Sunday, November 29, 2009

karaokeIt's amazing how progressive Arab Music videos have gotten. I am impressed whenever a Westerner sees those music videos, they are shocking by how scandalous they are. Look, I am not complaining, these ladies are good looking and know how to "work" their fans by working what they've got it. For this stuff to be shown on public TV during peak time, is a problem. So I guess I wasn't surprised to see during my my trip to Egypt and Gaza that no one watches music videos anymore. When I asked few people about their choice of boycotting music videos, the answer was similar, "they have gotten trashy"

I do not think these videos leave anything for MTV and other western entertainment outlets, in a way by replicating European music and American styles, Arabic music is in danger of losing its voice. Just in time for Thanksgiving to remind us of things we are Not Thankful for. I will let you be the judge of that by watching those steamy Arabic music videos so enough is said, let the Khazwa begin

Sandy the Playgirl

Myriam on a Bike

Elissar wants More? How about Less

Picture is taken from Yallatune
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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Call it an Eid

It's not an Eid until you are wearing a brand new cannot get in the Eid spirit until you wear it.
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Friday, November 27, 2009

Halloween From He-L-L

I thought I would be back to the States by the time for Halloween, I got that wrong as I just missed it by a week. But to be honest Halloween is all about scary times, spooks and creeps...and Gaza offered just that...Gaza is the biggest haunted house you will see, so as my buddies in DC and elsewhere were looking for spooky experiences in DC, I was living them everyday...which makes it the scariest Halloween I can ever imagine. What a messed up way to look at the bright side of the dark side.
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This Thanksgiving....

It's just GREAT to be back in the thing to be grateful for this Thanksgiving this year. It did also help to have a great fiance that helped me keep my sanity in Gaza during a rough patch and great friends like Mary and Carlos who always returned my phone calls as I needed their assistance with a thing or two. I had a great thanksgiving meal at a friends' home in Vienna Virgina, they had a big bird, the mashed potatoes and the pies folks. But what I really loved the great conversations about life politics and Guitar Hero.

Happy Thanksgiving to you too.
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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Gaza Experience

Notes from Gaza # 3

An old friend of mine invited me for his wedding party known as “Sahara”, the equivalent of a bachelor party minus the presence of any females. Essentially a street sausage fest, where the family of the bride blocks of the street with a large stage decorated with lights and flags that vary based on the political convections of the groom. Thankfully, the one I went to was more on the secular side and the only flags where used were the Palestinian national flag, not green for Hamas, not Yellow for Fatah. The local band performed some of the popular songs that make men dance all night long. Of course ladies where on the roofs of the nearby building where they can be away form the male population, but yet mange to get a view of street carnival. There were some older ladies toward the back of the chairs, still away form the partying strange men. I did run into few old friends who have now all grown up, none of those ones I saw that night had any Islamist agendas. I am certain that I know few of those, but since the party had music and dance, those acquaintances are not going to show up. There I found Tawfik an old friend who was a spokesperson for Fatah right before the Hamas takeover. Tawfik told me he has received threats of death from some groups for his visibility and his statements against Hamas. He is still alive and well, but his older brother who was a Fatah militant was assassinated in an ambush in 2007. Ahmad my nephew who is also my unofficial sidekick went along and I asked him to take the camera and take few shots of the party. Since Ahmad loves the attention my little camera gives him he always agrees to take video shots. The two things I do tell him is not to take pictures of women and not to make a scene with the camera. But this time, few of his classmates saw him taking the video and grabbed the camera form his hand. He knew that these kids want to see if he has been filming women, the ones on the roof. Ahmad told them to look at the video where they will not find any females. A minute later my other nephew Khalid who is a stand up guy grabbed the camera form the kids and scared them. They apologized to Ahmad and told him they had feared he is a security officer working for Hamas as an informant. Ahmad continued to take shots of the party and we headed home after we wished the groom a blissful marriage and once the party was over.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Smackdown @ Coffeshop

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Gaza Videos


I do have tons of videos from Gaza....and all of them are in High definition quality... I will be getting them back form Gaza in few weeks....there are plenty of things that you and my friends would appreciate like how I followed my little nephew around and just bug him all day...I did film him takeover a donkey pulled cart and drive it away...I also filmed him in the hospital as he hurt his chin form the stairs... filmed the streets of Gaza and the scene on the beach with a lot of talkative people around. I did also interview my grandpa and where he chronicle his entire journey and his take on the wars of the Middle East...this is not your average blame Israel guy...he is funny yet honest....that video would be interesting for Arabic Learners. Few more weeks inchallah and I promise to post the worthy videos.
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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Guess What Country?

