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

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Recent Photos

So I began teaching an English class last week to kill some time before my own school starts. It's pretty fun. All of my students are around my age, most college graduates trying to obtain proficiency in conversational English. Last night, after going over our lesson, this conversation took place:
"Mr. Hunter, can we listen to a song or maybe watch a video?"
I replied, "Sure, as long as we can discuss the lyrics afterward. What type of music to you like?"
"Celine Dion!" the females announced, nearly in unison.
"What?...No. Absolutely not, what else?" The girls in my class then began listing reasons why Celine Dion was such a fantastic musician/songwriter. I described to them the Dark Era of the late 90s when that damned Titanic song was used by some government agency conducting a sort of psychological conspiracy against the American Public. I couldn't do it, the notes would bring back too much pain, I explained. They weren't buying it, and I was too weak. We watched the Youtube video of "Because You Loved Me," and worse, sat around talking about why he loved her for ten minutes thereafter.

Anyways, here are some recent photos:

Texas In Cairo. Double Entendre.

French Mastiff, Pet Store. I want to adopt this dog.
I've named her Lucy. Not to be confused with my Aunt and Uncle's Whippet.

Boulder In Cairo. Still Expensive.


Sears' Mountain Dew Code Red Iftar. Great First Meal.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ramadan Night, Old Cairo

Old Cairo comes alive after the sun goes down during Ramadan. Once the city center, Old Cairo remains a sort of flashback to the past after Progress moved north along the Nile to what is now Downtown, Zamalek and Garden City. The narrow, unpaved streets wind in every which direction, testifying to the utter lack of city planning in this historic district. Think Disney's Aladdin. After iftar--the breaking of the day's fast at sundown--it feels as though the day begins. People come out of their homes, shops and cafes open, children and men play soccer in the streets. The commotion doesn't begin dying down until after the last meal before sunrise, beginning the following day's fast, around 4:30am.

Thrice I have been to Old Cairo thus far, and not once have I seen another foreigner. Last night, I took the metro into Old Cairo with my buddy, Sears, to meet up with a few Egyptian friends. We congregated at a cafe somewhere in the Middle-Of-Nowhere. The cafe, run by an old, extremely friendly Cairene, Nani, was spilling out into the streets after iftar. Tables and chairs were set up on both sides of the streets with men smoking sheesha, playing backgammon, drinking tea, and watching the single television on Nani's patio. Sears and I were set in chairs facing a large group of men watching the television serving the patio of Nani's cafe. Half engaged in lazy conversation, Sears and I were suddenly awoken from our daze by two men on the patio shouting at each other. It escalated quickly. Shouts turned to shoves, two men turned into about twenty, a quiet patio transformed to chaos in a matter of seconds. I sat with my legs crossed, Sears with his hands behind his head, both relaxed. One of us, I don't remember which, commented on how the situation's entertainment value was directly correlated with how physical it became.

This went on for a minute or two before Nani was able to calm everyone down and get back to their seats. No blows were thrown, but I did see an older man slap a kid in the face pretty hard. When relative calm was resumed, I asked my Egyptian friend, Mohay, what in Allah's name the problem was. This is what I learned:

During Ramadan, a bunch of new television shows are released which people refer to as, "series." Each series airs a new episode daily for the entire month of fasting, usually right after iftar while people are getting ready for the day (night). From what I can tell, the series are extremely popular among younger generations--it's sort of like an entire season of Friends or Sex and the City airing within a month's time. So this particular night, a patio full of men were watching the next series episode of a Cairene, Friends, when someone grabbed the remote and changed the station to an Egyptian football game (soccer). One guy on the patio became really angry, really quickly, speaking out against his offender.

While Mohay was telling me this I began to consider, as are those of you still reading this, the boldness of the man who would openly express his fury in this situation. If you're at a bar in the states and Dude A is watching Friends, and Dude B grabs the remote to put on Monday Night Football, Dude A says nothing. If he does, Dudes B, C, D, etc., pretty much gain the right to ridicule, if not physically overcome Dude A under full protection of the law. I didn't really say much, because I thought there might some sort of cultural misunderstanding. However, Mohay said the guy wanting to watch the series was outnumbered by every other guy on the patio. (I guess he deserves respect for boldness). He then told me that, in Egypt, wanting to watch a series over a game is for Khowels (see Cairo, Day 2).

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Disney Presents: Mount Sinai!!!

