Saturday, 25 December 2010

Fix your accent.

The small cup is suddenly a medium, and the weather is almost always in the double digits, even if it feels cold. These are the signs of being in America. I'm currently in Florida, on a family vacation. Normally, I would never take a trip with my mother, my two bratty little sisters, my aunt, her granddaughter, my nephew, my other aunt and her two sons, but since being in Canada (specifically Winnipeg) was making my hands feel like sand paper that's never getting softer even after constant use, I decided to get some sun. A part of me secretly wanted to visit Disney and Universal Studios again, it has been 13 years since my last visit and I adore rides.

Florida really is a swamp. The water tastes like it's straight out of the sewer. I attempt to keep my mouth completely closed when showering because I am constantly gagging.

Everywhere you go in Orlando, there are numerous restaurants and stores with wood as opposed to glass for windows. Closed up, probably due to the recession. West Palm Beach does not look as affected - its restaurants and shoppes are packed. But the senior citizens definitely overpower the amount of youth and so do the Lexuses and Mercedes.

*Photos taken in West Palm Beach

Friday, 24 December 2010 UPDATED

I'm currently in Florida, with limited to terrible internet access that I am squeezing through freelance work, personal projects, and visits to theme parks, but it's important that I end off the year 2010 with a top music playlist. Last year, I compiled a list of songs that were descriptions of my feelings during every month of '09. This year, I'm being lazy, mainly because 2010 passed by so fast I can't even remember how I felt every month and what I had on loop, and also because the past four months have been confusing to say the least. Regardless, here's my list. Some of these may not have been released in 2010 but, whatevs. Happy Holidays!

*Songs are in no particular order.
**I just noticed that the 2009 post was posted on December 24, 2009.
****SORRY FOR THE caps.
  1. Ariel's Pink Haunted Graffiti - Round and Round (I know, I know, I'm agreeing with Pitchfork)
  2. Miami Horror - Holidays
  3. Tokyo Police Club - Favourite Colour (PUNCHES Remix)
  4. Atlas Sound - Wild Love
  5. The Radio Dept. - Heaven's On Fire (acoustic)
  6. Black Strobe - Me & Madonna (The Twelves Remix)
  7. Justus Kohncke with Alexis Taylor - Sorry
  8. Jolie Cherie - Insomnie
  9. Azari & III - Into the night
  10. Girl Talk - On and on
  11. Girl Talk - This is the remix
  12. Summer Camp - Round the Moon
  13. The Narcicyst - Mister Arab
  14. MGMT - Congratulations (Erol Alkan Rework)
  15. Jupiter - Starlighter
  16. Cocteau Twins - Sugar hiccup
  17. Twin Shadow - At my heels
  18. Tamer Hosny - Yana Ya Mafesh
  19. Elissa - Masdoma
  20. Jens Lekman - Maples Leaves (EP Version)
  21. Broken Social Scene - All to All
  22. Kavinsky - Nightcall (Breakbot remix)
  23. The Pipettes - Our Love Was Saved by Spacemen
  24. Caribou - Odessa
  25. Thieves Like Us - Never Known Love
  26. Breakbot - Baby I'm Yours
  27. Passion Pit - The Reeling
  28. Blue Scholars - New People (Empire Remix)
  29. Hussein Jasmi - Seta El Sobh
  30. Toro y moi - Talamak
  31. Deerhunter - Helicopter (Star Slinger Remix)

Friday, 26 November 2010

The most wanted ipad app

Since the launch of the Apple ipad back in April (more imitations to follow), more and more people are opting to download digital books and substituting the physical book for the ipad. This disappoints me for a number of reasons, mainly because with the ipad (or kindle, etc), you can't be a thumb licking page turner. I mean, the mundane act of watching someone read a book is made very entertaining when said person licks their thumb, index finger, or whichever one, to turn the page, but with the ipad, this humourous act is completely eliminated. So I started thinking and sketching a digital solution to an analog action, and came up with an app which, I hope one day will be developed (sorry I don't have these skills) in order to make reading books on electronic devices entertaining for those of us who still like to carry a book, turn a page and admire other aspects of this ancient communication tool.

