All posts tagged: Egypt

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Anchoring love in memories

When I was growing up, my mother insisted that “respect cannot be forced; it must, instead, be inspired.” She may as well have been speaking about love. My notion of love is grounded in place, anchored in memories of the self I was when the heart fluttered readily and of the life that made it come aflutter. I remember what I was wearing, I remember the documents I was editing when I was g-chatting inconspicuously in another tab. The slight nausea in anticipation of the moment when the distance would end, and he would parade through the airport doors. The need to remember how to be with one another again, in proximity and in the flesh, not protected by laptop screens thousands of miles apart. I remember what loving in Egypt felt like: dusty, furtive, tasting of ‘shai’ and ‘asir faroula’ and ‘sheesha toufach’, with the strong Arabic ‘ch’ at the end that I could never quite muster. It felt clumsy and young and shy and full of wondering and wandering. It was the love …

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When memories collide

You could have fit five people in the front of this car. In Alexandria, maybe even eight. In the early days of knowing one another, before love, we crammed into a 6-person van to see the other side of the Mediterranean. Having grown up in Thessaloniki, Greece, the Mediterranean always faced south of me. Watching the waves crash with an awareness that more sea lay north was a sight I needed to behold. Accomplishing that involved cramming 11 foreigners in a car that was designed for 6. My first glimpse of Alexandria took place while I was sitting on a woman’s lap with my head bumping up against a sticker of Hannah Montana. Next to me, there were two men in the driver’s seat. One of them was holding the door open. Or closed. Whichever way you look at it. Those early days of Hannah Montana and two drivers and a stranger on your lap set the precedent for our driving excursions in the years to come. There was that one car we rented with …

Cat-Power

The music of memories

If we had stuck more arms out of the car, it would have turned into an airplane and taken flight. We were listening to the kind of music that requires vigorous arm waving. There was no hint of breathy guitars or soothingly droning voices. Summer in Greece makes the kind of noise that is not muffled by the sweaty bodies of five women, their sleeping bags, and the giant cooler they packed to pretend to be adults on this camping trip [read: to keep the beer and grilled cheese sandwiches cool.]. I remember eras by the music that permeated them. Whether I actually liked the quality of the songs associated with a particular era does not affect my love for them; it is an attachment bred by auditory memories. The drives of an entire Kentucky August took place to the tune of “I wanna be a billionaire so freakin’ bad.” I cringed then and I cringe now. And yet, the beauty of it is that when the rest of the world’s eardrums have moved on, …

Violence backfires

This is Part II of a series of reflections on non-violent conflict, spurred by my participation at FSI 2011. For Part I, click here. On February 2, 2011, thugs armed with clubs and machetes rode into Tahrir Square on camels and began to attack protesters. Until the arrival of the thugs, journalists cited Tahrir Square as having been peaceful and filled with acts of non-violent protest, even in the face of tear gas and police brutality. Discipline is critical for the success of a non-violent movement or any act of civil resistance: The movement needs to protect its own non-violent character, or risk alienating individuals who ideologically agree with the cause but would not engage in or support violent acts. Egyptians had taken it upon themselves to maintain the non-violent character of their protests; Anna Therese day reported that protesters discouraged fellow Egyptians from marring the peaceful nature of their collective struggle.Following the thugs’ attack on the peaceful protesters, something began to shift: Journalists used stronger language in calling for Mubarak’s resignation and foreign leaders followed. Reflecting …

freckles

The day of wheat and worry

[This is part of a series of posts chronicling a walk across Israel. For previous parts of this story, click here. For the how’s and why’s, read The Time We Walked to the Sea.] Everything is wet. Having stayed up all night, I am photographing dew on flowers. A voice bellows from inside the tent and interrupts the daybreak. “I hate camping!” The night after Elijah and I met, we were sitting in a group of soon-to-be friends and talking about the types of things expats talk about when they gather in groups outside their home country. You know: food, travel bragging, poop, etc. We got to the subject of sleep and Elijah was sharing that he is a very particular sleeper. “I need to lie in a particular position, completely still, in complete silence.” None of this was unreasonable. Considering, however, that this conversation was taking place in Cairo, Elijah’s preferences meant that he spent most of the nights in the next few months watching me sleep. It was neither the flies alone nor …

