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Students and teachers alike look forward to the longest holiday of the year, ‘summer’.

In the past summers for me meant packing my bags with all that I would need and move down to Agami, a summer resort just outside of Alexandria on the Mediterranean Sea, where my parents had a beach house. There I would spend my days in shorts, t-shirt, swimsuit and flip-flops with my beach bag ready for the beach. Two to three months of swimming, tanning, reading, playing volleyball, running a summer camp for children and catching up with old friends whom I hadn’t seen since the previous summer.

Summer home in Agami- Villa Casa Blanca

Times have changed and friends have moved on. I have not been back to Bianki since 2007. I miss the times, I had there during my teenage years. It is there where I made some of my most memorable memories and met some very interesting people and dear friends.  To date, my summers are split between Alexandria and going abroad to various destinations to get away from the stress that the post revolution has left and the political roller coaster of electorial disappointments we have had to take part in, witness and accept the results of.

The beginning portion of my summer for the past two years has been spent in Alexandria with my parents. My mother and I have been motivating one another to get back in shape and eat healthy. (This as some of you may know has been an ongoing process for me. After  1.5 years of battling the bulge, I am 13Kg away from my target weight!) I would spend an hour working out at home, doing various crunches and sit-ups as well as using an elliptical bike and 3 hours of the day would be spent swimming laps and using various apparatus to help strengthen and tone my arms and legs. For a few weeks, I or we would go abroad.

To go abroad for me is a chance to recharge, re-evaluate, relax and look at things from a different perspective (the change in scenery and climate is also an added bonus). This year my mother and I ventured to London to visit briefly with my sister and to Ireland to attend a family wedding and strengthen family connection with our cousins, whom we had lost contact with over the past few years.

I am fascinated with our family genealogy, especially on the Irish side. I have found that not only do I look Irish, I have a lot of the Irish family traits in me and from listening to stories, I find I learn more and more about myself and why some of the members of our family are the way that they are.

As a young girl London never appealed to me, I had formed an image of it being a dark, grey and gloomy place, much like the Industrial time in England. My opinion changed quickly when I first visited 3 years ago. I look forward to my visits there now, not solely due to it’s undeniable allure but because I actually feel normal there. I don’t worry about what I’m wearing and if I’ll be harassed as I walk down the street or how long it will take me to get to my destination. When I am there the stress of constantly having to be aware of the people around me and looking for signs of possible sexual harassers trying to invade my personal space drops from 100 to 1.

Time spent with my sister, her husband and other members of our family are precious and they always take priority. I try to spend as much time with them as I can, to keep our family bond strong and because I simply love being in their company. There is never a dull moment when we congregate! On extended visits I like to walk around and take in the sights, museums, shows, take pictures and of course shop! (One has to make a contribution to the economy of the country one happens to visit, no?)

It was also exciting to have been there pre-Olympic ceremony. To see the city decorated with flags of the different nations taking part in the games. The excitment and pride of the nationals to host the games. My mum and I missed the ceremony but watched many of the highlights and events once we had made it back to our hotel room and back to Egypt after our trip. The athletes are phenominal in their dedication and inspring!

Family time or giving new meaning to the term, ‘swimming with the fishes’

I have always been very proud and patriotic of my Irish heritage. When I visit I can’t help but be in awe of her beauty. Her beauty, in my opinion becomes more enhanced by her people, who have such a cheerful, friendly, helpful and funny disposition about them. I can’t help but find so many similarities in them and the ‘old’ Egyptian culture that I grew up knowing, ( it saddens me to think that what remains of the ‘old’ Egypt, might soon be lost, if things are not sorted out soon).

During this trip to Ireland, I made sure that I would not be rushing through like a forest fire, but I would actually have time to walk the streets, visit historical landmarks, eat in pubs, shop and talk with the locals, as well as visit with family.

I can not tell you how much I enjoyed touring the capital, learning about how Ireland earned its Independence, driving through the grounds of Phoenix Park, visiting Trinity College and sitting in its grand library of ancient manuscripts and books that were written and read by some of the greatest minds on earth and where some members of my family attended. Although my connection to the country itself isn’t strong, I think this journey has definitely strengthened it.

