Saturday, August 29, 2009

Le Bazar Egyptien

I'm slowly working my way back to Cairo. I am now in Paris where I spent yesterday evening with French friends I met in Egypt. With my friend Alex, I went to Le Bazar Egyptien, a shisha place in the 11th arrondissement. I did my best to rescue my once-promising Arabic reading skills by trying to decipher the Arabic on the sign. With a bit of help, I got through about half. Ma3lesh. I'll have to re-polish those skills once I get back. In any case, there was little Egyptian about the place that had a full list of wines, beers, and sometimes scandalously-named cocktails. The menu tended toward the more generally North African than toward the Egyptian, but I got nothing other than a glass of Ricard, also very un-Egyptian.
Although I heard tales of broken appliances and internet outages, apparently I'll be returning to a functional apartment on the 7th and for that I am glad. Cairo seems a lot more welcoming when you've got friends and a functioning dwelling to come "home" to.
Before I succumb to jet-lag, here are the recent goings-on in Egypt and environs:

Israel accepts German-broked agreement with Hamas over kidnapped soldier
Ex-Egyptian general held in Switzerland without charges
In pictures: Ramadan around the world

Oh, and I stumbled across Bikya Masr today. This website is rife with excellent English-language material on current events and social issues in Egypt. I'll be linking it on the righthand side of my blog.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I'm writing from New York, my last stop on this side of the Atlantic for the summer. My feelings about Egypt are a mix of eager anticipation and dread. I received an email last nights from one of my flatmates letting me know that, while I've been gone, somehow the internet, one of our AC units, our phone, and the washing machine have all gone out. The feeling in the pit of my stomach that forms when I think back on the anxiousness I had last May in part because of the landlord has done much to quell my looking forward to returning to old friends, jumping in and getting moving on my thesis work, starting my fellowship position on the new campus, and maybe traveling a bit.
What's more, AUC's website is currently down and I have no indication that my tuition has yet been waived. On top of that, I have no idea how to get my transportation arranged for. Ma3lesh! I'll have to wade through that mess when I arrive.
Thankfully this time, vis-à-vis the landlord, there's less at stake. I already have the contract signed. While I won't be there at the beginning of the month, I've suggested my flatmates refuse to pay rent since the landlord is violating the contract. Apparently he told Phil and Cyn that they somehow broke the already moribund AC and the ailing washing machine. Phil has been on the phone with the internet company ceaselessly and the landlord refuses to change carriers. Maddening!
Anyway, I'm soaking up my last bits of carefree enjoyment while in the Big Apple. I met up with a friend of my Egyptian CMRS colleague Reham's and am meant to grab lunch with the student who I sublet to this summer. If anyone has sage advice about Egyptian landlords, I'm all ears.

Meanwhile, check out how Cairenes are celebrating Ramadan, courtesy of Daily News Egypt.

In other news, the pirate-fighting fisherman have returned home to a hero's welcome in Egypt.

As the trial of alleged Hezbollah operatives got under way in Egypt with some of the accused alleging torture at the hands of the Egyptian government.

Hamas is accused of abusing prisoners in Gaza. See a clip from Al-Jazeera here.

As Egypt sets about restoring a historic Jewish temple, some speculate the move is a way to mitigate the controversy surrounding UNESCO head-hopeful, Faruq Hosni who infamously declared in parliament, "I'd burn Israeli books myself if I found any in libraries in Egypt".

The Seattle Times reviews Café Riche in downtown Cairo. In my humble opinion, much of the charm of the place waned when the Egyptian people suffered the loss of "the tolerant atmosphere of old Cairo". The service the single time I went there was, despite the utter warmth of the waiter, horrid. The food wasn't much better. The article touts it as a breakfast place and I'll have to admit I haven't tried it, but the offerings at places like Maison Thomas are comparable (scrambled eggs, bread, etc.) If you're looking for breakfast in Cairo, though, and you're hoping for something American-style, Lucille's in Ma'adi (find their breakfast menu here) is the way to go. For something more Egyptian (and much cheaper than any of the other choices), a humble bean cart or fuul and ta3mayya at to-go place are my preference.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

An interview of Mubarak by Charlie Rose aired Monday night. I found most interesting Mubarak's explanation of human rights and his claim that he has not discussed succession with his son.

While Mubarak treads lightly when responding to Rose's questions about Barack Obama and former president George W. Bush, Egyptian opposition leader Ayman Nour says that the current US president is neglecting reform in Egypt.

Mubarak's visit to Washington was met with skepticism by the Middle Eastern press, while US media have focused on 'the power transfer'.

Meanwhile, Ramadan is set to begin this week. While I respect those who sincerely espouse the ideals of this holy month, I am not particularly disappointed to be missing a good portion of it. To learn more about Ramadan, visit the CBC's succint FAQ page.

In Rotary news, I just discovered (shame on me, since it's been posted for a few months now) that the economic downturn has forced Rotary to discontinue two of its three ambassadorial scholarship programs. Read more on the decision here.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Egyptian Fishermen 1 - Somali Pirates 0


In a daring move, Egyptian fisherman liberated themselves from Somali pirate captors yesterday. Earlier in the year, even the US Navy got involved in the pesky Somali piracy problem, extricating the captain of a ship who was taken hostage when his crew escaped into a lifeboat after battling back.

An AUC student was detained in Israel and order deported after protesting the eviction of Palestinians from their home in East Jerusalem (Al-Quds). She has been given leave to stay while contesting the legality of her initial arrest in court.

Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to visit the US on Tuesday. The Boston Globe asks the question about the leader that's on everyone's mind. Last week, John McLaughlin of "The McLaughlin Group" made his prediction that a transition in Egypt could happen as soon as next year.

