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Thursday, 13 March 2014

The stolen passport affair

What happened to me

This gets a bit ranty especially when it gets to the bit about the UKPA so don't read if you don't like ranty bits.

This relates for those who would need to use British Embassy, Cairo and Mogamma - I'm not sure if British consulates in Alex or Luxor would be able to supply emergency passports and if you would be able to get replacement visas in your local offices.

In October 2013, I was on a bus and fell for a con trick - one old woman distracted me while another rifled through my handbag, stealing a purse which contained 140le, 2 ATM cards and, very sadly as it was a last minute addition and I never normally take it about, my passport. I didn't notice until I got onto another bus and opened my handbag to see a blackhole where my purse used to be. Fortunately, my phone was not in that purse and I called a friend who said get any taxi to hers and she would pay and we'd figure it out from there.  Several of my friends expressed surprise that I was robbed by three middle-aged/elderly women dressed in black abayas and not by men - just be advised about that presumption!  Little alarms had gone off in my head, but I had ignored them (was very tired and grumpy at the time for various reasons!) and it is obvious to me now that the bus (one of the small 6-seaters) was a gang looking for likely marks. Lesson: never ignore those tiny little alarm bells.  It means your brain has figured out something that your conscious mind hasn't registered!

This caused me a HUGE amount of problems and expense to replace and following 2 hours on the phone (thank heavens for Skype and my skype 'one country' subscription package and also that UKPA use an 0300 number which you can still call from skype as 0800 or 0845 are now blocked from abroad by skype) to an intransigent UK Passport Authority, I concluded that I had to go back to the UK to do it and sit for 2 months twiddling my thumbs while they deigned to complete the process for me.

You must report your stolen passport to the police - you will need the police report (and an official translation) for the embassy and the UKPA.  A friend's husband kindly accompanied me to the police station to translate.  I didn't want to risk my weak Arabic on this.

Returning to the UK necessitated obtaining an emergency passport from the British Embassy in Cairo.  Three trips to the Consular Section were necessary - the first because the information on the website was missing a couple of important pieces of information which I think they have since rectified, and I was required to produce PROOF of travel in the form of an actual ticket not just an itinerary- so I had to buy the ticket without knowing how long the process was going to take.  Fortunately I bought it for 2 weeks after my first visit to the Embassy.  One can only hope and pray that in a genuine emergency like someone dying, or if indeed you were supposed to fly the next day, they might have been a bit quicker off the mark, though you still have Mogamma to deal with afterwards.

I have no idea what would happen at the airport if you tried to exit simply with the emergency passport and your police letter without having been to Mogamma as you would have no entry visa.  Apparently during the revolution, Embassy officials simply sat at the airport handing out emergency passports and people were allowed to go. My policy living here is to try and do things legally as far as it is possible to find out what that is.

I had to fork out 1075le in actual hard cash (so if you were a tourist who had been robbed and had no cash or ATM cards, not entirely sure what you are supposed to do!) and return the next day to collect it. You also need the police letters and passport photos. Again, you need more than they said on the website - though they might have changed it. Just take a bucket load.  You need for Mogamma anyway.  Friends who have had passports lost or stolen in other countries seem able to have got their emergency passports the same day, not sure why it doesn't happen in Cairo, but it doesn't.

Now, here is the killer which you don't know - once you have got your emergency passport from the Embassy you must go to the Mogamma to get fresh visas and so forth - and you will need police letters and passport photos. Mogamma CLOSES at 2pm so plan to do it on a different day unless you like being very stressed.

UPDATE: (14/3/2014)  Somebody's watching me ;)  after making this post yesterday, today I received an Egypt Travel Advice Update from the FCO informing me that a change had been made to the Emergency Travel Documents page and it does now tell you that you have to go to the Mogamma :)  I praise their responsiveness! (I did use internet waybackmachine to check a saved copy of the FCO website to check that it didn't already say that in case in my highly stressed state in October I might have missed it, and indeed the version stored on January 20th 2014 is devoid of mention of mogamma).

The British Embassy simply tells you to go to the first floor (the usual visa floor) which anyone who has been to Mogamma knows is a rabbit warren thronging with people pushing and shoving with numerous windows and no 'information desk' at all.  After half an hour of going from pillar to post, someone finally told me to start at Window 41.  So go there.  (Of course, it might have changed by the time you read this, but it's a starting point). (I did call the one helpful person I had found in the British Embassy consular section to tell her that for future reference).

