June 26th, 2009 26th

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Amreeka With Dahshan: A Must-See

A couple of days ago I went with my Egyptian friend Mohamed el Dahshan to see a Palestinian movie about a mom and her son migrating to the United States. It would be very difficult for me to justly portray Amreeka so that you can get a good idea of what it’s about, but it’s suffice to say that you absolutely have to watch it. I was really amazed by it, and the more I think about it, the more I like it. Director Cherien Dabis & Co put forward a movie so realistic, that it is very difficult to remember that you’re sitting in a movie theater watching a screening.

Amreeka, The MovieThe movie starts in the West Bank where a Christian family is going through the daily hell of the occupied territories, until they receive the immigration letter that allowed them to move to the US. That’s when it takes you through the period of settling in with their extended family, and taking in the huge cultural gap between the two countries. The movie is mainly in Arabic, although I would say a good third of it is in English (sometimes even mixing the two – which made it much closer to reality). So watch it in its original version with subtitles (many movie theaters here, and throughout Europe, dub the movies, and that would take away the beauty of it).

Many movies fail to capture the differences of opinions within Arabs and Palestinians regarding the Israeli occupation. In fact, there is a significant crowd who’d advocate that the Palestinians abroad have pretty much the same mentality. Well, one of the strongest aspect of this film in particular, is the fact that you have a wide range of Palestinians, each with their own influences and thought processes. While they are all unanimously against the Israeli occupation (as is the entire world, except for the US), and they equally enjoy Arab food, there are quite a few significant differences between them.

I leave you with that. The best way to learn more about the movie is to actually watch it. Since we went on a Tuesday night, the tickets for students are at 5 Euros and change (compare with standard 10 Euro fee), and Dahshan was kind enough to invite me, since I’m kind of stripped on cash right now!

I wish everyone can see it so we can talk about it. The conversation that followed with Dahshan was very intriguing, but I think that would’ve been the case anyway, because he’s quite the intellectual, intelligent guy.

June 19th, 2009 19th

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History In The Making

Glorious.

I’m left speechless as I attempt to re-live Egypt’s historical victory against World Champions Italy in the Confederations Cup last night. Following a quality performance against Brazil in the first match, the Pharaohs took African football to the next level, becoming the first ever side from the black continent to beat the Azurri. And what a victory it was!

Egypt vs Italy

I witnessed history being re-written at a bar near Place Monge with Alberts, Jose (pronounced: err-kho-thei) and Rocio. What a night! I had picked up Jose and Rocio from the airport yesterday morning, they’re here from the weekend, visiting from Utrera (an authentic, ancient town near Sevilla). They showed immediate interest in watching the spectacle. While Alberts thought it was a good opportunity to pay me back for all of the Barca games that I had watched with him and the Catalans!

I was the only Egyptian at the bar, as you might’ve imagined. In fact, I was the only one closely following the game (and not really hiding my emotions), proudly boasting my Egyptian national team jersey with the six stars, representing the number of times we have been crowned African champions. My new Egyptian friend, Mohamed el Dahshan, who I met through Paris-Blog-activist Ruth Pimentel, tagged along as well (although a few minutes AFTER the game was over). Immediately after, I took off to the other airport, Charles de Gualle, to meet my originally Valenciano but realistically Egyptian friend Toni Bolinches, who’s also here for the weekend.

The funny part was while I was on the way to pick up El Bolinches. The RER made stops that weren’t schedule, until they decided that the train is not going any further, and that everyone has to get off and catch the bus. I’m not sure how they justified it to themselves, but there weren’t any French complaining. Instead of taking me 40 mins to get there, I arrived to a stranded Bolinches in over an hour and a half. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I were trying to catch a flight.

Anyway, as I was about to get on the bus, one of the station organizers, standing at the entrance to the bus, said “Essalamu 3aleiko” (after noticing that I had the Egyptian shirt on), and so I jumped at the opportunity to express my joy, and went on in Arabic about our historical victory against the world champions. He said that he had watched the match as well, and was extremely happy for us. But then he dared to make the blasphemous move of saying “But against Alegria, you can’t win. You can’t beat us”.