After two weeks of living the Egyptian city life where I've accomplished next to nothing save a few Egyptian phrases, I decided I needed a vacation. Thursday night, Sears, Zoe (American expat working in Cairo), and I took a bus to Dahab, a small city on Red Sea in Sinai. Last night, from Dahab, we were herded into a micro bus with 12 other travelers at 11:00pm to St. Catherine's monastery. The ride lasted two hours through the mountains and the driver frequently passed cars on the two-lane highway with blind-spots ahead and no headlights.

At this point, my interpretation of the situation at hand was that, if we survived the bus ride, we were going to hike up Mt. Sinai from the monastery, through the wee hours of the morning, and watch the sunrise from the very place Moses and the Lord hung out 6000 years ago. Yeah, I know, it sounds awesome.

Upon arriving at the St. Catherine's parking lot, I couldn't help but notice an abundance of buses and 1500 people standing around in small groups, taking instructions from any of the hundreds of Bedouin men also in the parking lot. We exit the bus, and are approached by a man named Mohammed, who introduced himself as our guide. He told us our group's name in Arabic, "Habibbi," in case we were separated--evidently staking his claim of white people for the night.

It's 1:30am, and I'm annoyed. I do not enjoy following man-made dirt paths up desert mountains. More so, I do not like being led up a dirt path by a small man that keeps shouting directives at me and grabbing my arm to make sure I don't get too far ahead of the group. And finally, I detest walking up dirt paths in a line of 1500 people as if following Pied Piper. Mohammed would make the group take breaks at 10 minutes intervals atop every other switchback where inevitably there were STORES selling Coca-cola products and bags of Fritos. Also, literally every 20 yards on the moon-lit path for the first half of the hike there were Bedouin men sitting with their camels trying to sell you a ride to the top. I refused upwards of 50 Camel rides last night. The price was negotiable, starting at 85le (approximately $15). I assumed the prices had risen since Moses' day.

Finally, I had enough. Ignoring Mohammed, I left the group, set my own pace, and reached the summit of the revered peak around 3:45am. Once there, I found a spot away from the well-lit cafe, and pretended I didn't hear any of the 50 men loudly advertising their mattresses and blankets for rent. I fell asleep briefly, only to be awoken by 1500 people arriving to claim their spots for the sunrise, talking loudly, taking photographs in the dark, and generally giving it their best to piss me off.

Whatever. The sun rose. It was bastardized by a crowd of tourists posing like idiots aside brown men and small ceramic effigies of pyramids. The pyramids have nothing to do with Moses and Mt. Sinai and are located hundreds of miles away on the mainland of Egypt but, hell, it's all in the same country and they're just trying to make a few bucks.

Oh yeah, at St. Catherine's monastery, you can go in and pay to see the actual burning bush that God used to speak to Moses. Naturally, it's still alive. Also, many Christian academics believe the biblical Mt. Sinai to be northeast of St. Catherine's, closer to Jordan. FML.

Aside from that, Dahab was fun. Hung out and went snorkeling in the Red Sea.

Not True.

So intimate.

Just lovely.

Dahab beach.

An example of what every single restaurant looks like in Dahab,
without exception.

See the land across the Red Sea? That's Saudi Arabia.
This is about as close to Saudi as I'll ever get.
Fine by me.

Until next time...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Cairo, Day 12

In Walden, Thoreau says, "The grand necessity, then, for our bodies, is to keep warm, to keep the vital heat in us." Well, these days, loss of the vital heat within me is of no concern.
Forecast for this next week:

Tues - 104
Wed - 103
Thurs - 104
Fri - 105
Sat - 104
Sun - 103

Rahimahullah (May Allah have mercy upon him)

Pictures around Cairo.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Cairo, Day 7

It would be foolish of me to start off this entry with generalized statements on Egyptian culture. I have been here seven days. “Cairo is…” or, “Egyptians are…” are not phrases I am yet qualified to make. Perhaps I never will be—such statements are too often made in haste. One might have an awful experience in a taxi (not unlikely here); another might be invited to a dinner party (also not unlikely). However, this does not mean that all Egyptians are looking to take advantage of Westerners, nor does it mean all Egyptians are hospitable. A more appropriate response might be, “Man, I had a really shitty cab driver the other day,” or, “Gosh, I met the nicest Egyptian family…” or, more simply, “My experience was…”

I have had a pretty positive experience in Cairo looking back on my first week. Here are some highlights:

-Thus far, the majority of the cab rides I have taken have instilled in me a healthy fear of driving in this country. I’d feel safer free-soloing Maiden Voyage in the Black Canyon than taking a taxi on the Corniche (river road along the Nile) downtown during rush hour. Like the states, there are lines in the road designating lanes; however, unlike the states, the lines serve absolutely no purpose. From the airport our cab driver was literally driving aside five cars on a three-lane highway as I thought for the first time in a year of climbing ice, rock and skiing powder, “I really wish I had health insurance.” Were there enough space between our car and the one adjacent us, I could have stuck my torso out of the window and tuned our neighbor’s radio.

