Stuff you should read

What’s so important about a crescent?

Posted on Sunday 31 July 2005

Some people may find this story confusing, but the arabist explains it well here.

The Sandmonkey @ 12:50 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
Egyptians in the news… again

Posted on Sunday 31 July 2005

Ok. I just read this piece of news and I can’t help but feel conflicted about it: On one hand, it could be just that they were staying and working illegally in the US. Lots of egyptians workers live in New York illegally, they would live together to cut down their costs and they would work under the table in menial jobs that pay cash (which usually gets sent to their family members with visiting egyptians, because they wouldn’t use bank transfers cause they have no social security numbers) , which would explain the small denominted large amounts of cash they found in their apartment.


There is something about this article, maybe it’s related to the mention of their jobs in the end (civil and chemical engineers) or my own pre-conceived notions or just from all of the terrorist shit that some egyptians always seem to be involved in (WTC 1992 bombing, 9-11, Qatar bombing, Ayman Al Zawahary, all of the late explosions in egypt, etc..), that would urge the average reader-and shamefully myself as well-to jump to this conclusion:”Oh no. Not another terrorist cell!”.

What’s messed up is that I can’t blame the artcile for it: it states in the end that the police said that the men don’t seem to have any links to terrorist groups. However, I don’t know… Something about the way it is written, or maybe the fact that it was written at all ( the police catches illgeal workers in the states all the time, or rather should, so this is no news) , makes me – and maybe you if you read it too- uncomfortable.

Read it and tell me : Do you see what I am talking about?

The Sandmonkey @ 12:29 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
Saddam Beatdown

Posted on Sunday 31 July 2005

Someone allegedly beat up Saddam as he was walking out of the trial room.


Well, if it’s true, then whoever did that deserves a medal. If they ever come to Egypt, I am buying them dinner.

The Sandmonkey @ 12:10 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
Bush in one word

Posted on Sunday 31 July 2005

This is funny!

So much for healing the rift.

The Sandmonkey @ 12:02 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
So You wanna stay single?

Posted on Sunday 31 July 2005

If you are looking for all the good reasons never to get married, well, this is the site for you.

Warning: It treats American women unfairly harsh!

The Sandmonkey @ 12:01 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
So much for our democratic reforms

Posted on Sunday 31 July 2005

I guess I was a little harsh on the Egyptian National Security people in regards to our vigil. They were nice to us after all, while they could’ve done this:

On Saturday, several hundred men and women were gathering to begin their march toward Cairo’s main square when men in plainclothes descended on them, swinging billy clubs and assaulting the demonstrators.

Burly government supporters surrounded activists sprawled on the pavement, kicking them in the head and ribs and tearing at their clothes. Others lifted protesters in the air by the arms and legs, hauling them off to police trucks. One elderly man wandered in a daze, his head bleeding.

“Down with the rule of the dog Mubarak,” one young man yelled as he was being clubbed.

The Interior Ministry said the demonstrators had gathered illegally and, after refusing warnings to leave, threw stones at police. Security forces dispersed the gathering, arresting 20 people, who were still being held, the ministry said in a statement. Others were detained and released.

A sign of things to come, No?

The Sandmonkey @ 12:00 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
In mourning

Posted on Friday 29 July 2005

This is for all of the terrorist attack victims in Sharm El Sheikh, in london, in Iraq, in madrid in the US and all over the world.

This is for the families of the 88 casualties who died in the attack on our own soil, whose countries of origon include Egypt, Britian, Qatar, Italy, Spain and the USA.

This is for anyone who lost a family member, a lover or a friend in such a senseless act of violence.

May they all rest in peace and may those who killed them rot in hell.

(I know that this is a poor subtitute to the candle I was suppsoed to burn tonday, but it’s the best I can do under the circumstances.)

The Sandmonkey @ 4:49 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized
Details: Today

Posted on Friday 29 July 2005

I woke up around 10 am, really depressed and not wanting to think about the day ahead. I had a couple of things to do, my goals for the day so to speak :
1) try to salvage the day and get the permit;
2) tell everyone what happened in case I can’t salvage anything;
3) ensure that the whole thing doesn’t turn out to be a fiasco.

