Sunday, December 16, 2007

The end of Madny

Raouf and I have gone our separate ways (we argued. stupidly) and so it is only right that Madny comes to an end, as I can't make it mine alone.

It was a project of sorts during an unsettled period for me, and for Raouf it was a virtual outlet for his fantasies and opinions. I hope to post new blog addresses for both of us soon.

Love, Elly

The end of The Family Drama

My friend's family is worse than my family, I know. Her mother says things to her like: 'You'll never have children'. I don't understand how she puts up with it; bluntness and rudeness is not my family's thing. My family are polite and helpful to the last.

My mother has never said anything nasty to me. When we looked after my beloved niece Safiya together last weekend, she brought a newspaper clipping with her: a Sunday Telegraph article about exclusive dating agencies in which couples gave evidence of laying out 1000s to find a partner relatively inoffensive to their material sensibilities. It won't work for me as I don't care that much for men, money or mating right now.

It was the pre-Christmas one-side-of-the-family dinner yesterday and I had considered my preparations for it with Maria, my therapist. I said that I was less vulnerable this time, as one side of my fortress was up and I would try and manoeuvre it to face down any questions. My sisters' fortresses were almost impenetrable: job; house; children; marriage. I had 'Job' and that gave the family some sense of relief; I would be able to fend off an attack from the west. let's say. There was a moment where I wished I were twelve and could righteously have a tantrum . My aunt who I haven't seen since my younger sister's wedding, greeted me with, 'I hear you've got a job!'. I don't know whether my expression visibly hardened and my face distorted in rage, but I did reply, 'Well I have always been working of course, but yes, this is a new job.' I then stomped upstairs to find Charlie and Danny changing Safiya's nappy, and I raged freely about how who-cares-about-this-stupid-new-job-just-because-I'm-getting-paid-properly-doesn't-mean-it's-any more-important-than-all-the-other-work-I've-done-virtually-for-free. In fact I declared, somewhat disingenuously, I work far less hard here than I did in all my freelance work, and am making far less impact on humanity, etc.

It is my father's fault I know; I don't blame my aunt. My father has long been fending off questions on his middle-daughter's career as it was rather messy and unclear to say the least. But I DO expect more of him: a little damn imagination, a suspension of disbelief. When I was in Cairo working as a staff writer on a new journal, he came over to visit and sulked and pleaded me to train as a teacher so I could have a proper career. When I told him about my voluntary and consultancy work with the women's rights organisation, he just ignored me, right out ignored me; he simply couldn't fathom it - he didn't have the imagination. I expect this from my family and friends: a suspension of disbelief, a suspension of anxious judgement; a suspension of contempt. But family especially are caught up in the fictitious drama that is said to be 'the family'.

The family is not a single drama, at one moment in space and time. A drama demands a set of characters each playing out their fateful roles, some accepting of their banal fate, others see-sawing vertiginously between triumph and tragedy, as every other one looks on in despair, relief or glee.

The lives of members of a single family are no longer closely intertwined. My life and that of a cousin is unknown, even unbelievable, to another member. We are each caught up in myriad, ever-multiplying 'dramas' that stretch across space and time. My fate may well impact little upon my cousin's and my tragedy would not be his, and that, my friends, is no tragedy.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of a Woman

The first of several half-thoughts.

It is a maturing process I am going through. Finally at the age of 33 it no longer appeals to me to be 'girly'(not in the sexist, derogative sense obviously - why is there not 'boyye'?). Someone once told me wisely to 'pick your battles' and now I have decided to pick my compromises. Some things are non-negotiable, as I told the PA at work after her tardiness made me late for my therapist's appointment: I leave the office every Friday at 1.50pm and no questions asked; I do what I have to do. I told her politely and genuinely to have a good time in Istanbul this weekend, but I did not say 'don't worry about being late'. Worry about it I say!

I did not battle with her - she is harmless and it would be pointless, but I did battle with another friend this week. There is a good phrase, if used fairly: "The intolerance of tolerance". I came up against it and recognised it this time. I was judged and found guilty for not being sexually liberal/available enough. One friend's sexually progressive or 'tolerant' ideas became a stick to beat me with.

I have a theory about people being right about something; that is, people having right-thinking, liberal or sensible ideas. It is all about how they deliver them to others that shows whether these 'correct' ideas are born out of a belief in justice or principally out of contempt for others. One 'correct and liberal' idea might give someone licence to feel contempt for a group of people who do not explicitly share those particular expressions of those ideas, so the very term 'liberal' or 'tolerant' comes into question.

As for general intolerance of what may objectively actually be stupid and therefore apparently deserving of punishment, I encountered a form of it in my life from my loving older sister: she is an exceedingly bright person who hates it when people around her do what she believes are indefensibly stupid things - in my case that would be getting too drunk and sleeping with a 45 year old married man, at age 23, in a distant city whilst her guest. She thought me extremely foolish and selfish and threw my things out of her apartment including my passport. I begged and pleaded and said sorry and she let me back in. She was right that I was stupid, but her reaction showed contempt for me. On Thursday night my friend of over 10 years came to stay with me in London from Nottingham. I say 'stay with me', although she arrived at 6.30am, and that is only because I persuaded her to get out of the hotel NOW and make her way to my house somehow or another, regardless of her stinking headache and the fact that I had to get up to go to work in an hour. By midnight the previous night I had begun to feel annoyed with her: she was supposed to have met me at 9.30pm and she had her phone switched off the entire night and I was considering calling the police. When I got an SMS just after midnight telling me she had got drunk and lost and she would call me in the morning, I concluded she had found another friend to stay with. Her message at 4.45am woke me up: She had awoken in a hotel alone, hungover and full of regret, wondering at what age she would grow out of this kind of mistake. My feeling was total love for her and that she must get here as soon as she could to be safe and with a friend. I understood only at that moment her loneliness. And knew it because I had been and was still her, but in my own way. And when my sister threw out my stuff ten years ago, her contempt for and frustration with a younger sibling at that moment obscured her knowledge of the loneliness that makes us all stupid. We have to pick our judgements carefully as well as our battles and our compromises.

