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Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Al Azhar Park & Khan El Khalili

Yesterday I spent a few hours with friends old and new.

We met up outside Mogamma and took a taxi up to Al Azhar Park. (10LE due to our fantastic bargaining skills!). The entrance fee cost 28LE for the 4 of us.

I have only been to Al Azhar Park once before, in the dark, so it was great to see it in the day time. 2 of the others had never been before at all. If you have never been it is a very attractive, well-maintained place with landscaped gardens, including many water features.

There are fabulous views over all of Cairo – it is close to the Moqattam Hills and the Citadel and, because the air was so clear yesterday, we also managed to catch a glimpse of the pyramids in the distance.

There are a number of cafes and restaurants dotted around but be warned they all have minimum charges varying from 25LE to 55LE per person. Luckily I had stopped off at the Giza bakery on the way and my 8.5LE bag of buns served us well and is feeding me today too! We were rather thirsty but came across a little stall selling cans of drink and icecreams.

We stayed there until sunset and the muted blues and oranges of the sky were lovely.

We then took a taxi (10LE again – more fantastic bargaining skills !) over to Khan El Khalili. We visited Al Hussein Mosque. We went in the women’s entrance. It was crowded with women and children pushing and shoving and we went through to the area where it is claimed that the head of the Prophet’s (pboh) grandson is kept. To be honest, we didn’t really find the experience of visiting this mosque uplifting. It was a shame I think that we couldn’t go into the main area which, glimpsed through the mens door, seemed to be very different from what we were able to see. Next time it would be nice to visit Al Azhar Mosque if its possible to contrast the two.

We then made our way to eat at the Naguib Mahfouz Cafe/Restaurant. The restaurant has quite a plain, simple grace to it and served ‘traditional’ Egyptian food in an upmarket way, prices not too bad as a treat, but its definately not GAD!!! (Falafels or koshari 14LE, other dishes - chickens, pigeons etc 60-70LE)

After that, we took a wander round Khan El Khalili. I’ve managed to avoid this place in all my time in Egypt and it was much quieter than I had imagined, and I was very pleasantly surprised at the low-key hassle we got from the shopkeepers. Some of them are very funny – ‘everything here is 100% discount’ ‘everything here today is free’ ‘how can I part you from your money today’ ‘whatever you want I have it’. All lit up in the dark it was like an Aladdin’s Cave. Here you could buy lots of brassware, scarves, galibayas, perfumes, rugs, lamps. Worth a visit after all.

Another 10LE taxi took us back to Ramses Station where we went our separate ways by bus and metro.
It was a beautiful relaxing day with many different impressions of Cairo, ancient and modern, blending themselves together in that unique Cairean style.


It was an amazing day for me seeing Cairo in a way I had never seen it before. The park is high above the city, green, with water features everywhere; tranquil above the noise and bustle of the city and the view was wonderful. At sunset the buildings old and new were outlined through pastel colours of the evening sky.

A taxi ride to Khan el Khalili took us to the world below with vibrant colours, the air full of exotic perfumes and funny, friendly people to make you smile.

The restaurant was expensive, but part of the whole experience - worth paying more for a day you will remember forever!

(links etc to be added in a few days when not in a hurry!)

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Nutcracker Ballet - Cairo 26th December

A group of us girlies went to the ballet last night - Nutcracker Suite at the Cairo Opera House.

It was a great evening - the place was full. The foyer of the Opera House had a very wintery theme with some mannequins done up in fabulous costumes. There was a also an area set aside with some handicrafts - vey good quality - embroidered tunics, tableware, carved wooden bowls etc.

I'm not too familiar with ballet though I've seen Nutcracker on tv when I was a kid and I think I saw Swan Lake once - again when I was a kid - so this was a relatively new experience for me.

The ballet was composed by Tchaikovsky. Set in the nineteenth century. The story is basically about a Christmas party - gorgeous costumes - and a young girl's dream after the party ends when she comes back into the 'ballroom' for want of a better word, shrinks in size, the mice are now as big as her and the toys come to life. In particular, the nutcracker comes to life as a prince and whisks her of to a magical winter wonderland.

The second act has the famous dances especially the arabian dance (which was exquisite) and the russian dance (cue cute kids alert). I really liked the scenery during the second act.

The lead female soloist dancers were Russian but most of the 'corps de ballet' appeared to be Egyptian.

I would say it was a predominantly Egyptian audience last night. There appeared to be several big groups of people who had all come together. I saw quite a few guys in 'black tie' including DJ and dickie bow.

The row behind us was entirely Egyptian women so I don't know if they had come unaccompanied by men or not.

It was a lovely evening especially for this time of year.

If anyone is interested to go, I think its playing until 30th December and there are 2 matinee performances (probably more kids will be at those) on 2 of the days. Our tickets were 50LE and we were on the middle balcony. I think seats are 25 - 75LE depending where you sit.

info about the Nutcracker Ballet

Cairo Opera Ballet Company

Cairo Opera House

Thursday, 25 December 2008

St Pixels Online Virtual Church

11pm Egypt Time (9pm GMT) today - St Pixels online Christmas Service

Well its Christmas Day today. Not a big deal for me - I have avoided Christmas for the past 15 years or so for personal reasons (not sad ones just for info!). However, I know it is a time when many people, especially those far from home, miss family and friends, and also some of the Christmas traditions like going to Church.

About 18 months ago I read an article in The Church Times about an online church called St Pixels Even though I don't 'do' church I was interested in the idea as I have been a consumer of online communities for many years and realise the potential they have for developing friendships and support networks spanning the globe in many spheres of life.

Last night, I once again posted a link to this church on one of the Egypt forums I frequent for anyone who was missing their Christmas church. There was an online carol service last night and tonight at 9pm UK time (11pm Egypt Time) there is an online Christmas service. However, this time I decided to check it out for myself to see how long it took to load and the format of the online service.

For me, it took 20 minutes from initial registration to entering the online service. I already have java on my computer so not sure how long extra you would need to allow if you don't already have it.

Ok process -

First you need to register on the site, this takes the usual form these days of registering, confirmation email etc.

Then, for St Pixels Live your computer needs to be able to run java - most computers can, but if its not your own computer then ability may have been turned off. (You can check if you have got java by clicking on this Chat Room demo demo to see if you have got java on your computer. If you get an orange box with the word Java on it and then a chat room login page, then you should be ok for this. Otherwise you will have to download it.

This downloads and there are details on the site of what to do at various stages.
Eventually you will have an icon appear on your desktop for St Pixels. Click it and you get a plan of a church up in the top right hand corner. If you wait a few moments, you will see number coming up showing the number of people in the various areas of the church so you can see if they are in the Sanctuary (for the service) or the Bar (for random chatting).

The service is led in a top box where the various elements that you would normally hear read out are posted. You can interact in the lower box if you wish though it seemed most people didn't. At some point organ music started coming out so you could connect to either speakers or headset and sing along if you wish. At this point I had a phone call so was not able to see if they put the words up for those whose memory may be a little rusty on the subject of Hark The Herald Angels Sing.

I returned later to 'the Bar' and chatted to a few people - you don't have to be religious to join, and I was assured that a couple of atheists attend regularly. I did say that just because I don't do Church doesn't mean I'm an atheist!
As ever with online forums there are rules to follow and St Pixels has a set of core values which you should agree to before joining - basically around tolerance of people with different opinions, not taking offence at things and so on and so forth.

Here is a quick one page summary of the site: St Pixels in one page

I think this is a great idea whether you are big on church or not. In fact the more I am looking at it, I'm thinking its a gorgeous site - very attractive to look at and use, its quality work!

Online worshipping communities:
These are links simply as a service to my readers, I have not tried them out and cannot speak for any views or otherwise expressed therein... (I will add to this list as and when I become aware of places!)


St Pixels

The Internet Church


Cyber Synagogue


I haven't been able to find an online mosque yet, but apparently there's one in Second Life:
article about Virtual Mosque in Second Life
Another possibility is a new virtual Muslim world
Muxlim Pal

Saturday, 29 November 2008

One year ago today I moved here....

I left London exactly a year ago today to relocate to Cairo. Someone asked me if it was the right decision and if I have any regrets.

Answers on a postcard:

Absolutely the right decision.

I have no regrets whatsoever.

What has it been like

My quality of life and health have improved immeasurably. 18 months ago, before quitting my job, I had a pulse rate typically 90+, with skipping heart beats, blood pressure of around 168/120, was permanently tired and suffering some rather scarey symptoms. Within a couple of months of moving here (no medication, no exercise or diet programmes), pulse rate is now typically 75, blood pressure 125/80, and very rare skipping heart beats. I'm 10kg lighter with barely any effort. That says it all as far as I'm concerned.

In terms of how the last year has gone - my first few weeks were a frantic round of sorting out electricity meters, phones etc, I then fell into a lethargic phase - adjusting to the fact that (a) I no longer had a full time job and (b) that all the focus of moving here which occupied the last few months in the UK was gone so I had to figure how I was going to spend my time 'productively'. I found getting to nightfall and feeling I had achieved nothing all day stressful. OK for a week's holiday but not ok when that's the life you could lead if you wanted to - and I've certainly no interest in a 'coffee morning' sub-colonial lifestyle.

