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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.

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The month of fasting known to the Muslim world is coming to an end. With less than 24 hours to go we eagerly wait for the sun to set and for the four days of festivities of Eid El Fitr to begin.

Eid El Fitr ‘The festivity of purification’, I think is the best way to translate the name of the occasion. If you haven’t read my previous writings about Ramadan or know nothing of the month, then this won’t make any sense to you. So, I will try to give you a brief summary. Ramadan, is a month where Muslims world-wide fast from sunrise to sunset, (are not allowed to consume any kind of food or beverage during sunlight hours), this strict act of discipline is to remind them of their blessings, to relate to those less fortunate of themselves, as well as time for reflecting on one’s acts and behavior for the past year. This month is special and sacred to Muslims because they are able to ask for forgiveness and erase their sins for the past year. Hence, the celebration of being ‘purified’.  

How is Eid El Fitr (or the small Eid) celebrated?

Days before the end of the fasting month, families go out and buy Eid clothes, to wear on the first day of the feast. For Non Muslim’s the best way to interpret the act is as new clothes that you receive for Christmas or wearing your Sunday best. Traffic in Egypt after Iftar and the Taraweeh Prayers is always manic! People will be shopping for gifts and clothes.

Ladies of many house holds will be preparing and baking traditional desert, (which is HIGH in calories, but very tasty) to offer visitors. The desert is called ‘Ka’ak’, which means cake in English. It doesn’t look or taste anything like the cakes you may be familiar with. Each Arabic speaking nation has its own unique way of making it. In Egypt is best described as a cookie/biscuit made out of semolina and stuffed with ground dates, nuts or some times Turkish delight. On the outside it is sprinkled with powdered sugar.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ka’ak)

On the dawn of the first day of the month after Ramadan, (Shawal), there is a special prayer, most commonly known as ‘Salat El Eid’ (Eid Prayer). “Eid prayer is performed in congregation in open areas like fields, squares etc or at mosques. No adhan or iqama (call) is to be pronounced for this Eid prayer, and it consists of only two rakaʿāt with additional 6 Takbirs. The Eid prayer is followed by the khutbah (sermon) and then a supplication (dua) asking for forgiveness, mercy and help for all living beings across the world. The khutbah also instructs Muslims as to the performance of rituals of Eid, such as the zakat.[9] Listening to the khutbah of Eid is necessary (wajib) i.e. while the khutbah is being delivered, it is haraam to talk, walk about or offer prayer.[10] It is then customary to embrace the persons sitting on either side of oneself, whilst greeting them. After the prayers, people visit their relatives, friends and acquaintances.”  (The above quoted paragraph is from wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eid_ul-Fitr )

The greeting that is said to those celebrating Eid is ‘ Eid Mubarak’, (Blessed Feast), ‘Eid Saeed’ (Happy Eid) or ‘Kul Sana Wa Inta Tayib’ (Happy New Year).

Traditionally after the prayer families will go to the cemetery to pay their respects to their deceased family members and then go home to enjoy breakfast together. Once home, families either exchange gifts or give money. Children often receive money from their adult family relations; this is known as ‘Eideya’. People will go and visit relatives, neighbors and friends often taking with them ka’ak, other deserts or gifts.

On the second and third day of Eid families usually go out for a meal. In Alexandria the restaurant or meal of choice would usually be fish. The reason for it is because for a whole month Alexandrian’s have avoided eating it because it’s salty and would make them feel very thirsty the following day and it would make their day of fasting more difficult.   Another popular out would be to go to the cinema, to watch the newly released Arabic movies for the feast.  A word of warning to those whom may consider venturing outside their front doors, the food courts, cinemas and arcades in the Malls will be busier than ever!

Now a days fewer people spend time visiting relatives and go away for the Eid vacation. Popular vacation spots are Alexandria and the beaches along the Red Sea. I personally try to avoid the popular vacation spots because, it will be overly crowded. When I go away, I like to go somewhere, where I can relax in peace and not have to worry about bumping in to colleagues, students and other people I know.

During the Eid most shops, banks and all businesses are closed for the first three days of the feast, much like Christmas and New Years in the West and Europe. If you aren’t going away and intend on staying in town, then I suggest you do your shopping before the holiday begins.