For my mother's 65th birthday I bought her make-up and a book: my two favourite things! The book is a translation from the German - a collection of two novellas by Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, called Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of a Woman. Zweig was considered an important writer in the 20s and 30s in Vienna. And he was yet middle-aged when he and his lover killed themselves. The book is a compelling meditation by a male author on the one impetuous, rash, passionate act that can change a woman's life irrevocably. The narrator - a bachelor - is staying in a hotel on the Riviera, and dines each day with the same collection of people - two couples and an elderly English woman. There are few guests at the hotel, so each watches the movements of the other and when an attractive young French man arrives and charms individually each member of the group, they can talk about nothing else over dinner. And then one morning he has gone, and later that evening there is a commotion in the complex. The paunchy middle-aged Monsieur, a married industrialist with two teenage daughters cannot find his wife. She is feared drowned or the victim of an accident. A little while later he emerges from their hotel apartment with a letter in his hand, and with great dignity calls off the search: his wife has left him he announces. Then he sits in a chair and begins to sob for perhaps the first time in his life, the narrator remarks. It is the maid who lets slip that Madame Henrietta's letter revealed that, at the age of 33, she had run off with the charming French man.

At dinner that evening the narrator's table is in uproar. The two German couples - in particular the husbands - declare themselves to be horrified and outraged that a married woman with two children could forsake her family to foolishly run off with a much younger man. They surmise that the elopement must have, cynically, been planned well in advance. The narrator disagrees: he finds himself defending Madame Henrietta - even in excess of what he feels - not only for her impetuous act but also against the idea that it was planned; it was the fruit of a coup de foudre (love at first sight) he insists. It was surely the first time she had felt love and for that he admired her act. The argument at table threatens to degenerate into full-scale and personal recriminations were it not at this point for the intercession of the elderly English woman who has remained quiet up until this moment. Calmly and politely she directs her words to the narrator solely; she challenges his bold defence of the act committed in the heat of passion on the grounds that if one takes this defence to its logical extreme one would be defending le crime passionnel - the violent murder of a spouse. The narrator, whilst continuing to stick by his original defence admires the English woman's mind and dignity. Over the next few days he finds that this hitherto very reserved lady seeks out his company and they exchange several intellectual ideas. He wonders that, were the age difference not so great, people would begin to suspect a sexual relationship between them! One day he receives a short letter from her, asking him to come to her room, as after much agonising she has decided that she would like to narrate to him an episode of her life that she has never shared with anyone before. He arrives at the appointed time and finds her agitated and vaguely distressed; after some hesitation she begins her story of the 24 hours that changed her life twenty years ago when at the age of 42 she 'saves' a young man from self-destruction...

Monday, November 5, 2007

Desire and intimacy in Art

There was a moment during the hour I spent at the Seduced: Art and Sex from Antiquity to Now exhibition at the Barbican that I realised I was enjoying pornography with a group of other fully-clothed and silent strangers. Crouched down in a small darkened space screened off for privacy within the gallery, I entered in the middle of the show, as you do, and was amazed ("pretend nonchalance") to see a film of a series of photographs of couples in the act of heterosexual and homosexual sex in a variety of carefully catalogued positions. These were the original photos that accompanied the Kinsey report and are old-fashioned looking enough and black and white so that the viewer/voyeur can maintain a dignified and scholarly distance from them. I particularly warmed to the images of women in nothing but smart hats and shoes, that you might have worn to Sunday mass in the 1940s, having it off with dastardly looking moustachioed gentlemen. And then there were the homo images which I have a thing for. I know that it is commonplace for men to snigger about how they would like to see to girls pleasuring each other - for their own greater pleasure -, but the spectacle of male gay sex has a strange effect on me: I feel at once excited and sad: I am excited to see this other pleasure, this pleasure that still seems daring to me, and sad because they don't need me. It is like watching two friends entirely engrossed in each other who cease to notice your presence and the feeling of loneliness, humiliation and distress at that moment of realisation is acute . When I grow up I want to be a gay man; I don't want to be left out any longer.

There were two very long, self-important Andy Warhol films of two men kissing or a James Dean look-alike climaxing whilst being given an invisible blow-job. I'm just glad it wasn't me giving him the BJ as it took him 50 minutes. There was also a disproportionate amount of beautiful Japanese erotic prints that made me marvel at the sophistication of Japanese culture in pre-modern times. We in Europe were a long way from elegant depictions of sex until the late 19th century, before which we went unwashed for months and sloshed about in our own filth, teeth rotting and narrowly missing all dying of the plague.

Growing bored and a little aroused with no eligible male in sight, I wandered into another darkened, screened off room and sat on a bench, while others loitered near the exit, to witness a slide show of the intimate life of couples - the most moving collection of images on the subject that I have ever come across in my adult life. Nan Goldin's exhibit Heartbeat is a work of art that most artists would only dream of creating, and for the non-artist it is almost impossible to imagine how the artist can gain entry into these truly intimate moments in a couple or a family's life. One very young couple is Goldin's nephew Simon and his girlfriend Jessica; I was devastated by her portrayal of first love - the kind of tenderness and compassion and closeness that I know I will never experience now: the moment as teenagers when you feel you are really alone in your world of love and pain. Goldin's subjects inevitably have a different attitude to nudity and every body in these photos became familiar and loved - each body was your mother's, your father's, your friend's - not merely an object of beauty, but a physical necessity, a wonderful fragile giving being that could never be subject to the crude judgements we are daily coerced into making upon ourselves and others.


