March 5, 2011


Filed under: Uncategorized — by AmiraAK @ 3:17 pm

Yesterday I bought some Nag Champa – something I’ve been meaning to do since I got here but couldn’t find anywhere. This morning I dug up some Quran audio files from an old disk drive I had. I hadn’t listened to any Quran since I got here.

Now my room is full of the beautiful smell of incense and the soothing voice of Mishari Rashed and I feel at peace.


February 4, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — by AmiraAK @ 8:36 pm

2 February 2011:

I’m glad I’m not in Egypt.  I’m glad, not because I’m afraid or because I don’t believe in the cause.  I’m glad because I know that if I were in Egypt, I would have been electronically cut off from the world for a week and I know that I wouldn’t have been able to go down to the street to protest – for various reasons.

Up until 10 days ago, I had been contemplating disabling my FB account because I didn’t really like it and saw it a waste of time and energy but most importantly an invasion of my privacy.   Up until two weeks ago I had heard of Twitter but felt it was too complicated and too time consuming to follow.  Up until three weeks ago I had no idea what was happening in Tunisia and my political knowledge was limited to a utopian desire for a better world, a knowledge of corruption in my country, a nostalgia for stories of the days when students and nationalists protested and went on hunger strikes and were imprisoned for ideals that they believed in.

Ten days ago my world changed and I became glued to my computer.  I felt an imperative need to reach out to the world where my friends could not.   And I felt a need to read and forward links and learn from what was happening.  Through talking to friends and acquaintances I gradually developed my own point of view without being vulgar and without heated arguments.  I tried to find a voice for the people in the streets and I made late-night friends.  We forwarded links and information as we received or sought it and we stayed glued to our computers and television sets flipping channels and closely following the news. I believe I tried to do online what I could not do on the ground.

I have received notes from friends around the world supporting us and telling me that they’re learning about the situation in Egypt through all these posts.  Friends I hadn’t heard of in months, even years.  And then the president gave a speech on the night of the 1st of February and on the 2nd of February the internet was switched back on and Tahrir square was transformed into a battle-ground.  People from all over Egypt including our families were telling us to stop the violence and to get back to our normal lives.  I have no excuse.  I was not in Egypt, I did not stay up all night guarding the streets making sure no-one came up to my house.  I was not waiting for a salary I couldn’t get a hold of, or money I couldn’t access, or food I couldn’t get.  I was “sitting comfortably” in London ‘with no idea of the reality of the situation’.  I think of all the people (Egyptians) in England, South Africa, the US and around the world who just packed their bags, booked tickets and tried to make it home so that they could be a part of this revolt.  I think of them and I think of all the people here I encounter who tell me “Oh, I bet you wish you were back home right now”, “Don’t you wish you were taking part in all this?” I tell them I believe I’m a bit more useful staying here.  I can write or forward what I want online and I can go and protest in front of the embassy when I want.  I don’t need anyone’s permission and I don’t have to feel guilty for doing so.

The day the internet got back on and Egypt started watching what the world had been watching for a whole week before, I began to be criticized and confronted for writing things that would cause more havoc and more chaos.  I really didn’t actually.  All I did was forward articles that I found to be very interesting.  Clean articles, with no insults or direct confrontation, but articles that showed the situation on the ground, as I heard it from my friends.

The 2nd February was not an easy day.  Last night, the night of the 2nd of February was a terrible night.  Our friends were fighting for their lives and we were up writing and tweeting and facebooking and talking on the phone and on Skype and trying to do whatever we could to keep the morale of the protesters in the streets high and to call the national and international community for help.

Now, the morning of 3rd of February, most friends I hear are okay and have survived the night, determined as ever to stay on in the square. And I have to step down from my FBing.  I believe in the revolt heart and soul and my heart is with the protesters till they all conquer inshaAllah and we have a brighter and better Egypt for us all.

November 11, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — by AmiraAK @ 1:15 am

I used to be an avid fan–atic of everything Lloyd Weber.  I used to breathe, dream, eat, sleep Phantom of the Opera.. Sarah Brightman was the best singer of all time, musicals were the only thing I listened to, and I knew them all.. though I hadn’t seen ¾ of the musicals I listened to, I knew the lyrics to all the songs and the names of the characters and the singers and where they were playing… I could hear them breathing, I knew the pauses in their songs, I could imagine the stage, I practically lived in the musicals and was a part of them.

I don’t know if I outgrew them, or I did everything in my power to avoid them, but I have tried to keep away from Phantom of the Opera for years now.. maybe because it is closely associated with my ex.  And since my ex and I split up I don’t go down that musical path.. and it’s been Phantom, Andrew Lloyd Weber and all the musicals associated with him and that ‘era’.

