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President MorsiIf you haven’t been following the news lately and haven’t heard that Egypt has its first elected civilian president, then you need to get with the times!

The past couple of days the population anxiously awaited the election results of the country’s first Democratic elections. The days leading up to the announcement the air was heavy, the conspiracy theories were flying around like moths to a flame. The majority of the nation predicted that Shafik would win since he had rubbed elbows with many of the big guns in the army. The thought of former President Mubarak’s Prime Minister as head of state infuriated so many that it drove hundreds if not thousands of people back to Tahrir square. The idea of having a member of the former regime  as head of state would mean that the Revolution and the death of those who gave their lives to end dictatorship was for nothing.

As Sultan read the reams of papers pertaining to the election process, number of votes from abroad and all the governorates, people were guessing who the next president would be right up until the last second. When he announced Morsi had won by the skin of his teeth the celebratory cheers of jubilation were heard throughout the nation, fireworks were set a light and gunfire rang out too.

I am not one who likes to jump to conclusions or assume I know someone or can guess their plans, so I would prefer to wait and see what our new President will do before I pass judgment on him. I can however pass judgment on some of those who chose him for what I believe to be the WRONG reasons.

Sunday, the day following the announcement a woman on twitter tweeted posted the following; “الوندر ولية المصرية@BerbelNinja

Random stranger to me while I’m walking to work: “aho morsy galkom w haylemik enty w el sharameet el zayik. Ya kafra”. Awesome start.”

( Translation: here, Morsi has come to you and he will teach you and the other whores like you, you none believer)

5 young girls between the ages of 10 and 12 were in Montaza, Alexandria yesterday. They had left the beach dressed in shorts and a t-shirt to go to get some food from McDonald’s, when a group of manaqabeen (fully covered women) said; Tomorrow Morsi will teach you how to dress.

A journalist friend of mine, posted this as her status on facebook;  “Yesterday, while waiting for my friend at the airport, I heard this Egyptian guy, who had just arrived from God knows where, “boasting,” to his family that he said “Fuck you Bitch,” to a tourist who was crying and saying she doesn’t want to visit Egypt again, after she realized that her luggage was lost at the arrivals. Nice! That’s how you treat the tourists! Idiot.”

I concur if we are not going to bring the tourists back to boost our economy and keep the history of our ancestors alive. Does this mean that we will be solely dependent on the investment from Gulf countries.

If this ‘IS’ what THE PEOPLE of Egypt are expecting and want for our country, then I am greatly perturbed and worry for the rights of women and their future in the coming years. I have been in the field of education for 11 years now and I have been fighting against ignorance tooth and nail. I am not one to throw in the towel or declare defeat, but if this is what the country is coming to, I will NOT go down with the ship.  It pains me to say so, but I don’t want to be hidden under a long cloth and be silenced. It isn’t me or how I was raised.

I AM independent, I AM intelligent, I do have a purpose other than being a child barer and slave in the kitchen and I fully intend on staying that way too.

(picture in the post was copied from; http://www.albawaba.com/news/morsi-working-formation-new-government-431356)

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!

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 rakaʿāt 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!

Published in the September 2009 issue of (in)sight Magazine.

Why Can’t It be Ramadan Everyday?

A few nights before Ramadan,
And all across the nation,
People were bustling with anticipation.

They’d hustle, they’d bump, they’d swear as they drive,
Men fight with each other as well as their wives.

Boyfriends continue to ruin girlfriend’s lives,
With their cheating and lies, Oh, what a surprise!

Girl’s eye their competition with looks of despise
Stay at home Moms cook up rumors and lies

You liar! You thief! You crook! You stinker!
Are the words we hear and are left to linger.

On the eve of THE night and with a blink of an eye,
Halos are out and consciences rise
All must be good, for Ramadan has arrived.

