Saturday, March 31, 2007

On Jazeera

I was talking to an Egyptian friend the other night. The conversation basically went like this:

"Hey Kent, I saw you on Jazeera yesterday?"
"Jazeera? What? The club?"
"No, the TV Channel."
"Ahh...I was on TV?!?!?!"
"Ya, they were doing a documentary on Friday Market."
"I was watching and saw this guy wearing an ice cap (local word for toque) and sunglasses and though, 'that's definitely Kent.'"
"Wow, that's so cool."

I guess multiple trips to Souk El Goma'a have finally paid off.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Is She Gonna Make It?

Bets, anyone?

Thursday, March 29, 2007


Someone want to check back in a few years to see if this thing is still standing?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Prophetic Rock Formation

I'm pretty sure the message from this rock formation is clear:

Chickens will survive a nuclear holocaust.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Sunsets are good on Mars, too

Monday, March 26, 2007

I Just Came Back from the Mars

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Happy Birthday, Grandma

It was my Grandma's birthday yesterday. Don't let her fool you when she says she's 90...she's really 65.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Cairo's Champions

I may take some flack for saying nice things about taxi drivers. Truth is, there have been a multitude of blog posts and ahwa rants degrading the drivers of some of the worst cars in Cairo:

"I hate taxi drivers. They always try to rip you off."
"This one time, a taxi driver was masturbating while I was seated in the back."
"I've had taxi drivers chase me in their cars. One almost ran me over."
"The worst is when you give the driver the right amount and he gets out only to accost you in the middle of the street!"
(None of these are direct quotes)

All of these are valid complaints. I, myself, have encountered a few guys who take exception to the fact that a "rich" foreigner is paying the correct price. Ironically, however, it seems Egyptians have a harder time with cab drivers simply because they can speak Arabic. Every ride usually involves a yarn about some hardship or other. And if you ever want some amusement, try watching a local attempting to flag down a cab for a long distance trip.

But when it comes down to it, how can you complain about a service that's available to you basically 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?

Taxi drivers deserve some credit. Why?

  • They sit in a car all day and sometimes all night
  • They have to small talk with people they could care less about
  • They are expected to subjugate themselves to their clientele
  • They have to listen to people
  • They have to drive 1970s Fiats and Ladas
  • They drive with the window down in the winter
  • They take a lot of shit from irate passengers
  • Nobody is on their side

That's just it. Taxi drivers don't have a friend in the world when some foreigner is screaming at them over some relatively miniscule amount. And then there are the comparatively rich locals who treat the drivers like lesser beings (not all locals do this, mind you). Do you really expect to be respected in return?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

You Need This Every Once and a While

Thursday, March 15, 2007

6 Months in the Desert

And, naturally, I get dinged Cairo-style and end up spending the whole day on my couch wishing I was dead.

People keep telling me that it's because I street food and this was bound to hit me sometime. Sheer rubbish, if you ask me. This is not a street food-related illness, but a way of Cairo telling me that it still owns me.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Cairo Colon Strikes Back

Oh, yes, the sequel is that much better than the original.

The ruling body doesn't seem too happy. I wonder what I did.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

When I was a small boy...

Walking along the banks of Manyal, an island in the middle of the Nile between Giza and Cairo, we noticed a guy with a really nice lawn. The road is about 15-20 feet above the actual water level, but there is a strip of land at the same level that is commonly occupied by nurseries. I told Janice, "This would be the first place I would take my Mom. I wonder if she's even interested in the Pyramids."

There was a guy standing in the vicinity of the nice lawn and he called us down. I commented on how nice his lawn was and he proceeded to tell me (in Arabic) that he pumped water from the Nile and used it to water the lawn. Why hadn't I thought of that?

So, the man took a bamboo bench and moved it to the water's edge, then he asked if we wanted tea. I couldn't refuse in such a peaceful setting, so he set about boiling water. While we were waiting, I asked him if there were fish in the river.

"When I was a small boy, there used to be a lot of big fish in the river. But then the pollution and overfishing came and now all that's left are small fish." (Roughly translated from Arabic)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Cairo's Champions

It's been a while since my last edition of Cairo's Champions, but not because there is a lack of incredible people in this city. This week's champion is a ridiculously good multi-tasker in the face of brutal conditions. That's right, I'm talking about the microbus/bus driver.

