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I was in Alexandria visiting my family for the Eid Al Adha and we had guest visit us and during one of the many visits a topic was brought up and a huge discussion ensued along with many other mini ones with other people, to hear their opinions and to see if they had ever been put in to this particular situation or have heard of another one like it. It is now apparently the custom to tip the hired help (servers, chefs, and chauffeurs) of your host’s house if you have been invited to their house for a luncheon or dinner party. They were actually told by the hosts that tipping the help was ‘expected’. (This has become a thorn in my side!) Upon hearing that, I went buzzerco! What is the world coming to?
After doing quite a bit of research I was able to find the social rules of etiquette according to England. I know that Egypt isn’t England by any standard, but let’s be honest the British are the leaders in etiquette always have been and probably always will be. So, let’s use their rules as a guide line shall we.
Let’s say the host sends you their chauffer to pick you up from where you are staying and takes you to and from the host’s house. To tip the chauffeur is acceptable in that situation, but if the chauffeur didn’t then, tipping him for standing by the hosts car and polishing it, is no concern of yours.
If you have been invited for a luncheon or a dinner at someone’s house then you should not tip the help. You were invited, (presumably) to enjoy the ambiance and company of the host along with other guests. Why should you have to tip their help for that? If you were told to, then that is bad form as well as very nouveaux riche. If tipping was expected then could someone please tell me, what’s the difference between going to a restaurant or the friend’s house for a meal? I personally see none!
If a host has the audacity to encourage their guests to tip their employees then that puts them in a very bad light. It indicates that they are not paying their staff enough, if they are to rely on guest’s tips! In European countries the staff would be very embarrassed to be put in that situation, while here the hired help would lap it up and would come to expect it.
Now here is when tipping the house hold staff ‘might’ be condoned acceptable. If you are asked to stay at someone’s house for a long period of time and you are assigned a member of the staff to look after you, then a tip would be acceptable. Tipping the person who cleans your room and prepares your meals after a weekend stay or a longer one is also acceptable. However, you have to check with your hosts that tipping their staff is alright, some house-holds don’t prohibit it. Some house holds give a bonus to those who have to put in extra hours to look after their guests. Hosts don’t condone tipping because it embarrasses them and their staff. So, before you reach deep in to your pockets to slip the help a few notes, you need to check with the host first.
If you are very well acquainted with the family you are visiting and know the staff well then giving a discrete tip is acceptable behavior especially if it’s a holiday season. Just make sure you give the same amount to everyone.
For the past few days I have been asking people who live abroad and here in Egypt if they have ever been put in a situation like that or have heard of others been put in such an awkward and embarrassing predicament and everyone said ‘No’. They were quite shocked and appalled by the situation our friend’s had been put in. One of the people I asked said ‘I don’t know how I would be able to take them seriously or even look at them again. That is just wrong’
I couldn’t agree more!
Now that brings me to my next question, what do you do in a situation like that? I would love to hear you opinions.
Below are some links that tell you in what situations and placed it’s considered alright to tip.
Etiquette in Society- http://books.google.com.eg/books?id=nJ4qXk0a0mcC&pg=PA426&lpg=PA426&dq=do+you+tip+the+servants&source=bl&ots=CXz1Ux9Pty&sig=ykMS7lIJDFJKx9dE6Ms5nMY-pqA&hl=en&ei=OVDmTKbGFoXBhAf-wLmYCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6&ved=0CCUQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=do%20you%20tip%20the%20servants&f=false
I feel like a fish out of water! I can’t believe it has been over a month since I have posted anything. I have been caught up in whirl wind of events. Let’s see what, have I been up to?
I started one of my final Masters courses last month and I have 3 more weeks to go before it comes to an end! It’s a bitter sweat feeling. I am bitter because it’s taking up so much of my time and when I’m sat with my face glued to my lap top reading the material required for completing my course work, my friends are out enjoying themselves, while I have to force myself to be disciplined and get on with my work and convince myself that it will all be worth it in the end! The sweet sensation is knowing at the end of the journey, the money I saved up to be able to complete this and endless hours of writing, researching and reading I would have earned the title of ‘Master’ and the salary increase is always an added bonus too.
On top of that my sister FINALLY got engaged! So, in the midst of my studies, there was a lot of planning, drama and celebrating. I am really happy and thrilled for her, because the groom to be is a really nice guy and he is going to be like the big brother I never had, but always wanted!
I recently had to bid farewell and good luck to a dear friend of mine. He has been offered a position in the UAE and I’m feeling a bit lost without him. He was my confident and sounding board. I’m finding it rather difficult having to come to terms with the idea that I can’t just pick up the phone and call him when ever I like, or arrange to meet up for lunch to vent or to get some sound advice. I have to text, email or Skype now to keep in touch. I know everything I’m mentioning is quite selfish. I am genuinely happy that he is starting a new adventure in the chapter of his life, but apart of me wishes that I was one of the characters in that new adventurous journey.
I can’t remember if I had previously mentioned this but, I was approached by an editor, who is launching a new magazine in Cairo, he had been reading and following my blog and thought I had an interesting perspective of what life in Cairo/Egypt is like from a half Egyptian, half Western point of view and would like me to write a column every month! So, look out for ‘Nadia, In The City’! The Magazine that is set to launch in November is called ‘Moments, Life Style Magazine’, keep a look out for it at a news stand near you!
