Today the earth is celebrating that I’ve with complete gratefulness been stamping my feet on its soil for 37 years. Often, I did so ever so foolishly and other times with an aloofness that only my one single grey hair had borne witness to.
So how does it feel to be 37, ask me that question in 3 years’ time or simply take the time to acknowledge that I am gracefully approaching 40 and I really don’t know whether or not I fall into the ‘young’ people category anymore?
I’ve lived my life so quietly in my early 20s, that years flew by in front my eyes in a way that I cannot for the life of me recall if I lived it at all. I’ve always been someone who exaggerated my age, as I believe so heartedly that age is a just a number, that I create an algebra for it, multiply it by 10, square it by 2 and grow in years that I often wondered what am I running towards.
I decided that while I consent with complete sanity that I write this willingly, to document for the archives’ sake, given this new age of mine deserve a new level of bravery to share what I’ve learnt in 37 years. You see, I’ve learnt between things that matter and things that should be overlooked, that there lies a fine line where only growth can determine the irony of it all.
So in honour of my 37 birthdays, here are 37 things that I have learned about myself and life:
Finding God, affirming my faith in this journey called life where it has been a rollercoaster of fluctuations and each time landing on faith is my greatest blessing that I don’t take lightly. Stay spiritual!
After trial and error, I am at an age where I am finally unapologetically myself. It is breathe taking I tell you that I started to accept myself with all my flows and talent.
I learnt to accept that my smile, even when I am not smiling, will result in interactions with suited strangers at Piccadilly line, the pedestrians, the barista at the café and family and friends who remind me daily that my smile is a remedy to their troubles.
No one really cares that I speak too fast, those who matter will remind me to take a breath and slow down and those who don’t matter will lose out on my intelligence.
You have great energy and aura which is attractive but remember your energy won’t always be at its peak! So get through your tasks anyway as some tasks don’t have the luxury to be postponed.
My hijab matters more to you than to me. Most of the time, I am actually oblivious to the fact I have it on my head. My hijab like my skin won’t crack with age.
Making my bed every day is a testimony that I am here, that the morning is here, that my soul is back; what a way to own the day!
I have a complicated relationship with my knee, you don’t see the difficulty under my stylish attire, but I am yet to accept that I need to apply for ‘Please offer me a seat’ badge. Let’s revisit this in my 50s.
You don’t ever need to justify to anyone your coffee ritual. It is so healthy, that apparently scientist have identified that coffee has approximately 1,000 antioxidants.
Never apologise for feeling subdued at times, it is ok, embrace your inner quietness and protect your space.
Great comfortable shoes that support your 10,000 steps, will possibly be the best investment you need to make today.
You are never too old to jump from one hobby to another, you are not trying to be “cool” but rather embracing the journey of finding yourself in an activity that revives your longing for a healthy mind and body.
I am adventurous, spontaneous, random, and ask odd/deep questions and that has served me well.
Travel, don’t seek permission to do so if an opportunity arises, go for it. I’ve experienced Aruba, Zanzibar, Sri Lanka and countries far in between, all were in moments when life was going in the opposite direction than I’d envisaged.
Friendships require an investment of your time and soul. Choose and befriend wisely.
Kindness, being selfless and generous are amazing traits, don’t change even when acquaintances may abuse that. Your faith taught you to not be stung twice from the same stinger.
I once ‘ran’ a half marathon in Morocco and accepted there and then, I am not much of a runner! To compensate I volunteer at 5k park run.
Being hard on yourself and not letting go of the past is exhausting, and holds you back from forgiving yourself.
Letting go of relationships where the pain in staying is far worse than the pain in departing is the best gift you can grant yourself. Let go, you’d be surprised what time can heal.
At work, never second doubt yourself, you are probably more skilled, talented, professional than most people put together. You are amazing.
Doing things on your own is an underrated joy.
Make the most of today that is within your remit and reach.
It is OK to protect your energy from being deflated by toxic masculinity, narcissists, drama, and social media or by people with huge egos.
Stay genuine and live by what you preach and remember deeds are by intention, and then action.
You are reliable and are always there for someone, but who is there for you? Build a tribe, connect and stay present.
Learn to love yourself, to be enough for yourself, that your own happiness is your sole responsibility, and have enough faith in yourself to recognize your growth and please celebrate your milestones.
