Friday, January 21, 2011


Yesterday I was in the elevator in my building. I live on the 11th floor. The elevator stopped on the 9th floor and five guys larger than myself entered. We were all squeezed in when one of the men started addressing the group in Arabic. I did catch one English word however, "overload." I started laughing in agreement. Then everyone started laughing. We made it to the ground floor safely. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010


 So I live 15 minutes away from the pyramids and after four months of living here, finally made my way over.  They're pretty cool, I guess.

Monday, November 8, 2010

First Trip to Alex 11/4

A facebook group was recently founded by a girl in Cairo entitled, "Cairo Climbers." As you'd guess, the group fosters conversations concerning climbing in the MENA, pairs partners and details trips among other things. I recently sent a message to the group hoping anyone might want to get together for beers and talk about climbing or really anything aside from Arab Nationalism and midterm elections, and received several positive responses. One was from the group's founder, an American named Chrissie, who said she'd be down to grab beers if she didn't have to work that night for the business she recently started, "Cairo Cocktails"--a personal bartending service specializing in infused drinks and providing bartenders for private parties. I responded that we could all meet at a certain pub in Zamalek, and offhandedly commented on my curiosity at what bartending might look like in Egypt, as I had worked in bars the past four years in the states. Chrissie immediately responded that she was looking for a male bartender for an upcoming event, she'd pay me a pretty good wage, and would I be interested? I said sure, why not?...

This past Thursday night, a hired driver collected me, Chrissie, and her friend, Faye (UW-Madison graduate) from downtown Cairo at 5:30pm and drove us to Alexandria (about 130 miles away). Due to heavy traffic in getting out of Cairo, we arrived at the Deja Vu lounge in downtown Alexandria at 9:45pm. Keeping in mind that I had absolutely no idea what to expect, we ascended the stairs from the blue-lit alleyway entrance into what turned out to be a pretty high-end restaurant-turned-lounge at night. Mo, the owner, immediately asked us if we wanted any sushi. As a matter of fact, I did want some sushi. Two massive trays were brought out and we gorged ourselves while simultaneously setting up the bar to accommodate the three of us. Guests began pouring in around 10:30-11. It was a young crowd, all very well dressed, consisting of mostly Egyptians and French from what I could tell. Furthermore they were all highly interested in taking shots. No sooner had I finished mixing 13 Kamikaze shots was I mixing another 10 Coffee Grinders. The night actually turned out to be pretty fun. One man who happened to be pretty intoxicated kept telling me he was going to wait for me after the party and we were going throw a massive after-party at his home. He repeated himself about two dozen times in a 45 minutes span, after which I began serving him his vodka redbulls sans vodka (splash of Sprite to create an off-redbull taste). This is a tactic I learned at the Cascade Bar & Grill in Jackson, WY after a tourist who could barely stand became increasingly aggressive in her Bloody Mary ordering. 

Around 3:30am, the guests began to trickle out and we began cleaning up. Mo brought us out another plate of sushi and me a steak with pepper sauce and mashed potatoes. A new driver then took us back to Cairo as the sun arose. We arrived in Cairo around 6:00am and I was dropped off along the Nile Rd. I walked across the bridge over the Nile to the island of Zamalek where I live. The (very) relative quiet of the city at such an hour had an almost romantic appeal. Some fishermen nearby had just awoken in their boats and were gearing up while further down the banks a man was splashing water upon the ground outside his cafe. The roads were calm(er) and the breeze over the water was very un-desert like. 

I even almost made it over the bridge before a taxi slowed and released upon me an offensive assailment with his horn. Too tired to fight back, I surrendered and had him escort me home. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010


I forgot about midterms.
They are just as annoying as I remember.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I'm Coming Home

This is a photo from my new university's independent student newspaper. The author, as well as the students interviewed, ventures to shed light on the issue of why the AUC is not ranked in the top 200 universities in the world. Unfortunately, this is not a joke. I realize English might be your second language, but you discussed 'qualitative analysis' within the article without grammatical error, while spelling the preposition 'in', without the letter 'i'. Seriously, are you simply ignoring the red squiggly lines beneath certain words? And you're a journalism major...?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cairo, Day __.