In addition to all of that I am working full-time! The school year has finally kicked off and my new students have now been with me for the past 4 weeks. I have to say that I it’s good being back in the classroom. I don’t know what it is about being in a classroom, but to me it feels like it’s my stage or domain, where I can make magic happen. This year’s batch of second graders are a handful! They are very opinionated, have fascinating characters and are full of ENERGY!! To keep up with them, I have to get up earlier than usual and do at least half an hour on my elliptical bike to get my endorphins jumped started for a day of teaching!
There are times when I just need to drop everything I’m doing and have some ‘ME’ time. Which either means getting out of Cairo and going up to Alexandria and visiting my family OR doing something fun and joining ‘Weekend Trip’ for an adventures day of fun and some times spontaneity. The owner of Holiday tours and co-founder of ‘Weekend Trips’, Yehia El Decken, has asked me to blog about EVERY ‘weekend trip’, I go on with his team. So, you’ll be reading a lot about my adventures with them this year.
My romantic life you ask? Emmmm…..Well, what do you think? Do you honestly think with all that I’m juggling right now, I have time for a romantic interlude!??! I will say this though, since I’ve started focusing on myself and looking after myself more, I seem to have re-ignited ‘The Old Me’, which is attracting some attention. Other than that…there is nothing to report!
How about you? What have you been up to?
Why Can’t It be Ramadan Everyday?
A few nights before Ramadan,
And all across the nation,
People were bustling with anticipation.
They’d hustle, they’d bump, they’d swear as they drive,
Men fight with each other as well as their wives.
Boyfriends continue to ruin girlfriend’s lives,
With their cheating and lies, Oh, what a surprise!
Girl’s eye their competition with looks of despise
Stay at home Moms cook up rumors and lies
You liar! You thief! You crook! You stinker!
Are the words we hear and are left to linger.
On the eve of THE night and with a blink of an eye,
Halos are out and consciences rise
All must be good, for Ramadan has arrived.
The Month of Ramadan is upon us again. T’s a time for giving to the needy as well as a time for forgiveness and reflection. I love this time of year because families gather and spend some quality time with one another, break their fast together at Iftar and the gathering can some times go on until Suhour. People give willingly and in abundance to the less fortunate and what I love even more is that people’s tongues are curved!
From sunrise to sunset people pay close attention to what they say out loud to others instead of damning someone’s house to fall down on them and flaring in to a temper and cursing every member of another person’s family! (You know which words I mean! We’ve all used them!). People are more conscious of their actions and use of words. Our day to day lives are stressful, there are times when you vent and say things that can be really hurtful. You’re always on the go and rushing here and there for appointments and social gatherings. Spending an hour or two with the kids when they get home from school to ask how their day was and what things they learned, is something you would love to be able to do, but you have to work late or you can’t because you have to get your hair done and have a manicure done for a dinner party you’re going to. Guy’s don’t think you’ve been let of the hook so easily! The men have business appointments at all crazy hours. Then there’s the male bonding time with buddies and there’s also maintaining that Baywatch chiseled physic by paying a daily pilgrimage to the gym. Be honest, most of you would much rather watch paint dry than be stuck at home listening to your mothers moaning, kids running round asking endless series of questions and your wives nagging.
There are two things that truly amaze me during this incredible month. The first is how ‘good’ everyone becomes. The tangled webs of deceit cease to be spun, hell even the thieves stop stealing. It’s as though a wish or a spell has been cast where everyone becomes honest and angelic, like Jim Carey’s character in the movie ‘Liar, Liar’. The second thing that completely throws me is how by some miracle and with a wave of a magic wand, during Ramadan people make the extra effort and can find the time to help the needy, spend time with their family, and be courteous and kind to others. Now, if memory serves me correctly there are 24 hours in a day every month of every year, no matter which calendar we go by. So, could someone please explain to me ‘Why is it ONLY possible in Ramadan and not throughout the year?’ Surely, if we all spoke nicely to one another all year round, there would be less rudeness and negativity and there would be more cheer and it would set a better example for the younger generation. If we gave more to others throughout the year, we would feel better about ourselves all year long instead of just for a month. If we did practice the lessons of Ramadan throughout the year we would appreciate everything we have and count our blessing, instead of constantly complaining and wishing that we had more.
I know what you’re probably thinking, “She’s one to talk. I bet she doesn’t practice what she preaches!” I will admit that I am not a saint! I was just as guilty as everyone else. However, this time last year that changed. I decided that if I can be genuinely good for a month, then what is preventing me from doing it all year? For the past year I have made the effort to be more respectful and giving to others. Honestly speaking, I do feel better about myself and there isn’t a day that goes by where I forget to be grateful for the people that I have in my life and the blessings I receive. So, if I can do it. Why can’t you? You can’t use the excuse that it costs too much because it doesn’t cost anything to be courteous and time doesn’t cost you a piaster either. The resources you need for the job, you already have; it’s ‘YOU’.
Happy Ramadan Everyone!
BE WARNED, THIS IS A LONG POST.
I have seen the “Marriages from around the World” segment on OPRAH twice now. I have to say that I am happy that Egypt was represented but I think that one of the Egyptian representatives, Heba, an interior designer in Cairo, didn’t paint a clear picture of what life is really like here in Egypt, While Inji the journalist was more realistic.
