Saturday, July 7, 2007

Weekend News Roundup: Maadi Has Best Burger!!!

An assortment of articles this week, ranging from the world's best hamburger to just a few censorship items. Three articles about Egypt, plus a few on politics, and one on diversifying America's parks, constitute the rest of the articles (not necessarily in this order.)

How many times have I mentioned Road 9 in Maadi? Well, one establishment there, Lucille's, has been named "The Best Hamburger" by the author of Postcards from Cairo for TIME Magazine.

The World's Best Hamburger Is in Egypt

When I asked general manager Essam Mabrouk the secret of the burgers, it turned out there is indeed a special ingredient, which is lathered on the beef patty as soon as it hits the heat. (He hinted it has something to do with fish, but refused to divulge more.) Mabrouk hauled me into the kitchen to show me some other reasons for Lucille's success: fresh, organic ingredients. Six kitchen butchers double-grind ultra-lean round and rump steaks, mixing in a secret ratio of "clean" fat, and then double-press the patties in a mold to ensure cooking consistency. The lettuce, tomato and onions are grown in the Nile River basin's year-round sunshine, requiring no preservatives. "It really boils down to the fact that it's all homemade," Lucille tells me. "We've gone back to basics. I don't throw anything in the grinder that doesn't belong there."

Also, an excerpt from a book about an Egyptian family moving abroad.

Searching for My Father's Lost City

Before we fled, Cairo was a cosmopolitan crossroads. How much still remains?

My father, who had lived in Egypt since the turn of the century, had been a prosperous businessman and pleasure seeker who gambled with King Farouk. My mother was a teacher and librarian in a private school supported by a Pasha and his wife. I attended the tony Lycée Français du Caire where at five, I wore a grey uniform with a crest. We left a year later, when my father, who had tried to hold on, succumbed to pressure from my older siblings who felt there was no future for them in Egypt.

Sadly, reluctantly, Dad gave away the lease to our apartment and signed papers known as aller sans retour. It meant that we were leaving and never coming back.

It was a wrenching departure, and we never got over it. No matter where we went we always looked back on Egypt with longing. "Ragaouna Masr," my dad would cry out in Arabic, especially as he fell on hard times in America. Colloquially, it meant "Take us back to Cairo!"

My father died in 1993, having never returned to Egypt. Recently, I returned to Cairo.

Adapted from 'The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit,My Family's Exodus from Old Cairo to the New World ' by Lucette Lagnado.

From Amazon
Book Description
In vivid and graceful prose, Lucette Lagnado re-creates the majesty and cosmopolitan glamour of Cairo in the years between World War II and Gamal Abdel Nasser's rise to power. Her father, Leon, was a boulevardier who conducted business on the elegant terrace of Shepheard's Hotel, and later, in the cozy, dark bar of the Nile Hilton, dressed in his signature white sharkskin suit. But with the fall of King Farouk and Nasser's nationalization of Egyptian industry, Leon and his family lose everything. As streets are renamed, neighborhoods of their fellow Jews disbanded, and the city purged of all foreign influence, the Lagnados, too, must make their escape. With all of their belongings packed into twenty-six suitcases, their jewels and gold coins hidden in sealed tins of marmalade, Leon and his family depart for any land that will take them. The poverty and hardships they encounter in their flight from Cairo to Paris to New York are strikingly juxta-posed against the beauty and comforts of the lives they left behind.

An inversion of the American dream set against the stunning portraits of three world cities, Lucette Lagnado's memoir offers a grand and sweeping story of faith, tradition, tragedy, and triumph.

Egyptian attempts to curb smoking receive skeptical response

CAIRO, Egypt: In a country where perhaps the most popular national past-time is puffing on a water pipe or chain smoking while drinking tea, new laws designed to curb smoking are receiving a skeptical response.