For those of you who celebrate Eid, I wish you all an Eid Mubarak and for those of you who don’t, just enjoy the time off!

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the 9th month in the Hijra Calendar. Ramadan for those of you who are not familiar with it is the Muslim’s holy month of fasting from sunrise to sunset. During this month Muslims world-wide go about their daily routines but while they refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and (uhmm) no hanky panky until sunset. The act of fasting is meant to be a way to teach Muslims how to be patience as well as modest. It is also a time for reflection, prayer and spirituality. In prayer Muslim’s ask God (Allah) for forgiveness for the sins that they have committed during the past year. They will also ask God to give them strength to guide them and help them stay away from temptation and evil. It is also a time for thinking of those less fortunate than themselves. You will find that people give bags filled with rice, pasta, oil, sugar, tomato paste and other things. These gifts are usually given to the hired help, bawabs (care taker of the building) and anyone whom you think is needy at the beginning of the month. There are tents that are set up across the city, to feed those who can not afford to feed themselves. The food is for free and they are often given money at a value of 10LE. The five prayers that a Muslim is expected to pray on a daily basis do not change. An additional prayer takes place only during the Month of Ramadan and that is known as the Taraweeh. You will find that after Iftar (breaking of the fast) many people will leave their homes with their prayer mats and Quraan to go to the mosque to take part in the prayer. Depending on the Sheikh of the month, the prayers could last to over an hour. Also during the month Muslim’s should read their holy book, The Quraan from beginning to end. It was during the month of Ramadan that the first verses of the Quraan were revealed to the Prophet Mohamed. So, as you can imagine, this is a VERY spiritual time in Muslim countries.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramadan

What to expect during Ramadan

What I really like about the month is that it is a time when families come together to break their fast and relatives that aren’t seen often come over to break fast or to have suhour. Suhour is the late night snack/meal that people will have to help them get through the next day without being hungry. It is supposed to be a simple affair but over the years it has grown in to a BIG event, like a dinner party. During this time, it would be best that you eat at home. The restaurants will not be functioning to their full capacity and the food won’t be as good. Try not to go out to a restaurant for Iftar, because you will not be satisfied with the service or the quality of the food. Working hours (government offices, companies and schools) will start later and end earlier. You will find that most of the people who are addicted to coffee or smoking are not in the best of moods during this month, their cranky and can be quite stand offish too. A word to the wise, if you are doing renovations, work in a factory you will find that your staff will not be putting in 100% effort and are best described as lazy. They will use the excuse of fasting for their lack of concentration. When you go to supermarkets you will probably find a low supply of rice, pasta, oil and sugar. People buy all of this in BULK! If you want an easy time shopping then I suggest you wake up early on Friday morning and head over to your supermarket and shop while everyone is sound a sleep and tucked away in bed, otherwise expect to do some defense shopping. Peoples driving skills become worse and they lose their tempers a lot faster than they normally would. When it’s close to breaking their fast, people drive so fast like bats out of hell that I think that even Michael Schumacher would be terrified. At sunset the streets are deserted and peaceful! That is when everyone is home sitting around the dinning room table breaking their fast.

https://speakingupandspeakingoutfromcairo.wordpress.com/

One of the most popular outings other than eating out at restaurants in Cairo would be the cinema. If our eyes aren’t glued to the television you will find us at the cinema. Egyptians love watching the latest Hollywood Block Busters and Arabic Box Office hits.
            Going to the cinema most of the time can be a pleasant break where you don’t have to think about work, the kids and other day-to-day dilemmas and stress. It gives you a chance to zone out and just focus on the surround sound and the images that flash before your eyes on the big screen, now a days that isn’t always the case.
Over the past decade people’s social etiquette and consideration for others seems to have been totally abandoned. There have been a countless number of times where I and many other acquaintances and friends of mine have come out of the theater fuming at how thoughtless and irresponsible some people can be for not switching off their mobile phones, taking the call in the middle of the film and having a loud conversation while others are trying to concentrate and enjoy the movie, also constantly hitting the back of the chair among many other things.
         An old friend of mine, brought this issue to light by posting it as his status on face book the day after he had gone to watch a movie and had not enjoyed the experience, due to parents having brought their young children to a late night showing. His status read;

Can anybody with children please explain to me what the pleasure (for the parents or kids) is, for bringing kids to a drama movie at the cinema from 10:00 pm till after midnight? Because I wonder why children seem not to like it that much… of course, as a single person, what do I know??”

