Saturday, April 21, 2012

Tea, beaches, and monkeys

I traveled to Sri Lanka for a week and a half this month during my spring break, and it was a wonderful time. I'm unfortunately kind of busy right now getting ready for a trip to Jordan this coming week, so I don't have time to do a post that does Sri Lanka justice.

In short, though, it's a fascinating place full of pristine beaches and beautiful mountains, gorgeous tea plantations and ubiquitous monkeys, delicious food and really nice people. The food is spicier than India's, and as visitors we didn't see much rampant poverty like that which is so commonly associated with India -- not to say it doesn't exist. The people are still recovering from the tsunami in 2004, which killed tens of thousands and leveled coastal communities, as well as the effects of the country's civil war, which lasted over 25 years and only ended three years ago.

I hope these photos can convey how beautiful and interesting Sri Lanka is:

The city of Kandy, in the hills in the center of the country

Women at the Kandy's Temple of the Tooth, which is said to contain Buddha's tooth

Giant Buddha 


Buddhas in caves

The ubiquitous rice and curry

Sigiriya, the site of an ancient rock fortress 

Sri Lanka's colorful (and ancient) transportation

Mmm... cream soda

A farm in the beach town of Nilaveli

A civil war-era bunker on an empty beach in Nilaveli

Ruins from the tsunami in Nilaveli

Picking onions in Nilaveli

Tharini, the daughter of the awesome family that ran our guesthouse in Nilaveli, attacks a coconut

Muslim boys in Trincomalee, a coastal city that was the scene of fighting
and ethnic tension just a few years ago

Hindu ceremony in Trinco

More spice than you could possibly imagine

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Bathing in a nearby river

Third class on a train into the Hill Country

 Sunrise in Haputale, in Sri Lanka's Hill Country


Farina, one of our hosts in Haputale, with her delicious breakfast

19th century-era, British railway system

Tea fields at sunrise

The view from Lipton's Seat, where Sir Thomas Lipton, founder of the Lipton
tea empire, used to come and ponder life's greatest questions

Tea. Lots of tea.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Parkour, cattle, and Islamists

It's been a crazy news week here in Cairo. The Muslim Brotherhood announced on Saturday -- after lots of speculation and closed-door negotiations -- that it would field a candidate for the presidential race, throwing the election into disarray and upending previous electoral predictions.

Meanwhile, foot-and-mouth disease has been ravishing the Egyptian countryside over the last few weeks. I saw on TV today that the outbreak has dissipated, but it's made a long-lasting financial impact on farmers here.

I've had a number of pieces published in the last week -- a video and two articles:

Parkour on I've gotten to know some Egyptian youths who practice parkour, the free-spirited sport in which athletes navigate urban environments with acrobatic techniques. They flip, fly, and jump through the air, and I made a short video about it that was published on's Page 2 blog. Click here to check it out.

Foot-and-mouth disease: I traveled on Friday to the Nile Delta -- the fertile region between Cairo and the Mediterranean where much farming in the country is concentrated -- to do a story for the Abu Dhabi-based, English-language newspaper The National on the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak. I met farmers and saw infected cows; click here for my article.

Muslim Brotherhood: I wrote another article for The National on Sunday, this time about the Muslim Brotherhood's announcement that it would nominate a candidate for the presidency. Click here to read the story.

I'm off to Sri Lanka this Wednesday for almost two weeks over spring break, with a quick stop in Kuwait on the way back to Egypt. I hope to update while I'm traveling. See you soon!

Update (April 3, 2012): A third piece I wrote this week for The National, on Islamists and the transformed Egyptian presidential race, was just published online. Click here to check it out.