Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Other World in Ancient Egypt

What has happened to Egyptology in the century and a half since Champollion deciphered the hieroglyphs, back at a time when one studied ancient Egypt only for confirmation of biblical attitudes?

The result has been the partial recovery, during the past 150 years, of the languages, histories, and cultures of the high civilizations of the ancient Near East; and these enable the reader to study and understand a country like Egypt from its own documents and monuments and from its own point of view.

This first essay deals with "The Other World" theme in ancient Egyptian literature. A fascinating subject which is guaranteed to intrigue many Modern Egyptians as they delve into "The nature of the beyond " this time, strictly viewed expressed by their ancestors.

The subject matter is riveting for any Arab speaking audience when it finds how intimate its rich native tongue is, with that of Ancient Egypt. A linguistic fact that has been given a lip service so far, and never fully explored.


Click on the icon below to view this article:

Friday, September 28, 2007

Historical Account of Prime Ministers of Egypt 1878-1952


In this episode # 21: Fierce demonstrations erupts as a result of excluding the Wafd from the negotiations, particularly in the Cairo, Alexandria and the large cities of the Country; a strong feeling of animosity and hatred was directed toward all those who contradicted Zaghloul Pasha's call for independence

Winston Churchill, who was then the British Minister of Colonies, declared that any negotiation with Egypt would be pointless since, as the events in Alexandria show, the presence of British troops in Egypt was vital for the protection of Foreign lives and British interests and their evacuation was made impossible by the local animosity. Mr. Churchill ‘s declaration united the Cabinet and the Wafd in protest and seemed to be a prelude for the failure of the Negotiations before they even started.

In addition : The saga of "The Awakening of Egypt" ( Nahdat Misr), arguably the country's most famed statue, embodies, perhaps more than any other symbol, the national liberation struggle. Sculpted by Mahmoud Mukhtar in 1928, the work, which stands to this day, specifically epitomizes the spirit of the 1919 Revolution.

To view this episode click on the icon below :

Membership Registration for ICAE

The ICAE is the Indian Community Association in Egypt.

In case you have not logged on to this site, please do it, it will keep everybody posted about the events done by ICAE in Egypt.

Dear Community Members:
Thank you to members who have already registered on our web site. Please make sure that you go back after registration and update your family and personal details by clicking "Membership" link again. (ICAE web site address:
For community members who have not registered, kindly do so before October 5, 2007 as we would like to print the directory and be available prior to Dussera function. Existing community members also need to re-register on the site and input their personal details.
Thank you very much for your cooperation,
Best regards,
ICAE Committee

Monday, September 24, 2007

Twenty20 : Reactions From a Non-cricket Watching Indian in Egypt

Nothing personal against cricket, but I don't watch sports ! (This is my first post where I've chosen "Sports" as the Section) Except gymnastics, ice skating and synchronised swimming.

Equally crazily, I am married to the ultimate cricket fanatic. Who watches matches, repeats, highlights and replays on the news (that's all of them not an either/or choice). Who remembers statistics from games I never knew were played. For eg. He just said "We have never lost to Pakistan in a world cup" OK, not a great example, but it needed repeating :)

Another of his gems just before the last ball "For a moment, I thought about the last time a Haryana bowler named Sharma had the last over against Pakistan in a final. New Sharma, New ending"

Now these nuances are lost on me, but I'm sure there is a large group out there who can appreciate them. (Like the employees of MNC's in India who officially closed office at 4pm today.)

Being away from India for the first time on a long posting, he quickly ensured that we got all the right technology installed at home for regular access to cricket matches.

There's a small population of desis in Cairo (about 500) and an even smaller subset of cricket "fan"atics. The previous matches in the last year went by without much community feeling and viewing in this country. But this 20/20 brought a large portion of the Indian community together.

