Sunday, 27 October 2013

Oasis Returned

The thing is..

Can one ever really return anywhere?

Physically we can return to a place, if it is still standing, still occupying time and space – but what about how we feel?

The desert and oasis, the skies, the waters – all hold continual magic. But the people in their realm show various faces.

The unnamed owner of the unnamed lodge said not to worry about the price, would not actually say how much the room would be, just intimated that it would be a 'good price'. And, really, I thought, how much could a sparse room with no mod cons be charged at? Especially since I had received a good price there in the past and thought I was on pretty reasonable terms with him having brought him some business before with quite a lot of clients.

We were shown an old room with 6 beds though we only needed 2, and the bathroom had a horrible sewage smell on many occasions. The sheets on the better beds were old and I think unwashed and had no top sheet; just a bottom sheet, and each had an unmatched old pillowcase on an old lumpy pillow and a blanket with holes in. Still, we thought, we don't need luxury and the price will be fine – so let's not make an issue of it, we thought and we just asked for 2 clean sheets, bas.

Since the village has very few shops or food places we ate our meals there at the lodge. When I stayed there some years ago the food was good as I remember.. now it was variable and the fuul, tameya and tahina was good – but everything else was pretty poor. For my main dinner I got a portion of greasy rice served with some frozen mixed vegetables heated up and oiled. However the redeeming feature of the dining room was its inhabitants; who for a writer such as myself, provided a heap of stories. One the evening of the greasy rice serving there were a couple of random Egyptian guys to the left and an eastern european girl half lying down and several bottles of red wine on their table. One of the guys was leaning in towards her and in full public view put his hand on the top of her t-shirted breast, she smiled up at him and after some minutes they walked off, she attempting some type of slinky walk in her flowered leggings. Opposite us were a couple of girls who seemed to be in a physical relationship, for they were petting each other and lying their heads on each other's shoulders, stroking arms and legs.

During the night I was awoken by many barking dogs, then some gunfire, a man speaking quickly and excitedly on his phone about a 'white car', then later after dawn two women shouting very loudly at each other for over 10 minutes in the type of baladi garbled accent that if put into an English context would be like 2 middle aged women minus their dentures saying:

'You're an idiot'

'You're an idiot'

'No, you're an idiot'

Keda. That kind of thing.

It all seemed a little awry for a pleasant country break but again I thought, let's not focus on it.

I then also put aside that another unnamed person from another unnamed lodge who I had had a brief romance with some years ago and who asked me to come to share a drink with him after I popped in to say hello then actually more or less ignored me when I did go to have a catch up. He seated myself and my friend in a prime spot by the swimming pool, saying he would get us all some teas then a boy arrived with 2 teas and the unnamed old romancer disappeared for 40 minutes without a word and returned only a very short time before I had to depart. Still, I thought, at least the view was nice and we had some tea. For my being long, long ago ceased to care about his erratic behaviour.

But thankfully there were trips out to the desert and a big oasis lake, there was a walk through that beautiful village, there was mint tea in the delightful flowered garden by the swimming pool and with a view of the orchards and lake. There was the magic of that land, that very special land, that magic which nourishes the soul and whispers its good medicine into one's heart.

When we checked out of the unnamed lodge where we staying, that unnamed owner charged us an amount for 6 people staying in the crappy room, I was going to let it go until we then got charged a little fuul and tameya money mountain. I politely and nicely pointed out that we were just 2 people and I had asked for a room for 2 people on the phone. I was given a discount to something more reasonable but not without a snarky comment about me 'wanting it for free' and when I called to say goodbye as we had to be on our way and the unnamed owner was nowhere to be seen after walking off in a huff after his snarky comment – so, he put the phone down on me.

Things like that are not cool.

But land of Egypt, dear oasis, you are still a magical place and I love you.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

A Day Out to Om Kalthoum Museum in Cairo

Today me and Shannon went to the Om Kalthoum museum in Manial. Neither of us had been before and I don't know Manial too well. As is de rigueur in Cairo now several taxi drivers didn't want to take a passenger but finally we found one with a old white cab and got in. When we got near to the zoo we saw why possibly there had been some reluctance; for there was a quite large protest on Giza Street but it wasn't the protesters that caught our eye; it was the military police who were in a tight formation of several rows, jumping up and down with their riot shields and chanting something. And whilst they were doing that an older policeman was walking around them saying things to them. It was totally weird. And I could only imagine that after this Maori like war dance they were going to run into the protesters and attack them. Across the road I saw water everywhere and some tanks, don't know what was going on with them. Anyway we continued and it was a bonding moment between us and the cab driver who said loudly 'Rabena Yostor!' and talked about how he hoped Egypt would be calm again and kissed his hands in a salutation prayer.

We drove on and then it seemed he didn't really know where we needed to be, and as previously said neither of us knew the place ourselves, only the address. I called my usual driver who talked with the taxi driver and then we were all set – or so we thought. We ended up going in a big loop, but passed by 'my' shop, the shoe shop in Manial called Linda, and then he asked someone who said it was still several streets away and one of those streets was za7ma central so he dropped us off telling us that after we crossed the road it was the 3rd house along, the white house and then he counted the houses again and said it was the 5th house along, then he exclaimed several times that it was the white house – which I could see - but my counting was something other than his but I couldn't hold on to that. 

We crossed over and started walking down the counting houses road and the museum was nowhere to be seen, but at least the road was quiet and there were no idiots anywhere. We saw a computer shop and I said we should ask there as they probably had someone inside with a brain. Shannon had wanted to ask a man who was putting a tiny baby into a wooden crate but I thought the computer shop was a better bet. Anyway, elhumdililah, they told us it was right at the end of the street. So we continued walking and one of the soles of my red shoes fell off, but that was OK. 

