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The Rat Pack Tribute Show Comes to Cairo

I am a big fan of the ‘Arts’ and the Entertainment Industry. I haven’t been to the Cairo Opera house as frequently as I would have liked to this year due to my efforts in trying to complete my Master’s in Education. Once I had finished one of my 8 weeks courses of total focus and dedication I became a bit of a bum and recluse. I seem to be coming out of that lazy frame of mind and want to attend more exhibitions and performances.
Last Tuesday, which was the 30th of November, I heard that there was a Las Vegas group performing at the Opera house and they were Rat Pack impersonators.
I have always been a sucker for Sinatra and I quite like Dean Martin too, so I convinced four other people to join if I could get my paws on tickets.
Luckily I didn’t have to go all the way to Zamalek to get tickets for the show. I was relieved and over the moon to discover that the Thomas Cook travel agents in Korba, Heliopolis sell tickets for all the shows at the Opera house.
Luck was on my side and I got the last five seats in the house at 200LE a pop on opening night! I just prayed that the performance wasn’t going to be as disappointing as the so-called Broadway dancers that had come to perform ‘Take the Floor’ the previous year.
Thursday evening I’m dressed to the nines and excited about going to the Opera house. I don’t know what it is about the ambiance of the place, but I can’t help but feel classy, feminine and cultured.
When the lights dimmed to signal the start of the performance and the curtain rose to reveal a band playing an interlude, my feet couldn’t stop tapping to the beat.
Dean Martin’s look a like; (Andrew DiMino) was the first of the pack to grace the stage. He had a very good likeness to the legendary performer and he won the audience over with his adapted saeedy jokes and his experiences since he had arrived in Cairo.
He sang many familiar tunes that we have heard in movies and weddings. Members of the audience were tapping their feet to the beat; some were swaying to the music and the majority, were lip syncing the words to the songs.
There were fours ‘show girl’ dancers too, but they were as one friend of mine aptly described their presence ‘decoration’. The choreography wasn’t up to par and it looks as though they had only just learned the steps.
Allen Gregory was the artist who had an uncanny and striking resemblance to late Sammy Davis Jr. watching and listening to him, you could have sworn that Sammy himself had come back from the dead to perform on Cairo’s stage. He was terrific.
He sang one of my favorite childhood songs ‘Candy Man’ among many other hits.
When Old Blue Eyes tribute artist took the stage, he didn’t look like Sinatra but he could belt out the tunes almost as good as the man himself! Gary Anthony who performed as Sinatra had the audience clapping loudly until their hands hurt!
The trio sang a few songs together and their final song ‘New York’ had the audience clapping and singing along to the very end.
Friends of mine who went to see the performance on different days were just as impressed with the show as my friends and I had been.
An entertaining night and money well spent!

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

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

Paintballing gets a high 5 from me!

I feel like a fish out of water! I can’t believe it has been over a month since I have posted anything. I have been caught up in whirl wind of events. Let’s see what, have I been up to?

Well;

I started one of my final Masters courses last month and I have 3 more weeks to go before it comes to an end! It’s a bitter sweat feeling. I am bitter because it’s taking up so much of my time and when I’m sat with my face glued to my lap top reading the material required for completing my course work, my friends are out enjoying themselves, while I have to force myself to be disciplined and get on with my work and convince myself that it will all be worth it in the end! The sweet sensation is knowing at the end of the journey, the money I saved up to be able to complete this and endless hours of writing, researching and reading I would have earned the title of ‘Master’ and the salary increase is always an added bonus too.

 On top of that my sister FINALLY got engaged! So, in the midst of my studies, there was a lot of planning, drama and celebrating. I am really happy and thrilled for her, because the groom to be is a really nice guy and he is going to be like the big brother I never had, but always wanted!

 I recently had to bid farewell and good luck to a dear friend of mine. He has been offered a position in the UAE and I’m feeling a bit lost without him. He was my confident and sounding board. I’m finding it rather difficult having to come to terms with the idea that I can’t just pick up the phone and call him when ever I like, or arrange to meet up for lunch to vent or to get some sound advice. I have to text, email or Skype now to keep in touch. I know everything I’m mentioning is quite selfish. I am genuinely happy that he is starting a new adventure in the chapter of his life, but apart of me wishes that I was one of the characters in that new adventurous journey.

 I can’t remember if I had previously mentioned this but, I was approached by an editor, who is launching a new magazine in Cairo, he had been reading and following my blog and thought I had an interesting perspective of what life in Cairo/Egypt is like from a half Egyptian, half Western point of view and would like me to write a column every month! So, look out for ‘Nadia, In The City’! The Magazine that is set to launch in November is called ‘Moments, Life Style Magazine’, keep a look out for it at a news stand near you!

