Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Al Majaz Waterfront Mosque Sharjah Light Show Festival 2017


Every year during the first week of February for about 4 or 5 years now, Sharjah celebrates their annual Light Festival. They light up significant cultural structures with laser light shows and decorate  with different kinds of light arts. Every year is slightly different than the previous years, adding variation here and there to keep the festival fresh and exciting. But they keep some yearly staples that are crowd favourites. This is one of my super favourite times of the year and I really do wish that, their budget permitting, the government will do this for more years to come. The weather is also perfect because February is winter and the nights are especially nice and breezy. Bringing jacket, gloves, scarves, bonnets and probably a thermos of hot cocoa is also advisable.

One of the yearly Sharjah Light Festival staple is the laser light show in Al Majaz Waterfront Mosque at Buheirah Corniche. To be honest, I’m not really sure about the official name of the mosque. We tried our best to find out by walking around it to find any identification marks. Unfortunately, we were not so lucky so we just nicknamed it after the nearest landmark.  Multi-coloured laser lights are superimposed on its structures to create mesmerizing and out of this world sceneries. The colours transport you to a happier more surreal place full of fairies, nymphs and fantasy.

In comparison to the Al Noor Mosque, the Al Majaz Waterfront Mosque is simpler with its design and structure. It is also a much smaller mosque. Nonetheless the superimposition of the laser lights on its fa├žade is just as fascinating.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The light show here is more muted and warm in colours, favouring more earth tones. It transports visions of forests, centaurs and other wild creatures from the earthly surreal. It reminds me a little bit of Narnia. There is still playfulness and imagination in the colours but with a more realistic feel. If you like a more calming show, this one will be perfect for you.There are also less people within the vicinity, giving it a more Zen like ambience.
 
Just like the laser light show in Al Noor Mosque, this one is free and open to the general public. The only difficulty and fee you will face is the hard to find parking space.
 

 

 



Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Al Noor Mosque Sharjah Light Festival 2017


Every year during the first week of February for about 4 or 5 years now, Sharjah celebrates their annual Light Festival. They light up significant cultural structures with laser light shows and decorate with different kinds of light arts. Every year is slightly different than the previous years, adding variation here and there to keep the festival fresh and exciting. But they keep some yearly staples that are crowd favourites. This is one of my super favourite time of the year and I really do wish that their budget permitting, the government would do this for more years to come. The weather is also perfect because February is winter and the nights are especially nice and breezy. Bringing jacket, gloves, scarves, bonnets and probably a thermos of hot cocoa is also advisable.

One of the yearly crowd favourite and a Sharjah Light Festival staple is the laser light show in Al Noor mosque right beside the Khalid Lagoon in Buheirah Corniche. The beautiful and elegant mosque is lit with candy coloured lights and appears surreal and cartoonish. If not for the solid structures you can touch, you’d think the mosque is only a caricature of lights instead of a real standing edifice.

On its own, the Al Noor Mosque is already beautiful and elegant. The show always begins by showing it in its natural magnificence against the night time sky.
 
 
Then the laser light will slowly creep in into the structure building momentum to bring about a cacophony of colours.
 
  
 
The first set is a trip to a mixture of clashing colors. This actually looks way much better in real life but I must admit that this set is not exactly my favourite.

 
 
The second set is more colour coordinated. The theme is fairyland and butterflies in what I can only suppose is candy colours.
 
 
Then we also had a purple fantasy land with unidentified floating creatures in colours that are colour coordinated with the land of purple.

 
 
 
For some reason, all I can think about is Barbie's world when I see this next set of laser light colours. There is something girly and less candy and fairy with the colour combination.

 
 
 This one on the other hand is just a splash of pastel colours combined all together. I guess the theme is, "be happy"

 
 
  
The last bit is different but quite forgettable since most of the previous laser light combinations are exceptionally dazzling. But I guess you have to take a break from a trip to surreal lane.

 
  
Overall, the Al Noor Mosque Sharjah Light Festival is a wonderful and unique experience. The best part of all is that this is an open air event that is free for all. All you had to do is find the time to be there. The hardest bit that you will have to do is just find parking. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Miracles in Prayers


 
Growing up poor, I did not believe in miracles; I depended on miracles!

When my family and I were literally homeless, we prayed that somebody will take us. We did not have money to pay for even a month’s rent and there was no place to go. But on that same day, my mom, sister and I were able to home ourselves. Although we were able to find lodgings separately, we still did despite the seeming impossibility.

I was severely nearsighted growing up but my mother was only able to acquire prescription eyeglasses for me once in my entire life and that was in second grade. After that pair got lost, I was on my own in my blurry world. When commuting from my house to my school, I prayed that I might ride the correct jeep. I couldn’t read the signboard and taking the time to ask will deprive me of the opportunity to get a ride because mornings were rush hours and people literally kill each other just to be able to get inside a jeep. Miraculously, my intelligent guesses were always correct. I also prayed when crossing the streets that I might not die in the process. Obviously the prayers worked because I am still alive today.

When I took the college entrance exam for the University of the Philippines in Diliman, I was unfortunate to have contracted the flu on the very same day. I had a very high fever, I was dizzy and I felt like vomiting. The test room was unluckily air conditioned which made my feverish chills even worse. No one was allowed to leave the room, not even to vomit, during the entire test duration. I tried my best to toughen up and finish the entrance exams. At that time, this was the ONLY college entrance exams which my mom was able to pay so this was my ONLY hope. But after an hour of trying, I couldn’t hold off anymore the uncontrollable shaking from the chills and the need to black out and faint. Since the exam was multiple choices and you just had to shade the correct answer, I just decided to randomly shade the answer sheet until the very end just to get the test over.  I submitted my exam paper to the proctor and hurriedly went out to finally give in to the forces of the flu. I prayed that I might pass although it seemed highly impossible since more than 50 percent of my answers were just random guesses. YET miracles of miracles, I passed!