Somehow I couldn’t decide which one was harder.

Anyway, until noon I was working on accomplishing goal #1: getting the permit. I was trying to reach someone that has more influence on this national security guy, but his phone wasn’t ringing. So around 11 I figured I should start the damage control campaign and send out text messages informing people that the event was cancelled. I e-mailed people that showed their interest in coming and posted my message that the whole thing was over.

I then had to call the other people helping me organize and plan this and inform them that the whole thing got cancelled.

That part sucked.

How can you explain to people the logic behind the illogical? Forget that, how can you put them in the same situation you were put in? After all the work they had to do to lobby for this thing to work, they had to call all of those people and convince them not to go, because the vigil was canceled, just like that.

And the worst part is: you will no longer have any credibility with those people. You won’t be able to get them to come the next time. No one will believe you. Or they will just think you will just cancel on them in the last minute. No one will take you seriously the next time. So, even if we wanted to do another one like this, we can’t. No one would come.

( I sometimes wonder if that was the goal for their revoke permit this late in the game: to ensure we wouldn’t attempt to do anything like this again. This time it was against terrorism, the next time it maybe against the government.)


So, after bumming everyone out, I call A. and see what he is up to. He is acting as if nothing changed. Like we still have the permit: “You are still coming, right?”. When I wince he assures me that he knows what will happen with the security people : nothing. As long as there are foreigners and press, there is nothing that they can do, he assures me. Yet still I am not convinced.

Part of the initial agreement I made with Karim is not to do this unless it’s 100% legal and safe, and this promised to be neither. Not to mention, if it gets ugly, it will harm Egypt’s reputation. I inform him that that would be unacceptable to me :”I don’t want to sell you out, but I don’t wanna hurt Egypt’s image as well”, I told him. He claimed he understood, but he was going to do it anyway. “Only people who are willing to gamble end up winning”, he told me. I told him that I agreed, but I am not going to gamble with this country’s reputation, betting on a bunch of foreigners showing up when they may not do so. Not to mention, I was told specifically not to go. I am not going to disobey the orders of the national security people. I don’t like my phone tabbed, thank you very much.

But before we hang up on each other and part ways, I ask him to of me a favor ” If you are going to do this anyway and succeed, I promised someone I would light a candle for this American girl named Katrina. Can you light one for her?” He said he would, and I believed him.

So he goes his way, and it’s around 4:30 when I find out that Karim is sending his friend Aly to ensure that our people, if they show up, would leave and know that the thing was cancelled. To ensure that the “Pray for peace” name is not used. I remember that my name is on the requests for permits, so I call the higher-up guy and he is nowhere. So I call his underling and declare that I have nothing to do with the vigil that’s about to take place. I am not going, and A. is completely acting by himself. “Whatever he does” I tell him, “is not sanctioned by me or my mother”, because he knew who she was and felt that he could use her name to get his way or get this thing to happen. I can’t be there, so I can’t be held responsible for the people there. The guy understood, and said it was fine.

I take the chance to ask him ” so, how were those riots you guys expected today?” to which he replies ” oh, the demonstrators decided to reschedule their demonstrations until tomorrow. Not a single riot happened today. That whole Azhar area has been entirely peaceful today”.



So, all of this, all of the canceling and the ” we have to ensure everything is safe” and “we are revoking your permit for security reasons” crap was bullshit? You have got to be kidding me. I was fuming, and all that I could think of is one thing : I want to go! I just want to see it. I want to see if A. will be able to pull it off. So I call GM.

“Hey GM, how are you doing”
“What do you think? Feeling like shit and depressed.”
“What do you say we take a cab to the vigil site and see how it’s like?”
” Ehh, not a good idea? You were told specifically not to go!”
” Yeah, but that A. dude is going and he is going to do that vigil without a permit or anything. I wanna see it. We wouldn’t be participating. We are bloggers, we will just observe and blog. It’s our duty!”
“I don’t know. Maybe”
“Come on man. It will be fun. It will be like an adventure. Plus, are you telling me you don’t want to see what it’s going to be like?”
“Fine, fine. I am coming. I swear to god that one day you are gonna get me in some seriously deep shit.”
“I love you too man. Come on. Under my house in 20 minutes.”