A couple of rational reasons for this would be the shortened timings in offices due to Ramadan (offices close by 3, the matches started at 2 - Egypt time) and the BCA showing the matches on a big screen where desis could get together and watch the matches in a group with alcohol available to drown sorrows or celebrate victories.

The group did avoid meeting at the club on the day of the India-England match because of the larger number of British supporters. But they regretted doing that by the end of the match.

Many of the Indians met up at the BCA for the days the Indians were playing. The non cricket watching wives would sit around and watch each others husbands bemusedly, wondering which of them would make a bigger scene at a missed catch or a wide ball.

We were of course happy that the matches were shortened, it meant less time sitting around. But it also meant shorter almost non existent ad breaks (except 2 very irritating Horlicks & Sensodyne ads on Ten Sports) to try and communicate with your cricket lover.

Some of them would sit in the same crazy position that they were in when the last 6 was hit or wear the same clothes/shoes to every match. All kinds of crazy stuff that only fans can indulge in.

But this was a good opportunity for us to get together and celebrate being Indian outside of India. Yuvraj's 6 sixes was obviously the biggest highlight till today's match. He does deserve the 1 million and its good to see the BCCI giving something back to the players.

We watched today's match at home, but the phone calls kept coming and going throughout the match from across the world. Reactions & moods of the husband were oscillating from wild elation to extreme dejection at each ball. The little bits of the match that I did watch, I found it difficult to keep track since I couldn't recognise more than half the players (I had completely lost track of cricket from the time the slide started, plus this team had tons of newcomers to the international field)

But it was good to see a young team selected and though they had their health problems, they kept at it. Their confidence and perseverance are to be commended & rewarded. The cup and the 40lakhs each are just a beginning.

Dhoni from all the conversations I caught, more than proved himself as being an able captain willing to take risks (who else would play a complete newcomer as opening batsman in a world cup final?)

He also showed more class in taking his shirt off and giving it to that little kid (I didn't catch who the kid was) rather than waving it around :)

From the strange tie breaker at the last India Pakistan match to the 6 sixes, to the final world cup win, it was an amazing journey even to the part time spectator.

The final run around the field with the Indian flags was a "rungte kadhe hone wala" scene that would warm the cockles of any Indians heart.

Way to go Indian team. This is a victory to savor for a long time and I hope it paves the way for more new comers into the playing Indian team.

By the way, we did this without a coach !

Photo Credit :

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The "Animal" Attraction - Why Do We Love Pets?

My personal love affair with pets began before the moment I was even conceived.

My nana (maternal grandmother, not grandpa in our part of the country) loves animals. In her younger days she nursed peacocks, deer and sundry other birds & animals back to health. The family household always comprised of a couple of cats, dogs, cows, goats, pigeons and various other species including a monkey at one point of time and a rat snake who would regularly appear to eat the pigeon or chicken eggs. All this was obviously long before the government started poking their noses into which species could or could not be allowed in family spaces.

Living a half day bullock-cart ride away from the nearest neighbours (while on the estates) made domesticating animals (for food and otherwise) a necessity.

By the time I came along, nana was pretty much restricting herself to dogs, cats, poultry and dairy animals. In most households, dogs were for guarding houses, cats were meant to keep the mice away. They were always fed a little below satiating point to keep them hungry enough to catch pests and scare away the people who had no business hovering around the gates.

Not in nana's house. Our cats & dogs were always overfed. So the dogs would sleep at the gate when they had to be guarding the compound and the cats would sleep in the attic when they were supposed to be catching mice ! All because she did not have the heart to leave them in the least bit hungry.

Nana's children - my mom, aunts and uncles - all absorbed this instant love for animals and most of her grandchildren were born to it. we were always surrounded by them and our dogs and cats were our friends too.

Even if the rest of the cousins ganged up against one, the dogs and cats would not take sides.

If you needed to cry away from anyone else's view, you could always take one of the dogs for a walk - who would silently lick your hands or cheeks (whichever was in closer proximity to their height)

If you wanted unconditional love - the dogs/cats provided that.

