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).