There were a few things that really ruffled my feathers when I watched the show the first time and the rerun. I took notes when I watched the show the second time around so that I could remember the points that I wanted to refer to. (I can be such a nerd at times!)
I- Safety for Women
When Nana, the Danish representative asked Heba if Egypt is a safe place and she answered, ‘Yes, it is very safe” I couldn’t help but cackle in disbelief.
If I was to compare Egypt to Iraq, Afghanistan or Harlem, then I would whole heartedly agree, but if I was to compare it from where Nana is from, the answer would be ‘NO’!
I don’t know the women in that interview but from the way they held themselves and the way that they spoke I think it is safe to guess that they aren’t considered ‘common folk’; they are higher up the ladder than most of the population of Egypt. I am also willing to wager that most of them rarely walk the streets of Cairo and commute 96% of the time in their privately owned cars.
I walk both in Cairo and in Alexandria and I can tell you that it is a man’s country. If a woman is or isn’t veiled but looks nice, 99 times out of 100, you will either hear a crude comment or be harassed in some shape or form.
Let me give you an example of a well know incident that happened in Cairo about three years ago. It was during Eid El Fitr, (the celebration after the holy month of Ramadan, where Muslims fast) and in down town Cairo a mob of men had been to see one of the newly released Egyptian movies and they were wired! They were so tightly strung that they attacked innocent women who just happened to be passing by the cinema at that time. How bad the attack was, the news papers didn’t report. A taxi driver tried to save one of the women by pulling her in to his cab and driving away but the mob jumped the car and proceeded to attack them both. Not long after the incident and the story came to light, Imam’s in mosques didn’t condemn the mobs behavior, but they blamed the women who were innocently minding their own business!
A more recent story was published in The Community Times magazine about two girls who almost got harassed after one of the matches played by Egypt and Algeria. They had to seek refuge in a shop until the group of men gave up waiting.
These two examples are extreme cases of what may happen here in Egypt. It is more likely to happen to natives than it would be a tourist or a foreigner living here because they know that the police and the embassies would get involved.
So, I have to say that Nana’s intuition was spot on.
She probably felt even more insecure because she’s fair skinned and a blond.
What happens abroad happens here to, but it is kept very quiet.
If anyone wants to dispute this then, I am willing to provide examples from my own personal experience as well as examples that have happened to people I know.
A word to the wise;
The best way to avoid situations like these is to dress modestly, not to walk in dodgy streets alone, it is best to have a couple of male friends with you when you are out walking, try your best not to be out walking on your own late at night and never sit next to a taxi driver.
II – Conservativeness and the veil.
I loved Nana’s observation of how some of the veiled women were dressed ‘women who are covered and walking around in tight clothing and make up, it makes it very contradicting”
I personally think Nana hit the nail on the head. There are lots of contradictions in our expectations of behavior and society and for an outsider to notice it should ring some alarm bells.
I can’t tell you how many times I have been absolutely gob smacked by the double standards that exist here.
I have seen veiled women at night clubs, drinking Stella (local beer), dating men and holding hands and some times going further than second base (if they are religious and conservative this is a big NO! NO!), go into a changing room and come out wearing a bikini in front of men in public! Who are they fooling might I ask?
Granted, some girls have been forced by their families to wear a scarf on their head, so I can understand them rebelling behind their parents backs, (I’m not saying I agree with it, I’m just stating I understand it), but what excuse do grown women who made the choice have?
I have the utmost respect for the women who chose to wear the veil as a devotion to their religion and their beliefs. It is admirable when I see women who are doing it for the RIGHT reasons. It takes a lot of will power and devotion to be able to wear it.
III- Tension between veiled and non veiled women
If memory serves me correctly Oprah asked if there was tension between the veiled and non veiled women. Nana who hadn’t been here very long said she did sense it.
Again, I would have to agree.
When I first moved to Egypt in the early 90s the ratio of veiled to non veiled women was below par. There were hardly any menaqaabeen (completely veiled with only their eyes showing). It’s with in the past decade that more and more women are veiling. Some of it has to do with many Egyptians returning from the Gulf States and bringing their new-found religious beliefs that they picked up from there, back to Egypt. The second is it is the fashion, “everyone is doing it so, I better do it too so people don’t think any less of me”. The third has to do with the economic situation in the country, when the poor get poorer and the middle class is heading towards extinction many people turn to religion for solace and comfort.
My sister and I are unveiled and we have experienced quite a few things in recent years.
We would step out of our apartment building and some times a men who would happen to be walking past our building door would swerve away, turning his head in the opposite direction, whilst uttering ‘Astaghfar Allah’ which is a term said when asking God for forgiveness’ and all because our hair is showing!
(for further translation of the phrase go to the following link, http://shiastrength.blogspot.com/2010/04/shiastrength-superiority-of-astaghfar.html)
My Mum would get the same reaction too when she used to take a taxi home from work. The cab driver would utter it under his breath when she got in and out of the car.
I remember a second incident that I found quite amusing. We were at a beach resort just outside of Alexandria. The place I’m referring to is Agami, it’s a well-known place where many people go to vacation by the beach for the summer months and people walk around in their shorts, t-shirts, swim wear and summer attire. Anyway my sister and were heading home after picking up some groceries for our Mum when this woman who was very conservatively dressed comes rushing up to my sister and I and tells us that we should be ashamed of ourselves and that we should cover up and veil. She made us feel like we were walking around naked, when we were in our mid-thigh shorts and T-shirt at a beach resort.
