cairo

Episode 19 - Alaa, Pyramids & UAE

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Recoded: 4 Sept 2007
Locations: cairo & giza, Egypt; sharjar, UAE
Tags: eglug, pyramids, cairo, Alaa Abd El Fateh, open source, kifaya
Music: Cirrus reborn (dalia mix) by jaspertine and Animal by dgeis (both from ccMixer.org
About: after attending the Egyptian Linux User Group install fest, on my last two days in cairo, i pinned down with alaa (globalvoices interview) for a 40 min Q & A. here's just a few mins of the ELUG install fest, Alaa, my trip to the pyramids and the coast line of UAE.

Episode 18 - Feeling a bit ill

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Recoded: aug 2007
Locations: cairo, egypt
Tags: luck of seven, illness, cairo
About: the three days i spent in cairo many thoughts filled my head. down and out i found myself alone and depressed. not knowing how where to go or how to communicate, i turned on the camera and shot a few moments... you won't see me more candid than these few mins.

Episode 17 - Mobile Activism in Egypt

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Recoded: 14 aug 2007
Locations: cairo, egypt
Tags: mobileactive, hacktivisim
Music: Recommencer (mosquitomix in G) by ditto ditto
About: through the heat and stomach pains, i found sometime to interview Noria Younis. while not originally an activist, she attend a protest where the government sexually harassed protesters and that convinced her it was time to make a difference.

what keeps mankind alive

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moon in bloom

with a bit of tung and cheek, joe strummer sung the following immortal words...

"Number 1, You have the right not to be killed...
... Number 2, You have the right to food money...
... Number 3, You have the right to free speech as long as you're not dumb enough to actually try it.
"

as last night's waning hours worked their fury into a insatiable quest for entertainment, i found my self immersed in "seize the time" and thinking about my conversations with mardini, alaa, amr and nora.

back in nyc, i would have read their stories on global voices and thought of their story to be a novel use of social technology. after visiting them, hearing them, watching them with friends and conversing with a room full of geeks, i no longer viewed them as just a story. i no longer saw novelty, but the reality we are locked in a long struggle.

this struggle is not just about technology, but providing localized technology... without adequate translation, a computer, iphone, ipod, etc is no different than a hammer. (this will be addressed in a video interview... but hopefully you can understand that english internet superpower is not the "end all be all" of intellectual prowess... then again the hole-in-the-wall project would disagree with me.)

humanity has many faces. a majority of them are pleasant. (i am fortunate to see these faces across the globe - from the cairo subway to the streets of the bronx.) when it comes to the minority, this struggle works it way to be a battle over power. my visit to the pyramids reinfoced this fact.

through my eyes, i see this struggle to be a struggle over basic human rights. in the USA, we are "fortunate" to be "born" with "inalienable rights." incredibly, 40 years ago "the great experiment" failed in providing these rights to it's citizens. now at the dawn of the 21st century, through the use of digital technology, we have a unique opportunity to shape the way "inalienable rights" are passed along to the rest of the world.

without trying to be radical, a basic civics lesson will tell you "politics is war without bloodshed - and war is a continuation of politics, with bloodshed." huey p. newton & bobby seale built the black panther party to be THE vessel for the american black community to fight oppression, racism and murder and provide "Land, Bread, Housing, Education, Clothing, Justice And Peace." despite the fact their organization was criminalized and persecuted, the black panther party died to bring justice for all poor americans. (btw, did you know they created the "free breakfast for children program" and popularized medical research in sickle-cell disease?)

forty years later, the world continues to face these same problems. most of the people whom i've interviewed all see the same thing.

the technology we have at our disposal is not just a simple vessel of entertainment. our modern technology is a complex beast that crashes through the gates of oppression and gives us an opportunity to make the world a better place.

sadly and on a too frequent basis, i see many of us blinded by the shiny side of the iphone, the hue of a garment or worse the insatiable consumption for "sustainable consumption." yet, one can not separate the quest of basic human rights as the pit of peach. all of these issues are wrapped up on the third planet from the sun.