I've been neglecting this thing. It's definitely become less of a priority since establishing myself here. 
Anyways, I hope you all are well. Things that have happened since my last post:

-I witnessed what I (and most expats I know) thought was going to be a massive demonstration concerning the upcoming presidential "elections," with the Egyptian SWAT equivalent outnumbering protesters probably 10 to 1; however, it turned out to be some sort of fanatical escapade between fans of the two most popular football (soccer) clubs here--Al Ahli and Zamalek. It's still unclear whether I missed the political rally or it was about football all along.
-I learned the true definition of the words, "irony," and "uncomfortable," when I passed a woman on the street the other day begging for change. I stopped for a second to consider, but then quickly moved on when I realized she was breast feeding her child. Breast fully exposed. The woman was also wearing a full burka and niqab.
-I am currently in three undergrad classes the AUC is forcing me to take as prerequisites to my program. I've been enjoying the readings and learning quite a bit about sociopolitical and economic development in the Middle East, particularly post WWI. My thesis is two years away, but the topic of Arab nationalism has caught my attention. Who knows?
-I am 0-2 in my fantasy league. I attribute Favre's slow start this season to Sidney Rice's injury. In real football, however, I am jealous you all get to watch Aaron Rogers and the Pack crush the Bears on Monday Night Football.
-Five years ago, I studied abroad in Maastricht, Netherlands. I can't remember the classes I took, but I do remember the traveling I did and the pub I frequented, the Shamrock. A block down the street from the pub (on the way home to my dorm), was a Kebab cafe called Nora's. I went to Nora's nearly every night I went to the Shamrock, and I went to the Shamrock nearly every night I was not traveling. I befriended the owner, Moe, an Egyptian man with Dutch citizenship who has, needless to say, seen me at less than my best. Moe and I have kept in touch and Moe was recently visiting his family in Alexandria. He called me the other day while in Cairo taking care of some paperwork at the Dutch embassy, which happens to be a 5 minute walk from my house. We met up for coffee. It was really cool to catch up.
-Ramadan is over.

Ashraf eating a burrito. Second time I've made burritos in Cairo. I miss Mexican food.

"I have so much shit to do. There's no [expletive]ing way I can get all this shit done in an hour."
-Alan Sears, three hours before his flight to leave the Middle East for good after living and working in Cairo for a year. He's online trying to figure out if he can change his flight to the next day. Dare I observe this as pretty typical of Alan Sears? Yes, I do. In fact, I called it. 

Michelle, my roommate's stupid cat. The red eye was not caused by the camera. 
Moe and I. Also, I'm bald now. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Badass of the Week

My new favorite website: Badass of the Week.

This week is Mustafa Kemal, which is funny because I just discovered this website after finishing my week's reading for my history class on the end of the Ottoman Empire and the newly created state of Turkey.


Overthrowing an autocratic dictator and replacing him with democratically-elected officials is pretty sweet and all, but it was going to take more than a bi-cameral legislature to dispel the notion that the Ottoman Empire was pretty crappy compared to what it used to be. Lovingly known to the Western powers as "The sick man of Europe" because its military defense capabilities marginally resembled a really bored guy with mononucleosis, the Ottoman Empire found itself continually under attack from powerful outside forces, and it came down to guys like Captain Mustafa Kemal to stand up to powerful modernized armies looking to gank land and wealth away from his rapidly-crumbling empire. Captain Perfect first earned a name for himself as a no-bullshit face-wrecker in Libya in 1911, when he led 200 men on a balls-out charge against 2,000 unprepared Italian soldiers outside Tobruk and not only drove the enemy out of their trenches, but captured a bunch of their shit and made them look like bitches in the process. He later played a supporting role in the Balkan Wars in 1912 and 1913, constantly fighting off massively superior forces of Greeks, Bulgarians and Serbians trying to throw the Turks out of Eastern Europe.

