You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Events and Functions’ category.

A week a go today, in Zamalek, a solidarity concert was being held at the Sakkia El Sawy Cultural Wheel to raise money for the victims of the explosions in Alexandria.
It was organized and put together by the cast members of the newly released Arabic movie, Microphone, directed and written by Ahmad Abdalla.
The MC for the night was the very talented and well spoken Khaled AbulNaga. When he took the stage he spoke of the unfortunate event of New Years Eve in Alexandria and of the ‘Egyptians’ who had unjustly been taken from their families and lost their lives.
He asked all the attendees as a sign of respect to turn off their mobile phones and anything else that had a light and would be of a distraction while we gazed upon the faces that we had lost in a minute of silence, as their photographs appeared and faded off and on to the screen. It was heart wrenching to see the faces looking out in to the audience. When the minute had passed Abul Naga continued to talk to the crowd of supporters and said ‘I hope that we can come together and stop this from happening again. This was a slap in our faces, a wake up call to stop the seeds that have been sown and growing over a long period of time. What happened was not God’s will, it was the terrorists and their interpretation of God’s will.” As the actor spoke out in to the crowd he was greeted by a mix of reactions. Some people hung their heads in sadness; some had tears welling up in their eyes, while others nodded in agreement. “Egyptians have been around long before any religion came to be’ he continued ‘ “I Am Egyptian” was a phrase used not only to identify where you were from, back then it was a feeling, it was a state of being” The brothers and sister’s that we lost were Egyptians, they were one of us”. This statement was received with applause, cheers and with members of the audience repeating the phrase ‘Ana Masri”, (which means, I am Egyptian).
He went on to explain that the money from the tickets and the half the price of the solidarity t-shirts were to go to the victims of the attack, he encouraged everyone to buy a t-shirt before the night was over.
From there the majority of the bands that appeared in the movie Microphone took turns coming on stage to perform in front of the Egyptians who came to stand in solidarity. I stayed to just before the end. I can tell you that the ambiance although relaxed was a roller coaster of emotions for the musicians and the viewers. The performances were well put together, but one song stood out the most. I didn’t catch the singer’s name, but he moved everyone to tears with the song that he sang and the emotion that he put in to it. He himself had tears running down his face as he sang out the words that there is no difference between Muslim’s and Christians. When his song came to and end the audience had fallen silent and were just blown away by the lyrics as well as the performance that no one could speak. When they did come out of their trance like state they not only applauded, whistled and cheered they demanded an encore! The artist, although drained and out of breath, granted their request and sang it again, with even more gusto and emphasis than his first performance. It was, a moment to witness.
Between each band members of the cast or other fellow supporters from the entertainment industry took the mike to say a few words and to encourage everyone to help put an end to sectarianism. I just hope and pray that those attended took their words to heart and truly understood the fight that we are up-against, because if we do not stand as a united front, this will undoubtedly happen again and I fear the devastation will be on a much larger scale.
I would like to extend my gratitude to the cast of Microphone, for being so quick to respond to the aid of my fellow Egyptians and Alexandrians. I would also like to applaud them for taking the initiative and setting an example for their country men and women.

If you would like to see pictures taken at the concert, go to The Irish Alexandrian group on facebook;

http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/group.php?gid=217138771946

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

I was in Alexandria visiting my family for the Eid Al Adha and we had guest visit us and during one of the many visits a topic was brought up and a huge discussion ensued along with many other mini ones with other people, to hear their opinions and to see if they had ever been put in to this particular situation or have heard of another one like it. It is now apparently the custom to tip the hired help (servers, chefs, and chauffeurs) of your host’s house if you have been invited to their house for a luncheon or dinner party. They were actually told by the hosts that tipping the help was ‘expected’. (This has become a thorn in my side!) Upon hearing that, I went buzzerco! What is the world coming to?

After doing quite a bit of research I was able to find the social rules of etiquette according to England. I know that Egypt isn’t England by any standard, but let’s be honest the British are the leaders in etiquette always have been and probably always will be. So, let’s use their rules as a guide line shall we.