In addition to all of that I am working full-time! The school year has finally kicked off and my new students have now been with me for the past 4 weeks. I have to say that I it’s good being back in the classroom. I don’t know what it is about being in a classroom, but to me it feels like it’s my stage or domain, where I can make magic happen. This year’s batch of second graders are a handful! They are very opinionated, have fascinating characters and are full of ENERGY!! To keep up with them, I have to get up earlier than usual and do at least half an hour on my elliptical bike to get my endorphins jumped started for a day of teaching!

There are times when I just need to drop everything I’m doing and have some ‘ME’ time. Which either means getting out of Cairo and going up to Alexandria and visiting my family OR doing something fun and joining ‘Weekend Trip’ for an adventures day of fun and some times spontaneity. The owner of Holiday tours and co-founder of ‘Weekend Trips’, Yehia El Decken, has asked me to blog about EVERY ‘weekend trip’, I go on with his team. So, you’ll be reading a lot about my adventures with them this year.

 My romantic life you ask? Emmmm…..Well, what do you think? Do you honestly think with all that I’m juggling right now, I have time for a romantic interlude!??! I will say this though, since I’ve started focusing on myself and looking after myself more, I seem to have re-ignited ‘The Old Me’, which is attracting some attention. Other than that…there is nothing to report!

How about you? What have you been up to?

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!

‘Weekend Trips’ a branch of the Holiday Tours travel company, came up with another interesting day trip. The trip was to spend a few hours trekking across an island located in the middle of the Nile in the heart of Cairo. Gazeerat El Dahab, (Island of Gold) is approximately 9Km in length. It is inhabited by people who farm the land. There are no bridges, roads or cars that take you to the island. The only way to get to and from the island is by boat. Many of the inhabitants work in the city so they take the 1Le Faluka (Egyptian sail boat) to the shore every day. The available forms of transportation on the small island are on horse/donkey back or by foot.
On the morning of the trip my colleague and friend, Nora accompanied me and other eager explorers at Sky Lounge in downtown Cairo, for coffee and mingling before making our way to the deck to board our private boat. The weather was clear, the sun shining as bright as always and there was a cool gentle breeze to dull the heat.
Aboard the boat we were greeted and briefed by the Weekend Trip team. We were told that the residents of the island are wary of strangers. They are constantly being visited by people who are trying to coax and even force them off the land. Rumor has it that the government may want it as a base; there are also other rumors of wanting to turn the island into a resort or a night club scene. We were asked not to ask them any questions pertaining to the ownership of the land and other related questions that might make them feel uneasy. We were highly encouraged to be courteous towards them; after all we would be their guests on their island.
The boat ride was beautiful. The view on the Nile looking towards to shore lines was fascinating. It gave you the opportunity to look at Cairo from a different perspective and angle. It is a wondrous city, and I can understand why many are captivated by it. Having said that, I don’t think Cairo can hold a torch to Alexandria. Perhaps my opinion is a biased because I lived in Alexandria for well over a decade and I am and always will be Alexandrian.
When we docked at the island, our eyes were greeted by a vision of a girl not older than fifteen years old with 2 younger girls by her side washing their clothes next to the Nile bank. They looked upon us like we were intruding on their privacy. I have to admit that I did feel like I was imposing upon their privacy at the beginning of the trek, but as time passed the residents became more relaxed and were friendlier towards us.
I thoroughly enjoyed my day spent walking the length of the island. I found it hard to get my head around the fact that I was on an island walking through fields of plantations in the middle of the city’s capital. Never the less, the scene on the island was a pleasant change from the concrete pillars of buildings and endless streams of vehicles crowding the main land. It was just relaxing to see open space. I was dumbfounded by the locals and their ability to live the way they do. It reminded me of the film ‘The Village’. Where the inhabitants were cut off from the modern-day world and lived a similar life style to the Amish. I felt as though I had stepped back in to a different era, where houses had no electricity or running water. Water had to be pumped and fetched for cleaning, washing and cooking. Their freshly grown produce is part of their nutritional diet. No fast food delivery or microwave meals. Animals were around every corner in every field. The animals that I saw on the island were better looked after than the donkeys and horses you see on the main land. All though the people of Gizeerat El Dahab lead a much simpler life style, they have a better understanding and appreciation for nature and God creatures that the educated individuals on the mainland. The sound of congested traffic was a distant memory. Instead your ears were filled with sounds that are usually downed out by the cars, the breeze rustling through the trees, birds twittering away to one another, sound of your footsteps on the dirt path and the sound of water irrigating the fields.
I am a nature girl at heart. I really appreciated being able to walk in the fields and see the patch work of the fields and not worrying about being hit by a car. It reminded me a little of the summers I sued to spend in England and the pleasant walks I used to take.
 On the island I was surprised to see a gigantic church. I think my surprise is due to the number of mosques I see everyday. So, I automatically presumed that it was Muslim dominated. Seeing the church there actually comforted me. It meant that on the island both faiths co-exist with one another. It also gave me a little hope too. If these people can do it, then so can everyone else.
         The sounds of the call for prayer rang out from the mosque and could be heard throughout the island, calling its followers to come and pray. I can’t remember the last time I went to pray in a mosque. So, since the majority of the group was going to, I thought why not! I washed for prayer (‘wudoo’ is a certain way of washing, before you pray) and went up to the ladies section of the mosque and waited for the prayer to begin.
When the Emaam started the prayer, everyone came together as one and were united in their faith and all quarrels and differences were laid aside. I found it fascinating how things can change in a matter of seconds. Just moments before my friend and I were being looked upon as strangers by curious individuals and then we were no longer strangers, we were sisters of the same faith. If only people of the world could recognize that we are all made the same way. There would be less hatred and more understanding.
      After successfully walking the entire length of the island it was time to retrace our steps and head back to the meeting point under the ring road bridge that runs through the island. When we got there we sat on the ridge, under the shade of the bridge with our feet inches above the Nile. Some of the group wanted to experience the Feluka ride the locals take every day to and from the main land first hand. From there we went to the local bakery or ‘Fino’ as they call it on the island, to have a taste of the traditional ‘Fiteer Mesheltit’. It’s many layers of filo pastry baked in a circle and cooked in an oven. It can be a sweet or savory dish. The locals laid down mats for us to sit on and served us the freshly baked fiteer with ‘aasal iswid’ (molasses) and ‘mish’ (aged and spicy cheese) on the side. From the way everyone dug in, it was obvious they had all worked up an appetite. Once we had satisfied our pangs of hunger, we walked back to the dock to board our boat and headed back to the main land.
       I really enjoyed the hours spent on the island. To me, that was seeing ‘the real Egypt’ in its natural form. I really do hope that the residence of the island will not be tempted by money and give up their land and way of life.

