Sunday, December 31, 2006

Egyptian Mau Cats

Egyptian Mau

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Egyptian Maus are a medium-sized short-haired cat breed. They are the only naturally spotted breed of domesticated cat. The spots on an Egyptian Mau are not just on the coat; a shaved Mau has spots on its skin. The Ocicat is very similar in appearance to the Egyptian Mau, but was the product of selective breeding which led to its spots. Another similar looking breed is the Bengal cat, but this breed tends to be considerably larger.

Egyptian Maus are the fastest breed of domestic cat, capable of running at 36 mph. The next fastest breed is the American Shorthair which has a top speed of 31 mph. For comparison, giraffes also run at 36 mph. Maus are powerful cats for their size, alert and active. Males are usually somewhat larger than females.

The breed conformation is described by The Cornell Book of Cats as

a balance between the compactness of a Burmese and the slim elegance of a Siamese. Its medium-length body is muscular, with the hind legs longer than the front, giving the Mau the appearance of standing on tiptoes when upright.

The longer hind legs are another reason for the breed's startling speed. The Mau also has a loose flap of skin on the lower abdomen, similar to the cheetah, which allows a longer stride while running, again contributing to its great speed. A Mau running at full speed is impressive, with incredible acceleration.

Egyptian Maus are thought by many to be one of the progenitor breeds of the modern domestic cat. They have anatomical, metabolic and behavioral differences from other cat breeds which could be considered as evidence of antiquity or at least uniqueness from other cat breeds. Besides those already mentioned, Maus are more temperature sensitive than most breeds - they are fond of very warm temperatures. They are more sensitive to medicines and anesthesia. Maus also have an unusually long gestational period. The maximum normal period for cats is 69 days, although Siamese may take a day or two longer. For a Mau, 73 days is still considered normal.

Maus often possess very musical voices. They are known to chirp, chortle and emit other distinctly unusual vocalizations when stimulated. Another behavior, quite common in happy Maus, has been described as "wiggle-tail." The cat, male or female, moves its back legs up and down, and appears to be marking territory, also known as spraying, but it is not actually releasing urine. Even veteran Mau owners are known to check after a joyous Mau does this little dance.

Purebred Egyptian Maus are a relatively rare breed. Currently, the number of registered Egyptian Maus worldwide is probably about 3000. Maus come in five colors: silver, smoke and bronze, which are eligible for showing, and black and pewter, which are not, but which can be used in breeding. All Maus must have green eyes, but an amber cast is acceptable in kittens and young adults, up to age 1 1/2 years.

Popular culture

In the 2004 movie Catwoman, the cat 'Midnight' who brought Patience Phillips back to life as Catwoman was played by three Egyptian Maus, as well as a computer-generated Mau. The movie reveals that the ancient Egyptian Mau breed has the (fictional) ability, through its connection with the Egyptian goddess Bastet.


Siegal, Mordecai, faculty and staff of Cornell Feline Health Center, Cornell School of Veterinary Medicine (Editors); The Cornell Book of Cats: A Comprehensive Medical Reference for Every Cat and Kitten; Villard Books; ISBN 0-394-56787-0; (hardback, 1989)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Shipping to the US from Cairo

Josie posted this on one of the groups that I belong to in Egypt : I thought others too can benefit from this information. So I'm posting it here with her permission.

Dear All,

I have been looking into ways to ship books and other materials to the US over the past couple days and thought I'd post some current prices and details:

10kg box is 1155 LE
25kg box is 1527 LE
2-day shipping to any address
1079 corniche al-nil, garden city
Saturday-thursday 11-8

If your stuff takes up a 10-kg box space-wise, you pay the full price even if your stuff doesn't actually weigh that much. They accept credit cards.

15 kg box, 1603 LE
20 kg box, 2267 LE
25 kg box, 2480 LE
35 kg box, 3146 LE
phone 02-302-9801
ships to any address

Post Office
ships to any address
takes one - three weeks
150 LE for the first kg, 33 LE for each additional 1/2 kg.

Dar al-Salam Publisher
Mr. Qadri, 02-270-4280
30 LE/kg for shipping to a major airport. This includes the carton which holds about 40 kg, but not the cost of transport to the airport here in Cairo. I could not get them to confirm that they ship to airports such as Seattle rather than just New York. They also have cheaper shipping by sea, but this still just goes to the port, not your home. And they have to have enough people going to same place to merit combining them into a 13-carton container. I was told this is not currently an option.

Leila Books
Ships to home addresses, takes 3-4 weeks.
40 LE per kg, meaning a 20-kg carton is about $150.
Price includes boxing, shipping, etc.
Books can be dropped off at the office anytime between 9am and 4 pm except fridays.

Express International
You can also try

Airline Excess Baggage
This varies by airline, but even on Lufthansa, which seems expensive, this turned out to be my cheapest option this time.
It's $50 per bag that exceeds the 23 kg limit up to 32 kg.
And $155 per extra bag, at 23 kg, plus $50 more for up to 32 kg.
They might have a limit of about 100 kg excess baggage per person (according to a website), but they didn't seem entirely familiar with that here in the Zamalek office or at the airport -- I was told no problem bringing a few extra bags.


Edited 2 Feb 2007 to add :

Dear All,

In December I posted a list of options and prices for shipping books from Cairo to the US.

