Heading to Jordan

Match me such marvel save in Eastern clime,
A rose-red city – half as old as time!

Those are the last two lines of a sonnet by a minor Victorian poet named John William Burgon, and those words, about the ancient city of Petra, won him the coveted Newdigate Prize for poetry at Oxford University in 1845.

Though Burgon never visited the rose-red city he writes about, I will be going to Petra this weekend. I’ll also spend a few days in Wadi Rum, the backdrop for David Lean’s epic “Lawrence of Arabia.”

Will tell you all about it when I return.

When Pyramids Bend

Bent Pyramid

Here’s a photo of the so-called “Bent” pyramid of Dahshur. The theory behind the bend is they started on too steep a slope to finish the pyramid and corrected themselves half way up. And the steep walls are also the reason the limestone is still on the outside and hasn’t been pilfered over the years for other buildings (like the original limestone exteriors of the pyramids of Giza).

I’ll post more photos of this and the red pyramid (and tell you why my legs and butt are sore today — and that I’m not alone). In the meantime, check out Marie‘s note about what we discovered deep inside the tomb chambers of the red pyramid and why our muscles are so sore today.

bent and red

Cameras and Action

Oct 6 kid face

My students are full of pleasant surprises. Now that I’ve finally hit my stride, and my classes are going strong, I am bowled over every day by what I’m hearing and seeing from these budding documentary filmmakers. In the five-week professional course, the ten students are doing four short pieces that went into production this week.

Abdalla 01Earlier in the week, one team focused on one of the top oud (a middle eastern lute) players in Egypt, who also happens to have been blind since birth. Yesterday, I shot with a team doing a film about the El Hosary Home for Orphans in 6th of October City, a suburb of Cairo. The founder of the center is a former pop singer who stepped out of the spotlight and channeled her energy and money into charity. She is an angelic presence at the home, the mother to all the kids and staff there, and loved by all. Oc 6 kids 02

The 43 children live in groups of four in small apartments, each including a bedroom (with four crib beds), a playroom and a full-time “mother,” a woman who spends nearly every day and night with them when they’re not in school. The kids were excited about the visitors with the camera, and were climbing all over me as I tried to shoot. The boys, especially, were thrilled to get some attention and affection from the three visiting men.

Today, another team worked in an area of town where thousands of Iraqi refugees are making their homes away from home.

Next week, another group will meet up with a former soccer star turned school headmaster.

And that’s just one of my classes. I’ll tell you about the amazing projects my graduate students have in the works in a later post.

Oct 6 Kids 04

Rough Tough Dough

I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately addressed: Dear Duff. Just this morning, a student reporter, who said she would be “honored to write a profile on you” started her e-missive with “Dear Duff.” People are being polite, not informal. It’s a common mistake in a place where so many people have the first name of Mohamed, and many take their surnames to identify themselves.

But reading “Dear Duff” puts me in mind of Banquo’s line in MacBeth:

“Dear Duff, I prithee, contradict thyself, and say it is not so.”

To which, my favorite reply would be from Walt Whitman:

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”

Or, as the spokesman for Duff beer says: “Duffman says a lot of things. Ooh Yeah!”

New Online Journal: Arab Media & Society

My colleagues at the American University in Cairo made the following announcement today:

Arab Media & Society Launched

Online journal will cover changing media, political and cultural landscape

AMS logoThe Center for Electronic Journalism at the American University in Cairo and the Centre for Middle East Studies, St. Antony’s College, Oxford, are pleased to announce the launch of their new electronic journal Arab Media & Society at www.arabmediasociety.org.
The online publication is the successor to the highly-regarded Transnational Broadcasting Studies (www.tbsjournal.com), which has been covering satellite broadcasting in the Middle East and broader Muslim world for the past decade.
The move is recognition of the changing nature of the Arab media and social landscape.
“When TBS Journal was founded two years after the launch of Al Jazeera, satellite TV was the story. Newspapers were moribund. Internet penetration was negligible. Media deregulation was an alien concept,” publisher and co-editor Lawrence Pintak writes in the first issue. “The impact of the pan-Arab satellite revolution is today felt at every level of Arab society – and in every form of media.”

The journal will publish quarterly with frequent updates of timely articles from scholars, researchers and journalists.
“The Arab media scene and Arab society as a whole are changing rapidly. The shift from a combination of print and online to a pure online approach means we are able to offer thoughtful insights into developments as they occur, produce more frequent thematic issues, and include a mix of interactive features,” Pintak says in his column.

For example, the first issue includes:

  • A package of six stories on blogging in the Arab world, led by an article from Marc Lynch of Williams College, accompanied by an interview with two Egyptian bloggers in a streaming audio format.
  • A set of articles on last summer’s Lebanon war, including a piece on women war correspondents by Magda Abu-Fadil and an article by Paul Cochrane on how Hizbullah’s al-Manar managed to stay on the air
  • Print interviews with the head of the BBC’s new Arabic news channel and a Tunisian online magazine editor, along with an audio interview with Daoud Kuttab, who is pioneering community radio in the Arab world
  • A piece on the fate of US government broadcasting by former official of VOA Alan Heil, Jr.
  • Interactive book reviews that invite reader comment and debate
  • And much more

The site also contains real-time summaries of the Arab media, resources such as major reports on the development of Arab media, and links to a variety of other interesting content.

For further information or to discuss writing for the journal, contact Managing Editor George Weyman at ams@aucegypt.edu.