May 9th, 2009 09th


Paris The Small City

When you think of Paris, one of the first things that comes to mind is  “metropolitan area”. No one doubts the size of the French capital, it’s got to be one of the biggest cities in Europe, and probably one of the biggest cities in the entire world.

Surprisingly, though, if you take into consideration the entire urban area surrounding the city, the total population is around 10 million habitants. That would not even place it in the top 20 cities world-wide. Moreover, if you look count what is the “city” without the suburbs, then the total population is a mare 2.1 million! That means there are more people in my part of Cairo, the all of main Paris combined. Shocking, huh?

When people refer to the city Paris, they tend to be talking about the 20 arrondissements:


That cover the entire area inside the surrounding ring road, also known as the peripherique.

Despite it’s relatively small size and belittled population, the more time you spend here, the bigger it seems. I went out for a walk earlier today, and started heading in different directions in an attempt to cover new areas that I hadn’t previously visited. I’ve been thinking about this topic recently, and today’s walk made me confirm my theory: Paris seems like a gigantic city because practically EVERYWHERE you go, you’ll find shops, restaurants, bars, supermarkets, bus stops, metro stations, benches with people sitting on them, creperies, fast food chains, and the list goes on. That’s what makes this place so special, anywhere you chose to go, you’re in for an adventure, you will be embarking on a journey to a beautiful lively area with endless possibilities.

I’ve lived my whole life in Cairo, and have become intolerant to small cities and towns. In fact, any place with less than a million habitants is too small for me to spend a long time at. But that is always based on the assumption that the interesting part is only a small portion of the overall size of the city. Cairo, for me, is the best city in the world, but the majority of the city does not offer anything of special interest to any visitor. But since it’s gigantic, there are several areas one can visit.

Madrid is another example. With a population around 5 million, the Spanish capital seems a lot smaller than Paris, even though it’s twice its size. That’s because, as beautiful as it may be, the area where you can spend time in Madrid are probably in the region of 30% of the overall size of the city (a percentage that I would say is considerably high). Otherwise you’re in residential areas, boring neighborhoods, quiet streets, etc.

Here’s the map of Madrid with the same om level and image size of that of Paris. Even though with Paris we could see the entire city and beyond, with Madrid, there’s a significant portion that you can’t see at all.


Paris, on the other hand, is completely different. I would say that based on my short time here, close to 90% of the area inside the peripherique would be considered as nice areas to walk around, eat, have a drink, or just sit on a bench and observe. It’s rare to come across areas that don’t offer anything of interest. In fact, that is yet to happen to me (bare in mind, however, that nothing would scare me here. If anything, people might be scared of me – I’m the young Arab male).

When you take a path, a part of you feels guilty for leaving out the other, because it’s at least as beautiful as the current one. You never feel comfortable enough to claim that you know a certain area, because there’s got to be a few blocks knocked off your radar, and that would potentially mean intriguing hotspots that are left undiscovered.

That’s the beauty of this place. That’s the real magic of Paris.

May 4th, 2009 04th


World Record: 0 Euros Spent

Yesterday was one of the “stay in” days. I had a lot of work to do, and got less than half done, but it’s still progress. I’m starting to get into the flow of things, as far as my freelance work is concerned. The fact that my window overlooks the street and lets in a lot of sunlight has helped me stay at home, work, while still enjoying the beautiful sunshine. Another advantage of not going out is saving cash monies.

In fact, I have matched the world record of 0 Euros spent in the ENTIRE day. Nothing spent on food, drinks, bread, ridiculous and useless objects you buy on a daily basis – nothing. Thus, I’m extremely proud of this achievement, and will reward myself by spending a lot of money in the near future. Seriously, though, it’s good to settle in with home-made food, fill the fridge properly (because a lot of the grocery shopping that I had previously done was rather useless), and be able to get on with what you need to do. At the same time, I’ll have more freedom to spend when I next have the opportunity.

Today I spent 60 Euros at InterMarche on groceries (don’t worry – it was money well spent). I actually came across a ready-made Mussaka3a! It’s basically almost cooked, all you need to do is throw in the oven for a couple of minutes. While I’d like to think I’ve got this whole living-alone thing down, I’ve sadly discovered that I am far from independent. In fact, I might just be a bit of a disaster.