Non judgmental - bingo.

Non questioning - sure.

They know exactly when to come sit in your lap and when to give you an adoring look. As Dee elaborated about Zoey in Love, Grief, Pain, and a Kitten no matter how many times you push them away, they keep coming back to you.

They never judge you for anything - Feeding them late, not getting home in time, being pissed drunk, being lazy, being a few pounds overweight......

They will accompany you anywhere and everywhere where you let them and sometimes even if you don't. Our little munchkin (whom we adopted a couple of days ago) watches cricket with the husband. My husband is absolutely thrilled to have a cricket viewing partner in the same household.

They just keep coming back and give you more love. They insist on following you into the bathroom, but you don't mind since they aren't going to scrutinise your flabby thighs or beer belly. They just want to be around in your presence.

With a pet around you can never feel worthless. Because you are the world to them and they make it very evident to you.

How can you resist adoring eyes like these ?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

How to Bathe a Cat!

Bacardi is driving me nuts at times and is completely adorable at times.

today morning she went straight from the bathroom sink (where I was washing her face-she had been scratching her face incessantly since last night) to the kitty litter & stuck her head right into it !!!!!!!!

She then proceeded to drive me crazy throughout the day, I had workmen come over to fix the ac.. With the front door and french windows open, I couldn't take the risk. so shut her in the other HALF of the house . She almost scratched the door down. Even after dh came home (she normally snuggles up to him on the couch and goes off to sleep) she wanted to come into the hall. Once the workmen left and I had finished cleaning up, all doors were opened again at around 7pm. After that she goes into her aqua fina crate (in the part of th ehouse she was confined to for half the day) and goes off to sleep ! Even now she is happily curled up & sleeping. Whole day she drove me nuts.

One of my friends - Alison - suggested the following methods to bathe her :

Method 1 :
1. Thoroughly clean the toilet.
2. Add the required amount of shampoo to the toilet water, and have both lids lifted.
3. Obtain the cat and soothe him while you carry him towards the bathroom.
4. In one smooth movement, put the cat in the toilet and close both lids (you may need to stand on the lid so that he cannot escape).
CAUTION: Do not get any part of your body too close to the edge, as his paws will be reaching out for any purchase they can find.
5. Flush the toilet three or four times. This provides a 'power wash and rinse' which I have found to be quite effective.
6. Have someone open the door to the outside and ensure that there are no people between the toilet and the outside door.
7. Stand behind the toilet as far as you can, and quickly lift both lids.
8. The now-clean cat will rocket out of the toilet, and run outside where he will dry himself.

Method 2 :
1) with thumb and forefinger extended lift toilet seat up and secure.
2) gently grab your cat by the jugular ( to minimise movement) and carefully place it in the toilet bowl immediately securing toilet seat to prevent escape, by placing 2 house bricks on top.
3) open the lid to the cistern and select an appropriate shampoo. Johnsons baby shampoo is a popular choice as it does not sting the eyes.
4) measure out 10 mls of the shampoo and pour it into the cistern full of water and close the lid back on the cistern.
5) select the half flush mode for a pre wash to remove obvious grime and sit on the edge of the bath inserting your Ipod headphones into your ears and some Rakmaninov to dampen down the sound of the prewash cycle
6) On completion of the prewash cycle with your right index finger placed carefully over the flush control select 2 half flushes to effectively rinse away any shampoo residue.
7) keeping the toilet seat firmly in place open all exits and entrance ways and lay down plenty of old newspaper in gentle sloping pathways leading to all exits.
8) taking a tin of tuna dip the fingers of your right hand into it and carefully draw an invisible line on the path with the shortest route to the outside world.
9) return to the bathroom and removing the cistern lid for the final time measure out 15 mls of a good quality hair conditioner. Pantene Pro V for fine flyaway hair would be a good choice in most instances. Pour the conditioner into the now refilled cistern and select the final full flush to complete the washing cycle.
10) when the cycle is complete and you will know this by the complete refill of the cistern chamber carefully lift the lid of the toilet preferably whilst wearing some form of body armour and whilst standing well clear summon the now beautifully coiffured cat by saying in a medium tone so as not to alarm the cat 'here Kitty' whilst gesturing with your left index finger the most appropriate exit path to take. In all likelihood the cat being a trifle disorientated will choose the longest and most convoluted path to exit. This can easily be remedied next time by increasing the amount of tuna on the newspaper with the shortest distance to the nearest exit.

