عسل و طحينه

ramadan in egypt – first impressions


salam 3alaikum -

first off, belated ramadan mubarak.  i wanted to take a moment to write a bit about ramadan here in egypt.

the first note is that about the ambiance and overall mood - apartment buildings, masajid, and streets are all decorated for ramadan.  cans of pepsi contain “ramadan mubarak” messages.

for those in the us, think of the overall ambiance around christmas time - it’s the same here during ramadan.  in addition, you hear Quran almost everywhere you go - taxis and busses (which usually are either playing quran or music) are mostly playing Quran.  the masajid are a lot more full.  you’ll see people on trains reading Quran to pass time.

there is a lot of khair going on - “ma2idat ramadan,” or “ramadan tables,” provide food for the needy and the traveling during ramadan.  the “shantet ramadan” (ramadan bag) project prepares a bag filled with rice and other necessary food items to feed a family and gives them to the needy.

many have told me that at iftar time, people walk around busy intersections and give food, dates, and water to those in their cars.

most masajid have taraweeh.  friends have told me that some masajid have tahajjud from day 1.

anyhow - that’s it for now, insha’Allah will perhaps write more later.

walsalam 3alaikum.

city cab is garbage...

i spent the night at my aunt’s house in cairo yesterday, and had a ticket for the 8am train to alexandria. i figured, “rather than hassle with n different modes of transportation, especially while fasting, why not call city cab?”

city cab (aka cairo cab) is a “professional” cab service, similar to what we have in the us. i called last night around 1am and asked for a cab to the train station to pick me up at 7am, figuring it’d be good to give myself some extra time (just in case).

so 7am came and the cab didn’t show - so i called them back and they said “let us give you the driver’s number”. i said, “isn’t it your job to make sure he’s on time rather than asking me to call him?” they said, “ok hang up and we’ll call you back and connect you to him.”

long story short, he promised he’d be there by 7:30 and that he’d get me there in time - i later called back and got his number - yet 7:50 came around and he still hadn’t arrived.

i called him and said “forget it - i lost the value of the train ticket thanks to you, not to mention the difficulty and inconvenience of getting to alexandria when you don’t have a train ticket.”

he apologized and said that he had another job and the cab company told him to get me when he was done (rather than dispatch a cab just for me). only in egypt…

quran android released!

quran android qr code

ramadan kareem! just in time for ramadan, we’ve released the first version of Quran Android. download it and let us know what you think! the source code is on github.

"tomorrow is friday..."

(well, in reality, today is friday).  in santa clara, sheikh mohamed used to give a short 3 minute reminder after isha on thursdays.  each time, this reminder would start with the phrase, “tomorrow is friday,” after which he would remind us the virtues of salah on the Prophet (ﷺ) on fridays and would mention something from his sunnah.

one of the most beautiful du3as i used to always hear sheikh mohamed say was:

اللهم اجعل سرنا خيراً من علانيتنى، واجعل علانيتنا خيرا

“Allahuma aj3al sirana khayran min 3alaneyatina wa aj3al 3alaneyatina khayra” - the rough meaning of which is, “oh Allah, make what is hidden (from our actions, intentions, deeds, etc) better than what is latent and visible to people, and make what is visible to people good.”  may Allah grant us all ikhlas - ameen!

happy friday!

what on earth, etisalat?

APP_PATH="/Applications/Mobile Partner.app"

sudo chmod -R a+rwx "$APP_PATH"

chmod -R a+rw "/usr/local/"

the above code snippet is from the first few lines of one of the etisalat 3g usb modem’s postinstall script on osx - seriously, why chmod -R a+rw "/usr/local/"? no one uses /usr/local except etisalat?

the modem is a huawei e1550 hsdpa usb stick.

update (june 16, 2011) - @AhmedElGamil sent this post to @EtisalatMisr over twitter, and they said they would forward it to the responsible team insha’Allah.  you can see the conversation on twitter here.

mesh awel mara nerkabooha...

something interesting always happens whenever i make the trip from alex to cairo.  the past two times i went, i encountered some sort of major discussion over the fare of the mashroo3 (micro bus).

during the first incident, i was leaving from sidi gaber - as those in alex may know, how long it takes to fill the mashroo3 depends on what time you leave (esp since sidi gaber doesn’t have as much traffic to cairo as ma7atet masr does).  anyhow, after waiting ~45 minutes and finally having enough people to be ready to go, the man announces that the charge will be 25le (the normal is 22).  people were outraged and argued, etc - mainly because of the chicanery involved (waste 45 minutes of our time and then tell us that you’re charging more, so we either go ride another bus (and wait another 45 minutes to save 3le, or we deal with it and pay)).

the man didn’t budge about the price, and people stayed on board (but were disgruntled).  one lady, during the argument, said “mesh awel mara nerkabooha”  (this happened to be the first time i heard the alexandrian slang of changing the form of a verb to something i can’t yet explain - it should be “mesh awel mara nerkabha…” - go figure).  later, the man decided to stop on the way to use the restroom and the lady became angry - he offered to let her take another microbus the rest of the way if she wasn’t happy (but she decided to stay).