The Month of Ramadan is upon us again. T’s a time for giving to the needy as well as a time for forgiveness and reflection. I love this time of year because families gather and spend some quality time with one another, break their fast together at Iftar and the gathering can some times go on until Suhour. People give willingly and in abundance to the less fortunate and what I love even more is that people’s tongues are curved!
From sunrise to sunset people pay close attention to what they say out loud to others instead of damning someone’s house to fall down on them and flaring in to a temper and cursing every member of another person’s family! (You know which words I mean! We’ve all used them!). People are more conscious of their actions and use of words. Our day to day lives are stressful, there are times when you vent and say things that can be really hurtful. You’re always on the go and rushing here and there for appointments and social gatherings. Spending an hour or two with the kids when they get home from school to ask how their day was and what things they learned, is something you would love to be able to do, but you have to work late or you can’t because you have to get your hair done and have a manicure done for a dinner party you’re going to. Guy’s don’t think you’ve been let of the hook so easily! The men have business appointments at all crazy hours. Then there’s the male bonding time with buddies and there’s also maintaining that Baywatch chiseled physic by paying a daily pilgrimage to the gym. Be honest, most of you would much rather watch paint dry than be stuck at home listening to your mothers moaning, kids running round asking endless series of questions and your wives nagging.
There are two things that truly amaze me during this incredible month. The first is how ‘good’ everyone becomes. The tangled webs of deceit cease to be spun, hell even the thieves stop stealing. It’s as though a wish or a spell has been cast where everyone becomes honest and angelic, like Jim Carey’s character in the movie ‘Liar, Liar’. The second thing that completely throws me is how by some miracle and with a wave of a magic wand, during Ramadan people make the extra effort and can find the time to help the needy, spend time with their family, and be courteous and kind to others. Now, if memory serves me correctly there are 24 hours in a day every month of every year, no matter which calendar we go by. So, could someone please explain to me ‘Why is it ONLY possible in Ramadan and not throughout the year?’ Surely, if we all spoke nicely to one another all year round, there would be less rudeness and negativity and there would be more cheer and it would set a better example for the younger generation. If we gave more to others throughout the year, we would feel better about ourselves all year long instead of just for a month. If we did practice the lessons of Ramadan throughout the year we would appreciate everything we have and count our blessing, instead of constantly complaining and wishing that we had more.
I know what you’re probably thinking, “She’s one to talk. I bet she doesn’t practice what she preaches!” I will admit that I am not a saint! I was just as guilty as everyone else. However, this time last year that changed. I decided that if I can be genuinely good for a month, then what is preventing me from doing it all year? For the past year I have made the effort to be more respectful and giving to others. Honestly speaking, I do feel better about myself and there isn’t a day that goes by where I forget to be grateful for the people that I have in my life and the blessings I receive. So, if I can do it. Why can’t you? You can’t use the excuse that it costs too much because it doesn’t cost anything to be courteous and time doesn’t cost you a piaster either. The resources you need for the job, you already have; it’s ‘YOU’.

Happy Ramadan Everyone!

Wadi Al Hitan means (Valley of the Whales)

I have always wanted to camp in the desert beneath a star littered sky for as long as I can remember. My wish finally came true last October, when a friend of mine proposed that we go camping. When he suggested it to me I was leaping for joy!
I was packed and ready days before we were due to leave.

Our guides in to the desert were two Bedouin men, the best guides you could ever possibly have. Bedouins are desert dwellers and know every sand dune and cave there is to know about. They were fabulous; they wouldn’t let us assist in constructing the wind breaker, the fire or cooking the night meal. The night we happened to be camping there was a full moon. The moon lit the desert up and made the ground look like the surface of the moon. The star littered night sky was better than I could have ever imagined.
Tucked safely and snug in my sleeping bag, in the desert under the sky, in total seclusion and in silence was so peaceful. I think that it was the best night’s sleep I have ever had. I only slept 4 hours but I woke feeling refreshed. There were two reason why I woke up so early, I had forgotten to turn off the 5am alarm that I have set for getting up every day (Yeah,….I know!!, I’m just grateful I didn’t wake anyone up), the second thing that woke me was dawn breaking. I had seen many sunrises by the sea, but none could ever compare to that! It was watching a documentary in the making.