Some times at traffic lights there will be people handing out fliers or pamphlets that promote veiling ‘Naam lil Hijab’ which means ‘Yes, to veiling’.
My sister and I usually don’t wear any religious jewelry so people automatically assume that because we are not veiled then we must be Christian.
So, the answer is Yes, There is more pressure for women to veil today than 20 years ago.
IV- Marriages and Divorces
I wrote a post not too long ago about middle and upper class marriages in Egypt and I was recently contacted by a male reader who was able to identify himself with what I had written. Most middle and upper class marriages are based on business arrangements, (please note that I said, most and NOT all).
Marriages can also be formed as an escape from living with their parents and wanting freedom from all of their rules and expectations. Which is another myth, because their life won’t be about going out all the time and having fun, it’s about responsibilities, working and taking after the home. It can often be leaving regarded as leaving one dictating house hold for another, (demanding and controlling husband/wife).
Marriages solely to cure sexual frustration are another popular reason for getting married.
The fairy tale that has been repeated over and over again from one generation to the next about how marriage is a wonderful thing and that the girl will be the lady of her own home and can do as she likes is a sugar-coated illusion of what reality is. These girls by their late teens (17 on wards) are keeping their eyes open like a hawk for an eligible bachelor. When the wedding and honeymoon is over reality sinks in and the fights begin.
There are arranged marriages, where someone would suggest that perhaps two people would make a good union. So, a meeting with the two individuals is set, either at a neutral party’s home, where the individuals can meet under the watchful eye of their parents. A few meetings may follow so that they can get to know one another better, if a match is made then an engagement will ensue and wedding plans begin. One on one dating will not be prohibited there will be a chaperone with the couple when ever they meet or go out. This happens with more conservative and religious families.
Then there are marriages based on all the right things, finding a partner to be with because they are happy with them for who they are.
When the marriages are based on all the wrong reasons, how can you not expect the divorce rate not to be high here? During my Grandmother’s era it was almost on heard of and for a couple to divorce was a rare occurrence. Now it’s has become the norm.
I have a lot more to say about the topics mentioned in the segment but if I don’t stop my ramblings now, I would go on and on forever!
I will right more about at a later date in time.
Alexandria is where I call home in Egypt. It’s where I spent my teenage years, graduated from High School and University and where my family still lives. There is a mysterious charm about the place and I can’t get enough of it. It has a unique mix of culture, you can still sense the European presence that once existed, and the Mediterranean laid back attitude and the Egyptian hospitality.
When I am in Cairo I long to be in Alexandria with my family and going for early Friday morning walks along the Corniche (sea road).
It is an unspoken ritual/tradition that Fridays are family days and on that day we give our mothers a rest from laboring in the kitchen and go out to eat. My Dad loves food and I think I inherited his passion for it. He enjoys trying new restaurants and cuisine.
In this post I am going to recommend some of the restaurants my family and I have been to and like and others that I have tried and have gone back to several times.
Carrefour Shopping center
Of all the Egyptian restaurant chains, Makani is my favorite. It has a western twist to its food. I am a sucker for their chicken corn salad. My sister on the other hand can’t get enough of their Sushi. The Restaurant is located in the new section of Carrefour.
A Canadian chain that has opened in Carrefour is a nice place to go for a light lunch. I was there last weekend with my mother and sister and I really enjoyed my plate of Quesada’s and I heard no complaints from my mother or sister.
Supremo is the only place in Alexandria that has bagels. If you had a craving for one, then you need to head down there. It is as good as the real bagels you buy in Canada but its close enough.
* My last two visits to the place were in October and in April and i found the service to be a bit slow, waiters forgetful and disorganized at times.
If none of those interest you, there is a food court in the mall too.
The Cairo restaurant that serves food similar to Coffee Roastary and reminds me a lot of pub lunches have opened in Alexandria. It has two locations. The first is in the Downtown complex opposite Carrefour City Center and the other is inside Montazah.
My parents have gone there a few times in my absence and have enjoyed it. They especially liked the deserts that were on the menu.
I went with them on two occasions since having posted the post months ago and I have to say that I enjoyed both meals I had there.
Balbaa Restaurant is located in the Downtown complex opposite the Carrefour City Center shopping mall. The restaurant has two levels; the first is for more traditional food like Kofta, Kabab, Pigeon and other tantalizing dishes. The fresh basket of mini baked Arabic bread and Mezzas are served before the meal. They are so good that you find it hard to restrain yourself from eating too much before your main course arrives. Everything is cooked fresh.
The 2nd level is for sea food. I am a sea food junky!! I love fish! I enjoy picking the fresh fish that I’m going to eat, along with calamari, muscles and occasionally shrimp and instructing the attending mongers my preference on how I like it cooked. While you are waiting Mezzas and a fresh basket of bread are put down in front of you whilst you wait for your meal. I have been to many fish restaurants in Alexandria, but this I find to be the best and great value for your money. I recommend going before the restaurant gets too busy, It’s best to go at around 2pm.
If you like American/Mexican food, then Chili’s is the place to go for your Nachos and cheese, crispy chicken, Texas fries, Fajita’s and Burgers. I must admit that the food is good. I especially enjoy their salad selection, country fried chicken, their refill basket of salsa and chips and their chocolate molten lava cake!