If you want to read one piece in this Roundup, please take a look at The Obscured Continent, from the Columbia Journalism Review. It's a critique of a recent Vanity Fair Magazine, The Africa Issue. For anyone who is a Vanity Fair fan like I am, seeing Madonna on the cover of a magazine featuring articles solely about Africa, made my skin crawl. The woman "bought" an African child, for God's sake (and some controversy to go along with it) and we should look at her as a spokesman / representative of what's happening in Africa today? It's a never ending parade of celebreality angst, and let's not forget, they are today's swamis on the issue, are they not? It's like a mad dash by the "look at me, look at me, look at me" brigade screaming, "I'm a do-gooder. I've got morals too! " scrambling for (retch!) the next award - The Nobel Peace Prize? (People, please don't trample over each other now.) I don't think buying children is exactly what the Prize committee had in mind. After I received a lecture from a GAP store employee on how many vaccines $1.00 could buy, when I was purchasing a "Red" item for less than that, (and already knowing that only about ten percent actually went towards the "Red" campaign,) it seemed to me to be just another way to make more money. The business of America is business, and Africa be damned! Don't get me wrong, but as The Columbia Journalism Review critique states, Vanity Fair could've presented more Africans who are working to make a change, rather than a bunch of botoxed celebrities.  Oh and is Africa so damned desperate that ten percent will fix it?  C'mon!  What a load of capitalist garbage! Why don't they outsource to Africa and help the Africans help themselves?  

For those of you who need some comfort read  this:
In a recent story, the Washington Post tackles cause marketing's paradoxical nature, and seems to theorize that perhaps consumers are just a little too confused to participate in such initiatives: "Cause marketing soothes the compunctions of a mass-consumption culture at the same time that it contributes to that excess. It allows us to be giving at the same time that we are selfish."

Mother Jone's latest issue: Politics 2.0, describes the technological revolution in politics. It also displays how a blog like the Daily Kos can influence thousands of people to email, call, write to their representatives, or just whoever the Daily Kos is angry with at the moment, subsequently stirring them into a frenzy. Someone tell me how this is different from Osama's call to arms. These people are becoming celebrities, they get paid and advise politicians. They are basically becoming the same people they despise - lobbyists and Republicans, and they also command a cadre of thousands.  Oh, and you think Cheney's a secretive creep?  Apparently, it's contagious.

Open-source politics is the idea that social networking and participatory technologies will revolutionize our ability to follow, support, and influence political campaigns. Forget party bosses in smoky backrooms—netroots evangelists and web consultants predict a wave of popular democracy as fundraisers meet on MySpace, YouTubers crank out attack ads, bloggers do oppo research, and cell-phone-activated flash mobs hold miniconventions in Second Life. The halls of power will belong to whoever can tap the passion of the online masses. That kid with a laptop has Karl Rove quaking in his boots. And if you believe that, we've got some leftover stock to sell you.

Picnics, Games and Culture Shock

Parks Work to Tailor Services While Educating Immigrants on Rules

Feeling helpless, parks employees turned to their computers, Googling such terms as "Persian" and "holiday" and "spring." That's how they learned that on Sizdeh Bedar, a popular celebration in Iran, it's considered unlucky to stay indoors. Now each April, the park is ready with extra staff.

Parks are changing, too: Montgomery County built a cricket field for its Jamaican and Indian expats. Fairfax County is contemplating bigger picnic pavilions for Latino families, who tend to gather in large groups and stay longer. The Northern Virginia park authority plans to offer instant kimchi, a cabbage dish, alongside hot dogs at some of its snack stands to appeal to Korean golfers.

"It's about connections rather than enforcement," said John Berlin, program section manager for the Fairfax County Park Authority. "It's putting out the welcome mat to the international community, not just saying, 'Here's how we Americans do things.' "

The "Do As I Say, Not As I Do" law of the week, coming from the U.K. in a TIME Magazine article:
Hubble, Bubble, Hookah Trouble
Despite all the predictions of mass outrage, New York, Dublin and even Paris have adjusted to bans on smoking in public places with quiet resignation rather than rebellion. But with London's ban commencing this week, the city's sizable Muslim population will not easily accept the closure of their beloved shisha bars.

