Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Haifa Wahby conquers Shaggy

Have you ever seen this before? Apparently it was in the Cairo concert. Hayfa really let loose in that concert ;)
Kramer Loses It

Michael Richards (who plays Kramer on Seinfeld) has lost it. A black guy heckled him during a standup show he was doing, then all hell broke loose. I couldn't believe somebody could do this in 2006 America in public.

Love This Cartoon!

From the brilliant Cairo Freeze.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


I found out about some heartbreaking stuff today.‎

It all happened in a very spontaneous way – completely unplanned. After Iftar, we were ‎heading out to one of the Ramadan Shisha joints, doing the Egyptian Ramadan thing. As ‎we reached the place, I saw a sign for an orphanage. I immediately stopped there so we ‎can visit the place. You see, my wife has been wanting to visit an orphanage for some ‎time now. She’s been wanting to help out in any way she can: give the kids private ‎lessons, donate money or food. Basically she’s been feeling we’re too wrapped up in the ‎grind of life, and she felt there’s much more to be done to help those in need. Naturally, ‎she was thrilled. We went inside and discovered that this orphanage was a very pleasant ‎place. A small villa housing around 20 kids, ranging from newborns to 4year olds. You ‎could feel it was well-run, and it was clear the kids were getting tenderness and care. The ‎staff was great. We stayed and played and with the kids, who were really eager for any ‎sort of attention. They were literally throwing themselves at us and we spent a good ‎amount of time with them playing, cuddling, and goofing around with them. It was really ‎emotional.‎

That’s not the heartbreaking part. When we sat with the manager and talked to him, he ‎told us that almost all of these kids were not really orphans. They were abandoned ‎children that were discovered as newborn infants in the streets, most probably because ‎they were illegitimate. To escape social ostracization, their mothers just abandon them. ‎What was heartbreaking was the stories of how they find these kids. Apparently, in a bid ‎to get rid of any evidence of their fornication, many of these mothers purposefully leave ‎the kids in places that will lead to their death! Some infants are found placed next to the ‎back wheels of a huge truck, so that when the driver backs off when he gets into his car in ‎the morning, he crushes the baby! Others are found with fractured skulls because they’re ‎thrown out of the window of a car. Others are left in the garbage, where they get attacked ‎by stray dogs and cats. When we heard this, we could not believe such a thing was ‎humanly possible. How could a mother do something like that? When you see these ‎little children, with all their innocence and purity, and then you hear about what they ‎were subjected to, you cannot help but be heartbroken. Whose fault is this? Are the ‎mothers solely to blame? Or does our society, which values female “honor” much more ‎than it values life, share a huge part of the blame?‎

Thursday, September 21, 2006


We spent part of our Summer vacation (a week) in Istanbul. It was great. Istanbul is a city where the cliché of “East meets West” is a reality. It’s also a very geographically blessed city, with miles and miles of waterfront real estate (overlooking both sides of the bosphorus), put to really good use. You find palaces, clubs, restaurants, gardens, museums, houses, and much more either directly on the bosphorus, or having amazing views of it. OK, enough words, I’ll let the photos do the talking.

The Aya Sophia Museum. This was the religious center of Byzantine christendom, converted to a mosque by the Ottomans, converted to a museum by Ataturk.

View of the Bosphorus from the modern art museum.

Sunset on Buyuk Ada (one of the Princes' Islands).

Jazz Brunch on the Bosphorus. A wonderful event, where you listened to live Jazz music, ate delectable Turkish food, with the Bosphorus as your background.

The American Jazz singer of the brunch above. Her voice was Angelic.

Lamps in the Grand Bazaar

Ceramic plates at the Grand Bazaar

Prince Island by night

Playing with the camera at night.


I read the following on a Saudi blog called Dotsson, and it cracked me up big time, and is definitely a good point to make:

Q) What is the difference between a convert and a revert? Why do many Muslim publications use the term "revert" when referring to a person of a different faith who has converted to Islam???

Answer: Supposedly every child in the world is born a Muslim. It doesn't matter if that child's father is a Rabbi or if his mother is Britney Spears, all humans are initially born Muslims.
By using the term "revert," it is our way of reassuring ourselves that we are on the "right" path and the winners!!! It makes us feel better about ourselves and if confronted by a non-Muslim, we can easily tell them "Hee hee hee hee you were born a Muslim nah nah nah nah. But now you're on the 'wrong' path and I'm gonna go to heaven and you're gonna go to hell!!!"
I bet Tom Cruise and the Church of Scientology were devastated when the local Imam told them the "truth" about little baby Suri.

