Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Tag: Ancient Iraq

The Power of Western Women

Photo by: Pedro J Perez

Photo by: Pedro J Perez

Last night, I wrapped myself in a red blanket as I listened to my teacher Lynn Andrews talk during a conference call with her apprentices. She said something which I never heard her say before. She said, “I really believe that the world is going to be saved by the women of the west.”

Many societies have thrived as a result of powerful women. Enheduanna of ancient Iraq was the daughter of Sargon of Akkad. She is the world’s first recorded writer. She was a high priestess in Ur of the Chaldees until her father’s death, the new ruler of Ur removed her from power. Kubaba, a Sumerian Queen in ancient Iraq, is the world’s first recorded woman ruler in history. She was said to have reigned peacefully for one hundred years.

Matriarchal communities existed in the past, and there a number of them surviving today. One society in the high mountains of China is known as the Kingdom of Women. Their reputation for “free Love”, along with the breathtaking landscape of their homelands draws increasing numbers of tourists.

Jennifer Morse writes in her book Apprentice to Power the following conversation she had with Lynn:

“The nature of the earth is feminine, so we women naturally understand the nature of things,” Lynn said. “Deep down, each woman knows that she knows. But we are taught that we don’t know. For men, the energy of this plant is not familiar. So they don’t know. But they are taught that they do.”

“So it’s all set up backwards,” said Jennifer.

Lynn smiled. “Yes, it is. We have to teach them.”

Perhaps this explains the thousands of years of unnecessary wars and violence. The biggest difference between matriarch and patriarchal communities is that where women rule, there was and is no need for violence. Maybe that’s the core problem in the Middle East. It is overly male dominated, which has created an incredible imbalance in that region.

For me, I am incredibly grateful for the dozens of powerful western women who have supported my work throughout the years, and I would not be a bit surprised if it is, like Lynn says, western women who end up saving the world.

Is Woman a Bar of Soap or a Piece of Dough?


I received a chain email that read in Arabic:
A woman is like a bar of soap. Her touch is soft. Her smell is pretty. But if you press on her, she bolts out of your hands. And if you step on her, you’ll slip and break your bones. My advice? Treat your bar of soap nicely. Long live my country’s bars of soap!

The brother of the sender responded, also in Arabic:
A woman is like dough. The more you knead her, the tastier she comes out. So my advice is to knead your wife, put the dough in a warm place, and trust in God!

I always found it interesting that men, the gender that for thousands of years has been the cause of most of society’s pitfalls are the ones who try to define women, the gender who gave birth to them and raised them. And don’t give me the story of Eve and the apple she ate. Let’s look at the atrocious wars, holocaust, massacres!

Many societies have thrived as a result of powerful women. Enheduanna of ancient Iraq was the daughter of Sargon of Akkad. She is the world’s first recorded writer. She was a high priestess in Ur of the Chaldees until after her father’s death, the new ruler of Ur removed her from power. Kubaba, a Sumerian Queen in ancient Iraq, is the world’s first recorded woman ruler in history. She was said to have reigned peacefully for one hundred years.

Matriarchal communities existed in the past, and there are a number of them surviving today. The biggest difference between them and patriarchal communities is that where women rule, there was and is no need for violence. When men are able to master how to run the show without killing each other, then they can begin to describe what a woman is really about.

The Mystery School, My Little Secret

The Mystery School, My Little Secret

This February I’ll be starting the third year of the Mystery School (it’s a 4 year program). Very few people in my life know that for the last two years I’ve been enrolled in this school. Until now, I had kept it my little secret.

I stumbled upon this school in 2011 after reading Lynn Andrew’s Writing Spirit. Hugely influenced by this book, and because Lynn is an internationally bestselling author with 19 books under her belt, I called her up. I wanted advice on how to move ahead with my writing career. Little did I know then the journey I’d be embarking upon.

Like magic, the Mystery School began transforming my life as a writer, wife and mother. Its ancient Native American teachings were not strange to my ears. I come from a tribal nation that’s thousands of years old. My people are from Mesopotamia, where once upon a time long ago, similar types of teachings were the norm. Then people invented so many new things, that they forgot the value of anything older than 50 years.

Well, my little secret is no more. But what awaits me in the school are a lot of hidden rich secrets, which I cannot wait to unearth and discover.

Nineveh is Like Any Major City in the U.S.


“Nineveh is like any major city in the U.S.,” said Pastor Aaron at today’s sermon.

Nineveh was an ancient Assyrian city on the eastern bank of the Tigris River. It is one of the oldest and greatest cities in antiquity. The area was settled as early as 6000 BC and by 3000 BC had become an important religious center for worship of the Assyrian goddess Ishtar.

“Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, was the superpower of her day,” said the Pastor. “It required three days to circle metropolitan Nineveh. And the Ninevites lived large. They enjoyed the best chariots, the finest food, and the most exotic entertainment. It had an extensive business and commercial system like none in the world. In addition, Assyria had ruled the world for 200 years and was the strongest military power. Sounds familiar?”

He added that Nineveh’s wickedness was great, and unbeknownst to them, their days were numbered. It would not be long before Babylon would overtake Nineveh. God gave them one last chance to repent, however, by sending Jonah. After Jonah’s sermon to them, the entire city turned from their sin of violence, which they were known for, and turned to God. (Jonah 4:4 NLT)

“Shouldn’t we be concerned with Sterling Heights, with that great city and its surrounding cities?” asked the Pastor.

The message is clear, and it resembles the heart of Cultural Glimpse. Wherever we are we are on holy ground. It is wonderful to recognize, honor and serve the sacredness of our homes and communities.