I had started retraining for a new career just a few weeks before leaving the UK so I needed to make progress on that which I have (qualifying in October - some of you know what but I don't wish to discuss it here).

I have enjoyed discovering more about Egyptian life, meeting new people, my family relationships are SO much better - we have so much more contact and on a deeper level than when I was living a life of get up - commute for 2 hours - work 9 hours - commute for 2 hours - work for 3 hours - bed unrelentingly day in and day out.

I enjoyed my last trip to the UK because that was now 'the holiday' so I was able to relax. To afford to live there as a single person would be impossible - I would have to go back to the same kind of high salary, deeply stressful, demanding life that I left behind.

Egypt has its problems, which of course are discussed by many on different forums around the web, but it has so many pluses as well which is what I try to focus on with my posts. Most of my experiences with Egyptians are wholly positive (and I'm talking about casual experiences not individual friendships) - so kind and helpful.

I guess maybe I'm lucky in experiencing almost no sexual harassment at all compared to the reports some people make - I have had 3 mild incidents in the last 12 months - the policeman with 'bosa bosa habiby' after my quicksand incident (which I don't think I posted here on the blog - I'll dig it out), one pinched bum walking down the road in Zamalek and one groped ass from behind on one microbus ride (both these two incidents on the same day I might say - was it my perfume LOL!). Certainly I experienced far more sexual harassment than this in the UK. I'm sorry if people don't like to hear me say this, but that's my personal experience. I have never felt in danger here the way I did on occasion in the UK. I have never worried that I will get knifed on the way back from the metro station by someone high as a kite on crack wanting my possessions for fund his or her habit. I'm not belittling others experience just saying how it is for me.

The kind of things that drive me nuts - tradesmen not turning up when they said they would - is exactly the same as in the UK. How many times did I wait in from 7am to 6pm for those deliveries that never came either taking annual leave or working from home?

I'm annoyed with myself for not making better progress in speaking Arabic, but it seems to have started to 'cascade' lately - I'm quite often able to understand conversations aimed at me without being able to identify individual words. My use of 'mish fahma' is decreasing.

Its been great working as an English teacher of adults a few hours a week. A pain in the ass sometimes, but on the whole learning a lot about the thoughts of, I guess, the 'middle classes' - aspirational young professionals, older people wanting to advance their careers. It was fabulous having the opportunity in August to run 6 management training seminars (all unpaid!) and learning the difference in approaches, learning that perhaps what expats in companies tell you - that Egyptians don't want to work in workshops - is more like they don't know how because they have little experience from their educational system of being considered to have valid opinions and that the 'teacher' doesn't know everything.

If there is one thing I would seek to change in Egypt and which I think would impact everything else, it is the educational system which does not serve the general population well. I think I've said elsewhere that the fact that so many Egyptians DO manage to survive this system and achieve a reasonable level of education is a credit to them!

And of course, I just LOVE the buses - microbuses, minibuses, mythical 'air conditioned' buses - all wonderful

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Remember, remember the 5th of November...

Stop Press: apparently the Brit Clubs in Cairo (Mohandseen and Heliopolis) are having Bonfire Night parties Thursday night.

Slightly off-topic for Egypt - but its my blog and I'll stray if I want to :D..

Tonight is the night when the annual British custom of honouring the attempt by the Roman Catholic Guy Fawkes and co-conspiritors to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605 - it never being quite clear whether we are honouring in true Brit fashion the notable failures as heroes (eg Eddie the Eagle), or the capture and execution of Mr Fawkes - takes place.

Read more about The Gunpowder Plot here - nice site for kids.

This takes the form of a large bonfire, a stuffed mannekin to represent Guy (made of old clothes) and lots of fireworks. Plus the consumption of 'bonfire toffee', baked spuds in tinfoil etc. .

yummy bonfire night party recipes

Nowadays, it is more 'safety conscious' and most people go to the communally organized, risk-assessed, Health & Safety dominated, trained 'firework engineers' (ok I made that bit up [Wink] ) set ups for their displays.

Nonetheless, living here in Egypt, I do not miss for one second the marauding gangs of teenagers and youths who let off fireworks for weeks before and after this night.

As a teenager, when my dad taught at the local 'secondary modern' school, and I attended the local grammar school, late October and early November were a time of particular misery for me when any kid who had got a detention off my dad would lie in wait for me on my way home from school and stuff lit 'bangers' in my coat hood or throw them at me from across the street. I've always had an aversion to things that go bang (eg balloons - I hate them) since then.

In Walthamstow there were firework festivals all year round - Bonfire Night (plus the weekends either side if it fell midweek), Diwali, Eid, random football events. If you heard explosions outside or the rat-a-tat-tat of some of the fireworks, you were never sure if it was some kind of festival or gang warfare breaking out.

So, how many events here in Egypt are celebrated with fireworks? I've heard them once or twice coming from Dreamland but they don't seem connected with any special festival.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Cairo Opera House - Turandot (the one with Nessan Dorma)

On Tuesday night, I had a very enjoyable evening at Cairo Opera House with a friend. We went to see the opera Turandot (that's the one with the Nessan Dorma in it).

Written by Puccini and first performed in 1926, it is set in China and tells the story of a cold-hearted princess who sends her many suitors to their deaths when they fail to answer her riddles. Of course, 'our hero' solves the riddles and wins her heart.

I took a couple of surreptious photos on my camera phone but alas they failed to come out well. You can see pictures in this report (in English):

China Daily report on the performance with photos

The costumes and sets were sumptious and the voices of the lead characters excellent. I discovered a 'hidden prejudice' in myself by being amazed at hearing Chinese singers singing Western opera. Ping, Pang and Pong were very colourful and great tragi-comic figures. The rendition of 'Nessan Dorma' sounded to my ears equally as good as Pavarotti's popular 'football anthem'. The two lead females also had extremely strong voices and I'm sure they were projecting without artificial means. There was a standing ovation at the end for the Princess.
The only person having real problems was the sub-titler, frequently getting out of step with the singers. Some of the translations also made me smile.

My friend and I reflected a while on the slight absurdity of seeing an Italian opera sung in Italian by the Chinese National Opera with English subtitles in the Cairo Opera House, Egypt. A truly international occasion.

The Cairo Opera House is situated on the southern end of Gezira Island (which has Zamalek at the northern end) - in central Cairo. It has its own metro station (Opera) on the Shubra-Giza line - just one stop from Sadat - one of the two interchange stations.

It is of modern design and construction - a Japanese/Egyptian collaboration - building was started in 1985 and the inaugral ceremony was held in October 1988. The building reflects Islamic architecture and other cultural centres within the grounds include the Museum of Modern Art, Palace of Arts, and Music Library.

There are a number of venues within the main building - Main Hall, Small Hall, Open Air Theatre plus associated venues situatied outside this complex.

The Main Hall is balconied. We paid 50LE for our seats in 'the Gods'. However, there were so many empty seats, we were allowed to move to the 100LE seats near the front after the first Act.

The audience was mixed, as a rough guess I would say 50-60% were Egyptian and the rest a mixture of Chinese, European and American visitors.

My friend was grateful that smoking was permitted in the outer areas (not in the Main Hall), and coffee, tea and cakes were available in the intervals.

The airconditioning system was very 'fresh' so a wrap of some sort would have been useful. The dress code seemed to be smart casual - all the men were in jackets and ties, women in anything except jeans. Very few people were wearing 'black tie'.

For further info about the Opera House, including the programme, click here:
Cairo Opera House

More info about Turandot: Turandot

China National Opera: Central Opera House of China

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Life coaching comes to Cairo!

A friend of mine, Amal, has started up a personal lifecoaching service, based here in Cairo, for Muslim women, and, as far as we know, it’s the first service of its kind here in Egypt.

So what is lifecoaching? Basically it’s a process that helps clients to articulate their dreams and aspirations, to clarify their purposes and goals, and to then help them achieve outcomes in any area of their life: personal, professional, relationships, health… A coach uses various methods derived from management and leadership theories, behavioural therapy, and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), to assist their clients to reach their personally identified goals.

Coaches are not therapists or consultants for psychological problems, neither are they counsellors who delve into the past, or mentors who are experts in a given field, they are future-focussed sounding boards and motivators, who lead from behind. It’s their clients who identify their own goals; the coach’s job is to ask probing provocative questions, provide insights and motivation, really listen, give honest feedback, and help the clients to develop strategies to achieve their goals.

Lifecoaching is very popular in the UK and the Australia now, and spreading to the US and Canada, but the unique aspect of Amal’s service it that it is only offered to English speaking practicing Muslim women. She was trained in Canada by Muhammad Alshareef (the founder of AlMaghrib Institute among other organizations) through DiscoverU ( to use techniques and methods that are successful in secular coaching, and apply them within an Islamic framework.