Check out these pictures of the Israeli President touring in an Arab country to give you hints…Those were taken in a local market where the special guest mingled with the locals here are ten clues about this Arabic country that the Israeli President was visiting:99_41232780996

1-This country is tiny, but is well-endowed.
2-Natives of this country are very hospitable to Israelis as clear from the pictures.
3-This country keeps fiddling around with Palestinian and Lebanese politics. They are rooting for Hamas and they also put their money where their mouth is! There was a time this tiny country hosted top Hamas lieutenants. But not to worry President Abbas is also a citizen of that country.
4-This country has a prominent news channel that won’t shut up about “resistance” and calls out those who rush to peace.
5-Their prominent news stations has yet to utter a word about this high profile visit and other similar ones.
6-This country also happens to have the largest American military base in the Middle East.
7-Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia hate the leader of this country.
8-This country has become a one stop shop to purchase American made movies, Hamas literature, and Israeli music!
9-This country throws the most extravagant Christmas Reception here in the DC area.
10-From the looks for things when the Israelis get fed up with Shimon PERES, he might just seek asylum in that little country. They folks look genuinely excited to meet him! More excitement than a concert with Nancy Ajram.

Have you guessed what country am I talking about?

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Screwed! Or How I Gave Hamas a Headache

palestinian woman taking her baby into bus as Rafah border, the only place to get out of Gaza Strip open only for 48 hoursI am finally back in the States and it is good to be back. I got out after spending four months and change trapped in Gaza. The world community has punished (rewarded is a better term) Hamas government with an embargo on this narrow Strip. This siege is really brutal on the people of Gaza and what makes the siege most savage is the unique nature of Gaza Strip. Israel sealed Gaza Strip and makes sure no one leaves as they sealed the Northern and Eastern boarders of the Strip. The Egyptians are watching the Southern tip of the borders and keeping the Rafah crossing shut. The Sea is to the West of Gaza and the Israelis monitor that and fire upon any vessels for a host of reasons. With the absence of a seaport and an airport, the Gazans who have travel plans, need to be patient.

Hamas government holds a list of few thousand people wanting to travel, about once every forty days Rafah crossing opens and a few hundred travelers are allowed out. I singed up for travel in July when the registration opened. My name will take till November to give me a bus number that will take me to Rafah. I came to learn of few individuals who signed up in the days after my registration and somehow their names showed up and my name did not. I got upset as I have been long gone form my job in DC and I need to get back. The Gaza Minister of Interior lives nearby and my uncle went to talk to him about my case: he sympathized and declined to help claiming that process is all managed by “Saints” who do no wrong. I thought if true and the process is fair my name will show up in the next opening of Rafah. August came and so did September my turn did not come yet. A handful of travelers who signed up after
I registered has gotten their name ahead of me. I really wanted to believe the Minister, but on the day I leave Gaza, I shared a ride with the brother of his office manager who completely contradicts the Minister’s tales of honesty and fairness.

Now, with my name not showing up on the list, I am all mad. I take that rage and head to the residence of a spokesperson of Hamas wake him up and speak to him via the house intercom, explain my concern. He also sympathizes and gives me the number of his office manager who will help me. Obviously, that gets to a dead end, but I manage to challenge the spokesperson be telling him that their process has no transparency. As they officers in charge of travel coordination claim they have priorities that makes understanding who gets to travel and does not complicated and no one outside the “old boys club” knows what those are. My uncle is a Legal Counsel in the Palestinian Legislative Council and knows his way around those guys. When he tried to get those guys in charge to put me on the bus, they declined and were firm that they are being fair. On Friday of September the day they were supposed to load up buses, the senior officer showed up on that day and maintained that the process is fair. He told my uncle that “all Gaza Strip is Humanitarian case” and thus he cannot help me.
An hour later, I see something fishy and I let everybody know. The Palestinian officer who is the deputy of the office in charge of letting people board the buses was outside, talking to few men and all of a sudden a young boy standing with him smiles and the other men ask him to follow the officer who has the list on his hand. I also follow them and the officer sneaks in the young man with the crowd waiting to get on the bus and goes to his office, shuts the door and adds another name on the list. I happened to see the list before he added the young man’s name and after. I was not the only to see this favoritism; few others did also see it. A young man waiting to travel with his wife lost his mind and yelled at the officer telling him that Fateh was a lot better than them.

