Archive for the 'Egypt' Category

A World of Squeegee

Posted by len on 14th February 2007


You’ve read it in magazines, you’ve heard it on the news, and we’re here to tell you, from first-hand experience, that the Middle East is truly the cradle of the squeegee. Ya see, bathrooms across the Middle East often have showers but the showers have no curtains (or doors, or water repellent plasma barriers, etc). So after you take a shower, even if you’re a paraplegic dwarf, water is going to be covering the floor. The next step is the squeegee phase. Often performed completely naked (as God intended) you grab the giant squeegee ‘broom’ and push all the water into the drain that’s always somewhere nearby. The positive side of this extra labor is that you end up cleaning the floor reasonably well (at least from most mens’ perspectives) every time you shower!
Oh yeah, and that’s us in front of the pyramid of Cheops, widely considered the most delightful pyramid in the world.

Posted in Egypt | 10 Comments »

Settling in

Posted by len on 8th February 2007

Sue and I were just talking about how time seems to be sailing by here in Cairo compared with Morocco. We figure that the experience is probably due to a) we are more seasoned at living overseas and in the Middle East, b) we have heat so are not constantly struggling to stay warm, c) we can get a burger any time we feel like it. In any case, the days are moving quickly by (kind of like normal life). Sue is still liking her classes and I’m trying to get 30 hour weeks in on my animation project in addition to (very) slowly learning Egyptian Arabic and other miscellaneous tasks (like updating the Squid!). Here are some photos we took of our apartment (sorry we didn’t clean first) to give you all a taste of day-to-day life in the land of the Pharoahs.

Posted in Egypt | 7 Comments »

Amiga Computers and the Past Made Present

Posted by len on 3rd February 2007

DISCLAIMER: Sorry to all you non-nerds out there for the very nerdy computer-centric finish of this post.
As we were leaving the Egyptian museum yesterday, our legs sore from hours of standing and gawking, we noticed a map of the museum near the exit we had not seen before that included a summary of what you could find in each room. There were a couple of small things we noticed we missed: the Rosetta Stone and King Tut’s golden coffin! Oh yeah, just two of the most famous things ever discovered on earth. Woops! Well, we forced ourselves back in and saw the Rosetta Stone, a smallish black stone tablet on the wall (like one of the 10 commandments as portrayed by C. Heston!), completely under-promoted. It was easy to miss, if you can believe it. Then on to King Tut. I already had an inkling of what to expect from the map. This image was among the handful that sucked me into the world of computer graphics many, many years ago (I think this one was from 1987 or so). A rendition of it was used as the cover art for a paint program (like Photoshop) called Deluxe Paint II for the Amiga computer. The third computer I ever owned and the first with real, modern graphics capabilities. My parents bought it for me as a bribe to make sure I didn’t go to an expensive private college! I remember seeing the image and being in awe of what a computer could do. Looking around the web it seems clear that many other people had a similar response when they saw it. Similar to Star Wars. 9 out of 10 computer graphics nerds say that that movie marked the beginning of choosing their lifelong career. So seeing the true, real King Tut’s golden coffin was pretty cool.
It looked just like the computer image here but without quite so many ‘jaggies’. : )
Egyptian museum info on the king tut mask

Posted in Egypt | 6 Comments »

Egyptian Museum, first visit

Posted by sue on 2nd February 2007

We have really been meaning to do some of the big Egypt tourist things since we’ve arrived, but hadn’t gotten around to it until today, when we went to the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities.

The highlight was probably the very famous golden mask of King Tutankhamun, which we had to look for a bit because the museum is a bit of a jumble. Lots and lots of statues and stone sarcophagi and jewelry and pillars and papyruses and hieroglyphics carved into limestone, etc. Much of it is unlabeled, so I left feeling more overwhelmed than enlightened. But, for so many of the items it’s just amazing to ponder how old they are—some are well over 4000 years old!

Posted in Egypt | 4 Comments »

Visa extension

Posted by sue on 1st February 2007

Len and I successfully extended our tourist visas today, and are now officially permitted to stay in Egypt for six months. All we had to do was to file an application with the immigration agency downtown, pay $2, wait a day, and go back in to have the visa stickers put into our passports. Pretty painless.

Posted in Egypt | 3 Comments »

More on Arabic studies

Posted by sue on 31st January 2007

Tomorrow I’m already at the end of my first (short) term of Arabic study, though the next term starts right in on Monday of next week. The only way it’s obvious that it’s a new term is that I have to pay again! (The terms are four weeks long, though this time I jumped in the beginning of week two.)

It’s been good so far, a very different approach than I’ve had in previous classes, which built vocabulary relatively slowly and methodically while focusing on the teaching of grammar. In my class now, we do some work on grammar, but mainly it’s been a rapid fire exposure to new texts in class every single day, with loads of new vocabulary almost every day. It’s nuts just how many new words I’ve learned (or at least was introduced to) this term—it’s more than I can absorb.