Method 3 :
1. Know that although the kitty cat has the advantage of quickness and lack of concern for human life, you have the advantage of strength. Capitalize on that advantage by selecting the battlefield. Don't try to bathe him in an open area where he can force you to chase him. Pick a very small bathroom. If your bathroom is more than four feet square, we recommend that you get in the tub with the cat and close the sliding-glass doors as if you were about to take a shower. (A simple shower curtain will not do. A berserk cat can shred a three-ply rubber shower curtain quicker than a politician can shift positions.)
2. Know that a cat has claws and will not hesitate to remove all the skin from your body. Your advantage here is that you are smart and know how to dress to protect yourself. We recommend canvas overalls tucked into high-top construction boots, a pair of steel-mesh gloves, an army helmet, a hockey face-mask, and a long-sleeved flak jacket.
3. Use the element of surprise. Pick up your cat nonchalantly, as if to simply carry him to his supper dish. (Cats will not usually notice your strange attire. They have little or no interest in fashion as a rule.)
4. Once you are inside the bathroom, speed is essential to survival. In a single liquid motion, shut the bathroom door, step into the tub enclosure, slide the glass door shut, dip the cat in the water and squirt him with shampoo. You have now begun one of the wildest 45 seconds of your life.
5. Cats have no handles. Add the fact that he now has soapy fur, and the problem is radically compounded. Do not expect to hold on to him for more than two or three seconds at a time. When you have him, however, you must remember to give him another squirt of shampoo and rub like crazy. He'll then spring free and fall back into the water, thereby rinsing himself off. (The national record for cats is three latherings, so don't expect too much.)
6. Next, the cat must be dried. Novice cat bathers always assume this part will be the most difficult, for humans generally are worn out at this point and the cat is just getting really determined. In fact, the drying is simple compared with what you have just been through. That's because by now the cat is semi-permanently affixed to your right leg.
7. You simply pop the drain plug with your foot, reach for your towel and wait. (Occasionally, however, the cat will end up clinging to the top of your army helmet. If this happens, the best thing you can do is to shake him loose and to encourage him toward your leg.) After all the water is drained from the tub, it is a simple matter to just reach down and dry the cat.
In a few days the cat will relax enough to be removed from your leg. He will usually have nothing to say for about three weeks and will spend a lot of time sitting with his back to you. He might even become psychoceramic and develop the fixed stare of a plaster figurine.
You will be tempted to assume he is angry. This isn't usually the case. As a rule he is simply plotting ways to get through your defenses and injure you for life the next time you decide to give him a bath. But at least now he smells a lot better.

dh & Bacardi are enjoying the matches & looking forward to the finals now :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Buying & sourcing Spices in Egypt

Amnesiac had left a comment on my post "Shout out to Indians in Egypt": looking for Indian Masalas - Well single spices and blends. Garam masala, black mustard seeds, garlic powder...etc.

Thought I would write an entire post about it rather than a comment and generalise it to cover a lot of spices. So here goes :

Since I obviously can't cover everything in one shot, I'll type this one out now, but I will keep appending details to this post rather than type new ones each time & have data scattered. I will try & upload pictures of the spices too if I can manage that.

The best place to buy whole spices in Egypt - cinnamon, cloves, cardamom etc is the Khan el Khalili near Al Azhar Mosque.