The area we camped at was a few hours drive away from the UNESCO World Heritage site. The reason it is protected is because there are thousands of whale and other ocean fossils scattered on the ground of the Valley. Since the valley became protected in 2005, a clear and easy trail has been marked out and the information center offers a map of the Valley for you to be able to view all the fossil remains. The fossil remains of whales have been roped off, so that visitors don’t step on them or attempt to steal them.  (It’s a great place to take students for a Geography field trip).

The fossils were very well intact and fascinating to look at but what really blew my mind was the incredible landscape and rock formations that had been carved and smoothed out by the extinct sea that had once flowed through the valley over hundreds of years ago.
To tour the Valley you don’t have to do it on foot, there are camels available and I believe that you can bike it too, just as long as you stay on the path.
There are a few sheltered areas along the path way that have been constructed for visitors to rest in. It’s a good thing there are too because the temperatures out in the desert are scorching hot and resting in the shade of the rest area helps to bring down your core temperature whilst you sit and enjoy the view.
While you sit and take in the scenery your lungs fill up with clean air, the pollution that had been clogging your mind suddenly evaporates and your thoughts are clearer than they have ever been. Your mind feels open and your thoughts move freely without a single worry or interruption.

For October the weather was hotter than usual and thankfully I had my Bedouin scarf that I tied around my head to protect my self from getting sun stroke and I had a huge bottle of water, which was bone dry by the time we got back to our guides who had been busy preparing our lunch while we had been trekking in the desert for hours. (Bless them!)
We were absolutely parched and famished by the time we had made it back to them.

From there we made our way back to Cairo, but along the way we stopped an oasis. As we were driving toward it we thought it was just another mirage because we had seen many of them along the way, but when our four by four came to a halt and we got out, we couldn’t believe that in the middle of the desert there was a huge lake with turquoise blue sparkling water. It was phenomenal, breathtaking and captivating at the same time. From there we went to a waterfall in the middle of the desert!!! It isn’t man made, it’s all natural! It was no where near as spectacular as the Oasis but it was interesting to see.

When we entered the city limits I could feel my mind cloud again and the camping trip like the sea that had once flowed through the valley became a distant memory. 
This year 2010-2011, I would really like to be able to go camping in the White Desert when there is a full moon. People who have been said that if the moon is full, the light from the moon reflected on to the sand turns it blue.

To read more about Wadi Al Hitan click on the link below
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wadi_Al-Hitan

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

At least once a week  the Tuesday Nighters, used to (my friends and I) go out for dinner somewhere in Cairo. The majority of us were residence of the Heliopolis or Masr El Gideeda area, but we try to break the habit of convenience and staying close to home. We wanted to give our friends who don’t live near us a break from having to battle against Cairo traffic.  We had tried quite a variety of restaurants in Zamalek, Mohendiseen, Maadi and of course Masr Gideeda. I think if we were paid to be restaurant critiques every restaurant would dread seeing us cross the threshold of their restaurant. The majority of us all cook for ourselves and for pleasure, our pallets are quite mature and we have high expectations when it comes to our food. Our toughest critique would probably be Fat Sam, founder of Not Hungry Cuz I Ate.

So, in my latest entry I am going to give you the names of restaurants that I have enjoyed dining at. If you can think of others that you would like to recommend then please tell me and I’ll even make the effort to go and try it out myself or with my friends.

If you want a nice light breakfast or meal then I highly recommend Casper and Gambini’s. I have no complaints about the place. Every time I have been, I have enjoyed my meal. They make really nice pancakes and fritata’s

In the Heliopolis Area of Cairo, we are really spoilt for choice. The humongous mall, City Stars is home to many restaurants. When I’m there for lunch or dinner, I don’t mind  Ruby Tuesday’s because they have a fresh wholesome salad bar (I love salad!) and the quality of the meat that they use to make their burgers is really good. The service is friendly and good (located on the same floor as the cinema)

Blaze is a new restaurant/cafe and sheehsa joint that has opened. I have to admit that I like the atmosphere and the food is good too.