 Let’s say the host sends you their chauffer to pick you up from where you are staying and takes you to and from the host’s house. To tip the chauffeur is acceptable in that situation, but if the chauffeur didn’t then, tipping him for standing by the hosts car and polishing it, is no concern of yours. 

If you have been invited for a luncheon or a dinner at someone’s house then you should not tip the help. You were invited, (presumably) to enjoy the ambiance and company of the host along with other guests. Why should you have to tip their help for that? If you were told to, then that is bad form as well as very nouveaux riche. If tipping was expected then could someone please tell me, what’s the difference between going to a restaurant or the friend’s house for a meal? I personally see none!

If a host has the audacity to encourage their guests to tip their employees then that puts them in a very bad light. It indicates that they are not paying their staff enough, if they are to rely on guest’s tips! In European countries the staff would be very embarrassed to be put in that situation, while here the hired help would lap it up and would come to expect it.

Now here is when tipping the house hold staff ‘might’ be condoned acceptable. If you are asked to stay at someone’s house for a long period of time and you are assigned a member of the staff to look after you, then a tip would be acceptable. Tipping the person who cleans your room and prepares your meals after a weekend stay or a longer one is also acceptable. However, you have to check with your hosts that tipping their staff is alright, some house-holds don’t prohibit it. Some house holds give a bonus to those who have to put in extra hours to look after their guests. Hosts don’t condone tipping because it embarrasses them and their staff. So, before you reach deep in to your pockets to slip the help a few notes, you need to check with the host first.

If you are very well acquainted with the family you are visiting and know the staff well then giving a discrete tip is acceptable behavior especially if it’s a holiday season. Just make sure you give the same amount to everyone.

For the past few days I have been asking people who live abroad and here in Egypt if they have ever been put in a situation like that or have heard of others been put in such an awkward and embarrassing predicament and everyone said ‘No’. They were quite shocked and appalled by the situation our friend’s had been put in. One of the people I asked said ‘I don’t know how I would be able to take them seriously or even look at them again. That is just wrong’

I couldn’t agree more!

Now that brings me to my next question, what do you do in a situation like that? I would love to hear you opinions.

Below are some links that tell you in what situations and placed it’s considered alright to  tip.

http://www.howtodothings.com/food-and-drink/a3339-how-to-use-tipping-etiquette.html

http://www.askabeauty.com/manners-tipping.htm

http://www.angelpig.net/victorian/etiquette.html

Etiquette in Society- http://books.google.com.eg/books?id=nJ4qXk0a0mcC&pg=PA426&lpg=PA426&dq=do+you+tip+the+servants&source=bl&ots=CXz1Ux9Pty&sig=ykMS7lIJDFJKx9dE6Ms5nMY-pqA&hl=en&ei=OVDmTKbGFoXBhAf-wLmYCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6&ved=0CCUQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=do%20you%20tip%20the%20servants&f=false

I feel like a fish out of water! I can’t believe it has been over a month since I have posted anything. I have been caught up in whirl wind of events. Let’s see what, have I been up to?

Well;

I started one of my final Masters courses last month and I have 3 more weeks to go before it comes to an end! It’s a bitter sweat feeling. I am bitter because it’s taking up so much of my time and when I’m sat with my face glued to my lap top reading the material required for completing my course work, my friends are out enjoying themselves, while I have to force myself to be disciplined and get on with my work and convince myself that it will all be worth it in the end! The sweet sensation is knowing at the end of the journey, the money I saved up to be able to complete this and endless hours of writing, researching and reading I would have earned the title of ‘Master’ and the salary increase is always an added bonus too.

 On top of that my sister FINALLY got engaged! So, in the midst of my studies, there was a lot of planning, drama and celebrating. I am really happy and thrilled for her, because the groom to be is a really nice guy and he is going to be like the big brother I never had, but always wanted!