Karim’s status started a flood of comments on his status that a semi debate began.
Some of the responses that he received were the following;

 Ahmed wrote; “It is very simple ya karim …the parents want to watch the movie and they have no place to leave the children in .so they are ‘obliged’ to take them welly ye7sal ye7sal :))) (what happens, happens) “

Loutfi wrote; “I experienced the children during a movie from midnight to 2.00 am. In Europe they will not allow the children in at all”

Nancy who is a mother wrote; “I had a big fight in the cinema once because of that and talked to the cinema management, but they treated me as I am the crazy one!”

Mai, a mother of two wrote; “This is totally wrong I don’t agree that kids go to movies with their parents.”

Tamer ‘s response to the debate was; “I think the parents are envying the singles that they still can enjoy their time and go for a movie. It is not only for drama movies but also for those that definitely doesn’t suite children at all, and not only from 10pm, but also @ midnight till 3am where it is not healthy @ all to take children where they should be sleeping……so the parents … doesn’t care about their children neither about their health nor how they raise them as definitely what they will see will affect their character @ that age………one last thing, they don’t even bother themselves to keep them still, but they just loose them like demons in the cinema playing and making hell of noise!”
Aysem’s input was; “Kimo I applaud you! I would have thought EXACTLY the same thing. I think we live in a society where having children is revered to the point that other people’s needs and personal space is overlooked at times. I’ve encountered this in so many situations, I always laugh to myself when I see an army of mothers and babies congregating next to me in a cafe, whilst the offspring wail like hyenas and basically cause a riot, much to the discontent of the other patrons. It’s especially irritating when I’m trying to spend half an hour to myself, reading the paper or a book…Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to sound like a ‘Bah Humbug’ scrooge character, but I think that sometimes, people with children feel that they transcend social confines of what is proper. I.e. there is ‘them’ and ‘everyone else’ and Boo to you, if you don’t accept that. Regarding your cinema experience, I’m sorry, but if it’s past a certain hour, and they can’t find someone to watch them, maybe they should just stay home?!”

          I, like Karim am single and I don’t have any children of my own therefore unable to give a reasonable explanation, as a parent but because I am a teacher and I do work with children and a long side parents. I may have the ability to see things from more than one perspective. So, here is my take on the situation.

        As an educator I deal with children on a daily basis and in the midst of class discussions, I am often shocked to find that most of the children in my class (7-8yrs) go unchaperoned to the cinema and have also seen movies that I go to watch, which in my opinion is appalling. Films are rated for a reason. The reason being that the material shown is not appropriate for them. I can understand that parent’s want to go to out and enjoy life and not feel imprisoned or bound to their children and want to break in their daily routine. Parenting is one of the most tough stressful and demanding jobs. Therefore understandably they need a couple of hours of release. That is what date nights or girl’s/boy’s nights out are for. So why don’t these parents organize or preplan a day ahead of time so that they can have someone look after their children while they spend quality time with their significant other or with their girlfriends/guy friends.
       I am completely opposed to the idea of parents taking little ones to the cinema; they don’t take in to consideration the viewing pleasure of the other cinema patrons who have paid good money to watch the film of their choice. Never mind the poor unfortunate children who are most probably tired, bored, scared and shocked. These parents are being just plain selfish in only wanting to please their own needs and desires. They also don’t think that children at a young age fully comprehend the material that is being shown, WHICH IS PURE DENIAL!!!! Children are more aware and alert than adults and which is proven by the behavior of the younger generation today by their actions and vocabulary they use in the playground and amongst themselves.
Taking children to horror, ROMANTIC or action packed films can lead to nightmares and have them waking up in the middle of the night terrified for days and weeks on end. This surly just adds to parental stress, it can also lead to developing phobias.
For example, my parent’s were very careful of what they permitted my sister and I to watch when we were younger, but my sister some how with out my parents knowing watched the horror movie ‘Jaws’ and twenty years later she is still terrified of swimming in the sea because she has a fear of being attacked by sharks.
     Another thing that is totally wrong is keeping young children up past 8 or 9 pm which is extremely unhealthy for their physical and mental development. It is a medical fact that children need at least 8 to 10 hours of sleep every night. As a teacher I have had children fall asleep in class, grouchy and unable to concentrate because they haven’t had a decent nights sleep. The problem is a lot of parent’s are not privy to information about what is and isn’t good for their child’s development and the MAJORITY don’t give a toss anyway. Similarly when going to a restaurant or public place at any time of day and find children are left to their own devices and are tearing through the place like Tasmanian devils. This behavior happens for 3 reasons a) they are bored and need to be kept occupied. (b) Their parent’s haven’t taught them how to behave or corrected their behavior (c) they are craving their parent’s time, affection and attention.

