names in alexandria are… eccentric.

place names in alexandria are eccentric to say the least.  many places here have names that are not arabic in any way possible.  here are some examples:

  • abou quer - you can see this famous and large road on the map in the previous post.  because egyptian slang has the qaf switched with a hamza, it ends up being pronounced as “abou ear” - the only arabic part about that is the “abou” (father of).

  • san stefano - an area with one of the largest malls in Alexandria.

  • kirosez mall - pronounced kiro-sees.

  • assid - pronounced as “acid.”

speaking of abou quer, it was named after a good guy, abou quer, who had an evil brother, abou seer.  abou seer killed abou quer and dragged him from one side of alexandria to the next, and hence they named the road abou quer.  go figure.

i guess i can’t really complain, as egypt as a whole (outside of cairo and alexandria) has even more eccentric names (come on, seriously, who on earth names an egyptian city “zefta,” especially given its connotation in slang egyptian!?)


on may 17th, 2010, i left for alexandria.  comparing it to cairo, girls seem to be slightly more conservative (in terms of the way they dress), people seem more religious (at least in terms of “outwards” religiosity - there are more bearded men to be seen on the streets), the weather is much nicer, and it’s a lot less crowded.  after nearly a month of being in alexandria, i definitely can say that i like it better than cairo!

first khutbah this trip: cairo

the first khutbah i attended in egypt this trip was in cairo a few days after i arrived.  i decided not to go to the “zawya” (literally means “angle,” refers to a small masjid underneath an apartment buildings) near where i was staying and instead decided to go to the bigger masjid (near a really big church in the area).

i don’t remember what the khutbah was about - but what i do remember is being surprised at the usage of words like “neela” and “balawi” during the khutbah…

thoughts on cairo

i’ve been in egypt for a little over a month now.  i spent the first week of my time in cairo.  the following are a list of things i noticed during that first week (which should not have been surprising to me, having been to cairo many times in the past, but i guess i forgot).

  • in cairo, many times, i would say salam to people and would get no reply.  maybe this was because the area i was in had many christians and staunch christians tend to not like to answer the salam greeting because some of them consider it a religious greeting.

  • the attendance of the masjid near where i was staying didn’t have a large attendance for the various prayers.  my friend later suggested that this maybe because there are so many small masajid in the area and everyone goes to the masjid closest to them (and thus you don’t see too many people in the small masajid).

  • maybe this is also a result of the area i was in having many christians - but anyway, i walked into the pharmacy to get some medicine for my sister after prayer (and was wearing a thobe).  the lady didn’t answer salam (ok, understandable) and was very arrogant in her treatment.  my sister didn’t like the medicine i got her so she wanted to go change it.  i warned her about the lady being arrogant.  my sister went and in the middle of the discussion with the woman, mentioned to her that “i live in america, and there, doctors don’t recommend antibiotics unless necessary” - my sister mentions that afterwards, the lady’s treatment completely changed towards her, she was very friendly, and even offered her a discount.

  • the type of clothes worn by girls in cairo is only slightly less bad than that worn by girls in the us.  the weird thing is that this is against the culture even, not just religion - eastern cultures tend to be more conservative, and as thus, it’s really surprising to see that the western style of dress has become commonplace in major cities in egypt.

i’ll write my thoughts on alexandria in a later post insha’Allah.

عسل وطحينة

i wanted to write about my experiences in egypt, and so i started a new blog (i decided not to write those posts here because they’re not highly technical or programming related (or geeky)). you can find it at

before i left california...

“you never know how much stuff you have until you have to move” - this is a common saying that you’ll hear people say when they are about to move from one place to another and see the hassle of transporting all this stuff.

for me, since i didn’t know how long i would end up staying in egypt, “moving to egypt” meant that i had to virtually empty my apartment in california.  of course at this point i had three options - 1.  take everything with me - being an international flight, a limit of two bags, etc, this was impractical.  2.  put stuff in storage - possible, but do i really need this stuff, and is there anything worth putting in storage?  or 3.  take what you need up to the limit and get rid of the rest.

i decided to go with 3.  and so i went from a huge amount of stuff that would fit into a small uhaul truck down to two checked in bags, a carry on bag, and a laptop bag.  this meant parting with things i loved (video games, consoles, books, car, etc) and taking only the most important things.

this whole concept was a good reminder to me that no matter how much you accumulate, when you die, you take nothing with you except your deeds.

the aftermath of the accident

during the accident mentioned in the previous post, the laptop was in the trunk on the far left side (the place that took the impact from the truck hitting it).  when i returned home, i found that my macbook had become officially paralized (the screen was cracked, so light would come out from the screen, but you couldn’t see anything.  also, the laptop can no longer sit properly and the casing was deformed).  miraculously, al7amdulillah, it did not die.  it still had full cognitive abilities (with much trouble, i was able to finally get ssh and vnc access to the machine to get my data off of it).