Enter "Thumb licker", an app for the ipad that gives you that old school thumb licking/page turning feeling with a new school feel. Coming soon to the app store.

Monday, 22 November 2010

This is...

No wonder my bag is always so heavy.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

no option for extension

It's hard to imagine that today marks five years since she felt that feeling. Five years and everything since has been temporary. Her memory recalls the day vividly - even the clothes she wore, the accessory she had on her backpack, and the way she wandered around aimlessly, confused and unable to understand why she had done what she had done, but she knew it had to be done. She wonders if she's the only one who remembers this date, but it doesn't matter because here she is, five years later, still looking for that feeling, that feeling of permanency.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Until then

She loves to put us down. All of us, not just me. "I won't tell you what people said about you, because I'm ashamed to tell you and hurt your feelings." I know deep down it isn't people, but it's her thoughts of me, what she thinks of me. I sense it in her voice, in her mannerisms. This is the reason why I feel like a television screen in the background when I speak to her, a program on mute, an image. I go to sleep hoping that in the morning what I saw, heard and felt was not true, but who am I kidding? I click next and next and next, I listen to conversation after conversation after conversation, all praising the most important people in one's life, and I wish, one day, I could participate. Until then, I keep pretending.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Inhale, like always

She took a puff of her cigarette and said, "I have to tell you something".
I knew what she was going to say. She tries to be diplomatic but it's that smugness, that patrician smugness, one she isn't entitled too that comes out. I look at her and feel uncomfortable, like I always do. Silence, the awkward one. When she tells me what I knew she was going to tell me, I nod and say "yeah". I've heard it before. And then I think to myself, maybe she should add a "just sayin" at the end, to make her seem less arrogant.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Kifak inta?

The hot Iberian sun shines directly in my face, and I walk around squinting my eyes. I look at my phone to check the's only 11am. I take it as a "welcome back" and I do nothing to stop the change in my facial expressions from extreme fatigue and squinting into happiness. I'm not a dreamer but when I dream, I dream of living in Spain.
The Basque
This trip would mark my third to the Iberian Peninsula. The first time, my family and I walked around Madrid, a visit I only remember through photographs of me running around chasing pigeons, throwing my arms up in the air or clutched in my father's arms with a large Rain Man poster above us or an El Corte Inglés sign in the background. More than twenty years later, I find myself scrambling to find the meeting place and stop in front of the exact same El Corte Inglés sign and attempt to recreate the photograph I remember vividly.

Replace the "Sex and the City 2" poster with "Rain Man" circa 1988 - Madrid

El Corte Inglés - Madrid

The second trip was, and will always be, the only family trip I have ever enjoyed. With my father acting as a historical tour guide, we exhausted our feet touring all of Andalusia. If there's something you need to do before you die, it is visiting Andalusia.

The Basque

My most recent trip included stops in Madrid, the Basque, and Barcelona. Offering independence to the latter two? Not on the agenda. But attempting to learn about their struggle/ideals definitely was.

The Basque

I arrive on July 11th, the date of the World Cup final (Spain vs Netherlands). I am set to go to the Basque country on the same day and understand how disrespectful a celebration of a Spanish victory would be to my hosts. A quiet celebration takes place, despite the Netherlands always being my number one team (Italy #2 - no one looks that good not scoring goals, Spain #3), when in Spain, cheer for the Spaniards!

Surprisingly, the Basque was filled with sameness. The men and women had similar hair cuts, piercings and style. Even the children had pseudo mullets. The biggest difficulty, alongside the enormous amount of rainy days, was language. No one spoke English, or French, and they had a certain dégoût for speaking Spanish (the ones I met anyway). I do not speak Spanish, but if spoken to, I can understand most of what is being said. The Basque people speak euskara, and unfortunately, it is difficult attempting to make up anything they said - especially in a small town. It's even more surprising that I managed to have an hour long conversation with a 70-year old coffee shop owner about the history of the town and about Moshe Dayan. Luckily, he had visual aids to help present his point, including putting his palm over his eye.

