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Archive for the ‘With photos’ Category

Waiting in Cairo

An Attempt on Libya

The Libyan border gave me the impression that Libya runs on bribes. No one specifically said “Give me a bribe now” but there was quite a lot of holding my passport and slowly examining it by different officials before I was kicked out of the country and I may be wrong but I suspect that if I’d had some spare cash and known how to discreetly palm it into someone’s palm, I could have got through. But that didn’t happen, so I went back to Cairo with the instructions that I could get a visa from there.
Luckily I was picked up by Ahmed who not only was going to Cairo but also was happy to let me stay at his house and even alsoer was happy to drive me around the next day and wait in embassies, which isn’t everyone’s idea of fun. First the Libyan embassy, who apparently said that my passport (which is English and written in English) was too English. Ideally it would be Arabic, but since I had to make do with what I’d got, they’d accept a translation of it if I got one from the British embassy. And after that I’d need a passport photo and then it would be a two- to four- week wait for the visa. Another slight whiff of bribe-me was wafting round the room. We went to the British embassy and they said “Here’s the form you have to fill in, and it’ll cost you 105 pounds and the translation will be ready tomorrow morning.” At that point I decided not to bother with Libya. 105 Egyptian pounds is only about 15 English pounds, but I can’t hear an amount which sounds so big without feeling a little pale. And that was just for permission to wait for “two to four weeks” to then be probably rejected by Libya (the Hebrew in my passport, it seems, says “Not welcome almost anywhere”). So I cut my losses at having paid £2.50 for 12 passport photos (which came with a free postcard-sized print of me looking grim and passporty, surrounded by pink flowers and hearts and framed) and decided to pin my hopes on getting to Cyprus by boat.

After a whole bunch of fruitless research I eventually managed to book a one-way ticket on a cruise to Cyprus (that’s a cruise, not a ferry and in case you’re too plebby to know what the difference is, I think food is included in a cruise and it costs more) but that leaves on Tuesday. Which left me with a whole bunch of waiting to do in Cairo. I’ve spent most of that waiting time at Rafik’s house (he’s from couchsurfing), hiding from the world.