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The day we failed to walk

[This is part of a series of posts chronicling a walk across Israel. For the how’s and why’s, start here.] “Four minutes and forty-eight seconds!”, Elijah declares. There is a tent pitched in our living room. Bolstered by his record-setting tent setup time, Elijah suggests I take a break from ziplocking socks and granola bars and get in the tent. We lie in it together, backs pressed against the floor of our apartment. Through the skylight, we can see the glow of our fluorescent bathroom lights.  *** To walk across Israel on our chosen trails, we first have to get from the deserts of the South to the mountains of the North.  The bus to Nazareth is one of those demographic experiences one can have in few places outside the Middle East: Men in kippot, women in hijabs, Christian pilgrims retracing the footsteps of Jesus, and backpackers in sleeveless shirts share the journey northward. We drive along the wall between Israel and the West Bank. The politically-correct term for this structure is “security barrier”, but …

From Mortenson to Hetherington

Every Easter I spend away from Greece is a nostalgic one. These are the links that have kept me company through this one. 1. Last week I shared Lynsey Addario’s interview on the joys and perils of photojournalism. This week, I am mourning the loss of two individuals who were dedicated to bringing us honest and direct stories from Libya. Director and photographer Tim Hetherington and photojournalist Chris Hondros lost their lives while covering this conflict. The Wall Street Journal has shared a beautiful array of Hondros’ work in Afghanistan, Egypt, Haiti, Serbia, Iraq and beyond. In 2010, Hondros compiled a 20-minute series of images from his life and work. He titled it Diary and said about it: “Diary is a highly personal and experimental film that expresses the subjective experience of my work, and was made as an attempt to locate myself after ten years of reporting. It’s a kaleidoscope of images that link our western reality to the seemingly distant worlds we see in the media.” 2.  Lots has been said about the controversy surrounding Greg …

Bahariya-oasis

Storytelling and Silence: Narratives of a conflict zone

A friend recently asked why I hesitate to write about my own experiences of conflict. “You work with women affected by conflict, you live in conflict zones and you own a domain with conflict in its name. What gives?” Colombia taught me a lesson about “the stories you cannot tell.” Journalists and aid workers alike were careful not to reveal identities or talk about their passions in a way that could alarm the omnipresent domestic surveillance apparatus. I learned to do my work with the hairs at the back of my neck raised and my lips tight. Shortly after I left Colombia, a wiretapping scandal came to light, revealing that the secret police intercepted the emails and phone calls of aid workers, journalists, judges and even government officials. The recent raid of the State Security building in Cairo has revealed a similar thoroughness to the mechanism of domestic surveillance in Egypt. In an article titled “Egyptians Get View of Extent of Spying,” the New York Times showed that surveillance was constant and not necessarily related to the …

Sexual harassment in Egypt

Under the Luxor sun, the brain melts into mush. It was the kind of heat that caused linen pants to stick to the seat from which I attempted to get up. My female friend and I both looked modest; modest was very important to us in Egypt. Long sleeves, long pants, a pashmina, and rivers of sweat. And yet, as we made our way to the Valley of the Kings, we were greeted with the familiar sounds that accompanied our walking down the street in Egypt: First, the hissing, then the sound of lips being pursed together to blow kisses, then the all-time classic “how much do you want for one of your sisters/beauties/wives?” to the male friend walking with us. He was offered camels, chickens and a Ferrari — though it was hard to ascertain whether the gentleman who had asked for our hand in marriage actually owned a Ferrari. To this day, the sound of blowing kisses causes the hair on the back of my neck to stand upright. My friend and I …

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My Egypt: A heart left in Cairo

At 6.22 PM on Friday, January 28th, The Guardian reported that army tanks were rolling into the center of Cairo. Cairo was my baptism. It is where I first worked with the UN. On Friday, prior to the interruption of coverage, I watched the NDP headquarters adjacent to my first UN office be licked by flames. It is where I smoked sheesha and watched the fog crawl in over the Nile. It was in a felucca on the Nile — the quintessentially tourist/expat experience, colored by techno music and neon lights — that I met the love of my life, my companion, my best friend. It is where I got groped by a policeman, where I fell asleep too late as the call to prayer bellowed across the street at 4 AM, where I had to exercise tolerance along judgment. I lived in contradictions and paradoxes. I had my faith in humanity crushed and reinforced on the same day. I am heartened by Egyptians’ ardent desire to claim the rights they have not enjoyed in …