Feelin' Like Elvis in Shiraz, Iran
Published 6/4/2018 in Stan Lee Pengelly's Travels Author Stan Pengelly
My fellow photographers and I were walking from our hotel in Shiraz, Iran to a dinner restaurant when something unusual happened: we were cheered by a carload of girls. Even in my glory days of youth and vigor, I never elicited excitement like this from any women, so to be sixty years old and have a carload of chador- and hijab-wearing girls hoot at me like I was Elvis was a shock. Though this was the most emotional reception thus far, my experience in Iran... read more ❯

Burning Chicken Fat
Published 5/28/2018 in Stan Lee Pengelly's Travels Author Stan Pengelly
I was walking through my hometown airport, waiting for my flight number to be called, when suddenly I had this intense desire to vomit.  It was almost lunchtime and one of the food vendors was cooking chicken on the other side of a barrier and the smell of burning chicken fat began to waft over into the hallway.  I don't get nauseated easily and when I thought about why I was reacting this way to chicken, my thoughts traveled back in time and place to the cremation grounds of the Shiva temple... read more ❯

An Epiphany in the land of plenty
Published 5/16/2018 in Living among the locals Author Yasmin Helal
Far away from home, I walked down a nameless street, in and out of nameless shops, buying products I never believed in. Weeks after meaningful words have left me. Just when I needed them the most. I’ve always been a talker, playing with words until they succumbed to my will. But now they have abandoned me. So did my healthy appetite and peaceful sleep. Abandoned. Left to my own devices. I remain in the dark. Here I am where kids attend music classes after school. Drinking clean water from the tab, long after the sewage have left my kidneys. Eating clean food... read more ❯

Dubai beaches
4 outdoor spots perfect for working out in Dubai
Published 3/24/2018 in Living among the locals Author Yasmin Helal
Winter time in Dubai and the UAE is definitely my favorite time of the year. This is the best to get out and enjoy the weather.  Thanks to venues like local gyms and Dubai Sports World, sports lovers were able to get some workout done without getting baked in the heat. As the weather continues to improve, the entire emirate is turning into a huge playground with plenty of outdoor venues for working out.  Here are just a few of them: 1. Park Workouts When it comes to exercising outdoors in Dubai, whether individually or in groups, parks offer some of the best options with a quiet atmosphere and vast green... read more ❯

FGM in Egypt
Are fears of legalization of female genital mutilation in Egypt real?
Published 3/23/2018 in Living among the locals Author Yasmin Helal
I wrote this during an internship that I did as a new journalist back in 2012. It was a time when I was still young, too young to know how to channel my anger in a healthy way. There was only one thing I was willing to hear from my interviewees, a big mistake in investigative journalism which I hope to correct in my current and future work. Looking back now, I doubt whether these UN statistics are accurate. So far, I haven't been able to find a single family in Cairo that practices FGM on their daughters. Of my four... read more ❯

Desert
Did you know the Arabian desert used to be a green jungle?
Published 3/22/2018 in Living among the locals Author Yasmin Helal
Did you know that the vast desert occupying much of North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula used to be lush jungles? Several chapters of the Quran narrate anecdotes of lands that turned from lush gardens with rivers into arid deserts after its people sinned.  It turns out that these stories are not as metaphorical as we thought. Early human communities lived in the congested area of the Nile valley almost 6000 BCE. At one point, many of those inhabitants moved to Asia and from there into the rest of the world. What attracted those communities to come to Arabia, recent research points out, is a change... read more ❯

10 poets in the UAE you should know about-3
10 musicians to check out live in the UAE
Published 3/21/2018 in Living among the locals Author Yasmin Helal
The UAE’s young music scene has attracted a variety of talented, enthusiastic musicians from all over the world. Having worked in the business for almost 10 years, Lebanese artist manager Elia Mssawir told StepFeed about his project of launching his own company in Dubai with the aim to support and develop regional artists. Other initiatives like The Sound Gaarden, The Fridge, Alserkal Avenue, and Home Concerts in Dubai, also offer locally-based musicians who perform to a live audience at all sorts of events. Here are some of the UAE-based talented musicians you should know about: 1. Sherif el Moghazy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_mZeyWnoTIo One of the few advantages to having an explosive population in Egypt is... read more ❯

