My British-Geek-Muslim Life in Rugged Colorado


Alayna Ahmad shares how vastly her life has changed as a ‘city-slicker’ Londoner transplanted into a small city in the rocky mountains of America.

Despite all the wonderful places in the world, I find myself living in a small American city called Colorado Springs (aka ‘the Springs’) because of work. It has a semi-arid climate with spectacular views of the Southern Rockies mountain range. There are many recreational activities to participate in including camping, hiking, trail running, mountain biking, rock climbing, white water rafting and many others.

Except, I’m a city-brogue-rocking-tweed-wearing-Prada girl who classes outdoor experience as picnicking in Central Park.

After moving in with my roommate, who is an American soldier, I tried to make myself at home by mounting British memorabilia on the walls, family pictures on my desk and subscribing to the life-saving BBC News channel.

I could not fathom having my afternoon tea served in foul crockery any longer

Nonetheless, all this effort was wasted, as my roomie became the Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street. Gosh, talk about a culture clash! There were always dirty dishes in the sink, an unclean bathroom and giant heaps of clothes in the living room, which at any minute an ogre could have inhabited. I, on the other hand follow my mother’s motto: ‘cleanliness is Godliness’. I am super organised, a complete geek and precision is my best quality. Sooner or later I knew I had to have the ‘talk’. I could not fathom having my afternoon tea served in foul crockery any longer.

But the ‘talk’ was wasted to the birds. My roomie could not understand my issues or problems. Apparently my English even sounded alien. I explained I needed to pray my Salah and was unable to do so under these conditions. Eventually, I started to see some improvements, but they weren’t consistent. Thus, I decided to concentrate on other things lest I lose my sanity.

So discovering the Springs became a priority; I put my explorers cap on and sought adventure. First stop: camping! In the UK camping is pretty fun. We have campsites with all the facilities one could want, such as showers, toilets, sauna and a hot tub.

To my dismay, camping in the US is somewhat different. My US friends told me I hadn’t experienced ‘real’ camping before. And what I described was what ‘Mericans’ call a five-star holiday, not camping.

Camping in the Springs usually involves hiking to a campsite in the mountains amidst a forest. Need I mention that Colorado is infamous for its mountain lions and wolves?

So we set up camp, got a fire going and started to sing random songs just like in the old Westerns. However, the fun was soon to end when I needed the loo. When I asked where the bathrooms were, the ‘Mericans’ laughed at me. I was guided behind a tree in the forest and handed a shovel, then directed to dig a hole and do my business. I was flabbergasted. Since I could not hold it in any longer, I had no choice but to go behind a tree, whilst simultaneously hearing animal noises not far away. That moment in nature has scarred me for life and I will never see camping in the same light again.

There aren’t a lot of different ethnicities here, so I stand out like a sore thumb. Wherever I go, I am pretty much the only brown person, probably for miles. The Muslim population is also small. There is a small corner shop that’s been converted into a mosque, where a handful of people gather for Friday prayers. There is a bigger mosque, though it is about 40 minutes away in another town called Pueblo.

Halal shops, I hear you ask? Forget it. The nearest one is in Denver, 90 minutes away. Most of the time I live on fish. In the past few months, I think I’ve had enough fish to last me a lifetime. How much salmon can I really devour in a week? Actually, you’d be surprised!

I have deer stray into my garden as if they were the local cats roaming around for food

The people here are from all over the US, and are generally friendly. Most people in the Springs are (or are family members of) US Army and Air Force personnel. So the cars on the road are from all over the place. I have seen numbered plates from Alaska, Florida, New York, Virginia and even the tiny Pacific territory of Guam, to name but a few. Plainly put, driving is hazardous in this place. The city’s amalgamation of a variety of driving cultures does not help its road safety. Twice, I have almost been run over. That said, it was partially my fault – being a Brit, I looked in the wrong direction before crossing the road.

Everyone who knows me understands I cannot live without good food. Local cuisine here consists of burgers, fries, BBQ and more burgers. I craved Middle Eastern food so much I’ve started to drool in my sleep. I can almost taste doner kebab with chips, shawarma with garlic sauce and my mum’s lazeeza biryani.

I managed to find a small Middle Eastern café in town which served me humus with shawarma. Although it wasn’t the same, I went down to Sajdah to thank the Lord for giving me a little bit of home away from home. I am only in the Springs for a short while, a constant assurance I give to myself every now and then. Just a few more months to go until school starts in September and I move back to the east coast, a place with trains, buses and even Forever21’s.

Despite it all, what really takes my breath away are the glorious views of the mountains. Living 6,500 feet above sea level has some perks, I suppose. Every morning, through my window, the dewy mountains converse with me. Sometimes I will go to the Garden of the Gods and stare at the red rock formation for hours, just contemplating life. And often in the evenings I have deer stray into my garden as if they were the local cats roaming around for food. They are such beautiful creatures. Usually, it is then I think of the magnificent world our Creator has bestowed upon us. And I vow to explore this place more, perhaps with a guide or the locals. I surely believe that a forgotten opportunity is a wasted one. So make the most of what you have, when you have it, before it passes you forever.

And so for now, my adventure in the Springs continues…

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