Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Good, the Bad, & the Excellent

You expected "the Ugly" right? Too cliche.

The Good News: I am going on vacation.

The Bad News: My husband insisted that I leave my laptop behind. I agreed just to prove to him that I am not a cyberspace addict as he claims. So I won't have regular internet access, nor will I be posting any more stupid posts for a while. Please do stop crying. It's very hard on me too.

The Excellent News: I will be back on-line first of February (In shaa Allah).


p.s.#1 Kids, about the cartoon, I am just kidding. You know how much I love you. I would never say anything of the sort, unless "NO! NO! Take my HUSBAND!" does not work.
p.s.#2 Husband, about p.s.#1, I am not kidding. (eh da, kolo darb, mafeesh sheteema?)
p.s.#3 Blog visitors, don't worry I'll be fine, my husband and kids have an excellent sense of humor (I hope).

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Lost for Words

"Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has urged the international community to intervene over power cuts in Gaza blamed on an Israeli blockade. Gaza City was plunged into darkness on Sunday after managers shut down the Hamas-run Gaza Strip's only power plant, saying they had no fuel left.

But Israel, which is continuing to provide 60% of Gaza's power, says the Strip still has sufficient fuel stocks. It accused Hamas of closing the plant as a "ploy" to attract sympathy."
"At least 800,000 people are now in darkness. The catastrophe will affect hospitals, medical clinics, water wells, houses, factories, all aspects of life," said senior official Derar Abu Sissi as he shut down the Gaza plant on Sunday night." As published in the BBC site today

I have no comment except that every time I think of the plight of the Palestinian people especially the women, children, elderly, and the sick, I feel a lump in my throat and a heavy heart (empathy? guilt? not sure). This blog is a meager attempt to express my support & a way to say:"You are not alone." As for the PA or Hamas, I don't really care for either of them.

Now back to the article. It mentions that:
  • Gaza uses 200 megawatts of electricity
  • Israel supplies 60% of this, and Egypt 8%
  • The remaining 32% is produced by Gaza's power station
  • Israel supplies the fuel oil for the Gaza power station
Doesn't that mean that:
  • Israel is actually controlling 92% of Gaza's power supply
  • Egypt supplies Israel, but not the Palestinians with Oil & Gas
  • Oil-rich gulf countries don't supply Gaza with any Oil or Gas
Did I get that right??????
Again, the only thing I can say, without getting into too much trouble, is: "No comment."

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Black Pharaohs

The National Geographic's latest issue highlights the fact that: "For 75 years Nubian kings ruled over ancient Egypt, reunifying the country and building an empire. Until recently, theirs was a chapter of history lost in the shadows."

"The magazine claims the that true impact of these rulers has never been widely accepted because European powers colonized the region in the 19th century and the role of the "darker skinned" conquerors was seen as irrelevant." Copied from Daily News, January 20th.

I am inclined to agree with the above analysis since most of Egypt's Ancient history was indeed written by Europeans, so a racist manipulation of history does not shock me.

But the question that bugs me is: "Did any Egyptian (Egyptologist or historian) expose this well kept secret ahead of the National Geographic article or any other resource? And if not, is this failure purely out of ignorance?

I pray the answer to the first question is a yes, and if not then I pray (twice as hard) that the answer to the second question is.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Once Bitten, Twice shy

Let’s examine the when, the who, and the why of the repeated attacks on Islam (Please note that I did not say Muslims since some Muslims do deserve trashing, but only for their criminal acts, which has nothing to do with Islam) :

1. Attacks on Islam has intensified after the fall of the Soviet Union since, as Howard Zinn puts it: “Terrorism has replaced Communism as the rationale for the militarization of the country [America], for military adventures abroad, and for the suppression of civil liberties at home. It serves the same purpose, serving to create hysteria”

2. Attacks are common by racists who are aware that anti-Islam, & Muslim trashing rhetoric is the only racist talk that is currently accepted in almost all western media.

3. Some Muslims are providing the war lords and racists with a plethora (always wanted to use this word but never found the right place or time before) of ammunition for the attacks.