                                                       
                        The scene from the brige where my cousin wed his bride. Tintern Abbey-Rosslare

My cousin whom I had only reconnected with over the last three years and hadn’t seen in twenty, invited my family and I to attend his wedding. The place in which the nuptials took place and the ceremony itself was unlike any wedding that I have ever been to or seen before. It was a Humanist Wedding/Ceremony, filled with spirituality, tradition and love. It was held on a bridge on a beautiful summer’s day with beautiful landscape encompassing the couple and their families and friends. Nothing could have made it more magical, meaningful or beautiful in my opinion.  The two-day event was packed with entertainment, food and great times. Most importantly it was shared with people who truly cared for the couple and genuinely wished them nothing but happiness in their future life together. It was at this event, where I made new connections and bonds with members of our family whom I had lost contact with and those I had never met before. (Now, I know where I get my energy, drive, motivation to succeed, love of learning, sense of humor and love of partying from, The McSorley Clan)

The third part of our trip was spent visiting the area of where my grandmother and generations before her had come from. In some strange way, Wexford, a small county by the sea reminded me of Alexandria. It is here where my mother attended boarding school as a young girl and where she spent many summers with her aunt, uncle and cousins at a nearby resort called Rosslare. As I walked the quay and breathed in the fresh Irish sea air and took in the scenic views, I couldn’t help but be grateful for the opportunity to have traveled to the land of my ancestors, to see where half of me is from and to be able to pass down the stories that have been told to me by my aunt, mother and cousins, so, that our history isn’t lost or forgotten.

In Wexford we strengthened existing ties with family we are in touch with. It was also a second opportunity for my mother to spend time her aged aunt of 97 years and to thank her for all the wonderful summers she had spent with them as a child and all the other things she and her late husband did for her growing up. (Moments like that should be seised, because they may never come again).

There is so much more for me to see and learn of Ireland but I have an itching desire to learn as much as I can about my family as I can. I hope to be able to go back there again soon in the near future.

Upon returning to Egypt I couldn’t help but feel depressed. Ireland might be in dire straits economically but the people have the drive to rebuild the country to get it back on its feet again. Egypt, a nation of great potential and historical as well as cultural wealth seems to be sinking before our eyes and very few seem willing to get their hands dirty. I have said it before and I will say it again. I fear for Egypt’s future and her children. I pray that I am wrong and that she will not suffer in the hands of men like Rasputin. Perhaps the Egyptian Olympians who preformed so well at the London 2012 games, might inspire their country men and women that hard work does pay off and that they can not only achieve great things but be recognised for them in the long run, if they pull together and move forward in rebuilding the country rather than pointing the finger of blame.

Nathalie Atalla

August 21st of 2011 was the 40 day memorial service for my sweet departed friend. In this part of the world, 40 days after a person has departed there is a memorial service held in their honor. I hopped on a train and headed down to Cairo especially to attend the service.
Fabienne, Nathalie Atalla’s sister had asked me to read the Irish bereavement poem that I had used at the end of my written tribute to her.  No matter how many times I read those few sentences allowed or to myself, I couldn’t help but feel as though that I was choking on held back tears and my lip would disobey direct orders from my brain not to quiver.
When I reached Cairo I busied myself trying to put my closed apartment in order, while thinking about the upcoming service. The reason the service weighed so heavily on my mind was because, when I heard of Nathalie’s untimely departure I had just arrived in London. As much as I wanted to get back on a plane and turn around and go back to Cairo, I couldn’t. So, although I understood that Nathalie would no longer be walking among us in the flesh, my mind hadn’t fully come to terms with it.
As I sat in the church and was a few pews from the alter, where a beautiful picture of her smiling back at all of those who were in attendance, the reality of it all came crashing down. My eyes burned with restrained tears as did my throat, but I knew that she wouldn’t want more tears to be shed and especially not on her birthday. Yes, her memorial service coincided with her 32nd Birthday. A day where we would have all come together to rejoice and having a gay o’l time, but instead we were remembering her life and how she touched each and every one of us.
At the service I saw her two brave adorable girls, standing at the front of the church with their aunt and grandparents, behaving beautifully and comforting their grandmother in the midst of the service. Once the service was over, the two girls greeted the attendees at the entrance of the church with angelic smiles on their face, warm hugs and handed every single person a brioche (it’s like a hot cross bun). As I watched them, I couldn’t help but admire their innocence and how they have bounced back from having their mother tragically taken away from them at such a young age. I could see many of Nato’s qualities and she would have been very proud of them.
In the reception hall on the grounds of the church, friends and family went to pay their respects. A group of friends sat in the hall and sang ballads, two other close friends of Nathalie’s stood up and said a few words about her. Fabienne, gave a very moving speech that brought us all to tears and moved us deeply. I agree with Fabienne, Nathalie wouldn’t want us to continue to cry and be sad, she would want us to celebrate her life, remember her and smile and apply the lessons she taught us to our daily lives.