I shipped some of my books in late December through Leila Books and they just arrived here in Washington state, so I thought I would post a follow-up now that I have successfully used this shipper.

The books took slightly longer than the quoted time period -- about 5 or 6 weeks instead of 3 or 4. This may be because I'm on the west coast and I imagine the books got off a container ship on the east coast at least a week ago. They arrived via the US post office.

The packing job is amazing, the best I have ever seen. At Leila Books you just drop off the books and they do the customs clearance and packing, so I wasn't sure what to expect. What I got was a tear-proof sack, with Leila's address and my address clearly printed on the sides, securely sewn shut around a cardboard box that was also bound shut inside this sack with two invincible straps encircling the box. Inside the box was extra padding, then my books nicely packed inside a plastic bag. It was beautiful I tell you.

One other note -- in the current "Key to Cairo" given to AUC students, the prices quoted for Leila are no longer valid. The prices listed there are significantly lower than the current ones,
because the older pricing system was for an "M Bag" service that Leila and other shippers are no longer able to provide (I forgot why, but the owner also said a lot of books had gone astray under that system).

Here's their info again:
Leila Books
Ships to home addresses, takes about a month (See above).
40 LE per kg, meaning a 20-kg carton is about $150.
Price includes boxing, shipping, etc.
Books can be dropped off at the office (off midan Mustafa Kamel downtown) anytime between 9am and 4 pm, except fridays.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Its Raining, its Pouring

Its been raining in Cairo, a little yesterday & some today.

I thought I had seen all kinds of seasons & weather, but this is new for me :

Rain in Winter ???

This was supposed to be some of the heaviest rainfall Cairo has ever received. But it was just a little more than a light drizzle for us Mumbaikars. It rained around 0.08 inches by some estimates.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Churches in Cairo

Your home church away from home. Come and join us. Thursday: 6.30 PM, Friday: 9.30 AM, 11.15 AM, 1.30 PM (Africa Live). You will find us on the corner of Port Said and Road 17 in the grounds of St John the Baptist Church. Website:

5 Sharia Michel Lutfalla, Zamalek (next to Marriott), 736-8391. Services on Sunday 8 am & 10:30 am (with Sunday School), & 7:15 pm. Services on Friday 9:30 am. (Children’s Program and Bible School at 9:30 am). Midweek Bible Studies on Tuesday and Thursday. Dean, The Very Rev. Tony Andrews, 735-2074.

Cairo Christian Fellowship: Meeting at St. Andrew's Church Hall, 26 of July & Ramses. Worship service Sunday 6 pm, Christian Education (Sept. - May) Saturday 6 pm.

THE CHURCH OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST: An interdenominational and internationa congragtion follwing an Anglican/Epsicopal Tradition. Weekly Worship Services: Saturdays, 5 PM - Holy Communion (with Church School for Children and Nursery). For more information call 358 3085 or email at Website:

French-speaking services every Saturday at 6:30 pm in the sanctuary of Maadi Community Church located at St. John the Baptist Church, Rd. 17 and Port Said; 1st and 3rd Sunday at 5 pm downtown at Esrraaf Church, across from St. Andrews by Nasser Metro. For information call Pasteur Mairhofer Christian at 392-8199 or e-mail,

Meets Sunday at 7 pm, Potluck follows. For information, please call Ray at 797-6969 or e-mail,

Reverend Andrea Busse & Reverend Axel Matyba – 2, Sh. Kamel Mohamed, Zamalek Tel.: 7354673 e-mail: - Worship Services: Every Sunday at the German Church (Al Galaa Street 32, 200 meters north of corner Al-Galaa Street and 26 July Street next to Al-Ahram Building, Metro station: “Nasser”) at 5.30 pm.


10 Seti St., meets at St. Michael's Church (off Baghdad St.). Worship: Friday Contemporary Service, 10:00 am with Children’s Program, Communion 3rd week; Sunday 6:30pm, Communion 2nd week. Office open Mon-Thurs, call 414-2409. Pastor J. Crowe: 290-8256.


55 Road 15, Maadi. Tel : 358 2004 Weekend Eucharist : Fri - 9am English with Tagalog hymns, 7pm (Korean) Sat - 5:30pm English., 6:45pm French. Sun - 8am French, 5pm Spanish, 6pm English, 7:15pm Italian. Daily Mass : 8am - Mon, Tue, Thu - English. Wed - French. 7pm - Mon, Tue, Thu - French. Wed - English.


Service Sunday 3:30 pm and Friday 7:30 pm. Call Rev. Joon-Kyo Lee, 358-4620. Sunday School Classes for children. Meets at St. John the Baptist Church (Maadi Community Church) at the corner of Road 17 and Port Said.


An international, inter-denominational congregation that follows liturgical tradition. Fri worship 10am, Sun worship 10am. Runs a refugee ministry & always looking for volunteers to help. 38, 26th July Street, Midan al - 'Isaaf. or call 788 2743

Isna St., which is off Thawra St, and next to Chili’s Restaurant, Heliopolis, 290-7188. Mass in English 7 pm Saturday,10:30 am Sunday. For more information, call 639-7863.

4 Ahmed Sabri, Zamalek. Father Angelo, 340-8902. Mass in English Sunday 6 pm.

2 Bank Misr., contact Father Michael, 393-6677 Mass in English Sunday 4:30 pm.


Al Nahda Square - An English liturgy is served on the first Saturday of every month from 9:15-10:30 am, by Father Makarius Morris.


