Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Rehab City

Visited Rehab City on Sunday. Another first time visit for me in Cairo after Katameya Heights

It was an amazing day as I managed to meet up with 2 really great friends and we had a non-stop gab fest from 2pm to 10pm, jabbering away to glory. So engrossed, that I forgot to take any pictures. My friend who lives in Rehab City has a beautiful home that is tastefully decorated with select pieces from all her world travels. 2 amazing puppies (full size German Shepherds) and a furball of a cat completed the homely picture.

She took me for a drive around Rehab City. They have apartment complexes, town houses (2 split apartments on 2 floors) and villas. Nice greenery. The concept of similar design is applied here (there are 3-4 master designs from which you choose one as the design you want, you can't just design anything you want) This gives it a kind of irregular uniformity, so its pleasing to the eye. Lots of greenery and a few purple flowering trees in bloom.

Rehab City has a big mall and a small mall, their own cinema theatre, but what I liked best was the souk area, where you could find all household needs at prices more reasonable than the mall. Felt like a neighbourhood market.

They also have a hospital on the premises which is supposed to be pretty good.

Traffic is minimal and orderly. Roads are in great condition. Pavements are regular and exist. Its as easy to walk around the city as it is to drive.

Its a nice place to live if your work/school is closeby.

Sun, sand, sex and stupidity

I've heard a couple of true confessions myself from women who have got conned by such boy-toy con-men into parting with a lot of cash. I obviously couldn't write about those stories without betraying personal confidences. But these articles have elaborated the issue quite nicely. So heed the warning and just be careful.

From The Daily Mail

Sun, sand, sex and stupidity: Why thousands of middle-aged women are obsessed with holiday gigolos

. . .Writer Jeannette Belliveau, a self-confessed former "sex tourist" and author of a book called Romance On The Road, says the problem is becoming endemic and that these women are deluding themselves about the dangers such flings present.

"The ultimate risk is death," she says, bluntly. "In the past two years three Western women have been killed for their money by their foreign 'toy boys'."

Some of these women tourists never went home after their holiday. Barbara Scott-Jones, 61, from Leeds fell in love with Jamaica and was building a home on the island when she was found dead earlier this year.

Trouble in paradise: Charlotte Rampling as a sex tourist in the movie Vers Le Sud

Labourer Omar Reid has been charged with her murder.

Police believe Barbara had been having an affair with the 30-year-old and had just ended, or was trying to end, the affair when she was killed.

The number of older women who form long-term relationships with holiday gigolos is growing year on year.

Statistically, a third of all cross-cultural "marriages" end in divorce. . .

. . . The trouble is that for divorced or widowed women in their 40s, 50s and 60s, their male peers in the UK are either very unattractive or are looking to date much younger women.

"In countries such as the Gambia and Kenya, there is both a surplus of men and the fact that women there tend to marry men at least ten years older than themselves, which is the culture. So for 18-year-old and 20-plus men, there is no one to date.

"Poverty is rife. Then, over the past ten years, planeloads of mature single British women have started arriving, their handbags full of cash. They're fit, good-looking men and it didn't take them long to realise that there are rich pickings here.". . .

. . .

Five years on and Sarah Jarvis no longer looks back on her holiday romance with rose-tinted glasses. "I must have spent more than £20,000 on Mohammed," she says. "On my final trip last year, I rang his mobile as usual when I arrived at the airport. There was no reply.

"I drove to the hotel where he worked as a waiter, and stormed into his tiny room. He was in bed with an elderly, white woman - like me. He rang me, sobbing, saying it was all a mistake and he loved me.

"Later I marched up to the woman in the hotel dining room and asked her, very calmly, what she thought she was doing. She looked at me in surprise. 'But he's my boyfriend,' she said. 'We are in love, and I have been flying backwards and forwards from the UK to see him.

"I told her I had, too. She said she had promised Mohammed she would leave her husband and marry him. I said she was a fool."

Sarah then told Mohammed that his lies had been exposed and ended the relationship. "Speaking to some of the hotel staff, I found out Mohammed had at least 40 white girlfriends," she says. "It must have been a real juggling act making sure we didn't all arrive at the same time. Goodness knows how much money he was making out of us all.

"I know people will think: 'How could you be so stupid?' But you have to realise just how seductive it is, if you feel fat, old and ugly, to have a beautiful young man saying he cannot live without you and making love to you as if you were a stunning creature."

But Sarah adds: "More than anything, I want to send out a warning to all the British women planning a holiday romance this summer: don't do it!

"It will cost you thousands of pounds, and you will end up feeling ridiculous and despised. These are practised conmen - they don't think you are beautiful; they laugh at you behind your backs." . . .

Read the Entire Article on The Daily Mail

Also read a similar article in The Sunday Independent

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Al Tazaj, Cairo

Al Tazaj
Multiple Locations
Common home delivery number 19018

I ordered a Barbecued Chicken Meal Combo from their menu which included 1 whole chicken, served with sesame paste salad + French fries + Pepsi + eish. All this for just 27LE.

I had to wait an hour for the delivery, but it was worth it. The chicken was small (maybe about 750 gms)and hence tender. It was butterflied and marinated in a mix of garlic, lemon, black pepper and a few other herb and spices. The meat was tender and the skin was crisp without being charred. Lovely consistency, lovely taste, amazing flavour. The BEST roast chicken I have eaten in a hotel in Cairo. This is the first time I am eating Egyptian food from a restaurant that I did not add any hot sauce or other sauce too.

Read the rest of my review

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Juhayna Milk Tetrapack tops

Does anyone know what is up with Juhayna and their milk tetrapacks ?

They seem to have changed the design at least 5 times in as many months.

First was the plain plastic flip top with an additional foil+plastic seal inside that could be torn away. That wasn't extremely convenient but it was usable.

Then they switched to the red screw top extruding caps which were very convenient to open and pour.

Then they added a plastic+foil seal on the inside, which was redundant as the red top itself could act as a seal., but it was still manageable.

Then they added a white plastic ring to the plastic+foil seal. The first version of it was easier to pull out then just the plain old plastic+foil seal, but then it started getting tougher & I needed to use a scissors to break that seal.