Now with my friends going to watch it, talking about it and sharing lines from the songs, I find myself drawn to You Tube, listening to the songs, watching videos of Sarah Brightman, Glenn Close, Michael Ball, stolen excerpts from the musicals, clips from the Royal Albert Hall celebration of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s 50th birthday…  it’s a journey that takes me back 15 years… not just 15 years back.. it starts 15 years ago and progresses every year.. remembering what and who introduced me to the Phantom, and then step by step, learning about other musicals, buying CDs and videos myself, or asking people to get them for me, finding an album at a flea market, or stumbling upon one in the strangest of places, and the bittersweet memories of recognizing, discovering, singing, learning, travelling to watch the shows, learning the lyrics of every song, listening to them over and over and over again.. my own love developing with each new musical and each new song I hear of and listen to and learn…

All the money and time and effort I invested in my collection, my memories…

And then.. a disappointment in the rendering of the film of the Phantom.. and a disappointment in my first, and maybe only, love.. it all stopped.

And now the coals that had died down are rekindling again and I’m not sure I’m happy with that feeling..

July 22, 2010

Two Films and a new Endeavour

Filed under: My thoughts on development,On films — by AmiraAK @ 10:41 pm

It’s another Thursday night alone at home and I just finished watching Innocent Voices. Last Thursday I watched Las 13 Rosas.  Ahmed, I love you for introducing me to those movies, and I thank you for it, but I am deeply and acutely moved by them.  Las 13 Rosas is the story of 13 young women (minors) in Madrid who were wrongly gunned down in the Almudena cemetery in 1939 in the early years of the Franco regime because of a political crime they did not commit.  It’s a beautiful film, despite that last sentence.  Innocent Voices talks about the civil war in El Salvador through the eyes of an 11-year old boy.  They are both very strong material to digest, and as I embark upon a journey that will change my career and my life, I pause to think a little about what I am about to do.

My whole life I have wanted to do something useful.. to help people.  I’m not the corporate employee, nor the teacher, nor am I one to work at a 9-5 job that won’t bring some sort of change to myself and to the people around me.  I need to be doing something useful and after 14 years of work in development that has in my opinion grown stagnant, I need to look for something that is more in the line of fire.  Well, not in so many words, but at least something that has more action to it, where I feel that my mark will leave a stronger imprint.  I have no idea if that is a wise decision, nor a rash one for that matter, and I have absolutely no clue what the outcome of this year is going to be, more so, what the future holds for me, and I don’t know if I will be able to take the life that I am choosing for myself.  But I know that I have my faith, my thrill and thirst for knowledge, my desire to travel to the 70 thousand corners of the world, and my need to do some good in this world.

I also have a strong urge to understand what it is that makes people live in the circumstances that they live in, to suffer the way they do, to fight for what they believe in, to lose members of their family and their community one after the other, to lose everything they own, and still believe that their cause is just and that there is a certain solidarity that unifies us all as humans.  I know I don’t have to work in countries where there is violence, but I need to understand this resilience and this solidarity.

And I hope that this coming year will be a step closer towards this understanding and my own realization of what it is I truly want to do in this life.

June 13, 2010

Congo: 50 Years, 50 Faces

Filed under: Photography — by AmiraAK @ 9:52 am

This is from today’s The Guardian.

The faces, and the stories that are told in the little blurb under each picture, are simply beautiful.  Beautiful!

April 30, 2010

Dr Hany Habashi

Filed under: Uncategorized — by AmiraAK @ 5:03 pm

I wrote this a few days ago and I am posting it now after having gone to his beautiful funeral at the church..

Today I learnt that my dentist passed away.  He had been in intensive care lately as a result of cancer, and his soul finally left his body last night.

Dr. Hany Habashi was not only our dentist.  He was a gentleman in the true meaning of the word.  A rare man that is difficult to find nowadays.  He’s been my dentist since I was ten years old.  I used to love going to his clinic and for a child who loves sweets, to not fear the dentist’s clinic is a blessing and a rarity.  Dr. Hany was a calm person by nature.  He always welcomed us with a big smile and a gentle shake of the hand.  His clinic was always the cleanest and most comfortable clinic I have seen in all the clinics I have seen in my life.  He had a corner with tea and coffee and sweets for children (quite strange for a dentist) and he had magazines that covered a variety of topics, including international ones you never find here, comics and stories for children.