So, the question now is; “What do we do about it?” Do we walk away from these instances, just complain amongst ourselves and throw our hands up in the air in defeat because we doubt no one is going to listen to us or do we be assertive and take some form of action like Nancy did?

Karim’s response to his many posts was ‘I really respect Nancy who talked to the management of the cinema. a friend of mine told me I should do the same yesterday and of course I didn’t, expecting to get a reaction such as the one she got.  So, should we stop going to the movies and buy them on DVD or just accept the fact that there is selfishness, no law or consideration for others and get used to having kids around us if we want to go to the cinema?”

Nirvana’s response to Karim’s question was; “Like Nancy, keep talking to the Management and make an issue and maybe they will do something one day; like enforcing some laws.”

Jacqueline added “Be positive, complain to the management, hush the annoying children and parents or anything else that shows your disagreement with what’s happening but never let them lock you at home 🙂 I always hush the others and I always complain though it was useless most of the time but it makes me feel better than just accepting the fact.”
Change never occurs if we sit around and do nothing. If you take a stance, like Nancy did and let your voices be heard and if the management of the movie theaters are flooded with complaints or a boycott takes place, they will be left with no choice and will have to take your complaints seriously and make some changes if they don’t want to lose their paying customers. We could also suggest to the management to have a viewing once week where all children under the age of 18 are not permitted to enter the cinema after 9pm and have it posted at the ticketing desk so that parents know not to bring their children and people like ourselves are assured of a peaceful and stress free night of watching a movie without kids running up and down the isles or wailing and squirming in the their seats.

I would like to thank Karim for bringing this discussion to life and to all of those who permitted me to quote them.

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.

At least once a week  the Tuesday Nighters, used to (my friends and I) go out for dinner somewhere in Cairo. The majority of us were residence of the Heliopolis or Masr El Gideeda area, but we try to break the habit of convenience and staying close to home. We wanted to give our friends who don’t live near us a break from having to battle against Cairo traffic.  We had tried quite a variety of restaurants in Zamalek, Mohendiseen, Maadi and of course Masr Gideeda. I think if we were paid to be restaurant critiques every restaurant would dread seeing us cross the threshold of their restaurant. The majority of us all cook for ourselves and for pleasure, our pallets are quite mature and we have high expectations when it comes to our food. Our toughest critique would probably be Fat Sam, founder of Not Hungry Cuz I Ate.

So, in my latest entry I am going to give you the names of restaurants that I have enjoyed dining at. If you can think of others that you would like to recommend then please tell me and I’ll even make the effort to go and try it out myself or with my friends.

If you want a nice light breakfast or meal then I highly recommend Casper and Gambini’s. I have no complaints about the place. Every time I have been, I have enjoyed my meal. They make really nice pancakes and fritata’s

In the Heliopolis Area of Cairo, we are really spoilt for choice. The humongous mall, City Stars is home to many restaurants. When I’m there for lunch or dinner, I don’t mind  Ruby Tuesday’s because they have a fresh wholesome salad bar (I love salad!) and the quality of the meat that they use to make their burgers is really good. The service is friendly and good (located on the same floor as the cinema)

Blaze is a new restaurant/cafe and sheehsa joint that has opened. I have to admit that I like the atmosphere and the food is good too.

One of my new favorite places for a late night of dancing, spirit and cusine is CAVALLINI!! You can find this awesome place at SunCity Mallon the top floor. It reminds me of Summermoon in Agami way back in the day. Thursday and Friday’s rock!!

Opposite where Waga mama used to be is the Macaroni Grill, the times I have eaten there, I have really enjoyed my meal. I have heard mixed reviews about the place, but I have no complaints. There are 5 stone hearts hidden on the walls of the restaurant, if you find them you get a prize. I have yet to find them all. I have found 3 of the 5.

