Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Rage against the institute

Today I learnt what it means to be a professional in Egypt and although I had long ago learnt that a junior doctor earns at 250 egyptian junay I couldn’t understand how they managed to live on it, and the person I am closest to I know has been saving for an apartment along with her husband so they can finally move in together what I didn’t realise was what she was earning.

I assumed all was financially well as she was working in a international school and I paid in euros not even in the standard dollars! So when yesterday my lump sum tuition fees ran out we started to talk about Egypt and the current situation when I asked her how much she earns an hour. She looked really uncomfortable and being even more curious now I got her to tell me.

Honestly I was not prepared for the shock its ludicrous, and she doesn’t even get paid for holidays or sick leave. I am royally peed to say the least. It been me and sara for 4 months now, I don’t see anyone else from the institute nor do I have any contact with them, nor do they enrich my life in anyway so where my money is going I don’t know but its not going to the one person it should.

I am considering pulling out of the school now since my 4months advance payment has run out. I do have my level 3 wad sitting around but the payment system is soooo unjust that there is no way am going to contribute to it and I don’t give a toss what that may mean for my Arabic while am here!!!

Monday, May 28, 2007

farewell shari khalid ibn al-walid

I have had the craziest week since packing my bag and heading for Alexandria. The best bit being that it feels like half of Manchester is here. I had a beautiful two days with sarah and liz in my ex-flat and met mariam and salma two of sarah travelling buddies.

The stressors of the week were being almost homeless, the flat I had planned to move into to with sarah fell through mainly because someone went back on our agreement this is were it helps to have a man doing your bidding again! The poor girls had to help me move to bangles and Md’s old hotel with the famous ‘adil.

While all this was going on I had my end of level exam to revise for but I had to put school on hold. I have never revised in so many different places before, on trains, in cafes, at tourist attraction sites and so forth.

But Alhamdulilah and as I write this am sat in my hotel room about to go in search of breakfast/lunch since I slept in. I just found out who does the laundry and cleans the rooms, they are both really sweet elderly man which is totally crap as I can’t deal with the idea of someone in there sunset years cleaning up after me! Looks like its lundary in the institute as usual and keeping my room incredibly tidy.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Amina and Alex

Amina had been here since last Saturday, a total of 10 days and its been greeting having her, she is one of those amazing house guest that you hope could just stay on. We didn't know each other all the well so it a lovely experience spending some quality time together. The following are the highlights of trip.

On the night she arrived we went out to dinner at Balba this amazing Syrian restaurant which in the middle of a very ordinary looking area but my is it amazing, you are served at least 10 starts before you even order, definitely a must experience in alex. We had a beautiful meal and the waiter could tell from Amina’s Arabic that she wasn’t Egyptian and asked the usual question “where are you from” which then lead to the debate of whether Somali is an arab country and the linguist classification of Somali.

Then we left and walked around to explore a hijab shop when a man stumbled out of an alleyway next to the shop amina and i were in, clutching his stomach because he was dripping blood, it looked like he had been stabbed! The Egyptian ladies looked horrified as we did but I have to admit there reactions were a little more animated then ours, it was all over in a split second and a taxi took him to the hospital but what an experience on your night of arrival especially as I had been telling her how ridiculously save alex is and how nothing happens and people are out with their families in the wee hours of the morning, but there is nothing like an incident like that to make you doubt.

Then the day after we went to discover the zoological gardens at somuha, I have never been a fan of zoo’s I think its unnatural to cage wild animals for our pleasure but I have never had a crazy urge to either cry or run around the zoo unlocking doors whilst shouting, be free be free.But that’s just what I felt there so Never again I say

Then because I had breakfast at 7am by out 4pm I was really low on sugar and needed food. I got my food first took my tray and found a place for us to sit, when I amina approached I tried to stand up so I could move my bag and I have no idea what happened but my tray tipped and one minute my food was on the plate and then next I was wearing it. I stood there with rice and chicken covering half of my upper body and lap thinking “oh joy” then I grabbed my napkin and started to wipe it of when amina realised what had happened, the miskeena walahi she looked sooo embarrassed and quickly ushered us away from the scene of the crime then I had to walk all the way back to the Chinese food outlet and re-order the exact same meal whilst covered in it and left amina to wait for it while I walked into the bathroom to sort myself out.

I walked into the bathroom and the first girl to see me looked horrified and then she looked at me with concern and pity, which made me wonder if I should be embarrassed but the strange thing was I wasn’t fussed at all. When my skirt was semi dried (all the layers I wear certainly came in handy) from the hand drier I went out, ate my meal and then we moved across to Cilantro and carried on as normal. Maybe I should have felt a twinge of something but nope. Hmm is that healthy to be so unconcerned especially when amina and random strangers were embarrassed on my behalf.

