Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Left speechless

Some would tell you that I have become obsessive since the protests began. (cough cough). I can't help myself, I find it so grossly fascinating to be watching history literally unfolding in front of your eyes. I am actually shocked that the growing effects of these protests are not being felt throughout more of the country. Or even more of the capital!

That aside, I know quite a few people who have participated in the protests in the past two days. I have been vigorously keeping updated, in as many means as possible, with the ongoings downtown. Sometimes it's no more than a brief status update. Other times it has been to repost the accounts of others.

I value the impact of research, and the impact of educating yourself with what is going on around the world. Access to websites in Egypt is intermittent at the moment, with Twitter having been entirely blocked. This in contrast to statements from the Interior Ministry, who claim they have not blocked any sites, and encourage freedom of expression. It cannot be refuted however that many people have experienced temporary disabling of social networking sites, google, e-mail, some even report having lost access to their Skype.

I was left speechless earlier, when asked by people if I could kindly stop posting updates and links, because it was only "worsening" the situation as people from abroad were cancelling their travels and tour leaders were taking Egypt off of the roster. Firstly, it's an individual right to choose not to travel somewhere that you feel uncertain about. Secondly, the media blackouts only serve to limit the real truth escaping, that is that people are standing up in protest and being beaten down for it.

If people in Egypt were to choose to stop protesting because it may potentially limit the income from tourists, isn't that only further exacerbating the problem? Isn't one of the main reasons Egypt is having so many problems at the moment precisely because people would rather line their pockets with money than deal with the harsh reality! Rather than deal with the issues, let's everyone STOP protesting so that I can continue making money from tourists, and living in my 5 star villa. What do I care if some people cannot afford to eat "mayish mushkela." There's just no way to respond to something like that. 

Day 2 continues

As promised, the re-blog from LeAnne.

Day 2 of Egyptian Protests

Social networking has been the way for Egyptians to organize protests and the Egyptian government is reacting. Copyright: LeAnne Graves
Egypt is making international headlines, but for how long?

In the wake of yesterday’s explosive demonstrations where tens of thousands gathered in Cairo’s downtown area with other protests being held throughout Egypt, what will today bring? The government has said that it will not tolerate any rallies and have already stationed several police in key areas throughout the city.

Twitter was shut down yesterday while mobile phone towers in Tahrir Square were cut. Others have experienced the blocking of Facebook, although that is yet to be officially confirmed and I currently have access to mine.

News is spreading that protests were to begin again at 1 pm in Tahrir, the site of yesterday’s largest gathering. Then other reports have these places as meeting spots:
  • ·         Cairo - 6th of October City Al Hussari Sq
  • ·         Cairo - Nasr City midan el sa3a
  • ·         Cairo - Ramsis leading to Tahrir
  • ·         Al Mansoura - Al Jala2 Gate
  • ·         Assuit - Sawiras Building - Majzoob Square
  • ·         Alexandria - After Dhuhr at Al Qaed Ibrahim
  • ·         Alexandria - At 2 PM at Al Manshi
  • ·         Tanta - In front of the Muhafza Building
  • ·         Shebeen Al Kom - Omar Afandi Square

And for the biggest one (reportedly): “Egyptians calling for a ONE MILLION PROTESTER MARCH right after Friday prayers.”

I was in a cab earlier and while police were set up in riot gear throughout certain areas, it was business as usual in Cairo. However, Egyptians panicked and began leaving work early because of supposed “demonstrations.” This doesn’t surprise me at all; any excuse to get out of work and they’ll find it. My cab actually went from the Zamalak bridge to the Corniche (the same bridge that was blocked yesterday) and all was easy breezy.

My cab driver said that he personally didn’t expect much to happen today – which has been the general consensus.  Farouq, a cab driver for 35 years with seven of those years spent in Saudi Arabia, said: “The Egyptian people are tired of Mubarak. Food is getting too expensive. [Term limits] should be made. Everyone is poor.” The Egyptian government wants the international community to believe that this uprising is based upon food subsidies, which government officials have assured the people that it would pick up the rising costs. However, that’s not entirely true. This fight isn’t one of economic disparity, but of political will.

I asked Farouq the same question I asked demonstrators yesterday: if not Mubarak, who? He said, “We want El Baradei. He has a great deal of money and is looking to help poor people.” I followed, “But he’s been away from Egypt for awhile, does he even know the needs of today’s Egyptian?” Farouq just kept explaining how El Baradei fought for the poor man.

Mohamed El Baradei in Brief:
  • ·         Former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency
  • ·         2005 Nobel Peace Prize winner for his work to curb nuclear proliferation
  • ·         No real political experience and the only real opposition Mubarak faces

Take a look at this December interview from Al Masry Al Youm from December 23, the only plan El Baradei has is to unite the opposition. If I were given the opportunity to interview him, my questions instead would have included:
  • ·         How do you plan to unite the opposition groups?
  • ·         While change can’t occur overnight, what steps will you take in an effort to promote gradual change?
  • ·         If elected as leader of Egypt, what will be your first order of business and how do you plan to approach it?