However, I think there is a method to this madness that is appropriate to where I am with Arabic learning. When new words are flying at you at a rate too fast to memorize them all, you just do the best you can, and some will sink in. And if the next day you do the same thing, a few more will sink in, particularly if a few of yesterday’s words come up again in today’s reading. Just last night I was watching the news on an Egyptian cable news station, and heard a couple of words that I had just learned about 10 minutes earlier in an article I was reading, so I remember them. I’m hopeful that a few months in Cairo studying at Kalimat is the kick in the pants that I needed to actually get somewhere with this language.

Posted in Arabic, Egypt | 5 Comments »

A Woman in Egypt, initial impressions

Posted by sue on 26th January 2007

I have noticed a couple of things about women and gender relations in Egypt so far than seem worthy of comment.

First, as Len mentioned, there are more women and girls wearing headscarves (hijab) here than in Morocco, or wearing a garment that covers the head and the whole upper body with one piece of flowing fabric, worn over a long dress or long skirt. Long A-line skirts that reach to the ground are popular here. Also more common here than in Morocco, though still not all that common, is the niqab, a veil across the face that leaves only the eyes visible– women that determined to cover up often wear black gloves, too, so that none of their skin sees the light of day except for a little around the eyes. (A little spooky, yes.)

In general, veiling is popular for various religious and cultural reasons, and is even fashionable, but it is controversial even in Egypt because the government is nervous about conservative religious movements, and there are many different interpretations of the Quran about how women should dress. I certainly haven’t felt any need to wear a headscarf because A) I’m not a Muslim, and B) there are still plenty of Egyptian women and foreign women in Cairo who don’t wear them.

A side effect of all the covered hair is that there aren’t many hair salons around (though there’s a men’s barber shop on practically every block)—I could really use a haircut!

A more general observation about gender relations in Egypt is that the division between women and men feels a bit stronger here than in Morocco. In Morocco, men we met, who were friends of Len’s or our landlord or whoever, when greeting us, always shook my hand and said hello to me and to Len whenever we saw them. But in Egypt, men will shake Len’s hand but not mine, usually. A subtle difference, to be sure. In general, things feel pretty similar to Morocco—most cafes are filled with men only, drinking coffee or tea and smoking, but there are other cafes, often more upscale ones, with both women and men. When I walk alone, men occasionally yell “Hello, what is your name” (all the English they know, I presume) and other things in Arabic that I don’t understand, but not in a threatening way—more like I’m a curiosity to them. It was the same way in Fez.

Posted in Egypt | 17 Comments »

Cairo Photos You Don’t Want to See

Posted by len on 25th January 2007

Hello loyal readers. After a request or two to see some photos of our every day existence we have created our first Cairo Walkabout (R) photo page! This set of poorly composed photos follows Sue on her walk from Zamalek (the Manhattan Island of Cairo), over the Nile river, and into western Cairo where her Arabic language training classes are held. It’s about a 40 minute walk through residentials streets and freeways! It also happens to take you very near our new apartment! Yes, after 2 weeks of living out of a hotel we finally rented an apartment! Just blocks from the Nile in a pleasant residential area. Lots of room for visitors (hint, hint). 3 bedrooms. One will become an office. The other has two beds. Ever want to visit Egypt with a travel buddy? Now’s your chance! The photo you see here is from the ground looking up at our building. We move in today at 2pm.

Posted in Egypt | 6 Comments »

Arabic Studies Resumed

Posted by sue on 17th January 2007

I found a language institute that looks very promising, and I was able to jump into classes right away. It’s called Kalimat Language and Cultural Center, in Mohandessin, a rather fashionable area of Cairo, pretty centrally located. The vibe of the class is much more dynamic and fast-paced than my classes at ALIF, and they use their own materials rather than the Al Kitaab textbook series that I could definitely use a break from, all for about half the price of ALIF classes. So far, so good!

We have an appointment tomorrow with a real estate agent to look at apartments for rent, and I am really anxious to get settled. I think we made a good decision in leaving Morocco and coming here, both for the Arabic learning environment and the fun of a big city like Cairo, where everything is open late and there’s lots to do, but it’s been strange and even a bit upsetting to move again so soon. But we’re figuring things out, finding our way around (the GPS has been very helpful!), finding where to get our laundry done and good places to eat, and finding things that didn’t seem to exist in Fez, like art supplies and books in English. And now it’s time again to study, study, study!

Posted in Arabic, Egypt | 3 Comments »

A Bridge Over the River Nile

Posted by len on 15th January 2007


Here’s a shot from the “Bridge October 6th”, one of three bridges that span the Nile river from our little “Manhattan of Cairo” called Zamalek to the mainland.
Don’t strain your eyes looking for pyramids. They’re not visible in this particular photo. In fact, they’re not that easy to spot given the size of the city itself. I did spot them way off in the distance a few days ago from the car. Here’s a cruddy photo of just that!

Posted in Egypt | 9 Comments »