Liebster stuff

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Dear readers, it seems that I have received an award.

This is a most unusual and flattering circumstance for which our lovely Pricess Orchid http://princessorchid.wordpress.com/ is responsible:) Thanks, Princess.

So here’s what I have to do: thank the blogger who nominated you (checked), answer 11 questions, write 11 things about myself, then pass on the love.

So http://expateyeonlatvia.wordpress.com/and http://theforgetfulgenius.wordpress.com/, how do you fancy some liebstering?

Here goes my confession:

1. What is the quality that you feel most proud of?
Clarity. Or…Hold on. Now I feel a bit muddled:)

2. If you could choose one superpower, what would it be?
To turn dull people into Oscar Wilde for the time we are stuck together

3. If the story of “Indecent Proposal” ever happens to you, what would you do?
As which one of the triangle:)?

4. What is your most embarrassing moment?
Must have been too embarrassed to remember.

5. Is there anything you can’t do anymore but you wish you could? What is it?Clubbing until the small hours. And finding it pleasant:)

6. What is the title of the last book you read?
Season of Migration to the North, Tayeb Salih

7. What is the first adjective you would think of when anyone asks you about China?
Infinite:)

8. What is your favorite sport?

Football

9. What do you want to ask if you ever meet a great fortuneteller?
Will I believe you?

10. What is your biggest superstition?
Don’t wear your underwear inside out or the weather will change

11. What do you do when you have some “ME time”?
Read a book, read another book, have another cup of coffee.

 

 11 things about myself:

1. I always drink red wine in the winter and white wine in the summer

2. I love anything that involves high percentages of cheese, butter, pickles and/or mustard

3. A good walk is one that takes me to a nice coffee shop that has newspapers, on a crisp spring morning

4. Have never seen a James Bond film

5. I am obsessed with balconies

6. I am afraid of lifts and closed spaces (unless they are planes, which I bizarrely don’t have a problem with)

7. I can’t sing, draw or perform any remotely artistic task

8. Cheesy films put me in a rage

9. I love animals

10. In a parallel universe, I always punch condescending people in the nose

11. I want to know why other women’s make-up always looks so perfect

 

How about you, my liebster-ised readers?

 

5 things you absolutely must do in Cairo

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There are a million things you must do in Cairo. The joys of the city are as endless as its rivers of traffic.

Its charm, however, is impossible to match.

The Pyramids and the Egyptian Museum are worlds in themselves. I couldn’t possibly do them justice here – although I might still try one day:)

For now, let me tempt you with 5 small scale wonders, which filled my heart with joy, my ears with a cacophony of noise and my sandals with Cairo’s persistent reddish dust:

1. Walk through centuries-old Islamic Cairo, have a cup of coffee and a nargyllah and take in the timeless rituals of the residents’ evening.

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2. Walk around Coptic Cairo, where the dead rest in small square houses attended by quiet old women in rustling robes.

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3. Go see the whirling dervishes of Al-Azar, who work themselves into a trance as their bodies errupt in flower-like explosions of colour.

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4. Stop in one of the city’s gardens and take in the fragrance and the colours. Try not to stare at the blushing young couples hiding in full view. For countless young men and women, a public garden is the only chance for a good old snog, away from the careful eyes of the family.   Image

5. Take a felucca down the Nile at sunset and be awed by the view and also by this man, who sails it single-handedly while burning 5000 calories and leisurely smoking a fag.

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Cairo is

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Cairo 2013 march 031Cairo 2013 march 038I have been in Cairo for a full mad week now, which explains my absence from my favourite online playground.

Enter Cairo.

Noisy, alive, sprawling, fast, dusty, fragrant, colorful.

This city is a heavy-breathing, powerful beast. Old French villas, elegant slim mosques, brown tower blocks and the Nile flowing calmly through the restless, ever changing human landcape.

The music of Cairo is a never ending cacophony of car noise. The traffic is a murderous shambles. I spent my first two days here worrying I was to start and end my trip on the same side of the road.

It is practically impossible to cross the street. No car ever stops. They come at you in their thousands, at crushing speed, like one of those massive waves you see on TV at a particularly succesful surfing contest.  You basically jump into this sea of blasting, jumbled metal, close your eyes and pray.