It’s true: we are taught at school that everyone is born a Muslim, then his environment (parents, society, etc…) leads him to the wrong path. And it all sounds very reasonable and logical when you’re a kid. However, I don’t know why none of us then had very simple questions to ask: if this is true, then do we have ANY examples of anybody who was not indoctrinated into a religion, that then grew up automatically to be a Muslim? How come people in primitive environments opted to worship nature and various animist beliefs, and did not become automatically Muslim? Even if we (as kids) did not questions that, how can the supposedly many intelligent people that convert to Islam buy this line and believe in it and passionately embrace it?

All questions that are very simple and it sounds silly to be even debating such a thing, but then you have so many people who just take it for granted, so I guess it’s worth pointing out!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Clash!

So, it seems that The Clash of the Civilization is now slowly, but surely on its way to materializing. I’m now watching Al Arabiya satellite channel, and they’ve got this extensive review of the Muslim world’s reactions to the Pope’s remarks. Regardless of what he meant or whether he was right or wrong, I personally think it wasn’t very smart to say what he said, especially at such a time. There’s this steady buildup that’s happening on both sides of the fence and I think it’s a question of “when” and not “if” that some catastrophic conflict will happen. The problem with such a scenario is that it will force you to take sides, and I don't really want to join either side!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Egyptian Movie Summer Roundup

I watched several Egyptian movies throughout the summer. Here is a quick roundup:

Aw2at Faragh
This good movie is to kids in their late teens what Sahar El Layaley was to young married couples. For the first time in recent Egyptian film, the characters (young college students) are portrayed in a very authentic way. In other movies, you feel that such characters were written by sixty year olds. Not in this film. A truly captivating portrayal of the lives of Egyptian kids in their late teens, with all its sense of emptiness, contradictions, and bummed out existence. Although there is nothing really new in the plot, I still recommend it.

3an El 3esh2 Wal Hawa
Sappy romantic movie written by Tamer Habeeb (write of Sahar el Layaley) and directed by Kamla Abu Zekry (director of A7la El Aw2at). Both very talented people. I liked this movie as well. It portrays a range of relationships and how people deal with them in relation to social pressures and restrictions. Several plot holes in there, but what I liked about it is that the writer doesn’t go through the predictable route of supporting the socially accepted relationship model. Menna Shalaby was fantastic in the film (in my view she is the top Egyptian actress of the current generation). A funny thing that happened: in one scene Ahmed El Sakka is crying because he broke up with his girl even though he still loved her. What does the audience do? They are laughing like it’s a scene from Madreset El Moshaghbeen. Apparently, it’s unbelievably funny that an Egyptian man cries. Can’t really be insulting the macho male ego can we? Reminded of the scenes where the audience also laughed at the gay character’s heartbreak in Yacoubian.

Wa7ed Men El Nas
An action movie with an unrealistic plot, but excellent directing. Menna Shalaby also shines.

Yaqoubian Building
Loved the movie. I had also enjoyed the book. For details refer to Forsooth’s review. Noteworthy performances by Khaled El Sawy and Hend Sabry.

As for the rest of the summer movies, I’m quite sure none of them is any good. Have you seen anything else you recommend?


This is for Leilouta, who was wondering about what we men carry in our pockets. I'm afraid there's nothing new here: I only carry my wallet, keys, and mobile phone (the phone is ot in the picture because I used it to take the photo).

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Significance of Hizballah's Popularity

Hi there. It’s been a while since I posted. I went on vacation for a while, and the rest of the time it was too hot to blog :) But, now I’m back and I promise to start writing more regularly.

I bought the important Egyptian daily newspapers yesterday, and in Rose Al Yousef newspaper, I found an article regarding Hizballah’s current exploding popularity (in print only, not available on the web). This article stood out from the current conventional wisdom in Egypt. If you live in Egypt, you’ll know there is a general state of euphoria regarding Hizballah’s recent “victory”, with several newspapers giving out posters of Nasrallah and some even issuing special supplements that include Nasrallah’s biography, poems glorifying him, and similar stuff. Not to mention the countless articles that have been written on how the victory has brought back a feeling of dignity and pride to all of us Egyptians and what we can do to develop Egyptian Nasrallahs of our own! In the middle of all of this, I found the article by Adel Esmat in the issue of 24 August, 2006 of Rose Al Yousef newspaper. The article is in Arabic, so I’ll try to translate some excerpts:

On Hizballah and Hamas’s Popularity: is there any competition?

What is the significance of Hizballah and Hamas’s unprecedented popularity these days? This popularity mainly means that Arab populations have an overwhelming desire to defeat Israel or to seek revenge from it at the very least. What they do not understand is that a total victory cannot be achieved in the military field alone. They do not even understand that military superiority itself is the end result of progress in many other fields. They do not understand that building the inside is the first step to confronting your enemies and that developing our countries is what will make the difference in the long run!

Our people’s absolute support for Hizballah and Hamas reveals a desperate and hasty way of thinking…and shows that we are gripped by focusing on the temporary situation without thinking of the long term consequences….