4. Attacks are meant to provoke Muslims, some of whom are not known for being too rational, so that when they retaliate in unacceptable ways (even to most Muslims), the war lords & the racists would happily say: ”Told you so.”

This loooong introduction was necessary before I tell you about a news item I just read in the Guardian. A Dutch right-winger is launching a film attacking Islam.
“Geert Wilders, one of nine members of the extremist VVD (Freedom) party in the 150-seat Dutch lower house, has promised that his film will be broadcast - on television or on the internet - whatever the pressure may be. It will, he claims, reveal the Koran as 'source of inspiration for intolerance, murder and terror'. The film will include scenes were Wilders is seen to tear up or burn a Koran.”

Now that we know what to expect, the question is: “What should be our response?” This question should only be answered while taking the four points I mentioned earlier, and the fact that Islam requires its followers to believe in and respect the two inspired books that preceded the Koran, and to believe in and respect all his prophets, and to respect their followers, into consideration.

The plethora (twice in one post!!) of Islamic bodies in Egypt and all around the Islamic world should come together and agree on one unified official and responsible response that takes all of the above into consideration. And I beg them not differ and confuse Muslims (as is the case with the Fatwas they sometimes issue). Also, I ask them not to take forever to respond. We need to make sure that thier response precedes the accumulation of anger and any random actions taken by any Muslim.

Finally, I say to my fellow Muslims, you have the right to be upset and angry, and whether my wish for a unified response is fulfilled or not, please do remember the idiom that says: (well something like, since I ditched translation classes):
“No believer is ever bitten twice by the same snake.” That is; don't fall for this provocation.

To read the article click here.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Historian Yunan Labib Rizk Dies at 75

Renowned Egyptian literary figure and historian Yunan Labib Rizk passed away at 7 am on Monday after battling with chronic heart disease for years.
The funeral was held at the Virgin Mary Church in Nasr City and was attended by Head of the Shoura Council Safwat Al Sherif, representatives of the Presidency, and several parliamentarians.

Rizk, born Oct. 27, 1933, was chaired the History Department at Ain Shams University where he taught Modern History. He was also a respected member of the Shoura Council where he was a member of the Higher Press Council, and headed the History Committee of the Supreme Culture Council. He was a prolific writer with a regular column appearing in Al-Ahram newspaper. He was the author of several esteemed publications which rendered him an authority on Modern History, which was the subject of his MA and PhD degrees. He obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Literature from Ain Shams University in 1955.

At the funeral, Coptic intellectual Milad Hanna described him as an honest and objective witness to modern history.

Copied from Daily News Egypt, Jan 15, 2008

Thursday, January 17, 2008


I finally have the courage to admit that I (and unfortunately, most fellow humans) have become casualties of what Cornel West calls the WMDs or Weapons of Mass DISTRACTION.

Those weapons are as devious and dangerous as radioactive poisoning since they slowly destroy us, but without inflicting any physical pain or spilling a drop of blood in the process, thus they are much harder to detect and once detected they require immediate intensive treatment if we are to have any chance of surviving them.

Those weapons are meant to:

  • Distract us from examining our own lives and from fixing our own faults and short-commings

  • Distract us from our humanity and compassion to other humans so that we continue to be involved in petty fights among ourselves and become distracted from the more important issues that we should concentrate on such as human and citizenship rights for everyone everywhere

  • Distract us from our obligation to speak out and take action against injustice so that we can be easily controlled and manipulated and to drown the voices of the victims in an atmosphere of despair and surrender

  • Distract us from our ability to differentiate between what we actually need and what we are made to think we need, and our will to resist the Shop-Until-You-Drop culture in order to continue to feed the wanton machine of the giant corporations and rich countries with no regard to how this is depleting our resources and destroying our environment

  • Distract us from finding an alternative to the capitalist system or at least seriously reforming it so that we can stop and reverse the widening gap between the filthy rich on one hand and the middle and poverty stricken classes on the other

  • Distract us from ensuring that we hold on to values of critical thinking & quest for education & knowledge instead of those of greed, cut throat competition, and trivial and shallow thinking

