You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Alexandria Library’ category.

The Rat Pack Tribute Show Comes to Cairo

I am a big fan of the ‘Arts’ and the Entertainment Industry. I haven’t been to the Cairo Opera house as frequently as I would have liked to this year due to my efforts in trying to complete my Master’s in Education. Once I had finished one of my 8 weeks courses of total focus and dedication I became a bit of a bum and recluse. I seem to be coming out of that lazy frame of mind and want to attend more exhibitions and performances.
Last Tuesday, which was the 30th of November, I heard that there was a Las Vegas group performing at the Opera house and they were Rat Pack impersonators.
I have always been a sucker for Sinatra and I quite like Dean Martin too, so I convinced four other people to join if I could get my paws on tickets.
Luckily I didn’t have to go all the way to Zamalek to get tickets for the show. I was relieved and over the moon to discover that the Thomas Cook travel agents in Korba, Heliopolis sell tickets for all the shows at the Opera house.
Luck was on my side and I got the last five seats in the house at 200LE a pop on opening night! I just prayed that the performance wasn’t going to be as disappointing as the so-called Broadway dancers that had come to perform ‘Take the Floor’ the previous year.
Thursday evening I’m dressed to the nines and excited about going to the Opera house. I don’t know what it is about the ambiance of the place, but I can’t help but feel classy, feminine and cultured.
When the lights dimmed to signal the start of the performance and the curtain rose to reveal a band playing an interlude, my feet couldn’t stop tapping to the beat.
Dean Martin’s look a like; (Andrew DiMino) was the first of the pack to grace the stage. He had a very good likeness to the legendary performer and he won the audience over with his adapted saeedy jokes and his experiences since he had arrived in Cairo.
He sang many familiar tunes that we have heard in movies and weddings. Members of the audience were tapping their feet to the beat; some were swaying to the music and the majority, were lip syncing the words to the songs.
There were fours ‘show girl’ dancers too, but they were as one friend of mine aptly described their presence ‘decoration’. The choreography wasn’t up to par and it looks as though they had only just learned the steps.
Allen Gregory was the artist who had an uncanny and striking resemblance to late Sammy Davis Jr. watching and listening to him, you could have sworn that Sammy himself had come back from the dead to perform on Cairo’s stage. He was terrific.
He sang one of my favorite childhood songs ‘Candy Man’ among many other hits.
When Old Blue Eyes tribute artist took the stage, he didn’t look like Sinatra but he could belt out the tunes almost as good as the man himself! Gary Anthony who performed as Sinatra had the audience clapping loudly until their hands hurt!
The trio sang a few songs together and their final song ‘New York’ had the audience clapping and singing along to the very end.
Friends of mine who went to see the performance on different days were just as impressed with the show as my friends and I had been.
An entertaining night and money well spent!

P.S Follow me on twitter for daily up dates

Advertisements

I love traveling abroad and visiting my family and friends who are scattered around the globe. I love buying them trinkets and gifts from Egypt too, but it can be difficult finding something that doesn’t look cheap, isn’t made in China and is authentic to the country or region. This summer I’m traveling to England to visit family and see a few friends and for the past couple of months I have been racking my brain trying to think of gifts to take. I’m sure that there are many people going through the same dilemma that I am experiencing so, I thought I would give you some insight.
The first time I take something to people, who are not from Egypt or have never visited the country, I take papyrus (paper the ancient Egyptians made) with ancient Egyptian scenes painted on or hieroglyphics. They are really nice when they are framed and hung on the wall.
Silver here is quite cheap, so some times I may buy silver khartooshes as bracelet charms, key chains or necklaces with their names written in hieroglyphics (ancient Egyptian writing). There is also the key of life and evil eye charm that could be bought and put on a chain. They also have a wide selection of Bedouin jewelry too that is very nice. I am a fan of the bracelets and necklaces.  I do need to point out that Egyptian silver tarnishes easily, so you may want to ask the vendor to dip them in platinum or something so that it stays nice and shiny.
Alabaster is a type of stone that is very Egyptian and you can find some small vases and statues made out of the sand colored stone. To test the quality of the alabaster you need to hold it up to the light. If the light shines through the stone and lights it up, then its real alabaster. Don’t buy too much of it, you fortune in access baggage.
In some shops you can find small clay statues of Egyptian men and women selling vegetables, smoking a sheesha (hubbly bubbly), sitting reading the Quraan and other typical scenes you would see while you are here in Egypt. I think they are very cute! I bought a few for myself to have at home.
Leather in Egypt is of good quality. Wallets, shoulder purses, hand bags and Aladdin like shoes are a popular item to buy as gifts. Some people even prefer buying the small leather poof cushions to take back with them.
If baggage isn’t a problem, then you could buy your very own sheesha (they come in all sizes and colors) or a Tableya, a large bras plate that is the top of a table with designs etched in to it and the wooden legs that hold the table up an in place. The Bedouins use these in their tents.

