Archive of ‘personal’ category

The Life I lead

It's raining heavily outside since yesterday, so much that I opted against wearing my business suit attire and went to work in casual cloths. So, here I am, walking into my very egyptian, very islamist company, wearing cargo pants, my T-shirt that says "I am not an alcoholic, I am a drunk. alcoholics go to meetings", and my Full Tilt Poker hat.

I would be so getting my ass kicked if they knew how to read english! 

Straight from the heart

I have a couple of friends who always complain about their lives and how much they wouldn't mind killing themselves. Those are the same people who are rich, good-looking, talented, smart and suffer usually from existential dilemmas that they cause for themselves. For those people, I give you the eternal wisdom of  Christopher Titus right here!

The Body

In times when nothing stood
but worsened, or grew strange,
there was one constant good:
she did not change.

Philip Larkin 

It was two weeks ago, at 7 am, when I finally got the phone call. It was my father. He asked me if he woke me up, and I said he didn't and I asked him what was up. He responded in 4 words:

"Your grandma is dead!"

My father, the poster boy for sensitivity.

I didn't grasp it at first, and I asked him to repeat it. He did. I asked him when it happened, and he told me that it happened at 4 in the morning. That she had a fever for 2 days now, and they didn't want to make me worry. He stayed up with her till 330 am, and he went to nap for 20 minutes so that he can give her the 4 am pill. When he woke up at 4, she was dead.  No more!

Numb, I told him that I won;t be able to come before 10 am, since that was the first day one for one of my subordinates, and that I needed to make sure that this person is set up before I came. He said he understood.

I got dressed, I went to work, I set up the newbie, I told them that I had to leave early because we had a death in the family, and I left. All the way in the car to my grandmother's house, all I could keep thinking is " Granny is dead!". It doesn't ring true, especially that I was supposed to go visit her that same day. I tell myself that it is true, and I start thinking what will happen once I see the Body. That word starts playing in my mind. The Body. The Body. She is gone. All that is left is the body.

I walk in the house, the family house, where I lived with her until last February, and I see my father and his cousin sitting in the living room. My heart is beating faster now. This is getting real. This is really happening. The situation I was preparing myself for for the good part of the past 2 years is finally here. I greet my Uncle, hug my father, and he tells me: "She is still in her bed if you want to see her!"

I look down the corridor, I drag my feet, and I enter through her door.

If there was one constant truth, one real thing I could always depend on throughout my life, it is the love that me and my grandmother had for each other. When you are the product of a divorce between madly career-driven woman and a womanizing man-child, you end up having 2 empty houses, but no actual home. The one home I had, was her home. The person who truly raised me between my mother's social climbing efforts and my dad's 6th divorce was her. Every bad thing in me comes from them. Every good thing in me comes from her. I wanted her to be my mother so bad, that I hated my father for never appreciating what he had. For not devoting every fiber of his being in appreciation of that woman.

I don't have many happy childhood memories, but there is one thing that always made me smile. Walking into her room, as she lay on the bed, and bending over and kissing her hand, while with the other one she stroked my hair. That was always enough to make me happy. That was my happy Place.

I enter the room, and I see her, one her bed. The same way I've seen her a thousand times before. Only this time it was different. She didn't look up.  No signs of breathing in her chest. Just a peaceful look on a face that clearly has no life. I walk close to her, I kiss her hand like I always did, and it's cold.

It finally registers.

The next thing I know, I am slumped on the floor next to her bed, holding her hand and crying.

With my peripheral vision I could see aunts and female cousins in the room. I could hear them crying. My mind registers that someone patted me on the shoulder, my memory banks tells me that the voice accompanying the patting is that of my aunt. It doesn't reach me. I am overwhelmed with grief. I didn't cry in over 12 years. I wasn't capable of it. That moment I couldn't stop.

I grab myself together, I get up and I walk to the bathroom, where I wash my face and look at my blood-shot eyes. I realize that I can't go back into her room, and that I can't go in the living room like this. So I go to my room where I have a breakdown for half an hour. People start calling me on the phone, and I answered. I don't recall what they said, I don't recall what I said. Who cares. The little awkward conversation. The offer to help if anything was needed, even though you know that nothing can be done. The helplessness in their voices bring back the image of the slumped face of my father outside. He is an old 65 year old boy who just lost his mother. He is not going to be able to handle this. Someone needs to take care of the situation. There is no one else but you. Get yourself together. Get yourself together now. There is work to be done.

Someone has to bury the body.

So, you get yourself together, you wipe away your tears, and you walk outside to the living room, sitting with the men to greet the mourners and taking care of needs to be done.

