Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Amazing Women Visiting Pensacola

When I first came to Pensacola, a woman at our church who is very welcoming and kind to newcomers told me she “wanted to find just the right place for me to plug in.” A couple of her suggestions were not exactly what I wanted, but then she introduced me to Jena Melancon, the founder and director of the Gulf Coast Citizens Diplomacy Council, and I found my niche.

Jena is an amazing woman. She has created this organization. She has a data base of resources that allow her to tailor visits for foreign delegates so that they can meet the needs of their missions – Election Transparency, Entrepreneurship, Environmental Protection, Leading an NGO, Military and Civilian Community Cooperation, Domestic Violence, Creating Fair Policies, Programs for Enriching Disadvantaged Children – you name it, Jena can create a program that will enrich their understanding from an American perspective.

At the same time, Pensacolians who come into contact with the delegates sent by the Department of State find that their lives are also enriched. Many times they, too, learn something new and unexpected. Both groups benefit.

Jena also has a group in GCCDC that studies Great Decisions, and creates events throughout the year for membership participation. Members of the Gulf Coast Citizens Diplomacy Council can volunteer in Jena’s office, can host dinners for delegates and have some one-on-one time learning about customs in another part of the world, can sponsor a Pensacola child in an international exchange, can host teenagers here on an international exchange, or attend the famous Mint Julep party in Spring. Many in the GCCDC are also resources; the exchange of ideas bringing inspiration to both sides.

This week, I was honored to be able to work with a group of Women in Leadership, women from Chad, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Sudan. Each and every one of the women was a hero in her own right, making life better in their communities by stepping into leadership roles. Rehab, above, from the Sudan, works to empower women and to make the laws show greater equality in the treatment of men and women.


CPT Aseel is a police chief in Iraq.

Maki, from Chad, works to prohibit child marriages and female genital mutilation.

Mariam, from Saudi Arabia, is a high level journalist in the Saudi media industry, accepting honorary citizenship from the City of Pensacola city council chair Sherri Myers.

Wasfiya is a minister of parliament in Iraq.

Ola is the delegate from Jordan.

I was honored to spend three days of my life with these women, and with Jena, and with other inspirational women of Pensacola at the Women in Leadership conference at UWF.

Here is most of the group with Judy Bense, President Emeritus of UWF, at the closing of the Women in Leadership conference, 2020. Life can be amazing when so many women of talent and confidence gather together to inspire one another.

March 3, 2020 Posted by | Adventure, Character, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, Interconnected, Leadership, Political Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Study Shows Muslim Nations Differ on How Women Should Dress

Digg started sending me articles, I don’t know why, but every now and then something turns up truly interesting. This is a Pew Research Center Study found in Slate Online Magazine:

Screen shot 2014-01-10 at 8.33.21 AM

Charted: How People in Seven Muslim Countries Believe Women Should Dress

By Joshua Keating

As the chart above, created by the Pew Research Center, goes, there’s quite a bit of variation over what constitutes proper dress for women in the Islamic world. The data for the chart come from the Middle Eastern Values Survey conducted by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. (Several hundred people comprising what the researchers describe as a nationally representative sample in terms of education, religion, and social class were polled in each country. The gender breakdown was close to 50–50 in each of them.)

As you’ll see, the majority overall said that a woman should completely cover her hair but not her face. The majority in conservative Saudi Arabia favored the face-covering niqab, while relatively liberal Lebanon and Turkey had the highest support for no covering at all. (Hijabs are still prohibited for women in a number of jobs in Turkey.)

Overall, Tunisia had the highest number of respondents (56 percent) saying it is “up to a woman to dress whichever way she wants.” Only 14 percent of Egyptians agreed. Interestingly, given that it has the most stringent legal dress codes of any country sampled, 47 percent of Saudis said women should be able to dress how they wish.

January 10, 2014 Posted by | Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues, Tunisia, Turkey, Values, Women's Issues | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Zabbaleen Cave Church in Cairo

My friend Hayfa sends me the most amazing things. Her mind is another Here, There and Everywhere Kind of mind. 🙂



This article resonates with me because when we moved to Tunis, the garbage collectors would fight over our trash. I felt horrible, we had an infant, and there were diapers in the trash. 😦 Our maid would take cans and jars and especially jars with lids out of the trash, and ask if she could take them. We learned before throwing anything away to see if she wanted it first. They used, and re-used, everything. We learned to look at our consumption in a whole new way. It was one of the best things about living in an ‘alien’ community; we learned to see ourselves with different eyes.



