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Thermia Palace, Piestany, Slovakia

Thermia Palace, Piestany, Slovakia

For my sister’s wedding almost four years ago, I began my battle of the bulge with ‘Operation Megan Fox’. I was determined to look good for her special day and I didn’t want to appear like a shlumpadinka in my dress. I stuck to it and dropped the weight using the Slim Fast Shakes and watching what I ate.I looked better and healthier too. I had intended on following through, but life always throws us some curve balls. In all honesty, I fell off and got back on the wagon many times since then. I couldn’t figure out what the invisible force was that kept preventing me from accomplishing my goal of releasing my trapped thin self, until I did a detox earlier this year and discovered that  unbeknownst to me, I was the invisible force, who kept poisoning my body with foods that I thought were healthy and good for me. While I had a silent allergy to them.

With this new-found knowledge of what foods weren’t good for me, I gave away and threw out a lot of products to make room for foods that were nutritious for me. During the clean out, I also got rid of clothes I hadn’t been able to fit into for a while, which served as a constant reminder of what I used to be and the intention of keeping them was to encourage me to get back into them, when all they did was depress the hell out of me, so I gave them to the needy. Throughout this process, I began to do a lot of reflecting. I looked within myself to see what baggage I had been holding on to and I found that I had quite a bit of unresolved issues, resentment and pain that had been weighing me down. It wasn’t easy to let go of somethings because, it made me feel vulnerable and emotionally naked. I didn’t like the feeling at first, because that’s all I seemed to focus on and once I realized how much lighter I felt, I knew I had done the right thing.

Last Summer, I did a lot of growing up on my adventure to Central America as a chaperon for students and then visiting friends on the East Coast of the U.S. This summer, I decided it was time to face the problem head on and grab it by the horns. So, I booked my trip to a wellness spa retreat for 3 weeks in Slovakia, to reinvest in myself.

As the day of my departure grew nearer, I was excited but mostly nervous. I questioned myself and doubted my decision to do this. I could have gone to England and Ireland to see my family and friends for the money I was spending! How would I communicate with the people, they speak Slovakian and Russian mostly! The best I can do is count up to 4, say ‘Yes’ (Da) and Good bye (Dasvidanya)!

Thursday 24th July

I am up before the alarm clock and dashing around the house like the Tazmanian Devil from Loony Tunes, putting a few more items in my carry on and in my case. As well as making sure that I was leaving my flat in a decent condition for when I returned. At 7;45, I made my way downstairs and got into the waiting taxi to take me to Cairo International Airport. I sailed through the ticket counter and passport control. I met two acquaintances who we there traveling to enjoy their summers holidays. At 10am, I made my way to the gate and waited to board. The time came and the flight hadn’t been announced. Travelers started to get nervous and began asking questions. ‘The Flight has been delayed for maybe 40 minutes, they are preparing the aircraft’ was the response from the men at the counter. A bad omen to the start of my trip, I wondered or am I being tested? The flight ended up being delayed for 2 hours and many passengers including myself were not at all pleased! It meant I would be arriving much later than expected and would lose out on my consultation with the doctors! The flight may have only been three and half hours to Vienna, but it felt like it took an eternity! When we finally landed, I whizzed through passport control, found my bag on the carousel and dashed out to find my chauffeur, who would drive the two hours or so hours to Piestany, in Slovakia. The ride was quite and long. The driver spoke very little English and it would have been difficult to make hand signals and explain myself that way, whilst he drove. So, I ended up just admiring the landscape and the green foliage until we arrived.

Thermia Palace is a large French like chĂąteau on an island in the city/town of Piestany. The surrounding area around it was just so perfect and immaculate, I began to think I was on a movie set. It was so picturesque it could be on a postcard (I’m sure it is). I cringed at the thought of having to try to communicate with the hotel staff, but to my relief they spoke fairly good English. I checked in, was told my doctor’s appointment would be at 10am the following morning and then I would receive my schedule of treatments and meet with the nutritionist. I got to my room and the first thing I did was take pictures of it before I unpacked and contacted my  parents  to let them know I had arrived safely. My phone for some bizarre reason hadn’t automatically joined a network, so I had to depend on the hotel wi-fi to send messages.

After I had unpacked, I went for a leisurely stroll on the island to get my bearings. It was so nice to walk under the glow of street lamps and to the rhythm of rustling leaves in the summer breeze and not be harassed or gawked at by anyone. On my way back to the hotel, I held open the door for 3 women staying at the hotel and guess what…? 2 were from Egypt and 1 was from Lebanon!

Friday 25th July

I was up early after a much-needed rest. i dressed and went down for breakfast. I helped myself to the buffet, but chose my items wisely. After all, that’s the whole purpose of the trip. Once I had finished, I went for a walk to see the island in the light. It was a warm day and everything was so fresh looking, like a crisp salad.

At 10am I went for my doctor’s appointment, where I had my  blood pressure measured, along with my waist, thighs and my height. My weight too! (how could I forget). After asking if I suffered from any pain, the doctor asked me to strip down to my undies to get a better look at me, (Talk about exposure, or so I thought). She checked my bone agility, my problem areas (tummy, waist, thighs) and feet. Once that examination was completed she had a brain storm while muttering in Slovakian an she finger pecked the keyboard all the treatments she wants me to do. The whole process took 20-30 minutes.

Once I got my schedule, I then visited the nutritionist, who gave me apple cider tablets to take with breakfast every morning and asked what I would usually eat, eating habits and if there where certain foods I didn’t eat. When the meeting was done, I dashed back to my room, to grab my bathrobe and all the other items I would need for my afternoon of treatments.

First on the list was mud packs; sounds squidgy!

I get to the waiting area of where I need to be and a woman dressed all in white comes out and looks at my schedule and in a Slovakian accent asks me to wait one moment. Not long afterwards, I’m shown to a room, where, I am instructed to strip down to my skin and then I’m called into an adjoining room where, another woman also all in white, slabs down a cow pat of warm mud onto a bed covered in 3 different kind of sheets and instructs me to sit in it, while smearing mud on my tush. As I sit in the warm mud, I can feel it ooze into places, I wish I could prevent it from going to, I am then asked to lie down, where more mud is being generously applied on my problem areas; hip, knees and feet. As I’m being wrapped up like a new-born baby a cold metal ringed disk is placed on my chest and I am left for 20 minutes in dim lighting. Being cocoon with warm mud smeared on you, makes you drowsy. If it wasn’t for the cold metal thingy-m’bob I think I would have turned into a soft-boiled egg. Every 5 minutes a person comes to check on you to make sure you’re o.k and to wipes your face from sweat.

When the alarm goes off, after twenty minutes, you are unwrapped by two of the attendees and the mud is lightly scrapped off of you, so that you can get up. You are then led to a shower close by and left to wash off the mud. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Just when you think you have gotten it off, you find more! (You’ll find that when you take a shower later… more mud runs down the drain and for the life of you, you can’t figure out where it had been.)

Once your cleaned off, you go back into your cubical where you are given a cup of sparkling water (Perrier) and then told to lie down and rest. Where you are wrapped up again and left to… rest. After a short length of time, the attendee comes in to unwrap you and declare the session over. You get dressed and she returns your schedule with a signature on it and with that, you’re free to leave and make your way to your next treatment.