Sometimes it is just you who recognises the birds are signing a new symphony, it is ok to stop and dance to that.
You’ll probably won’t need an anti-wrinkle cream, your mother’s natural remedy will do you fine, it did so far anyway.
It is OK not to fit into labels, you are ambivert and it is ok that nobody gets that!
You know how to enjoy life in the simplest ways and that’s beautiful.
You have a beautiful heart so don’t strategies relationships and be alerted when they don’t nourish you but simply deplete you. Not all of them will have the honour to witness your greatness.
It should be a criminal offence to spit on the sidewalk, on the ground, on the train platform, practically anywhere!
Trust and love your family. Always
Not everyone can keep secrets, not everyone is worth for you to confide in, trust wisely.
It is very possible to be a fulfilled single woman
The past is the past, what matters is now. You don’t have to explain this to anyone. You are ready. End of discussion.
For the first time in 37 years, I am truly open to finding and accepting love.
I had an amazing start to 2016 where I took part in my first ever half marathon in the magnificent Marrakech to raise fund for clean water. Yes, here is where you applause me but first watch my running in Morocco vlog here.
Now I am not a runner but I am stubborn soul who want to lead a life that is very different to what my bones demand. I have never ran before and I can not say I enjoyed the process of training or even running a mile. But there is something special about accomplishing your goal, crossing the line, of challenging your mind and soul to keep going against all the odds. Running with thousands of people from all walk of life, from different fitness, abilities and background, gives you a sense of inspirational kick that you need to run it when the whistle goes off. I have certainly experienced Morocco’s liveliest city to the full as I run (OK walked most of the time too) by winding souks, beautiful gardens, historic palaces, Mosques, tombs and mountains. I ran for water, I ran for life and my chosen charity human appeal would bring clean water, sanitation, and hygiene to the communities I had the beautiful opportunity to meet in Senegal.
Few weeks ago after I finished our London masquerade-ball event in aid of street children in Senegal, I told my friends, now I am going to focus on raising awareness about the drought that affecting the lives of people in Somaliland.
So I raised my hand in dua and asked God to enable me to go to Somaliland so can help them. Don’t underestimate sincere intention and powerful dua, because God listen and He provided me with the opportunity to be at services of others. I found myself few days ago in Somaliland visiting camps and hearing stories from the people I aim to serve.
I was reminded by the people I was blessed to share this opportunity with that God has selected us by name to make this journey, to take to the skies, to land in Africa, to witness the drought, to hear the stories, to live the issue, to understand #climatechange, to save lives, to make a change, to receive the dua of those in dire need, to raise awareness and here I am spreading the message.
Since 2014, I decided to blog my annual review. I do this because I find it helpful to reflect my previous 12 months, to take time to show gratitude and assess if I have reached my ultimate truest expression of myself as a human being.
This year, I will review 2015 by answering three questions, such as those proposed by James Clear.
What went well this year?
What didn’t go so well this year?
What am I working toward?
What went well this year?
Here’s what went well:
Charity aid work
In Jan 2015, I accepted a role as Regional Fundraising Executive with Human Appeal International. My role was to identify and manage regional campaigns as well as ensuring regional fundraising activities are undertaken to contribute towards the organisations strategy and growth.
Here is summary of some of the events that I managed, which raised £500K plus for various noble causes.
Hope 2015 – I managed an unforgettable concert for Syria on 11th April in Reading Town Hall. The concert starred world-famous artists like Outlandish, Saif Adam, Raef, Common Souls and hosted by Na’eem Raza.
Welcome Ramadan – I managed a charity dinner in Southall on 7th June 2015, in aid of rebuilding lives in Pakistan.
Night of spirituality – June & July 2015. I managed three charity dinners in Bristol, Oxford and Southall, where all funds raised went towards completing the building of an orphanage in Jerusalem.
Sounds of Light was back, which is a largest fundraising concert of its kind in the UK. I managed East London event on 1st Nov, and with a stunning line up, attendees’ had a time of their life while raising funds for the refugees.
On 15th Nov, I managed shine a light concert in aid of South Asia Earthquake at St Ethelburga
On 22nd Dec 2015, Bristol community chuckled for charity at our fantastic comedy tour in aid of our winter appeal.