Donostia-San Sebastián

The Basque country is a beautiful place: the greenery that spread all over the mountains overlooking the beach in Donostia-San Sebastián, the hospitality of the people, and the fact that they are a wonderfully united community. Stylish teenagers, the ones you categorize into people who only seem to care about popularity, clothes, and "existentialism" were very aware of the Basque struggle and, better yet, active within community events. This was a shock, especially after coming from such a politicized place like the West Bank where many teenagers and twenty something steered away from politics and focused mostly on friends and music.


Once my time in the Basque is over, I take a trip to Barcelona for a few days before having to take my flight to Jordania from Madrid. Unfortunately, I only managed to enjoy being care free in Barcelona for a few hours because as we sat listening to Fairuz at the Arc de Triomphe, my bag, containing too many passports and id cards, got stolen. The moment I felt Palestinian (stateless) was when I had to walk into the Canadian consulate without a single piece of identification proving my citizenship and figure out how I can convince them I am Canadian in order for me to get a passport. Luckily, I found a scanned copy of my passport in my google docs (saviour) and I had my application sped up from 24-48 hours to 6 hours due to the urgent nature of the request. I managed to enjoy the rest of the day in Barcelona on foot checking out Gaudí's architecture and getting lost with my two [fantastic] companions.

I have never lost my wallet, credit card, money, or even a metro pass, or gotten anything stolen except a bag in Montreal that contained only my ipod which was taken when our rental car was broken into by some separatists (note: do not drive an Ontario license plate car in some areas of Montreal). It was not only shocking and upsetting to have all these belongings stolen and be left with nothing in a foreign country.
On my flight to Jordania the idea of this adventure coming to a close began to hit me, although I had almost a month and a half left. My plan A (what I would upon my return) failed and I had no plan B or C, but I did not regret a minute of this trip. I had met too many wonderful people, experienced a multitude of cultures, had a fatwa issued against me (Nablus), got held up for too many hours at checkpoints, and dipped my feet in many parts of the Mediterranean sea, amongst other things. But the idea or guilt of uncertainty starts to consume you, especially when you're asked in emails from friends "when are you coming back? and what's your plan?" After 1 year or so of not planning, it's biting me in the ass, I guess.

Sunday, 3 October 2010


Being a last minute person is organizing a trip to Lebanon the night before boarding a flight to Beirut. But I wasn't the person who organized this trip. I had to fly out to Spain from Jordan so the last minute planning of the Lebanon trip meant it was going to be a short stay and I was determined to make the most out of it.
Our flight was shorter than the drive to the airport and upon arrival, we are greeted by a Lebanese woman who defines the sentence "your typical idea of..." She comes bearing 8 inch stilettos (it's 11am), a pearl tie (yes, pearl), long, straight, jet black hair, and, wait for it...a diamond in her tooth. Mish Mish, our driver, is a young woman from Jounieh who greeted us with "hi, keefkom, ca va?" but spoke no French, and no English. I'm in love with the city and I just arrived!
On the road, billboards and posters commemorating Ayatollah Fadlallah lined the streets. Mish Mish drives us to our hotel, which, unknown to us, is in the Rawsheh area (right on the beach). We were ecstatic, until the receptionist tells us that it's actually the one in Al-Hamra (downtown, and equally as fantastic). Our driver becomes enraged and begins to curse and yell in the car. She hates driving in Al-Hamra's traffic. As we drive, I spot a friend I met in Cairo who lives in the US walking down the streets. She squeezes into the car with us and states the obvious: our driver is lost, and has been for over an hour. We finally get to the hotel and get rid of our ill mouthed driver, who expects us to use her services again.
Al-Hamra is bursting with energy, and Beirut's streets are filled with scars of the war and renovated Ottoman buildings. The food is fantastic, the people are lively, and the place is flooded with contradictions. I could walk on the beautiful streets and the corniche for hours, hours I unfortunately, did not have.
For years I've been looking forward to pay Beirut a visit, and I vowed I would not leave before I visited the Shatila camp. My friend provided us with a contact who was able to take us in the camp. I've had the opportunity to visit a number of refugee camps, but Shatila was one of the saddest ones I've been too. The electrical wires dangerously hang from the homes and destroyed buildings (such as the old PLO offices) are a constant reminder of the war.
Shatila camp
The mass graves of the victims of the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre (only photo I could get)

At night, we head to rue Solidaire and watch Spain beat Germany to clinch a spot in the World Cup finals and realize, we'll be in Spain for that game.

