February 28, 2007

My Onions

"Mes oignons" (my business). Frenchies can also often be heard using the expression "Te mele pas de mes oignons"(don't meddle with me). Onions are also the friends of the poor. Used to be is more accurate as they have gone 5 times more expensive within a week in India, a similar inflation occured in Egypt a few years ago and since the price never came down.
The pictures above are from the fifties and are set somewhere in Egypt near Alexandria and are a kind of documentation about an onion pickle factory. Those pictures were probably taken by a Greek Alexandrian by the name of Constantin Rittas. I own an extensive collection of his pictures. I also have a few of the portraits he used to do commercially for the Alexandrian beauties. Actually I wanted to do an exhibition featuring his works as I thought that they could do a good show about Alexandrian society from the 40's to the late 70's.
Retournons a nos oignons.
Onions are as important as bread for many around the world who survive mainly on a diet of those two ingredients. I heard about someone who claims that he always keeps a few onion bulbs and a big bag of flour just in case some global catastrophe happens. He says that onions are very sturdy plants, fast growing and that within a few days he could start eating from the bulbs he would have planted, and avoid dying of hunger. All this came back to me when I read that within a week onions have gone up in India from 5 rupees to 25. On the other hand though one should also notice what Fidel said to Hugo :
"The idea of using food to produce fuel is tragic, is dramatic. No one is sure how high the price of food will rise when soy is being used for fuel, with the need there is in the world to produce eggs, milk, to produce meat. It is a tragedy. One of many today."

I wonder where we are going.

Rabena Yostor

weddings and belly dancers by Constantin Rittas

Ebony, Ivory & Jade

I did not understand what is meant by licking a man. I thought men were sucked in. Never saw the movie but from what I found out about it. It is not really worth watching. The poster though is reminiscing of Charlie's Angels.

However lick can also mean informally to hit or beat, thrash or whip,
to overcome or defeat, as in a fight, game, or contest. Is this suppose to mean that the movie who turns loose 3 foxy mamas has done this as a support for the Women lib movement? Or was it just a statement they added to mellow up the slightly racist title.

February 27, 2007

King Kong

Been sometimes since I last posted cinema posters. This time I chose King Kong (1933), the Egyptian one folio posters for redistribution as examples. Those posters have a strange mistake on them as the producer is named as director, and the directors are not credited.

Strangely, the second one was printed in 1977, after the release of the remake produced in 1976, King Kong: The legend reborn. The first one though is probably a bit older.
The King Kong saga does not stop there as there was a new remake in 2005, also there are many other King Kong based movies. to name a few Queen Kong and the Son of King Kong.
King Kong movies are fun to watch. They also are precursors of what has become known as the adventures movies series similar to Rambo, Terminator and the such. King Kong though always lost at the end unlike his human patriotic sequels.

After all the big ape is not an American patriot, and he attacks the US instead of defending them, maybe that is the reason why the King Kong movies feature a scene where the gentle hearted monster dies while watching his beautiful co-star being taken away by the great american forces sent in by the Pentagon.

May God save King Kong.

February 23, 2007

Speaker's Corner

The Blogosphere should be considered as a virtual Speaker's corner, and should be defended by all the democrats in the world. By democrats I mean people who believe in democracy and not the American party.

Kareem Amer (AbdelKarim Nabil Suleiman) has been condemned to 4 years in prison for having expressed his views on his blog. I wonder why? After all he just wrote about issues that bothered him, and was ready to receive answers and discuss those views. In a way he was opening up so that he could be convinced of the mistake in his arguments or eventually to prove that his views are defendable. Isn't this what democracy is all about?

I wish every single person in the world to join the Free Kareem campaign and to sign all the petitions that are circulating, I wonder though if it would make any difference.

February 18, 2007

Happy Golden Pig

The Year of the pig has started. It has been blackened out even in China though, as China's largest state-owned CCTV recently received an order from the government that prohibits airing of any TV ads that contains images of the pig, what do Internet users think about that? Some started a photoshop contest for the event.
While ever more Internet users are discussing the reasons of this decision. I personally do not know where to stand about it.
Nonetheless I wish you all happy living pigs all over.

February 15, 2007

Awakening of Egypt

Bahiga Hafez
and Serag Mounir acting out Mahmoud Mokhtar 's "the Awakening of Egypt" during a break while on set of the movie "Zeinab" (from El Kawakeb Jan 28, 1932 scan provided by Lucie Ryzova).