It’s important you get there 5-10 min before your appointment and you have to take your schedule with you everywhere, they are very punctual when it comes to timing and won’t allow you into a session if you don’t have your ‘card’, schedule.

Massage

I have never really enjoyed the thought of someone’s hands kneading my body like dough, until I had my first Thai massage in Gouna, so, I was looking forward to this. I know understand why people from Thermia Palace walk around in bathrobes. It saves them dressing and undressing several times. So, off come the clothes again and I lie on a bed in all my nakedness as a tall tanned short heard blond Slovakian woman massages my back for twenty minutes as I flinch when she works on the areas that are troubling me and then melt like butter when she massages the rest of my back with her oiled strong hands.

Magnet

After the massage I am whisked into another room nearby, where I am asked to hop on to another bed and there’s no need to take anything off. I lay on the bed and this plastic arch connected to a machine is slid and positioned above my mid-drift to allow magnetic waves to travel through my body. Again, I am left to drift off into the depths of my mind as the waves are left to do their work.

Elektro

Behind door three, I am then asked to sit on a bed and put my foot on a stool. I am handed a funky pair of glasses to put on. The glasses remind me of the ones Doc and Marty wore in ‘Back To The Future’, except they were cooler and everything had a green tint to it. A gel was applied to a device that was then put to my Achilles heel as a woman with pale turquoise talon like nails rubbed it against my weak tendons on both feet for less that 5 minutes. When the machine sounded, my session was over. Now, I had some free time… before my last session  of the day. What would I do?

I tried very hard to find the travel agency my mother ha d told me about when she had been here last summer because I wanted to rent a bicycle and see what day trips they offered to nearby cities and countries.  I followed her directions to the ‘T’ but couldn’t find the place. So, I decided to just walk. A past time I enjoy,  but rarely do since the revolution, because Sexual Harassment was rampant on every street no matter how conservatively I dressed. While I’m here, I will be walking my little socks off until my butt cheeks wince in pain, begging me to stop! (I did, just that!)

Gymnastic Slim 

I sat outside the room where the session was to be held on a hard wooden like bench. It was very reminiscent of films where students were sat outside the Headmaster or the Principles office when in trouble. Randa, the Lebanese woman whom I met  my first night here was taking part in the class too. At precisely   the time scheduled on the schedule, a small framed young girl came energetically up the stairs and opened the door. We waited a few moments for stragglers, but non came. We had our own private class.  We each got an inflatable ball and sat on it as instructed. For a full 20 minutes, were bouncing on the ball waving our arms and hands and occasionally  lifting our feet off the ground too. I had visions of one of us ending up like Humpty Dumpty, and going splat on the floor, just like the old children’s nursery rhyme says, but we all made it to the end!

Wooohooo!! All sessions completed for the day!

After the session I had quite a bit of time to kill before dinner, so Randa and I got to chatting and we ended up walking across the Danube River and into town, as we talked about our lives and occupation. It was very pleasant to talk to someone who had been to Piestany many times before and someone from the region. After our walk I went up to my room to shower, change and read a bit before dinner.

As I entered the restaurant for the third time that day, the Manager of the restaurant informed me that it was assigned seating. Everyone had their own table for the entire duration of their stay. Which was new to me, but I just went with the flow. I was also told the nutritionist had sent down my meal program for the 20 days  that I would be staying there. Having studied it while having dinner, I was impressed. They all sounded really tasty on paper, and I looked forward to trying each one!

Saturday 26th July 

I awoke early and went down to breakfast early.My  breakfast was quite a hearty and healthy one. A slice of toast, cottage cheese, slice of cold cut, one slice of Emmental Cheese, 2 boiled eggs, yogurt and on helping of raw oats, with a glass of fresh juice. Along with the two apple cider tablets, that I was instructed to take with breakfast. I was a stuffed dumpling after I was done. Seeing my first appointment wasn’t until 9 am, I decided to help my digestive system  and take a walk until it was time for my treatment. The calmness of the spa island is very relaxing. The stress I may have come with was no longer with me. The quietness, was deafening to my ears, they were not used to such quiet surroundings. I could actually hear my thoughts without the interruption of loud shouts coming from the street or the endless blazing of car horns and tire screeching from Cairo’s bustling traffic.

In my robe, I sat in the waiting area of the pristine IRMA spa building,  and waited to be called in for my appointment. I was asked to bare my back, lie face down and what looked like our rubber suction cups were placed on my back and as the attendee switched on the machine, the electric impulses began… I felt like Frankenstein! The current was strong and a bit uncomfortable to begin with, but I quickly got used to it and the sound of the machine lulled me into a light nap.

With an hour to spare I had enough time discover where the next session would be held. Once I had found the place I sat outside on a bench watching birds go about their life and the people passing by. When the time came for Water Gymnastics, the receptionist handed me a key and I followed the scent of wetness, until I found the changing room. They key was for a private vestier to leave my belongings in I quickly put on my swimsuit and made my way to the pool. As I rounded the corner and found the hook to hang my key and robe on, I couldn’t help but gasp. The pool areas was of stunning architecture, it resembled an old fashioned conservatory or solarium, with a sky light. It would be something you’d expect to see in the hit TV series Downton Abbey.  Being the photo junky that I am, all I wanted to do was run back and get my phone to take a picture and capture it.  I resisted the urge and ascended into the warm water of the pool. I found a place to stand and followed the instructors motions and enjoyed the session. After changing out of my swimwear and was about to leave for the next session, I snuck back to the pool area, unseen and took a picture. ( I couldn’t help myself!)

Parafango

I was very excited about this session because it sounded like a form of dance.  I thought it might be a combination of Tango and Flamenco, at the back of my mind I was fretting about whether my sneakers were appropriate shoes for the class. I was somewhat disappointed when I found out that it was not a dance class but another treatment session with mud. Only this time it wasn’t messy! For this treatment I was only required to be half naked from the neck to the waist and to lie on my stomach as warm solid blocks of mud were placed on my back from the nape of my neck to the bottom of my spine for 15 -20 minutes. I must admit that the warm mud blocks were very soothing and I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I didn’t fight it and I enjoyed my little cat nap.

It may not have been a dance class but it certainly was enjoyable. I’m looking forward to my future sessions!

(I have no idea how this is meant to benefit me, but it was lovely)

At lunch time, I met the Lebanese woman in the restaurant where she informed me that it was her last day and she would be leaving tomorrow to spend some time in Paris. Before I headed back to my table, she said ‘wait’ and handed me a bag of Zaatar ‘hadi ilik’, which translates to ‘this is for you’ in the Lebanese dialect, she said as she handed it over to me. I was deeply touched. It was on our walk the previous day she learned how much I loved the herb mixture, when I told her that I had been in Zaatar heaven, when I visited Lebanon 2 years ago. I didn’t want to insult her, by refusing the gesture, so I gladly accepted it. I was so touched by her generosity that I couldn’t help but post about it on my Facebook page.