Thank you, Hayfa, for this fascinating article.


The Cave Church of the Zabbaleen in Cairo


The Monastery of Saint Simon, also known as the Cave Church, is located in the Mokattam mountain in southeastern Cairo, Egypt, in an area that is known as ‘garbage city’ because of the large population of garbage collectors or Zabbaleen that live there. The Zabbaleen are descendants of farmers who started migrating from Upper Egypt to Cairo in the 1940s. Fleeing poor harvests and poverty they came to the city looking for work and set-up makeshift settlements around the city. Initially, they stuck to their tradition of raising pigs, goats, chickens and other animals, but eventually found collecting and sorting of waste produced by the city residents more profitable.

The Zabbaleen would sort through household garbage, salvaging and selling things of value, while the organic waste provided an excellent source of food for their animals. In fact, this arrangement worked so well, that successive waves of migrants came from Upper Egypt to live and work in the newly founded garbage villages of Cairo.


For years, the makeshift settlements of the Zabbaleen were moved around the city trying to avoid the municipal authorities. Finally, a large group of Zabbaleen settled under the cliffs of the Mokattam or Moquattam quarries at the eastern edge of the city, which has now grown from a population of 8,000 in the early 1980s, into the largest garbage collector community in Cairo, with approximately 30,000 Zabbaleen inhabitants. Egypt is a Muslim-majority country, but the Zabbaleen are Coptic Christians, at least, 90 percent of them are. Christian communities are rare to find in Egypt, so the Zabbaleen prefer to stay in Mokattam within their own religious community even though many of them could afford houses elsewhere.


The local Coptic Church in Mokattam Village was established in 1975. After the establishment of the church, the Zabbaleen felt more secure in their location and only then began to use more permanent building materials, such as stone and bricks, for their homes. Given their previous experience of eviction from Giza in 1970, the Zabbaleen had lived in temporary tin huts up till that point. In 1976, a large fire broke out in Manshiyat Nasir, which led to the beginning of the construction of the first church below the Mokattam mountain on a site of 1,000 square meters. Several more churches have been built into the caves found in Mokattam, of which the Monastery of St. Simon the Tanner is the largest with a seating capacity of 20,000. In fact, the Cave Church of St. Simon in Mokattam is the largest church in the Middle East.

Mokattam                                                            mountain in                                                            southeastern                                                            Cairo
the                                                            Zabbaleen are                                                            Coptic                                                            Christians
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The first                                                            church below                                                            the Mokattam                                                            mountain
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Cave                                                            Church of St.                                                            Simon in                                                            Mokattam is                                                            the largest                                                            church in the                                                            Middle East
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The                                                            largest                                                            garbage                                                            collector                                                            community in                                                            Cairo
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Egypt's                                                            Zabbaleen                                                            Carves                                                            Beautiful                                                            Hidden Cave                                                            Churches in                                                            Cario
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Wall                                                            Painting of                                                            Jesus in Cave                                                            Church of the                                                            Zabbaleen in                                                            Cairo
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Wall                                                            Statue of Cave                                                            Church of the                                                            Zabbaleen in                                                            Cairo
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Exterior                                                            of Cave Church                                                            of the                                                            Zabbaleen in                                                            Cairo
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The City                                                            Cairo
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Gabage in                                                            City Cairo
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December 15, 2013 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Community, Cultural, Faith, Home Improvements, Survival | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Heavyweight Saudi Arabia” Influence Counters “Over-Stepping” Qatar?

From the Kuwait Times, a fascinating comparative analysis of the influence of Saudi Arabia and Qatar on Islamic countries in transitions:


Qatar losing ground to Saudi diplomacy



DUBAI: Qatar, a key supporter of Islamists who rose to power in Arab Spring countries, is losing ground in regional politics to Saudi Arabia which appears to have seized the reins on key issues, notably Egypt and Syria. The decline in Qatar’s regional diplomacy comes as its powerful emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani unexpectedly abdicated in favor of his son Tamim last month.