So here I am all excited to eat the Mussaka3a, and I throw it – as is – into the over. A couple of minutes later, I find that its plastic (yes plastic) container, and the plastic lid were not as excited as I am and decided to start melting all over my dinner. So I had to take it out quickly (using a towel that has been destroyed due to the plastic molding into it), and quickly flipped the contents onto another plate, and threw the remains of the 100% natural plastic that it came in. The sad but true story was that there was a bit of melted plastic that has infiltrated the food by then, but to be honest, I didn’t care and went ahead and ate it. It was delicious! My only complaint (besides what I would argue were not clear-cut instructions on the box) would be the quantity – price value. At a little under 4 Euros, it’s not a lot better than Khalil and the people back at Fine’s Beak doner kebabs. But it’s definitely a good alternative to eating out, and goes very well with some home made basmati rice.

I don’t remember being anywhere near as bad when I was living in Madrid, it must be that I’m getting a little rusty. Nevertheless, there’s reason to celebrate the marvelous achievement of equaling the world record for the least amount of money spent in a single day in Paris.

May 3rd, 2009 03th


Parisian Nightlife: The Bad Version

Following the enchanting experience of hanging out in the Louvre with friends, I took off to meet up with my buddy Abdul-Kareem Abdel Ghany who’s here from Geneva for the weekend. I thought we were going to a local club, because I guess I’m still very much an out-of-towner when it comes to the night scene here.

We went to this place called Cabaret, very close to the Louvre. It’s the typical club where you have a lot of people waiting in line to go in, but I guess I was with the “right” people, because we walked right through and to our table.

The clubs that I’ve seen in Paris and Geneva, are VERY different than what I’m used to in Madrid, or even Cairo. In the Spanish capital, you go out with a group of friends, go to the downtown area, and walk into any bar you want. If it’s after midnight or 1 am, they might charge you a blasphemous 5 Euros to go in, but even that includes a free drink. When you go in, everyone minds his or her own business, because everyone’s there to enjoy themselves. You feel the positive vibes from everyone, and the music is incredibly engaging – such beautiful nights!

On other hand, this doesn’t seem to be the case around here. It’s the kind of club where as soon as you go in, you become immediately conscious of your appearance and everyone else’s. You get the most snobbish and arrogant individuals from around the planet. The “music” is nothing more than a dozen old scanners combined with the noise from a construction site, and it’s all about who you’re with, and which table you’ve reserved. Because there are the expensive tables, and then the outrageously expensive ones, where you actually need a bracelet to indicate that you are one of the chosen ones to enjoy the enlightenment of entering the VIP section – it’s ridiculous.

There were actually very few Parisians, from what I can tell. It’s basically made for people from outside that want to come to the capital of love and prove a point. They are presenting their case for being members of the elite.

However, that is all nothing compared to the kind of “women” that hang out at the VIP tables. I can’t visualize a way of them arguing against the fact that they are pure and utter objects roaming the salon and willing to do anything for free drinks and attention from the rich ones. One of those escorts was actually hooking up with one guy, and then secretly and simultaneously, hooking with another right before my eyes. Now that’s talent. I never understood the West’s claim of equality between the sexes, but that’s a whole different topic that tends to back-fire, so I’ll keep quite for the time-being.

Did I mention it was a bit expensive? Don’t sweat, though, the bill was only 1,800 Euros, so it’s manageable. I offered to pitch in with 20 Euros, that I had worked REALLY hard to earn I may add, but Abdul-Kareem and his friend Hassan wouldn’t let me.

Don’t get me wrong, it was an entertaining night, and I definitely enjoyed hanging out with Abdul-Kareem (what a character! Out of this world). But between the Cabaret (and there’s a dozen of these type of clubs in town) and hanging out at the louvre, I don’t think it’ll take too long for me to settle on one of them. I miss the good ol’ days of Madrid. And for that matter, I really miss hanging out in Cairo, where the city never sleeps and, for me at least, the options are endless.