Hallelujah

I have been thinking a lot about what I am most grateful for this year, and I’ve realized that it is the luxury of dreaming – the luxury to dream big and to go after those crazy dreams. Furthermore, the luxury of having a support system that nurtures those wild ambitions, tolerates my madness in going after them, and are all-in for the whirlwind adventure.

I’ve heard there was a secret chord

That David played and it pleased the Lord

But you don’t really care for music, do you?

Well it goes like this; the fourth, the fifth,

The minor fall, the major lift

The baffled king composing Hallelujah

2016 was a heavy year at the macro level, the planet aching under the weight of all the tragedies and disappointments. Yet at a more micro level, I can’t help but feel blessed. So I ask you all to take a moment of silence to pray for all those fallen stars we have lost in 2016.

Professionally 2016 has been extremely rewarding elhamdollelah. I am often driven by the philosophy that “if you are still talking about what you did yesterday, then you have not done much today.” Yet the drawback of that philosophy is that you often lose track of the multitude of reasons you ought to be proud and happy within that time-frame.

2016 was a year of big risks. I’m not much of a gambler, yet 2016 was certainly a high stakes year. I quit the comforts of a regular pay check and a job I know I could do well, to follow THE dream. I am now a very lucky co-founder of a start-up that I love with the same intensity and whole-heartedness that I would my unborn kids. Acumen Consulting is almost one. I dare say that this was a phenomenal first year. It was a year of challenges, learning, growth, patience, and hard work. We saw instant success, suffered the business cycle and fought hard to make come-backs when we needed to. I learned that there is possibly greater layers of multi-tasking than I thought imaginable. I’m greatly appreciative of the collaboration, team-work, value creation and success. I’m proud of us for working both hard and smart to contribute to changing Egypt for the better. I am indebted for all the help and support we got along the way.

Well baby I’ve been here before

I’ve seen this room and I’ve walked this floor

I used to live alone before I knew you

And I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch

And love is not a victory march

It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

2016 was a year of great variance, its highs were sensational and its lows were back-breaking. 2016 was filled with health scares, trips to the emergency rooms, time spent in hospitals, clinics, labs and waiting rooms. There were so many funerals as friends and family bid farewell to siblings, kids, parents and friends.  There have also been so many near misses; so many tears; and so much faith and hope that things will get better. Our fears and our pains bring us together. Hugs remain the sincerest (and at times the only) form of support and solace during these darkest times.

2016 was also a year of love! Four weddings and a funeral. All grand acts of love! Four of the closest people in my life got married. I got to be a bridesmaid once, sister of the bride 3 times, best man once and wedding co-host once 🙂

Through it all they were days and nights full of the pursuit of perfection. More significantly they were wedding bashes full of music, dancing, joy, family, friends, surprises and vows. May their lives be everything like those wedding nights: endless symphonies of love.

I remain grateful to all parties who contributed to making my sister’s wedding perfect. I’m thankful to Sarah for managing the customized M&M delivery. I’m indebted to Sandra for re-arranging the first dance. I’m start-struck that the talented Nathalie Alain took time out of her hectic schedule to come in and record it. That studio recording time will forever be a highlight for me.

Mustafa Ghannam’s death has changed me. In a sense it has changed all of us. Yet it has triggered dormant emotions that had originated with Bassem Sabry’s death. (Please remember both in your prayers and your end of year donation themes). I’m once again in an existential phase. I’m obsessing about my mortality, my legacy and what I would like to leave behind. It took a lot of soul searching, yet I have realized that I want my legacy to be education. I want to bring knowledge and science into this world. I want to improve the quality of education in Egypt. I want to provide access to a better alternative to Egyptian talent.

Well, baby there’s a God above

But all I’ve ever learned from love

Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you

And it’s not a cry that you hear at night

It’s not somebody who’s seen the light

It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

2016 was the first time in 6 years that I got a proper summer vacation. I’m grateful for the opportunity to see some more of Europe before the devaluation. I’m grateful for having such amazing travel buddies to share the moments with. I will always have a special spot in my heart for Tegernsee and Cesky Krumlov. I’m grateful for the ziplining adventure (and that despite emergency room pit-stop it ended well), shopping sprees, lakeside & riverside dinners, high profile oud concerts, Ibrahim Maalouf by the pyramids, and countless other perfect moments.

iphone-backup-august-2016-203

iphone-backup-august-2016-617

I’m grateful to family and friends whom have been partners in crime, back-bones, sounding boards and voices of reason throughout the madness that was 2016. I’ve discovered new facets of these amazing individuals which I appreciate endlessly.

I tend to claim that my universe often treats me like my success is inevitable/easy/expected. While their faith is extremely flattering, given how tough this year has been, I’m realizing the extent to which divine pats on the heads & “bravo”s have re-energized my stamina through it all. I’m grateful for every opportunity we have had to raise Acumen Consulting’s name. I’m grateful to RiseUp’s overbooked workshop. I’m grateful to the ICT Khales application launch. I’m grateful to the YEEL events and conference. I’m grateful to the “thank you” that our clients share. I’m grateful for having gotten into Stanford. I am grateful. A thousand times over.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Tough Times

I had to go pay respects and condolences to a university friend who spent the last month attempting to save her mother’s life.

