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I am one of those lucky individuals that gets to celebrate Ramadan, Eid, Christmas and Easter. Being of mixed ethnicity and having a mother from a different religious faith does have its advantages!

 Christmas like Ramadan is a very special time of year in our house hold. We, spend a lot of quality time together laughing, telling stories, gift giving and preparing for Christmas Day Dinner! It’s the meal I look forward to all year. (I guess its how a lot of American’s feel about Thanksgiving dinner). My Parents are both very good cooks, but my father can’t shine a light next to my mother when it comes to the delicious food that she makes on Christmas Day, it’s made with so much love that it could knock you out! A meal my father GREATLY enjoyed!

 The food isn’t the only thing that I love about Christmas it’s the magic that revolves around it. Watching children opening their advent calendars counting down the days until St. Nicholas comes. The sound of carol singing that fills the air and has the ability to make you tingle with excitement and make you want to burst in to song too. The generosity of people and seeing people smile as they look forward to the up coming holiday and remember past ones too. In Saudi Arabia and in Egypt the expatriate community would have been working all year making crafts to sell at bazaars for the holiday season and seeing their latest creations of patch work and ornaments was something I always looked forward to. The concerts and Christmas parties created a joyous and festive ambiance and got everyone in the mood.

 As a child Christmas Eve was the night I would look forward to most, leaving a plate of cookies and a carrot for the jolly old man and his reindeer, having my mother read ‘The Night Before Christmas’ to us even though we knew it off by heart. I also remember the torture of being so giddy with excitement that it would take me forever to go to sleep and I would try my very best to stay awake in the hopes that I would be able to catch a glimpse of the generous man dressed in red who would leave my sister and I beautifully wrapped gifts under the tree.

Then to wake up on the morning of Christmas and find that the carrot had been taken for Rudolf, Santa’s trusty reindeer and that there were crumbs left on the plate and the glass of milk had been drunk!! ‘He really is real!’ would be the thought that would race through my head! And then be quickly forgotten once the presents were in sight!

 We are older now and Christmas is still as important to us now as it was then, but it has a much deeper meaning. It’s the time I spend with my family that I treasure most about the holiday. It brings out the kid in me and my parents. Taking my mother to midnight mass and listening to the sermon, the organ and the choir sing.  I love being able to buy them gifts and watch their faces light up with appreciation, helping my Mum cook the most delicious meal and serve it to our close friends. Hear my father complain how stuffed he is with a huge satisfied grin on his face. Having friends and relatives sending us holiday cards and call us to wish us a Merry Christmas.

 It’s a holiday that reminds me of what I have and what I am grateful for.

What is it you love about the holidays?

Egyptians, like the Greek and Italians love FOOD.  If you want to make money in Egypt, one of the best ways to get rich quick would be to open a fast food joint or a coffee shop and to make your way to a mans heart would be through his stomach.

If you’re driving in your car in Cairo, you will notice that every few yards you will find either a pharmacy or a place where food is sold. Right next to my house, I have KFC and Hardees. Talk about temptation! What makes it even more tempting is that they ALL DELIVER right to your door!!! If you’re starved you will be spoilt for choice. You can choose between the more authentic Egyptian fast food or the more International recognizable logos belonging to the fast food giants. In my opinion they are both not the wisest choice to make when it comes to nourishing ones self. They aren’t balanced meals and very little about them is wholesome.

Back in August a friend of mine, (Wesam aka Fat Sam), challenged his friends and readers to a fast food fast. The objective of the fast was not only to refrain from  eating junk food for a month but to also see if it would affect our weight and heighten our sense of  taste. I, like a few others accepted his challenge, but I wanted to see if  could go without for longer than a month.

It wasn’t easy at first. I would have cravings for French fries, burgers and pizza along with the desire to quench my thirst with cold soda. I almost fell to temptation a few times during the first week, but my will to succeed was strong and so was the desire to lose a couple of pounds.

The more home cooked meals I made, with fresh vegetables, poultry and meat the easier it became to resist the mouth-watering menus of the fast food restaurants. The more healthier my meals were, the tastier they seemed to be and the less cravings for trans fatty food I had.

I was able to go without eating any junk food for a total period of three months! My downfall came when I was trying not to buy any groceries because I would be going away on holiday, so instead of cooking healthy food, I ordered take out!

Since the 26th of November it has been very hard for me to get my mind-set getting back on track and continuing with the fast food fast. With the Eid treats, followed by Thanksgiving goodies and NOW CHRISTMAS DELIGHTS that beckon me to taste them!

I have decided that as of the 27th of December, I am going to do my EXTREME BEST to not eat any fast food for as long as I possibly can. There are several reasons behind my decision;

  1. My family has a history of heart related problems as well as diabetes.
  2. I want to lose at least 10-15 Kg by June.
  3. I hope to participate in the Alexandrian annual Walkathon organized by the Alexandrian Rotary Club to raise money for a cause.
  4. In the Walkathon, I plan on cycling against my sister who has been the reigning female champion for two years running now.

So, I will keep you posted on how I do throughout the coming months!

