Back from Central Asia

Yesterday morning I arrived back to Egypt after nearly a month in Central Asia - what a trip! It was the first time I ever visit the Stans. I spent about three weeks in Uzbekistan and one week in Kyrgyzstan. I feel incredibly energized and rejuvenated from the culture, nature, and novelty I was able to soak in the past four weeks.

My brother, my sister-in-law, and my nephews just moved back from Canada about a week ago, and they're living with us for the next little while. It had been just over six months since I saw my nephews, and the bulk of the day was spent building sand castles with them, watching them being silly, and having dinner with the family by the pool.

Building sand castles with the nephews
Ali wearing my mom's glasses

Back from Central Asia

I arrived yesterday morning to Egypt from Central Asia - what a trip! I spent nearly four weeks in the Stans. Uzbekistan for 3 weeks and Kyrgyzstan for 1 week. I feel incredibly energized and rejuvenated, and the trip gave me both the stimulation and the peace of mind to reflect and think more deeply.

I spent yesterday primarily with the family. My brother, my sister-in-law, and my nephews are back from Canada. It has been just over six months since I had seen them. It was a great day playing around with sand castles, my little nephew being silly, and having dinner by the pool.

Building a sand castle
Ali wearing my mom's glasses

صباح الخير من بخارى! وصلت إلى بخارى من سمرقند ليلة أمس.

معالم أمس:

  • - زرت مرصد أولوغ بيك.
  • - صلّيت الجمعة في الشاه زنده، و تفاجأت كم صلاة الجمعة هنا تختلف عن مثيلها في الدول العربية. على ما أذكر كانت صلاة الجمعة على النحو التالي:
    • --خطب الإمام، ثم يدعي، ثم يُؤذن الأذان كاملا، ثم يصطف المصلون و جميعهم يصلون ٤ ركعات سنة، ثم أدعية، ثم الإقامة، ثم صلاة الجمعة، ثم أدعية، ثم جميعهم يصطفون مرة أخرى و يصلّون ٤ ركعات (سنّة)، ثم أدعية، ثم تلاوة قرآن خفيفة، ثم أدعية، و تنتهي الصلاة.
    • --يمارس المصلّون جميعا جميع تلم العشائر، باستثناء قلّة قليلة يرحلون عند تلاوة القرآن قرب انتهاء الشعائر.
  • - ذهبت أنا و يوسف إلى ضريح الإمام البخاري. كم هو جميل!
  • - أخذنا قطار المساء إلى بخارى

Shady’s Departure

Yesterday Shady, one of the engineers that report to me, had a chat with me and informed me of his decision to leave our company to pursue another opportunity.

Shady's concerns that made him pursue another opportunity were mostly around legalities that were out of my personal control, but that still doesn't make his decision come across to me lightly. It definitely does't feel great to have someone on your team deciding to leave.

I spent some time yesterday reflecting on this. What are the things that we, as a team, need to change in order to be top-tier and world class? What can we do to make our work life more enjoyable and rewarding, for ourselves and for our anyone that's choosing to work with us?

I reflected a bit on this and I have already taken some actions to step up our game as a team. I'll discuss those in a future post.

On another note, I just wrapped up a soccer game and will shortly be heading to Siwa!

Locked Out and Poached Eggs

Yesterday started off really well. I had planned my early morning meticilously, and it was one of these days I knew was going to be productive, sharp, and on top of things. I am trying to get into the habit of organizing my day before it begins. Here's what I had planned:

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It was off to a great start, but then a strange twist came about as I left the house. I realized as soon as I closed the door that I had forgotten my keys.

Normally this wouldn't be an issue since my brother or my parents would be around, but yesterday was literally the first day I ever spend alone in this house. With the rest of the family in Canada, I was in some deep trouble.

I went to work but obviously couldn't focus since I was concerned with how I was going to get back into the house. My coworker Tolba had a lockpicking set, so I took it and went back home early. I was optimistically thinking I could pick the lock of the back door (it was the easiest type of lock into the house). I felt like I was really close, but I think having the door previously locked with the key on the other side made it extra challenging and I couldn't do it.

I ended up resorting to the hard way. I asked Mazen from my dad's factory to send some people to take care of this. Osta Fawzy and Hamada came, and they drilled through the key hole to unlock the door and then replaced the door lock. The whole process was easier than I expected to be honest, but that doesn't mean that I wasn't lighly admonished by my dad for my negligence.

Anyways, yesterday for dinner I made some tuna salad and, for the very first time poached eggs! (!!) It was my first attempt at ever making them, and I'd say it was great for a first attempt. The eggs ended up edible and actually looked like poached eggs. More poached eggs will now pop up on my menu!