Although she is based here in Cairo, the service actually is international, as she carries out her 2-weekly coaching sessions by phone or internet and is supported by the DiscoverU website, through which clients get access to NLP techniques and personal development tools, forums, and coaching calls. She does however offer a special discount for people in Egypt who are on lower incomes, knowing that western fees may be beyond the reach of many here.

If you’d like to know more about her service, please email her on
Email Amal (her website is transferring webhosts and will be back soon!)

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Change in temporary residence visas

UPDATE (15/1): Since just before Christmas, the picture seems to have changed again with several people successfully reporting getting renewals of one year touristic visas at the Mogamma. Hopefully this will all now go away!

UPDATE (11/12): I am hearing more and more reports from friends who have witnessed people being turned away from the Mogamma when they go to renew annual touristic visas. I am given to understand that there is no problem in Luxor as yet. I am therefore inclined to think that an existing law is being enforced at the Mogamma but not yet in other areas. A friend and I are going to go to the Mogamma in the next couple of weeks to attempt to find out personally (a) what is the position about renewals - someone said they were told you can have 3 years worth with no problem and (b) what is the application process for non-touristic, how long does it take - what evidence do you have to supply etc etc. I shall report back once we have been.

UPDATE (9/10): There have now been a few people posting on Egyptsearch forum and Luxor4U forum where they have got new visas without a problem so it seems that this issue was limited in scope. However, as ever with all things Egyptian, do bear in mind if you are upping sticks to move here you need a Plan D - it is a foreign country and this sort of thing could happen at sometime in the future.

UPDATE (22/9): Mr Gaddis, the British Consul in Luxor has checked it all out and says its a rumour. Also, this blogger: Zak has also been running around to find the truth.

Some people posted in a couple of places that they had problems renewing their annual touristic visas (which many of us are here in Egypt on) causing quite a lot of distress and after a lot of investigations it appears to not be generally applicable.

Original post now removed to avoid confusion.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Cairo landslide - how to make a donation - how can I help?


I have been sent an email with the details of how you can help with money, stuff or personal help.

I have extracted it here:

"Dear friends,

I am touched by everyone's concern and offers to help survivors and families affected by the Manshiet Nasser rockslide.

The injured are in one of three hospitals: Sayed Galal, El Zaraa or El Hussein. There are about 21 people distributed over the three hospitals.

Other survivors have been offered tents in a nearby youth center. The capacity is for about 300 people, but as of early this afternoon only 72 people were actually sheltered there. For now we are preparing for 200 meals a day.

People from nearby buildings have been relocated to El Fustat.

The majority of survivors and their families remain on the street near the rockslide area in hope that they will hear any news of their loved ones. It is very difficult to estimate how many they are. The target is to distribute 1000 meals daily and 1000 bottles of water there daily to affected residents and relief workers.

How you can help:

1. El Bedaya is accepting in-kind donations at its premises in Ezbit Bekhit behind the Sheikh Kassem Mosque which is on the main road along the railway. We are at the Community Center (Markaz El Khadamat), 1 Kama'en St, last floor. You can call any of these numbers for assistance in delivery or pickup of donations

Sanaa 012 216 0332
Ashraf 011 2727789
Shefa 012 8684425
Mohamed 012 8401476

Needs include:

bottled water (0.5 liter and 1.5 liter),
200ml and 500ml containers/boxes of milk,
200ml containers of juice
clothing for children and adults (galabeyas for men and women)
floor mats (plastic or straw) 200 pcs needed
dry or canned food

El Bedaya has also started a relief fund for immediate needs, but also to refurbish new homes for those families who have lost absolutely everything they own. The account number is:
Bank Misr, Mouski Branch, El Bedaya Association for Education, account no: 103/1/28910.

2. ADEW (the Association for Development and Enhancement of Women) headed by Dr. Iman Bibars are accepting inkind and cash donations at their offices at 8/10 El Mathaf St., 5th floor, apt 12, El Manial

You can call Magda, Sanaa or Nermine on 016 551 8588 or Magda on 010 154 0486

The needs list for inkind contributions is the same as El Bedaya's (above)

3. Sama for Development (23 Sakr Koreish St., Masakin Sheraton across from Oriental Weavers; call Khaled 010 111 3461) are delivering prepared meals including beverages. You can deliver unprepared or prepared food. They also need manpower to help package and deliver food(i.e. use your own car or pay for a pickup) to the site. Also check out their group on facebook : Ramadan Mo ě«talef

4. Resala Nour Ala Nour in Shabramant are also accepting food donations. You can call 012 860 2602

5. The Food Bank is also delivering prepared meals but they are covered for the next 10 days. They are accepting donations in all major banks account number 888777. You can also call 16060. In the short-term they will be delivering food to relocated families who have lost their homes and belongings.

I have to say, everyone, that the ineptness of the 'system' in the rescue effort is shameful and has caused a lot of anger in the community; but the tireless efforts of local youth and NGO members who have gathered to help gives me hope for this country yet. They are really quite impressive.

Thank you all,"

Also, if you live in Heliopolis, please feel free to use Buzzy Bee preschool as a drop off location.

Other search phrases for search engines:

Cairo landslide how can I help
Cairo rockslide how can I help
Cairo disaster donations
Cairo disaster volunteers
Cairo landslide volunteers
Cairo landslip help
Cairo aid donations food volunteers
Cairo tragedy
Egypt tragedy
Egypt disaster
Egypt landslide
Egypt rock slide
Mokatam disaster

Dave's landslide blog: The Cairo rockslide foreseen?

Dave Petley is a Wilson Professor of Geography at Durham University in the UK. He keeps a blog about landslides around the world.

Dave's landslide blog: The Cairo rockslide foreseen?

Cairo landslide - Mokatam

How can I help?

A few people have arrived on my blog from google searching for information about the landslide, so I have decided to make a post adding a few links to reports, photos etc which are now up on the web.

This tragedy occurred on Saturday 6th Sept and is in one of the very poor areas of Cairo - mainly Coptic area - where the Zebaleen people who manage much of Cairo's rubbish and are world famous for recycling live. This is also the area you have to pass through to reach St Simon Tanner which I blogged about earlier this year. The area is also known as El Doweiqa or Manshiet Nasser or Garbage City.

The government have taken a lot of criticism for not helping more especially in removing the blocks. But as Dave Petley - Geography Professor points out in his blog, it is likely that some of these blocks weigh many times more than 2300 tonnes and blasting maybe the only means of removing them (and obviously there will be no survivors - if any one is still alive down there - resulting from that).

Here is a map indicating the approx location of the tragedy within Cairo. The map is my walking route from Citadel (marker on the left) to St Simon (marker on the right) but I have added the top marker in the urban sprawl to give an indication of the location of the tragedy (it is by no means precise but it occurred in this part of Cairo).

View Larger Map

Here are various links:

Egyptian Red Crescent bulletin on the tragedy (pdf file)

photos on Flickr showing the rock slide

Egyptian government portal with story about assistance

One of the many news reports on the tragedy

link to You Tube videos of it

Google search query for news reports about it

How you can help with money and stuff: How can I help?

Here is how you can make a donation to the Red Crescent - I guess you may be able to ask them to earmark your funds for this purpose:

Make a donation to the International Red Cross Red Crescent

Other links:

Egyptian Red Crescent contact details (their website is not working for English at present)

More about the Zabbaleen people

Friday, 5 September 2008

Egyptian female models - wheelchair users wanted

Came across this in my travels round the web - a posting on - a company called who make designer fashionwear for wheel-chair users is wanting to do a photoshoot in Cairo for their Spring Summer 2009 collection.

They are looking for stunning-looking Egyptian women 18-37 years old who use wheelchairs.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Oh! We're going to Mogamma....

The Mogamma, located in the heart of Cairo, is the biggest public administrative building in the whole of the African continent and yes, this is where you go to get your residency visa etc.. But do not fear - despite the fact that my Egyptian Arabic teacher in London told me that they counted 1 million people a day entering the building but only 990,000 leaving - its not so scarey as you might think.

I made a long post in a forum last year about exactly where to go so you can do it blindfolded which I am now copying here for ease of reference.

This post tells you what's in the Mogamma and some info about temporary residency and visas. For the record, I am a British passport holder, but I think its the same for Americans (US) and Europeans.


I'm glad I went with someone the first time because its a bit confusing. However, when I went the second time on my own it was fine.


Photocopy your passport and keep safe - you don't get a receipt when you hand it in.

Go in the morning (before 12 or earlier – I went 11). If you can get it the same day, you will need to go back about 2pm so you will probably have to wait 3+ hours somewhere – be prepared – you can leave the Mogamma and go somewhere else – you don’t have to wait in there (BUT bear in mind you won't have your passport with you because you have to leave it in the Mogamma which might limit some of your options).

Take something to lean on to do writing!

You can get drinks and toilets in there (see below).

Get off at Sadat Metro and find the ‘El Mogamma’ exit.


Yes, its a very big building but for residency you only need to know about the entrance floor and the one above it (i.e. for Brits - what we call the ground and first floor and for Americans, what you call the first and second floor).