Now they have gone back to a design similar to the initial flip top plastic seal but with rubber. This is the worst design -ergonomically- of the lot. Its tougher to open (requires more strength and a scissors at times) There is no plastic+foil seal so if you jerk the top open too hard, you have spillage. And the worst problem is that these rubber flip tops don't close tightly once they are opened. So if you consume a small amount of milk over a couple of days, the risk of the milk going bad or absorbing refrigerator odors is very high.

I wish they would just go back to the red screw tops. They were the most convenient of their designs.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Weather & Daylight saving time (DST)

Its gotten terribly hot in the last 3 days. Temperatures hitting 42C.

Its strange this about turn that happened in just 3 days.

3 days back, I had to wait for the water heater to get fully charged so I could take a bath. Now I wait for the late nights so that the water in the pipes really cools down enough for me to take a bath.

3 days back we barely used the fans during the day and now we need to use the ac's to keep the temperature indoors down.

Hope things cool down a bit because this is just the start of spring, summer is still at least a month away.

Daylight Saving time started last night, so we are now at GMT + 3 and just 2.5 hours behind India.

I think they have decided to switch back just before the start of Ramdan, but I'm not 100% sure about this. Will let you know once its due.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Traveling with Pets to Cairo

Traveling with Pets to Cairo

Egypt is taking the lead this month with the amount of expatriates' pets we are moving to Egypt. Are you also ready to set off and go experience the spectacular monuments of ancient Egyptian culture? Cairo is world renowned for being the "Jewel of the Nile"…she won’t disappoint you as she offers all visitors an incredible selection of shopping leisure, culture and attractions making this a truly memorable experience. Although many of you are moving with your pets to Egypt for work, it is the recreation that makes it worthwhile for all members of your family!. . . .

. . . . A selection of pet friendly accommodations follows but as each hotel has its own policy regarding pets, it is best to contact them directly for specific information.

Hilton Pyramids Golf Resort; Oasis Road; Cairo: Located on an 18 hole Golf Course, beautifully landscaped and in close proximity to the Pyramids of Giza- one of the Seven Wonders of the World. . . .

Requirements in Summary

1. All animals need to be implanted with a microchip: Compatible with international standards (ISO 11784/11785).

2. All animals need to have Full Vaccinations:
Dogs: Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvo, Leptospirosis, (DHLPP) and Rabies within the last 12 months or a minimum of 4 weeks before arrival.
Cats: Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, Panleukopenia (FVRCP), and Rabies within the last 12 months or a minimum of 4 weeks before arrival.

The original vaccine certificate needs travel with the pets. The certificate should state:
-Name of Pet
-Name of Owner
-Birth Date / Age
-Vaccine info (manufacturer, validity dates, batch numbers, etc…)

Read the entire article at Traveling with Pets to Cairo

Old Bag has also blogged about her experience with bringing her 2 adorable cats to Egypt here: http://oldbagofcairo.blogspot.com/2008/01/bringing-cats-to-cairo.html

Discussion on Expat Focus Forum

Discussion on Expat Search Forum

Discussion on Expat Exchange Forum

Oldbag of Cairo: Dying / Funerals in Cairo

Oldbag of Cairo: Funerals in Cairo

Old Bag has written an interesting article on options available to an expat who dies in Cairo. This may sound morbid to some, but its a valid concern of many expats who have settled in Cairo for the long haul.

She covers funerals for Christian expats as the options for muslims are relatively easy to figure out.

To my Hindu (Indian) friends, well, Hinduism isn't one of the three recognised religions in Egypt, so no chance of a ghat! But maybe I will check this fact with some of the Indians who have been here for 12+ years, I'm sure they would have researched the subject.

Read the entire article here: Oldbag of Cairo: Funerals in Cairo

Monday, April 21, 2008

Dar al-Kutub (Egyptian National Library)

This was a message, I received some time ago from the Deputy Head of Projects at the Thesaurus Islamicus Foundation and the Director of the Thesaurus Islamicus Foundation - Dar al-Kutub Manuscript Conservation Project.

The goal of this long-term project is the cataloguing, conservation, and digitization of Dar al-Kutub's important manuscript collection.

As someone who works almost daily with the collection I can tell you that as far as manuscripts go, readers can consult microfilms in the manuscript division on the fourth floor of Dar al-Kutub's Corniche premises in the Bulaq neighborhood (next to the Conrad Hotel and not too far from Tahrir Square), but access to the original manuscripts is not permitted: the manuscripts are being prepared for relocation to Dar al-Kutub's newly renovated (and currently closed to the public) premises in the Bab al-Khalq neighborhood.

The head of the Corniche branch of Dar al-Kutub is Prof. Dr. Sharif Shaheen. If you wish to obtain CDs of a manuscript in the collection you can write to him directly with your request.

I cannot advise on the use of the archives or modern library divisions.

Good luck with your work.

Yours sincerely,
Davidson MacLaren
Deputy Head of Projects
Thesaurus Islamicus Foundation
c/o Tradigital-Cairo
21 Misr Helwan Al-Ziraa'i St.
Al-Ma'adi, Cairo

Tel.: +20-(0)2-2380-1764
Fax: +20-(0)2-2380-2171

Dreamland Sports Club

Thanks to alli for gathering most of this info

Dreamland Sports club is a little beyond Dreamland Theme park.
The gate is between the Dreamland Mosque and the Hilton on the Oasis Al Wahat Road.
You have to be a member to use it although visitors are allowed accompanied with a member.

Membership is lifetime.
Cost is
19,500le single
23,000 couple no kids
36,000 family (all kids under 25)
It can be paid over 2 years with 2 equal sums for single and 3 years for couple and family.

For membership you will need to fill in a form in the big office as you enter the gates on your right. You need the deposit and 3 photos of each member. It takes a month to issue your id cards with picture on.

When you join you are given 10 free passes every year. Then if you need more you can buy ONE book of 10 passes for 50le and after that books of 10 for 100le. These passes can be used for visitors.

They have an Olympic size pool, children's fun pool and 2 small toddler pools, they are constructing one ladies only poolto be finished by December 2007.
All pools are 5 star hotel like with tables and chairs and guards.
Food is available poolside.
There are 2 lots of dressing rooms with lockers, showers, and toilets with cubicles for changing, take you own soap, shampoo and toilet paper.