Cafe Supreme has come to Cairo and has hit the Korba area with a BANG!! If you are into healthy choices, sushi, sheesha this is the place for you!

If you like traditional Egyptian food then there is the popular restaurant Abu Sid. I haven’t tried the restaurant in the Mall, so I can’t vouch for that location but I have been to the branch in Zamalek, and I enjoyed it. It can be a bit pricey so make sure you have money with you.

If you are a fast food junky, then City Stars has all the junk you could want to satisfy your cravings. There are 2 food courts to choose from. There’s the one in the old section, the floor before the cinema and the second is on the ground floor in the new section of the mall. You can’t miss either. They are always the most crowded places in the mall and the noisiest too.

Tivoli Dome is the newest hot spot in the Masr El Gideda area. It’s an area where there are many restaurants to choose from  there is Noodle House ( i think you can guess what is on the menu),  Out Back Steak House (it’s an Australian chain, I really enjoy going there. Their steaks and burgers are very tasty, for an appetizer, you have to try the Bloom’n Onion), Crave is another restaurant that is well worth your money. The food is creative and definitely tickles your palate with its interesting flavours. Then you have Costa Coffee, Starbucks, Cilantro, Chili’s, Burger King, Cedars, Popeye and Bon Appetit. Parking there is a pain in the rear end!! So, If you don’t want to drive round and round in circles, then i recommend you walk there if you live near by or take a cab to save yourself from parking frustration!

Sonnesta Hotel

If memory serves me correctly, Sonnesta has an all you can eat Sushi night every Tuesday. I am not a big fan of Sushi, but I will eat the vegetarian rolls.

Makani is a restaurant located behind the famous Asian looking mansion called El Baron. If you are driving on Salah Salem you can’t miss it. It’s a spectacular building. Makani has an interesting array of salads and sandwiches as well as Sushi. I am a big fan of their chicken corn salad.

Le Chantilly is a swiss restaurant located in Korba. It’s very eloquent and simple in its decor but it’s food is yummy. I love their veal sausages with home-made gravy and  their breakfast buffets. There is an inside section and there’s an outdoor are too.

Karven Hotel is the place to go to have Indian food in Masr El Gideda. I used to cringe at the though of indian food before had even  tried it. For some un known reason I didn’t find it very appealing. When I tried it for the first time at Massala  I couldn’t get enough! The taste lingered in my mouth for days and I couldn’t stop dreaming about it. There is also a Chinese restaurant at the hotel. When my friends and I go to Karven, we like to go up to the Roof Garden and have our meal up there. The atmosphere is very pleasant and more spacious to take all of us.

Who doesn’t love Pizza?! I could eat it until I become round and my hear turns in to Mozeralla. I have grown tired of the fast food Pizzas and want to enjoy eating one made with fresh vegetables, herbs and close to the real Italian pizza. The closest I have come so far is Maison Thomas. I have enjoyed ever pizza and bite of their Pizzas.I especially like their Fungi Pizza

Zamalek Area

Zamalek is one of my favorite areas in Cairo. It is an Island in the Nile inhabited by some of the most cultured and influential people. In my opinion it’s the focal point of the original aristocrats that lived and ruled the land. I enjoy walking around Zamalek and looking at the fascinating Architecture, visiting art galleries  as well as going to its many restaurants.

As soon as you come off the 25th of July bridge, on your left hand side above Drinkies (a place to buy alcohol) is a restaurant called, La Bodega. The restaurant takes up the entire first floor. It is split in to two. One is a quiet and dimly lit dining area. While the other is semi casual and is split in to 3 sections. You have a dining area, bar area and the lounge. The food there is leaning towards French cuisine with a twist of oriental. You won’t regret eating there. I have yet to hear of anyone not having gone back again. You will find that a lot of people from the expat community in Zamalek go there. ( I hear this classly place might be closing it’s doors soon…I would go and check it out if you haven’t already)

Cairo Kitchen is the new sha3by chic! It makes traditional Egyptian dishes and drinks.

On the same block as La Bodega, Maison Thomas is a renowned and established restaurant best known for its Pizzas. This I believe is the original restaurant that has been opened since 1922. Once you try their Pizza, you may never order any other  kind again.