When did we grow up?

When did we become the adults responsible for making such harsh decisions?

Our friend has had to navigate hell, two chronic illnesses, greedy doctors, incompetent nurses and surgery & chemo complications.

She had to make a series of decisions that may potentially save her or risk expediting her demise.

The thought of being responsible for the well-being of loved ones is scary.

Having to do so in such dire conditions is terrifying.

Healthcare in Egypt breaks my heart.

Find Joy

Mostafa Ghanam RIP

As another light goes out I am reminded of the extent to which Cairo is a modern day Gotham in all its gory glory. It is dark, hopeless, scary, sad and beaming with negativity and injustice. This year, it has only been getting darker. We keep losing those whom are the brightest and most full of life and light. So the rest of us, those opting to stay in the city, we owe it to ourselves and to their legacy to fight the darkness. We each need to find it within ourselves to shine bright, to become beacons of positivity, light and life. Dig deep… shine bright… Find the joy.. protect their legacies.

Bella

Waiting is by far the oldest and most painful forms of torture. I hate hospital waiting rooms. I chickened out today. I was unable to sit through another disinfectant smelling corridor listening to machines beep and watching doctors and nurses fly all over the place. Yet here I am a 20-minute drive away waiting… She should be fine. It is all routine. No need to worry.

Yet you see, those are pointless reassurances, because in the truth of the matter, the extent to which you worry is less a function of the scale of the incident but rather a function of the extent to which someone is precious. Bella most definitely was precious. There she was, the child I had never had, my virtual baby sister in the hospital yet again.

It was a long and bumpy ride. I met Bella 5 years ago, back then we didn’t click. We existed in parallel comfort circles with what we believed to be no common ground. This revelation of how wrong I had been will taint my outlook to new people for a lifetime to come. One should not be too quick to jump to conclusions and dismiss individuals. Yet there she was 5 years later, blood, near & dear, in can’t-live-without status…. absolutely precious.

She flashed me a 100 megawatt smile accompanied by a genuine hug… “I miss you”… “I’m pregnant”… “I didn’t’ want to tell you long distance”. My heart sang. I had been having what was undoubtedly a tough weak and my confidence and morale where at an all-time low. She instantly made it all better. She sat me down, shared her joy, heard my woes, told me it wasn’t my fault (repeatedly), heard me argue, made strong and valid points, hugged me and made it all alright.

Here I am… incapable of returning the favour. A conversation and a hug would not magically make it all alright.

She had a gut feeling. Do mothers always know? My morning meeting ended early in the vicinity of her house, something made me want to go over. I had a burning need to see her that I can’t explain. She was different, she looked tired, she shared her concerns. She had a feeling that it was happening again, that she was losing the baby. I naively thought it was just lingering trauma from last time, I delivered a pep talk, told her she was worried for nothing, told her we must stop praising her composure because it is starting to decline from all the envy. I left her to get some rest and headed out to my other meeting with the promise to meet her at a doctor’s appointment later that day. The entire arrangement impromptu and unplanned.

I make it to the doctor’s clinic. She is running late as is her hubby. We see the doctor (her husband hasn’t arrived yet). He makes an offhand comment about how good friends we must be since she entrusted me with this trip. It hits me, how blessed I am for her friendship. You know how sometimes people’s nicknames evolve from their personalities. I am confident that is how “Bella” came along. She is by far one of the most beautiful souls I know. She re-adjusted my definition for words such as “tolerant” or “non-judgmental” or “considerate”. She set the bar so high I can’t imagine mere mortals measuring up. Her sarcasm and wit often had me grinning like an idiot. While her support saved my ass numerous times.

Doctor takes her into another room for the sonar. He comes out, looks me in the eye and shakes his head. I raise an inquisitive eyebrow and tells me that it isn’t good; that it is the same old story. She steps out a minute later… my heart almost stopped. The look in her eyes will haunt me forever. Bella never cries… or never in public. She looked broken. I had always used the word loosely but at that moment, she embodied it in a way beyond my ability to simply phrase. Her eyes were swelling with tears that were to remain prisoners. The light in her eyes was gone. My knees went weak. I felt the weight of the room come crashing down. I stood up to hug her, she warned me that she wouldn’t be able to handle a hug. We took the elevator down as her husband was arriving. No hug there either. We went home having failed miserably at being able to console her. What do you say? What do you do? How do you explain to the most perfect potential mother you know that it isn’t time yet… that there was nothing she could have done differently? How do you lighten her load? My remaining reserved of confidence and optimism are gone. I exist in a perpetual state of almost crying in fear and angst. My heart goes out to her.

