Not Closed for Prayer

By: Eissa Bougary

April 3, 2017

You walk into the cafe, occupied with what you are going to order. You stand in front of the food counter looking at the choices, do you have a sweet tooth? The Pecan Pie looks great, but I heard their speciality is the Banoffie Pie. How much workout do I need to burn this one off? Maybe the Salmon (the L is silent you know) with the Avocado croissant if you are into delicacies. Your attention is focused on the food. The Barista by the cashier is waiting for your order. He is almost invisible to you until you are ready to order. His dreams, aspirations, goals, struggles, and his life are going be served with your order.

One chemix sedamo cherry and one Arika dates and one cold water, out comes the order. No eye contact. No Salam. No hello. No human interaction. I could have been a robot and the man wouldn’t know. Did you know that the man preparing your Arika is an associate professor? Did you know the man who took the order has his own business. Did you know the man preparing,with so much care, the 4 minutes chemix process at 96° is a marine engineer? Did you know, like you, they have dreams. They have struggles. They are like you, sharing your humanity.

In walks Hanouf, a blood specialist. Amazing smile. Hello,she says with a smile that shines and brings back hope, optimism, and the human interaction. It turns out, الحمد لله, it is the majority of people who walk into the door in Medd. In Medd cafe, you walk into the family of people who are dreaming, struggling, longing for a human touch in a world turning as cold as the numbers 0101. Everyone in the coffee bar says hello to Hanouf. The usual? Yes, she says. Thank you she says as she hands her debt card. I am comfortable to ask about her job. She replies with a smile in the safe environment Medd has created.
Salam greets me the next person in line. A regular. We exchange greetings. He makes his order to go and waits for it. He then looks at me and says, “your skin is too dry.” He is right. I always have dry skin. I don’t hydrate enough and I never put skin creams. Doctor Namir continues, “do you take any medication or have any medical condition?” “No, I replied”. Medd turns into a clinic. As we are talking about the solution for my skin, in walks Othman, the cappuccino lover. Here is how it goes with Othman:

سلام عليكم دكتور، كيف حال انت، دكتور انت مية مية، انا اخدتوا هدا دوا، انا مظبوط، هذا نَفَر تاني قال انا لازم في ابرا

He turns casually at me and says, “one cappuccino,”  معلوم؟

I punch in the order, he starts talking to Dr Namir
دكتور انت في طلب، انا يدفع فلوس

And both go to an Arabic Pakistani dialogue about the order and how the Doctor is better than other doctors.
The order for Dr Namir is ready. He takes his order, my contact info and rushes to his clinic in Armed forces hospital. Othman looks at me and says:

هدا دكتور 👍🏼 مية مية

Medd is refreshingly a place for a much needed human interaction. A place where friends, lovers, and people meet to exchange ideas, talk, or simply “chill” in a safe environment.

But why am I here? Why am I not in my office working on the next TV ad. In one way or another, it is valuable work. I am observing, researching, and understanding this Generation Millenniua. A generation in search for answers my generation never dared to ask. They ask questions that were taboo just 15 years ago. “Why do I need to pray?” Asks Lujain as I took my break to discuss “faith” with her and friends. After all, I am the creative director of اقم صلاتك and part of my job is to help understand why people do not pray because it’s part of our faith. “No, it’s not” says Lujain. “God is not going to put me in hell because I don’t pray,” the remanence of a culture that portrayed God as a vindictive God waiting to punish us all. Another young lady was a lot more elaborative. “I don’t feel the prayer so I don’t see the point.” “To be honest with you, I am still confused, I don’t know who I am,” she continues “and this is not exclusive to me, my whole generation is like this,” she concludes before heading out leaving me stunt at the generation gap. Who are these people?!

Is this an identity crisis or is it a healthy search for purpose? I honestly don’t know the answer. I am simply perplexed at what has happened in the past 10 years!
I feel, the discussions I had and the observations I made during my week as a Barista is really a tipping point of a tremendous social fabric change. I don’t think it’s only the fabric. I feel the whole house is going to change.

Let me now switch gear and talk about the people behind the bar. My fellow Baristas. Wonderful is the least description they deserve. Marwani, Halawani, Hashem, Baroom, Mishary, Emad, Moayyed, Mohammed, Mustapha, Kareem, Mohannad, Ali, Salem, Justin and everyone in the Medd family. Thank you for enriching my life. Hard working people who did everything from the heart and knew how to have fun working. The engineer, the associate professor, the marine engineer, the people who are working because they want to work! I didn’t have one boring day. You can’t. There is always something happening or an interesting conversation going on.

I already miss my days in Medd. I am for sure going to repeat this experience again. Thank you Medd for giving me this opportunity.

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