The culmination of Ataturk's military career, however, is the incredibly over-the-top display of toughness he demonstrated on the shores of Gallipoli during World War I, when 16 divisions of British, French, ANZAC, and other Allied troops attempted an invasion of the Dardanelles and ran faces-first into Mustafa Kemal's titanium-plated nutsack of destruction. Kemal was just a Colonel of a reserve infantry division at the time, stationed at a critical choke point in the Bosporus that, if it fell into enemy hands, would have single-handedly dealt the Ottoman Empire a ball-punch from which it could not possibly have recovered. With the entire hopes and military capability of the Empire on his shoulders, Ataturk threw down with the most hardcore warriors in the world and demonstrated what a little bit of determination, a defensible set of trenches, and a whole lot of bullets could accomplish.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


Burning Qur'an Article

Dove World Outreach statement: "On 9/11/10 we are burning Korans to raise awareness and warn. In a sense it is neither an act of love nor of hate...We are using this act to warn about the teaching and ideology of Islam, which we do hate as it is hateful."

Absolutely astonishing. I went to the Dove World Outreach's website and read their posted Top Ten reasons to Burn a Koran. Number two is my favorite:

The Koran does not have an eternal origin. It is not recorded in heaven. The Almighty God, Creator of the World, is NOT it's [sic] source. It is not holy. It's [sic] writings are human in origin, a concoction of old and new teachings. This has been stated and restated for centuries by scholars since Islam's beginnings, both Moslem and non-Moslem.

Also their burning ceremony, as well as the "Islam is of the Devil" T-shirts made last year for 9/11, are "loving acts." 
Way to lead by example Dove World Outreach. Jesus would be proud. Let me know if you ever make it to Cairo to "raise awareness."

Second Trip To Dahab, Cats.

Went to Dahab for a few days this past week. Met up with Geneva from Telluride who was traveling through Israel. Tested out the underwater capability of my camera and went climbing.

Back in Cairo, I live with two girls, a Croatian and an Italian. (Tangent: If you come and visit, it's funny to make fun of Croatia in my apartment: Is it really a country? Are you sure? Where is it? Speculate on the literacy rate and other struggles as a developing nation. Technological malfunctions are due to production in Croatia. Character faults are typically Croatian. Offensive food, the national dish of Croatia. Etc.) They both work in Cairo, one for a marketing firm and the other for a refugee NGO, respectively. They also each have a cat. The Croatian, Valentina, has a male cat named Oto, while the Italian, Elisa, has a female cat named Michelle. Both cats retain all of their bells and whistles despite my constant pleadings and informative article forwarding. I've informed both of my roommates that if the cats procreate I will take absolutely no part in caring for their offspring. Unfortunately, this is a false threat--I know I'll be unable to ignore the little shits and feel responsible if they unintentionally starve or drown. My roommates are openly in denial concerning the possibility of kittens, and I suspect Elisa secretly wants them. Here are my newborn feline concerns:
1) Kittens typically turn into cats. I dislike cats.
2) Newborn animals of all flavors require food, water, and attention. Even kittens, according to wikipedia. They cause mischief and they cry. Do kittens instinctively know the only acceptable place to relieve themselves is the litter box? How long does it take them to learn not to use their claws and teeth? Will they survive on the streets if born in a domestic environment?
3) Will my roommates grow attached to them? Will they want to keep them? I don't want to turn into one of those weird cat people. How much time do I have to get rid of them before my roommates refuse to?

Suggestions/advice welcome.

In other news, school starts tomorrow.

The dark part is the "Blue Hole," which is a hole 160 meters deep encircled in reef.

Blue Hole Reef
Wadi Gnai