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As a woman living in Egypt for the past 20+ years I have seen the deterioration of men’s respect for women first hand. I remember when I first moved to Egypt at the age of 12 and going for walks in Alexandria with my mother. You would get the occasional cat calls and you would get one guy who would try an invade your space and try to touch you. For everyone guy who did try to sexually harass a woman you would have 10 others who would come to your defence demonstrating chivalry. Now, it’s the complete opposite!

The greater percent of the men of this nation would stand by and watch a woman being harassed rather than come to her aid. I recently came across a post on facebook about a foreign journalist who has had one of the most harrowing and traumatic experiences that I have ever read or come across here in Egypt. It saddens me that some of the men and women who saw what was happening didn’t try to come to her aid.

This has got to stop before it gets out of control, because if it doesn’t any woman who looks remotely foreign, has her hair showing or isn’t covered from head to toe!

 

PLEASE READ and Pass it on !

http://natashajsmith.wordpress.com/?like=1&_wpnonce=a982312bd5&wpl_rand=6ee9fbeb5d

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Former President Hosni Mubarek in the cage

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

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

Monday 6th of February 2011

I am so excited! I am finally going to see my family. I have been thinking of every possible way to get to them ever since my friend was evacuated. The railway lines have stopped working and the roads out of Cairo had been closed too. The airport is over crowded with people trying to leave the country and there’s a strong possibility that their aren’t any flights.

I had done most of my packing last night but there are still a few items that I need to put in the put in the bag, but I have to wait for Meeza to wake up.

I am feeling very torn. I have formed a close bond with my host, (No….that’s not right), my surrogate family and I don’t want to leave them. I have enjoyed my time here with them, gotten to know them more and feel like I’m apart of the family. I dread to think what state I would be in, if I hadn’t come to stay with them and decided to tough it out on my own. Without their company, I’m sure I would have reached some level of insanity. Becs family will always have a special place in my heart for opening their home to me.

Bec’s Mum insists that I share breakfast with her. I’m not really hungry and I have been working exceptionally hard at reaching a target weight for my sister’s wedding in April, (Operation Megan Fox). I know it’s a silly thing to be worrying about in times like these, but God willing if all goes well, her wedding will proceed as scheduled and I won’t hate myself for not looking my best and being fit for the special occasion. So, I am adamant that I am going to remain focused on eating lots of fruits and vegetables, grilled meats and drink an excessive amount of water, Revolution or not! (would this make me stubborn or very determined?)

At around 11am my father arrives, I am so glad to see him. I waste no time in embracing him at the door and kissing his cheeks. I notice that he looks tired but a wave of relief washes over his face when he sees me. My father and I don’t see eye to ey very often and with us being stubborn and control freaks, we often but heads and clash, but with that put a side, he is my Dad, I love him to pieces and I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see him.

My Dad comes in to the house for no longer than twenty minutes. We can’t delay our departure due to heavy traffic caused by blocked off roads and protests. We also have to be back in Alexandria before curfew time. My Dad thanks Bec’s parents and as a small gesture of my families appreciation and gratitude for all they have done for me he gives them a bottle of Whiskey and a big box of sweet dates. I in turn hug both Bec’s parents and thank them and promise to come and see them as soon as I am back and settled again.

As soon as we are in the car we have to make a stop at my house to pay the landlord the rent and so that I can drop some unwanted items and collect more clothes (who knows how long the current situation is going to last).

As we approach my street, which is a big military area, I notice a crowd of twenty or more people near the Military Hotel, Triumph. I wonder what they are all doing sitting around staring at the Military compound’s huge metal gates. My father must have caught my gaze or read my mind and informs me that the people are waiting to see their loved ones that had been recaptured by neighborhood watch and military me as they were trying to loot the nearby areas. Upon hearing this slightly disturbing piece of information, I couldn’t help but feel relieved that I had followed my instincts and made the decision to go and stay with Bec’s and his family. The thought of having the escapees that have been causing fear and havoc in the city held across the street from my building, was not in the least bit comforting.

