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Arabs climbing mountains? seriously? I am VERY serious. For those of you who have followed my blogs you know that I’m following 8 Middle Eastern mountaineers who are climbing the seven summits to show the Arab world that unity is possible. Kheiry Sammakieh who is one of the mountaineers and is representing Lebanon is a friend of mine. I have followed their quest since he messaged me about it. As soon as I get an up date from his brother or other members of the team I post it on my blog.
About a week ago I got a message on facebook from Kheiry’s brother informing the followers of SeVen.
 
The webisodes that can be watched on http://www.unite4seven.com/ are of excellent quality, the pictures are clear and the sound is fantastic. The webisodes are short takes of  episodes that are scheduled to air on a network at a later time and date. The webisodes tease you because they only give you a glimpse of what is going on during the teams quest, it does give the viewers and the fans a good idea of what these brave and ambitious climbers have to endure. Before the adventure even begins these climbers have a bit of a problem, 2 of the climbers are already at the refuge on the mountain and need to conserve their energy so they won’t make it down to the starting point to meet the four climbers that have arrived (1 representing Iraq, 2 women representing Jordan and 1 representing the nation of Morocco). The remaining two climbers who complete the team were stuck in London due to flight cancellations caused by weather. If that isn’t enough the team themselves hit a rough patch of weather on their climb too. You have to watch the webisodes to see for yourself. 
 
Below is the message from Plan A’s director and Kheiry’s brother, Amin;
 
“This is to inform you that “seVen” Webisode 4 is now online, you can view it in the video section of the “seVen” group or alternatively you can visit our website http://www.unite4seven.com and access all our media from there on youtube and myspace.

Please keep the support coming, invite all your friends and family to join. Remember, this is not an ordinary group, we promise to keep you entertained with more activities and updates all they way until the pilot episode “seVen” is ready.

Stay tuned for more Webisodes and Updates …Coming soon.

The “seVen” Team”

I’ve been stuck at home for the past week with ‘Acute Tonsilitis’! It hurts like the dickens and I hate being ill! The only advantage I have had about being stuck at home is grading papers and finishing report cards on time.  Anyway, that’s not what this post is about, the post is about something I’ve seen on the television during my week of solitary confinement. On MBC 4 ( Middle Eastern station)  There was an add that was informing and encouraging people  from different countries in the Middle East to audition for the ‘Arab’ version of ‘American’s Got Talent’. There have posted selected dates throughout the entire month of March in different Arab countries at specified hotels for auditions to be held. Guess, what. Cairo will be hosting two-days of auditions. 

On the 29th and 30th of March there will be crowds of people impatiently waiting their turn to audition in front of a panel of judges to see if they have enough talent at the Etab Theater in Giza. My Dad is a huge fan of the show, he gets so excited whilst watching the performers and then when a commercial comes up he sometimes leaps up from his chair and pretends he’s one of the contestants auditioning! I could swear they based the character Mr. Bean on him.

Living in Egypt for as long as I have and knowing the people the way I do. I am sure that the advert has been seen by thousands of people already and there will be hundreds upon hundreds of people prepping themselves for the auditions. Every Egyptian thinks that they are the next big thing! Can you imagine how many Sherine and Amr Diab wannabes are going to be there? Oh and the next up and coming Fifi Abdus  and Dina Belly Dancers!!! I’m sure there will be a few comedians too as well as some very interesting and very excentric personalities. So, as much as I love watching the auditions for American Idol, I am REALLY going to enjoy watching the auditions for this!

I just hope my Dad doesn’t hear about it. I dread to imagine what he might go and do!

If you want to know more about the audtitions and the event is go to the wwww.mbc.net/gt

Have you ever wanted to just lock yourself up in your house and shut the world out?

That’s how I felt yesterday, I woke up still peeved from Thursday Night. I had invited a group of my female friends over to my house a month ago, for a girls movie night. ( I like to plan ahead) 11 out of the 20 odd people I had invited had RSVPed that they were going to attend. So, I had paced myself with the preparations for Thursday night.

