Saturday, February 23, 2008

Save the Indian Tiger

Ok, this isn't related to Cairo, but its something I feel very strongly about & I wanted to get the message out to as many people as possible. ITs for the wildlife in my home country India.

Please sign up & do your bit and feel free to mail this message to your friends.

Hi Everyone,

Many of you must have been following the news channels which have been highlighting the truth about the Indian Tigers as discovered by the latest census.

This census (perhaps the most credible one done in a very long time) states that the number of tigers in India today is just over 1400 with a probabilistic survival rate in 2020 of under 10%. This rate assumes that no steps will be taken by us humans to correct this downward trend and all the reasons causing the falling population.

There is something we can do, even while sitting in the comfort of our homes or offices. We as a collective have the power to push our government to act.

NDTV is running a petition on their website and I hope that they are actually going to use that petition to bring the government to act (as opposed to simply using it as a gimmick to increase their eyeballs)

Our tigers are in deep trouble and there are at least 2 ways that you & I can act towards a solution.

1. Sign the Save the Tiger petition on NDTV
Hardly 15,000 people have signed it so far.

2. Log onto the prime minister’s website
and send him a polite mail (not more than 500 characters allowed in the mail, so choose your words with care), asking for the highest level of protection for India’s project tiger reserves. I request you to do this because tiger protection is not on his priority list - indeed, as the
Chairperson of the Wildlife Board, he can do a lot, but hasn’t. Our job is to put it high up on his agenda.

The one thing I request you to not do is to see this as someone else’s problem; it’s the least we can do. Also please forward this petition and this cause to your friends, so we can work to be the change we want to seein our country.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Frequency for ART channels changed

ART channels have not been working for awhile.

On calling them, they said they had changed the frequency for their channels to 12034 Horizontal.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Stifled, Egypt’s Young Turn to Islamic Fervor

From The New York Times

Shawn Baldwin for The New York Times
HELPING HAND A charity paid for dozens of couples to wed last fall in Idku, Egypt. Many young Egyptians cannot afford to marry and set up a household.

Published: February 17, 2008

CAIRO — The concrete steps leading from Ahmed Muhammad Sayyid’s first-floor apartment sag in the middle, worn down over time, like Mr. Sayyid himself. Once, Mr. Sayyid had a decent job and a chance to marry. But his fiancĂ©e’s family canceled the engagement because after two years, he could not raise enough money to buy an apartment and furniture.

Read the rest of the article at The New York Times

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Wadi el Hitan on UNESCO World Heritage List


(ANSAmed) - CAIRO,
February 11 -
In the frame of the Egyptian-Italian cooperation, Wadi Al Hitan (Whale Valley) became the first natural site on Unesco World Heritage list in Egypt and the Arab World the event was attended by the Italian Ambassador Claudio Pacifico.

The Italian cooperation since 1998 granted one million euros to protect Wadi Al Hitan and offered technical assistance, equipment, infrastructure and trained 13 rangers and 30 forest guards.

The Egyptian Minister of Environment, Maged George plans to turn the Wadi-Al Hitan area to an open museum. Wadi Al Hitan, located in the Egyptian Western Dessert, is the most important site in the world to demonstrate one of the iconic changes that work as a record of revealing life on earth through the evolution of whales. The site shows the form of whales during their transition from land animals to marine animals. The value of the site exceeds other comparable sites in terms of number, concentration and quality of fossils. Also, their accessibility and setting in an attractive protected landscape work as an added value. Wadi Al Hitan is the only place in the world where the skeletons of families of archaic whales can be seen in their original and geographic setting of the shallow nutrient-rich sea which dates back to some 40 billion years ago.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

2008 : Africa Cup of Nations

Also published at

As I confessed last time, I'm not an avid sports person at all. Not even a spectator.

But with Egypt's recent win against Ghana in the semi finals of the 2008 Africa Cup and the celebrations that erupted all over the city 2 nights ago. I could remain ignorant no longer and had to brush up before the finals tomorrow. Because Football is all that this country is talking about right now.

Football is to Egypt what Cricket is to India. An insider tip in Cairo is that the best time to travel around the city is before the midday prayers on Friday, during Iftaar time in Ramadan and during a televised football match (when Egypt is playing another country or Al Ahli is playing Zamalek) This is when traffic on Cairo's otherwise congested roads is almost non-existent. The city looks like a ghost town.