I was up and down and round about from window to window to window for 2 days.  At one point, I was sent from one window to another.  I queued for an hour.  The woman at the second window simply stapled my photo to the form - no signatures, stamps, anything - and sent me back to the first window.  I could have stapled my own darn photo to the form in 30 seconds if I had a stapler and not waste 2 hours queuing at the two windows.  And yes, you have to pay a fine - I think it was 150le.

The emergency passport is only valid for one journey (unless you have and can prove a complex itinerary) and is taken off you when you arrive at UK borders.

My big advice, keep your passport very very safe. Don't take it outside unless you absolutely MUST. The amazing bit is that my stolen purse with the passport and ATM cards was returned to me 10 days after theft - just the money gone - but sadly too late for the passport which theft had long since been reported to the police and said passport cancelled by the UK authorities. My electricity bill which has my name and address on it had been in the purse and someone somewhere had brought it to the local security officers who delivered it to my front door.

Replacing your stolen passport:

What a nightmare of finikity jobsworthiness - by the way ignore anyone who got a replacement stolen passport before August 2013 - the old form C1 (which you could put a UK address as your 'permanent' address and I could easily prove) no longer exists and has been replaced by a form OS which is nigh on impossible to complete if you live in Egypt as you need to prove your address in EGYPT - and as any fule kno many homes in Egypt don't have a street address at all, let alone receive any post of any sort - using one of several pieces of ID they consider acceptable - none of which applied to me.  You need to provide a countersignatory who belongs to one of a number of professions (and must be UK or European passport holder) can also receive post to a business address and confirm in writing to the UKPA on business-headed paper.  Don't bother using retired people, if they can't use business headed paper, you'll have to start again with a new counter-signatory. You will not be told this. You will simply have your CS rejected and not know why (happened to me, happened to someone else).

What you probably don't know is that when you go to get a British passport now that requires a countersignatory (either a brand new 'first' passport or a lost/stolen scenario one) then the UKPA writes to your CS at the address they gave with a photocopy of your mugshot but no name or address and asks the CS to write to them, on business headed paper, confirming that they signed the form.  All these bits and pieces are done by second class post.  Each little problem they pick up with your form, you get sent one letter, which is NOT explanatory - in these modern days with, you know, word processors, you might imagine that they an actually tell you what the problem is.

For example, the one saying I had to supply parents' details said it was because I was under 16!!!! Not because - even though you are sending us back the old passport - you still have to send those details in (and if I knew then what I knew now, I would never have returned the stolen passport to them as it had current Egyptian visas in it - they refused to send it back to me as it had been reported stolen even though they could just have cut the corners off like they normally do).  I called the UKPA to say, hello I'm 53 not under 16 and the person who answered said it was a mistake and as I had sent the old passport in, I didn't need to supply all that.  Anyway, she was wrong.

Then a week later, they send you another letter again by second class post with the next little problem.  "These photos appear to be more than 30 days old" well in my case yes they were, they were 3 months old because they were from the same batch I had taken when I got a brand new passport last summer and figured they would do just as well.  People are always using old photos of themselves.  The only reason they figured it out I guess was because they WERE identical.  If I had sent older ones in, they would probably have got through.  At 53 years of age, I do not change much in 3 months.  I had fresh ones taken and looked almost identical, even down to the shirt I was wearing.

Then, another 2 weeks later, we get another letter by second class post saying my Countersignatory had been rejected.  A former Chief Executive of a big name national charity who I had known 40 years and who had been my CS before!!!  No indication of why. Just 'does not appear to satisfy the criteria'.  Well after what happened to someone else, it appears that the crucial thing was 'retired' and no business address. But NOONE tells you that.

Then, another week later, we get yet another letter by second class post saying 'you have not supplied sufficient funds' well seeing as how they had my credit card details, take what you want just give me a frickin' passport! Turned out that because I had ticked the box asking for my documents to be returned to me (except the one I really wanted - the old passport with the valid Egyptian visas in it - they refused to return), I was supposed to add £3 and hadn't noticed.