You see a circular entrance hall - not too big. On your left are lifts (ignore) and on your right is a big staircase. On either side of the big staircase are two photocopy places. At the back of the big circle is a corridor. Take the right hand corridor and the first door on your right is the photo place. This is actually a little office with photocopiers and people in it, not a machine.


Get photos from the photo office on the entrance floor. Pay 15LE to the person who gives you a number, then go to the back of the office (which is cramped with people taking photocopies etc), they take your photo digitally and print out a sheet of 8 passport-sized photos. Then its cut into 8 for you.
They let me use the mirror to comb my hair in advance


Cost 50pt each - you might prefer to wait until the people upstairs tell you what you need, but I had to get a copy of my passport (mugshot page) and a copy of the page with my current entry visa on it. I got mine from the photocopy place by the stairs not in the little office.


Go up the stairs - doesn't matter which branch you take, they come to the same result. You have to go through the security machine under the 'welcome' sign on the right hand side. There's a circular entrance with corridors off.

If you are a foreigner, take the corridor furthest round from the entry. If you get lost just say visa to someone official looking and they will point you (how do I know? – guess!). The most useful word for directions in Arabic to commit to memory is ‘al atool’ which means ‘straight on’. Wander the corridor until you start seeing the booths that look like bank tellers. They are all labelled (in English) – eg Arab nationals, non-Arab, refugee etc etc.. (There are some signs hanging from the ceiling indicating 'foreigners' 'residency' etc as well to assist). If all the booths are labelled purely in Arabic then you're in the wrong bit!

If you want temporary permits and entry/reentry visas, I can’t remember the exact number but it was about number 32 or similar. When you know what quantity of stamps you need to buy, you need number 43 or 44.


Refreshments are available. There are a couple of chaps wandering around with bottled water (2LE for half a litre) and various cans – all were cold, not warm. I also saw someone wandering round with pens for sale!

There are toilets – the ladies has both a squatty bog and a sitting down bog. I found paper in one, but recommend you take your own. I don’t know if the shitfer thing was working – I forgot to ask my friend who uses these devices!



Now, I have seen various conflicting information about what permit I am allowed to get. I own a flat, but it is not yet registered in my name and I haven’t yet got the electricity transferred into my name. I am not married.

The story is as follows: one woman in the Mogamma told my Egyptian friend that if I owned a property that was REGISTERED in my name PLUS had the ELECTRICITY registered in my name, I could apply for a RESIDENCY permit (3 years). Another woman, a couple of windows down said IT DOESN’T MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE WHETHER YOU OWN PROPERTY OR NOT – you cannot get a RESIDENCY permit unless you are married to an Egyptian. So, that is two different stories from two different windows.

Also, they told my friend that if I wanted to WORK, then I need to find the job first and the employer will do the work permit.

So, I applied for / obtained a TEMPORARY RESIDENCE FOR TOURISTIC PURPOSES valid for 1 year. This ends up stuck in your passport with the words ‘Work is Not Permitted’ on it.

The form is in English and Arabic and the woman tells you what you need to pay in stamps (91.10LE), which bits of the passport to photocopy and sticks your mugshot on the form.

Go away, find somewhere to perch with your handy ‘thing to lean on’ that you bought with you, fill in the form. Go and get the photocopies you need (back downstairs), then go to the stamps place (booth 43 or 44) and stick them on the top of the form. Then go back to the desk you got the form from. She’ll go through it and tell you to come back later. I THINK IT WAS TO A DIFFERENT COUNTER for this visa, I can’t remember (It may have been number 11 - this is ringing a bell in my head for some reason - but I might be wrong).


Now, again, I have heard different stories about the reentry visas and when to get them. To cut a long story short, the key seems to be to get the reentry visa BEFORE you leave the country and not back in the UK otherwise the Temporary Residence is invalid. It seems you do NOT need to get it at the same time as the TEMPORARY RESIDENCE.

I went back to the Mogamma a second time and got a multiple reentry visa 61.10LE which is valid for 6 months from the date I got it. Again, this entailed a 3 hour wait between requesting and issuing – but even with the cost of lunch and copious lemon juice drinks in the Nile Hilton, it was still cheaper than buying it in the Egyptian Consulate in London (£18 and just as much waiting about). This time I went back to the same booth as where I put in the application.

Hope this info helps someone!

[Please note this relates to my visit July 2007 and some regulations and prices may have changed since then! Actually I renewed my visa this year and it was about 82 or 83LE something like that, and was also able to renew it in 6th October rather than Mogamma. You still have to go to Mogamma for reentry visas]

more keywords: where do I go to get my residence visa in Cairo where do I go to get my residence permit in Cairo where is the Mogamma

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Daylight Savings Time ends in Egypt tonight at Midnight

Just to let you know :D

Clocks in Egypt go BACK 1 hour at midnight - before Ramadan starts around Sunday/Monday depending on the moon sightings.

For the temporally-challenged that means you get an extra hour in bed **FREE**

So we will only be 1 hour ahead of the UK until the UK clocks change at the end of October.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Travelling round Cairo on Public Transport - Ramses Station area

STOP - PRESS (3rd November 2011) - The building works at Ramses Train Station are still ongoing, but you can see the improvements.  A sit-down cafe WITH WC (toilet, loo) has reopened on the long-distance platform where you catch trains to Luxor. There's a fixed price - I think it's 25pst but I forgot to take a lot of notice!

The pedestrian walkway has completely vanished!  I hope they rebuild it as it's by far the quickest way of navigating around that area!

STOP - PRESS (29th March 2011) - Ramses Train Station is currently undergoing a lot of rebuilding work and so the surrounding area is a little chaotic.  The station is in use, but allow extra time to get into the station and find your platforms (and buying tickets if necessary!).  There appear to be NO WCs on the station at present, and also no sit-down cafes (though refreshments are available on the platform where trains depart for Luxor/Aswan)   The pedestrian walkway is also partially dismantled.

At last - my first post in this series - prompted by a gathering we are having in Heliopolis on Friday.

If you are travelling around Cairo on public transport - then the centre of your universe will be the Ramses Station area. Many microbuses from all over Cairo come to this area so you can interchange here, and the Mubarak Metro station which serves both the existing underground metro lines also has entrances here. You can also find the entrance to the TRAM SYSTEM! (known as the Heliopolis Overground Metro or Metro Masr El Geddidah), so its a pretty good place to get familiar with.

There is also a main bus station not far away - but I will deal with that in a later post (when I've figured it out :D )

Here is a schematic approximate diagram of the area (it is not accurate but should enable you to orientate yourself above ground!).

The main Ramses Station has a w.c. for 25pst as indicated! Its not wonderful but anywhere is a palace in a time of need :D. There are also various refreshment facilities, tourist information office etc within the station environment.

Both the two metro lines pass through Mubarak metro station and it has many exits. If you want to arrange to meet people then either in Ramses Station or outside the Fatha Mosque (which has a big paved pedestrian area out front) are good.

The roads around Ramses Station are very busy and also there are barrier fences stretching along them for what seems like miles so unless you are fit and can climb over them, you will have a lot of walking to do unless you negotiate the underground passages (which can be confusing as they branch off and off - the one to Ramses Station is labelled 'Egyptian Railways' and the one to FatHa Mosque is labelled.. FatHa mosque!)

If you come above ground - then you will see a pedestrian walkway as roughly indicated on my diagram with the thick black line. Use it!

The entrance to the tram station is not clearly marked - once you know there's one there, its obvious. Otherwise you might easily walk past without noticing it! You pay for your ticket on the train - ask for where you want - I'm going to Roxy Heliopolis on Friday and I know there's a stop there because I've been before. You also need to know that the stops are not particularly well marked so ask everyone to tell you when to get off! Also check the tram is going where you want (I have yet to find out all its destinations!) and check it goes there.

Westerners don't usually use the tram so people might look at you a bit curiously! Its somewhat rickety but at 25pst who cares! (I think there may be some destinations that are 50pst but I'm not sure).

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Egyptian women athletes at the Olympic Games

Some will be surprised to find out that Egypt has any female athletes, let alone a number of female athletes who will be participating in the Olympic Games in sports which include pentathlon and wrestling.

Here is an article reviewing the participation of Egyptian women in the Olympic Games and some of the challenges they face.

Egyptian women in the Olympic Games

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Omm Khaled - Egypt's one and only female trucker

Here's an absolutely fascinating story about Omm Khaled who is female trucker working in Egypt.

Egypt Today article - July 2008

Well worth a read.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Vets in Cairo

This post refreshed and revised: 25th February 2010 and minor amendments 11th April 2011 and further on 8th September 2011.

24 HOUR EMERGENCY SERVICE: Dr Ahmed Hesham, Mohandseen,  Tel: 0106344025 - 02 37 626 883 - See (D) below for further details.

 (I have not used his services personally but two friends of mine have.).


I have listed a number of vets recommended to me by people in different parts of Cairo: 6th October City, Maadi, New Maadi, Heliopolis, Zamalek, Mohandseen, DownTown.