Just around the corner from Maison Thomas is a cluster of small pubs and restaurants. But the one many people flock to taste traditional Egyptian food is Abu Sid. If you have guests coming from abroad or have just moved to Egypt, this is where you should try Egyptian food.

Sequoia is another popular place to go in Zamalek. As soon as you come of the 25th of July  bridge, keep going straight until you come to the first set of traffic lights. Take a right at the traffic lights and keep going straight. It will be opposite you. Dinner overlooking the Nile siting in a marquis like tent. It’s a really nice place to go and chill or to watch a soccer/football game with your friends whilst you have diner. The food there isn’t top-notch but it’s good. I like their Mezza’s, salad selection and my friends like the Sushi there. If you are in to smoking Sheesha, it’s a great place to go for that.

Pub 28 is further down the road from these restaurants. It’s a small pub with wooden paneled walls. For some strange reason it reminds me of some of the small pubs you might find in villages in the UK. Not many youngsters go there to enjoy a night out, it’s for a more mature age group. However, the food there is really good.

Zamalek is where some of the AUC dorms are. To make food wholesome as well as enjoyable, students go to Dido’s. It’s a little restaurant on Ahmed Heshmat Street. It’s speciality is Pasta. The meal although cheaper than most restaurants is of good quality and portion. When I need my carb fix, this is the place to go.

On the street parallel to Ahmed Heshmat is, Mar3ashly Street. On that street you will find Tabasco Cafe and Costa Coffee. Both are usually full of students. La Toratoria is a restaurant specialized in Haute Cuisine. If you are taking your lady friend out on a date and really want to impress her with your taste in food, then this is one place you could go to.

Marriot Hotel is a beautiful palace that has since been converted in to a hotel. It’s a great place to go to spend the day in the hotel garden and another great place to bump in to celebrities. I met one of Good Morning America’s anchors there. Hotels, often have great restaurants. The two that I really like there are Roy’s Kitchen & the Italian restaurant. Roy’s’ is more  Western/Country style cooking. Their open buffet is really good and their burgers are made with good quality meat,  and are HUGE.

A long the Nile there are quite a few river boats that have many restaurants. One of my favorite boats to have diner at is Le Pacha, Le Steak. I was taken there on a first date and I just loved the place and the food. I have sensed a slight slip in the standard but not enough to not want to go back. The staff and service they provide is excellent. I recently celebrated my 32nd birthday people with over 20 people!

Blue Nile Boat  is another one of the many boats with a restaurant. Asia Bar has really good Asian food. The decor is really funky and so is the lazy Susan on the table. If you go on a Thursday or a Friday night you may find that quite a lot of the females who are, (hmmm….how should I put this politely?) are willing to provide entertainment services to gents but at a price, (if you catch my drift).

For really good sushi, go to Mori Sushi in Zamalek. Like I said, I am not a Sushi person, but I like the variety they have and it’s a very popular place.

* If you can think of other restaurants in these areas that should make this list, let me know.

Bon appetite!

This morning I awoke from my slumber short of breath and feeling far to warm for first thing in the morning. This indicated to me, that summer has officially arrived.  Instantly I knew that today was going to be scorching hot! When the air seems to be hot, still and dry, you know it’s going to be an uncomfortably hot day. In Cairo it’s a dry heat. In Alexandria, it’s humid and hot. Frankly, I no longer know which is worse, nor do I particularly care as long as I can keep cool.

I have found on days like today when the temperature reaches 42 celsius, that the best thing to wear is a long-sleeved light-colored top,  loose trousers and comfortable shoes.  Wearing tank tops or spaghetti strap tops, doesn’t help make you feel cooler. It has the opposite effect, it actually makes you feel hotter because your skin is exposed to direct sun light. Keep hydrating your skin and applying lotion or sunblock. Drink lots of water to keep yourself hydrated and if you have to be out doors a light-colored cap to protect your head from the sun. If you can dip the cap in water, that’s even better. I personally avoid drinking carbonated drinks and eating foods that are loaded with sugar or are extreamly salty because it just makes you more thirsty. You can not drink enough water on a day like today. 