Surely to God they could have saved a lot of money and a significant amount of stress if one person goes through your form and phones you to say - Mrs Bloggs, you need to do the following in order for us to process this form. After all, they ask for your phone numbers. The only time they used it was to tell me they were posting the passport out.

I also wish to point out that none of the above issues would have been picked up by a Post Office 'Check and Send' service. I got sick to the teeth of people saying 'check and send'. Check and send would not have picked up about the parents details, would not have known my photos were 3 months old, and would have had no idea my CS was going to be rejected.

My other big advice is get the following information together NOW before you need it:
parents' dates of birth, date and place of marriage, and if you are under 25ish, get your grandparents' information too.  Check the latest version of the forms for what the relevant date for getting grandparents' info is.

If you might need to do it from Egypt, identify someone who would be able to act as a countersignatory for you - check the details carefully, they are very strict now.  That person must not only satisfy one of certain criteria as a professional person including being British or European, but ALSO must be able to receive mail sent to their place of work, and respond on business headed paper.  They don't tell you that bit, until after you've couried the paperwork to the UK at vast expense, so forget retired persons.

Figure out how you would be able to prove your address in Egypt using one of the very few forms of proof they will accept - most of which don't work in Egypt unless you are an expat working for one of the multinationals or a proper school - the type that actually gets its teachers work permits. Again, check the current guidance notes for whatever the current overseas form is. It was a very limited list of 6 items when I was going to do it.  Remember in Egypt for most people it is virtually impossible to prove your address. And no, my electricity bill which is the only official Egyptian Government piece of paper I have with my name and address on it didn't count.

A lot of people giving you 'advice' will say 'oh it's easy do this do that' and it is not.  They fail miserably - no matter how many times you remind them - to appreciate that you are dealing with a STOLEN passport, not simply replacing an expiring passport. And even though my stolen passport was returned to me (albeit after it was cancelled etc), it did NOT help at all.

This was my experience November-December 2013.  The situation may change by the time you read or need this, you need to check uptodate information with the various UK and FCO websites as to what you have to do. Things on the whole are tightening not easing though.

Meanwhile, I had to sit in the UK for 10 weeks waiting for all this to be sorted.  I was very fortunate in that friends gave me free accommodation for that time. I had hoped to get temp work, but question one on entering agencies was 'can you give us your passport for ID'. 'erm... no'.

Anyway, suffice to say, forewarned is forearmed!

Important PS

It is crucial that you understand that it is ILLEGAL for you or someone purporting to be you to complete your form in the UK and hand-carry your new passport to you in the foreign country.  There will be no official record of how your new passport got from UK to the foreign land - either through a border crossing or via a diplomatic bag of some sort - and you AND the person who helped you will be in DEEP DOGGY DOO.  Don't risk it.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Egypt 30th June 2013 What is Happening?

What's happening in Egypt?
If you've any interest in Egypt you will know today is pretty momentous.  It is 1 year since President Morsi was elected to power and in the past few days leading up to today there have been huge demonstrations and protests both by pro-Morsi and pro-Tamarod (rebellion). What will enfold is not for me to say or guess.  I hope the best outcome for Egypt in whatever form it will take.
On my OldbagofCairo facebook page, I am posting various live links and other information which may be useful for those of you living in Egypt or those of you worrying about friends or relatives in Egypt.
I have also added an administrator from outside Egypt (my friend One Fleeting Glimpse) in case the internet disappears so she can update the page if necessary. Posts I make to the FB page also go out via twitter automatically if that suits you better.  @OldbagofCairo.  There is also a panel on the right hand side of this page with snippets of the posts.

Please remember NO POLITICS and NO RELIGION.  I am attempting to keep the page clean from taking sides and only posting things of relevant to you as foreigners in the country.

My biggest piece of advice - STAY WELL AWAY FROM ANY DEMONSTRATIONS AND PROTESTS - there have been nasty incidents already involving foreigners.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Fayoum Pottery Festival - Izbet Tunis (Tunis Village)

In December, a group of us hired a microbus and went for a day visit to the Fayoum Pottery Festival.
I have been to the Fayoum before, but nothing prepared me for the village of Izbet Tunis, it's so beautiful!

It is about 140km out of Cairo and is on the southern edge of Lake Qarun.

There are many pottery makers based in the town and for the 3 days of the festival, they were holding 'open house' displaying their wares.