With the over flow of emotion, my little speech was over looked, but that is fine, what really mattered, was that we were there for her sister, her daughters, her parents and that we were remembering her and what she meant to us.
I finally had closure and came to terms with her passing, but although she in no longer with us in body, Nathalie is still here with us in spirit and she continues to inspire us every day!
Nathalie, you have inspired me to love myself and to take care of my health. I have returned to my favorite sport, swimming. I could barely finish two laps without gasping for air, when I started at the beginning of July but with daily practice and persistence, plus  having your voice encouraging and cheering me on, as you have for the past few months. I have now made it to 110 laps. I look better, feel better about myself and I’m beginning to feel more like my old self. Nathalie, thank you for motivating and inspiring me!

As the famous song goes; every breath I take, every move I make, every single day, every time I pray, I’ll be missing you…

http://www.nathalieatalla.com/ to leave your  thoughts and comments.

Former President Hosni Mubarek in the cage

History was made today in Egypt, when Mubarak, the former Egyptian president actually appeared in court in a white jump suite lying down on a hospital bed with an I.V. in his arm, (contents of IV are unknown). He appeared in court along with his two son and other accused. One of whom was the former minister of Interior and security Habeeb El Adly (who is already serving 12 years sentence for corruption and could be facing the death penalty if found guilty of having a hand in the murder of the victims of the uprising for allowing the security forces to use weapons and live ammunition).
Lawyers from both sides took turns speaking in to their microphone, declaring whom they represent and what requests they would like the judge to consider during the trial. For the prosecution there were over 130 lawyers, many of whom were not permitted to enter the courtroom. Most of who represent the people and the families of the martyrs from many different governates in Egypt.
The lawyers when speaking were reciting verses of the Holy Quraan and would harp on and use fancy words and phrases, which the judge didn’t care for and insisted that the lawyers got straight to the point. At times the circus of lawyers fighting for the right and time to speak in to the microphone looked like a classroom scene where eager students were trying to answer questions to impress their teacher. At one point in time the judge insisted all the lawyers be seated and come up to the microphone one at a time in an orderly fashion. There were a few lawyers who stood out, some demanded that Gen. Tantawi be brought testify as well as Anan former Vice President Omar Soleiman. Another brought charges against the phone networks Mobinil, Vodafone and Etisalat for cutting phone lines, one lawyer pulled out and ink pad and demanded the finger prints of the former president and his sons to open a criminal file against them. The lawyer that stood out the most was the one who wanted a DNA test because he believed that the man in the cage wasn’t Hosni Mubarak but an imposter who has been posing as him since 2004, because he believes the real Hosni Mubarak is dead.
The momentous moment for me was hearing the Prosecutor read the charges against the defendants gave me chills. To see the country’s former giants in a cage in a courtroom in jump suits hearing the charges brought against them was surreal. Never did anyone in this nation think they would see the day when a former leader and his crony’s being brought to justice. Mubarak’s sons who remained standing beside their father’s bed blocking the cameras from getting a clear shot of their father were chocked up and emotional when they heard the charges against them being read.
When the judge (Rifaat) asked for the defendants to show themselves and prove that they are present and asked them how they plea to the charges that were read and brought against them and hearing their answers of ‘not guilty’ to me was a moment to remember. I didn’t think that I would ever live to see a trial of this magnitude or significance take place in Egypt.