Perfume and Papyrus

When I first got here I had to go and do some shopping and since I didn’t know my way around I couldn’t effectively pull off the eyes-to-the-floor-tight-lipped-hussle which stops people from chatting to you if you look foreign. One of these people shook my hand and said “Where you from, friend?” and he didn’t let go for a while. A bad sign, I find. “Ah, England. I like English. I know York, Birmingham, Manchester.” Lots of smiling and friendliness from this guy. “I’ll give you my card.” People give me their cards quite a lot which I normally think of as an olive branch but smaller and more convenient. I have a bag full olive branches and a pocket full of other more crumpled olive branches. He pulled me towards somewhere where I wasn’t going, and I raised an eyebrow. “Just round the corner, my shop.” And he smiled at me in a confused sort of way as if to say that it was such an obviously good idea to follow him that it was a little bit quaint that I was resisting. In his shop, which had perfume bottles all over the walls, I was told to sit down without being offered a business card. I sat. Then I was offered tea and, since I wanted to get my shopping done and go and eat some food, I said No. I also had a suspicion that I was about to experience the Hard Sell, and I was not disappointed. “You have a wife? Girlfriend? Hm. This, very nice, smell-” I became slightly impatient and I think he noticed. “Only two pounds, very cheap. Smell- one bottle is… ok, ok. But smell this one.” I became very clear at this point that I wasn’t going to buy any perfume. “Why not?” After he’d eventually admitted defeat he said, in a resigned and deflated manner “Oh, ok. Then I’ll just show you some papyrus then.” No, I did not want papyrus, possibly I have even less use for papyrus than for perfume which is none at all. No papyrus, please. Normally in these kinds of situations I wait to be excused before I leave but I got the impression that he would have kept me there all day, so I got up and left. The business card was never mentioned again.
A little bit later, and with a fairly heavy bag of shopping, I met someone else who also took an instant shine to me. “Ah! England. I know England a little. I have been to York. I’ll give you my business card.” Naturally I squinty-eyed him a little bit for saying exactly the same thing as the guy from a few hours ago, but he did a face of total innocence and wonder, so I said “OK, let me have your card” and held my hand out. He looked at me as if I was crazy and then led me towards his shop. At the door I started to put up a bit of resistance, partly because I felt a bit like I’d been through this before and partly because I literally had been through this exact door before, and the previous shyster was sitting outside smiling at me as if he hadn’t tried to rip me off and as if his brother wasn’t trying to do the same. I pointed all this out to my new chum and he waved it aside as if it were a road marking (which are very conscientiously ignored by everyone here – the driving is absolutely mental). Once again I found myself inside the perfume shop and being told to sit down, but I had a card up my sleeve “Where’s the business card?” “You want to smell this?” “Could I just have the business card?” “Mmmm [ecstaticly, and as if for the first time] rose! Aaaah. Smell-” “No, I’ll just take your card and go” “Yes, of course, how about this one?” “Sorry, do you have a business card or not?” “A moment… have a look at this papyrus.” “I’m absolutely not going to buy any papyrus, but I’d like to have your business card if that’s OK?” “Yes, of course, papyrus is a good souvenir though, just have a look.” “NO! Sorry… No. Thank you.” And he just looked at me and waited for me to go. “Could I have your card then?” He waved apologetically at his desk as if he’d done a thorough search and only managed to find the empty business card box and a post-it saying “Get more business cards ASAP” and that was it. Well, almost. Before I’d got back to Rafik’s house a couple of teenagers said to me “Ahh, England, my father has been to York, you want to eat with me tonight? Come, I’ll give you my card.” I had to put all my effort into not ending up in there a third time but he got me to the door and he was so limpitlike I had to walk away from him while he was still talking to me.
Later another old man offered to give me his business card and I said “NO. I HATE business cards.” and walked off. I’m becoming such a badass.

Religious Birthmarks

On the ferry to Egypt I talked to someone with a big awkward brown birthmark thing on his forehead. I stared at it a bit when I thought he wasn’t looking but I didn’t comment because that might have been rude. Then, a bit later, I saw someone else with a similar thing and I thought maybe it wasn’t a birthmark but some kind of branding, like they were both in a gang or were criminals of a particular nature or something. And now I’ve seen loads of them all over the place and it turns out that the official explanation is that they are bruises you get from praying a lot. You know, when you bow down to Allah and put your forehead on that special little carpet you have to carry around with you to stop your forehead from bruising, that’s when you get the bruises. With the undertone of “obviously you wouldn’t understand that because you don’t pray as much as me”. The weird thing is that I didn’t see any of these bruises in Turkey or Syria or Jordan. Only in Egypt, and here they’re everywhere. Perhaps they have very hard carpets here.

This is some fundamentalist prisoner I found on the internet with the kind of forehead bruise you can see all over Egypt.

This is some fundamentalist prisoner I found on the internet with the kind of forehead bruise you can see all over Egypt.

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Photos of Syria

Close inspection of my shirt will reveal that I do, in fact, look like Jesus.

Close inspection of my shirt will reveal that I do, in fact, look like Jesus.

Head towels, full length robes, eating off the floor. This is Syria where Arabia really starts.

Head towels, full length robes, eating off the floor. This is Syria where Arabia really starts.

This is the NCD. A distinguished person tried to run me over as he was leaving and the guard almost had a heart attack at the idea that I might hold up someone so distinguished by bloodying his wheels. I have a feeling that you can become distinguished by being related to the president.

This is the NCD. A distinguished person tried to run me over as he was leaving and the guard almost had a heart attack at the idea that I might hold up someone so distinguished by bloodying his wheels. I have a feeling that you can become distinguished by being related to the president.

