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Last week was a national holiday in Egypt. It’s a date that will forever be remembered in Egyptian history. It’s the day that the Egyptian army won a battle against Israel.
On Oct. 6th, 1973 the Egyptian Armed Forces assaulted the Suez Canal
after the Air Force strike against the Israeli Forces positions in Sinai,
the artillery also made the most massive preparations known in history.
Hereafter, the Armed Forces crossed the Suez Canal and seized
“Barlev Line” destroyed the Israeli sequential attacks and managed
a group of air, sea and land combined operations efficiently,
the matter that led to the glorious victory of the Armed Forces.
 
         http://www.mmc.gov.eg/History/gg3.htm
(I don’t think I could have explained it better myself)

Unlike other countries, there are no huge parades for the public to see, it’s just a day off for everyone to enjoy.
‘Weekend Trips’ decided to honor that day in history and organized something very fitting for the occasion, A PAINT BALL WAR! The venue was at Al Rehab Club, in Rehab City. The last time I played, was last spring and I had a great time with my friends, so, this time I persuaded a couple of my colleagues to join.
‘The Weekend Trip Team’ did a great job of organizing the day, they divided the 33 people into teams and kept score. ‘Weekend Trips’ co-founder and team leader, Yehia El Decken, has a talent for breaking the ice and making people relax and enjoy the moment. The Staff and Ref’s who work at the paint ball place were professional and sincerely had the participant’s safety in high consideration! They took their time explaining the rules of the games, safety precautions and demonstrated how to use the equipment.
The great thing about the place is that, you really do feel like you are in some kind of boot camp. You get to wear the full green camouflage suite, padded chest protector and helmet. When you are handed your gun, you can’t help but get in to ‘Character’.
There are two playing areas; the smallest playing zone is made up of bails of dry straw and palm trees. There are lots of great hiding places to shield yourself from the shooting pellets aimed at you. The other playing field is a bit bigger and has huge blown up barriers to hide behind, but can be a bit tricky to get to because they are spread quite a distance apart. So, if your feet are not quick on the sand you’re an easy target.
My colleagues and I along with 3 other girls were on the same team. A team of women who decided to call themselves ‘The Expendables’ after the testosterone action packed movie. I only wish I could report that we did Stallone proud by using his film’s name.
We lost every game we played and even though we were beaten badly by our opposing teams we took every paint pellet like a brave soldier would!
My colleagues, who had never played before, came out dripping in sweat, covered in bruises and smiling! They had a GREAT time!
I have to admit that even though we lost, I had a ball! I got to meet some new people, run around shooting colored paint pellets out of an air pressured gun, which released a lot of pent-up aggression I had been harboring and shared many laughs!!
Like my colleagues, I can’t wait to go and play again. I might have to wait a bit before my bruises fade though, I look a mess. If someone who didn’t know me saw me walking down the street, they would think either I’m accident prone or I’m in an abusive relationship!

Paintballing gets a high 5 from me!

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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?

I have always been a fan of the arts. As a youngster I used to really enjoy performing on stage in plays, musicals and talent shows, (it’s the family blood line apparently). I would have loved to have tried my luck in the industry, but my father strongly opposed the idea. Many of my teacher’s on the other hand couldn’t imagine me being anything other than an actress or a TV presenter.

When  my family and I would travel on holidays my mother would take my sister and I to museums, the theatre, ballet, musicals and galleries. At the time I didn’t realize what a huge appreciation she was instilling in me. Now that I’m older, I am very grateful that she did. I find that being able to enjoy ‘The Art’s’ enables me to look at life differently and see things from different perspectives.

When my family and I moved to Egypt in the early 90’s, the freedom of not being  able to just walk out of my front door and ride my bicycle to the recreation center or just around the neighborhood was something that really irritated me. As well as not being able to go and watch pantomimes. When the Alexandria Library opened and the Sayed Darweesh theater was restored,  I would hear of performances and would save up to buy tickets to go and attend. There is a captivating magic about going to places like that. For a few hours you forget who and where you are. Your troubles can be put aside for some time and then turn your focus back to them once you have returned from your mini mind vacation.

The Alexandria Library, is (in my opinion) becoming the cultural focal point of the city. They have guest speakers, movie screenings, performances by local Egyptian talent, bands like ‘Wust El Balad’ and my favorite event of all was the International Dance Festival. The Sayed Darweesh theater is not only a building built baring the name of a local Alexandrian but it also represents a local history. The theater I believe collaborates with the Cairo Opera House, some if not most of the performances held at the Opera House make their way to the Sayed Darweesh theater.

Another thing that I enjoyed doing whilst I was living and growing up in Alexandria, was going to the different cultural centers. The Russian Cultural Center, offers ballet, exercise sessions and in my day they even had art. The French, Spanish and German offer language courses. The most popular two were the British Council and the American Cultural Center. I believe they still are. If you live in the Roushdy area on Kafr Abdu street. Across from Cilantro there is a fitness center that offers a large array of courses. Tamarin Center is where I took my first jab at salsa dancing. The partners who own the center are amiable, social and helpful women.