Here's a video I put together of some of my photographs of the day:

There are some places to stay.  I didn't stay overnight, but Doris Frei has a little place called "The Little Swiss Oasis" where she has a 1 double guest room available - currently 350LE per night for 2 persons, breakfast is 45LE per person.  If you just want to say hello, she has a small, pretty cafe area for teas, coffees and cakes.  If there are a few of you visiting, she can arrange additional accommodation in the village. Update 14/3/2014: Doris' website has been unavailable for sometime now (many months) so it may be that she no longer runs the B&B or indeed is no longer there. 

If you wanted to spend a few days in the area, you can also visit Wadi Rayan waterfalls, Wadi Hitan (where there are prehistoric whalebones in the desert) and Greek and Roman ruins.

Here's a link to my post about my trip to Wadi Rayan back in 2009.

And here are some links to further information about the area:

Links: (Links checked and replaced where necessary Feb 2012)

(The original link to this guide is defunct so I found a copy on my computer and have uploaded it here. If anyone in officialdom would like to contact me if this is not ok, please let me know.)

Monday, 5 December 2011

Luxor December 2011

What is it like in Luxor right now?  Is it safe to come? I've got a week off at Christmas and I see some cheap flights to Luxor - should I come? Questions you may be asking yourself after seeing scenes from Tahrir on your televisions lately. I decided to ask two British women living in Luxor for their thoughts.

Oldbag (OBC):  Jane and Ayisha, you are two British women living in Luxor.  Can I ask you both a few questions about what life is like there at the moment and what reception visitors might expect?

Jane (J): Hi I am Jane Akshar living on the West Bank of Luxor in the village next to the ferry. Life is totally normal at the moment, I rent apartments to tourists and I have three sets of guests and they are enjoying the sites and the sun. They have been out of Luxor as well as locally. The locals are almost desperate in their welcome to these rare visitors.

Ayisha (A):It’s quieter than normal for this time of year, visitors would be most welcomed and well taken care of.

OBC: How safe is it in Luxor for tourists at the moment?

J: I would say that it safe for normal tourist activity. I wouldn’t recommend going down a back street at 2am wearing a lot of jewellery and wads of cash. Take the normal sensible precautions you would anywhere. I feel perfectly safe day and night and my advice to my guests has not changed.

A: very safe, probably safer than most cities the tourist would be coming from.

Interview with a Finnish tourist visiting Luxor recently

OBC: What does the British Embassy recommend?

J: It is reassuring that the British Embassy is also saying there are no travel restrictions. It tells people to avoid demonstrations, I think that is its standard advice in any country.

A: The British Embassy currently have no travel restrictions to Egypt but do recommend staying away from demonstrations in Tahrir Square, almost 350 miles away from Luxor.

OBC: How far away from Cairo is Luxor? Do protests in Tahrir have an impact at all?

J: Cairo is as far away from Luxor as Paris from London, a 50 minute plane ride. Yes the protests in Tahrir have a huge impact in decimating our tourism, people think that the violence they see on TV is happening here and nothing could be further from the truth.

A: Almost 350 miles I think, 50 mins by plane, 10 hours by train, it’s a long way away!

OBC: You live on different sides of the Nile, so first off, just tell me a little bit about your experience of the impact the revolution has had in your views.

J: Here on the West Bank there is no real impact at all apart from the lack of business for the locals. They are also keen to vote in their first elections and have a say in the future of the country.

A: Increased respect for Egyptians that they now demand their voice peacefully and wont back down. Here in Luxor people are still lovely, friendly etc perhaps even more so. During the revolution I went a walk round when most expats were staying in, the atmosphere was amazing, everyone smiled at me, even the women! I was even thanked for being here and not leaving.

OBC: Tourism has obviously suffered in the last few months, how much of that do you think is down to the revolution and how much to the general global economic crisis?

J: Both, fewer people are coming on holiday, they have less money and the moment there is a news story about Egypt they decide to go elsewhere. My tourism business has survived on personal recommendations, returning guests and archaeologists. I have had hardly any new business for a year. This Christmas is my first with no bookings at all, in previous years we have had 60-70 people staying and done a big party. Obviously this means for my staff as well a huge reduction in their money and tips.