The next day, I cut a work day short and show up at her door. We watch light movies and snack while she takes her meds and waits for the action. That night clinched it for me… it was a painful revelation and one that makes me appreciate all mothers under completely new light. I realized that you can go to bed with your child in your arms, knowing they are in pain, knowing they are heartbroken and knowing that there is absolutely NOTHING that you can do, save pray… May God have mercy on all our souls. Yet you must wake up the next morning with the faith that they will be better, and they will be better. Yet it remains an insanely humbling experience.

My saving grace is this one idea… “She is well.” I realize the gravity of her loss and the selfishness of my perspective, yet at the end of the day that is what really mattered. That elhamdollelah she is well, will be well… and will have other shots in the future at making other babies. Apparently it takes time and sacrifice to get it right. You don’t get another Bella from the first go. Sexy little geniuses take practice and are one in a million. May God give her all her heart desires.

24 Carats

The Arab culture often references the notion of 24 Carats to signify that blessings or rizk (fortune) is fairly divided among all God’s mortals, whereby each person gets his or her 24 Carats. These 24 Carats may be any random mix of health, happiness, money, kids, travel, work, family, talent, brains, recognition, etc… The premise being that nobody has it all… That superb performance across all life’s aspects simultaneously is rare and short-lived.

Yet what if the contents of life were also finite? What if you only had 24 Carats worth of life to live? 24 Carats worth of achievements, heartbreaks, success, disappointment, life, challenge, adversity, etc.. Once you have exhausted those lives, like any good play-station addict would tell you, it more-often-than-none is game over.

Game over = death??

My friend timeline & coffee discussions these days are still buzzing with “Ta7t El Saytara” (under control) discussions. The hit Ramadan series took a deep hard look at the concept of addiction. The closing episode having a wonderful monologue on how we are all addicts. I agree; we are all addicts. In this day and age more so than ever before. The crazy tempo of life has rendered us all junkies. We are all over-competitive self-absorbed divas constantly seeking to out-do each other in a virtual life and at times real life for the hell of it.

We all crave that feeling of achievement/accomplishment, all looking for a high… whatever the driver behind that high may be. Those looking for love want bigger better grander gestures of love and affection. Those looking for careers want better pay, more impressive titles, greater clout and global recognition. Those seeking adventure want bigger adrenaline rushes, higher mountains, wilder rapids, etc…

Yet as you go for that faster, bigger, better…. you need more and more and you seek to acquire it in tighter time-lines. Yet once you have it all, once you have achieved what you believe is your reason for existence… is it game over all over again?

I have seen people move between games to prolong the inevitable game overs. I have seen people… young people… brilliant people… die young and tragic deaths. I have seen stars opt to take their own lives believing the game to be over. I have seen people spend their lifetimes chasing elusive dreams. Do our dreams determine our propensity to life? Does our consumption of life result in a point where there is no more life to live? As a generation… are we living it all before our time?

The Namesake

Take your first impression and acknowledge that it is probably wrong. She is not the girl you see nor the girl you perceive. Take a moment and look beyond the facade of bravado and indifference. Give it a chance, she will smile, if you are really lucky she will let you in. If all you got was a shrug and a “3ady”, don’t give up, try harder, wait…. the best things in life are worth the wait. This is coming from the epitome of impatience. Yet trust me, you want to wait, you want to meet the girl beneath it all.

Pray, don’t judge, it isn’t an arrogant air. She isn’t snubbing you. Nor is she claiming to be too cool for school. She is merely taking you in, sizing you up, attempting to understand how much damage you are capable of inflicting and the extent to which you would be inclined to inflict damage. She is working overtime trying to avoid getting hurt, she isn’t about to take a chance on you or me.

It was inevitable, the tough girl act, you see our twisted society has given her no other options. Be tough or get trampled over. Be tough or get abused. Be tough or get cheated. Be tough or die. Be tough! So tough she had to become.

Incidentally, I have this quote running through my head:

“I am a princess. All girls are. Even if they live in tiny old attics. Even if they dress in rags, even if they aren’t pretty, or smart, or young. They’re still princesses. All of us are. Didn’t your father ever tell you that? Didn’t he?”

I am angry at her universe for not telling her enough, for not re-enforcing the message at every opportunity. She IS a princess. She is worthy. She is important. She is loved. She is perfect. She matters.

Moreover, she maintained the classiness and attitude of princesses against all odds. She remained clean, pure and genuine in a society that ostracized you for all of the above. She repeatedly lost all sense of security and stability. Life as she knew it was constantly being torn from under her feet and radically altered before being thrown back into her lap. Even the constants in her life held that change against her, defined it as a shortcoming, accepted it as an unchangeable reality, sought to bury her spirit under these faulty realizations. The fallacy of realism, of protection.

She decided she didn’t need them. She could be a nation of 1, closed up from all the madness. She embraced the tasks at hand diligently, striving every day to be independent… to be bigger… better… smarter… stronger… tougher. She didn’t need them. She could take care of herself. All she had to do was work harder and embrace life without them.

