Sunday, February 28, 2010
Here is one near the Khan el Khalili bazaar.
And another alongside the road to October 6 City where we pulled over today for a quick snack.
The results are uniformly delicious. Served with butter and salted to taste they make a tasty afternoon snack or lunch for two or three Egyptian pounds, about fifty cents, U.S.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
As you approach the gardens and palace, it seems a bit like entering Disneyland. Here is the main gate.
The gardens surrounding the palace form a wonderful park. It is easy to spend a couple of hours strolling through the area, perhaps ending up at the king's private harbor. The entrance leads to a long road lined with palms that guide you in the general direction of the palace.
Some glimpses appear of the palace
and then the entire building.
Strolling elsewhere in the gardens leads past many flowers and you might end up at the clock tower.
Almost nothing spoils the view except these small signs for an unlikely restaurant:
We had lunch at a nearby Egyptian restaurant on the grounds and then returned to the Corniche. There we walked for a mile or so before pausing at a sidewalk coffee shop where we watched the sun set.
The results of the hailstorm from three days ago were still visible today alongside the road from the Pyramids to October 6 City where these two vehicles had been involved in a crash. The vehicle carcasses remained alongside the road. It appeared that the smaller van-like local bus on the left had been rear-ended by the larger bus on the right.
That thunder and lightning I posted about the other night got everyone's attention.
According to this report from the AFP:
Maybe it was good that we had returned from Alexandria early Thursday morning!
Four people were killed and more than 50 hurt as bad weather wreaked havoc across Egypt, pelting the capital with a freak hail storm and smashing a luxury liner into a pier, officials and media said Friday.
In the northern Mediterranean city of Alexandria, waves as high as a two-storey building pounded the coast, media reports said.
Thursday evening’s hail storm in Cairo, the first in many years, caused mayhem in the capital, snarling traffic and bringing the sprawling city to a virtual standstill.
Local folks had varying experiences. Some thought it might be the end of the world. On the other hand, that AFP report said, "Tourists near the , on the outskirts of the capital, ducked for cover from the frozen, marble-sized pellets." We also heard that locals near the pyramids were running out to catch some hailstones.
In fact, one of our friends living near the pyramids gathered up a bag of hailstones and put them in his freezer.
Many people thought that they had experienced snow. Some of them thought we had brought the snow here. Fortunately, we have an English-Arabic dictionary that contains the word for hail, (barad.) We explained that snow is very gentle.
Other bloggers in the area:
- Photographed the hail and attributed it to "climate change."
- Tweeted a picture and found other religious significance.
- Reported the event as Global Weirding.
I figured it might be time to refine the aiming of the dish again. I originally posted about HotBird last year. Then about re-aiming to NileSat in January. When I made the change to NileSat, I only re-aimed the dish, I didn't alter the orientation of the LNB. Satellite signals are strongly polarized so the LNB on the ground must be oriented to the correct angle to match the transmitter on the satellite.
Here's a picture: The LNB is the little "doodad" on the end of the pole. Closeup on the right.
Loosening the nuts on the LNB bracket lets you twist it. I moved it about twenty degrees and boosted my "Q" or quality on the channel meter from a marginal 50 into the upper 70s. We have much more reliable reception on all channels now.
And while we're at it, here are another couple of pictures of dish farms on building rooftops.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
We awoke this morning to a surprise. Wet streets! I've mentioned before that a few drops of rain on the balcony railing was the extent of precipitation we experience here last winter. Although it rained lightly a couple of times earlier this winter, it was barely enough to form puddles.
This morning, a fairly steady light rain left the roads wet.
As the rain continued to fall, this taxi driver pulled over to wipe off his windshield. Perhaps the wipers don't work?
After the rain, the sun came out and we had a beautifully clear afternoon. The visibility was as good as I have ever seen here. I could easily see the hills out in the desert beyond the edge of the city. This is just what I've wanted all winter, a nice rain to wash the dust off the palm trees and clear the air.
At about 5:00 p.m., though, clouds returned. Thunder rumbled in the distance. The sky began to take on a definite mid-western U.S. appearance.
Soon, there were flashes of lightning, followed by rain. Then - "ding," "ding," "clang!" Hailstones were hitting the various satellite dishes! We actually had several "pea to dime-sized" hailstones on the balcony. Where is WCCO when you need it?