I hear all this rhetoric about his dissatisfaction with the current rule, but what I fail to ever hear are the steps he plans to take. The same is true for the protesters and Farouq.

Farouq talked to me about corruption, and no sooner than he spoke those words, I looked down at his meter that had instantly jumped from LE21.50 to LE36.10 (meters are supposed to go in increments of LE0.25). You can’t fight corruption if you are just as corrupt.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The protests continue

So alongside watching the news throughout the day, I have been getting updated text messages from my Journie friend, who decided to don a baseball cap to cover the blond (lol crack me up) and head into the thick of things.

It's days like these, when you can see the mass movement of people in Cairo, that you realise just how far away from reality Hurghada and the Red Sea in general are. It's business as usual here, with the odd Egyptian tuned to their television to see what's happening. But to be honest, most of these watching probably actually have family there. The general mentality of "it doesn't really concern me right now, why should I bother?" obviously prevails.

I've been speaking to a few people about their impression of the protests. I can't wait to get a hands on account from my journie friend, and will surely re-post that here.

Of the people I have been speaking to, sadly most believe that this protest, while a courageous effort, will have little to no impact. Were there to be any real problems, the army would step in, and the case would be closed. As one person said to me earlier, "just look at how successful any previous revolutions in Egypt have been." Another friend mentioned to me that the education system in this country is so backwards, that it essentially inhibits any real change in the first place. What a sad reality to consider. :(

Anyhow, for those keeping up, here's another re-post from the BBC with on hand video! My thoughts are with all my friends down in the thick of things at the moment, and hopes for a safe return home for everyone!

The BBC's Jon Leyne describes 'remarkable scenes' in the Egyptian capital

Related stories

Police in Cairo are using tear gas and water cannon to try to quell rare anti-government protests.
Thousands are reported to have join the protests after an internet campaign inspired by the uprising in Tunisia.
They are marching through Cairo and other areas chanting anti-government slogans, after activists called for a "day of revolt" in a web message.
Weeks of unrest in Tunisia eventually toppled President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali earlier this month.
Such protests are uncommon in Egypt, which President Hosni Mubarak has ruled since 1981, tolerating little dissent.
The events in Cairo were co-ordinated on a Facebook page - tens of thousands of supporters clicked on the page to say they would take part.
The BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo says rallies are being held in several parts of the capital, and the turnout so far is more than the organisers could have hoped.
He says there has been a series of violent confrontations, including in front of the parliament building, where police with riot shields, tear gas and water cannon clashed with protesters throwing rocks.
There are also reports of protests in Alexandria and Ismailiya, among others.
'Nothing to fear'
The Associated Press (AP) news agency reports that in Tahrir Square, demonstrators attacked a police water cannon vehicle, opening the driver's door and ordering the man out of the vehicle.
Protester holds sign saying "Mubarak, out" in French during a protest in central Cairo on Tuesday 25 January 2011Protesters alluded to the Tunisian uprising - this one using the French word "degage", meaning "out"
Officers beat back protesters with batons as they tried to break the police cordons to join the main demonstration, it added.
One protester, 43-year-old lawyer Tareq el-Shabasi, told AP: "I came here today willing to die, I have nothing to fear."
The AFP news agency reported that protesters had gathered outside the Supreme Court holding large signs that read: "Tunisia is the solution."
They then broke through lines of police and began to march through the streets, chanting: "Down with Mubarak."
Reuters news agency reported that some chants referred to Mr Mubarak's son Gamal, who some analysts believe is being groomed as his father's successor. "Gamal, tell your father Egyptians hate you," they shouted.
The organisers rallied support saying the protest would focus on torture, poverty, corruption and unemployment, calling it "the beginning of the end".
"It is the end of silence, acquiescence and submission to what is happening in our country," they said in comments carried by Reuters news agency.
"It will be the start of a new page in Egypt's history - one of activism and demanding our rights."
Egypt has many of the same social and political problems that brought about the unrest in Tunisia - rising food prices, high unemployment and anger at official corruption.
However, the population of Egypt has a much lower level of education than Tunisia. Illiteracy is high and internet penetration is low.
There are deep frustrations in Egyptian society, our Cairo correspondent says, yet Egyptians are almost as disillusioned with the opposition as they are with the government; even the Muslim Brotherhood, the banned Islamist movement, seems rudderless.
While one opposition leader, Mohamed ElBaradei, called on Egyptians to take part in these protests, the Muslim Brotherhood has been more ambivalent.
Our correspondent adds that Egypt is widely seen to have lost power, status and prestige in the three decades of President Mubarak's rule.

Protests in Cairo

I know of a few people who have said they will head down to these protests in the capital today. My thoughts are with them if they have indeed headed down there, as God only knows what can happen in this country. Egyptian youth are taking it upon themselves to stand up for their own rights, in part inspired by Tunisia. Although not entirely the same situation, there is no doubt that the protests and the upheaval in Tunisia have lit a fire in many in Egypt. Change comes from within, and this change is being effected as we speak, all around us.