I’m a little old-fashioned, I like to take people for their word and I like to make and prepare everything from scratch. I enjoy cooking and occasionally spoiling my friends so they know and feel how much I appreciate them.

I made special dishes for the vegetarians and those that are watching their calory in take, had the house in tip-top form and only 4 people showed up! The people who came bless their hearts were GREAT and made the best of the evening and tried to eat as much as their stomaches could hold. Those that canceled at the last-minute REALLY ticked me off and some of them seriously didn’t have a good enough reason in my opinion. Leaving me a message on Fbook on the day, when they know I’m busy getting everything ready is a cowards way out in my opinion. They could have at least had the decency to call me and tell me in person.

I have a fridge full of food and tub-aware full of home-made backed goods sat on the buffet of my dinning room. I don’t feel like sharing it with anyone, because in the current frame of mind I’m in I don’t think anyone but myself deserves it! (immature I know)

I woke up Friday morning and I was so out of it that I put my phone on silent and didn’t answer anyones calls or text messages. I just wanted to be left alone. I didn’t want to see or speak to anyone. The only person I did speak to was my Mom, If I didn’t the police would have been sent to knock on my door to find out if I was o.k.

So, I stayed in doors, washed all the serving spoons, dishes and pans that I had used the day before, took a nap, had a warm bath, watched a couple of movies and went to bed.

Today, I still feel like I want to stay incommunicado and out of the line of people. It’s a bit tough when you have to work and interact with those around you.

I’m sure this will pass, but I won’t be hosting another event at my place for a while.

 

An Extraordinary Gentleman.

By; Nadia. M. El Abdin.

Published in the November 2009 issue of (in)sight Mag.

With the earth’s population growing at an exponential rate and with billions of people living on the planet you would expect to find more than just a few good men.

Let’s face it the men of our grandparent’s and great grandparent’s generation are becoming few and far between. Men who are well educated, multilingual, interested as well as fascinated and curious about the world they live in, men who hold a steady job, who have more than just materialistic interests and like to help others because they can, are becoming rare to find. Every full moon or so, you might be lucky enough to meet the acquaintance of one, although they are becoming more extinct with each passing generation, they do still exist.

A little over a year a go I was introduced to a man like that but at the time, I had no idea, what a gem of a person he really was up until very recently.

I met Kheiry Sammakieh, at a school friends wedding. I found him to be quite charming, intellectual and funny but I had no idea that there was more to him than meets the eye. Kheiry an investment banker, was born, raised and educated in London to Lebanese parents. This extraordinary man along with his fellow team members goes out of his way and challenges himself to raise money for a fundraising group called Lebanon United with generous donations from corporate sponsors to help provide a better future for Lebanon. How does he do it? He climbs mountains.

 When did you first start climbing?

I’ve been climbing for three years. I first started climbing when I decided to do a charity climb up Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds & awareness for school children across Lebanon. This project in particular was to raise enough funds to improve
the hygiene and water facilities of 30 schools across the country, literally, almost covering the entire geography of Lebanon.

How do you train to climb a mountain like Kilimanjaro?
The best way to train for a mountain like Kilimanjaro is to do lots of trekking. Luckily, living in London, you are only a few hours away from Wales & Scotland which are the perfect training ground for this kind of
challenge. The first trek and climb I completed was Ben Nevis in Scotland, the highest point in the United Kingdom. I have been completely addicted to climbing since then.

 What was it about climbing that first appealed to you?

I suppose it is very symbolic in many ways. It is the perfect example of how if you put your mind to it you can achieve anything. You can clearly apply most if not all fundamentals in climbing to life. If you
work hard, you will be rewarded… but not always, very much aligned with life, there is always an element of luck involved. In mountaineering you can train your whole life for a climb, but if the weather’s not on your side, it’s all over. That’s what I love about it. It’s just like life.

Do you have to be in good physical shape to climb?

That’s a big question. It varies from mountain to mountain. Some demand a lot more fitness than others. It’s as much a mental as a physical challenge but generally, the better shape you are in the more you’ll be
able to enjoy the experience.

How hard was/is it to train?

