The sweet smell of musk still suffuses me like the bright lights of the ka'aba as I walk the streets of New York City. In 2010, I embarked on a religious journey to Mecca, Saudi Arabia that did not simply enhance my spiritual faith; rather, it helped me discern that I have a great aspiration to learn about world cultures. At first, I had not realized that the city in which I was standing, with its bustling bazaars and steep hills, would dramatically change my life; the entire scene --with its exceptionally byzantine structures and inexplicable features like the chandeliers hanging from what seemed like ceilings a thousand miles high -- encompassed an incredible amount of diversity. I recognized only a few months later that the countless and ineffable facets comprising and embellishing the city of Mecca are what I want to be surrounded by most. As I walked down the bustling streets of Mecca, under the fervid heat of its sun, I could not stop myself from wondering how I could mold the clay of my life into something more intricate and meaningful.
Often I had imagined the beautiful topographic images of Mecca as only a place where hundreds of thousands of Muslims gather to pray. The massive construction projects taking place in the Holy City outside of the mosque inspired me to ponder upon the simple structure of my own existence and how I could reconstruct the countless bits and pieces of my life to better myself. My consideration of the juxtaposition of the endless rivers of sand, broken roads and discarded detritus surrounding the pristine city center caused me to reflect on an entirely different scene. This image contrasts with the way I imagine the world outside of New York-- the only city I have ever known--to be.
Since birth, my parents have instilled the strict practices of Islam into my everyday life and I have rarely been presented with the opportunity to engage in something different. For this reason, I challenge myself everyday to learn something new about world issues, politics, cultures and religions through my everyday experiences both inside and outside of the classroom. My journey to Mecca has inspired my greater desire to traverse the world from the city where I have established my own psychological and physical home and explore cultures that are completely foreign to me.
Upon my return to New York City that August, I felt motivated to get more involved in the Islamic projects that further complemented my experience in Mecca. I concomitantly became involved in the local and global community by collecting second hand clothes and donating them to local mosques that would subsequently ship them to needy children and mothers in impoverished nations in Africa and Southern Asia. My mother and I invited local Muslim women of varying cultures, races, and ages to the local mosque and our home to teach them how to read and comprehend Arabic and explore current global issues through one another's eyes. My new involvement in local projects and communication with all these new, diverse acquaintances has allowed me to accomplish my goal of broadening my horizons within my home while concurrently exploring the world.
Thanks for your time! (: