Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Red Sea

We have been lounging on the Red Sea since Saturday. Unfortunately, the conditions for diving have not been ideal, but we got in two days of diving that were absolutely spectacular. First in Safaga, on the west side of the sea. Then in Sharm El Sheikh, which is at the southernmost tip of the Sinai Peninsula. Safaga is nice because it is a relatively unknown resort town, whereas Sharm is the Cabo San Lucas of Europe - a lot of scantily clad Russians, Germans and Italians lining the beaches and filling the pubs. One could forget that we are in a Muslim country.

Because of the heavy winds, the ferry to Sharm on Monday was canceled and we ended up in Safaga for an extra day. It turned out to be a fortuitous event, as the boys rented ATV's, went into the desert in the afternoon and ended up hanging out with a bedouin family in their camp. They watched them make bread over a fire fueled by camel poop, rode their camel, drank tea and chilled in the tent. They both returned to the resort so excited about what they called the highlight of the trip. As for my friend and I, we chilled for the afternoon, had a great lunch with my cousin and finally got some much needed down time.

Tomorrow is our return to chaotic Cairo for one last day of crowds and diesel fumes. Then to Paris for the weekend.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Ancient Egypt

This internet cafe is along the East bank of the Nile in Luxor. It is quite a beautiful view to enjoy on our last day in the South. Hubby bought me a Nikon D50, which is a bad ass camera but, unfortunately, the photo files are too large to upload without spending half the day in the internet cafe. So here are a few shots from the Sony Cybershot point and shoot.

After being herded through temples and tombs with our fellow passengers from the Nile Cruise, all of us have had our fill of the pharaohs. Fascinating, yes, but thoroughly exhausting. And everything starts to run together.

What is now apparent after four days of ancient Egyptian history on the go is that so much of the Bible is shameless plagiarism of the original religious fantasies. Osiris and Seth are Cain and Abel. Isis and Horus are the Virgin Mary and Jesus. The stories are the same, the sentiment is unaltered, yet humanity falls for the same sheep in different clothing time and again. History repeats itself over and over and over and over....

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Pyramids of Giza

I tried to post more pictures, but the connection is slow and dinner is in 15 minutes.

Escape From Madness

We escaped the chaos of Cairo under the cover of darkness last night. Our travel agency booked us on the 5:00 a.m. flight to Aswan, so we had to be up and out of the hotel by 2:45 a.m. None of us has slept yet.

Happiness is leaving Cairo. It is a stressful city, full of people on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Sadness, frustration and anxiety fill the pollution-laden air. The pain in your chest that comes from the ubiquitous diesel fumes restricts just how deeply you can beathe. No yoga here.

Imagine the relief when we landed in Aswan this morning and then jumped a quickie flight to Abu Simbel, both of which are in Nubia (Upper Egypt, which is in the south). The air is clean, the weather is warmer and there is no traffic. We went to the spectacular temples of Ramses II at Abu Simbel this morning. Then flew back to Aswan to start our cruise to Luxor. The afternoon activity was a relaxing ride on a felucca boat on the Nile. Those two hours on the water melted the last week away.

My family is great and I loved their company, but we cannot take being force fed anymore. All of us have put on weight from the heavy meals and endless sweets. Poor hubby is too polite to tell people to knock it off so he has probably tried every pastry made in Egypt. My family loved him and he fit right in. This is probably because, as I have observed on this trip, I come from a family of Alpha females (which is likely where I get it from) who are married to even-keeled men who keep things calm (which describes my husband perfectly). Our relationship fits right into the mold of my family. This visit has been a reminder of how lucky I am to have had such amazing role models throughout my life. Women who are successful, smart, happily married and equal partners with their husbands.

Who knew you could find that in a Muslim country?

Off to the temple of Philae tomorrow.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Back In The Motherland

We arrived in Cairo on Tuesday and have been running around among the relatives for the past three days. This is hubby's first time meeting the tribe and two friends joined us for the adventure last night.


For light reading for the trip, I picked up "The Hidden Face of Eve", by Nawal El Saadawi. She is the Arab world's most vocal and passionate feminist who has been fighting the patriarchal system for the past 50 years. For her efforts, she was stripped of her position as Minister of Health, was jailed for years, but she has persevered. She even ran against Hosni Mubarak in the last election.

Each time I return, I go through the mental gymnastics of who I would be if I was born and raised here. I can only assume that, like my father, I would have been a fish out of water from birth. It would be impossible to stay true to myself in this culture, but maybe I would have been a different self. In any event, I would like to think that I would have been like Nawal.


In Arab culture, children are given their father's first name as their middle name. That way, you know what clan, tribe, etc. you come from. When my parents moved to the states and I was kicking around in the womb, my parents' American friends convinced my parents that a young girl with a male middle name would be a freakish alien. So when I was born, my parents gave me my mother's name as my middle name instead of my father's. Each time I come to Egypt, the officers at customs never fail to mock my name because my father's name is not there. I explain to them what my proper Egyptian/Arab name is and eventually they stop.

Talking to my aunt the other night, she explained to me why they mock me. Apparently, taking your mother's name as your middle name is the mark of an illegitimate child. Considering I truly am my father's daughter, this did not cause me much concern, but she looked at me sideways for a moment. Here in Egypt, and I assume in other Arab countries, if a woman has a baby out of wedlock and the man does not claim the child, the child cannot get his name. This matters because Islamic inheritance laws are tied to paternity. The child with the mother's name is marked for life, a scarlet letter so to speak.

I trust that my mother was not running around.


Headed to the pyramids on Sunday and the museum and Mohamed Ali Castle on Monday. Then off to the south for temples and tombs, then to the Sinai for SCUBA diving.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Searching For Inspiration

Hubby and I are hoping a three-week vacation will be the medicine that cures this serious case of uninspiration (I am so uninspired I am making up words). Stay tuned for photos and anecdotes.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Is he White?

Today, I received a simple question from a colleague who practices employment law and deals with government agencies who make sure employers are not discriminating -- why are Egyptians, North Africans and other "Middle Eastern" people considered "White" for affirmative action purposes?

My only response was that this is typical of race manipulation in America. We North Africans and Arabs are considered "White" for affirmative action purposes, but not when we get to the airport.

This is not the first and will not be the last occasion on which race is manipulated in America. It just illustrates the pathetic contradictions and manipulations of race to which this society falls so easily prey.