Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The End?

Events in your life are steadily becoming more and more frequent. You find yourself with less time to write down the past- but we only make time for the things we want to do, right? Does this mean you no longer want to continue with your Egyptian adventures? You are not sure. You are still determined to finish your story, but it feels like there is still so much more to tell. It will just take more time. You assure your readers, if any left, that life has become much more stable in a country filled with people less intolerant to "foreigners". But really, what is foreign these days, anyway?

To be continued...

You have the next segment of your adventure ready to post, but are currently experiencing technical difficulties with memory sticks.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


You are halfway through your trip’s experience and are getting tired of rewinding your life’s story. You are ready to move into the present, but you are still determined to be patient and continue. You do decide, however, to “kick it up a nickel” without leaving out any important stuff. You also realize that if you stopped writing about what you will be writing, you might have been done writing it by now!

You and your felucca crew have now arrived at the temple of Kom Ombo. Everyone’s belongings are transferred from the covered truck to a new microbus. Most people have bigger bags, which are tied to the roof of the bus. You, on the other hand, have three smaller bags, and no one (including you) wants your bags to travel on top. You also don’t feel safe about leaving them sitting inside the bus, so you carry two of them along with you. All of you are excited to explore a new temple, except Ale who still feels weakened from her troubled stomach, but she still joins you.

Kom Ombo is a unique temple. It is mostly outside and is dedicated to two different gods. Because of this, it was built symmetrically and has twin entrances, twin courts, twin colonnades, twin hypostyle halls, and twin sanctuaries. In ancient times, the city of Kom Ombo was known for being a military base as well as a trading center between Egypt and Nubia. It also used to be a place where sacred crocodiles collected and came to be known as Pa-Sebek (Land of Sobek), after the crocodile god. The temple itself is dedicated to Sobek and Haroeris (meaning Horus the elder). It originally began as a project by Ptolemy VI, but most of it was completed by Cleopatra VII’s father, Ptolemy XII.

From the temple of Kom Ombo, it is about an hour ride to your next destination: the temple at Edfu. By this time both Ale and Ana were wiped out, Rob had seen the temple before and already had a torn calf muscle, so he opted out as well. The only able-bodied Edfu explorers were you and Tom.

Edfu is a temple dedicated to the god Horus. It is a striking sight from the outside, as a large pylon decorated with giant hieroglyphs, depicting heroic skull-smashing battle scenes, comes into view from the cemented walkway. On each side of the entrance are two life-size, precise granite sculptures of Horus himself. According to the “Lonely Planet” Edfu is the “most completely preserved Egyptian temple.” Somewhat coincidentally, this temple was also completed by Cleopatra’s father Ptolemy XII, after being initially constructed by Ptolemy III 237 years before year 1.

Inside the temple, you are bombarded by numerous tour groups. They inconsiderately stand in the middle of your way as their guide flaps his or her gums. You have no problem elbowing your way through in order to see what you came here for- absolutely everything. You walk in and explore every chamber you find, snapping pictures along the way. You feel a certain responsibility to capture the essence of the temple for those who were not able to join you.

Whilst wandering around, attempting to escape herds of tourists, you accidentally find yourself in what you later find out to be the Passage of Victory. It is a narrow passageway between the temple and its outer protective walls. Not unlike other temples, the passageway is completely covered in hieroglyphs, which you later read to be pictures of battles between Horus and Seth during the annual Festival of Victory.

In the end, Ale decides to join the exploration. Together you complain about the tourists, and exit the temple into the hot blistering sun. The exits of most ancient sites are designed so that everyone must pass by a colorful array of overpriced touristic souvenirs in order to escape. You torture the vendors with interested eyes but sharp stabbing, “NO!’s” and re-enter the microbus heading to Luxor.

Friday, June 20, 2008


You make the final preparations for your departure from Aswan. As you are shoving your belongings neatly into your back-pack, the receptionist peeks his head in the door.

Um, Sara. When you finish with that, I want to talk to you.”
“Okay. What about?”
“When you finish.”

The receptionist no longer has the ability to inspire negative emotion from you. You are ready to leave and never see his pudgy-ugly little face again. Ten minutes later, however, he comes back to your room. In his sun-stained hands he holds a steaming hot glass of traditional Egyptian tea and a cup of sugar with a spoon. He pathetically attempts to convey a puppy-dog face of apology, silently offers the cup of tea and sugar, and walks away.

“That’s weird,” you think.

It is not usual for anyone to give tea unless asked for- especially if not on good terms. You wonder what he is up to. You wonder if he put something in the tea to make you sick. You look in it, swirl it, smell it, and set in on the shelf. You finish loading your bags, pour the tea down the sink, and make your way downstairs to check out.

“Oh, you’re leaving?”
“Yeah. So what did you want to talk about?”
“I wanted to tell you I was so angry with you for going somewhere else for your felucca. Why you didn’t ask me?”
Smirking, you reply, “It doesn’t matter. I’m leaving. Halos, it’s finished. I got my own felucca. Goodbye.” Your pulse is racing. You begin to walk toward the door, but you pause, face him, and say, “And maybe next time you shouldn’t lie!” You walk out.

Back at the hotel where you made your felucca arrangements, someone arrives to lead you to your felucca which is a small sailboat. Boards across the center of it create a seating/laying area when covered with mattresses and sheets. There are two small cubby-hole sections at the front. One is for stepping into the boat as well as an under-board access. Your bags are stored underneath the boards. The only way to get to them is to crawl underneath. The other section, on the opposite side, is the kitchen area. It consists of a giant Bunsen burner covered by a rack to form a stove. This is where your next 6 meals will be cooked. Already aboard are two of your boatmates: Ale, a.k.a. Mudfoot, from Argentina and Tom, a.k.a. Mr. Lippy, from Australia.

You sit with Tom and Ale for about 2 hours talking about the experiences all of you have been having in Aswan, how many people are trying to rip each of you off, and what kind of sexual harassment has been faced. After a while, you all begin to wonder if the boat is ever going to leave the dock. Eventually, two more Australians arrive. They are Ana and Rob. The five of you have boarded and you set sail.