Yet a decade later it will fully hit her… the extent to which she is exhausted, the scale of what she has attempted to take on, the futility of doing so in a society like ours. I have tremendous amounts of respect to who she is and what she has done. Yet I fear that in seeking to be independent she has excused them from their roles, given them a guilt-free way out. I feel she ought to call them on their bull shit and have them own up to their responsibilities. Perhaps then she would feel less strained, less tired, less abandoned and more pampered. Perhaps then society would give her a break because she would be better conforming to their norms.

May she get to be treated the way she deserves to be treated. May we miraculously mature as a society. May she realize that she is a princess, that she is loved, that she is worthy, and that she doesn’t have to do it all on her own.

Farwell to Batman

This is for me. I would have loved to claim that it was for him. Or for all of you. Yet this is for me. To cope. To believe. To survive.

Bassem Sabry is dead.

You have all heard. The tragic news has spread across social media like wildfire and has depressed friends, fans and loved ones across the globe.

Yet most of the formal news is talking about the political activist. Yet as I sit here, a mere citizen of the world, I mourn the man, the beautiful soul that he was.

Bassem Sabry was one of the finest men you would ever meet. Fact.

Since 2001 Bassem has been a staple of our faculty walls and of our beloved “Retro”. The cafe’s most frequent patrons knew him by sight if not in person. We all practically lived there. I shall probably be demanding they put up a Batman poster in his honour.

To understand the constant Batman references, read Dahshan’s stunning piece here.

Bassem was the eternal optimist. He was born with a thirst for knowledge and an impeccable internal compass. He was always seeking enlightenment and truth. Moreover, he was constantly going out of his way to make sure that this was never an individual pursuit. That the light was always shared. That his growing wisdom and knowledge base was simplified and shared with the masses through multiple real-life and digital media forums. Socrates cafe, his blog, his article-writing, his facebook groups…

Moreover, he moved so seamlessly through multiple circles, being a constant beacon of positivity and awesomeness in all of them. Ever the intellectual, the cinema producer, the batman enthusiast, the geek, the blogger, the writer, the politician, the activist, the philosopher, the Latin dancer, the kick-ass guitarist, the friend, THE dude.

Those of you who knew him personally would understand the magnitude of our collective loss. We have all reached out to each other over the last 12 hours with condolences and support.

Those of you who didn’t have followed his noble attempts at making the world a better place. At being the voice of reason amidst all the madness. At being his own man.

His pursuit for greatness and happiness was relentless. Moreover, he sought to define and simplify that happiness and empower the masses to seek it out and to find it.

I leave you with the man himself:

Update: I feel compelled to ask you to read about him through his eyes. What it meant to him to turn 30 and all the life lessons he wanted to share with the world. Check it out here. 

لكي الله يا مصر

 

Jan 25 Told In Song

I’ve FBed it, tweeted it and blasted it in my own car stereo and those of friends. Only thing remaining is blogging it, so here it is, lyrics and all 🙂

غنائية يوم ما الشعب إتغير

غناء فاطمة سعيد
موسيقى مصطفى الحلوانى
كلمات مصطفي أبوجمرة

كنا بنشوف الطريق مفيهوش طريق
و السما فوقنا رصاصى والامل ميت غريق
كنا فاقدين الهوية والحياة زي الممات
كنا ساكتين كلنا جوا السكات
كنا و كان و ده زمان

و في صبح اخضر ملوش مثيل
لما التقينا فى ميدانها الأسمر الاصيل
لما اتفاجئنا اننا بنحب بعض
و نموت لبعض
يومها الهلال حضن الصليب
يوم ما اشتعل فينا اللهيب
و كان اللى كان

يومها ألشعب اتغير
فك لسانه و اصبح سيد
يومها خرجنا نقول مش نافع
إحنا الشعب المصرى و صوتنا الطالع

يومها انطلقت ثورة فى مصر
ثورة تحرر ثورة تقرر ثورة تعيد ترتيب القصر
شعبنا واقف يرفض يسقط يطرد

قطعوا جميع الاتصالات
غموا عيون الفضائيات
حطوا السم فى قلب الزاد
يومها العالم صلى و شافنا
بنقبض علي دبحنا و علي سرقنا
و علي كدب فى بيان القصر
ثورة ثورة حتى النصر
ثورة فى كل شوارع مصر

بدم ولادها النازف اخضر
عزم شبابها الوقف صامد واحد راصد ماجد حالف
حالف لازم ينقذ مصر

و يومها العالم سقف واقف
والنيل زغرد عارف
ان خلاص الديب استسلم
وان الشرفا و روح الشهدا
حيملوا القصر
تحيا مصر

Sweet Mornings

Feeling a bit nostalgic, once upon a time, whenever I was down, a friend would read me some Nizar on the phone in an attempt to alleviate the mood.

This is one of my favourites, given how early I’m always up on a weekend and in solidarity with all of you who also managed to lose precious sleep, a sweet sweet morning 🙂

صباحك سكر

إذا مر يومٌ ولم أتذكر

به أن أقول: صباحك سكر…

ورحت أخط كطفلٍ صغير

كلاماً غريباً على وجه دفتر

فلا تضجري من ذهولي وصمتي

ولا تحسبي أن شيئاً تغير

فحين أنا لا أقول: أحب..