De La Vega
Is a café and restaurant located above Chili’s. I like going there to chill and relax with a large number of friends. It’s open air and the seating is really comfortable. If you want to go for a snack and sheesha then I would recommend going there.
I love the name of the place and the décor too. The place has that Greek atmosphere about it with its white walls and blue shutters. My sister and her friends really enjoy going there for their sheesha. I treated my family for lunch there and if my father had no complaints about the service, location or the food then it has to be good. Having worked in restaurants and bakeries during his student years, he has very high expectations when it comes to where he eats out.
There are 2 other restaurants next to Mykonos that you may also enjoy. I believe all 3 are owned by the same person(s) because if you wish to order something from either of the other restaurants you can.
In the same area and line as the restaurants mentioned above is Weiner Café unfortunately doesn’t serve my favorite hot dog brand, but if you like chocolate like the ladies in my family do, then this is the place in Alex to indulge. Their chocolate fondue with Belgian chocolate is not to be missed. My parents, who aren’t big coffee drinkers, do enjoy going there to have a Cappuccino and Café Late.
* I went there in April and found that the standard of service has dropped and the place seems to be a bit run down. The chocolate is still good!
If you drive behind the Alexandria International Gardens you will find a string of clubs and restaurants.
It is a private club that mainly expats go to, to spend the day by the pool and to have lunch. You pay for the use of the facilities (Pool & Gym) each time you go there. If you aren’t interested in swimming, tanning or working out but would like to go somewhere open aired and with foliage, then you might be interested in going there for lunch. I have eaten there several times and I really enjoy the food as well as the ambiance.
This is a very modern and hip place to go to in the evenings. It is especially popular on Thursday and Friday nights, to guarantee a place from 9pm on wards on either of those nights, you need to book in advance. You can have a meal there or order a variety of delicious appetizers while you socialize or listen to the D.J spin some tracks.
According to their facebook group;
Sundays they have live Guitarist playing.
Tuesdays is Karaoke themed night
to reserve call; Michael, Mobile: 0182878224 , Tel: 03-3822797
The restaurant and bar is named after the Swiss owner. Christina is a Swiss trained chef, who moved to Alexandria with her husband many years ago. She lives in Agami and the restaurant is a part of the house. It is a very quaint and cozy place to go to for a meal or to have drinks with friends. There have been many occasions where people will start jamming on the piano and before you know it everyone starts belting out songs and joining in on the fun.In Kafr Abdu, Roushdy area there is a restaurant/café called Ole. It has a Spanish theme and is very nicely decorated. My mother loves going to Ole for a meal. Her favorite dish there is the fish and I have to admit that I love their sea food paella and California salad. The food is delicious and the service is friendly and old school. Their deserts are something not to be missed either.
Another good thing about Ole is that if you are having a dinner party and aren’t a very good cook, they will cater.
Cilantro is one of my favorite cafes to go to and hang out with friends. The juices, sandwiches and salads are made freshly every day. It has a very calm atmosphere.
The café is located next to Ole and opposite the building where the Tamarin Center (exercise) center is. There are several branches in Alexandria and Cairo.
Fresca and Blue
Both cafés are located in the newly built Four Seasons Hotel in San Stefano overlooking the sea. Fresca is on the ground floor opposite the main entrance to the hotel lobby. I like going there during the day for a light lunch. It’s a very popular place to go out to eat. Blue is located on the 2nd or 3rd floor of the hotel. It’s open air and overlooks the cornice and sea. It’s a great place to be at sunset. I haven’t eaten there but my friends enjoy going. I like going for the view and to relax and chat with friends.
The hotel sometimes has a café open on the hotels private beach.
Is a café located on the cornich very close to the Ramada hotel. It’s a nice café to go to in the evening with friends to have sheesha, a light snack and drinks (nonalcoholic). If you sit in the outside area of the café you have a nice vie of the sea.
Down Town Alexandria
The Greek Club (serves alcohol)
There are 2 Greek Clubs (that I know of) in Alexandria, one is located in the Alexandria bay area, next to the yacht club and the Qayat Bay Fort. It has recently been renovated and has an elevator that takes you up to the restaurant. The view from the restaurant terrace at any time of day is breath taking! They menu has many familiar Greek dishes, I have to say since the last time I was there a couple of years ago the standard has improved and the food is good, but not GREAT.
The second Greek Club is located next to the Azzareeta tram line, across from a gas station. If you are not a member you need to pay an entrance fee to go in. The club is nothing luxurious but it’s a great place to go to, to get away from the daily harassment that one is exposed to. The club is mostly open air and spacious. It is quiet and with all the Greek, French and Armenian that you here, you tend to forget that you’re in Egypt. There is a quaint little restaurant and bar on the premises. The owner, of the restaurant Nicolas is usually there in the evenings over seeing how things are run. The food there is fresh and tasty. A great place to go to for a brief get away.
Athenos (serves alcohol)
This old restaurant/café is over 100 years old. It is just a few minutes’ walk from Mahatat El Raml Square. The place isn’t as glorious as it used to be back in its day, but I have to admit that its location is nicely located. It is right on the Corniche and if you are lucky enough to have a window seat then you have an excellent view of the Mediterranean.