Again, each mountain commands a different training program. You have to be determined. It is as hard as you make it for yourself, the fitter and more prepared you are the more you can enjoy the experience. Think about
it. If you aren’t fit, you are going to struggle to keep up the pace, struggling makes it unsafe for you and your rope team. So not only are you letting yourself down, but you are unnecessarily endangering the situation.

What goes through your mind when you are climbing?

I zone out. Living in a big city drives your brain crazy. You need to give it a rest every now and again otherwise the consequences can be dire. It’s the best holiday I could ever ask for. Everybody has their own
way of switching off, for me its climbing.

What feeling (if any) comes over you when your reach the top?

Preparing for a big climb takes months of hard work, staying positive and in some cases a lot of arduous planning. You train so hard mentally and physically, you visualize yourself achieving the goal. When it
actually happens, it feels like you have finally crossed the finish line something you’ve worked so hard at for months and in some cases an entire year. So you’ve got a whole index of emotions running wildly through your mind; relief, happiness, proudness and exhaustion. I try not
to cry but it always happens and I always regret it because my tears freeze from the cold and it’s very painful!

What goals have you set for your in regards to climbing?

To continue to raise funds and awareness for children’s charities working through climbing. There are a lot of under privileged children out there with very little cause for hope in their lives. I want them to
see that life is like climbing a huge mountain and that if you stay positive and set your mind to it you can achieve anything.

How did you get the idea to combine fund raising and climbing?

Since the shocking events of the war in Lebanon in 2006, I have been a very active fundraiser for local and International charities that work with Lebanon. I had been fundraising through sports tournaments, social
events, music concerts and even card tournaments! In the UK it’s very common to raise funds through physical challenges like marathons and triathlons. So, I thought why not? Only this time we went big! We were able to raise a lot more awareness through corporate sponsorship. So far we have been involved in raising $3.375 million USD.

What does the money go towards?

It has always gone towards children’s charities in Lebanon. Children are the future of the country. Our funds specifically impact the lives of children in school and members of loyal communities by improving health
and education standards. The infrastructure we have access to have a massive impact on the local community as it also creates much needed jobs. By improving standards, creating jobs and raising much needed the funded projects will provide a healthy platform off of which the
community’s future will be brighter.

What is your goal in regards to fund raising?

I want to grow my team because at the moment its very ad hoc. Whenever a climb or project comes up I get different volunteers for it. Id really like to see more individual teams climbing for Lebanon and I am always very excited about any other countries in the Middle East doing similar initiatives. I’m always ready to lend a hand in the name of charity especially when combining it with sporting events.

What other interests do you have other than climbing?

I love to travel and to write. Climbing has taken me to some very remote regions in the world and there is this infinite learning curve about people & cultures that I am totally passionate about. I love writing about these experiences as a medium of expressing myself.

What does your family think of your climbing expeditions?

Hahaha they hate that I climb! Bless them, they worry about the climbs but ultimately I think they are proud of what we are achieving.

How do you know Omar Samra?

I met Omar Samra through the incredibly small Arab climbing community. I initially met him at one of his Everest presentations- he is a real figure of inspiration for would-be climbers like myself and a very positive
person to speak to and watch present. We were actually one week apart on Mount Elbrus in the Russian Caucasus on the border with Georgia- sadly I didn’t get to climb with him on that occasion but we ended up doing an
ascent of Mt Toubkal in the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco together. It was a fantastic climb and great to do it in unison. There is very little Arab unity as it is and we felt very proud to team up as Lebanon and Egypt as well as out good friend Nacer from Morocco and show the
world that we can work together.

 The working week can suck you in to a routine very easily. When the cycle of that routine is in motion it becomes very hard to break. You find yourself waking up each morning going through the same motions over and over again as though you were working on a production line or being stuck doing the same thing day and day out like  Bill Muray’s character in the movie ‘Ground Hog Day’

 Get dressed, grab a bite (if you have time), get in your car, drive to work, go to your desk, turn on your computer, answer your e-mails and phone messages, down 3 to 4 cups of coffee, order food, work some more, turn off your computer, brace yourself for the long drive home, get home and collapse. Then you wake up to do the exact same thing the next day. Does that sound about right for most of you?