The Islamic burial rituals are as follows: You wash the dead person's body, you wrap them naked in a big shroud and you tie the shroud on both end, making the person look like a giant Sausage. That's how they are buried. The person who does the washing is usually the undertaker if it's a male and his wife if it's a female. However, if you are a fancy socialite like my aunt, you belong in a social circle of rich French-speaking women who have weekly Quran learning sessions with a young handsome sheik who gets paid a thousand dollars per session. He has thought them that there is a great reward that god gives to those who wash the bodies of the dead. So when the news reached that circle of women, we ended up finding two of them arriving at our house at the same time, each offering their services as body-washers for my grandmother. They then started fighting with each other and yelling at each other in French over who gets to do it, and each reminding the other who washed more bodies and who needs more Thawab. They finally decided that they will do it together, so that they can both score brownie points with God. It was surreal.

I look at all of this and I ask my father where my cousin S. is. He tells me that he is at the newspaper, giving them the obituary. I asked him when the wake will be, and he tells me that there won;t be any, because that was my Grandma's will. She apparently wrote that in her obituary. I look at him and I ask: "She wrote her own obituary?"

He looks back at me and says : "Yeah. She also paid for the Shroud and the costs of the funeral car. You know how she!"

I half smile. Yeah, I do know.

My Grandmother was 94 years old when she died. Born in 1913, she lead a life that is nothing short of extraordinary. She was a famous Philanthropist, gave away land to charity that now would be worth billions. She has a Mosque and a square named after her, and she was the matriarch of the family.

She took care of everybody.

When my grandfather, the general in the royal guard, died in 1951, one year before the blessed revolution, she was still in her late 30's. She was still pretty, was very well off and could've easily remarried. She Chose not to for the sake of her kids and for the love of her Husband, whom she loved dearly, and whom she believed she will be re-united with in Heaven if she stayed faithful to him, as Islam says. She sold their big villa, moved into a giant apartment in an apartment building, and wisely spent her money for the next 56 years. She married off all of her children, took care of their kids and had a house that was always open for everybody, never passed judgment or interfered in any body's business and never, ever forced anyone to do anything they didn't want to.

She ruled the family with her love. You were not afraid of her, you were afraid to upset her. Everybody loved her that much. She was the model of the "perfect Muslim", if there is such a thing. If there was ever an advocate of how Muslims should behave and act, it was her. Never stole, never lied, never judged, and never insulted anyone. But she wasn't naive either and not to be underestimated.

There is a story a friend of my father told me that happened in the 1970's. He had just opened a dive bar, which she naturally disagreed with, but never publicly voiced her disagreement or disapproval. Instead, she woke up one day, and walked into his bar with a gift. She congratulated him, and told him that she brought him a gift in honor for his grand opening. He unwrapped it, and it was framed calligraphy that said "God is Great". She told him that she brought it for him to hang, so that God can bless his business. He told me that he found himself unable to act. To put the gift on the wall is blasphemy, but to not put it on the wall is an insult to my grandmother and her gift. Unable to make a choice, he closed the bar that same day and never opened it again. 

That story is 100% True. 

"The Body is washed and ready if you want to say your final goodbyes to her", One of the body-washing socialites told us. I get up, and my dad gets up, and we head again for the room. The Body is laying wrapped completely, cocoon-like, except the face, awaiting our final kisses and goodbyes. The Table she is laying on is musky, smelling of Jasmine and rose water, and so does her body. The room is full of people, and they are all trying to catch the final glimpse of her before she is gone forever. At that moment, her two maids had heard the news and arrived, one has been with her for 20 years, the other for 50 years. They start wailing, kissing her feet, screaming about how she is finally rested and at peace, given how much she suffered with doctors the past few months. The situation becomes too intense, people start crying again. My aunt gets up, and covers her face. Now the body is completely covered.

Then the discussion begins:

"How are we going to take her down?", my aunt asks.

" I don't know. I don;t think A. (My dad) can carry her. Hell, all of the men here are over 60, except for Sam. Y. is traveling, T. Can;t leave work, M. just found out and is coming from college. Maybe we can wait for him?", My author aunt says.

"I will Carry her", I said softly.

As if they didn't hear me, my first aunt continues, "No, we have to catch the Noon prayer, he will make it to the mosque but not here on time. Maybe I should get my driver to come up?"

"I will carry her!", I repeat.

"Well, if you do, bring the Bawab as well and the car from the funeral car", my other aunt continues, also ignoring what I said. I am angry now!

"DO NOT BRING YOUR DRIVER OR THE BAWAB OR ANYBODY. SHE IS NOT A PIECE OF LUGGAGE. NOBODY IS TOUCHING HER BODY. I WILL CARRY HER", I scream at them. Seeing the look on my face, taken back, my aunt reiterates "But You can't possibly carry her by yourself!"

"Yes, I can and I will."

"We are on the fifth floor and this is a dead Body!"

"That's my problem and not yours!"

"You are not going to be able to do it!"

"Watch me!"

"Why are you being difficult?"

"Because she is about to leave this house and NEVER COME BACK. EVER. If someone is to carry her out of here, it has to be someone who loved her, not someone who is treating her like a piece of Baggage. I am the only person here who loves her who can do it, and if you imagine I will let anybody else lay his hands on her, you will have to go through me!"