فمعناه أني أحبك أكثر.

إذا جئتني ذات يوم بثوبٍ

كعشب البحيرات.. أخضر .. أخضر

وشعرك ملقىً على كتفيك

كبحرٍ.. كأبعاد ليلٍ مبعثر..

ونهدك.. تحت ارتفاف القميص

شهي.. شهي.. كطعنة خنجر

ورحت أعب دخاني بعمقٍ

وأرشف حبر دواتي وأسكر

فلا تنعتيني بموت الشعور

ولا تحسبي أن قلبي تحجر

فبالوهم أخلق منك إلهاً

وأجعل نهدك.. قطعة جوهر

وبالوهم.. أزرع شعرك دفلى

وقمحاً.. ولوزاً.. وغابات زعتر..

إذا ما جلست طويلاً أمامي

كمملكةٍ من عبيرٍ ومرمر..

وأغمضت عن طيباتك عيني

وأهملت شكوى القميص المعطر

فلا تحسبي أنني لا أراك

فبعض المواضيع بالذهن يبصر

ففي الظل يغدو لعطرك صوتٌ

وتصبح أبعاد عينيك أكبر

أحبك فوق المحبة.. لكن

دعيني أراك كما أتصور..

نزار قباني

Bad Romance

A bad romance is as bad and as comparable to a cocaine addiction or to a steel pike through your chest cavity. You are in pain, constantly.

You are bleeding or are craving your dose.

The pain involved with trying to pull out the steel pike or to give up cocaine feels unbearable. Those we ask to walk away from bad or abusive relationships act like we are asking them to take a knife and cut out their own hearts. So caught up in immediate gratification or the need to dull or numb the current pain, they have lost sight of the big picture, of the reality of the matter.

In the long run drugs will kill you. In the long run the hemorrhage and internal bleeding will kill you. In the long run this bad romance will only get worse and you may end up taking your own life.

I understand that it feels good now. I understand that once the doctor has stopped trying to remove the steel pike you feel better because you are used to its presence blocking massive external bleeding, blocking your wound. I also understand that the need for the fix is sooo strong that you are willing to overlook the downside to Cocaine because the withdrawal symptoms are too hard and too harsh.

It is easier to cave in. To seek that preferred spot of comfort. To return to the addiction. To avoid and evade the critical, painful yet absolutely necessary terminal solution.

I want you happy. I couldn’t want anything more for you than to see you happy. I wish you all the best. We all do, as your friends should. You seem to think you are happy now. While we wouldn’t wish sadness on you, we can’t help but worry, live in fear that some day, you’ll overdose and you’ll wake up dead. That someday the internal bleeding will get so bad that it is too late for any doctor intervention.

Please choose the difficult route. Choose to be miserable now but rid of addiction later. Choose to walk away from this relationship. Please.

Whatever you do, just don’t choose to take your own life.

Picture Perfect

These days I’m finding myself increasingly attracted to the idea of a semi-professional camera. I don’t believe I have an innate talent for photography. Whatever decent shots I’ve taken, I’ve taken by pure dumb luck and due to the fact that mother nature is so overwhelmingly beautiful at times, that it is impossible to take a bad shot.

When you think of someone, especially someone you know well, the mental image that you get of them, that’s who they are in your eyes. It is the time you feel they are most genuine or most themselves, or perhaps the best possible version of themselves. They are probably moments you’ve captured and retained from real life. From a smile over a cup of coffee who’s odor made someone beam with happiness. Or the image of them smiling a certain way, using a particular hand gesture, saying a particular phrase.

For instance to this day whenever someone says my sister’s name I get a mental image of a younger her on a bike in Montazah. That’s my sister, that’s the her I see. Young, dynamic, happy, shy, shaky, not too confident, yet determined to do it well. With my baby cousin its an image of her on a tennis court, to me her name is synonymous with the sport. My younger cousin’s first words were probably “Come on Dudu! lets go! lets go!”. That’s my cousin for you, athletic, competitive, tough on the outside, silent and constantly in motion. Seeing her yielding that tennis racket, is the finest version of her in my eyes.

These moments happen in real life, sporadically. These people come and go. They grow. They move on or apart. They drop those activities entirely. Yet in your head, that’s always who they’ll be. I can’t help but wish I could always be there, with a camera, to capture that moment on film. To immortalize it for it is often an image of great beauty.

Yesterday a friend played the guitar in my presence. That will forever be the image I have of her, hugging that guitar, flying over the chords, so immersed in what she’s doing, so oblivious to the world. Her eyes light up as she really does create magic. That is the finest version of her in my eyes. Doing what she makes seem so effortless and yet creating something so beautiful. I am grateful for the music. I always am.

What are some of the picture perfect moments you have of friends?

Rocking Friends

A round up of what the beacons of awesomeness in this universe have been up to.