E’Rootha’s 5th Annual Evening of the Arts

Dunya's Award

Again this year, the E’Rootha’s event brought to life Iraq’s rich cultural heritage with a beautiful program that included a strolling gallery and performing arts. Last year this organization honored me with the outstanding contributions of the arts award. This year the award went to a great and accomplished poet and a dear friend of mine, Dunya Mikhail – recent recipient of the Kresge Award (recent Kresge Literary Artist Fellow).

As I sat among the audience, I recalled years ago when I sat with a group of Iraqi-born artists and discussed ways to do what Matthew A. Kalasho, Executive Officer, says E’Rootha has been doing and intends to do more of – “to preserve our [Chaldean/Assyrian Syriac] history, language, culture, dance and our sense of community as we continue to grow and prosper in America.”

I realized and was happy that all along, our older generation and younger generation had the same desires, and shared similar dreams. I imagined how much farther we would go if we one day closely worked together. Since I’m an optimist, I see that happening very soon.

The Women of Telkaif


Telkaif like most of the villages in the north is in the city of Mosul, Iraq. Mosul is where Agatha Christie once lived with her husband, an archaeologist who was involved in the excavation in Nimrud in the north of Iraq and he explored the ancient city of Ur in the south.

“I fell in love with Ur,” Agatha Christie wrote in her autobiography.

I fell in love with Telkaif, where my parents and their parents and their grandparents are from.
Yesterday I invited over some cousins who I stayed with in Telkaif in 2000. Telkaif is in the province of Mosul, and there, I got to visit the various churches and monasteries that date back to the early Christians in the place, from the 6th Century. I got to sleep on the rooftop and watch the stars shine brightly over the maze of streets and exquisite 19th century houses. I got to observe the fresh meat and dairy market when around six o’clock in the morning, my cousin and I walked to a place where cattle was slaughtered and where countrywomen sat beside a curb, selling homemade dairy products like yogurt and clotted cream. For a dollar, I also bought an abaya, a type of veil, from Mosul’s market.

Things are no longer the same in the northern part of Iraq. According to the Bishop of Mosul, of a 32,000 plus population of Christians, there are now less than 2,500. So I may soon have no relatives left in Iraq to visit.

Food, Prayer, Marriage

Wedding rings

Ever since snow arrived, my children wanted to build a snowman. So Sunday we gave them a substitute snow activity – sledding. Needless to say they had a great time. Myself, who as a young girl rode roller coasters at Cedar Point, simply videotaped their adventure. Yes, I was too scared to slide down the hill that my three-year-old and six-year-old thought nothing of.

Yesterday was so packed with activities there was no way I could write a new post at night. We bought the children snow gear, took them sledding with their cousins, I discovered black tomatoes at the produce market and we attended a small 500 guest Chaldean American wedding (usually they’re 700 plus). And most importantly, church!

“The Life of Abraham” lecture series started at Freedom Christian. As the pastor spoke of Prophet Abraham, I thought of my ancestors’ land, Ur of the Chaldees in Iraq, where Abraham originated. This city, which is mentioned several times in the Bible was one of the great urban centers of the Sumerian civilization of southern Iraq and remained an important city until its conquest by Alexander the Great a few centuries before Christ. Ur was eventually incorporated into Babylonia. The Ziggurat of Ur, believed to be 4,000 years old and originally a temple to the moon god, has become a symbol of honor for Iraqi ingenuity and culture, as well as being the birth place of the prophet Abraham.

During the lecture, the pastor said something very important about marriage.

“Your marriage is not your true identity. It is not the job or your wife or your husband to make you happy, not that they should attempt to do otherwise. Your hope of who you are should be based on your relationship with God.”

I agree. Many marriages fail today because a lot of pressure is placed on what spouses should do and not do for each other. In the movie Eat, Pray, Love, Julia Roberts plays a married woman who is not happy in her marriage. She wants a divorce to go out and find herself but her husband desperately does not want the divorce. He asks her, “Why can’t you find yourself inside our marriage?”

She could have.

“Enjoy your vacations,” said the pastor. “Enjoy your relationships, enjoy your work, but don’t make them the source of our joy or your status. God is the source.”

Mesopotamian Forum for Art and Culture

The Minaret of Samarra

The Minaret of Samarra

Mesopotamian Forum for Art and Culture held its monthly meeting today at Abu Nawas. My husband said he’d watch the kids so I happily prepared dinner, tidied up the house and then lo and behold, my daughter decided to throw a tantrum because her dad couldn’t take her to the dollar store. I tried everything to pacify her frustrations, even considered not going to the meeting, but she kept at it until she knocked onto our beige rug the bowl of curry stew I was feeding her brother. That got me to quickly change clothes, grab my purse and head out the door!

MFAC was established in February 2012, and since that very short time, they’ve held five successful events, two of which I had the honor of participating in. Today’s meeting was to establish the New Year’s activities. On their agenda are lectures on story-telling, poetry readings, theatrical plays, cinema and an art gallery. Nabil Roumaya, one of the founders of MFAC once said to me, “We want to ignite the cultural awareness that was once present in Iraq in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.”

Civilization was born in ancient Mesopotamia over 7,000 years ago. That is where writing, astronomy and science were invented. The first school, law, literature, map of the world, and the idea of dividing time and space into a multiple of 60’s started in this historic land. The first writer in recorded history was Enheduanna, a woman from ancient Iraq. She lived, composed, and taught roughly 2,000 years before Aristotle. Man’s most important invention, the wheel, was devised in Mesopotamia, as was plumbing, the plow and the sailboat. Like other Iraqi-American organizations in Michigan, MFAC, which consists of a number of distinguished artists, writers and intellectuals, attempts to shine light on a culture that only small groups of people know about.

When I returned home, my daughter apologized for her earlier behavior and my son threw a couple of tantrums because I wouldn’t let him play with the butter knives.