I have personally used Dr Rania of Vets in Practice (Maadi and 6th October City)- and I have given directions to her 6th October clinic below the list of vets. Another friend has used and highly recommends Pet Vet in Heliopolis.

Please note that people are advised to use the resources of Google EXTENSIVELY when checking out vets on line.  In particular you might like to google "Ingrid's Cats" Cairo
(Ingrid is not a vet, but someone with some experience you may wish to be aware of) concerning My Pet Clinic otherwise known as El Meeraj Pet Clinic. and may now be operating as Orabi Pet Clinic.  Not recommended is all I will say. DO YOUR RESEARCH.

This is not an exhaustive list.

(A) -VETS IN PRACTICE  - Dr. Rania Kashif - MAADI and 6TH OCTOBER

Personally used by me.

All services for pets:
- Maadi Branch
24 D. A. Shokery Abd-el Halim St., New Maadi,
Tel.: 002-251 644 28, Mobile: 010-620 56 94

- 6th of October Branch (instructions to find this practice towards the end of this post).
District 8th, El Tahrir St.,
Tel.: 002-383 783 36, Mobile: 010 900 87 36

There is a Facebook Group for this practice: Vets in Practice Facebook Group


Recommended by a friend who has used them personally. (Also see comments posted below - the vets have been invited to respond but have not yet).

20 El Horeya St. Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt
Tel: 002 02 24170494

Website: Pet Vet Clinic


(C) Dr Amir Mikhail - NEW MAADI

used to work at ESAF, now clinic in Maadi and online shop.

5/1 Small Lasilki St, New Maadi.
Tel (SMS ONLY): 0103458080, and 02-25203267 (12-4pm only)

Website: Our Pet Clinic
He also has a free online advise response.


42 Adna Street - Off Shehab Street, Next to El Safa medical tower - Mohandessen

Tel: 0106344025 - 02 37 626 883
Dr Ahmed Hesham Facebook Group

Emails: /

(E) Dr. Rafik Nashed Helmy - ZAMALEK and DOWNTOWN

7 Shafik Mansour St., Off Hassan Sabry St.
Zamalek, Cairo

- 50 Kasr El Nil St.,
Downtown, Cairo
Clinic: 3914314
Mobile: 012 3102401

(F) Dr. Farouk Bahgat head of Cairo Veterinary Association, Veterinary Consultant to ESAF and has his own clinic in Maadi

14/3 El Shatre El Shabeh St.,
Apt 2, New Maadi, Cairo
Clinic: 7044225
Mobile: 012 2198733

(F) Dr. Nevin Hosni Hammad,
20, Sh. El-Hegaz, Mohandessin,
Tel.: 334 756 40, Mobile: 010-141 20 22.

I have personally used Dr Rania of 'Vets in Practice' - in fact one of my poor kitties is there right now waiting to have an xray on his leg tomorrow. Also, one of my cats got very ill in May - some kind of accident I dont know what - we think she must have fallen very awkwardly but couldn't use her backlegs at all - spent 10 days in Dr Rania's and is now 99.5% better - back to being a naughty, cheeky 12 year old kitten ;)
Update on my boy: Not good news for my baby boy - he is suffering major age-related defects - the x-ray showed no fluid in his knees joints, a herniated disc in his spine and a partially collapsed lung with a 'shadow' in it. She said that these would have been coming on over several years.

Costs: (Cat1) 4 nights in vets + xrays + meds = 270LE, (Cat2) 10 nights in vets + meds = 250LE.

Update: 25th February 2010 - Both kitties are very very well now after their trials and tribulations of their first few months here. Approaching their 14th birthday and I couldn't wish for 2 healthier kitties.

Update: 11th April 2011 - my boy has been a bit poorly. Had halitosis and dribbling for a while. Then on Friday he went to eat a few times but didn't, and on Saturday took a bite of nugget food and fair screamed in pain. So we went to Rania in the evening and he had a broken molar and swollen tonsils and a couple of other minor things. Anyway, we now have a much happier kitty and no halitosis :)  Just need to find somewhere to get gauntlets for administering the mouth wash.... Both kitties are just 10 weeks and 1 day off their 15th birthdays and healthier now than they were about 3 years ago.

Anyway - how to get to Dr Rania in 6th October City:

Vets in Practice - Dr Rania - has clinics in 6th October City and Maadi. Mobile 0109008736.
The 6th October clinic is located in 8th District, El Tahrir St, 6th October City, approx 5 minutes drive from Hosary Mosque.

I will give directions if you approach Hosary Mosque from the North. Reach the roundabout at Hosary Mosque and turn right (towards Diamond Mall). Continue straight on and cross the Mehwar, continue straight on with the garden centre on your left. Follow the road round - you are driving down the right hand side - keep a look out on your left - the opposite side of the road - for a small parade of shops with a pharmacy at the right hand end and the red and white striped Vets In Practice sign visible. You need to drive down the road until you can do a Uturn, then come back up the other side. The entrance to the vets is round the corner from the sign that you saw and a very neat and pretty garden in front.

ESAF = Egyptian Society for Animal Friends

Egyptian Society for Animal Friends

The Egyptian Society of Animal Friends is an officially registered charitable organization (registration # 5034, issued March 12, 2002) based in New Maadi, a suburb of Cairo, Egypt. Our mission is to increase public awareness of both welfare issues for all animals in Egypt as well as how those issues impact the living environment for the people of Egypt, and to give a helping hand to abandoned and stray animals.

As of 2006 ESAF received a new registration number, this was because of ESAF moved it's H.Q from Maadi district in Cairo to Shabramont district in Giza . The new registration number is 2798 /2006.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Some information about religions in modern Egypt

This is just where to find some information about the main religions of modern Egypt, especially some links to information on Coptic practices for those marrying into the Coptic faith.

Briefly abstracted from the following articles:

Islam In Egypt

The state religion of Egypt is Islam - mainly Sunni. Muslims fast between sunrise and sunset during the month of Ramadan (which is not a fixed time every year, this year for example it will be the whole of September (plus or minus a day or so depending on moon sightings).

An Overview of the Coptic Christians of Egypt

Christians constitute about 10% or so of the population - mainly Coptic Christians. Their history stems right back to early Christianity with ancient monasteries scattered around Egypt, and the presence of the Holy Family in Egypt.

Coptic Christians fast for 210 days a year which includes Wednesdays and Fridays of nearly every week plus several fasting periods around the major Christian festivals.

History of the Jews in Egypt

There are very few Jews now living in Egypt.

If you are marrying into the Coptic faith, then here is a very useful website giving details of the Coptic faith which you need to know.

Coptic Orthodox Church Network

Old Cairo

In Cairo itself, the area near the Mar Girgiz (Mar Girgis) metro station includes churches, mosque and synagogue which have all been restored (or are undergoing restoration). Just get on the metro at any station (ticket to anywhere currently 1LE), Mar Girgiz is on the southern leg of the El Marg - Helwan line, so change onto the Helwan-bound metroline at Mubarak or Sadat interchange stations if necessary. Get out of Mar Girgiz and you are right in the heart of the area - no need to take taxis or anything.

Old Cairo

Ali El Oldbags Papyrus and Graphs Institute Presents - Updated exchange rate graphs to 31st July 2008

As an occasional service to my readers, Ali El Oldbag's Papyrus and Graphs Institute offers updated graphs of historic daily interbank rates of £, US$ and Euro to Egyptian Pounds.

Data is taken from and represents the daily INTERBANK rates, not the rates available to individuals which will be poorer.

Click on the graph to get a bigger version and use your back button on your browser to return here.

£Sterling to Egyptian pounds:

Euro to Egyptian pounds:

US$ to Egyptian pounds:

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Funky new map widget

Absolutely nothing to do with Egypt, but I found this new map tool (to your right) which adds a dot according to where in the world visitors to the page appear to be from - it gets updated overnight, so your dot doesn't appear straight away.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Oldbag of Cairo Amalgamated Megacorp PLC


For those of you interested in how much it costs to live here in Cairo, I have now done my FULL YEAR REVIEW for 2008. I hope you find it useful!

This is for me and my two cats. No rent or housing costs (other than utilities, maintenance etc are included).



TOTAL SPEND: 37995.95 LE

Whole Year to date (1st Jan to 31st Dec 2008)

CAPITAL(everything with a potential life span of 2 years or more)

budget (@1500LE pm) = 18000.00 LE
expends = 17207.60 LE
792.4 Underspend hurrah

This includes a heavy spending on a club membership - one more payment due next year. It also includes 2 short breaks - to the desert and to Luxor and 1200LE for spending money on trip to the UK.