Done with my book and on the lookout for a fabulous read?

May I recommend Mai Hamdy’s  كباية شاي . It is a collection of absolutely delightful short stories and it beams with depth and nostalgia. She made me cry quite a bit. Overall a very touching read.

On a different front, our very own Tarek Ashkar has finally inaugrated his clinic. So for all of you with dentist phobias, you can put them all behind you as our man will take excellent care of you. Congrats ya Ashkar. May the clinic be the first in a series of great accomplishments.

For address and contact information, check out his facebook group.

Tired of Cairo traffic? Really? Well if we don’t all collaborate it will keep getting the best of us. Developers have picked up on this and have been coming up with phone and web applications to assist drivers whether the Cairo traffic. Amongst these is our man Samer’s Wasalny.com

Check out http://www.wasalny.com as it hosts a variety of routes and is phone friendly. It just may be what you need to get the best out of Cairo.

Phone application hungry? M@hdeto has just the thing for you. A hip and coming software company offering phone solutions for iPhone, BB and Android. Big Blue Brains‘ portfolio houses Cinemaat, an application that made it to 1st place in the iPhone app store for highest number of downloads for Egypt. Impressive stuff. Check out the application and stay tuned for what else they may throw your way.

May the awesomeness continue!

On Sidky

Does the fact that a series of events happening around you carry a certain theme imply that this is a message to you?  A sign? For if that is the case all the events happening around me imply that we as a generation are living too recklessly and too stressfully at the same time. I feel like one of those doomsday guys, walking the streets telling people that life is short and that the end is near.

A friend of ours died this weekend. A young man. Some would argue too young. A 24-year-old. We weren’t close. He wasn’t “my boy” per say. Yet he was the best friend of one of my boys. Seeing the impact of his loss on his friends has accentuated its impact on me. I would like to think that I can ask you all to take a moment and say a prayer for Sidky. Trusting in the goodness of humanity I guess.

He died in a car crash. Makes you scrutinise the way we drive in Cairo. Sleep deprived, exhausted, high, smoking, drinking, talking, on the phone, texting, flipping through radio channels, selecting songs on our iPods, fiddling with the AC, ogling at passer-byes, yelling at other drivers, cussing, flirting and even speed window shopping. This is how we drive. We drive with the most marginal of concentrations. With the assumption that driving is a skill we’ve acquired ages ago and that it should come second nature. We drive with the assumption that all other drivers while being idiots in our eyes will still drive well enough to not crash into you. I’m starting to understand why my adorable Mom mutters Qura’an under her breath the entire time she is in the car with me.

For all its worth, we lost a life, close friends lost a loved one. Lets all not lose the lesson.

Drive like driving is an activity that requires ALL of your concentration. Drive like your life depended on it… cause you know what… it probably does.

On “Delicate”

I follow the blog of one of my more charming younger friends. Her blog is a reflection of a carefully hidden side of her, one that has been unknowingly and gently seeping into her look, attitude and daily communication.

Having read one of her posts, I had described her writing style as “delicate”. Stunned at the scale of the reaction and how much offence she had taken, I explained that we probably have different definitions of “delicate”.

Consulting a dictionary I understood why she took offence, she had interpreted “delicate” as fragile or easily damaged. I, on the other hand, used the word with a completely different intent. So I promised her a post, on my interpretation of the word, a post that is now long overdue but which I now have the joy of gifting her on her birthday.

“Delicate” is a term I would use to describe the most fine and most intricate, the highest quality, the best texture and construction. It is the term used to refer to the finer lace or design. Delicate is profound and strong yet subtle, like the most scrumptious of flavours. It is a softness that is paired with a richness, it is light to read and easy on the eye, like shades of colour. Delicate is about precision, the extent to which one is calibrated and to which an instrument performs something difficult and accurate.

To me delicate is a reflection of how rich writing is, how flavorful, how strong without being obvious, how detailed oriented it is, how precise, how beautifully it conveys the imagery and carries the idea across with no cliche nor excesses.

Delicate is a fine bohemian vase, rather than a run-of-the-mill glass one. Delicate is about being sensitive, about being exquisite and refined in one’s perception and in one’s feeling. It is about caring about the reader and the other, and their feelings and perception. It is about doing a post or a story justice.

Always remember that the finer thing in life, and in food for that matter are “delicacies”. Please don’t shy away from being delicate. It is just you being the “choice” person that you are, writing the sensational posts that you do.

Happy birthday my delicate one!

On Childhood Dreams

Growing up, my lovely Mother had me and my sister enrolled in all the activities she believed it was important for a lady of stature in society to be able to do. She had such a cute Jane Austen take on things, so for the longest time it was piano, swimming and tennis lessons. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all the better for those classes. I love music dearly and value my piano and the classics greatly. It is just, ever since I’ve been a teen, I’ve always wanted to learn the guitar. Guitar solos in my favourite songs would drive me mad. Yet as I grew older there was always something else that had to be learned, so there was no time for fresh hobbies, let alone fresh hobbies my mom saw as unlady-like.