I could see the calculations being played in my big aunt's mind. She knows me. She knows how much I've loved that woman and how crazy I get when it comes to her. She decides to let it go. Resigned, she tells me: "Fine. You carry her down!"

"Thank you", I respond. "Now please leave me alone with her for a minute so I can say goodbye to her."

They look at each other, not knowing what to make of this. No one has ever made a request like that before. I don;t give them a chance to respond. I authoritatively say"Out. Now. I will only need a minute". They look at each other again, and then they scamper outside, mumbling about how crazy I am acting. I ignore them, as I sit on a chair next to the table, and rest my head on the table next to her wrapped feet, taking the whole thing in. 

Grief, I believe, is such a private thing, but not so much in our culture. We seem to like to grieve collectively, with everybody seeing everybody else at their worst emotional moments. You are not allowed any private goodbyes. No moments alone. No chance to make your peace with the event. Somehow that is not important or logical in our culture. So I knew that I had to do this. To act crazy. To kick them out. Otherwise they wouldn;t leave me alone with her.

I raise my head from it's resting place at the side of the table, and I get up, and kiss her head, and then kiss her feet. "Thank you for everything", I say fighting back tears. No time for that now. I get up, I open the door, and I go back to the table. I put my hands underneath her body, and I start carrying her out of the room. 

A lot of people asked me how I managed to carry her down. Not the physical aspect of it, but the emotional and psychological aspect of it. The truth is, I didn't think about it at the time. That I was carrying her dead body in my arms. At this moment in time, you don't think complex thoughts. You just think Baby steps. I will carry her down the hallway. I will get out of the door. I will walk down the stairs. 1,2,3.

As I carry her out, the women start the final wailing and lamentation. This is now for real. Her final journey begins. They seem to come from every room in the house. I walk past them. They don't matter right now. Nothing does, except getting the body into the coffin.

I don't remember how I walked down those 4 flights of stairs carrying her. I didn't feel any pain or discomfort, or well, anything. I became robot-like. I had a task to complete and I was completing it.

I reach the ground floor, and the driver is awaiting me with the coffin. I place her inside, we close the lid, and we place a green piece of cloths on it. You then proceed to carry the coffin to the car, when suddenly everybody is running to carry the coffin with you. You don't mind the help this time. You put the coffin in the car and you get inside. It's time to go to the mosque. It's time to finish this! 

At the Mosque, by the time we arrived, there was a full fledged circus taking place. Over 70 cars parked all over the place. I counted 3 current government ministers, at least 7 captains of industry, and people whom I have just met in passing. They all left all that they were doing and came to pray for her. The street was blocked. People were asking who died exactly, and nobody had a sufficient answer amongst the by-standers. But they sensed it was somebody important, so the scene that played out once people saw the coffin in front of our building moments ago played out again. Poeple going inside the mosque see the coffin, they run out to help us carry it. Imagine a coffin with 15 pallbearers, all pushing and shoving one another to be able to carry part of the coffin. One of them was my cousin M. , finally here. I was incredibly glad to see him. 

We place the body inside the mosque, and we sit down. This is my first time in a mosque in over 4 years. We pray for her. I hadn't also prayed in 4 years. Never felt the need to. This time I did. For her.

"I can't believe she is gone", M said.

"I know", I respond!

"She is better off now. She was really suffering those past few months", he says.

"I know, I know!", I say sighing.

"You just know she is going to Heaven though. I mean, if she doesn't get in, who will?", he looks at me. Smiling. Thinking of her. Thinking of Heaven. 

"Well, she better be in Heaven, or else God will have a serious problem with me when Judgment Day comes.", I respond to him.

"Don't say that. That's Blasphemy!" He looks at me, half scared at the thought of Blasphemy being said in the mosque.

"I am just saying. She better have a place there."

The call for Prayer saves us from this conversation. We get up and we pray. 

The praying for the soul of a dead person always happen in a separate prayer after an official time for prayer. The moment the group noon prayer was done, I awaited the Imam to start the prayer. He instead steps up, and says in the Mic: "We are about to start the prayer for the deceased lady. Can her closest of Kin please come upfront and lead the prayer for her soul?"

A wave of confusion sweeps the crowd. Everyone suddenly seems uncomfortable, not knowing who to turn to. The closest of Kin is my father, but he prays using a chair due to his back problems. I look at him, and he looks at me back. Suddenly everyone is looking at me. He is her only male son. I am his  only male son. That makes me next in line.

So I step upfront next to the Imam, give my back to everybody, and think to myself: "The things I would do for you, granny. The things I would do for you!" …

…And I lead the prayer! 

I have agonized for months on end on this blog over the Islamic culture of death. How much I've hated and resented it. But I didn't have anybody that close to me die before and for me to have such an important role in their funeral. Being in that situation, I have to say that I have developed a small appreciation for it. 

