29 Nov 2007

Sophia at play

26 Nov 2007

Sophia

Her many faces...
Cheeky





19 Nov 2007

Nile Cruise













A cruise is a wonderful way to see a country,as well as get to know people. The Nile is more than 900 miles long and it traverses the whole length of Egypt. Its headwaters are actually in Sudan. Our cruise ship had sailed from Aswan, which is in the south of Egypt and is now going down to the northern end of the African continent, towards Luxor, which at one time was called Thebes, where we will disembark. The passengers are a mixed group. 27 of us are guests of the Academy while the rest are from different tour groups. I met a couple - newly weds - from Penang, Lim and his wife, Chin. There were also Germans, French, Dutch, Spanish, Greek and Italians. There was also a couple from Tunisia, newly married too and Professor Marzak and his wife, Husna from Morrocco. The guests from the Academy included the Lebanese ladies - Suzanne and Leila and two more I don't know. Then there were the Hungarians (4 of them), as well Tom and his friend Jaime Ortiz from Texas A&T. Puan Sri and I managed to talk to some of them, and realized that Jaime Ortiz whom we thought was proud was actually quite shy. Above centre is our good looking guide, Adil. Apart from the passengers, I love the cruise itself. The Nle is a beautiful river - green fields of cocoa, cotton or sugar cane can be seen on its banks and the river itself is teeming with wild life. We saw lots of birds, ducks or mallards and water buffaloes. Unfortunately (or fortunately) there werent any crocodiles to be seen.

Visiting temples, Egypt

As you can see here the temples are huge. Imagine these were built by the ancient Egyptians thousands of years ago. And we think the West has all the technology. Its quite mind boggling, to think how they carried the huges stones and cut them to form these temples. This one is the temple of Hepshepkut, one of the powerful queens of Egypt. They were so ahead of us!



As you can see from the pictures, the temples are gigantuan. This is Karnak, one of the temples near Luxor or Thebes, as it was called in Roman times.

Luxor is a lovely place -cleaner, and more beautiful to me, than Cairo. It also has some big hotels, including the Hilton and Holiday Inn. A nice place for a holiday I think. Much of the land transport here from what I see are horse drawn open carriages.

17 Nov 2007

Aswan and Nile Cruise, Egypt










The Aswan dam is really big. Not as huge as the Hoover Dam in the Colorado, but its at least 4 km long - the dam itself. The lake which it formed is called Lake Nasser, after the Egyptian president who went all out to have it built. The original dam was built by British engineers but after the 1970s it became too inefficient to control the severe flooding of the Nile so the Egyptian govt decided to build another one, with the help of the Soviets. Lake Nasser is really huge - so huge you can't see its banks. The guide told us that its the biggest man made lake in the world. From the plane it did look enormous - more like an inland sea.


Our cruise ship was the Nile Ruby. It's like a floating hotel, complete with gym, swimming pool and jacuzzi, two bars, a large dining room and shops. Repin and I had a comfortable room, with a large queen bed and sofas. Our ship would only sail tonight at 3.00 am so we were told to enjoy Aswan town on our own. Repin and I went for a ride in an pen carriage - but the poor horse was so skinny and under nourished we both changed our minds and told the driver to take us back to the ship. I bought the horse an apple, hoping that would at least keep the poor animal from starving but I'm bluffing myself. I'm sure it wont last very long. I've noticed this about many Arabs and Egyptians in general - they don't really care much for animals. They don't keep pets - not as far as I can see. There were'nt any cats anywhere in Mansoora.


The Nile itself is beautiful here. Lots of green on both sides of the banks. From what I can see there are banana plantations, mangoes as well as dates.


On the second night on board I got a shock of my life. Going back to the room after dinner I saw this thing hanging from my ceiling. Repin wasn't with me so I was really scared. Thought someone was trying to frighten us. But after some enquiries I found out that the others got it too - Puan sri got the same thing -towels hanging from the ceiling.



