Saturday, December 8, 2012

قد النملة ويعمل عملة

قد النملة ويعمل عملة

"the same size as the ant and does trouble"  which means that although he is tiny at the ant but he is troublemaker

miskuu fi amlitu مسكه في عملته they caught him in the act, they caught him redhanded.

thank you to the friends who helped make this happen. it was amazing. :-P (just fuckign around)

Monday, December 3, 2012

نكران الذات

Shout out to Naser, the taxi driver last night who was trying to explain to me what the term "self-denial" (نكران الذات) means, in Arabic. Thanks dude.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Interview for dissertation on Social Media

Here's the result of an interview I did with John FaganHe used my "Facebook for the War, Twitter for the Battle" quote for one of the titles of his dissertation, which i'm proud of.  :-) I've never met John in person.

Thibaud Smerko, 21/08/2012, 12;16p.m.

Q-Could you state your name, current occupation, your current location, your country of origin and your location at the time of the Egyptian Revolution please.
Thibaud Smerko.Student/unemployed. Cairo, Egypt. FR/USA. Cairo.

Q-Did you have a role to play in the Egyptian revolution? If so, what was your role? If not, what is your connection with Egypt?
I did not have a direct role to play in the Egyptian revolution. Although, I believe that just by talking with Egyptians about problems in the country, this plays a small role and influences their thoughts. I had only been in Egypt for a total of about 6 months before the revolution. I was/am working studying Arabic in Egypt.

Q-Where were you at the initial stages of the Egyptian Revolution? i.e. January 2011
In Egypt. Mainly in the Dokki neighborhood.

Q-How did you first hear about the revolution?
By talking with friends and television.

Q-When did you first encounter information about the Egyptian revolution on social media websites? What social media websites?
On facebook probably sometime in February. I had not been using twitter much at that time.

Q-As a mobilisation tool how effective was Facebook in your opinion?
Facebook was one element which helped galvanized opinions and harden spirits of youth. When you see there are one million plus Egyptians in the same “ we are all Khaled Said” group, you are emboldened. The real mobilization “tool” was the fact that the 25th was a national holiday (police day). So everyone was off of work and had been inspired by what happened in Tunisia.

Q-As a mobilisation tool how effective was Twitter in your opinion?
I don’t know for twitter concerning the initial phases. Later on it was the main tool used by activist in Tahrir and surrounding areas to get supplies, share info.

Q-Which do you feel was more effective as a mobilisation tool, Facebook or Twitter?
Facebook was more effective to build up support in the long run, through groups. Twitter was/is highly effective in the short term.

Q-How effective was Facebook for making the international audience aware of the situation in Egypt?
I don’t know, I wasn’t abroad at the time. I feel like most people living abroad are not connected to Egyptians on Facebook so would not see any posts in their newsfeed. I feel like most of their info would be gotten from traditional news outlets. That being said, a lot of news channels just had their anchors quoting Facebook and twitter the whole time.

Q-How effective was Twitter for making the international audience aware of the situation in Egypt?
More effective than fb because twitter is more public/open.
Q-Which do you feel was more effective as a tool of dissemination or broadcast, Facebook or Twitter?

Q-What was the exact role of social media websites during the Egyptian revolution?
As mentioned above, galvanizing, grouping youth. Showing them that they’re not alone, and that there are millions others like them out there.

Q-In your opinion did social media become a primary media tool at any stage for Egyptian activists during the Egyptian revolution?
I think activists are usually more concerned with immediate happenings on the ground. They’re not connected to the TV stations and don’t have influence on TV stations which is still where most Egyptians get their news from.

Q-Do you feel there were any barriers to using social media as a dissemination or broadcast tool or disadvantages to the use of social media during the revolution?
The masses don’t have access to it. Look up internet penetration numbers in Egypt. They’re still low, and of that number, much less use Facebook and twitter actively.

Q-Were there particular organisations or people responsible for organizing the use of social media as a mobilisation and dissemination tool during the revolution?
I don’t know. I think these things mainly happen organically, word of mouth.

Q-How much of a role do you think social media had to play in the Egyptian revolution? What was its primary use?
Taken from above:
Facebook was one element which helped galvanized opinions and harden spirits of youth. When you see there are one million plus Egyptians in the same “we are all Khaled Said” group, you are emboldened. The real mobilization “tool” was the fact that the 25th was a national holiday (police day). So everyone was off of work and had been inspired by what happened in Tunisia.
I don’t know for twitter concerning the initial phases. Later on it was the main tool used by activists in Tahrir and surrounding areas to get supplies, share info.

Q-Which do you feel was more effective as a mobilisation tool, Facebook or Twitter?
Facebook was more effective to build of support in the long run, through groups. Twitter was/is highly effective in the short term.

Q-What would you consider was more important to the Egyptian revolution, Facebook or Twitter?

Facebook for the war. Twitter for the battles.

Q-Has social media brought about a change in how traditional media relays news, what’s your opinion?
I mentioned this above. They now tend to oftentimes quote social media as unofficial sources. i.e. YouTube videos of Syria. Tweets per second on a certain topic.