If you want to join me and get a support team going…by all means, be my guest!

Wish Me Luck……..I’m going to need a bushel or two!!!

So it’s now April! I have fallen to temptation twice!! I hated myself for it though. I have stayed away from the junk but I have been making some stupid mistakes. I go out to restaurants and order things that are high in calories so even staying away from the fast food isn’t good enough. You have to choose wisely. I’ve been getting a crash course in what to eat  from my mother this past week. Let’s hope I can stick to it when I go back to my mad hatter life!!!

 The working week can suck you in to a routine very easily. When the cycle of that routine is in motion it becomes very hard to break. You find yourself waking up each morning going through the same motions over and over again as though you were working on a production line or being stuck doing the same thing day and day out like  Bill Muray’s character in the movie ‘Ground Hog Day’

 Get dressed, grab a bite (if you have time), get in your car, drive to work, go to your desk, turn on your computer, answer your e-mails and phone messages, down 3 to 4 cups of coffee, order food, work some more, turn off your computer, brace yourself for the long drive home, get home and collapse. Then you wake up to do the exact same thing the next day. Does that sound about right for most of you?

 Well, that was what it was like for me when I first moved to Cairo four years ago. I knew  a handful of people so my social life was close to non existent. It was mainly work and no play. Until, I was introduced to a group of long time friends who called themselves ‘The Tuesday Nighters’”. The founding father’s of this group met in university and have maintained their friendship since. One of the ways that they did this was by meeting up after work almost every Tuesday to catch up on each other’s news and to just hang out. The idea grew from there and more of their friends and acquaintances began to take part in the weekly tradition.

 The day before or early on a Tuesday morning the ‘Tuesday Nighter gmail, e-mail thread would begin with ideas and suggestions of places to meet up for dinner, a movie to catch, a show to watch or someone’s house to socialize at. Tuesdays, like our weekends have become a sacred day. It’s a day in the middle of the week to allow ourselves to forget our woes, to relax and enjoy being in the company of friends who are guaranteed to make you laugh until your sides ache and the tears come streaming down your face.

Every Tuesday is different. We try to take into consideration everyone’s interests and the driving distance that they would have to endure. One week we might all make our way down to Maadi to go have dinner at Fuego just to give those who live in that part of Cairo a break. We might decide to give the people who live in Zamalek, Mohendiseen and 6th of October City a rest from battling traffic and go to La Bodega, Sequoia, Charwood or even Carnivore for sheesha and a meal. When we are in each others company we can’t help but be loud and laugh. On many occasions I have noticed people sitting near us look over and try and eves drop on our conversation or just burst out laughing. Other’s have a look of longing and wish they could be sitting with a group of people who are out purely to enjoy their time together. The waiters on the other hand might not always share the same opinion, especially when some members of the group spontaneously do an impromptu S.T.O.M.P routine, taping plates, glasses, empty soda cans and other objects on the table with their chop sticks. The secret to our enjoyment is really simple. We don’t really care  who has what, or who has the latest phone or designer hand bag or if we are at some swanky place, where we have to pay over 200LE to get in. It’s us who makes the place enjoyable, not the place that make the outing enjoyable. The most important ingredient of all is that we genuinely really enjoy each other’s company. Sure there are times when we have Alley McBeal moments and you just want to punch someone in the face for having kept the group waiting an hour, or for not being able to make a decision, but HEY! That’s life, and if you don’t let things go…then you just turn in to a sour puss and you loose out on having a fabulous time!

 It’s always nice to see familiar and friendly faces outside of the work place and on a few occasions new introductions to the group are made. Some grow to be frequent members while others think we are a bit too much.

 Our Tuesday nights out with each other give us that extra boost to help us trudge on to make it through the week.

The extent of our friendship and commitment to one another does go beyond just hanging out and dining. We are quite a close knit group of friends who are there for each other in times of need.

 If I hadn’t met this group I honestly don’t know what my life in Cairo would have turned out to be like. What I love most about them is that not only do we ‘CLICK’, we understand each other and we respect one another enough to be able to give our honest opinions about what ever it is we think and feel.

We enjoy each other’s company so much that we try and meet up for breakfast some times on a Friday morning at Lluceil’s, or arrange to have a BBQ out in Waddi Digla, going sight seeing in Cairo as a group to places that we know we would probably never ever get around going to on our own, having an air hockey tournament and sometimes just going away for the weekend to Ein Sokhna or even going away on vacations together.

 It’s important to have a group of people that you are comfortable with and enjoy being with. If you do have a group of friends like that, or if you find people like that. Hold on tight to them because they are very rare to come by. What I love most about being with my shilla (group), is that my guard is let down, I’m relaxed and I can be myself and not have to worry about what they are thinking or saying behind my back.

 If you and your friends have been bogged down with work and have been promising to make plans to meet up soon with one another, but it never happens because something always seems to come up. Well, maybe you need to find time. Your work will always be there waiting for you tomorrow, but friends can give up or move away. There is no time like the present. Set a date and make a plan and trust me, it will lift your spirits and you’ll be glad that you made the effort.