Café owners allied with El-Nour are lobbying for London to follow the example of New York, which made exceptions in its smoking ban for cigar rooms and hookah bars. They point out that the British ban already exempts private homes, hospitals, prisons, hotel bedrooms and, revealingly, the Houses of Parliament. If politicians can continue to puff away with impunity, they ask, why can't we?

I've included the article on the mosque debate because I consider attempts to stop it from being a built a form of censorship. Decide for yourself.  And Iran starting it's own English speaking station?  Anyone who has kept up with the news knows this is another scheme to divert Iranian attention away from their country's own pressing issues (which Achmadinajed is sorely at need to do.)

Germans Split Over a Mosque and the Role of Islam

Plans for what would be one of Germany’s largest mosques are rattling an ancient city to its foundations.

But the proposal has also drawn fierce criticism from a respected German-Jewish writer, Ralph Giordano, who said the mosque would be “an expression of the creeping Islamization of our land.” And he does not want to see women shrouded in veils on German streets, he said.

“For me, it is self-evident that the Muslims need to have a prestigious place of worship,” said Mr. Schramma, who belongs to the center-right Christian Democratic Union. “But it bothers me when people have lived here for 35 years and they don’t speak a single word of German.”

Cologne, with one of the largest Muslim populations of any German city, already has nearly 30 mosques. Most are in converted factories or warehouses, often tucked away in hidden courtyards, which has contributed to a sense that Muslims in Germany can worship only furtively.

But Mr. Broder said that his underlying message was valid, and that his stature as a writer gave him the standing to say it. “A mosque is more than a church or a synagogue,” he said. “It is a political statement.”

Trial in Editor’s Killing Opens, Testing Rule of Law in Turkey
Eighteen young men are charged in the assassination of the newspaper editor Hrant Dink, a Turkish citizen of Armenian descent, who was shot and killed in January.

The trial’s verdict will have broad implications for free speech. Ultranationalist Turks have used an article of the country’s criminal code that forbids “insulting Turkishness” to push the government to bring charges against Turkish writers, including Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist. Mr. Dink received a suspended sentence under the statute. His supporters argue that a limp prosecution of his killing will embolden nationalists. banned in the UAE
Dubai: Controversial website has been blocked in the UAE after Gulf News highlighted the concerns of readers that it contains sexually explicit material.

Iran Expands Role in Media, via Satellite and in English

Press TV, Iran’s new 24-hour English-language satellite television channel, which aims to compete with the BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera International, launched on Monday

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the staff during an opening ceremony on Monday that the channel “should stay beside the oppressed people of the world,” the official Islamic Republic News Agency said.

“Broadcasting the truth immediately, providing precise analysis and exposing the plots of propaganda networks of the enemy is among your duties,” he was quoted as saying.


  1. Ah...Lucille's. I usually opted for the chicken salad (grilled instead of fried) w/ their honey mustard dressing. Loved getting a baked potato on the side (garlic salad dressing, too!)

  2. Oi, achei teu blog pelo google tá bem interessante gostei desse post. Quando der dá uma passada pelo meu blog, é sobre camisetas personalizadas, mostra passo a passo como criar uma camiseta personalizada bem maneira. Se você quiser linkar meu blog no seu eu ficaria agradecido, até mais e sucesso. (If you speak English can see the version in English of the Camiseta Personalizada. If he will be possible add my blog in your blogroll I thankful, bye friend).

  3. The Boss Man likes their burgers. I haven't been too happy with what I've gotten there, maybe it's my choices, but I am considering trying the burger, which I normally only eat when I make them myself.

    Btw, you might be right. Mediterraneo looks like it's closed. I haven't gotten a chance to ask around, but hope to eventually.