Q-Do you think social media was more important than traditional media for the sake of the Egyptian revolution?

Q-With regard to social media, do you believe that transnationalism is on the rise due to the increasing popularity of social media websites?
transnational |transˈnashənl; tranz-|
extending or operating across national boundaries : transnational advertising agencies.
a large company operating internationally; a multinational.
transnationalism|-ˌizəm| noun

not really, but it is going in the direction of transnationalism. Still though, most people are only connected to others from their own country. And we’re talking about virtual connections, not actually real people you’ve met (especially for Twitter)

Q-Was it an important aspect of the issues in Egypt reaching a global audience?
That question is a bit off. But yes, it was paramount for the Egyptian cause to be heard abroad. This offered pressure on the regime to “play nice”. (it was still bad, but could have been so much worse ). The USA’s “call for democracy” (BS in my personal opinion) came about because of the international pressure, thus pressure on Mubarak, etc, etc.
Q-In your opinion was the use of social media more relevant to the Western media and getting the issues in Egypt recognised internationally than it was to Egyptians?
No. more important to Egyptians. It helped get around the state controlled media.

Q-Do you think social media can be an effective tool during times of political unrest?
Duh. Yes. Especially in a state controlled media environment.

Q-Do you think social media can be trusted to depict the truth at all times?
No. just as activists can use it to distort their truths, so can political leaders. More and more political leaders are using SM, especially in the Middle East. There was an article written about this recently.

Q-Have social media websites overtaken television, newspapers, radio and other forms of media in terms of importance and dissemination?
No. maybe yes for newspapers, but times are changing, economic/business models are changing. We’ll see what new models emerge in the next decade or two.

Q-What do you think the future holds for social media websites? Have they become important political tools?
Yes. While leaders have held on to traditional media, they are now grasping this new form of media and beginning to use it to their wiles. But in general, it’s definitely leveled the political playing field and allowed more transparency.

Q-Do you believe social media was responsible for the revolution or was it merely a tool to build support?
A tool to build support.Obviously. Social media is just a tool use by groups of people with common interests/causes.
Additional Comments:
I hope this helped. Also, good luck with this. It would be better if you were in Egypt for this research. I might recommend trying to see historical data about the sizes of groups, the frequency of tweets during certain times, peaks, etc. to provide some more data. I’d be curious/thankful to get a copy of the final dissertation too if that’s okay with you. Also, if it’s okay with you, I might publish these answers on my blog. let me know. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Morsy wins presidential elections

I'm just going to post the email I wrote to a friend today:

She asked me this:

So I'm trying to understand the results of the Egyptian elections...
is the election of the Muslim Brotherhood leader really a reason for
celebration, in your mind, and a positive step for Egypt? I understand
there's a massive base for him and the Brotherhood but in terms of
progressing toward a more stable society, moving forward the slow
democratization process, and the protection/representation of all
types of (including non-Muslim) communities in Egypt?

Anyways, very curious about all this and very interested in your views

I answered this:

Personally, yes, I feel like it's a reason for celebration, not because Morsi was elected, but because Shafiq was NOT elected. I feel that if Shafiq had been elected, it would have been a blow to the revolution, much much more so than with Morsy. 

Most importantly, I feel the elections as a whole are cause for celebration (sober ones... haha) because –assuming that the elections were free and fair– the will of the people was heard.  Shafiq's win would also been cause for celebration assuming he won under free and fair elections (less believable though, since he's SCAF's guy and they wield so much power).

So in terms of moving towards a more stable (see NPR link below for more insight) and free society, neither candidate would have been much different from a civilian point of view (maybe not economic, you'll understand more from the NPR link). Sure, under Mosri, there could be less freedom of religion, tolerance, etc... but under Shafiq it would have re-opened the door for the return of political repression from the secret police (I had a not so pleasant encounter with them back last February... as have countless Egyptians throughout recent history) and other old regime tactics. 

I'm not saying that Morsy is going to be any good, but neither would Shafiq (have been? grammar?). The important part, is that by electing somebody new, Egypt makes a break from it's past. What I'm saying is, Change is good. Hopefully too, it will be be good and [inch'allah] provide a challenge to the Military's past (and still present, but slightly less) domination of Egyptian politics and economics. But the economics side to this is another story (which I intend to post soon on my blog). 

Also, I hope, that given four more years, the revolutionary, liberal and center parties will have a chance to build up their platform and election base. Hopefully when the next election comes around they will win.

Another point related to this: I feel, and other Egyptians I've talked with agree, that the Egyptian people really appreciate their 'culural' freedom. This freedom has been past one down the ages all the way back from the Pharaonic times, and isn't something that could easily be reversed by Islamists. (i'm referring to the innumerable bars (slightly hidden, but there) and how so many people smoke hash, etc, etc... enjoy the "good" things in life, even if they do it off to the side.

In the end, SCAF is in almost total power of what's going on. The only thing they fear is mass anger of the people... (if the country plunged into chaos and crisis, Egyptians would unknowingly stop buying military produced goods and thus hurt the military) See: 
Estimates vary as to the size of [the military's] industries - they account for around 8%-40% of Egypt's gross national product. @

I hope that helped. I also hope you read through this without falling asleep.