Arabic folk music
Arabic Folk Music and its origins
Published 3/20/2018 in Living among the locals Author Yasmin Helal
Our region is rich with folk music, but a lot of us don't know much about its origin and how it came to be.  This is why I spoke with my good old friend Ibrahim Hassoun, Dubai-based Palestinian musician who told us more about the subject, the music, and the instruments.  From Egypt, the Gulf (Khaleej) to the Levant, folk music tells countless stories of people, lands, and traditions. Hassoun's family left Lebanon for the UAE when he was only a child. There, he developed his talents, growing up to become... read more ❯

Cinema Akil
4 Indie Film Venues to visit in the UAE
Published 3/19/2018 in Living among the locals Author Yasmin Helal
It wasn’t such a long time ago when boutique cinemas and cinema clubs started showing up around Dubai. Not many survived, but those that did set the scene not just for indie film screenings but also for supporting local short and feature film productions. "The growth of the independent cinema scene is a clear indication of an increasing demand for a richer cultural life in the city. It's an essential dimension that is now being fulfilled and nurtured by eager audiences yearning for alternative cinema and cinematic experiences," Butheina Kazim, co-founder of Cinema Akil, tells StepFeed. "Alternative and art-house films play a crucial complementary role to... read more ❯

Akhenaton
Here's how this Pharaoh turned ancient Egyptian art upside down
Published 3/17/2018 in Living among the locals Author Yasmin Helal
In Ancient Egypt, individuals were governed by strict religious and social guidelines. This can clearly be seen in the hard work that reflects in the enormous temples and pyramids across the banks of the Nile. However, during the reign of the Pharaoh Akhenaton, more commonly known to English speakers as Akhenaten, there was a sharp break away from the traditions that governed Egypt during the era of his predecessors as well as his successors. The drastic change was mainly due to his different religious views which centred around one deity, Aton (or Aten), or what is today known as monotheism. Akhenaton ruled for some seventeen years. His reign ended with his death sometime... read more ❯

10 poets in the UAE you should know about
10 poets in the UAE you should know about
Published 3/16/2018 in Living among the locals Author Yasmin Helal
The UAE's poetry scene is as diverse and multicultural as the country’s population.  Almost a decade old, the country’s open mic and slam poetry scene has thrived thanks to the many active voices that have made it what it is today. Platforms and organizers like Blank Space, Rooftop Rhythms, and Dubai Poetics have greatly contributed to the progress of slam poetry in the country. Alserkal Avenue's LiteraturHaus, where poets and other figures of literature are invited to speak, is another significant contributor. Take a look at emerging and established poets that are redefining the UAE's cultural landscape.  Farah Chamma https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bF7FNoJfGs Farah Chamma is a Palestinian poet who has been performing spoken... read more ❯

Dubai's 7 best Rigag and Chai Karak joints
Published 3/16/2018 in Living among the locals Author Yasmin Helal
Taking into consideration how international Dubai is, one wouldn't be surprised with the versatility of its cuisine scene.  From French to Indian to Chinese and Japanese, your options are endless.  But local fast-food restaurants are also on the rise. And chai karaks (sweet tea with milk and cardamom) and rigags (the Oriental version of crepes) - delicacies that were virtually unknown outside the sphere of Emirati homes - are now being widely offered in various restaurants.  Here are a few good options if you'd like an introduction to Emirati snacks: Logma restaurant at BoxPark Located in BoxPark opposite Al Safa Park in... read more ❯

Edward Said's disappointment after meeting Sartre, Foucault and De Beauvoir
Published 3/16/2018 in Living among the locals Author Yasmin Helal
Palestinian-American scholar, Edward Said (1935-2003,) is considered one of the region’s most significant literary critics, dedicating most of his work to the struggles of Palestine and the Arab world. His 1978 book, Orientalism, has become integral to post-colonial schools of thoughts. Said was fascinated by French philosophers like Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Michel Foucault. Sartre was a leading Existentialist thinker, de Beauvoir’s writings on gender significantly contributed to the second wave of feminism, and Foucault's skepticism made him a renowned philosopher and historian. Eager to discover the three philosophers’ perspectives on the Arab region's issues, Said was thrilled when he received an invitation from de Beauvoir and Sartre in... read more ❯

