The Day My Mother's Eyes Sparkled With Life Again

Enas El Masry - Mar 22, 2017

I stood back and looked at her in silence, contemplating and appreciating the masterpiece of a woman that she is. I’ve always treasured my mother for so many reasons, but I never thought the day would come when our roles would switch, leaving me in awe and pride at her ability to still grow and change. Venturing farther than anything she would have considered a comfort zone, the day she decided to go on her own adventure was the day I saw her eyes sparkle with life like I’ve never seen them before. For the first time in a really long while, she looked like a woman with a free spirit and a light heart.

Meet My Mom

Before I dwell on my mother’s adventure to Siwa and her newfound fascination with the oasis, let me tell you a bit about her. Olfat is a 57-year-old beauty who decided to put her family first since she established her own little family. While she’s the main reason I can today comprehend what being a giving, loving and selfless person means, I often wish she would rebel and do something that is solely for herself.

Unlike me, my mother is a very elegant woman, the typical grounded lady and as many of my friends would say, classical. Despite her strength that muffled several hardships and rocky times, she never exactly was the curious one who suggests new activities or destinations to try out, but rather preferred to honor whatever little traditions our family has built over the years. As a matter of fact, change usually causes her distress – a major reason why I, a very curious and experimental person, often cause her distress.

For as long as I have known my mother, travel for her, as well as our entire family, mostly revolved around coastal cities where we played on the beach as children. When we were old enough for her not to look after us, she would instead spend daytime on the beach with my dad, each consumed in reading their own books. And that’s as far as travel was for many years.

As I grew into a more avid traveler, mom held on to her travel traditions, rarely ever stepping outside their comfort. Despite our growingly different travel interests though, we both shared one travel dream – to visit Siwa, one of Egypt’s western desert oases. For three years, we tried to make the trip happen, but to no avail, until one day in March 2016 when I packed up and embarked on a six-week-long stay at Siwa.

Morphing Into a Free-Spirit

Escorting me back to Cairo, Olfat along with a couple of my friends arrived at the oasis where we shared a few days before going back to the big city. While I may have been too busy to witness mom in action during her first visit to Siwa, I sure did notice hints of change upon our return. Now that she has had a taste of being embraced with nothing but nature, it was impossible to get rid of the aftertaste of carefree light-heartedness.

“I have a feeling that each year, Enas will retreat for a month in Siwa just to clear her mind,” she told my father with a subtle smile, like she was secretly voicing her own wish. While we may not be spending month-long retreats in Siwa, it has since then become my mother’s default refuge whenever she feels overwhelmed with life.

Despite all the responsibilities my mother has in Cairo, she has learned how to leave those concerns behind as she hops on the bus. Far from the hassle of the daily routine, she was making new friends almost each day in Siwa. As her social circle grew, so did her exposure to different lifestyles and mindsets. While Olfat is socially flexible enough to mingle with different people, Siwa offered her a new array of diversity that she simply never had the chance to encounter. With such exposure, my mother not only grew tolerant to a new kind of ‘different’ but was clearly growing more curious to know more about this new, rather foreign culture.

To be honest, I wasn’t surprised to see my mother getting along with my Siwi friends and their families, but what was a huge surprise to me was all the love and tenderness she had towards Lilo, the puppy I was raising in Siwa.

It’s one thing to be more of a cat person than a dog person, but my mother used to hold much stronger sentiments than mere dislike towards dogs – until one day when she went as far as letting Lilo share her bed, then I knew she could never bare the tiniest bit of hatred or cruelty towards dogs again.

This may come off as silly or mundane to some people, but knowing how reserved and anxious of change my mother can be, loving my puppy and showing compassion towards stray street dogs may very well be one of the bravest things I have seen my mother do – and that’s not loving dogs, but rather change at all.

Back in Cairo, when my mother talks about Siwa, she speaks with the confidence and enthusiasm of an explorer. Every time, she returns with new stories about a culture many of her friends and relatives have either no interest or no oomph to check out for themselves. She may look and mostly sound the same, but she isn’t.

Her soul has a safe haven to resort to when she’s burdened, and that can sometimes be all the liberation we need – to know that we’re not stuck.

While some travelers take pride in pushing past their physical and mental boundaries as they venture through nature’s many challenging terrains, I look at my mom and think, “This woman is as brave as any adventurer for having the courage to change.” That takes a lot of guts, and I absolutely love her for it.