Westernisation or the adjective, 'westernised' is a word that is I've come across a lot lately in my reading and at political haranguing matches - otherwise known as the dinner party. And it makes me nervous; the way this emotionally charged term is exalted or abused seems to leave me little choice but to sit on the sidelines dumb and increasingly numb. I begin to wonder really whether it is just an outdated word - and obsolete unless referring to phenomena at least a century old.

Part 1
Let's start with the informal dinner party. On the face of it I share political and social convictions with all those who were present; they are a group of right-thinking, left-leaning women concerned about all the big injustices and occupations. And I'm not making light of this as I don't know anyone who can afford to.

The divisions arise when we come to talk of the recent controversy over the filming of Monica Ali's novel, Brick Lane. I haven't read either the book or seen the film and it seems I'm not alone there. The reference point is a leader article in the Guardian and a 'Comment is Free' piece by Monica Ali. The leader suggested that Ali should take some responsibility for the anger and sensitivities of a group of protesters from Brick Lane's Bangladeshi 'community' that was provoked by her portrayal of gender conflict in her novel. Since the marketing of the novel explicitly promoted Ali as a member of the Bangladeshi community giving an insight into a 'hidden world', and Ali is in fact only half Bangladeshi and didn't grow up in the East London's alongside these particular Bangladeshi residents, then she had misled the public into believing hers was the authentic voice of this 'community'. Ali responded by saying that there were always going to be people offended by something and her novel is a work of art and not the representative piece on one community.

One of the women present said that what riled her most is the patronising tone of Ali that suggested the largely working-class residents of Brick Lane could not appreciate Art for Art's sake, while several people said that Ali should not have allowed her publishers to use Orientalist terms such as 'hidden world' about a Muslim, Eastern residential area. Of course it wasn't long before Ali was discredited with the insult, westernised'. Ali is too westernised for these people's liking.

I had little problem dealing with their initial charges: it is unlikely that Ali as a new writer had much say in the marketing of her book and it would be extraordinarily difficult for her to get onto the bestseller's list without her Indian sub-continent origins - and thus her work - being exoticised for a British public bored of their apparently colourless society. Where there is a demand, the booksellers will comply. As for Ali's assertion that she never intended to be a representative of a community and this is Art and people will always be offended, I think that broadly I agree, not least because it is rare for good writing (I still don't know how good her writing is though) not to be provocative on some level, and because novel writing should never be required to dumb down, as have the political debates we are subjected to, just for fear of not being absolutely clear with whom they stand on absolutely every issue, never mind how problematic. I would feel sick to my stomach if Ali were bullied into coming out onto some sort of public platform and declaring her love, loyalty and sympathy with the 'Bangladeshi community' and apologising for offending some of them. It is still unclear how many people who live in the vicinity of Brick Lane were actually offended - some were surely indifferent and others may even have been fans of Ali's.

But as the informal post-dinner debate progressed what became clear was that many present hated Ali. They just hated her; for them she had become emblematic of all they despised in this imperialistic world. She simply wasn't a good enough Bangladeshi person - she was irresponsible, she was insensitive, she was conceited. And she was Westernised.

I remember showing some copies of the English language magazine I had worked on in Egypt to a curious friend and she had glanced over them - been surprised at how contemporary and pretentious it looked and with one word had declared the magazine null and void as far as its Egyptian credentials: the magazine was Westernised - she could therefore learn nothing about Egypt and Egypt's youth from it.

There is always one woman that turns the debate into the political haranguing match and this occasion was no different. Her coup de grace that struck me finally dumb with incomprehension was during a discussion on whether British publishers were deliberately blocking positive portrayals of Eastern or Muslim communities. A few of us thought that on the whole writers were critiques of their own societies and the sinister and disheartening aspects of their cultures and governmental systems were what prompted them to write as well as a very human feeling of disquiet, and of compassion for those that fell through the gaps. I said that I had studied Arab literature and saw many so-called 'negative portrayals' of Egyptian society, for example. After all a 'community' is not an entirely healthy or natural organism. She accused me of pathologising non-white, non-Western communities and then said that anyway the publishing sector in Egypt was controlled and funded by the Americans and that is why the books are not all positive portrayals of peaceable and integrated indigenous communities.

I felt sad

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Black Madonna

When I was living and studying in Poland I saw an icon of the virgin Mary . It is called The black Madonna ,and " she" is the protective saint of Warsaw.
I asked about it and never get a satisfying answer : one was " the church which the icon was there , had been burned to earth , the icon was damaged ..and that is reason of the black color.
Years after I went to Ethiopia, and toured the country , that when the military regime was still in power. Every where there were paintings of Carl Marx and Lenin. The were in black . I liked the idea of coloring them with the skin of the Ethiopians!.
In the eastern orthodox churches; Jesus and Mary are always having a fair skin . when I see eastern Jews with their brownish skins , I wonder from where the colors of the icons in our churches came?!
So the Ethiopians had ethoipnised their gods , so not to alienate from them !

P: Walking around this captivating place, I was approached by a team of journalists from Addis who were doing a short TV segment on tourism in Ethiopia. They asked to interview me and I protested, not knowing anything about tourism in Ethiopia. My guide, Mesfin, gave me a stern look and I caved, smiling for the camera and saying all sorts of ridiculous things. "Is St. George better than Petra?" they asked. "Yes, it's better than Petra because it's completely free-standing." Mesfin nodded with approval at my fumbling speech. "Is Ethiopia better than other places you've visited?" they continued. "Well, better than many places, I suppose." Mesfin nodded again, egging me on. "Yes," I said. "It's the best."