I saw yellow hotel towels and maybe they are available too?
There is a fast food restaurant and a barbecue in the evenings, a golf pro shop and ice cream shop.
It is well laid out in beautiful gardens.
It has many courts, basketball, football (lit) croquet, a 700 meter trim walk, gymnasium.
The gym and swimming are free, courts have to be booked, trim walk is free.
They run karate etc and they are paid.

The gymnasium is mixed but the ladies have 3 sessions a week purely for ladies 5-7 evening.
They have all types of equipment, 3 running machines, stairmaster, weight machines, Cybex, loose weight etc.
All air conditioned.
There are showers and lockers.

There is also a spa and sauna for I think 10le a session.

Rules say swimcaps must be worn, and no teeshirts or outdoor clothes in pool although many folk did not wear swimcaps and lots wore teeshirts in the pool in the heat.
Water is crystal and grounds are manicured, changing rooms are spotless.

It opens at 8am till very late but pool closes at sunset. It has plenty of nice places to sit, parasols to sit under, outdoor tables and chairs dotted around. It is not busy, with screaming kids except Fridays and Saturdays!! lol

Car parking is free and your membership is checked at the gate.

Craving Bhuttan? Try Sunbulah frozen corn

I've tried the Egyptian Bhutta (corn on the cob) sold on the roads during winters but it doesn't even come remotely close to the bhutta we are used to eating on the roadside in India.

An American friend of mine mentioned that the kind of corn sold here in Egypt on the roads is what is sold as cattle feed in the US. I don't know how true that statement is but it was an interesting story none-the-less. :-)

Anyway, getting back to topic. I tried the Sunbulah frozen corn on the cob today and its a pretty good substitute for the Indian corn.

The only issue is that it cant be grilled on the flame - what with being frozen and all: you would have to first thaw it then dry it etc etc. But if you boil it for a couple of minutes you can then eat it with your favourite toppings. Try salted butter or lemon juice, salt and chilli powder.

It healthy, yummy and fun

Noise Levels in Cairo

From the International Herald Tribune.

Salesmen shout in Cairo, where the noise is like living with a running lawn mower next to you. (Shawn Baldwin for The New York Times)

As Cairo gets louder and louder, many simply turn a deaf ear.

. . .Noise - outrageous, unceasing, pounding noise - is the unnerving backdrop to a tense time in Egypt. . .

. . .We're not just talking typical city noise, but what scientists here say is more like living inside a factory.
"It's not enough to make you crazy, but it is very tiring," . . .

. . .Noise at the levels commonly found in Cairo physically affects the body. It can cause elevated blood pressure and other stress-related diseases. It can interfere with sleep, which almost always makes people more irritable. "People need a chance to sleep, to have a chance to think, in quiet," said Dr. Nagat Amer, a physician and researcher with the national center. . .

. . .In general terms, the noise is a symptom of an increasingly unmanageable city, crowded far beyond its original capacity, officials at the National Research Center said. The main culprit is the two million cars, and drivers who jam the city roads every day. . .

Read the entire article at http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/04/14/mideast/cairo.php?page=1

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Shajar al-Durr - the only Sultana of Egypt

Also posted on desicritics.org

The only female Sultana to have ruled Egypt for 80 days.

She was of Turkish origin and was originally a slave in the harem of the Caliph of Baghdad. She was later gifted to the Ayyubid Sultan of Egypt & Syria who fell in love with her and married her.

On the sultans death, his son took over. The son alienated the Mamluk slaves, who soon assassinated him and the step mother Shajar al Durr was proclaimed as Sultana.

Several months later— due to political pressure for a male sultan— Shajar al-Durr married an important Mamluk officer, Aybak. Together, they initiated the first Mamluk Dynasty of Egypt and Syria. They shared power in a combination of cooperation and suspicion for seven years. She thus was a sultana of Ayyubid Egypt and also the co-founder of the Mamluk dynasty

She later murdered Aybak - her second husband when she discovered that he had been plotting against her. She was subsequently beaten to death with shoes by the rest of Aybak's concubines.

To date, to the best of my knowledge, she has been the only female ruler of Egypt other than Cleopatra & Hatchepsut.

Her tomb can be visited even today in Cairo. My friend Camel, who is extremely knowledgeable on these matters (location & history of various monuments in Cairo) gave me these directions:

Dear Kim,

I visited the Tomb of Shajar al-Durr before, and it sure is around Ibn Tulun Mosque, a walking distance from it.

It is not the most pleasant of neighbourhoods, but the locals know the place, and they call it “Obbet el-Sitt Shagaret el-Durr”.

Just before Ibn Tulun, there is a street called al-Khalifa. Ask anyone to point the direction. If they don’t know, ask them for the Mosque of al-Sayyeda Sakina (it’s in al-Khalifa Street).

Walk that street till you reach al-Sayyeda Sakina Mosque, then go on straight ahead in the same street, and you will find the Tomb of Shajar al-Durr to your left.

If you go on in this street, you will reach Midan al-Sayyeda Nafisa, and you can visit her mosque too.

Camel – Keeper of the Temple

Egypt - International Driving License - IDP

Applicants for an Egyptian driver’s license must be at least l8 years old. A certificate from an Egyptian ophthalmologist and physician must be obtained to verify blood type, visual and physical health. These certificates along with a valid driver’s license from your home country, two photographs, and LE 55 should be taken to the Traffic Department at Attaba Square in Cairo or at Giza. All applicants are now being given an oral test on international road signs as well as a road test to certify driver’s capability. The applicant must provide his/her own vehicle for the test.

If an Egyptian driver’s license is lost, it must be reported to the nearest police station and a police report issued.

Per local law, all employees must carry third party personal liability insurance (for bodily injury) on vehicles operating in Egypt. This insurance is issued prior to the release of a vehicle from Customs and is renewed as part of the annual GOE vehicle registration procedure. It is valid for l3 months plus one day.

An endorsement must be made on this policy when plate numbers are changed in Cairo. A vehicle is not properly insured if the registration validity has lapsed. The current rates for minimum vehicle insurance varies from LE 80 to LE 100, depending on engine size.

Other insurance coverage, such as third party liability for material damage and comprehensive, is also available and optional. Third party liability insurance, however, should not be confused with the mandatory bodily injury insurance obtained during registration and licensing. Insurance may be obtained from any authorised insurance company in Egypt.

