Saturday, May 31, 2008
Let me clarify: Our building has 2 lifts. Lift No1 was for general purpose and use and lift number 2 was only for the house owners above floor no 5. It needed (yes past tense) a key to be operated and could only be summoned to the floors by a button located inside the flat.
Lift No 1 after constant sputterings and false starts, completely gave way in December. Yes, December 2007! It has still not been repaired. Seemingly not all the flat owners were willing to pay the required extra sum for the repair of lift number 1.
By February, the key mechanism of Lift Number 2 was disabled so anyone could press any number inside the lift, but the lift could still only be summoned to the floor by pressing the button inside the apartment.
Since I live on the top floor with only the terrace above me, I constantly have workmen who have accessed the terrace ringing my bell (10 times in quick succession, like they OWN my FLAT and ME!!) to get me to press this summoning button for them. Nobody rings the bell of the woman opposite me (2 flats per floor only) as she is a known harridan. It is very frustrating to be summoned to the front door from all corners of the house in the middle of a nap, cooking, eating, sleeping, typing, consulting, writing, phone conversations, guests in the hall by the persistent and insistent and adamant ringing of my front door bell by all and sundry!
I have put up with that for almost 4 months now on a daily basis!
The final straw was when after all the walking about of the day yesterday, we came home with my husbands parents who had also walked around with us the whole day to find the lift was not working and the lift repairman had not appeared for over an hour and refused to answer his cell after originally agreeing to come.
All 8 of us made the painful trek to the 13th floor with some of the smaller bits of luggage and souvenirs purchased during the day.
We had an additional floor to climb since I have shifted to the upstairs annexe right now. Once I climbed the extra floor inside our apartment, I was confronted with a kitchen cabinet filled with my landlady's glass & ceramic crockery (that she had left to be used by us, but I was using my own stuff and had stored it upstairs) that had fallen off the wall and crashed to the counter below. Smashing up all the glass and ceramic ware in the process and strewing minute splinters all over the room.
I had kept some of the extra pickles and masalas that had arrived from India on the countertop below the cabinet. So those were crushed and added to a sticky mess!
That took a nice couple of hours to clean and mop multiple times with little bits of wet kitchen roll - to ensure no little splinters remained to hurt any human or our cat - who still refuses to use shib-shibs!
Just one of those days when nothing goes right. Anyway that put paid to an early morning start today for more sightseeing, but will be headed out in a while.
This is the first time I have seen/heard of a kitchen cabinet coming right off the wall and crashing below! (No extra weight had been added inside that cabinet) Only in Egypt!
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
A trip to Egypt by a Jewish group has been called off after rumours they were going to reclaim nationalised property prompted hotels to cancel bookings.
Allegations were broadcast on Egyptian television last week that the group was coming to claim confiscated property.
The trip organisers denied that, saying it was purely a personal journey.
But anti-Israeli sentiment in Egypt is so strong that no business is willing to take any risk, particularly when it involves such a highly sensitive issue.
The woman behind the trip, Levana Zamir, is an Egyptian-born Israeli who runs an organisation in Tel Aviv that seeks to promote better understanding between the two cultures.
Ms Zamir, who speaks Arabic fluently, said she was one of a group of elderly Jewish people of Egyptian origin from all over the world who wanted to visit their ancestral homeland with their children, to see old neighbourhoods.
But a few days before the group was due to arrive in Cairo, she was told by the Egyptian travel agent that their hotel reservation was cancelled and that no other hotel in Egypt wanted to receive them.
Many believe it is all down to the populist television presenter, Amr Adeeb, whose programme is widely watched here.
Mr Adeeb urged the authorities last week to prevent the trip from going ahead.
He said all the department stores that were established by Egyptian Jews at the turn of the past century were now the property of the people of Egypt.
A local organisation that represents the few remaining Jewish people in Egypt has distanced itself from the trip.
Despite a peace treaty that ended decades of war between Egypt and Israel, relations between the two countries remain tense.The majority of Egyptians identify with the Palestinians under Israeli occupation and the country is often rife with rumours of Israeli plots to undermine Egyptian interests.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Read my entire review on My Restaurant Review Blog
The address is 73, al Hussein street. Their phone number is 749 3940
If you are coming past the shooting club main gate with McDonalds on your left, keep coming straight, cross the intersecting main road and keep going till you see Khodeir bookshop on your right. Just before khodeir bookshop(its on a corner) is a lane going in. This is al Hussein street. It may be easier to walk it than try finding it in your car.
