Palexpo: The Palestine Exhibition in London

Last weekend, my sisters Everyphototunity, HappyMuslimMama, my niece and I went to the Palestine Expo 2017, a huge event organised by Friends of Al-Aqsa, in order to raise awareness about the issues which are happening in Palestine today.

The timing of the event was not coincidental. This year marks a series of devastating anniversaries for Palestinians: a hundred years since the Balfour Declaration, 50 years of Israeli occupation and 10 years of the Israeli government’s blockade on Gaza.

–  Mondoweiss

This is a topic we are all quite passionate about, as there is so much conflict, struggle and hardship for the citizens of this country, which is still prevalent today. As Muslims ourselves, it is hard to hear about the human rights which are being oppressed in this country, and the fact that this is continually being ignored – by the media, the Western governments and the rule-makers of their own country.

The Palestine Expo was a range of seminars and talks, exhibitions, film showings, workshops and interactive areas for people to walk around, to listen to speakers and get to know more about the country’s rich heritage and history.

Everywhere we went, there were strong messages about what is happening today in Palestine as well as Israel, and what we can also do to raise awareness, help the organisations who are friends of Palestine, and also support ethical companies.

We managed to sit and listen to a few lectures which were pretty emotional, informative, inspiring and moving. Firstly was Dr Inas Abbad, a Palestinian activist, teacher and researcher who spoke about her home, about how their identity was slowly being erased, with their roads, streets towns and even names being changed, and the continuous censoring, lack of education and danger that follows school children as they go to school every day. Secondly was Ronnie Barkan, an Israeli human rights activist and conscientious objector, who spoke about his support for the struggle. I found it really interesting that he pointed out the various things the Israeli government has done to hide their actions, such as mis-labelling passports in English and in Hebrew. Thirdly was Soheir Asad, a Palestinian activist and Human Rights lawyer who spoke about the legal routes that the Israeli government had taken, land laws which were used to take land from Palestinians and the way this was used against them in courts. Lastly was journalist Yvonne Ridley, who is also a political activist, who spoke about the injustices she had seen, about the images which have stayed with her since she was a child and the disillusionment she felt when she realised the lies and distortion of the media.

We also managed to catch an amazing talk by journalist John Pilger (which ended in a standing ovation), in which he talked about his experiences in Palestine, and the ways he had been blocked in reporting the truth – but also the ways people’s mentality was changing so that they were unwilling to stay silent in face of injustice.

There were several places for us to leave our messages of hope throughout the expo – a giant wall of messages, pinned postcards, and even a tree to hang our words. It was pretty inspiring to see such positive words, beautiful messages to support our fellow Muslims and humans from across the country.

We also managed to try some Palestinian cuisine during the lunch rush, and tried some seasoned chicken wraps from Tabun Kitchen, which was pretty tasty (although cold!)

There was plenty of opportunity to walk around and explore, and we saw lots of beautiful pieces of art, as well as some story-telling shows and some documentaries about Palestine which were on show. I love that there was so much to see and do, and that there are a lot of similarities to Pakistan and my family’s village, which has a focus on story-telling, culture and a peaceful Islamic way of life.

It was a pretty informative day for all of us, there were a lot of things which made a lot more sense to me by the end of the day, and it was amazing to see so much support from Muslims and non-Muslims at the show. There was a protest briefly outside the venue from anti-Palestine protesters, but this didn’t discourage anyone from attending the event, and I liked that there were no shows of arguments or clashes as a result – people just left the protesters to it, and they slowly dispersed.

I would highly recommend to everyone that they do their most to find about this issue – even though we don’t live in Palestine, it is an issue which affects all of us. It isn’t enough just to know that this is happening, but to understand why, what we can do to help, and how to  make sure it doesn’t happen again.

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Dominique Ansel Bakery – Home of the Novelty Baked Treats

I recently visited the famous Dominique Ansel bakery in London with a friend, which is famous for the Cronut, as well as a lot of other baked delicacies.  We got a little over-excited and ordered a bunch of treats, all of which we had fun tasting – the cookie shot (a cup made of cookie filled with milk), the peanut-butter creamy cake, the Frozen S’more (a marshmallow-ice cream combination), mini Madeleines fresh and hot from the oven and a yummy hot chocolate with a marshmallow flower which opened up from the heat of the drink.

As I’m sure you can imagine, we were stuffed after all of this, and had to walk around the streets to burn it off a little, but it was worth it! If you’re around the area, I’d recommend this place to sit and try (although it can get very busy so there may be some waiting time!), and it’s not super-cheap (although not overly-expensive either) – sometime to try at least once!

