I Can Show You Better

There were quite a few of you  that were worried and concerned about my well being and I send many thanks to you on top of all the congrats.  I think I confused you by mentioning “cold feet”.  I was already Mrs. Hamada Mohamed Ahmed Nazim by then but it got a little tricky so I decided to cut  on the upcoming religious ceremony.  There were very important issues that needed to be ironed out and we weren’t on the same sheet of music so it came down to a case of me saying “I can show you better than I can tell you” or “Now you see me, now you don’t”.  I arrived back in the USA late last night, safe and sound.  I’d like to report things are now all good and in due time we will proceed with the religious ceremony, God willing.

What we have here is a very strong Upper Egyptian man paired with an equally if not stronger African American, independent woman.  Two people deeply in love with each other but with a stack of cultural differences to wade through; among which are 2 languages – Arabic & English; and  2 religions – Christian & Muslim. But in the words of the Beatles and Stevie Wonder; “We Can Work It Out”.

 

Short and To The Point

Those that really know me, know that I keep it one hundred and there is never any shame in my game —- no matter the situation.  My Egyptian journey has come to an abrupt halt by my choice.  Even in 97 degree weather one can get “cold feet”.  Trust me when I tell you.    Aywa, (yes) that’s what I got last night. At 9:40am I boarded a flight to Munich, where I sit at the moment waiting for my flight to SFO. A few months ago when I announced the wedding to my brother (10 years my senior) he said, “I don’t know why I’m trippin Kathy.  You have been known to walk off from niccas, houses and cars.  If you ain’t feelin it, you cut your losses and keep it movin’” Yes, brother, that’s me!

I didn’t want a lot of going back and forth with Hamada  nor dealing with  any  protesting and arguments So I simply said to him,  “I’ve got an early doctor’s appointment near the Hilton.  So I need to get an Uber by 7”  That was my strategy since the Hilton is only a few minutes from the airport. Also considering, he had the sensor to take the elevator down from the penthouse so my planning had to be on point.  My mind wasn’t crystal clear but thankfully, I had my girl DeeDee coaching me.   I left everything, only stuffing what I could in my MCM backpack, a few personals, no liquids, my Italy and Negril folders, my beloved 7 silver bangles, a couple watches  and the clothes on my back.

This isn’t to say, this is it but this is it for now.  My heart goes out to Hamada and his family but at the end of the day it’s all about self-preservation.

Thanks again to all that sent congrats! It really meant a lot and I’m glad you enjoyed my journey as short-lived as it was.  I did too!   There’s always a few naysayers and I’m sure they  are jumping for joy right about now. 🤦‍♀️ Anyway, as they say these days” It is what it is”.

Where Is Kat?

I received a message from Robbie Bell stating , “You’ve gone dark, where are you?, we want to know what’s going on”.  Well, we are officially a couple and the religious ceremony will be in a village 3+ hours away from Cairo.  I’ve been working,  as I do have the Negril group 6/20 celebrating my early birthday at the Tree House Resort – Yacht,  Catamaran, Gospel Brunch, dinner party, water falls, cooking School  in the mountains, straight relaxing and loving on my family that I am missing like crazy right now.  Transportation has to be set up and menus confirmed.  Yep, that’s what Kat does. And just in case you didn’t know; Italy is July 7-17, back to Egypt July 18-28, Fiji Aug 1-11 then finally a break before Tanzania Sept 12-23.

In the midst of all this I’ve been seriously focusing on my Arabic and Hamada on his English.  Today we got fresh new edition small bills to distribute to the poor and needy throughout the village on the day after the wedding which will be the EID FEAST. They say everyone loves to receive the new bills.  Charity (Zakat) is one of the 5 pillars of Islam. We all should practice more of this.

Right now in Cairo it’s 96 degrees but the cool breeze on my balcony makes it nice. Now,  I have got to mentally prepare myself for the 107 degrees in the  village with wedding attire and hijabbed down for every occasion.  I must say, me and DeeDee will dazzle the village people with our custom made embellished hijabs. We’ll show them some black girl magic in the village.   Hopefully they have held their shape in packing, shipping from Egypt to California and then traveling back to Egypt.  The term “Ramadan” comes from the Arabic word ramida or ar-ramad which means scorching heat or dryness, as it normally falls in a hot time of year.  And I’m here to tell you like Run DMC  “It’s like that and that’s the way it is”.