Mirror Pool

Unlike it’s name there are no mirrors (Thank Goodness!), this experience might not be for everyone. The pool is filled with sulfuric water, that is naturally warm and full of minerals. It is said to be very good for your body. You may bathe in the pool with a swim suite on, almost everyone bathes nude. My mother who had come to Piestany last summer had told me, you didn’t have a choice but to go in starkers, so I had enough time to mentally prepare myself to fully exposing my body and seeing other naked women as well. (The pools are segregated, so don’t panic too much! I don’t know if I could have summoned up the courage to have to see both genders in their birthday suites!) Coming from and living in a fairly conservative country, where kissing scenes are censored in films and T.V shows this was going to take some getting used to.

Lucky for me, I arrived early for my appointment, which was great because I had the pool to myself. I de-robed, took the necessary shower before entering the pool and ascended slowly into the water, to allow my body to get used to the temperature and not to slip on the stairs that are barely visible through the murky sulfur water. I checked the time on the large wall clock, so that I could time the  20 minutes that I was meant to stay in. The pool reminded me of the hot spring in Siwa Oasis, except it wasn’t in the open air in the desert and I wasn’t wearing a swimsuit. As I waded around and the nice warm water encompassed me,  it felt like I was having a bath, but in an enormous tub. I began to wonder if this was how Cleopatra felt when she bathed in the hot springs? Before my time was up more women arrived to bathe in the pool. ” Oh!Great!!” I thought to myself, “so much for getting in and out without anyone seeing me. I suppose, I’m just going to have to walk out gracefully and pray I don’t slip, so that I don’t draw attention to myself”. That’s precisely what I did and no one even batted an eye lid in my direction. After all we were all in the same boat and I suppose it was the respectful thing to do.

Once you leave the mirror pool, you shower off again and then go down to a resting area. I supposed it’s so that your body can return to it’s normal temperature gradually. The resting room reminds me of how dormitories were depicted in old movies. The Beds are separated by wooden partitions and have a small over head light and a side table. You’re asked to hop on the bed and then you’re wrapped up again.

By the time I got back to my room after all my sessions and treatments I was refreshed and relaxed but drowsy. I forced myself out for a walk around the town. I enjoyed admiring the little cafes, glancing at the display windows of little shops, the unique architecture, which I couldn’t help but take pictures with my phone, so that I could upload them later on to instagram. I found my way to the little mall and got a few necessity items that I had put on my mental check list and then continued walking for a little bit longer.

At dinner time, I ate slowly in the hopes that I would see Randa again. She hadn’t come by the time I had finished so, I placed a little thank you note on the table that she and her father sat at, if it wasn’t for the bowl of Zaatar there, I may have placed the note with a small box of chocolate on the wrong table. I left the restaurant, full, tired and ready to turn in for the night.

There’s More To Come!  Keep a look out for part II 🙂

 

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Family

Here I am, a thirty something year old whom for the first time feels like she has gained more independence since having moved out of the safety and comfort of her parent’s house about eight years ago and yet now that I have my very own pair of walking shoes to go on great adventures to travel to far off places, to have experiences of my own and to create my own repertoire of stories to tell the next generation. I find myself hesitant 


In International teaching, you find that there is a lot of vacation time and being where I am, traveling to Europe, Asia and Africa is just one short plane ride away. Unlike my colleagues, I don’t plan my trips in advance. I prefer going home to Alexandria to spend time with my family.

I have found that people are spending less time with their family and losing out on the wisdom, stories and family bonding that was once so important 4-5 generations ago. Living so far away from my maternal relatives has hindered our relationship and I feel that gap between us is so big that we have become strangers, (with the exception of one or two).

There are times where I want to do something different and experience new things in far off lands, go on a safari or something of the sort, where I’ll have the opportunity to meet new people and observe foreign cultures first hand, BUT I also feel that if I do go, that I’ll be losing time that I could be spending with my family. Let’s face it our parents have invested a lot of time in raising and looking after us and once we are set free to earn our own living our lives get so busy and we are so absorbed in the drama that fogs our sight and engulf our every waking moment that we spend less time with them and sometimes lose focus on whom we have in our lives and how precious they are. I love spending time with my parents.I feel like I learn more about myself and traits when I’m with them. It also keeps me grounded and true to my origins. A person should never forget where they came from in order to be able to move forward and become who they are destined to be.

I do know and recognize that I can’t keep doing this and I need to broaden my horizons more, but it’s a double edged sword. Our parent’s aren’t around forever and neither are we if we think about it. The only thing we have is ‘now’, limited time and it’s a gift. We need to use it wisely and not waste it on trivial things. That’s all I can advise and say.

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

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

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

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

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

On the dawn of the first day of the month after Ramadan, (Shawal), there is a special prayer, most commonly known as ‘Salat El Eid’ (Eid Prayer). “Eid prayer is performed in congregation in open areas like fields, squares etc or at mosques. No adhan or iqama (call) is to be pronounced for this Eid prayer, and it consists of only two rakaÊżÄt with additional 6 Takbirs. The Eid prayer is followed by the khutbah (sermon) and then a supplication (dua) asking for forgiveness, mercy and help for all living beings across the world. The khutbah also instructs Muslims as to the performance of rituals of Eid, such as the zakat.[9] Listening to the khutbah of Eid is necessary (wajib) i.e. while the khutbah is being delivered, it is haraam to talk, walk about or offer prayer.[10] It is then customary to embrace the persons sitting on either side of oneself, whilst greeting them. After the prayers, people visit their relatives, friends and acquaintances.”  (The above quoted paragraph is from wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eid_ul-Fitr )

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

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

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

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

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

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

I went to London for the first time in my life! I know
it’s taken 32 years, but I got there eventually. It wasn’t what I had expected. I had such a gloomy image of London in my mind, where the food was bland and lacked taste! I have to say that it definitely exceeded my expectations!

I had hoped to be able to go sight-seeing with my Mum, but unfortunately she wasn’t well enough to walk around the city. So, I didn’t waste any time! Armed with my cap, camera and map I made mental routes in my head to get to the places that I wanted to go and visit.

The first thing on my agenda was to go to a park and enjoy the foliage and open space.
To walk around and enjoy nature and not have to constantly be on high alert expecting to be harassed or followed by men was such a treat. Unless you have lived in Egypt or the Middle East,you will not understand how liberating it was to be able to sit in a park and listen to the birds chirping away to one another, ducks and swans swimming in a lake, children running around, pet owners taking their dogs out for a walk in the park and being able to hear your own thoughts!! Another bonus to the park was people minding their own business, no one watching you, people spoke in low voices AND they threw their rubbish away! What made the experience even better was that the weather was perfect, it wasn’t too hot or too cold and hardly any rain at all! BLISS!

I made sure that every route I took went through the park, so that I could satisfy my craving before I had to come back to Egypt.
People in Europe and the West have NO idea how lucky they are to have parks that are well maintained and respected by their locals. I wish the few that we have were as well looked after.