If you are in to smoking Sheesha’s then I strongly recommend that you buy the tobacco for it here, it is highly over priced when you buy it abroad. Plus another advantage is that here we have all the flavors, while back home they don’t have the variety.
While we are on the subject of smoking, I know a lot of people like to burn incense to make their homes smell nice. This is the place to buy it!
If the gifts that I am taking are for kids then I get them little statuettes of pyramids to take for show and tell at school, camels, Bedouin head-dress with the white galabeya (long shirt like dress), belly dancing costume, both are good for Halloween costumes. Then you have the tabla (the drum musicians place under their arms to play) and sagaat (finger castanets that belly dancers wear). In some toy stores you might find Egyptian puppets. There are also the touristy T-shirts with hieroglyphics on them and the death mask of Tutankhamen (the youngest Egyptian Pharaoh). One of my favorite things to get kids is an inexpensive watch where the numbers of the face are in Arabic.
A place to go to buy all the trinkets and souvenir’s your heart could possibly desire is at Khan El Khalili, in Cairo. There you will find every kind, color, shape and price possible. I personally like going there to buy the Bedouin embroidered shirts, linen tops, Bedouin cushion covers and to haggle! In Alexandria, you would want to take a guided tour of Zanet El Sitat. Both are market like places.You have to be a good bargainer. Never settle for the first price they offer you!
The above are some of the typical gifts that people would buy as souvenirs or gifts, but what do you take the next time you go? You can’t keep getting the same things! I am quite creative and I like to put a lot of thought in to the gifts that I buy people. This year I have really racked my brain and kept my eyes peeled for something less touristy and more tasteful. I am happy to inform you that I have been successful.
Carlito’s, jewelry store in Maadi is will make you a bracelet, pendent or even a key chain with your name in Arabic. It is done in Arabic calligraphy, which is very artistic. They will make it to your specification. By that I mean on the size of the pendent, charms for the bracelet and key chain. You also have 3 other choices; all silver, all gold or silver and gold (I like the silver and gold combination). I have had 7 pendants made for necklaces, 1 silver key chain and 1 charm bracelet and they have all come out really well! Another thing that he does which I think is pretty cool, is that he takes the new Egyptian 1 pound coin and makes it in to a necklace too. Why is it cool, because one side of the coin is Arabic writing and on the other side is King Tut.
Zafir in Zamalek is one of my new favorite stores to go to, to buy gifts for friends in Egypt and abroad. They print Egyptian designs on t-shirts that are unique to Egypt. I just bought my cousin a t-shirt that says ‘Shit happens’ but in Arabic writing. They have a few other English sayings written in Arabic as well as famous Egyptian quotes too among other designs too. I will have to pay them a second visit before I am due to leave to get a few more. They are so popular that they go out of stock quickly. .http://zafir-tshirts.com/

A colleague of mine had a gorgeous leather bag that she had bought in Maadi from a shop on road 216. It also has very cool arabic caligraphy on the exterior! The price tag on a bag like that is 300LE which is the equivalant of 30 sterling pounds or 60$.