a near death experience

on monday, june 7th, myself and two brothers needed to go to the smart village in the morning and come back to alexandria in the afternoon.  we rented a “limo,” (which is just a normal rental car with a driver) to take us, wait for us, and bring us back.  we left early in the morning, finished our work, and left cairo to go home a few minutes after maghrib.

the road that connects cairo to alexandria is called “taree2 (masr eskenderia) al sa7rawy,” or “cairo-alexandria desert road” as google maps translates it.  the distance is about 200km (~120 miles).  the way people in egypt drive, combined with the high speeds, bad lighting, and bad conditions of the road make this road a dangerous place, especially at night.

anyhow, along the way, after traveling about 46km from cairo, the driver smelled something and said, “i smell something, let me check on the tires” - he parked on the side of the road and found a tire had gone flat, so he put on the hazard lights and said he would replace it.  we looked and found a masjid right next to us and decided to go and pray maghrib and isha there while he finished repairing the tire.

the masjid was at a lower elevation than the road (10-20ft), so we went down (on quite a sandy area) to the masjid which was very small, old, etc.  we prayed, and started walking up to get to the car.  we saw the driver was done and started backing up the car a little bit.  we finally got to the top (to the shoulder of the highway).  we approached the car, and when we were one step away and i was about to open the door, i saw a medium sized going at full speed crash straight in the car, leaving a track of dust, glass, debris, and making the car fly into the ditch into the lower elevation of the area where the masjid is.  for a few seconds, we saw fire, and then it stopped.

when the dust had settled, we were really shocked and worried about the driver - miraculously, al7amdulillah, nothing happened to either driver - both were okay.

needless to say, we were very thankful - if there hadn’t been a masjid there, and if we hadn’t gone to pray, i would have been on the left passenger side of the car, the area of the car which took the majority of the impact.  if we had been just 3 seconds later, i would have been opening the car door and/or have gotten into the car, and in this case, i may have been seriously hurt.

so al7amdulillah that i am alive - as Allah (swt) says in:

“And He is the subjugator over His servants, and He sends over you guardian-angels until, when death comes to one of you, Our messengers take him, and they do not fail [in their duties].” 6:61

sub7anAllah.  so anyhow, it appears as though the driver of the truck had fallen asleep or something and thus hit the car, even though it was clear that it was on the shoulder (well inside), the blinkers on, etc.

after the accident, the car was in the hill between the higher and lower grounds - on it’s right side was a huge concrete block that the car could have hit.  the driver later told us that he felt something telling him to reverse the car - had he not, he would have hit one of many metal poles hanging out from the ground on his way down.

but get this - the truck stopped - in the middle lane of the highway, and that’s where it stayed for about an hour until a big truck was able to come.  people stopped the traffic manually (with nothing but one of those red-lit sticks) and had a big truck (literally) drag (with a rope) the medium sized truck to the side of the road.

[gallery exclude=“19” link=“file” columns=“2” orderby=“ID”]

anyhow - some interesting points were that 1.  the people that reside in the area where we stopped got out and left what they were doing to help us, offered water, support, and helped moving the cars to safety.  2.  people in egypt are really afraid of police, especially in high speed accidents.  3.  the man decided not to press charges when the police came (one possible reasoning is that the company he works for has brought the car into the country on a “diplomatic visa” so that they don’t pay taxes for it, and yet aren’t using it for “diplomatic purposes,” and so they could get in trouble).  3.  people in egypt drive at insane speeds on that road and corresponding small roads.

the driver had someone else working at the company come from alexandria to pick us up and drop us back.  it was hard to sleep on the way back - the new driver was a very aggressive one, and along the way, we encountered fire fighters putting out a car on fire from a different accident, a car going the opposite direction on the highway, and cars going extremely slowly in the left most lane of the highway, thereby almost causing accidents.

i’ll write about the aftermath in another post insha’Allah.


بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم،

there are fobs and there are abcXs… being born in cairo and raised in the us, i happen to be neither and both at the same time.

this blog is entitled “عسل و طحينه” - the name was inspired by “عسل اسود” (molasses), a new movie (which i still haven’t seen) for ahmad helmy documenting an egyptian american’s attempt to move back to egypt after living in the us for years. “عسل و طحينه” is an (awesome) egyptian dish in which you put tahina on top of molasses and eat it with bread. the word tahina itself also means “hard, strenuous work or effort,” which i figured may add to the meaning as well.

since moving back to egypt almost a month ago, i often found myself thinking, “this situation would make a good blog post,” so i decided to start this blog to document my experiences here.

desktop screenshot for february 2010

full size

here’s a screenshot of my linux box taken on february 25th, 2010. click the image above for the full sized view. linux desktop running openbox, a bunch of transparent urxvt terminals, cairo clock, and trayer (with banshee, pidgin, transmission, pino, dropbox, guake, and tomboy running).

i recently finished watching the old star trek movies, hence the star trek influenced desktop. and, of course, here’s the problem with teleportation.