There are various shops, some have better quality of some spices than others. So you may need to mix & match a bit. If you are here for the long run, then I would recommend that you keep going back to the same spice seller to build up a relationship with him & his shop. He will then start keeping aside your favourite spices for you & also give you the better quality spices which aren't ever displayed to the transitory tourist shopper.

The Attaba (spice & herbs section) market is also a great place to shop for whole spices. But not recommended to any expat in Egypt who has still not got the hang of navigating Cairo's streets & traffic (human&vehicular) or brushed up on their negotiating (bargaining) skills. Even after a year here, I prefer to accompany an Egyptian friend who does all the talking (I give my shopping list to him/her before time & quietly point to anything I find interesting)

I still get most of my whole spices from home (imported from Kerala - the best & strongest potency) except for cinnamon which I find the quality available in Egypt to be many degrees higher, especially if you like the fancy versions (all rolled up in little curls - called quills)

You can get really long cinnamon quills (1-2 feet long) at the 2 spice markets mentioned above.

Chilli powder - not really found a really spicy brand like the "Everest - tikhalal" that I use from back home. What you get in Egypt as Chilli powder is normally paprika powder & has a slight sweet tinge to it, but its not in the least bit half as hot as "Everest-tikhalal"

Dried Chillies - I have seen the sudanese dried chillies at some of the supermarkets - they are quite potent and worth buying.

Green chillies - the fresh chillies sold in most markets taste more like bell peppers (capsicum) than chillies to the Indian palate. A couple of shops sell Thai Birds eye chillies like Maadi Fruit paradise and Miriams Market in Maadi. (It seems Alfa in Zamalek used to stock this stuff before, but there's a lot of stuff that's gone AWOL on their inventories)

Turmeric Powder, Cumin (jeera) powder, corriander (dhaniya) powder, onion powder, garlic powder are easily available. I pick up the "Nour" - Small flat round plastic boxes with red tops or the "Spicy Trade" - Tall slim round glass bottles with purple tops.

Do remember that sometimes powder is spelled as "bowder" on the bottles. Its the same thing, not a new spice :)

Spicy trade also offers baking soda (soda bicarbonate / meetha soda)& mono sodium glutamate(ajinomoto) in its range. They also sell whole spices.

Black mustard seeds : I haven't seen these here. There's plenty of mustard available (ref Heinz bottles of mustard for 2LE) The best alternative is the white mustard which I have seen being sold at Metro on Gamaet Dawal in Mohandaseen (sold loose) It turns black when used in tadka (seasoning)

Garam Masala : is a blend that varies in each Indian household and across the states. The best is to get this from home ( a brand you are used to or one that is prepared by your mom/grandmom) otherwise, check their recipe. Almost all the individual ingredients are available in powder form. It is upto you to find your favourite recipe or figure the measurements of these powders that best suits you.

The National Brand of masalas from Pakistan have started retailing here too. They sell spice blends but only in their ultra mild versions(in Egypt). I add my India bought chilli powder to the mix, bhut the rest of the balance & blend is fine. The blends are very similar to Indian blends. I've seen biryani (kabsa), kheema/queema (mince), Tandoori (barbequed chicken), Broast (roasting or frying chicken), kaleji (liver), kofta, and tikka mixes among others.

They come with recipes printed on their packs. Don't be worried if you only see instructions in Arabic on the outside. There will be an English version on the inside of the pack. Else you can always get the recipes online by clicking the links above.

This is what I can think of for the moment. Let me know if you are looking for anything in particular, by writing a comment on this post. I should reply within 24 hours unless I'm out in the desert :)

These spices are available at most of the major supermarkets and the local grocery store too.

Also see Papads & Pickles for more details on Indian foods.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Book Review : Cairo - The Family Guide

In a previous article, "Bookshops in Cairo" I heavily recommended this book, but I never mentioned why.

The current issue of the Cairo Family Guide is the 4th edition (the first edition was in 2001). It has been revised each time to update the data and make it more current & relevant.

