Viewing Archive ~ September, 2010

The past few days I was really fortunate to revisit the Sinai peninsula, amongst a large group of dear friends, mostly artists and designers, extremely talented people like the visionary photographer Hussien Shabaan and his radiant wife the interior designer Habiba, the giant designer Ahmed Hafez (Fizo) whom I interviewed before on this blog, and his wife Lamis and jubilant son Zain, the talented and charismatic illustrator and designer Ahmed abdel monem, the unique and energetic designer Tameem Youness, the sensitive musician Amir and his wife Lobna .. amongst many others. We all took a caravan of cars and headed east out of Cairo towards the land of sun, mountains and sea.

My friend Yahya and his wife Heba, two talented artists I went to Fine Arts college ten years ago, invited me over to join them on the ride there. Accompanied by their cute daughter Alia, the trip, even though it was lengthy (6 hr drive), was eye-opening. On our way we stopped at the local On the Run in the suburb of Maadi, we supplied ourselves with snacks and Yahya picked up the Angham LP (Mahadesh yehasebny) (Nobody judge me), (Which has an awesome cover design) a catchy tune called Layaly starts off the mini LP, between that and another Egyptian singer called Abo el Leef, that is pretty much what we listened to!

The drive was filled with jaw-dropping scenery, from ancient mountain formations slowly fading away infront of the giant that is Time, to the astounding cliffs and cloud scenes. We were heading to a place situated just next to Taba called Ananda. A humble yet, beautiful secluded resort. The word resort seems even a bit too fancy for the place, but the energy from the place was so refreshing, mainly due to the manager “Ezz” an elderly kind welcoming soul who constantly sits in the main hut of the resort and provides a really warm atmosphere, typical Sinai hospitality.

Upon our arrival, we were greeted by some friends that arrived a bit earlier, took our bags to our respective huts on the beach and returned for a delightful meal. The system over there is pretty simple and efficient. For the duration of the whole stay you can eat and drink as you like, simply mention your hut number and your orders will be tallied up upon your departure (for the record, the four days I stayed, cost me 550 Egyptian pounds, everything included, thats roughly 100 US$!)

The days over there eerily feel 85hrs long, I mean that in a good way. You can sleep, wake up, eat, lie on a hammock on the beach, sleep, wake up, eat again and only 2 hours would have passed. very very long which makes the whole experience that much more amazing. My favorite past-time was falling asleep on the beach till sunrise and then strolling around. On one of the days a group of us ventured out to this place called “Castle Zaman” which literally translates into “Olden days Castle”. Situated above a massive cliff just a couple Kilometres before Ananda, the view from above is even more astounding than below, after a scrumptious sun cooked meal that consisted of Lamb, crabs, shrimp, Turkey and rice (which you have to order in advance), we headed to the pool situated in the lower deck. Life is good.

I returned last night at 12 and after a brief stop to have some Sushi together, we all went home. Today I’m looking forward to exploring the older part of Cairo, A place that I used to goto a lot during my days at Fine Arts college to draw for hours and hours the ancient Islamic mosques and ruins. Stay tuned for more!

During my time in Cairo, I’m staying at my parents apartment which is situated right in the heart of old downtown Cairo. A place called “Medan el-Opera” or Opera Square. This is the same building that my dad grew up in under the roof of my grandfather and grandmother god rest their souls. You can feel the history in the air. Unfortunately downtown has become an extremely filthy place, it’s really hard at times to be able to appreciate all the subtle beauty this place in Cairo has to offer amidst the insane crowds.

The Best time to appreciate the living being that is “Wost el Balad” or the City Center, is to head out right before dawn and take it all in. The streets are literally empty, the astounding old buildings with all the details and magnificent sign-age is there and ripe for your eyes to feast on. Which is exactly what I did yesterday.

After walking from our appartment towards the main station “Ramses Station”, I headed West towards “Tahrir Square” where the Egyptian Museum is located amongst many hotels and a huge government building. I encountered a bunch of kids playing the infamous Egyptian version of football, known as streetball. After observing them for a while, they invited me to join them, I couldn’t refuse. Time to polish the old set of skills, a humbling challenge since I was wearing slippers, especially given the fact that most of them were too and they were all really talented. The kid I handed my Camera and keys to was ecstatic, especially when I gave him a quick tutorial on how to use it.

This morning also marked two occasions, the beginning of Eid el-fitr (Celebration of feast) and also the end of fasting the month of Ramadan. I woke up to pray the dawn prayer in the morning with my family and we then all headed together towards the local Masjid (Mosque) to perform the eid prayer. A beautiful tradition that brought back a lot of memories from my childhood, the weather perfectly complimented the mood and smiles on peoples’ faces. This is looking to be a wonderful Friday.

I’ll be heading tonight to my friend Yahyas’ place south of a suburb of Cairo Helwan, called Maadi to spend the night as in the morning we will drive together, with his wife Heba and daughter Alia towards the remote resort on the north east coast of Sinai on the Red Sea, called Ananada, situated between Taba and Sharm el-sheikh. A 4.5 hr drive, I couldn’t be anymore excited.

September 8th, 2010

Welcome To Cairo.

Beautiful Chaos. Two words that I managed to derive together after being asked various amount of times from different people “What is Cairo like?”.  A huge metropolis that is situated on the river Nile in the heart of the middle east, Cairo is the place where chaos thrives.

I was fortunate to have lived here for 13 years, coming from Toronto, I was exposed to a completely different culture and language, an exposure I believe was integral in helping me establish a broader perspective in life & for that I’m extremely grateful. I briefly visited Egypt’s capital city for a week or so last year, but besides that, I haven’t been here for 6 years. A lot has changed, for good and for worse.

Upon first arriving here, it’s easy to get sucked into the obvious negative aspects of the city, heavily polluted, crowded streets as result of very poor urban planning, lack of cleanliness and order and the list goes on. But I decided long ago that as much as can, I’ll try to keep the energy I emit and interpret positive. The glass is half full and by the way, it’s filled with the most delicious juice you’ve ever tasted in your life.

Cairo is a city where so many layers exisit, an immesnse amount of history is contained in tightly packed rapidly expanding metropolis. Delightful details ready to tickle your eyes and mind exisit all around you, I truly feel blessed to be able to have left here for 6 years and come back with a fresh set of eyes and appreciation for what I took for granted living here in the past. Everywhere I go, there is an overwhelming amount of visual stimuli, coming from such a newborn fresh city such as Toronto, It’s like a little kid in a candy shop.

Ramadan in Cairo, (The lunar month where muslims fast) has also a very unique feel. Calls for prayer from hundreds of minarets ring wonderfully and mystically throughout the air 5 times a day, the majority of the population is all engaged in ubstaining from eating and drinking from sunrise till sunset. Then when the sun sets, people everywhere are breaking there fast, stores open left and right, if you happen to be in transportation on your way somewhere at the time, it’s completely normal to be handed dates or food from a complete stranger, welcoming you to break your fast. There are places called “Mawa’ed el rahman” which literaly translates into “Tables of the mericful”, located almost everywhere across Cairo, you can always find a table to stop and eat a full meal at.

I’m still in the midst of soaking it all in, the multiple stimuli and visits with family & friends. In the next few days after Ramadan ends, during the celeberation of Eid el Fitr (Celeberation of the Feast) God willing, I’ll be heading out east to the Sinai Penensula to a place called Ananda with a group of friends. Scarcely placed deserted huts on the Red Sea, a first for me and after hearing so much about it from all my friends, I’m really looking forward to it.



Hi, I'm Ibraheem Youssef
I'm a Creative,
currently based in Toronto.

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