It's rained almost every day since we returned from Jasper.
But it hasn't just been normal rain. The day would usually begin with sunshine and temperatures that would hit 25C and sometimes more. But then for 30-60 minutes each afternoon the heavens would open up, presenting some of the most heavy stormy weather I've seen over an extended period of time. We're talking multiple booms of thunder, sheet lightning, running water and constant flooding. It was pretty biblical at times, yet wonderful to witness.
Saturday, July 30
It's rained almost every day since we returned from Jasper.
Friday, July 29
When we were asked to pray in the parking lot this Jummah, my cousin's first attempt at explanation was that it was the holidays and that we had arrived late. Still, even he suggested that the rush was unprecedented given those circumstances, so we were a little bemused at the crowd at the Markaz Ul Islam today.
It was not until the video feed begun on the projector screen that I realised the real reason for the rush: Nouman Ali Khan was the guest khateeb for today. Obviously the increase in volume in the women's section was the reason the men were pushed out. These rockstar imams eh?
Seriously though, I saw it as a good spot of luck that we had inadvertently found ourselves listening to Ali Khan today. I've never had the opportunity to listen to him, but I have heard many good things from those (again, mainly women) who subscribe to his works (both figuratively and literally) so I was interested in checking him out.
But to be honest I was pleasantly surprised at what I heard. Yes, there were platitudes and yes there was a bit of overt feminism, but both were in good measure. The message - which was on self control mainly in the context of interacting with others - was less prescribed than advisory, and was open enough for those listening to build their own paths forward. It was deep and nuanced yet presented well, with humour and clarity, and not the simplistic unilateral messages I've come to expect from the more populist khateebs.
Of course I won't be following him on Twitter quite yet, but as khutbas go this was a good one.
 if your reply to that is "check YouTube" then you're misinterpreting my diplomacy.
Monday, July 25
Ah, Jasper. And equally: ah, Banff. I'd like to say that there'll be a time where we won't have to offer pilgrimage to either of the two national parks closest to Edmonton, but I seriously doubt that will happen. And of course I'd certainly miss them if they were omitted. This time we were taken to see both parks, so the whole affair was quite packed.
As implied above most of the places we visited had been seen before, memories (both vague and otherwise) flooding back as early as the parking lot. It's hard to pick the highlights - everything (including the fifth waterfall) is pretty awesome - but the Colombia Ice Field will always be on the list of the most striking of memories. It's busier now, and more expensive.
Another fixed point in our Jasper tours are the Athabasca Falls, if only for the series of walkways that allow you access to explore the views. Lake Louise is the final of the three biggest memories that I hold, and the place was exactly how I remember it. What I don't remember are the bears - we saw both Black and Grizzly, some getting rather close to the car we were spotting them from.
The biggest change was definitely in volume of people. Everywhere was pretty busy and it was a rare occasion where we got to park without waiting. Most striking was the increase of visible Muslims around - where by "visible" I mean "hijabis". The last time we visited I would only see a maximum of two across the whole tour - and I'd be related to both of them. There's also a lot of tourists from further afield, particularly China.
I guess a lot does change over seven years.
Wednesday, July 20
It's been a whopping seven years since our last visit to Alberta, Canada, a time frame I'm still trying to come to grips with. I'm not sure why it seems like much less - the family I have here are still familiar, the town still the same. And yet there are differences: more babies mostly. Oh and we flew via Reykjavik which was something.
So it's unsurprising how at comfortable and at ease I find myself, and we immediately get on with the whole reason we travel here: to enjoy the company of the family we know and love. I imagine the novelty will be thin on the ground for this trip, but as someone who has long grown bored of exotic travel having something domestic and familial is exactly what makes me so excited about being here.
Friday, July 15
Sometimes its the basics that matter. Five Lads has a limited menu both in selection and pricing and so isn't really outstanding in this current sea of gourmet burger joints, but manages to present their food with such excellence and quality that it doesn't really matter. There's a striking feeling of homeliness in the place, a care and attention that only comes from these kind of indie run joints.
If there was one complaint it's on the number of covers; Five Lads may not be the place to go for a quick sit down meal. It's a classic case of being a victim of success really, which is unfortunate as part of the enjoyment of the meal was eating it fresh - take away might not have quite been the same.
Still Five Lads was a decent place and a definite pick for the area. Recommended.
Tuesday, July 12
Aaaaaaaaaaaah. It was always going to be a risky proposition going to see a remake of Ghostbusters. The fact that it would shatter any cherished childhood memories was a given really, all that remained to be seen was whether we would hate ourselves for even trying.
As it turned out the remake wasn't that bad really. The gender change worked well, as did the modern setting. It was still fun and zany, and the ghosts were able to walk that fine line between scary and amusing.
No, the main issue with the film wasn't the concept or the attempt, but with the film making itself. Ghostbusters was badly edited, the plot underdeveloped and half baked, with the characters not progressing much at all throughout. It's a shame because if these basic fundamentals (which had nothing to do with the concept itself) had had a bit more attention paid to them Ghostbusters could have been really great; even as much as the originals. As it stands it's a little forgettable and unfortunate.
Saturday, July 9
Sometimes you eat in a place that would have been great if not for a pretty major flaw. Umami is the latest place that manages to confound in this way - the Asian fusion menu was pretty outstanding both in choice and quality, while the vibe and decor of the place lent itself to our party of seven or so having a decent enough time. Pricing was midrange and as a result we may have underordered a little.
But the main issue with Umami was with the service. We're not sure if it was a one off, but the kitchen closed at 9:45pm which was pretty incredible. Food took a while to arrive, with us having to ask multiple times for basic things like cutlery.
It was enough to put us off, which was a shame because as I mentioned the food was pretty sublime. As such Umami just falls short of a recommendation for now.