There aren’t many places you can go to in Alexandria where you will be served Alcoholic beverages, but you can get a cold beer there. I sometime like to go there early in the morning for breakfast to have a chocolate croissant and lemonade.
Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Alexandria Library)
Outside on the premises of the Library grounds there is a string of cafe’s that have an outside view of the Planetarium, Library and Cornish Sea view. Hilton Cafe, Cilanto, Cinnabon and a few others.
The Cecil Hotel
One of the oldest and expensive hotels in Alexandria has still got its charm and class. Did you know that Churchill and Agatha Christi stayed there? The place has a lot of history, so much in fact that it was on CNN. On the roof of the hotel is a Chinese restaurant. I am not a huge fan of Asian food but I have to admit that it is very good. The view from the roof top at night is magical. You are sitting under a blanket of stars an can see Alexandria bay lit up and on a clear night you can see the lights from ships in the distance and if you ever think of proposing to someone, this is probably the best place to do it.
The Imperial Cafe
Is a cafe right next door to the Cecil Hotel overlooking the square. It is newly renovated and i have to admit it was my first time to set foot in the place in July and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the service and it’s over all standard. I would definitely drop by again in the near future.
Delice (has a bar, cafe and restaurant)
Is another other café that has been around for decades. I enjoy going there because when I sit and look around I can imagine myself sitting next to some of the colonials back in the 1930. This is another place where I enjoy going to have breakfast early in the morning. Their pancakes are nice, but if you want to try something different, then try the Greek cheese pie. They have a nice bakery too. I love their giant macaroons and meringues. My elderly neighbor, Madame Yamna (God rest her soul), loved their petit four biscuits from there. So when ever, I would go to visit her, I would buy her a box. This is another place you can go to, to have a beer.
St. Lucia (serves alcohol)
This fine dining restaurant is located opposite Cinema Metro and the Elite Café, where the famous Greek writer Cavafy used to sit and write. I used to go to St. Lucia when I would come to visit my Grandmother in the summers. I loved going there because the waiters spoke at least 5 to 7 languages. My Dad liked it too because he would practice his Greek with them. The restaurant has changed hands since then, the waiters are long gone but the history of the place is still there.
It has been renovated and the prices have sky rocketed. If you want to go out for a night of wine and dining this is the place. Next to the café is another old café called Asteria. It’s a very quiet place and few people go in there. My Grandmother and I used to go there together after having begged and dragged her to the Toy shop to buy the latest Barbie doll (I collected them), she would have ice cream and tea, while I would have sport cola and ice cream.
After years of being closed and undergoing renovation, it has finally reopened. I must confess, that I have not ventured in side (yet) but I fully intend to. This cafe holds a great deal of history and many childhood memories for me. At this very cafe sat some of the greatest modern day writers of the Mediterranean. One of which is the famed Greek writer Cavafy, who is best known for his poem Ethica. The old lady, who used to own the cafe, would tell you stories of when they would come in and sit and write. As a child when I used to come on holidays, this was one of the cafe’s we would sit at in the evenings and I would drink my 7 Up and have a bowl of ice cream.
Abu Sid (used to be Pastroudis)
On the corner of Cinema Amir, there used to be one of the most popular cafes, Pastroudis. I remember many summers going for a walk with my parents to this location on Fouad street, just a few minutes’ walk from my Grandmother’s house and sitting there watching the men with hantours (carriages) taking their passengers for a ride.
It has now been transformed in to the very popular oriental restaurant Abu Sid. I haven’t gone to eat there yet, but my mother went with a friend of hers for lunch recently. She said she really enjoyed the meal, but was flabbergasted at the prices.
Chez Gaby (serves alcohol)
When I first moved to Alexandria, there were very few good restaurants. The number of restaurants since I move here in the early 90s has more than quadrupled. Chez Gaby was one of the best places to go to. I remember going there after school with my friend and her mother for pizza. It was the best pizza I had had in months. To this day their pizzas are still very good. Their food reminds me a lot of Maison Thomas in Cairo. The restaurant is located very close to St. Lucia. It’s a couple of streets behind it.
* Alcohol is served
Déjà vu (serves alcohol)
Déjà vu (formally known as Far and Away) is a pub, (one of the very few in Alexandria)
it’s probably one of the most popular places to go to on a Thursday or a Friday night. If you want to go and have a bite to eat, the food there is good and if you want to go watch a football match or have a dance this is where you need to head.
It’s very close to the Said Darweesh Theater.
Grand Café, Chicken Tikka and Fish Market
The three restaurants are located in the same area. They are on the sea side of the Corniche road. The three are very popular places to go for a meal in Alexandria. The food there is always good. The staff is friendly and professional. The portion size for the price they charge is something that I don’t agree with. I don’t mind forking out the money every now and then when I want to treat myself.
Of the three, I prefer the Fish Market and Chicken Tikka.
Agami is a very old beach resort outside of the city. If you take the new road to Bianki Agami it should take you about twenty minutes driving. If you take the old route via the desert road it would take you half an hour or more.
I have spent almost 2 decades of my summers there. My Great Uncle had a villa right on the beach and when the family sold it my father bought and built his own. If you can’t afford to go abroad for the summer then you have to spend it somewhere by the sea. (Just make sure that it is private beach that you go to, otherwise you will be harassed!!!)
