Nadia El-Awady

PMS: Beware the Brain Ooze Stains

It’s not easy to explain what pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) is like for a woman to a man who has never experienced it.

I have a feeling that this picture was taken at "that time of the month".

But imagine this: you were hit in the head by a wrecking ball two weeks ago and you are now barely coming out of the coma. That’s how I feel right now with about four days left before I get my menses.

I live in a conservative Arab society. I’m lucky to have received a good education here and abroad and to have gone to medical school at that. I’ve long understood the physiological effects of PMS. I know when it hits me and I know ways to deal with it. But I’ve discovered that so many people – men and women – in Arab societies have no idea about PMS and its effects.

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Yosri Fouda’s ONTV interview with Nadia El-Awady

Renowned investigative reporter, Yosri Fouda, interviewed me on his show “Akhir Kalam” on ONTV, Friday March 5, 2010. This pretty much covers my whole life and it’s my one short hour of fame. If this doesn’t get me into Hollywood, nothing will. Enjoy.

Part 1 

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

مختبر نادية للفيديو بلوج2: مزاجي راااااايق

حتلاحظوا أني انهارده كتبت كثير في البلوج. عارفين ده بيحصل امتى؟ بيحصل لما بأشتغل بذمة. أيوه والله. لما بأبقى في مود الشغل مخي بيشتغل بسرعة 1000 كيلومتر في الساعة وما بأقدرش أخلي مخي يركز في حاجة واحدة بس. انهارده كان يوم إنجاز. وفي نهاية هذا اليوم المشهود قررت أحط لكم بلوج ثالث. ثاااااااااالث. في يوم واحد. ده غير كل الحاجات الثانية اللي طرأت على ذهني وكتبتها في البلوج على مدار اليوم. جالي اسهال بلوجنج معلش

مختبر نادية للفيديو بلوج

أيوه بقيت مهووسة بنفسي. ودي علامة مرضية مقلقة. نصيبكم أني وصلت لسن أزمة منتصف العمر في وقت البلوج والفيديو بلوج والتويتر والفيسبوك. ما عنديش حاجة أتكلم عنها غير نفسي.

وبالمناسبة السعيدة دي قررت أجرب موضوع الفيديو بلوج ده. حأحاول كل يوم..أو كل كم يوم.. أعمل فيديو بلوج أتكلم عن أفكاري وهمومي. وبيني وبينكم بأعمل ده لنفسي أكثر ما بأعمله لأي حد. لما الواحد يخرج أفكاره للمجال العام بيقدر يحلل أفكاره بشكل أفضل. أو على الأقل دي نظريتي انهارده وخلينا نشوف.

عملت اليوم صباحا 2 فيديو بلوج. أيوه 2. عملت واحد…اتفرجت عليه…وحسيت أني محتاجة أعلق عليه فعملت الثاني

نصيبكم بأقولكم

قولوا لي رأيكم في مختبر نادية للفيديو بلوج. مصيري ألاقي حاجة أكثر إثارة أكلمكم عليها في الأيام الجاية

 

 

Nadia the Skydiver

I promised something big, and I deliver on my promises!

For almost as long as I can remember, it has been a big dream of mine to throw myself out of an airplane. This dream is so big it’s always been number one. I came close to skydiving during a trip to Spain about three years ago. I failed to make reservations and when I got to the airfield I found that there were no spots for me. I was leaving the country the following day. I would have to wait for another time.

Today was that other time. I planned ahead. I was a bit apprehensive when I drove to Brown Airfield in San Diego to do my first tandem jump. I had done bunjee jumping several years ago and it was the scariest thing I had ever done. I expected skydiving to be scarier. Luckily, I had to wait for a couple of groups to skydive first. And while I waited I watched the whacky videos of previous customers. They were so funny! And I got to watch the process step by step several times as other people went through it. By the time it was my turn I was calm and looking forward to some serious fun.

The view from the small airplane that took us up in the sky was amazing. Out of the opened plane door I could see both Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, California. The ocean was vast and blue ahead of me and little mountain islands protruded from the ocean waters. The plane ride was 20 minutes long. In the plane I thought that if I only came and took that ride it would have been worth it.

The skydiver signalled to me to move towards the door. I did. Something wasn’t really registering in my head. It felt like a big amusement park ride. I felt comfortable and pleasantly excited. This is probably because I knew I didn’t need to do anything myself. All I needed to do was go on the ride. And what a ride!

We sat at the edge of the plane…and suddenly we were no longer in the plane! At an altitude of about 4000 meters we did two flips in the air that were quite disorienting. For a few short seconds I had no idea where up or down were. And suddenly we were lying with our faces down towards the earth falling. Faaalllliiiiinnnnngggggg. It was the most exhilerating feeling I can remember ever having. I didn’t want it to end! It was not scary at all. It was just utterly exhilerating. I hope to remember those few seconds of my life.

The parachute opened and pulled us upwards and suddenly we were cruising in the sky. I remembered that feeling from my paragliding experience. It’s just floating in the sky. So soothing. And not long afterwards we were on the ground after a very smooth and easy landing.