I supported many concerts, campaigns, challenges as well as working at the celebrity football gala dinner in aid of Street children in Senegal; which was hosted by Demba Ba and a whole host of celebrity footballers, including Samuel Eto’o Fils, Eden Michael Hazard, Diomansy Kamara, Abou Diaby, and other sporting legends. It was at this event which resulted in the viral video of football star Eden Hazard fall into a fit of laughter when one of his Chelsea team mates begins introducing Human Appeal at our Gala Dinner. You can read more about the project here.
United Arab Emirates (UAE) (Abu Dhabi & Dubai). On 12th April, straight after my successful Hope concert in Reading, I travelled to Abu Dhabi to visit my close friend Suad Bashe. She encouraged me to visit her to unwind and relax from all the stress first quarter of the year brought me. Despite arriving at dawn, she came to the airport to welcome me in her style. My youngest sister and her daughter spontaneously decided to visit Dubai for the Easter break. My eldest brother also decided to join us. So this trip became very special in so many ways. We all spent the day together, laughing and connecting in ways words cannot describe.
Whilst in Abu Dhabi, I met up with Bashir Goth, a Somali poet, writer, journalist and most importantly a friend, who gifted me with his time and valuable books. He handwritten me this poem note in one of the book he gave me as gift and I promised him that I will publish it someday.
May words flow from your pen
And your poetry dance on people’s lips
Smelling of frankensence of Punt
Of uunsi, of our land’s rays after rain
Of oud, of Arabian perfumes
Enchanting, amusing, entertaining
As sweet as Magool’s melodies
As childood memories
As your mother’s lullabies
Rising to the heavens
And soaring as Khayyam’s spirit
As delicious as Loxoox
As nourishing as dates sipped with milk.
Oman, Khasab. So grateful for my awesome friend Suad who treated me for a road trip to Khasab which is located in Oman, as it border with UAE. Khasab is the local capital of the Musandam peninsula and has frequently been dubbed the “Norway of Arabia” because of its extensive fjord-like craggy inlets and desolate mountainscapes. It does not matter where you stand in Khasab, as every angle is stunning. We took the dhow cruise to the fjords with Dolphin watch and it was spectacular.
Senegal, Dakkar,On 26th May , a day after Demba Ba football gala dinner, I managed Human Appeal International delegation, to travel to Senegal for an extraordinary journey. In the ultimate heat, we fished in the Atlantic ocean, slept rough in the desert and fetched water. The 15 ordinary volunteers took part in a documentary produced by the talented journalist, sadiya chowdhury. She has worked incredibly hard and also her awesome team has worked around the clock to get ‘Selfies in Africa’ documentary, to show every day of Ramadhan 2015 at 7pm on Islam Channel. We visited the Empire, street children centre, WASH, micro-agriculture and education projects. If you have missed the episodes, watch them all here.
I never have envisaged that the 15 people that travelled with me on this trip will become great friends and as we would like to call it ‘Senegal family’. The volunteers were all from various walk of life and age group but we got along really well both in Senegal and when we returned to London. We still ponder upon the opportunities Senegal brought us, the great memories, the humbleness and the gratitude that we were able to serve those in needs.
Before arriving to Dakkar, as we board the plane from Lisbon, Portugal, with Anta Mbow (founder of The Empire, Street children in Senegal Centre), Islam Channel crew and all the volunteers, we exchanged greeting with a passenger who was both friendly and polite. This passenger was, Mandu dos Santos Pinto, who is a talented architect and founder of Mandu | architexture and urbanizm to realise his vision of combining technical innovation with environmentally, socially and economically sustainable solutions that improve the quality of life in modern cities.
Thousands feet up in the sky, I got to know that both Mandu and our project vision was connected. I would not have ever come to know that it would indeed work out in our crazy schedule to fit in his great ‘Live with water’ project, in our documentary. His project aims to solve water and sanitation-related problems in Dakar and is currently UK DFID funded. Watch it here to learn more.
Switzerland, Zuirch, 15th August, I went away with my friend Sarah on a short break for sightseeing and relaxation. Despite not being ready at all for this trip, and certainly despite the mountain fog, we managed to have good time in solitude. Before going to Zurich, my friend Sara (OK they both have the same name!), mentioned to us that her sister lives to Zurich, but she forgot to tell us how awesome Aisha was. Aisha really welcomed Sarah and I, and treated us to a world class hot chocolates and since Zurich is a city of water, we did lots of walking by the lake, exploring the old Town. We trained everywhere and trust me, train delays in Zurich is a foreign concept.
