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The Orientalist

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Dec. 10th, 2004 @ 06:55 pm
If you want to catch up to what I am at now you can check out my new blog about my hustles in toronto, you can find it at Press Pause Symphony
Craig Desson

Press Pause Oct. 26th, 2004 @ 11:52 pm
If anybody comes across this blog and wonders what I am up to you can find me at
Press Pause

Home Aug. 12th, 2004 @ 11:47 am
Well i am back in Canada and it is a very bizarre
experience. What I remembered as home seems foreign to me. I spent the last three days with Annie from Concordia; on my last night we went upscale, spending the evening at the Cairo Opera House and a late dinner at a seafood restaurant. We stayed up all night walking along the Nile. Cairo is the real city that never sleeps, in the summer families picnic and walk around up till the 4:30 call to prayer because its too hot during the day.

As i walked off the airplane i saw rain for the first time in two months, in front of me was a women wearing a Concordia backpack. Everyone was like me and spoke English and I was not use to being one with crowed. Shopping was also bizarre; I had to remember what was expensive and what different
prices meant. I was amazed by the amount of producers you could find in stories. Whenever somebody spoke English I would turn around because i assumed they were talking to me. Overall I am glad to be back in Canada but i really miss Cairo, i miss seeing people, in Egypt there are so
many people you cannot fit on the street, here the streets look empty. Also knowing that i won't be hearing the call to prayer five times a day, from hundreds of mosques in Cairo saddens me because i know i will never hear something like that in Canada. I have a feeling however, that I will be back in Cairo sooner rather then later, just because I felt I had such a connection to the place. Anyways I am back in Canada, so feel free to drop me a line.

Canada Day Aug. 6th, 2004 @ 06:14 pm
Well Vonghan, my friend from Australia just sent me my Canada day photo, so here it is.

title or description

The Israel Visa Stamp Aug. 5th, 2004 @ 01:29 pm
Whenever somebody mentions they are traveling to Israel somebody else
inevitably says, 'make sure you don't get your passport stamp' like you
have never heard this before and they belong to some important Middle East Think Tank. For those who have never said the sentence 'I am going to Israel', this is referring to how some countries like Syria won't let you into their country if you have an Israel stamp in your passport. So Israel will just stamp a piece of paper which they place inside your passport. This is all fine and good if you happen to be flying into the country but if you are crossing on land this advice means nothing. Although at the Egypt/Isreal border Israel will not stamp your passport the Egyptian border guard, could not care less. So inside your passport is a stamp that says a bunch of things in Arabic and Taba. As a result, any Syrian or Saudi who knows a little bit about geography will know that crossing from Taba means crossing into Israel. Although your passport will make it look like you left Egypt and vanished into international thin air. My advice, ask for as many Israeli border stamps as the border guards will dish out, then ask your country for a fresh passport when you travel to countries that are at war with Israel.
Other entries
» Israel - West Bank
For two weeks I have been in Israel and the West Bank, but mainly in
Jerusalem. Jerusalem for one, once you get their you feel like their is nowhere else to go afterwards, you feel like you have reached the center of the world. Secondly, you don't want to leave because, you feel like your witnessing history, and who knows maybe the day you leave is the day the messiah decides to show up. Now my journey to Israel consisted of a snap decision, taken at 9pm before the night I left. Laura, this British girl and myself just decide to leave the next morning on the 6:30 AM bus to the border. A big group from the hostel decided to make it an epic night, we headed out to the Cairo Jazz Club, then spent the early hours sitting smoking Hooka in a back ally Cairo Cafe. At 6:30 we were off and we arrived at the border around 2pm. Now every traveler that has crossed into Israel has a story, normally about how many hours they were held up for and how cute the people who work their are. I, to my dismay found that i do not look very treating in the eyes of Israel and got would have been cleared in half an hour had it not been for Laura. Laura you see has family in Israel but decided not to mention that because it involves a whole long line of questions as to where they live and what they do. She also did not have a return ticket or any money on her, so as far as i could tell the police were not so much concerned that she posed a threat to the country but rather that she
simply did not posses the life skills needed to handle the country, Which was untrue. The border guard kept asking (insert Isrealie accent here) 'what will you do? No money? where will you stay? No money?", and so on. In the end they gave her a two week visa, which i
saw as a test run of her ability to survive in the country, and me a
one month visa as opposed to the standard two month visa, simply because as far as i could tell for associating with her. Well we made it into Israel and headed off to Tel Aviv following a disasteris attempt at hitch-hiking to Jerusalem. Anyways I will end my Israel update here, simply because i have been working madly on a much larger one. But i worry it has become way to epic, and that i have begun to think of it as my magna opus of my travel updates, lets just say I am on draft 3. As for me I am back at the Dahab hotel. I am doing very little know, and nursing my sunburn.
» The Western Desert
It has been about two weeks since my last update and I have gotten up to much in Egypt. I left tranquility of Dahab for a rather audacious trip across the Western Desert. The area is a golden blanket that begins where the fertile reach of the Nile ends and spreads east all the way to Libya. In the heart of all this sand are four Oasis, that you can reach by bus. The whole trip would take a week, and in the end I would only go to the first three of the oasis. The oasis are not small pool of water, a few palm trees and a camels but large green and fertile valleys, that support many villages and town, but all surrounded by miles of nothing. The first oasis I visited took six hours of driving from Cairo and I arrived in the late afternoon.