The next day-and-a-half are intentionally uneventful. The five of you get to know each other, relax, play Yahtzee and enjoy the pleasant breeze. There are a few tipping scares after some unexpected gusts of wind, enjoyable meals, sun block, and music. A teenage boy rows past on a boat made of empty water bottles in a plastic bag. Some Egyptian monkeys try to follow Ana and Ale to watch as they search for a bush to pee. Cruise ships dominate the water, providing a constant rocky sleep. By the last morning, Ale and Ana have weak stomachs.

Finally it is time to exit your loyal boat, “The Nile Dancer”, and pile into a covered truck. The covered truck will take you to your next destination: the Temple of Kom Ombo.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


You are stuck in the past. You don’t even exist in the same country anymore, but you are determined to continue with your story. You remind others that the following events occurred just under two months ago…

The next day, in Aswan, you settle your felucca situation. Following new directions, you find yourself in the lobby of a hotel, close to the original one you visited. It is dimly lit, poorly decorated, and furnished with a small seating area and television. Soon, you are introduced to “Jack” and make arrangements for a three-day, two-night tour. “Jack” asks you for a favor. You are skeptical, at first, but realize you can always decline later. “Jack” wants you to help him on the computer. He says that his English skills are intermediate when it comes to speaking and listening, but reading and writing are much more challenging. He has received an e-mail from a client who also speaks English as a second language and uses awkward structure. You are happy to help- after all this has become your specialty.

After translating and responding to a couple different e-mails, “Jack” is so thankful that he treats you to an Egyptian-style dinner at local prices. It is nice to have a meal here other than pizza or eggs, cheese and bread.

“What will you do now?”
“Oh, I’m going back to my hotel. I don’t like being out at night, here.”

You want sex? I need fuck you.

You make arrangements to meet with “Jack” the next day to complete the deal- meaning give him the money. The next day you wake up early. Today you plan to visit the Nubian Museum and Elephantine Island.

The Nubian Museum is about half an hour walk from your hotel. The only way you know how to get there, without getting lost, is to walk the Corniche along the Nile River.

“You want felucca?”
“No, thank you.”
“Good price. You know how much?”

The Nubian Museum unfolds the story of Nubian history and culture from over 6,500 years ago to present day. It contains impressive artifacts, stunning jewelry, portrayals of ancient and modern Nubian life as well as detailed displays of the construction of the Aswan Dam. Even though you decided against visiting the Aswan Dam, you find this display particularly interesting. The construction of the Dam was an attempt to control the flow and irrigation of the Nile’s water. As predicted, the restriction allowed for more crops to be produced each year. Unfortunately, it also had an adverse affect. The water table rose so dramatically that it began submerging some of Aswan’s most treasured monuments. Ironically, the construction of the dam brought wealth to the country by yielding rich and plentiful harvests each year, but at the same time the country would be losing millions of dollars from the resulting detriment to its tourist industry. Something had to be done.

A huge Unesco project involving many corporations, countries, and millions of dollars was put into effect. It involved the deconstruction and reconstruction of the monuments mentioned in a previous post. The result of this project is the monuments as we see them today.

“I still think it would have been better as an underwater dive tour.”
“Yeah, but then they wouldn’t make as much money.”

You decide that your most pleasant memory of the day is being approached by four young Egyptian girls inside the museum. The oldest is 12 and the youngest, 6 or 7 years old. They surround you, asking questions like, “where are you from?”, “what’s your name?”, “how old are you?” The rest you can’t understand. You gather by the intonation of a mother figure in the distance that she is telling them to stop bothering you. They walk away smiling and waving. About ten minutes later, they come back. The oldest offers you a pen and tells you to take it. You accept. They ask if you have a mobile. You laugh and tell them your phone number. They never call you- or if they did, you didn’t answer.

After the museum, you take the ferry over to Elephantine Island. The significance of Elephantine Island is that it was once the main source for trade of ivory and granite. It was also a renowned center for worshipping the Ancient Egyptian gods of Khnum, the creator of humankind and controller of the Nile’s water level, his wife Satis, and their daughter Anukis. The ticketed site on this island is the location of the ruins from their religious edifices. Here, there are some reconstructed temples, including one built by Queen Hatchepsut in honor of Satis, the ruins of a residential colony, and a cemetery for sacred rams. The rest of the island is filled with scattered Nubian homes made of mud-bricks, thatched roofs, and wooden doors with padlocks. Modern Elephantine families live here. It is open for people to walk around, but you feel a little awkward walking through the perimeters of their homes. You thoroughly wander about the island, however, as you get a bit lost trying to find the location of the ruins. After a few hours, you return to the mainland for the evening.

You make the final arrangements with “Jack” for your felucca trip, departing the next morning- the next leg of your journey.

Sunday, June 1, 2008


You are still in Aswan. You have been here for two days, but you already feel you should leave or switch hotels. Shortly after you wake up, you are greeted by waves of cool air. One of your Japanese roommates paid extra to have air-conditioning for one day. You decide to stay inside today- at least until it cools down outside. After that, your task is to locate the recommended captain of a felucca boat.

A felucca trip is an essential experience if traveling in Egypt. The felucca itself is a small sail boat. One can take it on a one-hour trip around Elephantine Island or Philae, or down-river from Aswan to Kom Ombo on a two-day cruise. The latter is the trip for which you are searching, but you must first find the hotel.

You are unable to locate the hotel with the suggested captain, so you decide to ask another hotel nearby if they know him. They say yes but he is not in business anymore, and they would be more than happy to offer you the felucca package available from their hotel. You decline after the quoted price is more than the one from your own hotel. So you decide to return and inquire from there.