I met some of my closest and best friends in Bianki. The majority of them are like me of mixed ethnicity. It’s also where a lot of the old Alexandrians prefer to go during the summer. At one point Agami was like the Rivera of the Middle East. It has lost its status to the more modern and posh resorts that have been built further up the North Coast.
Two of my favorite Restaurants are in Agami.
Wagihe’s Steak house.
The owner of this little restaurant is a one man show! He runs the place, cooks the food and serves. The word I would use to describe the food would be…German! I have no idea why…but I think it has a lot to do with the ambience of the place and the German memorabilia he has on the walls. The steak there is mouthwatering; the French fries are homemade steak fries! Going there once is not enough! It’s a popular place people go to when they are heading back from the beach and want to tame their hunger pains.
The restaurant is on the main street of Bianki.
The restaurant and bar is named after the Swiss owner. Christina is a Swiss trained chef, who moved to Alexandria with her husband many years ago.
She lives in Agami and the restaurant is a part of the house. It is a very quaint and cozy place to go to for a meal or to have drinks with friends. There
have been many occasions where people will start jamming on the piano and before you know it everyone starts belting out songs and joining in on the fun.
If there are places you have been to and liked, please recommend them to me and my readers by leaving a comment.
I have always been a fan of the arts. As a youngster I used to really enjoy performing on stage in plays, musicals and talent shows, (it’s the family blood line apparently). I would have loved to have tried my luck in the industry, but my father strongly opposed the idea. Many of my teacher’s on the other hand couldn’t imagine me being anything other than an actress or a TV presenter.
When my family and I would travel on holidays my mother would take my sister and I to museums, the theatre, ballet, musicals and galleries. At the time I didn’t realize what a huge appreciation she was instilling in me. Now that I’m older, I am very grateful that she did. I find that being able to enjoy ‘The Art’s’ enables me to look at life differently and see things from different perspectives.
When my family and I moved to Egypt in the early 90’s, the freedom of not being able to just walk out of my front door and ride my bicycle to the recreation center or just around the neighborhood was something that really irritated me. As well as not being able to go and watch pantomimes. When the Alexandria Library opened and the Sayed Darweesh theater was restored, I would hear of performances and would save up to buy tickets to go and attend. There is a captivating magic about going to places like that. For a few hours you forget who and where you are. Your troubles can be put aside for some time and then turn your focus back to them once you have returned from your mini mind vacation.
The Alexandria Library, is (in my opinion) becoming the cultural focal point of the city. They have guest speakers, movie screenings, performances by local Egyptian talent, bands like ‘Wust El Balad’ and my favorite event of all was the International Dance Festival. The Sayed Darweesh theater is not only a building built baring the name of a local Alexandrian but it also represents a local history. The theater I believe collaborates with the Cairo Opera House, some if not most of the performances held at the Opera House make their way to the Sayed Darweesh theater.
Another thing that I enjoyed doing whilst I was living and growing up in Alexandria, was going to the different cultural centers. The Russian Cultural Center, offers ballet, exercise sessions and in my day they even had art. The French, Spanish and German offer language courses. The most popular two were the British Council and the American Cultural Center. I believe they still are. If you live in the Roushdy area on Kafr Abdu street. Across from Cilantro there is a fitness center that offers a large array of courses. Tamarin Center is where I took my first jab at salsa dancing. The partners who own the center are amiable, social and helpful women.
When I moved to Cairo, I became spoilt for choice. There are so many places that offer so many things that it is impossible for me to know of all of them. What I can do is tell you about the places I have been to.
If you are really in to listening to live bands playing then you will enjoy going to a restaurant/pub called, The Cairo Jazz Club or After 8. Both places offer live entertainment, with performances by local talent. I am a huge fan of ‘The Riff Band’, ‘Wust El Balad’ and ‘Crash Boom Bang’. Each have their own uniqueness and sound. There are others but if I was to list them, I would be sat here for quite some time. http://www.cairojazzclub.com/ , http://www.after8cairo.com/Default.aspx
Then there is the ‘Cultural Wheel’, or otherwise known as Sakia El Sawy. It’s located in Zamalek, (one my favorite places in Cairo) 26th of July street, just below 15 of May bridge. ” El Sawy Cultural wheel is an Egyptian cultural center based on a vision to create an ethical environment that motivates people to develop and strengthen their culture through arts, enlightenment & creativity.”(description taken from their facebook group). It was there when I first went to watch ‘The Axis of Evil Comedy Tour’ and the Cairo Jazz festival. If you want to know what is going on there, join their facebook group. http://www.facebook.com/?sk=2361831622#!/group.php?gid=2243177865&v=info&ref=ts
I am not one who enjoys getting dolled up, I prefer being comfortable and natural,(My mother strongly disproves). There are VERY rare occasions where I will and that is if I’m attending a formal function which requires me to wear war paint (make up), crippling contraptions on my feet (high heels) and the (dreaded) dress! Having said that, I enjoy getting dressed up to go to the Opera. Yes, I realize how geeky this makes me sound, but I love listening to classical music, opera and watching a ballet. There is never a dull month at the Cairo Opera House. I would be quite happy spending all my earnings and going to the Opera House every month. They have their own orchestra, dance troops and they have many foreign companies come to perform too. It was there where I first heard Verdi’s ‘Aida’! http://www.cairoopera.org/
Cairo is littered with historical places to visit and experience. Book yourself a tour with a travel company or buy yourself a travel guide and go on an adventure. There is so much to see and learn. I’ve lived in Egypt for almost 19 years and I still haven’t seen a fifth of the countries treasures.