NOTE: Driver’s license, registration and insurance papers must be carried in your vehicle at all times.

The Traffic Department and the police strictly enforce speed limits throughout Egypt and, unless posted otherwise, speed limits are 60 kilometers in town and 90 kilometers out of town. The police utilises radar and motorcycle patrols on both the Desert and Delta Roads to Alexandria to enforce the law. If you are stopped, present your driver’s license to the officer and remain calm. You could receive a verbal warning or have your license confiscated. If the officer keeps your license, you will receive a receipt for it. Speeding is a serious offense in Egypt and carries fines of LE l00 or more for minor offenses.

From http://www.egypt.alloexpat.com

Another friend of mine (American studying in Cairo)recommended: Get an IDP(International Drivers Permit) from the country that issued your original driver's license.

For the US, the AAA will issue it without you needing to be present, someone else can apply for the IDP for you. All you have to do is send this person some documents.

If getting your IDP in Egypt is a hassle, then I'd suggest you do it through someone back at home. To find out what docs you need, call the AAA in the states and ask them.

Grand Snacks and Sweets, Chennai

Totally inspired by the masala (blend of spices) given to us by our Tamilian friends Lux & Moorthy, I sent a shopping list to my mom who was visiting Madras for her visa. The parcel has just reached me. YIPPEE!

Karakuzhambu paste, onion thokku, pepper rasam masala, and that tamarind thing - is it Pulikachal?

Also she has sent me a bit of sambhar and rasam powder of theirs to try out.

I don't need to cook anything other than rice for the next one month. Hahahahaha

I'm so kicked with myself. Already tasted all of them. They are awesome!

If you want to buy some yourself or get it shipped to you, the address is:
2nd Main Road,
Gandhi Nagar
Chennai - 600020

Phone: 044-24914213

Read more about Grand Snacks & Sweets in The Hindu

Distances across major towns in Egypt

This link has a list of distances between most major cities & sight seeing locations in Egypt.

This may help you plan at least some of your travels in this country.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Holiday in Europe

Being this close to Europe, I've been evaluating several options to travel there. Its difficult to get the visas and find the time to visit, but this doesn't stop me from daydreaming and checking sites online and planning the trip in my head. :)

Europe is full of some really interesting cities and each one has its own charm. The top of my list of European cities/areas to visit are:
Tuscany / Florence for their wonderful Renaissance buildings, art and culinary trails.

Rome for its Colosseum, Catacombs, Circus Maximus, Roman baths and the Pyramid of Cestius.

Barcelona to visit Gaudi's masterpiece - the Sagrada Familia Church and other Romanesque buildings and art museums.

Madrid for a quick feel of Spanish Culture.

Paris for its Champs-Elysses, The Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe and of course the Eiffel Tower

Scotland for its wonderful old castles.

Dublin for its nightlife and a bit of Irish luck and to try my luck at finding a Leprechauns pot of Gold :)

Friday, April 18, 2008

"Remember Africa" - Charity Bazaar

Attended the "Remember Africa" - Charity Bazaar at the All Saints Cathedral today.

The main purpose of this bazaar was for Refuge Egypt to raise awareness of the plight of refugees in Egypt.

Speakers throughout the day, introduced the work done by Refuge Egypt and presented ways everyone could help.

There was some delicious Ethiopian food and contrarily enough - Polish sausages :)

But, the event wasn't as well attended as last year. Last years event was held at the AUC and there were tons of students attending, even though it was on a Friday. This times turn out was quite dismal compared to that.

The number of stalls was consistent. Some refugees selling spices, their own artwork and woven baskets. What was really remarkable were the short entertainment pieces by the refugees and the refugee children.

It is disheartening,that most Cairenes and Cairo's temporary residents are unaware of the plight of these refugees. A problem of legitimate organisations like Refuge Egypt is contacting more people who can help them carry on their good work.

Over the past 20 years, Refuge Egypt has sought to assist and minister to the ever fluctuating refugee population through Medical Care; Emergency Assistance; Self-Reliance; Advocacy Education & Spiritual Ministries. It has been their emphasis to sustain and support refugees in the first 2 vulnerable and critical years of their arrival in Egypt. Overall they have recognized that women and children (often the ones who suffer the most) have been impacted significantly. Giving from the community has enabled this target group of individuals to have access to better healthcare and nutrition; reduced maternal mortality rate; better health awareness on HIV, TB, immunization and child feeding habits; improved income and ability to work and engage in small trade; group healing and unity.

To learn more about Refuge Egypt and its projects and how you can help, visit http://www.refuge-egypt.org/

Sufi Performance at Wikalat al Ghuri

The tannoura / sufi dervish performance has moved from the Citadel to the Wikalat al-Ghuri at Khan el Khalili.

Timings :
Its held twice a week, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
The doors open at 8pm and the show starts at 8:30.

Directions :
Get off at Al Azhar mosque. Then turn your back to the main road, with the entrance to Al Azhar mosque on your left walk straight ahead till you reach the roadside restaurant at the dead end. Turn right and walk straight down. Cross the vegetable market and a smaller wikalat before you reach the Wikalat of al Ghuri.

Price :
The performance is free.
Regular entry into the wikalat for non Egyptians is about 10 or 15LE as far as I remember, but this is waived for the Sufi performance.

The performance is wonderful and even more fun if you can catch it during Ramadaan.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

India's corporate biggies make multibillion-dollar plans for Egypt

From Economic Times, India

NEW DELHI: Top Indian companies like Essar, Reliance and the Tata group are getting ready to roll out over $20 billion investments in sectors ranging from oil and gas to plastic and fertilisers in Egypt.

"India and Egypt should walk hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder in this globalised world. The Indian economy is growing and so is the Egyptian economy. This is the perfect time for scaling up business ties," said Egyptian Minister for International Cooperation Fayza Aboul Naga.

"The Essar, Reliance and the Tata Group are some of big Indian companies planning multibillion dollar investments in Egypt," Naga told IANS ahead of Trade and Industries Minister Rashid Mohamed Rashid's visit here Tuesday.

"Egypt has multiple advantages for Indian businesses. Indian companies are closer to the cultural mindset of businessmen in Egypt and, therefore, have an edge," Naga said.