Mahmoud Mokhtar Museum (unfortunately their website is only in Arabic) is ideally placed for people who like to ride the metro, it is much nearer than the Opera itself when you come out at the Opera station and it does deserve a visit, many of our lesser known museums deserve visits, I am specifically thinking of the Manial palace Museum, but there are many more including Mahmoud Mokhtar's.

I do have a not very nice memory of my last visit a couple of years ago but in a way this bad memory was more out my own making. Actually, you are supposed, in fact obliged (for security reasons) to write down your name, occupation and some more personal data). Having paid my ticket the astronomic sum of 2 LE, I was not in the mood for security officers to make me do what they think is their right or at least their job. So when they insisted that I do , I just put my name and under occupation wrote BUM "Saye3". It seems four letter words (in Arabic) are also badly looked upon by those officials and they wanted to arrest me or something , fortunately there was someone from the ministry of Culture that took my provocation less seriously and seemed to be higher ranked than the guys keeping the books at the entrance so I was allowed to enter and visit. My enjoyment was tainted with a bit of indignation.

A few days prior to that I had tried to go to the Egyptian Museum (Tahrir Square) and found out when I uttered a word in Arabic that I had to show my ID and even asked quite seriously by the police what I was coming to do. Somehow as if we Egyptians do not have a right to visit our own historical museum. During the same period, there were rumours saying that Egyptians were not allowed to go to the Pyramids too. Maybe it was just a rumour but somehow I do think that at the time, security forces were given orders not to let Egyptians into any of those touristic places.

While I am interested in arts and museums and am not the shying out type, I must say that they succeeded in making me think twice before even venturing into museum visits, and that even when I have visitors I refuse to accompany them to the Pyramids.

Was that the goal?

February 14, 2007

Old but Funny indeed

Not much to say really, just that I already fell in love with that song last Christmas. I also believe it works as well if not better for Valentine's day. So as a preparing statement for the big pinky and flowery day that some will spend on a nice cloud and within a somehow spooky environment, I am just suggesting that this idea is much cheaper and to the point. In case, inbred romanticism does not allow you to be as blunt, you can always get her/him flowers and take her/him out to a candle lit dinner.
The result though is not as predictable .
Have a nice preparation for Valentine's day. Who is he anyhow?
Free nice eCards.

Valentine's Day

To all Valentine's celebrators around the world!!!!
For Today I'll refrain from telling them what I really think of the concept. Even more I'll join them and share with them some of my personal postcards. These are from the thirties and are quite interesting with all this art deco designs thrown all over.

Have a nice day

February 12, 2007

Luxor Mac Do

Another image I took in Luxor, the Mac Donald clown , by a police stand, a few meters away from the Luxor temple. We have to thank globalization for all these ridiculous gimmicks that pollute visually some of the greatest touristic sites in the world. On the opposite sidewalk, I hunted down this reincarnation of Abbey Road. The Beatles are certainly a much nicer icon than Mac Donald.

February 11, 2007

Personal World Wonders

A few days ago I talked about this marketing gimmick that encourages each one of us to vote for the new world wonders. And I had promised myself to compile a list of what I believe to be the seven world wonders. Here it is.


is not only related to genetic race or skin color . It can be also related to age groups, social standings, and sex (sometimes even sexual preferences such as in homophobia), not to religions though as this is another story that relates more to fanaticism. A linguist would know all the very specific isms, however for my purpose it is not the exact word that counts but the underlying concept. Racism has always been the major reason (together with Fanaticism) behind wars. Racist arguments and theories are also used as argumentation for most injustices in the world.

The Apollo Program

or is it Space Travel, in any case, this definitely deserves a place within the modern world wonders. It is somehow the first step that will lead us all towards the goal set by the Greeks which is to get so near to the sun that the wax melts. According to that myth we will fall down when the wax melts and we will not survive it. One though has to say that this doomed result is not the only possibility, inter stellar travel and space wars are not so much out of the books anymore.


Eternal life is an old goal imagined by the Pharaohs and unfortunately it still does not work for the human race. Just imagine what would happen if Leonardo or Einstein could have survived forever. The down side would be to imagine what would happen if Hitler, Hussein and Hammurabi were still around. Or if humanity had to bear George Bush Junior ad vitam eternam. In such a case, I personally would not get myself cloned.