I go and tell my count of the story and all the names involved to my uncle who knew of the story and communicated it to the senior officer. The senior officer asked for the name of the person that has been improperly added, my uncle told him that he will give him the name once the young boy travels out of Gaza. The young boy did travel out of Gaza on that night and I who signed prior to him get left behind. My uncle and the senior officer present at the scene go on and request a hearing and discipline all those involved. This is a big deal for the Hamas government because they pride themselves on their honesty and doing away with favoritism and bribery. In the world of my uncle who has a back in this government as he told the corrupt officer, “I will make you fly off your post and make the shoe better than you!” This came as a surprise to me because my uncle who has a PhD in international law has always defended Hamas officers and argued that they are honest people…little did he know, some old habits do die hard.

To make matters worse the same officer who cheated and let in additional travelers fired his gun in the air on the crowd of travelers who broke in chaos. Not just that he even followed a young man with a stick wanting to beat him up. All this happened under the eyes of the senior officer who contained the situation and swore to my uncle and to my ears that he will teach all those jerks working in the ministry a lesson. The tug for an officer was put on investigations for that particular incident and what is coming will be even greater. How is it that an entire government cannot get people to board a bus in orderly fashion; they had to bring the paramilitary to help with crowd management.
all those people are leaving GazaFew days later upon visiting the Ministry’s office to confirm my registration for travel, there were few new officers and they had installed a new system where people get on a list and remain in a waiting area until called upon by the police officers only then they can speak to the officers at the window. We all saw a police officer tried to sneak in a relative of his to cut in line, the senior officer pulled the man out of the line, sent him back and yelled at the officer who tried to play favorites. I know testify that the travel out of Gaza to Palestinians is much more orderly and better managed, not perfect, I did lose four months in Gaza, but at least I know better managed or not traveling in or out of Gaza is like pulling teeth…and judging from the way things went by the time the next time I plan a trip to Gaza, I might not have any left.

Some of those images are taken from Rafah Today

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Looking for Sugar in Gaza

I think that my trip to Gaza has helped get met over my addiction to artificial sweeteners. As an addict to Splenda, Stevia and other non calorie sweeteners...I was at loss in Gaza as they do not rally have those at the market. The closest is sold at the pharmacy and it is a brand in the States they say is dangerous to one's health. So I had almost all of my hot beverages made with no sugar...and once I came back I tried to ease back into the artificial sweeteners, but I felt that they give my tongue a weird after taste. I mean I left Gaza and having consumed zero carbonated drinks. Not one sip....I did that as I quite it a number of years ago. Now, I do take my drinks with no sugar and that is easy as I do not really consume any coffee.

I do enjoy sweet things as deserets and chocolate, but candy I also wrote of....I think the only drink I consume that has artificial sweetener is the Vitamin Water 10, a sport drink that I like to drink after a workout.

To be fair, while in Egypt, I read an article on a major newspaper as now the Egyptains are starting to experiment with planting Stevia as they one consume too much sugar and Stevia will take less space to grow. Two they have lots of diabetic people who need a sugar substitute.
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Old Timers

A short video of my grandparents who are really old, but still active as much as they can. This was taken early October in a wedding for my female cousin...we managed to get grandparents to sit next to each other...notice the cheers when that happens. Grandpa is a bit more active than grandma as he expressed interest in wanting to live in his own as she needs some care...thus she moved with my uncle's and he remains near our home where he maintains a garden and makes sure kids stay out of trouble. You see my uncles in the video...and the one messing with my grandpa is his brother in law.

