February 24, 2010

Distinct Philosophy

Filed under: Uncategorized — by AmiraAK @ 2:50 pm

Linus, You’re my hero!


February 17, 2010

Living in a bubble

Filed under: Uncategorized — by AmiraAK @ 2:16 pm

I’ve decided to live in a bubble.. and be happy about it.

I’ve decided to treat myself to the bubble and enjoy it. 

and be comfortably numb.

what’s wrong with that?

we all do it and no one admits it.

I’ve decided to do it – consciously – and admit it.. for a little while.

Social responsibility and everything else can come later.   For the time being, I’m off to bubble-land.

February 4, 2010

Books, Books, Books

Filed under: On books and reading,Uncategorized — by AmiraAK @ 12:32 pm

I love this time of the year.. December and January… in December there used to be the AUC holiday book fair where we would save up money all year round and then buy lots of books at great prices, and January was the month of the Cairo International book fair where needless to say many long visits would result in piles and piles of books.  We would start the year with many new acquisitions that would last us many months ahead. 

This year our enthusiasm for the Cairo Book Fair has diminished for several reasons, among them the abundance of bookshops around Cairo, the availability of books everywhere, the amount of unread books we have at home and the lack of time to read them and various other reasons.  Nevertheless, the temptation of going to the fair is something we cannot resist, and this week has been an extremely happy one for me in terms of books and book hoarding.

I went to the fair yesterday and bought a few Arabic books: Mourid Barghouthy’s new novel, Wulidt Honak, Wulidt Hona (I was Born There, I was Born Here), Ahmed El Eseily’s Ketab Maloush Ism (A Book Without a Name), Khairy Shalaby’s Awwelna Walad, and a few colouring and children’s books for the kids at home.  I also got a book of verb conjugation in Spanish – lawazem el espanol yaani – and a Dennis the Menace book of puzzles to keep me busy when I’m in a puzzly mood. 

I have also been mooching lately ( and I have been fortunate enough this past week to have relieved myself of some extra books I had at home (Nick Hornby’s Slam and The Complete Polysyllabic Spree, Martin Amis’ Lucky Jim, The Language of Others and Jostein Gaarder’s The Ringmaster’s Daughter.  I also happily received quite a few books: White Teeth by Zadie Smith an almost brand new copy! Life on the Refrigerator Door, True Pleasures: a Memoir of Women in Paris, Nick Hornby’s A Long Way Down and Ji gave me an extra Spanish book on top of those, a poetic study from different writers and poets commemorating Cervantes.  Last month I also paid a visit to Virgin Megastore and bought a couple of books that were on sale: Amelie Nothomb’s Loving Sabotage and Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim’s Parallels and Paradoxes (two totally paradoxical books I must say!). 

I have also mooched Out of Africa and I’m waiting for it.  I just discovered that there are some very significant and famous books that I haven’t read and never bought and never actually thought of buying such as Out of Africa and The Remains of the Day!  maybe because the films were so superb.  I mooched Out of Africa and someone has accepted to send it.  I will probably mooch The Remains of the Day too and Wicked and a few other books I never thought of buying or I don’t feel like spending money on, then I’ll be content for the rest of the year.

January 20, 2010

January 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — by AmiraAK @ 9:25 pm

Well, I’ve been trying to think of something intelligent to write since, probably, mid December.. resolutions, hopes, fears and what not.. and then January started and it wasn’t the pleasantest start I have to say and I was thinking of writing something about that and then whenever I started, ideas just got blocked in my head.  Everyone’s writing about the new year and what they plan to do – or not to do – and, well, I don’t want to be like everyone else, but I know that there comes a time when I have to review what I’ve done and think about what I’m going to do.  Usually that comes in September, my personal “new year”, but I think it’s useful to look ahead nonetheless.  And I figured I’d try and see where we stand 20 days into the new year.

As I said, it didn’t start out totally well.. a difficult December, a quick uneventful Christmas and then a quiet start.. the first day spent with close friends and family.  Lovely little start.. I realized a few things.. that we might not all be together next year.. God, in his graciousness has kept us close all these years but age also has its toll and maybe those closest to us may not be around for yet another year.  It’s a fact one has to accept and accept it well and try to make the most of the time one has with those that mean the most to them.  However, I also realized that even in the darkest hour when you feel there is no way out and when you start to accept things as they are – or you expect the worst, you find God’s grace showing you that there is a power and a glory more powerful than anything you ever dreamed of, and you are given more time and more opportunities to make use of.