When I stepped off the bus onto the dusty main road of Bahariya I was at first approach by a young man with a white turban and a grey grown, he introduced himself to me as my new friend and before I got my bags had already asked that I have a cup of tea with him. His English seemed decent but I would learn his vocabulary extended only to trips to the white desert and his passion for us being friends. As a consequence, as I dropped my backpack into his British mandate era Land Rover, I already had promised that I would present myself for a Bedouin dinner that evening, and breakfast the following morning.

Bahariya, would be amusing with other people, but along it is very queer. It was like drinking from a glass of milk that you where unsure if it had turned or not. With the heat of the afternoon, all the stores were closed, with metal garage doors pulled down in front of them, except for the butcher shop with raw meat floating in a basin on the sidewalk. Donkeys pulled watermelons on carts and Land Cruisers slipped between them. However, as the afternoon wore on and the pavement became as hot as the sun, I had little to do but wander from one side of the town and back again.

At seven I arrived at my Bedouin friend's house. It was built from cement blocks, and was next door to a mosque, made of cement brinks pained yellow. The conversation went back and forth between me not being interested in buying one of his safaris and how much he appreciated having friends from around the world. When he gave up and realized I would not purchase a tour from him, he asked for a pen. He said he kept an agenda of friendship, and for me he would write, 'although Craig did not want to visit the desert with me, we will remain good friends'. Overall a very strange dinner.

I left his home and spent the rest of the nigh in the market. Chickens in cages held together with string. The street was lit by the passing headlights of trucks, stores and cafes would be suddenly lit then fall back into darkness. Men sat on plastic patio chairs and wooden benches on the side walks. The sky was covered with stars and the street was covered with dung, and I was covered in dust. So after some tea I went home and to bed.

I left Bahariya the next afternoon, on a trip that would take me even farther west and deeper into the desert. The next oasis Farafa had only one hotel; partly because the town is very small and secluded and partly on account that a trio of brothers runs the town. One brother is the mayor, another is a hotel owner, and the last was recently elected as the Member of Parliament. Together they have made sure there is only one hotel in town and that the bus stops in front of the one hotel, where tourist are told that this is the special stop for forginers. The town was one main street and the restaurants ran out of food by 6pm. My room was the first one to have TV in it, but there was only two channels, one was soap operas and another dedicated prime time to an international squash tournament. All the buildings in town where one story and so just above them I could see the desert mountains.

