Tuesday, July 31: Lisa is an ESL teacher in Pennsylvania. On this trip to Egypt, she brings a doll she made. She photographs the doll in various locations in Egypt, such as in front of the Pyramids and other landmarks. When she returns home, she will show the pictures to her students, who get great enjoyment from seeing the doll in places where Lisa has visited.
This doll reminds me of the rabbit Felix in the amazing children’s book series that began with Letters from Felix: A Little Rabbit on a World Tour.
At the end of a vacation something terrible happens: Sophia’s cuddly rabbit, Felix, disappears in the airport. This is very, very bad, because Sophie and Felix are inseparable. But when school starts again, suddenly a letter for Sophie arrives from London – a letter from Felix!
Our roommate, Souhaila, is a serious believer in Islam and believes the doll is haram, or sinful. Every time she sees Lisa’s doll lying around the apartment, she turns it face down or she asks Lisa to remove it. Now, Lisa is Muslim too, but she doesn’t see it this way. She sees it as a plaything for children, and something they enjoy, especially when she brings back pictures of it in front of landmarks throughout the world.
Here’s what the Metropolitan Museum of Art says about this idea: The Islamic resistance to the representation of living beings ultimately stems from the belief that the creation of living forms is unique to God, and it is for this reason that the role of images and image makers has been controversial. The strongest statements on the subject of figural depiction are made in the Hadith (Traditions of the Prophet), where painters are challenged to “breathe life” into their creations and threatened with punishment on the Day of Judgment. The Qur’an is less specific but condemns idolatry and uses the Arabic term “musawwir” (“maker of forms,” or artist) as an epithet for God.
HOWEVER, says the Met: Although the often cited opposition in Islam to the depiction of human and animal forms holds true for religious art and architecture, in the secular sphere, such representations have flourished in nearly all Islamic cultures (Metropolitan Museum of Art: Figural Representation in Islamic Art).
I am just a bystander in this disagreement between two Muslims, but I have to say, I find Lisa’s take much more moderate and reasonable. Besides Lisa has a fabulous sense of humor and I can’t help but laugh as she decides, on our last morning in Cairo, to take pictures of the doll in various places throughout the flat, including on Souhaila’s bed.
We have some fun with the doll in the flat before we gather up our belongings to head to the airport. After we take a number of pictures and have a lot of laughs about the whole situation, we load our suitcases on the bus and head to the airport.
When we arrive at the airport, we find we are all on standby for a flight home. Dr. Jones is scrambling around trying to get us sorted out. While we’re waiting, Lisa and I play around in the airport, laughing our heads off and acting goofy, as we have from the first minute we met at the beginning of July. I push her around on a baggage cart and then she pushes around some Egyptian children. We laugh and laugh, acting like little children ourselves.
Finally we get a little tired from all the energy we’re expending acting goofy. Irritation starts to set in. It seems this situation with our flight is not being resolved. Dr. Jones and his Al-Ameen Associates are so disorganized; it appears we will not even get on a flight today. As the hours tick by, we get increasingly impatient and annoyed. Finally, after about 6 hours in the airport (!!), we find we will not get on a flight after all. We are transported out of the airport to the Hotel Novotel Cairo Airport to spend the night. We will try to get on a flight tomorrow, insha’allah.
This extra night gives me another chance to see Basim. I call him and he comes to visit at the Novotel, but he can only stay for a short time because he has to attend a birthday party for someone in his family. It’s okay, I’m happy to see him one more time.
After he leaves, Lisa and I have a light dinner in the lobby restaurant.
I go to bed early, exhausted from our ridiculous day at the airport. At this point, I’m ready to go home, and I am keeping my fingers crossed we get on a flight tomorrow.