Thursday, September 16, 2010

Eid, or something like it.

Last Friday was the end of the thirty-day fasting marathon we call Ramadan. My friends cheered for me as I walked into the cafeteria to have my first mid-day meal since the program began. But it was bittersweet and my stomach, twisting and turning, wasn't too happy either (tho that just may be St. John's food). Since then, I've regained the nearly five pounds I lost in my daily struggle to find food in Paris after 8pm. No longer does my dinner need to be saran-wrapped by the sweet cafeteria workers; I can eat with everyone else and go out for dessert. Yes, my pants are quite snug.

My excitement and anxiety of Eid in a foreign country woke me up with the rising sun. We never got the chance to go to taraweeh and so everything about this day was going to be new. What was the masjid like? Would the sermon be in French? What do the Muslims here wear on Eid? What if we get lost and miss the whole prayer? 

Technically, we made it to the mosque on time, but what I would have given to have been an hour early.. My roommate, Hira, partner in all things French, captured our strange/interesting experience best:

"Under normal circumstances, I’m sure the Great Mosque of Paris is a beautiful testament to architecture, but today, swarmed as it is by devoted Muslims for the post-Ramadan holiday Eid-al-Fitr, I can barely take in the beauty of the sight before me when I am pushed forward by people crying out, “Avancez, avancez!”

Prayer is a messy affair: constrained by all the people around me and the small space, my motions during the prayer are jerky and ungraceful. Afterwards, a woman in a hurry bowls over my roommate, but many sets of hands reach out to catch her before she falls over a small hedge and into the greenery."

I had to "avancez! avancez!" to the point where claustrophobia was written all over my face. I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of people being crammed in the garden as the general prayer spaces overflowed. I had been balancing myself between a palm tree and a bush as shiny, festive people continued to push their way through when Yomna took a tumble. 

Those "many sets of hands" were of two Algerian women who adopted us family-less American girls. They kept a motherly eye on us, making sure we could share their prayer rugs. They brought us dates and sweets and kissed us four times on each cheek wishing us a wonderful Eid in a mix of Arabic and French.

Sermon was in Arabic (thankfully!) and I did some translating for Hira, but was mostly distracted by the hoards of people finally making their way out. By the time it was over, there were few families left taking photographs of the beautiful mosque and it was then that I realized that oh yes, I'm in a beautiful mosque! We had no particular place to be so we stayed and explored and finally were able to appreciate its beauty. It was calming and reassuring that even in a city as secular as Paris, spirituality and religiosity can remain.

The weather was also celebrating Eid: sunny, clear and warm. We decided to grab some sandwiches and head towards the Eiffel Tower, spending the rest of our day beneath its grandeur. A far stretch from home, but it was splendid.


  1. A very belated Eid Mubarak to you and Hira! The outpouring of comments on your facebook albums is too intimidating for me to interject in, but all the pictures are freaking lovely. Excited for all the things you have yet to explore inshaAllah! xx

  2. DAR! i just saw this comment. youre so sweet, thanks for the well wishes!