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

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

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

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

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

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

Please don’t insult our intelligence!

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

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

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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!

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!

This past Sunday I accompanied Grade 5 on a trip to the museum with their Social Studies teacher who has 20 years experience as an Egyptologist and Tour Guide. I had heard about how informative her trips are and that they were a lot of fun. I had been to the museum the previous year with my Grade 2 students and I hated every second of the trip. For a museum that big with some of the most fascinating antiquities that the world has ever seen, you would think it would be air-conditioned a child friendly.

In all honesty, (I know I’m going to get booed for this), I find it to be very cluttered and disorganized. The artifacts aren’t displayed as well as they could have been and not all the antiquities are described and those that have an explanation were done by that ancient machine, called a typewriter and the paper has yellowed with age. They haven’t been up dated in god knows how long. If I was to describe the museum, I would have to say an over priced warehouse for tourists. However, having said that, if you are in Egypt you have to go to the museum, to see the mummies (which is in an air-conditioned enclosure, Thank God! But, it costs a whopping 100LE for foreigners and 20 LE for Egyptians), The Tutankhamen exhibit (is partially air-conditioned, the room which holds the famous gold death mask along with other breath-taking items are in a small room. This room is very crowded).

 If I were you I would go there as soon as it opens at 9am, otherwise you will not get any pleasure out of the trip. If you are in Egypt between the months of May and October, then the earlier you go to the museum the better. It will be cool enough for you to tolerate from 11am on wards you will be in a furnace and will come out of the building drenched and stinking of perspiration. Make sure you have a bottle of water with you too, you will need it. You may want to have some tissues hand too, incase you need to tinkle.

When you go on vacation a camera is a must have! You would think that you would be allowed to take pictures in the museum….consider this a BIG heads up, the Cairo Museum does not permit ANY pictures taken inside the building. If you have a camera you have to turn it in, take a number and it will be taken and put in to holding until you come out and reclaim it.

On my most recent excursion to the museum with a pro, I found it to be really enjoyable! It makes such a difference when you go with someone who knows the place and all the ins and outs of the place. The Social Studies teacher had all the kids and accompanying teachers wear earphones that were on the same frequency as her microphone. It was GREAT! We could hear everything that was explained and pointed out to us. The noise of other tour groups was just background noise to us. The frequency of the packs are really good, I had to leave the students to find the newly opened Children’s Museum. I had to go out of the main museum and I could still hear the teacher. (I believe it costs 10LE per pack, I’m not 100% sure, and I’ll have to get back to you on that)

If you have your back to the entrance of the museum and walk to the right side of the building and turn right there and follow the signs you will find the children’s section below the building. I have to be totally honest, I wasn’t expecting much! I thought it would be a hogpog of things thrown together, but to my delight and surprise it is actually very well done and the set up is better than the main museum, (sad but true).
The explanations of things have been simplified and among the ancient artifacts are Lego replicas of some of the famous statues and portraits that we have seen on documentaries and in history books. If you have children or are planning to take your class to the museum on a school trip, then I highly recommend that you go in to the main building first before it gets too crowded and over heated and then make your way to the Children’s museum. (Entrance is free)

From dreading my trip next week with my class, I am actually excited about going there and teaching them about all the new things that I learned from the Social Studies Teacher. I will let you know how the trip goes.

I enjoy listening to all genres of music. I really enjoy busting out a few moves on the dance floor to Arabic, Pop, Techno and many other kinds of tunes. The music that is guaranteed to get me up and out of the chair is a Latin beat!
I have always loved the sound of Latin music. It makes me come alive and no matter how bad of a day I have had, the music just shines through the black cloud that was hanging over my head, add salsa dancing to that equation and not only do my woes become a distant memory, I have fun and get a great work out.
When I moved to Cairo, I got to know a certain gentleman who was a fabulous dancer and had taken many classes and was competitive material. I longed to be able to dance like him so that we could go out dancing together. He didn’t like the idea of me taking lessons from a male instructor so, I didn’t. When our ‘friendship’ came to a tragic end (a long story that I won’t get in to), I took up salsa classes, (I didn’t have a jealous person to worry about, plus I also had the hope that one day I would bump in to him at one of the salsa nights held in Cairo and blow him away with my steps and Latina moves. It hasn’t happened yet).

If you are a Salsero or a Salsera, then I highly recommend that you join the Salsa Club Egypt group on Facebook. You can find out when and where Salsa nights are held and when the next Salsa Congress will be hosted in Cairo.
Sunday, Monday and Thursday are popular Salsa dancing nights in Cairo.
Sunday, Salsa Club Egypt offers dance classes at Stiletto before the Salsa night begins.
Beginners: 8pm
Absolute beginners: 9pm
Intermediate: 9pm

Rasha, is usually the instructor and she is amazing to watch.

Sunday nights at Stiletto Lounge is 1 El Galaa Sq. Landmark: Inside Sheraton Cairo Hotel, Towers & Casino, Dokki, Giza.

Monday night salsa at Nile Maxim also offers dance lessons before the night starts. (i don’t think that this night is still on)
They offer free classes at 9pm. Nile Maxim is a boat found opposite the Marriot Hotel in Zamalek. Salsa nights are held in Le veranda.

Thursday night you will find some of the best salsa dancers unwinding after a week of working, showing off their signature moves at Café Bian in Mohendiseen.
I have only been there once and I would never have thought that they would have a night of dancing there, but they do. Bian Café is near medan aswan\next to Atlas Hotel and Omda restaurant.
Salsa Club Egypt http://www.salsaclubegypt.com/

If you are interested in taking Salsa classes in your area you may want to look in to these places.

Heliopolis
Samia Allouba (http://www.samiaalloubacenter.com/Default.aspx?UC=./UI/Visitor/Page&PageID=home)

Vogue Dance Studio; 5 Deer El Bahary Street, off of Hegaz. Maryland.

0117295688 is the number to call for more detail, Eman is the person to ask for.

 

Maadi
Arthur Murray (http://www.yellowpages.com.eg/profile/NjI5ODI=/Arthur-Murray-Dance-Center.html), Samia Allouba

Mohendiseen

Samia Allouba

Alexandria
Tamarin Center (http://www.tamarincenter.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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