This is where it all began. At the El Fishawy Café in Cairo, Egypt. The establishment is almost 200 years old, thereabouts. I patronized this place daily when I used to work for a magazine in Cairo. It’s like the center of the world. You’ll meet tourists from all over … and locals too.
The décor is simple but it exudes an extreme level of charm, like a drug that invites you to come back and taste it again and again. It is hard to resist. If you are someone who appreciates the arts or possess a romantic soul, you’ll understand what I am talking about. If not, there’s always the museum of antiquity and the pyramids of Giza.
The café operates 24 hours a day and can be found in the midst of the bazaar’s labyrinth in the El Hussein district. This is old world charm meets iPad and laptops, and your friendly Egyptian smoker who is puffing, drinking tea and who keeps abreast of world events with a newspaper in his hands.
I have had my fair share of adventure at this place, from the time one of the senior waiters tried to get me married to a girl working at a nearby shop. There was also the time I ended up at the police station accused of taking photos of a female customer that riled her boyfriend. False allegation. At the police station, I was told to leave while the boyfriend who filed the complaint was given a telling off by the commander for exaggerating.
Another waiter asked me to change a $US100 bill with him, which turned out to be a lousy piece of counterfeit. I discovered this when the bank teller told me that I just got scammed. Well, at least I got my real money back from the waiter who then accused a Jordanian customer of giving it to him to settle his bill at the café. One day the Jordanian came back to the café, and he was apprehended by the police. Unfortunately, it was a case of mistaken identity. The accused showed the entry stamped date on his passport. The incident had occurred before the man arrived.
At this café, the inspiration came to write the beginning of the novel. The day I met a Libyan diplomat and a Sudanese man dressed in a garb. Characters. Well, I have said enough. Read the book to learn more. Thanks.
[Photo: RAFFAELE NICOLUSSI]
I don’t have to tell you what an adventure it is to travel on a houseboat or live in one. That 1958 romantic comedy with Sophia Loren and Cary Grant must have inspired me subconsciously to weave in a houseboat scene in my novel. I actually experienced a journey down the Murray River in South Australia (Thanks to the South Australian Tourism Commission). Well, needless to say, I didn’t want to leave the boat.
Nowadays, houseboats come in all shapes and sizes, some old and some new (even condo-looking ones with an installed jacuzzi and a barbecue stove even). In fact, I had tried to stay on a houseboat on the River Nile during my stay in Cairo. Alas, there were complications, but the idea is definitely fascinating…. and a dream for some.
Trinkets, spices, sarees, jewelry and delightful dishes and deserts. Little India is a must do trip if you ever plan to visit Singapore. It is also here where protagonist Jet West searches for the office of a private detective. Little India extends to several lanes and alleys on both sides of the main road (Serangoon Road) where the adventure continues. Unlike most parts of Singapore, which is quite orderly, you’ll find that Little India has it’s own brand of identity. Pedestrians cross the road regardless of oncoming vehicles, with the sound of horns commingling with music blasting from audio shops. Ask any taxi driver in Singapore what they think of Little India, and they’ll give you a panting response. Sounds fun? Check it out next time…
I was recently asked during a live interview on Channel News Asia what I wrote about Singapore’s Chinatown. While I don’t want to spoil the suspense, here are some snapshots taken during a filming along the labyrinth of alleys for the vlog show, Fiction Frenzy. Chinatown is also one of the most thrilling scenes in Smokescreen. Remember, this is a thriller, not a tourist guide book so expect the unexpected. Actually, I have, in fact left, a clue…
On the other hand, if I was a tourist guide, I’d say don’t give this place a miss if you ever visit Singapore. Plenty of souvenir shops to gawk at, lots of eateries to savor Singapore dishes and you can even make a quick suit at a tailor shop. If you are feeling thirsty, stop for a coconut drink or get your health checked by a Sinseh or a traditional Chinese medicine clinic.
And a must visit is the grand Buddha Tooth Relic Temple just beside Chinatown. I’d suggest you start at the temple and then proceed to explore the alleyways of shops.
The rule of thumb before you commit any crime: Never leave fingerprints behind. But in this case, it was all for a good cause when back in 1981 the Swiss authorities commissioned artist Zoomby Zangger to create an enlarged fingerprint on the side wall of a building in Clarastrasse, Basel. The artwork is located beside a police station.
I love these coins. They are not ordinary coins although I have been personally told they are functional i.e. drop them in a vending machine and you’ll get your can of soda. But I don’t think you want to do that, especially since they come with a secret compartment – you could insert a flat USB drive. Spy stuff. Just make sure you don’t put one of them in your pocket with the rest of your change.
Here is someone who is completely ready for the occasion. If you are planning to join a protest or a “Civil Disobedience” event, this home made, low-budget gas mask could come in handy. However, I can’t vouch how effective it will be against a lethal chemical agent, but against those volley of tear gas canisters thrown at you, this could work. Got to give this guy an A+ for his creativity.
Check out these guys. No, they’re not aliens from outer space. They are actually from Planet Earth. And no, they are not part of an upcoming Hollywood blockbuster.
The one with the black ballistic mask is a member of the Taiwanese special forces. The mask is supposed to be bullet proof. The other photo shows the Peruvian anti-riot police brigade in suits of armor.
I bet you one of these days they’ll build a body armor that can release electric shocks at the push of a tiny button… in case the cop ever feels threatened by a mob.
Cops are now wearing body cameras. Civilians should wear them too – your own personal black box the moment you step out of your home. Anything can happen.
We all hope that the day begins and ends pleasantly. But the truth is, most of us are really not in control of our life journeys. Things can happen very quickly, even if we are just passing through.
We could end up at the wrong place, and at the wrong time. We could say something which could be misinterpreted or even twisted. False allegations could befall on us, and it becomes a case of your word against mine. You just never know these things.
It’s the same with cars. Why do we equip our cars with cameras? Potentially, the camera protects the driver from all possible scenarios in the aftermath of an accident. There have been many cases of the driver being innocent, and yet he ends up being penalized. Body cam. A little bit over the top, maybe. Drastic. But the reality of life.
What do you think?