So now I am feeling all giddy again, and I go down to the atm machine to get some cash, to have the damn machine- I shit you not- eat my card. The reason? The machine says the card is expired, which is bullshit, because it’s valid for another 2 years. Today just sucks.

(God is telling you not to go, I think)

So I head upstairs, meet my aunt, borrow some cash and head down and meet GM. We get in a cab and we start formulating strategies on how to handle the situation. It basically came down to this: If the situation seems too policed, we will just ask the driver to take us back. No harm, no foul.

We arrive there and we are faced with this scene: 4 huge riot police trucks, with at least 50 riot police deployed in full gear, 30 regular police soldiers, 20 police officers and 10 suits, and one of them was the Higher-up guy who rejected our permit. It was a freaking army and that’s just the outside people: who knew how many were inside! They were stopping cars it seems, and interrogating their inhabitants and the Higher-up guy was looking at our direction. I started shouting at the cab driver “keep going, take us back, step on the gas. Move it” and we escaped the area.

( I am such a coward)

So we arrive back at my place and we decide to go somewhere and chill and relax, when my phone rings and its my mother, complaining how the national security people were upset at her because this A. guy came over with foreigners and press and wouldn’t leave unless he has his vigil and he is claiming it’s our responsibility to get rid of him. Lots of talk and backtalk ensues, and in the end we agree with A. to end the vigil around 8 and then leave. We inform the security people the same thing and that we have nothing to do with this and we hang up on them. My Mother wasn’t amused at all, especially that A. apparently was on the national security lists and has prior incidents of “troublemaking” and that by affiliating with him they will put me under suspicion and surveillance.


So me and GM just go somewhere and get something to eat and drink, with a giant watch in front of us showing us the minutes as they go by and the time gets closer to 8. We discuss how the whole thing was happening without us and how we both chickend out when the moment of truth came. Dealing with the Egyptian authorities is not fun, and we didn’t even deal with them really, not like the other people who get jailed and tortured by them. I tell him how they must have his phone tabbed and are monitoring his internet activity since I call him and he calls me, and he informs me that from now on no more writing about Egypt: “I will get back to writing about Iraq. What made me ever stop writing about Iraq?” he joked. But half what’s said in jest…

So anyway, time goes by, we get a phone call that the vigil ended and that 30 people were present and that all the cameras got confiscated, probably out of embarrassment. I can’t seem to decide whether I feel admiration for A. for doing this, anger for using my name, or jealousy for actually accomplishing what I set out to accomplish. Hmmm…

But then I remember that we started this thing, even if we didn’t finish it. Without us there wouldn’t be a vigil today. We made the calls, we got the place, we got the ball rolling. In some sense, the fact that it wasn’t us out there today, but rather 30 complete strangers that got together to protest terrorism ,because of something we started and planned, is more of a success then if we were involved. We are not alone. We are not an anomaly. Others exist, and they are willing to make that point regardless of police intimidation or fear of retribution. I take some solace in that.

I mean, at the end of the day, It doesn’t matter who did it, what matters is that it happened.


Yeah. Thought so too!


The Sandmonkey @ 1:20 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized
Details: Yesterday

Posted on Friday 29 July 2005

So here is what happened:

On Thursday I was scrambling, talking on the phone and begging to everyone to get an approval for the protest. The higher-up in the National Security apparatus informed me that they like the idea, they will discuss it and get back to me. That same afternoon I got a phone call from another person I was lobbying: the deputy minister of interior. He gave us his verbal approval to do the Vigil and asked me to send him yet another copy, so that he could get the Minister of Interior signature and approval on it.

I was informed that it would be one hell of an exception, especially that the Egyptian President has nominated himself for a 5th term and the opposition is supposed to take the streets in protest the next day. Ehh, I could care less, I thanked him, cause in the end we got the approval. I got my mother’s office to send him the fax and we were assured we would get it back around 9 pm. This happened around 4 pm, which meant we had to get started immediately.

