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.