Ignore all the Jihdy crap. Ignore all the emphasis over suicide-bombers and terrorists. Ignore the 72 virgins, the paradise and all of that crap for a second. Just ignore it. And look at how the people act. The respect and reverence given to the occasion. The ladies fighting over who gets to wash her, the people fighting to carry the coffin, the amount of people who have left their jobs, their vacations, their lives, on a 1 hour notice, to come pay their respects to you. That's..It's overwhelming. And also incredibly sweet. The people coming together. The appreciation they have for the deceased and the sense of duty and love that brings them together to do this. I keep going back to the word reverence. No other word describes it more accurately.

It's hard to explain…. 

You drive away from the Mosque, with the body, and you realize that the car is not heading towards the family burial ground. I ask my father what's going on. He tells me that he was just informed that my grandmother had bought a separate burial ground for herself away from the family one, and only told my aunt. The same way she only told my dad about the obituary, and my other aunt on the location of her closet key. She gave each one of them a piece of the puzzle, so that they would have to come together when she dies. "You know how she was like", my dad says again. 

Yeah, Yeah..I know!

I found out later that she was originally supposed to be buried next to my Grandfather, but apparently right after he died, all of his brothers died after him, and they hadn't bought their own burial ground, so they all got buried next to him. And then their wives died, so they all got buried with their husbands, and now their sons are all like "Well, my dad  and my mom are buried here, so I will be too". I asked how come we are not telling them that they can't be buried here, and that they need to get their own burial ground. I was told that you can not turn people away, especially not  family, if they needed to bury their loved one in your burial ground. You just didn't. 

So, my granny, seeing how crowded it was getting over there, chose to buy her own burial ground, just for herself. When I think how she arranged all of this while being that sick. How she wrote the obituary, bought the plot of land, paid everything off, I can't decide whether to think what an amazing Lady she was, or what that says about her confidence in us. I was always told to never second-guess the dead. I now know why. 

Once we get the coffin out, we open it. The way Muslims bury their dead is buy building an underground room. Like a basement. And you walk downstairs with the body and you lay it in there, and you personally lay dust on it with your hands. The room is then sealed, only to be opened when another person dies and needs to be buried next to you.

At that moment my cousin S. had finally showed up. He missed saying goodbye to her and the prayer in order to have the obituary reach the paper and get printed in tomorrow's edition. He was a mess. Repeating how "I didn't get to say goodbye, I didn't get to say goodbye!". I hug him, and tell him that he, and no one else, is carrying her down there with me. That calms him down a bit.

I carry her with him, we both walk down the steps slowly and carefully. She still smells like roses and Jasmines. We lay the body in the corner of the room. We put the dust on it without hands. We get out, look back, and he finally breaks down. Almost 50 years now, and he knew her all of his life. She was to him, like me, the mother he wished he had. I hold him and we walk out.

The caretakers start putting large blocks of stone to block the entrance. Each block makes a thumping noise and and covers a piece of the view isnide that room. They then put sand and cement on the blocks and start mixing them with water, sealing the place forever. The women and men are all crying now. You can hear the Koran being played in someones cassette in a distance, the voice of the Koran reader sad and agonizing. This is it. It's really over. She is gone. Soul and Body. You will never see her again, you will never talk to her again and you will never hear of her again. Death, in many ways, is like a really bad break-up with no second chances. It's really stupid like that.

The cement hardens, the Koran stops playing, and the people start to leave. Her two maids leave roses on her grave. They've lost the means of their livelihood now, but they don't seem to care about that right now. Out of all of the people there, those two broke my heart the most. You expect this kind of love from family, not from strangers. But to them she was family, and that made them family to me as well. They were the last two to leave besides me and my father.

We walked out, we took a final look, we closed the gates, and we drove away.

That night, I called her and told her what happened. I don't remember the conversation, but I remember her doing her best to console me. She listened to me. She wasn't uncomfortable with the conversation. She didn't say the usual bullshit. She just listened. It was all that I needed.

She told me that after she hung up with me she couldn't help herself from crying. She never heard me like this. She understood what I was going through. She especially knows.

I figured I should thank her here. Some of my best friends couldn't handle it like you did, some even brought in some heavy drama in my life right when I needed their consoling the most. You were there for me.

Thank you!

Two weeks later. Today. Imogen Heap's "Hide and Seek" on repeat, replaying endlessly in the background. I am finally able to write this post. So much has happened in those two weeks. So much.

I am still not dealing with it, especially because I've been dealing with a lot of problems and drama in work and in my personal life at the same time, and not the everyday bullshit either. Some intensely heavy shit. I feel like I am long overdue for a nervous breakdown, and I could probably use it, but since I am not allowing myself to have one since that day, I am not going to worry about that now.

My father has been staying in the family house ever since, which has turned into a House of ghosts with her gone. Nobody's visiting or coming up anymore. You start worrying about Ramadan and all the Holidays. The first ones will be the hardest, and you know that everyone will try to make the extra effort and come in order to show that we are as strong of a family as we were when she was alive. But we all know that after that first year, we won't try that hard anymore. She was the glue that held us together, and without her we will start to unravel. It already started on some level.

