Faridoon Shahryar's Blog

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Diary of day 7 of the India By The Nile festival 2016, Egypt

Diary of Day 7 #IndiaByTheNile #Luxor #Egypt
By Faridoon Shahryar

I visited the magnificent #ValleyOfTheKings in #Luxor for the second time today. When I visited this world heritage site last year, the number of tourists were considerably higher than what I witnessed today. In fact it was totally deserted. It was heartbreaking to see the local vendors desperately trying to sell their articles to the trickling tourists filtering in. It seemed like a matter of do or die.

The same story had been repeated at the magnificent #TempleOfHabu and the imposing #ColossiOfMemnon. There were very very few tourists and the desperate vendors tried all the tricks to sell their wares. They were willing to reduce the price massively. It is a crisis situation. The Russian plane crash in #Sinai has adversely affected the tourism industry in Egypt. What purpose does war of religion serve if it leads to inhuman poverty and depression for common people? I can feel a lot of pain all around. I dread to think what will happen if drastic efforts are not taken to improve the tourism industry in Egypt.

The #OberoiZahra sailed early in the morning. I woke up early and spent quality time on the Sun Deck soaking in the #Nile aura. All the three meals were awesome and will be remembered for a long time to come. The conversations with fellow journalists from the Indian media contingent were interesting too. We shall be taking off shortly for #Cairo. I am damn sleepy. I wasn't sure how tired I will be once I reach Cairo hence decided to wrap up today's diary here itself. So much for now. Good night.

Diary of Day 6 of the India by the Nile festival 2016, Egypt

Diary of Day 6 #IndiaByTheNile 2016 #Egypt
By Faridoon Shahryar

It was one of the most perfect days of my life. #Nile has a tremendously calming influence. The water is delicately somber and there's something mysteriously intoxicating about the whole experience of watching #OberoiZahra moving ahead taking graceful strides through the heart of Nile.

I woke up early in the morning but then I slept again. I don't know when we started cruising early in the morning. You don't feel any impact as the boat moves forward or when it takes a start. Our first excursion was the #TempleOfKomombo. Built over a span of 400 years (200 BC to 200 AD), there's a lot of history imbued in these ancient structures. The salesmen in local market outside the temple desperately tried to sell us their wares. It is sad how things have dramatically changed in #Egypt in the last few years. In 2010, before the first revolution, Egypt was earning 20 billion dollars per year through tourism, but now that has been reduced to half a billion. The shabby condition of security systems outside the ancient sites in #Aswan and elsewhere tells a sad story in itself. One of the prized tourist destinations till a few years back, Egypt needs the tourists to flock again. I was here last year. I can say it with all honesty that things are far more relaxed than what they were an year back.

The most unforgettable moments of the day were the ones spent on the top deck, observing the magnificence of Nile. The dining room is in the basement level. As we had our lunch, it seemed as if the waves wafted past us. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

In the evening we went to the #TempleOfEdfu. We enjoyed a horse ride for reaching our destination. This is one of the most well preserved monuments in Egypt. It was built over a span of 180 years (237 BC to 57 BC). The tale of Horus and Seth was inscribed in totality in an enclosure. The symmetrical design, the perfection, it was surreal.

I swam twice during the day. It was very windy in the evening as we collected our wits and had tea at the top deck. It was so windy that it wasn't too audible when we spoke amongst each other. The meals have been excellent and I must say that the Chef and the entire team is simply brilliant in putting together fantastic courses. The evening meal was a rage.

One of the best parts of the day was the conversations that I had with fellow journalists that are part of the Indian contingent. Journalists from #IndianExpress #TheHindu #Telegraph and a couple of travel journalists are extremely well informed about current affairs and have a sound opinion as well as information about anything and everything. We discussed Bollywood, politics, Kashmir crisis, environment, gender inequality and much more. The meeting of minds and a quest for intellectual growth motivates me a lot in indulging in meaningful conversations. So when I say a perfect day, then the intellectual stimulation had a big role to play in that. We went and sat at the top deck post the meal. It was time to grab as much fresh air and to let the wind cast its spell. This moment will never come back. Let's make the most of it. We are stopping over at #Essna for the night. Good night :-)

Diary of Day 5 of the India By The Nile festival 2016, Egypt

Diary of Day 5, #IndiaByTheNile #Aswan #Egypt
By Faridoon Shahryar

You realise the worth of life when you do nothing, just let the cool wind caress you gently on a laid back moonlit night, close your eyes and forget all your worries. Top deck of luxurious #OberoiZahra gave me that opportunity a short while back when I lazed around post a sumptuous dinner. We are on a two nights three days #Nile cruise between #Aswan and #Luxur here in #Egypt. It was an early morning flight from #Cairo to Aswan. We were shifted to Oberoi Zahra from Aswan airport.