 I recently had to bid farewell and good luck to a dear friend of mine. He has been offered a position in the UAE and I’m feeling a bit lost without him. He was my confident and sounding board. I’m finding it rather difficult having to come to terms with the idea that I can’t just pick up the phone and call him when ever I like, or arrange to meet up for lunch to vent or to get some sound advice. I have to text, email or Skype now to keep in touch. I know everything I’m mentioning is quite selfish. I am genuinely happy that he is starting a new adventure in the chapter of his life, but apart of me wishes that I was one of the characters in that new adventurous journey.

 I can’t remember if I had previously mentioned this but, I was approached by an editor, who is launching a new magazine in Cairo, he had been reading and following my blog and thought I had an interesting perspective of what life in Cairo/Egypt is like from a half Egyptian, half Western point of view and would like me to write a column every month! So, look out for ‘Nadia, In The City’! The Magazine that is set to launch in November is called ‘Moments, Life Style Magazine’, keep a look out for it at a news stand near you!

In addition to all of that I am working full-time! The school year has finally kicked off and my new students have now been with me for the past 4 weeks. I have to say that I it’s good being back in the classroom. I don’t know what it is about being in a classroom, but to me it feels like it’s my stage or domain, where I can make magic happen. This year’s batch of second graders are a handful! They are very opinionated, have fascinating characters and are full of ENERGY!! To keep up with them, I have to get up earlier than usual and do at least half an hour on my elliptical bike to get my endorphins jumped started for a day of teaching!

There are times when I just need to drop everything I’m doing and have some ‘ME’ time. Which either means getting out of Cairo and going up to Alexandria and visiting my family OR doing something fun and joining ‘Weekend Trip’ for an adventures day of fun and some times spontaneity. The owner of Holiday tours and co-founder of ‘Weekend Trips’, Yehia El Decken, has asked me to blog about EVERY ‘weekend trip’, I go on with his team. So, you’ll be reading a lot about my adventures with them this year.

 My romantic life you ask? Emmmm…..Well, what do you think? Do you honestly think with all that I’m juggling right now, I have time for a romantic interlude!??! I will say this though, since I’ve started focusing on myself and looking after myself more, I seem to have re-ignited ‘The Old Me’, which is attracting some attention. Other than that…there is nothing to report!

How about you? What have you been up to?

A few nights ago, I had logged in to facebook and was half mindedly scanning through my friends’ status up dates when I came across one that really caught my attention. To read it in more detail I clicked on my friends profile page to see what had gotten her feathers ruffled. It read; “I also wear a swimsuit and whoever doesn’t like it can stuff it…balad weskha we nas weskha… (Dirty country and dirty people)”. I had no idea what she was on about until I read the explanation and comments that she had written and people had left.

Apparently some individual formed a group on facebook to try to turn people away from supporting the much favored potential Presidential Candidate, Mohamed ElBaradei. The group had uploaded images of his married daughter Laila on a beach in a one piece bathing costume and more or less implied, ’How can we even consider voting for a man who allows his daughter to wear a swimsuit in public”.  They also apparently mentioned that at his daughter’s wedding Alcohol was served and the man she married doesn’t have a Muslim name.  Another claim was that the Egyptian Nobel Peace Prize winner also has Swiss nationality. I haven’t been successful in finding the group or seeing the pictures but I did search on-line to find out how true it was. I came across this article on-line;

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100904/wl_africa_afp/egyptpoliticsoppositioninternet

Personally, I wouldn’t put it past anyone to play dirty when it comes to politics especially when it’s the presidency! The tactics that are being played are aimed at trying to turn the Islamic extremists against ElBaradei and anyone else who will listen. I personally think it’s a pathetic attempt and it’s very childish. If you want to launch an attack on someone then attack that person by creating elements of doubt and question in people’s minds in relation to what he/she claims to stand for. You don’t drag their children through the mud!            