Immediately after, there was a sudden silence as my ear-to-ear smile instantly changed to a serious frown. It was a look of a gangster who is about to pull up a gun and shoot the guy’s brains out. The poor Algerian’s face was converted to a look of fear and deep concern. His jaw dropped, his eyes wide-open, and his head slowly but surely turning away in an attempt to save his life. My hungry face was literally 10 centimeters from his, as he started to feel my fuming body heat. Seconds later, we both burst out loud into outrageous, obnoxious, Arab-style laughter and gave each other a symbolic fair-play hug that sent peace and love vibrations to the entire region.

I was still laughing by myself on the bus. And then I started getting into the vicous cycle of calculating how Egypt can make it to the World Cup, and that was sad. Regardless, a revolutionary win, an incredible achievement. Mabrouk to the seven thousand years of Egyptian civilization.

May 6th, 2009 06th

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The Success Story Of Fine’s Beak

Remember Fine’s Beak? I told you it was the best place in Paris to get a Grec/Doner Kebab in this post. I just got back from there after having a very interesting conversation with the co-founder El Hady. That, and an incredibly awesome chicken kebab marinated in curry and eaten alongside fries dipped in “Andalouse” sauce for 5.90 Euros – to die for.

I’d say I probably pop in about twice to three times a week to check out what Khalil and my fellow immigrants are up to, and to get a quality and cheap meal at the same time. And since I tend to go at night, I usually hang out with Khalil, but today I went a little earlier and shared by authentic and tasty experience with Khalil’s partner, El Hady. I had seen him before, but we’ve never really “broken the ice” or bonded until this afternoon.

Like many Arabs, Tunisians are very fond of Egyptians, and believe in the Egyptian dream. What can you expect? If you don’t live in Egypt, it’s a lot easier to idealize what it means to be Egyptian, and see it as the Romans used to see Rome. Obviously, when you spend time there, you realize that the Egyptian government has done nothing but completely destroyed the country and has left it in ruins. Politics aside, El Hady was happy to share with me his traveling experiences when he ventured a road trip (via microbuses and public transportation) from Tunis, capital of Tunisia, to Fayoum, Egypt. His final destination wasn’t precisely Fayoum, it’s just that it was the last stop before we started heading back. The total time he spent in Egypt was about 15 days, and he had nothing but good memories in the land of the Pyramids.

He told me stories about how every single person he came across helped him out. People would give him directions, exchange phone numbers, and call him later to make sure he arrived safely. Not to mention that he enjoyed some homemade food via the numerous invites that he received from random people. Of course a taxi tried to rip him off at one point, but even then a fellow passenger intervened and saved him. It’s very refreshing when you hear such stories from others who have been to Egypt. It makes me realize Egypt’s importance in the Arab world, and it also makes me realize how much potential we have, in contrast to our current state.

So El Hady and Khalil have opened Fine’s Beak about 10 months ago (which is why it doesn’t appear on Google Maps if you go on street view, hence not being able to post a picture of it, but I will try to get one for you all soon). Basically, they are open every single day from 10am till about 2am. What happens is that El Hady opens the place in the morning, and stays until about 6 or 6:30 in the evening, which is when Khalil comes to take over, and they might overlap for a few minutes before the shift is handed over. Khalil then works until shutting at around 2 am. Hard workers. The only time of the week when they close is Friday morning, for the prayer, for about 1.5hours.

Each one is granted about 25 days of holiday a year, during which case the other has to work both shifts. And we complain that the weekend ends too fast.

It is kind of sad that they don’t get to enjoy Paris that much, and they definitely don’t have the ability to travel around. But at the same time, this is like the land of opportunity for them. And apparently the business is going well (their delicious taste is becoming a trademark!).

I can’t wait to go back next, but I’ve been trying to maintain myself to avoid spending too much on the long term, but more importantly, to avoid the slightest of chances that I lose my strong passion towards them if I visit too often.