One of my new favorite places for a late night of dancing, spirit and cusine is CAVALLINI!! You can find this awesome place at SunCity Mallon the top floor. It reminds me of Summermoon in Agami way back in the day. Thursday and Friday’s rock!!

Opposite where Waga mama used to be is the Macaroni Grill, the times I have eaten there, I have really enjoyed my meal. I have heard mixed reviews about the place, but I have no complaints. There are 5 stone hearts hidden on the walls of the restaurant, if you find them you get a prize. I have yet to find them all. I have found 3 of the 5.

Cafe Supreme has come to Cairo and has hit the Korba area with a BANG!! If you are into healthy choices, sushi, sheesha this is the place for you!

If you like traditional Egyptian food then there is the popular restaurant Abu Sid. I haven’t tried the restaurant in the Mall, so I can’t vouch for that location but I have been to the branch in Zamalek, and I enjoyed it. It can be a bit pricey so make sure you have money with you.

If you are a fast food junky, then City Stars has all the junk you could want to satisfy your cravings. There are 2 food courts to choose from. There’s the one in the old section, the floor before the cinema and the second is on the ground floor in the new section of the mall. You can’t miss either. They are always the most crowded places in the mall and the noisiest too.

Tivoli Dome is the newest hot spot in the Masr El Gideda area. It’s an area where there are many restaurants to choose from  there is Noodle House ( i think you can guess what is on the menu),  Out Back Steak House (it’s an Australian chain, I really enjoy going there. Their steaks and burgers are very tasty, for an appetizer, you have to try the Bloom’n Onion), Crave is another restaurant that is well worth your money. The food is creative and definitely tickles your palate with its interesting flavours. Then you have Costa Coffee, Starbucks, Cilantro, Chili’s, Burger King, Cedars, Popeye and Bon Appetit. Parking there is a pain in the rear end!! So, If you don’t want to drive round and round in circles, then i recommend you walk there if you live near by or take a cab to save yourself from parking frustration!

Sonnesta Hotel

If memory serves me correctly, Sonnesta has an all you can eat Sushi night every Tuesday. I am not a big fan of Sushi, but I will eat the vegetarian rolls.

Makani is a restaurant located behind the famous Asian looking mansion called El Baron. If you are driving on Salah Salem you can’t miss it. It’s a spectacular building. Makani has an interesting array of salads and sandwiches as well as Sushi. I am a big fan of their chicken corn salad.

Le Chantilly is a swiss restaurant located in Korba. It’s very eloquent and simple in its decor but it’s food is yummy. I love their veal sausages with home-made gravy and  their breakfast buffets. There is an inside section and there’s an outdoor are too.

Karven Hotel is the place to go to have Indian food in Masr El Gideda. I used to cringe at the though of indian food before had even  tried it. For some un known reason I didn’t find it very appealing. When I tried it for the first time at Massala  I couldn’t get enough! The taste lingered in my mouth for days and I couldn’t stop dreaming about it. There is also a Chinese restaurant at the hotel. When my friends and I go to Karven, we like to go up to the Roof Garden and have our meal up there. The atmosphere is very pleasant and more spacious to take all of us.

Who doesn’t love Pizza?! I could eat it until I become round and my hear turns in to Mozeralla. I have grown tired of the fast food Pizzas and want to enjoy eating one made with fresh vegetables, herbs and close to the real Italian pizza. The closest I have come so far is Maison Thomas. I have enjoyed ever pizza and bite of their Pizzas.I especially like their Fungi Pizza

Zamalek Area

Zamalek is one of my favorite areas in Cairo. It is an Island in the Nile inhabited by some of the most cultured and influential people. In my opinion it’s the focal point of the original aristocrats that lived and ruled the land. I enjoy walking around Zamalek and looking at the fascinating Architecture, visiting art galleries  as well as going to its many restaurants.