I think these amateurs need to go to Washington for a crash course in how to play hard ball.  I can think of far worse things than a daughter wearing a swimsuit on a beach that would ruin a person’s chance for running for president! Like a criminal record, bribery, money laundering, high treason, being related to Bush or Sarah Palin or committed murder, just to name a few! If a presidential campaign was based on family members personal attire at the pool or beach, then I don’t think anyone world-wide would be eligible to run for president! Before you even think of using ‘Egypt is a Muslim Country’ as a point of argument, then please go back and check your history and look at what previous first ladies wore and all the movies and music videos that are aired on Egyptian television and Satellite stations!                                                         

Which makes me raise a couple of questions, does that mean that the ladies of past presidents and the current first family, have never worn or been caught wearing a swimsuit at their vacation spots here or abroad?  Have they never been at an occasion where alcohol was served? I was a wedding guest at the Grandson of a former Egyptian President and I can tell you the alcohol was flowing like the river Themes!

Please don’t insult our intelligence!

Who ever launched that despicable and childish attempt at denting the man’s integrity and chances at running in the up coming presidential elections, that was a cheep shot! The only thing that person succeeded in doing was feeding and fueling the brain drain and ignorance that this country seems to be feeding off of! How are we ever going to emerge from and shed the classification of ‘Third World Country’ if people like that keep poisoning the minds of the Egyptian youth and population!?

To learn more about Mohamed ElBaradei click the link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohamed_ElBaradei

Every country and culture has its rules of etiquette when going to visit people at home. I’m going to give you a crash course on how things are done here in Egypt to avoid some of the confusion. Even I have made some fatal errors when visiting. I would go by the British rules of etiquette that my mother had drumed in to me as a child. You will find that some of the rules are similar to the ones you already know, while others are very different to those in Europe.

Egyptians are very hospitable people and they always say ”Itfadal or Itfadaly” which means help yourself. They don’t mean it literally. So, if some one says you’re welcome to pass by any time, they are being polite. Call them ahead of time to take an appointment to see them.     They will also use the phrase ”Itfadal or Itfadaly” if you compliment them on something they have. They don’t really mean that you are welcome to take it.

When you go you should be dressed nicely. If the occasion is a luncheon then semi formal is probably the best way to dress.  Women, should wear either a nice dress, skirt or top (not too short or  revealing) or  a pant suite (bright colours) and don’t forget the bling (jewelry), don’t go over the top,  (you don’t want to look like a Christmas tree) keep it simple! Go with the saying,  less is more. (Don’t be shocked if you see other women wearing the crown jewels and knuckle dusters for rings)

Gents should wear shirt, trousers and  shoes should be polished!

When you arrive at the door of the house that you have been invited to, don’t stand directly in front of the door when you ring the bell, Stand to the opposite side of where the door opens, so that you can not see directly in to the house, but don’t be too far away so that they can’t see you in the spy-glass. (this is a caution just incase someone is unveiled and needs to cover up and to make sure that everything is set before you enter the house)

Before entering the house look to see if there are shoes or a place for shoes to be taken off by the door. Some households prefer that shoes not be worn in the house. If you’re not sure ask.

You should never be on time. It isn’t rude if you do arrive on time, but you will be the first and the only person there for a while. So it is best to come half an hour later  from the time that they tell you.  For example if the invitation is for 8 pm, arrive at 8:30 pm.

**** If you are a groom going to propose, (to ask the family for their daughter’s hand in marriage) then you should be on time or 15 minutes late at most. It’s considered an insult otherwise. It means you are not ‘THAT’ interested in their daughter.

If you receive a wedding invitation, (card in hand, (now a days facebook invite or phone call)) don’t go to the wedding at the time that is stated on the invitation, you will be the only guest there for a LONG time! It is best to go at least an hour or an hour and half late.          (Bride is never ready on time anyway)

When you have been invited in to the house and are sitting down you will be asked what beverage you would like to drink (tea, coffee or soft drink…very rarely will a house hold offer beverages with ‘spirit’) , you have to drink  anything that is offered. It’s insulting otherwise, it’s as if your saying what they have to offer isn’t good enough for you.

The above rule applies if you are offered chocolate or a sweet, you HAVE to take at least one.