The wealthy Gulf state had transformed itself into a key regional player but began to retreat as heavyweight Saudi Arabia re-entered the political arena after lagging behind in the immediate period following the eruption of the Arab Spring uprisings in December 2010. The ouster of Egypt’s Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last week by the army and the election by the Syrian opposition of Saudi-linked Ahmad Assi Jarba as new leader stripped Qatar of strong influence in both countries.

“Qatar had tried to take a leading role in the region but overstepped its limits by openly backing the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Syria, and other Arab Spring states,” said Kuwaiti political analyst Ayed Al-Manna. Jonathan Eyal, head of international relations at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute, argued that Qatar’s regional politics have failed.

“Qatar’s Middle Eastern diplomacy now lies in ruins: it failed to produce dividends in Libya, backfired in Syria and has now collapsed in Egypt,” local Emirati daily The National quoted him on Tuesday as saying. Realizing the damaging effects of their policies, Manna noted, “the Qataris sought to cut down on their commitments” which were already affected by the emir’s abdication and the sidelining of the influential prime minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jabr Al-Thani.

As a result, “Saudi Arabia, a historical regional US ally, regained its role” in coordination with other oil-rich Gulf monarchies, said Manna. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah was the first foreign head of state to congratulate Egypt’s interim president Adly Mansour, hours after he was named to replace Morsi. And on Tuesday, the kingdom pledged $5 billion in assistance to Egypt. The United Arab Emirates, which has cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood in the past few months, offered Egypt an aid package of $3 billion.

“Saudi Arabia wants to ensure stability in Arab Spring countries, regardless of its ideological interests,” said analyst Abdel Aziz Al-Sagr, head of the Gulf Research Centre. “It had supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt but reconsidered this support after the Brotherhood failed to run the country wisely,” he argued. But the Saudi researcher downplayed the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, both of which have been looking to expand their influence during the Arab Spring uprisings and prevent any potential revolt against their own autocratic regimes.

“The Saudi-Qatari harmony still exists and there is no battle for influence between the two countries,” said Sager. And as proof, “Riyadh was the first to be informed of the political change in Qatar, six months before it took place. And it welcomed it.” But the two countries, whose relations have been historically tense or at least marked by mistrust, support two different approaches of political Islam that emerged strongly in the wake of the Arab Spring.

Qatar sides with political parties linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, whose experience was cut short despite the strong media support they enjoyed from the influential Doha-based Al-Jazeera news channel. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia promotes Salafist groups that focus less on politics and more on implementing Shariah Islamic law on daily life matters such as forcing women to wear a veil and prohibiting the mixing between sexes. Saudi King Abdullah has reiterated his country’s stance against using Islam for political purposes.

“Islam rejects divisions in the name of one party or another,” he said in a statement marking the start Wednesday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The kingdom will never accept” the presence of political parties, that “only lead to conflict and failure.” But regardless of the political agendas of Saudi Arabia or Qatar, the people who rose up during the Arab Spring revolts will have the final word on their own political futures, argued former Bahraini cabinet minister Ali Fakhro. “It is the Arab people, not Qatar nor Saudi Arabia, who will determine the political future of the region.” – AFP

July 11, 2013 Posted by | Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Kuwait, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Saudi Arabia, Women's Issues | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Arabs wary of expressing their opinions online

Fascinating study results published in Qatar’s Gulf Times:



Northwestern University in Qatar has released new findings from an eight-nation survey indicating many people in the Arab world do not feel safe expressing political opinions online despite sweeping changes in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.

From over 10,000 people surveyed in Lebanon, Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan and the UAE, 44% expressed some doubt as to whether people should be free to criticise governments or powerful institutions online.

Over a third of Internet users surveyed said they worry about governments checking what they do online.

According to the report, “The implied concern (of governments checking what they do online) is fairly consistent in almost all countries covered, but more acute in Saudi Arabia, where the majority (53%) of those surveyed expressed this concern.”

The study – titled ‘Media Use in the Middle East – An Eight-Nation Survey’ – was undertaken by researchers at NU-Q to better understand how people in the region use the Internet and other media. It comes as the university moves towards a more formalised research agenda and is the first in what will be a series of reports relating to Internet use.

