Tuesday, December 28, 2010
- spending time with childhood friends I haven't seen in over 10 years
- attending my first Kuwaiti wedding
- dipping my toes in the beautiful Gulf
- having too much chai haleeb, Kuwaiti milky tea in the very old Souq Mubarkia
- going to a horse riding competition
Kuwait, I will be back.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
So as I mentioned before, I was born and raised in Kuwait for the first 11 years of my life. Despite all of those years, I'm back in Kuwait after 10 years... and I don't remember a thing! I thought maybe my memory will be jogged by the things around me, but things just look so different and... smaller? I think I was just much smaller so things seemed so big when I was a kid.
The things I do remember: my school (Kuwait English School), the big (not-so-big) supermarket, the building where I used to live (but I have no idea how to get to).... okay so maybe I don't actually remember that much.
However, I'm meeting up with friends I haven't seen in 10 years. This is by far the best thing about re-visiting Kuwait.
I'll post about the best of Kuwait soon :) I'm too busy taking it all in for the moment.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
1. You can go grocery shopping alone
2. You bake
So yesterday, I did both of those things! I was out and realized we're missing a few things and that I was close to the store where we usually buy our groceries, so I just popped in and bought a few things. Alone. It felt kind of weird and great :)
Naturally, I also bought some ingredients that I normally wouldn't buy if I was on the road: cinnamon, brown sugar, a big block of chocolate, walnuts... It just felt like a great day to bake something. One of the blogs I love is Joy the Baker's cooking/life blog. Makes my day that much sweeter. The reason you normally wouldn't bake while on the road is the simple fact that baking requires utensils and ingredients that aren't everyday, for example, whisks, flour, brown sugar, etc.
I made some delicious apple crisp last night. And I feel closer to living in Egypt than just being here for a visit.
Monday, December 13, 2010
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Saturday, December 11, 2010
This should give you a good hint: http://www.google.com.eg/imgres?imgurl=http://thegulfregion.com/images/the_gulf_region.png&imgrefurl=http://thegulfregion.com/&h=599&w=623&sz=87&tbnid=k6kqNe6Afc0r0M:&tbnh=131&tbnw=136&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dgulf%2Bregion&zoom=1&q=gulf+region&usg=__g5qPh45jOZ6kALwbUASa9QgKng0=&sa=X&ei=S2oDTZTcKIyWOv-nzaYB&ved=0CEAQ9QEwBQ
Definitely can't wait to get back on the road!
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Friday, December 3, 2010
I think it's a great idea and it's definitely something I would love to go on one day.
It also reminds me of The Way of St James, a religious pilgrimage that takes place in Northern Spain, the route of which has been adopted by people of all sorts of religious and spiritual backgrounds.
There seems to be something about walking along a certain path that connects you with history and takes you on your very own quest for meaning.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Henna. My beautiful Mauritanian henna. That no one in Egypt really thought was beautiful at all. I loved it. I loved the fact that it was new and interesting and different. It reminded me of a beautiful time spent in a country that was not like anything I've ever experienced. Then I went back to Egypt. Beauty is only defined in terms of what is familiar and known. Anything different is deemed bizarre and receives looks of wonder mixed with... disgust? I can't quite place it.
Four weeks later and all that remains is the nail henna. It only disappears as your nails grow, so this will be with me for a while. And yet the comments keep on rolling about how I really shouldn't have done "this". I loved my Mauritanian henna. But the pressure to cover up what remains of it is strong. Sigh.
Just another reassurance that the concept of "beauty" is a completely undefined and subjective one.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
These are the gist of the lyrics to one of my favorite songs right now. It says so much about life. These are my hopes for you..
I Hope You Dance - Lee Ann Womack
I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat
But always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small
When you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens
Promise me you'll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances
But they're worth taking
Lovin' might be a mistake
But it's worth making
Don't let some hell bent heart
Leave you bitter
When you come close to selling out
Give the heavens above
More than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
Monday, November 29, 2010
- You don't actually remember how long you've been here for.