If it’s someone you don’t know well and you are thirsty,  you can’t ask for a refreshment like tea, coffee or a soft drink , that would be too forward of you. It’s ok to ask for a glass of water.

If the hosts are traditional (old school), then it is best not to cross your legs in front of them, they might consider it rude. 

Invited for Tea or going to congratulate  (new house, marriage)

 If you are invited for tea then flowers, gift for the house or the lady of the house.

If your visit is to congratulate then the gift to take with you is usually silver or crystal.

There is an ongoing debate about Sharbat (celebration drinks).  Some people think it is rude to drink all of the drink and that you should  leave some of the liquid in the glass. While others say it’s fine to finish it. I suggest you do as the Romans do in this case, if you see people leaving some of the liquid in the glass then do the same.

Lunch or Dinner

If you are invited to someone’s house for dinner then it is customary to take a kind of  desert. It is always best to buy a whole cake. Don’t take anything savory because the message you may be sending is that you have brought the food that ‘you’ like and prefer to it with you.

If you don’t know the hosts that well and it’s a buffet lunch or dinner you wait for them to tell you twice that the buffet is open before you make your way to it. Don’t start right away, wait for the host to have at least served one person before you help yourself.

You don’t have to wait for the host to start eating especially if it’s a buffet dinner.

You don’t need to be shy, Egyptians are very generous at their dinner parties, if you would like more of something have more. At a buffet dinner you just go back and help yourself. At a sit down dinner, you ask for another helping and they will be thrilled that you like the food and will generously add more to your plate.

At a sit down dinner it is best to wait for the host to begin.  Some people don’t mind their guests starting, while others do. It’s best to play it safe. (again, apply the ‘When In Rome’ rule)

If you leave food on your plate its an insult that you didn’t like the food.  Try as best as you can to finish what has been served on to your plate. When you are done place your knife and fork next to each other.

Expect to be served more than you can eat, they don’t want their guest to go hungry. Take your time eating, that way you won’t have the host add more helpings on to your plate. They will try, but just politely decline and say that when you are done with what you have, you will have some more or say you’re not shy, if you want more you will ask for more. There will be occasions when the host just insists and plops it on to your plate anyway. Don’t feel guilty if you can’t finish it, just try to make your plate look as empty as possible.                   (most people don’t have pets, so you won’t be able to feed the dog or cat under the table)

 If your plate is empty before most of the people they will add more food to it, so eat slowly. The host will be embarrassed if they see your plate empty. They will feel that they haven’t given you enough food.

Compliment the host on the food during the meal (T’islam Edayki = bless your hands).

After dinner is served there is usually a half an hour of digestion before desert, tea and coffee are served. You may turn these down if you are too full, but don’t be surprised if a plate of desert is thrust  in to your hand anyway.

When you are being offered food (main course or desert) by the host and you ask for a small helping, You will NEVER get it. They will always be generous with what they offer. The excuse of being on a diet will not work. The only thing that you can get away with without having desert is if you are a diabetic.

It is VERY disrespectful if you leave right after a meal, “Deef el magnoon eli yakul wey oum”   (translation = A crazy guest, who eats and leaves). The only culture that I know of that does that are the Saudis.

If you have been invited for a dish party and you leave you dish there, don’t be surprised if your dish is returned with something in it. It is a golden rule that you can not return a person’s plate back empty.

If you’re a smoker do not light a cigarette unless and older person offers you one. You shouldn’t smoke in front of elders because it’s considered disrespectful.

When you leave you have to say good-bye to your hosts and then a general good-bye to everyone.

Don’t be surprised if you receive a call or a text message from the hosts the next day thanking you for coming and for the present or cake your brought.

I hope this helps you. If you can think of others that I may have missed please add it on by adding a comment.