Another desire that had to be satisfied was going to Art Galleries and Museums! I was so starved for culture that I went to three museums  in one day! I walked through Kensington Gardens, to Albert Hall and continued on towards the Science Museum. As I walked from one exhibit to another I was over come with a wave of mixed emotions. I was so excited to be there and to learn as I intently read the signs and listened to the explanations but I couldn’t help but feel very deprived. I would give anything to be able to take my students in Cairo to a museum like that. They would benefit so much from them. Getting information from a text-book is great but when you are in a place where what you are learning about is in 3D and visible to you, it can make a HUGE difference. Another benefit is for the students is to be able to experience and take part in the experiments that they have there.
From there I went to the Natural History Museum and I have to admit that I was BLOWN away!!! It was fantastic!! I am pretty sure that I went to every single exhibit that they had! I loved everything about that place! It’s a great place to take children to learn about Volcanic Eruptions and different species of animals. Once I had felt that I had seen everything that I wanted to see, I went across the street to the Victoria and Albert museum. By this time I was pretty tired, I had done a lot of walking, stair climbing, reading and picture-taking but I trudged onwards!

The Victoria and Albert Museum wasn’t what I had expected it to be. I thought it would be about Queen Victoria and Prince Albert but it wasn’t. It was more of an Art museum, which suited me fine, but there was SO MUCH to see!!
I wasn’t too excited at first but once I went from one room to another and saw the sculptures, paintings, furniture, traditional costumes from around the world, I was hooked and needed to see more!
I have to admit that I was exhausted and I toyed with the idea of walking to Buckingham Palace from there but I didn’t have enough steam to make it there. I hadn’t eaten or drank anything since 9am that morning and I was exhausted but I decided to go and see Harrods. I wanted to see what the fuss was about.

Well
, I wasn’t very impressed to tell you the truth. I live in North Africa and I have lived in the Middle East and when I walked in to the renowned building I felt nauseous. It was SWARMING with overly doused cologne smelling ARABS!!!!  It was as though the place was infested with them! It didn’t matter what floor you were one, they were everywhere! I didn’t spend very long there as you might have guessed. Don’t misunderstand me, I have nothing against the Arabs, I just can’t deal with too many of them in a confined space smelling of Gucci, Aramani, Hilfiger and other scents at the same time! It turns my stomach! . From there I walked my weary feet back to the Hotel and spent the rest of the night downloading my 400 something photo’s on to my memory stick and showing my Mom the adventure I had been on that day.

While I was in London I had hoped that HRH Queen Elizabeth II would have at least asked me over for tea, but she mustn’t have gotten the message that I was in town, so I decided to walk over to Buckingham Palace and pay her a visit. Well, apparently a few hundred other people had the same idea, because I couldn’t get close enough to the gate! I had gotten there half way through the changing of the guard ceremony! I think her Majesty must have only just seen Mama Mia, because the band only played ABBA!

My colleague and friend Nora, (aka Falafel and Chips) was able to find me amidst the crowd. We used our Giraffe technique to take pictures of the changing of the guard, (standing on the tips of your toes, reaching ours arms high above our heads and aiming in the direction the music was coming from). Once the crowd dispersed we made our way to Westminster Abby and Big Ben. We didn’t linger there for long. We decided to take the tube and make our way to the Tower of London. (I had never been on the tube before either!)

* If you are going to go to London, YOU WILL NEED an Oyster card. It’s a prepaid pass that you can purchase at the tube station. I recommend you get it for all the zones! It saves standing in line to buy a ticket and when you’re almost out of credit, you just top it up with more money!

I had been watching the show the Tudors here in Egypt before going on Holiday and had previously taught some ‘English’ history so I wanted to go to a place that I had heard so much about. I have to admit that the entrance fee is worth EVERY penny!! I thoroughly enjoyed going around with one of the Beef Eaters and learning about some of the most famous events that took place there! It was fascinating to learn what went on in one place! So Much History!! We spent the entire afternoon there walking in and out of buildings, up and down winding stair cases and going from one exhibit to another!
I really enjoyed having Nora there.

I didn’t go to a single night club while I was there. The thought just didn’t appeal to me and who was I going to go with? All of the people I know who live in London, were either away or far to busy to meet up with me! So, I just kept myself entertained!

My Mum had hoped that I might run in to my future husband there
but NO SUCH LUCK! I have to admit the men in the UK are aesthetically pleasing to the eye!

I hadn’t expected to do much shopping there, but I did. I did some clothes shopping but most of my luggage carried DVDs! I am a movie junkie and HMV just fueled my movie addiction! They have a great collection of films and they have AWESOME special offers! I bought DVDs from EVERY HMV store I went in to! Collectively my mother and I came back with almost 30 DVDs and 3 box sets!

I really enjoyed my 9 days in Lond and I was sad to have leave and return to Egypt. I wouldn’t mind going back to London to visit. I really enjoyed the freedom that I had there, it was very liberating. Another reason why I HAVE to go back is because there are a lot more places that I would like to go and visit. In some ways it reminded me of Montreal where there is a diversity of nationalities and languages spoken.

Dear Readers,

I apologise for not having written sooner. I am currently in England for a 3 week vacation and to catch up with family and friends. I haven’t had time to write while I was with my family. We were kept very busy with family functions , meeting relatives that we hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting before and spending quality time together. We have had a whale of a time and had many laughs, (there were occasions where we were laughing so hard that we all ended up crying!) Good times!

Now I am in the nation’s capital. I know many will find this very hard to believe but this is my first visit to London. I have been to England several times but never to London. Yesterday I walked and toured Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. It took all day, but it was worth it. I haven’t sat or walked in a park for a year now and I must be a country girl at heart, because I love nature! Today I spent the day with my Mum and we went to Queensway road and did some serious shopping! I have to confess, that HMV has been feeding my DVD addiction! They have amazing offers at the moment that I can’t help myself and my DVD collection is growing at an exponential rate!! ( I may have to buy another travel bag just for my DVDs and pay access baggage too and then when I get back to Cairo a new bookcase).

I have a lot of new material that I am working on and will post soon, until then, I hope you are all safe and sound and enjoying your summer vacation.

This is Nadia Signing out from Bayswater, London.

BE WARNED, THIS IS A LONG POST.

I have seen the “Marriages from around the World” segment on OPRAH twice now. I have to say that I am happy that Egypt was represented but I think that one of the Egyptian representatives, Heba, an interior designer in Cairo, didn’t paint a clear picture of what life is really like here in Egypt, While Inji the journalist was more realistic.

There were a few things that really ruffled my feathers when I watched the show the first time and the rerun. I took notes when I watched the show the second time around so that I could remember the points that I wanted to refer to. (I can be such a nerd at times!)

