May you and yours be warm and healthy as we near the Winter Solstice.
I am excited to share about my recent opportunity to travel to Bahariya Oasis, approx. 6 hours by government bus southwest of Cairo, to do work for the Zahra Foundation. One of several oasis in the Western Desert, I have had good fortune to establish solid connections there. For many days, Jacqueline, my traveling companion, and I were introduced to the traditional life and culture of the oasis.
Any words I write here pale to the true magnificence and joy to have moved through this experience in Bahariya. It was an opportunity to let go of my preconceived notions and arrive fully into the present moment to allow what was for the highest good to manifest. Traveling through the desert from Cairo that first day, I let the veils of plans and emotions and thoughts and expectations of what I thought this trip was about slip away as the bus wheels rolled along that sandy road into my waiting future. I embraced the mystery of what was to be as Bahariya soon embraced me.
The local government officials offered Zahra their blessings and a room to teach in the town center when Zahra returns this spring. Two afternoons were spent at the home of our guide's sister. With no interpreter present except for cell phones that were ever available, we sat and crocheted and laughed and learned and shared in her comfortable and humble living room. During these days, I really began to understand that women are women whether in a shorts and a tank top or fully-veiled in the presence of men who are not of their family. I experienced a profound deepening of the sacred witness within as we came together sharing the language of our handwork to communicate. It was confirming and fulfilling beyond what I had even dreamed.
Two of the nights we were invited to a local wedding—one night at the grooms and the next at the brides—where hundreds of women and children gathered. The second night my scissors, crochet hooks, and a few plastic bags made it into in my purse. Before long, I became like the balloon party clown, but rather I was cutting up plastic bags into plarn (plastic yarn). As soon as all the bags were cut, the children began leaving and returning with more bags for me to do it again and again and again as the woman cycled through to see what was going on. This night confirmed that many of the women are indeed interested in this handwork, and I look forward to returning to meet with them again in the spring.
In addition to my time in Bahariya Oasis, I also met with the girls at the non-profit, Banati in Cairo, to teach for an afternoon. During that time, we created an intern program that will bring one of the elder girls and her chaperon to join our trip in March. This gives this young woman the opportunity to teach her handworking skills to other Egyptian women and youth, while visiting places within her country that she would otherwise perhaps not get to see. It is good.
Egypt is an amazing country with a history, culture and environment worth getting to know. Zahra currently has plans are underway to return to Egypt in the Spring and Fall 2015 and Fall 2016. Please click here for more information about volunteering with Zahra.
Indigo in Bahariya Oasis
Making water bottle holders in Bahariya
Step by step, bag by bag, Zahra is learning, growing, and serving… In October of 2014 the Zahra Foundation was approved as a non-profit 501c3 with the IRS. We are actively fundraising to bring this work forward and are ever grateful for your tax-deducible donations, every contribution helps this work reach those women and youth that it can serve. We are grateful!
Many blessings and much gratitude for all you do in the world,
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K. Indigo Rønlov, M.A.
Zahra Handworks Foundation
Teacher, Executive Director & Founder
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My initial inspiration for Zahra is now sprouting into empowerment and transformation for those who interact with this work, bringing great benefit to the women and the planet. The work of the Zahra Foundation that began as my master’s thesis and project to explore the ecopsychology of handwork has now moved through four successful projects. Zahra Project #5 in the spring 2015 is underway when we will spend three weeks continuing this work. We will return to Cairo and Bahariya with the aim to go to Siwa.
Soon, the women who are choosing to work with the plarn will have lots of beautiful items to sell. The water bottle holder I designed and am teaching them is beginning to be sold to tourists who come to visit Egypt from around the world. I look forward to continuing the mission to help woman gain economic prosperity out of waste. Stay tuned!
© 2016 Zahra Handworks Foundation
A 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization
Zahra is an Arabic word meaning bright, shining, pure, brilliant, flower, blossom, and/or beauty.