Now I’m no traffic sissy. I’ve done my share of bad traffic in Amman, Istanbul, Mumbai and a few other brave places where people take their lives in their hands every day to get milk. Cairo makes them look like a village roundabout in Germany.

And the hassle, oh the hassle, please come here if you want the write the book of hassle.

You know that feeling of sailing a crowd on your own, you and your thoughts, unseen and untalked to? Forget it! You are never alone in Cairo.

Any tiny trip is a social occasion. People talk to you randomly, men follow you singing, boys shout as they fly past on scooters, kids run into your knees, old ladies approach you with tissues, mints and cigarettes.

Welcome to Egypt.

The funny thing is I love it. The energy of the city is splendid.

The trays that waiters carry in the morning to cater to bored, winking policemen, the sun playing with the iron cast balconies of crumbling houses, men rowing down the Nile, fruit and veg overflowing.

The dance of everyday life and the smart men and women of an ancient land talking about the frustrating chaos of the present. The twinkle in their eyes, the cloud of perfume, that beautiful, glowing skin.

Lamb testicles on restaurant menus.
Stumbling upon an island of fragrant jasmine on a side street, the moon over the understated beauty of an old mosque, cafes where people sit in rows smoking argyllas and watching the spectacle of the world.

Cairo is

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Of lines, rivers and desert beauty

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One sunny morning drive out of Amman through one of its colourful suburbs, take the desert road and marvel at the emptiness around, as it stretches out in shades of yellow, dusty light.

And then, 50 minutes later, arrive at the Baptism site, on the Jordan river. (more on the history of the place here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baptism_of_Jesus)

Once you are there, wait patiently on a wooden bench in the shade and chat with the guy who makes nice, strong Arabic coffee. 

As this is a border area, you are not allowed beyond the hut of the friendly barista on your own. There is a mini bus every half an hour or so, which will take down a winding, scorched road to the Baptism Site.  

And then you are there. The landscape is one of dry, harsh, quiet beauty. 

The river is a mere greenish trickle today.

It is hard to imagine it as it must have been 2000 years ago. And yet, despite its miniature size, it is hard to take it all in.

The sights are bare and uncompromising as you walk around with a guide and your thoughts.

And then you get to the border. Jordan and Israel stand face to face over the exhausted little river. 

The Israeli guards give you bored looks over the water. The two flags fly in the blinding light, barely 10 metres apart. 

A bunch of pilgrims in white ceremonial dresses get in the water on the Israeli side.

On the Jordanian side, a few sun burnt Brits are filling their bottles with holy water. They could shake hands with the other country’s tourists if they stretched out a bit. 

Two sides to every river.Dead Sea Aug 4 034

Morning alert: an insufferable breech of etiquette is being committed behind your back

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Most of us spend most of our waking hours in a shared space, that has computers, blinds, a fridge if we are lucky and a number of people engaging at any one time with one or all of the above.

And then in this seemingly quiet environment, just like in one of those set up rooms where Big Brother films the sprawled limbs of contestants sitting around getting bored, in walks the Drama.

Or not quite.

In walks the chatty guy on his way to  the fridge. Or the blinds. One thing about those office blinds is that they cause a small but steady number of people to develop a permanent obsession, which manifest itself in their continuous pulling up and down, accompanied by grunts of dissatisfaction.   

And anyway, as chatty Co-worker walks by your computer aiming to correct the angle of the blinds, he slows down to look at your screen and then stops for a better read.   

“Oh, so your mum is coming to visit!” he observes to your startled back. “When is she coming? That’s lovely. I hope my mum can come over at some point.” 

You mumble a shared hope that his mum can indeed visit, suggest the month of May perhaps and then subtly return to your computer.

This time you open a big fat work email. This will shut him up, you cunningly smile to yourself.

It is an email he himself has received, it can be read in the comfort of his own chair so there would be absolutely no point in hovering. 

But the thing is, there is.  

 “Oh, do we really have to do that? Noooo!” he thunders. “When is the deadline? Scroll down, will you, I can’t see that anywhere. Do they actually know how busy we are????”

Yes, we are extremely busy. So little time, so many opportunities to stick our nose in other people’s business. It’s just not fair.  

How do you, smart people in offices everywhere, keep that little square in front of your eyes to yourself?