Mass on Sundays 9:15 am at German School, Bab El Louk; Mass on Saturdays 6:30 pm at Borromean Sisters’ Convent, Maadi: 6, St. 12/corner st. 75; all services in German; Rector Joachim Schroedel, office 795-7516, e-mail,

Ard El Golf, Heliopolis, offers Mass in English every 3rd Saturday of the month, 8:30 - 9:30 am All welcome - especially beneficial to those engaged or married to Orthodox Christians - meeting and coffee afterwards till 10:30 am. For more information call Sophie at 414-3696.

Information taken from Maadi Messenger

Peking, Cairo

All across city
They do Take Away, Free Home Delivery & Catering too
One of the more famous Chinese chains around Cairo & well worth the fame.

You can check out their menu & locations on their site.

And you can check my review on my restaurant blog.

Home Delivery of Food in Cairo

Theres this absolutely BRILLIANT site to use for home delivery of anything & everything in Egypt.

They have an almost entire list of restaurants that do home delivery area wise.
Click on the restaurant, it takes u to the menu where u can order as many items u want. (prices displayed)
once u r done it takes u to your order page which shows what u have ordered, u can edit at this page, u can also put in an special requests here itemwise. For eg : extra spicy, no eggs etc.

Someone from the site will then call you (or contact u on msn - yr choice) to confirm your order.

They then forward your order to the concerned restaurant & voila in 45 mins your food arrives home.

Registration on the site is necessary to avail of the service, but it is free. Home delivery charge depends on the restaurant policy. Ordering through the site is free. Plus some restaurants offer a discount while ordering on the site.

The address is

Entirely in English.

An absolute life saver, if like me you find it difficult to communicate over the phone with the phone operators because of different accents.

What used to take me 3-5 repetitions of an item is now just a tick mark away :)

Very efficient, very neat.

You can order tons of other stuff too from

You can buy CD's, rent cars, souveniers, jewellry & even book travel packages. So why haven't you clicked on the link yet ?

Also visited CSA today. The Garden Bazaar was on. Its really comprehensive & much better than the Asian Diplomatic Wives Association Bazaar I attended the other day. I will definitely be back on the 10th for their Christmas Bazaar.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Pottery Cafe, Cairo

Pottery Cafe
Opp AUC Entrance

Read my review here.

Drinking Water for Home Consumption

Most expats are concerned about the drinking water in any new country that they visit. So the first question I asked on arriving Egypt was "Is the tap water drinkable ?" Most people whom I asked this question of said "No"

It seeems the water is ok for cooking but not for drinking. I took this to assume that this meant that water has to be properly boiled before it can be safely drunk. Same safety standards & comon sense as anywhere else in the world.

But if like me, you don't want the hassle of boiling water or don't like the taste of this water since you are used to something else then your other option is bottled water.

Each ones taste is different.

For me, I don't too much fancy the taste of "Baraka"

Aqua Siwa is a brand I do like.

There is also a brand called Siwa with a pink screw cap. This also I like. I also trust Pepsi's brand Aqua Fina Nestle's Pure Life & Coke's Dasani. But the reason behind this could be pure familiarity in an unfamiliar land.

The only one of these brands that I trust, that provides bulk water in Cairo seems to be Nestle's pure water

Unlike India, where Bulk water is cheaper to source than Individual bottles, here its just the opposite.

A quick price break up for those who are considering a bulk water scheme :
Hand Pump - 50LE
Electrical Hot & Cold Water dispenser with mini fridge from Nestle - 1150LE
Electrical Hot & Cold Water dispenser from Carrefour 350-1500LE
Price/5gallon jar of Water (19 litres) - 17LE
Refundable deposit per jar - 50LE

Price of a 1.5ltr bottle of
Aqua Siwa - 1.35LE
Aqua Fina - 1.45LE
Nestle - 1.65LE

Hence 19 litres of this would work out to between 17 to 21LE. But if you buy a crate of 1.5litre bottles at a time, the price decreases substantially. I last paid 16LE for 18 litres of Aqua Fina (Crate of 12 *1.5ltr bottles)

For those who are busy taking out calculators, here is a working out of prices per litre (1 litre)
Individual bottles bought 1 at a time : 0.9 to 1.1LE
5 gallon = 19 litres jar : 0.89LE
Crate of 12 *1.5ltr bottles : 0.89LE

Looks simple ?
ah, but u forgot the but u forgot the dispensing mechanism
Assuming you use 50 jars over the period of your stay here
with the lower priced hand pump : 0.95LE
with company electrical dispenser : 2.10LE
with the lower priced electrical dispenser from the market : 1.21LE

This is without even counting or depreciating the deposit. If you use more number of jars, then this amount will keep decreasing, but this is an indication.

Financially it makes sense to go in for bulk water dispensing only if you have high consumption, as in an office. But for home use with a 2 year horizon buying bottles by the crate makes more sense.

Coming to convenience:
The dispenser gives you hot & cold water on demand.
The hand pump means you will have to fill it in smaller bottles to refrigerate.
A crate of bottles is heavier to bring in from the car.

The jars are delivered home.
You have to go shopping for the crate (or get your neighbourhood grocery to home deliver)

The choice is upto you. Its your call, you decide how much importance & balance to give financial & convenience considerations.