 Well, that was what it was like for me when I first moved to Cairo four years ago. I knew  a handful of people so my social life was close to non existent. It was mainly work and no play. Until, I was introduced to a group of long time friends who called themselves ‘The Tuesday Nighters’”. The founding father’s of this group met in university and have maintained their friendship since. One of the ways that they did this was by meeting up after work almost every Tuesday to catch up on each other’s news and to just hang out. The idea grew from there and more of their friends and acquaintances began to take part in the weekly tradition.

 The day before or early on a Tuesday morning the ‘Tuesday Nighter gmail, e-mail thread would begin with ideas and suggestions of places to meet up for dinner, a movie to catch, a show to watch or someone’s house to socialize at. Tuesdays, like our weekends have become a sacred day. It’s a day in the middle of the week to allow ourselves to forget our woes, to relax and enjoy being in the company of friends who are guaranteed to make you laugh until your sides ache and the tears come streaming down your face.

Every Tuesday is different. We try to take into consideration everyone’s interests and the driving distance that they would have to endure. One week we might all make our way down to Maadi to go have dinner at Fuego just to give those who live in that part of Cairo a break. We might decide to give the people who live in Zamalek, Mohendiseen and 6th of October City a rest from battling traffic and go to La Bodega, Sequoia, Charwood or even Carnivore for sheesha and a meal. When we are in each others company we can’t help but be loud and laugh. On many occasions I have noticed people sitting near us look over and try and eves drop on our conversation or just burst out laughing. Other’s have a look of longing and wish they could be sitting with a group of people who are out purely to enjoy their time together. The waiters on the other hand might not always share the same opinion, especially when some members of the group spontaneously do an impromptu S.T.O.M.P routine, taping plates, glasses, empty soda cans and other objects on the table with their chop sticks. The secret to our enjoyment is really simple. We don’t really care  who has what, or who has the latest phone or designer hand bag or if we are at some swanky place, where we have to pay over 200LE to get in. It’s us who makes the place enjoyable, not the place that make the outing enjoyable. The most important ingredient of all is that we genuinely really enjoy each other’s company. Sure there are times when we have Alley McBeal moments and you just want to punch someone in the face for having kept the group waiting an hour, or for not being able to make a decision, but HEY! That’s life, and if you don’t let things go…then you just turn in to a sour puss and you loose out on having a fabulous time!

 It’s always nice to see familiar and friendly faces outside of the work place and on a few occasions new introductions to the group are made. Some grow to be frequent members while others think we are a bit too much.

 Our Tuesday nights out with each other give us that extra boost to help us trudge on to make it through the week.

The extent of our friendship and commitment to one another does go beyond just hanging out and dining. We are quite a close knit group of friends who are there for each other in times of need.

 If I hadn’t met this group I honestly don’t know what my life in Cairo would have turned out to be like. What I love most about them is that not only do we ‘CLICK’, we understand each other and we respect one another enough to be able to give our honest opinions about what ever it is we think and feel.

We enjoy each other’s company so much that we try and meet up for breakfast some times on a Friday morning at Lluceil’s, or arrange to have a BBQ out in Waddi Digla, going sight seeing in Cairo as a group to places that we know we would probably never ever get around going to on our own, having an air hockey tournament and sometimes just going away for the weekend to Ein Sokhna or even going away on vacations together.

 It’s important to have a group of people that you are comfortable with and enjoy being with. If you do have a group of friends like that, or if you find people like that. Hold on tight to them because they are very rare to come by. What I love most about being with my shilla (group), is that my guard is let down, I’m relaxed and I can be myself and not have to worry about what they are thinking or saying behind my back.

 If you and your friends have been bogged down with work and have been promising to make plans to meet up soon with one another, but it never happens because something always seems to come up. Well, maybe you need to find time. Your work will always be there waiting for you tomorrow, but friends can give up or move away. There is no time like the present. Set a date and make a plan and trust me, it will lift your spirits and you’ll be glad that you made the effort.