For a link to my photos from today:

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Cairo Kitchen – Restaurant

So both last night and tonight, a friend and I had an amazing culinary experience (twice) at the Cairo Kitchen restaurant in Zamalek. ( ) One of the best places I've been to in Cairo. Their food –with koshary, salads, soups, desserts and traditional drinks– simply blew our minds.

Let's start with the best part, the salad bar. Health-freaks and vegetarians will love this. You can choose from about a dozen different in-season vegetable/salad pickings (changes every day) such as balady salad, beets, humus, babaganoug, salad, cauliflower, stuffed peppers,  etc... Every one of which was fresh, delicious, and beautiful. This by far was the best part because every item tasted amazing; switching from delicious flavor to delicious flavor makes for an amazingly varied experience. Every time you bite into a different crudité, your mouth explodes again and again with awe. and all of this for a very reasonable price.

We tried the 'Healthy Being' koshary and the regular koshary both which were nice. Not quite as mouth watering as the salads, but still a very decent koshary. Each table has a special, fresh hot sauce (very hot, possibly with a hint of carrot in it) and garlic sauce. Koshary served in classic metal bowls with covers and big handles.

Portions were also very generous: after a small bowl of salads, we could only finish a little more than half of our small-sized bowl of Koshary.

I need to go back to try the soups, desserts (my friend said they're great), and other kinds of koshary and salads.

Cairo Kitchen offers a large variety of traditional Egyptian drinks. Hibiscus, citrus mint rosewater, lemon. For 8 L.E. you get unlimited refills of any of them. All very good.

The decoration is amazing. I think the idea is to mimic the warm colorful style of traditional fuul street carts. While very colorful, it's not at all tacky. Rather charming. The whole place was spotlessly clean. The bathroom was spacious and clean.

Right from the beginning, a waiter opens the door for you, and all the waiters are friendly (you get the feeling their actually being paid a decent wage), welcoming, but not too much as can often be the case in other restaurants. They did a meticulous job at serving the food in a very presentable way. Even though things are rather straightforward as far as the menu is concerned, they were very helpful with our questions.
Non-smoking, (enforced) although you can go outside on their large sidewalk for a cigarette.
Children/Family-friendly (two boys sitting with their parents received free plastic Cairo Kitchen watches, they were also very pleased with their experience there).
You can ask for a free Cairo Kitchen sticker.
I've heard that they have cooking classes which are very fun and educational.

Overall, Cairo Kitchen is an awesome experience and I look forward to going back there very often (hoping that they don't reduce the quality as they begin to get a good reputation)

It feels like the owners took a good hard look at everything that was wrong with other restaurants (even the better ones) and made sure to get theirs just right. :-)

Regular Koshary

Healthy Being Koshary

Extra sauces

Salad Platter

Drink Bar


It is non-smoking in Cairo Kitchen, smokers are invited to go outside :-)

our bill for the first night

One of the Ahua workers eating some street Koshary in the ahua (was playing with my camera settings)
Typical fuul cart - Photo Credit to Safy
See the similarities in the style of writing and the colors? - Photo Credit to Safy

Friday, June 8, 2012

Nile and Qasr el Nil Bridge

Here's a nice photo of the Nile and it's bridge which leads to Tahrir Square. exposure time 6 seconds with F-5. I had it on a stable, sturdy metal railing to keep it still.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Yesterday in Dokki, Cairo, Egypt

around 6pm people were blocking traffic while on their way to Tahrir Square. Protesting against the fact that the two remaining presidential candidates are shit, along with many other demands

I for one, would like to protest the fact that SCAF will determine what the president's powers and responsibilities are, AFTER the elections. How messed up is that? "We'll elect someone and then depending on if we get along or not, we'll give him his piece of the pie" and why aren't more people talking about that?

thoughts on wanderlust

---as slightly edited version of a message to a friend--- 

The end of the year because I hope that by then I'll be satisfied enough with my knowledge of Arabic. Brazil because I really like it there (I've spent one month there total so far), because I very much like Brazilian Portuguese, and because I think it's a good language to learn -as an investment- "for the future" (i.e. I believe that Brazil will continue to grow in importance, etc...) but that plan is also still vague.

Why ********* for you? How long will you stay there and why are you going there? (and also, if not wanderlust, then why are you going there, and perhaps: what is the right word to describe it?)

I think I know what you mean about home being "not underrateable". I really did also appreciate being at home with my dad and sister for the past two weeks. Nice family breakfasts with pancakes or good (healthy, almond) cereal; good food (great lake pizza); hanging out with my dad, watching/listening to him interact with people (he's really good at it); talking about stuff for the first time with my sis; seeing great friends; or riding my bike on warm summer Chicago streets.

Yet, the question remains: if home is so nice, which it definitely is, why do we (I mean "we" in a general sense) still end up travelling off to distant and oh so different lands? Perhaps it isn't wanderlust (I barely travel outside of Cairo). Perhaps a greedy desire to be confronted to what's new and different than what we call home? I know that not being home for so long has made me appreciate it a LOT more, that's for sure.