You Don’t Know Me – Slang in the Courtroom

“You know, part of me thought if I told my speech myself then at least you get to feel a little bit of what it is like to be m. That if my QC did it then maybe you would all be thinking, ‘Yeah, it’s all very well to put it over all shiny and slick but that fucker’s still a murderer.’ And I really did think that if I told my own story I could make you feel my life. But actually explaining the evidences is out loud is proper hard.”
– You Don’t Know Me – Imran Mahmood

You’re guilty until proven innocent. Perception is reality, that’s the way that it is in this world.
– Chris Webber

A young man is in court, on trial for murder. As all evidence seems to point to him being the culprit, the unnamed defendant does the unexpected, and sacks his lawyer. There are eight pieces of compelling evidences against him – now he will stand up and tell the real story about what happened.
His life is in the hands of the jury who are listening – but can he convince them of his innocence?

Mixing inner-city ‘London-speak’ and slang with intelligent insights and a perspective into the justice system, the young man describes the events which has led up to his trial, asking us to consider an alternative course of events which lies behinds his innocence.

I thought this was an interesting take on gang culture, social influences, poverty and and the idea of racial profiling and the opportunities available for young men in London today. It sounds like a pretty heavy read, but it’s quite easy to follow, and it’s interesting to see how an intelligent young man presents his story – his way of life, the South-London culture he is immersed in, and the choices he has to make.

The language of the novel is fairly informal, but it flows well enough that it feels credible (although I’ll admit, certain aspects of the story line were a bit dramatic!) It’s also easy to follow – there’s one narrator to keep the story readable, which makes a change from a lot of stories which can be confusing with multiple perspectives. It also helps that the main character is pretty likeable – he tells his life story, which is be sad, funny and moving, and one which keeps you reading.

As a Londoner myself, I thought this was quite an interesting book – I loved seeing the familiar place names, slang and things that the characters do, although there is also a lot of the culture in this story which isn’t so familiar. While I do believe that there is a prevalent issue with drugs, gangs and peer pressure in today’s society, it felt a little too magnified in this book (although this may also be down to the fact that the author of this novel is a lawyer who has spent 25 years defending a mixture of inner-city clients).

I thought this was a really interesting read; while the conclusion is pretty unexpected, which might not appeal to everyone, the character’s voice was interesting enough to keep me reading to see what happened. It takes time to get into the language of the story, but it’s engaging enough that the characters feel well-drawn and the premise of the story is followed through quite well. At first, we see another young, vulnerable black man in London caught up in gang culture, with low prospects and not many opportunities – but through it all, we also that though he is surrounded by poverty, domestic violence and a drug culture, there’s also positives which shine through, as the strong women in his life who are important to him, the loyal friends who stick by him, and the prevailing love he has for the woman who is at the centre of this story.

You Don’t Know Me is available to buy on Amazon and was sent to me by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sweet Art: A Maynard-Bassett Art Gallery

My sister and I recently went to a pop-up gallery – made of sweets! Sweet Manufacturers Maynard-Bassetts (the Jelly Baby and Wine Gum people) held an art show that we managed to get tickets for, featuring their ‘sweet’ takes on different types of art.

The first one we saw when we walked in was the ‘Mona goes Pop’ art below – a Mona Lisa piece made entirely of square liquorice sweets –  I think this was one of the best pieces we saw too!

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There were art pieces dotted all around the room – such as the poster art with sweet wrappers, the various emojis made of sweets, and the very cool Underground Tube map made of sweets.

The venue was a really relaxed place to walk around – thankfully we missed the crowd by going at lunchtime before it all got busy!

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We also got a chance to be a little creative with the sweets at the DIY table, where there were lots of sweet-animals and sweet-people – I loved all the different things people were making!

We also saw various cute pieces of art scattered around the room – I think my sister and both loved the pink mouse best!

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The pop-up gallery also gave every guest a chance to take a bag of sweets from the Pick’n’Mix section home (most of them weren’t halal, so I gave them to my work colleagues, who were ecstatic!) and also had a machine to try and grab a free bag of sweets too!

It was a really fun art show, and a very generous one on the part of the Maynard-Bassetts company, who organised the event and gave out sweets and drinks for free. I’ll be looking out for more events like this in the summer, and will post them as I attend : )

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Luxurious Glamour at The Wallace Collection

A friend and I recently took a visit to the very beautiful Wallace Collection, which is a museum in the middle of London, in a luxurious town-house, displaying hundreds of French 18th-century painting, furniture and porcelain, as well as armoury and older paintings.

While it might make bring to mind  the slightly more touristy National Portrait Gallery, this Collection is a lot more visually appealing – the rooms are each beautifully displayed with grandeur aplenty, and there’s plenty of things to see.