DeeDee arrives 6/1.  The 3 of us travel by train to the village 6/2, that night is the Henna Party, 6/3 the day fellowships with family and friends  and then the night religious wedding  ceremony, then 6/4 the EID  AL FITR. No fasting allowed on this day, the end of Ramadan.

So that’s the latest for now. More to come once we arrive in the Village…

In The Square

Al Hussein Mosque built in 1154 is considered to be one of the holiest Islamic sites in Egypt. It is named after the Prophet Muhammad’s (may peace be upon him) grandson and It houses the oldest complete manuscript of the Holy Quran.  In front It has 2 huge ornate giant umbrellas that are operated electronically. These protect those praying outside on intensely hot days or when the weather changes, it provides shelter when there is heavy rainfall. It’s location is next to the popular Bazaar Khan El Khalili.

Tonight, Crowds, hundreds of people filled the Square. I’m not big on crowds but the energy was electrifying, I liked the vibes and loved the local color. I’m thinking why did we leave the cool air conditioned upscale restaurant with linen, silverware and china to come to this hot, hot crowded place outdoors with plastic cups, plastic utensils and paper napkins.  Hamada wanted Iftar in the Square tonight near this holy place so he could go to the Mosque and pray for our civil marriage and future happiness after Iftar. I didn’t know the reason beforehand but after his explanation I was fine and the food was excellent. After eating, he found a cafe and ordered shay (tea). He would go pray and I would sit, drink shay and answer emails. His heart is like mine; we just can’t say no to those in need and they seemed to be everywhere.  He cautioned me to stay put and hold onto my purse. I did that but soon I had to go bad. I asked the waiter, he asked the owner who said to me, “Follow me”. Oh Lord!  We went about 50 yds to another outdoor cafe, then that owner said, “Upstairs”.  Inside it had to be 100 degrees as I climbed this very narrow stairway, then another flight, then another flight. I finally make it to the top and I’m thinking as old as these buildings are, I bet I got to squat. Uh oh, the door won’t open but no indication it was occupied. I pushed, I knocked, I pushed.  Dang, I can’t  go back. What am I to do? Finally a young girl emerged.  There was a hole in the floor but thank God there was a toilet too. Whew!

As I made my way back, I spotted Hamada looking bewildered then a smile when he saw me but I could tell he wanted to say, “Didn’t I tell you to stay put”?

What an experience!  Blogging is therapy for me. I need it right now.   I must admit, I’m nervous about tomorrow at Marriage Court… probably because it’s called “Court”.

My Egyptian Journey Continues

After that run around day to get the medical, visit to U.S. Embassy for Affidavit then to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Authentication Office; I was in need of some “me” time so off I go to one of my favorite hotels in Cairo for the next 3 nights at “The Intercontinental Semiramis” which by the way is where the KATTRAX  upcoming groups will spend several days. I will catch up on work, enjoy my Nile view, and last but not least get rejuvenated at the spa. Hamada will come at 5pm each evening to take me to Iftar at one of his favorite spots.

Ramadan is about family and friends enjoying a meal together and sharing the rewarding struggle of balancing a normal day of fasting – no food or water from the pre dawn meal (suhur) to the meal at sunset (Iftar) when the Maghreb is called.  There are several hotels that offer an upscale Ramadan Iftar and my hotel is one of them so it only makes sense to enjoy it here.  So picture this:  It’s a buffet, and everybody male and female goes to the bountiful buffet that is laid out so beautifully to prepare their plates but not Hamada.  He summons one of the chefs, has a few words and before I know it here comes the chef and two servers placing all these dishes on our table and we wait for the Maghreb call to prayer when  the ears of Morocco are lifted and everybody begins to eat.  So I ask him how is it that everybody except he and I go to the buffet. He smiles and tells me, “ They have to know Upper Egyptians eat differently”.  We have several juice drinks served to us; one made from dried apricots called Qamar El Din, an hibiscus drink, and there was a server pouring a licorice drink called Erk Sous.  It’s kept in copper or glass to keep it chilled.  We had grilled chicken, lamb & beef kofta rolls with tahini sauce,  baked turkey, rice, fresh vegetables, warm soup, dates, freshly baked flat bread (Baladi), macaroni bechamel (similar to mac & cheese) and an array of sweets. We end our meal with shay (tea).  We say our goodbyes and then he’s off to Isha and then Tarawi prayers.  Tarawi Prayer is performed only during Ramadan.