The survey includes a specific chapter on Qatar, the only country where those surveyed regarded the Internet as a more important source of news than television. “We took an especially close look at media use in the State of Qatar – a country with one of the highest Internet penetration rates in the Arab world—and internationally,” said NU-Q dean and CEO Everette Dennis.

These findings follow a preliminary report NU-Q released last April that showed web users in the Middle East support the freedom to express opinions online, but they also believe the Internet should be more tightly regulated. “While this may seem a puzzling paradox, it has not been uncommon for people the world over to support freedom in the abstract but less so in practice,” Dennis explained.

Among other findings, the research shows: 45% of people think public officials will care more about what they think and 48% believe they can have more influence by using the Internet.

Adults in Lebanon (75%) and Tunisia (63%) are the most pessimistic about the direction of their countries and feel they are on the ‘wrong track.’

Respondents were far more likely to agree (61%) than disagree (14%) that the quality of news reporting in the Arab world has improved in the past two years, however less than half think overall that the news sources in their countries are credible.

Online transactions are rare in the Middle East, with only 35% purchasing items online and only 16% investing online.

The complete set of results from the survey is available online at  The new interactive pages hosting the survey on the website have features that allow users to make comparisons between different countries, as well as between different demographics within each country.

Dennis confirmed that the research report is the first in an annual series of reports produced in collaboration with the World Internet Project; one of the world’s most extensive studies on the Internet, in which NU-Q is a participating institution.

NU-Q and WIP signed an agreement earlier in the year, providing a global platform for the current research.

June 29, 2013 Posted by | Blogging, Bureaucracy, Communication, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Jordan, Leadership, Living Conditions, Middle East, Privacy, Qatar, Safety, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues, Survival, Transparency, Tunisia | , , , | Leave a comment

Feast Day of St. Anthony

In our Lectionary Readings for today, they list today as the Feast Day for St. Antony, one of the early monastics of the Christian Church.

antony at cave



Before the conversion of the Emperor Constantine in 312 AD, back in the days when Christianity was still a persecuted religion, the act of becoming a Christian involved turning one’s back on the pursuit of security, of fashionable prestige and popularity, of success as the term is widely understood. After the Emperor had changed Christianity from a persecuted religion into a fashionable one, many earnest Christians felt the need to make such a renunciation in the service of Christ, and did not see mere Church membership as any longer enough to constitute such a renunciation. Accordingly, many of them sought Christian commitment by fleeing from society into the desert, and becoming hermits, devoting themselves to solitude, fasting, and prayer. Although this trend was much accelerated and reinforced by the conversion of Constantine and attendant changes, it had already begun earlier. An outstanding early example is Antony of Egypt, often reckoned as the founder of Christian monasticism.

Antony of Egypt, the son of Christian parents, inherited a large estate. On his way to church one day, he found himself meditating on the text, “Sell all that you have, and give to the poor, and come follow me.” When he got to church, he heard the preacher speaking on that very text. He took this as a message for him, and, having provided for the care of his sister, he gave his land to the tenants who lived on it, and gave his other wealth to the poor, and became a hermit, living alone for twenty years, praying and reading, and doing manual labor.

In 305, he gave up his solitude to become the head of a group of monks, living in a cluster of huts or cells, devoting themselves to communal singing and worship, to prayer and study and manual labor under Antony’s direction. They did not simply renounce the world, but were diligent in prayer for their fellow Christians, worked with their hands to earn money that they might distribute it as alms, and preached and gave personal counseling to those who sought them out.

In 321, Christians in Alexandria were being persecuted by the Emperor Maximinus (the rule of Constantine was not yet universal), and Antony visited Alexandria to encourage those facing the possibility of martyrdom. He visited again in 335, when Arianism was strong in the city, and converted many, by his preaching and testimony, and by prayer and the working of miracles. His biography was written by Athanasius, who said of him: “Who ever met him grieving and failed to go away rejoicing?”

The Forward Day by Day website summarizes St. Antony just a little differently:

Today the church remembers Antony, Abbot in Egypt, 356.

