The format of a blog is meant to encourage discussion, and I'd be a fool to let your comments sit unanswered, so I'll do my best here.
1) From Matt Doyle: "Great to see your blog is back in action and I am going to link it to mine so we can try and increase our global influence."
Matt is one of my best buddies from Middlebury, and he's spending the summer in Honk Kong. When he studied abroad in China he kept a blog, which he's resuscitated for the summer. I recommend you all check it out here for lots of great insights into Chinese life. It's also posted on my blog-roll on the right column of this blog.
2) From Peggy Burns: "Any photos from Ras Shaitan?"
Go to the right hand column of my blog, open the 2006 tab, and click on the post titled "Cats, Camels, Ghosts, and More." As you scroll through, you'll see photos — the last I've taken — from Ras Shaitan and the Sinai. Or just click here to get to that post.
3) From Karen May: "How much alcohol is available in Cairo?"
Alcohol of all stripes is readily available throughout the city, though if you're looking for the high-quality stuff, you better be prepared to go the hotels and pay an arm and a leg.
There's a company in Cairo, a favorite among all expats, called Drinkies. Drinkies, which has outlets throughout the city, will deliver beer, wine, and hard alcohol until 2 in the morning. Beer is limited to two local brands, Saqqara and Stella, and Heineken. I tend to go for the Saqqara. The local wine is pretty bad, but hey, I'm 23, right? The hard stuff, from which I tend to steer clear, is all local and pretty awful.
Bars abound in Cairo because, I suspect, Egypt depends so much on the tourism industry. Interestingly, the bars, though not hidden, tend to keep the drinking invisible to the streets out of respect for the Muslim culture. Take, for example, my favorite local bar, Pub 28. It sits on a crowded streets and it advertises itself openly as a bar, but all the drinking is done behind a thick wooden door and frosted glass windows. This sort of concealment is common.
In the scheme of Arab countries, Egypt seems to sit right in the middle when it comes to drinking. Lebanon, by contrast, seems to have built a culture around drinking. Every corner store has copious supplies of beer and hard alcohol and many of the bars spill onto the sidewalks. Yemen, on the other hand, lies at the other end of the spectrum. When I visited Sana'a, I asked the management of my hotel, a French Mercure, whether they had any wine. Several gasps and awkward stares later, I was informed that Yemen was a dry country. I eventually found a couple of beers, in a convenience store, in a cooler hidden behind some local soda cans. From what I could tell, Syria and Jordan had adopted the Egyptian model, with low-key bars dotting a handful of street corners.
Finally, and most importantly, I was relieved discovered that I can, for 16 bucks a pop, get my bourbon fix at any of the major hotel chains here in Cairo (Are you reading this, Jim Gish?!). It's a little beyond the reach of a journalist's budget, but I think I'll treat myself to a nice Makers Mark every couple of months.
4) From Anonymous: "I am still trying to figure out IF I can figure out how to post a comment correctly...my last comment went only to me! .... Hoping this comment actually goes through!"
Anonymous, your comment did, in fact, go through. Thanks for writing. Next time, however, unless you want to remain a mystery, sign your name at the bottom!
5) From Tony May: "one: why is a camera man sitting in the front seat, designating a journalist to the "no leg room" section of the bus? second: is journalism REALLY a profession or really a time-honored way to have adventures? third: i am under the impression the library was never discovered.... so what did you really see to your right?"
As to your first question, I don't have a good answer for you! He took the front and that was that! Not even our intrepid reporter got front-seat status. I suppose the assistant-producer title doesn't get you more than a couple of nights at the Sheraton Alexandria on the company dime. And, hey, if I'd sat in the front, would I have had such a compelling story to tell?!
To your second question. As you've teased me about endlessly, I seem to have chosen a profession that is dying a slow death. To deny that international journalism really serves as a vehicle for adventuring would be to tell a lie. But if journalists weren't excited about the adventure, any international story could be covered from the safety and comfort of an air-conditioned office in downtown New York. It is precisely the allure of adventure that brings reporters to odd corners of remote countries with a willingness to dig for the fascinating story. Point it, adventure is the key ingredient that keeps a small band of wayward fools (note: dying profession) bringing the most important untold stories to your door every morning.
Finally, the Alexandria library of old is, in fact, lost to the passage of time. A bunch of years ago, though, Egypt contracted the building of a new library on the sea that opened in 2003. They meant it to be the modern incarnation of the ancient library. You can see a picture I found online here. It's not, as you can tell, meant to replicate the original library, but I imagine it was meant to recapture some of the remarkable innovation associated with its predecessor.
That's all from here. Please feel free to write in with more questions. Please also request any topic you'd like me to look into for a post.