Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Day 56: Globes

August 31

One of those "YOU ARE HERE" moments. I heart globes. Maps are fun, but globes are just beyond.
This was taken at the home of the hippest, oldest, kindest, fun-est, Egyptian couple I know.

Day 55: Fruit? Vegetable?

August 30

I encountered this interesting looking tomato today. I adore tomatoes. I probably eat one every single day, and have done so for as long as I can remember. Sometimes more than one a day, but don't tell anyone. My day is not complete without enjoying the succulent taste of these fleshy, juicy, sweet, salty, fruit/vegetable round items.

Lets explore my relationship with food for a second. Please. Bear with me.
When I was younger, I used to want to be a food taster. Seriously. A part of me still wants to be just that. When I sit down to eat, I like to enjoy every bite, every flavour, every mouthful. And I've developed the ability to decipher which spices are used in each dish. I'm not a picky eater, so I'll generally give everything a try. I've also developed the ability to properly chew my food. What is it with people now? Everyone is too busy, too hurried, always in a rush to be able to thoroughly enjoy every meal, let alone properly chew their food. I think discovering food is a very important part of discovering new cultures, and I plan on eating something new everywhere I go. To me, Egyptian food is the food I grew up with at home. With a little bit of Palestinian, Lebanese, Italian, and Chinese thrown in for good measure.

I encourage you to take a moment and discover your relationship with food.

Day 54: Kilinix

August 29

Tissues. Or as Egyptians like to call them: kilinix. See a resemblance to a certain brand name?
Thankfully, the sickness is starting to recede.

Tips on what to do when sickness hits while traveling:
- Rest. You will get better sooner. Take a couple of easy days and just do some relaxing activities. Don't kill your whole itinerary, but pick some of the less demanding things to do.
- Stay away from crowded areas. Your immune system is already shot, don't kill it by catching something else.
- Always carry your own medication with you when you travel. In addition to prescribtion meds, this includes painkillers and medication for the flu. Taking medication that you're unfamiliar with can lead to problems. You also don't want to be spending precious time and money looking for a pharmacy and buying medication that may or may not work.
- If things get worse or persist for too long, make sure to visit a proper doctor or hospital.
- Rest. Just in case you thought to ignore it the first time I said it.

Days 51 - 53: Boooooo

August 26 - 28

Pretty sick. In bed. Not cool at all. Trust me, you don't want to see a picture.
Ps: I think it's from the food I ate, not the underground lol
Pss: Also the reason I couldn't update the blog for a bit. Forgive me :(

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Day 50: Marg-Helwan

August 25

My adventures on the Egyptian underground.
So I thoroughly enjoy taking public transportation for some bizarre reason. I love the hoards of people, everyone going somewhere different, all the mutual people watching that occurs, getting lost, etc. I also enjoy the fact that it's cost efficient, less harmful for the environment, and usually faster than driving.
I went out today to get to a friend's house on the other side of the city. In previous years, I would just take a taxi. With the congested traffic (which is 24/7), the trip would take anywhere from 40 minutes to about an hour and I would pay about LE40. This summer, I probably would've paid about LE50/60 (depending on how much haggling I did with the taxi driver) because of the inflation. I decided instead to take my chances and take the underground. There are only 3 lines in Egypt so I figured this can't be too difficult, especially after navigating through a huge portion of the London underground for a week back in July. The first noted difference of course is the lack of maps available for people to use. In order to get somewhere using the Egyptian underground you must do one (or all) of the following:
- Ask someone who knows the lines well (make sure you choose wisely),
- Ask someone who works at the station (they tend to talk to you as if you should already know so make sure you ask for clarification),
- Look for one of those big maps hanging on the walls in the station, but of course this is after you've paid and entered the station, and of course this immediately labels you as a tourist.
I did all three of these things and tried not to stare too much at the maps inside the station. It's a shame that they don't have those little maps that people can take home, especially with the huge number of people who use the underground. Although this makes sense because not very many tourists take the underground and everyone who takes it regularly already knows where they're going.
Anyways, I took one line (Marg-Helwan) and then had to get off downtown and get on another (Giza-Shobra). I did all this and managed not to get lost at all, which given my past with directions, is a very good thing. Another reason I love the underground - it's very difficult to get lost. The whole trip took about 30 minutes each way and I paid:
For the trip there:
- LE 2 taxi from my place to the underground
- LE 1 on the underground
- Walked to my friend's place
For the trip home:
- LE 5 from my friend's place to the underground
- LE 1 on the underground
- LE 4 taxi from the underground to my place
Total cost both ways: LE 13 = about US/CDN $2.5 vs. at least LE100 ($20) by taxi.
Ok, so for those who have tried this method of transportation in Egypt before, I'm sure you're wondering about something very important: the underground is stuffy, hot, and reeks. Yes you're right. The underground is stuffy, hot, and therefore the body odour is not pleasant. But oh well, I've experienced almost the same conditions in London and Toronto (minus the crazy heat).
Also, for women who travel alone, make sure to take one of the womens cars. Heaven sent idea. Always always always far less crowded than the mens cars which means you will either get a seat or at least you won't be stuck in some stranger's face for the whole ride.
While there are some things that can be fixed, I think the underground in Egypt is a good transportation option and one that I will be using more often.
PS: don't try taking pictures in the underground. Another thing that instantly labels you as a tourist.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Day 49: Daisy