  • Distract us from our ability to tell the difference between the music, art, poetry, film, and literature that enriches the soul and that which only enriches that pockets of its producers

  • Distract us from our duty to install all the positive values in our children instead of leaving them prey to the cultures of apathy, triviality, and selfishness

I can go on and on and on but I need to go take my anti-distraction pills. If you need some, they are cheap and widely available in history books, in works by humane intellectuals, in quality music, art, novel, poetry, or film, in speaking out against injustice and tyranny, in always examining one's beliefs and actions, in true faith, in civil, activist, or social work that betters the lives of others, in a helping hand, a hug, or kiss to a child, or even in a kind smile to a fellow human.

Listen to Cornel West's Edward Said memorial lecture at AUC: The Vocation of a Democratic Intellectual

And if you can spare 20 more minutes, watch this video titled The Story of Stuff, examining the underside of our production and consumption patterns.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Kalam by Dali & Nahoul

There is only one difference between a madman and me. I am not mad.
- Salvador Dali

There is only one difference between a madman and me. I am not a man.
- Nahoul

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Arabs are known for their hospitality. Yes, I agree they are also known for many other things (good & bad), but an in depth discussion of this is beyond the scope of my post so listen to what I have to say before I forget it. It is said that to an Arab, extending good hospitality is more than just an admirable thing to do, it is a matter of honor and also a sacred duty.

So considering the above, when the president of the most powerful country in the world visits a number of Arab countries and instead of being met with hospitality, he is met with hostility (to my surprise, even by some officials such as the Egyptian foreign minister), I can assure him that it's not because Arabs suck at spelling.

Monday, January 14, 2008

New Wars & New Media

Back in the 80s, when I was first exposed to American media, I became fascinated and addicted to it (specially TV news programs & talk shows). Growing up watching nothing but state controlled TV, I was truly impressed and captivated by the investigative reporting, the live pictures, and the debates involving (or at least what I perceived as involving) different points of view.

As of the mid 90s, this fascination has dwindled and after 9/11 , I just cannot stand watching any American news coverage. I actually find it offensive and I have zero tolerance for it. The only explanation I had for this change of heart was my opposition to the American policies in the area, which I find outrageous.

In his lecture titled "New wars & new media", Tariq Ali (the British-Pakistan historian, novelist, filmmaker, political campaigner, and commentator) sheds the light on two important points that must have contributed to this new feeling of mine:
  • He pointed out that after the fall of the Soviet Union, the necessity to demonstrate to the deprived citizens of the eastern bloc the superiority of the western media over their one party controlled media was long gone. Accordingly, those in charge of, and involved in the western (& especially North American) media had no incentive to demonstrate the importance of diversity, dissent, a vibrant public opinion, and oppositional politics.
  • He highlighted the fact that on the issue of Palestine, the American media is outrageously biased even in comparison with Israeli media. It is biased to the point that it totally ignores the critical debate that takes place on the state of Palestinians inside Israel.
Example: In 2003, when a number of Israeli pilots, refused to fly assassination missions in the West Bank & Gaza, because it could endanger civilians, the pilots & their families were fiercely attached by the government, people, and most journalists in Israel.

A Jewish Israeli journalist named Yehuda Nuriel (of Iraqi origin), published a letter by A. Schicklgruber to Ma'ariv attacking the dissident Israeli pilots. The letter included very strong language such as: "Those who want to live, let them fight, and those who do not want to fight in this world of eternal struggle do not deserve to live."

A couple of days later, a reader alerted the Ma’ariv editors that the name at the bottom of the letter was actually Hitler’s original name, and that the letter was nothing but a collection of quotes, from Mein Kampf, as well as other writings & speeches by Hitler.

Learning of the trick nested in the article, Ma’ariv’s editor in chief sacked Nuriel. His explanation was: “this satire means that anyone opposed to conscious objection is a Hitler. This horrible act cannot be protected by the act of free speech.”