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A film about 'us'

Salata Baladi - a film by Nadia Kamel
for list of upcoming screenings in France, Egypt, USA and the Netherlands see schedule below مواعيد العروض القادمة في فرنسا وأمريكا وهولندا تجدونها أسفل الصفحة

الهوية هي مانورث لا ما نرث، ما نخترع لاما نتذكر - محمود درويش
"Identity is what we leave behind, not what we inherit. What we invent, not what we remember." - Mahmoud Darwish
The Director: Nadia Kamel

المخرجة نادية كامل
ولدت نادية كامل المخرجة المصرية، في القاهرة سنة 1961 حيث تواصل حياتها وعملها. وهي ابنة والدين عملا بالصحافة ولهما تاريخ طويل من العمل السياسي، فنشأت نادية كامل في بيت منغمس في السياسات التقدمية وشغوف بالفنون والثقافة الشعبية. وقد درست في مجال الكيمياء والميكروبيولوجي قبل ان تتمكن من توجيه كل طاقتها إلى عشقها الدائم لفن السينما في عام 1990. ومن خلال عملها كمساعدة إخراج لرواد في صناعة الأفلام المستقلة في مصر المعاصرة، ومنهم عطيات الأبنودي ويوسف شاهين ويسري نصرالله، حصلت نادية كامل على قدر كبير من الخبرة والتجربة في صناعة كل من الأفلام التسجيلية والروائية. وعندما بدأت في العمل على أولى مشروعاتها في عام 2000، ايقنت نادية كامل أن ساحة الإنتاج المصرية متشبعة وليس بها الا سوى هامش لا يذكر للمخرجات والمخرجين الجدد وللموضوعات غير التقليدية. فتوصلت إلى أن تناول الموضوعات الجريئة التي تتطرق الى الطابوهات والمحرمات، يقتصر وجودها على هوامش الخطاب المصري التقليدي وهي الموضوعات بذاتها التي كانت تأمل نادية كامل أن تناقشها ي مشروعاتها. فالمسألة اذا تتطلب منها المجازفة بإنتاج أفلام خاصة بها محدودة الميزانية. وقد تم إنتاج فيلمها الأول، سلطة بلدي، من هذا المنطلق وبروح الاستقلال التام. وبعد مرور خمسة أعوام من العمل المنفرد، انضمت إليها شركتان مشاركتان ("لي فيلم ديسي"، و"ڤينتورا فيلم") في استكمال انتاج هذه الحكاية العائلية التي تحتفي وتتمسك بقرن من التفتح على الثقافات والتعددية المصرية.

Salata Baladi Directed
by Nadia Kamel
Egypt, 2007 , 105 minutes
Description: A multilingual, multiethnic documentary about director Nadia Kamel's complex family background। Twenty-first century Egypt, spurred by the rallying cries of a global clash of civilizations, risks drowning in a nationalistic frenzy। Mary Kamel, Nadia's mother, was born in Cairo to a Jewish father and an Italian Catholic mother। She converted to Islam when she married her Egyptian husband Sa'ad. Mary and Nadia join forces to give Mary's grandson, Nabeel, a glimpse into possible alternatives: the family's century-old history of mixed marriages. Like many Egyptians, after a hundred years sprinkled with multiple immigrations, a few conversions and a few mixed marriages, Nabeel is a mix of Egyptian, Italian, Palestinian and Lebanese with some Russian, Caucasian, Turk and Spanish blood as well. From his Muslim, Christian and Jewish descendants, he inherits a track record embracing socialism, fascism, communism, nationalism, feminism and pacifism. But as Mary weaves her way through the family tales, she bumps into her own fears and the continued silence shrouding one branch of the family grows distressingly louder. Mary has been boycotting her Egyptian Jewish family in Israel for 55 long years. Inspired by the fresh perspectives of her 10-year-old grandson, the family breaks arguably one of the most vicious taboos in modern Egypt. Language: Arabic, English, Italian, French, Hebrew (English Subtitles)
Nadia Kamel worked as an assistant director for over ten years before her debut feature documentary Salata Baladi. The daughter of journalist parents with a long history of political activism, Kamel grew up in a home steeped in progressive politics and a passion for the arts and popular culture. Born in 1961 in Cairo, Kamel studied microbiology and chemistry at the University of Cairo prior to pursuing a career in film. When Kamel first began to work on her own projects in 2000, she realized that she would need to take the risk of producing her own low-budget films. After nearly five years of working solo, she was joined by co-producers Films d'Ici and Ventura Films in the post-production of this family tale.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The twitching uterus

I am hungry and it shows.
Not just for marble cake.
I am baby/man/sex/love hungry.
My appetite is voracious and terrifying I begin to see. It is the appetite of a thinking thirty-something with no clue what to think, and liable to throw herself in the path of any fertile loin that points itself casually in her direction - desirous of death by impaling - not for her any more the anxious, half-arsed adolescent fumbling of her entire twenties.
In that hellish poor-woman's emporium, Zara, I hear a baby voice that makes me think of Safiya and as my friend Andrea once memorably said, "my uterus twitches".
I am pursued for a date by a man that I am not drawn to - who thinking me beautiful and aloof (and posh) asks me out; by the second date I have seduced and 'drained' him as he says and I think he is scared and can now just smell the woman - the woman who wants to mate - and mate and mate - until the death.
In work I feel unloved... 'Unloved' I ask- is that what work was ever for? Why do I continue to search for love in all the hardest places - love from the shiny women at the make-up counter; love from the friendly greengrocer; love from my cold flatmate; love from my laptop; love from the street cat-whore. These are all hard surfaces that will not yield and embrace me, however much I radiate desire.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Feeding wild hyenas (and a spelling lesson for Raouf!)