Macedonia, 5th September. I travelled with Human Appeal, my colleagues Omar Ali, Owais and Fatima to Tabanovce, the Macedonia border with Serbia, Gevgelija, the Macedonia border with Greece and Lesvos, Greece, to distribute aid supplies. It was devastating to see men, women and children who had not eaten and who were very cold. When they would hear the train arriving, which they had to get on to continue their journey of survival, the refugees were sent into a frenzied panic and I was crushed, begged and mobbed by hundreds of refugees desperate to get some food to survive. You can read more about the refugee appeal here or watch here.
As I was writing this blog, I was reflecting on the amazing volunteers and organisation that I have met during my trip. One of the hero, we have met in Macedonia is Mare Bojkovska, she is a hard working humanitarian who coordinate all the work at the Serbia/Macedonia camp. So I paused drafting this post, and sent her an e-mail to wish her a happy new year. She replied back swiftly updating me that during the New Year eve, she decided to visit Gevgelija and as they were in the camp for an hour; they found Uncle Ahmed (she named him that). He was found bare foot, no socks and with no winter essentials. He reported that someone took off him 1000 Euros to transport him to Serbia but they only dropped him off few Kilometres after the border. Had Mare not spotted him on the motorway, most likely he would have died. Mare called UNCHR and an NGO in Gevgelija and they managed to send ambulance that took care of Uncle Ahmed. Public aren’t permitted to transport refugees across borders as it is against the law so Mare was pleased to hear that Uncle Ahmed was fine as she received a photo of him sitting in the sun.
God watches over his people in a miraculous way. That old man uncle Ahmed must have been sincerely praying and God send him refuge and help by facilitating ease for Mare to go to Gevgelija on New Year’s eve despite trying to go there for months.
Also, glad to know Jean-Marie is doing well after helping many refugees in Macedonia and Germany. So pleased to hear that he managed to meet up with an Iraqi and Syrian refugees who he got to know in Macedonia, made it safely in Germany. I hope I cross path with both Mare and Jean-Marie again, two of the best people I have met during the refugees crisis.
Bosnia,8th Nov. For those who knows me quite well, would know since Jan 2015, I intended to travel to Bosnia but it didn’t work out. So I was very blessed to have travelled to Bosnia & Herzegovina with young professionals from the Emerald Network. We were on education visit programme ‘Lessons from Srebrenica’ hosted by Remembering Srebrenica charity to witness at first-hand the testimony of survivors and Mothers who lost loved ones in the Srebrenica genocide. Watch our bearing witness video here . I was so moved by the entire visit, emotionally challenged and left with key messages from our host Resad Trbonja to reflect on. I will certainly visit Bosnia in the near future to explore its landscape and heritage.
In Oct 2015, I was blessed to be in the company of my family and friends as I launched my poetry booklet ” The Capital of my Heart”. I compiled the book to provide access to clean to the remote villages in Senegal, which I had the opportunity to visit earlier in the year. You can donate to the project by getting a copy of the booklet online here and you will be helping to save lives.
When you surround yourself with people who inspire and motivates you to reach your ultimate best, you end up doing great stuff and creating great moments. This event was certainly one of my best highlight and blessed for the friends who made the time to share that special moment with me.
Photos credit | Rooful Ali
While we still talking about poetry, proud that I submitted my poem ‘Capital of my heart’ to be included in Samir Patel, Creative Morning London talk. Watch full video here
In 2014, I have mentioned that I took up Oud classes and that I was pleased with the baby steps I have taken to appreciate this instrument. I decided not to take the intermediate classes as felt little bit intimidated by other students skills set. Rather, I booked 1-2-1 classes with the legend Ahmed Mukhtar. Though I have progressed, for example I hold the Oud with confidence, and technically I am much better than 2014, however I still need to invest more time to practice. You may wonder why this is listed in my ‘what went well’ section, and it is simply due to this fact, that despite not being happy with my slow progress, I showed up in every appointment I set up with Ahmed. So well done to me, for simply showing up 🙂
Another reason why this is something awesome to celebrate is that I launched and hosted Taqasim Oud Club. I ran these events three times last year and it was very well attended. The event enable Oud students to have a platform to perform in front of an audience who are passionate about the sound of Oud. In addition, I also managed Taqasim Music School Annual concert, which featured Fadi AlNaji,Francesco Iannuzzelli, Julia Katarina plus many Oud students. Special thanks to my friends and co-oud students Ruba and Ahmad who helped out great deal during these events.