As far as I know, none of this was reported in the American media, and no voices were raised in defense of the sacked journalist, although I can think of at least one incident where a journalist who published some offensive drawings was immediately defended on the basis of freedom of speech. Since I am a bit slow, please help me understand. Why the double standards?

Please do take a couple of minutes to read the above mentioned letter. Click here.

To see a video of Ali's lecture, click here.

p.s. I have to mention that I don't remember any coverage of the letter or the sacking of the journalist in the Arab media either (please tell me if you do). And I strongly condemn any barbaric response to any expression of opinion no matter how offensive. I might have said that I was slow, but I am not biased or crazy. Well, may be a little crazy, but I am not violent. Well, in the previous post I discovered that I am capable of being violent, but I am not a complete wacko. Well, ...........oh never mind.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

This IS Torture

I was not planning to publish any new posts for a couple of days since I'm on pain killers and you do not want to know what I am capable of writing when I am heavily drugged. No believe me you don't. But you will, because the following news item just provoked me beyond reason:
US national intelligence chief : Water-boarding 'would be torture'

Please tell me, what did we learn from this report? That an American official thinks that water-boarding might be a form of torture!!! Thank you for the info. We (the rest of the world) would have never guessed this ourselves!!! What else could simulation of drowning be considered??? A crash course in scuba diving!!!

In Egypt, a micro-bus driver was sodomized in a Cairo police station and the incident was exposed by a number of Egyptian bloggers, leading to the trial (and later conviction) of the officer responsible for this crime. The officer, like all criminals, denied the charges in spite of the video that documented the incident, but at least Islam Nabih was not brazen enough to claim that what he did could be considered a form of foreplay!!! (Do excuse me. Remember, I am writing while heavily drugged)

To help resolve this issue once and for all, please send me anyone who has any doubts about what might qualify as torture, and I will make sure that this person will never dare act stupid again. (even I was not aware of this violent side of moi)

I think I should stop here before I offend you more, or before I say things that could lead to my own arrest and torture, sorry, I mean techniques that some might consider torture.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Because You Loved Me

Happy birthday momyeko. Sorry for not being with you on this wonderful occasion, so please accept my apology. The following is a tribute of love and gratitude.

I cannot find the right words (wala in English wala in Arabic) to express how much I appreciate you, love you, and am extremely grateful that you are my mom. But I'll try.
  • Thank you for everything you taught me, told me, fed me, gave me, helped me with, punished me for. (Actually I cannot remember you ever did. Whenever I did something wrong, you cried. Walahi this was the most effective punishment ever. You must be an expert in child psychology. But I tried this tactic with my kids, and it did not work!! Guess it's because my tears were fake)
  • Thank you for your true unconditional love, and your generosity with your hugs, & kisses.
  • Thank you for your kind heart, your love for, respect of, & generosity with all people: related or not, young & old, weak & strong, poor & rich, sick & healthy.
  • Thank you for your smile & sense of humor (In spite of your difficult childhood. Don't worry, I will never claim that I got my sense of humor from you. Yours is way better)
  • Thank you for teaching me the love of Egypt, art, music, literature, film, politics, family, & tasty foods. (I must have learned my love of sports, math, & technology from dad)
  • Thank you for giving me my OCD in cleanliness, my fear of birds, insects, heights, darkness, and specially animals (I will not mention the dog story here)
You know what, this is not working. With my poor memory, I will never be able to remember everything I need to thank you for. But most of what I wanna say is expressed best by Celine Dion's Because you loved me. (I can hear you say "yadee Celine". Please note that I never said "yadee Abdel Wahab, or Om Kalthoum, or Abdel Halim", since I love them too. I never even said "yadee Kathem" although I am not a big fan, because I am mo2adaba)

Here is what I wanna say (but please don't start crying):

For all those times you stood by me
For all the truth that you made me see
For all the joy you brought to my life
For all the wrong that you made right
For every dream you made come true
For all the love I found in you
I'll be forever thankful mama
You're the one who held me up
Never let me fall
You're the one who saw me through
through it all

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn't speak (wish I had your lovely voice)
You were my eyes when I couldn't see (that's before I had my LASIK)
You saw the best that was in me (cause you saw me na....la2 3aib)
Lifted me up when I couldn't reach
You gave me faith 'coz you believed
I'm everything I am
Because you loved me

You gave me wings and made me fly
You touched my hand I could touch the sky
I lost my faith, you gave it back to me
You said no star was out of reach
You stood by me and I stood tall
I had your love I had it all
I'm grateful for each day you gave me
Maybe I don't know that much
But I know this much is true
I was blessed because I was
loved by you

I'm everything I yaaaaaaaaaam
Because you loved meeeee mhhhhhhh

Happy Birthday momyeko. Love you habibti.