Anyway, having the MBA out of the way and having given up on the CFA (best of luck to all those sitting in a week); it was time to finally learn the guitar. Fate had thrown my way some accomplished guitarists with intricate knowledge of the instrument itself. I window shopped for a guitar for the entire length of my 3 months in Dubai. Almost bought a Hofner on my last weekend there. I had borrowed a friend’s guitar and had tortured the poor thing long enough to decide that I was serious about this and that I wanted one to call my own.

Being back in Cairo, buying a guitar is a whole new story. Guitar experts will tell you that this is not a purchase decision you want to make on your own. There are countless things to check for and you have to know how to kick the tires. So after several attempts to meet guitar playing friends, and after having been blown off a couple of times for no inexplicable reason, Bassem comes to the rescue.

*Not sure how he feels about me using his name in public so will stick to his first name*.

We go to this store in Maadi, he gives the sales guy our price range, brings down all the classical guitars within that price range (one of them being a bloody FENDER!!) and gets to it. He plays every single note on every single fret on every single guitar. He does scales up and down them. Plays freestyle, some flamenco and a song to boot. Knocks on the wood at different locations. Checks its balance. Scrutinises every bit of those guitars, before coming to the glorious conclusion of:

“Take this one, its a decent guitar!”

Hence ladies and gents, voila, my very own guitar.

May you all get to realise your childhood dreams.

Shattered Diamond

A shattered diamond is probably the saddest sight on the planet. Picture this: a princess cut diamond, clear as day and as precious as they come. Her God given strength and beauty only enhanced by the friction of life, polishing it into the personification of perfection, pure, transparent, shiny, sharp, hard and genuine. Everything that makes a diamond worth anything. In this case worth perhaps millions and definitely unique enough and gorgeous enough to be coveted and sought after by many.

The hardest material known to man – a perfect diamond – shattered. Broken into a million little pieces. Its fragments each carrying all the attributes that make the whole diamond perfect, but each lying on the floor, being incomplete, being little parts of a larger whole that once was. That my friends is the saddest sight.

I stood there dumbfounded by it, mesmerized by the sight and at a total loss for words. She said she was broken beyond repair. She said that no glue could put her back together. Diamond dust was scattered all over the place, reflecting and refracting light in a hundred different directions. Even at this darkest hour, her inner light shone bright. I couldn’t fathom what could have happened. What can break a diamond? In school they always taught us that the only material strong enough to cut a diamond was another diamond. I wonder if that’s what happened..

In her current state it is a very “handle with care” situation. The diamond shards sharp, cool and dangerous. Their shine will attract many to attempt to collect the pieces and the dust, yet many will depart with bloody fingers. For this is not a time for small wins, this is a time for giving back, to slowly and patiently rebuild and reset. To collect all those little pieces and make them into something beautiful. She may never again be that perfectly cut princess diamond. Yet she will heal enough to become a beautiful ring or pendant, made with carefully inlaid diamond fragments, every bit as precious, every bit as perfect, every bit herself.

Checkmate

I guess that’s what happens in the end, you start thinking about the beginning.

I would like to take a moment to give thanks, for there is so much I am grateful for. I’m grateful to the Lord for bringing you into my life when he did. I’m grateful for the love and support. I am thankful for the time, energy and passion. I am grateful for your faith. I am grateful for your thoughts, philosophies and views, and the times you were willing to share them. I am thankful because when I look at my life today, I owe a lot of it to you. I owe you the joy I derive from driving my car, a car I probably would not have bought had you not been there. You’ve been witness to a lot of my milestones. You’ve put me on the right track to realising a childhood dream. You’ve gone out of your way time and time again to get me to think out of my box. I am indebted to you for the more enhanced version of life that I’ve gotten to taste and experience. I’m grateful for every moment really. Most of all I’m grateful for the chance I’ve been given to see the world through your eyes, experience it that uniquely.

Having said that, I guess it is time to admit that once again you were right. It is the inevitable demise. It must rock to be right all the time, I really wouldn’t know. Yet here I am telling you that the conclusion you’ve reached is the same one I have reached too. We are done.

I don’t think I have it in me any more. I’m all out of patience, tolerance, understanding, “I know where you’re coming from” and second chances. I’m really all out. I’ve depleted my reserves in every way possible.

I say this with no qualms whatsoever, no conscience pangs. For I say this fully realising that your life was fully functioning before my arrival and will continue to be fully functioning post my departure. My presence never was and never will be instrumental, hence my departure will undoubtedly not put a dent in you. That is ultimately a reassuring premise. Being the arrogant know it all that I am, I’ll actually quote myself from an earlier correspondence “I’m just a person playing a cameo role in the drama that is your life. In a sense just passing through, hoping to do more good than harm.”

You’ve always had issues with my motives, so I might as well take a moment to outline them here. They are really quite simple. I like to think that, perhaps with the exception of tending to my hair, I’ve kept every promise I’ve made you. I am not one to care much for grand gestures for the sake of grand gestures. I either care and this care manifests in the ways that have been extremely provocative to you. Or I don’t care at all.