Dog Meat
Published 3/11/2018 in Stan Lee Pengelly's Travels Author Stan Pengelly
Warning:  If you are offended by a discussion of dogs being used as food or with animal cruelty, then please do not read this blog. I am serious when I say that if my dogs and me were trapped in a burning building and my wife could only save me or them that she had better rescue them first. I love dogs, especially our "children". I grew up with dogs as family members. I can watch a movie where dozens of humans are hurt, carved up, run over, shot or otherwise obliterated and it... read more ❯

Yasmin Helal
This is what it was like growing up in Cairo during the 90's
Published 3/11/2018 in Living among the locals Author Yasmin Helal
The 1990’s were a pivotal era in Egypt’s modern history. It was the decade that witnessed a changing social climate, with an influx of migrants flooding from the rural areas to the capital, Cairo.  A significant portion of the population was pushed below the poverty line, and substantially, fewer mini-skirts were seen in the streets of urban centers. It was a time when Egyptians were not as proud of their national identity as they were in the 1980’s but held fewer grudges against their government than in the early 2000’s. Back in those days, growing up in the streets of Orouba, behind Qa’et Sayed Darwish, we could see... read more ❯

Dubai
A backpacker's guide to Dubai
Published 3/8/2018 in Living among the locals Author Yasmin Helal
Dubai is a famous destination for luxury travelers, shoppers, and big spenders. But that never stopped backpackers with a limited budget from exploring the glamorous City of Gold.  More recently, though, the Emirate's flagship airlines have been carrying a growing number of travelers from Europe to Asia me who often stop here for transit. Catering to these - often low-budget - tourists, Dubai has been expanding to meet their needs. If you have a trip that stops in Dubai, here are some suggestions for budget-friendly activities. Scan the city from the metro One of the most popular sights in Dubai is the city’s tower-studded... read more ❯

orabi_pasha
How an Egyptian revolutionary impacted the Sri Lankan Muslim community
Published 3/4/2018 in Living among the locals Author Yasmin Helal
Colonel Ahmed Orabi Pasha was an Egyptian nationalist, revolutionary, and army leader back in 1881.  A figure that would later on serve as an inspiration to former President Gamal Abdel Nasser, Orabi led a social-political movement that expressed the discontent of the Egyptian educated classes, army officials, and peasantry with foreign control. His influence and ideologies culminated in the revolt against the Anglo-French dominated administration of khedive Tewfik Pasha in 1879. Threatened by Orabi's rising popularity, khedive Tewfik asked the French and British for help, who went on to stage a naval demonstration in the bay of the Mediterranean city... read more ❯

A closer look at the history and misconceptions of Sufism
Published 2/27/2018 in Living among the locals Author Yasmin Helal
When I was asked about what I thought Sufism was at a so-called Sufi meditation seminar a couple of months earlier in Dubai, I was surprised to be told that Sufism had nothing to do with Islam. “The link between Sufism and Islam is a misconception. Anyone of any religion can be a Sufi,” the non-Muslim Sufi instructor patiently corrected me.   Eventually, when we moved on to the meditation practice itself, we were instructed to close our eyes, picture a closed flower in the middle of our chest, and slowly open it up by being positive and grateful towards everything in the... read more ❯

Oman
5 Things to do in Oman
Published 2/25/2018 in Living among the locals Author Yasmin Helal
Being based in Dubai, I got tired of hopping on an airplane for at least 4-6 hours for short trips that don't exceed just a couple of days. So I decided to head to neighboring Oman, a nearby destination that I hadn't explored yet. Located at just an hour's distance by plane, the Sultanate is the ultimate short holiday destination for all UAE residents. Feel the cultural difference If, like me, you live in Dubai or anywhere else in the GCC, going to Oman and meeting the Omanis will be anything but redundant.  While most of the GCC cultures combine an... read more ❯

Luxor, Egypt
Ancient Egyptian myths debunked
Published 2/18/2018 in Living among the locals Author Yasmin Helal
Intrigued by the pyramids and other outstanding landmarks, the world has been captivated with solving mysteries and finding answers pertaining to Ancient Egypt. But most of the stories you read are based on either outdated research or historical misunderstandings. Here are a few myths debunked and clarified: 1. Slaves built the pyramids Because the Pyramids of Giza were the highest buildings for almost four millennia, it is almost hard to imagine how an ancient culture with no technology that we currently understand made them happen. One of the common myths is that the Pharaohs enslaved an army of laborers to build them. But, thanks to recently... read more ❯