(The 'tow'/two spelling colour codes: red is what I have added; the blue is what must be taken away)

Raouf: Man and Hyena
Fascinating! This man hugs his hyena and feeds her. We are accustomed to a sort of ‎seconded hand information on hyenas (how they are vicious!) but when I saw this photo I ‎checked the internet hooping to fiend something about this ritual habit. I did not find anything. Only ‎some photos and short videos on feeding them for the tourists' delights .‎
How little we know and how big is our ignorance about our world‎- Raouf

Persephone :
There are two men in Harar who feed the wild hyenas outside the city gates. When the hyenas emerge from the brush every night, the man calls them by name, and they approach him gingerly to snatch the donkey meat from his stick. In the darkness, only their eyes are visible – strange, otherworldly eyes that flash like fireflies. It is a mysterious and wonderful ritual, part of Harar's relationship with the hyenas that spans 500 years. Though they roam freely at night, sometimes within the city walls, the hyenas have never harmed a soul.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Elly at her best!‎

When Elly moves from her deep sleep, she is like the whale in the ‎Sindbad story. When the poor Sindbad had swum from his broken ship, ‎landed on a small island trembling from cold, and began to kindle ‎some fire, he realised it was not an island... it was a great sleeping whale!‎
Therefore, we have to imagine the reaction of both of them when the ‎fire began to burn over the back of the whale.‎
Elly the great white whale has decided to move.‎
The Blog now looks better (I think) and more elegant, and it gives the ‎impression that it has a purpose… sort of!‎
I am glad that I can deal (till now because I am also unpredictable) with two unpredictable, intelligent, stunning ‎girls: The Elly and the PERSEPHONE to whom I gave the title i usually give to certain characters to signal them apart from the herd!‎

‎ ‎
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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

will i ever get any space

i wonder

Monday, October 22, 2007

And they told the demon, "Be gone!"

This I overheard from a man in one of those phone booths in an Internet cafe. I stopped and tried to listen further, but it was a muddled monologue of 'they told me this and we have to do that'. The man looked wretched and was ever-polite. I felt wretched and was prepared to be rude to the children kicking the partition separating our computers. I didn't - I felt to weak. Flu is my demon. Further demons sit on my left shoulder. The Programme Assistant at work is a bureaucrat/a paper-pusher/a jobsworth and she drives me to long fruitless distraction with her busy-body, petty officialdom and love of hierarchies. The truth is I could crush her - personally that is. I hesitate to do so not only because I fear for my job but because I know she is not wicked just mediocre. I on the other hand am capable of a polished and ruthless verbal meanness and to exert my greater powers of intellect upon the poor whining creature would be a form of bullying. And it is silly to give in to the demon of contempt; the girl needs occasional flattery and what will that really cost a good Christian like myself? My mother recounted her parable: In Lourdes as a young volunteer, she was assigned to work in one of the bathhouses by an officious and rude older woman who riled everyone with her uncharitable manner. My mother decided that the only course of action was to flatter the woman until she calmed down, remembering why they were there - to help the terminally and gravely ill pilgrims take a dignified bath at this site of the Virgin's apparition. My mother is wise first and a Catholic second I think.

Raouf by virtue of you judging me, I know not to judge others.

She is not shy!

"This girl from Harar watched me with curiosity as I snapped pictures of the butcher and his wife. As she lingered behind me with a gaggle of friends, I imagined her saying, "Why on earth would you take pictures of goat carcasses covered in flies, when there are beautiful girls waiting to be captured?" When I turned around to greet her, she surprised me by stepping forward and boldly asking to be photographed. Her face was such a wonderful mix of wit and sauciness – and the gold tooth was just too fabulous for words."

Raouf: she is not that shy! She is proud of her golden tooth, glittering, when she moves ‎her sensual lips into a smile.‎
She is full of colours: her brown face, her bit darker shadier lips, her greenish- ‎bluish "tarha" around the pretty face over part of the head.‎
I could imagine certain boys - where she lives -had experienced kissing her ‎golden tooth! What a sensation, for them and for her!‎
How did the photographer catch the tooth in the middle of all the colors ‎surrounding her and the girl? ‎

I AM HOPING TO DO A NEW ADVENTURE OF WRITING that I comment on her photo and she adds a comment!!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Elly

To Elly ‎
wish you more IN :‎
‎- practical steps towards interesting creative work‎
‎-deep analysis of what is happening around you ‎
‎-peace with others, accepting them as they are or ‎abounding them completely
‎-more chances in coping with your emotional needs ‎
‎ Wish you less IN : ‎
‎-rushing to judgment ‎
‎- changing moods ‎
‎- interest in useless assholes‎
I am writing this because she - in her Elly ways- surprised me by announcing her birthday after it passed!
‎ So on this rare occasion, when The Elly becomes An ‎Elly in one of her many Ellys waiting for her coming birthdays weeks (we ‎are not interested in the past) ‎
Raouf ‎
‎ About this photo: it is from Persephone's collection from her ‎visit to Ethiopia. She was generous enough to allow me ‎some comments on them. Some of them, like ‎
her comment on this one catches the eye "The Archangel ‎Mikael fought a tremendous battle against a lioness. Finally, he hurled her against ‎this rock - the impact created this impression. The legend is undoubtedly more ‎interesting than the truth.‎ I think this comment is very human in dealing with fantasies... I titled it ‎‎"separate reality" It is a title of a book by Carlos Castaneda; ‎reading him affected my life in a better way .‎

Friday, October 19, 2007

I do not know!

Really I do not know how to describe this photo. It reflects a feeling of waste and sadness. In the beginning I thought I would call it 'Junk'. But No! It is more than that; its emptiness resembles some of the human beings we meet in life... they seem promising and real, yet when you come nearer you will discover their desolation.

Disappointments have no gender!‎

I did not invent the expression 'phantom pregnancy'; Lenin used it to show his frustration at the way a political movement came to ‎nothing. There is no gender here... there are people ‎ya Elly who give you wrong, false impressions about themselves, and trap you into their web by your misjudgments of them. ‎'Phantom pregnancy' is something we meet in our daily activity, even ‎within ourselves... You know that from your experiences.