Its written by Lesley Lababidi in collaboration with Dr Lisa Sabbahy and printed by the AUC Press

Its one book any person planning to check out the sights of Cairo on their own, or living here for more than a week should most certainly pick up.

The book is categorised location wise and then each place worth a visit in that area is listed out with complete details.

For eg. there are 3 different itineraries for the Egyptian museum depending on a person's interest. It also helps split the museum into manageable trips so as to be able to absorb maximum information.

Special attention has been given to understanding and recommending activities based on a child's age and interests. So the book is especially handy for those visiting with kids.

Maps to the areas, the closest Metro stop, the timings (including changed timings for Ramadan), Entrance fees (for foreigners, residents, students & Egyptians - yes there are multiple rates), Photography and video fees if any, (or whether they are allowed at all), the telephone numbers to that location, facilities available (bathrooms, gift shops, cafeterias) the best place to park (this is a major issue in Cairo), relevant websites if any, activities organised at that location if any, how much to tip and whom. These are just some of the gems of information that she shares about each and every location.

This is a goldmine of information especially given the monumental difficulty of gathering such data in Cairo. This is one of our few books where the book has completely lost its crispness (I don't even like the spine cracking in my books)

The only drawback is that since this is a 2006 edition some of the data has become obsolete especially with the recent adding of a digit to all land-line numbers at some of the telephone exchanges. Some sites have revised their charges (upwards of course) But the changes would hardly be in 5% of the data in this book.

So go ahead and pick up your own copy today. At 70LE it's a steal! Make sure it is a blue coloured bind with the picture of children sitting in a donkey cart. This is the latest edition. Many smaller bookshops still stock the older versions with the green colour binding. The information in those would be about 25-30% irrelevant and/or obsolete.

Be sure to pick up this one : not this one

I'll review the practical guide (the second one) in a day or so.

You can buy it at any major bookstore in Egypt. Its one of the most popular books. Or even buy it off Amazon.

I plan to write a lot about the sights in Egypt in the coming week, I will be heavily referencing this book.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Magazines to subscribe to in Egypt

There are tons of magazines that are printed in Egypt in Arabic & English. Many new printing companies start up a new publication every day & an equal number of them shut shop everyday.

There are links to a lot of magazines in the right hand section of this blog, under the headings "Egyptian Newspapers" and "Egyptian Magazines".

Magazines that are printed in Egypt are frequently distributed free of charge at coffee shops and other "youth hangout" locations.

The ones that I love and personally recommend (in no particular order) are :

1. Egypt Today : A well written magazine to let you know what is going on in town. Lots of current events, well researched articles, profiles of locals who are great at their fields of interest but not very well known. You can expect all this and more from this magazine.

You can view the latest online copy & archives at

You can subscribe to the magazine online or pick them up individually from a variety of bookstores. It costs 15LE per copy or 96 LE (as quoted on the site, the latest magazine copy quotes 135LE ) for an annual subscription.

2. Business Today : A sister publication of Egypt Today. This covers the Business developments in Egypt. Reviews into existing businesses, interviews with the movers and shakers in the corporate world among others. They also have an annual bt100 ranking of companies based in Egypt.

You can view the latest online copy & archives at

You can subscribe to the magazine online or pick them up individually from a variety of bookstores. It costs 15LE per copy or 96 LE (as quoted on the site, the latest magazine copy quotes 135LE ) for an annual subscription.

3. Business Monthly : A free magazine brought out by the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt. The insight is American Oriented and the articles are extremely thoroughly researched. This is a more technical magazine than Business Today.

You can check the archives online at

You can also sign up for your free subscription at It will be delivered to you free of charge into the comfort of your home.

4. Community Times : A lovely fun magazine to read. Although they have been advertising their website for over a year, it still isn't functional :) But the magazine is very good. It covers a wide variety of subjects that anyone living in Cairo would be interested in. It has a huge event listing at the back along with a restaurant listing etc.