As soon as the car came to a halt, I waste no time in going in to my building and up to my apartment to leave an un-needed bag and gather some other belongings. I am whirling around the place like the Tazmanian Devil from the famous Warner Brother’s Cartoons. I am trying to be as quick as possible so that the echos of the last night spent in the apartment don’t come back to me. The feeling of being in my flat is an odd one. It is familiar and yet alien at the same time. ‘I hope to see you again soon’ I say to it before I close the door and lock it before taking the elevator back down to rejoin my father and the hired driver to head back to Alexandria.

During the drive out of the city my father ask me questions about the safety situation in Heliopolis, the sight of the barbed wires across the street and the tanks pointing outwards to wards the road. He tells me of events and situations that have taken place in Alexandria. That with in the first two days after the prisoners escaped from prison, the people guarding our street caught fourteen ‘baltageya’ (thugs/looters). He told me that other areas of Alexandria are experiencing much worse and that I know for a fact. My friend Shamel has been calling me daily telling me about his nightly watch and the amount of firing and killing that had been going on. Although I am living it, hearing it and experiencing it, my mind still has a difficult time accepting and believing that this is happening to us here in Egypt. It just boggles my mind! How did things spiral out of control so quickly? What lies ahead for all of us? Is it going to get worse? Will things ever get better? It is hard to tell…

At the Cairo toll gate leading to the desert road armored vehicles stand guard with their guns pointed at the center of the road. By the wayside, stolen, crashed and torched cars had been confiscated ownerless as you pass by the toll gate. For the past week we have been hearing horror stories of people’s cars being run off the road, cars being hijacked, robberies, rapes and killings along the desert road. On all the occasions I have driven back and forth on this road, I have never been so alert and watchful of every movement, car and person.

To stop at a rest house to use the toilet, gas up or buy something to eat is too risky and dangerous. Some of the escaped convicts are still on the loose and nobody wants to take any chances. The busy rest stops are empty, which is a strange sight because they are usually bursting at the seams with business, but now only the gas stations have clients. My father told me that he had stopped at one of the gas stations on the way and when he entered to building the owner was sat with a machine gun and bullets across his chest, the smell of freshly baked fiteer was absent in the air and the bustling of the waiters bringing the customers no longer existed.

We finally reach Alexandria after a two and a half hour drive, the security at the toll gate is more intense that the Cairo toll gate. There are more cars and the traffic is worse. Getting to the city is difficult, there is a hold up of some kind. We find out that the congestion is caused by a bus accident and large puddles of water.

As we pass by Carrefour City Center (a big shopping complex) there dozens of confiscated stolen cars parked on the side as you pass the shopping area. There are huge tanks and armoured vehicles positioned there too.

After two weeks of wanting to be with my family and a two and a half hour drive, I am finally home. I take my bags out of the car, get in to the elevator and press the button. The ride up seems to take longer than usual. “Hurry up!! I want to hug my Mum and sister!” As I finally reach my floor, I can see my mother’s silhouette through the glass with her arms spread wide ready to embrace me as I step out. I yank out the bags and drop them at her feet and just squeeze her tightly, while breathing in her motherly scent. There is nothing as warm or comforting as a mother’s embrace.

As I walk over the threshold of the apartment, my sister comes to greet me in the foyer of the apartment and we hug.  It is so good to be home and with family. They look well but tired from all the stress and constant worrying about their safety, the state of the country and me. At least now, they have one less thing to worry about. I am here, safe and sound with them.

We retire to the sitting room and talk for hours while pausing mid conversation every so often to hear the latest news up dates.

By 9pm I can no longer keep my yes open and got to bed.

I am home at last.

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

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

God Bless

Wednesday, 2nd of February 2011

In the early hours of this morning Mubarak addressed the nation and said that he would not run for president in September and will change the government.
The speech sounded reasonable, but something told me that things weren’t going to go down well with the protesters or the public.

Later that morning Becs and I decided to walk from his house near the Baron Palace to Korba to buy a few things and stretch our legs. I don’t know how inmates or animals in the zoo adapt or cope to being kept indoors for hours on end! I just can’t stand being in doors for 17 hours a day! It’s enough to drive you loopy!! All of this because of the curfew hours that have been set. It’s enough to cause cabin fever or claustrophobia!
I needed to be out doors, smell the cleanish air, walk around, do something different.
The feeling of being cooped up brought back memories of when my family and I took the last ferry-boat leaving Jeddah to Suez after the invasion of Kuwait in the 90s. Three days locked in the First Class floor because passengers who couldn’t get cabins were sleeping on the deck and the crew didn’t want them coming in doors. I don’t think I’ve ever been so bored in my life!