It is a moving five star hotel with state of the art facilities and impeccable service by a polite and courteous staff. I went to the Gym in the morning and swam in the top deck swimming pool in the evening for a long time. The lunch and dinner were served in a royal manner. The food is excellent and the Chef actually comes and enquires about your personal requirements.

We went to visit the 'Unfinished Obelisk' in Aswan. It was extremely hot when we ventured out in the afternoon but the ancient sight was worth it. Later we went to Philae Temple for which we had to go in a boat since the temple is situated in the middle. It wasn't Nile, it was a reservoir culled out from the water of Aswan Dam. The water was cold and very fresh. The smell was very nice. The Philae temple was a revelation. But what I liked more was the calming peacefulness of the ambience. The boat ride while coming back left me with a wonderful feeling since I was touching the cold water and the wind was very welcoming.

As I prepare to call it a day I am listening to light instrumental music. Somehow for me it is very important to recharge my batteries. I take myself seriously. I take my work seriously. I take my family and friends seriously. So for me to do full justice to all those mentioned above it is very important that I must remain in a relaxed state of mind. This trip to Egypt has been a perfect recipe for that. There are two more days to go and I hope I will be able to dip further in the reservoir of unique experiences. So much for now. Time for me to hit the bed. The cruise will start its voyage at 5 in the morning. Hopefully when I shall wake up tomorrow, I'll be in the middle of the Nile. Sounds fun. Good night guys. Take care. As for all my Egyptian friends, thanks a lot for all your positivity. Best regards. :-)

Diary of Day 4 of the India By The Nile festival 2016, Egypt

Diary of Day 4: #IndiaByTheNile #Egypt #Cairo
By Faridoon Shahryar

Date: April 26, 2016.

It was a day dedicated to conversations and it was deeply satisfying at the level of spirituality. Sometimes when you observe the pain of others, you can relate to it in an unspoken way and it is cathartic because our own pain appears less.

In the morning I was interviewed by Ola Samir for an Egyptian website. It was interesting how she recorded the conversation on video as well as it's audio. The questions were interesting.

I and Tahir went to Maharaja Restaurant in Zamalek with Marwa Love Salman whom we've known since our last trip. She's extremely well behaved, courteous and intelligent. It feels wonderful to know people outside of your own country who treat you with such respect.

We went to Maulana Azad Centre for Indian Culture in the evening and were pleasantly surprised with Egyptian fans who are learning Hindi/Urdu due to their love for Hindi films. They danced and sang for us. A girl couldn't speak a word of Hindi but she danced superbly on #ManwaLaage with all the trappings of a classical dancer. A boy was a total filmi chap as he sang and danced like a pro. A mother and daughter duo are both learning Hindi/Urdu in the same class. An Arabic man sang Amar Akbar Anthony for us and sang the Arabic translated version as well.

The next stop was Cairo Opera House where first of all we treated ourselves to a nice cup of tea. Later we interviewed Mr Sanjoy Roy, the director of Love Story, A Bollywood Musical which is one of the attractions at India By The Nile Festival this year.

The best was saved for the last as our Egyptian good friend Nadia Jereidini along with her wonderful friends Amira Mohamed and Hanan treated me and Tahir out for dinner at Mahraani Restaurant on a big boat stationed at the Nile river. Great ambience with carefully crafted artistic decor and nice soft music. The food was awesome. Chicken tikka, seekh kabab, naan, gaajar halwa with ice cream and then there was chhoti ilaaichi, laung and saunf to complete the course. The mint tea was a delight. When you talk to people whom you trust, a lot of positivity flows without making any efforts. You get to feel the pain of your friends that's hidden by their bright smiles. If you're a friend then you should care about the pain of the people who make a difference in your lives in whatever capacity. The precarious manner in which the world is perched at right now, it is important that we must make efforts to help each other irrespective of the religion, cast, creed, colour or any other barrier. It may sound clich├ęd or pedantic but we must keep Humanity first. Everything else will follow.

Good night!

Diary of Day 3 of India By The Nile festival 2016, Egypt

Diary of Day 3 of the #IndiaByTheNile festival 2016

It was an incredible day. I received so much of selfless warmth today that I am truly overwhelmed. We went to India House in the morning. Indian Ambassador to #Egypt, Mr Sanjay Bhattacharya warmly welcomed us. He briefed us about the bond between #India and Egypt and how the trade and cultural transactions are further strengthening the bond between the two countries. When I did a one on one interview with Mr Bhattacharya he apprised me about the huge love for Bollywood amongst local Egyptians.

A dear Alig Danish Habeeb came and met me at the hotel and later in the afternoon he treated me to lunch in an Indian restaurant. It was a wonderful time spent.