by creating "a bill of rights for users of the social web" it's great to see that smarr, canter, scoble and arrington hopping on the same chariot many political technologist championed last year through the integration proclamation. while i support both, i see these intellectual statements as one thing, and can't stop thinking of bertolt brecht and kurt weill's song "what keeps mankind alive"

You gentlemen who think you have a mission
To purge us of the seven deadly sins
Should first sort out the basic food position
Then start your preaching, that’s where it begins

You lot who preach restraint and watch your waist as well
Should learn, for once, the way the world is run
However much you twist or whatever lies that you tell
Food is the first thing, morals follow on

So first make sure that those who are now starving
Get proper helpings when we all start carving
What keeps mankind alive?

What keeps mankind alive?
The fact that millions are daily tortured
Stifled, punished, silenced and oppressed
Mankind can keep alive thanks to its brilliance
In keeping its humanity repressed
And for once you must try not to shriek the facts
Mankind is kept alive by bestial acts

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day 58. back into the matrix.

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moon

it's been four days since i replaced my macbook with the paper back "skinny legs and all." if you haven't read the book, you're in for an treat. i haven't set it down and am almost done with the adventures of spoon, can o' beans, dirty sock, stick and conch. as my laptop sat in an air conditioned server room of OpenCraft, i could only wonder the stories it told the servers and computer components.

as for my journey, it seems to be physically manifesting my mental discomfort. my stomach woes while gone one day have returned. while there are many things that i could say, i will not bother you with my torment. well...

well i will say there is there is a torment i have yet to detail... the hustle. from time to time people come up to me and say "hello." as a courteous fellow, i don't like ignoring people. hell it's hard enough ignoring pour beggars with no legs, but fully capable humans who can clearly walk and talk is another thing...

when i don my straw hat, down every street i find someone saying "hello", "where you from?", "hey, come here..." it gets to the point where the stern new yorker appears, my eyes glaze, and the desire for a baseball bat emerges.

as for the knot that is developing in my brain... despite the mini-media-hit i got last week from dries' video, i need to spread the word further. i'd like for more people to know about this project. yet, since my time connected to the internet is very limited, i need your help.

it's funny to think about this trip as a ministry, but as the kind egyptian preacher sat next to me on the train to alexandria reminded me... this is a ministry. i've dedicated my life in this mission. open societies is developing to be my spiritual work. i know to most of you this might sound crazy, but i honestly feel this trip was settled in my bones long ago.

why do i say this? well, i've always held faith in the world. i've always held faith that as the human race we can solve our own problems. and like this trip, it's not an easy journey...

for now i'll keep my head down and keep plugging away. if you haven't found a good reason to tell a friend. today is as good as any other...

follow up to yesterdays post...

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yesterday evening when i finally found some food, melisa maples twittered "listening to This American Life #339 ... if you've ever gone through a break-up, this one's for you!" ... and after a day of strange reacquaintances, i found myself cozing up to a fan, a pillow and my ipod.

long story short or maybe a long psychiatric bill cut cheep, i'm not home sick... i'm just heart broken. i know that i can't turn back and head home. regardless of that comes next, i must press on. regardless of sleepless nights filled with illusions of comfort, i am on the road.

i am on the road to see how all of our social networks, open societies and free thought, come together. from the past 53 days, i can see we are creating a world our parents could only dream. while social and economic injustice is rife, we see something different. wether out of necessity or opportunity, we press on thinking different.

btw - this american life is running a contest to remix one of the songs featured in this week's "break up" episode. check it out. it's not only heart warming, but fun!