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Tata Nano

These are not nick names I gave my late grandmother (miss you Naina), it's the name of the world's cheapest motor car produced by India's Tata Motors. The vehicle will sell for $2,500 making it the new (or true) VolksWagen. I hope that this car will soon be available in the Egyptian market for the benefit of what is left of the Egyptian middle class. Better still, the public or the private sector should try to sign agreements with Tata to produce the Nano locally.

In any case, the Egyptian government should not give the Tata Nano the infamous Tok Tok treatment, that is, allow the import, pocket the customs fees, then later confiscate it for not meeting the traffic laws standards. You never knew we had such standards??? Apparently neither did the officials!!!

To learn more about the Nano click here.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Ahdaf Soueif

About seven years ago, an American colleague of my husband asked me if I knew of an Egyptian novelist by the name Ahdaf Soueif. Filled with confidence (why is it that the more ignorant one is, the more confident one feels?) I replied: "This does not sound like an Egyptian name, I think you made a mistake." Since Jan had read Ahdaf's books, she insisted that Ahdaf was Egyptian. A quick Google search exposed my ignorance. I would have loved to cover the ignorance, by saying that the problem was the khawaga pronunciation of the name, but Jan is fluent in Arabic.

I never expected this incident to be a turning point in my life, but it definitely was. I read In the Eye of the Sun and it deeply touched me. I never identified with a character in a novel as I did with Asya. I then read her two books of short stories, Aisha & Sandpiper, and her second novel The Map of Love. I loved each one of them and wanted more. So I read all her articles that were available on the internet, then I reread In the Eye of the Sun, yes each and every word on the 800+ pages. I later read Mezzaterra & her translation of Murid Barghouti's I saw Ramallah & still wanted more.

By that time, I became confident that I have found my favorite novelist, and in spite of Margret Atwood's quote mentioned in this blog, I wanted to meet or at least know more about the person behind the pages. I emailed her. I remember that the question I sent her was very stupid, so I was truly surprised when she replied and her reply was sweet, humble, and graceful.

Ahdaf, who is a renowned and celebrated novelist in the west, could have easily gained more money and fame had she not chosen to embrace a brave stance on two issues:
  • She recognized that Arab women writers' text is liable to misuse, and more so her own text since she writes in English, so she avoided controversial issues or discussed them with a sensitivity and an honesty that avert any misuse or misinterpretation.
  • She repeatedly reflected her political beliefs in her work without any consideration to the expected aggression and assault of the Zionist machine and its supporters in the west. This stance might have cost her the Booker prize, but her reply was to intensify her activist work. Although she might have preferred to concentrate more on writing novels, after the death of her friend Edward Said, she did not hesitate in carrying the banner of the Palestinian cause.
Dear Ahdaf,

Thank you for your work, and for giving me an Egyptian role model I respect and love.
Thank you for helping me become a better, and less apathetic person.
Thank you for introducing me to the wonderful world of Arab Women Writers.
Thank you for introducing me to the thought and work of the great Edward Said.
Thank you for bettering my sense of humor. My kids say that in the past couple of years, my jokes have gone from K.G. level to second grade, or even third grade level on some days.

your biggest fan,

Check Ahdaf Soueif's site at:

Monday, January 7, 2008

Things My Family Hates About Me

Their list is much much longer, but I will only share the top three entries with you:
  1. MCD
  2. OCD
  3. ZCD
If you know me well, you will be able to guess what the acronyms stand for. If not, then here are the answers:
  1. Ms. Celine Dion: I listen to her songs 24/7
  2. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: I expect each room to be as clean as an O.R.
  3. Zamalek Club Defeats: I cry for days after each defeat
Question: What's their problem? If you ask me, those three items belong to the Things I Love About Nahoul list.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Lost in Translation

Don't worry, I will not write a review of the movie by this title since I did not even watch it. I know, this minor detail did not stop me from writing about Bamako & 7een Maysara, but I won't do this here. I just wanted to express how frustrated I am for being lousy at translation.