For those unfamiliar, here's an article from the BBC.

Anti-government activists in Egypt are preparing for a rare day of protest, inspired by the recent political upheaval in Tunisia.
Organisers have called for a "day of revolt against torture, poverty, corruption and unemployment".
But the government has warned they face arrest and is calling its supporters out in a counter-demonstration.
Weeks of unrest in Tunisia eventually toppled President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia earlier this month.
The events in Cairo are being co-ordinated on a Facebook page - tens of thousands of supporters have clicked on the page to say they will take part.
"Our protest on the 25th is the beginning of the end," Reuters quoted the organisers as saying.
"It is the end of silence, acquiescence and submission to what is happening in our country. It will be the start of a new page in Egypt's history - one of activism and demanding our rights."
The BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo says event is a direct response to the campaign that ousted President Ben Ali of Tunisia, in which the internet also played an important part.
But there is bound to be scepticism about exactly how many will actually turn up, say our correspondent.
They know they could face a tough response from the police, who often break up protests with violence.
In a statement, the government's security director in the capital said: "The security apparatus will deal firmly and decisively with any attempt to break the law."
Egypt's political opposition is also divided - one leader, Mohamed El-Baradei, has called on Egyptians to take part, but the Muslim Brotherhood, still the most powerful opposition movement, has been more ambivalent.
And unlike Tunisia, the population has a much lower level of education. Illiteracy is high, internet penetration is low.
Egypt has many of same social and political problems that brought about the unrest in Tunisia - rising food prices, high unemployment and anger at official corruption.
But protests so far have only been small-scale, and correspondents say a similar political upheaval is unlikely.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Egypt accuses Army of Islam of Church Bombings

Re-posted from the BBC.

A small Palestinian group linked to al-Qaeda was behind the New Year's Day bomb attack on a church in Alexandria in which 23 people died, Egypt says.
Egypt has insisted from the outset that there was foreign involvement in the attack
Interior Minister Habib al-Adli said Cairo had "decisive proof" that the Army of Islam carried out the attack in the northern Egyptian city.
The Gaza-based group immediately denied any responsibility for the attack.
Officials in Egypt have so far released very few details how they believe the attack was carried out.
Shadowy group
"We have decisive proof of their (Army of Islam's) heinous involvement in planning and carrying out such a villainous terrorist act," Mr Adli said in a speech to mark Police Day in Egypt.
President Hosni Mubarak praised police, saying the development would help "set at rest the hearts of all Egyptians".
The Alexandria attack triggered days of rioting by Egypt's minority Christians, who accused the government of not doing enough to protect them.
A spokesman for the Army of Islam said on Sunday that the group "has no connection to the church attack in Egypt".
The attack triggered days of clashes between Coptic Christians
and Police
But he added: "We praise those who did it."
The Army of Islam has been blamed for kidnappings and other violence inside Gaza.
It is alleged that the group played a part in the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006.
But there is no record of it operating further afield, the BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo reports.
Our correspondent adds that the Egyptian government early on stressed their belief that there was foreign involvement - rather than it just being a sectarian religious attack carried out by Egyptians.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

4 Dolphins arrive in Hurghada

Seems the promises of CITES to marine connection will never be honored. Despite calls again and again that the government has banned bringing in dolphins to the Red Sea area, pay the right people and you won't have any problems.

These four, are said to be coming back with an ADDITIONAL four dolphins. This makes me so sick to my stomach, I don't even know what to say.

From Al Ahram online

Four dolphins arrive at Hurghada airport

Ekram Ibrahim , Friday 21 Jan 2011

Four purportedly wild Dolphins have arrived at Hurghada airport today, in spite of Red Sea Governor Magdy Qoubeissy’s decision to ban the entrance of wild animals.

"I am sure that at least three out of the four (dolphins) were caught in the wild in 1998," a member of the Hurgada Environment Protection and Conservation Association (HEPCA) told Ahram Online, who asked that his name be kept anonymous.

Transporting these species to Egypt is harmful to its original habitat, he said, explaining that "these species control the ecosystem and could destroy the whole ecosystem."

The ecosystem’s cycle is delicate and altering any of its steps, by for example getting rid of sharks or adding species, would disrupt and potentially end it.

The governor's decision to ban the entrance of the wild species came after an HEPCA campaign last October against an Egyptian who had purchased four dolphins which he kept in his swimming pool.

HEPCA has also organized a dolphin awareness event which brought together hundreds of concerned citizens in an attempt to expose and halt a planned dolphinarium. After their campaign, the four dolphins were transferred and the Association has since been monitoring the situation.