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The Lord of the Rings

A few days ago the gymnastic rings I bought from abroad finally arrived! Preparing for its arrival, I was trying to install a proper pull up bar on the rooftop of my parents' house to fix the rings on them. For whatever reason, mounting a pull up bar onto a wall has been very frustrating. It's been literally two weeks where almost every morning I and my brother Amir worked on installing it, but something gets in the way - the hole is too wide, or we don't find the proper tools, or the nails break, etc. It was a never ending frustration.

Not anymore. I realized this morning that I actually don't need a pull up bar at all to set up my rings. I can just hang it directly from the roof support.

This is the first time I work with gymnastic rings, and I am very excited to be using them. Rings are like a full-on gym. I can use it for pull ups, chin ups, dips, push ups, L-hangs, and everything in between, and it's super light and easy to pack when I'm on the go.

I played around very briefly with the new rings today. I'm still a novice as you can see, and my form wasn't the cleanest, especially with dips since they require more balance on the rings than I had expected. Lots of practice ahead! The journey to be the "lord of the rings" will be starting 🙂

On a completely different note, today I had a nice lunch with my brother and my uncle.

Working in Egypt

It's around dawn here. I just got back to Egypt two days ago after spending time in Germany, Turkey, Canada, and San Francisco.

It's strange how things change. When I left Egypt in late August my plan was to visit friends in Germany for a few days, attend a wedding in Turkey, and then head over to the US to start working with Fomoro, an AI consulting company that I interviewed with a few months ago.

The plan didn't go as expected. While I was in Turkey, Fomoro ended up rescinding their offer, and instead I ended up spending ~5 weeks in Canada with my parents, Esra, and my nephews. I started consulting with Elkrem, a startup that my friends Amr Saleh and Islam Elnaggar had started, and we were all together in San Francisco the past two weeks as part of the Tachyon accelerator.

And now here I am, back in Egypt, and for the first time today, I wake up early in the morning in Egypt and head to the office to work. It feels strange, but in a great way.

I am consulting with Elkrem for another few weeks, then I'll be joining Swvl. I'll talk more about Swvl later in another post.

I absolutely love working with the Elkrem guys. We were a squad of four in San Francisco: Amr Saleh, Islam Elnaggar, Nader Abdelrazek, and myself. The chemistry, the focus, the learning, the productivity, the fun, the challenge has been incredible. It's as if I hadn't felt what it's like to have a great job in years.

While we were at Tachyon, I worked with Islam to build a technical roadmap for Elkrem, and worked with Amr to refine the product pitch. My goals for the next few weeks, as I work on the tech stack of Elkrem, is to explore ways to make the Elkrem team much more productive than they are today. I am super excited about what lies ahead with these folks.


Project Mobile Fish I

Yes, I think you can see a pattern by now. I'm launching a new fitness project. Project Slim Fish has been a very good success despite my shoulder setbacks. Since Slim Fish I've been doing some loose exploration of what to do next fitness-wise. What I realized is that what I need the most at this stage isn't more strength, it's more mobility.

My mobility is in my view my biggest weakness. I feel quite stiff, and as I get older I suspect my immobility will be the leading cause of injuries and/or pain I'll have. I decided to follow Calisthenics Movement's Mobility Program. I relied on Calisthenics Movement for Medium Fish and Slim Fish, and I can't recommend them highly enough.

For the purpose of this project, I'll aim to complete the first part of the mobility program, which is eight weeks long. As I did with Slim Fish, I'm not specifying specific mobility goals with this project. I'll be reporting progress based on empirical observations.

Deadline: December 18th, 2018

Progress: 

100%

The Phone Detox and my 29th Birthday

Note: I originally wrote an incomplete draft of this on paper on September 18th, my birthday, and today I am digitizing it and finishing it off.

Today marks my 29th birthday - the last birthday of my twenties!

I am now in Antalya in Turkey of all places. I came to Turkey from Berlin to attend Melissa's wedding, and tomorrow morning I fly out to Berlin again, then Canada the week after.

I have been alone today for my birthday, but don't you pity me. I'm having a glamorous day! What gives today its glamour for me isn't that I've done something crazy, but it's rather an unusual sense of contentment I felt throughout.

The norm for me if I were alone on my birthday as such is that I would feel depressed. I would feel lonely, pitying myself that I'm not surrounded by friends as everyone around me seems to be, and painfully reminding myself that I am lost in life, don't know what I'm doing, don't know why I'm moving around, and don't know what the future holds. My mind would be spinning and spiraling towards stress.

Yet, remarkably, this is not the case today despite having legitimate reasons to feel stressed. The AI consulting job I had spent weeks preparing for and anticipating fell apart unexpectedly a few days ago. Yet, that doesn't seem to occupy my mental space right now - nor anything else in particular, for that matter.

I decided last night that for my birthday I'll do a phone and internet detox, and what a wonder it has been!