Back in your hotel, you foolishly make it known that you sought help from another place. Suddenly, the receptionist, who was so nice to you in the beginning, has turned sour. Nevertheless, he says he will look into a felucca trip for you. You retire back to your room for some air-con relaxation, only to discover that the electricity doesn’t work- again. You spend a few hours watching a movie in the lounge area outside of your room. Later, you are approached by your two Japanese roommates and engage in a conversation which results in the decision to go out for pizza. Upon returning to the hotel, the light still does not work. The three of you ask the receptionist to fix it.

The receptionist waddles up the stairs,
“Oh, by the way, Sara, I checked for you about the felucca trip.”
“Oh yeah?”
“Yeah. They are all full.”
I see.

Apparently, your welcoming receptionist feels you have betrayed him. He has turned against you. You no longer feel you can ask him for or about anything. Suddenly you feel extremely uncomfortable here. You decide not to take a felucca. You also feel you should switch hotels. You start looking into other options, but none sound promising.

In the meantime, you still have some sight-seeing to do here, so the next morning, you wake up, pack a day-bag, and cross to the West Bank, via public ferry, to visit the Tombs of the Nobles. Here there are tombs of revered men from ancient Elephantine. Surprisingly, there are few visitors today. You are able to roam around relatively hassle-free. There are six tombs which have been preserved and labeled, but there are numerous other nooks and crannies available to explore- so, you do.

If someone had taken the time, thought, and dedication to properly preserve and excavate these tombs, the West Bank could be a series of easily-navigable, vast, underground channels, which could take years to fully search through. In reality, however, the only dedication made has been marked in the sand by human-produced liquid and the only time taken has been that to fill the emptied tombs with layers of rubbish. You carefully choose the ones you enter. You find piles of bones, bats and their droppings, trash, and creepy, dark spaces. One tomb that you enter stretches further than your flashlight can see. Inside, a cold feeling crawls over your skin. It says you should leave. Physically, you could have gone further, but you get scared about what you might find- or what might find you.

The last sections you visit are joined tombs of a father and son, each with a long flight of stairs leading up to the entrance. Instead of returning the same way you came, passing by key-jingling guards, you decide to descend one set of these stairs. You do not believe anyone uses these steps today, as they have deteriorated over time, but you imagine that someone devotedly walked up and down them, every day, in order to visit a loved one. Your visit ends with a peaceful stroll along the bank of the Nile. A cool breeze sweeps the surface and accompanies your slow ride back to the East Bank.

Upon returning from your four-hour excursion on the other side, you drink some fresh fruit juice, take a nap and a shower, and find some food. You come back to your room, and the light does not work. This time the receptionist’s solution is for you to switch to a room with a working light. For this room, there is one lock with two keys. After you have set up your new space, you receive a phone call convincing you to take a felucca trip- no matter what. You are given new information about the location of the hotel you could not find. You plan to stay here until you achieve this goal.

Later on, you go out for another pizza with your roommate. You each take a key, and when you return,

“Sara! Why did you take the other key? This man has been sleeping on this couch for an hour! Do you think that is fair?”
“Maybe you should make another key.”

Need a plan. Need a change. Need to leave. Need escape.

Need to be continued...

Thursday, May 15, 2008


You have just arrived. This place you haven’t been to before. It is called Aswan, and it took you 16 hours to arrive by train. You exit the station and attempt to find your hotel.

“Hello? Do you need help?”
“Are you sure? Do you know where you are going?”

Finally you arrive and are greeted by the hotel reception. No sooner after you set down your luggage do they ask if you are interested in a day trip to Abu Simbel. You are, and now have arrangements to go there the next morning- at 3:30am.

You locate your room, meet your new Japanese roommates, and attempt to make yourself at home. It is hot, but it could be worse. There are fans, and faucets full of cold water. Soon, you feel hungry and you wonder how you can find food.

“Do you know any good places to eat?”
“Don’t eat out there. If you do, they will shit you. I will get you food.”

You agree, because you knew what he meant. The local people take joy in charging foreigners an arm and a leg. The receptionist (you never learned his name) comes back with enough boiled eggs, bread, jam, and spreadable cheese to last your for three days. You devour it in different combinations and think you like this place and could stay for a while.

Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel is one of the most well-known sites to visit in Upper Egypt. It was created by Ramses II and was dedicated to the gods Ra-Harakhty, Amun, Ptah, and the great pharaoh himself. It was designed as a symbol of strength as the four colossal statues of Ramses overlook Lake Nasser. Since its construction, the temple has been buried by time, as well as rediscovered, deconstructed, and reconstructed due to rising water levels from the Aswan dam. It is truly a magnificent sight to behold. If only there weren’t so many damn tourists.

The only way to travel to Abu Simbel these days is by police convoy. Everyone leaves around 3:45am from their hotels to gather up people from other hotels and are grouped together in a large tourist bus parade. The buses arrive together and everyone is given the same amount of time to explore the great temples. Inside, it is extremely hot and humid from the dense layers of tourist-breath. You shuffle along, trying to absorb the first temple’s beauty, admiring every inch of the hieroglyph-covered surfaces, and struggle to breathe at the same time. Pictures are forbidden inside the temples, but you manage to snap one- to spite them- and also because the inside is just as impressive as the outside.

The next temple has a line to get inside. You don’t have much time to explore, so you pop in, and wait.

The second temple is a Temple of Hathor and is dedicated to Queen Nefertari, Ramses’ wife. On the outside there are six standing statues- four of them represent Ramses and the other two, Nefertari. Inside there are pillars with detailed carvings of the goddess, Hathor herself. You try to snap a picture, but a monkey put his hand in front of your lens just as the shutter opened.

After exploring the inside of both temples, you are not sure if there is more to see, but you have about half an hour left. You find a shady spot to sit down, and pull out your sack-lunch, provided by your prestigious $1.25 per night hotel. It consists of two pieces of pita bread, a boiled egg, a triangle of spreadable cheese, and a container of jam. Hmm. You ate this yesterday already, but it was good. You eat some more. Your water supply seems to be diminishing, and you see people heading down a shady cement path. You decide to follow them and hope there is water somewhere along the way.