Walking in Heliopolis you would find it hard to believe that there was anything going on in the country, it’s relatively peaceful and quite. The presence of the armed army vehicles that were stationed at several important government building made it real.
Walking was refreshing, I could feel the blood circulating through my body again but as we approached the center of Korba I grew sad. People walking out of stores with boxes and bags full of provisions incase there is a food or water shortage. The traffic in Korba made things feel less out of the ordinary but seeing the store windows blacked out or empty and fast food restaurants and café’s with barricaded doors just brings everything crashing down again. Is this really happening? How long will this last? How long can we as a nation endure this? Will the government be heartless and not give in to the people’s demands? Is their intention to make people starve?
The line for the ATM machine is just as long as the queue from the local ‘Forn’ (which means oven, but it’s where you can buy (I believe) the subsidized cheep bread from)

As we walk around trying to find bottle of water to drink, Becs notices that his phone was sending him facebook notifications. He thinks his eyes are deceiving him so he asks a man waiting his turn to go in to a café if the net is back. He says yes it, the signal is weak, but it’s getting stronger. YES! The government took heed and listened to foreign delegates requesting that communication be re-instated!! What a relief, we can now communicate freely with the world again. Well, almost freely, I’m sure that twitter and facebook are being very closely monitored by Egypt’s Secret Service. I guess, I have to choose my words wisely or I’ll end up on their most wanted list.
Nal, my friend in D.C will be thrilled she won’t have to call us daily to check up on us and can communicate through social media. I call my sister to tell her to see if the net is up and running in Alexandria.

I try sending people a text message, but mobile phone services haven’t fully been reinstated yet.
To keep ourselves entertained at home we buy a couple of packets of cake mix, eggs and chocolate to make icing from scratch. Marie Antoinette’s quote of ‘Let them eat cake’ was sounding in my head for some odd reason. Well, if I can’t go to the protests I may as well make cake.
Back at home, I waste no time in yanking out my laptop, setting it up, plugging it in and getting connected with the world-wide web. HOW I HAVE MISSED YOU! I busy myself reading e-mails and messages of support and concern from family and close friends. I answer every single one of them. My sister has tagged me in  the album of newly uploaded pictures and I am horrified. The scenes of last Friday in front of the building where my parents and sister live is harrowing. The clouds of tear gas, the bus and the Muhfza (governors building) a blaze. I can’t begin to relate to the horror or the fear that must have been pulsing through them at the time.Pictures of a looted and semi destroyed Carrefour in Alexandria is also very disturbing. You hear tales about places that have been looted but when you see the photos of familiar places, it really hits home.
In the midst of replying to messages, Bec’s family switch from a movie to the news and we are horrified at the images that are being brought to us from Tahrir Square. It looks like a re-enactment of one of the war scenes from the film, Braveheart. When the Scots are fighting the British to gain independence, but this wasn’t fake, it was very real. Men and women claiming to be ‘Pro-Mubarak’ supporters in Tahrir armed and attacking the protesters, but wait what’s that men on camel and horse back as well? What the hell is going on? How did this happen? Who could condone such savage and violent behavior? Protest and speak your mind, pro Mubarak or not, but attacking people and throwing cocktail bombs is just not on!
The Irish/Sa3eedi (Saeedi is what we call people from Upper Egypt, like the Newfie in Canada) blood in me was boiling; the urge to fight back was rising. I want to be there to defend, take a stand, fight and protect those that are there trying to reform a country for the well-being of the people. The majority have been peaceful, helpful and respectful and these hooligans are just being darn right barbaric!
This escalates the urgency ! Things are going from bad to worse! I HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!!! My host family will not let me leave and my family will crucify me if I go, so the only thing left to do is what I do well and that is, write!
Let me tell the world and anyone that is will to read or listen about what is going on in Egypt through my eyes.So, I begin to type until the late hours of the night.

I’ll be damned if i don’t do anything at all! If I can’t be on the ground, I will do my part some other way!

I don’t have pictures taken in Tahrir Square or of violence that had taken place. They are pictures of things I have seen and witnessed myself.