Our blind support to HA and Hamas means that there is a popular mood that does not recognize what a popular state is, and what its limits are. A culture that does not care about building state institutions, that is not worried about corruption and does not give priority to the value of spreading of democracy or of internal development. It’s a culture that always looks to the outside and places the blame on enemies and does not see the need to look at its flaws: since it does not make any mistakes and is innocent of all sins. Only others are to blame for our backwardness….A culture that gives priority to confrontation without thinking of the consequences.

(A culture that will lead us to) blindly follow Hizballah and Hamas, agreeing to all their decisions, no matter what they do, so at the end our role becomes to only glorify their actions and sing their praises, singing songs of resistance while carrying their leaders on our shoulders, carrying banners saying “Islam is the solution” and “ Resistance is the solution”.

I hope the translation wasn’t too bad. I think it was a good article and I completely share the writer’s thoughts. I have always thought that our priority should go to fixing our problems and building our societies. And I really think that the blind support Egyptians and Arabs are giving to Hizballah is not in their interests.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I am Disgusted

I’m disgusted by all that shit that’s going on in Lebanon.

I’m disgusted by Hizbullah’s reckless dragging of the whole Lebanese population into a bloody war for their (and their masters’) selfish interests.

I’m disgusted by the Israeli barbaric reaction and their destruction of a country that I love and their reckless slaughter of civilians so they can vent their anger and feel like they’re doing something to protect themselves (they’re not).

I’m disgusted at the Syrians that are celebrating in the streets as if there’s any price that they had to pay for the couple of dozen Israelis that were killed by Hizbullah. They are more than happy to see the whole of Lebanon get destroyed just so they can have the satisfaction of seeing a war with Israel materialise.

I’m disgusted at the Egyptian leftist demonstrators who carried the pictures of Nasrallah and Nasser on placards.

I’m disgusted at most of the Israeli commentors on Lebanese blogs, who are flooding these blogs with vicious, insensitive comments. As if by doing this, they’re going to magically get them to adopt the Israeli point of view.

I’m disgusted at so many commenters on Al Arabiya web-site, that are cheering on this war from their desks as if they’re cheering for their team in the World Cup.

I’m disgusted because I know that all this shit will keep on happening over and over and over again, and nobody will be able to change anything.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Origin of the Notorious Head Butt

Like everyone else, I was stunned by the notorious head-butt by Zinedine Zidane in the World Cup final. Why the hell would he do something like that? Did he go mad? No matter what the Italian guy did to him (some suggested he called Zidane a terrorist, and others said he pinched Zidane’s nipple!), Zizou still should have controlled himself.

This was especially puzzling coming from someone who seems so calm, collected and in control.

Until I read the following article (written way before the incident) which sheds light on his character. It’s important to know this about Zidane’s background: born to poor Algerian immigrants in the south of France, he grew up in the ghetto, and had a tough start to his life. This naturally affected his character.

“One of the theories about Zidane as a player is that he is driven by an inner rage. His football is elegant and masterful, charged with technique and vision. But he can still erupt into shocking violence that is as sudden as it is inexplicable. The most famous examples of this include head butting Jochen Kientz of Hamburg during a Champions League match, when he was at Juventus in 2000 …and his stomping on the hapless Faoud Amin of Saudi Arabia during the 1998 World Cup finals”

Sounds familiar?

"Zidane’s first coaches at AS Cannes noticed quickly that he was raw and sensitive, eager to attack spectators who insulted his race or family. The priority of his first coach, Jean Varraud, was to get him to channel his anger and focus more on his game. According to Varraud, Zidane’s first weeks at Cannes were spent mainly on cleaning duty as a punishment for punching an opponent who had mocked his ghetto origins.”

“And yet in his early days at Juventus, particularly in big matches, some of his temperamental faults would resurface, and there were doubts over his ability to lead from the centre of the pitch.”

“Zidane’s occasional violence may well be a product of this internal conflict : the French-Algerian who is for ever suspended between cultures. But it is equally likely that, although in public he presents a serene and smiling face, he is underneath it all every bit the same hard nut he had to be to survive the mean streets of La Castellane. ’Nobody knows if Zidane is an angel or demon,’ says the rock singer Jean-Louis Murat, who is himself a fan of the player. ’He smiles like Saint Teresa and grimaces like a serial killer.’”

My theory is that the Italians knew this about Zidane’s personality, and they used it against him. Whether it was a nipple pinch that insulted his hot Arab macho blood, or calling him a terrorist, they knew how to push his buttons. And they did. Successfully.

UPDATE: So it seems we now know what happened. The Sun newspaper got a lip reader to analyse what Materazzi said. Highlights of the report:

A lip-reader told The Sun that Marco Materazzi called Zidane "a son of a terrorist whore”.