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day 52. food/home illness

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today, i picked up my indian visa and will depart on sept 6...

while my stomach curls in cramps, today has featured a second day laying in bed, running to the bathroom and dreaming there is an alien inside my abdomen...

shortly after the drupal presentation on saturday, a large group of us headed out to the northern most island in the nile. after a few heroine turns, we arrived at what appeared to be a chain restaurant. in a rush, i ordered their club sandwich.

thinking it was safe, i inhaled the fries and three of the four sandwich bits. for no particular reason, i found my self a bit disturbed and started pulling the sandwich apart. with the "roast beef" a bit green, i feared something wrong but shrugged off any serious concern.

that was until i woke up yesterday. barely able to move with aches all over, i knew there was something hideously wrong.

yesterday, when i re-checked into the mereemes hotel, i just didn't feel physical depleted. i felt tired of all the hoping around, language barriers, and found my self missing the connivence that comes with living in one location - a kitchen, a home cooked meal, take out, my own bathroom, toilet paper...

all of sudden these things seemed to come crashing though the door...

while i tumbled into another world. loving images of my family, friends, and past lovers floated in the air. with my body shivering with a fever i haven't felt in years, my memories became ghosts, former lovers appeared to comfort me, friends dropped by to say hello, and my mom cooked me a meal.

on the verge of my second full moon away from new york. what i ment by my twitter is that i miss all the creature comforts that i knew intimately. i miss my friends. i miss jon and val's rooftop. i miss the ability to pick up the phone to call my family. i miss walking though the doors of the local pub to see old friends...

most importantly, i miss all the loves that comforted me when i was sick...

day 50. drupal presentation at open craft.

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with a dirty collar, slight taint of unshoweredness, and a backlog of stories to tell, photos to upload and episodes to publish, i've arrived at opencraft with omar. regardless of the outstanding bills of the day, today will be MAGICAL. here in cairo we will talk about drupal tuning, LAMP stack, linux, apache, MySQL, PHP, and most importantly the Drupal API.

too boot, the conversation will be in english by Khalid Baheyeldin from 2bits, an Ontairo, Canada Drupal shop!!!

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day 47. arab digital expression camps

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at the suggestion of alaa and manal, they are going to act as my translators at a arab digital expression camp. from what i've just been told, i'm not getting home till 1 am! i'm really looking forward to this little trip!

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day 47. open crafting of ideas

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it's not really your traditional sense of "coworking" but once i mentioned the idea to omar, he passed it along to his boss and thought it would be a great idea... if you haven't heard about coworking, that's alright... most people haven't... it's a variable meme popularized by the independent and freelancer community... after attending a few of Amit and Luke's Jelly NYC sessions, i fell in love with the idea and with the help of beka from Not an Alternative, we crafted a little space...

the community actually defines "Coworking [as] a movement to create cafe-like community/collaboration spaces for developers, writers and independents."

-= back to cairo =-

breakfast with omar after breakfast at the cairo equivalent of denny's, omar and i set out in one of the cities illustrious cabs. winding thought the dusty petroleum clouds, i wondered what was next. when i walked though the doors of OpenCraft, i clearly knew i would no longer need to worry. after meeting abdel karim (aka Mardini), a majority of the business staff and a few members of the tech team - it seems that OC's tech team is just like the US, late risers ;) - i was quietly given their conference room and a cup of turkish café.

to be honest, i'm really blessed to be connected with this community. i guess i should tell you why...

well, my original contact has turned out to be quite unreliable and a bit of a flake... within that void, a part of the cairo technical/political/drupal community... we at least omar, amr, khalid, alaa and manal have done what they can to help me find a place to sleep, locations for food and wifi, beers to drink, a quite location to work... and soon subjects to interview... and for that i'm completely and absolutely appreciative.

not only are they working hard promoting and exploring the world of open source, but they too are in a similar fight to find and protect the few remaining elements of freedom. amid a world of injustice, without a doubt, i know i am in the company of brothers and sisters...

PS - as i write this, i am encoding Dries' interview and see there is a new addition to the family!!! CONGRATULATIONS!!!!

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day 45. this just in...