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=251636&id=512092363&l=3c7b154c57

Dear Family and Friends,

We regained full access to our cell phone services just hours ago. We are also back on line.
Things have been very tough the past 5 days in the communication black out.
My Canadian friend Angela who had been staying with me in my flat, have formed a bond that can never be broken after days of being hauled up in an apartment. I had been up for almost 6 days straight, going out for provisions and stocking up on supplies during the day and keeping watch at night from my apartment with the lights off to spot looters in the area. We were armed with kitchen knives and home made mace, in case any of them were able to penetrate the male citizens and residents of our building and neighboring buildings.
I now know first hand the physical, mental and emotional exhaustion that soldiers go through. I had always respected them, but my respect has deepened since all of this happened.
I can’t help but admire and be eternally grateful to the Egyptians who took it upon themselves to take the law in to their own hands when the police had (un officially) been dismissed and thousands of prisoners, some of whom were armed were terrorizing neighborhoods. I salute them!
Our area had been fairly safe and quiet up until 9pm Sunday night when our area when from being a green zone to a red zone in a matter of seconds. Rounds of machine guns, riffles, hand guns and tanks were fired. We lay flat on the ground away from the windows in case a stray bullet came through the window. It shook us and neither of us could sleep after that.
Angela was evacuated the following morning, my friend and I drove her to the airport and she is now in Frankfurt. I didn’t want to stay
alone and I couldn’t (and still can’t ) get to Alexandria because going down town to get a train was very unsafe and now the roads from
all major cities have been closed off.
I am presently staying with a very close friend (Becs) and his family in Heliopolis, very close to where my flat is. I am forever
in their debt for taking me in and making me feel like I’m a member of their family. If it hadn’t been for them, i don’t know what state of
mind i would be in right now. I was able to sleep for the first time in 6 days without having to stay on guard.

I have been keeping a diary and i will be posting it on my blog soon.

Much love to you all and thank you for all your support, prayers and well wishes.

World wide, people were making plans of celebrating New Year’s Eve with friends or family, either at a party or in the comfort of their homes. Everyone was grateful that they had made it through the year  that will most probably be remembered for H1N1 (swine flu), economic hardships, life’s lessons and other personal turbulent affairs was a relief to everyone. They were ready to say good-bye to 2010 and send it off with a BANG and welcome 2011. Little did the inhabitants of Alexandria know that it would literally go out with not one bang but two fatal ones!

At midnight 2 car bombs exploded outside a church, in the Sidi Bishr area of Alexandria. Worshippers inside the church were attending a New Year’s midnight mass when the explosion took place. In the blast 21 people died and there were several casualties. The Coptic Christians were enraged by the act that they went and attacked a nearby Mosque, which caused a clash between Muslim’s and Christians.

In this past week in Alexandria, there have been protests and demonstrations over the decision taken by the Minister of Education to change 3 schools in to ‘Experimental Schools’ and now, a terrorist attack! As an Alexandrian and a human being, I can’t help but ask, ‘WHY?’ What message or reason could possibly justify the act of rash decision-making, violence and the taking of human lives? Has the world gone completely mad? Have we as a species lost or forgotten the meaning or the acts of philanthropy, compassion and coexistence?  I am not a deeply religious person, but from what I have read and what I have been taught. Religions don’t promote, encourage or condone attacks on other people! Have we become so fanatic that we no longer understand the basic fundamentals of our religion(s) and can no longer comprehend the clear lessons and words of wisdom that we are meant to follow? Is it possible that lessons like ‘thou shall not kill they neighbor’ have been misinterpreted to, KILL?

If the answer is, ‘YES’. then I am not only disgusted, appalled and enraged at the level the human race is sinking to.

This act has hit home with me for many reasons; The first reason is because this was a very close call for my family. My father had been to a church in Cleopatra twice yesterday,before the bombs had gone off. He, (a Muslim man), was there attending a funeral service and paying his condolences to his friend and his family on their families loss. It could have very easily been the church the mourners were at and where people paying their condolences were. When we first heard the news, we were told it was the church my father had been at, which made us wonder, If my father hadn’t come home when he had done, he could have been among the dead or the injured.  As an Alexandrian, this is an attack not just on Christians, but on our city and its people! This doesn’t just affect us, it affects everyone in Egypt and abroad.

