Sunday, November 30, 2008

Zuweil House Thanksgiving Part 2

Here are two more HDR shots:



The guys set for carving the three turkeys.

My sweet potatoes with melted marshmallows on top. They came out pretty well, but still didn't taste as good as the usual ones.

Posted by Picasa

Zuweil House Thanksgiving Part 1

We decided to have an early Thanksgiving dinner because we were planning a trip for the long Thanksgiving weekend. The coordinator of our intern program provided a house owned by a longtime faculty member of AUC right near the Saqqara pyramids, as well as 3 turkeys. Each of the interns contributed some part of the dinner; I made my family's sweet potato recipe with marshmallows.

While waiting for dinner, we went up onto the roof to take pictures of the sunset. I used the opportunity to work on my HDR skills. Here are the results. Pictures of my sweet potato dish after the jump.





Posted by Picasa

Museum Tour of Doqqi, Cairo Part 2

The second museum we went to in Doqqi was the Mr. and Mrs. Mahmoud Khalil Museum. It was a private collection of art made into a museum after the death of the owners. The collection included many fantastic works of art, including some Renoirs and even a Van Gogh!

Alas, no cameras were allowed inside so I could not visually share with all of you my visit to the museum. Here are pictures I took while walking between the Agricultural Museum and the Khalil Museum.

We find a very colorful street in the center of Doqqi with many fruit stands. It was much less hectic than the ones downtown where cars are flying by, and the danger of being run over is always evident.

This requires an explanation. While we were walking down the sidewalk, we witnessed this transaction, which included a wad of cash for a chainsaw, two axes, a hatchet, and (inside the bag) a long coil of rope. Sketchy!

Here is my first HDR of this interesting bank building.

Second HDR, I really bumped the contrast on this one.
Posted by Picasa

Museum Tour of Doqqi, Cairo Part 1

A couple weekends ago two of the other interns and I went down to the Agricultural Museum in the Doqqi neighborhood of Cairo (located west of Zamalek on the west bank of the Nile).

The museum supposedly costs 10 piasters (2 cents) to enter, largely because it is so outdated, and it attracts so few visitors, but there was no one there to collect the 2 cents from us so we got in for free. We had to tip the janitor to let us in the more interesting side rooms, but it was well worth it.

This is a wax representation of a "country wedding procession."

"Types of Women from the Western Desert" Ridiculous to find something like this in a museum.

Another plastic/wax figure inside the museum. Not sure what the point of this guy was.

This photo I took outside the museum. The sign asks a valid question!

Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 14, 2008


To celebrate the occasion of the election, I went to a bar with a friend after our Arabic class on Tuesday night (midday in the states, I’m 7 hours ahead), and stayed up late monitoring some of the early results.

We woke up early and caught a cab at 5:45 AM to a party thrown by the U.S. Embassy at the Hard Rock CafĂ©. We got there about 10 minutes before CNN called the election for Obama, so it was exciting to be awake to see that. I ate a quick breakfast and stayed a while to watch coverage and appreciate the moment. Around 8:30 I walked up along the Nile and caught the bus to work, but I did not get very much done at work – I was too excited and exhausted to do much of anything, so I followed the election results for most of the states (especially for Jim Himes and Al Franken!).

I have been traveling outside the U.S. for a decent part of the last 3 years, and Wednesday – for the first time – I felt proud to respond truthfully when people on the street asked me if I was American. It is truly incredible how Bush completely destroyed our international reputation, but now we know that “America's beacon still burns as bright – tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.” - Barack Obama

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Birqash Camel Market Part 2

Here are some more shots from the camel market.




"Dude, you could totally chop a camel in its hump and drink all its milk off the... off the tip of this thing, man!" - Charlie, ASIP

Posted by Picasa

Birqash Camel Market Part 1

This past Friday morning we woke up early and caught a cab to the camel market in Birqash, about 25 miles outside Cairo.

Every Friday morning between around 7 and 11 AM, thousands of camels are brought all the way up Egypt to this market to be sold. Some are used as beasts of burden, some as transport, and according to one book, some end up as food on the plates of some of the poorer families of Cairo.