Fugitive Nazi's connection to Cairo confirmed

Egypt opens border with Palestine to allow pilgrims passage

Vehicles in honking, high-speed wedding procession collide near Assiut, killing the groom and three wedding guests. Says the article, "In Egypt, it is traditional for the wedding party and guests prior to the reception or afterwards to drive through the streets, weaving in and out of traffice and honking their horns." What a ridiculous reason to die.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

"Visit to 'King Tut Tomb' Found On Illinois Prairie Is Good Trip"

"Temple Mounds and Burying Grounds of Race Which Inhabited This State a Thousand Years Ago, to Be Seen Near Illinois River, 100 Miles From Decatur, Remind One of Pyramids of Egypt; Visit May Be Planned As An All-Day Trip" reads the byline of a news clipping without citation reprinted on a wall of the Dickson Mounds Museum. The institution is an hour or so from my mother's home in Peoria, Illinois. Who knew that my worlds were so much alike?

The museum, which details the history of the human inhabitants of central Illinois over the past 12,000 years, is situated on a burial mound. While the museum is cleaner and better run than the Egyptian Museum, its artifacts are neither as grand nor as numerous. The claim that the mounds remind one of the pyramids of Egypt is a bit grandiose, but another parallel is interesting. The Dickson Mounds Museum used to be known for providing the opportunity to see an excavated Native American burial site with the remains and artifacts left in tact, but in the early 1990s questions over whether the dignity of the deceased was slighted by the thousands of eyes upon them yearly led the site to be recovered and new exhibits installed in an attempt to compensate. In the 1980s, similar questions were being asked in regard to the mummies on display. Then-President Anwar Sadat, under clerical pressure, took the mummies off display and they remained so until some seven years later. It is interesting that the decision in Egypt has been ultimately to display the mummies (generating lots of revenue, I'm sure) while in Illinois, the remains have gone unseen for nearly two decades. An article from the time of the controversy over Dickson Mounds is an interesting read.

With traveling exhibitions like Bodyworlds and the grim bone art of the Sedlec Ossuary on one end of the spectrum and the decisions to cover the dead influenced by Islamic and Native American ideas about degnity and sacredness on the other, it certainly is something to think about.

Egypt bans import and export of genetically modified foods. This decision, related to the broader debate over the safety of GMOs, has significant implications for trade. Egypt, one of the world's largest importers of wheat, recently found itself at odds with Russia over the questionable quality of imports.

Yale University Press has decided not to reprint cartoons depicting Muhammad in a book on "Cartoons that Shook the World" after consulting experts on Islam and counterterrorism.

Egypt is looking into claims that a marine posted at the US Embassy beat an Egyptian man who was inquiring after his American life who left him and took their children. Meanwhile, an Egyptian student at Penn State accused of raping two women has returned to Egypt. He is likely to face extradition if he does not return voluntarily.

Monday, August 10, 2009


I've blogged before about the treatment of Bahá'ís in Egypt and have been following the halting progress toward their fairer treatment. It's heartening to see that identity cards have finally been issued.

Meanwhile, the son and possible successor to the current president is set to address young Egyptians online. A website has been set up for the address.

Religious tension was stirred up again in Ain Shams, the neighborhood where I taught English first semester as Muslims protested Christians holding church services in an old factory.

The Egyptian government linked the February bombing to Al-Qaeda and says that the cell had plans to kill the Israeli ambassador to Egypt.

James Karl Buck, formerly detained in Egypt, shares his thoughts on the detention of Americans in Iran.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I was uploading some more photos of the past two semesters in Egypt and waxing nostalgic. Despite my misgivings about my upcoming flight on EgyptAir, maneuvering my baggage, and jumping back into the less-than-low stress world of haggling with cab drivers as soon as I land, I am hopeful that once I get back and get settled in, this will be my best semester of all.
I have heard that the diabolical cat who joined us late last semester has relocated to a more loving home. Al-hamdulilleh! I also heard that our water stopped working again. At that, I winced and looked around at my relatively glamorous accomodations here in the US. What was I nostalgic about again? No, really. I miss my friends and even more, I'm tantalized by the opportunity to try again--to engage the culture more. It'll be worth dealing with AUC bureaucracy and the Egyptian bureaucracy and worth all the stressors big and small. (All? Really? ... Yes. )

Anyway, as I prepare myself to head out into my soft transition (a week in New York and a week and a half in Europe) to Cairo, President Mubarak is preparing to visit my lovely country. Meanwhile, former President Sadat (assassinated in 1981) is making news as his family expresses outrage over an American film in which one of the characters names his dog after the deceased president. I think she'd have trouble living in the States where our dead presidents are subject to much worse.

And I'll leave you with this WSJ article by Fouad Ajami about the state of the Arab world. Very interesting.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Some news from my home away from home away from:

Lizards and explosives are causing some people to rethink flying EgyptAir, though I'll be taking the airline for the first time from Paris to Cairo in September. This article also quotes someone who's talking about the beefed-up security measures in Cairo at tourist-dense locations, like hotels. Let me assure you, hotels in Cairo are among the easiest places to circumvent metal detectors. Sometimes they aren't even on. As for EgyptAir, ma3lesh–I'd rather have a desert lizard aboard than a terrorist.

The Egyptian government is cracking down on advertising for illegal and uncertified drugs and cosmetic products. I hope that includes skin-whitening creams.

An Egyptian state security court will try 26 alleged Hezbollah operatives on the 23rd of this month.

According to a Pew survey, Obama's more popular in Egypt than in other Muslim countries.