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Friday, April 15, 2011

The King Tut's Experience - Knoxville,TN

As erie as this picture above looks, was only half as erie as I felt as I slowly drove into the gravel lot behind this tiny, rundown building on the "wrong" side of Knoxville. I was barely pressing the gas as I inched towards the back lot. I caught a glimpse of an Egpytian man to the right of me, huddled behind an abandoned building smoking a cigarette and starring at me with cryptic eyes. I put my car in park and locked the doors as I contemplated how quickly I could put my car in reverse if an Egyptian mummy suddenly arose and jumped on the hood of my car.

You always hear stories about King Tut's Egyptian restaurant in Knoxville. Everyone either raves about it or jokes on how sketchy it must be, but you rarely ever talk to someone who has actually GONE to this restaurant to experienced the stories first hand. So leave it to our friend Haden to decide to try out this mystic place for his birthday dinner. Party of 9 at King Tut's.

When the Party of 9 finally arrived to the restaurant - (late of course, but  still safe and intact... I may had to restrain myself from SPRINTING to them from the safety of my locked car) - we opened the dusty door of King Tut's... and the eerie atmosphere competely changed... what we saw in front of us was hard to discribe in words...

We stepped into a main dining area about half the size of my apartment living room. Considering the lack of space, the owners miraculously had crammed in tons of decorations. And these decorations where nothing short of INCREDIBLE in the most random meaning of the word. For example, on just one wall of the room, there was a giant buck head (which we later realized was plastic and sang when you pressed a button), swinging next to the buck head was a hanging Greek statue of a Greek Goddess in a cage, and sitting next to the Greek Goddess was good old Santa Claus - who appeared randomly throughout the entire room along with his friends frosty and roudolph.

Instead of wall paper or paint, the owners decided that covering every inch of the wall with bumper stickers and street signs was the best route to go. In fact as we were seated, we found it hard not to get lost into reading the "dry humor" bumper stickers that aligned the walls. Someof my favorites were, "Be nice to your kids, they will pick your nursing home," and  "Dog and wife missing... reward for the dog".

But the most interesting decorations of them all were the sparatically placed disco and party lights hanging from the cieling - as well as a karaoke machine in the corner, complete with small stage and microphone. The lights stayed on during our entire meal, even though it was still daylight outside. Those owners must like to party.

The owners (waitors, cooking, and cleaning staff) only consisted of a husband and wife from Cairo, Egypt. The wife was very friendly and had a family warmth about her - but was a bit shy and mainly stayed in the back kitchen and cooked. The husband, on the other hand, was nothing short of social and loved the attention our group of 9 gave him. He would come to our table every 5 minutes to see how we were doing.
As well as the friendly service, something to note about King Tut's is that you are allowed to bring your own beverages, this includes alcoholic beverages if you chose. It being Haden's birthday and all, the group thought it appropriate to celebrate in this fashion.

The BYOB style is all good and fun - but the real epicness of this has to be the glasses they provide you with. On our table, variety of glasses ranged from (all slightly clean) champagne glasses from the opening of the Knoxville Convention Center, snow man mugs, and giant vases. Yes... giant flower vases.

Now, it may have taken over an hour for our food to actually be served to us - but none of us seemed to notice. We were completely engaged by the atmosphere, as well as the owner. He would come to our table and preform magic tricks - At one point he came out with a balloon in his hand.

"If I make a needle go through this without popping" he said with a slight accent, "You buy 5 desserts."

After negotiating back and fourth, we finally decided on 3 desserts IF he was able to complete this challenge.

.... He did.

Right before our meal came, another challenge presented itself. Katie and I realized we had to use the bathroom. Being at the very end of our long, crowded table - the only thing to do was to hop over the back of my booth and walk around everyone.

However, Katie was on the other side - Pinned between the bumper sticker covered wall and the table.
After about a 2 second conversation... we knew what had to be done. Katie successfully "limbo'd" herself under her side of the table and crepted her way out the other side and over the booth. The owners said nothing, as if they see this sort of thing on a daily basis.