Why had it taken me so long to do this? Why was it so short? How is it that we flip in the air and end up looking down towards the ground rather than up towards the sky like a turtle that’s turned onto its back?

One skydive is in no way enough. This is something I will have to do again!

Wooooooooooohooooooooooooooooooooo!

Nadia the Flying Fish

Photo credit: Tarek Awad

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had that flying dream some of us get when we’re sleeping. In these dreams I’m able to will myself off the ground while in the upright position, levitate, and fly wherever I want. I’ve had this dream for so long that I’m almost convinced I should at least be able to levitate if I put my mind to it. I’ve just had so much practice at it up till now!

This past week I got the closest I’ll probably ever get to know what it must feel like to fly.

The List 

I have a rather long list of things I want to do in my life. Scuba diving was added to that list after an amazing snorkeling experience I had at Ras Muhammad in the Red Sea in Egypt.

No matter how many pictures and documentaries you will see about marine life, they come nowhere near to what it’s like when you see it with your own two eyes. Snorkeling brought me closer to that than I had ever been before.

So diving went on the list. And it stayed there for perhaps three years.

About a month ago I decided I needed to do something about that particular list entry. I live in Egypt, for goodness sake, where there are some of the best coral reefs in the world – and the best diving. I can hop on a bus or a plane whenever I want and get on with my business. So I did.

I hopped on a plane and went to Hurghada, a popular sea resort on the Western limb of the Red Sea.

Learning to dive

Tarek Awad was my PADI diving instructor. The first day of the course was spent watching several videos that went over diving basics. It turns out there’s much to know before you throw yourself in the sea with an oxygen tank on your back! After the videos, we went to the hotel pool and tried out what I had just learned in theory.

I was quite surprised at how heavy the equipment actually was. And there are weights involved! It turns out it isn’t easy to keep oneself down underwater. You need to weigh yourself down. The pool exercises went quite well and gave me confidence that my open-water dives should be successful.

Hurghada was freezing cold (for an Egyptian) for the first two days I was there. I was concerned I’d kill myself with pneumonia by jumping into the water. Tarek told me the wet suit would keep me warm. It did. So did the water. It can be strangely warm down there when it’s cold up above.

Jumping into the water for the first time with all the heavy equipment on my back and the awkward fins on my feet was scary. I had no idea what to expect. But I

Photo credit: Tarek Awad

 immediately floated upwards after the jump. The wetsuit and regulator vest (BCD) are designed to keep you afloat. To submerge, you need weights. In addition to all the equipment I had about 10 kg of weights on me. You also need to empty air out of your BCD vest. Once I did that I was underwater breathing oxygen from the tank. Tarek made sure to put me into a meditative state from the start. We reached the bottom, sat on our knees, faced each other, and Tarek signaled for me to concentrate and just breathe in and out, in and out. He closed his eyes while doing this to add a sense of calm to the ritual. I followed suit. It worked. After an initial sense of semi-panic of being underwater, breathing only from my mouth, and completely dependent on a tank for air, I calmed down and went into meditating mode.

We swam 400 meters to the coral reefs. I found I needed to focus hard on gaining the ability to stay at the same depth, go deeper, or get higher. Hovering also required a lot of work. And all this is done by controlling the amount of air in your BCD vest and in your lungs. By filling your lungs up with air, you can raise yourself and by emptying them you can go deeper. Without this skill, I first had a tendency to crash into the sea floor every now and then or to start floating towards the surface against my will. With a little practice, I managed to swim around and hover over the coral reefs to watch the fish swim in and out.

I successfully completed four amazing dives on this trip.

The Red Sea Planet

Photo credit: Tarek Awad

It was another world down there. I felt as if I were discovering a world I hardly imagined could exist. It felt like visiting another planet.

One thing I’ve learned is that if you live in Egypt and you haven’t dived, you have only seen a very small portion of Egypt.

I have not yet learned the names of all the corals and fish I swam with last weekend. I hope to. They are all worth getting to know properly.

But among the things that most amazed me were, for example, the expanse of sea grass we swam over that was dancing back and forth, back and forth with the waves above it.  We also swam over about 100 meters of small sand mounds, which, I was later told, are the homes of sea crabs.  Every now and again a whirlwind of sand would appear above the top of a mound and then go calm again.

While hovering above one reef, Tarek pointed out something under it. I couldn’t see it. He gently pushed at it and out came an octopus! I think this was one of the most exciting things I saw down there. A frickin’ octopus in the actual sea! I’ve seen all types of fish and marine life in aquariums and documentaries. But seeing them just a few feet from your nose is absolutely amazing. This octopus was a rather shy fellow. He swam out from under the coral to avoid being pushed by Tarek, his color immediately turned from that of the coral it was hiding under – brown – to the exact color of the sand it was now swimming on. And it quickly eased itself back under another part of the coral to avoid being bothered again.