On the insistence of cousin S's mother, my eldest and craziest aunt, they opened my Grandma's room 4 days after her burial. My aunt wanted some things, and while we begged her to wait at least a week before doing this, she wasn't hearing it. She even started to complain to people that we are preventing her from her mom's stuff. So we agreed to open the room, give her whatever she needs and have it over and done with. When my father told me about this, I told him that there is one thing that I wanted from that room.

"What is it?", he asked.

"Her wedding ring from grandpa. That's all I want!", I responded.

He got silent for 10 seconds, and then told me, "It's yours!"

And that day I got that ring.

As I held it with my fingers, I looked at the inscription inside of it. It had my name on it. My first and Last name. It made sense, I am after all, named after my Grandfather. I was overwhelmed with emotion as I held it.

This was a symbol of their love. A love my Grandma carried for over 70 years, 56 of which after his death. The kind of love that we can only dream of having one day. It was at that moment that I decided that whomever it is that I am going to marry, I am going to marry her with that ring. Needless to say, that's going to complicate things for me considerably in that department. I can not just marry anybody i feel like marrying anymore. I have to find someone worthy of this ring. Someone who will understand what it means. That our love will have to equal theirs…

I will find her. One day I will. And I will love her the way she deserves to be loved. After all, in this life, what else is there?

RIP grandma. I will never forget you! 

The Next Step

It has came to my attention that the reasons of my quitting were not clear for some people, which is probably due to the fact that I didn't exactly elaborate on why I did what I did or what it means. This is an effort to remedy that. This is not me coming back to blogging though: this wasn't me crying wolf or a publicity stunt, so fans and haters, don't raise your hopes up or don't get disappointed, respectively. This is a clarification, more than anything.

  1. While it is true that I am currently in the States , it doesn't mean that I have "escaped" Egypt or have no intention of going back. On the contrary, come next week I will be gracing the Cairo International Airport with my fabulous presence again. I have no intention of letting those goons get me out of Egypt so easily; If I am to leave it will be on my terms, and not theirs. Me traveling to the US right after shutting down the blog was purely coincidental: the trip was planned for months in advance and the decision to shut down the blog was more of a spur of the moment decision. In retrospect, it probably would've been better and smarter- or at least less rumor inducing- to do this after I came back from the States, but alas, what's done is done. However , to make it clear once and for all, I maybe down, but I am not out.
  2. I have stated two reasons for quitting, and the majority of the people took the first one and ignored the second one, even though for me the second one was one of the major reasons for doing what I did. The truth of the matter is, the secuirty situation and intimidation aside, this was a protest, my way of telling the Egyptian blogosphere that we need to focus. That we now have the media attention, the people's admiration or at least interest, and the "zeitgeist' is ours if you will, so it's time we use it wisely. Blogs actually allowed the world to listen to us, so now that we have this tool, the question is : what do we have to say exactly? It's personally depressing to see that very few, handful really, from those who command the attention, have anything to contribute to the debate, and even those are censoring themselves now. I am not saying that we should take ourselves too seriously, or start going on ego trips over our importance and role and believe that we are leaders and influential, but there are things to be done that we can easily do. At the end of the day, a blogger is purveyor of information: we can supply people with the information and the lessons they need to affect change and reform. Just think about it: None of the things we are demanding or calling for are exactly new. There has been countless civil rights movement, democracy movements, nonviolent activism movements, very successful ones, all over history and all over the world. We should learn from them. We should provide their lessons to the public, think about how to apply their strategies to our situation, and see which things that they did are applicable to our situation and which aren't. We are not inventing anything new here: the knowledge is available and many amongst us know it already. Maybe it's time to share it.

    And even if you do feel disheartened about the apathy or the lack of interest or activism on the part of the average Mo in Egypt, well that too needs to be examined and worked on. Let's face it, the average Egyptian is scared of political reform, and shies away from religious reform, so how do you get them involved? Well, there is still social reform, and they have shown keen interest in that. Take the anti-sexual harassment protest for example: For the first time ever you have had a protest that included foreigners, AUC students, regular University students, Hijabis, liberals, alongside your run-of-the-mill activist. Finally, something we could all agree on: Let's capitalize on that. The question becomes: Why did the campaign stop? Why didn't it go forward? We should've. If you draw the people in using social reform, than sooner or later they will become interested and active in political and religious reform as well, because it is all connected. That's an example of how to reel them in. And it can be done, easily. But do we do it? Nope! Some of us were too busy picking up cute AUC girls at the protest instead. It's shameful. It's time for us to stop being distracted about such things and focus: All of those people could've been mobilized , and instead the opportunity got wasted. We shouldn't allow this to happen again.