Oud design credit | Lara Arafeh
Ramadan Tent (RT)
For its 3rd year running, proud that I continue to support and volunteer at Ramadan Tent; which is an award winning community-led initiative aiming to participate in social change by creating bridges between individuals, bringing together communities, and fostering interfaith dialogue.
Sadly Amir and Ruman weren’t the volunteers coordinators so their spark were missing but they were busy taking care of important tasks; such as Amir was overlooking the operation/logistics for the RT Kitchen and the awesome Ruman was creatively occupied in her Media role. So they both left the volunteering in good hand with Leyla and Natasha.
What made Ramadan Tent for me very significant this year was the fact that my three friends ‘the legends’ Ali, Nisreen, Rooful and I volunteered for Ramadan Tent. I am very proud of them and especially for Nisreen who managed the tent kitchen smoothly and effectively. Rooful Ali was blessed to have captured these moments and creating RT portraits.
However, sadly in 2015, the community lost one of its inspirational leader, Bashir Osman (above) whom soul returned to God. May he resides in heaven as he will for sure reside in our hearts and minds. RT founder Omar Salha had the following to say, ‘For many of us at Ramadan Tent Project, we were first acquainted with Bashir during our 2014 Open Iftar in London. A year later Bashir was invited to speak with the very community he first discovered a year ago. He truly embodied the community spirit and philosophy of supporting all of mankind and not just our own community’. Read the full attribute here.
Loss of a family member. In January 2015, my uncle has passed away due to a sudden stroke. It was very shocking news to us all, especially mum as he raised her as a child as his own. I went Lyon, France to pay respect and attended his funeral amongst his family and loved one. May he rests in peace and may he resides in Jannah. We truly miss him.
Nutrition.Like most people, I assume I eat better than I actually do. With my demanding jobs and the travelling, I find myself eat late and guilty for eating out. Lack of healthy diet, affected my mood and it had negative knock and effect on my weight. I need to eat cooked meals with great nutrition that enable the vitamin supplements that I must take to absorb well in my blood stream. My vitamin D has been very low and it affected my mobility. I admit I have to take care of myself, so in order to strengthen my overall well being, I must eat well so I can be function better.
Writing . For sure, writing makes me happy and sharing my poetry gives me an inner satisfaction. For nearly 2 years, I published my poems regularly on my wordpress website. As a result, I built a successful blog and connected with creative people. When I decided to create a new website, where my awesome friend Rose, spent time and energy helping me with that. I realised, it was also then, that I stopped writing all together. I began to neglect posting in both my wordpress blog and my new website. I have missed many post schedule that my motivation to post went downhill. In 2016, I’m looking forward to overcome these writing challenges and post new poems/articles on regular basis.
What am I working toward?
My attention will be focused on three areas in 2016.
Habits. To develop good habit, from timing myself when undertaking tasks, drinking water to praying and fixing my spirituality.
I’ve read James Greig’s recent article on ‘Less stuff, more energy’ and been reflecting since then, about the people, actions and thoughts in my life, that energises me and which of them gets me down.
My lists look like this:
+ Walking, being outside in green spaces
+Stressing & overthinking
Career. I will direct my energy to seek new opportunities in programmes with more field based so can learn and help as many people as I can. I am going to charity blog about my trips to enhance transparency and accountability.
Tell deeper stories. In 2016, I want to share compelling humanitarian stories through my work and travel. I am due to take part in half marathon in Marrakech, on 31st Jan 2016, to raise fund for access to clean water. Watch this space for more update, for now, how cool is my running team!
2015 was a remarkable year for me and I can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store. I worked with an amazing team, had quality friendships, loving family, and met an incredible people. Together, we helped people from Senegal to Nepal, and we should be all grateful for the opportunities bestowed upon us to serve all our beneficiaries. Each one of you (you know who you are) was instrumental to all of this. Without your ongoing support, I would not have fulfilled my truest expression of myself as a human being.