Al Ahli and Zamalek are local clubs. More often than not it is the Al Ahli club that wins, but that doesn't distract the Zamalek loyalists. Matches between these 2 clubs are so fierce, that they are almost always officiated by foreign referees.

Coming to the Africa cup, its been held almost every alternate year since 1957 (making it older than the corresponding European championship). This year is the 26th edition. Winning this tournament is a big deal because the winner gets to represent the Confederation of African Football at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup which is a prelude to the 2010 FIFA World Cup

Egypt has been a semi finalist 12 times thus far, but reached the finals just 50% of the time. So when Egypt won the semi finals against Ivory Coast (their co-finalist in 2006 Africa Cup of Nations) on the night of the 7th, the city turned 4-5 times noisier than usual. To those who have been in Cairo and thought it wasn't possible to get any noisier, I humbly invite you to be here during the finals and witness it for yourself.

Egypt is the nation that has won this cup the most number of times (5 of the 6 times that it has been in the semi finals) The other semi finals this year were between Ghana (host nation) and Cameroon - both 4 time winners of this cup.

The finals tomorrow will be between Egypt and Cameroon and the whole city is gearing up towards it. Flags are being sold on every street corner and major road (you might as well buy something patriotic when you are stuck in 3 hour traffic jams) Absenteeism will be at its highest tomorrow. If Egypt wins tomorrow, I don't even want to hazard a guess as to how long the celebrations will continue.

So if you are around during the finals, get home before the scoring starts and stay in no matter what the outcome because there will tons of people on the road post the match either celebrating or taking out their frustrations. Because whatever you may have heard: "It's not just a game!"

Abandoned anchor cut Gulf Internet cable

From Yahoo News

By KATARINA KRATOVAC, Associated Press Writer
Fri Feb 8, 2:24 PM ET

CAIRO, Egypt - An abandoned anchor was responsible for cutting one of the undersea Internet cables severed last week, causing disruptions across the Middle East and parts of Asia, the cable's owner said Friday.

A FLAG Telecom repair crew discovered the anchor near where the fiber-optic cable was severed Feb. 1 in the Persian Gulf, 35 miles north of Dubai, between the Emirates and Oman.

Weighing more than 5.5 tons, the anchor has been pulled to the surface. The company did not immediately explain whether the anchor moved and snapped the cable or whether the cable itself was drifting when it was sliced.

It remains unclear exactly how any of the cuts occurred.

It also was unclear whether FLAG knew what vessel the anchor belonged to. Rough weather was reported nearby at the time of the cut, but conditions have improved since.

Meanwhile, a second FLAG repair ship continued work on two undersea cables that were cut Jan. 30. They are about 5 miles off the north coast of Egypt, near the port city of Alexandria, and run between Egypt and Palermo, on the Italian island of Sicily.

Repairs at both locations are expected to be done by Sunday.

One of the two Mediterranean cables was owned by FLAG. The other, identified as SEA-ME-WE 4, or South East Asia-Middle East-West Europe 4 cable, was owned by a consortium of 16 international telecommunication companies.

Egypt's telecommunication ministry said no ships were registered near the location at the time.

The cuts slowed businesses, hampered personal Internet usage and caused a flurry of Internet blogger speculation, including mentions of sabotage. Government authorities and FLAG, which stands for Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe, have refused to comment on the speculation.

Reports of additional cuts in Middle East Internet cables could not be confirmed.

FLAG, in a statement posted on the company Web site, said it has surveyed the cable cut off Egypt with remotely operated robots.

The FLAG spokesman said this week that it was laying a new cable underwater between Egypt and France that would be "fully resilient" against cuts such as last week's and "provide a diversity in routes."

He did not say what that resilience entailed, but said it would take months to set up the new cable.

"It is difficult to comment right now on this," said a FLAG spokesman, reached over the telephone. "We are doing our own investigation."

He spoke on condition of anonymity, in line with company policy.

Ovum analyst Matt Walker said undersea cable networks are highly vulnerable to deliberate attack and need enhanced security.

"If ports, railways, gas pipelines and other types of networks are being secured against possible sabotage, we must similarly increase the security of undersea optical highways," Walker said.

The cuts also underlined the threats that Internet disruptions could pose to organizations and businesses worldwide. Large-scale Internet disruptions are rare, but East Asia suffered nearly two months of outages and slow service after an earthquake damaged undersea cables near Taiwan in December 2006.