After Ramadan prayers comes nighttime entertainment. The lanterns adorn Cairo’s streets and everything is very festive.  Tomorrow we go to the Ministry of Justice (office of Marriage of Foreigners)  with all our gathered documentation and witnesses for the signing of the marriage contract. Among many other things,  we agree he will only have 1 wife.  Basically the contract establishes a series of rights and obligations between husband and wife.  It is in Arabic and English.

New Beginning – Chapter 1

I am now in Cairo, Egypt.  I arrived Monday night and  got thru the airport and luggage business. Hamada aka Ahmed was there waiting with his friend, Jassar. It was 2 am before I was in my room.  It’s Ramadan and it was time for the Fajr and the pre dawn meal (Suhur) to follow. Every eating spot was open. Most are closed during the day because most are fasting.  All stores, cafes, and street vendors were out and about with lots of merrymaking going on like it was high noon. Really a sight to behold. I wouldn’t see Hamada again until he picked me up after 10am.    I’m being respectful. One doesn’t eat in front of someone fasting. I told him I will eat with him when he eats the evening meal (Iftar).
The next morning was spent was running around to get Residency Stamp to begin the Marriage process.  Next the medical to be conducted at a government hospital but we were too late  for medical, missed it by 15 minutes.  We will try early tomorrow before my Embassy appointment at 1030am.  It was beginning to get stressful because one cannot be late to the Embassy and it cannot be rescheduled if missed.  Oh no! The doctor doesn’t start until 9am. Will I have enough time?
 When we dropped off my suitcases at our place, I was pleasantly surprised. 3 large bedrooms, living room, dining room, kitchen, 2 bathrooms, remote control a/c. All nicely furnished. I can safely stay in home with my Residency Stamp, preparing to get the Marriage Contract.   This means  I am not a tourist and about to be his wife. We sleep together as husband and wife after the religious ceremony 6/3. At that time, we will be in the Village and another place furnished to call my own. The Family home is in the Village which is over 3 hours away by train from Cairo. The family has gifted me with the top floor (another penthouse)  and have renovated and retrofitted the bedroom, living room and bathroom to Kat’s specifications.  The entire family has embraced me from great grandmother (Naimah) to the littlest nephew who calls me “Baby”.  Grandmother is blind and said, “I can’t see Kat but my heart tells me she is beautiful”.  I love her like one of my children”.
My next day in Cairo was spent following through with the marriage  process; back to the hospital, with  a ton of people gathering and waiting their turn.  Hamada takes charge, makes his way to the front, gets the paperwork started even  before the doctor arrives while I waited  in the car with Jassar.
They take my blood, my BP, then instructed us to pick up certificate he next day.  Now off to the U.S. Embassy.  I almost forgot about my cousin Erica who I met on my Emirates flight.  She admired my Muhammad Ali tee shirt knocking out Sonny Liston.   I love that shirt and you wouldn’t believe how many conversations it has started for me,  Anyway, turns out my new cousin (as she immediately began to call herself) is from Milpitas, is  married to an Egyptian and went down this same path.  She said, “anything you need, any questions you may have, just call me.  I’m here for you, that’s what family does.   I will be in Cairo for a month with my husband’s family.  So I’m here”.
Well, we made our appointment at the Embassy with time to spare, got the Affidavit which states the USA has no objections to this marriage. The next stop would be clear across town for Authentication of the Affidavit.  More waiting, more fees. He next step will be on Saturday  at the Egyptian Ministry of Justice to complete forms, signing of contract, and with our witnesses.  What a day!  He’s fasting, I’m fasting, and on top of that  it’s hot as blazes. This is another reason I bring groups when the weather is cooler in October/November.
Hamada didn’t know how much I need to see bodies of water for the  calming effect it has but the  9th floor apartment he got for us  in Giza has a partial view of the magnificent Nile River from my balcony.  Imagine that!    To him and other locals, it’s like us in the bay passing Lake Merritt everyday. By the way, the apartment is just a few blocks from The Four Seasons Hotel.
Breaking fast this evening would be at a different restaurant.  What I witnessed was something I had never experienced.  We were upstairs in an air conditioned restaurant steps from our home.  I noticed people sitting with food on their table but not eating.  Our food was served but Hamada motioned to wait. At 650pm the Maghreb (Sunset Prayer) was called.  That’s when  the ears of Morocco are lifted up, everyone eats or prays.
  Four days ago some tourists on a bus were injured in an explosion. Some sources say it was a technical problem on the bus  others say it was something on the roadside.  I don’t know.  I wish I had more information to share.
Tomorrow will be another day in the life of my new beginning in Egypt.