If you have Egyptian female family members abroad and you want to take them something patriotic and elegent, famed and reouned jewelry designer, Azza Fahymy has designed bracelets in honour of #Jan25. The collection is known to many as ‘Anna Masry’, (I am Egyptian). The price tag for each bracelet, I have been told is 250 LE.

 

It’s a small street on 15b Taha Hussein Street.
Zia Candles in Alexandria, in the new extension of Carrefour city center has a stand near Debenhams. If you ask them to make a candle for you and have a name written on it in Arabic Calligraphy, they will do it for you. It will take about 2 weeks for them to get it done, but it is well worth it! We had one made for our cousin and it is so well made and original that we have asked them to make two more for us. They will be bringing their original idea to Cairo soon.

*** Update! Unfortunately due the recent Revolution the owner has closed shop! If they ever re-open I will let you know
There are stands in City Stars and Carrefour that sell soaps and other beauty products along with bath robes and towels. The stall sells things made from natural products grown here in Egypt. The stall in Alexandria is called ‘Nefertari’; I am not sure what the one in Cairo is called. Some of their hand towels have ancient Egyptian symbols stitched on them or the words ‘Ahlan Wesahlan’, which is welcome greeting we say when guests arrive at our house and some times when you meet someone for the first time.
Egypt and the Middle East are known for dates. Some times it’s nice to take back some of or oriental treats for the people back home to try. Quaidar in Cairo makes chocolate covered dates that can be quite addictive. Manna in Alexandria sells an assortment of date treats. We bought 5 boxes last summer and took them to our cousins in Ireland and my Uncle in Canada.
If the person you are buying a gift for is a book-worm or in to photography then I highly recommend ‘Impressions of Alexandria, The Awad Collection’. The pictures in the book show the evolution of Alexandria. Mr. Awad has spent years searching and collecting pictures of the ancient city belonging to Alexander the Great and has compiled his findings in to a book. If you are interested in seeing the collection first hand you will find it on display at the Alexandria Library. There is also a book of Poems and Prose written by an Irish man, Desmond O’Grady, who used to teach at AUC, (The American University of Cairo) and Alexandria University, it is titled ‘My Alexandria’. If your friend is from the region and can read Arabic, a book that has been getting a lot of hype and is said to be very funny is ‘Taxi’, (I just bought it for my Dad’s cousin).
If there’s someone that you know that likes music, Arabic CD’s here are cheap. I would suggest buying Oriental Belly dancing music, it’s just instrumental. If you want to buy a CD of famous singers, the classical ones would be Um Kathoum and Abdel Halim Hafez and Dalida. Modern day Egyptian Pop singers would be Amr Diab, Hisham Abbas, Tamer Hosni, Sherine, Wust El Balad and Hakeem. Other popular Middle Eastern singers are Asala, Elissa, Nancy Ajram, Nawal El Zoghbi, Ragheb Allama just to name a few. One of my favorite CD’s to buy as a gift that can be found at Virgin Record Stores is ‘Belaaks’, (opposite) it’s easy on the ears and the tunes are familiar English classics but sung in Arabic, plus there is a DVD that goes with it too.
I hope these ideas help you if you have found or know of something that would be a great gift to take to family or friends I would REALLY appreciate the input.

lunch had at FratelliAlexandria 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
Makanni
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.
Café Supremo
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.
12/8/2011
* 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.
Spectra

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

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.
Chili’s

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.
Mykonos
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.
Weiner Café
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.
12/8/2011
* 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.
Fratelli
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.
Alegria (restaurant/pub)
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

Ole

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


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.
Trianon


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
12/8/2011
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.
Elite Cafe
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
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.
Christina’s

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 am in love and fascinated with the history that Egypt has! I am always curious and interested in learning and finding out more about places here in Egypt. There are two reasons why I go out of my way to learn more about the country that I live in. The first, I love to learn and it keeps my mind sharp. Secondly, although I am not a member of the diplomatic corps, I am never the less a diplomat and representative of the country. So, I find it important to point out the good qualities about the country to others because the negative issues always seem to gain media attention and hype, while the good aspects are lost in the shadows.

