Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Christmas - Cairo Style

My husband and I both love Christmas. It is our favorite holiday. When we met for the first time it was over Christmas in Colorado. However, since we have been together we have yet to spend a Christmas in Cairo. It's becoming a tradition to go to the US every year at Christmas time. Last year I wanted to get a tree after seeing them for sale at the florists around town. Having a real tree is out of the question since we won't be around to take care of it. I was willing to settle for a fake one, but for some reason we never got around to buying one last year. We spent Christmas with my mother in Florida but she does not "do Christmas" so there was no tree.

When we were on our way to Carrefour this evening I imagined how it would be if I were shopping in the US at this time of year. The aisles of every store would be filled with Christmas decorations and holiday items, cookies, wrapping paper and Christmas music. (In Egypt you can hear Christmas music by the pool or in the movie theater in July, but you don't hear it at Christmas time.) But we were headed to Carrefour in Cairo to buy cat litter. I told myself that it just wouldn't be the same and reminded myself that in just 30 days I would be in Colorado surrounded by snow and lights and the smells, sights and sounds of Christmas.

We walked into Carrefour and it's usual crowds and got our shopping cart and started to head to the back and over by the pet supplies. Suddenly in front of me I saw a whole aisle of Christmas trees and decorations. Ok, they were slightly cheap looking and pathetic but I started jumping for joy and squealing "Let's get a tree! Let's get a tree!"

The trees came in 3 different sizes but I liked the littlest one. I got one box of ornaments and a stocking. Overall, the stuff is way overpriced for the quality. I didn't buy lights because the tree is way to small for the strands they had available. I figured they probably wouldn't work anyway. Returning things that don't work in Egypt is quite a hassle.

So that was it. One aisle. A hand full of trees, lights and ornaments. They had a few tiny wreaths but they were also quite pricey for the size and quality. No wrapping paper, no musical cards, no fruit cake or sugar cookies or life size Santas and Reindeer...but it made me happy if for a brief moment. For a brief moment I was able to feel that familiar Holiday spirit.

So here it is - my Charlie Brown Christmas tree:


  1. OMG How can you not have Christmas there it is a shame to miss out on the festive season, But then again that comes from the differetn beliefs. I dont know if i could not go with all the things we put up here in Aus. to celebrate the silly season if all goes well this year ill take some photos and post them for you here to show how mad we get her in AU, i know its even worse in the States but its still nice to see.


  2. As a Muslim, I find this post so disheartening and sad. Not only are you and your husband celebrating a holiday that you should not be celebrating, but you are giving everyone the wrong idea about Muslims. We don't keep dogs in the house, we don't get involved in alcohol and we don't celebrate Christmas! We have our own traditions that you and especially your husband should be embracing! Please tune in to the hajj on the television next week and see how our own eids can bring us Muslims together.

    Throw out the tree and if you feel the need for the holiday trimmings next year get yourself a Ramadan lantern or two or three. And then enjoy the blessings of fasting.

    With the eid coming up, please think more about strengthening your bond with your religion and learn to give up the bad habits you have acquired before you became Muslim.

  3. First of all, my religion or lack thereof is not a matter of public record. I have not said anywhere on this blog that I was Muslim so you are making quite an assumption. You are also making quite an assumption about my "bad habits".

    Secondly, I think if anyone is giving "everyone the wrong idea about Muslims" it is you. It's comments like this that make everyone think Muslims are hard-core fundamentalists. I am simply showing the world that there are progressive Muslims in the world who embrace multicultural multifaith experiences. I know lots of non-Muslims living in Cairo who fast during Ramadan simply as a show of solidarity. So why not a Muslim enjoy a holiday of another faith?

    Thirdly, I do not know who you are or where you live but it seems if you live in Cairo you have a blind eye to what is really going on here. There are lots of Muslims who have dogs, drink, celebrate Halloween, etc. and they were doing it long before I got here.

  4. What a sad lady, she denies she is Muslim even though she has stated it elsewhere.

    So does it make it ok to celebrate Halloween, drink alcohol, and keep a dog in the house as a Muslim because others are doing it? Get out of Maadi once in a while and you will see that not all of Cairo is trying to emulate Americans. Most Egyptians have never even heard of Halloween!

