Bismillah!

Bismillah!

Monday, July 31, 2006

China Trip July '06

InshaAllah this email reaches everyone in the best of every state.
Well, after having a 12.5 hour flight from Hong Kong we have made it
back to Cali in one piece, alhamdulillah!

Here's a quick rundown of our brief stay in China (my favorite part
being that we were able to visit a different mosque/masjid every day
of our trip): In Shanghai we visited the Oriental Pearl TV tower (the
third tallest TV tower in the World). From there we were able to see
the whole of Shanghai which is known as the most cosmopolitan city in
the world. Unfortunately, we only had one day there before moving on
to Hangzhou. We visited the West Lake and saw a beautiful pagoda, a
multistory Buddhist tower, located at the top of the mountain peering
down at the great lake. Three mini pagodas were on the actual lake
which is the picture found on 1 Chinese yen bills. Next, we drove to
Suzhou- a city Marco Polo called "the Venice of the East". We went on
a Grand Canal cruise and one part of the boat ride did remind me of a
mini-Venice due to the buildings built directly on the canal's shores.
The next day we flew to Guilin. Note: Hangzhou and Suzhou try to claim
the title of being a 'heaven on earth", but personally I would give
the prize to Guilin!

The four hour Li River Cruise in Guilin was the most breathtaking
cruise I have ever been on--it really is like traveling along a
traditional Chinese painting. "Water buffalo patrol the fields,
peasants reap rice paddies, school kids and fishermen float by on
bamboo rafts." The river is surrounded by mountain like hills and
mysterious limestone formations. It reminded me of what the Amazon
Rain forest must be like, but with hilly terrain. The region boasts
some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, and it's little
wonder why Guilin is one of the most photographed areas of China. I
was pleasantly surprised to learn that an entire Chinese Muslim
village is located on a stretch of the river--talk about an amazing
backyard view!

The next day we visited Guilin's Reed Flute Cave. It was the most
impressive cave of stalactites, stalagmites, stone pillars, stone
curtains and a variety of shapes that our tour guide pointed out. The
Chinese definitely have great imaginations! For example, we saw
formations in the shape of a 'life size snow man looking at a gigantic
Christmas tree' and a 'statue of liberty' all formed by thousands upon
thousands of years of calcium carbonate growth! That was amazing. On
the way back to our bus a group of Chinese school children surrounded
us trying to practice their English with lines such as "Do you like
Guilin? What are your hobbies? Do you like Michael Jackson? We love
him!" I just couldn't find it in myself to explain Michael's situation
in the West and his fascination with little kids....

The next day we flew to Xian, a capital city of northwest China, that
has a large Muslim population and numerous mosques. The most famous
place we visited there was Emperor Qin's 8,000 Terra Cotta
warriors and horses- one of the greatest archaelogical discoveries in
the world. The life size figures were built to form an army for the
emperor for his afterlife. Interestingly enough, 200 of his
concubines were also buried alive in order to serve him in his life to
come.

Xian's Great Mosque, constructed in 742 AD according to stone tablets
unearthed there, was my favorite mosque in all of China. We prayed
side by side with old Chinese Muslim women who were very excited to
meet us. They didn't speak a word of English but they couldn't stop
hugging us and praying for us.

Islam in China is really fascinating. China has about 30 million
Muslims (far outnumbering the Muslims in Saudi Arabia) belonging to 10
ethnic groups and producing more than 23,000 mosques. The Muslims are
widespread in China, but particularly concentrated in the northwest of
the country. Most Chinese Muslims are Sunnis, belonging to Ahlus Sunna
wal' Jamaa, and follow Imam Abu Hanifa (ra) in matters of fiqh.

The Great Mosque itself was remarkable and absolutely stunning. One of
the oldest handwritten manuscripts of the Qur'an is preserved there.
Amazingly enough, the whole Qur'an and its Chinese translation is hand
carved in huge wooden slabs which extends from the ceiling to the
ground and decorates the full interior space of the ancient
mosque. One of the Imaams of the mosque had studied in Syria for many
years and I was able to exchange a brief dialogue with him and a
request for du'aas. There is a whole system of teachers and students
in the Great Mosque and the clothing, respect and the dignified
demeanors of the teachers really impressed me. I wish we were able to
spend more time in that locality but we had to fly to Beijing the same
afternoon.

The most impressive aspect of Beijing for me was the visit to third
Ming emperor, Yongle's, Forbidden City which houses 9,999 rooms.
Twenty-four emperors lived and ruled from this palace during the
500-year span. We then walked to Tian An Men Square and later visited
a Traditional Chinese Medical clinic and had Chinese doctors diagnose
us just by feeling our pulse and looking at our tongues, and then
writing prescriptions for us promising results in only 2
months...

The following day we climbed the Great Wall of China. It is not as easy as it seems! The steps were irregular and uneven and were at least a foot apart in height. We made it halfway to 'hero's point' where we checked our pulse, bought souvenir proof of our feat, and returned content with our achievement.

The rest of our trip in Beijing comprised of full schedule meetings
for the physicians belonging to IMANA (Islamic Medical Association of
North America). I was able to attend quite a few of the lectures and
they were really interesting--ranging from traditional African neuro
surgeries to the latest medical advancements in a variety of fields.
In total, the IMANA group in China totalled 500 people and the 2 week
trip culminated in a acrobatic and gungfu show...I never realized how
flexible the human body could actually be: two Chinese girls actually
sat on their own heads!

My parents and I then flew to Hong Kong for a night before flying back
to California. Hong Kong is such a beautiful city and the ocean,
mountains and bridges reminded us of San Francisco. However, the
center of the city was extremely jam-packed and it felt as if we were
in an overcrowded Beirut (minus the bombing)..

The funniest thing occurred at the airport in San Francisco. After the customs
officer asked us the normal questions of where we travelled and if we
only visited China on this trip the officer then looked at us and
asked "so, did you stop over at any Arab countries on your return
today?" ...I really felt like saying "Yes, we decided to divert the
plane to Lebanon to pick up some falafel" ..I mean give us a break!
just because we are Muslim does not mean we have to stop in an Arab
country to conspire with its inhabitants...and God knows best

Well that was our trip in a long nutshell...

Hope to hear from you all soon,
Was'salaam,
Shamira

ps Please keep the Ummah in your du'aas...one person reminded me that
it is not just the Lebanese who are being tested in all of this, it is
the rest of us who we will be asked what we did during these times and
if we prayed for all of our brothers and sisters in the world or if we
just sat back and closed our eyes...

4 comments:

  1. Wow that sounds like a really fun trip.

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  2. Masha'Allah, China was really fascinating and beyond our expectations. Honestly, the thought of wanting to go to China never really crossed our minds, but I am very grateful for having been given the opportunity. Alhamdulillah. Our trip was planned by ICT (IslamChina Tours) www.islamichina.com

    Was'salaam

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  3. Jennifer12:55 PM

    I think China it's a wonderful country with an attractive history! And a place where we can meet great people ;) it was a pleasure to meet you Shamira :) Maybe see u in China! lol

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  4. Yes, it would be great to meet in China again! I hope you all had a great visit as well. Let me know if you ever plan to visit the States..Take care :)

    ReplyDelete