My Day at Muslim Heritage Festival Day August 20, 2022; Palestine Conversation and Scarf: Canadian Prayer Rug honoring Indigenous, Lebanese and Ukranian Pioneers; Being Taken Under Someone’s Wing; Al Rashid Mosque Beckons; My Beautiful Left Hand Adorned in Henna

Did know it was happening but I went to Churchill Square in downtown Edmonton to the Art Gallery. But when crossing the Square saw that numerous stands were being set up so stopped to chat with a young woman who was ‘manning’ a stand selling beautiful embroidered works from Palestine. She is from Palestine but is fortunate to be living here in Canada. I purchased a huge black and white scarf which can be worn as a headscarf or worn about the shoulders. She and the other young women working there were a delight to speak with -cheerful, self-confident, assured and committed.

She directed me to a man at an adjoining table. What greeted me there was truly astounding astounding. It was a Canadian Prayer Rug. The dedicated young man explained its significance but there was also a written explanation.
“Muslims around the day pray five times a day, blowing their heads on numerous hand-made and ;printed prayer rugs that embody symbols and architecture of the Muslim world. These rugs are a form of creative cultural expression ;they tell the stories of the places and people where they originate. Weavers incorporate local materials and familiar motifs, designs and weaving patterns to intertwine a communal narrative on tapestry.
The Canadian prayer rug celebrates the many communities and people who helped nurture and develop the Canadian landscape; from your Indigenous brothers and sisters who worked alongside the early Lebanese and Ukrainian pioneers who built Canada’s first mosque, the Al Rashid to the thousands of Syrian newcomers who are establishing a home and futures in this country. The locally designed and woven tapestry honors the history of our city and celebrates our spirit of collaboration to building thriving and welcoming communities.”

The story of this prayer rug is so inclusive – Indigenous, Lebanese and Ukranian pioneers are honored for their contributions, nurturing and developing the Canadian landscape
Of course , it was absolutely essential and necessary that I  purchase one of those precious prayer rugs. The rug was incased in a back pack, put it on and then had the young man do a reel so that I could post it on Instagram.

But the glorious day had only begun. The Muslim women in attendance took me ‘under their wing’ treated me with incredible kindness and generosity. If someone takes you under their wing it means to act as someone’s guardian, protector, or mentor, especially someone who is vulnerable or in need of help, protection, or instruction. Used in a sentence the social worker has taken countless kids under her  wing over the years, and many of them stay in contact with her years later.  It originates in the Hebrew Bible: Psalm 91.4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. He will cover you with his feathers.

I am in need of further instruction, further mentoring in the Islamic faith. The Muslim Heritage Festival Day helped provide the means, method and opportunity for further instruction. Spoke with a man from the Al Rashid Mosque, who had a red beard, that came from his Scottish ancestors. I spoke to him of my Uncle Dave Dryburgh, a Scot who apparently had red hair. In an attempt to ‘find’ out who he was I read an amazing book about the traits and the fate of red-haired boys. Although red-haired women and girls are much admired, the opposite is true for men. The two of us laughed – although born with red hair as he matured his hair became the color of his Swedish ancestors. He was most solicitous and caring, inviting me to Friday prayers, certain that the ‘sisters’ would welcome me with open arms.

It was hot. The Muslim women found me a chair and shade directing me to various other venues where I purchased magnets to help me with headscarf draping, several head coverings.
The shoes were magnificent but I controlled my impulse. The women brought me samosas delicious vegetarian delights and deserts and water. Then an incredible gift. A young Muslim woman had schooled herself in the art of henna. She had diagrams of designs, I picked one,  she went to work. It is so incredibly intricate. Painting hands with henna is a celebratory event, always adorning the bride’s hand upon marriage. I did send a picture of my left hand to a fella who is Muslim.
Me: A beautiful young Muslim girl painted my hand with henna
He: You are lovely and henna
Me: It is and they are.
Mee: They are for marriage I think
He: Yes dear
Me: Lovely, the girl that painted my hand said she would do it if I would wed.
He: That’s good.

I do admit that is not exactly a proposal of marriage but the Muslim way is different, more measured, controlled and respectful. So who knows?

While sitting in the shade observed a Muslim woman, tying a scarf on a Western woman and speaking to her gently and patiently of the Islamic faith. Answering the rather rude questions calmly and with great patience. The Western woman was given a Quran. I did join the two briefly.
Me: I became a Muslim on October 20, 2020. It has brought me peace and inner happiness
She: What were you before?
Me: An atheist since the age of 19.

The Western woman left, the Muslim woman and I continued our conversation.
Me: I saw you speaking with her so patiently and I was so impressed. When challenged the lawyer in me comes out and I am less than gracious saying things like: That is a lie put forward by lazy Western media.” That is not should be said. You are a model of correct behavior.
She: Thank you and thank you for coming to speak to us.

She recently moved to Edmonton from Calgary. I met her handsome young son. I was also gifted with a Quran. It is the most readable translation I have. A photograph will follow.

It was a deeply moving and spiritual experience. I have seldom experienced so much kindness. Did write about the experience to my Instagram friends.

I posted my hennaed hand on Instagram as well as a photo of the young artistic woman (she gave me permission). This was the caption on the post
The young Muslim woman applying henna to hands at the Muslim Heritage Festival. Her dignified attire a contrast to Western women’s attire of short shorts and tight t shirts. She taught herself henna applications and one could choose from drawings, I was treated with around kindness by the Muslim women given gifts of food and the henna and a Quran
A response received:
She: I find Muslims extremely kind and down to death.
Me: I totally agree! It is amazing tha I became ome. Hahaha
SheL Congratulations on that.

Photographs of the event shall be posted. Prayer rug not unpacked yet so you shall have to wait.

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