Another thing I became conscious of is that there is always a right time for doing things.  You may want something for a long time, but even if you try and pull heaven and earth together, they might not happen. But there will be a time for it to happen if it’s destined for you..  I know I’m being very vague here and I’m really not saying anything that hasn’t been said before time and again, but when it happens to you and you actually “get it” then it all makes so much sense; so much more than reading it in a book or a magazine or a quote somewhere.  There really is a time for everything.  And I think the time for that little something I’ve been wanting to happen for so long, is starting to emerge now and see the light.  And I believe that now is the best time for it to happen and for me to appreciate it.

On another note, it seems that whenever I get sick and take a few days off work, I come up with some personal resolutions or determinations that I feel I should follow.  Though I only took 2 days off work, I feel that I have set many things in order.  I am resolved to follow better eating habits – gradually and without compromising my old habits too much – because if I do, then it’ll only be a craze of a few weeks and I know I’ll slip back into my old habits again.  I decided to move.  Get my body moving, that is.  It’s no use being stuck in a car 3 hours a day and then stuck in front of a computer 8 hours a day and then slogging on front of the telly for another hour or so and then lying in bed for the remaining 6 or 7 hours of the night.  Absolutely no movement at all.  This can’t do.  I will die an early death if I don’t do something about it.  So far, it’s working out well, so we’ll see how it goes.

So, though the year started off on a cautious note, I believe that it’s taking a turn and things are starting to see some light.  It rained yesterday and today, and that’s always a good sign.  I was returning the other day late at night and turned the radio on Nogoum FM, a station I don’t often listen to, and there I heard a song that bought back so many memories and so much realization..  It’s the song ‘Benlef’ by Baligh Hamdy apparently written for the death of Abd El Halim and sung by many prominent Arab artists.  This song used to have a special significance to me.  Always associated with my ex – the romantic ex I had fallen in love with fresh out of college.  It was recorded on a tape he had made a copy of for me.. and I had cherished that tape.  On a side note, I recently stumbled upon that tape, listened to it once, felt it ultimately pretentious and threw it away, chucked it into the bin, simply and without hesitation. But the song is beautiful and I come to the realization full circle now that I don’t feel any anger or any remorse at the incident that was my marriage.

I had felt betrayal, not of a marriage but of a friendship; because he had been my friend – a close friend I had thought. And friends stick out for each other.  This one didn’t.  Talking me into a marriage he didn’t even feel responsible towards.  My anger and frustration towards him was because of that.  However, when I was returning home that night last week and when I was listening to that song, I came to a peaceful realization that what happened, happened and it did so for a reason, but now we can close that door and turn our back to it and move on.  It’s high time we moved on.  If I meet him, I won’t ignore him.  I might even stop and say hello.  But I’ll move on and from now on I won’t think of it any more..  a closed chapter in my life.  There are no hard feelings and shouldn’t be.  There’s so much more to live for, and no place for anger.

Times go by and tables turn and people come and go and in the end we’re only memories and I think that we should hold on to the good memories and be happy that they happened and discard the bad and just move on.

December 7, 2009


Filed under: Photography,Uncategorized — by AmiraAK @ 11:09 am

Ahangama, Sri Lanka: Fishermen wait to catch fish as they sit atop stilts

I was struck by this photo from this morning’s Guardian.  Those who know me, know that I don’t function very well in the morning – at least not until I’ve had my morning coffee, and another one half an hour later. For these fisherman to be standing on stilts so early in the morning waiting for their daily ‘bread’ as it were, to me is incredible. Not only does it require patience, it requires skill and balance and a whole different perspective on life.

November 29, 2009

Starry Starry Night..

Filed under: Uncategorized — by AmiraAK @ 11:36 pm

I have been thinking about Vincent quite a lot lately..  I believe it is one of the most beautiful songs ever written..


Starry, starry night
Paint your palette blue and gray
Look out on a summer’s day
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul…
Shadows on the hills
Sketch the trees and the daffodils
Catch the breeze and the winter chills
In colors on the snowy linen land.

Now I understand
What you tried to say, to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free:
They would not listen; they did not know how —
Perhaps they’ll listen now.

Starry, starry night
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze
Swirling clouds in violet haze
Reflect in Vincent’s eyes of china blue
Colors changing hue
Morning fields of amber grain
Weathered faces lined in pain
Are soothed beneath the artist’s loving hand.