‘Weekend Trips’ a branch of the Holiday Tours travel company, came up with another interesting day trip. The trip was to spend a few hours trekking across an island located in the middle of the Nile in the heart of Cairo. Gazeerat El Dahab, (Island of Gold) is approximately 9Km in length. It is inhabited by people who farm the land. There are no bridges, roads or cars that take you to the island. The only way to get to and from the island is by boat. Many of the inhabitants work in the city so they take the 1Le Faluka (Egyptian sail boat) to the shore every day. The available forms of transportation on the small island are on horse/donkey back or by foot.
On the morning of the trip my colleague and friend, Nora accompanied me and other eager explorers at Sky Lounge in downtown Cairo, for coffee and mingling before making our way to the deck to board our private boat. The weather was clear, the sun shining as bright as always and there was a cool gentle breeze to dull the heat.
Aboard the boat we were greeted and briefed by the Weekend Trip team. We were told that the residents of the island are wary of strangers. They are constantly being visited by people who are trying to coax and even force them off the land. Rumor has it that the government may want it as a base; there are also other rumors of wanting to turn the island into a resort or a night club scene. We were asked not to ask them any questions pertaining to the ownership of the land and other related questions that might make them feel uneasy. We were highly encouraged to be courteous towards them; after all we would be their guests on their island.
The boat ride was beautiful. The view on the Nile looking towards to shore lines was fascinating. It gave you the opportunity to look at Cairo from a different perspective and angle. It is a wondrous city, and I can understand why many are captivated by it. Having said that, I don’t think Cairo can hold a torch to Alexandria. Perhaps my opinion is a biased because I lived in Alexandria for well over a decade and I am and always will be Alexandrian.
When we docked at the island, our eyes were greeted by a vision of a girl not older than fifteen years old with 2 younger girls by her side washing their clothes next to the Nile bank. They looked upon us like we were intruding on their privacy. I have to admit that I did feel like I was imposing upon their privacy at the beginning of the trek, but as time passed the residents became more relaxed and were friendlier towards us.
I thoroughly enjoyed my day spent walking the length of the island. I found it hard to get my head around the fact that I was on an island walking through fields of plantations in the middle of the city’s capital. Never the less, the scene on the island was a pleasant change from the concrete pillars of buildings and endless streams of vehicles crowding the main land. It was just relaxing to see open space. I was dumbfounded by the locals and their ability to live the way they do. It reminded me of the film ‘The Village’. Where the inhabitants were cut off from the modern-day world and lived a similar life style to the Amish. I felt as though I had stepped back in to a different era, where houses had no electricity or running water. Water had to be pumped and fetched for cleaning, washing and cooking. Their freshly grown produce is part of their nutritional diet. No fast food delivery or microwave meals. Animals were around every corner in every field. The animals that I saw on the island were better looked after than the donkeys and horses you see on the main land. All though the people of Gizeerat El Dahab lead a much simpler life style, they have a better understanding and appreciation for nature and God creatures that the educated individuals on the mainland. The sound of congested traffic was a distant memory. Instead your ears were filled with sounds that are usually downed out by the cars, the breeze rustling through the trees, birds twittering away to one another, sound of your footsteps on the dirt path and the sound of water irrigating the fields.
I am a nature girl at heart. I really appreciated being able to walk in the fields and see the patch work of the fields and not worrying about being hit by a car. It reminded me a little of the summers I sued to spend in England and the pleasant walks I used to take.
 On the island I was surprised to see a gigantic church. I think my surprise is due to the number of mosques I see everyday. So, I automatically presumed that it was Muslim dominated. Seeing the church there actually comforted me. It meant that on the island both faiths co-exist with one another. It also gave me a little hope too. If these people can do it, then so can everyone else.
         The sounds of the call for prayer rang out from the mosque and could be heard throughout the island, calling its followers to come and pray. I can’t remember the last time I went to pray in a mosque. So, since the majority of the group was going to, I thought why not! I washed for prayer (‘wudoo’ is a certain way of washing, before you pray) and went up to the ladies section of the mosque and waited for the prayer to begin.
When the Emaam started the prayer, everyone came together as one and were united in their faith and all quarrels and differences were laid aside. I found it fascinating how things can change in a matter of seconds. Just moments before my friend and I were being looked upon as strangers by curious individuals and then we were no longer strangers, we were sisters of the same faith. If only people of the world could recognize that we are all made the same way. There would be less hatred and more understanding.
      After successfully walking the entire length of the island it was time to retrace our steps and head back to the meeting point under the ring road bridge that runs through the island. When we got there we sat on the ridge, under the shade of the bridge with our feet inches above the Nile. Some of the group wanted to experience the Feluka ride the locals take every day to and from the main land first hand. From there we went to the local bakery or ‘Fino’ as they call it on the island, to have a taste of the traditional ‘Fiteer Mesheltit’. It’s many layers of filo pastry baked in a circle and cooked in an oven. It can be a sweet or savory dish. The locals laid down mats for us to sit on and served us the freshly baked fiteer with ‘aasal iswid’ (molasses) and ‘mish’ (aged and spicy cheese) on the side. From the way everyone dug in, it was obvious they had all worked up an appetite. Once we had satisfied our pangs of hunger, we walked back to the dock to board our boat and headed back to the main land.
       I really enjoyed the hours spent on the island. To me, that was seeing ‘the real Egypt’ in its natural form. I really do hope that the residence of the island will not be tempted by money and give up their land and way of life.

