Monday, October 25, 2010

What you don't know...

There's an Egyptian proverb that says: Elli te3rafoh a7san min elli mate3rafush (who/what you know is better than who/what you don't know). Its concept is constantly in use here.

Sometimes families prefer to marry within the family (especially for their daughters) citing this proverb as a reason. Your relative won't abuse you, and after all, blood can never turn into water.

Another example is when you ask people about elections, some would say, "So-and-so has been in charge for so long, he has so much experience and we know him. But how can we vote for someone we don't know." Or maybe they just say it to stay out of trouble.

I wonder if the proverb came from the culture, or it has changed the culture itself. I think originally the proverb would be about the person you befriend, use or trust, naturally the one you know is better than the one you don't know. But when its usage has spread to many other issues, I wonder if it's still true.

To me Elli mate3rafush a7san min elli te3rafoh, or at least more interesting. ^_^

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Good Women of China

Recently, I finished "The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices". It tells the stories of many Chinese women the writer came across during her work as a journalist and presenter of a radio show. Some of the stories were quite shocking. I can't say I was surprised, given the circumstances, but can't deny they were a bit too hard to read without being emotional.

One thing that was repeated in the book was a Chinese proverb: Women are like water and men are like mountains. At first I wasn't sure what it meant. I thought maybe it means that men are solid like rocks whereas women are flexible. Or that men get their way and women should be flexible and accommodating, at least that's how I feel it is culturally here. Having seen quite a few Arabic & Chinese proverbs that are derogatory of women when we were doing our graduation paper, I was wondering who's better than who in this proverb, but I guess there can be different explanations and it doesn't have to be that one is better than the other. In the book, different people gave different interpretations of it. One was:

"Chinese men need women in order to form a picture of themselves - as mountains are reflected in streams. But streams flow from the mountains. Where then is the true picture?"

Another was:
"Men are like mountains they only know the ground beneath their feet, and the trees on their slopes. But women are like water."
and when the same person was asked why, she said:
"Everybody says women are like water. I think it's because water is the source of life, and it adapts itself to its environment. Like women, water also gives of itself wherever it goes to nurture life."

Now I see it to mean: life cannot be without men or women, they're different but it doesn't mean either of them is dispensable. Mountains are like pegs to fasten the Earth's crust, whereas water is vital for survival on Earth.

The book reminds me of another one I read a few years ago, "I Wish I Were a Wolf: The New Voice in Chinese Women's Literature". Though it's fiction it still showed how women struggle in China and I think some of the stories can reflect women's struggles in other parts of the world as well.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I've thought about starting a blog for a long time, but never got around to doing it. Over time, the reasons have changed, but basically to have a place to share my thoughts, observations and translations. So here we go, bismillah.