My school friends claim that we actually took translation classes at school (I have no recollection of this at all). They even remembered, five & fivy (see what I mean), that our translation teacher was Mrs Wadida Wassef, who later became a writer and translated Yusuf Idris' The Cheapest Nights to English.

I apologize to you for past, present, & future translation errors. I also apologize to Mrs. Wassef (God bless her soul) for not remembering her. And I finally apologize to my parents for ditching classes.

p.s. I wonder what is the name of Mrs. Wassef's dad? I hope it was Wadee3 or any name that starts with a W . If this turns out to be the case, I vow to start a site for her at the address (Why does my messed up brain come up with these stupid ideas????)

Friday, January 4, 2008

Until Better Times

This is the best translation I could come up with for the title of an Egyptian movie currently playing in theaters (7een Maysara). Like Bamako, I did not watch the movie yet, but again I will not shy from writing about it. (this is turning into a habit)

I am writing this post to document my support for the movie & its director Khaled Yousef. The movie has come under attack from different individuals (even from the fellow Zamalkawi Amr Adeeb) for different reasons. I felt that I need to come to its defense because:
  • The movie follows the lives of the occupants of what is known in Egypt as "Random ٍSlums". I salute Khaled for choosing this subject. It's about time that the Egyptian Cinema discusses the problems of around 12 million Egyptians living in those slums.
  • The trailer which is shown over and over on TV clearly highlights the sensitive issues discussed in the movie. In the absence of a rating system in Egypt, everyone should be used by now to rate the movie from the trailer. No one can claim that they were surprised and offended by the issues discussed in the movie.
  • I agree with the calls to rate this movie as only suitable for viewers above the age of 16, but this is the responsibility of the censor and not Khaled. Also, parents should take responsibility and not allow their kids to watch the movie if they think that it is not suitable for them.
  • My husband, who actually watched the movie, told me that the sensitive issues discussed in the film were all depicted in a tactical and reserved way. (I am making an exception and am accepting my husband's evaluation of the movie even though I have earlier vowed never to trust his taste in movies because he loves the Limby movies)
  • The film was attacked by Professor of Islamic Jurisprudence, Abdel-Sabour Shaheen who admitted that he did not actually watch the movie. (I guess he just watched the trailer or heard about it from someone else. I know I just did the same here, but that does not mean that he has the right to do so). This guy's memory must be worse than mine. A couple of years back, he faced a law suit for what he wrote about Adam and man's evolution. Dr Shaheen defense was based on freedom of speech as long as the basic fundamentals of religions are not touched. I believe this applies to the movie.
  • Khaled Yousef was accused of being part of an American-Israeli conspiracy meant to ruin Egypt's reputation. I refuse all undocumented accusations. Besides, I tell whoever came up with this ridiculous accusation that it helps to know something about the people you attack before doing so. Khaled has been a leftist and an outspoken critic of Israel ever since he was born.
I guess this is more than enough. I wonder how long this post would have been, had I actually watched the movie??? I hope I am not disappointed when I do.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Egyptian Happiness

As the Haj and Eid were immediately followed by Christmas & the New Year, you may think that you have lately sent and received more than enough wishes for happiness. If you are Egyptian, please wish happiness to as many compatriots as possible. And continue to do so year round. And be sincere about it. I've discovered that Egyptians need all the help they can get when it comes to happiness.

The finding of a study by the World Database for Happiness has shown that when asked "How much do you enjoy your life-as-a-whole on a scale of 0 to 10?", Egyptians have score a mere 4.8, i.e. a failing grade. The Danes have scored highest with an average of 8.2, next were the Swiss with a score of 8.1 while Tanzanians came in last with an average of 3.2.