- You no longer take a picture a day.
- You no longer notice all the people who smoke indoors (especially where it's illegal).
- You can give a taxi driver directions and not get lost.
- The taxi driver can't tell right away that you're not from here (but he will figure it out eventually).
- You finally find a proper gym to join.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
As I'm leaving the one I wanna take
Somehow, I've become very good at saying goodbye. It started out by telling everyone "I will only say see you laters, no goodbyes" but that quickly turned into "goodbyes". Sometimes I sit and wonder how I managed to pack my bags and leave everyone and everything I've held near and dear for the last ten years. July 2010 I said too many goodbyes to count. I told everyone see you later, but in essence, they were all goodbyes. Every time I'm in a country long enough, I long to keep moving, which means more goodbyes. If I get too comfortable somewhere, I say, keep going. Is a feeling of comfort such a terrible thing when traveling?
There now steady love, so few come and don't go
Will you won't you, be the one I always know
When I'm loosing my control, the city spins around
You're the only one who knows, you slow it down
Recently, many friends have been asking me when I'll be coming back to Canada, coming home. See, I have a small personal problem with the word "home". I was born in Kuwait, where you don't get the nationality if you're not originally a Kuwaiti, so your ID card always says Foreigner. I moved to Canada in middle school. Culture shock at 11 years old. Foreigner. I just moved to Egypt, what some people might consider my "home" (even though I've never lived here for more than a month or two during the summer break) because of my ethnicity, yet somehow, everything I do and everything I say seems to be Foreign. The taxi drivers can usually tell I'm not "from here" before I even open my mouth. In the countries I visit, whether for research or tourism, I am the Foreigner. Home connotes a base camp. A place of constant familiarity. Somewhere your heart longs to be. You can see why I have a small problem with "home". My heart longs to be everywhere on this Earth, exploring, discovering, unearthing.
She says most assuredly
Be my baby
I'll look after you
Maybe I've become good at saying goodbyes because I dislike being attached to a geographical location. I feel it limits your character, your ideas, your thoughts. So in a way, maybe I'm homeless (donations welcome). And yet, there is some sort of longing for something familiar that is starting to rise to the surface. If I could personally define what "home" means to me, this longing might be called.... homesickness.
(Look After You, The Fray)
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
I didn't stay for very long at all and I didn't visit the Sahara (unfortunately) but Nouakchott (the capital) was interesting enough. It was much more about the people I met and the Pular culture I experienced than it was about the actual city.
A Mauritanian wedding affair! Glitz, glamour, good music that's too loud, food that's actually pretty yummy, a singer, a comedian, and every cousin in the family!
Tea - the more bubbles the better. An aspect very similar to Moroccan tea.
Henna session. Very very detailed work.
How the henna lady makes sure you don't ruin her 1.5 hours of work: she wraps your hands in (pink) tissue paper then covers each hand with a (blue) plastic bag, then asks you to stay like that for 3 hours. Ya.
The infamous stray goats! The reason I took this terrible pic in the dark was because I felt so weird jumping out of the car and taking a picture of them in broad daylight. They were really cute though, I promise.
Click on the pics for a larger image!
At the Hassan II mosque - the third largest mosque in the world after the Grand Mosque in Mecca and the Prophet's mosque in Medina (both in Saudi Arabia). Postcard-much?
View from the inside.
The name of the road where my hotel/hostel was located. Gotta chose wisely ;)
Rabat (capital city)
View of the Atlantic Ocean from a terrace in the Old Medina.
At the Jardins Exotiques, a huge landscape of interesting looking flowers and gardens just outside of Sale (a city right next to Rabat).
Zellig details inside a small mosque. Can't really remember the name...
(It says: Alizato Lelah - Glory be to God)
Inside one of the most peaceful places on Earth: Kairouan Mosque. Also reportedly the first university in the world. Close your eyes, feel the breeze, listen to the fountains, take in the sunshine, make a prayer.
At the infamous leather tanneries. Pretty smelly place to be honest.
Moroccan henna session!