The governor's office could not be reached for a comment.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Stand UP Hurghada, and FIGHT for these Dolphins

Sadly, four more dolphins have arrived in Hurghada to be sent to dolphinariums in Makadi Bay. We are the ones who can effect change in this matter. We are the ones who should be able to stand up and put a stop to this. We live in the Red Sea for crying out loud, WHY pay to see dolphins in captivity, when they live in our back yard!!!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The fresh air you are breathing

The fresh air you think you are breathing, may not in fact be as fresh as you had once imagined.

Some people will call me a kook for even looking into things like this. Other people will immediately dismiss is as bogus and whacked out conspiracy theories. Still more will pass it off as something that they themselves cannot understand, so why waste the time looking into it.

I am happy that as "far out" as my looking into this matter may be, at least I am looking in to the possibilities of some of the very scary, and very real things that are going on around us. Most of the time without us even knowing, or just brushing it off as something that "will inevitably end up being good for us."

Global warming, or as it is now known in PC terms "Climate Change," has been on the top of the agenda for many political rallies and governmental objectives for the past few years. Global summits, world wide focus, billions of dollars being funnelled into organisations that are actively striving to do something about our ever changing climate. Greener lifestyles, low-emission cars, restrictions on fishing and gaming, the list is endless. Who would ever consider disagreeing with such a noble cause? We grew up in this world with its natural beauty around us, shouldn't our children be afforded the same right?

There are many in the upper echelons of control that certainly appear to believe so. To the point where they are literally adapting the role of "God" and attempting to tamper with our very weather system itself. How many of you have seen the trails of smoke/condensation coming out of the back of planes as they fly overhead. I remember when I was younger I would enjoy seeing these planes fly by and watching as the trails of condensation would slowly dissipate into nothingness, joining the cloud coverage around them.

This is no longer the reality of today. Many will be quick to tell you that the trails are still remnants of condensation, despite the fact they linger from horizon to horizon. Or that rather than dissipate, they spread out. What IS coming out of the back of planes as they fly over cities and towns of today?

Grassroots campaigns are known to be the very essence of change, once they grip and begin to grow. I urge and encourage everyone and anyone who reads this blog to not take my "babbling" for it, and to really look into this new phenomenon of "chemtrails." I'll provide the link and original story that piqued my interest in this phenomena. We still hold in our hands the power to actively call to change this. I don't know about you, but I for one do not want to be inhaling toxic levels of heavy metal. Shouldn't it be within our rights to say we do NOT want to be inhaling this crap?

So here you are, the links that may very well change how you look at the skies above you, and the extreme levels to which people are going to prevent "climate change" around us.

What in the world are they spraying?

And the ensuing film to accompany it:

Friday, January 14, 2011

New Zodiac signs?

I never really thought that I was one to buy in to the whole "oh I'm a Virgo, my personality must be this," until I actually started to look into it a little more. Turns out, I do actually have quite a lot of Virgo traits.

For one, I'm obsessively organized. I have to have everything written down, in order, when it is meant to happen. Makes keeping track of meetings easy, but drives people crazy at the same time. Karim, likewise, is a Virgo. He takes the cake when it comes to Virgo traits, empathic, deep thinking, the list goes on. Turns out however, that he should now be a Leo! (And let me be the first to tell you, he is so NOT a Leo). So why all the hullabaloo?

Seems many of us have a difficult time adjusting when such a new "change" is introduced to a routine that is as normal as telling people when your birthday is. I don't know how long this change will last...but it's definitely interesting to see the reactions. For those unfamiliar, here's an article from the Baltimore Sun.

If you've been going through life thinking you are a Virgo, think again.  An astronomer says that a shift in the Earth's alignment has changed zodiac dates and added a 13th sign.  So Virgos, how do you feel about being Leos?

Minnesota astronomer Parke Kunkle told a Minnesota TV stationthat the expected shift added a 13th Zodiac sign: Ophiuchus.
The news has caused an interplanetary uproar among people who read their daily horoscopes, as people who have been one sign or another their entire lives saying that they don't know what to make of the shift, or if they like the idea of changing astrological signs.

Lauren Puche of Kansas City says that she is a Scorpio.

"(If) Scorpio will have a good day or the week ahead promises good things, I'm, like, okay," said Puche. "I don't want to be a lion, I don't want to be a bunny, I want to be a scorpio. I don't know what I would do (if that were to change)."

According to astronomers, the 12 "original" signs were assigned almost 3,000 years ago, and the position of the Earth in relation to the sun has changed, and according to Kunkle, changed your sign along with it.

Debbie Keil Leavitt is an astrologer, a person who looks for signs and effects on human events through the motions of the planets and stars as opposed to an astronomer, who is a trained scientific observer of the motion and behavior of stars, planets and other celestial objects. She says that the constellation Ophiuchus isn't new.

"It didn't happen to be in a prominent place, either the equinoxes, the Winter solstice or the Summer solstice any time recently," said Leavitt of the Aquarian Organization of Astrologers.

Since the Greeks first catalogued the constellations 3,000 years ago, the gravitational pull between the Earth and the Moon has caused a 23 degree shift in the Earth's celestial position, meaning more planets appear to move through the constellation.