Father of Christian Monasticism Many young men of the third-century world despaired of their decaying, materialistic, and licentious society. In Egypt many fled into the desert in protest and for their own souls’ health. Sometimes their behavior became almost as bizarre and unbalanced as the behavior of those from whom they fled. This was not true of Antony. Antony’s quiet and well-ordered life of devotion in the desert stood out in contrast both to the wickedness of the contemporary world and the eccentricities of some other hermits. He gave away all his possessions to the poor and thereby freed himself from the demands of property. Still, he found that he had to fight a seemingly endless battle against his personal passions and temptations. He helped fellow Christian hermits to organize their lives in meaningful patterns of prayer, work, and meditation. His own solitude was frequently interrupted by his concern for the secular church and by requests for counseling. He was a friend to Athanasius (see May 2) and his orthodoxy was unquestionable. It has been said that, “Alone in the desert, Antony stood in the midst of mankind.”

This is not the same St. Anthony who helps you find lost things; that is St. Anthony of Padua, but when I read about this St. Anthony, and his orderly life, I thought that beating back the forces of chaos keeps things from getting lost in the first place. 🙂

January 17, 2013 Posted by | Biography, Community, Faith, Lectionary Readings | | 1 Comment

Doha Debates and Where Are You From?

The Baked Salmon Dijon for last night’s dinner took a little longer to cook because Joe Patti’s cuts the salmon steaks so thick (we cook two, split one and freeze the other for another night), so while I was waiting, I flipped around and found WSRE’s Doha Debate coverage.

Who knew?

I didn’t know I could still watch the debates in Pensacola! This one was about whether or not Egypt should postpone elections in the interest of forming a more representative democracy. The vote was 84% in favor; the two young supporters carried the house. 🙂 This was the March debate and you can hear the entire 48 minutes by clicking here.

The winning female debater used a slogan I had not heard, but I love, because it is graphic and memorable – “we do not want a fast-food democracy that brings only indigestion.” The younger debaters want to scrap the entire constitution and re-write it, claiming the current structure needs to be thoroughly revised in order for democracy to have a chance of success.

I love it that these issues have a forum for debate in Doha.

Following the debate was a cringe-worthy video about asking people where they are from. His point was that when he is asked where he is from, and he answers ‘The Bronx,’ people say “No, where are you REALLY from?’ and the implication is racist. He says it is the same as saying that his color is darker, therefore he is not like us, so he must not be from around here.

I’ve asked that question. Never meant it to be insulting, but I will stop now. Or I will only ask those with a slight accent, maybe. Wherever we have lived, we have been asked that question – but then, in Kuwait and Qatar, most of the work force is not Qattari or Kuwaiti. Even in Germany, however, where we might look a lot like them, we are asked where we are from. It used to be a courteous way of showing interest, or initiating a conversation.

One time in Doha, a local man asked me about my breeding, LOL. I told him I was a product of the American melting pot, and from the earliest settlers to the latest, my family includes just about a little of everything. We were at the veterinarian’s office, and I knew the purity of his dog’s blood lines mattered, and probably his own, but I also felt a little insulted, and I haven’t forgotten it. Doesn’t science teach us that diversity in blood lines is a good thing?

We are in the middle of a heat spell in Pensacola, early this year, and because we haven’t gotten anywhere near the normal rainfall, there are also wildfires. The firefighters are struggling to put out the fires, and also fighting heat exhaustion. AdventureMan is out watering all our new plantings, and our tomatoes, every morning, God bless him, because when the temperatures go high, I just want to stay inside.

June 16, 2011 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Civility, Communication, Community, Cross Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Florida, Gardens, Interconnected, Leadership, Pensacola, Political Issues, Random Musings | | Leave a comment

Al Jazeera (English) Covers Egypt

If you are in the USA, the best coverage I have been able to find has been on Al Jazeera live. They have English language coverage. Unlike Egypt, which has closed down all access to the internet, you can stream Al Jazeera live by clicking on the blue type below.

Al Jazeera English – Live

Their coverage is – from what I can tell – fair and balanced.

It’s in the mid 70’s Fahrenheit, in Cairo in the daytime, getting down to the 50’s – 60’s at night – perfect weather for a protest. Looks like Paris in the late 60’s.

January 28, 2011 Posted by | Africa, Bureaucracy, Communication, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Law and Order, Leadership, Living Conditions, Tunisia, Weather | | 9 Comments