At Clock Cafe, one of the best places I visited, just inside Bab Jeloum in Fez Medina.
Fassi Master calligrapher Mohammad Charkaoui writes my name in my favorite style during my one on one calligraphy class at Clock Cafe.
My first plate of Moroccan couscous with my friend Ab. Two adults couldn't finish this plate.
It's not called Red Marrakesh for no reason! Another favorite door.
Fresh home made bread daily? Yes please! Perks of staying with a family and not in a hotel.
At the beautiful (but small) Jardin Majorelle, dedicated to Marakkech by Yves St Laurent.
Friday, November 5, 2010
Please click on the pictures for a larger size.
Some pictures from my adventures in Tunisia.
The oh-so-very European downtown area.
Statue of Ibn Khaldoun, a famous Islamic scholar and philosopher.
My absolute favourite door in Tunisia. Found in the Old Medina (ancient city).
Is this a beach resort? Nope, just a clearing between the tight alleyways in the Old Medina.
Red hot peppers - a staple in every Tunisian meal. Used to make Harira, a spicy paste used to cook with.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
Toilet paper*: oh the joys of shared bathrooms. Enough said.
Mid sized towel: works well for everyday as well as shower usage, and doesnt take up as much room in you luggage.
Small soap bar*
Shampoo, shower gel*
Shoes that double as slippers or shower shoes (such as crocs).
COURAGE to not be weirded out be creepy front desk men.
* = can be bought from any local convenience store if you dont want to carry them around.
Fez, Morocco, is a city that makes me smile and puts my soul at ease. Such a wonderful mix of old, new, tradition, modernity, spirituality, open mindedness... things I believe work together and not against each other.
Of the cities I've visited in Morocco so far, Fez has a certain... je ne sais quoi... which makes me sure that this will not be my last time here.
I'm off to Marakkesh tomorrow morning, with hopes of finding a similarly capturing city.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
The people in Tunisia are some of the kindest I've met. There are, just like in any other city, the creepers and the plain weirdos, but there is such a strong sincerity and helpfulness from everyone else that makes up for all of that.
And dont get me started on Tunisian food. Yum.
One thing I still cant get used to: the way the letters are all in different places on the keyboard at Internet (called: Publinet) cafes.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
Check back often!
Friday, October 8, 2010
Monday, October 4, 2010
(Embedding is disabled. Song is: Ever the same by Rob Thomas)
This song has been a long-standing favorite of mine thanks to a good friend sending it to me way back in the day. Haven't heard it in a while, but listening to it now makes me think: can someone really stay the same over a long period of time?
fall on me
tell me everything you want me to be
forever with you
forever in me
ever the same
Is it not an integral part of human nature to continuously change and move forward? What if we remained completely static, unchanging in our behaviours, standards, and more importantly, our ideas? Does change make us hypocrites or innovators? What is it about personal change that very often terrifies us?
when you call on me
ill be there for you and you'll be there for me
forever its you
forever in me
ever the same
Personal Identity is a concept that runs amok in my brain. I believe in a flexible identity that learns and moves forward. But remains true to what it believes is essential in this life. Some disagree. I ask them to have courage to understand themselves and not be so self-denying and critical. They might learn lessons they never thought possible. Change does not have to be for the worse; change is very often the catalyst needed to push us forward to greater things.
I tried to make Creme Caramel. I discovered that I don't have a problem with following recipes, but with local ingredients. For example, vanilla powder in Canada is strong. Usually a pinch will suffice. In Egypt, vanilla powder is actually vanilla and sugar mixed together, so you need much more than a pinch. Hence, creme caramel that tastes like eggs (using vanilla powder makes desserts that have eggs in the ingredients taste less eggy). Another example: eggs in Egypt are kind of massive and really strongly flavored. Great for omlettes; terrible for creme caramel. Hence, creme caramel that tastes like really thick custard.
Lesson of the day: know your local ingredients before trying to feed people you love.
Farmland on the way to Mahala, in the Nile Delta area, north of Cairo.