I came across this short article on the net. I just had to share it with you.

 Mon Apr 12, 10:16 am ET CAIRO (Reuters) – Egyptian archaeologists carrying out excavations at the site of a planned youth center have found 14 tombs dating back to the third century BC, including one with a female mummy adorned with jewelry. The Greco-Roman tombs, in Bahariya Oasis, 300 km (190 miles) southwest of Cairo, were discovered during probes that indicated they may be part of a much larger necropolis, Egypt’s Culture Ministry said in a statement Monday. A 97-cm (38-inch) tall female mummy, found in the stair-lined interior of one of the rock-hewn tombs, was cast in colored plaster inlaid with jewelry and eyes. Archaeologists, who dug at the site ahead of the planned construction of a youth center, found the tombs contained other treasures as well. The area has now been turned over to Egypt’s antiquities authority. “Early investigations uncovered four anthropoid masks made of plaster, a gold fragment decorated with engravings of the four sons of Horus, and a collection of coins, and clay and glass vessels,” the ministry’s statement quoted Egypt’s chief archaeologist Zahi Hawass as saying. The four sons of Horus — Imsety, Duamutef, Hapi and Qebehsenuef — were ancient Egyptian gods. The engravings show the influence of Egyptian religion well into the Greco-Roman period. The gods were believed to protect the stomach, liver, intestines and lungs of mummified bodies. Bahariya Oasis is home to Egypt’s famed Valley of the Golden Mummies, where a collection of 17 tombs with about 254 mummies was discovered in 1996. (Writing and reporting by Dina Zayed, Editing by Jeffrey Heller) Click image for more photos

Just days before 2009 was coming to an end, two of my work colleagues decided to come to Alexandria for a day trip. There trip was to just get out of Cairo to have a change of scenery, see something new, have a fish meal and visit me. I truly enjoy it when colleagues, family or friends make a trip to Alexandria, it gives me the chance to be a host and their guide in the city that I have fallen in love with. I try to show them the hidden beauty of what is buried beneath the modern Alexandria of today.

Mariam and Radwa wanted to go some where ‘authentic’, I racked my brain and finally came up with a place that has a lot of history and was probably where the elite of foreign society used to have tea. Delice still know for its bakery and view of Saad Zaghlool square and the sea is where I decided to take them. My sister and I love to go there and buy their giant-sized macaroons and mini meringues. My elderly neighbour ,Mme Yamna Souccar  who used to live on the floor above my parents flat, loved their jam biscuits and when ever I could, I would go and buy her a box when I would go and visit her. My friends really liked the place because it had an air to it and it’s noticable in its fading decor. I bet it was  a spectacular place back in its glory days. The three of us ate our brunch, caught up on each others news and discussed where we were going to go next.

The Biblioteca Alexandrina was our next destination. We decided to leave the car in the parking area across from Delice and walk along the Corniche (sea) to the Library to work off brunch and to breath in the sea air, (plus, parking near the Library is a nightmare!) Along the promenade I pointed out some landmarks and told them stories that had been told to me and they in turn shared their experiences and memories of Alexandria.

We bought our full pass tickets to enter the Library, turned in our bags with our cell phones got our number and began our journey back in time. The first museum that we went in to is below the planetarium to the right. It was one I had never been to before and I have been to the Library many times, (that’s what I love about the place, no matter how many times I visit, I always see something I hadn’t seen the time before). The first was of Egypt’s assassinated President Anwar El Sadat (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/515786/Anwar-el-Sadat), looking at the items in the display cases and reading the explanations of what things were for and what he did and accomplished, I but feel sad. We as a nation lost someone great, some one with a vision and direction for the future of Egypt.