Business is clearly now the mantra with the two countries, which were the founder members of the Non-Aligned Movement and pioneers of South-South cooperation.

Soon after the trade minister's visit, a big business delegation led by Aseem Ragab, head of Egyptian Investment Promotion Authority GAFI, will come here to network with Indian businessmen at an investment conclave April 18-20.

Egypt's strategic location that makes it a gateway to the 20-country Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the 27-nation European Union and the Arab Free Trade Area has been a major magnet for globally ambitious Indian companies.

Egypt is determined to cash in on a new strategic and economic synergy emerging with India that will be sharply in focus when President Hosni Mubarak comes here on his first visit in a quarter of a century.

"India is emerging as an economic power. It's a source of pride for us in Egypt. The Egyptian economy is also growing at over eight percent annually. There are a lot of complementarities," Naga stressed.

The Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries, India's largest private sector company, has decided to spend over $11 billion in oil refining, petrochemicals and plastics industries in Egypt.

The Reliance group is no stranger to the shores of the Nile. Reliance Petroleum Limited, a subsidiary of the Reliance group, has been importing and marketing Egyptian crude oil over the last seven years.

The Ruias-owned Essar Group is also brimming with ideas for investment in Egypt. A $9 billion refinery tops their list, which also includes a plan to set up a steel plant in the pharaoh's land.

Tata Chemicals is planning $1.2 billion investment in a fertiliser plant in Egypt. The Aditya Birla Group has already set up a joint venture plant in Alexandria to produce acrylic fibre and is playing with some more ambitious investment ideas.

The Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL), the Oberoi Group that runs a hotel near the pyramids in Cairo and the Kirloskar Group are already entrenched in the burgeoning Egyptian market.

Bilateral trade between India and Egypt touched $2.2 billion in 2006, compared to China's nearly $3 billion trade with Egypt. India and Egypt are eyeing an ambitious target of achieving $10 billion bilateral trade by 2010.

The two countries have identified IT, oil and gas, agriculture and food processing as some of key areas for closer collaboration.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Katameya Heights

Attended a lunch today at a wonderful lady's house for Bengali New Year.

She lives at Katameya Heights which is way out on the outskirts of Cairo. On the ring road it falls between Maadi & Heliopolis.

This was my first visit in over 18 months to that part of town.

I was pleasantly surprised on my arrival at the complex. It is a gated complex with pretty decent security. Lots of villas in the complex. Everyone has their own garden and walls and parking spaces within the building complex!

For entertainment there is an 18 hole golf course. Many houses have their own swimming pools and some of them have their own badminton courts too. There is a common club house with lots of other sports facilities.

Katameya Heights supposedly covers an area of 1.5 million square meters.

They have a long list of facilities but what really impressed me was the greenery all around. IKt felt like such an oasis compared to the concrete jungle of Mohandaseen. When you realise that the complex is bounded by arid desert on all sides, this achievement becomes even more remarkable.

Only negatives I could see there were that
1. the temperature was a couple of degrees higher than the rest of cairo - perhaps becuase of the arid desert around.
2. for schools, kids have to travel to Maadi or Heliopolis, although taking the ring road means it takes less time than it would for someone in Zamalek trying to drive to the British School in the All Saints Cathedral Complex.

Anyways, after a wonderful South East Asian themed lunch and interesting conversation with some very interesting ladies, I headed over to Khan el Khalili to help more friends from India shop for their Egyptian souvenirs :)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Wudu - Ritual cleansing

Part of the reason for Wet Bathroom Floors in Egypt is Wudu.

As I understand from my muslimah friends: Wudu is the ritual cleansing before each of the fard (obligatory prayers)

It includes washing the hands 3 times and the face and rinsing out the mouth and sniffing water in the nose and then washing to the elbows and then wetting the head and ears and then the feet and ankles(some go upto the shin).

Wudu in Egypt is needed on a physical level to cleanse oneself of all the dirt, dust and pollution, so that one can be clean when standing before God.

But on a spiritual level it helps start the process of getting into a prayer mode. When you focus on the rituals of cleansing, you start leaving behind the stress and strains that have been occupying your thoughts, you start focusing on your upcoming prayers and dialogue with God.

The above explanation is my understanding, errors if any are mine alone - please feel free to correct me.

This ritual cleansing is not unique to Islam. Hindus in India and elsewhere have to take a bath in the mornings before they pray. The previous generations used to be really strict about this morning bath and prayers. Before entering a temple, there will be a water tank(in the older temples) or taps (in the newer ones) for devotees to wash their legs(mainly) hands and face before entering the temple itself. Some of these practices may have been diluted in todays day and age, but the concepts behind this are very similar to the concepts behind wudu.

When entering a church, you often find a basin of Holy Water (blessed on good Friday) The faithful, dip their fingertips in this and then make the sign of the cross with these fingers. Isn't this a ritual cleansing too? We use water(albeit Holy) and then make the sign of the cross as a self blessing and cleansing. (Because the water is Holy, just dabbing it at the 4 spots can cleanse you?)

Childrens books in Arabic - in Cairo

Granted with no kids of my own, I don't have too much insight into this, but I do know my bookshops

And a lot of this information comes as tips from friends in Egypt who would like their kids to learn to read Arabic just to make the transition easier.

1. The best place/time to find them is at the Cairo International Book fair because publishers from other Arab countries that don't have stores/distribution in Egypt sell their stuff there.

2. Dar el Shorouk publishes Arabic books for children and sells them at their outlets in the Four Seasons First Mall, City Stars Mall (the extension), and Korba. Their kids section in Arabic is one of the strongest around town.

Shorouk publishes series of books from Alam Simsim (sesame street), the Mister books (Mister Happy etc), Miffy and more. There are Barney story books and other famous characters as well. Someone mentioned that the new series by Shorouk are in Egyptian Arabic, but printed in China. Books start from about 10LE each.

3. The lovely ladies at The Bookspot, don't always carry Arabic books, but they do special order them so if you have something specific in mind they can always get it for you.

4. Diwan carries a few too, but its a limited selection.

5. Carre four & Hyper One have some Arabic Childrens books in their Books & Magazine sections.

Surprisingly, a lot of my friends have found better range and quality of Arabic books for children outside Egypt.