After a passionate session of swimming in  the afternoon, I went to meet the members of Indian Egyptian Friendship Association. It was an unforgettable evening. They showered such affection, funny jokes and a superlative love for Bollywood films and stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan etc that I was truly overwhelmed. The interesting part that I've been noticing in Egypt is that women are generally progressive and it is a wonderful thing.

The evening reached its climax as we covered the concert of #IndianOcean group. Talking to Rahul Ram post the concert was a great experience. He's a gifted artiste. It was an amazing day,

Diary of India By The Nile 2016, Egypt: Day 2

Diary of #IndiaByTheNile festival 2016: Day 2
By Faridoon Shahryar

Reading the magnificent poetry of #FaizAhmadFaiz on a laid back bus journey to #Alexandria was a fascinating experience. The lyricism, the enormous depth and a poignant mirror to life's uncomfortable realities makes Faiz an artiste beyond compare.

Once we reached Alexandria, the gigantic Alexandria Library was our first stop. One of the guides, Hasan Ahmad expertly explained the history behind the library. What I liked about him was the flawless manner in which he spoke English. It is very apparent that maximum people that I've come in contact with in Egypt, they have a problem with communicating in English. I asked Hasan about this and he said that Egyptians generally communicate in Arabic. He agreed that there ought to be more practical usage of English since it is easy to communicate that ways. I was very impressed with the articulate manner in which Hasan spoke and then he had a nice sense of humour which made the manner in which he explained the details interesting.

We went to the Citadel after that. It was the famous Light House of the past and now an imposing Citadel. At the top of the citadel, the panoramic view of the skyline and the ebullient waves of the beautiful Mediterranean Sea created an image that will remain etched in my mind for ever! While coming back, I once again read Faiz and discussed Manto with a few media friends. It was an enriching experience. I'd end today's diary with a Nazm by Faiz

Jab teri samandar aankhon mein

Ye dhoop kinara shaam dhale
Milte hain dono waqt jahan
Jo raat na din, jo aaj na kal
Pal bhar ko Amar, pal bhar mein dhuaan
Is dhoop kinaare pal do pal
Honton ki lapak
Baahon ki khanak
Yeh mail hamaara jhooth na sach
Kyun raaz karo, kyun dosh dharo
Kis kaaran jhoothi baat karo
Jab teri samandar aankhon mein
Is Shaam ka Sooraj doobega
Sukh soyenge oar dar waale
Aur raahi apni raah lega

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Diary of India By The Nile Festival 2016, Cairo, Egypt

Diary of #IndiaByTheNile 2016 #Cairo #Egypt Day 1
By Faridoon Shahryar

It has been a rollercoaster 24 hours for me. Boarded a flight for Abu Dhabi last night and had a fascinating experience watching #Trumbo a film about a great Hollywood screenwriter who supported the Communists in an America immediately post world war 2,  how he was called a traitor and how even the film industry had split into two. Trumbo was jailed, he got out after much efforts, wrote classics in other people's names (including the great #RomanHoliday and managed to get recognised by his own community and the country in general without compromising on what he believed in. I could relate to the story as I am witnessing a split within Bollywood currently due to the thick divide based on political and cultural viewpoints.

After a breathless cardio at Abu Dhabi (since we had merely 45 minutes to change gates), hurriedly passed the security check and successfully boarded our connecting flight for Cairo. Thankfully I managed to sleep and I was beaming like a Cheshire cat who's had whatever he wanted once we landed in Cairo in the middle of the night. It is 3 and a half hours behind India. The breeze was pleasantly chilly. We checked into Hotel Hilton Ramses and voila I managed to sleep for a few hours once again. I am the happiest guy around if I manage to get good sleep. I swam leisurely in the hotel swimming pool in the morning, had an elaborate breakfast and gazed at the magnificent view of Nile from my room for a long while.

In the afternoon I along with the entire Indian media contingent went to Giza and feasted on one of the most incredible views in the form of the three Pyramids and the imposing Sphinx. On our way back, the Egyptian Tourism officials stopped over at a Government shop selling organic perfumes. The instructor explained about each perfume in a highly interesting manner.

The evening was rounded up by our visit to the India House where Indian Ambassador to Egypt Mr Sanjay Bhattacharya and his enterprising wife had set up an enchanting evening as Nile flowed along nearby on a full moon night. The special attraction of the evening was when 12 Egyptian women were felicitated with 'Women of Substance' awards for exemplary work in their respective fields of work. Notably, Egyptian women have a strong presence in their country's Parliament, in spite of the Islamic influence, the women come across as highly progressive and individualistic. A woman who fought for women's right to ask for divorce from her husband was a case in point.

I must also make a point about the wonderful warm reception that I am getting on twitter and Facebook from my friends in #Egypt. It is truly heartwarming. Several people have told me that I should consider Egypt as my second country. I am feeling at home :-) Tomorrow morning we are going to #Alexandria for a day. It should be fun. Good night!