You realize that the shaded path is just the way out, and it looks like the only water supply is cold bottle drinks being sold in coolers for 5 times the price or inside the bathroom, for which there is a 10-meter line to get inside. Unsure of what to do, you walk around and see a small, air-conditioned enclosure marked “Visitor’s Center”. You decided to visit it. Inside is a display telling the story of the deconstruction and reconstruction of the temples which many countries and organizations took part, in order to keep the great monument from drowning. With great precision, it was dismantled and then reassembled in the same geographic location, but about 100 or so meters higher in elevation.

Soon, you finish your visit at Abu Simbel, are able to get some more water, and climb back in the micro-bus to be taken to your next destination. About three hours later you stop in a place that familiarly looks like town. That is because it is town. Some people on your bus tour only signed up for the “short trip”, but you are in for the long haul. About half of the busload departs, and you happily stretch your legs out in the empty seat next to you.

“Now we are going to switch buses. Everybody off!”
You knew it was too good to be true.

Unfinished Obelisk

Your next destination is to see the “Unfinished Obelisk’. The obelisk is a large granite rectangoid of rock. It was abandoned because a flaw appeared on the rock, and left without any indication of what it was for. You heard from others that this abandoned monument is not worth paying to look at, but you had to see for yourself. It looks like a long rectangle of granite in a ditch, but you are glad you saw it.

Next is the Aswan Dam. You heard from even more people that this is really not worth seeing, and you aren’t as enthusiastic about seeing it as the obelisk, so you choose to stay behind.


After that is the Temple of Isis on Philae (Agilkia) Island. This temple was also rescued from the rising water table created by the Aswan Dam. It was disassembled and reassembled at a new location, 20 meters higher from its original position. This temple was built in honor of the goddess Isis, and was visited by pilgrims as late as the year 550.

Wandering through the halls, temples, and sanctuaries dedicated to noteworthy Ancient Egyptian gods feels magical, and it is more pleasant to be in the sun during the later hours of the day, with less tourists bumping into you. You soak up every minute of your time available to spend here before it is time to take the motorboat back to shore.

The microbus takes you back to the vicinity of your hotel and you conclude your “long trip” with a glass of fresh sugar cane juice. Later, you collapse on your bed, eventually take a shower, and eat leftover bread, cheese, eggs, and jam for dinner.

Coming Next…
“Okay! Halos! I found my own trip. Maybe next time you shouldn’t lie! Goodbye.”


Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Answer

It’s a colorless, odorless predicament that is slithering under our noses. Its tiny tendrils have been developing into a single entity. This is the world’s food crisis.

It is difficult for developed countries to comprehend the idea of an insufficient food supply. In countries such as the United States cities are littered with restaurants and cafés; supermarkets and convenience stores. Eating is a hobby for some. Daily media advertises food in brightly colored packages. Developed countries have a surplus of food and yet people are worried about eating less and are never worried about eating at all. Other countries are not quite so fortunate. For example, this year Zimbabwe had a significant grain shortage due to poor weather conditions, the value of the Zimbabwe dollar plummeted to Z$25,000,000 to 1USD, and the cost of food has inflated 100,000%. The average family needs to earn about Z$875,000,000 in order to survive, while still living in poverty, but most families earn only Z$1,000,000 per month. Needless to say, mere survival is a challenge.

A world report about this dire situation aired on Aljazeera news and a few days later, continuing the article, another report aired on April 22nd, 2008. A short film segment captured a cargo ship as it chugged its way through murky waters. News reporters informed the world that it was on its way from China to Zimbabwe. What was on the ship? Rice? Flour? Corn? Water? No. Weapons.

The cargo ship from China was filled with three million rounds of AK-47 ammunition, 1,500 rocket-propelled grenades, more than 3,000 mortar rounds and mortar tubes, and more according to the inventory report of a South African newspaper. Why would China be sending Zimbabwe weapons just after a violent election and in the middle of a severe food crisis? It turned out only to be an unfortunate coincidence and bad timing for a “perfectly normal trade” as stated by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu. Due to the radical situation that exists in Zimbabwe, the cargo was not accepted and the ship returned back to China. This occurrence inspired more research.

According to the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), global food prices have risen 35% in the last year, and 65% since 2002. The price of wheat has doubled, maize increased by 50%, and rice by 20%. The cost of dairy has risen a staggering 80%. Prices of food have increased by 18% in China, 13% in Indonesia and Pakistan, and 10% or more in Latin America, Russia, and India. Meanwhile, there have been reports of death by starvation and riots in Egypt, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Madagascar, the Philippines, and Indonesia. What is the cause of this?

“There is no one cause but a lot of things are coming together to lead to this,” stated Ali Gurkman, head of the F.A.O.’s food outlook program. The rise in oil prices, farmers switching to grow bio-fuels instead of food, extreme weather conditions, and rising demand are all contributing factors to the current world crisis.

We are all aware the use of fossil fuels around the world has created turmoil and war between countries. As part of the plan to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels, some countries have initiated a plan to produce larger quantities of ethanol and bio-fuels. For example, this year the United States is planning to retain one out of every four bushels of corn produced in order to manufacture ethanol. Similarly, it has recently been discovered that palm oil can be used to create bio-fuel. The use of this staple, for countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, has taken a toll on poor families and has displaced the land normally used to grow crops exported for human consumption as well as animal feed.

Some possible solutions have been speculated in order to pacify the world’s hunger. The first, and simplest, is for markets to readjust prices when there are shortages of certain items to make it more profitable to grow crops for people rather than cars. Second, if people around the world reduced the amount of meat they consumed, more land could be used to produce food for the world’s populace rather than livestock. Not to mention that a decrease in the world’s population growth would naturally ease the pressures on the food market.

However, one other solution surfaced after watching the muddy waters curling underneath the cargo ship of weapons: cannibalism.