We managed to do Islamic and pharaohnic cairo in one day, needless to say when we made it back to alex just before midnight we both collapsed and woke up at 12pm the next day. Definitely an experience and now we know it doable if somewhat unhinged.

I have been revising for the end of my level 2 exam but amina being so resourceful got in touch with her emiratie school mates and managed to see the whole of alex. It turns out that in my time here I have broken sooo many Egyptian etiquettes and have frequented the dodgiest of place. Etiquettes such as girls do not go to the beach by themselves…opps am planning on still doing that. And apparently montazah gardens after sunset are a place were ladies of the night frequent toting for business…Astagfirallah but I have to say the sunset is incredible there. And Ibrahimya where I shop for tops and shoes and things is apparently not the safest of area. I am I planning on changing my ways..hmmmm

Thursday, May 10, 2007

kitchens and accidents

So there I am exploring my culinary skills!....okay I was making beef stir-fry from my beginners cook book but it was the first time I marinated anything so leaving the beef in a concoction to marinate was a colossal achievement. 30 minutes later I completed the stir-fry and saying Its scrumptious is an apt description. This explains why at the point of my little accident I was skipping around my tiny kitchen putting things away.

I retrieved a plate from a cabinet and went to the sink to run some water over it while singing along to cat stevens “oh very young” in a tone deaf, rhythmically challenged, no one should ever be subjected to kind of voice when the plate slipped out of my hand fell on the edge of the sink and slit my wrist opened (or so it felt like at the time)

After staring at my wrist for a life time I had to turn down the rice I had boiling, try and shove a top over my head and don a hijab all with one hand whilst trying to stop the bleeding with a bit of paper towel, put some shoes on, grab my keys and purse and went to the pharmacy downstairs.

Only to be met by a lady on the phone who seems content for me to bleed all over her counter while she conducted her very lively and amusing conversation. By the time I was ready to break the glass on her counter and grab some plasters myself she turns around to me with a beaming smile and asks me what I wanted, Arggh so short of assaulting her I showed her my gaping wound and she looked at it in that nonchalant Egyptian ma-lesh kind of way. Which made me want to throttle her, she then offered me the only size plasters she had which were ridiculously small for the size of my injury. I also had to grab so cleaning solution and some cotton wool which I was informed was 100% Egyptian cotton, at this point who cares am about to lose a limp.

So I come up find that my rice is surprising cooked and the plasters she gave me actually fit my wound while the 100% Egyptian cotton felt rather nice. Ah well ….

Sunday, May 06, 2007


The need for solitude has always been very short lived with me. I am at my best in a social setting, I am when of 7 so from as long as I can conceivably remember I have always been surrounded by noise, tears, arguments, discussions, but mostly laughter and I grew up associating laughter and happiness with people. So I have to admit living alone in a foreign country in the beginning was difficult and I did what I do best, make several arrangements to go out and meet with friends and work on new ones.

But being alone as strange and silent and avoidable as I wanted to make it it was most noticeable and present at night and more so at the early hours of the morning, especially at Fajr. When you’re in a large flat by yourself the presence of your lord is almost tangible, it’s special and there is a bare vulnerability that radiates from you that the world normally masks with all its noise and crazy commotion.

When all that is striped away you have the opportunity to look at the core of you, with all that makes you, the beauty, the imperfections, the failings, the success. An insight such as that forces you to take a fresh look within yourself in a way that if you choose to will allow you to illuminate the good and work on the bad. Essentially you become truly re-acquainted with yourself and what a canvas to work with the human soul is.

The cave of Hira was the sanctuary of the Rasul (saw) and I have come to internalise that we all need a place where we can simply BE in the presence of the creator.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Venezuela quits IMF and World Bank

I just had to share this story, Hugo boy makes my day everytime. Here are snipts of the Guardian article.

The Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, today severed ties with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. In doing so he distanced Caracas further from what he described as Washington-dominated institutions.

The populist leader, (popular indeed, i would vote for him if i could) who took office pledging to pursue radical political reform and an economic "third way", said yesterday that Venezuela no longer needed institutions "dominated by US imperialism". (true true)

Venezuela has been loosening its ties to the IMF and the World Bank since Mr Chávez took office in 1999. Venezuela recently repaid its debts to the World Bank five years ahead of schedule. In doing so it saved $8m (£3.99m) and cleared all its debts to the IMF shortly after Mr Chávez was elected. ( Can you imagine the positive effect this would have on the world if every country followed suite)

Mr Chávez said the takeover marked the end of an era of Washington-dictated policies and returned Venezuelan resources to national control.
"The wheel has turned full circle," he said. (way to put it Hugo, now lets just replicate this world wide)