I left Farafa the next day for Dhalkla. While outside the sole coffee shop a man with fake black Oakley sunglasses asked me about ridding in a taxi to the next Oasis, with the chance to escape another ride with the upper Egypt bus company I accepted his offer. The taxi was a white station wagon, with a roof rack, three rows of seats and a tiny Qur'ran hanging from the rearview mirror. The trip was 310 kilometers of sand. I sat in the front seat between the driver and a man who knew how to speak Arabic very loudly in my right ear. I looked straight ahead at the road which was a bridge over the sand. Above us was sky and below us was sand, with the taxi being pressed between two endless horizons. I kept looking for my seat belt, and once the driver noticed he asked 'into who, into what are we gong to run into out here.' We drove for 2 hours into nothingness then we drove for a few hours more. You cannot forget the way the desert is filled with nothingness, you think how each square meter has the potential to be a place where a memory is made or a bottle thrown but most of it will never experience a moment but just bear witness to the infinity of its surroundings. Needless to say I arrive in Daklar four hours later and was dropped off at a nice hotel.

Hotels are what I am into now; in fact I have decided to move into one for the next month. I am currently in Cairo and am currently living in a hotel. The hotel is on the roof of an old building, it’s a collection of huts, and lots of travelers. I have been living in the hotel for a week and plan on not leaving till August. Although I do plan on checking out Alexandria. Cairo is the kind of place where you wake up in the morning and say to yourself 'I am in Cairo'; it’s one of those cities that is so big that its daily operation is a great achievement.
Anyways in till later,
Also I never sent it out but I for those who are interested I wrote about my time lazing on the beach in Newbie and Terreabeen, but only put it up on the blog, to check it out go to livejournal.com/users/theorientalist
» Mut
Here is an email i sent to my parents in lue of a real update, on account of the slow internt of the western desert i was unable to spell check it
proceed with caution

hey guys
hope you did not think i was dead cause you had not heard from me in a while, but in fact i am alive and in mut. where is mut, i have little idea, but its somewhere in the middle of big desert desert. Mut is an oasis abd fir for the past three days i have been travavaling between three oasis, bhyria, farafa and now the dhalkla oasis (in the mut part of it). to get here i crammed myself into a tax built for seven (their were nine of us in the taxi) and for for four hours traveled though all sorts of different kinds of deserts, the sand dune kind, the plains of yellow sand kind and even the gravel kind. when we claimed a hill, i saw nothing but desert, the only none desert was a military check point (very furthorw 'where you from' 'canada', 'very good, on you go') and a store where we stopped and i bought a hoho. now i am in a really nice hotel, surprise there are the first tourist i've seen since i left Cairo, and i do think their might be cnn on the satalight, although all the Egyptian men want to watch is britnaty spears videos. anyway i am going to take the overnight bus to cairo tommrow, asumming my massive blister does not do me in.
much love
» Tarabeen
Me and my friend Von sit on the beach, sometimes we have a waiter bring
us food, but mostly me and my friend Von sit on the beach. I am in
Tarabeen. Tarabeen makes Dahab seem like a filthy, sprawling suffocating
metropolis. In Dahab people talk slowly, in Tarabeen they do not talk at
all. Tarabeen is a Beduine village turned, 'how about chill out'. There
is a single road, with huts made from palm tress, sitting along the red
sea. Taking a swimming is like having a bath in warm tea. 3 miles away
is Saudi Arabia, Von swam a bit too far and got buzzed by a military
helicopter. Drugs are
popular in the area, but i cannot understand why because if the town got
any more mellow peoples limbs would start falling off. If things got any
slower, the Red Sea would freeze over. I will stop it that here.
What marks Tarrabeen is the language, the Egyptians for the most part
speak Hebrew, without hesitating every foreigner is greeted with Shalom.
Now before i lead my readers to think i have discovered some enclave of
Egyption/Isralie brotherhood, I should point out that the Hebrew is
explained by the fact that no European or Americans visit Tarrabean its
all tourist from Israel, which is less then an hour away. But still its
inspiring to here people switching back and forth between Hebrew and
Arabic, even if its just to order a smothy.
Meanwhile back on the Beach Von and myself picture ourselves in a Huge
Grant film set in the 19th century. We laze, when we get board we face a
new direction. When i tire of looking at Saudi Arabia i look at Jordan,
when i tire of hummos i order Taziki. I have a wealthy patron, her name
is the tattered Egyptian pound, and she treat me well. There is much to
do in Tarabeen, but mostly i sleep.