I loved how all the rooms have their own character, with a separate vivid colour theme for each room so that the furniture, artwork and small trinkets all went together well. Each painting had something to look at, and the beautifully ornate furniture looked amazing – like something from of a historical period-film!

One of the things I also enjoyed was that the museum is relatively quiet – there’s plenty of time to walk around at your own pace, you get to explore the house (although you still can’t touch!), and best of all, you’re allowed to take photos (which a lot of other places don’t allow) – and entry is free too.

At the end of the tour, when you’re done, there’s a charming little restaurant outside to have some tea and relax. I didn’t manage to get a chance to visit the restaurant this time, but I will do the next time I come here to browse (and daydream about being a princess in 17th Century France).

If you’re around central London, I’d recommend a visit, whether it’s just ten minutes or a couple of hours, it’s a visual delight for anyone : )

Sweet Tooth

One of the things I’ve always struggled with (or enjoyed, depends which way you look at it) is my sweet tooth. I am a complete sucker for all things chocolate (except dark chocolate, not a fan!) and can easily finish a ‘family’ bar of chocolate by myself. One of my favourite things to do on a quiet weekend, or on a Friday after work is to run to the local sweet-shop, buy a bag of junk and curl up with a good book or two, a good movie, or just a little while messing around on computer games.

As much as I’ve enjoyed doing this since I was a teenager though, I don’t get to do it as much any more – one, because there’s always something to do in the house (don’t we all know it!) and two, because my fast-burning metabolism has finally caught up with me, and I can’t just eat any crap anymore.

I’m one of those people who either has to have lots of chocolate, or none at all – I really can’t do inbetween. Really, it’s a sign of being greedy and lack of control, which is something which probably started as a young age. My sisters and I often agree that it always felt like we didn’t get enough chocolate as kids – my mum used to ration them out to us each week and we always looked longingly at what we called the ‘sweets cupboard’. I guess as a result, now that we can buy our own, we go a little overboard.

One of the things I’m really enjoying about Ramadan is the idea of not eating more than we need to – there’s so much junk I am not eating because I am focussing on simple, clean, healthy meals which is enough to satisfy my hunger. Plus, there’s limited stomach space, and you don’t want to waste it by filling it with sugar! Usually it’s a huge struggle for me to go cold turkey and cut out chocolate completely (I won’t lie, many a time I have ended up overindulging instead!) but this month I’m keeping it simple, and the usual craving for chocolates has really not hit me.

Must be doing something right, hey?

Aerial Flowers

Feeling a little exhausted today – can the weekend come quicker, please?! Thought I’d post this pretty shot of a row of flowers at a flower stall from above that I took today – Chelsea Flower Show who?

I can’t believe it’s been nearly a week of Ramadan – it’s felt like it’s gone by quicker than I realised. I’m trying to do something a little different this Ramadan and try something new everyday – a new food recipe, a new place to try out, or just a different way to make the most of my prayers in Ramadan. I tried making chapli kebab for the first time today, and was quite happy with the results (although it was spicy as heck), so will be posting a recipe for that soon!

I also have a few plans for this weekend to make the most of the sunny weather (plus I have some new sunglasses I’d like to dazzle everyone with) – what are you plans for this weekend?

 

The Beautiful Colours of Santorini

One of the things my husband and I loved when we went to Santorini was how lovely the island is in terms of the scenery – the sea looks amazing, there’s beautiful flowers like bougainvillea everywhere, and there’s plenty of white-washed architecture everywhere. However, I’ve noticed that most people assume that Santorini is just blue and white buildings with a beautiful sea – and that’s it. To be fair, if you Google the island, that’s all you’ll find – that iconic blue-and-white spot which is actually the island’s capital city overlooking a rich blue sea.

Unfortunately, this is just a tiny side of the island – literally. A lot of tourists and honeymooners come to Santorini for the blue and white scene, as well as the famous sunset part in Oia, which is a popular (but very expensive!) part of the island. While the area does look as beautiful as it does in the the pictures, it’s easy to be fooled by the images. My husband and I signed up for the sunset tour on one of the days that we were on the island, and could not believe how busy it gets – there’s literally about a thousand people all packed against the walls to see the sunset. It’s a lovely vibe, but very crowded, so not exactly romantic! Similarly the blue and white part of the city is a very popular place for people to pose, but the pictures are worth it, if you don’t mind queuing for the spot.

I thought I’d show the other side of Santorini, which is grassy, hilly and mountainous, and surrounded by beautiful flowers and blue water. Below are pictures I took from our holiday – if you notice, there’s not a single blue-and-white picture presents!