Sunday, September 30, 2007


Suf and her colleague Brad have been listening to the new Kanye on the way to work. That cleared up my Nickelback-related anxieties a little. And my anxieties about the Ontario Liberals (have you heard the music they play at their rallies?). Thank god at least a handful of them are paying attention to some good tunes.

It will be a while before the music channels here start playing Kanye. Right now, they're obsessed with curvy, Chanel-clad, tone deaf, eye candy like Haifa Wehbe, or the perpetually yearning Nick Carter.

And, of course, lots of religious music.

Well, here's some real religion:

Monday, September 24, 2007

Cleopatra is for commoners

Bassel, my TA, was horrified today. He discovered I am smoking Cleopatras - the local brand.
Like most other things here, they're cheap (about $1 a pack), and they do the job.
Foreign brands cost twice as much - a whopping $2.
"But why?" asked a wide-eyed, perplexed Bassel.
"I just wanted to try them."
Now I was perplexed. What's the big deal with Cleopatras?
So I asked one of the guys who helps us around the office.
"He's right, doctoor," said the smiling, gentle, Egyptian man.
"Cleopatras are for the lower class people."

Friday, September 21, 2007

Ramzan & the Khan

All pictures in this post copyright Yasir Khan 2007.

Ramzan (ramadan to many of you) turns Cairo upside down.
You sleep when it's time to eat, eat when you're supposed to sleep, work when you normally go home, and go home during work hours.
Traffic takes a break too. Normally, by 6pm, all roads here become exhaust-filled parking lots.
But not tonight, when Ahson and I decide to check out ramzan in Khan-al-khalili (aka the Khan).
We drive through a dead city, to a dead market.
It's iftar: time to break the fast. So everybody's either eating, praying, or waiting for the post-iftar stampede.

Ahson and I make our way to the Al Fishawy cafe.
I've read that Naguib Mahfouz would come here to write.

As we smoke shisha, and sip mint tea, the post-iftar stampede begins.
Traffic, touts, temper tantrums.
A girl tries to sell Ahson keychains, while balancing a newborn.
A Somali dude named "Mark" shares his Chapelle's Show DVD.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Suf writes to me today and tells me a deep, dark secret (well, not so deep, dark, or secret anymore):
"I like a Nickelback song... and the video."
I question my marriage in my head, and ask her where we went wrong.
Should we have moved to Barrie instead of Cairo?
Not so fast, she says. Take a look at it.
So, I youtube the bloody song, and against my better judgment, I actually like what I see and hear!
I am so ashamed of myself.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Baghdad Needs Banksy

The American plan for stemming sectarian violence in Iraq is to now build walls between Shia and Sunni neighbourhoods. It's worked in one way - Shias and Sunnis are actually protesting against it... together.

The Yanks are call it a "concrete caterpillar". It is already 2km long, and is intended to protect a Sunni neighbourhood from attacks by Shia militia.

Here's the kicker, though: AFP's reporting that the Baghdad city council is hiring artists to paint "calming landscapes and scenes" on the wall, "depicting Iraq's natural beauty."

Shia leader Moqtada Al Sadr, meanwhile, has other ideas: "Draw magnificent tableaux that depict... sedition, car bombings, blood that (the US) has brought upon Iraqis."

Where the hell is Banksy when you need him? He did a heck of a job with the Israeli wall.
Photographs from

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Bargain Basement Sociology

All pictures in this post copyright Yasir Khan 2007.

A colleague at the university recently told me that you can tell the socio-economic status of a Cairene neighbourhood by looking at the roofs of buildings.
The more satellite dishes you see, the more affluent the residents.
Poorer neighbourhoods usually have one or two dishes per building.
These are pictures from my balcony.
Does this mean my neighbours are rich?


Our shipment arrived, about a month after I put it on a truck in TO.
It's all there, and it's all in one piece (except for a few mandatory bruises). Not bad.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

From Cairo to Springfield?

This is me at my most narcissistic.

Saw a link to the Simpson's Movie site on Strombo's page. Turns out you can simpsonize yourself.

You can see George "Simpson" Stroumboulopoulos at the bottom of his page.

This is the best I could do for myself.

Does this look anything like me?

Sunday, September 9, 2007

... and Khufu shuffled his feet...

A friend had warned me when she gave me the invitation - "I have no idea what her music is like."

"It's by the pyramids," I thought. "They probably don't let just anybody perform there."

Last Friday night, Hurricane Chantal hit the sphinx like a brick wall. At least that's what it sounded like.

A sinfully curvy Chantal Chamandy put on a show replete with awesomely hot dancers, gorgeous backup singers, a helium balloon moon, and the Cairo Symphony Orchestra.

For about an hour and a half, I was amazed at how someone so pretty, and so well-produced, can be so many notes off key, in so many different languages (english, french, spanish, and arabic), so consistently.

No matter. I'm a lyrics man, myself. And Chantal's songs about "war" and "love" (when you kiss me there my body thaws, like an ice cream cone...) did not disappoint. They were the stuff that greeting cards at Zellers are made of.

Chantal transformed a packed crowd of Egypt's finest - young specimens of Arab manhood, who are normally shy and reserved. On Friday night, they whistled, howled, swayed, and made some seemingly genuine offers to augment her gene pool.

Yup, she won over some hearts and minds that night. And behind her, in his pyramid, Khufu was already downloading her off iTunes.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Where are you from, really?

This wouldn't be a blog about living away from the home country, if I didn't write about this.

But then again, I'm asked this question even in Canada.

For the most part, Egyptians think I'm a local. How do I know this? Well, if I'm with other obvious foreigners, I am completely ignored. I could be a driver, a gopher, or anybody else who can be loosely defined as "the help." The only question I'm usually asked (in Arabic) is in the "what are you doing here?" range.

If I'm by myself, the advantage is that I end up paying local prices for almost everything.

That is, until I open my mouth. Instantly, I get service, along with a suitably jacked-up price. And the question: "Where are you from?"

Inta min ein?

Min Canada.

Ah! Canada kwayyis! Wa lakin, aslak eih? (Canada's good. But where are you from really?)

When that happens, I feel like I never left home. Canada, that is.

Beep Beep Beep

Marie finally got her smoke detectors!

No idea what I'm talking about? Go here.