They had a lot of interesting pieces ranging from her famous jewelery to lamps to traditional clothes to souvenirs of all kinds. But they are all highly expensive. Its some of the neatest handwork that I have seen in this country with neat edges and smart yet traditional designs. But you really have to pay the price for this work.
Her gallery in First Mall in the Four Seasons hotel in Giza is on the 3rd Floor and only sells jewelery.
My vedict - good but expensive - Personally, I'm not wiling to pay 7-10 times the price of something just because it has a fancy designers name attached to it.
Furniture & Home Accessories
2 Ismail Mohammed Street
I always kept looking at the colourful and intriguing display in this shop whenever I went to Alfa Market in Zamalek and had to come around this place (above Metro) because of the one way system.
Finally I decided to get it out of my system and visit the place.
Although from the outside it looked like I could pick up a ton of stuff, it wasn't what I was looking for.
Most of the items are really large tables and swings and things like that, or else they are really tiny pieces like a little decorated tagen pot about 6 inches high. Nothing in between.
There were some lovely pieces of jewelry which I was told came from India, so I know, I'm going to try and pick out those designs when I go back home :)
The large pieces are beautiful. They are more expensive than buying them in Morocco, but the hassle of carting them over and customs has been completed, you just have to get it to your home.
Beautiful pieces, worth taking a look if you are furnishing your house in Cairo.
They also have another location in Maadi at 26, Street 233, Degla. Tel : 521 2548
they are open from 10 to 10 and are closed on Sundays
Zahraan is a walk in store. You can browse on your own or ask any of the strategically positioned salespeople (they employ women too) for help. If you choose to browse on your own and your hands start getting full, a salesperson will offer you a basket and also the service of carrying your items collected until then to the cash register to wait for you there.
Zahraan carries a ton of stuff for the kitchen, dining, bathroom and some other home accessories.
Pick up the stuff you want, carry it to the cash register. Bill gets made. Gift wrapping at the same counter if you desire. Pay your money and the sales guy will even carry your items to the car if you have heavy or many packages.
While the makeover has been significant looks-wise, that is exactly where it ends. The level of service remains non existent and the amount of inefficiencies in the system are mind boggling.
Such strong words from me? Well the situation merits it. We went to Omar Effendi yesterday to buy a couple of plastic buckets.
Our first look inside the store was a pleasant surprise. The same sky blue theme on the outside continues inside too, alternating a bit with sea green. The display looked very smart and upmarket. I would liken it to Shoppers Stop/Lifestyle in India and midway between K-Mart and Macy's veering closer to Macy's.
Well, this was a pleasant surprise. But unfortunately, that was the end of the pleasantries.
We were looking for plastic buckets. There were no clearly marked signs to say which floor housed which items. An ignorable problem. We walked around and figured it was up on the 2nd floor. We figured out the floor and the section on our own by walking around and checking areas.
There were no service staff in the plastic/kitchen section. No problem, we are used to walking around and selecting the items we want like in Carrefour, so we did that. Then we picked up all the items that we required (trolleys, baskets and service staff not in sight) - 3 buckets, a plate drying stand and some other bulky plastic items. Between the 2 of us we made a couple of trips and took it to the cash register (computerised) manned by a smartly dressed employee (herein after referred to as CRG- Cash Register Guy) in the store uniform and stood in queue. (i.e. behind the one person who was already at the counter)
As we waited in line, a salesperson materialised from somewhere and handed a slip of paper to the CRG. This was a new trick to cutting the queue, but we tried to maintain our patience. The CRG billed the person who was tagging along to the salesperson even though, we were next "in line"
When we reached the counter, the CRG signalled one minute to us and disappeared for 7. During these 7 minutes we solved the mystery of the disapparating staff - they were all huddled in the TV section watching highlights of the football match that had taken place earlier that evening on various sized screens.
The CRG came back after 7 minutes, took a look at our unwieldy stuff and then asked us to wait again, while he served the person who was next in line to us but was actually standing at our side demanding to be served.