Top lip-reader Marianne Frere revealed the Italian told Zidane — who understands the language after playing for Juventus — a high ball was “not for feccia like you”.

Feccia is an Italian insult meaning scum or s**t.

Zidane smiled at Materazzi as he walked away. But there was another exchange, Zidane turned and floored him with a butt to the chest. The lip-reader claimed the Italian had said: “We all know you are the son of a terrorist whore.”

He added: “Viffanculo”. (f*** off). A source close to the Italian squad claimed that after twisting Zidane’s nipple, Materazzi asked him: “What, don’t you like it?” The French captain replied: “A bit too hard to turn me on.”

But Materazzi shouted: “Well, I did it that way because I know that’s how your mother likes it.”

Materazzi’s agent denied any racist slur — and said the attack came when Zidane offered to swap shirts later and the Italian replied: “‘I’d rather take the shirt off your wife.”

The mystery is resolved!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Is it Slavery? Or Just a Little Help Around the House?

Check out this story:

An Egyptian couple with five kids move to the US. Naturally, they need some domestic help (Egyptian style) with such a large family.

So what do they do? They arrange to bring along their 12 year old servant with them (with a fraudulent visa, nonetheless) where her life continues along the same lines of what she had in Egypt. Basically, serving the family 24/7, no schooling, sleeping in a tiny space in the garage, getting beat up if she makes any mistakes, the usual stuff an average 12 year old maid goes through in Egypt. With one small difference: it’s in the US. Obviously, the family did not see they were doing anything wrong.

So what happens when the American authorities find out?

The couple is charged with human trafficking, harboring an illegal immigrant, and conspiracy. Basically, they were considered to have enslaved the 12-year-old girl.

They’ve pleaded guilty and are now expecting a sentence of three years each, possibly up to fifty years!!

How could these idiots ever have expected to get away with this in the US?

You know what’s the best part of all of this? The government gave the girl a green card, put her up at a foster home (where she’s going to a public high school), and ordered the couple to pay her back wages of $100,000!!

Yes, $100,000.

Isn’t this an incredible story?

Read the official report here.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Watch the World Cup for Free!

I was checking out Hal's rant about the injustice of having the World Cup available ‎only to ART subscribers, and I decided to do an act of charity. I will post the frequencies ‎of 4 free to air European satellite channels that will be airing the World Cup - you ‎can get these channels in the Middle East! You have to have a movable dish, ‎though.

So, enjoy.....

Friday, June 02, 2006

Lucid Dreams

Everyday when I wake up, it takes me quite some time to get out of my dream mood. ‎‎ The mood I wake up with usually depends on the dream I've had – and in many cases, ‎this mood is one of worry, anxiety, stress, or anticipation. The funny thing is I rarely ‎remember the details of the dream, I just live the mood and the feelings that I have as a ‎result of the dream. ‎

‎ ‎
A while back, I saw an amazing movie called Waking Life. The whole movie is a surreal ‎experience, almost like a dream. It is actually inspired by the dreaming process and it ‎uses the dream-like format of the film to explore many different issues and observations ‎that the writer/director had. There really is no plot or story – just a guy who moves from ‎one surreal scene to another, observing (and participating in) philosophical and deep ‎discussions on all sorts of topics. Anyway, what I wanted to say was that in one scene of ‎this movie, the hero realizes he's dreaming but he still continues with his dream and starts ‎manipulating the dream to make it go his own way. I got interested in this and checked ‎the website of the movie and I made an amazing discovery. This scene referred to ‎something called lucid dreaming. A lucid dream is a dream where you know that you ‎are dreaming during the actual dream itself, which usually enables you to have direct ‎control over the content of the dream. Can you believe that? Having the ability to ‎control your own dreams? Writing their script? Experimenting with your fantasies? ‎Turns out that inducing lucid dreams has almost become a science. It is scientifically ‎verified that you can do it, and there are many methods to do so. One of the methods ‎‎(which was used in Waking Life) is to try to flick on a light switch in your dream. If it ‎doesn’t work, then you’re dreaming (apparently light switches don’t work in dreams). ‎Once you realize that you’re dreaming, then you can control what happens in it.‎

Those who have experienced lucid dreams describe them as
“exciting, colourful, and ‎fantastic. Many compare it to a spiritual experience and say that it changed their lives or ‎their perception of the world. Some have even reported lucid dreams that take on a ‎hyperreality, seemingly "more real than real", where all the elements of reality are ‎amplified. Lucid dreams are prodigiously more memorable than other kinds of dreaming, ‎even nightmares, which may be why they are often prescribed as a means of ridding one's ‎self of troubling dreams.”‎

Can you imagine the possibilities?