At last, we (the human race) will have slaves without the accompanying conscious objectors around. I mean who would defend heartily enough a heap of electronic devices? Sounds good, we can be slave drivers but we will not have to deal with the accompanying social unrest that follows the implementation of any living slave system. More


I refer to Religious Fanaticism. It has been somehow embedded in the religions themselves as all religions tend to be self righteous and at the same time expansionist. There is only a tiny step between evangelizing (sharing one's beliefs through "conviction") and expansionism at any price, using economical arguments, power arguments or even torture and killings. This in turn creates martyrs for the other cause and builds resentment and even more fanaticism. Snow balling is the name of the game.

Nuclear Weapons

Nowadays in the only country that actually used these against cities that were populated by civilians, it has become politically correct to call them Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), specially when they are imaginary and in the hands of "enemies". While existing ones in the hands of "strategical allies" are not to be mentioned, sometimes even encouraged and help is given under the mantle to build even more of these "Nuclear Weapons" , strangely enough these are not considered as WMD. Meanwhile the secret formula should ideally not be mentioned or researched by anyone who is not a strategical ally.

Global Warming

The historical consequences of this one have not yet appeared, in spite of some warning signs by Gaia. Maybe after all science fiction writers got it right when they argued that the only hope for humanity laid in Space Travel and expansionism. But the risks are huge.

February 10, 2007

Syrian Birthday

Last year for my birthday I was in Syria, actually in Aleppo, At dinner I took this shot that I really like.

February 9, 2007

BBC Shoot

As I was saying I worked with a BBC production early 2005. I was asked to help for casting of the small parts as because of "slight" over spending the BBC needed to hire small parts and extras from Egypt. I was even asked to perform as one of the artists brought in by Champollion to help him draw all the Pharaonic artifacts he needed to be able to learn more about Egypt, which I did.

Champollion was portrayed by Elliot Cowan. He is a warm and nice fellow, actually he seemed to me like one of the few non Egyptians I met on that shoot that I could hit a friendship with. Unfortunately, I lost all ways to get in touch with him when I lost my cellular phone sometime soon after the shoot. Don't know what happened to him, tried to look him up on the net but could not find any of his news. I hope he is still kicking and acting bigger and bigger roles.

This is an Egyptian production assistant that was asked to be made up in order to check the result of the blue dye. Quite striking isn't it?

If anyone is in a hurry to watch it you can order it on Amazon, or wait untill it is shown on a free channel. I heard it was aired quite often. Never saw it myself though.

February 8, 2007

Aegyptiaca scrubs

I was in Luxor a couple of years ago on a shoot for the BBC and I found this guy selling loofah. I liked his smiling face and I liked the way he displayed his loofah.

Loofah are used to scrub. They are excellent for skin cleaning and scrubbing. They are supposed to also stimulate the circulatory system and enhance regeneration of healthy skin cells.

The scientific name is luffa aegyptiaca.

The way they look when they are peeled is quite erotical. Unfortunately when bought for washing up they need to be opened. You insert a cutter in one of the holes, open it up ill the other extremity and just unroll from the middle so that they have a bigger surface.

Loofah plants are quite nice but to plant them you need a good spot of quite sunny land, lots of water and something for them to climb on.

February 7, 2007


REUTERS/Enrico Pajello (releaseb Feb 6, 2007)

These two who come out a week before Valentine's day are the predecessors of Romeo and Juliette, they've been holding each other , according to the scientists who discovered them near Montova in Italy, for 6,000 years, more or less since the Pyramids were built.
If this is not Love , then what is?
I suppose we are set to get many of these Valentine preparation marketing gimmicks in the few days to come. Nonetheless the picture although macabre is striking.
Would do a lovely "Installation". Who will be the first "artist" to jump into this bandwagon?

February 5, 2007

Rina Khoury

An AUC Alumni. Therefore an old friend. Today is her birthday.


February 4, 2007

Depressing time

"Art has been kidnapped by seasoned curators, concept writers, art burocrats etc. The individual artist is either repackaged under one agenda or another or dies. All is event, experience, Disney avant garde. Words like experiment, fringe, process etc. are passe. Artists that still clinge to the idea of fringe are either labelled as Don Quichote, ridicule behind their back, or just dismissed as old fashioned, if not totally ignored. Ideas are more important than the quality of the execution. Art is done in a way that a PR person or a critic can explain it in four lines, easy to digest topics full of self importance. The artists seem to be the last in the creative chain, they are just a footnote in somebody`s thesis, an ornament in someone's else agenda. The artists, for their part, are happily jumping into the band wagon - it is about making it, not making art. Even the three year star system (meaning you are a star for three years before you are being kicked out for the next genius) has been shortened to six months. So we have more museums, more theatre spaces, more festivals, full of mediocre art with exhibitions or programs with very important titles and well written brochures but the art itself... (hey, but who cares anyway, it's the event that counts not the individual pieces of art).