Note : I have used approximations on market rates. They can change from time to time & across locations. Please do nto take the numbers as exact, but as an almost accurate indication.

AUC Bookstore Sale : 2-4 Dec

AUC bookstore is having its sale. From 2-4 Dec. There's a minimum 20% discount on every book that they have & upto 60% on some books. The larger sale is on the grounds outside the bookshop. But eveything inside the bookshop is also on a 20% discount.

The bookshop timings are 9am to 6pm, I'm assuming that the sale timings are also the same.

As most of you already know, AUC bookshop has a huge collection of books in English, many of which they print themselves at the AUC Press.

Remember you need some photo id to enter the AUC campus.

Tip of the Day : You can buy an AUC bookstore membership card for 50LE. This will give you a 10% discount on your purchases. (I think its valid for at least a year. Worth the expense if you plan to buy more than 500LE worth of boks from them.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Cats at my door

From the time we moved into our new house, I've noticed a couple of cats around the building. They are quite timid when it comes to human contact. They are used to being driven away & not used to being petted. So they keep their distance.

But for the last couple of days, since the cold set in, I often open my front door to find one cat or another snuggled on my doormat. I like cats & don't mind them borrowing the mat, but the moment I open the door they tend to run away.

But today, there were 4 of them together & they just seemed more confident & kept looking at me curiously as they let me click their pictures. Here r some of them.

Reminded me of the little kittens I left behind when we left home. They were hardly 2 weeks old when I left & had just about opened their eyes. They were identical triplets as you can see. They were so tiny, they fit in the palms of our hands.

And my sisters Darling "Angel" who died in our arms, after an unfortunate accident. I haven't been able to put his pictures up so far. We miss him too much. He was such a sweetheart.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Friends New & Old

Got back in touch with an old friend of mine from college days (they seem so far ago) Ria is now in the USA & makes the most beautiful artificial flowers & arrangements. Her company is called St Judes Creations

Her website is worth looking at, even if you aren't planning on ordering any flowers any time soon. They are truly beautiful. As a sample, I am pasting one here below

and a beautiful bridal bouquet

For orders email at : - with number of flowers required, type, color and the date by which you would like them.

Ria is so good, her paper flowers have been used in the movie The World's Fastest Indian starring Anthony Hopkins !

If you are having trouble loading the website, you can also check out Ria's Blog

Also made a new friend today. Sasha, thanks so much for all the help & for showing me around Maadi & showing me where I could buy stuff & all the advice on which brands to buy & from where. That little list you made me on prices of fruits & vegetables was so thoughtful. Thanks again & Au Revoir

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Al Ahram Weekly (English Newspaper) subscription

To subscribe to Al-Ahram Weekly's print edition send your subscription order to:

Al-Ahram Subscription Department,
Galaa St. Cairo, Egypt.

Subscription payments can be made directly in cash or by cheque to the same address.

Annual Subscription Rates (after reduction):

Egypt................................L.E 39.00
Arab Countries.......................$50.00 (original $60)
Other Countries......................$100.00 (original $150)

Al Ahram Weekly

Xmas / Christmas decorations in Cairo

For anyone looking for xmas decorations. Spinneys in City Stars mall had a better range, at better rates than Carre Four. I haven't checked out Maadi yet. But of the lot that I have seen, Spinneys was the best.

If you do go to City Stars mall to buy xmas decorations, theres a shop called Bashayer Style in the Khan El Khalili section on the 4th Floor, which has these hand blown glass balls for hanging on the tree. They are 5 LE each. The painted ones are more expensive. But a nice "local craft" touch to your tree. They even have a tree completely decorated with bedouin woven decorations. (not strictly xmas decorations but they are colorful & look good on the tree.

From what I have heard, the Christmas Bazaars are a good place to pick up decorations. To know where these Christmas Bazaars are hapenning sign up to or

Fuddruckers, Cairo

Tried out Fuddruckers today. They did serve up pretty good burgers in the States. But they weren't as yummy here.

Read the rest of my Review Here

Monday, November 27, 2006

Grocery Shopping in Cairo


I've been figuring my way around shopping for groceries & thought that maybe a couple of you could benefit from my experience.

Metro Markets are dotted around the city. They are each a small supermarket. Like a Foodworld from Bangalore. They have all the baiscs that you need for daily use. Some fresh fruits & vegetables. A small selection of raw meats, marinated meats, cold meats, cheeses & pickles. They have some variety in brands but not a huge lot. They are ok when you need to pick up groceries in a jiffy. But I have found them more expensive than the other local groceries or the bigger ones. The advantage is that most items are labelled in English as are the prices. A lot of expats do their regualr shopping here because of the convenience.

You can also try the Hawary Supermarkets. Its similar to metro but with more reasonable rates. The locals shop here. A word of warning though. Most prices are written in Arabic if they are written at all. The store personnel cannot speak too much English & the stores are quite crowded. The aisles are small & have a lot of people jostling for space for themselves and their trolleys. Once you know which brands you like & can speak a few words in arabic then you can attempt to shop here.

For your major shopping, try Carrefour It’s a French Hyper Market where you can get everything you want, that’s available in Egypt in quite a few varieties. You do get good discounts & they always have some offer or the other on. Most of the service staff can speak some amount of English or can refer you to someone who does speak English, so its quite a pleasure to shop here. The aisles are wide, the air conditioning works, lots of choice, good rates. Drawback : It’s a long drive from most residential areas. There's one on the Cairo-Alex desert road at Dandy Mall & another at Maadi grand mall (which isn't within Maadi as the name may suggest but some way off) They are both located in pretty decent malls, so you can plan a day around the experience. Of the 2, the Maadi mall is a better mall & there's a new one with more shops coming up along side it.