Cannibalism is a taboo subject for many cultures, yet it has been prevalent as a last resort and even a preference in some cultures, throughout history and even today. It is thought to have existed during the Lower and Middle Paleolithic Era due to food shortages. In Ancient Egypt, thousands of mummies, preserved in bitumen, were ground up and sold as medicine. Mummies were thought to have medicinal properties against bleeding and were bought and sold until two centuries ago. In 1729, Jonathan Swift wrote A Modest Proposal in which he proposed poor Irish families sell their children to be eaten, in order to earn income.

Even as late as the 21st Century, a man in Germany posted an ad on the Internet requesting “a well-built, 18 to 30 year-old to be slaughtered and consumed.” The ad was answered, and, as a result, the German man was eventually convicted of murder. Last year, a Danish artist hosted a dinner party for his closest friends. He served pasta with meatballs made from his own fat, which was removed in a liposuction operation earlier that year.

Do you think cannibalism is wrong? The Christians don’t. In a bible story (2 Kings 6:25-30), two women agreed to eat each other’s children. The first woman cooked her child and the second mother ate it, but then refused to fulfill their pact by cooking her own child. Cannibalism is even present in children’s stories and mythologies: the witch in Hansel and Gretel, Baba Yaga in Slavic folklore, and the Greek mythological stories of Thyestes, Tereus, and Cronus.

Do you not think the taste of another human would be pleasant? New York Times reporter, William Buehler Seabrook, described the taste of human flesh as “mild, good meat with no other sharply defined or highly characteristic taste such as for instance, goat, high game, and pork have,” after he obtained a chunk of healthy human meat from a hospital for research purposes in 1931. He also stated that it was like “good, fully developed veal, not young, but not yet beef,” and that “veal is the one meat to which this meat is accurately comparable.”

As one can see, this final solution to stunt the world’s food crises is the best. Not only does the demand for livestock around the world decrease, but so does the population growth. The land can be used to grow bio-fuels as well as other crops, and the world can be a prosperous place once again. Cannibalism is the answer to end world hunger once and for all. Will you join to be part of the solution?

To apply to be a meat donor please complete the following information and include a blood sample:
Body Mass Index:
Diseases?: y/n

All donations are appreciated and will be reciprocated with a small stipend to your next of kin.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Before and After: Sara Plays Soccer in an Egyptian Drama?

There are two more things you can now say you did in Egypt: played Egyptian-style soccer, and participated as an extra in an Egyptian television drama.

A man that works in the hotel where you live loves to watch and play soccer. It is just about all he can talk about. Whenever a new male guest arrives, he invites them for a game of soccer, or here called football, every Saturday. This time he invited you to join, too, but only as a spectator. You carry on a little bit about how you are perfectly capable of participating just as much as anyone else is, but in the end you are told it is impossible to play mixed genders in Egypt. Displeased, you accept this and agree to come and watch.

The day arrives and you meet about 15 other foreigners, as well as Muhammad the football fanatic, at the metro station and proceed to walk to your playing/spectating destination. The football field is a large, flat, dirt lot surrounded by three white, crumbling cement walls, which are lined with white-chalk lines and outlined with trash. The viewing area is a three-level cement stadium, with a small covering for shade. As you enter, there is a man watering the dirt to make it less dry and dusty while the teams play. You pick a relatively clean area to sit down, in the shade, and watch the game.

The teams are divided between two hotels- Sultan Hotel, which is where you are staying, and Safari Hotel, a few floors upstairs. In the first half, Safari Hotel is getting creamed by Sultan Hotel and the first game finishes 9 – 3. Everyone takes a break, and you express your desire to get on the field and join the game. Safari players have no problem with this. What have they got to lose? They urge you to join their team, so you go for it. You run onto the field, and before anyone can object, you join the play and impress everyone with your mediocre skills. Through the remainder of the game, no one objects to your female presence on the field. You believe that it is due to complete shock of the sight of a woman playing football. Everyone watches and cheers you on, giving you a “thumbs up” at the conclusion of the game.

You feel accomplished. Even though you have never been a good football player, you have always loved playing the game. You express your feelings of satisfaction to the organizer of this game, and he invites you to come play again the next time they have a game. The impossible became the possible.


You also never thought it would be possible to participate in any kind of professional film project, but when the opportunity presented itself, you decided to go for it. You were packing your bags to check out and wait in the hotel lobby for a few hours until your train to Upper Egypt leaves. You are asked if you want to participate as an extra in an Egyptian drama, for pay. The location of the project is in the café immediately below your hotel, so there is no concern about being late for the train.

You are seated at a table inside the café- a fruit drink in front of you as a prop. You wait. Everyone is running around like crazy yelling out things you don’t understand. Eventually it is “action” time. The cameras roll and your job is to pretend to talk. You enjoy the experience, but it only lasts for about 20 minutes. Then you are told to wait more. You end up sitting, and waiting, and not doing anything else for the remainder of the afternoon. You are now sitting and waiting only to be paid. Eventually you walk away with over 100 Egyptian pounds in your pocket. You are extremely happy with this, as it is money that you took for doing practically nothing.

Two unique and exciting experiences to conclude this time of yours in Cairo. On to the next adventure...

Sunday, April 20, 2008


You do not how long you will stay in Dahab, but while you are on the Sinai Peninsula, climbing Mt. Sinai is a must. You have been told by others that it is an unforgettable experience, and before long you find out they are right.

Mt. Sinai has some biblical significance to some. It is said to be the place from which Moses descended with his Ten Commandments. The mountain stands at 2,285 meters, towering over the Monastery of Saint Katherine. It has two trails leading to and from it. One, the camel trail, is easier to climb. The other is a series of 3,750 steps, called the Steps of Repentance, laid by a monk as a form of penance.

The Monastery of Saint Katherine was built in the 4th century, starting as a small chapel next to the burning bush where it is believed that a god spoke to Moses. Monastic order was created by the Roman empress Helena, and it was dedicated to Saint Katherine, a legendary martyr of Alexandria, who was tortured and beheaded for her Christianity. Throughout history, pilgrims endured dangerous conditions to trek to this isolated location, but nowadays it is littered with tour buses, camels, and cafés.