-This past week, I thought I had been witnessing an odd Egyptian custom when men would chuckle immediately after being introduced to me. Yesterday I learned how wrong I was during my first Arabic lesson with my friend Mohay. Mohay had me introduce myself and conduct a very simple conversation with an older man sitting at a table next to us in a run-down cafĂ© in Old Cairo. As usual, the man began to laugh after hearing my name, as did Mohay. I asked him why. In Arabic, “Hunter” is the name of a historical Arab hero who, from the description Mohay gave me, resembles Hercules. One can now say “Hunter” to refer to a “very strong, hard, confident man,” according to Mohay. Naturally, I found that awesome and wondered where the humor set in. Mohay then informed me “Hunter” has also become slang to refer to a man’s penis.

-I joined the Cairo Ultimate Frisbee club and now plan on playing ultimate one to two times per week. I don't particularly care for ultimate, but it's a good way to meet people.

-Mohay told me there is a big futbol tournament in the streets during Ramadan, which is fast approaching. He said I could join his team. Five vs. five in the streets of the island in the Nile next to Old Cairo. Could be cool.

That's it.


PS- It's so F-ing hot here.

The above pictures are of the American University of Cairo, my new school.
The first displays their dedication to using water in an efficient and responsible fashion in this God-forsaken desert. I'm so proud.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Cairo, Day 2

Last night my buddy Sears and I hired a felucca, a small sailboat, to cruise around the Nile. His two Egyptian friends joined us, Islaam and Mohay, as well as an American traveler named Krista and a Croatian living in Cairo, Valentina. We brought a few Stellas—Egyptian beer most certainly not to be confused with Belgium’s Stella Artois. As you would expect, there are many cultural differences between Egypt and the States. To put it mildly I will, without doubt, have a much easier time living here in Cairo as a man than if I were a woman. On the boat, Mohay was cluing me in on a few Egyptian phrases to use in an altercation with a local. One of the words Mohay taught me was, “khowel.” He said it between gasps for breath because he was laughing hysterically, explaining that a “khowel” would be “like a man who cooks for a woman.”

I’m cooking burritos tonight for Alan and I. As well as Krista, Valentina and two girls named Chelsea and Erinn.


Prior to Leaving for Cairo I was able to make it to Rhinelander, WI for my family reunion. Here are several photos of my brothers (Taylor climbing), my mom and I. Also, I am a golf champion.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Paris, Jim Beam, Hopefully Cairo

Greetings Friends,
Off to Cairo! I'll spare the details of the past nine months and suffice it to say I hit a couple speed bumps, but am now well on my way. In fact, I'm writing this from the airport in Paris where I'll be spending the next 7 hours of my life awaiting my flight to Cairo and ignoring Parisians!
Some highlights of my journey thus far:

1) My mom escorted me through security in the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport and waited with me until I boarded the plane. I suspect her intentions were twofold:
a) Being the wonderful mother she is, she wanted to see off her eldest son prior to his 2-year stint in a foreign country.
b) I'm confident she was expecting to step in and take the hit if we'd run into any trouble at the security gate.
2) I woke up after a short nap somewhere over the Atlantic to notice the flight attendant had just passed my row with our second meal. I patiently waited until she cycled through all of the rows and was back in the prep area before approaching her for my meal. Her word-for-word response was, "you snooze, you lose." I held back about a half-dozen comments that immediately came to mind and turned to walk back to my seat. She stopped me and handed me my food, but not before letting out an irritated sigh.
3) After landing, I discovered the business elite/1st class private lounge below one of the terminals. There is free internet access which I am currently utilizing to write this to you all. There is also free food, free drinks, and free booze (self-serve, including Jim Beam). I know there are a few of you that won't believe me, so I took a photo:

My postulate is that, upon learning of my flight reservation, Paris decided to try and make amends for treating me so poorly the last couple times. I can't be bought. But I will have a drink.