Sunday, 30 March 2008

My Trip To Egypt : Part 3

So I went to visit my dad's friend who works as Pegawai Attache Pelajar (whatever that is) over in Cairo. What a far cry from all the other houses I've been to so far his place turned out to be - it was massive! Spacious! Luxurious! It had Pharaoh written all over it! (am I starting to sound like a Brit yet?). My logic cannot even begin to comprehend how such a beautiful home could exist amidst all the dust, rubble and uncompleted buildings.

My house doesn't look half as neat as that. wonder his house is so magnificent. It's in a Swiss Tower. Fancy that - A Swiss Tower in Egypt.

After spending the night in the 'Ramses Hilton' - which happens to be a real hotel in Cairo - the next morning, my 3 friends and I headed off to the Malaysian Hall, or Arma as it is called here, to meet up with our female classmates. According to an agreement made beforehand, we were supposed to go to Asfour (a crystal factory) together. However, you can imagine our manly surprise and dismay when we arrived at Arma only to discover that the girls had left without us. What kind of agreement is that? We felt like Palestinians betrayed by another of Israel's so-called peace treaties.

But to give them credit, at least the girls gave us the mobile phone number of a male student who could take us around Cairo so that we wouldn't feel all lost and left behind. Charming indeed.

Malaysian Hall @ Arma

While waiting for our guide to arrive, we dropped by the warden's house who happened to be a nenek saudara to one of the boys in our group. Although I had never met these people before, I instantly felt at home with their graceful invitation to stay for tea and even lunch.

Rasa macam Salam Perantauan pula

Splendidly, our guide arrived just as we were about to have lunch. Helmi was his name, and he was a 3rd year medical student at Cairo University. He was very polite, soft spoken and well mannered; and his face reminded me of Azizan Nin (I am commenting on this out of pure observation, not because of any personal interest towards the boy, lest some lecherous friend who wants to go back home just to eat nasi campur Bistro gets some strange ideas).

Since it was already 2 o' clock and our train back to Alexandria was in 5 hours time, Helmi decided that it was best we took the taxi around. Over here in Egypt, the taxis don't use meters and the fare has to be agreed beforehand - a consumer's worst nightmare, you could say. We hurriedly flagged down one of 'em battered cars and made our way to Asfour to buy some crystals for members of the fairer sex (read: mums and sisters)

A squirrel? A rabbit? I have no idea.

What was initially thought to be a 30 minute affair turned out to take one hour and a half just because of the bloody stupid system amount of customers they had that day. We then rushed back to the Al-Azhar mosque for Asar prayers. An interesting note: it is the only mosque in the world to have twin domes on a single minaret. People usually come here to learn about Islam by listening to the pious Syeikhs who can be found all over the grounds.

Have you spotted the twin peaks yet?

Having snapped several shots together, our little group crossed the street to the other side to pay a visit to Saidina Hussein's Mosque. It is named as such because in it, it houses the tomb of Saidina Hussein. This tomb is said to hold the head of Rasulullah's (PBUH) grandson after he was killed in the Battle of Karballah. This mosque is also said to house The Prophet's hair, sword and several other items which are sealed off in a room adjacent to Saidina Hussein's tomb. I don't know if it was just me, but the mosque smelled extremely fragrant from the moment I stepped into it. Subhanallah.

We spent several minutes offering prayers at the mosque and then made our way to Khan-Khalili which was situated just beside Saidina Hussein's Mosque. Khan-Khalili is the place to go if you're shopping for souveniers. It also happens to be the place to go if you have a lot of money and are in the mood to get cheated by fraudulent traders. I tell you, the second the sellers identify you as a tourist, the prices will instantly go up from 5 pounds to 30 pounds. There's so much cheating going on here that even President Bush would probably blush a bright red.

Imagine having to wade through this for several hundred metres

My male instincts told me these would look better on women than men, but polite behaviour dictates that I keep my opinions to myself.

Having bought several tshirts and memorabilia for friends and family back home, we decided that it was high time we headed back to the train station to catch our 7 o' clock ride back to Alexandria. Before departing, we took a photo together with our guide and newly found friend.

That'z Azizan Nin in the middle

So all in all, it was a nice end to a horrible beginning. We ended up achieving more than what we had originally set out to do i.e. buy crystals at Asfour. I suppose there's always a silver lining to every cloud.

Update: I've just received a full-length explanation from one of the girls concerning the messed up plans. Turns out that it was a case of miscommunication. Don't you just hate it when that happens?

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

My Trip To Egypt: Part 2

I never knew that the weather here in Alexandria could remind me so much about a certain teacher I had in Form 4 - they share the common trait of blowing hot and cold at the same time. Is it any wonder then that they both have made me ill?

My throat is sore, it is plugged with mucus and swallowing is fast becoming a tiresome (not to mention painful) chore to do. On the bright side, I now sound like Michael Buble...if he were ever to sing with a pillow over his head.