Now I understand
What you tried to say, to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free:
They would not listen; they did not know how–
Perhaps they’ll listen now.

For they could not love you
But still, your love was true
And when no hope was left inside
On that starry, starry night
You took your life as lovers often do–
But I could’ve told you, Vincent:
This world was never meant
For one as beautiful as you.

Starry, Starry night
Portraits hung in empty halls
Frameless heads on nameless walls
With eyes that watch the world and can’t forget
Like the strangers that you’ve met
The ragged men in ragged clothes
The silver thorn, a bloody rose
Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow.

Now I think I know
What you tried to say, to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free:
They would not listen; they’re not listening still–
Perhaps they never will.

November 18, 2009


Filed under: Quotes,Uncategorized — by AmiraAK @ 1:08 am

Thus I became a madman.

And I have found both freedom and safety in my madness; the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood; for those who understand us enslave something in us.

Khalil Gibran

November 10, 2009

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste..

Filed under: Uncategorized — by AmiraAK @ 5:08 pm

I am one of those people who do not like to rush.  I take my time and when I do so, I do things effectively and to the best of my ability.  Once I am rushed or under pressure, I forget things, I mix things up, I become exhausted and cannot think straight, and things just topple on my head and don’t get done as best as I would have wanted them to.

After periods of extreme activity I recharge my battery by resting.  By just taking it easy and sleeping or lazing around doing nothing, and then I arise refreshed and ready to take on the world again.

Today was one of those days.  I just couldn’t get up and go to work.  I had to stay at home.  My system simply shut down after a very busy three weeks of constant work and activities, and the idea of a forthcoming week/10 days ahead of me..

I think that staying at home was the best thing I did.

The pressure I was under and the moment of stillness today reminded me of a poem I like and that I read every now and then.. there’s been some controversy around the author and the ‘myth behind the poem’ which you can read about here if interested.  But the poem itself is nice and simple, and compels you to stop for a moment and reflect.

Desiderata – by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass.

Take kindly to the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann c.1927

November 9, 2009

Filed under: Off and on the unbeaten track,Uncategorized — by AmiraAK @ 3:11 pm

When people travel and return to their country, they never return the same people they were when they left (so why do we always expect them to?)  That’s why when they return they become more critical and impatient with the situation of the country.. they are distant, they see things from a different angle and they’re not involved in the day-to-day details. 

They also become more critical and impatient with the people they know or used to know.  Again, they haven’t been involved in the day-to-day happenings and details of their lives (and shouldn’t really) and people change, so they can’t expect to deal with these people the same way they did a year, or two, or three ago.  They can’t expect these people to be static and pick up where they left off (if this happens that’s great; but I doubt it does).  And they can’t expect these people who have settled on certain routines to instantly return to their previous routines. 

What expectations do we have when friends and family return from long periods of stay abroad?  What expectations do these friends and family have of us when they return?

Things change, people change, routines change and it’s all a huge messy situation.

November 8, 2009

A quote and a thought

Filed under: Quotes,Uncategorized — by AmiraAK @ 12:16 am

“Nobody can be successful if he doesn’t love his work, love his job.”

David Sarnoff.

I came across this quote in the random quotes that are generated on my blog, and it just struck me as very true.

How can one be successful at something one dislikes or hates?  To really succeed at something you must really love it and dedicate time and effort to it.

For the past year I have been working at a job that I feel nothing towards and lately I have been feeling that I have accomplished nothing.  I have accomplished things of course and produced results, but I don’t feel successful at all.  I feel it is simply a job I’m doing.  I try to do it to the best of my ability, but that’s as far as it goes.  I get a good salary, hamdul’Illah, but again, that’s my sole goal at the end of the month.  Before I used to work heart and soul, no matter what the pay.  I used to really care about my job and think about it after working hours.  I would think of ways to improve my work and my outputs and even if I get discouraged along the way, I would feel happy and satisfied and accomplished.  I had a commitment to the organizations I worked for – and I still do even after I left them.  I felt that I was doing something worthwhile and that deep inside me I was growing and learning and I was successful.

Here I don’t.  The only thing I feel I am really benefitting from is writing in Arabic; some improved typing skills and better sentence structure, and I’ve learnt to pay more attention to the things I do and write; which is good, but in general I don’t feel successful.  For some uncanny reason, lately I often have the same feeling I had when I was briefly married.. a sense of belittlement.  Nothing is good enough.

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