August 24

Meet Daisy, the most hyper cat I have ever met. She attacked the camera right after this picture was taken and proceeded to try to EAT it. I also almost lost a couple of fingers to this little one. Small in size but vicious vicious vicious. Again: Egyptian characteristics?

Day 48: Hop Hop

August 23

Playing with Mr Frogspy. First time I've ever seen a frog in Egypt. He was quite slimy and blended in nicely with the mix of grass and dead brown leaves. He didn't even hop away when I touched him or took a picture of him with flash, pretty courageous little Egyptian fellow that one.
(Seriously though, it feels like the animals of each country take on the same characteristics as their people for some reason...no?)

Day 47: Out of the box

August 22

Nothing quite beats having iftar (breaking your fast) out of a box in a park at the children's playground. Ok, so it was only a kofta (minced meat) sandwich with some ketchup and some fries. Still. Pretty awesome park too.
(Contact me for volunteering opportunities in Egypt.)
Al-Azhar Park, Cairo, Egypt.

Day 46: Suhoor

August 21

Eating waaay too much food at 2am. Suhoor is the meal Muslims have before Fajr/dawn prayers during Ramadan to prepare for a day of fasting.

Wiped out plates. It looks kind of gross, but the fool (fava beans) and the tameiya (falafel) and the tahini were delicious.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Day 45: Cars..?

August 20

If you want to go anywhere in Cairo, do it about an hour or less from Iftar (break-fast) time in Ramadan. This picture was taken in a very regular road in Cairo in Heliopolis. Where it is NEVER this empty. Also, please note the way my dad is the only one in the country to drive between the dotted lines.

Day 44: "Akhbar, Ahram, Gomhoreya!"

August 19

This is the Al Gomhoreya newspaper building. In case you didn't notice, it looks like a newspaper..
Anyways, Al Gomhoreya = The Republic. This newspaper was established in the '50s by ex-President Gamal Abdel Nasser and is a government newspaper until now. The problem is, the 3 largest newspapers in Egypt (Al Ahram, Akhbar el Youm, and Al Gomhoreya) are all run by the government. You can see the problem with this, no? Fortunately for us, there are many smaller, private newspapers being established, as well as newspapers established by each political party. Just the fact that political parties now exist in Egypt is a step forward from when Nasser ruled, where parties other than the National party didn't even exist. However, people still debate whether these current parties even mean anything, considering that many of them are underhandedly established by the ruling government just to make it seem like we have competing parties and a real "democratic system." Oh Egyptian politics...

Ps: the title of this post is what the newspaper boys who sell newspapers on the street used to say when they call out for people to come buy the fresh-off-the-press newspapers. I think they still do...?

Day 43: Fanoos Ramadan

August 18

Ok so you know Christmas lights? In Egypt, during Ramadan, there are Fawanees (plural) Ramadan. Singular: Fanoos. Fanoos = Lantern. It's that thing in the middle of the picture with light coming out of it. They're so pretty and big and colourful and I REALLY want one but haven't gotten my hands on one just yet. And they're everywhere! Hung in the entrances of buildings, apartments, on streetlights, etc. and they come in all sizes. I shall buy one eventually and post a picture of it.
Note: they used to make them all here in Egypt but recently they've all been imported from China.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Today I Learned...

That it is much easier to stop dreaming than it is to make those dreams a reality. And I'm not one for taking the easy way out.

That the concept of travel writing/journalism is so very foreign in Egypt. Let alone the concept of traveling the world. What is it about exploring different things, different people, different cultures, different ways of thinking, that totally throws people off here?