Levitt says that's something astrologers like her will take into account when giving a reading for someone trying to see their future in the stars. But she says that shw won't change her view of the 12 original signs of the Zodiac.

"The predominance is when you're looking in the newspaper and read your horoscope, you're looking at 12 signs," said Leavitt.

Some people around the metro agree.

"I will always be a Scorpio at heart," said Puche.

The New Dates:

Capricorn: Jan. 20 - Feb. 16
Aquarius: Feb. 16 - March 11
Pisces: March 11- April 18
Aries: April 18- May 13
Taurus: May 13- June 21
Gemini: June 21- July 20
Cancer: July 20- Aug. 10
Leo: Aug. 10- Sept. 16
Virgo: Sept. 16- Oct. 30
Libra: Oct. 30- Nov. 23
Scorpio: Nov. 23- Nov. 29
Ophiuchus: Nov. 29- Dec. 17
Sagittarius: Dec. 17- Jan. 20

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Air France? No Thanks! Part Deux

So I left off previously when I had actually made it on to my flight from Cairo. Paris-bound, I prayed that the "massive snow storm" would subside slightly to prevent any further delays. The flight itself wasn't too bad, many happy faces around the plane obviously glad to finally be en-route.

Arriving in Paris, I was expected to see mountains of snow. I didn't. There was some snow on the ground, granted, but NOTHING in comparison to what they had been complaining of. Delaying that many flights, I had expected to at least see snow on the run-way!

I disembark from my flight - incidentally having been put on Egypt Air instead of Air France -, and head into the dreaded Charles de-Gaulle airport. Having already been through this airport previously, I can say without a doubt that it ranks up there as one of my least favourite airports.

While in Cairo, I hadn't been printed a boarding pass for my Air France flight to the U.S. I had a three hour layover, I figured plenty of time to get my boarding pass printed. Goodness was I wrong.

There's a waiting hall when you come through the arrivals area in the airport. Here, there were hundreds of people milling around the 5 working Air France desks. The remnants of the people who had been stuck either in France, or elsewhere, because Air France grounded so many flights. While travelling to the connections area, I ran into a gentleman who, like me, had been stuck since Cairo. We decided to try and take on the crowd together, at least have someone to talk to while waiting!

The closest Air France agent tells us that to get the boarding pass for the flight to DC, that "yes," we would have to wait in that line. (As I think to myself, God save me now!) She suggested we could try the check-in machine, but "no promises," because the system was "faulty." Big surprise. It didn't work. Enter queuing. The Gentleman I had met was in Business, so we were able to wait in a "shorter" line, which would only take a "few hours."  

My flight to DC was set to leave at 16-20. On the board however, it just continuously said "delayed." As it was nearing 17-30, I was starting to panic. The queue just wasn't moving fast enough, and all I needed was a boarding pass! Air France, in all of their competency, decided against opening a desk JUST for people to get their boarding passes. Instead, everyone, flight cancellations, delays, etc, had to wait in the same area. See, it wasn't just Cairo airport, it was Air France! :p

I cornered another Air France employee, to see if it would be possible to get our boarding passes somehow! He suggested I leave the terminal, and check-in from upstairs, because there was "less traffic." So I decided to take my chance, bid farewell to my new-found friends, and braved the airport alone. I didn't make it far, arriving at the security to get through to the outside, to get UP to the check-in desk, I was promptly asked for a boarding pass. "But that's why I'm trying to get through there." No ma'am, you will have to go back DOWN to the desk area you were at, through ANOTHER security point, and wait there. "Come again? You're kidding right?" At this point, I was convinced that incompetance and a complete lack of communication were the primary hiring skills for Air France. NOBODY knew what was going on. One person would tell you go upstairs, the next tell you downstairs, the third tell you outside! I mean come on. Uch. Shouldn't airports be equipped to deal with these kinds of travel crises? Particularly right before the holidays? I hear in Heathrow they were at least handing out "foil blankets," lol. Although another disgruntled passenger I met who had just come through Heathrow, said that when water was brought out for the passengers it was absolute mayhem, with people descending on the crates of water as though doomsday was approaching and it may be the last drop of water they are ever able to consume.

I digress. :P back to Air France.

So I wait through this security downstairs, to get back into the same area I began in. Uch. Fortunately, my new found friends were still in the same queue, so I jumped back in with them and end up at the desk for Air France about 20 minutes later. Thank God I did, because suddenly, my flight to DC was "ready to board" in the hour. Having waited in the business queue, I was put in business class, and was able to wait in the business lounge. Not too shabby. A few glasses of wine later, and the stress melted away (particularly when that wine is Free. booya.)

When I finally get ON to the flight, two hours AFTER they said it was ready to board, I figured "ok, we're ready. let's get this show on the road."

We pull out from the gate, and I turn to the passenger next to me, and say "Thank God, we're finally leaving." He replies "until we've taken off, we haven't left." I turn back to my book, chuckling to myself, thinking wtf could happen? We've gone already, there's no turning back now. I WISH I had paid attention, you CANNOT make this stuff up.