* One of my great Uncles from the El Shindy side of the family was a politician and before Sadat came to be president,  he and Sadat were imprisoned together, (I’m not sure why). It’s strange to think that members of my family were and apart of the Royal family and others worked alongside the president. That personal history is lost because some greedy putts sold a tapestry of our family tree and now  we have no chance of ever being able to retrace our lineage or ancestry. The only thing we have are the stories passed down from generation to generation. The problem with that is that they facts changes.

As we continued through the library and visited other exhibits, we came to my favorite. The Awad collection of maps and pictures of Alexandria. Looking at the framed maps and pictures deepened my sadness the city was breath-taking. No wonder so many people chose to leave their homelands to come and live here. It had a mange of European and Oriental feel to it. Now the city as well as the country is in shambles if I was to compare it to what it used to be like,’ The pearl of the Middle East’. You would think that with all our technology and education that we as a race or society of people would have advanced and improved, but I honestly think that we are moving backwards.

I have  been to Saudi Arabia & Jordan and I am ashamed to admit it, but they have more pride in their country and make an effort to keep it clean. Egypt compared to them and to what it used to be like is a garbage dump. The streets are littered with trash because people throw their tissues, crisp packets, wrappers and cans from their car windows as they drive by. The garbage cans are over flowing and no one seems to care! WHY??? Don’t give me crap about it’s because our country isn’t governed by a sovereignty, what’s that got to do with being clean?  Islam promotes cleanliness of self and home….then surly that should also include our country too.

I have no idea how this problem can be rectified. I don’t know if campaigning would work. I think reprogramming peoples brains maybe the only solution.

Please don’t mis-understand me. I am not against Egypt. I am very proud of my heritage and where I come from, but I find it so frustrating that we were once ‘the it spot’ in the Middle East and Mediterranean and now we aren’t when we very easily could be! I guess you could say I am just venting!

Wednesday, 23rd of December 2009 ,The Bibliotheca Alexandrina was hosting an interview with one of the most legendary and revolutionary Hollywood film directors, screen writers and actors of our time,  Martin Scorsese. When I first saw the event on facebook I had my doubts that he would actually be in attendance especially when the date was so close to Christmas. Never the less I checked myself off as attending. If it was to take place I didn’t want to miss out on the very rare and privileged occasion. How often is Alexandria graced by the presence of a director of his caliber?

For those of you who are not familiar with what Scorsese does or his work, he is the founder of the World Cinema Foundation (http://worldcinemafoundation.net/),  to help preserve American cinema and to also help developing countries preserve theirs. Scorsese has also received AFI’s Life Time Achievement award as well as the prestigious BAFTA, Golden Globe, Director Guild Of America and most recently an Oscar for ‘Departed’.

I left my house an hour before the event was due to commence, I wanted to make sure that I would get there early enough to find a decent seat, where I could see and hear him speak. I got there half an hour early and everyone seemed to have had the same idea as I did. People swarmed in to the large hall and descended upon the seats like a swarm of bees. I was lucky enough to get a seat not too close or too far from the stage, I had an excellent  and clear view from where I was sat.

People continued to file in to the hall, in the midst of the buzz you could hear talk about Scorsese’s achievements, awards and movies as well as friendly chit chat whilst they waited for the guest of honor to arrive. The hall was filled with people of all ages and fields of expertise eagerly awaiting the interview  to begin.

Promptly at 5pm an entourage of some of Egypt’s well-known films stars and directors entered the hall, as they made their way to their seats, flashes from cameras heightened their entrance and the audience burst in to applause and cheers. Yosra, Hussein Fahmy, Kahled Abul Naga and a few more responded to the crowd with big smiles of appreciation and waved back at their adoring fans. Moments after their entrance the Library’s director, Dr. Ismail Serageldin entered with the man we had all gathered to come and hear speak. The applause, cheers, whistles of the crowd were deafening as they gave the story-teller a standing ovation.

Serageldin didn’t need to introduce the master we were all familiar with his work. My personal favorites are ‘Goodfellas’, ‘Casino’, ‘Aviator’ and ‘Gangs Of New York’. I have yet to see ‘Departed’ and ‘Shine A Light’.