I called everybody involved in this and informed them that we did get the approval and it was time to get to work. I sent countless SMS and made phone calls. Karim’s friends called people and created banners that said “Islam against terrorism” and “Egypt against terrorism”. The people Nagla hooked me up with, the Andalus center Human rights activist headed by A., sent sms messages, called the media and created banners that held Osama Bin Ladin’s face with the words “Wanted by the Egyptian People” written underneath it, and other Posters with Ayman Al Zawahry with an “X” painted on it. It was beautiful. We were getting confirmation that the SMS campaign was a huge success, that people all The energy was high with everyone and we were incredibly excited.

And then I got a phone call at 11 pm from that Higher-up guy at National Security. He informed me that due to security issues related with the presidential nomination, and the protests that are sure to ensue, our Candle Light Vigil was canceled. I asked him how that was possible, especially that I got the approval just a few hours ago. He informed me that it was revoked, that his office was the only place that could grant such a permit anyway, and that I am advised to stop this thing immediately and not to go there.

I again pleaded for reason: It will be a peaceful Candle Light vigil inside the park. There will be no ruckus. It’s already too late to stop it, even if we wanted to. We don’t know who received our text messages or e-mails.

Just deal with it, he said. “It’s your responsibility”.

Again I pleaded “But don’t you understand that the media already has been alerted? They know this will happen. Now, instead of writing that there was a peaceful candlelight vigil against terrorism in Al Azhar Park, the story will be that the Egyptian authorities opposed an anti terrorism vigil at Al Azhar park. It will be a scandal”

He informed me that such a scandal is better to him then having a foreigner getting hurt or attacked at a peaceful candlelight Vigil at Al Azhar park. “With everything that’s going on, we can not ensure your or their safety. This thing can not be held. I know you understand. Have a good night!”


I didn’t know what to do. For like 10 minutes I just stood there, tearing up, not believing what just happened. What am I going to tell the others? How can we stop this? If there was really rowdy protests around that area tomorrow, and some foreigner we couldn’t reach on time went there and got hurt by protesters or by the security people, then it would be our fault wouldn’t it?

“Nope”, the little voice in the back of my head said: Not our fault. It’s my fault. I am the one who got the original go. I am the one that was assured approval. What the hell am I going to do now?

I decided to call my mother and inform her of what happened. Call someone, Oh mighty connected one. Find me a solution. Find me that deputy secretary of interior. Call Hosny Mubarak. I don’t care. Help me salvage this.

I went online and imed Karim and informed him of the developments. He was shocked and dismayed. “What the fuck? What is this flip-flopping bullshit? Is there anything that can be done”? he asked me. I told him that I was working on it. We decided we shouldn’t tell anybody so we don’t start a panic and wait just in case the situation gets resolved. I agreed, but I also decided that the responsible thing would be to call A. from Al Andalus and informed him. His reaction I did not expect.

” They can’t do this. It’s impossible to stop this. Fuck em. I am going to have it anyway. And if they stop us, the FrontPage of every newspaper on Saturday will be how the government stopped an anti- Terrorism protest from happening. Let’s see how they like a scandal!”

Oh No.

I urged him to calm down and wait till tomorrow. That I am looking for a solution, one that doesn’t require disgracing the image of our country more then it already is. He agreed and we hung up.


I didn’t want this. This wasn’t what I signed up for. I wanted to do this to make this country and its people look better. For the world to see that we are not like those fuckers who kill innocent people in the name of god. That we too oppose terrorism and fanaticism.

Instead, I found myself in a mess that I could not contain and was responsible for. Now, if this is not resolved by tomorrow, we have the working of a huge scandal on our hands. And it’s all because our security apparatus is run by a bunch of chicken littles. Scared rats that know they can’t secure anything and therefore avoid anything that me resemble a hint of trouble or has the word “protest” in it. And those are the people that handle our security. Jesus, if those people can not differentiate between an opposition riot and anti-terrorism vigil and silent protest then this country is in more trouble that I thought.

Feeling helpless, I called GM and told him what happened, and he was like “I bet you there are no protests tomorrow. Inform me if anything changes”. I then checked with my mom for updates, and still nothing. I decided that it was already too late and I was too tired to do anything. So I went to bed, without feeling a inch of hope for tomorrow.