My birthweek

By maternal decree, this is my birthweek; not because the poor woman was in labour for that long but because the very great woman loves her daughters to distraction and thinks one birth day is not enough to celebrate their (traumatic) ejection from her womb and into her arms.
Yesterday was my birthday and I recorded some nice things from that day:

I made tea for Amir and myself and took it into his bedroom, sitting on the floor with my back against his bed. As we woke up slowly sipping the hot black, vaguely filmy, liquid, we talked about some things - how this new girl Lucy he met at a wedding is 35 and has only ever studied and travelled; he is hopeful as she sent him a flirtatious message on facebook. I talked about Paul who gave me my first birthday card and took me out to dinner and is so different from me and doesn't have a mean bone in his body. Ma called and Bee and Charlie sent messages, so did Maira and Paul and I have several messages on facebook from people I have not spoken to for ages, and emails from Waleed and Carl and Atef and Ben and Doug. I saw a cat sitting on a high wall and I stopped to miaow at it and it look annoyed and turned back to stare at the tree above it; I too looked at the tree and back at the cat and back at the tree but could see nothing of interest; again I searched hard amongst the autumn leaves and this time I saw a tiny squirrel cowering on one of the far branches. I said good bye to the cat and walked down Victoria Road, passing the Lebanese grocers, Gebel az Zaytoon; I waved through the window and it was not the handsome shop assistant I know, but another which is not important. On the tube to Piccadilly Circus a young girl behind a hand mirror applied powder roughly over and over to her face, then she used a teaspoon to curl her lashes and with harsh brushstrokes added blusher, and a cheap mascara; when she packed up her mirror I saw how fresh she looked. I sat in the sunshine in the courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts at the foot of the giant bronze sculpture of the three-legged Buddha. Bee came late looking tired, pushing her pram hurriedly - I shouted "Bee!" happily and jumped up to hug her; her baby, Hettie or 'the boodle' was screaming; she lifted her out and I made faces and the boodle opened her eyes wide at her strange auntie. In the Members' Cafe, I queued to get a flapjack while Bee fed boodle. Behind me two old men wondered aloud what a marble cake was; I said, a marble cake is made with two pastes - a cocoa and vanilla paste swirled together to resemble marble - I know that because it was my favourite cake when I was younger. The men look at me mesmerised and smiling and thanked me and one of them said, can I buy you a piece and I said no there was no need, and that was kind of them, and they continued to joke and flirt with me. When it was my turn, I asked for the biggest piece of flapjack they had, and a woman behind me laughed and said she loved my forthrightness and I said well, I would hate it if they gave me just a small crumbled piece. Bee and the boodle and I walked round the gallery looking at Georg Baselitz's upside down, fractured paintings and the boodle tightly held against her mother's chest in the 'carry-me' pooed loudly in front of her favourite scratchy, swirly painting. We walked through St James' park and then Hyde park and I approached large geese with trepidation while Bee pushed the boodle round in circles to ensure she kept asleep in her swaddling. I put Bee and the boodle in a taxi home and I wandered down Queensway and along Westbourne Grove and found nothing to buy in Oxfam and, tired, took the 31 bus home.

The sirens

You gender the one who deceives and betrays exclusively as a woman, Raouf. So are you presenting us again with an Eve or with the Sirens or a Lady Macbeth? Poor great man to be led astray by fickle humans (who themselves have been corrupted by their beautiful women) - what is left for him but to crucify himself (or sulk)?!
I hope you are not turning into a mysoginist, young man!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Phantom pregnancy

‎‎In Arabic is called 'a lying pregnancy'...‎
I prefer 'a wishful pregnancy', because I want to write about disappointments with human beings and their relationships.‎
When I was in Egypt last winter I met some people who everybody ‎claimed were great and fantastic. Usually I am a skeptic and suspicious, but usually also I fall into the trap, mainly because I scold my self for being ‎suspicious!‎
Things which attract me to such people are my wishful thinking that they ‎are different than other "normal" people and that I could have a rapport with ‎them.‎
I used to blame myself until lately - some days ago - I came by this ‎fantastic idea (discovery) on phantom pregnancy. Remembering a great ‎unknown African (dead) writer Emos Totola who wrote The palm wine ‎drinker and the woman of the Jungle... gave me some compensation for my ‎misjudments. He wrote such a fantastic opening to a chapter entitled "the ‎gentle man should not be blamed if he is deceived by the beautiful woman". He described the "gentle man" ‎wandering in the market place till his eyes settled on the pretty woman ‎who told him to "follow me" so he did. She led him to the jungle and ‎began disintegrating on the way: first her hands disappeared, then her legs till she ‎became just a moving torso. ‎
‎I told myself: I am not going to blame my self because I believed in the ‎'lying pregnancy' or I blocked my doubts…‎
Those people had been discovered by my favourite writer…‎
The difference between the woman of the jungle and the other people is ‎that "they" did not disintegrate in front of my eyes; I had to follow them till ‎the end!‎ ‎

'Sex and joy'

The art exhibition, 'Sex and joy'

He says putting the exhibition together has taught him "how similar we are in terms of images of sex and joy, but also about the unease in the representation of this private act".

"There's no civilisation which hasn't had problems with it," he adds.

The curators have made a point of only including works which show sex between consenting adults. There is nothing which suggests violence or sex with children.
While many of the works can be seen at any major gallery on permanent exhibition, this collection bans under-18s from attending.

Certainly when a work is old it appears to us as more acceptable as art rather than pornography.

Professor Kemp says art is also more complicated than porn, arousing a mixture of emotions. The other big difference is the quality.

"It became clear where pornography stops and art starts," he explains.

"If you look at the frescoes from Herculaneum, they employed major artists.

"If you went to Soho to a brothel today, you don't expect major artists to be deployed.