Wet bathroom floors

A couple of my friends Americans/Europeans who have married Egyptians have mentioned a couple of times that they cannot fathom how bathroom floors in Egypt are always wet.

As an Indian, I find a lot of similarities in the Egyptian way of life, this water on the bathroom floor is one of them.

From an Indian perspective. Showers came into the scene just maybe 30-40 years ago. I remember my grandparents house had this really ancient shower head attached but no one really used it because it could only give out cold water. Water heaters for the bathroom came in much later. I won't digress into how water used to be heated, its a long story.

bathtubs are a relatively modern concept (20 years - except maybe those who imported their tubs or the really pricey hotels - 5 star type) in the Indian scenario. So to take a bath you normally used a bucket and had the whole bathroom floor to wet or you used a shower and still had the whole bathroom floor to wet. The floors were and are still built to handle the drainage of the whole bathroom floor. The toilet used to be a separate room. There are sometimes sinks in the dining room that you use to wash your hands before and after meals. So the bathroom was literally that - the BATH room. So that room was always wet all over and you had a mat to wipe your feet when you came out.

Bathtubs are still not very common in Indian homes although in the new high rises a lot of builders are putting them in, to make their apartments look more "hep". We like having a lot of space to move around when taking a shower (I so hate having to stand inside a tub and take a shower - because the tubs here are just enough to stand sideways) Also in general - we don't have the time to soak in a tub (it is considered an extravagant waste of time and water in most middle class households) ergo very few tubs. And since a lot of houses still have the WC and the bath rooms separate there is no need for shower separators or shower curtains.

Coming to my opposite problem.

When I was in the US. I did wash most of my clothes in the washing machine (yes, we did have washing machines in India- if you are wondering LOL) but the really delicate embroidery and lacey clothes, I do not like putting in the machine even on the delicate cycle. I still wash these by hand.

So I washed them and wrung them out. Because they were very delicate, they were quite weightless too (not lingerie but weighed about that much) and I hung it on the shower curtain rod to drip dry in my bathroom. In about 30 minutes, I had my downstairs neighbour ringing my bell, that water was seeping from my bathroom into hers. The problem was the clothes dripping on the shower rod. The water from one end was falling inside the tub and getting drained, but the water from the other side was falling on the bathroom floor and had nowhere to go. It must have been half a litre tops, but it seeped into the floor below.

So thats why, I figure Americans are so worried about keeping the water inside the tub, while we are not. And I'm sure my downstairs neighbour is still cursing the stupid Indian neighbours while I can't fathom the logic of not having a drainage in the main section of the bathroom thats apart from the shower and bath area.

Especially because we truly believe that you need water to clean out something properly, not just paper(kitchen/toilet rolls) & vaccums.

It quite disgusted me, that I could never scrub the main bathroom floors in the US with water and bleach to kill off all the bacteria on the floor. And those fluffy covers atop the WC's and the toilet tank - I don't get those either - breeding grounds for germs I say! no matter how pretty they may look.

Has anyone heard why you need to keep your toothbrush at least 4 feet away from the toilet or inside a closed cupboard. Same logic for those fluffy covers. There is a huge hygienic sense in having the WC and the bath room separate, but today in the interests of space, most new constructions in India too, club the 2.

My 2 piastres worth.

Some new shopping options coming to Cairo

Read somewhere that Makro Cash and Carry is due to make its entrance in Cairo by end 2008!

I'm so excited.

Links to Makro:

Its like a Sam's Club. So you can get good quality stuff at low prices when you buy in bulk. It sells only to Retailers in some countries because regulations prevent them from selling in the open market. But there are ways to get around that retailers permit.

The only restriction in India Cash and Carry is on alcohol. You have to have a bar licence to buy more than 3 liters of alcohol at a time.

The Hawary guys behind Hyper One and el Hawary supermarkets are planning a shopping district.

It will contain a mall, a hypermarket, 20,000 square meters of food area, a fun park designed by Disney, conference hall, huge exhibition area and an outlet space.

He is modeling it on Mall of America. They have started the blueprints and are in final negotiations with the ministries

This will be on Cairo-Ismalia road near 10th of Ramadan City.

They want to open a branch of Hyper One on Cairo-Fayoum road and Cairo-Alex agricultural road.

Mohamed el Hawary mentioned this in an interview with Business Today, Egypt. April 2008

Park Avenue
It’s a 2 billion LE project that covers an area of 4 million sq meters in 6th of October.

It will have a mix of office, retail and residential spaces.

Banks, bookstores, health care facilities, high end fashion stores, restaurant chains and fitness facilities will complete the picture.

Launched in July 2007, phase one of the project is 40% complete and sold out.

Expected delivery date is end of 2010 - mid 2011.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Afro-Asian Womens Charity Bazaar

Today was the Afro-Asian Womens' Charity Bazaar at el Sawy.

Present were the usual suspects. Home grown jewelry designers, the fake branded wallets and purses. Some of the open house people with stuff left over from previous sales.

There were a few good stalls though. The Indonesian womens stall had some beautiful masks from back home for 60Le and 100LE depending on size.

The women of Brunei had some interesting stuff too.

The Bangladeshi stalls had some lovely material and saris that I didn't consider because I know I can get them cheaper and with a wider range in Delhi or Calcutta.

The Indian stall was missing though. I didn't see it anywhere. The pakistani stall had some awesome food. Chicken biryani for 15LE - 2nd best commercially prepared biryani I have had in Egypt and some awesome cutlets/kebabs - for 3LE each. they were very similar to the shikampuri's without the onion stuffing in the centre.

The good news is that this husband wife couple are planning to start a catering or restaurant business sometime soon. Will let you know as soon as I know they are up and running :)

The Bangladeshi biryani looked very low on masala so we skipped that. But they had a lot of food at their stall too.

hmmmm, I'm looking forward to the refuge Egypt fair coming up next weekend where African food is on offer (today was only Asian options on the food) longing to sink my teeth into some njeera and spicy curry. I hope the week goes quickly.

1 month free for TE Data customers

A friend of mine on another group sent me this information. I had also read it in the Business Today, Egypt or the Business Monthly.

Just wanted to let everyone here who has TE Data (not sure about other companies, but you can always ask) if you were subscribed during the Internet cut in Jan/Feb., then you can call up TE Data's customer service at 19777 and they'll give you a free month. I just found this out since I needed to find something on their website, where it was advertised. It took about one minute for the customer service guy to add my extra month, so free is always good.