To be continued

The Sandmonkey @ 12:29 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized
A prelude to a story

Posted on Friday 29 July 2005

I received this e-mail a couple of days ago from a reader called Janet.

I sent you an article about my friend, Kristina. She was the only American murdered during the Sharm el Sheikh bombings. While she was originally from Las Vegas, she lived here in Huntington Beach, California for the last several years.

I hired Kristina when she had graduated from high school and just turned 17. I relocated her to CA when I opened up the Southern CA office. She was with me for 10 years.

My husband and I were helping her through college while she remained working for us full time. Last January, she decided to take some time off and go to England and spend some time with her father and work there for awhile.

I loved her very much. I just can not seem to grasp any of this yet.

I support you and your friends very much in your protest against the terrorist violence committed in your country. While I can not be there, would you do me a favor and light a candle for Kristina and Keri, the man she was going to marry?

I will pray with you for peace. I will be there in spirit, if not in presence.


I know it sounds cheesy, but I was truly touched by this and part of me wanted to do this thing for this lady. She e-mailed a total stranger half way across the world to get a candle lit for her friend who died in the Sharm bombings. I am glad that despite all that has happened, her wish got granted after all.

The Sandmonkey @ 12:26 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized
It happend anyway

Posted on Friday 29 July 2005

Despite everything, the Vigil was held at Al Azhar park today.

The story comes soon.

The Sandmonkey @ 12:25 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Posted on Friday 29 July 2005




The Sandmonkey @ 2:49 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Posted on Thursday 28 July 2005

We have the Approval of the Security Authorities.

Our Candle Light Vigil for the Sharm El Sheikh victims is on.

Again for the new comers: It is from 6 to 9 in Al Azhar Park. We will provide the candles. Please come wearing white and try to arrive between 5 and 6 so we can start early. You can bring your own signs condemning the act and the terrorists (Nothing political please) and feel free to bring candles as well.

Please come and tell everyone you know to come as well!

Hope to see you there!

PS: Go to Big Pharaoh to see pictures of the place we chose, and to Karim’s for further details if any arise.

The Sandmonkey @ 5:08 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
The Candle Light Vigil update

Posted on Thursday 28 July 2005

We are proceeding as planned. We have initial National Security people’s approval, we have the site’s approval, and we have notified the media. All is going well, the only kink is getting the signiture of the Head of the National Security Agency on that permit, which is the one thing we are missing and the one thing we are working on.

Now, some people may wonder, what exactly is their problem? Why is this taking so long?

Well, apparently they are afraid for the following reasons:

1) The fact that President Mubarak will announce his running for President Today, which they suspect will unleash more terrorist attacks the moment the announcment is made.

2) The fact that the opposition is planning a march against the president at Al Azhar after Friday’s prayer that Friday, which the police fear may be infiltrated by islamists and may cause some ruckus or problems or clashes with our protest.

3) The fact that they are scared incompetent morons and they fear that something may happen to us during our protest in front of international media, and they can’t handle another international security failure.

Okay, the scared incompetent morons part is all me in the third reason, but the rest is true.

So, What to do? What to do?

Get in over their heads.

As I am writing this, some of us are making phonecalls to highly connected people to reach one highly connected individual, whose approval would just greenlight everything. It is the irony of all ironies that we might end up doing this because of him and his pull, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

On a seperate note, it is entirely too frustrating that doing something like what we are planning to do is so hard and taking so much time and effort on our part. After this is over, I am done with any kind of planning of any kind of event. Just through with it all. Just trying to make this event happen is consuming my time, raising my blood pressure and will probably get me fired from my job. And I am just trying to do something good for the country’s image,something that that is not political at all. I can’t even imagine the kind of shit Alaa goes through, but damn it, I have newfound respect for him.

Anyway, tommorow from 6 to 9. Wear white. We have the candles, we just need you to be there!

The Sandmonkey @ 12:30 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
40 goats for Chelsea clinton

Posted on Thursday 28 July 2005

I am glad I’ve finally found an english article on that topic, cause when i read it in the egyptian newspapers I fell on the floor laughing: It seems that a counciller in Nigeria likes Chelsea clinton and wants to marry her, so much that he offerd 40 goats and 20 beef cattles as dowery for her hand.