It used to be available on sale for 10LE at the big supermarkets, but now it seems to be restricted to some major bookshops & some restaurants. It is available free of charge at some of the bigger cafes in town. But I would recommend that you subscribe to it to ensure you get your monthly dose.

Edited on 19 May 08 to add: Website is now functional and visible at

5. The Croc :Available free of charge at multiple locations around the city including cafes & BCA. It gives you a brief on the events coming up in the month. A nice list of restaurants, cafes & bars with recommendations on what to eat there and little notes about the ambiance at times.

Its tiny, pocket size so worth carrying around in your purse for those moments when you are hungry in a different part of town and can't decide where to eat or suddenly find yourself with a free evening & longing for a dose of culture !

6. The Oasis : a free magazine published by the CSA (Community Services Association) in Maadi. The article content isnt high but it has a lot of ads for services in Maadi that can be extremely helpful. Pick up your free copy at the CSA centre on Road 21.

7. The BCA Chronicle : An excellent resource for expats. Lots of relevant articles. More articles than ads, unlike the Oasis. Pick up your free copy from the BCA clubhouses.

Maadi Fruit (& Vegetable) Paradise

An Amazing fruit & veggie shop in the middle of Road no. 9 in Maadi. Right before Jared's bagels, on the right hand side when you are moving in the direction of traffic on that street.

He stocks fresh vegetables, even when the rest of the supermarket clan are selling almost dessicated or pulped versions in their stores.

He stocks avocados, prunes, mushrooms, thai birds eye chillies (very similar to the Indian green chilli), cauliflowers (when you can't see them anywhere else in town) baby carrots and lots of other fruits & vegetables that can't be found at any other market in town.

He does sell his fresh produce at a premium, but until I can find someone giving me comparable quality at lower price, I'm still gonna travel to Maadi once or twice a month to pick up my stocks of green chillies

Sunday, September 16, 2007

My new passion

Adopted her this evening.

She's already demanding 100% attention from both of us. She has completely explored the house. Found the darkest and dirtiest corners of the house & rolled a bit until the dust got transferred on herself.

Pushed me off the bed. Wants my husband to herself it seems ! They have watched cricket together & completely bonded. Looks like I'm the 3rd wheel :)

She's taking up all my time. Wants to sit on the laptop. I think she plans to learn how to use it ! Now if only I can train her to type out my reports for me !

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Bahariya Oasis

We had the most wonderful time in Bahariyya oasis at the end of last winter (end April). Given the weather then and its similarity to the weather now, I think this would be an ideal time for a visit in case anyone is interested.

Special thanks to Sahara Safarist Kareem Hashem who helped with so much information & recommended Ahmed Safari Camp.
Ahmed Safari Camp Cabins
This camp was the first operational lodging facility in Bahariya. Rooms are clean, but the sand does manage to get in. Basic facilities. We took the cabins on the side. 2 rooms adjacent to each other. Twin beds, mosquito nets, domed roofs, attached baths, air conditioning. But they are simple. Not the cleanest in the world, but tidy. Because of the high salt content in the air, the water, the land the oasis, there are salt deposits in the bathroom. If you like pristine surroundings, then the Minamar hotel may be a better bet for you. For us, this was an awesome experience. It felt more natural and comfortable and the people - owner / staff are awesome!
Minamar Hotel across the Oasis
We just loved the place. The desert was absolutely marvelous. It was the first time we were doing something like this. In India, even the deserts are populated, you keep running into groups of banjaras (bedouins) in the desert & the desert is all about sand & sand dunes. Never before have we encountered something as wonderful & unique as the black desert / crystal mountain / desert rose or the mind boggling white desert.
White Desert
There were so many wonderful moments that it is impossible to say which was our favourite. The complete lack of tourists (after the Cairo/Luxor/Aswan circuit) made the trip all the more special. We could actually "hear" the desert.