To see some of the photo’s I took, click on the link.

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=152130&id=512092363&l=3e18df71ae

The world is familiar with the term and the sport of ‘Snowboarding’. It has gained even more recognition since it has become an Olympic winter sport. Unfortunately for  most Middle Easterners we will never have the experience of skiing, skating or snowboarding because we don’t get any snow. We do have a hell of a lot of sand though!!! So, while there are nations who enjoy their winter sports, here in  Egypt we are able to enjoy the experience of ‘Sandboarding’.

Picture this, your in the desert with nothing surrounding you but dunes and flat plains. Everything is so still and quiet that time could have stopped and you wouldn’t even know. The only thing that reassure you that you are not dreaming is the sound of your beating heart and breathing and the humming of your 4X4’s engine. As you ascend from the car and look ahead of you, you are taken in by the enormous sand dune. Next to it, you feel like an ant next to a building. ‘I’m supposed to climb up that and board down it?’ you ask yourself while gazing up at  a tall virgin sand dune that may have never been climbed before you. You take your board, wax the bottom of it and carry it up to the top of the dune. Once at the top of the dune you place your board gently down on the sand as you prepare yourself for a thrilling ride. You carefully get on the board, whilst extending your arms to maintain your balance, you take in a deep breath and finally tilt your weight forward. The second the weight has been tilted there is no going back, you are well on your way boarding down the dune, with waves of sand blowing up on either side, you gather speed the further down you go and you just keep on going! Your heart pounds as fast as a humming birds wings and you have a mix of terrified and thrilling emotions! You lose your balance and wipe out! The fall is cushioned by the soft sand and although you have stopped your board kept on going and is waiting for you to pick it up again and go back up the dune.

This isn’t something I thought up. I really wish I could take credit for it, but Alas, I can’t. However, more and more travel companies in Egypt are getting creative and are coming up with fun trips and weekend trips that people can do. A friend of mine has one of these companies. His family owns Holiday Tours. Yehia, is a big fan of the out doors and is trying to show his fellow country men that there is more than going to restaurants and going to cafes. There is so much more to do and see in Egypt.

I decided to go on some of his trips companies weekend trips. So far I have been to Islamic Cairo, A Hike up the Chain of Red Sea Mountains in Ein El Sokhna, Horseback Riding in the Sakara desert and Sandboarding. Every trip was very different from the other and each time I had a fun-filled experience. My appreciation for the outdoors has grown a lot. I’ve come to realize that I’m more of a desert gal than I am a mountaineer. I enjoy spending the day away from the noisy, crowded streets,  unbearable traffic and polluted air. I find it to be rejuvenating to be out in the middle of no where, away from civilization and giving my ears a rest and filling my lungs with clean unpolluted air. I look forward to receiving updates on facebook telling me what ‘Weekend’ trips have planned. I am not always able to join them, but when I am able to I don’t think twice about going.