As soon as you come off the 25th of July bridge, on your left hand side above Drinkies (a place to buy alcohol) is a restaurant called, La Bodega. The restaurant takes up the entire first floor. It is split in to two. One is a quiet and dimly lit dining area. While the other is semi casual and is split in to 3 sections. You have a dining area, bar area and the lounge. The food there is leaning towards French cuisine with a twist of oriental. You won’t regret eating there. I have yet to hear of anyone not having gone back again. You will find that a lot of people from the expat community in Zamalek go there. ( I hear this classly place might be closing it’s doors soon…I would go and check it out if you haven’t already)

Cairo Kitchen is the new sha3by chic! It makes traditional Egyptian dishes and drinks.

On the same block as La Bodega, Maison Thomas is a renowned and established restaurant best known for its Pizzas. This I believe is the original restaurant that has been opened since 1922. Once you try their Pizza, you may never order any other  kind again.

Just around the corner from Maison Thomas is a cluster of small pubs and restaurants. But the one many people flock to taste traditional Egyptian food is Abu Sid. If you have guests coming from abroad or have just moved to Egypt, this is where you should try Egyptian food.

Sequoia is another popular place to go in Zamalek. As soon as you come of the 25th of July  bridge, keep going straight until you come to the first set of traffic lights. Take a right at the traffic lights and keep going straight. It will be opposite you. Dinner overlooking the Nile siting in a marquis like tent. It’s a really nice place to go and chill or to watch a soccer/football game with your friends whilst you have diner. The food there isn’t top-notch but it’s good. I like their Mezza’s, salad selection and my friends like the Sushi there. If you are in to smoking Sheesha, it’s a great place to go for that.

Pub 28 is further down the road from these restaurants. It’s a small pub with wooden paneled walls. For some strange reason it reminds me of some of the small pubs you might find in villages in the UK. Not many youngsters go there to enjoy a night out, it’s for a more mature age group. However, the food there is really good.

Zamalek is where some of the AUC dorms are. To make food wholesome as well as enjoyable, students go to Dido’s. It’s a little restaurant on Ahmed Heshmat Street. It’s speciality is Pasta. The meal although cheaper than most restaurants is of good quality and portion. When I need my carb fix, this is the place to go.

On the street parallel to Ahmed Heshmat is, Mar3ashly Street. On that street you will find Tabasco Cafe and Costa Coffee. Both are usually full of students. La Toratoria is a restaurant specialized in Haute Cuisine. If you are taking your lady friend out on a date and really want to impress her with your taste in food, then this is one place you could go to.

Marriot Hotel is a beautiful palace that has since been converted in to a hotel. It’s a great place to go to spend the day in the hotel garden and another great place to bump in to celebrities. I met one of Good Morning America’s anchors there. Hotels, often have great restaurants. The two that I really like there are Roy’s Kitchen & the Italian restaurant. Roy’s’ is more  Western/Country style cooking. Their open buffet is really good and their burgers are made with good quality meat,  and are HUGE.

A long the Nile there are quite a few river boats that have many restaurants. One of my favorite boats to have diner at is Le Pacha, Le Steak. I was taken there on a first date and I just loved the place and the food. I have sensed a slight slip in the standard but not enough to not want to go back. The staff and service they provide is excellent. I recently celebrated my 32nd birthday people with over 20 people!

Blue Nile Boat  is another one of the many boats with a restaurant. Asia Bar has really good Asian food. The decor is really funky and so is the lazy Susan on the table. If you go on a Thursday or a Friday night you may find that quite a lot of the females who are, (hmmm….how should I put this politely?) are willing to provide entertainment services to gents but at a price, (if you catch my drift).

For really good sushi, go to Mori Sushi in Zamalek. Like I said, I am not a Sushi person, but I like the variety they have and it’s a very popular place.

* If you can think of other restaurants in these areas that should make this list, let me know.

Bon appetite!

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!