A: People don’t have as much money as they have had due to economics but I think a large part of the lack of tourists now is down to what they are seeing in their media, they think all Egypt is like Tahrir so if they are holidaying at this time of year they may choose some other country to feel safer.

OBC: What kind of impact has the drop in tourism had on the town?

J: Huge, people here saving money in the winter for the quiet summer and the revolution happened right in the middle of the high season. Nobody is actually starving but consumption of meat has plummeted, they are living on ful and bread. Medicines and medical treatment has been hit. Also big business men used to support charities and they cannot do these so orphanages etc are not funded. Supermarkets and pharmacies are allowing people to buy on credit but realistically they are at the end of their resources.

A: Pretty devastating, I’ve seen hotels close, shops closed, skeleton staff and those staff that are kept on are on reduced salary, when it wasn’t great to start with! No one starves here as what little they do have they will share, they’re great in that way. There are lots of restaurants and shops unable to pay rent though and things we take for granted back in UK, like medical care, is all paid for here, so there are many going without much needed treatments.

OBC: I know when I went to Luxor, Valley of the Kings and Hatsepshut's temple were very busy - what's it like there at the moment?

J: Well funnily enough it is a perfect time to visit the sites, normally the crowds are huge and you have to queue, at the moment you can get wonderful photos of empty sites and se everything in peace, good for the tourists not so good for the locals.

A: All fairly quiet apart from the Hurghada day trippers and the odd tourist.

Hatsepshut's temple from hot air balloon

OBC: Would you say now would be a brilliant time to visit the sites without all the crowds?

J: Yes.

A: Fantastic time to visit! Freedom to take a leisurely walk around the temples without the crowds which can spoil it a bit.

OBC: Have either of you felt any personal concern about your safety since the revolution?

J: None what so ever, and I have not worried for my guests either. During the January revolution I had to go to the dentist and got caught up in a demo. Totally peaceful and I videoed it.

A: Not at all, feel safer here than back home in UK, always have. I often go out and shop after dark, never felt unsafe of afraid.

OBC: What kind of reception are tourists likely to get at the moment?

J: Thank you for coming, we need you!

A: A welcome with open arms!

Mohammed's very safe taxi

OBC: Is it safe for families to visit?

J: Yes, Egyptians love children!

A: Absolutely! All Egyptians love kids, again refer to back in UK your kids are much safer here!

OBC: Some visitors have complained about hassle, what's the current situation with that?

J: Same as normal, they seem to know who they can get away with it and who is streetwise and brushes them off. Try a little bit of Arabic: "Fil mish mish" it means not a snowballs chance in hell, actual translation "when the apricots come" and when you say that they laugh and realise you are in the know

A: It’s Luxor! There was hassle before the revolution, there is hassle now, there will be hassle when there is a new government, they just love to ‘barter’ a bit, it’s all about the banter mostly. Generally if you’re polite they will leave you alone, "mafish filous" ("There's no money") normally works, or "shukran" ("Thank you").

OBC: Jane has self-catering flats to let to visitors on both sides of the Nile, and I've personally stayed in one, here is a link to her site:

A few photos of Jane's flats.

Jane do you have any other recommendations?

J: There are some good recommendations on Trip Advisor and also check the hotels on the West Bank for not very much more you can get a really good quality hotel with a swimming pool.  Also try self catering apartments like mine!

OBC: For backpackers, I have personally stayed in the Bob Marley Hostel (formerly known as Hotel Sherif and still appears in some older guidebooks under that name) which is clean and friendly.  Do you have any other recommendations for backpackers?

Bob Marley Hostel
A twin room in the Bob Marley
A: Little Garden is nice, clean, cheap, friendly and great roof terrace. Boomerang again clean, cheap, friendly, not sure if they have a roof terrace.

OBC: If someone were going to come for a week's visit over the Christmas period, what would you recommend they should make a point of doing?

J: Everything, I am nutty about Egyptology so even after living here 8 years and coming here 32 years I still can’t get enough of the sites. I think the nobles tombs are much neglected and especially good for children and I love the Ramasseum. Also quad bikes, camel rides, Nile sailing we have it all!