I can’t wait to go sandboarding again and horseback riding!!!

If you are planning a trip to Egypt, please do go and see some of the historical sites, but do try something adventurous too. You will have a lot of stories to tell your friends when you get back home. If you are a resident of Egypt, then do something different!!

Arabs climbing mountains? seriously? I am VERY serious. For those of you who have followed my blogs you know that I’m following 8 Middle Eastern mountaineers who are climbing the seven summits to show the Arab world that unity is possible. Kheiry Sammakieh who is one of the mountaineers and is representing Lebanon is a friend of mine. I have followed their quest since he messaged me about it. As soon as I get an up date from his brother or other members of the team I post it on my blog.
About a week ago I got a message on facebook from Kheiry’s brother informing the followers of SeVen.
 
The webisodes that can be watched on http://www.unite4seven.com/ are of excellent quality, the pictures are clear and the sound is fantastic. The webisodes are short takes of  episodes that are scheduled to air on a network at a later time and date. The webisodes tease you because they only give you a glimpse of what is going on during the teams quest, it does give the viewers and the fans a good idea of what these brave and ambitious climbers have to endure. Before the adventure even begins these climbers have a bit of a problem, 2 of the climbers are already at the refuge on the mountain and need to conserve their energy so they won’t make it down to the starting point to meet the four climbers that have arrived (1 representing Iraq, 2 women representing Jordan and 1 representing the nation of Morocco). The remaining two climbers who complete the team were stuck in London due to flight cancellations caused by weather. If that isn’t enough the team themselves hit a rough patch of weather on their climb too. You have to watch the webisodes to see for yourself. 
 
Below is the message from Plan A’s director and Kheiry’s brother, Amin;
 
“This is to inform you that “seVen” Webisode 4 is now online, you can view it in the video section of the “seVen” group or alternatively you can visit our website http://www.unite4seven.com and access all our media from there on youtube and myspace.

Please keep the support coming, invite all your friends and family to join. Remember, this is not an ordinary group, we promise to keep you entertained with more activities and updates all they way until the pilot episode “seVen” is ready.

Stay tuned for more Webisodes and Updates …Coming soon.

The “seVen” Team”

I’ve been stuck at home for the past week with ‘Acute Tonsilitis’! It hurts like the dickens and I hate being ill! The only advantage I have had about being stuck at home is grading papers and finishing report cards on time.  Anyway, that’s not what this post is about, the post is about something I’ve seen on the television during my week of solitary confinement. On MBC 4 ( Middle Eastern station)  There was an add that was informing and encouraging people  from different countries in the Middle East to audition for the ‘Arab’ version of ‘American’s Got Talent’. There have posted selected dates throughout the entire month of March in different Arab countries at specified hotels for auditions to be held. Guess, what. Cairo will be hosting two-days of auditions. 

On the 29th and 30th of March there will be crowds of people impatiently waiting their turn to audition in front of a panel of judges to see if they have enough talent at the Etab Theater in Giza. My Dad is a huge fan of the show, he gets so excited whilst watching the performers and then when a commercial comes up he sometimes leaps up from his chair and pretends he’s one of the contestants auditioning! I could swear they based the character Mr. Bean on him.

Living in Egypt for as long as I have and knowing the people the way I do. I am sure that the advert has been seen by thousands of people already and there will be hundreds upon hundreds of people prepping themselves for the auditions. Every Egyptian thinks that they are the next big thing! Can you imagine how many Sherine and Amr Diab wannabes are going to be there? Oh and the next up and coming Fifi Abdus  and Dina Belly Dancers!!! I’m sure there will be a few comedians too as well as some very interesting and very excentric personalities. So, as much as I love watching the auditions for American Idol, I am REALLY going to enjoy watching the auditions for this!

I just hope my Dad doesn’t hear about it. I dread to imagine what he might go and do!

If you want to know more about the audtitions and the event is go to the wwww.mbc.net/gt