"The economic cost of losing, or even just slowing down, international communications is extremely high," said Walker. "This risk has to be factored into the calculations behind the investment level and design of undersea optical networks."

FLAG said it has fully restored circuits to some customers and switched others to alternative routes.

State Telecom Egypt said it sealed a $125 million contract Jan. 31 with French-American telecommunications equipment maker Alcatel-Lucent, for a new 1,900-mile-long undersea cable between Egypt and France.

Named TE North, it will link Sidi Kerir on Egypt's northern coast to the French port of Marseilles.

It will have multiple times the bandwidth capacity of existing cables and enable Telecom Egypt to "expand international connectivity, providing diversity from existing cable routes." Egyptian media have said the new Telecom cable would take more than 18 months to complete.
AP Business Writer Matt Moore contributed to this report from Frankfurt, Germany.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Egypt wins in semi finals

Was trying to write something, but the noise around the house is deafening. The whole city is celebrating every goal in the Africa Cup.

Egypt is currently leading 4-1.

Ok rephrase that to write, Egypt won 4-1 against Ivory Coast.

This was the semi-finals.

Fathi scored in the 12th minute.

Zaki in the 62nd and 66th minute, narrowly missed a hat-trick.

Abutrika didnt want to be left behind and scored precisely in the 90th minute.

So that's it, the city has erupted in more noise than ever before (if u thot it wasnt possible, open your windows right away)

And we eagerly await the finals and hope Egypt retains the cup.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

I'm a Bonafide Cairene

.........According to the Daily News Egypt article by Peter Carrigan.

Peter writes a weekly column for the Daily News Egypt called "A Khwaga's Tale"

This week the extremely interesting topic he undertakes is a checklist to help you recognise if you are a Cairene.

& this very blog has been mentioned in the article as having a "Hip Name"
although there's an extra "t" in the name, which is sad for me because that would have been huge potential for more eyeballs.

The article in its entirety can be read here

Thanks Peter, glad you like the blog & its name.

Thanks Jean for pointing me in this direction.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Robert Fisk: The curious case of the forged biography

From The Independent

When Robert Fisk heard that his life of Saddam Hussein was selling well, one thing bothered him: he had never written one. His investigation took him to the murkiest corners of Cairo.

Friday, 1 February 2008

It arrived for me in Beirut under plain cover, a brown envelope containing a small, glossy paperback in Arabic, accompanied by a note from an Egyptian friend. "Robert!" it began. "Did you really write this?"

The front cover bore a photograph of Saddam Hussein in the dock in Baghdad, the left side of his head in colour, the right side bleached out, wearing a black sports jacket but with no tie, holding a Koran in his right hand. "Saddam Hussein," the cover said in huge letters. "From Birth to Martyrdom." And then there was the author's name – in beautiful, calligraphic typeface and in gold in the top, right-hand corner. "By Robert Fisk."

Robert Fisk, right, with 'Mahmoud', who said that he had sold 100 copies of the forged biography in his Cairo bookshop

So there it was, 272 paperback pages on the life and times of the Hitler of Baghdad and selling very well in the Egyptian capital. "We all suspect a well-known man here," she added. "His name is Magdi Chukri."

Needless to say, I noticed one or two problems with this book. It took a very lenient view of the brutality of Saddam, it didn't seem to care much about the gassed civilians of Halabja – and it was full of the kind of purple passages which I loathe. "After the American rejection of the Iraqi weapons report to the UN," 'Robert Fisk' wrote, "the beating of war drums turned into a cacophony..."

Dare I suggest to readers that this kind of cliche doesn't sound like Robert Fisk? The only war drums I could hear were those of my own astonishment. For I never wrote this book. It wasn't plagiarism – a common practice in Cairo, which is why I ensure that all my real books are legally published in Arabic in Lebanon. No, this wasn't plagiarism. This was forgery.

And it was clearly the moment for Detective Inspector Fisk to hunt down "The Mystery of the Cairo Forger". Elementary, my dear reader, which is why I boarded Middle East Airlines flight ME304 from Beirut to my least favourite Arab capital, the bureaucratic, traffic-snarled, bankrupt, wonderful, lawless, irredeemable, spectacular Cairo.

I had called an Egyptian journalist friend, Saef Nasrawi, to be my Dr Watson and – a few metres from the front door of the Marriott Gezira Hotel – we found our faithful driver, Yasser Hassan. "Make sure you put my family name in your newspaper," he announced. I have now done so.