To see some of the photo’s I took, click on the link.

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=152130&id=512092363&l=3e18df71ae

The world is familiar with the term and the sport of ‘Snowboarding’. It has gained even more recognition since it has become an Olympic winter sport. Unfortunately for  most Middle Easterners we will never have the experience of skiing, skating or snowboarding because we don’t get any snow. We do have a hell of a lot of sand though!!! So, while there are nations who enjoy their winter sports, here in  Egypt we are able to enjoy the experience of ‘Sandboarding’.

Picture this, your in the desert with nothing surrounding you but dunes and flat plains. Everything is so still and quiet that time could have stopped and you wouldn’t even know. The only thing that reassure you that you are not dreaming is the sound of your beating heart and breathing and the humming of your 4X4’s engine. As you ascend from the car and look ahead of you, you are taken in by the enormous sand dune. Next to it, you feel like an ant next to a building. ‘I’m supposed to climb up that and board down it?’ you ask yourself while gazing up at  a tall virgin sand dune that may have never been climbed before you. You take your board, wax the bottom of it and carry it up to the top of the dune. Once at the top of the dune you place your board gently down on the sand as you prepare yourself for a thrilling ride. You carefully get on the board, whilst extending your arms to maintain your balance, you take in a deep breath and finally tilt your weight forward. The second the weight has been tilted there is no going back, you are well on your way boarding down the dune, with waves of sand blowing up on either side, you gather speed the further down you go and you just keep on going! Your heart pounds as fast as a humming birds wings and you have a mix of terrified and thrilling emotions! You lose your balance and wipe out! The fall is cushioned by the soft sand and although you have stopped your board kept on going and is waiting for you to pick it up again and go back up the dune.

This isn’t something I thought up. I really wish I could take credit for it, but Alas, I can’t. However, more and more travel companies in Egypt are getting creative and are coming up with fun trips and weekend trips that people can do. A friend of mine has one of these companies. His family owns Holiday Tours. Yehia, is a big fan of the out doors and is trying to show his fellow country men that there is more than going to restaurants and going to cafes. There is so much more to do and see in Egypt.

I decided to go on some of his trips companies weekend trips. So far I have been to Islamic Cairo, A Hike up the Chain of Red Sea Mountains in Ein El Sokhna, Horseback Riding in the Sakara desert and Sandboarding. Every trip was very different from the other and each time I had a fun-filled experience. My appreciation for the outdoors has grown a lot. I’ve come to realize that I’m more of a desert gal than I am a mountaineer. I enjoy spending the day away from the noisy, crowded streets,  unbearable traffic and polluted air. I find it to be rejuvenating to be out in the middle of no where, away from civilization and giving my ears a rest and filling my lungs with clean unpolluted air. I look forward to receiving updates on facebook telling me what ‘Weekend’ trips have planned. I am not always able to join them, but when I am able to I don’t think twice about going.

I can’t wait to go sandboarding again and horseback riding!!!

If you are planning a trip to Egypt, please do go and see some of the historical sites, but do try something adventurous too. You will have a lot of stories to tell your friends when you get back home. If you are a resident of Egypt, then do something different!!