I feel this time would be my last time seeing them, I did film a lot of footage with my grandpa and it will come in the right time as he tells his life story, his opinion about things and family. He also retells me the stories of the war of 1948 and how he thinks the early Israelis outsmarted and outgunned everybody.
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Monday, November 16, 2009

Olive OiL

This year, the olive harvest in Palestine was not at its best. I know because I actually picked some olives in Gaza, as my grandpa has more than six olive trees. He essentially gave me four trees and asked me to give the harvest to anyone I like. He did that because it was getting to olive picking season and the land owner my uncle has not shown up to pick them and because I was nice to him bringing him and stuff he let me pick them. He also gave me a fig tree as well. but back to olives...I picked those trees and gave the majority of the harvest to my older sister Fatin....I asked her to some help and she brought her son Khalid. It took us three days to pick them doing couple of hours a day. I took few to our home as my mom made them and I was able to eat few before I left Gaza. The harvest was weak and thus the price was so high as they sell the three kilos for about 10 bucks...a fortune in Gaza. Because the olive harvest was weak, the olive oil is not as much as it used to be. So I know how Arab Americans and friends of the middle East enjoy the olive oil coming form the Holy Land... there is some olive oil in the Holy Land....but in the West Bank, the imported some from Jordan and in Gaza they import Egyptian olive oil (not as good) perhaps the most random place that Gaza imported (smuggled) olive oil from is Libya. Gaza now has olive oil made in Libya....

I am saying this because I am helping my colleague buy olive oil by the bulk to sell it retail at our center.
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Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Gaza Bachelor Party (Videos)

go-to-gazaWith very few fun places to visit, a sky high unemployment, and too many lost dreams and broken promises, the young people of Gaza do not let all that stop them from having a jolly time. Obviously Gaza does not have night clubs, and the folks who want to get their groove on have only one way to do just that, A Gaza Bachelor Party! When in Gaza, do as the Gazans do, so I attended a number of those bachelor parties for friends and relatives. I always brought along my tiny HD camera to take some footage. This is a video for a bachelor party in my neighborhood in Beit Lahia taking place in mid October and everybody in town has come to the party. I have always gone to those parties with my nephew Ahmad who seems to know everybody and can get me out of trouble as needed. Hamas does not actually interfere in those parties, they sure do not like them, but the only way to get Hamas to crash a bachelor party is to either hang Fatah banners or play Fatah songs…if you are do so….Hamas police will show up and take care of business. To my surprise, as long as you are not promoting Fatah, your party will go on in peace. Not just that, you can even have people get high in your bachelor party and Hamas won’t care much…just refrain from singing to Arafat and Sameeh Almadhoun

Notice the Palestinian flags in the videos, making bachelor parties a feel of a patriotic event, clearly, Palestinians mating is more dangerous to the Israelis than the rambling Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, dance away! Enjoy the Sausage Fest!

Gaza Bachelor Party

Gaza Bachelor Party Short

The Band

P.S. There are females at the party, they are on the roofs of the nearby buildings.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Abod @ Gaza Hospital

He is now OK....that was about 3 weeks ago.... I unearthed this video today
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Friday, November 13, 2009

Thinking Out Loud

I am still processing the fact that I am actually back in the States. I had to spend four months in Gaza so that I am able to know what I want to be doing for the rest of my life.

Getting stuck in Gaza for four months was probably a really small price to pay to find the right one...she is worth it.

I did though see my soul leave me each passing day and then come to me each time I see the loved ones. Every time one mentions the crossing for the past two months in Gaza I wanted to pick a fight with them. Now, I do not have too anymore...I am back to the life I built for myself here in Columbia Heights, DC.
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Abood Is in the Mood

Aboood! this little boy is one of 9 people I miss the most about can you not like him...look at his smile. He has gotten so attached to me as I used to visit with him when his father was placed in a Hamas jail...that in the 3 months his dad was away, he would leave his own dad and come to me! I would play with him so much and joke around with him. He smiles each time he spots me. That's why he wanted someone to play him, carry him, make faces at home and, toss him in the air, and make funny noises form Abood's belly. I love you SUCKER!

P.S. I do not know who that chick in the picture....some cheap website tool.
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

From Here and There

Since I have been away, I noticed that a lot more businesses in the States have gone into restaurateur, my print shop, grocery store and now my dry cleaner is asking me to be her friend on facebook. Yes, I would pretty much like to be friend with my dry cleaner on is not like I ever had my dirty laundry aired to the public, now those on the cyber space get to see my dirty laundry.