As always, I am just a human being trying to better myself and I’m excited to share the lessons I learn along the way.
On the evening of Saturday 17th October, my friends and family gathered in I’klektic art lab to celebrate the publication of my poetry booklet ‘The Capital of my Heart.’
The eventful evening saw audience members read out poems from the booklet, this was followed by a short reading from myself. After the readings, Ahmed Mukhtar performed Oud to a captivated audience and I showed a short film on the work Human Appeal is currently engaged in, in Senegal.
The proceeds of the booklet go toward building water wells and providing safe drinking water to people across remote villages in Senegal. The idea to collate my poems came whilst on a field trip to Senegal as I really wanted to do my part to help. In rural areas of Senegal, clean water is scarce. The lack of clean water means local inhabitants are at an increased risk of cholera and other life-threatening diseases. There is also an urgent need for clean storage areas. Without hygienic spaces to store water, the water often becomes polluted. Through human appeal carefully selected partners on the ground, they will be providing deep water wells and constructing concrete bases to ensure the land remains clean and hygienic.
You can buy a copy of the booklet online for £10 donation which will save lives here
The booklet showcase 33 of my poems which expresses my journey from pain to healing.
This morning I decided to reflect upon how 2014 was for me. So here I list some of the things that sum up my 2014 very well.
In January 2014, after coming back from an interesting travel, was to found out that in two months time I was going to be jobless. As stressful as it was at the time, I think it was that point that shaped a fulfilling year for me.
In January 2014 I travelled to Sudan to attend a family friend wedding. In fact she is my sister’s best friend and I was blessed to have been invited. We went to Sudan via Istanbul and it was a great opportunity to bond with my sister Fathia. Actually it was the first time we have travelled together, after agreeing on our ten commandment off we went. The wedding and the all cultural parties that came with it was splendid and our friend’s family were hospitable. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see much of Khartoum as our schedule was very busy but drinking tea along Nile river and listening to Sudanese song while cruising was fun.
After leaving my contract and trying to figure out what to do with my life, I decided to go away for a city break. Initially I was trying to plan a holiday with my friend, we both needed the break so much. However, she got busy at work so just as I was about to put the entire travelling idea aside as non of my friends were available, besides who travel in March, God had a great plan for me.
I have a friend in Aruba so I contacted her to see if I can visit her. She warned me about the cost and the long journey. Somehow something within me was making me believe that I will end up in Aruba within days. God was indeed answering my call, and with family support , I managed to travel across the ocean for a contemplation break.
In my way to Aruba, while travelling from New York I met in the plane an incredible soul. Debbie and her daughter Sydney decided to change their seat and ended up sitting next to me. I am so happy they did as we exchanged great conversations, from discussing love, relationships, education to faith. I managed to visit her last day of my trip.
I had amazing time and Ayesha was indeed a great host, she planned the entire itinerary, after of course she came to terms that I was indeed in Aruba. We watched sunrise and sunset, swam in the Caribbean sea and went for horse riding. She introduced me to her friends and took me to her favourite places.
Dorset – Bournemouth
Yes, I know it is in UK, but going for a family trip to Dorset with my eldest sister Naima, her kids Reem and Arwa and my youngest sister Hala’s daughter Fatima was the highlight of my summer. Despite the coast, the remarkable waterpark and the cafe, what made the trip memorable for me was seeing the kids happy even when it got a little chilly at times.
Somerset – Bath
On Sunday 22nd of December, three of my friends, Sarah, Wala, Nisreen and I went to a road trip to Bath. We knew we missed out on the Christmas market but we still wanted to go. So upon arrival, we enjoyed a nice brunch then we went for a nice walk exploring Bath by feet. Most of us been to Bath before, but this city is close to my heart, there is something about its architecture, setting and aura that is inviting.
Most of the attractions are all within a short walk of each other, so of course we went to the most iconic attraction of Bath by visiting the Royal Crescent and somehow we started talking about Arabic poetry, I read out loud in Arabic the famous poem of Saeed Bin Ahmed Al-BuSaidi ‘Ya Mn Hawah’ and attempted a literal translation. The poetry discussion was paused to witness a poetic scene at the Pulteney Bridge. We then sat outside Bath Abbey to listen to a guitarist who took us somewhere on top of the mountain with his flawless talent.