Rose is correct that everyone who subscribed during that period will receive a free month (excluding any fee you pay for renting a router, etc.). In my experience, I didn't have to make a special call to receive the free month. When I called to schedule for bill collection, as I do every month, they informed me that the month would be free, other than my router rental and collection fees. Also, many of you may be happy to know, if you do not already, that TE Data has just reduced their rates. They also did this automatically and told me so when I called to schedule bill collection. The cost of my connection was reduced by about 25%, but I don't know if this is the same for all packages. Thank you to Rose for pointing out the free month.


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A short trip to Egypt

Also published on desicritics.org

Being in Egypt for the last 18 months, I receive a lot of requests from friends asking what they should plan in their itinerary in Egypt. We have been here for ages and manage to do a lot more than an average tourist can hope to accomplish unless they are the type with endless vacation time)

This article is written in my 18 year old sisters voice. So it may not read like anything I have written before, but please bear with me. Its a new style, I'm experimenting with. Comments on the style are welcome :)

I approach the city of Cairo from the air and the first thing I see is the river Nile, which shimmers and glistens catching the rays of the rising sun. I am lucky enough to be on the left of the plane and catch my first view of the Pyramids of Giza, right outside the city which still stand majestically even after 5000 years – a silent testimony to the grandeur and glory of ancient Egyptian civilization. We circle and then land. It's been over 5 hours since I got on this flight & I’m ready to come back to earth. I rush through Customs and baggage claim, eager to meet my sister (who currently lives in Egypt with her husband)

We then drove back to my sisters house, while she pointed out a few statues, an obelisk and some other famous constructions along the way. Cairo pretty much resembles Bombay. The Shanty towns, crowding, pollution and above all non-observance of any rules related to traffic.

Our first visit was to Saqqara, the site of the Step Pyramid. The Step Pyramid is the oldest and the first of the Pyramidal Structures from which all other Pyramids evolved (Tombs of early Egyptian kings were flat mounds called mastabas) The step pyramid was designed to serve as a gigantic stairway by which the soul of the deceased pharaoh could ascend to the heavens.

We then proceeded to Giza, the place of THE Pyramids. The pyramids of Giza are the only remaining wonder of the 7 ancient wonders of the world. The Pyramids were built by Khufu, his son Khafre and Khafre's son Menkaure. The biggest and tallest Pyramid of all (the Great Pyramid, as it is referred to) is the Pyramid of Khufu. The Sphinx (built by Khafre) was supposed to guard the pyramids.

The next day we went to the Egyptian Museum. This place is filled with artifacts taken from various ages. Most notable of what I saw were the innumerable gold treasures taken from King Tut-Ankh-Amun’s tomb and the mummies of about 30 famous kings and queens.

We spent the next few days visiting the Citadel, which is the old city enclosed by a huge wall built by Saladin. We climbed inside the wall and visited the beautiful Mohammed Ali Mosque (Incidentally Cairo has the most number of mosques compared to any other city in the world).

We visited quite a few old Coptic Churches (Egypt has a lot of significant churches along the path taken by Mary and Joseph when they fled to Egypt after the birth of Christ) and a Synagogue .

We finally went to the Khan-el-Khalili market. We climbed the Bab Zuwayla – one of the 3 remaining gates of the original walled city – and both its minarets (about 8 floors high) and had a wonderful view of the whole city around. You get all sorts of hand crafted items in this market – hookahs, colourful tents, Pharaonic souvenirs, galabeyas and belly dancing outfits to name just a few

We also went to Fayoum Oasis and took a boat ride to observe the water birds. I also rolled down a sand dune thrice near the Oasis which was loads of fun (It was the only safe place to do this as there were no scorpions in this part of the desert)

The next day we took a flight to Luxor to embark on a 5 day cruise on the Nile between Luxor and Aswan stopping along the way to see places of Interest. After breakfast, we boarded a Bus to go to the Temples of Karnak and Luxor. (The Ancient Egyptian Kings built temples to Glorify the Gods / themselves) One of the biggest reasons these temples / monuments are almost intact is weather oriented. As it hardly ever rains in Egypt, the low humidity has protected the structures except for the ravages of time over 5000 + years.

After Spending around 2 hours at Karnak, we drove to the temple of Luxor. The Temples of Karnak & Luxor are about 3 Miles apart. During the reign of the Pharaohs they were connected by an avenue lined with Sphinxes on both sides. The Pharaoh used to go in a grand procession from one temple to the Other. Today you can find about 40-50 metres of Sphinxes before each temple. Civilization has crept in in-between with Houses and roads.

We left on the next day to the West Bank & started with the Valley of the Kings where most of the Pharaohs are buried. King Tut's tomb and treasure was found here. We visited the 3 tombs opened for that day. These tombs are shafted deep into the mountains and are decorated with a lot of paintings from the book of the dead on the walls and ceilings. Some of the colours can still be seen today .

Next stop was the funerary temple of Queen Hatshepsut. She is famous for declaring herself as Pharaoh and ruling as one, depicting herself as male (with a false beard) in all the representations around her temple. She was recently in the news for her mummy being successfully identified.

After that we got back and set Sail for Edfu where we visited the Temple dedicated to Horus.

From here we sailed to Kom Ombo crossing the locks at Esna which was an interesting experience to say the least. As we waited for our turn to cross the locks at Esna, we were besieged by rug sellers in tiny boats who surrounded our moored boat and engaged everyone on board with hectic and loud bargaining and banter.

After dinner we had a "Galabeya Party". Galabeya is the long gown traditionally worn by most Egyptians. Almost all of the tourists, had bought Galabeyas from the boat salesmen and got all dressed up. We had some singing and dancing to the melodies of Nubian Music.

The Next morning we docked at Kom Ombo and visited the temple dedicated to two Gods. Sobek (the Crocodile God) and Horus. This temple is located at a bend in the Nile where crocodiles used to congregate until their movement downstream was stopped by the construction of the dam at Aswan. Hence the need for a God to protect the Egyptians from the crocodiles.

