Saturday, January 29, 2011

Photo Nostalgia: Cairo, 2007 (part 1)

Given the ongoing developments in the Middle East, my mind has been brought back again and again this week to my stay in Cairo. The Egyptian capital bookended my time in "mainland" Egypt, which was largely spent in Luxor, far to the south. What follows is the first part of my time in Cairo; the pyramids will be the subject of a subsequent post.
Sunday morning in Coptic Cairo, the oldest part of a very old city. These steps lead not to a "Coptic" church, but to the Greek Orthodox church. Most of the Coptic churches were actually below ground in submerged alleyways.

The cemetery in Coptic Cairo

An ancient synagogue in Coptic Cairo (note the security cameras)

Entrance to the subterranean St. Sergius Church, which is built over the traditional site of the Holy Family's stay in Egypt.

Coptic Cairo (I can't remember the building in the background... possibly the Coptic Museum but my memory fails me)

The Hanging Church, one of the most famous places in Cairo

Midan Tahrir [Tahrir Square], which has been the main sight of protests in 2011

The pink facade of the Egyptian Museum; I was very pleased to read that young men linked arms around the museum to spare its contents from rioting [it's extremely close to Midan Tahrir]

A royal mummy (note - you have to pay more than the admission price itself just to enter the mummy room... about US$20. It's worth it.)

The main hall of the museum (note - they have metal detectors at the front, and you're not supposed to bring in cameras; I presented my underwater camera from my time in Sinai as my only camera and they let me through... dishonest, undoubtedly)

A river that needs no introduction, from the Corniche alongside

Qasr al Baron in the fashionable suburb of Heliopolis, easily one of the weirdest buildings in the Middle East (it resembles Cambodia's Ankor Wat more than anything else).

The landmark Catholic church in Heliopolis, dominating an intersection.

The staple of Egypt, kushari (rice, lentils, macaroni, chickpeas, and an Egyptian version of "salsa"). Most places sell heaping quantities for less than US$1.

Khan el-Khalili in Islamic Cairo, one of the most famous souqs in the world.

El Fishawy's coffeehouse (very famous)

My host in Cairo was Ken from Pittsburgh; we met in Jerusalem, where he was on vacation from his English teaching job in Cairo. We're at El Fishawy's. Please forgive the sweat stain on my shirt - it was only about 100 degrees.

Islamic Cairo (possibly al-Muizz Street, one of the oldest streets in Cairo, and therefore, the world)

Al-Azhar Mosque, home to one of the 2 oldest universities in the world (10th century)

I was the only tourist present, so I got a personal tour guide (baksheesh gets you everything). This is the courtyard of Al-Azhar.

The distinctive double-finial minaret, Qansah al-Ghuri

Many worshippers rest, apparently to beat the heat in between calls to prayer.

I would be allowed the privilege to go up one of the minarets (it cost me a pretty penny by Egyptian standards).

But the views over Islamic Cairo were worth it (note the Citadel at left).

From there I took a long taxi ride up to the Citadel, dominated by the Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha.

After the Pyramids and Egyptian Museum, this might be the most popular attraction in Cairo (for foreigners and Egyptians alike).

After a couple of days in Cairo, I still hadn't seen the Pyramids. My first hazy glimpse of them was from atop the Citadel. I tortured my camera's zoom lens to try and pick up the image of the silhouette.

Inside the Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha.

A crowd of tourists next to the minbar (Muslim pulpit).

The courtyard of the mosque.
To be continued...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

One of the perks of being a teacher...

... is that parents are known to plan surprise birthday parties for you. For my 29th birthday, my room parent pulled out all the stops.

For starters, the kids were told to bring Sharks gear (we have a dress code at my school, so this was a big treat for them). A surprising number of them have actual jerseys.

The kids also got pizza (seen on the table next to the donut and cake boxes).

The kids had even more fun than I did!

Part of the surprise (just about the only thing I knew about in advance) was a sushi lunch from one of my favorite places in town.

My brother even showed up to represent the family.

One of the coolest things about the party was the cake, with photographic frosting of SJ Sharkie. In fact, my room parent attempted to get Sharkie to deliver the cake himself, but he had a prior engagement.
Tonja, if you're reading this, you rule.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Things to do this MLK weekend

Does anyone else feel guilty when we get three day weekends in honor of those who died doing something valiant, but don't really spend time reflecting upon their lives? Maybe it's just me. Hopefully Dr. King will forgive me for the following list of what's going on this weekend in the Bay Area:

Dine About Town starts Saturday in San Francisco. My friends and I look forward to this every year = dozens of high-brow restaurants, including One Market and Fifth Floor, both of which have Michelin stars, offer 3-course dinners for just $35 when they would normally be at least double (or even triple) that. The two-week dining deal ends January 31.