In 2000 when Chelsea, her father and mother, now Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton, visited East Africa, Chepkurgor, then a Fourth Year student at Moi University, tried to make his intention clear. He wrote to Clinton, offering himself as a suitor for Chelsea.

He offered to pay 20 head of beef cattle and 40 goats to the Clintons in accordance to African traditions. He also named as his referees, then President Moi, Maendeleo Ya Wanawake chairman Zipporah Kittony and the Chepkoilel Campus Principal, Prof Margaret Kamar. He also gave the names his two college mates, John Tanui and Joseph Siror.

He sent the letter through then Foreign Affairs minister Dr Bonaya Godana and then US Ambassador to Kenya Johnny Carson.

Naturally the US secret service people were not amused..

But, instead of the positive response he was anticipating, Chepkurgor received visitors from the National Security Intelligence Service (NSIS). His letter had sent security chiefs in a spin. It had been intercepted by the Foreign Affairs ministry and intelligence chiefs and he was summoned to a meeting with Godana.

National Security Intelligence Service officers began background checks on him both at his Kisanana village in Mogotio and at the university. They interrogated his family, villagers, university colleagues and lecturers.

So why didn’t he just ask Chelsea for her hand?

He said he wanted to marry Chelsea but could not discuss the matter with her because, in an African setting, such issues are dealt with by parents, elders and the prospective suitor. He added that he would travel to America to meet with the Clintons.

Oh, what I would do to be a fly on the wall at that meeting!

The Sandmonkey @ 12:05 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
American start troop pull-out by 2006?

Posted on Thursday 28 July 2005

It seems to be the case.

Not surprising really, Iraq has only problems in 4 out of its 18 provinces and with the current rate of Iraqi army training, they should be able to handle it.

Or at least, I hope so!

The Sandmonkey @ 12:03 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
Sharon inflicted with “Lashes of fire” curse!

Posted on Thursday 28 July 2005

Far right Jewish activists who are not happy with Sharon Ghaza disengagment plan but know they can’t unseat him are resorting to witchcraft to get rid of him. They cast a pulsa denura , aramaic for “Lashes of fire”, death curse on him.

Far-right activist Michael Ben-Horin explained that the point of the curse was to exempt a human from having to kill Ariel Sharon, allowing “the angels of destructions” to do it instead.

I would be worried if I were him though: Those same activists instigated that same spell several months prior to the assassination of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.


The Sandmonkey @ 12:01 am
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Will Iraqi women have fewer rights?

Posted on Wednesday 27 July 2005

I wrote before how the male religious leadership got women MP’s elected so that they can push for less women rights without making the men look , ehh, sexist. Well, while the new constitution isn’t finalized yet, it seems like their efforts are meeting some success.


The Sandmonkey @ 10:45 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized
Our Second protest: A candle Light Vigil this Friday

Posted on Wednesday 27 July 2005

We are having our second protest this Friday. I will be a Candlelight Vigil from 6 to 9 at Al Azhar Park. We have the Park’s permission and the Security permit is coming out today Insha allah. Please show–up at 5 pm to get on of our free T shirts as well.

Hope to see you there!

Update: My boys in Andalus got us an initial approval. This may go well after all!

Update: Okay, now i am confused. The asst. Minister of Interior- another person we asked for this permit- just informed my people that the whole thing was rejected. I am waiting for a National security agent to contact them so that they can inform me of the reason. It all seems vague now, but it seems to be related to the location: they don’t think it’s secure enough. They would rather we go and do it in Sharm El sheikh. Hmm.. We are still talking to them. Will update you when it is all clearer!

Update: Ok, the lobbying has intensified. We now have more then 3 national security officers on the case, trying to push for the head of national security’s approval. It’s just a matter of houres now, so I guess it’s time to play the waiting game. Oh, how much I hate the waiting game!

The Sandmonkey @ 10:21 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
The revoloution from the middle

Posted on Wednesday 27 July 2005

Nadz is back, and she is declaring a fatwa on right and left wing extreemism in a great rant.

We missed you sweetie!

The Sandmonkey @ 5:26 am
Filed under: Uncategorized