If you are more confident of yourself & know for sure which brands you want to purchase, then Hyper1 is a better option than Carrefour because their prices are much lower & they have a huger range especially of local products. Most locals shop here for their monthly shopping. Its completely worth the drive if you have to spend about 100LE on your groceries, you will save at least 15LE. So very worth it. Nicely spaced out. Only, the identifiers are written mainly in Arabic, prices are written in English numerals but not the names.

Between Hyper1 & Carrefour, I would recommend Carrefour for cold meats (cheaper) & unpacked spices in barrels -which you decide how much you want(labelled in English) For everything else Hyper1 is a better bet.

I've heard that the CityStars Mall in Nasr City has a Grocery store too in a Khan El Khalili Section, but I haven't really checked it out. So I can't comment. The Virgin store, located here is excellent for music & books & the Food Court is humongous. But I digress. Longer post on that sometime.

The local markets are always good for fruits & vegetables. Whatever I've seen of them, they look fresher than the stuff inside the supermarkets. I'm not yet too comfortable haggling in Arabic, so I've not attempted them yet. Although I have been told by locals, that they sell at a fixed price & there's no need to bargain. But given that I have no clue what the fixed rate should be, I'm still apprehensive. Maybe in the next couple of weeks.

You can buy lovely spices at the Khan El Khalili for much lower rate than at the above mentioned locations. But be ready to bargain. Most of these guys can speak enough English to bargain with them because of the sheer number of tourists that visit the market.

Your neighbourhood grocer will have a lot of the stuff that you may suddenly run out of, but I feel that the guy next to my house is overcharging me. Its easier to walk up to Metro Markets where prices are fixed & marked. At least there I know that I'm being overcharged the same as the other customers. LOL ! Your bowab or his wife will just as easily pick up the stuff for you from the grocer for a small tip (50p to 2LE depending on how much stuff he has to carry up)

Anything else you would like to add or would like me to answer ? Just drop me a comment. I'll be posting again in detail on what things are available & not available in Cairo.

Edit Add (29 Nov 06) : Spinneys at City Stars mall is similar to Hyper1 & Carrefour but I found its meat section cleaner & the general overall ambience was much better. But I was just window shopping, so I can't really comment on the prices vis a vis the others. Whatever little I saw, they were comparable & they have a better section of clothes here.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Indian Embassy in Cairo & ECNR

Visited the Indian Embassy in Cairo today (its near Metro Cinema in the Downtown area) We had to get husbands passport back.

For those who did not know the story, husband had applied for his renewed passport in a hurry in Delhi. At that time he was travelling to Malaysia in a hurry & did not need the ECNR stamped on the passport. He did not realise that it hadn't been stamped at all till he had already left Delhi.

He did not need to use that passport again till he had moved to Bombay. But the Bombay passport office refused to stamp an ECNR on his passport & told him that he would have to go back & get it done in Delhi. But Delhi would not do it because he no longer had proof of residing at the address mentioned in the passport. (Perils of transferable jobs)

I've summed the situation up in 4 sentences, but it took us 3 months to figure there was no option but to keep applying to a labor court & paying 50-500rs for a temporary stamp before each trip abroad which was quite tiresome & iriitating.

Finally got it done for 60LE without any hassle at the Embassy here just on production of a photocopy of graduation certificate. Heard that a 10th standard certificate is now enough for an ECNR stamp. My passport (newly issued this Oct) has this page completely removed. The pasport came back with a little note saying that the ECNR was no longer a required stamp in a passport.

Husband has been having this trouble, solely becuase the notification has not reached the right people & an outdated piece of legislation has costed us more than 500 working hours in the last 3 months before we left Bombay.

Essentially the ECNR (Emigration Check Not Required) was created as a safeguard for Indians who were going abroad as cheap labour. So unless you had a graduation degree your passport would be stamped as ECR (Emigration Check Required)

So unless you had an ECNR, you could not travel to certain countries. Theoretically it was sound. But over the years as is the case with most Indian legislation it is a wasteful exercise of time & money. Those who do not have a graduation degree still manage to get an ECNR stamped & a few like my husband get stuck in red tape.

Ok rant over.

Back to the Embassy, it was run pretty much the same as the Indian Passport offices are, minus the crowds. Things took as long as they would in any government office. But at least it got done !

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Cough Syrup

With the change in temeperature, I have been having an itchy throat for the last 2 days. Salt water gargling was not helping. So I needed to buy a syrup to soothe my throat.

Now the question was which brand could be trustworthy enough to be bought ? Fortunately one of the locals at husbands office recommended a syrup called "Balsam" She said she used it for her son too. Safe enough for her son, was safe enough for me & it worked instantly. Thats why I'm recommending it here.

Its all natural. Has a mixture of Guava (go figure) Thyme, Tilia flowers, Fennel Oil & purified honey. Worked on my light congestion too as a decongestant.

It worked extremely well & my throat infection did not develop into a full blown runny nose cold which anyone who knows me will tell you is as close to a miracle as you can get.

