How on earth can we live togather?


The most recent science tells us that unless we can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, we will cause huge and irreversible damage to the earth.

I don’t know why, but I have always had dead ears when it came to environment issues. Either browsing online or reading an article in newspaper, I used to always skip-it when the title is merely close to the subject of environment or climate. I am not sure whether this a general problem in this part of the world where people don’t realize it as a real threat because they deal with other threats they percieve to be more important, or it is just me being unaware of it.

For me, things has changed in Alexandria, when Carl Mossfeldt from Tallberg foundation presented the damage we are inflicting on our environment and the threats that are heading to our way because of the effect of climate changes.

It was an eye opener for me. I have never really realized the dangers that climte change entails. I have heard about ice melting and the increase of sea levels, but thought that it is happening NOW! I have witnesses the Tsunami couple of years ago on news channels, but didn’t connect it with us damaging the environment. I have heard about the conflictn darfur, but didn’t realize that the main cause of it is drawft where people moved from a place to another ending up fighting over limited resources.

There are threats of environment changes all over the world, and all of us are interdependent. Jordan is one of the lowest countries in the world in term of water resources. Water conflicts is a major threat in this area.

I may not be the best person to talk about these issues, even after the presentation, my information are still very limited. I just want to share Tallberg foundation and 350.org with you. I wanted to do so yesterday in the Day of Earth but I didn’t have time for that.

350 is an initiative to help building a global movement to fight climate crisis. Read more on their website http://www.350.org

One thing that I would like mention, it is the words of Queen Rania at Tallberg event ‘How on earth can we live togather’ in 2007, she mentioned how sad it is the we are breaking apart at the time we really need to work togather.

Tallberg is preparing a Rework the world event in Sweden next year. It is an open initiative to boost viable ventures that drive sustainability and create green jobs. People with idea and projects along those lines can apply to attend the event. Check out their website for more information

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*Measurments* of freedom of expression


It never seize to amaze me how we always manage to busy ourselves in discussing the ‘measurments’ of freadom of speech whenever the issue is brought. We are smart-asses, aren’t we? When there are measurments, then we can always fit our freedom of speech to our own needs.

On the last day of the follow up meeting of the YLVP in Alexandria, we had a press conference at the Swedish Institute to communicate what we have been doing to the Egyptian press. After introducing ourselves and giving a brief information about the YLVP program, the Swedish Ambassador Tommy opened the door for questions.

Most of the questions were friendly. They asked about the program, our projects and the netwrok. One journalist, whom according to Wael Abbas, works for the governments’ official newspaper asked: Did you have any discussion about the measurments of freedom of speech in your program? because as we all know, you have picked Wael Abbas, who is an Egypatian blogger that is known of his dirty language.

Wael answered him in a firm angry tone: When you live under a dictator regime, you don’t discuss freedom measurments, you discuss freedom itself.

In truth, Wael does use a dirty language in his posts. He usually curse and swear public officials and even Hossni Mobarak himself. He rationalize it of using the common language that most of us use in our daily interactions in the streets – which is very true -. While I may not use such language in my writings, I respect Wael’s choices of practicing his expression freedoms.

I was impressed by the level of freedom of expression allowed for the Egyptian press. This is one thing that bloggers managed to snatch and help mainstream media to fill. They really pushed up their freedoms. One taxi driver rationalized it that the regime had to allow this in order to avoid a people’s burst because of the great pressure they face on a daily basis.

In Jordan, we have been talking about *responsible* freedom of expression for a long time now. Shouldn’t we just drop all of those vocabularies and focus on the freedom of expression itself?

Cairo Hotels!


One of the things one should do before heading to Cairo is booking in a good hotels. This is a lesson that I had to learn by myself.

On our way back from Alexandria to Cairo and while stucking in the traffic at the entrance of the city, we started looking into the city guide my lebanese friend has with her for a good hostel to stay in the night. We started with budget-cost ones, calling one by one myself didn’t work – all places near the downtown were full. We then tried some mid-range and even 5 stars hotel, all said fully-booked! Finally, I asked my lebanese friend to call herself one of the mid-range hostels, I thought that in an Arabic country, a lebanese female voice may get us better results, don’t you agree? Actually that is exactly what happened! She only called once, and that’s it, we got a 3 rooms in a hostel in the downtown. Whether it was a pure luck from her side or not, we’ll never know.