Your journey begins at 11pm with a micro-bus-ful of foreigners collected from hotels near you. After two hours in the cramped bus, you arrive at the base of the mountain, near the Monastery. The air is crisp and cool. You are lined up single-file to walk through a doorway that is made to look like a metal detector. Not one beep, but bags are searched. You are organized into groups by bus, and each bus is assigned a “tour guide”. The “tour guide” informs you of your meeting place and time at the end of the journey and the trek begins.

You have been walking for about half an hour and it is 2:15am. You hold a flashlight in front of you, and only able to focus on your steps and the feet of those in front of you. The stars, which have now become much more abundant in the sky, and your flashlight, are your only sources of light. The air is dusty from feet-shufflers and smelly from sporadic piles of camel shit.

“Oh, look! Camels!”
“Now that’s a good idea! How much?”


You speed up your pace of walking to try to avoid the seemingly endless amount of stupid foreign people and now also the hopeful camel driver who has discovered his bait.

Soon, you arrive at the first of a series of rest stops. About a hundred people are all flocked together drinking and talking. You continue walking and decide you can rest somewhere else. Shortly, you are no longer surrounded by English speaking people. Assuming your group surpassed you, you continue with the new group. Another rest stop. Your new group is herded inside for over-priced tea. You keep walking.

After about 10 steps, you are alone. Suddenly, everything is quiet. There are no more shufflers, no more voices. No more nothing except your pounding heart and rhythmic breath. You keep walking. It is a little bit scary being all alone, in the dark, halfway up a mountain, but you decide it is better than the herd. You stop for a rest and look at your surroundings. All around you are mountains, and the lights below seem far away. The stars and the moon shine brightly. You can almost see their milky threads, and you feel peace. After a few minutes, you force yourself to carry on walking because you do not know how much further you have to walk, but you are convinced you have fallen behind and must reach the top before sunrise. As you continue walking, you periodically stop to look up at your surroundings. You are passed by groups of camels, who have taken foreign quitters aboard. You rest anywhere but at rest-stops, except for the last one. By then, the trail has turned into steps and you think that must mean you are almost at the top.

A light! I have reached the end! No, it is only another rest stop.
“You are almost there, only three more minutes from here.”

Little do you know, the last “three minutes” are the steepest. You take frequent rests and regularly check the time. It is 3:40am. While you want to reach the top as soon as possible, you can afford to take another rest.

I am sitting on a mountain, in the middle of the night, in Egypt. How cool is this?

Finally, you reach the top. You are expecting the top to be flat and littered with people spread out on blankets, but you are wrong. The top has several different levels; so fortunately, there is a good view for everyone and there is almost no one there. So far, there is only a group of three people, huddled under a blanket. You stake out a spot, perched in between two rocks away from the others.

“Would you like a blanket?”
“You feel warm now, but after 10 minutes you will feel very cold. Only $2.”

He was right. It is very cold. You brought everything you had to use to stay warm, but it is still cold. The worst part is the wind. After about 20 minutes of continuous shivering, and exhaling your warmth into your sleeves, you discover that you can use your sheet as a shelter from the wind. Your shelter helps. It is still cold, but tolerable. You sit and wait, patiently shivering, for the sun to rise.

Soon, you hear voices. More people are arriving and taking pictures. Cameras snap off like popcorn- first very few, then more frequent. You wonder what all the fuss is about and poke your head out from under your sheet.

There is light.

The sun has not risen, but there is a very dim strip of light poking out from the horizon. It is amazing. You forget that you are cold, climb to top of your perch, and pull out your camera. Soon, the sun peeks out from under the Earth. You feel fortunate to be witnessing this moving experience. A new sun is being born for a new day. It is the source of all life on this planet, and soon it will be the thing that will make you feel warm again.

After the sun’s full emergence, religious groups begin to sing songs of worship, and at the sight of a singing teenage girl, with outstretched arms and tears streaming down her cheeks, you note it is time to go. People are taking pictures of each other and you wonder how you can get a picture of yourself to prove you were here.

“Excuse me, will you take a picture of me?”
“Sure, if you will take one of me after that.”

Her name was Noreen. She was an American visiting Egypt with her mother, to see her sister at the American University. They had come to climb the mountain, but Noreen left her exhausted mother and sister at the last rest stop. She asked you if you wanted to climb down together.

At the first/last rest stop Noreen rejoined her mother and sister and you resume your trip down. The trip down is just as exciting as the trip up. The trip down you can see where you are going and what surrounds you. It is breathtaking. You keep pulling your camera out to capture the beauty of this landscape, but nothing can capture the experience. Even as you write this, you struggle to capture it.

You pass rows of seated camels, and peel off extra layers of clothes. The sun now beats down with a powerful strength and you are so glad you decided to bring sun-block. You walk with a smile.

A few hours later, you reach the bottom, and your smile slowly fades. Your face now droops with fatigue and your body aches from walking. At the beginning of your trip you were told you must meet back at the bus at 9:30am, and the Monastery doesn’t open until 9. You already know that you will not have much time to see inside the Monastery, so when you reach it, you have only one goal in mind: toilet.

The line for the women’s restroom is about 10 meters long, and a man at the entrance is collecting one pound from every urinator. The man somehow overlooks you, so you do not pay. You pee in a cement hole, splash some sink water on your face to wake up, and leave.

The outside area of the Monastery is packed with people. Even if you cared about seeing it, you wouldn’t enjoy it with so many people. You decide to head back to the microbus before anyone else, and try to catch a few winks in the back. Others had the same idea, but the microbus had not returned yet. Finally, the group of foreigners, you have not seen since this trek started, pile into the bus and ride home. Everyone begins to nod off and people are falling all over each other with exhaustion. You decide it will be impossible to sleep, so you listen to some music to try and stay awake, and enjoy the scenery along the road.

