Muslim Matrimonials and More's Egyptian Tales, by Youssuf El-Kalay

September 2001

A Trip to the Zoo

by Youssuf El-Kalay

Asalamu Aliakom Wa Rahmat Allah Wa Barakatu. I would like to apologize to my readers for not writing any new stories during the entire summer. It has been a hectic summer for me, and the ongoing events in Palestine have dulled my desire to write. This, of course, is no excuse, so I ask that you be patient with me, as I attempt to rekindle the fire of writing within me.

Most of us at one point in our lives have visited the local zoo. Although I am sure many of our brothers and sisters who have young children may classify their own homes as zoos, this is not the kind of zoo I am writing about today!

Every zoo has a wide variety of animals. As a child I used to take great joy in visiting the zoo. From the roaring lions to the graceful giraffe, I loved it all. Over the course of my lifetime, I have been to many zoos, yet there was one visit that I shall never forget.

It was the mid eighties and my family and I were visiting Egypt during the winter. Winters in Egypt are not as exciting as the summers, but there is still a lot a person can do. My mother and her sister decided to take us to the International Zoo in Madinat Nasr (Nasr City). Oh the sheer excitement after hearing we were going to visit the zoo! I ran all over the home shouting, "We're going to the zoo, we're going to the zoo!" This was going to be a fun day.

The International Zoo was much like any typical zoo. It had its trees and plant growth which attempted to enhance the feeling of being in the wild. A quick look to the right, and there were the wild African monkeys. A look to the left and one could see a peacock showing off its beautiful feathers. I looked in awe at each of the animals and thought to myself that this was truly a grand place to visit.

As we ended our tour of the zoo, we came upon the most well known animal of Arabia, the camel. It was sitting in the middle of its gated clearing watching the passers by as if monitoring for anyone heading in its direction. Earlier we had stopped by a food stand and purchased some popcorn and "coca-cola gummies" to eat. As I chewed on my popcorn I watched the camel staring at us and licking its mouth periodically.

Both my mother and aunt commented that the camel looked hungry and decided to feed it some of our coca-cola gummies. The camel had a serious appetite. It finished all the candy we had. My mother and aunt tried feeding the camel some popcorn but it wasn't interested. Seeing as our day had come to an end, we decided to head towards the exit. Suddenly my mother felt the clamping of the mouth of an animal on her shoulder. Lo and behold it was the camel himself! My aunt pulled us away and yelled "Get away from the camel!" Oh no, it hadn't had enough candy and now it was going after my mother.

Alhamdulilah, the camel only caught on to a shawl my mother was wearing. With a tug she was able to release the shawl from its mouth and quickly ran away to put some distance between herself and the hungry camel. Some school children on a field trip noticed the incident and a young girl exclaimed, "Stay away from the camel, it bites!"

Realizing that we had more than our fair share of fun-filled adventure we headed back home. The ironic thing is that I don't ever recall seeing a "Do not feed the animal" sign. Now whenever I visit a zoo, I think twice about feeding the animals.

Jazakom Allahu Khairan for reading. 'Til next time Insha Allah.


Youssuf El-Kalay has lived in Scotland, Egypt, Bahrain, and the United States, and currently resides in Southern California. It is his hope that through his stories, you the reader will be able to experience some of his adventures and the lessons he has learned from them.

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