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Letter from a Friend, Shedding Light

This totally made my day because it was written by a very accomplished man who is half Turkish and half Egyptian. I have known him for years. He bought the books on Amazon. He gives great insight into the mix of cultures and expands on some of the experiences from my book. Dear Sunni

I can't tell you how much I enjoyed the book. It took me a long time to read it because I am in the habit of reading more than one book at the same time. I liked it so much that when I progressed near the end, I wished that it had been longer.

The trip to the Turkish village is astounding. However, I realize that it is not the main theme in the story. The story is about the unusual, suspenseful, sad, but enlightening love and marriage experience between you and Afiz. The descriptions of life in the Turkish village, the unbelievable poverty, the customs, the ignorance, and your continuous struggle to maintain self-control and sanity and to withstand the horrible successive dilemmas are outstanding.

When I visit Egypt and stay with my cousin, I experience only a fraction of what you experienced, but it is sufficient to make me rush back home. She lives in a nice suburb of Egypt and she is a retired famous movie star. Her house has all the comforts of our houses in the U.S., but the streets of Cairo, the sanitary standards, the noise levels, the beggars, the greedy merchants, and a few other annoyances make me want to escape. I would've certainly gone mad if I were in your place. By the way my cousin's screen name is Nadia Lutfi just in case you have time to look her up in Wikipedia or Youtube.

My most recent opportunity to observe life in the Egyptian countryside was when I stayed at my cousin's country home. A man from the nearby village and his daughters serve her when she is staying at the house and maintain the house the grounds when she is in her city home. Although villages in that part of the country near the capital are much more advanced than in the southern part of Egypt, they share some undesirable aspects of the life in the Turkish village: the famers' buildings, two outfits for each person, arranged marriages, girls getting married at a very young age. Farag is the man whose family takes care of the house. He does not send his daughters to school, his eldest daughter is getting married at 14, and he is replacing her at my cousin's service with her younger daughter, a child of 12. She was very cute, tried her best to fill the shoes of her older sister and to anticipate our wishes. I gave her some money every time I saw her and she used to take special care in how to arrange my bed and place the clean clothes in order. However, I did not want her to prepare any food for me because I didn't think she had good sanitary habits.

Regarding the fight, Egyptian women have somewhat of a different attitude towards men fighting. They are more tolerant of it because culturally it is men's duty to fight to defend the dignity of their women. They are the protectors and women would look down on men who would back down.

Talking about fighting, you know that the Turks ruled Egypt for decades. There are stereotypes of the Turkish people and they include portraying them as hot tempered people and fanatical in their religious and moral beliefs in addition to feelings of superiority.

I am glad that at some point you used the qualifying word "fundamentalist" to describe a particular brand of Islam. Mainstream Islam respects both Christians and Jews. The Quraan praises both Jesus and Moses. Muslims refer to them as Our Mater Jesus or Our Master Moses. They also call the Virgin Mary Our Lady Mariam and visit her shrines. Any deviations from that are purely political/cultural. Some examples are:

  • The prophet Mohammad was married to a Coptic woman, Maria.

  • In southern Egypt both Muslims and Copts have similar life styles, especially regarding women's clothing and roles in spite of the difference in religion.

  • My father was Turkish from Istanbul. He was rigid mentally, but did not tell my mother what to wear or if she should stay home to raise children. She and her sister dressed like their counterparts in the US and Western Europe.

  • Farmer women in Egypt and most women in Cairo did not cover their faces till about 20 years ago with the rise of the Islamist movement.

Although I know you and Afiz, and I knew how the story ended, I was stunned when I read the part about him bringing his second wife home to you "to be your servant" and to bear his children. I think that during the two years he spent in the U.S. with you did not do anything to change him; he was only away from his habitat so to speak. When he went back, he simply reverted to what he had always been.

The ending was sad of course, but you had the courage to state that what happened is what you originally feared would happen. I am sure that there is more to the story for you to explore and more corners of yourself to cast the light on.

A long time ago, I ran into Afiz, predictably, at Menard's after you two separated and another time at MATC where he was trying to enroll a friend from Turkey obviously to help him gain entry/remain in the U.S. He told me briefly that he originally did not think he would care for children, but when he saw his brother's(?) children, he changed his mind. He also mentioned that he "hoped" that you'd decide to become a Muslim in time. I countered by telling him that he was aware that those two conditions were not part of the mutual understanding between the two of you.

In closing, I congratulate you on producing such a gem of a book.



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