Dr.Serageldin did a formidable job interviewing Scorsese. He was well versed and knew a lot about the movies that Scorsese had made as well as the history of the era’s that some of the films were about. The interview was intellectually stimulating, interesting and often humorous as times. From solely having attended and witnessed the interview Serageldin is the man to have as the director of the modern-day Alexandria Library. I’m sure my great Uncle, Mohamed El Bashir El Shindy would be proud, he was at one time the head of the old Alexandria Library. (so, I have been told by family members).

 In the interview we learned about Scorsese’s family, who were Italian immigrants, he also spoke of the Sicilian quarter of the Italian neighborhood that he grew up in, in New York, which is where many of the ideas and characters for his movies came from. If Scorsese hadn’t been asthmatic as a child and taken to the cinema to watch films and hadn’t figured out that he didn’t have the vocation to devote his life to God and people, cinema today would be very different.

 Scorsese spoke openly and candidly about his many mentors (priest, teachers and fellow directors), as well as his old-time friend and Hollywood superstar Robert DeNiro, (who grew up in the same area as he did, but didn’t meet until years later).

 What intrigued me about the man speaking on stage is that he wasn’t only familiar with movies from his part of the world, but he had seen and knew a lot of international movies such as our very own Youssef Shaine. Scorsese had also personally taken the restoration of renowned Egyptian director, Shadi Abdel Salaam’s famous master piece ‘The Mummy’ under his wing.  (http://www.dailystaregypt.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=7343)

 What fascinated me was even after over 3 decades of working in the industry, this mans passion for cinema is still strong and flowing deep within his pulsating veins. “I still have an obsession of watching one image being put next to the other.’’ He had said during his interview.

 While the interview was going on, people were writing down questions to ask the director and ushers came to collect them. When the time came for Serageldin to ask a few of the selected questions from the captivated audience, there were two that were that stood out in my memory.

 1-      Would you ever consider making a movie here in Egypt? 

Apparently as a young child Scorsese used to draw picture books of the ancient world and it has been a dream of his to make a movie around the time of the pharaohs.

 2-      With all the negative attention the Middle East is getting could cinema help break the ice or bridge the gap between the West and the Middle East?

 “ I Think it could be a useful tool.’’

With that the interview came to an end.

It happened, it wasn’t a farce! THE, Martin Scorsese was a guest speaker at the Alexandria Library. The hall was close to busting and the people in attendance were of all ages and from different fields of expertise. The director of the Library was sterling in his interviewing and discussion skills. The material was stimulating as well as intellectual. Scorsese was a willing and gracious participant and seemed to enjoy himself. I took pages of notes on the discussion, so I will write a more in-depth report on the event later.

When the event appeared on my facebook minifeed page, I honestly thought it was a joke. Why on God’s Green Earth would Martin Scorsese come to speak at the Alexandria Library the day before Christmas wouldn’t he rather be home in New York with his family for the holidays? I checked myself off as attending, just incase, because I wouldn’t want to miss out on hearing a legend like him speaking in the city I love and call home.

I was skeptical about him really attending, the reason being, the last time an International star was supposed to come to the Library it turned out to be a farce. The Library was still  in the negotiating stages with Andrea’s camp to have him come and perform but they were already selling tickets. The reason I didn’t rush to the ticket stand to buy my ticket to hear the GREAT Andrea Bocceli sing was because that little voice inside of me said…’don’t buy it now, wait and see what happens.” I checked his home page and Alexandria wasn’t even on his agenda ! Those who had bought tickets had to wait quite some time before getting their money back. (I’m glad I went with my gut instinct)

Tomorrow Scorsese is expected to be at the Alexandria Library and so far it has been confirmed that he will be there and that the debate (?) that is supposed to take place will be open for the public. I am going to try my best to get there as early as possible so that I will have a good seat to watch and listen.