It tasted good but a little strange, thats when I realised it was the lack of alcohol in it that was making it taste different. :)

It costed me 7.45LE at the pharmacy. This was the printed price.

I also picked a pack of 22 lozenges in honey lemon flavor of a local brand called Seem for 14.90LE which worked well too.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

William Dalrymple in Cairo

William Dalrymple in Cairo

William Dalrymple, internationally acclaimed British

writer, historian and broadcaster was in Cairo to give 2 lectures.

Islam and Christianity: Clash or Clasp of Civilizations - at the American University

of Cairo (AUC) in the Oriental Hall at 5 PM on Thursday, November 16, 2006.

From The Holy Mountain-A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium - an illustrated

talk on the demise of Christianity in its Middle Eastern homeland. Held at St. John's Church/Maadi at 7 PM on Saturday,

November 18, 2006.

I attended the first Lecture today. Sole intention initially was to hear someone speak in English for an hour. (I'm a little tired of

hearing Arabic & Hindi all the time, also tired of people telling me "Oh you were in the US, that's why you speak English so

well"... these people should talk to my Nana who has never left Dakshina Kannada - ok end of rant)

William Dalrymple speaks the way he writes. Loaded with facts. There was so many

interesting facts that he mentioned & questions that he posed & similarities that he underlined. I'll just outline a few here.
1. The first University in the world was the Al Azhar university in Egypt - quite a well known fact in Egypt but not elsewhere in

the world.
2. In the initial days there was an easy camaraderie between Christians & Muslims. Muslims revered certain Christian saints

& prophets (they believe that Jesus Christ is also a prophet) & made gifts to monasteries. Even today the keys to 1 of the

famous churches in Jerusalem are entrusted to a muslim family (I couldn't catch the name of the church)
3. In India (William so loves the country he now spends 6 months a year living in India) Akbar (muslim ruler) held joint

conferences for all faiths to understand them all.
4. Lent is a 40 day period. The Lent followed by the Coptic Christians (who follow an older, less modernised form of Christianity)

is much more gruelling than among the Western Christians. Ramadan too lasts 40 days.

I do not want to get into a debate here, so I'm not posting more of the points he mentioned. I thoroughly enjoyed the lecture.

Picked up a copy of Will post a review on the book sometime soon. I've just read

the 1st couple of pages & I'm thoroughly hooked. It talks about the areas that I'm hoping to visit on a more adventurous

scale. Wait for the review :)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Days of the Week

My days of the week are all completely messed up from what used to be normal.

Friday is the compulsory off. Making it like a Sunday.
Saturday is an optional off so it remains a Saturday.
Sunday is back to work so its like a Monday but the appropriate phrase would be Sunday morning blues (never ever thought I would suffer from that !)
But Sunday is also the day, family back home comes online, so at least I get to talk to them & envy their holiday lunches & dinners.

Thursday is like a Friday. & the rest of the days just blend into each other.

If you are looking for the Arabic Equivalents here they are :
Sunday = al-Ahad
Monday = al-Ithnein
Tuesday = al-Thulatha
Wednesday = al-Irba'a
Thursday = el-Khamis
Friday = el-Gum'a
Saturday = el-Sabt

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Ironing / Pressing

Most of the expat sites that I read for Egypt said that getting clothes ironed by an external guy was easy & cheap.....

Then I landed in Egypt !

Hotel rates of course are not even worth mentioning. With what we spent in a week, on cleaning of clothes at the Cairo Sheraton, I could buy myself another outfit or 2. But, companies only reimburse laundry bills not shopping bills :(

Getting back to topic : once we moved into our house, getting clothes washed wasn't a problem, since furnished apartment means a washing machine is definitely included in the house fittings. So clothes duly washed & dried it was now time for stage 3 (1. washing, 2. drying... keep up with me) which was the ironing.

There is a dry cleaning guy & an ironing guy hardly a door away from our building (quite common all over Cairo) so sent dear husband down with almost a suitcase full of clothes to be ironed. (they were mostly HIS clothes anyway {grin})

He comes back up & says the rate is 1.5 LE thats 12 rupees TWELVE Rupees. (Ok Ok, I'm desi, I've hardly been here a month, I'm still converting.) But 12 Rupees !!! to iron a shirt ! I thought my Bombay dhobhi was expensive when he charged me 2rs an item since my Hyderabad dhobhi only charged me 1rs. With over 20 items of clothing, that worked out to 30 pounds thats 240rupees. This may be a cheap rate for someone from the Western world where the options are d-i-y or Dry Cleaners, ($3 - $5 = Rs135-Rs225 a garment) but not for any self respecting desi from India.

For a change even hubby thought the rate was too much & he promptly pronounced that henceforth he would iron his own clothes. Lofty & noble intentions should not be discouraged & all good ideas should be encouraged. So I agreed with him wondering how long these good intentions would last.

Well that suitcase load of ironed clothes ran out today & as he rushed out of the front door hubby sheepishly asked me with the sweetest of grins "Kim, can you please iron a pair of pants for me, I don't have clothes for tomorrow"

He's esp busy this weekend. Was working yesterday (Friday - weekly off in Egypt) so I could hardly say "No"

Until today I was happily dumping the dried clothes into one of the bedrooms which I have converted to a laundry room (with the door closed) so I dont have to observe the growing piles of clothes.