We got to the end of the street and mafeesh, nothing, just some kids and dogs and a water station. We walked around the side streets and asked a man who was having his sandwich, because he looked comfortable and made me feel comfortable. He was very helpful and told us where to go but all his food was bulging out of his mouth as he spoke, and later I told Shannon a story of three fat butchers in Zamalek who I saw sitting on their little plastic chairs outside their shop as they were eating their meat and their cheeks were crammed full of food pushing their eyes up and how they continued to talk with each other like that. I said 'It's like an Egyptian Dickens'. And we laughed.

After walking past some more dogs we found the museum and I immediately felt happy and rested upon seeing the gardens and Nile view, we went into the entrance to the sound of tinny Egyptian pop on someone's phone, which was a funny mezancĂ© in the context. 

The tickets were only 6 LE which I thought was pretty amazing and we had a look at Om Kalthoum in her early years and all her years and her stage dresses and her sunglasses and her house shoes and her black handbags and her brown handbags. We saw all the medals she had been given and the keys to cities. We watched a film about her which seemed to have been made by filming a film that had perhaps been on TV originally, so a second hand film feeling, as the picture was a bit vague and the sound was muffled a little. The opening was a load of war planes flying over Cairo and I said to Shannon 'Oh, look, it's just like now.' Shannon was hoping the film would show Om Kalthoum's early life where she was dressed as a boy (I have no knowledge of this). At one point I said to Shannon, 'Can you imagine if you were Egyptian and you said you hated Om Kalthoum? It would be like saying you hated God, right?' Shannon looked a little bemused by my talk and smiled. Then we watched her funeral and the huge crowds downtown and gathered on their balconies and on the bridges, crazy amounts of people, and it was impossible not to think of the 18 days and protests since and I said to Shannon, 'I wonder if there was any harassment then, in those crowds? Or would that have been 'unthinkable'? But didn't everyone say it was unthinkable now too?' The film finished and we went on to look at her record players and radios and then we realised it was the end and we heard a man shouting that the exit was back up at the entrance. As we walking towards it a man came and said he knew me from watching films at the cinema at the Artistic and Creativity Centre at the Opera House and that he works there also. I didn't recall seeing this man in my life. But it seemed nice to be recognised and I said hello and hoped he was well. Then he said he would put on the 'panorama' for us. We waited and he came back with a remote control that he was angling above and some rather gallant music started playing and then on the huge wave of white panel in front of us an image appeared of Om Kalthoum like Cristo Redentor of Rio looking over the entire cityscape of Cairo. 'Look, Shannon,' I said, 'there's the byramids'.

Then we went home.

Correction; we left and walked for a while and went over two bridges and finally got a taxi and then sat in za7ma for 2 hrs and then we went home.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Dreams & Writing Course in Bahareya - it was AMAZING!!!

I am just back from the fabulous residential writing course I just ran in Bahareya, Egypt. 

 It was an amazing experience for us all; such sheer beauty and tranquility in the deserts and oases; so many riches available for one's writing.

I can't wait to do the next one and will start planning soon!

Huge thanks to the great work from Cresco - Dalia Abou Senna & Claes Raben who organised the travel, tours, accommodation and bliss and the wonderful, beautiful people who came along on the course: Mehra Magd, Hanaa Hammad, Mona Yassin, Hanna Sistek, Mohammed Yahia, Mirette Baghat, Nora Tee, Ola El Ababby, Mina Sonbol, Myriam Rizkillah. 

You can view the whole set of photos here:

and you can read about what the course comprised of from an old post here:

Saturday, 2 March 2013

All Still Happening! :))

Dear World

Well, there are SO many things happening it is as ever hard to find the time to update the blogs properly; and yes blogs as in plural as there is a lot going on now with the Writers' Centre as you can read on the blog:  and also do keep a check on the Arts Residency main page:

I am still looking for a writers' residency for myself for summer; for either June/July or July/August.  So far I have looked at several places in Berlin and how I wish there was somewhere in Paris!!!!  So, if any of you lovely people know of a residency that you think would accept for me to stay in return for me running some courses or helping in some way then please do let me know!!! Or if you know of a residency that is affordable let me know too, as leaving Cairo and living outside of Egypt for a while is a bit of a shock monetarily!  ;))

Spring always feels such a hopeful time and I am looking forward to all the flowers of creativity that are opening their colours :))

Bisou for now!  Linda

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Audio Tracks of Cairo and Glass - Recorded Live at Radio Lewa, Cairo

I am REALLY excited to share two of my new tracks working with Kemoslang Mohamed KamalThese were recorded live at Radio Lewa last week. I hope you enjoy!

My homage to Cairo

Audio version of poem Glass (You Did Not Kill Me)

*see within the poetry section of my blog under Cairo and Glass for the poems to both pieces 

Friday, 9 November 2012

Paris, Rome, Berlin and Elsewhere!

Dear Community, I want to build some contacts in Paris, Berlin and Rome (though could be other places too!).
I am thinking to go to another country next year and it would be great to meet up with other writers (and other artist mediums) and venues.
I would like to deliver Creative Writing workshops (in English) and work with a venue where I can also develop and host various literary initiatives, salons, writing surgeries, events, readings, shows, happenings etc, the kind of thing I am doing here.
Any contacts are greatly appreciated ;)) Please comment here or email me on:
Thanks and please pass this blog and also: to anyone who you think might be helpful or interested!