16 Nov 2007

Nile Cruise, Egypt


It was early the next morning that we flew to Aswan. Flight was at 5.30 am so we had to be at the airport by 3.00 am! By 2.00 in the morning we were all ready at the lobby, some looking perky and fresh but some like En Omar, looking as if he had just gotten up from bed. There was a belly dancing show going on upstairs so Prof Shaari and myself decided to go up and take a look. Hmm... very sexy. Wish I had a camera but Repin was carrying it.
Sayeed again took us to the airport, driving as if there was a demon on his tail - through the silent Cairo streets. It was such a nice change from the usual noise and crowd that I quite enjoyed looking at the houses as he wheezed by.
The flight was on time and we all piled on to the plane. Not small as I had envisioned - a 737 A300. And it was quite full too. I saw that most of the conference delegates were also there, which meant that we were not the only ones going. Slept for a bit on the plane but woke up just before sunrise to see a pearly dawn touching the eastern sky. Far below I can see the Nile snaking along, green on both sides but just beyond that the relentless desert creeps along.
Just before we landed I can see a huge lake, so large it looked like a sea. I guess that must be the Aswan Dam.

15 Nov 2007

Khan El Khalili, Cairo


This is part of the oldest university in the Islamic world - Al Azhar University. Its actually right next to Khan El Khalili.

Khan El Khalili is actually a sprawling bazaar. Its a labyrinth of little shops interconnected to each other by narrow lanes. Prices are anywhere from 1 Egyptian pound to 1000s. It can one thing at one shop and another in another shop. So buyers beware - you really have to bargain and be canny among these Arab shopkeepers. They may skin you alive!!


Its so crowded Puan Sri and I decided not to go inside its bustling depths. We decided to be practical and avoid all the hassle and jostling by staying outside - hmm cowards maybe?

Back to Cairo




The Sphinx




We went back to Cairo on 14 November. The journey took slightly more than two hours - fairly interesting views along the way. Much of Egypt is desert and the main source of water is the Nile. We passed it numerous times, driving beside it for a few miles and then along canals or waterways which also provided irrigation to the farms. There were lots of farms along the way - I think agriculture is the mainstay of the economy. There were also vineyards from what I can see. Corn, barley, rice and fruits as well as vegetables were also abundant.
Arriving in Cairo around just before 3.00pm, we were caught in what looks like rush hour traffic. But Sayeed the driver said that it is always like this - congestion or jams occur practically at all times of the day. I didn't see much of Cairo last time but today we get to see more. Lots of tall buildings - some very new and modern but others mainly residences or blocks of flats from the utilitarian designs. Crowds everywhere, cars and vans and buses jostle for space on the roads and movement is practically snail space. We arrive at the hotel at sharp 3.15. Its quite nice from the outside, though I think its 3 star. After checking in we were told to come back down immediately for our trip to the pyramids at Giza, which closes at 4pm.


The Pyramids are like nothing I've imagined. Even from a distance they look awesome, rising out of the desert like some aliens had built them . We were dropped at a vantage point where we could see all three pyramids at once. Imagine they were built by Egyptian slaves thousands of years ago. The largest pyramid was the pyramid of King Cheops - standing at more than 500 m.
Sayeed had to leave us there because vehicles weren't allowed in after 3.30pm. So we had to walk down to the entrance. That was a long walk - almost 3 km of walking in the desert. Imagine if you were lost! Luckily it was cool, inspite of the sun. Temperature must be around 17 degrees celsus.