A: Don’t stay in the hotel, get out and see for yourself. Visit the usual, Karnak and Luxor Temples on the East Bank, Medinet Habu is my favourite on the West Bank with chilling after at Happy Habu, which is not the tourist one opposite Habu, but further down to your right as you come out the temple, lovely place! There is also camel, donkey, horse riding, quad biking, felucca sail, winter is the BEST time for most fantastic sunsets, stunning, bring a camera! For the Christmas dinner, most hotels and restaurants do the dinner, with all the trimmings and trees and lights, yes we do Christmas here! My son and family are coming this year for Christmas and New Year, they are so excited and so am I!

OBC: Thank you both for your time!


Cheap flights available from here:

NewsfromLuxor youtube channel:

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Just in case - contingency plan - useful links

Everyone's aware of the situation in Tahrir and other cities around Egypt right now.  The protests are geographically confined to quite small areas at present, and life is pretty normal in most other areas, albeit somewhat economically depressed.

Elections are due to start on Monday and over the next 3 Mondays.  The powers that be are pretty adamant they are going ahead.  In any case, there is a possibility that things might become a little heated.

Some of the big British companies (and I assume other nationalities) have offered their employees 'early Christmas holidays' and have done or are flying them out in the next few days.

The British Embassy sent round a document tonight as an email attachment on being prepared, I copy the text at the bottom of this post.  But first some links and other notes:


British Citizens LOCATE service:

American Citizens Smart Traveler service:

British Embassy in Egypt Facebook:

US Embassy in Egypt Facebook:

If there are similar services for other countries, please feel free to post relevant links in comments (comments are moderated before publishing to avoid spam).


I would also ask if you have pets to please try and make adequate arrangements for their care in the event that you have to leave.  There were some tragic pet tales during Revo 1.0  where pets were abandoned by owners or left locked in apartments with no food or water.  Unfortunately, I have to advise that the British authorities (DEFRA) were utterly intransigent on the matter of pets having to fly cargo (I phoned them on behalf of others) - which takes pre-arrangement and would be impossible in an airlift. They were not even prepared to contemplate people taking their pets on planes and having them received by quarantine officials and taken straight to quarantine even though (I believe) you can take pets into the UK with no vaccinations providing that they do go straight to quarantine under usual regulations.  Utter jobsworths in my opinion.  

Quarantine regulations for the UK are changing on January 1st BUT until then, pets coming in from Egypt are still technically required to serve 6 months quarantine (though there is some suggestion that for pets already in quarantine on January 1st who satisfy some conditions, this may be relaxed).  Even when regs change, your pets are STILL REQUIRED to have had various paperwork and treatments 6 months before entering the country.  If you want to take your pets, please get them prepared in advance 'just in case' and you can take them hand to several European countries if that suits you better eg Italy, Spain, Germany - I think - check with the airlines for up to date information. You can take pets in on the Eurotunnel but NOT EUROSTAR from Europe so long as the paperwork is in order.


See this article by One Fleeting Glimpse for her round up! 

After reading her report, you will realize the truth that the majority of Embassies are NOT THERE for their citizens but to represent the country's interests. Not the same thing!

See this forum of International teachers for how different employing schools performed:

If anyone has any links to other information about how different employers performed (that is in the public arena), please post in the comments! No libellous posts please!

British Embassy Cairo

Contingency planning tips for businesses and organisations

It is better to be proactive in the event of the security situation should deteriorate.   Here is a list of possible tasks you can prepare in advance:

·         Ensure yours and your family’s  passport is current.   If your immediate family members are not British nationals ensure that they have valid and up to date travel documents for the country of their nationality. During a crisis, UK passport or visa services may be extremely limited, which could make leaving with your non-British national family members more complicated.
·         Firstly register with us on Locate and keep your registration up to date. Ensure you include all your contact details including a landline. Those registered with Locate at the moment are receiving prompt and regular email updates. 
·         Stock up on food and water sufficient to last for at least one week, in the event that you are unable to leave your home.
·         Ensure that all vehicle and domestic generator fuel supplies are as full as possible.
·         Check serviceability of vehicles and generators.
·         Check serviceability of communications equipment.
·         Have a reserve of funds at your office and/or home
·         Confirm that you have sufficient medical supplies.
·         Know who your warden is and check means of communication with them and British Embassy.
·         Prepare small holdall of:
a)      Passports
b)      Essential papers: e.g. birth/marriage certificates, chequebook, title deeds, etc
c)       Vaccination certificates
d)      Valuables
e)      Clothes and cash to cover a period of crisis away from home.