The next day we jump into a cab with a driver we met the night before. He offered to accommodate our brief schedule and take us to Jeita, Jbeil (Byblos) and Harissa for $150USD, after bargaining. Our first stop is the Jeita grotto, the magnificent crystallized limestone caves. Photography was prohibited because it supposedly damages the caves, although the entire park is sponsored by Kodak. Ironic? The Arab world is filled with irony. And contradictions. If you're ever in Lebanon, Jeita is a must-see.
View from the top of Harissa
The second stop was Harissa, home to the enormous status of the virgin Mary on the very top of the mountain. The cold breeze was a nice change to the humidity that filled the Beirut air. It's crazy how much Harissa resembles Haifa, and the journey to the top of the mountain via téléphérique only brought back memories of climbing Haifa's many stairs during shabbatt.


Our third and final stop was in Byblos, a city I've wanted to visit for a long time. I felt like I was teleported back to the old city of Akka as the two looked very much alike. After eating fish and buying a few old postcards (exactly as I did in Akka), we returned to Beirut.

I am an energetic person, be it on vacation or during regular days of life. I attempt to cover as much as possible in the short periods of time I have. My brief stay in Lebanon could not be fulfilled without a stop to the ocean where we found ourselves the only women sans boob jobs or nose jobs. I almost wanted to buy those Vicks strips to put on top of my nose and pretend I had one (kidding!). After gaining a few more freckles, I squeezed in a visit to one of Beirut's many bookshops where I had to remember that I was only allocated 23kg.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Guide to being [really] Arab: Kasak Ya Watan, Duraid Lahham

I thought I'd share with you one of my favourite videos, an absolutely fantastic satire on the state of the Arab world. The character Ghawar is speaking to his father, a martyr, updating him on the Arab world. At first, Ghawar tells his father what he wants to hear (the region has become one country). He tells him that he had breakfast in Baghdad, dinner in Khartoum and is speaking to him from Abu Dhabi). He continues, sarcastically, with the PanArab idea, and finally, admits to the realities of the situation.
*The clip is in Arabic

Tuesday, 21 September 2010


The weather was boiling, and the car was much worse. We hopped in anyway because the bus takes far too long and drove the desert highway with a bottle of water in the back, just in case the engine heats up. We pass old caves and huts and stop on the side of the road to capture the view with our cameras.
My stomach is growling and I wonder why we didn't stop for food before. We find a burger shack, sort of like the chip wagons that rest on the side of the sidewalk in front of office buildings, waiting for hungry nine to fivers to get grease on their Tip-Top ties. Just my luck, the luck I don't have, the burger shack is closed. The man on the bench tells me a relative of the owner died, so he's not coming. "Allah yirhamo", I say, and we walk away. I try not to think about the fact that I'm running on coffee in 40 degree weather and walk.

Petra is over 2,000 years old (although the exact time of when it was built is not known). A once lost city (not really lost, just not known to Western civilization but inhabited by the bedouins of the area) built by the Nabataeans, it prospered as the capital of the Nabataean Empire from the 1st century BC.
The intricate facades sculpted into the sandstone red-rose coloured cliffs are magnificent and incredibly preserved. I take my mind off the hunger and focus on how [ancient civilizations] used to build and sculpt things. Ancient civilizations baffle me. What's even more baffling is the fact that this place used to have water...any trace of that is completely gone, just like they thought Petra was. I'm in no mood for history lessons, this is all you need to know.