12 Nov 2007

Mansoura, Egypt







We arrived at Mansoura probably around 10 something, but I can't really remember the time mainly because I felt quite disoriented. Our hotel seems ok enough - not the best but pleasant and clean. This is a view of the Nile from my room. Beautiful in the early dawn.
Mansoura is still crowded though probably less so as compared to Cairo. All the buildings seem pretty old. Even the cars were very old. I don't want to sound too critical but the whole place looked as if it lacked care and maintenance. The streets were dirty and dusty, the buildings even more so. People were everywhere. Even though the Nile flowed through the city, there seemed to be little care for it. Not that there was rubbish or whatever, its just that they could have planted flowers to brighten up the place. But beautification doesn't seem to be an important issue with the Egyptians. There was a garden of sorts near the banks of the river but Dina, the sweet young executive who took us around, said we could not walk there because it belonged to a club and only members could walk there. Isn't that a shame? They've got a beautiful park along the river but its not public.
We made a stop to look at some shops but most of the goods inside were not really appealing to either of us. However not to disappoint out pretty guide we both bought scarves at one of the shops she took us. The price was okay but the shops were dingy and poorly lighted so they didnt really encourage buying. Even the goods appeared old and dusty. I wonder if they have any modern shops but according to Dina, all their shops looked like that. My overall impression of Mansoura is that its too crowded and people are more concerned about the day to day living than to pretty up a place that would not bring money? Maybe that sounded harsh but it could be pretty, given some care.

Cairo, Egypt

Going to Cairo we travelled First class - my first experience travelling in this part of the plane. We had really posh seats - it can be turned into a massage chair at the push of a button and can also be changed into a bed of sorts if you wanted to sleep. We have our own mini bar beside our chair and if we wanted privacy we could raise the thin plastic wall between us. Since I sat beside Repin, of course I didnt want privacy. We even had out own steward to cater to our whims! He taught me to use the massager and the tv. Food was excellent - I ordered something typically arab, which included lots of herbs and some kinds of paste - kind of an appetizer. Can't remember the name though.
We landed in Cairo on time but there was a delay getting our baggage - the airport is old and reminded me of some colonial place. And the crowd! I've never seen so many people in one place except when I was doing my haj. Really, there were people everywhere. All colours, though mainly Arabs. And the noise - it fairly made my head turn. Mahmoud was waiting for us as soon as we left Immigration and after the hugging and the salaams, quicky ushered us out to some vehicles outside. But although the cars and van were already waiting, there appeared to be something else amiss because Mahmood was arguing with somebody for some time before we could actually move out.
My first impressions of Cairo? Lots of tall buildings which appeared to be flats, crowded and dirty - a bit like Jakarta and Delhi put together. Seen from the air it looked like a large sprawling city with the desert encroaching it at every corner. But we're not staying in Cairo - so will give my impressions later when I see it for real.
From Cairo we moved out to Mansoura - a city about 200km north of Cairo, smaller and maybe less crowded.

11 Nov 2007

Dubai




We're finally off to Egypt - the trip I've been waiting for. We're travelling business class - wow! First stop was Dubai and we arrived there very early in the morning. I think we checked into the hotel - Taj Dubai at about 6.30 am. Since we had half a day in Dubai, we decided not to waste time but to go out sight seeing immediately. So after checking in we quickly changed and went off. First to see was the Burj Al Arab - a tall and stately structure that stands out in the horizon. Dubai is so modern - and souless. Everything is new and squeeky clean - you cant see anything older than 10 years anywhere in sight! Even the cars are large, modern and √Āmerican. In fact I think many parts of the city look like some parts of LA - the nicer parts. There is a lot of construction going on - never have I seen so many new construction sites and cranes as in this place. But you can't deny that it is beautiful - manicured lawns - looking so green you can't believe that this was once a desert. Somehow though I feel it lacks something - character. But the place is shiny and dazzling - like a beautiful new toy belonging to a rich child.