I love shopping and i have used it to get over few crisis in my life. But I think it is not so much the shopping that gives us pleasure, but rather the neat designer plastic bags they place one's merchandise in. We like it when we walk around carrying those bags saying Forever 21, Sexy...etc. Proof to my theory even Gaza does not have much goods in its markets anymore...they still smuggle through the underground tunnels nice colorful plastic bags. Maybe I will open the a store in the mall just to sell vivid plastic bags with vibrant colors for people to use them as decoy when they walk around the mall empty handed and judged by their peers.
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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Gaza Experience: High School Uniforms

lacoste.03I headed to the Beit Lahia High School to pick my video camcorder from my nephew Ahmad who has been using it to film sport activities at his school. I rode on my Cousin Mohammad’s scooter where he drove us through the narrow streets. As we entered the high school, I could swear that we walked into a sham Giorgio Armani fashion shows. I mean these school kids wore outfits more in line with high schools in Beverly Hills not a small northern Gaza town. It’s hard to miss the fake Lacoste shirts, bogus Chinese denim, and gigantic buckle belts and no school backpacks to speak of. Most of these items are smuggled into Gaza via those creepy tunnels. I complained to my cousin Mohammad who is a low-ranking policeman in the Hamas government about his “people’s” outlandish policy to longer enforce school uniforms in Gaza, as it has been the tradition. Mohammad defended the lack of enforcement by stating the obvious, the Gaza economy is horrible and the government does not want people to have any more financial burdens. He did also state that he believes it is a generational problem where he thinks the younger generation is a lousier one as according to him the youngsters lack a sense of responsibility and dedication.

I did agree with Mohammad’s opinion on the generational issue as I have noted similar patterns in my nephews and nieces in Gaza as well as in the States where gadgets obsessed teens give their parents and law enforcement officers’ nightmares. However, I found that his economy defense is inaccurate. It’s true that the economy in Gaza is in the tank, and unemployment is record shattering, but that does not explain the lack of enforcement. The government in Gaza managed to enforce school uniforms on high school girls, but exclude the boys from buying uniforms. Also, school uniforms are not going to be pricier than those flashy outfits and counterfeit logos the Gaza youth wear to schools. In other word, kids in Gaza have the liberty to wear whatever to school. This might go to argue that Hamas is big on personal freedom, more so than Fateh that enforced such school uniforms. But again, they made high school girls wear black robes.

I do however notice that when I went to school in Gaza, my parents did not have to worry about me taking drugs as this was not an option back then, but now thanks to the tunnels kids in Gaza can self-medicate with recreational drugs. I only hope my nephews will somehow manage to get their high school degrees as I hear Ahmad talking about wanting to quit school and starting his own cell phone accessories store.

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I am still trying to understand I keep hearing Arabic around me.

I wake up at 3 Am and go to sleep at 7 Pm....not sure how this will work out...I am sure it will take care of itself soon.

My stomach is still feeling funny as I am getting back slowly into my old diet.

Do not feel like working out hard anymore...I feel tired quickly especially in the nick.

too much data to process here and too many news Gaza I do not think I had nearly as much access as I do here.

I still have the same phone number, the one I had before Gaza
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Monday, November 09, 2009

Back To the States

I am still not all back...I am a lot slower and want to greet people saying alslamo alykom instead of Hello....

It's a weird feeling to be back....I feel like the past 4 months and half have been a huge blank! Many things happened and I somehow missed those events. I am reading older magazines to see what happened since then.

My stomach is taking its sweet time adjusting...

My body is kind of confused about the temperature in DC...not sure how to dress.

I did a five miler run this felt good to be back, doing what helps clear my head...

I am excited to be back with friends and family.
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Sunday, November 08, 2009

"Welcome Home" She Said

The immigration lady at Dulles Airport who let me in the States after seeing my passport and my Green Card, asking me few questions, taking my fingerprints...she declared it...."Welcome Home" Only then I knew I was back. I feel like hitting the local Chipotle Store for a fine chicken burrito.
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Saturday, November 07, 2009

In Paris

In Paris Airport now, getting ready to board my flight back to DC tonight God Williing....I am coming form spending five days in Cairo with my sister and her little girl Dima....took the time to get my ticket and spend some tome with her and take them around Cairo attractions. It feels good to be out and close to beinig back home...nothing smart to say!

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

My Fat Me

It's easy to gain wieght in America...really made easy with all that fatening food and fast ones...but to gain weight in Gaza, a land of hunger and food pure resistance.
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