If you are lucky enough to be at home on a day like today, then turn on the air-condition and make your movements minimal.  Galabeya’s ( long cotton shirt dresses that can be worn by men and women) are garments that lots of people wear in the comfort of their own home. My mother has an abundance of them and loves wearing them around the house to keep cool.   I personally wear shorts and t-shirts in doors. It’s days like today where you can have the air-conditioner on the coolest temperature and it may not feel as though its making a bit of difference. To help the air-conditioner work better switch off unnecessary lights and close the blinds, shutters or curtains to help cool down the room.

I love home cooked meals but on days like this, the thought of being in the kitchen and cooking is like being in a sauna. I recommend that you go with salads, cold cuts and fruits.

If you’re vacationing by the sea or pool, try to avoid the beaches at the hottest time between noon and 3:30pm). If you want to be out at that time make sure you wear a VERY high factor sunblock (I’m a fan of Nivea and Coppertone), keep applying it generously even if you are sitting under the shade of an umbrella (trust me, you can still get badly burnt. I am speaking from experience).  For those of you who want a tan, believe me when I say, even with sun block on, you can get a tan. Keep your head cool to avoid sun stroke and drink lots and lots and lots of water.

If you are unfortunate and get sun stroke, then go back to your room, take a bath (add Ice if you can) or shower in cold water. If you get burnt, take a cold shower and apply 100%  Aloe Vera gel it is great to reduce the prickly heat feeling and the itching. Another ulternative solution is to apply plain yohgurt to the burned areas. It works like magic!!!

If you are a car owner, then I strongly suggest you put the sun visor up. I think having 2 is better than having one. One for the windscreen and one for the back window. It helps keep the temperature inside the car a few degrees cooler. If you don’t have a visor or don’t want to use one, well at least put a cloth over your steering wheel and your gear stick. The temperature is hot enough to burn your hand. When you head back to your car, leave the windows or the doors open for at least 5-10 minutes before switching on the air-conditioner. It helps get rid of the hot air that was trapped inside the car and will help the car to cool down faster.

If your kids are tired of being cooped up and being indoors and you don’t feel like going to the pool. The malls (City Center, City Stars..etc)are another alternative. They can have fun at the indoor amusement parks or take them to the cinema. It is more costly, but you have central air-conditioning!!

My favorite way to keep cool is drinking watermelon juice or lemon juice. My favorite things to eat in weather like this are watermelon, salads and ICE CREAM!

If you have any suggestions that you would like to share, please do so !

I have to be totally honest! I was late getting on to the Twilight bandwagon. I kept resisting reading the books for months because I didn’t want to get caught up in the whirl wind of yet another fad. When a few staff members started reading and discussing it in the staff lounge at work, it caught my attention. I thought, ‘what the hell!’, It’s supposed to be about vampires and I am fascinated with the mythical beings. So, I went and bought the first book. Not realising what I was getting myself into. I was expecting something similar to the Chronicles of Narnia or J.K. Rowling’s, Harry Potter, but The Twilight series was very different.

When I read a book,  and become engrossed in it, the world that I exist in disappears and I dive into the world that I am reading. The words that describe a setting or a world become visible in my mind’s eye. The characters in the stories become clear too.  (not to the point where I can’t differentiate the difference between fiction and reality). When the Potter series started my family and I would have reading marathons. There would be three bookmarks in the book at one time. Once I started the first book by Stephenie Meyers I couldn’t put the book down. Hours would fly by and I wouldn’t even notice that the sun had set. I enjoyed Meyer’s interpretation of the vampire world. After finishing the first book in less than 48 hours, I was hooked and had to read the rest of the series. So, I made a hard choice between buying groceries and the next two books of the series. Pages have no calories, so, I went with the books! The more I read the more addicted I became. I read all 4 books in 5 days!

I think the reason why I became so interested in the book and characters is because, it’s set in the present time and the way Bella felt about Edward was how I felt about a person at one point in time. I felt like I had found my soul mate and hated it when we were apart from one another and very often I knew how he was feeling or if something was troubling him. The scene in ‘Full Moon’ where Edward broke up with Bella and told her that he didn’t love her and didn’t want to be with her anymore and she fell to the ground in the forest. That is almost a carbon copy of what happened to me. The only difference was he never came back to be with me. Then you have the all to familiar situation where a girl is torn between two good-looking young men whom are seeking her attention and devoted affection. I remember being in that dilemma a few times back in my late teens and early twenties.