"If you take the Japanese works, they are very explicit, more so than in the West.

"But the levels of artistry are high, they are sumptuous, beautiful, delicate and refined."

The Japanese prints were made by leading masters including Hokusai. The woodblock prints show men and women in elaborate clothes and equally elaborate poses and were intended for use in brothels and private homes.
There are also Chinese works showing beautiful scenes of gentle love-making in quiet gardens. Chinese erotic art is a little known tradition because so much was destroyed in the Mao era.

The exhibition throws light on how different cultures at different times have viewed sex.

What it reveals above all is how styles of art have changed over the centuries, while human beings and their desires have essentially stayed the same.

Seduced: Art and Sex from Antiquity to Now runs until 27 January 2008 .

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2007/10/16 11:03:34 GMT


Monday, October 15, 2007



‎Do you remember this great face and the fantastic girl... I commented ‎on her at the very beginning?‎
She is an elder sister to this little one. The elder sister in Egypt,in the middle ‎and working classes, gets the title "ABLLA"; it is the same title kids call their ‎woman teacher!‎
The elder sister is important in the family: she plays the role of the mother ‎even when the mother is alive, and when the father dies, she takes responsibility for her younger brothers and sisters.‎
Elder sisters even as young as this one takes her younger sister with her, ‎holding her hand, protecting, even punishing her… she is responsible for her from such an early age!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

El Balakounah!

El Balakounah! It is an Italian word we use – as with many other words in our daily dialect: terso, secondo, robabieka (old junk) premos, prema, and so on…
Sometimes the family convert it into a room, or use it as a storing place, because Egyptians are not used to throwing out old things. It is also a place where you can have fun observing what is happening underneath in the street. or alternatively, you talk with the neighbors, gossiping and plotting or just exchanging information!
Before the widespread ownership of refrigerators, it was very common and elegant also to buy mud pots for water: a “Qullah” to cool the water especially in the summer by putting it in the Balakounah and covering it after putting inside ne’na (mint) or lemon so the water has a refreshing taste!
This chair - did somebody put it there as a secret sign!? Or did somebody clean the floor and forget to put it back?!
Never the less it is typical scene from an Egyptian Balakounah!

time to relax

This is her time to relax:
With a cup tea! In addition, maybe a shisha!
Look at this woman. She is in her house, in her daily house clothes. She has tied around her head - and hair – the mandeel mahalawy, as it is called. It has nothing to do with Islam; my aunts used to do the same and my mother, maybe because of the dust in the house when they were moving around doing their routine cleaning. They also tied it firmly over their heads when they had a headache, sometimes they tied a big copper key with it as it is believed to be a cure for headaches.
They drink tea many times a day with a lot of sugar: morning, noon, after meals, and after noon and night.
Such a cheap relaxation!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The little lost one, lost for good

I woke myself with a high-pitched miaow. It was me - as Perdita - dying.

She was very bony to the touch at the end; stroking her felt like running my hand over dislocated bones, but she still purred and looked at me with her uncertain face – unsure whether to succumb or flee. On Monday night Ma and I walked around the garden in the dark, shouting “Perdita, wuss, puss” and whistling Ma’s special cat whistle.

That evening on the phone to Jean in France Ma recalled with pride how Perdita’s pitiful miaow had answered her, as the cat limped out from behind the shed. I had run in and grabbed the tiny torch, and there she squatted, immobile. I walked through the flower-bed and picked her up – she was light as air, and she let me carry her upstairs to her bed. Perdita would never let anyone carry her – she would struggle and scratch and jump free. We brought her plate of food and water bowl up onto the bed and she ate something but mostly had a voracious thirst. She didn’t move around the bed, pawing and nesting; rather she turned gingerly on an axis and settled hunched on her paws, careful not to put pressure on her jutting, swollen paw.

It was after letting out her high-pitched miaow that she died on her bed with Ma and Charlie watching. Charlie wept, Ma told me. This morning, with spades, Ma and I tried to dig a hole, but we struck rock and Charlie was afraid the foxes would tear apart her little body.

Now Ma and Charlie have taken her to the crematorium, and in the shallow grave near her shed we will lay Perdita, “the little lost one”, in a pot.

Best cats!

We call cats “best!” … the ancient Egyptian 'Cat-God' is called BEST... There was a recent discovery in the Delta of mass graves of mummified cats in a place called “Tell Basta” .. (It is also the name of my grandfather!)
Egyptians do not keep domestic pets, but they treat cats with respect. They believe they have secret powers so they do not harm them!

the boy, the bread, the smile

Because of the shortage of baking places to bake bread, and because of the bad quality of the bread baked enmass, lot of individuals took up making bread at home and selling it. Usually young kids would set up their mobile 'shops' anywhere. It is easy to snatch the 'shop' and run away when the police come raiding.
I wonder – when I see such energy – to hold onto life with dignity, how that energy, or the dignity will survive the hardship of poverty.
The boy is smiling, a sweet one, for the time being!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

faces to backs

Two photos with astonishing meanings: Girls are sitting with their back to what is happening behind them. Boys are looking straight forward, even smiling a bit!

I am not sure why the girls are turning their backs: are they not willing to be identified? Ya, most probably; I think they left their houses claiming to their parents that they were going to study with each other in one of the girl's houses and took the opportunity to escape and have some fresh air on the Corniche.

The boys, just leave without any explanation to their parents and meet, making plans, sitting on the same seaside. Both parties have no money to meet in cafés. Even if the girls had some money, they would not dare to go to café houses.


It was a terrible moment to receive a letter (not a love letter) from the one I love, and such relief to allow myself to love again for a bit.