I- Safety for Women

When Nana, the Danish representative asked Heba if Egypt is a safe place and she answered, ‘Yes, it is very safe” I couldn’t help but cackle in disbelief.
If I was to compare Egypt to Iraq, Afghanistan or Harlem, then I would whole heartedly agree, but if I was to compare it from where Nana is from, the answer would be ‘NO’!
I don’t know the women in that interview but from the way they held themselves and the way that they spoke I think it is safe to guess that they aren’t considered ‘common folk’; they are higher up the ladder than most of the population of Egypt. I am also willing to wager that most of them rarely walk the streets of Cairo and commute 96% of the time in their privately owned cars.
I walk both in Cairo and in Alexandria and I can tell you that it is a man’s country. If a woman is or isn’t veiled but looks nice, 99 times out of 100, you will either hear a crude comment or be harassed in some shape or form.
Let me give you an example of a well know incident that happened in Cairo about three years ago. It was during Eid El Fitr, (the celebration after the holy month of Ramadan, where Muslims fast) and in down town Cairo a mob of men had been to see one of the newly released Egyptian movies and they were wired! They were so tightly strung that they attacked innocent women who just happened to be passing by the cinema at that time. How bad the attack was, the news papers didn’t report. A taxi driver tried to save one of the women by pulling her in to his cab and driving away but the mob jumped the car and proceeded to attack them both. Not long after the incident and the story came to light, Imam’s in mosques didn’t condemn the mobs behavior, but they blamed the women who were innocently minding their own business!
A more recent story was published in The Community Times magazine about two girls who almost got harassed after one of the matches played by Egypt and Algeria. They had to seek refuge in a shop until the group of men gave up waiting.
These two examples are extreme cases of what may happen here in Egypt. It is more likely to happen to natives than it would be a tourist or a foreigner living here because they know that the police and the embassies would get involved.
So, I have to say that Nana’s intuition was spot on.
She probably felt even more insecure because she’s fair skinned and a blond.
What happens abroad happens here to, but it is kept very quiet.
If anyone wants to dispute this then, I am willing to provide examples from my own personal experience as well as examples that have happened to people I know.

A word to the wise;
The best way to avoid situations like these is to dress modestly, not to walk in dodgy streets alone, it is best to have a couple of male friends with you when you are out walking, try your best not to be out walking on your own late at night and never sit next to a taxi driver.

II – Conservativeness and the veil.

I loved Nana’s observation of how some of the veiled women were dressed ‘women who are covered and walking around in tight clothing and make up, it makes it very contradicting”

 I personally think Nana hit the nail on the head. There are lots of contradictions in our expectations of behavior and society and for an outsider to notice it should ring some alarm bells.
I can’t tell you how many times I have been absolutely gob smacked by the double standards that exist here.
I have seen veiled women at night clubs, drinking Stella (local beer), dating men and holding hands and some times going further than second base (if they are religious and conservative this is a big NO! NO!), go into a changing room and come out wearing a bikini in front of men in public! Who are they fooling might I ask?
Granted, some girls have been forced by their families to wear a scarf on their head, so I can understand them rebelling behind their parents backs, (I’m not saying I agree with it, I’m just stating I understand it), but what excuse do grown women who made the choice have?

I have the utmost respect for the women who chose to wear the veil as a devotion to their religion and their beliefs. It is admirable when I see women who are doing it for the RIGHT reasons. It takes a lot of will power and devotion to be able to wear it.

III- Tension between veiled and non veiled women

If memory serves me correctly Oprah asked if there was tension between the veiled and non veiled women. Nana who hadn’t been here very long said she did sense it.
Again, I would have to agree.

When I first moved to Egypt in the early 90s the ratio of veiled to non veiled women was below par. There were hardly any menaqaabeen (completely veiled with only their eyes showing). It’s with in the past decade that more and more women are veiling. Some of it has to do with many Egyptians returning from the Gulf States and bringing their new-found religious beliefs that they picked up from there, back to Egypt. The second is it is the fashion, “everyone is doing it so, I better do it too so people don’t think any less of me”. The third has to do with the economic situation in the country, when the poor get poorer and the middle class is heading towards extinction many people turn to religion for solace and comfort.

My sister and I are unveiled and we have experienced quite a few things in recent years.
We would step out of our apartment building and some times a men who would happen to be walking past our building door would swerve away, turning his head in the opposite direction, whilst uttering ‘Astaghfar Allah’ which is a term said when asking God for forgiveness’ and all because our hair is showing!
 (for further translation of the phrase go to the following link,  http://shiastrength.blogspot.com/2010/04/shiastrength-superiority-of-astaghfar.html)

My Mum would get the same reaction too when she used to take a taxi home from work. The cab driver would utter it under his breath when she got in and out of the car.
I remember a second incident that I found quite amusing. We were at a beach resort just outside of Alexandria. The place I’m referring to is Agami, it’s a well-known place where many people go to vacation by the beach for the summer months and people walk around in their shorts, t-shirts, swim wear and summer attire. Anyway my sister and were heading home after picking up some groceries for our Mum when this woman who was very conservatively dressed comes rushing up to my sister and I and tells us that we should be ashamed of ourselves and that we should cover up and veil. She made us feel like we were walking around naked, when we were in our mid-thigh shorts and T-shirt at a beach resort.
Some times at traffic lights there will be people handing out fliers or pamphlets that promote veiling ‘Naam lil Hijab’ which means ‘Yes, to veiling’.
My sister and I usually don’t wear any religious jewelry so people automatically assume that because we are not veiled then we must be Christian.

So, the answer is Yes, There is more pressure for women to veil today than 20 years ago.

IV- Marriages and Divorces

I wrote a post not too long ago about middle and upper class marriages in Egypt and I was recently contacted by a male reader who was able to identify himself with what I had written. Most middle and upper class marriages are based on business arrangements, (please note that I said, most and NOT all).

Marriages can also be formed as an escape from living with their parents and wanting freedom from all of their rules and expectations. Which is another myth, because their life won’t be about going out all the time and having fun, it’s about responsibilities, working and taking after the home. It can often be leaving regarded as leaving one dictating house hold for another, (demanding and controlling husband/wife).

Marriages solely to cure sexual frustration are another popular reason for getting married.
The fairy tale that has been repeated over and over again from one generation to the next about how marriage is a wonderful thing and that the girl will be the lady of her own home and can do as she likes is a sugar-coated illusion of what reality is. These girls by their late teens (17 on wards) are keeping their eyes open like a hawk for an eligible bachelor. When the wedding and honeymoon is over reality sinks in and the fights begin.

There are arranged marriages, where someone would suggest that perhaps two people would make a good union. So, a meeting with the two individuals is set, either at a neutral party’s home, where the individuals can meet under the watchful eye of their parents. A few meetings may follow so that they can get to know one another better, if a match is made then an engagement will ensue and wedding plans begin. One on one dating will not be prohibited there will be a chaperone with the couple when ever they meet or go out. This happens with more conservative and religious families.

Then there are marriages based on all the right things, finding a partner to be with because they are happy with them for who they are.

When the marriages are based on all the wrong reasons, how can you not expect the divorce rate not to be high here? During my Grandmother’s era it was almost on heard of and for a couple to divorce was a rare occurrence. Now it’s has become the norm.

I have a lot more to say about the topics mentioned in the segment but if I don’t stop my ramblings now, I would go on and on forever!
I will right more about at a later date in time.

If you have never lived or visited a Muslim country then the call for prayer will definitely be something you are not used to hearing.

 In Muslims countries you will find Mosques scattered everywhere. They come in all shapes, heights and sizes. They are beautiful architectural structures and each one is unique in its design. My favorites are Ibn Tulun and El Hussein that are located in old Cairo.