6 Nov 2007

OUM Raya Open House

The setting was lovely - over the pond and beside the waterfall was the dais upon which stood the musicians. The platform itself was decorated simply but beautifully with large bouquets of white roses and crocuses, also white. There were roses everywhere - at every corner of the platform. All in the same tall and elegant pots, decorated with ferns and roses.
There must have been at least a hundred tables and there were so many people. Most of the staff who knew me came and said hi or shook hands or salaamed. The food of course was mediocre - we were at the VIP table so food was served. However the rest of the staff - as Dr John Arul said - the phlebians - had the honour of picking and choosing their own food at the fantastic buffet at the back of the garage. Of course we could have taken the food there but I was too lazy to get up and anyway its only food. However the singers more than made up for it. One of them was Haziq, who was in last year's AF. Farhan was also there as was The Singing Shop, courtesy of Tan Sri Azman. Most of the staff were dressed up to the nines - in their raya clothes. Some brought children along and since it was also a Deepavali thing - most of the Indian staff were also there. I saw Kul with her two daughters - she introduced them to Jean, who was the guest of honour. Jean came during the UMNO general assembly so she had to wear the UMNO uniform - red and white. She looks like a fairly nice and simple person - down to earth and friendly, unlike the PM's late wife. Things went on until fairly late in the afternoon so I made my excuses and went back to Pohling's to again take up my role as child minder!

3 Nov 2007

The fish pond

Home at last in Malacca. Its so sad really looking at my waterfall and the so-called fish pond. No more fishes inside - just a load of tadpoles! Some stupid frog managed to lay eggs in my pond and this morning when I looked there must have been hundreds of tadpoles inside it. There were so many tadpoles even the little guppies I put inside to ward of mosquitoes seem afraid. Sigh... I guess I have to empty the water and let it be empty until there comes a time when I can really stay put in this place and rear some beautiful koi. I really miss looking at them, especially in the morning when it comes time for feeding. Maybe I'll persuade Repin to get one or two to put in the pond. At least that way it wouldn't look so bare. A fish pond without fish is so sad.

1 Nov 2007

More Books

Now reading Jennifer Weiner - her early books were Little Earthquakes, In her Shoes and Good in Bed. I've read all three and find her quite engrossing and sometimes funny. She has an interesting outlook on life's little quirks and may be an entertaining read on days when you don't have much to do. The latest - Goodnight Nobody - is like the first one in a way. Its about young mother of three, Kate Klein, with no good husband trying to get a grip on her marriage whilst balancing her daily routine of sending children to school, watching her youngest at the playground and trying hard to keep husband Ben stay interested in the marriage. This at least until one day she stops over at her friend Kitty's and finds her dead - with a knife in her stomach. In spite of what the police chief said Kate decides to play detective and tries to find out more about the dead Kitty. She uncovers quite a lot of unpleasant things - not only about Kitty, but also about the nice , white picket fence neighbourhood she lives in. Hmmm... read the book if you want to know more! Reads abit like Desperate Housewives without the glamour.


Revisited my favourite romance writer - Nora Roberts. Have just read some of her newer novels, the last was Angel Falls. This is more like Northern Lights, one of her previous books or Blue Smoke. Lots of detective work and suspense. Somehow I prefer her older books such as the trilogy - Born in Fire, Born in Ice and Born in Shame. and the Chesapeake Bay Quartet. In these novels she shows the research that she has done on every aspect of the stories - the glass making business in Born In Fire and small town life in the Chesapeake bay stories about the Quinn brothers. The characters have greater depth, even the lesser characters. She has expanded into the realms of fantasy in her latest series - The Circle Trilogy : Morrigan's Cross, Dance of the Gods and Valley of Silence. Of course she can never beat Lord of the Rings in its depth and richness but for a starter I guess its ok.

Sophia


My cherub of a grand daughter is now 3 plus months and she can turn on her stomach no less. However it stops there and once turned she grunts a bit for want of something better to do! A few minutes later or seconds if she's grumpy, she'll call for help in her inimitable way.
Among other things - she now cries more when she wants attention, she also laughs just as much. Have not yet decided if she prefers milk in the bottle or mum's milk - most times mummy's best but at times even mummy loses. Even at this age she knows how to wrap you around her little fingers - me especially! Here she is,looking for all you know like a six month old, perching from her pram.