About 5 minutes later, a stewardess gets on the announcement system, asking "Monsieur et. Madame, is there a doctor on board?" Huh? A doctor? Doesn't this only happen in the movies???

Turns out, a woman in the back had collapsed, probably a result of stress and exhaustion. The stewards all run around to the back of the plane with their medical equipment to asses the situation. Apparently she decided she felt ok, because the plane began to move towards the runway again. Not for long however, less than 2 minutes later, the stewards were running back to her, and announcing to the remaining passengers that we would have to return to the gate to drop off a "very sick passenger." Oh goodness. That shouldn't take long right?

We drop off the ill woman, and you could feel the tension in the plane as the passengers were thinking "ok, now we're leaving yeah?" Wrong again!

The Pilot decided that were he to fly now, he would exceed his recommended daily hours, and therefore was unable to pilot the aircraft. We would have to wait for a new pilot to come, who was in Paris, over an hour away. OMFG. YOU ARE JOKING RIGHT? YOU WERE JUST ON THE RUNWAY 30 MINUTES AGO! Bear in mind this was an 8 hour flight, wtf difference would 30 minutes make? Would he have waited until we were over London Heathrow, then decide his time was up and we'd have to land? UCH.

Anyhow, many many hours later, and quite a few glasses of champagne (Thank YOU business class!) we finally depart. The flight to DC, all things considered, was relatively uneventful. We all made it safely, and have quite the story to tell people. Which I'm sure, were you not there, you will only believe that I am embellishing these facts. And I can assure you, I am not ;)

Moral of the story: Never fly Air France.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Air France? No Thanks!

So I finally have the time to sit down and update my blog! Woo hoo.

So much to update, from Christmas at home, to New Years beginnings. Where to start... Ah yes, with my fun filled and exciting departure to Washington.

I left Cairo right around the time that the travel chaos ensued in Europe. Unfortunately for me, I didn't learn about it until I was already on the bus to Cairo. So I had no choice but to try my luck! I get to the airport, and there are HUNDREDS of people milling around the Air France desk. The queue stretches some 200 meters towards the door. I look at it and think, " that what I'm going to have to wait in?"

I walk up to an Air France clerk, and ask if the flight to Paris has to wait in that queue. He looks at me as though I've asked the most ridiculous question in the world, and says "Yes. of course." So I join the queue.

About an hour and a half later, having moved about 15 meters, I see the a-typical Egyptian family in front of me. Who are convinced that by jumping to the front of the queue and barging in front of other people, they will be served. To my surprise, they come back to standing in front of me, grab their bags, and walk off. I'm standing there thinking "wtf? did they actually just get served?" with my frustrations mounting. Approximately 15 minutes after this, a clerk steps out of the Air France office, gesturing at the door and shooing people away.

Now, before I continue, let me give you a little information on the layout of Cairo Airport. In an attempt to show how sophisticated the security there is, you have to walk through multiple security points. One of these is the security scan BEFORE you even get to the check in desk. So the Air France office is located outside of the security scan, their check-in desks are located on the other side of the security check-point.

And to continue...

Mr. Air France comes out of his office, gesturing madly at the sign on his door, which proclaims that the office hours were from 8 am to 12 am. And that it now being 12-40 am, he was working after hours, and had to shut the office. I stood there incredulously, unable to actually believe that with a "Flight Crisis," they were actually going to shut the information office. I join about 50 other people milling around, who like me, were wondering where the hell we were supposed to go next. Mr. Air France shouts "CHECK-IN DESK FOR AIR FRANCE," and promptly shuts his door, obviously entirely unwilling to deal with any more begrudged travelers.

I grab my suitcase and bags, and head to the growing queue at the security desk, where on the other side, crowds had begun to congregate. Air France decided to be smart, and open three check in desks (lol). I pick a queue, and begin waiting again. By 3 am, I still hadn't seen a clerk.

When I finally made it up to the check-in desk, it was obvious that people were losing any patience they had left. Our flight was meant to have departed by 1:40 am. It was now nearing 4:30 am. I had seen frustrated travelers shouting obscenities at the check-in agents. At that time, I giggled to myself, knowing that the agents themselves were not at fault. Upon arriving to the desk however, this patience ran out. By the desk next to me, an Egyptian male was shouting at the top of his voice. Proclaiming the complete incompetence of everyone working at the time, how HIS flight was more important that anyone else's. This outburst prompted more outbursts, and one male actually CLIMBED ON TOP of the check in desk in an attempt to get at the clerk.

Anyhow, I get to the desk, and try to find out what is going on. With this delay, there was no way I would have made my connection flight to D.C., so I start trying to figure that out. The girl at my desk, was, to say the least frazzled. AND COMPLETELY INCOMPETENT.

I know that I'm still in Egypt, so I chalk it up to that. (haha...I WISH that was the excuse).

