Ramadan is a movable fast/feast. Back in 2008 it was in August and September. Here is a letter that I wrote to my extended family back then, before I started blogging. I did not think it was appropriate to blog … Continue reading Ramadan Mubarak.
Yesterday I posted about the World Cup. Today I am posting excerpts of two letters on European tournaments. I watched Euro 98 games Austria and Egypt. During Euro 96 we lived in Tirana. I’ll start with Euro 2008. A cartoon in one of the local Cairo papers shows two Egyptians looking at the European football tournament, Euro 2008, on TV. One says to the other “The difference is, with us, football is just a game.” It is a madness that takes over Europe every fourth June. The roof of the Cairo Marriott is turned into a big screen outdoor football … Continue reading European Football Tournaments.
This post is from Easter, 2007. Suzi and I were working in Egypt. The Spring Festival, “Sham el Nessim,” “smell the breezes” always falls on Easter Monday (Based on the Eastern rite’s reckoning, which this year was the same as … Continue reading Easter (or is it Spring Festival?) in Cairo.
The Suez Canal may be the only place where blue water mariners find sandstorms a hazard to navigation. There’s something otherworldly seeing a huge container ship gliding toward you through a golden brown silicone fog looking like it’s riding on sand. The camel is not the true ship of this desert, SeaLand is. The MV Hanjin Helsinki glides by, name written in Chinese characters and Latin letters, hailing port, Hamburg, Germany carrying Costo containers through an Egyptian sandstorm — globalization. On Saturday we visited the Suez Canal, Ismailia, near the canal’s center, where the waterway cuts through Crocodile Lake (people … Continue reading Ismaïlia and the Suez Canal
In Sharm el-Sheikh the talk was of sharks. A few weeks earlier four tourists were attacked and the beaches and reefs closed. They were reopened and a German woman was killed in 2 feet of water off the Hyatt hotel, very close to where we were staying. A satirical website is Serbia reported that a cannonballing fat Serbian tourist landed on, and killed, the shark. Croat and Russian papers picked it up and published it as fact, much to the delight of Serbs. When I got back to Belgrade a staffer asked me if I had met the Serbian “Hero … Continue reading Undersea gardens at Sharm el-Sheikh
It was not the boardwalk at Keansburg or Wildwood. On the boardwalks in those Jersey Shore towns you won’t see a sign in the window of a hole in the wall shop that says “special, buy two bottles of Viagra, get one free. Genuine — illegally imported from the States.” Of course it’s called the corniche, and not boardwalk, on Naama Bay at Sharm el Sheikh. It’s a bit more upscale than the boardwalk at Wildwood or Keansburg, but it has its share of shore dinners, pizza, postcards, and sunglasses. Along the streets leading to the corniche you can find … Continue reading Egyptian “Boardwalk” Towns, Sharm and Dahab.
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina, or “New Library of Alexandria,” is an attempt to recreate the tradition of the first “Great Library of Alexandria” built by Ptolemy in the third century BC. It is either a stunning triumph of modern architecture or “The Rotten Oyster” depending on your point of view. It is a stunning building, designed by a Norwegian firm incorporating types of natural wood never seen in Egypt. Some Egyptians wonder “why a Norwegian, why Norwegian wood?” I like it. The outer wall has carvings of letters from most of the world’s alphabets reflected in a blue moat that surrounds … Continue reading Bibliotheca Alexandrina, The Great Library at Alexandria redux
The text to accompany these pictures is in the previous post. “Sinai Desert.” I like the last picture, the imprint of the Burning Bush on the rock. Continue reading St. Catherine’s Monastery, Mt. Sinai and the Original Burning Bush.
Suzi and I decided not to take a bus tour from Sharm to St. Catherine’s Monastery (featured in the next post) the home of the burning bush at the foot of Mt. Saini, but to hire a car and guide, … Continue reading Sinai Desert
At the roadblock the police asked where we were going. Our driver mentioned several towns in the Fayoum Oasis (Faiyum) I wanted to see. “But no tourist ever goes there,” which, of course, is the point. Egyptian friends told us about these villages, each dedicated to some traditional manufacture, like pottery. The roads into them are bad. They don’t have bus service. Pickup trucks act as public transport. Because of security concerns westerners are not allowed to use public transportation here. We must either travel in protected tour busses or a private car, which the police told us, require an … Continue reading Fayoum’s Water Wheels, Creating an Oasis in Egypt
Egyptian pyramids evolved. They did not just pop out of the ground at Giza. A series of mistakes litter the desert. In a short space of miles you can see those mistakes and follow that evolution. Saqqara has a stepped pyramid (and rubble of a step pyramid that didn’t hold up so well.) It was an early incarnation of Pharaonic funeral monuments. Then the builders decided to shift to smooth sided pyramids. The Collapsed Pyramid at Meidum was their first big mistake. The builders made the angle too steep. Instead of the pressure of the weight at the top of … Continue reading The Evolution of Egyptian Pyramids.
June, 2007 The great sand sea that stretches southward from the Siwa Oasis is like a woman. Her contours are soft and rounded with velvety folds. Her complexion changes with the light. But she’s a harsh woman, with dunes over … Continue reading Siwa Oasis
The bridge cleaned up. April 15, 2011, Cairo, Egypt I got into the cab in Cairo and was shocked; the driver was wearing a seatbelt. I hadn’t seen this before. I put mine on. He smiled and said “New Egypt.” New Egypt is being stuck in a traffic jam near Tahrir Square and seeing a citizen in a white t shirt step forward, waving a cigarette like a baton, directing traffic. People are taking responsibility. One friend said “They used to own Egypt, now we do. We have to take care of it.” Or as another said “Before we … Continue reading Arab Spring, April 2011
On February 11, Hosni Mubarak stepped down as President of Egypt. Suzi and I were in Doha, Qatar that night and went out on the streets as soon as we heard he had left power. We were watching the events on Al Jazeera in our hotel room. I looked out the window and across the bay I saw what looked, to me, like a large number of cars for that time of night. We could hear a lot of honking so we set out from the hotel on foot to see what was happening. Doha is a strange place. To … Continue reading Arab Spring, Feb 11, Mubarak Steps Down
Suzi’s McClear was Chief of Party for USAID’s Media Development Program in Egypt. Tuesday, January 25 was a state holiday, Police Day. That day a group of demonstrators gathered in Tahrir Square protesting the government. It was a large demonstration but many people thought not much would come of it. The local press tried to ignore it but Suzi got an email from our son, Kevin, who said that international media said Cairo looked like a war zone. From her perspective it was a quiet day. Two days later, Friday, prayer day, a traditional day for protests, social media activists … Continue reading Arab Spring, January 2011, Suzi’s Story
April 8, 2008, Cairo, Egypt Dear Friends, For the past several months we’ve been trying to pull off the first ever course on blogging in Egypt. There is a lot of concern because bloggers have been the ones who exposed police brutality, sexual harassment and bloggers have given people a voice that is denied in state controlled press. The news moves forward on blogs. At the end of Ramadan two years ago several women reported being groped in public, the police denied it so some women bloggers took their cell phones and photographed the groping. The story was picked up … Continue reading Arab Spring, April 6, 2008, A blogging course.