibles, and double over their abdomens, and inject their stingers, I clean them out easy from my finger, I noticed some little pain and the skin start to be reddish color in the area which was stung, in addition to little burning and itching, It form later a white sore or pustule. The alkaloid based venom causes necrosis or deadening of the tissues.

I decide to return later with an aspirator for ant collection and a camera to documents them better. These ant are called fire ant (Solenopsis) species (Insecta: Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Myrmicinae). In some sensitive people it can cause negative health effect which will need a medical intervention such as our samsum ant which we have here. The huge change in our environment which include 24h running air-condition in some building , and the green areas with continuous irrigation will support many new species of creatures, its need much care when disturbing these ant colonies or mounds.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Long Flights

Faiza said she's rather dreading her long flight to Dubai in a few months, and many others complain about long flights (such as my mom) because "there's nothing to do"..

I'm sure my friend Ozair, has his set of interesting activities on long flights.

Some of the advantages of flying Etihad are:

  • You can pray anywhere in the plane, no one will stop you. In fact, the air hostess will even give you a blanket to pray on. I remember once I started praying, and the air hostess gently spread the blanket in front of me. Most of the crew is not Muslim. So, for those hesitant to do it on other airlines don't have to feel awkward about praying on Etihad. I've rarely prayed sitting in my seat for any flight, the times I did, it was probably because of turbulence. It's great exercise, Alhamdulillah.
  • Along with the map, and other coordinates, the direction of the Qiblah is always displayed with respect to the plane. So you'll always pray in the right direction!
  • Channel 1 audio is Qur'an recitation. Beautiful melodious voices.
  • Of course, all meals served are halal. They do have alcohol.

I've made many friends in flight. This time flying to Toronto I met an old couple from Gujrat, who were travelling all the way from Gujrat to Bombay to Abu Dhabi (stayed the night) and then took the flight to Toronto, their final destination being Mississauga. I helped them with their bags, they were so happy talking to me, gave me their address and phone numbers in Canada and India.. I still have it in my wallet.

On a flight from Ottawa to Toronto, I met a girl whom I passed on an Islamic magazine I had. I always pray for interesting people sitting next to me!

Once a german girl, probably about 14-16 years of age wrote a cute letter for me on a postcard.

There's always something to learn from people you randomly meet.

If you're travelling with someone old, always request for the seat near the emergency exit since there are no rows in front of you and you can stretch your leg all the way.

  1. I know many people are not talkers. Some people might get off an 8 hour flight without even looking @ the person next to them. But you might just meet someone you want to keep in touch with, no harm done!

  2. I don't have patience with gluing myself to a screen, but since I don't have much choice while sitting in a plane, so sometimes I watch cartoon movies. I watched Garfield and loved it!

  3. I like to show children how to play games on the screen. Often I've noticed when the older sibling figures it out, they don't share the information with the younger ones. That's where I come to their rescue :D

  4. Most of my flights have a stop over. I generally aim for finishing a juz of the Qur'an in each flight. You can even try memorising a few ayahs, or revising what you already know.

  5. I like to listen to the Qur'an channel and test myself if I know which surah they are reading. Most of my attempts are rather succesful, but oh the joy of getting the Surah right!

  6. This time, I caught up with 2 Arabic lectures that I had loaded on my MP3 player. It was a bit awkward taking notes on the tray table, but I had my coloured pens out and the whole shebang. Considering I had over 20 hours of lectures to catch up, studying on the plane really helped.

  7. I finished a few chapters of The Tipping Point (which... I'm still reading) It's my travel book. So generally I raed a book @ home, and I keep one in my bag that I read when "waiting" (such as when I take mummy to the doc or on road trips to Dubai)

  8. Read duas from my dua card collection (coming soon...)

  9. Write- a diary entry

  10. Reflect... thinking about death is great! Also thinking about what change you're going to implement in your family for the better is great.

  11. Work on your year plan- make resolutions, update yourself.

  12. The inflight magazines are generally useless. But my one flight to Toronto where Jeewan was in the seat in front of me mentioned a great article in there on energy saving in Abu Dhabi.