 Muslims pray five times a day, starting with early dawn prayer, known as Fajr. Yes, that means that as soon as day break is visible then the call for prayer will be heard throughout the city waking and calling the faithful to pray. If you are not accustomed to this and have never heard it before and you are unfortunate to have you bedroom very close to a Mosque, the call will definitely wake you up with a jolt. The Imam years and years ago would have to climb to the inside of the minaret to do the call for prayer but now thanks to modern technology he says the call in to a microphone which is then projected in to mega phones that are attached on to the minarets. So, if you sleep like the dead you have nothing to worry about, if you are a light sleeper you won’t miss it! It will take you a few days to get used to it and then you will sleep through it soundly.

The reason I thought of mentioning this is because when my relatives from England came to visit, I never thought of warning them, because it was apart of my every day life. My youngest cousin Emma, who had just turned eight at the time, woke up terrified when she heard the Imaam chanting the call for prayer her first night here. She sprung out of bed, pulled open the bedroom door, banging it loudly and ran down the corridor screaming ‘The man is coming to get me’. When we were able to catch her and calm her down to explain what the Imaam was saying and that his intention was not to scare her or chase her, she was more at ease and soon slept through the call for prayers after that.

The next three call for prayers won’t be as alarming to you as the first. The call will be slightly drowned out by the sound of ‘The City’. It’s the final prayer of the day that you will undoubtedly hear fairly clearly.

 The second call for prayer is the “Du’hur Prayer”, best translated as afternoon, which is presently at 1pm Cairo local time.

The third is the “Aasr Prayer”, best translated as late afternoon, which starts at approximately 4:36pm Cairo local time.

The fourth is the ‘Maghrib Prayer’, best translated as evening, which starts at approximately 8pm Cairo local time.

The Final prayer of the day is the ‘Isha Prayer’, best translated as night, which starts at approximately 9:33pm Cairo local time.

* The times above will change once day light saving time is applied. The times mentioned are during the summer.

When the call for prayer sounds don’t be surprised if you find people turning down the volume on their TV sets or radios. Some people go as far as remaining silent during the call as a sign of respect. People will often schedule their appointments around prayer times, so that it doesn’t interfere with their time of worship. 

Below is a link that tells you the exact times of the call to prayer in Egypt. 

http://www.islamicfinder.org/cityPrayerNew.php?country=egypt

lunch had at FratelliAlexandria is where I call home in Egypt. It’s where I spent my teenage years, graduated from High School and University and where my family still lives. There is a mysterious charm about the place and I can’t get enough of it. It has a unique mix of culture, you can still sense the European presence that once existed, and the Mediterranean laid back attitude and the Egyptian hospitality.

When I am in Cairo I long to be in Alexandria with my family and going for early Friday morning walks along the Corniche (sea road).
It is an unspoken ritual/tradition that Fridays are family days and on that day we give our mothers a rest from laboring in the kitchen and go out to eat. My Dad loves food and I think I inherited his passion for it. He enjoys trying new restaurants and cuisine.

In this post I am going to recommend some of the restaurants my family and I have been to and like and others that I have tried and have gone back to several times.
Carrefour Shopping center
Makanni
Of all the Egyptian restaurant chains, Makani is my favorite. It has a western twist to its food. I am a sucker for their chicken corn salad. My sister on the other hand can’t get enough of their Sushi. The Restaurant is located in the new section of Carrefour.
Café Supremo
A Canadian chain that has opened in Carrefour is a nice place to go for a light lunch. I was there last weekend with my mother and sister and I really enjoyed my plate of Quesada’s and I heard no complaints from my mother or sister.
Supremo is the only place in Alexandria that has bagels. If you had a craving for one, then you need to head down there. It is as good as the real bagels you buy in Canada but its close enough.
12/8/2011
* My last two visits to the place were in October and in April and i found the service to be a bit slow, waiters forgetful and disorganized at times.
If none of those interest you, there is a food court in the mall too.
Spectra

The Cairo restaurant that serves food similar to Coffee Roastary and reminds me a lot of pub lunches have opened in Alexandria. It has two locations. The first is in the Downtown complex opposite Carrefour City Center and the other is inside Montazah.
My parents have gone there a few times in my absence and have enjoyed it. They especially liked the deserts that were on the menu.
I went with them on two occasions since having posted the post months ago and I have to say that I enjoyed both meals I had there.
Balbaa

Balbaa Restaurant is located in the Downtown complex opposite the Carrefour City Center shopping mall. The restaurant has two levels; the first is for more traditional food like Kofta, Kabab, Pigeon and other tantalizing dishes. The fresh basket of mini baked Arabic bread and Mezzas are served before the meal. They are so good that you find it hard to restrain yourself from eating too much before your main course arrives. Everything is cooked fresh.
The 2nd level is for sea food. I am a sea food junky!! I love fish! I enjoy picking the fresh fish that I’m going to eat, along with calamari, muscles and occasionally shrimp and instructing the attending mongers my preference on how I like it cooked. While you are waiting Mezzas and a fresh basket of bread are put down in front of you whilst you wait for your meal. I have been to many fish restaurants in Alexandria, but this I find to be the best and great value for your money. I recommend going before the restaurant gets too busy, It’s best to go at around 2pm.
Chili’s

If you like American/Mexican food, then Chili’s is the place to go for your Nachos and cheese, crispy chicken, Texas fries, Fajita’s and Burgers. I must admit that the food is good. I especially enjoy their salad selection, country fried chicken, their refill basket of salsa and chips and their chocolate molten lava cake!
De La Vega

Is a cafĂ© and restaurant located above Chili’s. I like going there to chill and relax with a large number of friends. It’s open air and the seating is really comfortable. If you want to go for a snack and sheesha then I would recommend going there.
Mykonos
I love the name of the place and the décor too. The place has that Greek atmosphere about it with its white walls and blue shutters. My sister and her friends really enjoy going there for their sheesha. I treated my family for lunch there and if my father had no complaints about the service, location or the food then it has to be good. Having worked in restaurants and bakeries during his student years, he has very high expectations when it comes to where he eats out.
There are 2 other restaurants next to Mykonos that you may also enjoy. I believe all 3 are owned by the same person(s) because if you wish to order something from either of the other restaurants you can.
Weiner Café
In the same area and line as the restaurants mentioned above is Weiner CafĂ© unfortunately doesn’t serve my favorite hot dog brand, but if you like chocolate like the ladies in my family do, then this is the place in Alex to indulge. Their chocolate fondue with Belgian chocolate is not to be missed. My parents, who aren’t big coffee drinkers, do enjoy going there to have a Cappuccino and CafĂ© Late.
12/8/2011
* I went there in April and found that the standard of service has dropped and the place seems to be a bit run down. The chocolate is still good!
If you drive behind the Alexandria International Gardens you will find a string of clubs and restaurants.
Fratelli
It is a private club that mainly expats go to, to spend the day by the pool and to have lunch. You pay for the use of the facilities (Pool & Gym) each time you go there. If you aren’t interested in swimming, tanning or working out but would like to go somewhere open aired and with foliage, then you might be interested in going there for lunch. I have eaten there several times and I really enjoy the food as well as the ambiance.
Alegria (restaurant/pub)
This is a very modern and hip place to go to in the evenings. It is especially popular on Thursday and Friday nights, to guarantee a place from 9pm on wards on either of those nights, you need to book in advance. You can have a meal there or order a variety of delicious appetizers while you socialize or listen to the D.J spin some tracks.
According to their facebook group;
Sundays they have live Guitarist playing.
Tuesdays is Karaoke themed night
to reserve call; Michael, Mobile: 0182878224 , Tel: 03-3822797

