Approximately 200 health sciences students, from 20 different countries, 10 amazing days together in a land filled with history and culture, united by one religion. Alhamdulillah, three South African students were amongst this group and this is our experience.
Travelling to a foreign country to not only attend a conference and camp but to represent our own country seemed to be a daunting yet exciting opportunity. The aim and objective of the camp was to encourage future Muslim health care providers to not just be a health care provider but to specialize and be “the best Muslim, specialist, health care provider.” Through interactive lectures, seminars, workshops and activities, students discussed together with specialist in various fields of various opportunities and life after medical school. Apart from the doctors from Saudi Arabia whom lecture at various institutes, are active role players in the health ministry and have a myriad of experience and knowledge we were also fortunate to meet various key figures from Turkey such as ‘doctors world wide’ and the ‘hayat foundation’ and gain from their expertise.
The first seven days was the conference in Istanbul, mornings were spent having scientific program at a world class conference centre, while afternoons were spent having social programs and touring the historical sites in Istanbul. The scientific programs began each morning with a few students doing a presentation and report on the Islamic Medical Association of their respective countries. Alhamdulillah, the South African presentation was highly acclaimed and well received. These presentations were really helpful in sharing ideas that we could all take back to our own countries and expand and diversify the concepts. The presentations thereafter were very individualistic and gave insight into becoming a unique health professional and make a positive difference in society.
Having Istanbul as the backdrop was perfect. The Islamic history of many great scholars lays in Istanbul. Apart from the wonderful architecture we were blessed to learn the history and contributions of Muslim scientist, doctors, engineers and leaders. Of the many attractions that we visited, one that stood out was the not much talked about ‘Islamic Museum of Science and Technology.’ Here we saw amazing artifacts and model recreations of the advances that Muslims were making while the Western world was still in the dark ages. From the creation of soap to the creation of surgical blades, from writing detailed volumes of history to writing the most advanced medical textbooks, from the creation of intricate time telling machines to perfecting acoustics, it was all part of Islamic history.
The last three days was spent at the beach in the Kefken area and focused on team building, networking and getting more Facebook friend requests and twitter followers. Here we got to personally get to know each other, discuss ideas, politics, family and our interests. We did not just become friends, we became brothers and sisters. We learnt each other’s cultures and traditions from the songs sung in the Sudanese battalions to the song sung at the birth of a boy in Lebanon, from the Turkish wedding celebrations to South Arabian tribal dance, from the stories of Palestine to the history of Iraq. We were even fortunate enough to taste exotic Arabic coffee and sugar soaked dates. At the end of it all, through the tears, smiles, laughter and hugs, we created memories that will forever be etched in our minds.
The rich history and culture that the Muslims gave to the world has unfortunately become artifacts which we see in the museums. Through experiences such as these and through committing ourselves to excellence, we can once again become a nation that contributes to the greater upliftment of humanity. As Aristotle once said, “we are what we repeatedly do, excellence then, is not a quality, but a habit.”
Huzaifah Khan, Safiyyah Jamal & Taimeia Hussain