i had a similar experience yesterday when coming back from cairo - the man wanted 25, but the people got their way of paying 22.  afterwards, a huge argument broke out with the driver about turning the ac on (he didn’t want to turn it on until we got on the highway).

a guide to mobile internet in egypt

in the us, you can have an unlimited data plan with most of the mobile carriers (well, there’s now a 200 mb (or 2gb) cap on at&t (depending on how much you pay)).   since i didn’t use my phone for tethering in the us, my monthly usage usually didn’t exceed 200mb/month.  coming to egypt, i hoped to have mobile internet (to be able to get emails as they come, etc).  here’s what i found:

on your laptop

for mobile internet (on a laptop, etc), all three providers have usb 3g internet modems with data plans.  your best bet is etisalat as it offers the highest data usage before the “fair use policy” kicks in (before your speed gets restricted to 56kbps) - unless you don’t mind paying the extra money to vodafone for the faster speed.  avoid the “pay as you go” or “prepaid” data plans.  the monthly “unlimited” plans are in the ballpark of 150-300LE/month (depending on the speed and provider).

  • vodafone - 200LE/mo unlimited (4gb cap, then 64kbps), or 250LE/mo (faster, 6gb cap, then 64kbps).

  • mobinil - 150LE/mo for 3gb.  each additional mb is 0.25LE.

  • etisalat - 150LE/mo unlimited (384kbps, 6gb cap, then 64kbps), or 300LE/mo (faster, up to 7.2mbps, 6 gb cap, then 64kbps).

these guys also have capped-postpaid data plans (500mb/mo for 43LE with vodafone or 50LE with mobinil).  see their websites for more details.

note that you can pull out the sim card from the usb modem and put it in your cellphone.  also note that the usb modem i got from etisalat worked both under mac (out of the box) and linux (with minor configurations on ubuntu lucid).

on mac, after their application sets up the internet preferences, close their application and connect directly from the internet connections pane.  their app uses a lot of resources (in addition to the large amount of resources used by the modem itself).

on your mobile

  1. all three carriers (vodafone, mobinil, and etisalat) offer some limited internet plan on the normal pay-as-you-go voice sim card.  for vodafone, it’s 1LE for 3 mb with 1 mb for each additional mb.  mobilnil and etisalat charge 1LE for 5mb, with 5LE for each additional mb.  both these plans reset daily (ie it resets daily and you pay each new day that you use data).

  2. if you don’t want this model (trust me, you don’t), then your only “good” option is mobinil - they have a “data plan” which costs 20LE/month and gives you “unlimited access” (governed by a fair use policy - 110mb at 3g speeds, then unlimited at 56kbps).  you can refill your quota at any time by paying another 20LE.

  3. if you have a post paid plan, there are sometimes certain offers and such that can end up being better for internet usage overall.  one such plan exists for the iphone (on vodafone).  while i am not certain of the details, it does appear to be quite expensive (at least according to this blog post).  perhaps, however, a data plan at around 250mb exists at a cheaper monthly rate.  i’ll update this if i find out anything more insha’Allah.

  4. if you don’t mind carrying another sim (and another cellphone), you can get a data only line for cheaper.  these are typically sold with the usb modems.  depending on your usage, 500mb can costs 43LE/mo with vodafone, 50LE/mo with mobinil, for example.  if you need internet on the laptop, get a usb stick and plug the sim card in a second phone.

**avoid prepaid/“pay as you go” for data **

prepaid/“pay as you go” is great for voice calls.  so why do i suggest staying away from the “pay as you go” models for internet?  because the billing is not right.  i ran some bandwidth monitors on my nexus one and compared the reported data usage to what i was billed for, and it didn’t line up.  i called vodafone and got some money back once, but it’s not worth the hassle.  a friend with the vodafone usb internet stick also pointed out that the reported usage he was seeing seemed unreasonably high.

how to disable the internet on your smart phone

  • on any android phone, APNdroid is your friend.  you may also want to look at 3G Watchdog, another really good app that monitors your 3g usage (and allows you to set rules and automatically run APNdroid when over your set limit, etc).

  • on the iphone (or any other phone), changing your APN manually is the best bet (add some random characters before it so that it doesn’t resolve and thus doesn’t connect).

there are two types of people in this world

there are two types of people in this world… masha’Allah (points to those i know), and astaghfurAllah (points to self).

what do you name your computers?

my machines typically have had some sort of video game related (and specifically, rpg related) names.

some names i’ve used in the past:

  • meribia - a town from the lunar rpgs

  • weltall - a “gear” name from xenogears

  • termina - a city from chrono cross

  • zanarkand - a city from ffx

  • dalmasca - a city name from ffxii

  • lab32 - a location from chrono trigger

the machine names in bold are in-use as of this post’s writing.  some of these were actually named for a reason - termina was named because it’s a linux box (ie a linux termina-l), for example, and zanarkand was named because it was a far away city (and the laptop traveled far away from home).  interestingly enough, zanarkand actually refers to “zanarkand ruins,” a place left in ruins in ffx.  by mere coincidence, this happened to also become the fate of that laptop.

i’ve typically named servers by city names (ie makkah, madinah, aqsa), but have now started using names related to the domain name(s) hosted on that machine.

oh, and any printer i have gets named hydralisk, after the famous zerg creatures from starcraft.