  3. That being said and thus out of way, I am not saying that first reason is irrelevant either: Our security situation is dire, and not only in Egypt, but rather all across the middle-east. Bloggers have been intimidated by the authorities in Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Syria, Iran, Bahrain, just to name a few. It seems like the period of hope and reform that the bloggers of those countries have pushed for and represented in the past 2 years is now coming to an end, with the authorities more and more focused and intent on shutting us up, using everything from intimidation to imprisonment. And we have no defenders, no one to protect us, or champion our causes or lobby for our rights and safety. There used to be the Committee to Protect Bloggers, but that went defunct due to lack of funding, media-pressure- only strategy and too large of a scope: To champion the causes of every single persecuted blogger all over the world takes incredible time and effort. Not to mention they relied heavily on the media, and the media is selective of which stories to publish and which don't, and even when they do mention it, there is heavy doubt on how effective the media is as a pressure tool against repressive regimes. But it's the only tool we had, and god bless them for trying in the cases in which they did. God knows that without the media and the pressure they applied, Alaa probably would've stayed a lot longer in jail. So don't get me wrong Media, it's not that I am ungrateful, thanks for all you have done, but it's starting to be not enough, and the Abdel Karim case has proven that so far.

So what now? What's the solution? Well, here is what I am proposing:

I am proposing creating an organization that deals with championing the causes of blogger and freedom of speech in the middle-east, at least as the first step, since it seems that 90% of the cases of blogger intimidation and oppression comes from this region anyway. This new organization / committee / coalition / whatever would exclusively bring focus to our causes, champion them and push for our protection. It would do so by utilizing a strategy that doesn't only rely on bloggers and the media to pressure governments. This new coalition would include 1) prominent bloggers from the US on both sides of the political divide (cause one of the few things that I think the left and the right can agree and co-operate on is the importance of free speech), who will bring light, focus and attention of the American public and the media to the plight of those bloggers, and help mobilize their readers to start letter campaigns and pressure against those governments who do oppress bloggers, 2) prominent bloggers from each and every middle-eastern country, who will provide us with the news of who is getting arrested or persecuted, and help mobilize their local blogosphere and media to come to aid of those who are being persecuted, 3)Human rights organizations and interest groups, local and international ones, to help with the legal, physical and moral support for those imprisoned or charged with crimes due to what they wrote, and 4) Members of American and Europeans Think Thanks and Interest groups, who will help with spreading the word and lobbying their respective government or the select lawmakers who do care about freedom of speech to apply pressure on our governments to leave us the hell alone. This way we would cover all fronts and apply pressure from everywhere: The Media, the blogosphere, both legally and physically on the ground , internationally through lobbying governments and lawmakers, and not to mention, most importantly, through the campaigning of the thousands of caring people world-wide that do give a damn about our freedom and spend their time and effort writing e-mails to our embassies and their government respresentitives, forwarding letters and informing others, and raising money through online donations to support those bloggers affected and in need. If something like this gets created and gets operated correctly, the playing field would be drastically changed in favor of the side of the middle-eastern bloggers, and eventually persecuted bloggers everywhere. It would eliminate a huge part of the worrying associated with blogging and would stop people like me from quitting, and even eventually get me, and others like me who quit, started on blogging again. Such an entity is essential, necessary and its time has come.

Pursuing such an organization this would be the logical next step, for me, for us, to take. This will be my focus in the few remaining days I have here in DC: How to make such an organization real. If you are interested, if you think this is a good idea and would like to help, or have suggestions or ideas or input to help improve or facilitate this, please contact me and let me know. I am all ears, and open to all suggestions.

To risk sounding cliché and trite, let's light and candle instead of cursing the darkness.

We can do this!

The Sandmonkey

PS: I am overwhelmed on the incredible amount of love and support shown in the blogs all over, the comment section of my previous post and all over my Inbox. It's really humbling, and in many ways depressing, because my decision has seemingly caused a lot of people pain and that was the last thing that I wanted to do to any of you. You have my love and sincerest apologies for any grief or disappointment my decision has caused any of you. Thank you so much for your kind words and your best wishes. I honestly do not know what I could've possibly done in my previous life to deserve such fantastic readers, but I must've been a freaking saint or something. Anyway, hopefully, if this works out, One day you will find me ranting over here once again.

Here's hopin!


Today is going to be the day that I've been dreading for quite sometime now. Today is the day I walk away from this blog. Done. Finished.

There are many reasons, each would take a post to list, and I just do not have the energy to list them. As anyone who has been reading this blog for the past  month, I think it is apparent that things are not the same with me. There are reasons for that:

One of the chief reasons is the fact that there has been too much heat around me lately. I no longer believe that my anonymity is kept, especially with State Secuirty agents lurking around my street and asking questions about me since that day. I ignore that, the same way I ignored all the clicking noises that my phones started to exhibit all of a sudden, or  the law suit filed by Judge Mourad on my friends, and instead grew bolder and more reckless at a time where everybody else started being more cautious. It took me a while to take note of the fear that has been gripping our little blogsphere and comprehend what it really means. The prospects for improvment, to put it slightly, look pretty grim. I was the model of caution, and believing in my invincipility by managing not to get arrested for the past 2 and a half years, I've grown reckless. Stupid Monkey. Stupid!