At this point my husband insisted that he serve us first as we had been waiting in line more than 20 minutes. (each billing cycle was taking about 10 minutes) So he told us we need to wait for the arrival of some guy. Locating this "guy" took another 15 minutes as cleaning staff and others had sporadic conversations on where this "guy" could possibly be. The "guy" finally arrived and with the help of the cleaning staff, picked up our intended purchases and headed back with all these unwieldy items back to the spot we had originally started from - halfway across the floor.
Then started the hunt for "the book" The book was one of those old fashioned bill books where every bill is filled in triplicate. Next step, the cleaning guy rips off the dual language (English & Arabic) bar codes from the intended items and handed the bar codes to "the guy" who then read out the code and item name to the "book guy" who painstakingly wrote down the details in arabic and then - hold your breath - stuck the bar code sticker on top of the page where he was writing. By the time he finished with our items, you could not see any of the writing.
Then we had to take the lovely set of triplicated bills to the cash counter with the cleaning guy providing us an escort service to the counter. The CRG now scanned the bar code stickers that were stuck on to the bill and printed out a computerised bill. Our escort had by now disappeared and we were told to take it back to the book guy.
We walked back to the book guy with the computerised bill. He stamped something on it with a rubber stamp and then sent us back to wait with CRG. The cleaning guy, was somehow located and pressed into delivering the items that were in "book guy"s custody to CRG. After a few more stamps being pressed all around, we were finally released from the brain numbing exercise to successfully walk out of the store after 1hr 20 minutes clutching our purchases.
Time taken to locate items - 8 minutes
Time taken to select items - 7 minutes
Time wasted at CRG due to our ignorance of billing etiquette @ Omar Effendi - 20 minutes
Billing process including waiting time - 45 minutes!
Overall verdict - Items @ Omar Effendi may be cheaper than other airconditioned locations, but the amount of time wasted and duplicated work effort is TERRIBLE!
Monday, May 26, 2008
The Whistler Black Comb Ski Resort in Canada which is also the site for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
There are some great options for Whistler Accommodation
I'm not much of a skier myself. What I like about ski holidays is sitting at a fireplace drinking hot chocolate with marshmallows and admiring the more athletic people as they ski :) Its the surrounding experience that I enjoy and not so much the hurtling at high speeds in frigid temperatures.
Just look at the options of Whistler lodging like the one above. What's not to like?
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Your used book in good condition will be made available to the public at one of three locations:
--A new cafe, library and teaching center opening in the oasis of Siwa. Scheduled opening date: Fall 2008.
--A small book lending collection of exceptional books at Al Balad Cultural Center, a great new bookstore at 31 Shari'a Mohammed Mahmoud, just across from the main AUC gate, on the first floor next to Cilantro.
---A few book exchange shelves to be started at other cafes in Cairo (the kind of thing you may have seen at a backpacker hostel somewhere during your travels)
The idea here is to increase access to books we have really enjoyed, and to help contribute to the development of Egypt's vibrant literary culture. As you know, new, imported books are quite expensive here in Cairo, and thus can be out of reach for many. You can drop your books in a clear plastic donation container at one of two locations:
--The Arabic Language Institute office at AUC (third floor of the main building behind the fountain court, main campus), until June 1.
--Al Balad Cultural Center and Bookstore, indefinitely. (directions above)
If you don't see the plastic container at first, please ask at the location for assistance.
Questions? Email sharon[@]100booksproject[.]org, or undergraduate project coordinator at isaac.reg[@]gmail[.]com.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
I work for Africa and Middle East Refugee Assistance (AMERA), an organization that provides legal aid and psychosocial services to refugees in Egypt. Many of our clients – especially the most vulnerable ones who are pregnant, in poor health, under physical threat, depressed, or suicidal – do not have telephones or mobile phones as reliable means of communication. In emergencies, they have no way to contact AMERA or other services to request help.
In coordination with Student Action for Refugees (STAR) at the American University in Cairo, we are collecting mobile phone donations to benefit vulnerable refugees living in Cairo.
So if you will be leaving Cairo after this semester, please consider donating your mobile phone for use by refugees.