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after a long slog emailing and coordinating this weeks activities. i got three wonderful phone calls.

the first came Alaa Abd El Fattah who promised to take me out drinking and throughly get me into trouble.

the second came from kareem el buckley who's promised to take me around cairo and show me the more sinful sites.

the third came from Omar Abdel Wahab, who works for OpenCraft a drupal development shop.

awesomely, omar and his friends/coworkers will host me for the rest of my time in cairo. too boot, Omar contacted his boss - Mardini, who in turn has opened up his office for me to produce episode 13. which is ironic because EP13 will be my interview with Dries, the founder of the drupal project.

actually i'd like to note, Khalid Baheyeldin made the call to Omar... which is perfect because they will be hosting a Drupal related workshop on saturday... AHHH.... can you feel the Drupal love?

...good night

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day 45. a month & a half (now in cairo)

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it's been a month and a half since i left NYC and now i am in cairo!!

after a 15 hour bus ride from tel aviv, i have finally made it to africa. upon arrival and in the confines of the Sheraton Cairo business center, i discovered that i had no place to sleep. the super kind attendant, imat, hooked me up with an internet connection and offered a special hotel rate with the price tag of $260 USD. in all honesty, i thought about it... and decided to let my fingers to the walking.

twenty mins later, i discover a little hostel named Lialy. after a herroing taxi cab ride that ran three lights with one featuring a near head on collision, i "arrived" at 3am. with complete understanding of my situation, the midnight attendant shepherd me into freezing three bed room.

waking at 9am, i was presented with two options...
1. wait to see if a room is available.
2. make my own booking at another hostel.

in haste, and after looking at fellow blogger reviews, i have made arrangements at Meramees hostel but have also been told that there is no availably after tomorrow. so, if you are reading this and know someone in cairo... help a brudda out and have someone contact me via my american sim (+1.917.657.6999).

in the meantime, i'm going to find an egyptian sim, check into the meramees, find an internet connection and start pounding away in some IRC chat rooms.

(update 13h30)
well it appears that i have more night in the luxurious accommodations of midan talaat harb square. in a striking similarity to columbus circle in manhattan, cars, scooters, motorcycles, bicycle peddlers, street merchants, and pedestrians all vie for the right to pass. littered with parked cars, torn up sidewalks and air conditioning water droplets, the sidewalks wreak of mayhem.

there is one sad passing note that i should mention about the little hostel named lialy. when i went back to pick up my bags, the day attendant told me he now had a room for me. a little shocked, i told him that i already had found accommodations and that i would be moving on.

after already charging me a egyptian pound (EL) for one hour's worth of internet usage (25 US cents), he proceeded to ask for payment. despite the fact i had already paid him 50 EL (10 USD), he now wanted 150 EL (30 USD). full aware of this scam, i politely told him to check his records. after confirming my payment, he asked that i hurry up and clean my barely used room.

in the room, i was pleasantly surprised to discover the two other travelers whom i awoke at 3am. (btw, they also loved staying at the big apple hostel in istanbul.) in my departure i mentioned the small billing snafu, and they proceeded to tell me about another little shamble. apparently, while my roomies were eating their falafel breakfast, a group of three arrived. at 100 EL per person (twice the normal price), the three french started their negotiations to secure a room. after a few fleeting moments of delight, one of the day attendants noticed my roomies and ended negotiations.

note to fellow travelers in cairo, be armed with a big smile and distain for comical negoiations. don't be rude, but be prepared for the unexpected.

first - get a receipt!

two - once you have decided to move around, get to a hostel quickly. while many people might have great things to say about their experience, most of these places are on a first come first serve basis. while hostelworld.com really does not overtly tell you, the small deposit you are charged is just a shrewd formality for the possibility of a booking. hostels are not big chain hotels and are frequently owned and operated by a family or a few friends. things change at a moments notice.

three - always remember, get in good... get good service...

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day 39. planning for day 40.