I am glad that the Judge has split the cases, Mubarak and sons will be tried separately from Adly and his aids. Adly and aid’s case will resume tomorrow, August 4th and the Mubarak’s case will be brought back on August 15th.
Mubarak has been ordered to be held at a hospital on the outskirts of Cairo, on the Cairo Ismalia road. I know that many people felt sorry for Mubarak and believed him to be seriously ill. I am skeptical and think it’s part of an act. I do however admire his sons standing by his side and trying to block camera’s view and showed unity, (that doesnt change what I think of them though).
We have to wait and see what will happen until then…. Never the less it’s all history in the making and possibly a significant step towards true democracy.

It has been almost a month since I last posted something on my blog. It isn’t due to lack of interest or something to say…it’s due to over saturation of events past and present that are preventing me from expressing myself clearly. I have tried to sit down many times to continue typing up and posting my Diary entries during the 18 days of the revolution, but reliving it whilst still going through the post revolution events was getting to be too much for my mind and my emotions to handle. To add to the turmoil neighboring countries to Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Bahrain …etc are going through similar if not worse circumstances and to relive the past with the present became too much for me to cope with.

Messages from Family members, friends and readers whom have been reading the entries and following me on twitter have encouraged me to keep writing and posting. They say that my entries paint a clear picture for them from a person who is actually living in the country. So, I will try to work through the daily distractions of current events here and in the neighboring countries to get my story written and posted.

God Bless

Is it Christmas?

I know it probably sounds weird coming from me, (a Muslim) but Christmas, is my favorite holiday season; it’s always festive and full of cheer.
This year however, it seems to be lacking a certain ingredient from my point of view.
Past Christmases there was the excitement, bustling of Christmas shopping, the bundling up to keep warm and the malls and quite a few stores would be decorated in anticipation for the holiday. If I hadn’t gone to two Christmas Bazaars, then I doubt I would have even noticed the holiday was upon us.
I think part of the reason why I haven’t felt like it was Christmas, is because the weather unlike parts of Europe and North America is still fairly warm and it doesn’t give off the Christmas card vibe. There are less and less malls and stores decorating their windows and halls as they used to. More and more Muslim radicals are making those who’s birth right it is to celebrate the birth of Christ feel uncomfortable celebrating it proudly. I was saddened by the news that Christian Iraqi’s weren’t going to have their Christmas service and were told to keep a low profile. To add the sadness, on Christmas Eve in Nigeria a Muslim sect killed at least 38 people for celebrating Christmas.
*Shaking my head in disbelief, whilst thinking to myself, “What is the world and its inhabitants coming to? No wonder the world have such a bad image of us and think we are all terrorists!! These buffoons are ruining and mis-interpreting the teachings of our religion and twisting it in their favor to bring harm on to others. When our religion teaches us acceptance and tolerance and to treat everyone human with the respect that they deserve)
 Living alone also subtracts from the mood, but to try and rectify it, I went and bough some Christmas decorations for my house to give it more of a Christmassy feeling. The main reason I think is that the school I work at doesn’t celebrate it, so there weren’t any holiday cards being made or carols being sung.
With all the negativity that seems to be looming and surrounding the occasion, I still love the spirit of the holiday. I love the greetings and well wishes that are sent by post, e-mail, text and facebook. I love seeing people wearing the colors of the season and smiling and children getting excited!
Now that I am home with my family and I see the decorations, exchanged gift that had been placed under the tree, helped my mother in the kitchen cook Christmas Dinner, baked the mince pies and sat around the table enjoying each other’s company and the delicious meal, it is beginning to feel a lot more like Christmas!
My prayers go out to those whose flights were grounded and were stuck in an airport unable to make it home in time, those who live in a country of turmoil and conflict.
My Christmas wish to everyone for the coming year, (as cliché as it might sound and be) is health, happiness and peace.