Also, Lonely Planet makes a point of noting that PETA members should probably not make the trip, since the camels are "beaten relentlessly."

But with so many, in such a small place, there really is no other way to keep them in line. It's funny, at the entrance on the right side are the well-behaved camels, many of them on the ground or standing quietly. On the LEFT side are the crazy ones who are in a constant race against the camel herders.

All of the camels (as you'll see in the pictures) have one of their front legs bent at the knee and tied back so that they aren't very mobile. So the herders spend a lot of the time chasing after these camels that are sort of running/sort of hopping off. In an attempt to tame or tire out the rebellious camels, the herders would chase them out of the gate and then back in. However, due to the camel:camel herder ratio this meant that many times a camel would break free of the pack.

About 47 times, I stopped to take a picture and was momentarily oblivious to my surroundings. I would take the picture and then realize that a camel was charging right at me from the side or behind me and I had to pull out my best Adrian Peterson juke and get out of the way. Seriously, this happened more than it should have.




You can see the front leg tied up in this picture.

Posted by Picasa

Coptic Cairo Part 2 (humorous anecdote and pictures from the way back)

On the way home from Coptic Cairo, I took the metro downtown to get some kushari (delicious, cheap Egyptian dish – it costs about a dollar – consisting of rice, lentils, chickpeas, macaroni, and a topping of Egyptian garlic and vinegar and spicy tomato sauce).
On my way there, I was accosted by a young Egyptian who asked me where I was from. For some reason, I decided not to say Iceland (my typical response), as I had already used it numerous times that day. I humored him and told him I was from New York (close enough). The ensuing conversation went this way, as I walked toward the kushari restaurant and he tagged along uninvited:

Him: I am a student at AUC (where I work).
Me: Yeah?
Him: I study American culture. I lived in Texas.
Me: Oh really? Where did you live in Texas?
Him: Uh…Minnesota.
Me: You lived in Minnesota? Or Texas? Or Minnesota, Texas?
Him: Yes.

Editor’s Note: A Google maps search for Minnesota, Texas found no results.

Apparently he wasn’t expecting me to question his cover story this much. At this point we reached the last intersection before the restaurant. He stopped me and said that the restaurant I was looking for was down the street to the left. I stared at him for a few seconds then looked up the street one block to where I could SEE the restaurant I was going to. Intrigued by what kind of scam I was getting myself into – and, more importantly, in a good mood – I decided to follow him down the street to the left.

About halfway down the block, he stopped and said:
Him: I just remembered, the kushari place is closed until 3:30. Why don’t you come into my store until then?
Me: Where is your store?
Him: It is right here to the left.
Me: Okay, but I have to leave to eat soon.

So we go into the store where he sells typical souvenirs and cologne/perfume. I exchange glances with a redheaded tourist clearly caught in the same trap, and we share a conspiratorial nod. Back to my new friend now, who says this:

Him: I just want to give you my card.
Me: So give me your card.
Him: Please sit down…why won’t you sit?
Me: I’m hungry; I’m going to get food.
Him: Why do you insult my hospitality?

He gives me a look like I just ran over his entire family with an SUV. I laugh and start to walk out of the store, so he runs over and grabs my arm. I whirl around, give him a menacing look, throw his hand off of my arm, and storm out. I laughed about it all the way to the restaurant. Just another day as a blonde-hair blue-eyed American in Cairo.

This was outside of Coptic Cairo, a cool little shop selling lots of old cameras.

The guardians of the Lion Bridge.

An Egyptian family enjoying a picnic in the park on Gezira island.

Posted by Picasa

Coptic Cairo Part 1

On Saturday the 25th of October, I went down to the Coptic section of Cairo for the first time. The Copts are the Christian population of Cairo (which make up about 10% of the total). This area is also known as Old Cairo (as if the 8th century mosques in Islamic Cairo weren't old enough!).

