Thursday, September 27, 2012

LIVE FROM ERBIL: Cha with maam Khalil

Helloooo Helllooooo Helllooooooo!!!!
Yes! Yes! Yes! Back in Kurdistan. And how lucky are you my dearest Loyal Reader because once again you'll be part of the journey! EXCITING!!!!

Maam (uncle) Khalil and I in one of the best days in my life
When my friend NQ says "I am taking you out" I know ahead of time it is going to be a day that I will never forget. This time was no different. What a day it was!!

We were walking through the maze of the Qaysari Bazaar in Erbil, the sweetest NQ in the world finally said "we are here!" I looked up and there it was the little tea shop, small in size but greater than anything in the world in its significance.

Maam Khalil serving tea. According to him he has the best job in the world
We are two young girls, entering a chay khaana* in Erbil and it actually feels very normal. Outside there is a man playing on the saz and singing, with few others sitting with their tasbih and cha** talking, I am guessing it is about life, politics and everything in between. I must admit they look very intellectual and friendly.

Music and singing outside the chay khaana - tea house in Erbil, Kurdistan
Inside I am amazed. This is not a chay khaana I think to myself, it is a museum. The walls have every single picture you can think of including Hitler, the ceiling is still as it was a hundred years ago, no renovations, no demolishing and renewing!
NQ looking at some of the pictures on the walls of the tea shop
Maam Khalil, the owner, who has worked  here since his childhood looks like the happiest man in the world. He moves around quickly serving tea- often three or four at once. I look at him and realize that serving tea is an art of its own. I feel like sitting next to the biggest celebrity in the world when he decides to come and sit next to me, NQ and little Nama. We talk briefly, after few minutes it feels like we know him all our life. Just like any celebrity he is in a rush to serve the next set of tea.

The outside of Maam Khalil's chay Khana in Erbil's Qaysari Bazaar.
(Yup still can't rotate!)
The hospitality in this chay Khaana is beyond any service you would get in any five star restaurant in the world. I love it. I tell NQ I wish I could bring my laptop here and write my articles, and my research papers. But I know too well though I feel very comfortable right now, somehow the idea is just a little too extreme.
I prefer for somethings in Kurdistan to never develop or modernize.
The greatest things are the simplest.
The happiness I felt earlier today was probably one of my happiest moments since my arrival in Erbil in 2006. It is not just the atmosphere here but the more I learn about maam Khalil, about his stories and about the chay khaana itself, the more respect I have for this man. Although I am also upset, there is a feeling of disappointment within me. Our modern day youth go and sit in coffee shops with hookah or in Costa[Ricca] socializing. I wish it could be done in places like this, in a chay khaana that is also a museum, that has culture, that has a unique atmosphere to it, and is fileld with history and is owned by a person who in his own way a role model. A man who loves his job, a man who is a role model in many ways. An elderly man who in his Kurdish clothes stands tall and strong, who insists you don't pay the 250 dinars for the greatest tea in the world!!
This says it all. One of the pictures on the wall. This, my most Loyal Reader is LOVE
My dream: One day, when I have made enough money to open a chay khaana like this one, I want to make it so that every girl can come and enjoy a special atmosphere that inspires her to write, to draw, and do everything she likes to do. I want it just like this, I want the walls to be covered with inspirational pictures, pieces of art, writing and for it to be affordable for the least privileged as well. I will make it happen, one day.

Meanwhile if you step foot in Erbil and don't visit maam Khalil's chay khaana then sorry to say you are no longer my Loyal Reader!!!! :)

I just don't want to leave. I can come here everyday.
All pictures taken by either me or N. Qaradaxi

*Kurdish word for tea shop
*Tasbih refers to rosary beads and cha is the Kurdish word for tea

This entry was written a while back, but I just had not posted it. So I thought this is the right time as I have just returned to Erbil again. And yes NQ is the best!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Changing people’s lives 3,037 miles away


 Ruwayda Mustafa & Sazan M. Mandalawi

Dear Reader,

You might be surprised that this post is not by Sazan Mandalawi. Those who regularly follow this blog are all aware that guest bloggers often make an appearance on this blog.

Today Sazan and myself went out in Euston, listened to Jazz music and enjoyed delicious Italian coffee (Not quite as good as Ahmadi chai, which Sazan relishes, but it was close enough).

I’ve known Sazan for a while. I knew her before she found out I, Ruwayda, on the other side of earth, approximately 3,037 miles away (according to Google Map) from Hewler follow her blog. 

I didn’t start out as a Kurdish blogger. I read Sazan’s blog, and it was intriguing to see someone blog from Kurdistan about Kurdish things - not political but simply cultural. It made me happy and excited that someone would take interest in my culture, and that other Kurdish people similar to me exist!

You see, we don’t have many Kurdish bloggers who consistently blog on Kurdish related things. In the past three years we have seen a great number of new bloggers, marking their spot online and on social networking sites. It thrills me to see new Kurdish bloggers. We are a growing active online community.

Who imagined this 10 years ago, I didn’t (perhaps I couldn’t because I was 12 years old and Twitter didn’t exist). 

Blogging about Kurdish culture and society changes the lives of many people and those who blog often don’t know the impact of what they write. As a blogger you have an independent voice, a secure platform, and (to some extent) anonymity to write freely. 

Here’s a little gem for those who haven’t seen it. Sazan started blogging on 8 September 2008. She started her first blogpost with lyrics to Delta Goodrem’s song ‘Born to try’. 

Be a Kurdish Blogger, change the world!

Sazan: Thank you Ruwayda. One of the success of this blog is that I have been able to get in touch with so many young people with much motivation, energy and inspiration! I still remember our initial email exchanges they started with 'salam' and ended with 'regards' now they start with 'kcheeee' and end with 'btkozhm' .....