NFL playoffs! Will the Patriots get their comeuppance? Will the Seahawks get the best of Da Bears? Four epic games in two epic days... none of which involve Bay Area teams.

Patrick Marleau will play in his 999th and 1,000th games [barring injury]. That's about the only positive I can take out of the Sharks' two games this weekend, as they face the possibility of a seven or even eight-game losing streak before Tuesday.

It's the final weekend of the Van Gogh / Post-Impressionism exhibit at the deYoung Museum. The last day is Tuesday, and if the previous Impressionism exhibit was any indication, this weekend will surely sell out in advance. If you haven't seen it, get on it, stat.

Lastly, the Golden Globes are this Sunday. Since fewer than 100 people vote on them (Hollywood Foreign Press Association), I don't hold much stock in them. However, I do like it when recognition is given to my favorite performers or movies, so I begrudgingly pay a little bit of attention. Christian Bale and Melissa Leo had better get the award for The Fighter (a movie that I had mixed feelings about, other than the acting from those two in particular). When the Academy Award nominations are announced in less than 2 weeks, the one Golden Globe omission that they can fix is Hailee Steinfeld's. The True Grit actress needs to be nominated. She's only won about a dozen film critics awards, for Pete's sake. But I digress.

I can think of a dozen other fun activities off the top of my head, but these are ones that I'll be looking into this weekend. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The last time the Sharks won... Sharks @ Kings, 1/1/11

On New Year's Day I drove down to Los Angeles to see the San Jose Sharks play the LA Kings. What might be surprising to you, if you're familiar with my Sharks road trip passion, is that this was the first time I had been to the Staples Center, the closest NHL arena to the HP Pavilion. It was a whirlwind weekend before returning to work on Monday, but I got to celebrate what would be the last Sharks victory before a 5-game losing streak that we're still trying to shake off (as of Jan. 12th).
The drive down on I-5 wasn't very difficult, but the winds over the summit were indeed strong, to the point that I questioned the virtues of my gas-efficient small car. It's worth noting that SoCal was colder than I've ever experienced (more so on Sunday, when I questioned my location in the world).

I hadn't eaten properly, so I went to the famous Farmers Market before the game.

This wasn't my destination, but I'm a sucker for long lines at donut shops... they usually mean good things.

My destination at the Market was a restaurant called Du-Par's, home of allegedly the best pancakes in America. They lived up to the hype, and then some.

The Farmers Market is adjacent to LA's glitzier, Disney-fied version of SJ's Santana Row, called The Grove.

Home to about a dozen sports teams... ok, "just" 4, including the Kings.

When puck meets Puck.

I purchased my lower level seat behind the Sharks' bench for $55, including fees, 2-day shipping AND (almost as important) a parking pass. Retail value = $150. Take note, those who are afraid of going to a game by your lonesome, there are fiscal advantages to such ventures.

As the oldest NHL franchise in California, the Kings have quite a bit of history, if not a Stanley Cup to their name (hey, we know how that last part feels). Marcel Dionne is routinely called the greatest player to never play in the Stanley Cup finals, let alone to never win a Cup. And then there's some guy that wears Mario Lemieux's number upside down. He struggled in the Arizona desert before disappearing forever from history... :-D

Brandon Mashinter is a very large man... after returning to the bench following a hit, I called out "Monster Mash," earning a chuckle from some of his teammates. While I didn't originate the nickname (hola, Fear the Fin), I hope it sticks.

I'll have to say, this was the greatest seat that $30 (minus the $25 for the parking pass!) could buy. Never thought I'd say this, but thank you, Stubhub.

"Want to see my Avalanche mascot impression? RAWR." (seriously, I don't get wearing non-participating team jerseys to games)

With a score this tight, 2.2 seconds seemed extra long. But the Sharks beat the Kings, 1-0, courtesy of stellar goaltending by Antti Niemi and a goal from Devin Setoguchi. And a rivalry lives on...

After the game I celebrated by buying a couple albums from the Hollywood branch of the Bay Area record store, Amoeba. Admittedly, this one was better than the SF or Berkeley locations, at least in size and stock.

While in Hollywood I had a wonderfully disgusting hot dog at Pink's. Note the wrapped-around line at 10pm.

I was told that their chili dogs were great, so I had the bacon cheese chili dog. These ingredients were actually on the tamer side of things for Pink's... I recommend it, albeit not for the aftermath. ;-)