I’ll keep you posted.

Planning a vacation to a foreign country is always exciting. Researching all the touristic places you are going to see and reading up on the history is a good way to go, but I think people need to take it a little step further. When coming to the Middle East, I think female visitors and tourists need to find out more about the cultural ‘Do’s’ and ‘Don’ts’ before they hop on a plane to the land of the sun.

 Forgive me for being blunt and not sugar-coating this but some times things need to be said out right instead of beating around the bush.

 You are probably wondering what the trigger was for me to choose this as a topic to write about. Well, I went on a school trip to the Cairo museum with the Grade Two’s last Tuesday and I don’t want to even try describing some of the visions I saw!! What makes me laugh is that some times the tourists and visitors get offended by the stares and comments that they get and they can’t understand why! So, I’m going to spell it out for them as nicely as I can without being too harsh!

So, here it goes.., If you are hanging out of your clothes and are leaving very little covered or to the imagination don’t be surprised if people’s attention is directed more towards you than ancient artifacts! Just DON’T act surprise, disgusted or flustered when people can’t stop staring! You might be making it really difficult for them to focus their eye sight else where!

 I am a big fan of spaghetti strap tops, shorts that are just above the knee and flip-flops. If I could wear them all day long, trust me I would do so in a heartbeat. The reason I don’t is because I respect the culture of the country that I am living in. Egypt is quite a conservative country. It’s more liberal than some of the neighboring Gulf countries but it is still fairly conservative. Walking around in hot shorts, and wearing a tight chest bearing halter top or just baring a lot of skin will most often attract a lot of unwanted attention and some very derogative comments.

 I know that back in Europe and in the West it’s normal summer attire and it’s a great way to soak up the sun’s rays to get an amazing tan and it’s relaxing as well as comfortable. When I go back to Montreal for my summer vacations ‘I do as the Romans do’, (or so the saying goes). The reason being because I know no one is going to give me any hassle for what I’m wearing because there are hundreds of other women wearing the exact same thing and even less! If I dressed like that here in Cairo, I would be sticking out like a sore thumb and feeling very conscientious, like when you have one of those dreams where you are naked in the middle of a street or the work place and everyone is staring at you.

 I know that the temperature here in Cairo can get really hot and you want to stay cool, trust me the less clothing you wear the hotter you are going to feel. You won’t catch the Bedouins, (desert dwellers) stripping down to the bare minimum when they are out in the sun. The best thing to wear would be a light-colored, loose-fitting shirt or t-shirt, with short or long sleeves. That way the breeze can circulate through your garments freely. You could wear a long skirt, trios quart pants (pedal pushers) as well as linen trousers, (preferably not see through, they are called under garments for a reason).

 Another reason you don’t want to expose too much of yourself is because Hollywood although very entertaining hasn’t done Western or European women any favors here in the region. The movies most of the time portray women to be ‘loose’ and very ‘easy’ to lure in to bed. (Cast your minds back to ‘Brook’ from the day time soap “The Bold and The Beautiful” and Eva Longoria’s character in ‘Desperate House Wives”). The men here don’t often see a lot of skin, so when they DO see it, some of them may not be able to contain themselves and they will then act upon their desires and give ‘Egyptian Men’ a bad wrap.  Isn’t enough that we as Middle Easterners are trying to fight the stigma of being labeled ‘terrorists’ do we really need to fight off the reputation of being perverts too?

 I’m not saying don’t bring them. Do, but there are places where you can wear them. Clothes like that are considered more beach or pool wear. So, if you are heading down to lounge by the pool at the hotel you are staying at or hitting the beach in Sharm El Sheikh by all means throw on your hot shorts and tank top and head down to the water. Just re think your wardrobe for when you’re in the cities and visiting the touristic sites, especially the mosques and other religious sites.

 When you dress like that in the city it would be like me walking in to church with a really short skirt and an off the shoulder top that revealed a bit too much of my cleavage. It’s disrespectful and inappropriate. So take my advice and think twice.