It's always been my theory that a taxi driver – especially in Cairo – will be more helpful, more friendly and altogether more enthusiastic if he knows why you're in the back of his cab. So, when I showed him the slim paperback, he raced off at once to what we all hoped was the office of the publisher, clearly printed on page two. "Ibda" the company was supposedly called and the Egyptian telephone operator had traced the name to an address in Old Cairo, No 953 Corniche el-Nil.

Through the downtown morning traffic, we ground, canyons of black and white taxis like our own; vast, single-storey buses packed with Galabiya-clad and bearded men; 4x4s carrying Cairo's demimonde of jewelled ladies and young men with shaving problems – the bewhiskered chin-for machismo is as much a problem in the Middle East as it is in London.

No 953 was a tall tenement block into which Saef and I could not penetrate without the permission of a black-cowled lady whose child was playing in the dust of the roadway. She listened as we called upstairs. Yes, a woman's voice said. We could take the elevator. On the wall beside the lift was a sign: "Ibda – the house of creativity for journalism, publication and distribution". I could believe in the "creativity" bit.

But the veiled and polite lady on the 11th floor was all ignorance. "We never published such a book," she said, and called her female boss, who was at the Cairo Book Fair. She called us back on our mobile and insisted – quite truthfully – that Saddam Hussein was not her work. Not only did she deny all knowledge of the forgery – her assistant weighed us down with her own genuinely produced books of literary endeavour.

Saef and Yasser debated our problem. The publishing details in the front of the book were clearly wrong. But the frontispiece announced that the book had been registered for circulation with the Egyptian government – in other words, it has been cleared for sale by the official censor. So, Detective Inspector Fisk decided that a visit to the Dar al-Kutb – the official "House of Books" attached to the Ministry of Culture – was our next destination. Had the forger, the so-called Magdi Chukri, been smooth enough to legalise his illegally produced book with the oh-so-law-abiding Egyptian government of President Hosni Mubarak?

"This is not good enough!" our driver, Yasser, roared at me. "Mr Robert, the people of Egypt will think you wrote this book. You must go to the British embassy, you must go to the Egyptian government, you must go to the police, you must go to our intelligence services." I had been through this kind of trust curtain before. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Egyptians still evince a blind confidence in Ottoman authority.

The Brits wouldn't care a damn about this forgery and the Egyptians even less – always supposing "Magdi Chukri" hadn't slipped the civil servants a few piastas for registering a book by "Robert Fisk".

We arrived at the Ministry of Culture, a bleak Stalinist office block next door to which we found "House of Books". On the first floor was an emporium – I hesitate to call it an office – of books, a vast atrium of volumes and manuscripts. They lay feet high on desks, metre high on shelves and – so it seemed – miles high from the floor. Hundreds, nay thousands, of books were stacked in Dickensian rows, floor to ceiling, bodice-rippers and Arabic fiction and treatises on Islamic jurisprudence and physics textbooks. Two veiled ladies and two bearded men sat at a desk amid this forest of literature, one of them – there is always a miracle in Cairo – in front of a grimy, faded-yellow desktop computer.

I asked if my favourite volume had been approved by the Egyptian government for sale. "By Robert Fisk?" the man asked.

"The very one!" I shouted.

"Yes, it was registered with us on 30 May 2007."

"Is there a name for the man who wanted to register it?"

"No, only an address. 13 Hassan Ramadan Street in Dokki."

Within seconds, Detective Inspector Fisk was bounding down the stairs, his faithful Dr Saef Watson on his heels. "To Dokki!" we demanded of the delighted Yasser. Now, surely, we were hot on the trail of the Forger of Cairo. A chance at last to confront Mr Magdi.

The problem – which all three of us realised – is that Magdi Chukri is about as common in Cairo as John Smith is in Britain.

There must be hundreds of thousands of Magdi Chukris in Egypt – one of whom is a former Egyptian foreign minister, a man of great probity who would never forge a book –which is probably why the writer chose the name.

We turned left into an evil-smelling alleyway – Hassan Ramadan Street – and stopped outside No 13. It was an underground mosque. Not only was it underground but, when Saef and I tried to enter the building, the wailed prayers of a funeral ascended from the basement.