This is the president of Syria. What a massive chump. Here are some signs of his chumpery: His neck is way too long; he has jowls; his eyes are too close together; he appears to be deliberately extending his neck; he has a didnt-get-into-the-police moustache; he has, in this picture, A HALO; theres another picture of him in the background; these pictures (and where theres no halo there are other things like Reddy Brek glow or flowers or doves) are all over Syria and lots of them are clearly paid for by the government; he loves dressing up - in this photo hes in his power-messiah suit. But you cant help feeling sorry for him when you find out that hes only president because his older brother died in a car crash. Before that he was planning on being an eye doctor, and thats what hes trained as.

This is the president of Syria. You might think, by looking at him, that hes a massive chump. You might notice, for example, his jowls which he has failed to conceal by craning his neck; his neck which is freakishly long and which he has accidentally accentuated while trying to conceal his jowls; his tiny little moustache; the other picture of him in the background; HIS HALO; the fact that he looks like someone who didnt get into the police or any number of other features. You might also know that these photos and others with even more messianic imagery are plastered all over Syria, and yes, it does all point to chumpery. But did you know that he never wanted to be president? His older brother was going to inherit the title from their father (in the standard democratic tradition) but accidentally died in a car accident. Bashar was going to be an opthalmologist but was thrust unwillingly into politics. So who can blame him for making a few concessions to chumpery?

This is the president of Syria. You might think, by looking at him, that he's a massive chump. You might notice, for example, his jowls which he has failed to conceal by craning his neck; his neck which is freakishly long and which he has accidentally accentuated while trying to conceal his jowls; his tiny little moustache; the other picture of him in the background; HIS HALO; the fact that he looks like someone who didn't get into the police or any number of other features. You might also know that these photos and others with even more messianic imagery are plastered all over Syria, and yes, it does all point to chumpery. But did you know that he never wanted to be president? His older brother was going to inherit the title from their father (in the standard democratic tradition) but accidentally died in a car accident. Bashar was going to be an opthalmologist but was thrust unwillingly into politics. So who can blame him for making a few concessions to chumpery?

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Israel Speaks

From: consul-assist <consul-assist@amman.mfa.gov.il>

To: Mikey Lear

Date: Wed, Sep 2, 2009 at 9:08 AM

Dear Mikey,

I’m very sorry to inform you that your appeal request was denied.

 

I wish for you only the best at the rest of your trip.

Amit Djerassi – Israeli Embassy, Amman

************************************************************************************
This footnote confirms that this email message has been scanned by
PineApp Mail-SeCure for the presence of malicious code, vandals & computer viruses.
************************************************************************************

My Wait is Over

I just got this email and my first reaction was “Oh good, there are no viruses or vandals in this email” but then I looked at the bit that Amit had written and I saw that there was also some bad news. Now I need a plan. Right, I’ve thought of one. Richard has completed our pilgrimage – did I mention that? Did I prove it? I can:

Richard, stick and Jerusalem. The end of our pilgrimage

Richard, stick and Jerusalem. The end of our pilgrimage

Well, that’s good enough for me. I suppose waiting around so I can get there too is just vanity. Richard got there, my stick even got there. I’d be celebrating if I hadn’t had this bogus shadow of hope cast on me from Amit, after all – we’ve made it, and we needed each other to do it – just like in My Cousin Vinnie and probably in the Bible somewhere. At any rate I’m glad to have a definite answer from Israel, so now I can make a definite plan. And I’ve already made it: Go home. Go to Egypt via the Red Sea, then get home however I can. I’ve got more than 150 Euros in my pocket so I should be able to at least get out of Jordan and pay the fine I’ve accrued for my overdue visa. Who knows, there maybe be some left over to buy myself some bread or something.

So, for the optimistic slash generous: We’ve finished our pilgrimage, I’m blazing home in glory. For the cynical slash realistic: We’ve both given up on our pilgrimages in different ways, I’m slinking home in shame. I’ll probably carry on using this blog to write about my journey back, but for the pilgrimage purist, this is the end. I’ll see you soon, Insh’Allah.