I remember when I was little, he would always walk us through the process of whatever he was going to do to our teeth.  He would explain every move and would tell us if something was going to hurt or not.  I love sweets and chocolates and when I was little, I was sometimes taken from school to go and visit the dentist so I tried quite a few in England and later when we moved to Alexandria, I went to several..  Dr. Hany stuck with us, and I have recommended him to family and friends for as long as I can remember.

When Dr. Hany did a filling, he would first prepare us by telling us that it would be better to take temporary anaesthesia and he would show us the needle.  He would assure us that it wouldn’t hurt a bit (and he has always been true to his word).  He would put a sort of flavoured paste (that was also an anaesthetic) on the gum first. He would ask us what taste we preferred.. from strawberry to mint, to bubblegum to other flavours… and then after letting it rest for a while, he would inject the anaesthesia.  We wouldn’t feel a thing. Then he’d work on the teeth and before we knew it, we’d have finished.

He only pulled teeth out when it was absolutely necessary.  I still have all my wisdom teeth where quite a lot of people I know have had them pulled out.  I remember a dentist we went to in Alexandria when we were children, Howaida, Ahmed, Nadia and I. We each went in one after the other and I had the good fortune to be the last to go in.  He brutally pulled a tooth out of each of the others. I can still remember their screams.  I doubt he even examined the teeth properly.  When it was my turn I refused to go in.

Dr. Hany was not only an excellent dentist, he was a true gentleman.  When my mother knocked a few of her teeth out a few days before my wedding, she called him on his day off and he immediately went to the clinic and did what he could to fix her teeth and saved her from excruciating pain and swelling.  In several other occasions too, he helped people we knew outside of his regular working hours.. people in similar emergency situations.

Money to him was not an issue.  Whenever he finished whatever jobs he did on our teeth, at the very end, we would pay him, even if it was months later.  He would often tell us to pay him retrospectively, after our insurance companies had reimbursed us.  Even now as I write this, I know that I still have to pay him for some fillings I did and I was told to wait a couple of weeks to make sure the filling was good (it was a complicated one) and then return to pay after they were sure everything was fine.  I see this and I think of doctors who refuse to perform emergency operations until patients finish all the paperwork at the hospitals and pay a huge deposit, regardless of the urgency of the operation.  The patient might as well die, the money and down-payment was the most important thing… where’s the Hippocratic oath here?

Dr. Hany established strong relations with his clients.. we were not clients.  We were family.  I remember when I was young and liked to play around with glass paints.. that I made a little piece of art with a smiley face full of teeth and he put it up in his office for quite a long time after that.  I even considered becoming a dentist, I liked him and respected him so much.

I will always remember his clinic and his room.  I had the privilege to always be treated by him even after he gave space to other dentists in his clinic.  Over there they knew that we were Dr. Hany’s patients.  We weren’t referred to the other doctors.  If one of us went, he would ask about the rest of the family.. one by one, never missing any of us.. aunts and uncles and friends and all…

I shall remember watching old Arabic films at his clinic while he worked on my teeth or Ahmed El-Mosalmany’s program thinking I should watch a little bit of both more often, one to get my mind off things, and the other to become more knowledgeable about what’s happening in the country.  The last conversation we had together was when I mentioned to him that I suddenly started to develop migraines and he told me that he had always had them and that the best way to overcome them was to get yourself a whiff of cold air or put ice on your head or if necessary even to put your whole head in the freezer.  He had always had migraines and we never knew it.  He had developed cancer and we never knew it.  I saw him a few days before he was admitted to the hospital and he was his same sweet self.  He never complained of anything.

I shall always remember his gentle handshake.. soft hands as a result of the latex gloves he always wore.  He always took them off to shake our hands.  His spotless, spotless clinic. His blue and white KLM village collection.  His friendly staff.. also like-family. His kindness, generosity and calmness.  But most importantly, I shall always remember his coming out to greet us with his lovely smile and extended hand whenever we approached his office.  I shall truly miss him and I pray that God bless him and rest his soul.

April 28, 2010

If I were..

Filed under: Uncategorized — by AmiraAK @ 4:22 pm

This has been circulating for a while.. thought I’d join in the fun.

If I were a month, I’d be September.

If I were a day of the week, I’d be Thursday.

If I were a time of day, I’d be 5 in the afternoon.

If I were a planet, I’d be Jupiter.

If I were a sea animal, I’d be a dolphin.

If I were a direction, I’d be North.

If I were a piece of furniture, I’d be a comfy couch.

If I were a liquid, I’d be coffee.

If I were a gemstone, I’d be a blue topaz.

If I were a tree, I’d be a strawberry bush.

