Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Notebook

In my quest to become more Egyptian, I've been taking Arabic lessons. I started in late January and have been doing about 3 to 4 hours a week. More important than the lessons, however, is what to take notes in. It took a little bit of searching but I found the perfect notebook. At first, my friend presented me with this option:

I decided jelly beans, eyeballs, and lips might be too distracting. I stumbled upon this notebook in another shop:

The text in English and in Arabic: Whoever took the donkey up to the roof should bring it down.

Unfortunately, it was too small. On my third try, I found the notebook for me:

In case you can't read the text, it says:

WE, WHO LIVE IN A CITY, HAVE TO MAKE AN EFFORT TO ENTER INTO NATURE. WE MUST PREPARE FOR IT AND SPEND TIMES ON IT. IF WE'RE WILLING TO MAKE A LITTLE EFFORT, NATURE WILL RECEIVE US TENDERLY AND MAGNAMIOUSLY. PRESENT TO ALL NATURALISTS.

Underneath the text is the name of the company, SSency-mate, and their tag line: SSency-mate is a sense and have a taste the new generation synthesis stationery. I'm not sure what that means but I will tell you that licking the sheets of paper inside does not feel good.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The 42nd Cairo International Book Fair


Every year at the end of January, Cairo hosts a massive book fair that lasts for two weeks. Think of it as an open-air Arabic Barnes and Noble on steroids. There's food, ice cream, videos, electronics, balloons, speakers, and most importantly, books. Tens of thousands of them. The fair grounds are large and they house tents and buildings that are brimming with books. The fair ends tomorrow so I went today to check it out.

I took a microbus there. About a half-mile before the entrance of the fair, traffic came to a stop. The microbus driver, ingeniously and stupidly, decided that the best way to get there was to not wait in traffic. No, the best way was to make a u-turn and then put the bus in reverse and drive backwards for half a mile as cars sped past us. Thankfully, no one hit us. Unfortunately, just as the driver it to the fair (still driving in reverse), he hit a guy. He wasn't going to fast so the man was alright. One of many reasons you don't drive your car in reverse to avoid traffic.

The book fair itself was nice. The weather was gorgeous and made for a very pleasant afternoon. I didn't buy anything but I had a great time browsing.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Alexandria

Today I took a day trip to Alexandria to visit family and do some sight-seeing. See some sights below!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Fayoum youm youm

Waking up bright and early on Monday morning, I took a bus down to Fayoum, a region south of Cairo, to visit two monasteries and Lake Qarun. There is a giant oasis in Fayoum so it's known for its beautiful environment and fertile land. My uncle graciously asked a priest friend (friendly priest?) from that area to help me get around for the day.

We went to the Monastery of Anba Abraam and the Monastery of Archangel Gabriel, both beautiful and serene. There were very few visitors at both of them which made for good reflecting time.

Anba Abraam was the Bishop of Fayoum in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and is beloved by Copts. He has a long history of miracle-working and benevolence. I'm not sure when his monastery was built but it looks fairly new.

The relics of Anba Abraam


The Monastery of Archangel Gabriel was another 20 minutes down the road. It's from the 4th century and has beautiful and old wall frescoes from the 11th century still in tact. A monk gave us a tour in Arabic--I think I got most of it but all the facts I just stated about the monastery might be wrong.

Frescoes in the altar

Excavated caves that monks used to live in


Afterwards, we drove to Lake Qarun--a giant salt-water lake in the area. It looks beautiful--on one side are green fields and the other side is barren desert. Most of the outskirts of Fayoum are like that and the contrast is always remarkable. I really liked all the farmland and fields I saw. The scenery in Fayoum is gorgeous. It's a very nice change of pace from the dust and smog of Cairo. There's still much to see in Fayoum and I definitely plan on going back there soon.

Lake Qarun