So far, I've been going out every afternoon after class exploring the strange land that is Egypt and I am proud to say that I have covered pretty much both shopping areas near the Faculty of Medicine (Manshiya) and my hostel (El Ibrahimiyyah). It's actually quite fun looking at all the shoes, bags and jubah on display, save for the over zealous shop attendants who can be annoying and scary at the same time. One of them even hugged my friend and I just so that I'd buy something from his shop! Needless to say, I didn't. But perhaps things would have been different if it was a she.

Afterthought: Of course it would be different. I'd most probably be locked up in an underground prison somewhere below the Sphinx by now if that had happened.

My list of accomplishments also includes the limited ability to order food and know beforehand what it looks like, in contradiction to other tourists in foreign places who simply point to fancy names on a menu and end up being surprised by what's served in front of them later on. Among the local food which I have sampled are makaronah (macaroni), aruz bi lahmah (rice with beef), kashari (macaroni with rice and something like noodles), bashamil (a local version of lasagne) and sandawish (come on, you can figure out this one)

Other than that, I have also been frequenting the many juice bars found in abundance here. Mind you, this is not your normal overpriced-yet-watered-down jus epal we're talking about. Over here, they take a couple of apples, blend the whole thing till it goes into a semi solid, semi liquid state and then serve it right in your face. Local custom dictates that it is polite manners to chug the whole thing down and wipe the froth left on your facial hair with your right sleeve while letting out a grateful sigh of satisfaction. Of course, I just made that up, but it's certainly what a few customers do.

Blended apples aren't the only fruit juice they serve - there's burtu'al (orange), muuz (banana), faraulah (strawberry - my personal favourite so far), 'asab (sugar cane) and a whole lot more of others. Experimenting is currently ongoing to find out the most delicious fruit juice.

That's all I suppose. You may stop drooling now and go buy some apples to blend yourself.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

My Trip To Egypt: Part 1

As I'm writing this, it's getting a bit chilly outside and the sound of blaring horns coming from passing cars is getting a tad bit unbearable. My housemates are studying inside their rooms - about the abdomen and the physiology of the gastrointestinal system, I suppose. Tomorrow, I'll be following them to class again for another round of lectures given in a rather peculiar tone of English. Not that that's a bad thing, no. It's just, well, peculiar.

As you might already guess by now, I'm merrily typing this away on my gracious host's laptop in his rented apartment in Alexandria where I'll be stuck for the next two weeks. And by the looks of it, it's going to be a very long fortnight. I mean honestly, who comes to Alexandria to study medicine? This was supposed to be a holiday!

Still, it might be a little too early to be hollering about the injustice of it all. Who knows? I might end up liking lectures given in a peculiar tone of English after all before going back (though if I really did like it, it'd have been a long time ago considering some of the lecturers back at home are from Alexandria anyway)

So that's that. A brief description of my trip to Egypt so far. Yeah, it's empty and useless and contains about as much information as a roll of toilet paper, I know. But I promise to write something more interesting in the next update - which I have no idea when that'll be.

Postscript: Ayah, tak jumpa la carpet.Minyak atar dah beli dah la tapi.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

A Belated Birthday WIsh

I will forever remember after this to never deliberately (!) wish someone's birthday two days after the actual celebration. The reason being? They will force you to cook up an entry about it as a way of making it up. Anyway, to the person who this entry is dedicated to; Happy Birthday!

P.s. To the afore mentioned person, you now officially owe me a comment in my comment box. The failure to leave one entitles me to also demand a blog entry from you - assuming you still keep one :P

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Something Not Related to Parasitology

Unknown to most of the readers here, I've been doing some research in my free time concerning the IT literacy rate among Malaysians, and I've come up with a very interesting conclusion: Mamaks have one of the highest IT literacy rates in this country. Don't believe me? Where do you think I'm posting this entry from?

Maybe I should hang out at mamak stalls a lot more after this.

p.s. To Mum and Dad, this blog (and the picture too) was done using a Macbook. Isn't that lovely? Can I have one now?

Friday, 7 March 2008

An Equally (If Not Any Better) Sorry Post

In less than twenty four hours, we will be ushering in the 12th edition of the Malaysian General Elections...

...which frankly my dear, I don't give a dram. I'm more concerned about my final exams next week. And looking at the amount of reading that I still need to cover, I think I should be more than just merely 'concerned'. I should be 'freaking out'.


We'll be going for an overseas trip after the exams are done. Personally, I look at it as one big step forward into adulthood. At least now I won't be so ashamed to face my other friends who are studying abroad. I tell you, it's going to be an absolutely fantastic, totally Mediterranean, partly sponsored trip to mystically romantic Alexandria to......listen to some more medical lectures. Bummer. On a brighter note, we'll have the weekends to ourselves, so I plan to make the most of it and get Lost in Translation. You know, just like that Sophia Coppola-directed film of the same name. And judging from how good I am in my Arabic just as Britney Spears is at being a mother, I definitely see myself getting lost. Literally. Let's just hope that I happen to bump into Lawrence of Arabia if I do lose my way.

Got to go. Books are a calling; like any envious young wife.

That reminds me: Sarah, enough with the teasing already! Hand out the wedding cards, will you?