If I were a tool, I’d be a Swiss knife.

If I were a flower, I’d be a tulip.

If I were a kind of weather, I’d be a cool breeze on a sunny day.

If I were a musical instrument, I’d be a violin.

If I were a color, I’d be blue – dark blue.

If I were an emotion, I’d be happiness.

If I were a fruit, I’d be a raspberry.

If I were a sound, I’d be the sound of music.

If I were an element, I’d be silver.

If I were a car, I’d be an Opel.

If I were a food, I’d be pizza and ice-cream.

If I were a place, I’d be a vast green plane.

If I were a material, I’d be wood.

If I were a taste, I’d be chocolate.

If I were a scent, I’d be freshly cut grass.

If I were a body part, I’d be a hand.

If I were a facial expression, I’d be a smile.

If I were a song, I’d be a nursery rhyme.

If I were a pair of shoes, I’d be sneakers.

April 27, 2010


Filed under: Uncategorized — by AmiraAK @ 1:58 am

It’s on evenings such as tonight that I feel truly blessed to have friends like the ones I have.. friends with whom you can spend quality time.. and not to spill out worries and aches and pains but simply spend a good few hours talking about a diversity of topics and just knowing that you feel the most comfortable in their presence.. friends who give you the choice of the place to eat or go out, who accommodate their time according to you, who call you up just to ask how you’re doing, who send you a message thousands of miles away just as they’re going off to be in the presence of God, on the most sacred of pilgrimages, to ask where you are and how you are because they miss you and they haven’t heard from you in a while.. friends who check up on you knowing you’re trying to watch what you’re eating, ever encouraging and ever trying to help you resist the temptation to succumb to sweet delights.. friends you’ve only known for a little while who ask your advice knowing that it’s ‘you’ who will help them with the information they need and no other person.. friends that you discover have been through thick and thin with you.. have travelled with you, and have helped you so much along the way, little things and big things.. new friends and old friends whom you see in a new light.. friends who know your family and you know theirs.. where it’s not a simple acquaintance but a family kind of bond, knowing you can count on them any time, all the time, every time.. friends you know you will miss, but you feel no sadness because they will leave, or you will leave, because you know that no matter the distance, the friendship and the closeness and the trust is there in a peaceful and serene kind of way.. you know that and they know that and there is no need to spell it out or explicitly talk about it, because that’s simply the way it is.. friends who are different from the childhood friends you knew, or the school friends you grew up with, or the college friends you rebelled with; they are not even work colleagues.  They are people who came across your life one way or another and fell into your path, or you fell into theirs and some sort of connection formed that is as solid as a family bond.

I am truly blessed to have such friends in my life.

April 8, 2010

After work thoughts

Filed under: Uncategorized — by AmiraAK @ 12:37 am

Whether it’s a management that makes one feel totally incompetent.. that suppresses, constrains, and distrusts the capabilities of its staff.. or me simply being not qualified for this kind of job.. not finding my foot in it.. not giving it my heart and soul.. one thing is certain… I must leave very soon.  It is time to move on.

March 30, 2010

I Was Here

Filed under: Uncategorized — by AmiraAK @ 4:01 pm

This is a lovely and inspiring song by Lady Antebellum (and Brice Williams? or is it Brice Williams’ sung by Lady Antebellum?).  You can also check it out on You Tube. Enjoy the lyrics and may you all leave behind something that says you were here :)

I Was Here

You will notice me
I’ll be leavin’ my mark, like initials carved in an old oak tree
you wait and see
maybe I’ll write like Twain wrote
maybe I’ll paint like Van Gough
cure the common cold
I don’t know but I’m ready to start coz I know in my heart

I wanna do something that matters
say something different
something that sets the whole world on its ear
I wanna do somethin’ better, with the time I’ve been given
and I wanna try to touch a few hearts in this life
and leave nothin’ less than something that says I was here

I will prove you wrong
If you think I’m all talk, you’re in for a shock
coz this streams too strong, and before too long
maybe I’ll compose symphonies
maybe I’ll fight for world peace
coz I know it’s my destiny to leave more than a trace of myself in this

I wanna do something that matters
say something different
something that sets the whole world on its ear
I wanna do somethin’ better, with the time I’ve been given
and I wanna try to touch a few hearts in this life
and leave nothin’ less than something that says I was here

And I know that I, I will do more than just pass through this life
I’ll leave nothin’ less than somethin’ that says I was here, I was here, I
was here, I was here

Wanna do somethin’ that matters
somethin’ that says I was here
wanna do somethin’ that matters
somethin’ that says I was here, I was here

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