(utilities, food, cleaning materials, transport, etc etc - general day to day stuff)

budget (@1500LE pm) = 18000.00 LE
expends = 20788.35 LE
2788.35 Overspend

Taking out costs of broadband, phones, electricity, visas, medical checks, transport and annual club subs - the net spends on day to day stuff:

First quarter (Jan - Mar): daily spend: 37.893LE
Second quarter (Apr - Jun):daily spend: 39.329LE
Third quarter (Jul - Sept): daily spend: 41.94LE
Fourth quarter (Oct - Dec): daily spend: 52.68LE (SEE NOTES)


NOTES - increase in spending during the fourth quarter I restocked up on a year's worth of printer inks (which added 3.93LE per day to the daily spend) and took on a gardener in December which adds 130LE per month). I also started buying proper cat food for my cats as I was concerned for their health. I am therefore spending approx 300LE per month on meat now including their food.

(utilities, food, cleaning materials, transport, etc etc - general day to day stuff)

DSL - full year 2507LE (this will reduce as I have dropped TEData and just use Etisalat)
Landline - 240LE
Electricity - 700LE
Visas (including reentry visas, photocopies etc) - 221LE
Medical checks including vet - 264LE
General travel (bus/microbus/taxi-rare) - 794LE
Meat stuff (for me + for cats) - 3600LE
Mobile phone top ups - 615LE
Entrances to concerts, museums etc plus a few 'big days out' - 700LE
Everything else - 11147.35LE

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Welcome back

Well it's been a month since I lasted posted. This was partly a result of losing broadband connection for a week and not being able to get a good signal on my backup service, and secondly because one of my cats hurt herself very badly and spent 2 weeks in the vets so I spent 3 hours almost every evening for 2 weeks travelling into 6th October City to go and visit her so she knew mummy hadn't forgotten her and thirdly a crisis involving my sister's website.

Last week, I tried to take a week off with no appointments but it didn't quite work out like that - had to fix up my sister's website in a hurry (long story - won't bore you) which entailed working through a whole night twice trying to upload stuff via a slow dial-up speed internet connection.

Anyway, I'm back now and got lots to do ......

Saturday, 10 May 2008

El Korba Festival


The rest of this post relates to 2008 carnival.

The El Korba Festival was held on 9th May in an area of Heliopolis called 'El Korba'. It was a street festival with live music, various stalls selling different things including food from around the world, parade etc.. Apparently it has been running for a few years now. Here is a link to a blog about last year's one: El Korba 2007

I didn't learn about it until a day or two earlier so had no time to make arrangements with anyone to join me. On the day itself I was making my business calls til around 230pm and was thinking 'can I be bothered' (Helipolis is the opposite side of Cairo from me and I thought it would be a very long journey). But anyway, about 4pm I decided to put my best 'going out' top on :D and caught the microbus to Giza where I had an errand I could run if I chose. Anyway, had only just caught the microbus when a friend called to say he might possibly be there for a while so I decided to go for it.

Went up to Ramses Station / Mubarak Metro. I had spotted the entrance to the mythical tram on one of my last voyages up to City Stars so I decided to try it. A tram was waiting to leave and I said I wanted Roxy, Heliopolis so the conductor said it was the right tram. It took 15 minutes to get there and cost all of 25piastras :D Somewhat rickety and ramshackle, but at that price who cares!

Got off at Roxy (called that because .... there's a Roxy cinema there!) and eventually plucked up the courage to ask someone where El Korba was - about 10 minute walk away.

I got there about 545 - 6ish at the start of a Pink Floyd The Wall set which was GREAT! LOVED IT.

Reminded me of - ahem cough - years ago when I saw Pink Floyd do it live at Earls Court the night after my degree finals finished - though of course they didn't have all the effects here!

About half way through the set everything stopped while a woman made an impassioned plea for everyone to find her little daughter who was either called Hamsa or was 5 - wasn't quite sure! So everyone was looking around - then Hamsa was spotted riding the shoulders of a male some way back from the crowd and everyone was cheering etc - heart warming - all say ahhhh.

After they finished, there was a parade of dancers from different countries and different sorts of Egyptian dances - I managed to see some of it but it was very crowded. I particularly enjoyed a bunch of traditional Egyptian musicians who seemed vaguely familiar and I think they may be the same musicians who play the Makan Centre regularly.

Then I went to say hello to a friend who was there for a short time, before wandering off to find a cold drink somewhere.

It was very crowded but not frighteningly so, everyone was in such a happy mood and once again it brought home to me how lack of alcohol really improves these occasions.

There was a puppet show of Um Kalthoum and an orchestra which was excellent - they were playing some of her songs along with it.

Lastly, I saw a band called The Classic Band who had different guest singers and were doing various covers. The band included 2 female guitarists including a hijab wearer for those who think Egyptian women do nothing but stay home in the kitchen. A young lad of about 3 years old - if that - I'm not much good at guessing how old people under 8 are - stood on the front of the stage facing the crowd giving it some welly through the whole of the set - definately got the makings of a future lead singer [Big Grin]

I also spotted some friends of another friend who I had never met in person before but recognized from the friends Facebook, so I went and introduced myself and basically hung with them until time for me to leave.

Now, this was a big, mixed crowd. I did NOT experience 1 SINGLE MOMENT OF HARASSMENT - nothing that could even have been twisted into harassment by anyone keen to find it. There was the normal buffetting that goes on in big crowds but ZERO bum touching, boob touching or anything else. I barely warranted a second glance off anyone. I don't recall even getting 1 'welcome'.

A group of men with very bizarre moustaches (who later turned out to be part of the parade) drew far more attention.

So an excellent evening and I'm so glad I went. I could so easily have drifted into nothingness again!

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

My Women of Egypt Project

I have started a database to record Egyptian women in positions of authority, artists, politicians, academics, sports to give a positive collection of information in one place.

I have created the list so that anyone may ADD to it. Please try not to make a mistake as you cannot EDIT it. If you do muck it up, add a correct new entry and I will review the list now and then to try and pick up errors. Eventually I will add an email address specially for you to notify me of errors to be corrected.

Women of Egypt Database Project

Click this link above to get to the database.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

A little bit of heaven in the middle of Cairo

Yesterday, I had a Cairo sandwich.

I had a lovely day out yesterday, experiencing two contrasting Cairos - a lovely, quiet, peaceful Cairo sandwiched between the big, brash, noisy Cairo.

I set off after lunch, making my way via microbus - squashed into a tiny seat with my face pressed against the door, and metro to Tahrir where a friend and her children met me in her car. She drove me out to the northern outskirts - Shubra area - where I met her family and in-laws who made me very welcome.

We took the ferry across to one of the islands in the Nile - lying to the north of Zamalek. It was beautiful, very green, peaceful, clear air - growing wheat, bananas etc, quite reminiscent of some of the areas around Luxor.

Mats were spread on the ground, the men lounging in their galibayas, and some more women - some family, some friends - came over on the next ferry with big trays of food balanced on their heads and we had picnic there, with children running about, people peacefully gossiping.

Then we went for a walk between the fields. Returning to the picnic area, a big commotion was heard and a crowd of people had come off the ferry with a young man dressed in a suit - an engagement party. There were drinks, a suitcase, food all balanced on people's heads.

They made their way to the other side of the island.

A handful of us went on a small motor boat for a short trip up the Nile - under the Ring Road Bridge and watched the sunset, then came back to the island.

When we came back, the children all started playing a game which seems to be something like 1,2,3,4,BOOM, 6,7,8,9 BOOM. Then all the women started playing it as well. I didn't get the game at first and thought it was a bit like 'Mornington Crescent' - a wierd game you get on Radio 4 in the UK.

The atmosphere was wonderful. Such a peaceful, green, rural, place, right here in the middle of Cairo.

We left and returned to her home for mashy and rice. Then she drove me back to Tahrir and I wended my way home via a very crowded, and that time of night after a long hot day quite smelly metro and bus, getting home after midnight.

What a beautiful, peaceful day and what a lovely family.

Edit: 4/5/2008 - just came across this tours website - check out tour 12 - Geziret el Dahab (Gold Island) - I think its the same island - amazing - they refer to it as 'a slice of heaven in the middle of Cairo' almost my words exactly - its so true - it really does strike you like that!

Sunday, 6 April 2008

A fab blog about Egypt I just came across

I just came across a great blog about Cairo:

Guest of Cairo

This young woman (23) is a Fulbright scholar here in Cairo and she is researching into
"the role of women in political and civic leadership here in Egypt. Whether acting as judges, activists, NGO directors, MPs, or economic powerhouses, I am curious how Egyptian women influence their society."

Something I am very keen to do - and have been doing in a very minor way on a forum I post on is find positive strong images of Egyptian women. Well, this girl is doing it!

Rock on!

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Funerals in Cairo

A question concerning my friends out here is what to do with me in the event of my demise.

On the assumption that I don't have an insurance policy that covers repatriation of my body to the UK, and on the assumption that my family in the UK won't want to fork out the necessary (cost to be entered when I find out what it is - something like $13000 - $20000 is what I have been able to gather), and following an incident where I got sucked into a pile of quicksand not far from the pyramids... the subject arose in conversation.

My closest friends here are all muslim - I don't know what I am - probably default Anglican Christian until I've pondered it all out - and out here, families tend to have a family plot, and burials normally take place within 24 hours of death.

So, anyway, my good friend did some ferreting out for me and here's what she found out in relation to 6th October City, Giza (where I live) ...