Last week in Egypt there have been two rumors flying around the country that there is something wrong or faulty about the soft drinks.
I received a whatsapp message on my phone on November 29th 2010, it read;
 ‘This is serious I just received a phone call from someone who works for “Pepsi” please do not drink Pepsi, there is a fatal ingredient that was added to Pepsi by mistake, which kills immediately, they are still thinking to make and ad. in the newspaper, but god know how many will die till then, this is not a joke, and it’s not something Coke Cola made up. Please spread it. “
I asked some of my friends about it and apparently they had heard about it too. I have searched on-line to see if anything had been written about it, but I had no luck. There isn’t even anything mentioned on the Pepsi home page and they haven’t released a statement to the press either. So, who knows how true the rumor about Pepsi is and if it is true, drink Pepsi at your own risk.

Four days ago, on December thirds, another friend sends another message to my phone telling me that there is something wrong with the fizzy drinks and there was something written in the Al Ahram news paper page 3.
I asked another friend of mine who had the paper to tell me what it said and what he told me was quite mind-blowing!
There’s a factory in Sharkiyah that imitated the bottling of some of the well-known brands of soft drinks and sold it on a massive scale to leading supermarket chains. The government had seized 20,000 bottles. The worst part is they haven’t gotten all of the distributed products back, there is more being sold to unknown consumers as you read this.
I couldn’t help but think how good the knock off products must have been to be able to full the supermarket chains and the consumers who have bought the bottles of soda. To stay on the safe side, when I have a soda craving, I’ll by the can rather than the plastic bottle.

If you think about it, this could be the biggest scam of all time in Egypt.

 They say; “If you can drive in Egypt, you can drive anywhere in the world!” I used to laugh when I heard that phrase, but once I learned how to drive, I knew exactly what they meant.

 If you have ever dreamed of being a race car driver, loved playing bumper cars at the fun parks and enjoyed playing tag as a kid. Driving in Egypt is the three games rolled in to one BIG experience!

To be able to drive in Egypt you must have the following;

1- Excellent Reflexes. (to avoid cars, animals, pedestrians, objects)

2- Balls of Steal (courage) or a Guardian Angel

3- Judgment, (speed, distance ..,etc)

4- Working Seat Belts.

 5- Breaks.

If you have those five things you’re good to go! When you look at the roads from a bird’s eye view, it looks like anywhere else. The rules however are very different to most places in the world. Yes, you have the pretty traffic lights that change colour and nice white and yellow lines painted on the road, but that means SQUAT! The traffic lights are changed by a traffic Cop who is stuck in his light booth all day long. If the drivers are restless, they will inch their way forward until they have blocked the flow of cars, (who have the right of way). Their license plate numbers won’t be written down unless there is a Cop with a booklet in hand. If the cop with the booklet is accompanied by a Cop with stars on his shoulders then you are in BIG trouble. (Cops with stars on their shoulders are high-ranking officers, don’t mess with them.)

Here are some pointers to get you on your way,

Egyptian Driving Logic for Dummies

- Driving is simple, you put your foot down on the gas pedal and go!

- Your license has expired or you don’t have one? No problem, just don’t get caught.

 - Don’t worry about traffic signs the majority of the population doesn’t know what they mean and if they do, they don’t abide by them.

 - If your side mirrors are broken or closed that’s fine, you don’t really need them. You only need to see ahead of you.

- The speed limit in the City is supposed to be 60 Km/H, but there are those who like to exceed that and drive like bats out of hell. Drive quickly like you have some where important to be.

- Weaving from one lane to another is a popular past time. As is weaving between cars while they are moving.

- When you come to over take a car, over take from any side you please. Left or right, it really doesn’t matter as long as you are on the side you want to be on.

- When an ambulance is trying to get by, if you don’t let them pass, someone else will.

- If an ambulance is getting through traffic, follow it. You will get to where you want to go faster.

- If the road is a three lane road, you can squeeze between the cars and make it a 5 lane road. The objective is to be at the head of the pack.