  13. In flight exercises: Very important for your circulation, air pressure and muscle relaxation. Stretch whatever you can, and rotate whatever you can. Basically.

  14. I almost forgot, the best part, sleep! This time on my way back from Toronto, the girl sitting next to me was Pakistani, I barely spoke with her, she slept all the way from Toronto!

  15. Sometimes there are people who don't speak English, or read and write it. You can assist them with their customs forms or other material.

And I'm sure googling will help you with more of your type of tips :)

And if you want some Airport Survival Tips, read this.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Across the border

There were so many of us who were crossing the border, every day. I was waiting for my turn, and I knew it would come soon. There was no food to eat in my land, no jobs. I hated the government for doing this to us. There was no fuel for buses. The government couldn't afford to give us legal papers. The stores shelves were empty. Price hikes everywhere, I had to leave soon. The government had failed us, and it was time to leave.

My mother was so old, it was breaking my heart to make her cross the border into South Africa from Zimbabwe, but I couldn't leave her. She was always strong in front of me, and I would cry each night. I was leaving my 2-year old daughter behind. But I had hopes, good hopes, for a better life across the border, where many of my people were going. Of course there were dangers afterwards, of being deported, but nothing is going to stop me from trying, especially when I paid this man everything I had to take us there. He, would save us.

And so that day came.

Maghi had told us the dangers of crossing-wading through crocodile infested Limpopo river, cutting through razor wire, and walking across the bush land for hours. But I knew it would be over soon, and even if they sent me back, I'll try again, and again.

Maghi had also warned us about two immediate concerns- border guards on patrol and Goma Goma bandits looking for easy targets. But he said soldiers have rarely been seen on patrol. I wasn't afraid of the Goma Gomas because they wouldn't rob me, I had nothing to give anyone. Most people cross it in 2 days, but sometimes it can take longer.

As we journeyed across, I met many women like me. Some of them were pregnant, some carrying babies, even newborn. I couldn't imagine pregnant women jumping over fences. Some of them talked about how this is their 3rd or 4th attempt. I derived a lot of energy from them, all of us, with the same fate. Which one of us would survive this ordeal? I knew deep down the challenges wont be over even if we did cross the border safely. I thought about how I was being "smuggled" across the border, almost left without a citizenship, no identity to my name, ... and whose fault was this? The government. How easy for them to make decisions, and we have to suffer.
The route was long and there was no looking back.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


It happened so fast. There were so many preparations going on. I didn't think death was so close, but it was, and because we're humans, we didn't know.
We all met V a year and half ago when we started the Shariah program. I remember my TTC rides with her, we'd talk about languages and our jobs. I learnt that she lived alone with her mother.

I connected with V again this summer, when she offered to be one of my participants for my fitness practical exam. She was great. She would always tell me, "take care of yourself", "slow down", "you have a lot of energy!", she would always have a dollop of advice for me and I was grateful for friends like her. She mentioned to me that her mother wasn't well. I wish back then I had probed her more to tell me what the matter was.

A few weeks ago, Hafsa checked up on her. The doctors had confirmed cancer and the treatment had to be done right away. After that, V needed to make continuous arrangements for her mother's treatment. Sawitri, Hafsa, Sana, Aunty Farida, Zarah, and Kahkashan were all taking turns to check up on her and help with any tasks. This was barely two weeks ago. Last week we had to find her a temporary place close to a hospital, and Alhamdulillah, through craigslist, facebook and other venues we managed to get a place in a day. Next was moving into that appartment. It was as extremely hot, and two of girls got her an air conditioner. The doctor and nurse were visiting regularly. But then her mother had to be taken to emergency because of a blockage in her catheter. Her condition worsened rather quick.

I couldn't imagine what V was going through. She put everything she could behind her mother's treatment- from taking days off work to making sure she got the best treatment. The girls were constantly around her, calling her and checking up on her. Most days, we'd get updates on email every hour. The sisterhood in action was simply superb. It was selfless devotion to a person of another faith.