This girl proceeds to tell me that there are no further flights to DC. That I could fly to New York JFK, but then I would have to find a way to get to NEWARK airport. I said just into New York was OK, I could figure out my own way from there. This was not an option. Apparently Air France will ONLY let you fly through to your final destination, despite them having caused you to miss the connection in the first place. 
>> later, I was to hear an Air France agent tell a couple who were considering this option, that if they had to take a taxi to Newark, that Air France would NOT reimburse the price of the taxi, as they were "no longer" in the country that the problem started in - Egypt. <<

After about 20 minutes of banging on the computer, the girl says "you'll have to wait for the booking agent. I cannot fix your problem. Please stand to the side." (insert me thinking wtf? again!)

I move to the side, and begin waiting with four other people who have been told the same thing. Eventually, the same girl that told us to move aside decides to help us with our booking. She disappears for a while, and reappears telling us that we have to move back to the other side of the security point, BACK TO THE ORIGINAL BOOKING OFFICE. Which, by this time, had been re-opened to deal with people. (Geniuses. If they had just left it open to begin with, they would have saved many people a great deal of standing around and waiting - because there was NO where for anyone to go other than the area in front of the check-in desks. No seats, no cafes, nothing).

I head back towards the booking office, being led with about 8 other people through the back side of the check in desks, around through the front and back in through the airport main door. The whole time having to cart around my heavy ass suitcase, and carry on bags, while an employee from Cairo Airport trotted along happily beside me with a cart carrying one suitcase.Apparently he figured my arms could use the work out!

At the booking office, I again join crowds of people waiting around. When I finally get my flight, I've been put on a flight for the NEXT day, and told to "take care, and be back tomorrow." No accommodation vouchers, no food vouchers, nothing. When I asked the girl where these were, she points behind her at the very crowded and exceptionally tense booking office, and says "I don't deal with that. You'll have to go back in there and wait in there to find out."

Now by this time, it's almost 6 am in the morning. I'd already been hanging around for seven hours, and wasn't willing to do it any longer. So I gave up the ghost, and headed to Maadi to spend the night at Karim's house, and try to get some rest....

I could only imagine what the next day was going to hold...but that warrants a new blog in it of itself.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Goldman Invests in Facebook at $50 Billion Valuation

I shall refrain from my "conspiracy theorist" comments...however, with moves like these, I don't know how much longer I'll be using facebook!!!

From the New York Times.


Tony Avelar/Bloomberg News
The deal could double the personal fortune of Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder.
Facebook, the popular social networking site, has raised $500 million from Goldman Sachs and a Russian investor in a deal that values the company at $50 billion, according to people involved in the transaction. The deal makes Facebook now worth more than companies like eBay, Yahoo and Time Warner.

The stake by Goldman Sachs, considered one of Wall Street’s savviest investors, signals the increasing might of Facebook, which has already been bearing down on giants like Google. The new money will give Facebook more firepower to steal away valuable employees, develop new products and possibly pursue acquisitions — all without being a publicly traded company. The investment may also allow earlier shareholders, including Facebook employees, to cash out at least some of their stakes.

The new investment comes as the Securities and Exchange Commission has begun an inquiry into the increasingly hot private market for shares in Internet companies, including Facebook, Twitter, the gaming site Zynga and LinkedIn, an online professional networking site. Some experts suggest the inquiry is focused on whether certain companies are improperly using the private market to get around public disclosure requirements.

The new money could add pressure on Facebook to go public even as its executives have resisted. The popularity of shares of Microsoft and Google in the private market ultimately pressured them to pursue initial public offerings.

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So far, Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has brushed aside the possibility of an initial public offering or a sale of the company. At an industry conference in November, he said on the topic, “Don’t hold your breath.” However, people involved in the fund-raising effort suggest that Facebook’s board has indicated an intention to consider a public offering in 2012.

There has been an explosion in user interest in social media sites. The social buying site Groupon, which recently rejected a $6 billion takeover bid from Google, is in the process of raising as much as $950 million from major institutional investors, at a valuation near $5 billion, according to people briefed on the matter who were not authorized to speak publicly.

“When you think back to the early days of Google, they were kind of ignored by Wall Street investors, until it was time to go public,” said Chris Sacca, an angel investor in Silicon Valley who is a former Google employee and an investor in Twitter. “This time, the Street is smartening up. They realize there are true growth businesses out here. Facebook has become a real business, and investors are coming out here and saying, ‘We want a piece of it.’”

The Facebook investment deal is likely to stir up a debate about what the company would be worth in the public market. Though it does not disclose its financial performance, analysts estimate the company is profitable and could bring in as much as $2 billion in revenue annually.

Under the terms of the deal, Goldman has invested $450 million, and Digital Sky Technologies, a Russian investment firm that has already sunk about half a billion dollars into Facebook, invested $50 million, people involved in the talks said.

Goldman has the right to sell part of its stake, up to $75 million, to the Russian firm, these people said. For Digital Sky Technologies, the deal means its original investment in Facebook, at a valuation of $10 billion, has gone up fivefold.