 - If you want the person in front of you to move out of your way, you get as close to their bumper as possible, while flashing your head lights and honking your horn simultaneously. Scare the driver, so he will move to the next lane so that you can pass.

- Indicating, is such a civil way of letting drivers know what you plan on doing. In Egypt it’s all about pushing your way to where you want to go. When you indicate, that tells other drivers they need to speed up before you move in to that lane. You have to indicate and push in to the lane at the same time; otherwise no one will let you pass.

- Drinking and driving is a popular Thursday and Friday night sport. (No Breathalyzer tests here! Hit and kill a person and you go to jail for a long time and pay the family blood money. If the person is hit and injured and the injury takes more than 21 days to heal, you go to jail free!)

- Honk at a STOP sign or any intersection. If you don’t hear a honk back then no one is coming and it’s safe to pass. You don’t even have to look to check!

- OPRAH’s ‘no phone zone’, doesn’t apply here! Text and talk while you drive just don’t let a cop catch you.

 - You do not stop for pedestrians or animals. You swerve out of their way. (Just don’t hit the pedestrians, animals are ok)

- Play your music as loud as you want in the car, sharing is caring. Let everyone hear what you are listening to.

- Only break if you have to.

- Stay clear of buses! The BIG public and micro buses are the rulers of the roads don’t mess with them.

- Ask a taxi for directions while you are driving and hold up the traffic behind you.

- You took the wrong exit on the bridge, that’s ok. Just reverse and beep at the same time!

- Someone has really ticked you off and you want to swear at them, don’t waste your breath! One long blow on the car horn and they will know exactly what you want to say.

- Radar/ speed detector warn other drivers in the opposite direction of traffic by flashing your head lights.

- You see a cute guy or girl in the car in front of you and you want to tell them, move your indicator from left to right a few times and flash your head lights.

- Can’t find a parking space, just stop in the middle of the road and put your flasher on! (it may get towed, it may not)

- Park any way you like. Diagonally, horizontally be creative! (you could get a ticket on your window, but if the cop with the pocket-book and no stars is writing it give him 5Le and it will be forgotten)

Before, you go out and buy yourself a BMW, Jaguar or a Mercedes and tear up the streets with your Formula One driving skills, I think you might want to buy a second-hand car to get around in first before you buy brand new wheels. Drivers in Cairo can be ruthless and they can smell a rookie on the streets. If you aren’t fearless then say a prayer and turn on the ignition.

I am always in the mood to laugh. My colleague and friend Nora or Falafel & Chips as she’s known to bloggers sent me this to my e-mail and I was so tickled by it that I had to share it with you. I have no idea whom the author is and I’m not quoting or claiming it for myself.  I’m just sharing it in the hopes that it might make you giggle a little.

To my friends who enjoy a glass of wine.. . and those who don’t. As Ben Franklin said: “In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria”. In a number of carefully controlled trials, scientists have demonstrated that if we drink 1 liter of water each day, at the end of the year we would have absorbed more than 1 kilo of Escherichia coli, (E. coli) – bacteria found in feces. In other words, we are consuming 1 kilo of poop. However, we do NOT run that risk when drinking wine & beer (or tequila, rum, whiskey or other liquor) because alcohol has to go through a purification process of boiling, filtering and/or fermenting.

Remember:

Water = Poop,

Wine = Health

Therefore, it’s better to drink wine and talk stupid, than to drink water and be full of sh*t.

There is no need to thank me for this valuable information: I’m doing it as a public service!

* You heard the author, crack open a bottle of fremented crushed grapes and drink to your health! I hope it put a smile on your face.

Have a great day every one!

Train Rides to and From Cairo As some of you may or may not already know, I am currently living and working in Cairo. My father’s family home is in Alexandria. I have become an expert of some sort when it comes to taking the train to Alexandria. I have been commuting between the two cities regularly for the past 5 years now.