Some people are born to fly, some to sell lemonade. The microbus/bus driver is born to drive, and collect and distribute money. This display of multi-tasking in the midst of Cairo traffic is simply remarkable. And for those along for the ride, seeing the driver do this might just cause you to jump out and get in a similarly crazy taxi.

Once you get over this initial fear, there is a well-developed system within the bus/microbus. Because the driver doesn't have go-go gadget arms, he can't always collect the money from the people at the back. So, money is pooled, starting at the back, and passed forward to the driver. The person who hands the money to the driver is responsible for knowing how many people are being covered. The driver then continues on his way, while tabulating how much was given to him. If money is missing, he'll let you know about it.

When money is being given individually, drivers will always provide correct change, even if it takes them a while to get it. One time, a driver had to get change from another microbus (while moving), so he could provide me with the right amount. Remembering who gets what is a supernatural ability in Cairo, so you can't help but respect these men on wheels.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

World Press'ed

I noticed today that this blog has been listed on the World Blogs page. Just scroll down to the Middle East section and then click on Egypt. Or you can just go here.

Tom Gara is on there as well.

Monday, March 05, 2007

What To Do When You...

Stumble upon an women-only Egyptian street dance party.

The jury is still out on the correct procedure, so I'll just regale the story.

Natasha and I were wondering around the alleyways of Coptic Cairo, looking for some monastery (well, she was looking for a monastery). At one point, we heard loud music coming from around a corner. As we approached, we could see a group of people dancing, and some loud music blaring.

Rule #1: If you're foreign and get sighted by street dancers, you have no choice but to join the party.

Once they caught sight of us, that was it. We were dragged into the melee, only to find out that said melee was all women. Not that it mattered because I could barely hear myself think. I just wanted to yell out, "Whoa...ease off on the treble a bit." Not that they would've heard me.

And then we started dancing. The women showed us all sorts of Egyptian dance moves (some a bit stranger than others) and were definitely into the music. One of the older participants decided to put a koffeya (spelling?) around her waist (in true bellydancing fashion) and started shakin' it. Impressive.

Just outside the ring of women was a ring of kids. They kept trying to encroach, but the women would repel them. The ones that made it through ended up on my shoulder, with a clear view of the party. Outside the ring of kids as the male population. They just stood and stared, mobile phones in hand. No doubt we are on a lot of home videos.

At some point, it was suggested (to be polite) that Natasha and I dance together. And after repeated efforts to change the song to something more "western'ish," some gangsta rap came on.

From the annals of "Things I Never Thought I Would See Anywhere," there were the old women, bobbing their heads to the music. Simply hilarious. We couldn't help but oblige them with a dance.

Eventually we had to get out of there. I said a quick "Shukran" into the microphone, and we ducked out. About 20 of the kids followed us for quite awhile, until we decided to seek solitude in a cemetery, of all places.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

My Fellow Canadian

Kate's 2-week excursion to Egypt ended last night. And what are the chances that this eve would be marked by a full lunar eclipse? While the picture above doesn't show the extent to which the moon "dissappeared," it was the best my camera could do without a tripod.
Over the 2 weeks, Kate was the epitome of a power traveller. She managed to check out 3 major destinations, was in transit more than she cares to remember, and was treated to the finest Cairean transport has to offer.
It's safe to say she is welcome in any country I happen to be in.

Ruling Body Delivereth

Not sure what ruling body controls whether or not a fridge works, but I must have suffered enough without the ability to prevent leftover food from developing seriously harmful bacteria.

That's right. Natasha and I now have a working refrigerator. No more storing mayonnaise in the freezer (it really doesn't belong there). No more moldy chocolate cake leftover from a birthday party. We have entered the realm of luxurious excess.

Knowing the ruling body, though, it might just take away our hot water.

This is Brilliant Stuff

My friend Mike sent me this valuable information the other day:


How to Control a Runaway Camel

Step 1: Hang on to the reins but do not pull them back hard in an attempt to stop the camel. 

Step 2:  If the camel has sturdy reins on, pull the reins to one side in an attempt to make the camel run in a circle.  If the camel fights and tries to turn his head the other way, let him do this and then try and make him run in a circle in that direction.

Step 3:  If the camel has nose reins just hold on tight.  (Apparently pulling too hard can break the camel's nose or the reins)  Use the reins for balance and grip with you legs.

Step 4:  Hold on until the camel stops.  He will grow tired quickly and sit down.

Step 5:  When the camel sits down, jump off and quickly grab the reins to prevent him from running away.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

More of Siwa