Sunday, June 24, 2012

Swimming Fashion

 I'll never forget the first time I saw Egyptian women swimming at a public beach, covered with burkas to conform with a stricter version of Muslim dress. I was stunned. All that black fabric had to be hot under the sun, and I was worried about them drowning wearing all those clothes. Times have changed a little. The second picture is the new, younger Egyptian women's style of swimming while remaining modestly covered. (Burkas and modesty aren't mandated. Other Egyptian women wear what they please, including bikinis.)

Before you get too horrified at ridiculous convention that puts women in burkas while men can swim in trunks, let's take a little trip through historic women's fashion...

Everything Old is New Again

In China, small feet were considered beautiful, so women broke their foot-bones and bound them to half their size. They could barely walk. A certain singing diva seems to like the look of abnormal feet, and teens are jumping on board, wearing super-high platforms.

In France, stratospheric wigs were common for women in Marie Antoinette's time. The things smelled awful and were flea-infested. Now, it's hair extensions sewn to roots and half shaven heads and dye-jobs. And did you know that some chemical hair relaxers use levels of formaldehyde that put salon workers at a health risk?

Corsets were fashionable in many countries and many time periods. Now, there's a group of super-skinny celebrities and models who starve themselves to look "beautiful" instead of wearing corsets.

I'd like to blame all these dreadful things on men, but I'm starting to think it's really women who are doing it to themselves. Maybe it's time for women to stop being fashion slaves...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Where Exactly is Egypt, Anyway?

If you're anything like me, English was your strong suit in school, not Geography. For those of you who aren't sure exactly where Egypt is, I'm posting this handy-dandy map. 

Egypt is on the continent of Africa. It's actually two pieces of land -- the main country and a tiny triangle on Egypt's upper right called the Sinai Peninsula. Between the main country and the Sinai is the Suez Canal. It was built by the French to connect the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea so ships wouldn't have to sail around the bottom of Africa. Now the canal belongs to Egypt. On the other side of the Sinai is Israel, which is considered to be on the Asian continent. Most Middle Eastern peace talks are held in the Egyptian city of Sharm-El-Sheik at the bottom of the little triangular Sinai.

I live on the eastern coast by the Red Sea, and it's just beautiful!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Donkey Carts in Egypt

The stores come to you in Egypt. At least twice a day, a loudspeaker blares from the road by my apartment building with a merchant selling his wares, ranging from vegetables to milk to rugs to toys. Sometimes they're in trucks, sometimes donkey carts.

Egyptian women will lower baskets, attached to ropes, off their balconies and yell out their order. The wares are put in, pulled back up, and then payment goes back down. Of course, there are plenty of stores, too, but this way is traditional and handier for some.

Like the milkmen of old, the merchants have set routes, and their donkeys could do them blindfolded. I've seen guys sleeping on their wagons while their donkey pulls them down busy streets and in and out of traffic. (Never underestimate the intelligence of donkeys.)

In farmland, donkeys are used to take produce from the fields. This one is carrying sugar cane. Sometimes, I wish my novels could include pictures for those who wonder if I'm getting the facts right or think donkeys pulling big carts are a figment of my imagination. Nope, it's just an average day in Egypt!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Refrigerator Time-Warp

Q: Do you know what's off about the picture above? 
A: The fridge has one door instead of two. 
Q: Do you know why? 
A: Because its "freezer" is a non-insulated box inside, with the cooling element wrapped around it. The door is plastic and folds down. You can see it here along with its drip tray:

I bet none of you have ever even used one of these dinosaurs. It's a style from before the 1950s. By the 60s, the manufacturers had figured out that if you separate the refrigerator part from the freezer part and use two doors, it will work better and the freezer element won't ice up and require defrosting. Seriously, have any of you ever had to "defrost" your refrigerators? Well, I do. I have one like this, as do many Egyptians. I have to defrost it every month or so. Yeah, it's lots of fun. :P After more than ten years, I've finally had enough! Can't take it any more. Hubby and I are buying a new one for my birthday. (Yeah, it's weird b-day present, but, hey, it's more expensive than the b-day presents I usually get, so what the heck.)

Just letting you know so you can look at your own refrigerators and appreciate them. :-)
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