Anyway, we dragged our bags around 8:00PM at the crowded midtown of Cairo to Carlton Hotel which lies at the top of an old building. It costed us around 20$ per night including breakfast and dinner. The rooms were clean, but a little bit smelly. We didn’t have the dinner but went down for the breakfast.

Here goes the best part about this post.

While sitting there on our breakfast table, the waiter, which is an egyptian old man wearing a tarboosh and doshdasheh, with a very grumpy look on his face, brought us a cup with tea and nescafe bags. He then asked us firmly: Tea or Coffe? We said: Tea. He picked up the nescafe bag and went away!

We, on the other hand, started our research for a 5 stars hotel and ended up paying 220$ for a night at Shepard Hotel at the nile which actually didn’t really have that much better service. The rate didn’t include breakfast, and when we went down to have ours, a female waiter, with full red face (make-up!), approached us. What is your room number? We gave it to her. She checked. In an angry voice she said: Your rate doesn’t include breakfast! “Yes, we know” we told her. “Ok, you’ll pay 210 pounds (around 30$)” She said and left!

and we complain about service in Jordan!

Misr ba2at asya awi 3ala ahlaha


OMG! I really miss blogging! I have been in Egypt the past week for a follow up meeting for the young leaders visitors programme with the Swedish Institute. We stayed in Alexandria for the first 4 days of the meeting and then we went to cairo for free two days. In Alexandria I couldn’t help my self but to compare the image I had in my mind of the city from the famous Arabic musical film ‘Abi Fauk al shajara’ (Dad on the tree) to its current state.

I stayed at Cecil hotel, which lies next to the park where Abed Al Haleem ran at the beginning of the film to catch up with his girl friend, both of them running to the beach, wearing only their swim suits, singing and dancing with their friends to celebrate the coming of the summer vacation.

That was around 40 years ago, the repeated song and beautiful scenary from the film got shattered in my mind while walking down the streets of Alexandria, instead a protective state of mind occupied me while roaming the streets of Alexandria with my female friends. Poverty and sexual frustration prevailed. The beautiful light spirit of the Egyptians sounded like a myth for me looking at the grumpy face of men in the streets. Alexandria’s women all covered up with heavy clothes and long veil that covers the area down to their shoulders. Dull colors of clothes and hardship of movement, a faded smile, and worrisome. An image of a sobbing woman at the stairs of Alexandria’s court comes up in my mind. Another image of us concerned for our friend Maha who felt like crossing the street and had a cigarette on the beach by herself while we were having lunch and watching her from the window of the hotel restaurant so that to be able to run and protect her if anyone sexually harrassed her. In Alexandria these days, such stand would be translated as a provocative act from her part.

‘Alexandria used to be a beautiful city’, the taxi driver told me. He said that 40% of its residents used to be foreigners before the revolution. The revolution leaders changed everything, including the names of the streets. Older people in the city know how beautiful Alexandria has been.

Street sexual harassement is a big issue in Egypt. Most women are veiled these days and they still don’t feel safe walking in the streets alone. Wael Abbas, a ylvp participant and a famous Egyptian blogger, was from the very first people talking about the issue and helping in gaining the attention of formal media outlets to talk about it.

Poverty and sexual frustration are not the only problems Egyptians seem to suffer from. Officals and policemen corruption seem to be also a major concern. I have witnessed myself a taxi driver bribing a policeman so that he won’t withdraw his driving licence. Wael has also brought the attention of people in Egypt and the world to the torture happening in Egyptian jails through several videos he posted on his blog. 3 policemen was sentenced to 3 months in prison as a result. It is a terrible thing when the people who suppose to help you are the same people who abuses you and violate your rights. Wael says ‘People in Egypt today fear policemen more than they fear theives’!

He himself suffered from such corruption two days ago when his policeman neighbout attacked him in his own house for a stupid internet problem and hit him and his mother. He lost a teeth and had several bruises. He filed a complaint to the police department. Let’s hope he gets some justice.

While ‘Misr ba2at asya awi 3ala ahlaha’ (Egypt became so hard on its people) Hind Sabri said it in Yacoobian building film, Egyptians still say ‘Misr om el donia’ (Egypt is the mother of the world) – a common Egyptian phrase -. As hard as life seem to be for the Egyptians, Cairo never sleeps, and despite all the hectic and traffic, people spend their nights in coffe shops chatting and smoking shisha.

Will Misr be easier on its people? Will a brighter future emerge for those people? I certainly have much hope in my young Egyptian friends. Misr needs change, a major one….