The common notion goes like that: Art that has a strong effect on us, it's a good art. But a virus may have a strong effect and yet be not good. The same is true in art. ..." By Yosi Wanunu

In order to read more skip the intro and go into what's cooking the whole site though is interesting.

Born and brought up in Akko/Israel, Yosi Wanunu studied art history, theatre and film in Israel, Europe and the US. In his several years of world-wide theatre travels he trained in many specific theatre and film techniques and styles. Wanunu lived and worked in New York for eight years as a director and scenery and lighting designer, among others in the BCBC, in the Ohio Theatre, La Mama ETC, in the Here and in Richard Foreman’s Ontological-Hysteric Theatre. Since 1997 Yosi Wanunu has been living in Vienna. He is a co-founder and artistic director of toxic dreams.

I never met Yosi Wanunu, however I agree strongly with what he says in this article. Nonetheless , it is an article he wrote sometime ago and in the present state of things I would even argue that what is important is not even the ideas nor the quality of execution but the happily jump in the band wagon, or in less diplomatic terms the ass licking of the "all important" critics curators.

All what I can say is that is depresses me and that I am happy to have found someone who shares my feelings. Is there a way to beat the system from inside. Maybe ... let's hope. However the possibilities are getting slimmer and slimmer as the "sponsors" need someone to tell them in some kind of pretentiously intellectual jargon the importance of the specific move within the history of art, so that they pay back some kind of services rendered without being accountable for it. Most patronage or sponsorships are nothing more than political or social pay offs.

New World Wonders

Once again I go for a kind of a game. This time though I did not surf into it. I got an alarmed message from an old friend. He was calling upon my nationalism and love for my country. He was saying that our National Glory was in danger. He meant the Pyramids.
Some touristic marketing company decided to pick 7 wonders to replace the 7 wonders of the ancient world. Intrigued I surfed there, did a bit of research, wondered a long time before providing them with my email (twice they need you to reconfirm it). I eventually decided to register to try and save the primordial place of the Pyramids for generations to come (if there is any inspite of Global warming).
Eventually, while I was getting the email confirmation, through which I was given those votes I reassured myself that after all nothing could change the fact that our Pyramids are the longest standing man made Wonder and that was already true when that list was compiled .
The registration process is easy and the voting should be quite easy too. However I found myself in front of 21 choices that are the short list and found out that those short listed are not really (apart from the Pyramids) what I would consider as wonders, well I always dreamt to visit Petra and the concept behind the Great wall of China is staggering (not so much anymore since the US are trying to emulate it)

I have an idea for those useless votes I possess and might not use, maybe I should sell them on Ebay to the highest bidders.

In the mean time GO Egypt Go.

We all have an appointment with HISTORY on 7/7/7

I am also compiling my own list of wonders but for the moment you can check those linked below.

More Links

ASCE American Society of Civil Engineers (a list of modern wonders)
Machu Picchu
Petra (Jordan)

February 3, 2007

Dangerous Cats

I saw this and started to understand why some people are afraid of cats.... It is really bad what these animals can do. I shouldn't have made fun and this video is the proof.
My most sincere apology I should have taken their fears more seriously.

Warning: This video contains material. Not for the soft hearted.

Smoking kills

What about Pollution? over eating? malnourishment? unprotected sex? Tsunamis and other natural phenomena? Fanaticism? the list could go forever.

What doesn't lead to death???

February 2, 2007

Portrait: new gallery down town

Last night, I went to see Ahmad Nosseir's exhibition at a newly opened gallery (It nears its year of existence and is placed on top of El Nadwa Al Thakafeya cafe on Falaky street).

I already knew Ahmad Nosseir's work and must say was positively surprised to see a few works that are straying away from his usual style. When I arrived I saw Nosseir together with Fathi Affifi (an interesting artist himself) discussing animatedly a huge painting. It seemed to me that Fathi was discussing painting technicalities with Nosseir. While I walked through the gallery looking at the exhibited works, I recognized once again the strong influence of the late works of Edward Munch in Nosseir's works. For my eye though I would definitely prefer to have a Munch than a Nosseir (not that I could afford any of them, specially not Munch), and I'd probably hang neither of them on my walls. Too much anxiety and too many monsters are bound to have negative influence on the vibes of a place. This is not to say that I discard them as artists. Both of them have works I like.