Monday, 6 September 2010


It was my last day in Nablus, and although I'm not much for Roman ruins, I really had a desire to see Sabastiya, an ancient city about 15 minutes away from Nablus. My roommates and I climb into an old service which will get us to the steps of the ruins for four shekels. The service driver warns us that it may be difficult to find a way out of this city, but we take our chances anyways knowing full well this is Palestine - a taxi, service or a good samaritan is not far from where you are.
A restaurant and a gift shop that reminds me of the one used frequently by Elia Suleiman in his films is on the right hand side. We begin walking and taking photos of the ruins, like tourists do. Once we reach the amphitheatre, a young boy begins to follow us. Our "no thanks" and "leave us alone" does not work on him, he's persistent. He begins giving us a tour and showing us things we may have missed. He tells us about the new discoveries, how much of the ruins have been stolen and sold to Israelis, how the park is closed when settlers come and visit (it is a national park for settlers - their settlement is visible from Sabastiya). The boy isn't much for the history of the place, just the history of what happened recently. The ancient city seems abandoned again, until you arrive to the "downtown" of the village of Sabastiya. The kid tells me many tourists come by, just not today.
The Basilica and Forum

I have not heard much about this city, it's not advertised as much as other places with Roman ruins, nor am I familiar with its history, but after my visit, I read up on it, so I'll give you a briefing.
The theatre

Sabastiya is a city built on a hill on the ancient site of Samaria. It has been conquered, destroyed and rebuilt numerous times (sounds like Palestine to me). The early settlements date to the Early Bronze Age and the rocky summit of the hill was the centre of an extensive wine and oil production area since the Iron Age.
The Church of the Discovery

Under the rule of King Omri, a citadel on the acropolis was built. King Omri bought the hill from Shemer and moved his capital there, calling it Samaria. The city expanded its commercial and social relations with the Phoenicians when Omri's son, King Ahab, married the Phoenician Princess Jezebel.
The region has seen many conquerors including the Assyrian empire where the city was rebuilt by King Sargon II and re-populated. The town was transformed into a Hellenistic one by Alexander the Great when thousands of Macedonian soldiers settled there. The city was destroyed by the Maccabaean King John Hyrcanus in 108 BC. When Pompey conquered Jerusalem, the city was annexed to the Roman province of Syria and rebuilt in 57-55BC by Gabinius.
The columned street
In 30BC, the Roman Emperor Augustus awarded the city to Herod the Great who named it "Sebaste" in honour of Augustus (Sebaste is Augusta in Greek). The city grew to feature a temple dedicated to Augustus, a stadium, theatre and refortified the city with a larger wall.
The mosque

After Herod's death, his son Archelaus ruled the city until he was sent into exile by Augustus in AD 6. Roman Emperor Septimius Severus rebuilt the city at the end of the 2nd century when it was established as the colony of Lucia Septimia Sebaste. The current remains of present Sabastiya date from this period.
They told me this is John the Baptist's jail cell
Christianity soon spread all over the region of Samaria (in the first centuries AD), following that, an invasion by the Muslim army led to the city's submission to the army of Amr ibn al'As in 634AD. Upon the arrival of the crusades, the Byzantine church where John the Baptist's tomb lies, which was in ruins during this period, was rebuilt to be more magnificent then ever. In 1187, Sabastiya submitted to Saladin's nephew, Husam ed-Din Muhammad who transformed the cathedral into a mosque and dedicated it to Prophet Yahia (John the Baptist in Islam).
The ancient city was abandoned for many centuries and many of its monuments were never recovered.
I was disappointed to see the state in which the ruins lie. Graffiti filled the walls, garbage lined the floor of the mosque, and there was no proper lighting at night (it's no Baalbek temple). The owners of the gift shop tell me that despite this being a Palestinian town, the park is not under Palestinian control. It is run by the Israelis, and they do not maintain it. It's as if this park has been ignored, even though settlers come here all the time. It's strange...the whole time I thought this park must have been operated by the Palestinians because it is poorly maintained (the unfortunate reality that many historical places lack maintenance in the West Bank), but here these residents are telling me that because it is in Palestinian territory, it is ignored and Palestinians are forbidden for cleaning or maintaining it. Scapegoating.
As we get ready to leave, our "tour guide" invites us to his family's store. We buy water, I give him a tip, and then we are invited to a big party they are preparing for. "People from Jaffa are coming, you must join us!" The man tells us. We politely decline because we have plans for dinner, and I hesitantly leave Sabastiya. The truth is, I want to stay for the party. Maybe another time.