CultureEgyptLifestyle

A change of habit in the madding city

Tranquility. Solitude. Two words you grow to appreciate living in a crazy town like . The appeal of detaching yourself from the chaotic, mindless beehive can become irresistible at times. For the average worker bee reflection and introspection are shunned.

Contained by the strait-jacket of the system, you feel the urge to break loose. You find consolation on a small scale. You become shackled by daily routine, dragging the ball and chain of career progression and personal gain. You lose touch with your higher aspirations and subdue them with worldly pacifiers. Realism: attending to the attainable blurs the big picture as you focus on minute detail. Denying the mind and neglecting the spirit you feel your soul decay – just another statistic.

You begin to appreciate the appeal of escapism.

You decide to explore it. Not a hermit by nature or by nurture you decide to switch habits temporarily. Get a new perspective.

You head off to the desert. You walk up a winding cliff road to solitude. The background ding of civilisation fades away. Quiet, Only the sound of crunching sand on tarmac, a blustery gale blowing. Overshadowing the rhythmic exhalations of your breath. You walk in anticipation of a car passing by to take you the rest of the way up. It does not materialise. Nearly there, you detour to water the desert.

You walk into the crumbling courtyard of an ancient monastery. You sit in stark contrast to the assembled company. You sip your tea.

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A rationalist in the midst of mystics

A city dweller in the midst of hermits

An extrovert of sorts amongst introverts

Directness versus indirectness

Social interaction versus isolation

Unity versus trinity

Modernism amongst conservatism

Clarity of purpose and outlook against confusion

The wisdom of age versus the questioning of youth

All in search of inner peace. All struggling with balancing the self against the greater good. Varying conceptions and definitions of what self and doing good mean.

You find yourself in audience with the head monk. A moment of deafening silence ensues. Pages turn. Tape rolls into life hoping to capture some meaningful answers. The silence is broken. You ask your first question and listen.

Author

  • Khaled Diab

    Khaled Diab is an award-winning journalist, blogger and writer who has been based in Tunis, Jerusalem, Brussels, Geneva and Cairo. Khaled also gives talks and is regularly interviewed by the print and audiovisual media. Khaled Diab is the author of two books: for the Politically Incorrect (2017) and Intimate Enemies: Living with Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land (2014). In 2014, the Anna Lindh Foundation awarded Khaled its Mediterranean Journalist Award in the press category. This website, The Chronikler, won the 2012 Best of the Blogs (BOBs) for the best English-language blog. Khaled was longlisted for the Orwell journalism prize in 2020. In addition, Khaled works as communications director for an environmental NGO based in Brussels. He has also worked as a communications consultant to intergovernmental organisations, such as the and the UN, as well as civil . Khaled lives with his beautiful and brilliant wife, Katleen, who works in humanitarian aid. The foursome is completed by Iskander, their smart, creative and artistic son, and Sky, their mischievous and footballing cat. Egyptian by birth, Khaled's life has been divided between the and . He grew up in and the , and has lived in , on and off, since 2001. He holds dual Egyptian-Belgian nationality.

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Khaled Diab

Khaled Diab is an award-winning journalist, blogger and writer who has been based in Tunis, Jerusalem, Brussels, Geneva and Cairo. Khaled also gives talks and is regularly interviewed by the print and audiovisual media. Khaled Diab is the author of two books: Islam for the Politically Incorrect (2017) and Intimate Enemies: Living with Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land (2014). In 2014, the Anna Lindh Foundation awarded Khaled its Mediterranean Journalist Award in the press category. This website, The Chronikler, won the 2012 Best of the Blogs (BOBs) for the best English-language blog. Khaled was longlisted for the Orwell journalism prize in 2020. In addition, Khaled works as communications director for an environmental NGO based in Brussels. He has also worked as a communications consultant to intergovernmental organisations, such as the EU and the UN, as well as civil society. Khaled lives with his beautiful and brilliant wife, Katleen, who works in humanitarian aid. The foursome is completed by Iskander, their smart, creative and artistic son, and Sky, their mischievous and footballing cat. Egyptian by birth, Khaled’s life has been divided between the Middle East and Europe. He grew up in Egypt and the UK, and has lived in Belgium, on and off, since 2001. He holds dual Egyptian-Belgian nationality.

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