For two days we swam among the fish. Some of them seemed not to even notice we were there. Others seemed to look at us out of the corner of their eyes, curious as to

Photo credit: Tarek Awad

 whom we were. There was so much life down there! And so much peace. There were fish as huge as Tarek and I. And others as small and thin as a shoe lace. And everything was so colorful and magical.

How not to panic

On our third dive, Tarek asked me to do our swimming pool exercises on the sea floor. Sitting on our knees again, I was to take the air piece out of my mouth, throw it away, find it again, put it in my mouth and breathe. I did this successfully. Next, I was to pretend I ran out of air and I needed to use Tarek’s alternative air source. After watching him do this once, it was my turn. I breathed out the air in my lungs while my own air piece was out of my mouth too quickly. I fumbled with Tarek’s alternative air source. And I panicked. I breathed in seawater. I quickly fumbled for my own air piece and put it in my mouth, ready to cry and spurt up to the surface. Tarek insisted that I calm down and just breathe. I shook my head and pointed the surface, signaling I wanted to go back up. He shook his head calmly and signaled for me to breathe in and out, in and out. I did. I coughed for awhile, getting the seawater out of my lungs, but I eventually calmed down as I rhythmically breathed.

The next exercise was the filling your mask with water exercise. I decidedly do not like this exercise one bit. The seawater stings your eyes and surrounds your nose. It is a most uncomfortable feeling and took quite an effort from beginner me to focus on the breathing and not on the fact that I could easily breathe in water again at any moment. But I succeeded. The exercises were over and we could go back to the fun again.

I LOVED the hovering. I just ADORED the hovering. Once I got the hang of controlling the amount of air in my lungs and in my vest it was so much fun keeping a short distance between me and the corals without crashing into them.

And after an amazing weekend, I am now an officially certified open-water diver! Next on my list is the advanced course so I can dive to even greater depths! And I hope not to keep this one on my list for more than a couple of months. Join me!

I am not the 1st anyone to summit Kilimanjaro!

Only two days after I first announced to my friends that I had successfully summited Africa’s highest peak, Kilimanjaro, I read the first article that claimed I was the first

My summit picture - holding the Egyptian flag against the cold winds

 something to summit the mountain. In this case it was the first Muslim woman and it was published on IslamOnline.net.

I immediately called my friends there and asked them where they got their information. “What’s your source,” I asked. Journalists aren’t supposed to write information based on instinct. They have sources of information. There was no source, I learned. They just thought this was the case. I went into ugly Nadia mode. “There’s no way on Earth to know who the first person was of any religion to summit Kilimanjaro,” I explained to them (actually, I pretty much yelled it). “People don’t register themselves when they come back from the mountain based on their religion,” I continued. The article on IslamOnline.net was thankfully edited into telling the story of a woman who summited Kilimanjaro.

One of the first things I did when I reached the base of the mountain was that I called the Park authorities to find out if any Egyptian women had summited the mountain before me. It took two days for the authorities to get back to me. In the past two years alone, I was told, at least four young Egyptian women had summited the mountain.

Since then, I’ve made a point of telling journalists who interview me that I am not the first Egyptian to summit Kilimanjaro. I know this as fact. Journalists assure me that they understand this. Nonetheless, twice now (in Egypt’s Shabab and Kul Annas magazines) there have been articles about me with titles claiming that I’m the first Egyptian woman to summit the mountain. When I ask the journalists who interview me how this happened even though I was very clear with them about this point, they tell me that they don’t write the titles. They write the article, hand it in to the desk, and someone at the desk writes the title. Some idiot, that is. That idiot either imagines things and writes up a title based on his/her imagination, or decides to spice things up by writing a lie.

Now when a journalist calls me up for an interview I make sure they know while we’re still on the phone that I am not the first anyone to summit the mountain. And if you accept that fact and still want to interview me, you are welcome to my home. They usually do accept and ask for the interview.

But this whole thing has really upset me about how the media function in our country. I’ve also learned first-hand why scientists, for example, have reservations about talking to journalists about their research. It seems that in some cases, no matter how clear you are with the journalist,  she or others above her will manage to get things wrong – if only to sensationalize a bit.

It’s disturbing. 

So for the record, world, I am not the first Muslim woman to summit Kilimanjaro. I am not the first Egyptian to summit Kilimanjaro. I am not the first Arab or Egyptian woman to summit Kilimanjaro.

And none of that matters.

Nadia El-Awady, a then 40-year-old Egyptian mother-of-four, summited Kilimanjaro. And to me, that’s a pretty amazing achievement without being anyone’s first.

Kilimanjaro interviews

I’ve been interviewed many times now by Egyptian media on my Kilimanjaro adventure. One day when I have more time I’ll try to scan some of the print interviews and upload them for you. I might also blog about this experience of getting so much media attention in Egypt. I actually have lots to say about that. For now, you can watch an interview with me by Rola Kharsa on Al-Hayat 2. Thanks to Osama Saber for taping and uploading! Enjoy.