Unforgettable Turkey: Cappadocia - Of Cave Hotels & Cave Churches (Part 3)

Friday, December 19, 2014

View of Göreme town centre from Cave Hotel Saksagan.

A whirlwind of events have taken place in the past few months but I'm happy to say things are finally settling down and this blog post is being written by yours truly from the bustling capital city of New Zealand - Wellington. YES, what a dream come true, alhamdulillah! And now I'm finally in the right state of mind to write again and continue my blog series on my trip to Turkey last August.  I love Turkey and I'm completely smitten with it. It's a land I feel very connected to so I'm always happy to talk or write about it. By the way, don't forget to read Part 1 and Part 2 of the 'Unforgettable Turkey' series if you haven't already.

We adjourned to the region of Cappadocia or Kapadokya ("the land of beautiful horses") in Central Anatolia after spending 3 days in Istanbul. It was a must-see for us as in Cappadocia lies a UNESCO World Heritage site, Goreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia. This region is famous for its fairy chimneys, hot air balloon rides, cave homes and cave churches. We flew with Turkish Airlines and the flight lasted around 2 hours. We landed in the province of Kayseri where a shuttle bus arranged by our hotel (at the price of USD $10 per person, if I recall correctly) picked us up from the airport to take us to Cappadocia which is about an hour's drive from Kayseri.

Life with Breast Cancer (In Conjunction with Breast Cancer Awareness Month)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

I hope it's not too late for me to write about this but October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and having personally known young and otherwise healthy individuals who are/were affected by cancer I wanted to do the least that I could to help PRIDE Foundation in their mission to raise awareness about breast cancer. My friend Ami Schaheera passed away from leukemia earlier this year (may Allah bless her soul and reward her patience with Paradise) so I understand the importance of creating awareness and having a good support network. When I read her interview in EH! Magazine I had no idea she was going through so much while being such a sweet and cheerful fashionista at the same time. She reminded me of Kris Carr, a Stage 4 cancer patient who has documented her life and battle with so much spirit and strength ever since she received the diagnosis.

I'd like you to spare some time to watch Cheryl's personal account of her battle with breast cancer in the video above. One of the things that struck me while listening to her was that she found a lump while performing a monthly self-examination. It's scary to think about how cancer develops. One month ago the lump wasn't there and then there it was. Another thing about cancer is that it can happen to anyone (yes, even men can get breast cancer!) so it's important that we educate ourselves about some key facts on breast cancer:

Unforgettable Turkey: Dolmabahçe Palace & Bosphorus Cruise, Istanbul (Part 2)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Dolmabahçe Palace,  Istanbul

Well, who knew 2 weeks would fly by so fast! My first post on Turkey was indeed published 2 weeks ago but I'm back and roaring to tell you more about this fascinating city called Istanbul. In my first post I mentioned that we joined 2 tour sessions by She Tours. This post covers the second tour which was a full-day one. After a discount from Mehmet, our hotel manager at The Sultanahmet Suite Life, the tour costed us 55 Euros per person. The original price was 70 Euros per person, if I'm not mistaken. We were taken to Dolmabahçe Palace, Yildiz Park and Pierre Lotti Hill which were on the European side of Istanbul. We also went on the 1-hour Bosphorus Strait Cruise and had lunch at Omar Restaurant, Sultanahmet Square.

Dolmabahçe (Dolma-bah-chay) Palace was constructed between 1843 and 1856 by the Ottoman Empire's 31st sultan, Abdülmecid I, and it was the residence of his 5 successors as well. Yes, right until the end of the Caliphate in 1924. I would say this palace is a must-see because a) it's interior is stunning and b) it's symbolic of the Ottoman Empire's downfall and decline - the love of dunya (the worldly life) and the desire to emulate European ideals while its commitment to Islamic leadership waned, among other things.

[Faith Friday] Putting Life in Perspective: Why Am I a Muslim?

Friday, October 03, 2014

"So whatever thing you have been given - it is but [for] enjoyment of the worldly life. But what is with Allah is better and more lasting for those who have believed and upon their Lord rely." (Surah Ash-Shuraa, 42:36)

I came across Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan's Friday sermon based on the above mentioned ayah while watching a video of Bayyinah Institute's visit to meet Robert Davila. If you haven't read about Davila's efforts to learn about Islam and the Quran despite the challenges he faces as a paraplegic, you should. Signs of His greatness are everywhere and I believe Davila is one of them. (May Allah subhana wa ta'ala will preserve his sincerity and steadfastness. Ameen.)