You finally return back to your hotel around 1:00pm and conclude if you sleep now, you will not be able to sleep later, so you change your clothes and go for a refreshing dip in the Red Sea.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


You have just discovered that the driving force which brought you back to Egypt is a severe disappointment. You spend some time to yourself in your room, trying to figure out what is next for you in your life. Your friends and family back home expressed their concerns for your situation and hope you return. The idea of returning home sounds appealing, but at the same time, it feels like taking a step backwards. Why did you travel all this distance just to return home? You didn’t accomplish anything except spend money and get on a plane. So the school didn’t work out. There is another reason for you to be here, you just have to figure out what it is.

A few days after finding out your purpose here is unknown, a new traveler checks into the same room where you currently sleep. Her name is Tanya and she is from Russia. She is the first female traveler, who speaks fluent English, you have encountered on your trip. You spend an evening speaking about experiences in Egypt, travel, and life. You realize quickly that Tanya is a person who acts spontaneously when she decides, in the spark of a neuron, she doesn’t want to stay in Cairo until her visa will be ready to be picked up, in ten days, but she wants to travel to Dahab- tonight- and invites you to join her. For one minute, you seriously consider it. The idea sounds thrilling, but then your conscience steps in and tells you to wait a minute. You have just met this person, and have no idea who they are. You think if she were leaving in a few days, you would have more time to get to know her, but she is ready to leave tonight, and you aren’t.

You spend another week in Cairo contemplating your situation. A friendly man who works in the hotel offers his opinions and ideas about what you should do in your situation, even though you never ask him. He takes the initiative to ask a network of people he knows about available teaching jobs in Cairo. He practically demands you to comply with his requests, and you resist. Your hopes of finding a suitable employer in Egypt have practically diminished, but he doesn’t accept this.

“You have a hard mind, but I will break you,” Ahmed says.
“Okay, fine,” you say.

You realize that submitting information to other companies in order to find another job can’t hurt. So, why not?

Meanwhile, you have convinced yourself that you are incapable of carrying out your “plan B”- travel. You start having extreme doubt about your situation, yourself, everything.

“You must prove to yourself that you can do it.”
“I don’t think I can.”
“You have to. Do it. Do it for yourself.”

A few days later, you pick up the phone and call Tanya.

“Sara? Nice to hear from you! When are you coming?”

You decide to take a chance, go somewhere you haven’t been yet, pack up your shit, and take a bus to the Sinai Peninsula.

The bus arrives at the Dahab Bus Station at about 9:30am. You haven’t been able to sleep much and feel disoriented. You step off the bus and are immediately approached by a taxi driver. You are his last chance for some money from this busload, so he has nothing to lose and no reason to leave without you. You tell him to go away. You scream and shout, showing your angriest face, but he only stands there smiling, watching you. Suddenly, you recognize a Japanese man from your hotel in Cairo. After talking with him for a minute, he spots a man who works in the hotel he had just stayed in, in Dahab. He recommends to stay at this hotel, but all you want is a ride in that direction so you can meet Tanya. The taxi arrives and the driver asks for money. He demands 10 pounds and you have been warned not to pay more than 5. Tempers flare, harsh words exchanged, and you are wondering if the whole trip will be like this.

Finally you see Tanya, and she takes you to meet some of her Russian friends and eat breakfast. You plan to spend only a few days there, but end up staying for 2 and a half weeks. This is the curse of Dahab.

There are not enough pictures or words to capture the atmosphere of Dahab. One must see for oneself. However, you decide you can’t leave until you attempt to capture it in writing, the best you can:

Mud-squishing toes,
Rocks sculpting feet,
Wind dances playfully.
Turquoise water,
Lucid dreams,
There can be no such place, it seems.
Time doesn’t exist,
Only night and day,
A week’s vacation turns a year-long stay.
Together in this vortex, called

Bracelet, cheeky-bugger, girls,
Follow salt-crust faces.
Swimming in the Red Sea.
Have you seen?
This is Dahab.
Cats and dogs your best friends,
Take your lentil soup,
In a bag to-go,
Drink it through a straw by the sea.
Come with me,
The beach-front in Dahab.

A black sheep drinks Nescafe,
Refuses to swim in her lingerie,
Wondering what the future will be,
After moving from this lazy town.
The mountains and the sun,
Scuba diving fun.
Generous faces,
Abandoned places,
You can find yourself
In Dahab.

[The day after you arrive in Dahab, you immediately make reservations to climb to the top of Mt. Sinai and visit the monastery of Saint Katherine. The most desired trek starts at the bottom around 1am and you reach the top to watch the sunrise. This experience requires and entry of its own, so stay tuned.]

The remainder of your two weeks is spent lounging by the sea, meeting people from all over the world, swimming, snorkeling, and exploring. You feel welcomed by all who stay there and are even offered opportunities to live and work there. The idea of staying sounds tempting, but you have other things to take care of first. Toward the end, you are presented with an opportunity which you cannot refuse- to go scuba diving absolutely free. A generous dive master offered to take you out for a semi-shallow dive, no strings attached. You are skeptical it will happen after you wait two hours at the meeting place, but eventually you go, and it is like a dream come true. Never did you think you would get an opportunity to go scuba diving in the Red Sea, and now you have.

The expiration date of your visa is slowly approaching, and after days of trying to decide what to do and listening to advice from others, you decide the best option is to go back to Cairo. It is time to leave Dahab for the time being.

“Sometime next week, if you would like, I will take you diving in the Canyon.”
“Oh, I am leaving tomorrow, but I’ll be back for sure, I mean, insha’allah.”

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Nothing It As Seems

You can feel your face turn red as you sweat and struggle to clutch your belongings. All your current possessions rest in three bags. Your shoulder feels as though it is about to rip off and you have just realized you are going the wrong way. You grin at the idea of pulling out your compass-brush, but you know exactly where you went wrong. A flat cement surface beckons you to take a rest. You know what will happen next:

“Hello? Can I help you?”

You let out an internal sigh as you turn to the man and say,“Talat Harab Street?”
What do you plural think happened? The man,
a) tells you how to cut through the streets to get there.
b) asks you if you speak English, which leads you to give up.
c) invites you into his shop.