Medellin…It’s Med-a-Jean, Not Med-a-yeen

Colombia, not Columbia is the only South American country with both Atlantic and Pacific coastlines and we are here to enjoy all she has to offer.  Our first stop is Medellin.  Over 20 years ago, Medellin was one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Back in the early 90’s , when the hunt for Pablo Escobar took place, the head of Medellin’s drug cartel was at its peak. Thus the reign of “El Patron” came to it’s end.  Since 2002 Medellin began to change. Local politicians started to invest heavily in infrastructure and public education.  Today this city is one of the most innovative metropolises in the world.

Our guide, Diego, met us at the airport.  Time was against us because our dinner reservation at one of the top restaurants in the city,  HATOVIEJO PALMAS, was in 1 hour, conveniently located in an upscale neighborhood across from our hotel, INTERCONTINENTAL MEDELLIN. Our luggage was delivered to the hotel while we headed directly to the restaurant. Everybody ordered from the menu and enjoyed their selections.  In Miami, I was into a seafood soup kick beginning at a Peruvian restaurant so I kept it going along with a delightfully seasoned and well presented shrimp cocktail.

The next morning began our city tour.  We walked through the old and the new; The Old Marketplace where back in the day one could purchase whatever kind of firearm they wanted or get a hit man.  Medellín is the birthplace of famed artist and sculptor, Fernando Botero. His signature style depicts people and figures in large, exaggerated volume which can represent political criticism or humor, depending on the piece. His art can be found in highly visible places around the world, such as New York City and Paris.  Here in his hometown,  We strolled through BOTERO PLAZA and enjoyed various pieces of his 23 donated pieces. One of my favorites was Hombre Caminante.  The man is standing on the back of a woman, showing she is the foundation and holding him up.

We got a birds eye view of the city by riding their Metrocable.  It connects the poorer neighborhoods (like Rio’s favelas) to the main city.  It carries over 30,000 people a day and their stations are super clean, no eating allowed; only water is allowed.

Yesterday was a full day and most enjoyable.  We visited GUATAPÉ (gua- ta- pay) a 2 hour drive on the outskirts of Medellin.  The adventurous ones were all set to climb Penol Boulder, aka “The Rock”, almost 700 stairs.  Not yours truly though.  It honestly looked like going up the “rough side of the mountain”.  I took this time to browse the souvenir shops all lined up with small cafes. Since I skipped breakfast I decided to have a whole fried fish while I gazed at the lovely lakes of Guatapé and contemplated my future, God willing.  The next stop was Cafe La Vina where the group enjoyed espressos, cappuccinos, lattes, wine and I had my usual Tonic Water.  Afterwards while the group did more shopping;  Diego offered to take me to his cousins spot to charge up my device and chill.  If you want to just drop out of society for awhile, La Casona is the place.  It’s a very clean and modern “hostel” but I would call it a bed and breakfast.  I sat there enjoying the local color listening to their piped in music of Lauren Hill and rapper, Remy Ma.  Before I left a brother and his Colombian lady were on their way out.  He says to me, “I bet you’re from California”.   So of course, we got into a lengthy conversation.  He had a BBQ joint there in Guatapé and now about to open a bed and breakfast.  He’s retired law enforcement from southern Cal, says he got his residency here after 2 months and his retirement check allows him to live like a millionaire here.

Closing out the day, after our delicious typical Colombian lunch on the waterfront of the Guatapé Reservoir, we explored the lake by speedboat.  This area was one of  Escobar’s getaways, hideaways, etc. so it turned out to be a Pablo Escobar boat tour.  We saw his mansion, his stash house, his cottage for his women and weed.  They say he did not consume his product of cocaine but he sure loved to smoke.  A day on the lake was a very relaxing end to our time spent in Medellin.

Next we fly to Cartagena (kar ta hay na) for 3 days and visit San Basilio de Palenque, the African corner of Colombia.