"What is your perspective on life?"

Have you ever asked yourself this question? Do you think your current perspective on life could be improved? In his sermon, Nouman Ali Khan said something I completely agree with: When life is in perspective, things become easier to deal with. 

This reminds me of an instance when a university classmate asked me, "Why are you Muslim? You should be a Buddhist. It's more fun!". I wasn't offended. In fact, I like it when non-Muslims ask me questions about my faith. But we were working on a group project at the time and I didn't really know how to respond to that half-joke. So I smiled and continued working on my part of the project. 

But I do think it is a good idea to ask ourselves why we chose Islam or choose to remain Muslim. And to my non-Muslim readers, for the record, if I were to leave Islam (na'udhubillah min zalik) I would not face capital punishment. Although, my family's reaction would probably be equivalent to it. Having said that, family disapproval hasn't stopped me from what I wanted to do in the past :) -  not that I'm encouraging you to upset your family. My point is, it's good to reflect on our choices. If I could go back in time, I would tell my classmate the following is why I'm Muslim:

Unforgettable Turkey: Sultanahmet, Istanbul (Part I)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A seagull overlooking the Rüstem Pasha Mosque, Istanbul

Like my late father used to do, I would encourage anyone to travel. To see a different perspective. To experience other cultures as they could make you a better person while teaching you to appreciate the culture you grew up in. To humble yourself. Our 11-day trip to Turkey in August was not without drama but it was no doubt one of the most memorable holidays we have ever been on. It's safe to say I'm very much in love with Turkish food, architecture, Islamic heritage, culture and landscape. I love the fact that  traditional mosques are scattered everywhere around Istanbul. Some were obvious, others inconspicuous. 

Can I be honest? I have dreamt of visiting Hadramaut far more than I have of any city in Turkey. Why Hadramaut? I'm on a spiritual quest. I'm always on a spiritual quest and I believe people who lead simpler lives have better character. I want to learn from them and I need to restore my faith in the Muslim community. But God is the Best of Planners. Turkey is where He led me in the end and I couldn't be more thankful. Alhamdulillah.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

I have been a fan of Sufi Comics ever since I stumbled upon their website less than a year ago. I was more than happy to write a review of their previous books, 40 Sufi Comics and The Wise Fool of Baghdad, and now I'm pleased to introduce you to their new book entitled Rumi. It's a wonderfully crafted 142-paged compilation of a selection of Rumi's soulful poems in visual form. I adore the work that Sufi Comics does and I admire their talent, passion dedication, ma sha Allah.

Rumi (1207-1273) or Jalal al-Din Muhammad Balkhi (rahimullah) was a poet, theologian and jurist from present-day Afghanistan. He is often quoted in books, movies and the social media for his poems on life, love and longing by Muslims and non-Muslims alike, although many might not be aware that when he writes about these things he does not mean them in a literal sense. In fact, here's an article explaining how Rumi's poems are often misappropriated:

The misappropriation of Sufi poetry can be seen as resulting of unfamiliarity with how Sufis made their indications. For example, the intoxication of wine refers to the loss of one's sense of rational self in the sea of Divine Love. The tavern is the experience of being overwhelmed from being surrounded by Divine Presence. Layla is an Arabic female name that linguistically refers to the darkest night of the month, and in Sufi poetry refers to the hidden realm that lies behind outward appearances of this world.

Sufi Comics, on the other hand, has captured the essence of Rumi's message in their latest book in which there are many thought-provoking reminders for us to reflect on. In the chapter titled 'False Thinking', we are reminded that sometimes the thing we are searching and pining for is right under our noses and we can be completely oblivious to it because we fail to immerse ourselves in the present reality and the blessings found within it.

"The whole of life is now, is today, is this eternal moment." — Rumi

Mantanani Island Holiday (Part II)

Monday, September 08, 2014

Before I blog about my trip to Turkey I need to do this. I promised you guys another post about Mantanani Island, Sabah so here it is. If you haven't read Part I, check it out because there's a video for you to get a gist of how our holiday went.

While the beauty of Mantanani Island is undeniable it saddens me to see the condition of the villagers and the way tourism and negligence will lead to the deterioration of the natural environment. As an island that was only recently made accessible to tourists around 6 years ago, its cleanliness is reflected in its pristine waters and white sandy beaches. On one side of the island, a few types of accommodations have been established to cater to the tourists. While I was there last year, they were in the midst of completing a five-star resort. This part of the island is pleasant and you will hardly find any litter or rubbish lying around. I was shocked to see the contrast between the side where I stayed and the other side — the village. 