Funny thing is, what do most people do when they ‎experience lucid dreams? They either fly or have sex.‎

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Flip-Flops Flipped Over‎

I was sitting in my living room the other day, doing nothing in particular, just thinking ‎and staring away, when I noticed that my flip flops were upside down. I immediately ‎went to them and returned them back to their normal position. Thought about this for a ‎second, and realized why I did this. ‎

It was one of those things that stays with you from your childhood: we were taught never ‎to leave flip flops or shoes upside down. And why is that? Because it would be ‎disrespectful to God. You shouldn’t put the sole of your shoes heading upwards towards ‎our Lord in the skies! What absolute rubbish. Then I remembered that how as a kid, I ‎was obsessed with keeping all the shoes, sandals, and flip flops of the household in their ‎God-respecting positions. And to think that such a thing goes around spreading between ‎people and people taking the time and effort to implement such a thing. As if God had ‎nothing better to do than sit there getting offended from the soles of flip flops facing him ‎around the world. ‎

It got me to thinking about other bullshit that you’re told as a kid and how you take it and ‎believe it then. I remembered that we had this nanny that would tell us that God came ‎and gave a choice to Muslims and Christians: The choice was between faith and beauty. ‎Muslims (naturally) choose faith, and Christians chose beauty. And that is why (she ‎explained) most Christians are beautiful. But not to worry, because it will all be sorted ‎out in the after life, where we will go to heaven, and get rewarded for putting up with our ‎ugliness. Not to worry at all. Thank God our parents corrected this crap when we told ‎them about it.‎

Indoctrination is such a powerful tool. Once you imprint something in the ‎impressionable mind of an innocent child, it will most likely stay there forever. This is ‎something that’s always s in the back of my head when dealing with my child.‎

Friday, May 12, 2006

Watermelon and White Cheese

Summer is here, and I’m starting to really enjoy some of my favorite summer treats. Top of my list is a food combination that you can only find in Egypt: Watermelon with White Cheese! I love it!! It is one of the tastiest and most delicious food combinations you could ever have. The sweet taste of water melons combined with the salty taste of white cheese makes an unbeatable taste that you can’t find in any other meal. As I was having some of it today, I started thinking of what else I wait for every summer. Well of course there’s mango – my favorite fruit ever. And it’s not just any type of Mango, it’s only the type we call “Alfonse” in Egypt that I love and crave. I’m drooling just thinking about its taste right now. It’s got the sweetest taste with just the right texture: not too hairy, and full of meat without having the pit to be too large. I could eat 6 or 7 Alfonse mangoes in one go. Thinking about watermelon and cheese and Alfonse mangoes got me to thinking about foods that are very specific to Egypt. Moloukhia, of course, is the quintessential Egyptian meal (well, Lebanese and Syrians cook it, but they make it in a completely different way that tastes aweful!). People not familiar with Moloukhia get disgusted from it when they first try it – I know many foreigners that thought it was gooey and sticky and they hated it. I don’t know how anybody could ever hate Moloukhia – it is by far the best vegetable ever created (and this coming from somebody who completely hates vegetables). Koshary is another Egyptian trademark – although I don’t really like it. Something about the combination of rice and pasta just doesn’t do it for me.

Time to go eat some more watermelons and cheese!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Back to Life

I’m finally back to life. After a crazy and hectic couple of weeks (with a 5 day vacation in between), things are slowing down a little bit. I’ve been swamped at work with 5 major projects running in parallel, with problems and issues happening in the middle of all of this. It’s also been a hectic and stressful time on the personal level too.

But, I see light at the end of the tunnel. The craziness is subsiding and the clouds are clearing up. I will be blogging again and I’m looking forward to reading and commenting on all my favorite blogs again.

See you all very soon!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Springtime in Cairo

Spring is finally here. And even though the concrete jungle of Cairo dominates, beauty still seeps through the trees and flowers that are thankfully planted in every street and in the outskirts of the city. Here are some pictures I captured of the Cairo spring.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Only in Egypt

Walking around the streets of Cairo, one finds comedic treasures that I feel should be shared around the world. I will be posting these whenever I find them.

My first treasure is a sign advertising a language school. I wonder what language they use...

Monday, April 10, 2006

Movie Review: Bosta

I had heard about this Lebanese movie called “Bosta” a couple of months back. I read a couple of reviews that were very positive, so naturally, I jumped at the chance to see it when I could. Let, me tell you: I was impressed! What a wonderful movie.

First of all, any movie that has Nadine Labaky as a star is probably going to be a good movie in my books. I admire her so much. Not only is she a top director in the music video world (stars are fighting to have her direct their videos), but she is also quite the hot babe. She is also a very talented actress. What more could you ask for?