Representatives for Facebook, Goldman and Digital Sky Technologies all declined to comment.

Goldman’s involvement means it may be in a strong position to take Facebook public when it decides to do so in what is likely to be a lucrative and prominent deal.

As part of the deal, Goldman is expected to raise as much as $1.5 billion from investors for Facebook at the $50 billion valuation, people involved in the discussions said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the transaction was not supposed to be made public until the fund-raising had been completed.

In a rare move, Goldman is planning to create a “special purpose vehicle” to allow its high-net worth clients to invest in Facebook, these people said. While the S.E.C. requires companies with more than 499 investors to disclose their financial results to the public, Goldman’s proposed special purpose vehicle may be able get around such a rule because it would be managed by Goldman and considered just one investor, even though it could conceivably be pooling investments from thousands of clients.

It is unclear whether the S.E.C. will look favorably upon the arrangement.

Already, a thriving secondary market exists for shares of Facebook and other private Internet companies. In November, $40 million worth of Facebook shares changed hands in an auction on a private exchange called SecondMarket. According to SharesPost, Facebook’s value has roughly tripled over the last year, to $42.4 billion. Some investors appear to have bought Facebook shares at a price that implies a valuation of $56 billion. But the credibility of one of Wall Street’s largest names, Goldman, may help justify the company’s worth.

Facebook also surpassed Google as the most visited Web site in 2010, according to the Internet tracking firm Experian Hitwise.

Facebook received 8.9 percent of all Web visits in the United States between January and November 2010. Google’s main site was second with 7.2 percent, followed by Yahoo Mail service, Yahoo’s Web portal and YouTube, part of Google.

For Mr. Zuckerberg, the deal may double his personal fortune, which Forbes estimated at $6.9 billion when Facebook was valued at $23 billion. That would put him in a league with the founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who are reportedly worth $15 billion apiece.

Even as Goldman takes a stake in Facebook, its employees may struggle to view what they invested in. Like those at most major Wall Street firms, Goldman’s computers automatically block access to social networking sites, including Facebook.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Bombing outside church in Alex kills 21

Reposted from Arab West Report. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.

Twenty-one people are dead and eighty-three injured in an apparent suicide attack outside a Coptic Orthodox Church in Alexandria, Egypt. The bombing occurred during the New Year’s Eve mass at the Saint Paul and Peter Church, just twenty minutes into the new year.
Early reports suggested that a car bomb was the source of the attack. However, a preliminary investigation by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry revealed that a suicide bomber might be responsible.

“It is likely that the device which exploded was carried by a suicide bomber who died among the others,” says a report by the Foreign Ministry.

While various terrorist groups, including al-Qā‘idah, have claimed responsibility for the attack, some in the Egyptian government blame al-Qā‘idah, saying that it is an attack on Egyptian national unity and security.
"The al-Qā‘idah organization threatened to attack churches inside Egypt. This has nothing to do with sectarianism,” says Alexandria Governor ‘Ādil Labīb.

Al-Qā‘idah in Iraq had previously threatened Coptic Orthodox Christians for the church’s alleged imprisonment of two Christian women who attempted to convert to Islam. Al-Qā‘idah made the threat after an attack on Bahgdad’s Our Lady of Salvation Syriac Catholic Church in October, which left 68 worshippers dead.

However, in a statement issued Saturday evening, the Coptic Orthodox church seems to reject the notion that the attack was carried out by foreigners.

"The attack came as a result of the continuous sectarian agitation that has been fuming in the last months," the church's statement said.

The New Year’s Day attack cames despite increased security measures by state police. An unnamed state security source told Al-Misrī al-Yawm that video cameras had recently been installed “inside and outside churches” ahead of New Year’s celebrations.

The Saint Paul and Peter Church in Alexandria suffered a previous attack in 2006, when Mahmūd Salāh al-Dīn ‘Abd al-Rāziq ran into the facility and stabbed three churchgoers, killing one person.

According to alJazeera, eight Muslims were also wounded in last night’s attack. The blast also severely damaged the nearby Sharq al-Madīnah mosque.

Muslims and Christians rioters took to the streets immediately after the attacks, chanting sectarian slogans. The Associated Press reports that the groups threw bottles and stones at each other until police dispersed the rioters with tear gas.

Protests continued into the afternoon on New Year’s Day, with police also using rubber bullets to control the crowds. Four protestors were reportedly seriously injured in the riots.

Some of the Christian rioters that formed immediately after the attack claim to have heard “Come, Jihād” during the closing line of the prayer of the mosque nearby.

Initial reports also said that the car originally though to be used in the blast contained the phrase, “The Rest is Yet to Come,” suggesting that additional attacks were imminent.

The attacks come almost exactly a year after gunmen killed six Copts and one Muslim outside a Coptic Orthodox Church during Christmas Eve celebrations in Naj‘ Hammādī.

Meanwhile, Pope Shenouda, the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch, has cancelled Coptic Christmas celebrations out of solidarity for the victims.