Went to the cemetery today as we were passing and asked about Non Moslem burials.
This is what we found out.

6th October Cemetery has a christian area right up at the very back.

If a Christian dies here and they have no plot as such, they can buy one for around 40000le. This is the average price for a family plot ( like little house) which houses about 10 members of the family.
They are built differently to moslem ones.

The typical family one is a little building with an entrance and gate up some starirs which leads 2 ways to a street level basement although it is on ground level if you understand. To the side of the steps going up to the gate are 2 little metal 2 foot square doors with crosses on them and a padlock. The dead person can either go through one of these doors to the cell structure, or up the stairs and then go inside and walk back down stairs to ground level to the cell.
Christians are buried in their own wooden coffin and they remain there. This coffin is laid on the sand ( not under it) alongside any other family members, the door locked and left there. Over time as it it gets crowded the bones are scooped up and the rotted coffins are burned and the bones are all put together into a new coffin and the floor cleared to make way for other members.

There are also little church type structures that ONLY house the bodies of priests in the same format.

There are also little church type houses that are owned by the different types of churches and they are used by the church to bury 'poor' members who have no plot. To go there you HAVE to be a member of that particular denomination.

There are then little structures they call eyes!!, this is what the man said??

These are around 12000le to buy. These are for individual Christian burials. Bit like a plot in a western cemetery but in a little brick house type of affair.

All of them need to be allowed to bury a death certificate from the hospital and another certificate from the Health Dept?? we deduced this was the 6th october Government office where you register everything etc....

If you are Catholic, Protestant, Anglican, Baptist whatever you will be housed in their own church type one if you have none of your own and are poor, but must be known to the church.

Not sure about buying them? Maybe have to pay cash or a mortgage type affair? Didnt find that bit out sorry.


Anyway, a couple of us living out here without families have briefly discussed the idea of buying a plot between us...

I have also been informed that there is a foreigner cemetery somewhere in Cairo.


And by the by - if you are a foreign woman (esp Non Muslim) married to a Muslim man then you need to be very clear on the inheritance laws which operate out here in the event of his demise, especially if you don't have the full marriage but an orfi or the other one 'missing a stamp'. Shan't blog them as I'm not in full knowledge of them, but you need to check it out!

More about pets to Cairo

I just came across this blog about pets travelling to Cairo.

Pet Relocation

Here's the link back to my original blog on the subject..

Bringing Cats to Cairo

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Women of Egypt - Positive Images

I'm interested in positive images of women in Egypt, so I have decided to start a list of any that I come across.
I'm starting today on 20th April but have backdated the post to 1st April so it doesn't 'butt in' to other stuff.

Artists, Writers, Performers, Theatre

Anna Boghiguian: Artist: article in Al Ahram about her and she's opening an exhibition at Safar Khan Gallery on Zamalek this week.

Nora Amin: Writer, Performer and Theatre Director: Some information about her

EDIT: I started a proper database project now:

My Women of Egypt Database Project

Friday, 14 March 2008

Good mosquito repellent cream

Mosquitoes are the bane of my existence here, and now the weather's warming up, they are coming out in force again.
Mosquito nets don't suit my circumstances - my two cats wander at will through the night and one of them sleeps on my bed so any net would be disturbed. I have got mosquito-mesh screens at all my windows and at my patio doors but - ahem - I leave it a bit ajar there, and also the kitchen door open for - yes, you guessed it, the furry fiends to wander in and out as they please. (Slight theme here :D )

Anyway, around New Year, I had very dry hands from doing too much cleaning with harsh chemicals and no rubber gloves, so I bought this cream from my local pharmacy called Clipp Cream - universal cream for hand and body - it says on the blurb, and its natural ingredients glycerine, lemon oil, 'allantoine' (whatever that is!) and silicones. It has a very pleasant smell and restored my hands within a few days....

but.... it has the brilliant side effect of repelling mosquitoes! on me anyway - I know everyone is different and different things work on different people - but its worth trying!

Cost 12LE for 62g - and that tube lasted me about 2 months - doing hands, lower arms, ankles and feet most nights and a tiny bit round neck and face.

Anyway, here is a picture of the box for the Enquiring Minds that Want to Know

Clipp Cream

Update: 2nd October 2011:  A supplier in the US has now been located (thanks to a reader for the information!) and she is willing to post internationally.  Find the details here: Clipp cream redux

Monday, 28 January 2008

Bringing Cats to Cairo

This blog brings together my experience of bringing my two cats to Cairo which I had posted up elsewhere on the internet. Please bear in mind that this is bringing cats from UK – London Heathrow to Cairo, Egypt.

Regulations may be different from other countries – in fact I have heard tell that you can bring them excess baggage from many countries. This is NOT the case from the UK!

It was remarkably difficult to find out what actually happens to the animals at the Cairo end hence why I am posting this blog. Relevant comments made by other people on the net answering my original postings are included in italics.

It is **ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL** I would say that you have an Egyptian, Arabic speaking contact in Cairo to accept full responsibility for the animals when they arrive even if you are going to be on the same plane. I was very fortunate in having a personal friend who did this for me – even though when I gave his number to the pet people as a contact in case things went wrong (eg I died at the airport or on the plane or something and the cats would be coming with noone in Egyt to meet them!) I had no knowledge that this act of service would be required of him.

Start 25th July 2007:

Because I have had a very difficult, nay almost impossible, time getting any information on this from anywhere, I am going to start this thread where I will post up, from scratch, the experience of moving my two kitties to Cairo from the UK as it might be useful for someone else!

I am not too proud to say that they are my substitute children and I am fretting like the worst kind of middle class mummy about to push her kids off to prep school.

My cats are over 11 years old and I am the only person that they are used to. I am the only person (apart from the vet) that my boy cat - who is a bag of nerves - has allowed to touch him.

I don't wish to go into the pros and cons of why I have decided to bring them with me - suffice to say that rehousing them with relatives in the UK is out of the question unless I was to shuffle off this mortal coil so I'm not going to enter discussions here about this decision. It has been discussed ad nauseum with friends and relations.

In terms of moving to Egypt, I think the climate and temperatures of Cairo - desert side - will be fine for them, it would probably be a very different story if I were moving to Luxor which is a lot hotter.


When you take pets from London Heathrow to Cairo, you are required to use a pet travel agent.

The agent I have contacted is:

The pet travel scheme
does not apply to Egypt. If you are bringing pets back to the UK from Egypt, then they will have to spend 6 months in quarantine. Bear this in mind before taking them with you. (In principle, I am intending this to be a one way move for them given their age and my plans).

I have a quote from Airpets - I'll post up the details in a separate post another day! Today, I went to visit the boarding cattery/kennels near Heathrow Airport where they will be required to spend 7 days before moving in order that various consular paperwork, vet clearances etc are given. This visit alleviated a lot of my worries.

You also need to know that the rabies inoculations needs to be given at least 30 days before proposed date of travel, but not more than 1 year. So factor that in to your planning! I am looking at moving them September/October so need to get the jabs done soon.

Comment from someone else:

Just remember that if you are not travelling on the same flight that you really need to get an agent to be there for their arrival at Cairo International.

Even with our agent it took 4 hours to have ours released.


Comment from someone else:

I thought the pets were given 'pet sleeping pills' before flying? Can't imagine them being awake and hearing the roar of the engines in the cargo section for 16 hours or more!


No, apparently you should never give pets sedatives as apparently they need to be able to control their body temperatures etc.
On British Airways, they fly in a section directly under the passengers, so they have exactly the same environmental conditions, temperature, air etc, but its in darkness as apparently they travel better like that.
Apparently, if there's no heating on the plane they won't let pets fly either.

Comment from someone else:

I had the impression that US vets routinely give out sedatives for pets in case of travel. The German vets have a totally different opinion about that. Well I'll see an American one when it's time!

Comment from someone else:

it is better for the animal to be in the hold rather than the cabin.
planes have a special pressurised area where animals go - it is the same as the cabin but quieter (no screaming kids) and also dark so the animals can sleep.
they should never be given sedatives as the effects of the altitude under sedation have not been properly monitored or researched.
most animals don't need it - they sleep most of the way.

Comment from someone else:
(note this lady is talking about 2 dogs from Abu Dhabi to Cairo and some years ago)

I've travelled with my dogs and had no problems. Now, I will say, they are 2 german shepherds and they went to Abu Dhabi and back to Cairo. they were on the same flight that I was on and I picked them up in Cairo with the luggage. You can imagine the stir it caused when these two big cages came out and they were barking. I've been told by many vets that it's not good to sedate the animals when flying international. People handling the cages need to know the animal is okay. All animals are put in an area of the plane that is set up for animals, they are not put with regular cargo. Make sure all the shots are up to date and you should have a letter from the vet that is no older than 10 days saying the animal is healthy. Egypt is very easy to bring animals in to. Talk with the airline and make sure you tell them you want them to be excess baggage, that way they will come through the baggage area which is much faster. Now, a cat may be able to be in the cabin and maybe small dogs so check with the airline. I couldn't imagine leaving my dogs or cat behind. As you said, they are our kids!

