Day 10 – Louisiana, Zeitoun After Zeitoun, A Photo Essay (Pt. 2)

By Bassam Tariq | 49 Comments »

AbdulRahman Zeitoun visits a job site.

AbdulRahman Zeitoun is an iconic American Muslim. But if you tell him this, he will shrug and change the subject. He doesn’t talk much about the book written about him or the animated movie that is in the works (directed by Oscar winner Jonathan Demme). He’d rather talk about his painting company or the masjid that he helps run.

For those who are not familiar with Zeitoun, I strongly recommend picking up the book about his life before and after Hurricane Katrina -  Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. Zeitoun stayed in New Orleans during the vicious hurricane and rode out the storm. After the levees broke and chaos ensued, he was arrested and held in maximum security prison for three weeks. I read the book last Ramadan during our New York City trek and was surprised at how much the book reminded me of God and his countenance.

I met him yesterday at Masjid Rehma near Tulane University and followed him as he visited his job sites and broke his fast at the mosque.

Zeitoun examines a paint job with a client. Zeitoun visits six to seven paint job sites at lease three times during the day.

Zeitoun drives as Aman fields a radio interview. Zeitoun is a quiet man. He shared only small anecdotes about him and his wife. He recollected the story of him stalking his wife outside of the furniture store she worked at before proposing to her.

Zeitoun holds unripe tomatoes he has grown on one of his properties. Zeitoun loves to grow fruit and vegetables. He took us to the backyard of one of the houses that he has leased. When I asked if we should ask permission before going in the back, Zeitoun responded, "Why? This is my house." He then proceeded to open the backyard gate.

Zetioun with his son, Ahmad, eats a meal at Masjid Rehma after breaking his fast. Ahmad is the youngest of Zeitoun's children and was born after Hurricane Katrina. "This child has brought so much life into our house." Kathy, Zeitoun's wife, tells me.

AbdulRahman and Kathy Zeitoun stand outside of their house. Zeitoun's quietness is made up for by the outward, bubbly personality of his wife, Kathy. Her sincerity and generosity in the novel and real life will steal your heart. "I talk a lot when I get nervous," she tells me, "hope it's not weird or anything."

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  1. August 22nd, 2010 | Sam says:

    I was wondering if you guys were going to meet him! I’m enjoying reading your blog and loved the part 1 NOLA post too!

  2. August 22nd, 2010 | M says:

    MashaAllah. Great post, great book, great man. :)

  3. August 22nd, 2010 | Sabah says:

    I just read Zeitoun last month for a book club! And we wondered about the current state of affairs of Zeitoun & his family. Thanks for the update!

  4. August 22nd, 2010 | Mohammad says:

    I just placed the order for the book :-)

  5. August 22nd, 2010 | Mohammad says:

    Btw, what camera are you using? Just a few months ago, I bought the Canon 550d and I’ve been loving every bit of it. I was in India this summer for 2 weeks and I was able to take many nice shots of the landscape and sunsets, Alhumdulillah.
    Also, I assume from some of the picture descriptions you guys are subscribers to the Digital Photography School?

  6. August 22nd, 2010 | mariam says:

    very very very wonderful post!!.like other readers I am addicted to this blog, I dont want your journey come to end in end of Ramadhan! : (

  7. August 23rd, 2010 | Aishah says:

    Asalaamu Alaikum

    So nice to see a post about Zeitoun. I read the book and blogged about it for my online book club. Every month I feature a different islamic book. Please check out the reviews for Zeitoun.

    click on the book of the month club button.

  8. August 23rd, 2010 | Shereen says:


    I’m halfway through reading Dave Egger’s book, “Zeitoun,” right now, so imagine my excitement when I realized you did a photo essay on AbdulRahman Zeitoun! Love it! The book is awesome! It’s great to see pics of the family. Looks like they had another son since the book was written. Masha Allah.

  9. August 31st, 2010 | Sarah says:

    I read this book last year too and was absolutely riveted. I’m so glad you got the opportunity to spend time with this family and share it with us.

  10. September 2nd, 2010 | Emma says:

    Hey guys, GREAT job w/ ur blog (esp. the pics)! I visited last yr, and came back again (when I heard of this new proj on The Brian Lehrer Show). I saw the graphic novel “Zeitoun” @ Borders last wk!

  11. September 14th, 2010 | DarkoV says:

    Great post, fellows!
    Read Zeitoun back in Spring and was fascinated by Mr. Eggers description of this great American success story gone awry. It was fabulous to see pictures of him and to read how things are going for Mr. Zeitoun now.
    The best of luck to him and can’t wiat to read your forthcoming book on this road trip.

  12. September 23rd, 2010 | Greg Weber says:

    I love this family, and it’s good to see them back to some form of normalness. Few things have made me as angry and ashamed of this country than the story of what happened to them. Thank you for visiting them and sharing here.

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    tebrik ederim arkadaşlar çok güzel bir islam mozaiği sergilemişsiniz turkey e de bekleriz.

  14. December 1st, 2011 | says:

    Nice post, greetings !

  15. November 13th, 2012 | rawan says:

    wonderful book

  16. August 24th, 2013 | Nabila says:

    It is to sad to learn that Zeitoun had been arrested again, but this time it was for hiring a hitman to kill his wife. Lesson learned never believe or trust anything you see or hear, you will never know what will happen in a muslim house behind close doors. He had hit his wife on multiple occasion after all what she did for him, she was the one who promoted his business and helped with the book. May Allah be with her and her kids.

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