And speaking of the state of the egyptian blogsphere, it has been pretty depressing in its own right. One has to wonder at some point the futulity of being a keyboard warrior in a country where nothing seems to matter to its people anymore. At the same time, there has been those amongst us who have loved the fame and the attention, and are now becoming the egyptian blogsphere's equivelant of Paris Hilton: They are famous for being famous, peddling the same stories and not really presenting anything of value to the debate. And then there is the fact that we are entering the "Iconogrphy" phase : We are becoming Icons. Too much Media attention, too many american organizations claiming to champion our causes while they are cashing out in donation from people gullible enough to believe them, too much hype generated by us and others, so many of us tooting our own horns and even crying wolf at times has made Icons of us. We now have young bloggers who come up to many of us "Old Guard" and tell us how they are such great fans of ours, and how we are their role models and heroes and how they are starting to blog because of our "courageous example". And there are those of us who are buying into it, taking in undertsudies to placate our big heads, hooking up with groupies to feed our egos, acting as if we are the warriors for change we are made up to be and forgetting why we started blogging to begin with. It seems that we are entering a state of transformation, and we should either 1) evolve, take the next step whatever it is, 2) stay the way we are and risk becoming carricatures of ourselves or 3) quit. Not knowing what the next step is, and needing time and space to figure it out, I chose the only other option that made sense: I quit!

So here comes my apology to those of you who read me: I am sorry. I really can't continue to do this. You guys have been the best readers anyone could hope for, altough there are some of you who made me come close to shutting down the comments section many many times. I love you all for everything you have done for me, for all of the egyptian blogsphere. When I asked for your help, you gave us more than a helping hand. You cared. You gave a damn about a bunch of egyptians who had a dream to be free and stood by us in our houres of need. For that you are my heroes, and I can not possibly thank you enough.

May the day comes when I rant once again….

Love you all,

The Sandmonkey  

The Boy is back

I am finally back from Turkey. So much to report, so little time.

I have to say that my feelings towards Turkey are mixed at best: I really like the country, the food, the city of Istanbul and the ambience of it all, but I am having serious issues with a big part of the turkish population that I had to deal with. When I arrived, 2 seperate attempts to con me took place before I even got out of the airport, and then I spent a day escaping from the 58400572065879 pimps that surrounded my Hotel, who all spoke arabic. I felt like yelling and screaming" No, I don;t want Turkish girls, I don;t want hot russian girls, and my name is not Hajji". I ended up needing to take a girl with me everytime I walked out of the hotel because they wouldn't approach or harrass me if I had a girl with me. Imagine the ironic fruedian mindfuck of it all.

Also, amongst the things that did occur: an attempt by a friend to purchase hash for himself that turned horribly wrongand placed him and me in the clutches of turkish gangsters, which I managed to get out of with my money and ass intact; a weird foriegn lady living in the room next to me, who grabbed my ass and forced me to chnage rooms and floors; a number of cafes without menus specifically to cheat you out of money when the check comes, and a car accident on the way to the airport between our taxi and a truck which bruised my back and fucked up a friend's leg. And if that wasn;t enough, the secularists the day before I arrived did a huge demonstration to protest Adrogan's-turkey's islamist Prime Minister- presidential ambitions. The Islamists, sensing the secularists' fear, responded in the way expected from them, and slaughterd 3 turkish christians. To say things were tense in Turkey, well, that would've been an understatment!

But the food was good, the apple tea was good, the turkish coffee with pistachios were good, taking a cruise all along the Bosphorous was good, The haja Sophia and Sultan Ahmed were awesome. So all in all it was an ok trip!

Anyway, back to 270 unreplied e-mails, and this blog and a house that needs cleaning, and shitloads of laundry. Hmmph. Good thing I bought a lot of Alcohol Bottles coming in. Yay for Bacardi Reservoir Superior 8 anos rum. Hmmm….. 

Dispatches from Turkey

Ok, so I don't have any internet here, so this will be a brief dispatch from Funky Cairo..I mean Istanbul.

This place is insane. Within 2 houres of arriving, the driver that was supposed to pick me up didn't, the shuttle guy at the airport tried to con me into getting a  car for double the price, the cell phone guy tried to con me into buying a link that would've been more expensive than the Turkcell one by 80% and a pimp who spoke perfect arabic tried to sell me on his privately onwed hamam with, and I quote, the nicest russian women I have ever seen. Needless to say, this place is insane! No wonder I love it.

 Pictures and stories will come later. They have the funkiest food. They have a desert called chicken pudding, which is pudding with chicken in it. They sell turkishcoffer grounded with pestachio, They have 10 flavors for tea, apple tea being my favorite so far. And the people I am with are excellent. And I am , again, getting confirmed that this is a messed up region. Who knew that the assyrians were opressed in Syria? Crazy world!