The rain hit hard at about the same time.
As I write this at a quarter to seven, the rain is still falling (gently.) The wind is howling. The temperature had fallen to 43 degrees (F.) but has rebounded to 47. And is tha more thunder that I hear? I guess that today was winter in Cairo.
After looking for Old Alexandria during much of the afternoon, we headed back to the harbor. Fort Qaitbey dates from the 1400s and is a major tourist attraction out at the western end of the Corniche.
We found a taxi, got in, and I said, "Fort Qaitbey." The driver nodded and headed up to the next intersection where he stopped by a group of locals.
"Ingleesy?" he shouted, indicating that he needed an English translator. One of the fellows came over to the taxi.
I repeated, "Fort Qaitbey," to the helper.
He replied to me, "Qaitbey?"
I said, "Qaitbey."
He then said "Qaitbey" to the driver.
The driver then said "Qaitbey!" nodding with understanding. We were off.
I obviously have not learned to properly swallow my "Q"s. There are several sounds in Arabic that I cannot make in an understandable way. In particular, there are two Arabic letters that we commonly represent with the English letters K and Q. My efforts to make these sounds just don't make the grade sometimes.
Fort Qaitbey looks like this from across the harbor.
And once you arrive, the view of the Mediterranean is very nice. It's another good place to just sit and watch the fishermen for a while.
The view back along the bay is also pleasant.
We came back the next day to explore the fish market.
And to walk this section of the Corniche. The harbor view offers lots of photo opportunities. The fishing boats were in for the afternoon.
Nets were drying.
And the view of the harbor from the Qaitbey area is spectacular.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
At any rate, the modern library is quite an architectural work. See the maps on the previous post to locate it. We took a taxi over for a good look today.
Coming from the Corniche side of the building, we finally found a tiny sign marking the "main entrance" and were asked if we had our tickets. No, we thought we were doing good to find an entrance. It took a bit of doing to find the ticket window, "behind the statue, around the corner!" The price of a ticket was ten pounds Egyptian, about $1.60 No purses allowed but "you may want to keep your money," read the sign.
The security check was quite thorough. Normally, in Egypt, westerners can just keep walking when the metal detectors sound. The security people only check the Middle-Eastern looking folks. They've got this profiling thing down! Today, I was actually asked to place my camera, cellphone, etc. on a tray and pass through the detector.
Of course, I set off the alarm. The portable scanner was called into play and spotted metal in my shirt pocket. Sure enough, a wood screw. (an upcoming post, I promise!) Credit cards in my wallet too! Wow, these people are serious.
We finally got inside. The view from the top floor is pretty dramatic. That is an exhibit of printing press technology near the center of the photo.
There were lots of empty desks among the 2000 in the reading room and lots of empty shelves with only 500,000 books so far in the planned 8,000,000.
Now that I know about "The Alexander Quartet" by Durrell, I naturally checked to see if a copy of those books were here. I only found the fourth volume, Clea, on the shelf. Justine, Balthazar and Mountolive were nowhere to be found.
I then checked the American literature section for one of my favorite works of fiction.
But, wait a minute. What is that sticker at the bottom of Mark Twain's classic?
Well, it is an American classic so what better place to have found it. There must be an interesting story that goes with this. We checked to see if we could donate books easily and it appears that we can. So perhaps on future trips we can help edge the book count closer to 8,000,000.
Monday, February 22, 2010
From the earliest days, Alexandria was a seaport and retains the distinction of being Egypt's largest port today with a thriving container operation. It held one of the seven wonders of the ancient world in the form of the Lighthouse.
In more recent times. Alexandria was known for a literary community that included English novelist, E. M. Forster; Greek poet Constantine Cavafy and the British/Cosmopolitan Lawrence Durrell. The latter wrote a series of four novels set in 1930s called the Alexandria Quartet that served to memorialize "the decadent atmosphere" of this seaport. Well, with that description in the guidebook, I placed a copy of Durrell's "Justine" on order at Amazon.com and prepared to head for the writers' haunts in the downtown area. We were seeking the literary Alexandria.
Just to refresh the geography: Alexandria is located here, on the Mediterranean.
We first headed out to the Hotel Cecil. This old building was the hub of activity in the 1930s and is well preserved. It hosted Winston Churchill among other luminaries.