At Aswan the next day, we took a motor boat from a small ferry landing, to the Island of Philae. This is one of the many monuments that was affected by the building of the ASWAN dam. This temple was submerged (partially) under water before it was moved block by block to its current place on the Island of Agilika. The project was one of the two funded by UNICEF. The other was the masterwork of moving the temple of Abu Simbel.

The temple of Philae, dedicated to Isis, contains a lot of Greco-Roman and Egyptian architecture. As these lands changed hands frequently in ancient times, you tend to find some of these temples containing influences of various cultures. (Greek, Roman & Egyptian) There are even some Coptic crosses etched in some of these temples from the days when the Copts hid from Muslim raiders on these premises.

We then proceeded to the Aswan dam and then took a bus to Abu Simbel. This is the second temple that was moved to a higher ground to avoid being submerged by the water from the Aswan Dam. This temple is dedicated to Ramses II and his queen Nefertari. The Main temple dedicated to Ramses, has four 18 Metre statues of Ramses in a seated posture at the entrance. A couple of metres higher than the Gomaeshwara at Shravanabelagola! This is followed by a hallway lined with eight standing statues of Ramses (4 on each side). The Inner sanctum contains the statues of Ramses and 3 other Gods. Twice a year, on Ramses' birthday and on the day of his ascension to the throne, (February 22nd, October 22nd) the rays from the rising sun stream all the way into the inner sanctum about 100 metres deep inside the temple.

This happens to this day, even after the temple was moved from its earlier place. A work of sheer genius on the part of the ancient architects and the modern ones who shifted it. The modern architects constructed a huge dome before relocating the temple over it, to ensure that the phenomenon would continue.

The adjacent temple of Nefertari, has Six 15 Metre statues at the entrance (4 of which are of Ramses and 2 are of Nefertari). Ramses, just did not get tired of his face !!! The notable feature was that for the first time, a Pharaoh depicted a wife at the same height as himself. Otherwise wives and children were always shown below knee level to emphasise the Pharaoh as a God and everyone else as his subjects.
We then took the 4.5 hour bus ride through flat arid desert back to Aswan and boarded the flight back to Cairo.

The last day we drove to Alexandria (A port built by Alexander the great) explored the complex Catacombs a couple of feet below the ground, visited the Bibliotheca Alexandria (One of the largest libraries in the world, at the site of the original Library of Alexandria) the Qaitbay fort - built over the site of the Ancient Lighthouse of Alexandria (another wonder of the ancient world) and we admired the wonderful Mediterranean sea and its many shades of blue.

We returned to Cairo the same night and packed our bags and left to the airport. As I looked out of the window I felt despondent to leave Egypt with its 7 millenia of historical monuments, its wonderful feteer, koshary and Cinnabon rolls and my darling sister.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Puffed Rice / Laiyyan now available in Egypt

Just saw that Isis has started selling puffed rice - laiyyan - the base ingredient for bhel puri.

It comes in a box of 250gms for about 10LE. Saw it at the Metro on Syria street.

I didn't pick it up, because I still have my stock from home. but I can now use it more confidently and liberally since its now available in Egypt

Picture Added on 18 November 08
This is a bit on the sweeter side, doesn't have the neutral taste of laiyya, but one can make do with this.

Sourcing Curry Leaves in Egypt

Curry leaves arent available in the general market in Egypt. A couple of Indian friends grow them in their houses here.

Sometimes when someone has a huge excess of the stuff, they may give it to the guy on Road 9 in Maadi or 26th July street in Zamalek to be sold, but these are very very rare occasions and they disappear faster than the blink of an eye.
I personally get mine from India. I dry them up and then bring them over in huge quantities. This is also the solution used by majority of the Indians in Egypt.
Curry leaves add a unique flavour to Indian dishes, these dishes wont taste the same without the leaves, but they will still taste good.

Cairo to Siwa

A friend sent me this some time back. I can't remember who it was, so I apologise for not giving due credit.

The Road to Siwa
There are several ways to get to Siwa. Upon your arrival you will be assured of a warm welcome from the Siwan people.

To and from Cairo
The Western Delta Bus Company run a daily service from Cairo to Marsa Matrouh which is en route to Siwa. The bus leaves Turkamen Bus Station, Cairo at 7.30am. The journey is 500 kilometers and takes five hours. The fare is 38 LE. Refreshments are served on the air-conditioned bus. From Marsa Matrouh catch the onward bus service to Siwa. The journey takes four hours and the ticket costs 12 LE. The bus leaves at 1.30 pm and arrives in Siwa at 5pm.

Leaving Siwa for Cairo the bus leaves at 7am from the Ramel Station or Market Square. Change at Marsa Matrouh where there are buses leaving for Cairo until 2pm.
Superjet buses leave Shurbra Khama Bus Station in Cairo at 4.30pm arriving at Marsa Matrouh at 11pm if you wish to spend some time at Marsa Matrouh.
To and from Alexandria
From Alexandria, Siwa can be reached from both the old and the new bus stations. The buses from Sidi Gabber Bus Station are at 8.30am, 11.30am and 2.30am. The journey takes 8 hours and costs 27EL. From the new Bus Station the buses to Siwa are at 9pm, 12pm and 3 pm.

To return to Alexandria there are four buses daily from Siwa at 7am, 10am, 5pm. and 10pm. The fare is 27 EL.
You can also travel to Siwa by minibus from Alexandria. They run from Mahrenbeck Station and the fare is 20 LE in total. You change mini-bus at Marsa Matrouh and pay 10LE per mini-bus.

Here is a timetable for all services running between Siwa, Alexandria and Cairo:







Depart from

Arrive at







West Delta Bus









Superjet Bus

Shurba Khama








West Delta Bus

Sidi Gaber

Market Sq.







West Delta Bus

Sidi Gaber

Market Sq.







West Delta Bus

Sidi Gaber

Market Sq.




Any time




Mahrenbeck st.



Buses leave from New Bus Station in Alexandria half an hour after above times.






West Delta Bus


Market Sq.




Every 2hrs



West Delta Bus


Cairo stations




Any time









Any time





Market Sq.







West Delta Bus

Market Sq.








West Delta Bus

Market Sq.

Alex stations







West Delta Bus

Market Sq.

Alex stations







West Delta Bus

Market Sq.

Alex stations







West Delta Bus

Market Sq.

Alex stations


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