While some people seem to be born with a clear sense of their dreams, other people bounce back and forth, never sure of what they want. I am from the latter group.
I was born barefoot and stayed that way most summers until I was ten. I loved the outdoors and had a happy childhood in rural Indiana – but my dream was always to get as far away from my country roots as possible. I wanted to experience the city life. It all looked so glamorous: the fabulous rows of tower blocks and endless pavements, the bustle of people walking up and down the streets, the sheer variety of characters, food, and shopping. It was all so much more appealing than crickets and cows. Once I went to university, I decided I would never look back, the bigger the city, the better. I was delighted when the day finally arrived for my husband and I to move to Cairo – I was so excited. Finally I would be in one of the of the world’s largest cities: just what I had always wanted.
However, things are not always as they seem. It didn’t take long for the fascination of apartment life to end. Cities were never meant for children. Having seven of them squeezed into a small flat in Cairo proved to be exhausting, at best. There were people everywhere. It seemed I couldn’t open my apartment door without seeing someone. Just parking the car was a nightmare. Everywhere we went, we had to queue up, most often in a very long queue. The pollution, the noise, the bustle of the people walking up and down the streets was just all too much. I began to long for peace and quiet.
At first, I thought a beach house was the solution but no matter how many different beach developments we looked at, they were all full of houses and flats stuck together in endless rows and the same masses were bustling up and down the pavements but this time they were going to and from the beach. The shopping centres in the beach resorts were teeming with people… I felt I was doomed to exist in a crowd.
After a few years, a new kind of development opened up. I saw the full page advertisement in the newspaper and the choir began to sing in the background of my mind and a light beamed down from the heavens. ‘Own your own farm,’ the advertisement said. One acre plots of land could be purchased in the desert outside Cairo for agricultural development; the land prices were cheap and the air was free! We soon reserved our little spot and began to dream about how we could arrange our little farm: the animals here, the trees there, the pond in the middle. It was all so exciting. At last I would at least have my weekends of peace.
Within a year, the weekends were expanded and we began to live full-time on our little farm. We had sheep, goats and a dairy cow. Ducks, chickens and wild turkeys were in pens bordering the farm. We planted fruit trees and got a couple of cats. The kids played outside and swam in the pond. I became interested in herb gardening, planting vegetables, spinning, dyeing wool and milking the cow. Owning a farm and having animals was hard work. At the end of most days, I crawled into bed, tired and worn out but it was the good kind of tired that left me satisfied, alhamdulillah.
I was born living my dream and didn’t even see it. I was happy then but didn’t appreciate it. It all stems from having rida (satisfaction), being content with what we are given. Allah I had put me in the right place but I didn’t value the happiness it gave me. I took it for granted, always imagining that the grass was greener on the other side. My journey led me full circle and, just like the country mouse, I am happy to be back home in the countryside once again drinking my coffee in the cool morning breeze and running my toes through the grass.
It is not over yet, though. Life is not just about having one dream. Most of us have a lot of dreams and I have been working on another dream, one that is even bigger. I want to memorise the whole Qur’an. And, as with all dreams, we ask Allah (SWT) to give us the momentum to begin, the fortitude to endure the hard work and the ultimate ability to achieve all of our dreams.
Ann (UmAmeer) reverted to Islam 25 years ago and lives between Cairo and Jeddah with her Egyptian husband. The Middle East has been home for over 20 years. She has seven children and six grandchildren with two on the way insha Allah…