Ole

The restaurant and bar is named after the Swiss owner. Christina is a Swiss trained chef, who moved to Alexandria with her husband many years ago. She lives in Agami and the restaurant is a part of the house. It is a very quaint and cozy place to go to for a meal or to have drinks with friends. There have been many occasions where people will start jamming on the piano and before you know it everyone starts belting out songs and joining in on the fun.In Kafr Abdu, Roushdy area there is a restaurant/café called Ole. It has a Spanish theme and is very nicely decorated. My mother loves going to Ole for a meal. Her favorite dish there is the fish and I have to admit that I love their sea food paella and California salad. The food is delicious and the service is friendly and old school. Their deserts are something not to be missed either.
Another good thing about Ole is that if you are having a dinner party and aren’t a very good cook, they will cater.

Cilantro


Cilantro is one of my favorite cafes to go to and hang out with friends. The juices, sandwiches and salads are made freshly every day. It has a very calm atmosphere.
The café is located next to Ole and opposite the building where the Tamarin Center (exercise) center is. There are several branches in Alexandria and Cairo.

Fresca and Blue
Both cafĂ©s are located in the newly built Four Seasons Hotel in San Stefano overlooking the sea. Fresca is on the ground floor opposite the main entrance to the hotel lobby. I like going there during the day for a light lunch. It’s a very popular place to go out to eat. Blue is located on the 2nd or 3rd floor of the hotel. It’s open air and overlooks the cornice and sea. It’s a great place to be at sunset. I haven’t eaten there but my friends enjoy going. I like going for the view and to relax and chat with friends.
The hotel sometimes has a café open on the hotels private beach.
Trianon


Is a cafĂ© located on the cornich very close to the Ramada hotel. It’s a nice cafĂ© to go to in the evening with friends to have sheesha, a light snack and drinks (nonalcoholic). If you sit in the outside area of the cafĂ© you have a nice vie of the sea.
Down Town Alexandria
12/8/2011
The Greek Club (serves alcohol)
There are 2 Greek Clubs (that I know of) in Alexandria, one is located in the Alexandria bay area, next to the yacht club and the Qayat Bay Fort. It has recently been renovated and has an elevator that takes you up to the restaurant. The view from the restaurant terrace at any time of day is breath taking! They menu has many familiar Greek dishes, I have to say since the last time I was there a couple of years ago the standard has improved and the food is good, but not GREAT.
The second Greek Club is located next to the Azzareeta tram line, across from a gas station. If you are not a member you need to pay an entrance fee to go in. The club is nothing luxurious but it’s a great place to go to, to get away from the daily harassment that one is exposed to. The club is mostly open air and spacious. It is quiet and with all the Greek, French and Armenian that you here, you tend to forget that you’re in Egypt. There is a quaint little restaurant and bar on the premises. The owner, of the restaurant Nicolas is usually there in the evenings over seeing how things are run. The food there is fresh and tasty. A great place to go to for a brief get away.

Athenos (serves alcohol)
This old restaurant/cafĂ© is over 100 years old. It is just a few minutes’ walk from Mahatat El Raml Square. The place isn’t as glorious as it used to be back in its day, but I have to admit that its location is nicely located. It is right on the Corniche and if you are lucky enough to have a window seat then you have an excellent view of the Mediterranean.
There aren’t many places you can go to in Alexandria where you will be served Alcoholic beverages, but you can get a cold beer there. I sometime like to go there early in the morning for breakfast to have a chocolate croissant and lemonade.
Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Alexandria Library)
Outside on the premises of the Library grounds there is a string of cafe’s that have an outside view of the Planetarium, Library and Cornish Sea view. Hilton Cafe, Cilanto, Cinnabon and a few others.
The Cecil Hotel
One of the oldest and expensive hotels in Alexandria has still got its charm and class. Did you know that Churchill and Agatha Christi stayed there? The place has a lot of history, so much in fact that it was on CNN. On the roof of the hotel is a Chinese restaurant. I am not a huge fan of Asian food but I have to admit that it is very good. The view from the roof top at night is magical. You are sitting under a blanket of stars an can see Alexandria bay lit up and on a clear night you can see the lights from ships in the distance and if you ever think of proposing to someone, this is probably the best place to do it.
The Imperial Cafe
Is a cafe right next door to the Cecil Hotel overlooking the square. It is newly renovated and i have to admit it was my first time to set foot in the place in July and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the service and it’s over all standard. I would definitely drop by again in the near future.

Delice (has a bar, cafe and restaurant)
Is another other café that has been around for decades. I enjoy going there because when I sit and look around I can imagine myself sitting next to some of the colonials back in the 1930. This is another place where I enjoy going to have breakfast early in the morning. Their pancakes are nice, but if you want to try something different, then try the Greek cheese pie. They have a nice bakery too. I love their giant macaroons and meringues. My elderly neighbor, Madame Yamna (God rest her soul), loved their petit four biscuits from there. So when ever, I would go to visit her, I would buy her a box. This is another place you can go to, to have a beer.
St. Lucia (serves alcohol)

This fine dining restaurant is located opposite Cinema Metro and the Elite Café, where the famous Greek writer Cavafy used to sit and write. I used to go to St. Lucia when I would come to visit my Grandmother in the summers. I loved going there because the waiters spoke at least 5 to 7 languages. My Dad liked it too because he would practice his Greek with them. The restaurant has changed hands since then, the waiters are long gone but the history of the place is still there.
It has been renovated and the prices have sky rocketed. If you want to go out for a night of wine and dining this is the place. Next to the cafĂ© is another old cafĂ© called Asteria. It’s a very quiet place and few people go in there. My Grandmother and I used to go there together after having begged and dragged her to the Toy shop to buy the latest Barbie doll (I collected them), she would have ice cream and tea, while I would have sport cola and ice cream.
Elite Cafe
After years of being closed and undergoing renovation, it has finally reopened. I must confess, that I have not ventured in side (yet) but I fully intend to. This cafe holds a great deal of history and many childhood memories for me. At this very cafe sat some of the greatest modern day writers of the Mediterranean. One of which is the famed Greek writer Cavafy, who is best known for his poem Ethica. The old lady, who used to own the cafe, would tell you stories of when they would come in and sit and write. As a child when I used to come on holidays, this was one of the cafe’s we would sit at in the evenings and I would drink my 7 Up and have a bowl of ice cream.
Abu Sid (used to be Pastroudis)
On the corner of Cinema Amir, there used to be one of the most popular cafes, Pastroudis. I remember many summers going for a walk with my parents to this location on Fouad street, just a few minutes’ walk from my Grandmother’s house and sitting there watching the men with hantours (carriages) taking their passengers for a ride.
It has now been transformed in to the very popular oriental restaurant Abu Sid. I haven’t gone to eat there yet, but my mother went with a friend of hers for lunch recently. She said she really enjoyed the meal, but was flabbergasted at the prices.
Chez Gaby (serves alcohol)