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245195609 5Fe5169Bfe M forty days. yikes! frankly, i'm surprised that i still have my sanity...

speaking of sanity, i called up the indian embassy in ciaro and they told me it take five days to process visas. so, knowing reality to be somewhat a figment of consciousness, i'm not worrying about my visa until i walk though a metal detector and finally sit down with someone.

if you are planning on doing something as insane as this venture. you have two options, one get an ambiguous visa while you are in the states, OR drop into the indian embassy in paris or london. both locations will expedite same day visas (or following day visas) if you are willing to pay twice the price.

despite these headaches, tomorrow i'm venturing into one of the craziest cities in the whole world. tomorrow, i'm heading to jerusalem...

don't misunderstand me. i'm calling the city crazy, not because of all of the religious zealots that flock annually... no, not because of them... i'm venturing to the "holy" city because it's one of the oldest cities in the world and the "old city" is smaller than a square mile.... oh and did i mention the all the small tiny streets?

oh and if that didn't wet your whistle, i'm looking forward to finding a bus to Bethlehem to experience this lovely "security fence." i really don't understand the whole thing... from my conversations with activist, matan kaminer, this issue is deeply rooted in economics.

from my conversations and terse research, the Ashkenazi jews have long oppressed the middle eastern jews and Palestinians (muslim and christian). let's not even get into the armenian and Moroccan side of things... 'cause, that really starts to blow my mind...

nonetheless, with a country that is the cradle to three of the world's largest religions... let alone, a town that is cradle to three of the world's largest religions... it's bound to be crazy. maybe i'm too secular. maybe i've long lost my faith in a specific religion, but one thing has emboldened my perspective from the past few days...

these "holy warriors" would love to have an iphone, ipod, imac, internet, youtube, air conditioning, power, clean water, transportation, education, the opportunity to travel and the ability to move freely. so many of the Israeli's whom i've come across live a comfortable middle class southern californian suburban lifestyle. from shopping mall to shopping mall, from strip mall to strip mall, from gas station to gas station... the modern israeli is no different than the community i was born into nor the midwestern community i grew up in.

hopefully, tomorrow i will get to see a different perspective.

Couchsurfing solicitation for accompaniment in the jerusalem-yerushalayim / israel groups.

(photo discovered on fejron's flickr feed but obviously stolen from somewhere else...)

Africa & Middle-East

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''My second continent is Africa, but i'll be passing through the middle east first. From Aug to September, I will bounce around looking to cover as much as possible. If you have something to add, please feel free!''

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== '''Week 6''' ==
* '''9 - 15 Aug'''
* [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tel_Aviv Tel Aviv]
* [http://august.penguin.org.il/AUG2007/english.html isreali open source community conference] - aug 10 (thanks Zohar Stolar)
* hang out with [http://www.dotanmazor.com/ dotan mazor]

----
== '''Week 7, 8, 9''' ==
* '''19 Aug - 6 Sept''' [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egypt Egypt], [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cairo Cairo]
* '''Guide & Translator for the first week''' [http://omar.owahab.com/Omar/ Omar Abdel Wahab]
* hang out with the guys and gals at [http://open-craft.com OpenCraft]
* [http://www.eglug.org/ eglug] egyptian free/open source community
* [http://mardinix.net/ mardini] - programmer and partner of OpenCraft
* [http://www.manalaa.net/ manal and alaa] bloggers and drupal peeps
* [http://norayounis.com Nora Younis] - activist, flickr'er and journalist
* [http://gharbeia.net/ Amr Gharbeia] - activist, programmer and translator
* [http://monem-press.blogspot.com/ Abdel-Monem Mahmoud] - activist blogger
* visit [http://baheyeldin.com Khalid Baheyeldin] and his brother to discuss open source translations programs
* 25 Aug - [http://www.open-craft.com/drupal_scalability_userpoints open craft conversation] on drupal
* [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pyramid_of_Giza Great Pyramid of Giza]

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=== '''Seas to Sail''' ===
* South Atlantic Ocean
* Indian Ocean

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on the luck of seven was an open-source, around the world project by noel hidalgo, a new york city based activist, organizer, barcamper and coworker.

for seven months, he traversed the globe. using a new media voodo (blog, vlog, wiki, flickr, couchsurfing, twitter, myspace, dopplr, and facebook), noneck harnessed the collective knowledge of the internet, and report on seven topics of freedom. this trip was funded by 253 people and supported, house, fed, and loved by countless others.

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