As for now, tonight i leave for Cairo where i will begin my desert trek
to various oasis'. The first will be the Bahariya Oasis, then the
Farafra Oasis, then the Dakhla Oasis then finally the Kharaga oasis. The
whole thing should take over a week. I have little idea of what the
Internet situation will be, so i won't be checking my email as much as i
used to, but i will do my best.
» I believe in Moses (but id rather worship false idols)
Alright i am many updates behinds but here is my tale of climbing the much revered Mount Sinai.

On the ride their i felt like i was slipping though the night. The minibus had no windows. It was two in the morning and i listend to my discman imagining the Isrealities lost in the wilderness. The rocks were shapped like daggers, all pointing to the sky. I slide open the window and the wind blew though my hair and between my teeth. Driving though the night reminds me of the 417 and the back seat of my parents car, a safe place with dim lights, sliding under an arc od darkness. A muslim girl fell asleep on my should. I saw four shooting stars and montains. I saw an arm of our galaxy forzen like a paralized cloud. We passed though militaray checkpoints where men dressed in white, with guns slung behind their shoulder raised their gate and waved us though. At that point i fell asleep.

New theological questions emerge when you climb Mount Sinai at three AM on a Sunday night. For those without a zillion years of early childhood religious education, Mont Sinai is where Moses was revealed the first 10 commandments, all the while the Isrealities where worship false idols below. So as you climb for 3 hours over jagged rocks and steep mountain passes you realize that Moses must have been sure he was really on two something to do this, especially without the help of mini beduine convenient stores that sell hot tea and coke cans as old as Abraham on the trail up. Maybe Moses just simply failed to mention he was only able to complete this task because he hired a beduine to take him on a camel to the top. After climbing for hours in the cold and compete darkness, worshiping things made of clay at the bottom the mountain did not seem like such a bad idea. Once you reach the top, you run into more Beduines, this time they are renting blankets, which gives new theological implications to how God was able to protect him while he stayed in the top (although its suppose to be Ezra's cave, which i relived myself in, having no idea it religious/historical significance at 5 in the morning, God help me). On the way up you pass groups of travelers all carrying flash lights and when you look down the mountain you can see little packs of lights of bus groups from all over the world moving up the mountain.

After the Gospel Choir, the Russians and the Egyptian school children had left i was alone on Mount Sinai, except for a Christian man. He wore two sets of glasses, one for reading and another for the sun. He was praying on a rock. I wanted to stand on his rock. He saw me and climbed down to great me. He said he was from Lithuania, then a guest of wind made a book stumble from his hand. It was still cold and I was wrapped in a blanket. His crucifix knocked against his nose as he picket up his book. I smiled and he took off his hat. He said he was a pilgrim and he lived at the bottom of the mountain. His home was the monastery, it was made of bricks and had been their for hundreds of years. I said i was far from home, then he left me their. I climbed onto his rock. I pushed my forehead against the stone. I prayed and mountains touched the sky like fingers and clouds broke against them like waves.

All together is was an amazing experience. I am still two weeks behind typing what i have seen and its all in my note book i just have to type it in. i am back in dahab know where the Internet flows like smoke from a huka so i will be sending another update, proably about Newiba in a week. The plan is now to spend a couple more days here on the beach, mainly because its a good place to get thinking done. Then i am planning an epic 1000 mile treck though the western destert, where i will visit a couple oasis. From their it will be up to alaxandria and then back to Cairo, where as hard as it will be for me to believe but my trip will be almost done by then.
p.s. The egyptian guy who runs the internet cafe is playing Leanord Cohen, how strange. I asked and he says he is a big fan, weird.
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