Comment from someone else:

The problem is not to bring them into Egypt (as Egyptian regulations are easy to fulfill and you already highlightened that) but to bring the pet back from a developing country to the EU - way worse is the UK. Isn't it insane that pets have to stay in quarantine for six months ? All this because of rabies? Even if your pet is proven to be free of any other contagious diseases? How will this affect your animal, your own happiness and your wallet.

Comment from someone else:

i'd speak to BA about the arrival of your cats into cairo - they should have staff at the cairo end who deal with the cargo (your cat will arrive as cargo).
they may give you a number for the cargo office at cairo airport - a bit of patience may be needed but eventually you will find someone who can help.

During my time in cairo, i met a few people who brought their pets in and no one ever said it was hard (or bad).

Best advice is to check with BA.

Comment from someone else:

there is talk of the quarantine laws changing. 3 months instead of 6. i think the pet scheme is unlikely for egypt for the foreseeable future but if they cut the quarantine time down to 3 months it will be good.
i have a friend who sent her cats from cairo to amsterdam for a short period before sending on to the uk - all to avoid quarantine.

1st August 2007


Took my kitties to the vet today to start the jabs. The vet gave them a health check and one of my babies has got a heart murmur.
The vet is doing further tests to get the full story and see whether she will be fit to travel. I have emailed Airpets to see what their view is.
Also, my vet wants to know what liaison she is expected to do with Airpets about the veterinary health certificate and export certificate as my vet is also a government vet and would have expected to do those things herself.

While I was there, she also spoke to DEFRA to get the official information on jabs and the only one mentioned on the fax was rabies. I think, therefore, that the cat flu and enteritis jabs are for the kennels purposes not Egyptian purposes.

Comment from someone else:

Hope your baby is okay to travel with you. Nothing worse than having a furbaby with a problem.
My vet here in Egypt can't believe the EU is so strange with the 6 month rule and 3 month. She said all they have to do is a blood test and they can tell if the animal is protected and does not have rabies.
Since I'm here for life and got all my furbabies here, I don't have to worry unless I need to go back to the states and that's not a big problem.

30th October 2007

Update: I am moving to Cairo on 29th November - a Thursday night. So, I asked the pet people if the cats could come the next night. Not possible.
PETS cannot come to Cairo when the cargo customs aren't there - and that means they cannot be brought into Cairo ON A FRIDAY NIGHT!

(This is from London where they are required to travel CARGO - don't know the position if you are in the lucky circumstance of being able to bring them in the cabin with you.)

It does mean they will be in the same plane as me.

Comment from someone else:

why cargo? I brought our dog from the US back to Europe under my seat. She was merely 5 kg (around 10 pds.) and spent most of her time in a soft petbag.

I think it's better if you can arrange anyway that you will be with them on the same plane.

Please ask Xxx (friend in Cairo who works with the airport) about cargo customs and verify the info you received. IMO they should work 7 days a week.

pets flying from the UK Heathrow have to travel out as cargo - I don't know if that's the case elsewhere, but you can only fly to Cairo from Heathrow.

British Airways also insist that you use a specialist pet travel agent - which is better anyway because they run round doing all the paperwork which I would have to do myself otherwise.

Even with Egyptair - if it weren't for British law - they can only travel in the cabin IF the animal + container weighs less than 5kg AND measures
no more than 45x35x20 cms, if you look at this it means you are packing your cat FLAT with no room for it to turn around or anything. My boy weighs 5.2kg without a cage, and my girl weighs 4.2kg without a cage so they would fail the weight test let alone I wouldn't want them in such a small container for so many hours (they have to 'check in' 4 hours before the flight for a vet check, and who knows how long they will be in cargo for).

The pet travel agent confirmed with Cairo that the customs officers relevant to pets - because its cargo - do not work Friday night.

When the pets come off the plane, they are taken to the cargo terminal.

I know it seems stupid - and it would be cheaper for me to buy them a first class seat each - but them's the rules.


This discussion went on for ages – people from outside the UK insisting you could bring the pets with you on the plane in the passenger section, etc etc. I have no idea if this is true for people travelling from outside the UK to Cairo. I have asked, and checked etc etc with airlines in the UK and IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO DO THIS FROM THE UK. Pets travelling to Cairo from the UK GO CARGO. Period. End of. etc etc

Update: The pet agents collect the babies 7 days in advance, provide the pet carrier (I'm getting a double one with a wire partition, so they both have their own section but can see each other and press next to each other for comfort if they need it, but can't fight - my girl gets incredibly aggressive even taking her to the vets).
They do all the paperwork, they get inspected by the vets, they are not allowed to fly if the vet won't let them either because of health or if there is anything wrong with the environmental controls on the aircraft.
Oh yeah, and they take the pets to the airport and check them in and do all that stuff as well. I won't see them before I fly. I'm only contacted if they don't make it onto my flight.

Update: 22nd November 2007

They've just been collected in the van - rather traumatic I'm afraid.

I'm gonna go and visit them at Heathrow - probably on Monday afternoon - just so they know they're not abandoned and to see how they are. My little girl is so fierce and angry and my boy will just be scared stiff.

ISA we will be on the same plane next Thursday evening.

Update: 25th November 2007

Well I called the pet place on Friday to see if they were ok, and the 'kennel maid' said yes they were fine, but kept kicking their bedding on the floor. I can see the advantage of them not being in the flat while the last bits of packing and decorating get done. They would have been traumatized yesterday with the chaos around them.

Update: 26th November 2007

I called the pet place again today - I had intended to go for a visit. I was told that they didn't eat for the first couple of days but were now eating and allowing the kennel maid to stroke their heads.
The place advised me not to come as it would disturb them - to be honest I was glad to be advised not to come as it would have taken me 7 hours to make a 1 hour visit and I had an idea they might be better if I didn't go.

29th November – I flew that evening and the air stewardess confirmed to me that the cats had made it on to the plane :D


Things people need to know... (and I didn't know until I arrived!!! Thanks to my contact who was a superstar for sorting it all out for me).

This applies if you are sending from London Heathrow to Cairo:

It is absolutely vital to have an Arabic speaking contact, preferably Egyptian, who understands how things work in Egypt, in Egypt who will accept full responsibility for the pets in Egypt. My contact very kindly did this even though I wasn't aware that this was the deal - I had just given their phone number as a contact in Egypt in case anything went wrong.

My contact was phoned a couple of days before the cats arrived and asked to accept full responsibility.

He was then told that the cats should stay 2-3 days in the airport 'quarantine' something I was completely unaware of at the UK end and had not been told about anywhere.

We will draw a veil ... suffice to say I was reunited with the kitties in the early hours of the morning after arrival.

There then ensued another debate about whether or not there is quarantine in Egypt. Now, I believe I read somewhere that Egyptians will keep animals for up to 3 weeks in quarantine if they believe its necessary. All I can tell you is what my contact was told by BA Cargo in Cairo. My contact was a personal friend and there was no benefit to him whatsoever to make it up. Things were arranged by my contact so that I was able to leave with them around 4 hours after arriving. I don’t know what the situation would be if you were not on the same plane as your pets.

Someone asked me if this applied to dogs, and also that they had not heard anything about quarantine in Egypt:

My response:

I don't know - it has been so difficult to find anything out. The UK end is remarkably uninformative about the whole process. I believe if it applies to cats, then it will apply to dogs.

Let me just suggest you need to get an Egyptian Mr Fixit on the case and an Egyptian friend or agent to agree to accept responsibility for the animals. I got my cats after 4 hours.

Others (non-British) have said they have bought animals 'hand' and not had any issues. I had to send the cats 'unaccompanied' - if you are using Heathrow /BA then that will be the case for you I believe too, maybe the quarantine only applies in that circumstance.

If you take animals EgyptAir, then if they are bigger than 5kg including the crate you will have to put them in the hold, whether they can go checked baggage or not and get delivered to the baggage carousels I don't know but seeing as none of the EgyptAir email addresses on their website have yielded any responses (cargo, customer services, information pr etc etc - tried em all), I don't know how you can find out.

Total cost to bring the two cats was about £1700:

Jabs etc from my vet in the UK £350 + Airpets (including 7 days board, vet inspections, paperwork, flight cases, flights) £1250 approx + 'commissions' Cairo end (the negotation for the commissions started at $1000!!! this is why you need an Egyptian ok!)


Update: 28th January 2007

The cats have settled in well and are loving it - basking in the sunshine in the garden and especially mummy's home cooking (minced beef cooked up with rice and vegetables) - western style cat food is extortionately expensive. I give them about 60% of their diet as the beef/rice/pasta/vegetables, I do buy biscuits for them because my boy always preferred those but am weaning him onto the less expensive Egyptian ones. I also give them tinned fish 3 or 4 times a week as well - sardines, mackerel or tuna.

I am advised that there is an excellent vet not far from me - a friend has used her for her cat and says the surgery and waiting areas are immaculate.
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