I am critical (as usual) of the study and it's results, but I will leave you to judge for yourself. You can find the complete report at the web site: World Database of Happiness

If you have any problems with the validity of the report please do contact Ruut Veenhoven (not sure if this is his real name, or is it just a trick to make us feel happier about our own names) who is a professor of 'social conditions for human happiness' at Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands, and the director of the World DB of Happiness.

Disclaimer: The current Egyptian government should not take any offence by the study or by whoever repeats its findings (moi) since the survey was conducted between 1995 & 2005, that is, before the current government took office. I am sure that if the survey is repeated in 2008, Egyptians will kick Swiss & even Danish butt!!!

Private thoughts:
  • If Egyptians are ever able to kick Swiss butt, I would like to kick Federer's. Please. I saw him first.
  • I wonder what is the average happiness score for Zamalkaweya?? I am confident that we can easily kick Tanzanian butt.
  • I wonder what would Hamlet, who said:"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark", say when he visits other countries in the study?
  • I wonder how many times did I use the word butt in this post? No wonder my youngest is so aleel el adab.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Seven things that I most dislike about this country that I truly love

Since 2008 started with a complete writer's block, I am posting a letter I received from a young Egyptian who is a dedicated reader of this blog. He acknowledges that his post only highlights the negative, so he promised to follow this post with a second one that highlights some of the positive aspects of Egypt . Mo wrote:

Egypt has everything that someone could ask for in a country: beautiful scenery, an abundance of natural resources, one of the richest historical pasts, a giant river running through it, great weather, countless number of beaches, an excellent geographic presence…the list is endless. For a country with so much potential, there is simply no excuse for Egypt to be in its present state. The people are poor, the government is corrupt, the society is less and less open, the streets are dirty, there is almost no middle class…this list, too, is endless.

I have made a list of the seven things that I most dislike about this country that I truly love.

7) Misinterpretation of patriotism: Patriotism can be found in all of the wrong places in Egypt. For example, before the soccer match between Barcelona F.C. and Nadi Al-Ahly, to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the Ahly club, the TV channel showing the game displayed images of Egypt's military warcraft performing a show for the President while playing the country's national anthem. How many other countries would try to inspire such patriotism over a soccer match (an exhibition match may I add) between a local sporting club and a foreign team? Many people would also consider pictures of President Mubarrak on billboards all over the country to be representative of patriotism. Few realize that true patriotism is thinking about what is really best for their country and trying to make a positive change in it.

6) Materialism: For a country that has a serious problem with poverty, the level of materialism in Egypt is absurd. One of my friends who goes to the American University in Cairo, told me about the infamous "Gucci Corner", which is where students from the upper class usually hang out between classes and flaunt their newest gadgets or clothes (hence the name). At first I thought he was joking until he showed me a section in the student newspaper that is actually dedicated solely to the most recent happenings and sightings at the Gucci Corner. With all this nonsense, what is typically seen as luxury goods become more of a necessity for the middle class to fit in with the upper classes of society. It is for this reason that a new cell phone may be higher on someone's priority list of purchases than a textbook for example.

5) The streets: It seems that many people in Egypt don't like going from one place to another simply because of what they have to see or go through on their way there. The streets are over-congested, to say the least, and public transportation is not well established at all. The amount of dirt and trash on the streets is staggering. The number of trashcans on the streets is low; and even if trashcans are there, they are usually either not used or not taken out nearly enough. In addition, the noise pollution in the cities is hard to ignore. Even as I write this, my train of thought is often interrupted by the incessant car honks.

4) The state of the economy: Considering its potential to have a strong economy, Egypt's economy is very poor. Egypt has one of the highest Imports : GDP ratios of any country in the world. This means that, for the present size of the Egyptian economy (as measured by its gross domestic product), Egypt quite simply imports way too much. Why, for example, should Egypt be importing cotton when it is perhaps more famous for its cotton quality than any other country. This excessive amount of imports leads to national debt, which weakens the country's currency, which, in turn, leads to Egypt's very high inflation rates (16% compared to Canada's 2% for example). This inflation makes the poor become even poorer as their wages cannot possibly increase at the same rate that the cost of the goods they are consuming is increasing.