When I first moved to Alexandria, there were very few good restaurants. The number of restaurants since I move here in the early 90s has more than quadrupled. Chez Gaby was one of the best places to go to. I remember going there after school with my friend and her mother for pizza. It was the best pizza I had had in months. To this day their pizzas are still very good. Their food reminds me a lot of Maison Thomas in Cairo. The restaurant is located very close to St. Lucia. It’s a couple of streets behind it.
* Alcohol is served
DĂ©jĂ  vu (serves alcohol)
DĂ©jĂ  vu (formally known as Far and Away) is a pub, (one of the very few in Alexandria)
it’s probably one of the most popular places to go to on a Thursday or a Friday night. If you want to go and have a bite to eat, the food there is good and if you want to go watch a football match or have a dance this is where you need to head.
It’s very close to the Said Darweesh Theater.
Grand Café, Chicken Tikka and Fish Market
The three restaurants are located in the same area. They are on the sea side of the Corniche road. The three are very popular places to go for a meal in Alexandria. The food there is always good. The staff is friendly and professional. The portion size for the price they charge is something that I don’t agree with. I don’t mind forking out the money every now and then when I want to treat myself.
Of the three, I prefer the Fish Market and Chicken Tikka.
Agami
Agami is a very old beach resort outside of the city. If you take the new road to Bianki Agami it should take you about twenty minutes driving. If you take the old route via the desert road it would take you half an hour or more.
I have spent almost 2 decades of my summers there. My Great Uncle had a villa right on the beach and when the family sold it my father bought and built his own. If you can’t afford to go abroad for the summer then you have to spend it somewhere by the sea. (Just make sure that it is private beach that you go to, otherwise you will be harassed!!!)
I met some of my closest and best friends in Bianki. The majority of them are like me of mixed ethnicity. It’s also where a lot of the old Alexandrians prefer to go during the summer. At one point Agami was like the Rivera of the Middle East. It has lost its status to the more modern and posh resorts that have been built further up the North Coast.
Two of my favorite Restaurants are in Agami.

Wagihe’s Steak house.
The owner of this little restaurant is a one man show! He runs the place, cooks the food and serves. The word I would use to describe the food would be
German! I have no idea why
but I think it has a lot to do with the ambience of the place and the German memorabilia he has on the walls. The steak there is mouthwatering; the French fries are homemade steak fries! Going there once is not enough! It’s a popular place people go to when they are heading back from the beach and want to tame their hunger pains.
The restaurant is on the main street of Bianki.
Christina’s

The restaurant and bar is named after the Swiss owner. Christina is a Swiss trained chef, who moved to Alexandria with her husband many years ago.
She lives in Agami and the restaurant is a part of the house. It is a very quaint and cozy place to go to for a meal or to have drinks with friends. There
have been many occasions where people will start jamming on the piano and before you know it everyone starts belting out songs and joining in on the fun.

If there are places you have been to and liked, please recommend them to me and my readers by leaving a comment.

Dear Grade 2 E of 09/10,

 Congratulations on getting through yet another year of learning. I hope you enjoyed it as much as Mrs. Sherine and I did. You should all be very proud of your achievements and the lessons you have learned this year. This year was certainly a tough one that didn’t start off as smoothly as it could have due to the Swine Flu scare. Once that passed the work and challenges of our school year began for you, your parents and your teachers.

Although the year was turbulent (bumpy), as a class you came together as a team and taught the other three classes what it meant to have sportsmanship. You were very gracious, you didn’t gloat and took their feelings in to consideration and you praised them on their efforts during the game. It takes people years to learn that lesson, and you learned it in less than a year. When a member of our class would be awarded a certificate or praised for improvement, you would cheer and clap for them like they had won the Nobel Prize. I couldn’t have been prouder of you.  In those instances I knew that I was the lucky one. I had been given a class of 20 unique and special individuals to teach, but it is I, who also learned from you.

This academic year has been unlike any other I have experienced in my ten years of teaching. My class had a high percentage of individuals who lacked self-confidence and didn’t believe that they were very smart. I have watched you all grow in confidence, character and you are definitely more the wiser. Each one of you brought a special presence and ingredient to our class. When one of you, were absent you could feel the void that was left. It may have been a bit quieter but there was an element that was missing.

I have enjoyed every lesson, week and month of being with you, even on the days where I was stressed, angry or upset. I was especially touched when you decided  amongst yourselves to give me the name ‘Mommy Nadia’. That to me is the biggest and highest praise any teacher could get. It’s better than receiving an Academy Award.

The hardest part for me is when the year comes to an end and our time is up. It’s time for me to release you and let you be on your way to continue your learning adventure. I wish you all the very best next year and all the years to follow. Remember one thing
that you CAN DO and BE anything you want to be. The only, thing that can prevent you from achieving your dreams are you. So, you need to believe in yourselves, work extremely hard in order to succeed.

I have compiled a DVD of all the pictures and video I have taken of you during your year with me. I hope you can look back on them in the future and remember the year you spent in Grade 2 with Mrs. Sherine and I.

  Your teacher always,

Miss Nadia El Abdin

In Egypt we don’t just tip the waiter in the restaurant or the bus boy who transports your bags to your room. In Egypt you tip for almost everything!

If you are trying to park your car and can’t find a parking space, you will 9 times out of 10 find a man directing cars in to the tightest spots and for that you tip him. While you are out going about your errand he will be watching over you car and if you ask him to, he will even wash it for you, (just make sure you tip him well, because the next time you park there, he will treat you like a Pacha or a Brincessa (princess))

When you go to the cinema and the usher shows you to your seat, you tip him a pound or two.

When you pull in to the gas station and ask the attendant to fill her up and the other to clean your windows. You tip them for their services.

When you are at Metro or some other super market and the person packing your bags helps you carry it out to your car, you tip them for being so helpful.

When you go to the bathroom at a rest house, mall, and restaurant you will most likely find that there will be a person there handing out paper towels when you go in to the stall and when you come out. You tip them for maintaining the place.

When the porter in your building helps you carry your luggage in to the building and up the stairs to the elevator or right up to the apartment, you tip him for the extra effort he has made.

When a delivery is made to your house by the pharmacy, fast food restaurant, dry cleaners, grocery store and whom ever else provides that service you tip them for risking their lives on their vesper to deliver the goods to you.

To have a parking or traffic violation ignored or canceled you tip the traffic cops who’s uniforms are tattered and almost thread bare. DON’T even try to approach or tip the men who have brass stars on their shoulders. If you do, incarceration will be the gift he gives to you! 

The men who come to collect the due amount owed for your electricity and water bill should be tipped for walking around the streets of the city and ringing the hundreds of door bills to bring you your bill instead of you getting lost and trying to find where the companies are tipped for the door to door service.

By now I think you are getting the idea. I bet your asking yourself the same question that I had been asking myself for many years. Why and what for?

Well, to put it simply they have government jobs and don’t earn enough to live off of. So, to increase their monthly allowance all the tips they make give them a little bit extra to put food on their table. I think of it as me contributing and helping people in need.
Always make sure you have a wad of 1 pound coins handy!