 Why the train you may ask? Well, there are many truths to the matter. When I moved to Cairo I decided to give my sister my car, so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the traffic and the tedious task of trying to find a parking spot whenever I decided to go some where. Plus, it reduced my expenses greatly! I suppose that in some very indirect way, I am also doing my part in trying to reduce the pollution that now looms over the city like a constant black rain cloud. Another reason I take the train is because after a long week and day of work, the last thing I would want to do is add to my stress level by driving through Cairo on a Thursday afternoon and fight my way to the desert road. I would much rather unwind. In addition I don’t really think I would have the energy or the alertness that I would need to drive. At least while I’m on the train I can sit back relax, watch a movie on my laptop, enjoy the view, read a book, listen to my iPod and even take a nap. I wouldn’t be able to do that if I was in the car. It is always best to book your tickets ahead of time.

The earliest you can book is two weeks before you are due to leave. If you live in Heliopolis, Cairo (the ancient city of the sun), then you have no idea how blessed you are. Instead of having to trek all the way down town, to Ramses station, you can just hop over to Central Almaza. There you can buy your train ticket. If you are visiting the country and would like to pay Alexandria a visit, then I am fairly sure that you can ask the receptionist at the hotel to book and purchase your tickets for you. Just make sure that you give the exact date that you would like to go. 1st class ticket 50LE. (If you are in Alexandria then you have no choice to go to either Sidi Gabr or Alexandria station to get you ticket). If you’re a spontaneous person and like to take trips on the whim, you can get on the train and try you luck. You will be able to purchase a ticket at the ticket booth, if you don’t you can buy one on the train, it will cost you double though and you may not have a seat for the entire duration of the train ride.

IMPORTANT NOTE!! Be warned that not all the trains are direct. (It makes a difference) A direct train will get you to Alexandria (or Cairo) in two and half hours, with a brief (possible) stop in Tanta. If you don’t take a direct train, then you will be stopping at every station between Cairo and Alexandria and that could take you 4 hours or more!

If you are planning on taking a trip to, or from Alexandria, then may I be so bold as to suggest that you should ALWAYS travel first class. The reason being is that the cars are air-conditioned, the seats are comfortable (they recline, have a foot rest and a pull out table) and it’s not as dirty as the rest of the classes. The up keep of the trains are unlike trains in Europe or North America. It’s quite….ummmm…..disappointing to say the least and misleading, especially since it is classed as 1st class. The pocket that is in front of your chair is caked in years worth of dust and dirt. The pull out tables that are in the arm of the chair are not as bad, because many people haven’t discovered their location. To be on the safe side bring along your hand sanitizer and your wet tissues to wipe it down before you place any perishables on it. The water closet is a HEALTH HAZARD! I don’t think it has been cleaned since the train was first put on the tracks. I don’t think you could carry enough wet tissues or toilet seat covers to make you feel safe. So, my advice is make sure you go to the toilet before you get on the train and try not to drink at least an hour before you depart for the station, you don’t want to be sat crossed legged with a bladder that is ready to explode for the whole journey.

There is a food cart that passes up and down the isles a few times during the trip. They offer drinks (water, canned soft drinks, tea & Nescafe) and pre-packed sandwiches. You can also order breakfast, lunch or dinner on the train too. It smells delicious but after seeing the condition of the toilets, I wouldn’t risk eating a meal on the train. I fight enough germs and bacteria on a daily basis. I strongly recommend that you have lots of change, to pay for the beverages or food you buy. Another helpful note; the man pushing the food cart will no charge you when you order the food, he will charge you 15-20 minutes before you reach your destination. (Don’t ask me why, I am still trying to figure it out)

 You will also need change to tip the man in charge of the car you are in, if you entrust him with your luggage or if he carries it on for you and places it over you seat. If you don’t have one or two bags 5 LE is sufficient. If you have more then 10-15LE is very generous. If you need a porter to take your luggage and push it on the big trolley, they charge the locals 5LE for that service. Don’t get suckered in to paying too much.

The train is usually arrives and leaves promptly. There have been occasions when the train pulls in to Sidi Gaber (1st stop in Alex), really late because of work on the tracks or problems with other trains. I hope this helps you. Enjoy your trip

http://www.egyptrail.gov.eg/docs/index.html

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.

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