    There is nothing wrong with joining Christians on their holidays if they happen to be friends or family but bringing Christian holiday trappings into your home as Muslims is a form of self-loathing. Why can't you take pride in your own religion and its own holidays? Why are you so afraid to say, yes I am Muslim?

    As a Muslim, I don't care if people who aren't Muslim don't fast in front of me. In fact, I am a bit offended by people who think they need to stop eating in front of me. It's about personal restraint and what others are doing around me or not doing should not have any affect. I should strive to do my best as a Muslim regardless.

    Just as you should strive to refrain from celebrating Christmas even if all your expat friends are doing so. Maybe if you looked around you would realize there are millions Muslims here who don't know the difference between December 25 and any other day with whom you could celebrate your OWN Muslim holidays, even Muslim Americans if that is what you prefer.

  5. I always find it interesting that the most negative comments posted on the internet are often "Anonymous"!

    To "Anonymous":

    You seem as though you follow this blog, since you are so aware of the bloggers "bad habits" regarding dogs and alcohol, which was not in the Christmas entry. Do you spend your time reading blogs that you disapprove of just waiting for a chance to comment with your disapproval?

    I, myself, live in Cairo and know Muslims who celebrate some aspect of the Christmas holiday, as do other Muslims around the world. This does not make them less of a Muslim.

    Is decorating a plant, giving gifts to family and friends and sharing a meal with loved ones so threatening to you? Just because a Muslim may share in this aspect of the Christmas holiday does not mean they are going to Sunday mass and changing their religious beliefs.

    I may give clothing to my Muslim friend's children and wear something new for Eid; as well as, share in fetar during Ramadan, but that does not mean I am giving up my own religious beliefs and am less of a Christian.

    Is there something so wrong in experiencing a part of another religion and/or culture? Just because a non-Muslim may share in this aspect of Muslim holidays does not mean he/she is reading the Qur'an and praying as a Muslim does and giving up their own religious beliefs.

    Try embracing multicultural and multifaith experiences and maybe you will be a better person for it.

    1. Love your reply.. individuals like Anonymous however aren't worth the trouble.
      I'm one of them liberal muslims who Anonymous and their likes hate so much and would love to get a tree for the season, any insights?
      This is gonna be my first Christmas in Egypt since I've decided it's the most wonderful holiday and started celebrating it.

  6. As I stated earlier, my religion or lack thereof is not a matter of public record. So what you think you may know about me is not open for discussion.

    I really could care less if Cairo is trying to emulate America. As I also said earlier, what is going on here in Cairo has been going on long before I got here. But I'm sorry no one invited you to a Halloween party and there were plenty and none of the ones I was invited to were in Maadi anyway.

    And do you think I'm celebrating Christmas because my EXPAT friends are? You think I would be easily influenced by something someone else is doing? Don't you think it has more to do with the fact that I have been celebrating Christmas for the last 42 years of my life? Besides, everyone knows that Americans only celebrate the "commercial" aspect of Christmas anyway (I'm saying that because I know you'll bring that up as your next point). So what if I enjoy the smell of cookies baking, and red and green ribbons, and pretty colored lights, and Bing Crosby songs?

    I really can't stand people who are so inflexible. If you don't like me and anything I am blogging about - then you are more than welcome to stop reading.

  7. Hello..I love the tree1 Enjoy! Wow..what a pity for Egypt that there are people who are so intolerent of others. How sad. Oh, I am a Muslim by the way. I grew up in Egypt in the sixties...in out house we celebrated Christman, Easter, Ramadan and the Eid. We grew up with respect for all religions ..my mother was a Christian married to a Muslim. I am blessed now by having so many wonderful friends and family...I never think of asking about peoples religion...has Egypt changed to such an extent? I sure hope not. Enjoy the festive season and celebrate as you wish. Peace on earth.

  8. A baby tree, very cute.

  9. hope you enyoy your christmas. you seem a nice person

  10. To the Charlie Brown Christmas message:
    I know how you feel and your blog spoke to me on a personal level. I was wondering if you've had better experiences with Christmas around here since 2009. I realize it's a long shot but I'd love to hear back from you.
    This is my first Christmas here and I'm looking for a place to get a decent tree from. Any advice will be appreciated.