But for now, I am ok, and I miss blogging. Damn you Hotel! 

Untill then… 

A matter of perspective

Something has been bothering me of late, and you, dear reader, can help put my mind to rest regarding it.

As you all know, I never really think before posting anything about Egypt. My posts are usually emotionally charged and reflect my anger or disdain or cyncisim towards what Egypt has become over the past two years. I used to get attacked by people who accuse me of tarnishing Egypt's reputation, which I always thought to be bullcrap, because 1) Unless to expose our problems we will never truly confront them or try to solve them, and 2) what I write about what's going on in Egypt isn;t any different than what many arabic prominent blogger writes, Wael Abbas for example. The difference is, I am told, that Wael writes for egyptians and arabs, while my audience is a bit more, ehh, ecclectic. I always thought this line of reasoning- that we have to hide our problems from the west- was bullshit, and still do till this day. However..

Ok, so a couple of days ago I was sitting with a friend and reflecting on the last refrendum election, and how we have videos of forgery. VIDEOS. And they were broadcasted on TV, and everybody had seen them, and yet nothing freakin happend. The people were not botherd at all, while a similar thing in any other country would've probably brought the entire government down. The thing is, I told him, we are used to this shit by now. When we get shocked, it is not because of the act, it's about how brazen it gets carried out now. We always knew there was torture in egyptian police stations, but we never expected them to be so brazen to videotape it and share it with friends; we always knew there was sexual ahrassment of women, we never envisioned a mass sexual assault during the first day of eid of all times. We always knew they were stopping cetrian people from entering voting polls, but we never expected to see them get shot at by the police. We always knew there was poll rigging, but we never thought they would videotape it and show it to the world. All of this crap, we expect it, because this is Egypt. Things that horrify any foriegner from any self-respecting country wouldn't raise the eyebrow of the average egyptian. We are used to this. Heyah dih masr ya abla!

The thing that bothres me now, is this: How does the average foreigner, who never been to Egypt, knew nothing about it aside it being the land of the Pyramids, and who only got his image of Egypt from reading this blog, well, view Egypt now? I mean, I have been blogging for almost 2 and a half years now, and some of the people who started reading me back then continue to read me today. My question for you is: How do you, based on my writing and those like me in the egyptian blogsphere, view Egypt? 

Please let me know! 


Let's say that your grandmother, whom you love more than anything in the world, gets sick and can't suddenly move her right arm or leg..

So, you take her to the hospital @ 2 am and get her the doctor to examine her.

The doctor examines her and decides that the reason is a blood clot of some sort… he gives her some anti-clotting fluid or whatever, and she gets better for 12 houres..

..and then she starts homerraging blood from her anal cavity.

You realize that the doctor apparently gave her too much of the anti-clotting fluid, and they realize it too, so they fix that, and decide to give ehr a blood transfusion to make up for the blood she lost….

..only, instead of using the drip system to tarnsfer the blood over a few houres, a genius doctor decides to transfer an entire liter of blood in less than one hour.

This influx of blood causes some sort of fluid increase in her lungs, and she ends up getting lung adema.

She is 94! And she had to go through all of this over the span of 4 days. It's a private Hospital, the best care supposidly money can get you, so naturally there are no excuses.

Now, what I don't understand is, why is everybody so upset that I ended up assaulting both doctors who have been messing up my beloved granny for 4 days, and beating one of them- the one who made the one liter transfer decision- to pulp? I mean, I didn't break any of his bones. All he got is a couple of bruises, a black eye and about 12 kicks in the stomach. For the kind of horrible care he gave her, well, in any respectable decent country his medical license would be revoked and I would've sued him till his last penny for making a 94 year old woman go through this. Now, given that this isn't the case since this is Egypt, I figure him getting beat up by me is a fair equivelant. Hell, given that he didn't need one liter of blood transfusion, I reckon I let him off easy. No? I mean, any doctor that makes 3 life threatening mistakes over 4 days to an elderly women in her 90's, well, that's just someone who needs his ass kicked, right? And I didn't even get to beat him as much as I wanted, the damn nurses and other doctors had to intervene. The fuckers!

Ok, before you say it, I know, I know. Violence never solves anything, this wasn;t the rational thing to do, blah blah blah. Sorry, when it comes to to those I love I am not a rational person. I am sorry. I am not a violent person, and I almost never get into fights, but, ehh, she is my granny, you know? Seeing her bleed all over the place because the doctor is an idiot, well, it doesn't bring out the rational human being in me. And honestly, this doctor, for what he did, deserved it. It's a miracle that she is still alive, and ever since I beat him up, and the entire hospital saw what will happen to the next guy who messes up her treatment, well, she has been feeling and getting better. So maybe it wasn;t the most rational thing to do, but it deliverd results.

Oh well… 

She is coming out of the Hospital tomorrow. Thanks for everyone who prayed for her or kept her in their thoughts. I really appreciate it! 

Now all I need is some sleep! 

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