Now for the movie itself: a really sentimental, human story set in a musical setting. The main theme explores the Lebanese identity and the main question involved is : who’s the “real” Lebanese? However, it does so in a very entertaining way, with music, dance, drama, and visual appeal. The movie is about a Lebanese guy who starts a Dabka (Lebanese dance) group that is quite untraditional: a fusion of Dabka with techno and hip hop dance styles. They called it Digi Dabka. You should see these dance pieces: the way they jump between the different styles is seamless and very interesting. It brings life into the dance pieces, so does the music. Very creative stuff. The group enters into a Dabka competition, but the judges kick them out because their style is very untraditional. The judge tells them “Do you want to waste the last part of authenticity we have left in our lives?”. They tell the judge that he doesn’t get it and that Dabka is a living breathing part of their lives that evolves with everything else – they are not wasting anything. The members of the group are a wonderful diverse set of characters – a cross section of Lebanon. You have the past-her-prime diva, the talented male dancer who’s originally from a small village and haunted by his family’s rejection of his choice to dance, the traditional guy who reluctantly joins the group, the overweight girl, etc….Of course you also have the Christian, Sunni, Druze, etc…. Each character is so well written that you feel they are living, breathing, souls. The group then travels around the country on a quest to gain recognition, aiming to eventually reach the top festival “Baalbeck Festival”. They travel around in an old restored bus (Bosta means bus in Lebanon) from city to city, and you get to know the characters better in the process and the interactions between them: the persistence, exhaustion, love, admiration, jealousy, and flirtation. I loved the the message of the film: your love for your country can be expressed in so many ways and just because you choose to express it in a different way doesn’t mean it’s any less than that of somebody who chooses the traditional, expected path. The group was as Lebanese, and their love for Lebanon was as real as those who danced the traditional Dabka.

Overall, an excellent movie. Everything was excellent: the script, the performances, the music, the dancing. The only drawback was the cinematography – it was a bit lacking.

Go and see this movie now!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

New Toy in Action

So, I was in Dubai last week when I got my new toy (see post below). The following day, I found myself awake at my hotel room at 6 am. I looked out the window and saw the sun rising from behind the airport tower. Jumped out of my bed, got my camera, and started snapping.

Obviously, I couldn't go back to sleep even though I had 3 more hours before my meetings were scheduled to start. So I quickly got dressed and jumped into a taxi and headed to Dubai Creek. This Creek is a bay of sea water that splits the "old" part of Dubai into 2. Alongside this creek, you can hop on a boat (they call them Abras) to cross to the other side of the creek on the cheap (half a dirham). Thus, I proceeded to snap some more...

Crossing to the other side of the creek, I found myslef at an old souk-style area with shops selling handicrafts, carpets, etc....

That's just a sampling of what I took that day - I took so many more photos (the beauty of digital photography). It was such a blast! Jumping around from one place to another, the thrill of capturing a good shot, was just out of this world. This has completely got me interested in photography again and I will be taking many, many more photos.

Friday, March 24, 2006

My New Toy

I just got myslef a new toy, and I'm loving it!

I've been wanting to get a digital camera for a while, and finally I took the plunge.

I really into photography in the past, but I've been too lasy recently. Now, that is all going to change. I'll be posting pics soon.

Stupid Neighbor

Our upstairs neighbors are morons. They’re idiots who live on a flipped schedule: they wake up at 9 pm, stay up all night long – every night - then they sleep at around 10 am. Two issues here: 1) they are EXTREMELY noisy people, and 2) our walls are not sound proof at all. We can hear everything that happens up there in their apartment: the TV shows they watch at 1 am, The Koran recitals and religious tapes they have on at 3 am on full blast, the stupid songs that the guy sings to his whining daughter, the carpentry work he gets off on at 4 am, and the fights he has with his wife. The fights are the worst. The other night H couldn’t sleep at all from a major fight they had (thankfully, I’m a heavy sleeper). The reason for the fight? Apparently the woman received a couple (relatives of her) in the house while her husband wasn’t home! He was telling her: “This is Zena (adultery)! Zena!! You are heading straight to hell”. He freaked out because there was a strange man in the house – even though the guy is a relative and was with is wife. So stupid. He was shouting at her, humiliating her, threatening her with divorce, and all around bullying her for around 3 full hours. All throughout what was her response? She was begging for mercy. Idiots like this have reduced religion to such trivial things - it disgusts me.

We don’t really know what to do with this guy. We have spoken to him numerous times – he promises to be better every time. We sent over the security guards to him. We wrote notes. If the police were of any use we would have filed a complaint. Grrrrrrrr.

The Bird Flu Incident

What would you do if your dog came over with a dead bird in its mouth in the middle of the huge bird flu scare we’re experiencing in Egypt these days?