I don't recall doing a phone detox before, but it's clear to me that it's something I should do regularly.

I woke up in the early morning for a beautiful stroll around the old city of Antalya. I used the paper map that my hotel gave me to figure out where to go. I must admit, I felt a bit of nostalgia. It's been almost a decade since I used a paper map for navigation. I felt like a little kid unleashing the explorer in him. I felt a lot more aware of my surroundings, unlike when I am mindlessly gluing my face to an electronic brick that's telling me where to go.

After the old city walk, I decided to head to the beach for a swim. I waited by the tram tracks, and started a conversation there with an old Turkish man powered by sign language. Because I didn't have my phone, I wasn't sure when the tram was going to come, or how long does it take to get to the beach. That was a great reason to start communicating with this man, and with the help of sign language he told me that the beach is only a 20-minute walk away. I decided to do the walk.

It actually took me more than 45 minutes to get to the beach, and that's because I wandered around aimlessly and passionately - like a little kid exploring a candy store. I found a small hidden bridge on the way to the beach that lead to a beautiful sinkhole with sparkling turquoise waters. The parks by the coast were delightful, and I stopped in one of them at the top of a mountain overlooking the beach for a lengthy breakfast. Between reading, eating, and enjoying the view, breakfast took well over an hour.

I then moved to the beach for what ended up being a majestic swim. I love the water in Antalya - an intertwine of cold and hot currents. I swam what likely was the longest swim that I've ever done without breaks (1 mile maybe?). After relaxing on the beach for a bit longer and reading, I decided to hit up the Antalya museum, which asking around, turns out that it was just around the corner.

Earlier in the day I had started to read "Sapiens", a book on the history of humanity. It discussed the different types of humans that have roamed the Earth in prehistoric times and how they differed from homo sapiens - us.

Luckily, the Antalya museum had some artifacts and remains of homo neanderthals. It was super interesting to read about them and see them on the same day.

After some lovely meals before and after the museum, I went for a Turkish Hamman and massage - highly recommend it for anyone visiting Turkey. It was certainly a lot better than my terrible Moroccan Hammam experience.

What was most visible to me throughout that day was the mental clarity I had. My attention span wasn't littered with notifications every other minute, and I ended up communicating and interacting more with the people and environment around me a lot more so than usual.

My Turkey trip made it so obvious to me how our phones can really dominate us and hack our attention span and mental clarity, and detoxing from it regularly is the first step I'll be doing to gain grounds in getting back my cognitive and mental space.

Back from Beirut

I did not mention this yet, but I spent six days in Lebanon before returning to Egypt three days ago. I didn't expect that my visit to Lebanon to be this short, but what was clear to me while I was there is that it was not the right environment for me.

And, to be clear, when I say "it" was not the right environment for me, I am referring to the specific environment I was in while in Lebanon, not Lebanon as a whole.

Staying in Lebanon was surely fun. Abdallah, Aisha, Sarah, and Bilal were all gracious hosts and together we went out and about in Beirut and beyond. While I was there though I was feeling a bit restless. I felt that I wasn't addressing my immediate concerns, and that I was not in the right environment to work on addressing those concerns.

That naturally brings up two important questions: 1) what are my most immediate concerns? 2) What is the right environment to address these concerns?

At this point, I can't even say what my immediate concerns are precisely. On a somewhat vague level, I can say that I want to do something I find meaningful and intellectual while experiencing the world. This is obviously not a satisfying answer, nor is it anywhere near enough to be actionable. This level of vagueness is the perfect recipe to spend all day seemingly working, while in reality spend the day being confused about what to actually do. That's how my days have been as of late.

The environment of choice is of course related to what it is that I want to do, but I think there is a minimum threshold of a few things I ought to be seeking:

  • Reliable hi-speed internet access (8mb/s minimum)
  • Comfortable accommodation with my own private room.
  • A place to work that is near my accommodation premises, but preferably not working from home. A maker space with a great community would be ideal.

While I was staying with Bilal, we had shortage of electricity and water, which tends to be quite critical in the extreme humid and hot weather of Summer Beirut. Antwork, the coworking space Aisha set us up with, had great facilities, but I should also add that it's more expensive to join Antwork in Beirut than a WeWork in San Francisco.

I could've eaten up those costs and found a decent place to stay in Beirut, but I didn't see it that worthwhile to do given that prospects of settling in Beirut are relatively low given the complications of living there and its sectarianism. While a magical place to be in some dimensions, it is certainly an extreme challenge to create a big impact while being based there given the corruption and infrastructure issues, especially as a foreigner.

Anyways, being back in my family's house in Egypt, one of things it's lacking is a place I can work from that has an interesting and intellectual community of people. I'll loosely explore where I can find that while I'm here.