Today, Hafsa told me the sad news that her mother passed away in the hospital after she was unconscious for a few hours. None of us were aware of what the procedure is for the funeral. All I knew was that the hospital and the funeral home take care of all the arrangements, it's rather simple. I thought about V.... I've been on the phone constantly with Hafsa talking about what's going on and what we should do. The latest update is that the girls have just reached the hospital and are going with V to get something to eat.

We had too many questions because we were dealing with a person of another faith. However, when faced with death, our emotions are all the same.

Death is always closer than we think. But today, I made a quiet resolution to make the most of my time with my family. Often we end up taking people around us for granted, and events like these knock the senses back into our heads. And often, we never realise how much we value someone, until they're gone. I'm sure my friends who're with V are thinking the same.

ENHG Trip to Hamassa Oasis in Buraimi

The Emirates Natural History Group planned two trips this weekend. One to an Oasis in Al Ain, and the other to an Oasis in Buraimi. Buraimi is a little town in Oman, bordering with Al Ain. I lived in Buraimi for 5 years, way before they made the border between the two countries 3-4 years ago.
Today's trip was about comparing the oases of Al Ain with the state of oases in Buraimi. Though separated by only a couple of kilometers, the difference is significant as the Hamassa oasis of Buraimi does not have the water resources available to farmers in Al Ain.
We met up at the Buraimi Hotel at 8 am and convoyed down to Hamassa, and toured some of the mudbrick ruins of Hamassa, before entering the oasis to see the state of the farming there.
I decided to be a photographer like Amer and took a few pictures.
By 9am, it was just too hot for me. I dragged my feet and followed the group around trying real hard to listen to Brian explain all about the ruins, well systems, water...
We were out in 40 degree heat for a couple of hours.

This is a well, about 7-8m deep [Below] Dates for drying [below]

This man was working in the farm and he offered us some dates. He washed them for us in his hands and held them out. I noticed his hands were constantly shaking.

Amer said he really wants to take a picture of a dead human being. I suggested the morgue @ the Tawam Hospital, but he said he'd rather kill me and take a picture. He did find a dead goat and took a picture.

At the second site we visited, there were lots of skeletons of animals- cows, goats, camels. Not sure what this is [below]
Beautiful, tall, majestic date palm trees [below]

Friday, August 10, 2007

Communication: Listening and Thinking

Some time during last Ramadan, Sr Ruba told us that Abu Bakr (ra) used to keep a pebble in his mouth @ all times. Whenever he had to speak, he would shift it from one side of his mouth to another, giving him enough time to organise his thoughts, and more importantly, never speaking without thinking or acting impulsively.
The other sisters in my group did it more symbolically- by keeping the stone in front of them or in their hand. They were worried about choking on it.
I did this activity for a week. At work, no one noticed. I would only take it out when sleeping or eating. Or perhaps when I was hammering away at the keyboard putting pieces of Java code together.
That week, I was perhaps quieter than usual. When it comes to mischief (hehe) or speaking against inefficiency and injustice, I tend to be impulsive, and communicate my reactions instead of my thoughts and ideas. This is quite important: A person needs to understand what they are communicating. If you're angry or unstable, the pebble shifting will help you focus. And when you have to give advice, it will help you speak more effectively.

It's a great activity, I'd recommend it to anyone. A pebble with the radius of a nickel or bigger is good.

Nobody listens. They only think they do.
A good listener applies the ”EARS” Formula to exploit this advantage. They:

Evaluate – search for evidence that the speaker might use to support their statements
Anticipate – tries to predict what the next point will be
Review – mentally summarises the main points the speaker has covered
Speculate – read between the lines to ask: “What is he/she really saying?”

This way, you're more involved in the process of listening, which is extremely important in today's self-centered world. In a communication process, a lot of things happen all together: there are your reactions which involve body language, evaluating what you liked and didn't like, and understanding what was just said.
It's rather wonderful when you have great communication skills, you'd do away with more than half your problems!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Amazing Bee by Majid

Video: The Amazing Bee

6 am

It's 6am and after the usual routine of waking the house up for fajr, I've already had 2 conference calls, Alhamdulillah.

It never fails to amaze me how much good work can be done with teams of people who are based in different countries. More on that later, however, what do I do about Hafsa spamming me?? See for yourself...