I also have to come clean and admit that I am on team Edward. The character of the teen vampire is very close to what I like in reality. (Suave, intelligent, preppy, musical, romantic, protective, kind….etc) Except I would prefer the guy to be living, breathing, have a beating heart and not be tempted to bite my neck every time he got a whiff of my blood. Robert Pattinson brings an air of an old-fashioned ‘English Gentleman’. He himself I don’t find that irresistable, I prefer a tall mediterranean looking guy myself. Having said that though, if God was to through a man like that in my path with those hypnotic blue eyes & English accent…. well, what can I say? Beggars can’t be chooser, I would find it very hard to say ‘No’. (Just please…..let him be closer to my age and not 5-10 years younger)

Sadly though the movies are not living up to my expectations.  I know i’m going to get booed for saying this, but be very corny and sappy, (don’t get me started on the merchandise). The problem is that when I read any books before having watched the movie, it ruins the images that I had created and formed in my mind.It’s quite disappointing that the actors don’t fit the silhouettes that my mind has conjured up.  I know that if the movie to depict the books exact as they are written that would add to the cost and the movie would be almost 3 hours long. I think the location where the movie was filmed was perfect!! The characters who play Charlie (Bella’s Dad), Edward, Alice, Jasper, James, Elizabeth and a few others fit the bill (in my opinion). What baffles me is why the hell is Carlile’s hair peroxide blonde! It looks so fake!

I liked both the movies but I think I prefer the second movie to the first. I am looking forward to seeing ‘Eclipse’, the third movie in the Twilight series. I know it’s crazy, but I would have liked to audition for the part of either the Irish or the Egyptian coven. It would be nice if an Egyptian could be represented and played by a native from the country. unfortunately, the auditions have already taken place and living thousands of miles away on a different continent doesn’t help either.

I’m actually looking forward to her 5th book written from perspective of a new-born vampire!

Yesterday, I was quite bold. I had been  waiting for an appointment to be confirmed and to be totally honest, I was beginning to run out of patience, so I gave the people a dead line. If by 5pm they hadn’t made their minds up, I was going to make other arrangements. 5pm came and six minutes later, I told the parties that the deadline had passed and I was going to go and watch Alice in Wonderland.

 I went to the cinema alone, (it’s unusual for a female to go alone in the Middle East). I got there just minutes before the movie started and bought my ticket and 3D glasses (you have to pay 15 LE  for your 3D glasses here in Egypt). The ticket price was a bit steep too 50LE!! I did go to the new cinema on the ground floor of the extension of City Stars, but I didn’t expect it to be that pricey.

I sat in my seat (seats here are numbered, you can’t sit where you like. It’s not the same as  North America, where you sit wherever you please) and put my 3D glasses on bracing myself for disappointment.

Why would I brace myself for disappointment? Well, I’m a bit of a traditionalist. I don’t like it when classic tales are adapted and they don’t meet my expectations. It really aggravate me. However, disappointment never came! I was pleasantly surprised and won over by the angle that Burton took in making the movie! I hail his efforts, now let me tell you why as best as I can without ruining the plot of the movie.

The approach he used was a lot like ‘The Return To Oz’, it wasn’t exactly The Wonderland we had read about as tiny tikes growing up. The characters that we know and love are pretty much the same and they stay true to their form and character. Alice goes back to Wonderland, not recalling that she had been there before. While she’s their she is told that she has a purpose that she needs to fulfil.

The girl who plays Alice in the movie is SENSATIONAL!! I can’t think of anyone who could have placed Alice better. Johny Depp and Helen B. Carter don’t let you down with their performances! They are almost unrecognizable! If I had not known going in to the cinema that Depp played The Mad Hatter, I wouldn’t have guessed it was him. He became the character, in fact I think the best way to describe his performance was,  ‘MAD’! (I think it’s about time he wins an Oscar!) Anne Hathaway played the ‘White Queen’ and she did a wonderful job playing an annoyingly gentle, kind, prim and proper Queen. It’s no wonder the Queen of hearts hated her so much.

The 3D effects of the movie were noticiable from the moment the film started! I thoroughly enjoyed it! The moment I came out I started tweeting and texting everyone I knew to recommend that they go and see it.