Articles

Never Mind, Just Crossing the Moon

The moon was hanging almost new in the dark night while glimmering stars crowned the celestial floor.

Above the garden, palm branches whispered an ancient hallelujah song and underneath, some Europeans and even more Egyptians sat on plastic "straw mats" with strong Neon-lithic colors. It was good company after a long day of work.

I've always been fascinated by Egyptian evenings when the moon has reduced itself to a slim crescent, as here one can actually imagine oneself sitting in the moon - due to its more horizontal angle. This indulgence in whimsical imagination isn’t possible in Scandinavia, where the same moon is hanging nearly vertical.

cross and crescent    Cross and Crescent

This same relaxing moon is also one of Islam's identifying symbols.

On the east bank of the Nile, in the town of Luxor, I noticed the same moon as part of a symbol combination on top of many houses. The combination was totally new for me, as this was a "relaxing" moon and the Christian cross - united in one image. Sometimes the cross was standing inside the moon, other times the moon was combined in the center part of the cross - while still more combinations were around. Those who have been to the Coptic Museum in Cairo have most likely seen the same symbol there.

To most Egyptians, as an European with white skin and blond Hair, I "belonged" to the Christian part of the Egyptian united Muslim-Christian symbol. My Islamic friends always said to me, whenever religious topics came up: "Malish, Allah Wahed" ("Never mind, it's the same God" or "One God").

These statements did not exactly match the mental picture I had brought with me of religions.

One of my friends in Luxor is the grand Sufi Sheikh here, famous for helping anyone in need - so Muslims and Christians come to him for practical help and advice. One day I went up to him and told him that I had to become a Muslim. He looked at me without believing, and then said: "Are you stupid?"

To this he instantly added: "do you really think God needs a paper, you know Islam - so why those papers?" After explaining my personal reasons, he answered: "okay, but then you must promise me something first". In the second before he continued, I expected he would say something "traditional" - but he said: "If you want to know more than you know about Islam - never listen to a Muslim". I was baffled, but he continued: "Nobody can tell you the whole truth, so read, think and evaluate for yourself. God talks best directly or through his holy books".

After some weeks I went to Al Azhar in Cairo, the Moslem university there, and a short time after, I had the papers in hand.

Did my life change? Not much - the same moon is hanging above.

Still something changed, and that's the reason for this story.

So what was the change?

Well, before my Egyptian Muslim friends used to say to me "Malish, Allah Wahed" - now it's my Egyptian Christian friends who say "Never mind, it's the same God".

To me this shows a vibrant, life-loving culture that did not end with its ancient history. On the contrary, it's all very much alive - just ask the man in the moon and you will see.


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About:

Arnvid Aakre is an indie-pendent artist, writer, and lecturer. World & web citizen. He do 'one-man' projects to larger projects (as his multi artists based "Hatshepsut Project", under UNESCO HQ in Paris, patronage). Now working on the art project LAFIAS. He lived 15 years in Egypt (Luxor and Cairo), but today the Nileviking family live in Bergen, Norway.