Who carries the load

This was a feature I wrote for Alpinist magazine. It is available on their website for subscribers. Here it is for my clippings.

The first warning was a sharp crack that punctured the stillness like an exclamation mark.

Porters crossing the upper Baltoro glacier

Porters crossing the upper Baltoro glacier

At 4240 meters, Urdukas camp sits on a series of terraces among the looming boulders of a moraine wall. More rocks perch precariously on the mountainside above. Most expeditions stop here on their way up the Baltoro Glacier in the Karakoram Range of Pakistan. It’s warmer than the sites on the glacier, but the truly notable feature is the view: on a clear day, you can look out on mountains that jut like jagged teeth over the glacier’s tongue. Uli Biaho, Trango Towers, Cathedral Peaks. Names that resonate with mountain lore and forms that evoke a silent awe.

On August 16, 2011, the summits were obscured by a low ceiling of cloud. The mountains, the sky, the glacier—everything was a gunmetal grey. It was early afternoon. A gentle drizzle fell. The trekkers were in their tents. The porters huddled under sheets of plastic or in whatever dry spots they could find. Eight of them sheltered under a large boulder. The stone was the size of a house, but at some point in the past, it had split in two. One half leaned way out, creating an overhang, cantilevered in place by the weight of the other half and by a few smaller boulders wedged underneath.

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Recent interview on NewstalkZB

For those who are interested, I was recently interviewed on New Zealand radio station NewstalkZB about the constitutional referendum in Egypt. I haven’t brought myself to listen to it though…



And so it goes

Anti-Morsy protesters near the presidential palace, Heliopolis, Wednesday 5 December

Anti-Morsy protesters near the presidential palace, Heliopolis

Wednesday night. More tk

No strangers in the land of Egypt

The Torah (the first five holy books of the Jewish faith) encourages Jews to take care of strangers, reminding them that they too were once strangers in the land of Egypt. Since biblical times, Jews have lived in Egypt, making the Egyptian Jewish community one of the oldest in the world. Today, millennia after the arrival of Jews, the community is a fraction of it its former size. While there once tens of thousands living in vibrant communities, today a bare handful remain. They steadfastly hold on to their heritage and tradition, both as Jews and Egyptians.

Every major festival, the community gathers together to celebrate their faith, and as the Torah prescribes, at every festival they welcome strangers; whether they are foreign Jews visiting or living in Egypt, or diplomats and other well-wishers of other faiths. During the recent Jewish festival of Rosh Hashanah, or Jewish new year, I attended a service at the Adly Street synagogue in downtown Cairo.

Continue reading at the Daily News Egypt.

Violent clashes continued for a third day in Cairo on Thursday between Central Security Forces (CSF) protecting the United States embassy in Garden City and protesters enraged by an anti-Islamic film. Elsewhere across the Middle East, similar protests were held, including in Yemen, where the US embassy was stormed on Thursday, and in Libya, where the US ambassador was killed on Tuesday night.

Several hundred protesters continued skirmishes throughout Thursday on Omar Moqam and Abd Al-Qadr Hamza streets between Tahrir Square and the US embassy.

Protesters hurled rocks and the occasional Molotov cocktail, at one point setting a police vehicle ablaze, while CSF forces replied with tear gas and charges with armoured trucks to force the crowds back.

Continue reading at Daily News Egypt.

Dear Mar Musa

For 30 years an Italian Jesuit priest, father Paolo Dall’Oglio, has been restoring the ancient monastery of Deir Mar Musa in Syria. That it until the Syrian Government deported him last month.

Deir Mar Musa

Mar Musa at dusk

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A new president, what now?

Egypt has a new president and it is its first democratically elected one at that. But what does this mean for the country?

The country held its breath yesterday ahead of the announcement that Mohamed Morsi, from the Muslim Brotherhood, had been declared the winner of a closely contested runoff presidential election.  The sigh of relief that followed might have been less audible than the cheering and chanting coming from Tahrir but there was a real sense of relief and feeling that a turning point may have been reached.

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