Well, Urbndervish here. That swishy sound of glistening sweat being wiped from my dewy brow indicates that eternitysojourner and I have just completed our first school term in our Arabic programme!
Our Arabic school program is called Sibawaih Institute of Arabic Language. It is a cozy school that is located on the 4th floor of a building that also leases to the American Academic Institute (I’m not sure what they do), a dentist’s office, and other businesses.
- The lobby of our school
Sibawaih was a famous Arabic grammarian that lived centuries ago. Interestingly enough, he, like other famous Arabic grammarians, was not an Arab (at least ethnically). However, if you really want to know the truth, a person becomes an Arab linguistically, not ethnically. In other words, if you speak Arabic, you are an Arab. That is why linguistic Arabs can range from blonde-haired blue-eyed individuals to curly-haired dark-skinned people. The language is what binds them, not some genetic linkage to Semitic desert-dwellers. But I digress…
I recall our first day at school and how we were amazed at the beauty and simplicity of the Sibawaih Institute (hereby referred to as “SI”). The walls are decorated by colourful posters of fruits, vegetables, and animals along with their respective names in Arabic. The classrooms are not lacking in pictorial representations either.
I believe that the staff consists of two instructors and a Qur’an recitation instructor. Our teacher is the founder of the SI, Ustaadh Muhammad (tr. “Professor Muhammad”). He has a passion for the language as well as effective instruction. He was educated here in Yemen as well as Al-Azhar University, which is Sunni Islam’s premier university established in Egypt centuries ago by the, then potentates, the Shiite Fatimid Empire. Go figure… As I mentioned, he has a love for the language and the religion. “Bi idhni-llah” (tr. “By the permission of Allah”) falls from his mouth every couple of minutes, which shows his firm resolve in the belief of the Divine Decree. Although this statement can be habitual and thereby lose its significance, it was this statement and belief that kept me grounded during some of the minor difficulties we have experienced since we came. So far we have been learning key phrases and statements that assist in everyday functioning. It’s not one of those types of language classes where you learn irrelevant phrases like: “Sirwaalul-qirdi waasikh” (tr. “The monkey’s trousers are soiled.”). Classes are two hours a day, five days a week.
Eteritysojourner here. We really love learning Arabic- the language is so vast, eloquent and directly relevant to our lives right now. It’s amazing to learn words or phrases in class that you then hear in the street or in conversation, or even better, while reading the Qur’an. The latter is the main reason we want to learn Arabic- to better comprehend (and apply) the jewels in the ocean of knowledge known as the Qur’an. Our study has been fulfilling and this is the most diligent we’ve been as students in a long time.We just took our end-of-term examination. We feel that we did pretty well, alhamdulillah. We will use our break time (approx 10 days of no class) to continue studying and hopefully get some travel in during the Eid holiday.
Highlights from the past month:
– Urbndervish (UD) is making quite a few new friends
– Eternitysojourner (ES) recently gained the acceptance of a group of really old (and cute) Yemeni women who attend a special little mosque nearby that we call the “Ruhaniyyah Masjid (Spirituality Mosque)”. Did I mention how cute they are?
– ES has been tutoring our landlord’s wife in English
– We’re making our own soymilk! Our Malay neighbor taught us a few weeks ago. One less point for corporate hegemony! Ha, in your face!
– We’ve been making baba ghanoush (roasted eggplant dip) and it’s pretty good, masha’Allah (as God willed it)
– We’ve consumed approximately two kilos of dates i.e. almost five pounds!
– We went to a contemporary art gallery in the old city. Pictures to follow, insha’Allah
– We’ve discovered our favorite dessert in Yemen, thus far. It’s called Arayisi (we think, at least) and it’s a mixed fresh fruit cocktail in mango puree, topped with raisins, coconut, and strawberry sauce! Huwa ladheedh (It’s delicious!) They say the groom is supposed to eat it before he gets married. Why? No idea.
– We’ve attended iftars (fast-breaking meals) with our neighbors. A typical way to break your fast, before you have dinner, is to eat dates and water. In Yemen they add two other ingredients.
– We’ve been making sambusas…lots of them. Sambusas are fried turnovers that are eaten in Yemen during Ramadan. They eat sambusas in Ethiopia and samosas throughout subcontinent Asia as well. In Yemen, they are usually stuffed with ground meat or really salty cheese. We’ve embellished a bit and stuffed them with curried lentils and potatoes, roasted eggplant, bananas and coconut, and whatever else we can find to put in them! I really hope that we can find the sambusa dough after Ramadan. Otherwise, we’ll be stockpilin’!
– Lastly (for now), one special blog reader hipped us to this article that gives us all yet another reason to go veg! Raggamuslim points to that special somebody! 😉 Click here to view the article.
We’ve enjoyed reading all of the comments. Keep ‘em comin’!
Ma’a salaama (with peace),