We then headed for a nice afternoon Tea over Pulteney Bridge and ended the day with exploring Victoria Art Gallery and shopping.
The most beautiful highlight of 2014 was witnessing my close friend Hanan getting married. I had the most rewarding pleasure of co-managing her wedding. Dealing with suppliers on her behalf and ensuring her memorable day goes as smooth as possible was an honour to do.
With stunning venue, dressed to impress guests and the heartfelt smiles that embraced the air, Hanan with her jaw dropping dress walked down the aisle to her vintage style bridal stage beautifully.
For sure 2015 is exciting as it will gift her union to Rashid Ali to a year anniversary. I wish them utter happiness and love.
Yes I did wake up one morning and simply felt the urge to learn something new that entertains me and challenge me. That something was Oud! The Oud is a short-necked fretless lute which represents the more important and wide-spread instrument in the Middle-Eastern music. I heard of the mastero Ahmed Mukhtar and couldn’t believe how accessible he was. So I sent him an email at early hours of dawn and he replied swiftly.
We have exchanged several e-mails where I shed light that I have zero knowledge in music theory and instrument. Well unless you call early sign of music interest as knowledge! I do recall when I was young that I asked my late father to buy me a keyboard piano. Though, he bought it for me, I was using it as a toy and didn’t really pursue to learn it.
I was in Manchester visiting my friend Hanan Bihi in May where spring and early sign of summer merged; that without any hesitation, I registered myself into 10 weeks beginner Oud course. The hilarious thing was that my randomness meant that the course can actually go ahead as it was cancelled due to not securing the maximum number. I was that lucky number five.
You have to bring your own Oud to the class, but Francesco Iannuzzelli, a teacher at the school, has lend me the School spare Oud until I buy my own Oud. So I contact Hudeidi the Somali mastero of Oud to check if he knows where I can buy one. He invited me to visit him and so I did. Little did I know that I was to own one of his Oud as I hope someday I will be able to play Somali music using Kaban (Oud). It was so inspirational learning first few Maqams using Oud that Hudeidi once used at his musical event. Sadly, the Oud, didn’t last long with me, it broke, however I will get it fixed someday. Later in the year, I bought new Oud from a former student and it has great sound.
However, though I was attending the classes, my new contracts and voluntary commitments meant I couldn’t dedicate enough time to practice. My teacher, Fadi Al-Naji, once told me that Oud is a generous instrument, the more time you give it, the more it gives you back. After repeating the beginner Oud class, yes I took another 10 weeks , I dedicated two hours and more for practice secessions at home, I learnt he was right.
After completing my second beginner course, I took classes with Julia Ana Katarina to learn music theory. Reading the music notes was always challenging. I decided to colour code the music notes and that helped me to see the notes differently. I also took 1-2-1 classes with the mastero Ahmed Mukhtar to further strengthen my knowledge in Oud and prepare me for 2015 spring intermediate classes.
Sarah whom I met in my first beginner Oud class has helped me alot, from sending me video recording to demonstrate how a song is played to introducing me to Carlos a talented soul who taught Sarah and I over coffee everything we need to know about music theory and notation. As I write this, it is exciting to know we are actually meeting tomorrow 8th Jan 2015 over coffee to go over music theory.
I met some incredible people and formed everlasting connections and friendships with Sarah, Wala and Carlos.
So 2014, was the year I learnt how to play most maqams on Oud, developed the necessary skills from positioning my Oud to risha techniques (tremolo, alternate, tiplets) as well as basic Maqams knowledge (Do Ajm, Do Nahawand, Re Hijaz, Re Kurd, Do Rast, Re Bayat, Re Saba, and Mi half flat Segah) and reading music notes. It was also the year where I played in front of an audience at the Taqasim School open day. I played Maqam Bayat and Doulab Bayat. I was so happy to see from the corner of my eye, Fadi smiling, I guess he was proud. Only Fadi understands very well my Oud journey, he saw me grow from zero participation in the class to confidently volunteering to play a piece.