When I moved to Cairo, I became spoilt for choice. There are so many places that offer so many things that it is impossible for me to know of all of them. What I can do is tell you about the places I have been to.

If you are really in to listening to live bands playing then you will enjoy going to a restaurant/pub called, The Cairo Jazz Club or After 8. Both places offer live entertainment, with performances by local talent. I am a huge fan of ‘The Riff Band’, ‘Wust El Balad’ and ‘Crash Boom Bang’. Each have their own uniqueness and sound. There are others but if I was to list them, I would be sat here for quite some time. http://www.cairojazzclub.com/ ,   http://www.after8cairo.com/Default.aspx

Then there is the ‘Cultural Wheel’, or otherwise known as Sakia El Sawy. It’s located in Zamalek, (one my favorite places in Cairo) 26th of July street, just below 15 of May bridge. ” El Sawy Cultural wheel is an Egyptian cultural center based on a vision to create an ethical environment that motivates people to develop and strengthen their culture through arts, enlightenment & creativity.”(description taken from their facebook group). It was there when I first went to watch ‘The Axis of Evil Comedy Tour’ and the Cairo Jazz festival. If you want to know what is going on there, join their facebook group. http://www.facebook.com/?sk=2361831622#!/group.php?gid=2243177865&v=info&ref=ts

I am not one who enjoys getting dolled up, I prefer being comfortable and natural,(My mother strongly disproves). There are VERY rare occasions where I will and that is if I’m attending a formal function which requires me to wear war paint (make up), crippling contraptions on my feet (high heels) and the (dreaded) dress! Having said that, I enjoy getting dressed up to go to the Opera. Yes, I realize how geeky this makes me sound, but I love listening to classical music, opera and watching a ballet. There is never a dull month at the Cairo Opera House. I would be quite happy spending all my earnings and going to the Opera House every month. They have their own orchestra, dance troops and they have many foreign companies come to perform too. It was there where I first heard Verdi’s ‘Aida’! http://www.cairoopera.org/

Cairo is littered with historical places to visit and experience. Book yourself a tour with a travel company or buy yourself a travel guide and go on an adventure. There is so much to see and learn. I’ve lived in Egypt for almost 19 years and I still haven’t seen a fifth of the countries treasures.

If you know of any other places, please let me know. I’d love to go and check them out for myself.

As the weather in Egypt starts to climb so do the risks of getting food poisoning. I used to think that I had an iron stomach, but 7 years ago I learned the hard way. I had sever food poisoning, I had para typhoid! To this day I am unsure where I got it from, because I would go out quite a lot with my friends in the evening after spending the day on the beach in Bianki, Agami. What made it even harder to pin point was the incubation period, its approximately two weeks. Since then I have become very anal about where I eat out and when I eat out.

During the HOT season, the shelf life of produce is cut in to a quarter, food rots faster.  Any dips, sauces made of cream and especially mayonnaise will go off really quickly if it isn’t refrigerated and covered well. Flys seem to multiply during the summer and they seem to have hyper SENSORS. They can detect food from miles off and before you can tuck in, you are being bombed by kamikaze flies  left, right and center. They will pull out every trick they have just to have a chance to land and spit on your food.

Consumption of water and Sodas sky rockets during the summer too. Before you pop open a can of your favorite carbonated drink to chug down to quench your thirst, wipe the surface of the can really well or even go as far as washing it. When the cans are waiting to be shelved, the roaches have a field day climbing all over them and sometimes even lay eggs on them. When buying bottled water make sure that the plastic seal is on the bottle. If the removable seal is not there, there is a possibility that it isn’t a fresh bottle of mineral water

Restaurants and Cafes get really busy too, so the pressure on the dishwashers in the kitchens is tripled. You will often find that the plates, glasses and cutlery are not very clean. If you have an inkling that it isn’t very clean or you are uncomfortable with the way it looks, then go with your gut instincts and politely ask the waiter to change it for you. It’s better to be safe than sorry. It isn’t fun being quarantined during the summer and having typhoid isn’t anything I would wish on my worst enemy.

Just last week a friend of mine went out to satisfy his sweet tooth and bought himself ‘Ruz Bil Laban’ (Rice Pudding) and regretted it a few hours later. Luckily he only had very mild poisoning, he was fine the following day. AUC (American University of Cairo) has had to have Tobasco close on campus because of cases of food poisoning. (I wish other restaurants would do the same and have a BLITZ clean)

I try very hard to eat at home more during the summer to avoid mild or even extreme food poisoning.  Your home is the only guaranteed place you can be sure of having  well-cooked food and clean utensils.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘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!!