Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Zabiba Baby

Like Rachel, Miriam was born with some stork bites—salmon coloured birth marks—on her face and the back of her neck. Over time the marks  fade away, except, apparently, for the ones on the back of the neck (sorry, girls). Rachel’s stork bites were mainly on her eyelids and although they are mostly gone you can still see a bit of what’s leftover in her eyebrows.

Here’s Rachel at around 2.5 months, with lots of hair and bright red eyelids:


Miriam’s eyes are free of stork bites but she has a nice big mark right in the middle of her forehead. Here she is today, at around 2.5 months, showing off her stork bite for you:


Several people here have noticed its colour and placement and have made remarks like,

“Has Miriam been praying too much?”

“She’s quite pious, isn’t she?”

or “How funny she has a birth mark there!”

Then I’ll kind of laugh and they’ll kind of laugh and, as if she were in on the joke, Miriam will laugh, too.


Then, as if they were afraid they came off as rude or just in case I wasn’t sure why they were laughing at my baby, the commenter will usually timidly add,

“Well, it kind of looks like a prayer raisin, don’t you think?”

And I do.

Miriam’s our little zabiba baby!

Zabiba means ‘raisin’ in Arabic (زبيبة) and it is also used to describe the bump, bruise, or callus found on one’s forehead purportedly caused by praying prostrate on the ground. It’s quite common, here in Egypt, to see men walking around with a largish, purplish, circular bruise in the middle of their forehead: their zabiba, or ‘prayer raisin.’ And while some people seem to honestly believe zabiba to be a by-product of prayer, I remain skeptical.

I once asked my friend Phyllis about it and she said,

“Oh, I don’t know that it’s caused by praying. My husband prays five times a day and he doesn’t have one!”

Furthermore, Egyptian males seem to be the main population effected by such a thing, and to be honest I don’t recall seeing much of it when we lived in Jordan, although we certainly noticed it when we came down to visit Egypt in 2006.

Whatever the case, it’s quite ironic that Miriam should have a birthmark on her forehead while living in Egypt. It’s certainly a conversation piece…

Wear it loud, wear it proud, Miriam!


  1. I remember thinking that it looked like Rachel was wearing eye shadow when she was born. :)

  2. Grace had some pretty bad ones...which I mostly don't notice now but if you give her a good look you can still see the left overs. Sadie has them as well. Our doctor said they'd mostly go away, but I've noticed looking around that there are plenty of people that still have a mark on their forehead...although the color has mostly faded to a tan. So who knows. There is makeup if it really bothers them and this is one they came blame on their father. He still has quiet dark marks on the back of his head. Meanwhile their thick calves...well that they can blame on me :)

  3. All five of my kids had stork bites on the back of the neck. My middle child had one on her forehead like Miriam. It looked like a check mark. It is still visible a bit, but has mostly faded over her eight years. I think stork bites are very cute!

  4. The girls' stork bites are probably due to their father as well. He had one on his forehead that would get darker when he got angry, even as a youth.

    The first time my friend pointed it out, I thought she was referring to a bindi or tilaka...which would work, too for its colour and placement.