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This is the family who were hosting Andre. Notice how there are two wives where normally youd find only one.

This is the family who were hosting Andre. Notice how there are two wives where normally you'd find only one.

The mighty Andre with his Hazel stick, becalmed in Turkey

The mighty Andre with his Hazel stick, becalmed in Turkey

Nacho, who turned out to be an orthopodiatriast. With one sumo chop and a massive crack, all my back problems were fixed. Actually he told me to do a bunch of stretches and see a doctor. Rubbish.

Nacho, who turned out to be an orthopodiatriast. With one sumo chop and a massive crack, all my back problems were fixed. Actually he told me to do a bunch of stretches and see a doctor. Rubbish.

This guy gave me the rest of the $52 I needed and another $19 just because it said $70 on my sign. I had all the money I needed before Id finished breakfast. Good old Turks.

This guy gave me the rest of the $52 I needed and another $19 just because it said $70 on my sign. I had all the money I needed before I'd finished breakfast. Good old Turks.

Cool sign. Notice how Arabic writing looks like English letters hiding in a bath. Occasionally one of the letters droops an arm or a dot over the edge so you can have a guess at what it might be, but mostly theyre hidden.

Cool sign. Notice how Arabic writing looks like English letters hiding in a bath. Occasionally one of the letters droops an arm or a dot over the edge so you can have a guess at what it might be, but mostly they're hidden.

This total nutcase broke through the language barrier by showing me his pistol (notice his pistol). I tried to say Why have you got a pistol? and he responded by showing me his AK which was in his car along with another massive gun and an ammo jacket. All loaded, just in case war breaks out suddenly or something.

This total nutcase broke through the language barrier by showing me his pistol (notice his pistol). I tried to say "Why have you got a pistol?" and he responded by showing me his AK which was in his car along with another massive gun and an ammo jacket. All loaded, just in case war breaks out suddenly or something.

The Orthodox Church roof in Homs. Complete with two wooden beds which presumably stay there all summer, ready for vagrants and the like. (Me)

The Orthodox Church roof in Homs. Complete with two wooden beds which presumably stay there all summer, ready for vagrants and the like. (Me)

My constant companion in Syria - a massive pile of effluent. Surely theres a better solution.

My constant companion in Syria - a massive pile of effluent. Surely there's a better solution.

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The contents of my snack sack somewhere in Hungary. Eggs, bread, cheese, three different types of smoked fat, two types of sausage and a mug of tea.

The contents of my snack sack somewhere in Hungary. Eggs, bread, cheese, three different types of smoked fat, two types of sausage and a mug of tea.

I thought it might make a good header photo

I thought it might make a good header photo

Spring in Romania

Spring in Romania

Obviously it was breathtakingly stunning at the time... notice the cow.

Obviously it was breathtakingly stunning at the time... notice the cow.

They gave me a bottle of tsuika to take with me

They gave me a bottle of tsuika to take with me

The Hungarian vicar who lives in a Hungarian town in Romania (Tormac)

The Hungarian vicar who lives in a Hungarian town in Romania (Tormac)

I was given this meal in an Orthodox Monastry. Potatoes, garlic and bread. They thought they were giving me something rubbish because it had no meat, but I actually liked it because it was hot. Ha.

I was given this meal in an Orthodox Monastry on Good Friday. Potatoes, garlic and bread. They thought they were giving me something rubbish because it had no meat, but I actually liked it because it was hot. Ha. Some cool icons are almost visible in the background/

This is even more wildlife, this time disguising itself cunningly in an urban environment. Spot the riverbird.

This is even more wildlife, this time disguising itself cunningly in an urban environment. Spot the riverbird.

Easter Sunday at 1am. The main priest and his two subordinates wave candles while everyone else crowds round in the town square.