I bought my first ever bike in August 2014 as I decided during trip to Willowbrook farm in Oxford with Made in Europe that I will take part in their Tour de Salah cycling challenge with my friend Rose. The challenge is to cycle 70 miles, but being first time rider and with on-going knee injury I didn’t want to set myself to fail, so I motivated Rose to do it with me so we can form a rally group. I made sure I attend every pre-ride session and do as many preparation as possible before the big day. Though I struggled with the pre-ride sessions, on the event day, I really had a smooth ride from Bushy Park to Regents Park.
Other than cycling Boris bike now and then at Hyde Park, haven’t ever cycled on the road before, so I am really grateful to MADE bike ride leaders for inspiring, motivating and believing in me. They all taught me everything I need to know about the road signs and the gears.
I also put together with the help of my friends, Rose, Rooful, Huda and Khalid Quiz for Gaza event fundraiser. It was a warm evening filled with laughter and competitiveness. Thanks to all my amazing friends who attended, shared, donated and laughed.
Since the challenge I have registered to MADE Cycling club where we meet every last Sunday of the month, previously we cycled from Queensway to Southall and from Southall to Uxbridge. I have also took part in the final Christmas light guided ride in 2014 organised by Hounslow Cycling, where I cycled to Brentford to meet the organisers then we cycled to Oxford Street that took in many dazzling Christmas illuminations on the way. After we stopped for a warming drink in a café, we returned through Chiswick to Brentford. Then Brian the ride leader kindly cycled with me all the way home, giving me cycling tips and even gave me a nice looking bike bell as a lovely gift.
I also enjoyed cycling with my nephew Sultan on Christmas day. Though Manar my niece was staying with us over the holidays but she could not join us for the sunny ride as her bike needed fixing.
So 2014 was a year I upgraded myself from pedestrian to a cyclist.
I really wanted to attend this social cohesion project as a volunteer. I have supported this project since 2013, however working at the scene, especially if your charity is the sponsor, isn’t the same as volunteering. So I decided to volunteer as many evening as I can, and indeed I had a beneficial time.
The volunteer coordinators were simply what made my experience more enjoyable and rewarding. Amar and Ruman if you are reading this, you are simply awesome. Ramadan Tent indeed shaped 2014 for me to a Ramadan full of ihsaan, productivity and spirituality.
I was so grateful for the company of Rooful, Nisreen and Raabia, our late conversation over coffee/cold drinks sum up my Ramadan beautifully.
My poetry blog had visitors from all over the world and I posted over 60 poems. Thank you to those who read it, shared it, liked it and commented it. You guys are simply awesome.
It was also this year that I had the most poetic evening with my mentor Bashir Goth. We met in Brick Lane where ethnic patterns embraces trendy Art. We talked about the Somali language, poetry, literature and our exchanged story-telling filled the cafe with warmth. He introduced me to his son Omer and the three of us spent the day together where we went back in time to tour Shakespeare Globe to exploring the world’s knowledge at the British library.
Nicest Job in Britain
2014 was the year I challenged myself to record 45 seconds video application to apply for the National Philanthropy Manager role at Utility Aid. My friends and family both near and far supported my video application, not only they voted, they shared and believed in me. It was a proud moment to be shortlisted out of over 70 wonderfully inspiring applications for the Nicest Job in Britain. I really enjoyed meeting the finalists Karen, Diane, Gemma, Rob, Steph, Luke and Jobe at the Cricket stadium in Birmingham
I was so proud of Luke Cameron who won the job to become National Philanthropy Manager for Utility Aid.
So all of the above sum up the most highlight of 2014, it made me realise how blessed I am to have a loving family, and awesome friends. Of course it was also a challenging year for me. In nut a shell my year started with a contract ending and it ended with closing a charity down. My year also ended with questions mark and there is a frustration you feel when being asked several times ‘so what is your plan now’. I had to breath in and out to calm myself down, after all, I cleared my desk on new year’s eve. I spent new year’s eve with my mum and as fireworks coloured London and the world with hope, mum and I prayed for peace and prosperity.
On the train, contemplating
How to celebrate my soul
Where lessons are learnt
And do more good for life
I am proud of one thing
And I don’t believe I’m wrong
That my journey
Is your journey
This poem is inspired by Maya Angelou
I didn’t win the job at Utility Aid but wishing Luke the very best.
The shortlist of the nicest job in Britain. Photo by Utility Aid.