Later while talking with Nosseir, I complimented him on the few pieces that I liked and found out that he considered those as unfinished works.

As it was the first time I went to the gallery, I went into the inner sanctum to discover an artist I did not know. Reda Abdel Rahman is the owner of Portrait gallery and some of his works are exhibited in there. I hope to see his works exhibited for the public sometime soon. Reda's work was a discovery for me. What has not been a discovery though was that his gallery does not have yet a website (seems technology is not the forte of Egyptian artists).

Portrait the gallery also publishes a monthly magazine that claims to be the first such publication concentrating on Art in the Arab world. They have already published ten releases.

While strolling out I saw an invite for an exhibition by Dina El Gharib. It will be on at the Gezira Art Center from February 3rd to February 17th. Dina is a very talented and sarcastic artist and her exhibitions are always quite interesting. Strongly recommended.

February 1, 2007

Omar El Fayoumi

Omar is a familiar face who haunts downtown Cairo. He often sits at "Zahret El Bostan" Cafe (Garden's Flower Cafe). It seems to be one of his main sources of inspiration. While he is at the cafe, he is rarely sitting alone. In the rare remaining cases, he often takes the Egyptian version of the Rodin's thinker, it has a name in Arabic ... it is "idou 3alla khadou" (a hand on his cheek?). I personally suspect that the main sitting character in his "ahwas" (cafe) paintings is himself.

There is a dark mystical part to Omar, it transpires sometimes in his "ahwas" but mainly in what he is primarily known for.

Fayum Portraits
Original Fayum portraits The Met

Many of his works are based on the Fayum portraits, actually he does draw a lot from Orthodox iconography. This might be because he studied the art of frescoes in the Ripen academy of St Petersbourg and thus had to study thoroughly the history and artefacts of Orthodox Christian iconography or maybe because his surname is Fayoumi, might be a bit of both. This side of his work is one that for some personal ethical reasons I dread. I always hated the bazar stuff and the bad copies of pharaonic cats, "adorable?" post card style aquarelles, badly re-printed pictures or postcards, and all the other treasures one can find in any souvenir stall anywhere in the world, even Venice, and nowadays the invasion in these stalls of made in China souvenirs which by being made there nullify their original purpose of being a souvenir from wherever.
What I really fear is that the deserved success Omar is ripping from his researches into the Fayum portraits could flood the markets with crap copies made in Boulac , Choubra or even Omraneya. (Anywhere in Egypt or China)

The brighter side

There is a much lighter side to Omar.The man is someone who enjoys a good laugh, and has lots of appetite for all the pleasures of life. In 1998 in an attempt to fight his demons and frustrations he made a joint exhibition of sculptures together with nudes paintings. Although some established "professional" sculptors were a bit dismissive of his efforts, he succeeded very well in inventing a world of his own, with a few pieces of discharged iron rearranged into pieces. The simplicity of it was the best part of it. No pretense whatsoever, just someone enjoying playing and reinventing. The nude paintings also were quite a change from his usual subjects and somehow a revolution. It probably was a reaction against the irreversable invasion of the streets of Cairo by veiled women always veiling more. The breast naked nun above is the one I liked most because of its double irreverence to the rules of society while not being too provocative. The other nudes were more decorative and introduced references to Matisse and Klimt .

This was an exhibition I enjoyed tremendously, it was set at Espace Karim Francis (another Cairo downtown gallery who have problems connecting with the modern world or even just plain www it seems).

Omar Illustrator

Omar is also a prolific book cover illustrator. He has done cover illustration for many Egyptian books and was chosen by AUC Press to draw many a cover for their translation of their modern arabic litterature series. His first works as an illustrator though were when he worked as an assistant for Gassour (the famous cinema poster printer and designer). From this period he is proud of his design for "Al Mag houl" (The unknown).

Unfortunately, my cinema posters collection is a bit of a shamble, and I could not find a picture of it . It does give me a goal regarding my poster collection. UnEarth "the Unknown" sounds like an horror movie.

I also would like to find a picture of one of Omar's sculptures that emigrated with its owner to the US. It represented a dog in chains and was quite big.

Book covers designed by Omar el Fayoumi for AUC Press
To go directly to the books click on the covers.

Omar's Facts - Omar's Works - More Works - More Works II

Egypt Today: about Omar's last exhibition (2005) by Manal El Jesri