Easter Sunday at 1am. The main priest and his two subordinates wave candles while everyone else crowds round in the town square.

As soon as Abi left I was taken to this scene of outstanding natural beauty.

As soon as Abi left I was taken to this scene of outstanding natural beauty.

Me feasting with Yoto and his family.

Me feasting with Yoto and his family.

Another family of friendly gypsies who I stayed with, posing by the house theyd built.

Another family of friendly gypsies who I stayed with, posing by the house they'd built.

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A Turkish woman makes some bread with a rad mud oven.

A Turkish woman makes some bread with a rad mud oven.

After an excellent meal of yoghurt (from sheeps milk), cheese (from sheeps milk) and sheep butter, I got busy on the farm and totally failed to milk this sheep.

After an excellent meal of yoghurt (from sheep's milk), cheese (from sheep's milk) and sheep butter, I got busy on the farm and totally failed to milk this sheep.

This is how youre meant to do it.

This is how you're meant to do it.

I came back to my tent to find it had been ransacked. Did I have the presence of mind to take a photo of it? No. I couldnt even find my camera and thought it had been stolen. In fact it hadnt been stolen, only used - to take photos of the pillage.

I came back to my tent to find it had been ransacked. Did I have the presence of mind to take a photo of it? No. I couldn't even find my camera and thought it had been stolen. In fact it hadn't been stolen, only used - to take photos of the pillage.

An artistic blurry shot of my stuff on the floor, where it was tipped out.

An artistic blurry shot of my stuff on the floor, where it was tipped out.

After my retarded assailant had worked out how to use the camera, he took this rather pretty photo.

After my retarded assailant had worked out how to use the camera, he took this rather pretty photo.

And, to my great delight, one of them took a photo of the other one. Its hard to bear ill will towards anyone so stupid. Here hes trying to open my penknife (and probably failing).

And, to my great delight, one of them took a photo of the other one. It's hard to bear ill will towards anyone so stupid. Here he's trying to open my penknife (and probably failing).

A change has occurred. Lavs here are about two feet lower than in England and the paper is made out of water.

A change has occurred. Lavs here are about two feet lower than in England and the paper is made out of water.

On the left, Atatürk, in one of his many awesome costumes. On the right, a cartoon explaining the evils of usuary.

On the left, Atatürk, in one of his many awesome costumes. On the right, a cartoon explaining the evils of usuary.

A big family who have moved into a tent for the summer to escape from the insane heat in their home town of Adana. On the chair is the meal they watched me eat including a fish of some nature, freshly caught.

A big family who have moved into a tent for the summer to escape from the insane heat in their home town of Adana. On the chair is the meal they watched me eat including a fish of some nature, freshly caught.

Ergun sitting in front of the Sapanca Mosque. Hed been waiting since 3.

Ergun sitting in front of the Sapanca Mosque. He'd been waiting since 3.

This is me wearing a full set of new clothes. Also present is Ergun with his flute and rad hat and a whole bunch of Muslims who all firmly believe in the power of having a moustache.

This is me wearing a full set of new clothes. Also present is Ergun with his flute and rad hat and a whole bunch of Muslims who all firmly believe in the power of having a moustache.

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Chickens in their natural environment. A big barn.

Chickens in their natural environment. A big barn.

 

The man on the left gave me a meal which included cucumber. Not wishing to waste the end bits, he made little horns for us both.

The man on the left gave me a meal which included cucumber. Not wishing to waste the end bits, he made little horns for us both.

I happened upon the open day of a cherry fattening factory. Thin cherries go in, water is added and this is the fat cherries coming out.

I happened upon the open day of a cherry fattening factory. Thin cherries go in, water is added and this is the fat cherries coming out.

These gravestone dont have anything written on them and theyre all leaning at rakish angles.

These gravestone don't have anything written on them and they're all leaning at rakish angles.

When Mum came to join me she had a camera with loads of spare battery power and such. This is a link to the photos she took.

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