(Three great ladies: Bottom left, Fayrouz;Lebanon's most famous singer, bottom right, Om Kalthoum; the most famous singer in the Arab world. www.arabmusic.com. Top, my cute neice Callahan last summer. I just felt downright wrong not having a picture of her up when her brother is in an earlier post.)
I dread the day when I must leave Sekina, and this day is coming soon.
Sekina has a great balcony on our roof with a blue tiled fountain and dozens of rose bushes and several couches and ceiling fans over the covered part of it. A dirty white cat had her kittens right under my window the other night, but more importantly, she gave birth to them rather just next to Sekina’s extra supply piles of potatoes and onions on the back part of our balcony.
Sekina does not like cats. She demanded they leave. Water was used to scare the mama cat away and she fled, leaving the four tiny tiny kittens crying. Ibrahim, the sweet little street urchin that Sekina feeds, picked them up and we put them in a box with some shredded paper so that we could arrange for the entire family’s relocation.
The mama had run to the roof just above us. Despite the fact that there were no less than 7 women from Sekina's Quranic group on the balcony and that I was the only person with both a serious cat allergy and a flu, somehow it was I who was elected to go up and retrieve the mother and reunite her with her offspring. I climbed up with the box, gingerly approaching the mother who was hissing at me scarily, showed her the contents of the box and attempted to cajole her into getting in. When she had, we realized that both the bottom and top of the box would not close. Roro, the maid, brought up a dish drying rack and the plastic piece that catches water underneath it and I placed these on either side of the box both to keep the rather frisky mama cat from biting or killing me and to prevent the small kittens from falling to their certain death.
It was during the process of carrying this highly bulky broken box of 5 cats held together by the various parts of a dishwasher drying rack, down a highly suspect ladder which had survived the war but perhaps not ought to have, covered with bullet holes and with some of the more necessary rungs missing, that seemingly every resident, more than 30 people from the apartment buildings opposite came out to their balconies to give me conflicting advice in Arabic about how to most appropriately descend from the ladder. Most pressing, not that I was perched on the edge of a quickly disintegrating ladder hanging over the ledge of a 4 story building, carrying a large, unwieldy box of cats which were completely obstructing my view, but rather, that even though I was wearing a long, very religiously appropriate Egyptian man’s gallabiya, approximately 4 inches of my left calf was showing. Sekina gasped and ran, not to help me down the ladder, but to adjust the hem of my gallabiya.
Two days later, after inquiry into the fate of the kittens, sadly I found that they had all died, even though I had seen them drinking from their mama the day before. I saw said mama in the street out of the corner of my eye as I headed to my Arabic lesson and tried to walk quickly away before she saw me, but it was too late. She rubbed up against my leg repeatedly and scandalously and looked up at me as if to say “Why don’t you brining me something to eat, you stupid American chick. And by the way, thank you for killing all of my kittens.” I have no idea why I apologized to her in Arabic, but she was an Arab cat after all.
I'm adding this, because I'm almost out of here, but I would be remiss in writing anything about Lebanon without mentioning her most famous singer, Fayrouz, who has a very yummy soft drink named after her that is popular all over the Arab world.
There is no equivalent for Fayrouz in American culture. I guess you could say Elvis, but that wouldn't really be correct. Maybe if Elvis had lived during the American Civil War and had written songs about what a tragedy it was that so many Americans were killing other Americans, that might come close. The only singer in the Middle East who is more famous than Fayrouz is Om Kalthoum, from Egypt. There are many places I have been in Egypt who ONLY play Om Kalthoum. Somedays, when I walked down Om Kalthoum Road, then past the Om Kalthoum hotel, the massive Om Kalthoum statue, the Om Kalthoum coffee house, I just think Egypt should be called Om Kalthoum. If I had a pet, I might name her Om Kalthoum. (pictures above)
After I posted this bit about Fayrouz, I received some criticism from indigenous friends over here, who told me pointedly that my Elvis/Fayrouz comparison was not correct. Elvis is not American enough. Who, then? Who was more American than Elvis? Robert Redford, my friend Ismail offered. Or if not, perhaps George Washington. Ismail's friend's suggested that no one would dare to impersonate Fayrouz after she dies, as has been done with Elvis. I will continue to seek an accurate comparison and will alert you promptly when something appropriate pops us.
Until the next Dispatch,