Taxi from my house to the Metro (underground) station.
Metro to main train station, downtown Cairo.
Where I discovered there are no more tickets on the train from Cairo to Mahala (priceless).
Metro to bus stop area (Mazallat).
Microbus from Mazallat to coach buses stop area (SuperJet).
SuperJet to Mahala (finally).
Car ride to friend's house.
Fun times riding every possible method of transportation in Cairo...
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Take yourself out of all of your familiar surroundings and you'll realize that fitting in a good workout is much more difficult than expected. When I left the city I called home for 10 years (Mississauga, Ontario, Canada) and moved temporarily to another (Cairo, Egypt), I figured I would just join a gym and get going. However, things didn't exactly "work out" as planned. For several reasons:
1. I love to run. A woman running outdoors on the streets of Cairo isn't something the locals are used to, so I figured I would save myself the stares (and the possible harassment).
2. Most people who workout do so in something called a nady which is basically a sporting club with teams and facilities and general happiness. I am not part of a nady.
3. Joining a private gym requires selling one of your kidneys at the black market to afford the costs. Not something I'm willing to do.
However, I am saved. I had started doing Pilates last year in a class, and had even bought a book (the one above) and it was all going pretty great until I started traveling in July. So today I decided that I will put all of those reasons above aside and do something. I pulled out the book and looked up YouTube videos and got going. And it felt great - even if I currently feel like someone used me as a punching bag. But I guess that's what I get for not working out for 3 months.
Trying to figure out how to keep to a fitness schedule while you're on the road is pretty difficult, and it's something I need to seriously consider now that I'm going back on the road oh so soon (stay tuned ;). So here are some tips:
- Utilize your resources. Try taking a biking tour around Barcelona instead of a bus tour. Walk your way to your next city-tour-stop instead of taking a cab. Save your money and get some cardio in.
- Do what you already do. If you're used to starting out every day with a 20 minute powerwalk, then go take a 20 minute powerwalk wherever you are. It will not only help you wake up, but it will make your day seem a bit more normal, as well as help you familiarize yourself with your new city.
- Try a new adventure. Worried about riding that horse in the Giza desert? Scared of jumping off a cliff in Venezula and into the river below you? Not too sure about that surfing lesson you signed up for on the coast of Melbourne? Go for it! Travel is all about new experiences and adventures. And if you get your butt kicked along the way, that's alright.
So remember what they say: The healthy mind is in the healthy body (Arabic Proverb).
Monday, September 27, 2010
Here is a summary of what's been going on. (Click on the pics for a larger version.)
Mosque Chandelier, Cairo.
(The big blue and white mosque in front of City Stars Mall)
Thank God for Second Cup. Go Canada!
City Stars Mall, Cairo.
Eid Cookies/Biscuits. Can't have Eid without them!
Islamic Cairo once again
An alleyway off of Mouizz Street.
Shadows play inside Beit El Seheemy, House of Seheemy, a beautiful 14th century house.
Mystery staircases, Beit El Seheemy.
Al Hakim Mosque. Breathtaking and completely unjustified by any picture.
From the inside of Al Azhar Mosque.
In the courtyard of the Sultan Hassan Mosque. Colossal and built in the 14th century under the Mamluks rule. The structure in the middle is where someone could have a drink of water or make their ablutions before prayers. The alcove seen is one of four in the courtyard where each of the four Islamic schools of thought were taught, all in the same mosque.
Going on a snorkeling trip on the Red Sea in the city of Hurghada.
The view from Paradise Island in the Red Sea. It isn't called Paradise Island for nothing.
And then two dolphins came out to play!
Watched people kite surf. I'm SO gonna learn this sport one day!
I was so sad to not have an underwater camera with me when I went snorkeling :(
But then I found out that there's an aquarium! So I snapped away. Absolutely beautiful coral reef fish that make you wonder about the underwater world. Also, I saw Dory and all of Nemo's family (but not Nemo, unfortunately. He must have been on one of his crazy escapades...)
That's it for the summary.