A journalist's informal chronicle of negotiating the Middle East


From wealthy corporations to some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, rooftop gardening and green spaces are a small but growing trend in Cairo, Egypt. Not just for aesthetics, green spaces also contribute to significantly cooling the buildings and surrounding areas, absorb pollution and carbon dioxide and are an effective climate change mitigation measure. My latest Cairo Climate Talks original film took me from the basics of rooftop gardening by Schaduf in Maadi to the challenges and stigmas that residents like Leila Hassan of Ezbet el Nasr are facing in growing vegetables and herbs on their roofs to supplement their incomes.



ISIS takes over Palymra


As ISIS takes over the city of Palmyra, a beautiful, ancient stop along the trade route between east and west whose colonnades and architecture survived thousands of years in the desert but now face probable destruction, I wanted to take a moment to remember.

Since unrest and then war engulfed Syria four years ago, I’ve often thought how lucky I was to have the chance to visit in August 2010 and see the country, particularly its people and historical treasures, before the destruction. It’s one of the more beautiful places I’ve visited in the Middle East. The thought brings more sadness than fond travel memories; an observation that I witnessed a place at a particular moment in time that has long since been destroyed or irreversibly damaged.

Along with the recent attention to Palmyra, there has been criticism that people care more about destroyed antiquities than destroyed lives. I hope that’s not the case, but whatever makes people care about what is still happening in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, or anywhere in turmoil, is useful. I don’t have pictures of every individual I met, nor do I know where or how they are now, if they are still alive. I have no way of finding out, and as a journalist I have felt this isn’t a conflict I could go and cover without too great a risk to my life. But large, historic treasures, particularly entire cities like Palmyra, are visible symbols that people watching all around the world can grab on to, and anything that makes the horror of ISIS visceral may help.

I first started this blog as a travel log and a way to update family and friends as I traveled around Syria, Turkey and then moved back to Egypt. Initially I wrote about visiting the ancient city of Palmyra here: https://lpinthefield.wordpress.com/2010/08/25/city-of-the-palms/ How much things have changed there, here, and all around us since then. 

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How one family (and you) empower me to fight back

Last year when I wrote about being groped in a popular Egyptian coffee chain I was amazed at the response. More people read that post than anything I wrote during the January 25 revolution and many individuals and several anti-sexual harassment initiatives reached out to me to offer support or discuss how this experience could empower others. Even now, women in Cairo sometimes tell me they read about the sexual harassment smoothie before they met me.

I’m reminded again today how much more traction my experiences with this topic get than almost anything else I write or film for work. Unfortunately, I think that speaks to what a massive and common problem it is.

Below are the picture and message I posted on Facebook just to thank a family and as a way of putting a recent  incident behind me. The response from so many, from friends and family to strangers, people living in Egypt and those abroad, affirmed to me that the issue spans gender, age, race, culture and personal connection.  It seems like many want or need to hear these kinds of stories. And when they reach out to me, I feel this overwhelming sense of community and solidarity that further empowers us to face harassment however we can.



I was shooting photos yesterday for Mada at Azhar Park, which was filled with thousands of people celebrating the Egyptian spring holiday Sham el-Nessim. Toward the end we were at the edge of a crowd when I felt a guy cup my ass. I whipped around and he smiled at me. Then I shoved him quite hard and some women stepped in to separate us (which was good for him). We moved and he came up to me again and started yelling and I just told him to fuck off. A few minutes later this family approached me and the father said he saw the whole thing and was glad I hit the guy. Then his daughters gave me flowers and his wife asked if I would pose for a picture with her. This is the second time I’ve hit a man for harassment and both times other men applauded my reaction. I’m sure this family has no idea that their gesture turned the whole thing around into something positive, but here’s my anonymous thank you to them anyway.


Egypt’s ambulance drivers in turmoil

I haven’t been able to write yet about everything that’s happened in Egypt over the past few months. Until I sort that out, here’s a video and story I’ve been working on for the past couple weeks about what paramedics and ambulance drivers are going through.

See the full story here: http://madamasr.com/content/video-ambulance-drivers-turmoil

A little bit like the Twilight Zone

It’s been an overwhelming few days back in Cairo after traveling to the U.S.

Clearly I’m not the only one feeling out of sorts…

You remember Al-Masry Media Corp, owners of the largest independent daily Arabic newspaper and it’s sister English-language paper Egypt Independent? Yes, the same company that “restructured” EI in April, laying off our team of 30 journalists for “financial reasons” and scaling it down to a handful of translators.

Before sharing their exclusive coverage of ongoing events, it would be remiss not to applaud the mere three-month turnaround on the financial front. Egypt Independent is now posting job ads online for an entire English-language news staff. The upward outlook comes just in time, too, as Al-Masry can move on to the more pressing problems of Egypt’s economic crisis.

In addition to new fiscal policy, it seems they’ve “restructured” their editorial line just a bit. I’m guessing they Googled their interviewee and saw “Gay Republicans” “Wikipedia” and his name, “Maurice Bonamigo”, in the same link and naturally put two and two together. But if you insist on having “facts” and “information”, I suppose you can click these links:

From Rosie Gray at Buzzfeed: Meet Maurice Bonamigo, U.S. Senate impostor

From Max Fisher for the Washington Post blog: Egyptian newspaper interviews ‘Republican senator’ who is actually conservative political consultant


Zero Hour

I’ve been spending the past week filming in Tahrir and around Cairo. It kicked off on June 30 with protests that were every bit as massive as promised (for the first time in a long time), then on Wednesday in comes the Army and out goes the president.

I spent today mostly visiting the Islamist camps in Nasr City’s Rabaa al-Adaweya mosque and outside Cairo University. The former was surprisingly organized and friendly to the media while the Morsi supporters at the university were suspicious and controlling of where I could film.

You never know what you’re going to get on any given day or how you’ll be received, you just have to be there.


Don’t piss off the artists

… or they will stage concerts and bring out the mimes.

Seriously though, I really enjoyed filming the Ministry of Culture sit-in and spending some time with the artists this past week. They like to point out that no one in Egypt has occupied a government building as long as they have (approaching a month now).

Singing, dancing, and otherwise bringing art to the street is one of the cooler ways I can think of to protest — even if the street in this case is still in the wealthy area of Zamalek.