Couples enjoyed time together on the deck of the Home of the Heart lunch cruise. Photos by the Muslim Link.
On a balmy Sunday in June, as yachts glide down the Potomac River, Mrs. Shaikh and her husband are among the 400 guests on board the Home of the Heart Lunch Cruise. Seated in the couple section on vintage furniture on the second level of the deck, they have taken time off for a date, while supporting a good cause. Married for more than 25 years, with three grown children, these empty nesters are enjoying a day together.
The sold out two decks of the cruise ship Spirit of Washington departs from Pier 4 at 6th and Water Streets, with a dua for travelling recited by Imam Safi Khan echoing through the intercom, as the Washington Monument-- going through renovations-- looms through the window of the banquet decks.
The sisters’ line at the buffet is very long and cramped. Mr. Shaikh goes back into the men’s line and chivalrously makes his wife a plate of herb-infused rotisserie halal chicken, with extra medley of locally sourced seasonal steamed vegetables.
They text their kids, giving them updates, as they pass General’s Row, a prime waterfront property on Fort McNair; U.S. Army generals live here with their families while they make their home in DC. Since the furniture is very close together, they chat with the couple seated next to them.
The fundraising for the Home of the Heart campaign is kept at a minimum. The team from Dar us Salam give an update on the property in Howard County and show a promotional video of the new campus but do not conduct any active fundraising.
After the lunch, the atmosphere is Eidesque; people who haven’t seen each other for ages meet and catch up with each other as they sit on lounging chairs. Many attendees head for the open air decks to enjoy the weather and the views. The green banks of the Potomac are lined with colonial town homes, unchanged except for modern plumbing and electricity, called Admiral’s Row.
Ayman and Aalaa M. of Virginia, lulled by the river, are having a zen moment. They find the cruise tranquil. “This is a great venue for families, tailored for Muslim needs. The program was wonderful and needed for a long time in the tri-state area,” says Aalaa. “Maybe next time they can introduce some [live] entertainment,” suggests Ayman,”funny skits, Quran and nasheed recitations would be wonderful.” They thought that if the whole ship had been booked it would have easily been solidly booked.
Dar-us-Salaam's Imam Safi Khan went over the duas for starting a journey as the ship left port.
It is the first time Mohammed Jamilu and his wife have been on a cruise ship. They heard about the cruise through their masjid, Prince George’s Muslim Association. They thoroughly enjoyed their lunch, especially the wild Alaskan fillet and the garlic mashed potatoes.
On the fourth deck of the ship, the young couple absorb the history of Old Town Alexandria, Virginia first settled in the 1600s by Scottish and English tobacco merchants. At one time, Alexandria was the 3rd largest port in the country, especially during the Civil War.
Jamilu and his wife are planning a baby and after watching the video about Al-Huda School they discuss the future and dream about sending their future kids to get an Islamic education there.
As the wind flapped through her clothes, Ayaan Hussein thought she would get seasick, but the ship also reminded the Al Huda School alumni of the great times she had with her classmates on field trips and outings. Having enjoyed the past cruises a lot, her mother suggested it would be a lovely way to spend a Saturday. “I am glad the school is moving forward,” said Ayman, now a student at NOVA.
“It was good get away, we get so caught up with life that we forget to take time for ourselves,” said a mother of a seven, who works fulltime as a doctor as the ship passes under the only active drawbridge on the Potomac, the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. This bridge is part of I-95 and connects Maryland and Virginia.
“I didn’t know about the different levels and the various seating, couples, single sex groups, and the family section. They should have this every season,” says another attendee.
Najam Shaikh suggests that the servers and buffet lines should be a bit more organized but they would take the cruise again if it was offered.
“There is such a lack of halal venues for entertainment,” said a young couple from Virginia, ”this was peaceful and felt right,” They suggest that DUS should offer this as a permanent service to the DC Metro area. The cruise isn’t high-end but that didn’t stop people from thoroughly enjoying the Muslim atmosphere.
The hundred dollar per ticket cruise swung by the Reagan National Airport, one of the busiest Airports in the US and planes took off in the sky. The team behind the cruise ask guests to fill out a survey about future longer cruises.
The moist layers of chocolate mousse truffle and the New York-style cheesecake topped with layers of moist cake, vanilla bean mousse and a white chocolate ganache, ended the day for the cruisers. They docked back on the pier and were bid adieu with Home of the heart favors.