By: Aicha Korachy
El-seyam sa3b 3aleina kolena, bas lamma el wahed kaman yekoon 3aref eno fatran 3and gedeito… el mawdoo3 beykoon sa3b awy. From 7amam to kofta, from wara2 3enab to golash; sofret el gedood 7aga tanya. And like every year, she invites the whole family. The extended family. W bel taly betebda2 ma3raket fetar awel youm Ramadan.
The war is divided across three battles:
Awel goz2eya as3abhom. With 283470 cousins in one house – all around one table – AND cousins you’re seeing for the first time are there, things can get messy.
Dayman fy Tunt Fakeeha who pushes through the line in front of everyone, patting our back as she uses her age as a green card. She passes through and scoops up her food and leaves, later sending her grandchildren to the front of the line to get her more of whatever dish she missed.
W tab3an 3andena 3amo Mahmoud, that uncle that somehow gets invited to all family gatherings, bs enta 3omrak ma fehemt el araba gaya menien. 3amo Mahmoud loves talking. He’ll catch you in the middle of the line or nearing the front and he’ll sneak up to you and ask you:
“Ha ba2a ya batal, nawet 3ala ehh fel gam3a?”
You, innocently, answer giving a genuine answer to his question, and he casually slips in front of you pretending to be deeply concerned.
Add a few more Tunt Fakeeha who suddenly all have bad knees or bad backs, a couple of children that need to be fed (aslohom saymeen men el 3asr) and there you’ll be. Standing at the back of that line, waving all the 7amam goodbye.
This of course is only applicable if your family sets its food on a table and eats on another. However, if you think for a second that eating on the same table with the food is easy. It’s not. No one helps you out. To each his own. 3ayez men el deek el gamb Tunt Hind? You better get up and grab it cause she’s not moving.
A long table stretches between you and those atayef. You get up leaving behind all your treasures of golash, wara2 3enab and ma7shy. As your hand reaches out to grab the last one, you see another hand coming into view. You feel yourself preparing for disappointment as Uncle Karim reaches out and grabs it looking away from you, pretending to be engaged in a conversation some way far from the atayef. He didn’t do it on purpose, of course. He didn’t see you there.
You try to grab a taste of everything Nena has prepared, but by the time you sit back at your place, seven dishes are empty and blank. You feel your heart breaking a little as you realize you didn’t get part of the mysterious dishes she created. Could it have been mombar? Makarona bashamel? Batatis forn. Or was it just precious roz? You’ll never know.
It’s during this time that you undergo the yearly slaps of sweet famliiy advice.
“Roz tany wala ehh ya Hany? Mesh hases enak akhadt keter?”
“Shatra ya Mona khody salata 3ashan tekhesy- azdy tetghazy.”
“Malek ya Alia? Enty rofaya3a keda leh? E3’refelha ya Laila shewayet ma7shy yemken tetkhan.”
They relentlessly comment about your body, your plate and what you should eat. It’s not Ramadan if you’re not too underweight or too overweight for your family.
After that first wave, comes the second wave: Tashteeb El-Matbakh
It’s that time of the year again. It’s that time of 500 women all fighting over who does the dishes. 7elfanat yeemen shemal, walahi manty ghasla kobaya! Laa walahi ana el haghsel! Matet3ebeesh nafsek bas ya Zeinab!
Three hours later.
The dishes are still in the sink, and the women are still fighting. You go ahead and start washing them yourself to just get it done with.
“Ya habibty teslam edek, ba2ety set beit aho!”
Or of course the more popular one:
“Lala ya Nevine, bentek kebret w ba2eit 3aroosa!”
They all leave like you were meant to wash the dishes all along.
They leave you to battle through the bones of chicken and other people’s saliva and sit outside chatting.
The third wave is the lightest: Dessert.
But this time, your battle is that with your stomach.
You feel you jeans stretch a little, but you’re not turning down that basboosa.
You feel your shirt tightening up a little, but you push through and fight for that konafa.
One. More. Zalabya.
By the time they all leave and your left with your small family and grandparents, it feels like your jeans went up a size or two.
But it needs to be prepared for more.
The battle isn’t over yet as you help your grandmother put away the rest of the food, which now feels too appealing to turn down. You discover that there was actually molokheya 3ala el sofra Kaman, w tela7ez en kan fy taba2 sogo2 ma3adash 3aleik. Tebos lel sogo2. Wel sogo2 yeboselak. El wahed ye3mel ahh ya3ni? Hayaklo.
W ma3 kol el 3ak wel akl w el arayeb el ghareeba, you should always be grateful for it all. It’s not every day you have so much love in one place. Not all families are as tight and not all families have so much food. Ramadan Kareem.