A helpful bo'ab – all Egyptian buildings possess a doorman – arrived to insist that no publisher lived in the leaning, mud-brick tenement behind the mosque. "I know all these people," he said, pointing to each heavily-hung washing line. "These are the Wassiss, there are the Salmans ..."

At which point an elderly lady in spectacles, dressed in a smart black and white business suit, emerged from a stairway. No, she told Saef, there were no publishers here. "But there used to be that nice Mr Magdi Chukri."

"Magdi Chukri?!"

"Yes, but he moved out a year ago [before he registered his false address with the government, the Detective Inspector's computer brain worked out] and now he works at the branch of Mgboulli's bookshop around the corner."

Neither Holmes nor Watson ever moved so fast. Saef, Yasser and I hooted and screamed the wrong way out of Hassan Ramadan Street, donkey riders tight-eyed with hatred as we tooted them off the road. Only one thing mattered now. Number 45 Al-Batal Ahmed Abdul-Aziz Street, the local Mgboulli bookshop.

And there it was, its window packed with paperbacks, the "G" and "U" of Mgboulli having long ago fallen to the pavement.

There was a slim, cigarette-smoking Egyptian in a yellow smoking jacket with black velvet lapels blocking the doorway. "I want to buy a book," I said softly, the winning smile – I'm afraid – of an undercover policeman suffusing my face. There were two tough, beefy men inside, shop assistants as you've never seen them before. I asked for a well-known volume on the life of Saddam Hussein.

"By Robert Fisk?" I was asked.

"Why yes, the very one!"

I followed one of the beefy men upstairs to the "Saddam Hussein biography" section. At which point, he darted back downstairs and retrieved the book from a secret pile behind the counter. "Thirty Egyptian pounds," he said. I paid. Yes, I paid the equivalent of £2.86 for a book with my name on it which I never wrote.

The man in the yellow jacket - he now introduced himself as "Mahmoud" – asked me why I wanted to buy this particular tome. "Because this is my name on the cover," I said. "And here is my business card. I never wrote this book."

"Mahmoud" and the two beefy men burst into laughter. So did Saef. So did I. For this was a ticklish moment. Did "Mahmoud" know "Magdi Chukri", I asked?

"Yes, he is a good friend of mine. But he left us some time ago and now he lives in 6th October City. Here is his number." I called it. Switched off. There was another number. A woman answered, refused to give her name or address and hung up. "Mahmoud" shrugged.

"How many copies of this book have you sold," I asked.

"Mahmoud" drew on his cigarette. "At least 100 so far."

"So you owe me 3,000 Egyptian pounds!" I was enjoying this.

"But, no, Mr Robert, we don't owe you this," "Mahmoud" said with a cringing smile. "Because you have just told me you didn't write this book. How can we pay you for a book you did not write?"

Why did I like "Mahmoud"? Why did I love this moment?

Was it possible to find Mr Chukri in 6th October City? Could we perhaps go street by street to hunt him down?

Saef leaned over my shoulder. "Mr Robert, about nine million people live in 6th October City."

I got the message. Clutching my second copy of "Robert Fisk's' biography of Saddam Hussein" – Yasser was delighted to receive it as a gift – I left Mgboulli's and returned to the Marriott. That night, I sat upon my hotel balcony and looked across the fume-encrusted minarets and the black tide of the Nile to the twinkling lights of 6th October City.

Far out there in the darkness, "Magdi Chukri" must be working on another historical volume.

What will be its title, I wondered? And which author's name will grace the front cover in gold?

Friday, February 01, 2008

Ancient city uncovered in Egypt


Ancient city uncovered in Egypt

by AFP on Wednesday, 30 January 2008

A team of US archaeologists has discovered the ruins of a city dating back to the period of the first farmers 7,000 years ago in Egypt's Fayyum oasis, the supreme council of antiquities said on Tuesday.

"An electromagnetic survey revealed the existence in the Karanis region of a network of walls and roads similar to those constructed during the Greco-Roman period," the council's chief Zahi Hawwas said.

The remnants of the city are "still buried beneath the sand and the details of this discovery will be revealed in due course", Hawwas said.

"The artefacts consist of the remains of walls and houses in terracotta or dressed limestone as well as a large quantity of pottery and the foundations of ovens and grain stores."

The remains date back to the Neolithic period between 5,200 and 4,500 BC.

The local director of antiquities, Ahmed Abdel Alim, said the site was just seven kilometres from Fayyum lake and would probably have lain at the water's edge at the time it was inhabited.
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