I come from a mixed ethnic background where both my parents come from different parts of the world and follow different religions. Throughout my childhood, teens and adulthood never once did I feel that either were different or better than the other. If my parents could coexist for over 35 years without killing one another and raised their daughters to be respectful to everyone and not be prejudice towards others, then I don’t see why it can’t be done.

I continue not to choose sides, I stand for humanity, I stand for life, I stand for people’s right to practice their religion as long as it doesn’t harm or offend anyone else. Earth is our home and if we don’t change our ways and re-educated its people to learn to coexist the way we should, then we are going to have some trigger happy S.O.B blow the whole place up! I don’t want that to happen, do you?

Links to the news

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12101748

http://www.almasryalyoum.com/en/news/update-suicide-bomber-carried-out-alex-church-attack-says-foreign-ministry

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

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

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

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

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

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

4- Working Seat Belts.

 5- Breaks.

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

Here are some pointers to get you on your way,

Egyptian Driving Logic for Dummies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Only break if you have to.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

After a wonderful vacation with family in the UK and sight-seeing in London, I have returned to the reality of my every day life. It was a much needed break from my routine and I feel as though my energy levels have been revitalized and I am ready to face another year of teaching, studying, self-improvement and writing but I come back wishing I was still in England and questioning what possessed me to return. 

The BMI flight to Cairo from Heathrow was fantastic. It didn’t feel like a four hour flight and getting through immigration and customs at Cairo Airport was a piece of cake and stress free. It was quick and pain-free. Usually it’s a bloody night mare! 

My mother and I made it back to Alexandria in one piece and settled in like two peas in a pod.  By this time I’m thinking…’maybe this isn’t so bad’, that was until I was sent out to do the grocery shopping because the cupboards were bare and the fridges were hollow. So, I hopped in to my car and make my way to Carrefour, park the car, enter in to the building, and walk over to the hyper market and that’s when it hits me. ‘I AM BACK!’ 

The scene before me was one of shopping chaos. It can best be described as a shopping competition to see who can get the most groceries in their trolley. Why? Well, the Islamic month of fasting, known as Ramadan will be starting in about 2 weeks time. For some unknown reason it sends everyone in Egypt in to a frenzy! If you could see the way they shop you would swear that they were going to go in to hibernation for the Fall and Winter or they were going to go underground and want to take as many provisions as they possibly can. The pasta and rice section of the supermarket was as bare as the cupboards at home. What really boggles my mind is that they know Ramadan is coming, it’s not a surprise and the supermarkets aren’t going any where why do they have to by 20 Kilos of rice and pasta in one shot? They aren’t even on offer! 

As I stand at the entrance trying to regain my senses I get a cart and enter the Ramadan shopping madness. I felt like I was in a Play Station Game going around scoring points for every item I was able to find on the shopping list. I don’t think I would have been as calm as I was if I hadn’t had my iPod to listen too. The noise level in the Hyper Marché was as bad as the sound of Cairo traffic. I took me 2 HOURS to get the shopping done!! Why? Well, at first I was still in Euro mode, waiting patiently in line and following the universal rules of shopping etiquette, but when it’s Ramadan Madness shopping you throw those rules out and go in to defense shopping. You edge your way sneakily towards the items that you are targeting and as quick as a pick pocket you put it in to your trolley before anyone else snatches it. When you wait in line to have your veg and fruit weighed or when you are paying for the groceries you block any potential line cutters with your cart or your back. 

By the time I got home I wasn’t in the best of moods because the porter/bowab/care taker of the building was nowhere to be found, (surprise, surprise) and I had to make 3 trips from where I had parked the car up to the apartment to get everything home. Without a word of a lie, I remained silent for the rest of the night and didn’t utter a word. 

I just couldn’t believe the contrast in shopping at Tesco’s to shopping at Carrefour! I don’t know why I get culture shock every time I come back. I know how things are done here, but I suppose that I get used to a simpler and polite way of dealing with people on my trips abroad that I come back hoping that things have changed here.

To avoid the Family Fued of shopping, the best time to go shopping is at 10am when the shops first open.  Actually make it a GOLDEN RULE to shop at that time all the time!