3) Religious issues: Religion, or rather peoples' interpretations of it, has led society here to be much less open than it was thirty years ago even. First off, the decision of a woman to wear a hijab has seemingly become a fashion trend rather than a personal decision that a woman would make to show her dedication to God (not to say that the latter no longer exists, but it may be less and less the case). For example, many girls on the street can be seen wearing the hijab but at the same time wearing sparkling jeans and t-shirts with promiscuous comments on them (e.g "I am the girl your parents warned you about"). When I went to Friday prayer last week at the mosque, there were a bunch of small brochures on the bookshelf. Some of them were about the benefits of quitting smoking and other ones were about the dangers of drugs/alcohol. Most notably, one was about the necessity for girls to wear hijab and even went so far as to outline a detailed speech for men to give to their daughters who are unwilling to wear the hijab. Moreover, I was shocked the other day when I saw a number of shops closing for a regular prayer. I thought to myself, "why is Egypt becoming a more closed society like Saudi, as Saudi itself actually becomes more of an open society like what Egypt once was?!"

2) The government: I don't know enough about the Egyptian government to go into all of its weaknesses (although I'm sure a quick survey among a handful of people here would give me enough information on this subject to last a couple lifetimes). But I think the current state of Egypt speaks for itself on how the country is being managed.

1) The pyramids: How could a list of things that I dislike about Egypt possibly contain the pyramids? Shouldn't this be the one thing that's not on the list? One would think so. Until visiting the pyramids that is. Please don't get me wrong, the pyramids are truly one of the most magnificent sites anywhere in the world and should be respected and hailed as the last surviving wonder of the ancient world. However, I have never seen a site that is more visited and more talked-about be so poorly managed. First off, the entrance to go into the area surrounding the pyramids is no more than a small security desk and a sign saying "Welcome to the Pyramids." The price of entrance is not stated anywhere and any foreign tourist would have to be an idiot to not figure out that the Egyptian-looking guy just in front of him paid one-tenth of what he is now being asked to pay. Next, if you plan to ride a horse/camel around the pyramids (which most people take the option of doing), then you follow your unclean looking tour guide to the stable while being sure not to step on any of the uncollected manure all over the ground. How could the area around one of the world's greatest historical treasures be so unpresentable? The main part of the visit, where you actually ride past the pyramids and adore their entire splendor, is actually quite thrilling. However, it would be really hard to mess that part up, so very little credit can begiven. And finally, when you think the tour is over and are ready to be taken back to the entrance, you find that your tour guide has taken you on a detour to a number of shops that sell overpriced perfumes and souvenirs. How many people could possibly want to buy perfume during their once-in-a-lifetime visit to the pyramids? And it takes a lot more than a simple "no, thank you" to convince the people there that you are not interested in their products. And at the end of your tour, your guide asks you for a "guide fee" that was not previously discussed, and is hardly ever happy with the tip you give him. The bottom line is, the pyramids are supposed to encompass everything that Egypt stands for. However, with all that has been said here, maybe that's not such a good thing.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

I Wish for Less

Happy New Year to everyone. This is the season for making wishes and asking for more of what (we think) makes us happy. This year, I will break the tradition (and may be increase my chances of being heard for not sounding too greedy), and I will actually ask for less.

I wish for less:
  • Poverty, misery, & unemployment
  • Diseases, illnesses, & medical mistakes
  • Homeless, neglected, & hungry children
  • Dictators, despots, & autocratic rulers
  • Wars, conflicts, & disputes
  • Violence, hatred, & discrimination
  • Chauvinists, bigots, & apathetic humans
  • Collapsing buildings, road accidents, & untimely deaths
  • Zamalek problems, Zamalek defeats, & Ahly wins
  • Kilograms, wrinkles, & gray hair
Say "ya rab"