During the second semester of my first year in college, my mother was not able to come up with the tuition fee. It was already the first week of classes and I was still not officially enrolled. I prayed that we would be able to come up with the money. We didn’t, but a good friend of mine came up with the 7000 pesos as the initial payment just to get me enrolled. I was able to get my first year college second semester education even if the odds were against my favour. But this was not in fact my first tuition fee miracle. From my whole grade school years to my entire high school years, my mother enrolled me with just a promissory note promising to pay the unpaid debts from my previous academic years. Every year it was the same answered prayer for a seemingly hopeless situation.

By the time I met my then husband, my life story has been a series of answered prayers and impossible miracles. I really couldn’t have survived life without them. In fact, meeting my then-boyfriend-now-husband was also a result of an answered prayer. Julius was the exact replica on my husband prayer wish list. In every sense of the word, he was God sent.

As a couple, we had our fair share of needing miracles during our first year of relationship. Julius’ place of employment was on the decline and they weren’t receiving their salaries for months. Even during deployment to job sites, they had to use their own resources. There was even a time when he was stuck somewhere because his company was not able to provide him with an airfare to go back home. Even without a tangible source of employment opportunities, we prayed that Julius can find another place of work. We prayed a novena to Blessed Jose Maria Escriva for months. We stubbornly insisted on our demands and we were not taking no for an answer from God. And just like that, Julius found a job in Dubai. Although we were praying for a job opportunity from the U.S. of A, God found it more appropriate to send us to the land of the Arabs.

From then on, our life was free from desperately praying for miracles. If we were sick, we had our company issued comprehensive insurance which not only provided doctor consultation and laboratory test but also dispensed medicines at a very minimal participation cost. We were never in dire need of food, shelter or clothing at any point in time because we had good stable jobs. If there was any financial emergency, all we needed to do was adjust the budget for a few months and then get back on track again. We also saved for an emergency fund so that we will never be caught with our pants down. We were self-sufficient and had no need for any last minute miracles to save our ass. There was always a logical and doable solution from our part to any problem.

But the risk of getting results from the realm of the possible is that soon, you lose touch with the possibilities of the impossible. I, whose life was painted with the colours of miracles, have subconsciously stopped believing in them. I solely relied on the limitations of my possibilities rather than rely on the infinite impossibilities of the universe. It kept me grounded, which is actually a good thing, but it also clipped my wings which I needed to fly. As the years went by, my roots grew deeper and deeper until I completely forgot that I once knew how to soar.

But God, with his amazing wisdom, decided to give me back my wings. After more than 10 years of being grounded, my husband lost his job. To add spice to the mayhem, I found out I was pregnant after a month and the rents and other cost of living all suddenly decided to shoot up at the same time. We had also lost our company sponsored health insurance. For the first time in our whole years living abroad, getting suddenly sick was a terrifying and expensive prospect. Since I was also pregnant, prenatal check-ups and giving birth were now my financial burden.

As great timing would have it, my 9 year old son also had a minor accident. He fell down while at school and his fingernail lifted off from the fingernail bed. Although we were insurance free, we were fortunate that the accident happened in school because then we would be entitled to free emergency care in one of the government hospitals. Although totally grateful for the free medical assistance, we felt so powerless because we had to rely on the charity of others. Beggars can’t be choosers and in a free facility, you wait until somebody attends to you.

After more than 10 years of being in control, I was no longer at the helm of my life. There was no logical, practical, doable solution on my end. We were caught with our pants down and suddenly, I was in need of miracles. It was hard to pray and believe that God will answer my prayers. I was calculating the number of people who lost their jobs and the current job market.It seemed impossible to be hired at the current status quo.

I was in a state of bottomless panic. If my husband will not be able to find a job, we will all be forced to go back home to our motherland since visa’s can only be obtained via the sponsorship of an employer. As hard as it is to look for a job abroad, it is a million times much harder to look for a job in the place where we were born. The job market there is ruthless and has little or no compassion for the aging job hunter. I still have a 9 year old son to support and another one on the way. Where will get money for food, for shelter, for education and for other basic needs? If it was just me and my husband, we can just wing it since we are both used to poverty. But we have two lives that depended on us. We cannot just wing it.

It was a terrible feeling of helplessness. At a certain point in time, I deluded myself into thinking that I was in sole control of my life. Miracles don’t make things happen; I make things happen.  Yet at the middle of it, you realize that life is full of unpredictables. It won’t always be you who will make things happen. So I abandoned all pretenses of self-sufficiency and decided to pray for a miracle. I cut off my roots, grew my wings and decided to fly.

Months have already passed since the day my husband lost his job and our life of uncertainty began. At this point, I’m still learning to spread my wings. Although he has already found a job, which was a big hurrah, our life was no longer in the comfort zone and thus need constant reliance on the supernatural and the impossible. In some ways I believe that my family needs this mayhem of uncertainty more than stability. Although our lives are no longer comfortable and secure, we were given in exchange the capacity and openness to believe in the impossible and infinite.

Because sometimes, the greatest gifts in life are struggles and problems. Without them, there is no room for miracles.

 
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