·         Read and follow our travel advice and information.  You should be aware that your insurance may no longer be valid if you do not follow our travel advice.
·         If you are here as a tourist, take out adequate travel insurance.  Expats should assess and consider the risks against any personal or corporate insurance policies.
·         If you are with a company or an organisation, find out what their contingency plans are, and what they will provide for you.
·         Be prepared to leave the country at the earliest opportunity, in line with our travel advice. This may be complex if you are a permanent resident with family or business interests in the country. However, if you do not, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to assist you to leave the country at a later stage.
·         Monitor the media for updates and be alert to rapid developments at all times.
·         Monitor the Embassy website ( )and Embassy Facebook site.  We will keep in touch with you via the wardens network, LOCATE, UKinEgypt website, via the British Business Group and the UKinEgypt  Facebook site.
·         If you manage a business or organisation ensure you have the contact details for your staff and that you set up a telephone tree to cascade information.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Taking animals FROM Egypt back to UK - new rules

Taking pets FROM Egypt TO the UK

Regulations are changing from 1st January 2012

Egypt is a non-approved country and so until that date, pets are required to spend 6 months in quarantine on entering the UK.

From 1st January 2012, this is changing, but you must make sure you follow all the rules exactly.

If your pet had a pet passport before coming to Egypt, then it might be possible to avoid the 3 month time limits.

It is not stated in the document, but I believe that it is still the case that pets flying in to the UK MUST go cargo.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Visit to Dreamland Ecostation - 29th October 2011

We gathered outside Bahgat Stores area in the carpark just before Dreampark.

First, we were shown the dramatic improvements made over the past 12 months to the formal beds in the area by Monsieur C's team.

Techniques such as mulching and using small pebbles or gravel to help retain water and reduce the demand for watering have been introduced which can only be of benefit in this region, both in terms of available resource and financially.

We then filled all available cars and moved to the composting area. This was amazing. The compost heaps range in long lines – maybe 50m or more in length – and are around 1m high. The major component is vegetation from the gardens of Dreamland residential area, almost all of which is now being brought to the ecostation for processing. Before the team were awarded the contract, the waste was taken away by contractors and simply burned.

There have been some learning curves to be gone through about the type of rubbish which can be used in the station and the message is gradually getting through that plastic and other types of non-organic and non-plant matter cannot be used.

At the moment, the work is all done by hand.

The team. They said they were happy to be working on the station and believed they were doing something important.

The heaps are turned manually.

They are moved a metre or so to the side, thereby aerating the compost helping it to decompose faster.

At present, using manual labour only, it takes around 6 months to produce suitable compost. With a machine, the compost could be turned more frequently and the time could be reduced to 3 months.

The only machine at present is a silage machine. Silage machines chop up the plant material into small pieces. The machine proved a great hit with the children, but it should be pointed out that these machines can be lethal – several adults in the UK have met a grisly end in these sorts of machines - and children should absolutely NOT be left alone unsupervised with one.

We were encouraged to thrust our hands deep into the heaps just to feel the heat generated as nature does her work.

To make things more interesting for the children, a competition to find as many different types of insect as they could was held.

We then stepped over to the golf course for a break. We hadn’t thought of bringing a picnic, but it would have been a great spot!

Some bird watching took place with the children challenged to identify five different varieties. Some papier mache bird boxes were available. Apparently, bird boxes can only take one family before they need to be specially cleaned out.

After the break, we went back to the compost area and checked out the plant beds. Monsieur C. introduced the children to the joys of gardening and they seemed to enjoy it.

Bags of fresh compost were handed out to those who wanted them and the visit drew to a close.
More photos of the day, particularly of the birds and insects seen, can be found on the Egypt Lifescape Blog

This was a very interesting visit. The operation is currently bootstrapping, and the majority of the costs are labour (and of course occupation cost of the land - I believe the owners of the Dream estate don't charge for the use but I may be wrong).

The concept would be very simple to extend to any of the new developments springing up all around Cairo and in other parts of Egypt.

At present, the Dreamland Ecostation is at full capacity for a manual operation and to be able to take in more organic matter and drive up the rate of compost production, some machinery will be needed.

Education into the techniques used to propagate this idea is also necessary.

Photos watermarked using :  Batch Photo Watermarker

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