Old men with tea and cotton

Sitting in front of their shop, the old men show their profession: they make things from cotton: mattresses, cushions and usually for the new bedroom for the newly wed couples.
It is still a great profession, and in demand, in spite of the spread of non-cotton materials, and is cheap.
You can ask the "menajed" (the man who makes the mattresses) to come to your home with his tools and make whatever you want. Hospitality rules demand that the client offer unlimited supply of tea and coffee and of course one meal from the table of the house.
All the neighbors would come, comment, and say Mabrouk
It is a small feast!

Monday, October 8, 2007

The young shoeseller

What age do some people begin working? Who stole from them the joy of a slow and normal growing up?
He is selling some secondhand shoes. Sitting in the middle of nowhere, learning to deal with corrupt the policeman who would leave him and his shoes in peace if he gives him part of his earnings. And the hassling of the clients: Poor and annoyed like him from the way life disappoints them.

internet hunting

The Elly is getting wild!waoo
She is not anymore "Elly" she became in a rare of metamorphism: The Elly and I think that happened during certain time, in certain day in the way to Lisbon or out from it.
The internet dating which I red today is a great proof of my doubts!
Some time I look at "Charmed" in TV trying to follow the dark places inside my children brains. The idea impresses me, how it is so easy, that a person can pass certain transformation from a "normal" human being to something different, scary and harmful.
That if we can be safe saying "normal" human being.
So , the Elly hates and despise men, but she would not leave them in their situation what ever it is, but chasing them through the internet to have her revenge from them , reduce, and laughing at them.
To my knowledge from certain films that a woman who had been raped is getting hare revenge from the rapist and men who had fallen in her hand by humiliating or killing them . For me that is fair enough.
But the elly as it seems decided that all the misfortunate "affairs" are the result of encounter those "bad" men.
I wonder: are there special places where "bad" men and women gather so could be avoided? 9 of course beside garbage cans where certain cats (and people) like to collect their food and "lovers" from there!
I know it is tiring debate who is bad and how much a person could be as bad as a rapist, Aim not going to be part of it , because of my basic believes in life that" we" are the creators of our happiness or misery , not the others ,but through them.
Elly, before her new "changes" was such a sweet sensitive pretty woman who was looking for things she knows from her experience are not exist in mass production such as love!
Alternatively, I was having my own dreaming about her. My be she is a Dracula in hidden?

A film about a village

I got this link in my mail. It is short but very moving... you will discover why.

Here is a Palestinian film about a normal people to continue the debate on the other film

Sunday, October 7, 2007

School Photograph

Shock and awe, part 1

I can't stop insulting men.
Nice men - I am sure they are nice men, but I hate them and I haven't even met them.
I joined an Internet dating site to be adored and to abuse, I now realise, and that makes me a little worried. Persephone calls it my shock and awe tactic or hook 'em and sink 'em.
I have begun correspondence with complete strangers by ripping their profiles to shreds, and continued in a mocking, if flirtatious tone.
That is except for Stefano, the Italian whose utter sincerity and modesty in his profile made me take him for a sweet, vulnerable child in need of gentle encouragement and nurturing - so to him only have I been kind and patient.
I am an odd sort of Internet dater. I want but I don't want. I am femme fatale or mother, bitch or older sister. Who would want such a crazy creature?

Friday, October 5, 2007

On Home and a film

The post Elly wrote about Munich made me feel a bit uneasy about my feelings towards "home", whatever it is: the motherland or fatherland or homeland.
A long time ago, I discovered I had no sentimental emotions regarding "home".

My first long voyage far from Egypt took me twelve years without feeling the slightest 'homesickness' for Egypt. Truly. I missed certain places such as a coffeehouse, a part of the river Nile, certain hours of the day, some streets and very few people. In the beginning I was worried about my 'patriotic' feelings, but gradually and secretly I was feeling relief that I had no emotional ties to many things and people I mentioned above.

That is why I was feeling uneasy about Elly's post, inspite of liking it, because she connected her feelings with an interpretation of the film, Munich
Elly wrote: "I need to know that home is there. And you may believe you are criticizing Israel in Munich, but really you are merely chastising it and underlining over and over again the reality of the homeland. It is there and you have the luxury of choosing at whim whether you like it or not. And what inexpressible relief as well as agony that gives to you!
So what about the relief of the Palestinians - will they ever have any damn relief?

But I never had this urge or feeling that I want to return 'home'. I created two homes for myself: a simple house in Amsterdam where I do not share anything with the Dutch population... No history, no schools or playgrounds, no streets which witnessed my first kiss with a girl... In addition, I have another small flat in October city, which it is a new city and has no character or even history by itself! I lived in Warsaw for five years, Baghdad four years, Beirut four years. In addition, so many years in Sudan. Some of these places I like and miss, and that is it - nothing more.

I saw the film, Munich, in Amsterdam about a year and half ago. I liked it because I felt Spielberg tried hard to be objective and say something that would not agree totally with the Jewish mainstream thinking about 'Home'. I saw the Palestinian camps in Lebanon and in Gaza; all my life I have known all sort of Palestinians - rich and poor, fighters and politicians. I saw them leaving Beirut in one of their big and contentious exoduses.

The film also gave me uneasy feeling, a sort of frustration and hopelessness.
I did not feel sorry for Avner, because he is a killer. The Black September fedayeen had a cause. They had been betrayed by the Arabs in the massacre in Jordan, and by the world since 1948, so they decided to take things into their own hands. The Israelite hajanah had killed so many Arabs before, so what Avner was doing was to continue what his culture and religion demand from him.

That is the main difference between the two sides in the film, which the director could not or would not grasp. I was looking in the film for justice, not justification. I was not looking for home or homeland because I know that both politicians and killers do not believe in them in spite of what they claim.

Still the film is a daring step. I do not believe there were innocent people in the film; they all shared certain dogmatic ideas about being righteous, and that the "others" are wrong, and that according to my book would put them in a grey area. I had a feeling the director was aiming the message of the film towards those people!