One day my siblings and I decided to venture into the village on the other side of the island with a hotel staff cum tourist guide. We wanted to meet the locals, especially me, as it was my first time in Sabah. Of course, I knew they would be different from the urbanites who lived in Kota Kinabalu and I was looking forward to this new experience. While they weren't from the Bajau Laut tribe (sea gypsies) they led a somewhat similar way of life in the sense that their lifestyle revolved around the sea.

Remembering Ramadan: A Collection of Photographs from Around the World

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Do you ever find yourself missing Ramadan during random moments throughout the year? When this happens to me I browse through International Ramadan Photography Competition's photo albums on Facebook. Isn't it amazing that we can have a glimpse of how Ramadan and Eid was celebrated around the world? 

Here are some of the photos that were submitted this year. I took the liberty of captioning them. Although these pictures can never replace actual experiences I hope you find inspiration in them, nonetheless. It is nice to be reminded that despite our differences we are one Ummah and we  are all seeking His love and forgiveness. 

Age is not a barrier to knowledge. (Sanaa, Yemen by Abdul Wahab Ahmed al-Banaa)

Allah listens to our every prayer even though we are like a grain of sand in the vastness of this universe. 
(New Mexico, by Lisa M Vogl)

[Faith Friday] How Do We Fix a Broken World?: Reflections on the "Global Tawbah" lecture by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Friday, August 29, 2014

"Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by [reason of] what the hands of people have earned so He may let them taste part of [the consequence of] what they have done that perhaps they will return [to righteousness]." (30:41)

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf is a contemporary American Muslim scholar who has inspired many people, particularly Western (or Westernised) Muslims who can relate to the issues highlighted in his books, classes and speeches. I attended one of his events in Kuala Lumpur last night. It was a lecture entitled "Global Tawbah" and he addressed several concerns in relation to the modern Muslim world and ummah.

I have come across individuals who say that religion is the root of evil because it has caused many wars and atrocious acts. I admit a lot of terrible things have happened in the name of God and religion but a lot of wonderful things have happened in the name of God and religion too. Do they not count for something? We cannot make a blanket statement like that without considering the other side of the argument and which one makes more sense. And what about agnostics or atheists who commit crime and violence? What would be their reason?

The act of tawbah, repentance or turning to God, is one of the most integral aspects of being Muslim. As humans we are driven by our ego, lusts and emotions. Yes, Allah (swt) created us with these qualities but He also created us with intellectual capabilities so we may we able to practice self-control.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Assalamualaykum and merhaba everyone! I'm back from Turkey and I had a phenomenal time, alhamdulillah. I wanted to blog about this before leaving but things didn't work out that way. I was featured in Hijab Fesyen's August 2014 edition issue under their "Blogger Sukses" (Successful Blogger)  section. It was kind of them to feature me, honestly. I don't think I have achieved much but God willing, I hope to fulfill more of my goals and aspirations so I can help the community in any way I can.

If you don't live in Malaysia and/or you don't read Bahasa Malaysia, I'll briefly describe what the article was all about - from blogging to my online business. Most bloggers attain fame and popularity by sharing all the fun things they get up to and I love reading about them but I personally feel it would be misleading for me to portray my life that way.  I started blogging because I wanted to change people's perception about Muslim women in the West and also to help Muslim women who can relate to me and my thoughts and struggles as a Muslim and a woman. Over the years I have made many acquaintances and friends through my blog and it's been an eye-opening experience getting to know them. I feel blessed to have a blog!

Eid #OOTD + Trip to Turkey (I want to meet you!)

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Salaam everyone! A belated Eid Mubarak to all my Muslim readers :) The last 2 weeks have been really busy for me  because a) it was Ramadan and b) I'm planning a trip to Turkey, inshaAllah, hence the lack of posts. Today I'd like to share some pictures of my Eid ensembles from the upcoming ShaElaiza Galleria collection. If you follow me on Instagram (@shaelaiza) you would have already seen them there but if you don't, here they are. 

Wearing the intricately embellished Elissa blouse in white and grey

Presenting the stunning Valentina scarf in dusty pastel green

Technically, Eid is over but Malaysians do like it to celebrate it for a month so Selamat Hari Raya to those who are doing so :) Anyway, YES, I'm planning a trip to Turkey, inshaAllah, and it would be absolutely lovely to meet with any sisters who are living in Istanbul. If that's you or someone you know, do get in touch with me at shahirahelaiza(at)gmail(dot)com