Throughout I have always been very sincere with you (whether or not you choose to acknowledge that), in most (if not all) the times you got really mad at me, I was acting with the best interest in mind, I wasn’t opting for what was most convenient for me nor what I would have liked to do the most. Yet all this doesn’t matter. I’m operating out of sheer exhaustion and exasperation. I’m tired and confused. I’m letting go.

Lord only knows what you are thinking at this moment, I’ve given up on second guessing your thoughts and views.

The funny thing is, while I doubt you believe a word of it, the fundamentals have not changed. You’ll forever be loved and appreciated. In my eyes you’ll forever be “my little one”. My belief in you is unwavered. Great things await you. Whenever you truly need me I’ll still always be there for you.

Only perhaps, for the first time in a long time, congrats, I’m no longer watching you. Checkmate. You win.

Garden City Dialogues

To She Who Shares a Name with an Earthly Heaven

Do you see this little tree growing out of the pavement? The one breaking out of the bricks, cutting its way through the cement and the concrete. See how small it is? See how stunted its growth? See how alone?

Her words paint a perfect picture of the reality, for the entire pavement expanse was clear short of that one solitary tree growing next to the wall of a garden. A small tough tree which had decided to grow, with no regard for the existence of the pavement or the resistance of the bricks.

A tree which will have to constantly fight to grow any bigger. A tree which will spend its whole life breaking through the pavement and pushing bricks out of the way. A tree, that was very much like her, unique, strong, ground-breaking, revolutionary, unquestionably one of a kind and incredibly blessed.

Do you see the garden on the other side of this fence? Do you see the trees growing in there? Do you see how huge they are? How effortless they grow?

This tree, the one leaning outside the fence, that is you. I’m the little tree growing out of the pavement. I’m going to grow, but I’m never going to become that tree on the other side of the fence. I’m never going to grow to that scale. The environment is not conducive to my growth.

I’m not like you. Nor am I like any of the other trees in your garden. Not better nor worse, just coming from a different location, facing different circumstances, making different choices.

I understand her logic. I am taken by the beauty of the analogy. Once again, the depth of her perception and personality have caught me off guard and I was dumbfounded and speechless.

I start to protest, to argue, to point out that she can walk on walls, that the sky is her limit, that she will grow magnificently. Raving on and on…

I fall silent finally.. looking at her standing tall and strong next to that tree that reminded her so much of herself.

I find myself unable and unwilling to believe, a strong and true sentiment, for you see:

To me, you’ll always be that big tree on the inside of the fence. You’ve always been that tree in my eyes.

Story of a Photo – CLEOFiction October Issue

Originally written on August 11, 2008 and posted here.

Re-posted in celebration of it making it in print 🙂 See my name in lights in the October issue of CLEO.

Let me know what you think of the story.

Jooj In Rome

Location: Rome

Time: Not too long ago.

She had gone to Rome to pursue her childhood dream of becoming a celebrated fashion designer. There she was finally in the fashion capital of the world only to discover that things were not quite that simple. It wasn’t a lack of inspiration per say, for Rome in it’s existence was quintessentially inspiring, the music of the morning market din, the serenity of the old churches, the intricate details in the architecture all around and the general aroma of great food that enveloped the ancient city. Then there was the Italians themselves, so sinfully good looking, so obsessed with Italy, with food, with fashion with all things of beauty. She was drawing like never before, filling up her portfolio with evening gowns and sleek suits and even scanty swim wear.

The process of allowing yourself to get discovered as the next Gucci, Versace or Armani was a long and cumbersome process. She had been turned away time and time again. She found the language both daunting and challenging and a handicap to her ability to communicate, to express herself, to present her collection. Also there was the minor issue of finances, she was close to depleting her finances and was in need of a source of income to sustain her as she fought on to realize her dream. She had gotten a day job waiting tables at a fancy café by the busy plaza. She watched the chatty tourists come and go, stopping for a bite, asking her to take pictures of them, wondering what a foreigner like her was doing working in Italy.It took every ounce of self confidence not to get disheartened, to believe that someday they will see her collection with an eye of appreciation, that they will recognize her talent, that she will become one of the icons of fashion in Italy and worldwide. She had taken to submitting updated collections regularly to most of the fashion houses in the area, in the hope they will take her in. She’d also submitted a regular CV in the hope of landing any career in the industry then working her way up. She’d gone on interviews, filled applications, started Italian classes all to no avail.

It was the end of one such tiring day that our weary heroine made her way to the closest bus station. She sat there on the bench running her day’s events through her head. Making mental notes of the tips she had collected and the outstanding payments she still had to make. Thinking of the new trends in fashion as witnessed or interpreted by her from the countless tourists and locals that passed by her every day. She sat on that bench waiting. Waiting for the bus. For her break. For things to go her way. For the big fashion house she’d gone for an interview in that morning to call. She just sat there… waiting.