This was also the site of the Babylon Fortress of the ancient Roman empire (not to be confused with the city of ancient Babylon), which at one point served as a gateway between Upper and Lower Egypt.

This was taken inside a Greek Orthodox chapel inside the Coptic cemetery.

Inside the Convent of St. George, this man was engaging in the "chain-wrapping ritual," an act which symbolizes the persecution suffered by St. George at the hands of the Romans.

Taken inside the Coptic cemetery.

This is the most horrifying tourist-related thing I have seen in Egypt so far. The guide in front was holding a sign above his head with "Rainbow Tours" written on it facing backwards, so that the group of 40-50 tourists could follow him like sheep.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 7, 2008


As you can see, I changed the template of the blog. I put the navigation column on the left and stretched out the main column so that I could double the size of the pictures. I like it much better this way.

Soon I will post pictures of my trips to Coptic Cairo and the camel market at Birqash.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Alex Part 4

All in all it was a great trip, especially considering I didn't spend any money at all over 3 days. Actually that's not true, I bought a Risk game board in Arabic at a rest stop between Cairo and Alexandria, and when I opened it up, instead of soldiers, calvary, and cannons, it had monopoly pieces! I have to say, when we played last week, it was slightly strange to have houses and hotels attacking each other. Anyway, here are the final pictures of the trip to Alexandria.

This is the Montazah palace on the eastern side of Alexandria. It was a former royal palace.

We had dinner at the Four Seasons (VERY FANCY) and they had a ridiculous buffet of delicious foods. I ate so much I actually didn't sleep that well because my stomach hurt, but it was totally worth it. I demanded this picture to be taken because these green cookies were the best dessert I have ever tasted. I took my first bite of the cookie and it literally melted in my mouth. I then demanded everyone at the table get one to try it, which they did, but then I realized that there were no more left. I noted this unfortunate situation to a friend and went back to the table to eat the other desserts. Five minutes later, the waiter shows up and places this plate of two green cookies right next to me, smiles, and walks away. Best waiter ever (besides Luciano at Campo del Fiori, of course!).

Another day, another mosque. This one also had an amazing mihrab, with a digital clock of all the prayer times of the day right next to it.

Here is my second HDR image of the trip. There was a decent sunset on the last night so we were out on the balcony taking pictures. Nice, but it's no Sinai sunrise!
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Alex Part 3

I'm about to blow your (collective) mind. I don't know how many of you have heard of High Dynamic Range (HDR) images, but for those who have not, google-image it right now and then come back.

The eyes/brain can see a much larger dynamic range than cameras can capture, so photographers use HDR to recreate all the detail and then enhance it even further. Basically, the photographer takes 3 exposures of the same subject, with one normally exposed, one underexposed, and one overexposed. A photo editing program then combines the best parts of each exposure into one "super-exposure".

Here is my first fairly successful attempt at making an HDR image:

This is near Pompey's Pillar, another tourist attraction in Alex. The sky is a little too dark, but otherwise I like how it came out.

Pompey's Pillar...but it has nothing to do with the famous Roman

The Roman amphitheater in Alex.

Playing Gladiator in the Roman amphitheater!
Posted by Picasa

Alex Part 2

Alexandria, known locally as just "Alex," is situated on Egypt's Mediterranean coast and is well known for its incredible seafood. I had the greatest all-seafood meal of my life here, they gave us plate after plate after plate of shrimp, solefish, calamari, and various other types of seafood that I can't remember.

About 2/3 of the way through the meal. More plates would be stacked on top of this before everything was over.

Taken after the seafood meal. "Boat in an Alley"?

After the meal we headed over to one of Alexandria's many coffeehouses/shisha places near the water. This interesting old guy rolled up on his handpedal bike and his kleenex, but interestingly never tried to sell them to us, was just content to sit and watch.

After the old guy pedaled off, this guy rolled up in his fancy car and decided to park RIGHT NEXT TO US on the sidewalk. We were very confused as there were plenty of other empty places to park and yet he chose to nearly run us over to get the perfect spot.

Posted by Picasa