An hour since we had first arrived - our meal was finally served. Five giant plates of Egyptian meats and vegetables, pieda bread and dipping sauce, grape leaves filled with exotic spices and meats covered every inch of our tiny table. We tried EVERYTHING. The flavors were all equally delicious and surprisingly spicy. I remember biting into a piece of sausage that turned out to be the spicest thing on our table. My mouth burned for a good 10 minutes - but it was oh so worth it.

All in all - I would have to say King Tut's in a one of a kind experience every University of Tennessee student must experience before they graduate. But I will say this, don't go expecting quick service and food that may or may not meet regulation health code. However, if you bring a good group of people and an open mind - you will be welcomed into a restaurant where the service feels more like someone inviting you into their home. You will be entertained throughout the night. And you will go home completely satisfied.

Friday, April 8, 2011

CNN coverage of Middle East.... or Glee??

I've seen it first hand while studying abroad, how often it feels like people all over the world know more about my country's government and political status than I do. I've had multiple experiences where European, Brazilian, Cypriot students my age often times want to sit down and discuss my thoughts on President Obama's election, the War in Iraq, and other pivital moments in our countries history... and I find myself learning from them. I can't remember the last time I sat down with my group of friends at home and discussed issues such as the Middle East unrest. But why is that?

Just the other night I found myself grabbing my laptop to catch up on online TV - and hesitating on whether to watch CNN videos on the protests in Cario, or watch the latest episode of Glee.
Let's review the thought process...

Should I watch one the most historical occurance in the World that could potentially change the entire dictatorship of corrupt leaders and the possiblity of self obtained democracy for Middle Eastern countries? .... ooooor teenage kids dancing and singing about their horomones?

 ... I chose Glee.

But why is it that our nation's youth doesn't have regular conversations on world politics and issues? Why is it that I cannot tell you which countries in Middle East are currently protesting? Why is it that something historically monumental is going on, and I can't focus long enough to get even the most basic details? 

It's difficult. It's difficult to sit down and watch the news - It's difficult to hear facts from a 60-year-old Middle Eastern expert and try to comprehend the situation in the Middle East. It's hard to relate to that man and to be interested in what he has to say no matter how important the issue is. It's the same scenerio as if you had a professor with a monotone voice, slowly stating facts and dragging out sentences that at times you wonder if the glazed eyes and droll coming slowly creeping out of your mouth are noticable. He could be lecturing out the winning lottery numbers to next weeks Powerball and you JUST. WOULDN'T. CARE.

I wish you could just google "Middle East Unrest" and be linked to things other than news stories. I want to be linked to videos, personal stories, and opinions from people around the world. People that have an interesting tale to tell. People you could relate to. How interesting would it be if there was a talk show on real world issues... done by a panel of college students. What would American students views be compared to students in Egypt? Or Yemen? ... what is it like going to classes and hearing bombs and gun shots go off in the background? What is it like to have the upmost pride in your country to stand in a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people and demand freedoms? That is what I would like to know.

So I search and searched on various websites for these types of stories and information on the web - and I did find some interesting things that might make it a little easier for those of us that want to know what's going on in the world... but might get a bit distracted at times.

1. A basic summary on CNN
Summary of which countries are in protest, new developments, dictators and why the country protested. A great place to start.

2. Video footage of the most recent protest in Cairo, where it all started.
Note how many people are involved in this protest. I don't know if I have ever seen that many people gathered together for a cause. It almsot reminds me of our own countries March On Washington during the Civil Rights Movement- people gathering together to fight for their freedoms. Truly inspiring.

Anthony Bourdain's blog on this website discusses how he felt when he was in Egypt for a shoot - and his thoughts on the situation today. 
4. Unrest forces family to evacuate from Egypt intoTampa
Honestly I would be terrified to be there as well. But it's interesting to compare that to those people who live in Egypt and either can't leave do to financial limitations - or don't want to because of their pride in their country and efforts towards fighting for freedom.

5.  Egypt unrest affects USA student's family
A student from Alabama discusses how he feels about his parents (diplomats for Egypt) who are currently living in Egypt. I REALLY found this one interesting.

  6. Local student flown out of Egypt
 A study abroad student who was in Egypt during the protests discusses her experience.