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Free Weights vs Machines


  • If you are new to strength training variable resistance machines are the best because safety is a concern with the free weights.
  • Variable resistance machines are good for injured athletes as they isolate specific muscle group and provide more controlled movements.

Free weights:

  • Free weights recruit more muscle groups than variable resistance machines. They promote quicker strength gains but they require more balance and coordination than machines.
  • They're more versatile since their allow for a greater range of motion.
  • They're much cheaper than machines.
  • Free weights require the help of a spotter (a training partner or a person who gives assistance to an unsuccessful lifting attempt, which normally occurs when lifting a weight continuously until momentary muscle failure occurs)
  • They result in more injuries than machines.

Bottom line: Use equipment that is safe, suits your training needs and convenient.

How to test a bike

“A properly fitting cycle is extremely important. There is no other sport in which the athlete and the machine are so close to being a single entity…”
- Allan Levy M. D.

Buying your first bike is a nervous and an exciting experience. There are all sorts of things to look out for, and being stuck with the wrong bike is not fun.
In Toronto, anyone looking for a bike should get a cheap second hand one, because even that is bound to get stolen.
I took the Wenches with Wrenches bike mechanics course and learnt a lot about bikes and repairing them, alhamdulillah.
Below are some points from my notes:

Things that should be tight

Things that should spin freely


  • Wheel nuts or quick release levers

  • Handlebars and stem

  • Seat and seatpost

  • Pedals and crank arms

  • Brake pads and brake mounting hardware (do bounce test)

  • Wheels

  • Pedals

  • Cranks

  • Forks/headset

  • Cables not frayed

  • Pads not worn out

  • Pads don’t rub rims when not applied

  • Rear brake can skid rear wheel on dry pavement (required by law)

Tires and Wheels

Drive Train

Visibility (required by law)

  • No boken or loose spokes

  • Tire tread in good condition and tires don’t bulge

  • Tired inflated to recommended pressure

  • Chain oiled

  • Rings, cogs, chain and derailleur not caked in grime

  • Red reflective tape on rear and white on front

  • Front light and rear light or reflector (at night)

  • Bell or horn

Next: Bike fit for you


A few days ago Hammad posted about choosing a watermelon. I thought I'd write up something from the Prophetic Medicine about them.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, The hotness of this substance (dates) neutralises the coolness of that (watermelon).

As we all know, the biggest constituent in a watermelon is water. Watermelon works as a cleanser for the stomach and intestines. It is beneficial to eat watermelon when it is warm, but if cold, it’s better to have it with some ginger to offset the harm.
It should be eaten before meals, otherwise it will cause nausea. Some doctors say that when eaten before meals, it “cleanses the stomach and removes ailments”.

Watermelon has always been a good source of vitamins A and C, and provides potassium and fiber.

Scientists indicate that watermelon contains high levels of lycopene-an antioxidant that may help the body fight cancer and prevent disease. Lycopene is found only in red watermelon varieties. In fact, it gives watermelon its red colour, thus, the redder the watermelon, the more lycopene it contains.

It is fat-free, yet delivers 100 percent on the critical energy component found in functional foods.
And watermelon is a very popular base for smoothies! :)

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Best Drink Recipe Ever

My friends know about my smoothie craze... some of the best "smoothie"-days were those on our way to Shariah program in Kahkashan's car :D
There are some good combinations that will always work- healthy, colourful and just the right blend, such as watermelon-blueberries or strawberry-banana..mmmmmm!

This is a drink recipe that my mother taught me. It's the yummiest thing I've ever had, and it's extremely nutritious (first thing in the morning),very filling and excellent for the heart, brain and provides energy. She read about it in her version of the Prophetic Medicine (Tibb-e-nabvi) in Urdu.
And as you know, the most important (and only) kitchen appliance for making smoothies is a blender.

There, you have it :)

Sorry guys, I had to remove it because this recipe is going into a book inshallah!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Islam & the Environment

Here's a nice article by Judge C.G. Weeramantry on Islam, the environment and humankind
The Muslim Guardian- Islam, the environment and humankind