So faced with this request, I had to face the *Laundry Room*

Now I'm no stranger to ironing. I used to iron my own clothes until I got married & husband convinced me that it was easier & worth it to pay off the dhobhi to iron them for me. I come from a mental framework of ironing & washing my own clothes. In hostel I created a record of firing 3 dhobhis in 4 days because I didnt like the way my clothes smelt when they brought them back. I was then part of the "Crazy South Indian" group which insisted on washing their own clothes in cramped hostel bathrooms in the middle of some truly gruelling study & party schedules.

Flash back over. Cut to present : I still iron my delicate salwar suits & saris myself because I dont trust a dhobhi with my expensive stuff. But I had compromised with husband to let the dhobhi iron my daily wear clothes. But husband has never ironed clothes in his life. Not because he led a completely spoilt childhood devoid of any physical labour or household chores (which he did), but because in the North of India (cultural divide in play here) it’s a very rare household that doesn't send all its clothes to a dhobhi for ironing. There's one in every neighbourhood (dhobhi not household) who comes door to door to collect & return clothes. So hardly any houses would own an iron.

Whereas in my part of the country, if you didn’t have a batallion of maids to do the household chores, everyone pitched in & did their share. Work & resource allocation was my mom's specialty. With 4 kids & a travelling husband we were initiated into chores appropriate for our age quite early. One of which was ironing our own school uniforms.

Now any of the convent school educated girls out there who have ironed their own skirts would know that although the nuns imparted good education (debatable) & designed smart uniforms (debatable) the uniforms were extremely difficult to iron (non-debatable) With a multitude of tiny pleats which had to be folded & ironed just right to preserve those multitude of creases, ironing skirts honed those skills completely. Come to think of it, maybe that was the idea : the education was an eyewash of womens lib, while what they really wanted to teach us was to be perfect homemakers & ironing was a requisite skill.

So yes, I ironed my own clothes & womens clothes after those dratted skirts are quite easy to iron. Men's shirts and trousers are more painful. Tousers have pleats which remind me of those aforementioned nightmare inducing skirts. The only time I ironed men's shirts was when my brothers managed to blackmail or plead sufficiently or dad "requested" that I iron their shirts/trousers. Which wasn't very often (Tip of the day: If you do a job badly enough, people stop asking you for help)

So today when I shook out my husbands trousers & started to iron, it brought back all the above memories which was why I decided to transcribe it into a blog post.

If you are looking for insights into special ironing techniques used in Egypt, then maybe what you really need to view is ABC's Foreign Correspondents - Egypt - The Ironing Man.

Where Jennifer Byrne explains that Ironing is an art form in the back alleys of Cairo, where successive generations ply their craft with not a steam iron in sight. In fact, Cairo’s ironing men are dismissive of the humble iron, preferring the ancient method of a heated metal block pushed carefully around the garment with one foot. Jennifer Byrne takes in a treasured blouse to sample the difference from the service offered at her Cairo hotel. Initial impressions aren’t great for the ironing man sprays water over the blouse with his mouth before taking to it with his foot. But presto…it really works!

For those who happened across this post when looking for an instruction manual on ironing for dummies, here goes : (ooh I feel like Martha Stewart)

Step 1 :
Wash clothes. (duh....)
Some washing machines come with a ironing friendly setting which minimises creasing in clothes. Use that to make your life & job easier.
For those of u who believe in conserving water & recycling clothes, skip step 1

Step 2 :
Dry or semi dry clothes. A little moisture in the clothes ensures a steam press. But not soaking wet or damp clothes. Just lightly moist. Otherwise you may create a sauna in your laundry room by the time you can iron out the moisture.

Step 3:
Check the setting on your iron (please turn it on first) Cotton needs higher heat than synthetics & don’t even try to iron pure wool (the smell will be worse than burnt food on your gas range) If you must iron woolens please hand them over to a professional. Check the heat of the iron (WARNING : NOT by touching the metal plate !!! Run the iron on the iron board & then place your hand on the iron board & check to see if your fabric can handle that heat.) If in doubt, start at the lowest heat & slowly work your way upwards. Too hot & your clothes will burn ( so although you may save something on self ironing you will lose much more in replenishing your rapidly diminishing wardrobe)

Step 4 :
Lay the item of clothing on the ironing table & straighten out all folds in the material, then lightly run the iron over it

If you need this manual to teach you how to iron your clothes, then lets not even get into the folding part of it. Either wear immediately or put up on a hanger.

But know this : seeing the creases getting ironed out as you go is instant gratification for people in management or who don’t often get to immediately see the results of their efforts. Hoping to use this argument to convince husband to iron his own clothes {grin} If that doesn' work I'll try & get him this ironing board.

If you want the Martha Stewart version, then this is where you wanna go Martha Stewart Guide to Ironing a Shirt

Dhobhi : hindi term for the guy who washes your clothes for you. Sometimes used generically for the guy who irons your clothes instead of the longer drawn : istriwallah


Remember the wonderful dish i spoke about in Wasted a Whole Day" ?

Its called Koshary / koshari / kosharee & is almost like a national dish. Costing between 1-5LE its often the only thing that the poorer locals can afford but inspite of the low cost its absolutely yummilicious.

Tour Egypt has a brilliant article on the Koshary by Heba Fatteen Bizzari from which I've posted excerpts below :

Koshary, a famous Egyptian dish
Imagine, mixing into a single dish, pasta, rice, lentil, chick peas, onions and garlic and adding to this chili sauce. The idea sounds horrific, until one tries out an Egyptian favorite called Koshary.