Crowning glory : we slept under the stars & watched the meteor showers that were happenning at that time.
Black Desert
Crystal Mountain
If anyone is staying at Ahmed Safari camp - do ask for Talaat as your guide in the desert. He is absolutely wonderful. (He speaks basic English and fluent Arabic) He even had extra supplies that some of the other neighbouring campers came to borrow from him.

The most touching moment for us was when Ahmed invited us to his house for a home cooked meal. Ahmed's email address is ahmed_safari[@]hotmail[.]com and his mobile is 010 501 4595 in case anyone would like to contact him.

Ramadan Kareem to everyone.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ramadan's Moon

On the occasion of the eve of Ramadan, I would like to share an article written by my friend Mohamed Mabrouk of Sahara Safaris :

Ramadan Kareem ya Safarists! :)

Here are few facts that will help you understand and evaluate for yourself how a new Moon (new lunar month) is born. I will not get into any 'coordinates' of astronomy.

To understand, just think of the sky as a Dome around you while you are standing on Earth facing North.

- Moon (Al Qamar) travels in the Sky Dome in a circle which is almost the same as the Sun in the Sky Dome. It ALWAYS rises from the East and sets in the West.

- The Moon however is slower in the cycle than the Sun. You cannot notice the slowness within one day, but everyday it rises about 45 minutes LATER (actually 48 minutes) than it's time the day before. By approximately 30 days the delay (30 days x 0.80 hr) becomes a 24 hour delay. which means the MOON RISES AT THE SAME TIME OF THE DAY AFTER A MONTH.

- Two important time of this (30 day) month:

1) when the Moon is VERY CLOSE TO THE SUN at the circle of the Dome (they then seem to travel together along our Sky on that day, but you cannot see the moon because the Sun is so bright), then they rise almost together and set almost together on that day

2) when the Moon is ON THE OTHER END OF THE CIRCLE. This is when the Moon rises from the East almost at the same minute the Sun sets at the West.

Now you can see: Crescent is when the Moon is very near the Sun in the Cycle & Full Moon is when the Moon is furthest from the Sun in the Cycle.

So when is a New Moon born???

Ok. When the Sun starts coming close to catch up with the relatively slower Moon, that's when the Lunar month is about to end. Exactly the moment when they're running together, that's when the Crescent diminishes to almost zero (sometimes this moment is a Full or Partial Eclipse of the Sun) and then is born again facing the other side.

When this moment happens at any time of the day (or night) it means that this day is the last day of the Lunar Month and that the next day is the first day of the new Month.

It's much easier to explain the Desert of course. :)

Mohamed Mabrouk

Ramadan Kareem to all my friends who will be getting in touch with their spiritual side in the coming 30 days.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Cairo Rugby Club

Its time to renew or start your membership at the Cairo Rugby Club in Maadi.

Membership season runs from September 1st to August 31st of the next year. (This is the season for most memberships as the summer holidays have just come to an end & most expats are back in town & schools / universities are re-opening)

I've been following their events last year (I haven't attended any - Maadi is too far away for me) and they manage to have a disco/karaoke or DJ Ahemdito party at least once a month.

A lot of international matches are screened at the club house. And this is apart from their in-house teams for men, ladies & kids. Rugby coaching is also part of the deal. So if you would like to coach or learn, the club affords you an ideal opportunity in Cairo.

The highlight of their annual calendar is the desert dinner thats held at the base of the pyramids at the end of winter.

Membership is pretty reasonable too. 1000 LE annual for a whole family. Couple + all your under 16's. If you aren't the sporty types, you can look at the social membership option for 400LE. And for short term visitors, there is the 3 month membership for 300le. For the full rate list & membership forms visit their website.

You can take a trip down to the club to see the facilities for yourself at
Cairo Rugby - The Clubhouse
Ground Floor, Building 10, Road 214
Digla, Maadi, Cairo
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