That is exactly what happened to us the other day. Can you imagine that – a dead bird! Naturally, H (my wife) freaked out. Big time. Unfortunately, I was away at the time so she had to handle that on her own. First thing she did was call the bird flu hotline number that is shoved down our throats a Gazzilion times a day. Nobody answered! So much for the heightened state of readiness of our government. We start calling up vets that we know and most confirm that dogs have not so far been known to be infected by (or carry) the virus. We calm down a bit. Next question: what to do with the bird? Answer: careful handling of the carcass (with gloves) and burning the bird in the garden with the assistance of H’s dad. Poor D (our dog) had to be quarantined for a while and so far things look OK (some time has passed since then). Freaky, isn’t it?

Saturday, March 04, 2006

A Monastery, an Eco-lodge, and A Day of Exploration.‎

We decided to go exploring yesterday. I had read before about the monasteries of Wadi ‎El-Natrun and had always seen the sign to them when traveling to Alexandria. I read that ‎this group of monasteries, 100 km north of Cairo, were the oldest monasteries in the ‎world – dating back to the 4th century AD (the monastic tradition was born there and then ‎later spread to the rest of the world). And since yesterday was a nice and sunny day, it ‎seemed like the perfect day to go and explore the area.‎

We only had time to visit one of the 4 main monasteries, so we went for the oldest and ‎most famous: the Monastery of Anba Bishoy. My first reaction when we reached there ‎was one of surprise. It was much larger than I expected. It was actually a compound ‎with very high walls enclosing three chapels, a castle, a visitors' centre, a gift shop, the ‎monks' quarters and a garden. I had expected something much smaller. I was also ‎surprised from the number of crowds visiting there. Hundreds of Christians, many ‎coming in groups from all over Egypt, were there on pilgrimage. I had expected a quiet ‎and reflective atmosphere. Inside on of the chapels, religious icons lined the walls, as the ‎pilgrims were praying and getting their blessings. As we stood inside, a couple of ‎pilgrims started on a religious chant – the lyrics were posted on the wall for those that ‎didn’t know them. Gradually, more and more people joined them, and before we knew it, ‎there were like 40 to 50 people, all chanting together. It was such a spiritual atmosphere, ‎that we found ourselves chanting with them even though we’re not Christian (couldn’t ‎help but wonder then what some of our more religious relatives would think about this!). ‎Even my 2 year old son was chanting with us! It reminded me so much of the time I was ‎in Tibet and I went into a Buddhist temple there and attended a session of prayers and ‎chants with around 100 monks – another amazingly spiritual experience. You completely ‎lose yourself. I think that there are so many ways and routes to achieve spirituality that ‎it is just too limiting to try to reach God from the way you were taught to do. As they sy, ‎God speaks many languages.

On the way back from the monastery, we found signs on the road leading to an eco-lodge ‎called Al Hammra Eco-lodge. Naturally, we had to check it out.

Turns out it’s a really ‎nice and cozy lodge built close to a salt water lake by an ex army General. His car got ‎stuck there one day, and he loved the place, so he bought the land and built an eco lodge ‎on it! The chalets there are all built from natural materials and we had a great time ‎walking around, enjoying the scenery, chatting with the owner and his guests, and eating ‎some nice home cooked food. I just love eco-lodges. I would take them any day over ‎fancy resorts. Other eco-lodges I recommend in Egypt: Basata in the Sinai, Zad Al ‎Musafir in Tunis (close to Fayyoum), and I hear that Adrere Amellal in Siwa is amazing ‎‎(but still haven’t been there though).‎

It was certainly my kind of day. No plan, no schedule, but you learn and explore and enjoy so much more than you would if you had one.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Jimmy’s Engagement

The talk of the town these days is about Gamal Mubarak’s engagement. Finally, he’s ‎getting engaged to a hottie 20 years his junior. Everybody’s talking about the venue of ‎the engagement party, the dress the bride ordered from Paris, the ring, the girl’s family, ‎etc….. In typical fashion, Egyptians have started to make fun of the event. I found some ‎great stuff in the readers’ comments section of the Al Arabiya article on the event. My picks:‎

ألف مبروك يا جيمي و بالرفاء و البنين أهم حاجة ماتكونش البنت طمعانة في مصر قصدي في ثروتك

الف مبروك يا جيمى يادوبك 42 سنه لسه مكون نفسك ومجهز الشقه الله يكون فى عونك‏

جيمى عندة 40 سنة ولم يتزوج لحد دلوقتى اذا دل فانة يدل على انة راجل عصامى حاول يبنى نفسة بنفسة لحد ما ‏وصل للمنصب الكبير اللى هو فية‎ ‎
‎ ‎
القفص+ دخول جمال مبارك القفص الذهبي = ا علان مملكه مصر ‏ayman nour ‎دخول

Ya Beirut Ya Sett El Denia‎

Just got back from a week in Beirut on business. My first time there in 7 years. God, has it changed since then. Some observations:

- The restaurant and club scene still remains as buzzing as ever. I went to some Fantastic restaurants: Cuban, Japanese, Lebanese, Italian, Seafod, and French. It’s true they’re expensive as hell. But it’s worth it for the great ambience, great food, and amazing décor. They’re packed even on week nights (the Lebanese do know how to enjoy life). I wish we had such variety and quality in Cairo.
- The Lebanese people are still the biggest complainers. They still complain about everything: life, politics, inflation, crowds, work, other people, etc……….. It really struck me that many Lebanese people have sort of taken the blessings they have in their country for granted and can only see the bad side. Couldn’t help but contrast that to the attitude of so many Egyptians who are living in miserable conditions and still manage to smile and joke in the midst of their misery.
- Faraya is amazing. I went up to a place called Faraya up the mountain (an hour’s drive from Beirut) to try my hand at skiing. It was amazing! It was a hot, sunny day and the snow was everywhere – an amazing contrast. Some people were skiing in tank tops!! They have several slopes in Faraya ranging from very easy to very difficult. Obviously, I took the easiest slope with an instructor and managed to go down the simple slope without falling. The skiing scene is such a lively and fun scene. Beautiful scenery, an incredibly fun sport, beautiful people, and great food in mountain lodge style restaurants. The Lebanese are lucky to have all of this so close to their homes.
- Yes, the babes and hunks are as stunning as they appear on TV. And yes, plastic surgery is rampant over there (even the male waiter in the corner coffee shop had a plaster on his nose from the nose job he’s had).

Cover Your Ass

In the professional world, one of the most widely-practiced business principles is CYA – Cover Your Ass. When people are scared of being blamed for any decision at work, they cover their asses in a variety of ways. I am experiencing this CYA business first hand these days - by my boss and some colleagues of mine. You see, there’s a project I’m working on right now which everybody was fully aligned to. The initial results are coming out and some of them are freaking out because they’re thinking it might not work – that’s when you see CYA in action.

There are several ways people Cover Their Asses:
- When committing to a decision, they leave themselves an exit door: for example they would say I agree to this, but I’m not sure it will work. i.e. I agree but don’t really agree. This way if it works, they can celebrate and say I knew it would work all along. If not, they can still say I told you so.
- They can say the concept was great but you screwed up the execution.
- They can flatly lie and say I never agreed to this in the first place, when they did all along. These people avoid written documentation like the plague.

Don’t you think it’s pathetic what people will do for a paycheck at the end of the month?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Tunis, Egypt

I went to Tunis last week, and it only took me an hour and a half to drive there from Cairo. How did that happen? Well, it was simple. The Tunis I went to is not the North African country, it's a small village close to Fayoum on the shores of Lake Qaroun. Tunis has a very interesting story: many artists and writers have chosen to live there because of the beautiful scenery, the peace and tranquility, and its proximity to Cairo. They built beautiful houses there in traditional style (mud houses) with leafy gardens and fanastic views overlooking the lake. Living and mingling with the villagers . One of the residents in particular fascinated me: a swiss couple that have been living there for around 40 years. The wife is an acclaimed pottery artist who exports her art around the world. She set up a pottery school that teaches many of the local village youth pottery as an art, and not as a craft. I visited this school and I met a couple of her students and the passion they had to the art truly inspired me. Some of these students have even displayed their work outside Egypt (one of them is travelling to France soon). Not only does this couple live in the village, they put their kids in the local schools and the kids grew up to be like any other Fayyoumi villager. Can you imagine a blond swiss girl speaking Arabic with a fayoumi accent wearing her gallabiya and running around with the other kids? This couple loved the place so much that they purchased lands and properties that they wanted to preserve. They bought a pigeon tower (borg hamam) when they found out it was going to be torn down in order to preserve it. Their son dropped out of school and is now running a succesful landscaping operation out of the village. The husband set another operation where he exports silk clothes woven at a certain village in Upper Egypt to Europe, saving that village from bankruptcy since their craft was dying. Overall, a really amazing story.

Over there, we stayed at a nice, cosy guest house called Zad Al Musafir, which is owned by a writer. A truly peaceful little place that I highly recommend. Another good thing you can do in Tunis bird watching, since many migrating birds come to Lake Qaroun for the winter. I saw a flock of flamingos on the lake and that was a truly amazing scene - more than a hundred of these gracious birds lounging around the lake, absorbibg the nice winter sun. I went with a guide (a local guy from the village) that was a bird-watching expert - he was also very passionate about his field. A grant from the EU gave him courses to develop his expertise, and I was impressed by how much such a grant helped him, his community, and the environmnet. So, some of that aid really does make a difference after all. All in all, I had a great time visiting Tunis and its people. Highly recommended.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

First Post

So this is my first post. I always wondered how that would come out. I've been addicted to reading blogs for months now and I always had it in the back of my mind to publish one. Now that I've done it, it feels weird. So, I'll just be testing the technical apsects of this thing before I start writing something real.