If you know of any other places, please let me know. I’d love to go and check them out for myself.
I enjoy listening to all genres of music. I really enjoy busting out a few moves on the dance floor to Arabic, Pop, Techno and many other kinds of tunes. The music that is guaranteed to get me up and out of the chair is a Latin beat!
I have always loved the sound of Latin music. It makes me come alive and no matter how bad of a day I have had, the music just shines through the black cloud that was hanging over my head, add salsa dancing to that equation and not only do my woes become a distant memory, I have fun and get a great work out.
When I moved to Cairo, I got to know a certain gentleman who was a fabulous dancer and had taken many classes and was competitive material. I longed to be able to dance like him so that we could go out dancing together. He didn’t like the idea of me taking lessons from a male instructor so, I didn’t. When our ‘friendship’ came to a tragic end (a long story that I won’t get in to), I took up salsa classes, (I didn’t have a jealous person to worry about, plus I also had the hope that one day I would bump in to him at one of the salsa nights held in Cairo and blow him away with my steps and Latina moves. It hasn’t happened yet).
If you are a Salsero or a Salsera, then I highly recommend that you join the Salsa Club Egypt group on Facebook. You can find out when and where Salsa nights are held and when the next Salsa Congress will be hosted in Cairo.
Sunday, Monday and Thursday are popular Salsa dancing nights in Cairo.
Sunday, Salsa Club Egypt offers dance classes at Stiletto before the Salsa night begins.
Absolute beginners: 9pm
Rasha, is usually the instructor and she is amazing to watch.
Sunday nights at Stiletto Lounge is 1 El Galaa Sq. Landmark: Inside Sheraton Cairo Hotel, Towers & Casino, Dokki, Giza.
Monday night salsa at Nile Maxim also offers dance lessons before the night starts. (i don’t think that this night is still on)
They offer free classes at 9pm. Nile Maxim is a boat found opposite the Marriot Hotel in Zamalek. Salsa nights are held in Le veranda.
Thursday night you will find some of the best salsa dancers unwinding after a week of working, showing off their signature moves at Café Bian in Mohendiseen.
I have only been there once and I would never have thought that they would have a night of dancing there, but they do. Bian Café is near medan aswan\next to Atlas Hotel and Omda restaurant.
Salsa Club Egypt http://www.salsaclubegypt.com/
If you are interested in taking Salsa classes in your area you may want to look in to these places.
Samia Allouba (http://www.samiaalloubacenter.com/Default.aspx?UC=./UI/Visitor/Page&PageID=home)
Vogue Dance Studio; 5 Deer El Bahary Street, off of Hegaz. Maryland.
0117295688 is the number to call for more detail, Eman is the person to ask for.
Arthur Murray (http://www.yellowpages.com.eg/profile/NjI5ODI=/Arthur-Murray-Dance-Center.html), Samia Allouba
Tamarin Center (http://www.tamarincenter.com)
As the weather in Egypt starts to climb so do the risks of getting food poisoning. I used to think that I had an iron stomach, but 7 years ago I learned the hard way. I had sever food poisoning, I had para typhoid! To this day I am unsure where I got it from, because I would go out quite a lot with my friends in the evening after spending the day on the beach in Bianki, Agami. What made it even harder to pin point was the incubation period, its approximately two weeks. Since then I have become very anal about where I eat out and when I eat out.
During the HOT season, the shelf life of produce is cut in to a quarter, food rots faster. Any dips, sauces made of cream and especially mayonnaise will go off really quickly if it isn’t refrigerated and covered well. Flys seem to multiply during the summer and they seem to have hyper SENSORS. They can detect food from miles off and before you can tuck in, you are being bombed by kamikaze flies left, right and center. They will pull out every trick they have just to have a chance to land and spit on your food.
Consumption of water and Sodas sky rockets during the summer too. Before you pop open a can of your favorite carbonated drink to chug down to quench your thirst, wipe the surface of the can really well or even go as far as washing it. When the cans are waiting to be shelved, the roaches have a field day climbing all over them and sometimes even lay eggs on them. When buying bottled water make sure that the plastic seal is on the bottle. If the removable seal is not there, there is a possibility that it isn’t a fresh bottle of mineral water
Restaurants and Cafes get really busy too, so the pressure on the dishwashers in the kitchens is tripled. You will often find that the plates, glasses and cutlery are not very clean. If you have an inkling that it isn’t very clean or you are uncomfortable with the way it looks, then go with your gut instincts and politely ask the waiter to change it for you. It’s better to be safe than sorry. It isn’t fun being quarantined during the summer and having typhoid isn’t anything I would wish on my worst enemy.
Just last week a friend of mine went out to satisfy his sweet tooth and bought himself ‘Ruz Bil Laban’ (Rice Pudding) and regretted it a few hours later. Luckily he only had very mild poisoning, he was fine the following day. AUC (American University of Cairo) has had to have Tobasco close on campus because of cases of food poisoning. (I wish other restaurants would do the same and have a BLITZ clean)
I try very hard to eat at home more during the summer to avoid mild or even extreme food poisoning. Your home is the only guaranteed place you can be sure of having well-cooked food and clean utensils.