“Talking together makes wise”

Cairo University
Cairo University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a book titled “Tomorrow, God Willing a Norwegian anthropologist writes from her experiences befriending a family in a poor neighborhood in Cairo.  The book gives a portrayal of life in Cairo primarily through the perspective of Umm Ali (Mother of Ali) with others from the extended family lending their voices to the narrative.  It is one of my favorite books for a variety of reasons, one of those being my love for the city of Cairo and Egyptians.

The prologue quotes Umm Ali saying: “I like talking with people, Talking together makes wise. Where had we humans been and what had we understood if we did not tell each other what each of us thinks and feels….it is a life necessity to be able to talk.”

She then proceeds to let the author enter her world, a world of loss and tragedy, poverty and joy, anger and love and then communicate those stories on paper.  She gets the importance of ‘talk’ in communicating the ordinary and extraordinary events of her life.

The back streets of Cairo are an unlikely setting and Umm Ali perhaps an unlikely source of wisdom, but wisdom it is. She viewed talking as a gift to “purge you of sorrow/anger and invigorate your soul”.  This quote from an Egyptian woman living in poverty with no education.  In light of a media frenzy over the power of words over people, Umm Ali recognized their power in the best way possible.  To communicate in order to express her feelings and life story and in doing create understanding between people who don’t live or think in the same way that she or those around her do.

Cairo is a city of over 16 million people. That’s a lot of voices and a lot of stories but sometimes  one story is all it takes to “make wise”.

6 thoughts on ““Talking together makes wise”

  1. I would love to read this book! By the way, I had a Mai for a friend in Shikarpur (not the same one) and she opened up another world for me. Illiterate, she was perhaps one of the wisest women I ever met.


    1. I would love to talk to her again, too. but I truly believe she is dancing and singing Ho Jamalo in heaven. So we will meet again at Jesus’ feet.


  2. A great article. I want to read the book. Reminds me of the wisdom I gained from Mai those years in Shikarpur. She was really a wise woman. Mary Wilder once quizzed her about her experiences as a midwife. Seemed she had been trained by British midwives at the Civil Hospital before partition.


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