Koshary is a traditional Egyptian meal that consists of a strange combination of macaroni, spaghetti, rice, black lentils, chick peas, garlic sauce and a spicy tomato chili sauce, all topped with fried onions. It is sold from carts by street vendors, in restaurants or even made at home and each is considered a different taste experience.

ingredients for KosharyThe Koshary man stands in front of the large containers that hold each of the dish's ingredient. Usually, there is a line of people waiting to be served. Once you place your order, you stand in a row waiting to give the Koshary man your receipt that states the price of your dish. At the moment you give him the receipt the Koshary man grabs a bowl, and scoops a little of each ingredient into the bowl and sends it to your table. Each Koshary dish takes about five seconds to prepare (of course, after the ingredients are cooked).

His speed can be surprising to you.

As the Koshary man scoops, he knocks his metal spoon against the sides of the bowls, making the Koshary symphony that you won’t hear elsewhere. When the Koshary man prepares an A table laiden with Koshary order of more than four the restaurant fills with sound as if it was a rehearsal for a concert. “The restaurants of Koshary are very noisy. One sits to eat while the Koshary man practices his drums in your ears."

At the table, all the dishes are aluminum except the two glass bottles that contain two different kinds of sauce, one made from vinegar and oil, the other from spicy red pepper. “The chili is a whole new dimension for the meal. You can eat Koshary and it would taste good, but for it to be this delicious you have to use chili. That creates all the taste,” said Waleed Abdullah, an office boy.

Koshary is considered a meal that is inexpensive yet fills up the stomach of an average Egyptian. “Koshary is eaten anytime, anywhere. It’s a meal that is both affordable and delicious."

On Tour Egypt, there is a recipe by famed cook, Mary Kay Radnich.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Quick Note on Coptic Christianity

The Coptic Church
Most people associate Egypt with Islam today, but Christianity was actually the dominant religion between the 4th century AD and 641 AD, when Islam officially took over. St. Mark first preached Christianity in 50 AD, and Egypt was one of the first countries to adopt the still young faith.

The Egyptian branch of Christianity is called the Coptic Church. Unlike other branches of Christianity, the Coptics believe that Christ was a wholly divine being and not God made flesh. One in every ten Egyptians is a Coptic today. The Coptic Church has its own Pope, and many ceremonies are still held in the ancient Coptic language.

The Holy Family's Journey
If you know the bible well, you'll remember that Jesus and the Holy family fled from Bethlehem to Egypt, seeking refuge from a bloodthirsty King Herod. They made an arduous 2,000km trek by donkey over four years which took them over 30 different places in Egypt, from Al-Farma down to the Al-Muharraq monastery.

Needless to say, the Holy Family's Journey is an extremely important event in the Coptic tradition, and they celebrate Jesus' arrival in Egypt every year on June 1st (the 24th day of the Coptic month Bashans).

Coptic Monuments
Alexandria was once one of the major seats of the Roman Empire and many beautiful Coptic monuments record the great triumphs of those years of glory.

Virgin's Tree
Many places are named in honour of the Virgin Mary, but the Virgin's tree is one of very few to have been visited by Mary herself with young Jesus by her side. They're thought to have taken shelter beneath the tree's bowed branches, refreshing themselves from the same spring that waters its old roots.

Al-Muaallaqah (Hanging) Church
pictureDating the Al-Muaallaqah church definitively has proven difficult due to its various makeovers throughout the years, but it was completed sometime between the 7th and 9th century on top of what was the Water Gate on the southern wall of the fortress of Babylon. In fact, the gate is still visible through a hole in the baptistery's floor.

The church's two bell towers soar to an awe-inspiring 13m at their highest peak. Beneath its hallowed vaulted ceilings, the major events of the Coptic calendar are celebrated to a spectacular effect. During the Enthronement of the Patriarch, its impressive collection of censers, chalices and crosses in gold, silver and gilt go on full display.

Saint Catherine's Monastery
pictureIt was at the top of Mt Sinai that Moses received the ten commandments from God. At its base, besides what is rumoured to be the burning bush of biblical fame, is the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Saint Catherine.

The monastery was named after an early Christian martyr from Alexandria and the Emperor Justinian had a basilica built to house her recovered remains many centuries later. Today, the church is lined with spectacularly ornate icons and scriptural paintings. Its monastery museum is home to the world's second largest collection of illuminated manuscripts in Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, Coptic and Georgian.

Church of Mar Guirguis (St George)
pictureNot to be confused with England's dragon-slaying hero, Mar Guirguis was an early martyr from Palestine, put to death by the Romans in the 4th century. The first church to bear his name was built some six centuries later.
The elegant circular domed church you see today stands on its fire-ravaged remains, built at the turn of the 20th century. Inside, the church is bathed in the magnificent multicoloured glow of its striking stained glass windows.

The Coptic Museum (Old Cairo)
Just approaching it's first century, the Coptic Museum in Cairo is a treasure trove of relics from Egypt's early Christians, where you can find : scraps of painted textiles, manuscripts and icons, frescoes and carvings in wood, ivory, glass and stone.

Behind its understated scallop-shell archways, the 13 halls of the old wing are currently undergoing a massive face-lift. However, the 17 halls of the new wing house the bulk of the exhibits and an enclosed garden.
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