Eventually, you find the place and slam your bags on the bed. You take a quick drink of water and then leave for your meeting with Osama, the representative of the school for which you came to work. You are to meet him outside of “Groppi”, a famous (meaning over-priced) bakery.

When Osama arrives, what happens?
a) He picks you up and takes you to the Center in Nasr City.
b) He arrives half an hour later.
c) He decides, instead of taking you to the Center, you can have a meeting in “Groppi”.

The English Center sounds exactly like what you expected it to be, except for a few minor details. If you are late- you pay money. If you are absent- you pay money. If you decide that this job is not for you, or make a last minute decision to go somewhere else (without two months notice) - you pay money. If you violate the contract in any way- you pay money- a lot of money. To top it off, you are asked to teach in a place called Sohag. You later find out that, according to Egyptians, this place is known for its dangerous microbus drivers and village killings. You aren’t sure if this is the best place to go.

What do you do?
a) Make plans to visit the Center in a few days.
b) Grab your Pepsi and run.
c) Point your finger and say, “F-you, man,” and walk out- Pepsi in hand.

Upon returning back to your new hotel, you are greeted by a man who works there. He asks how the meeting went. You continue to speak with him for a few hours, sipping hot tea, and attempting to adjust to this new community, which appears to be Japanese.

You are currently living in a dorm-room with three other Japanese people. In the bathroom, you can shit, shower, and wash your socks all at the same time. You can’t complain, though, because this place is costing about $2.50 a day- just over a quarter the price of the place you were staying in before. Everywhere you look there are Japanese travelers. You conclude they are like an ant colony- one finds the cheapest, best place to stay and returns back to the colony to tell the others. Your life’s goal is currently unclear. What do you think happens?

To be continued…

Multiple choice answers with explanations:
1. B The man couldn’t understand you, and it is just about impossible to ask for any specific location in Cairo, unless it is close to a major landmark. So, you gave up trying and just walked away.

2. C You were a little weary of the situation to begin with. Shortly after you contacted the school to inform them you had arrived in their country, they asked you to call to schedule an interview. The meeting at “Groppi” was more like an interview.

3. A You agreed to come to the Center in a few days to get an idea of what it is like and to meet some representatives from the Center in Sohag. The consequences of the contract and the assignment’s location didn’t quite settle in until later. You slept on it, and decided not to go through with it.

I feel I need to give credit for the idea of this multiple choice quiz to Rhiis Dinin Lopez, a.k.a. Y.T.

Friday, March 14, 2008


You wake up at 11pm. You have been sleeping for 14 hours, but you feel like you want to sleep more. You decide, however, to take a break from your exhaustion by getting up- just for a little while. You perform some essential night-time rituals and then pull out your journal to add a final entry to the day. How did you get here? And, why are you referring to yourself in the second person singular? If you, as a second person plural, are curious to find out these answers, then please continue reading.

The day has finally arrived for you to leave for Cairo, Egypt. You have planned for months, said farewells, and you wait in one line after another (one herding after another) until you end up on the airplane. You wonder when that gut-wrenching feeling of “Oh (insert interjection)! What am I doing?” will sink in, but it doesn’t. Instead, it is a different feeling- one quite refreshing. It is a feeling of peacefulness and content. You think, “This is it. I am a world traveler, and today it continues.” And so, the fasten safety-belt sign is lit up, the flight attendants take a seat, and we are ready for take off.

Useful things to know:
*Lufthansa sells used aircraft seats! Email
juergen@dlh.de for more information.
**Alcohol is free on any plane outside of the U.S., so drink up! They are even so kind as to serve an after dinner cognac!
***At McDonald’s in the Frankfurt Airport, you must pay an extra .25 EURO for ketchup.
“ich liebe es”

You have arrived at the Frankfurt Airport. The local time is 9am, but for you, it feels like 3am and you have not slept. Since there was no survival kit with toothpaste on the plane and they won’t allow you to carry-on your own toothpaste, you are in desperate need for it. In the restroom, you see a small vending machine that has little toothbrushes in it for 1 EURO. So, your next task is to somehow get a EURO coin. You decide to buy a mocha at McCafe- yes, you are not mistaken, that is a coffee shop owned by McDonald’s. You drink your mocha and brush your teeth. One hour down, 12 to go.

The rest of the time is a blur. The only comfortable chairs are inside the gates, and the only gates that are open will board in less than 2 hours. You try to sleep, but they kick you out when they board each flight. You fill the time trying to sleep in 1-2 hours intervals, filling up your water bottle, using the restroom, playing solitaire, and riding around on the terminal train. The outside world looks so far, and you haven’t breathed natural air in over 24 hours.

Finally, you arrive in Cairo. You impress yourself with your memory of the arrival procedure at the Cairo Airport and your ability to say “NO!” numerous times to relentless taxi drivers. You hop on the terminal bus, because that is the only option from here, and exit at the car park. You know there should be a bus into town, but you don’t see where it is, and there are some men watching you and asking where you are going. You decide to sit and think. The men do not go away, but they do not continue to bother you. You decide to, probably incorrectly, ask for help: “Ana aiza bus fi Tahrir, mish taxi” (I want a bus to Tahrir, not a taxi). One man chuckles because you waited so long to ask, and you come to an understanding that the bus will not start again for another hour and a half, seeing as it is 4:30am in Cairo.

As you are waiting for the bus, you realize it has been about 31 hours of flying, waiting, and travel time, in total. A shower sounds really good; so does a bed- a nice, comfy one. Ha. You wish. You arrive in familiar territory, and as you are walking the street you suddenly feel as though you were here yesterday. In some way, it feels like home, but in another way, it doesn’t at all. You are in Cairo. You finally arrived. After settling in, taking a shower, and sending out an “I survived the trip to Cairo” e-mail, you fall asleep. It is 9am. You wake up at 11pm and continue to sleep on until 6 the next morning. To be continued…