That when confronted with a very scary looking beast of a spider, you should repeat the following statement to yourself: IT is more scared of ME than I am of IT. Repeat. Take a deep breath. Wake up dad to kill it.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Today I Learned...

That I absolutely love the concept of family :) Even if it's not mine lol

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Day 42: Chicken

August 17

Best idea ever: cold, left-over Shish Tawouk chicken at 1:30am.
Ps: been having a few lazy days, so please excuse all the food postings :p

Day 41: That's Life

August 16

Unfortunately, that's not just how cats live here. People wonder why my heart goes out to the stray animals that live in this country. Many people I know who live in Egypt tell me that there are more important things that I should care about in the country. I guess they're right...but still...
Cairo, Egypt.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Today I Learned...

That I love catching sane people talking to themselves - it just further proves that there's a little bit of crazy inside every one of us.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Day 40: Finally!

August 15

Finally sent out postcards that I was supposed to send out in Turkey :/ Woops.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Day 39: Way back when...

August 14

When people used to hand draw maps and lend them to each other. These are maps showing the way from the Kuwaiti boarders to Makkah and Medina in Saudi Arabia. Someone my dad knows drew these himself on one of his trips and made photocopies for my dad to use. This is what we used to use to drive over during the winter breaks from school. Very very cool.

Day 38: Dessert overload

August 13

Baked dough stuffed with whipped cream (or nuts and raisins) then fried and drenched in sweet syrup. Also known as Atayef. Or Amazingness. *shudder*

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Day 37: More apricot goodness

August 12

Apricot Pudding Party. If you've never had this, make sure you ask an Egyptian (preferably a grandmother) to make you some.

Cairo, Egypt.

Day 36: Drink up

August 11

With the first day of Ramadan comes this very special drink. If you guess correctly what it is, you win a prize.

*Edit: QZ you're the winner! Apricot juice it is. Homemade. Yummmmm!

Day 35: Ready?

August 10

Get Set, Go!
My Ramadan pile.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ramadan Gaana :)

Ramadan is Here!

May it be a blessing for us all. A time to renew intentions and purify our hearts.
Kol sana wento tayebeen :)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Day 34 Last time: Shadows

August 9... Last time

I wonder how long it takes to stop seeing the beautiful in every country? I hope the answer is infinity.
Cairo, Egypt.

Day 34 Continued: Confused Camels

August 9...Again

Oh Hai. Just going for a ride :D
Cairo, Egypt.

Day 34: Vacation?

August 9

Yes, ugly normal things such as flat tires do occur whilst traveling. They also tend to happen in ugly places such as on a bridge on the highway. Joy.
Cairo, Egypt.

Day 33: Red

August 8

Cairo, Egypt: where you can find a place to pray on every corner of every street.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Day 32: Delight?

August 7

4 days after leaving Istanbul and my Turkish Delight stash refuses to end. *sigh*

Friday, August 6, 2010

Today I Learned...

That Syria is the only country to ban Facebook. Surprised? Not entirely. (Thanks A.)
That the biggest thing I miss about being in Turkey is all the people from 30 different countries I met and had lively discussions with.

Day 31: One month

August 6

It's been exactly one month since I've started my journey. And there's something about emptying your boxes of books from Canada on your bookshelf in Egypt that really hits home.

Day 30: Danger

August 5

Chipsy beltamatem - Egyptian ketchup chips. Makes any day better.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Today I Learned...

That: In 1386, a pig in France was executed by public hanging for the murder of a child.
(My friend found it imperative to inform me of this funny fact. Thanks A. :)

That the best things are always learned while traveling.

That the concept of "home" is over rated and under discussed.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Today I Learned...

That there is a fine line between necessities and "stuff". Time to get rid of the stuff.

Day 29: Napkin

August 4

I doodle way too much. Apparently it's supposed to mean something.

Roro: Bye Bye Turkey

Waiting to get on the tiniest plane ever; Istanbul to Cairo, August 3rd.
Roro got a bit of a tan don't you think?

Day 28: Last night

August 3

What's better than being surprised with ice cream? Being surprised with Turkish gelato-ish ice cream. Yum.
Last night in Turkey.

Day 27: Cupcakes

August 2

Quotes, sayings, names, drawings, lists, different languages.
I love my itsy bitsy little notebook :)

Day 26: Star

August 1

Pattern on a large Yemeni scarf that women in Yemen wear around their heads. Belongs to a Yemeni friend I met in Turkey.

Day 25: Orange

July 31

Prayer beads from Djibouti. Belong to a friend I met in Turkey. Did I mention I love prayer beads?