WHERE TO DONATE:
1) The collection box at the AUC dormitory in Zamalek (located on 16 Muhammad Thaqib and Sikkit Salah al-Din). The dormitory is open 24 hours, 7 days a week. The drop box is by the reception desk and will remain there until June 7th.
2) Contact Tahmid Chowdhury at firstname.lastname@example.org to make other arrangements.
Donations of just a phone, charger, or SIM card are great too. If you have any questions, please contact Tahmid Chowdhury at email@example.com.
Thanks very much!
Africa & Middle East Refugee Assistance (AMERA)
1 Tawfik Diab Street
Garden City, Cairo
Saw an ad for Cairo Festival City in the place where it is supposed to come up and the hoardings announce PlugIns and Toys R Us among the openings. Hope its true. It will be great to be able to shop for great quality electronics at one location and a quick visit - single trip for gift shopping to all those kiddie parties I get invited to :)
A friend wrote to me to bring al Resala which also works in a similar field to my notice.
al Resala is a well-known NGO that even has a chapter at AUC and other universities. They have big projects all over Egypt, they help orphans, widows, poor families, etc. They have a website in Arabic:
If you have anything to give away, just call them and they normally send a volunteer over within a week to come and take everything. They even give receipts for your donation. She found them well-organised and very professional, comparable to Good Will or the Salvation Army in the US.
They also have other ways you can donate, like sponsoring an orphan or poor family and donating a monthly amount (however much you want) to help a specific family, as well as other options.
If you want to donate anything, just call them at 19450, that's their central phone line, and they also have operators who can speak English as well.
Friday, May 23, 2008
The article (appended below) is quite in line with my own experiences in this country.
When I first had Egyptian guests over, I was aghast when they left substantial portions of food on their plate. I thought they did not enjoy the food and it was unappealing to them. Another Egyptian friend explained to me, that leaving food on the plate was a sign that the host had been generous.
In India where I come from, food is served in a semi-buffet kind of system. The dishes are placed in the center and guests serve themselves or the hostess serves them individually while the guest motions whether they would like a little more or if it has been enough. This is completely unlike the Western system of serving plated food to guests.
Think of an Indian meal as a barbeque setting. Serve yourself and eat with your hands - no cutlery. Although the British did leave behind the use of cutlery during the occupation, forks and spoons aren't commonly used except in formal settings. Food is supposed to be more tasty when eaten with the fingers. It eliminates the taste of metal or plastic in your mouth. Plus certain Indian foods like dosas and rotis are not conducive to eating with a knife and fork.
In the Indian scenario, the larger the variety of items on the table the more hospitable you have been. In meat eating families, at least 3 varieties of meat are served at a meal where guests have been invited. Also when guests are invited over. There should be food to spare in the serving dishes.
One is supposed to eat up everything that is put in one's plate. To leave behind large quantities of food on the plate is considered rude towards the hostesses culinary abilities or a sign of bad upbringing. Most Indian children have grown up with the refrain "Eat everything that is put on your plate, do you know how many children are starving in the world and go to sleep without a single square meal?"
Hence the horror at the quantity of food left behind by my Egyptian guests. I was truly worried that even the hint of spices I had used, was too much for them. Fortunately my friend explained that to me.
Most Egyptian guests will bring over some kind of sweet dish, when invited to your house. A large cake, chocolates or pastries. Budget for these arrivals in your dessert plans. It is quite acceptable to offer the sweets that have been brought in by your guests at the dessert table at the same meal.
Another tip I have learned where food is concerned is that the serving of Shai (black tea) signals the end of the evening. So definitely offer your Egyptian guests some shai to end the meal. Not too quickly after dessert - that will imply that you are trying to get rid of them, but after a little time has passed. And if you have been served shai in an Egyptians house, then it is time to politely take your leave once the shai has been drunk.
and as mentioned in the article below, Egyptians are quite forgiving of khwagas (foreigners) who aren't completely aware of their social etiquette, so don't worry too much about being Emily Post :)
Avoid the Evil Eye
May 22, 2008 12:16 p.m.
When it comes to table manners, the devil is in each culture's details. Eating with one's fingers may be considered slovenly in one place, but the norm in another. In Egypt and other parts of the Middle East, looking at a fellow diner's plate is considered to be rude.
Cairo native Amr Ragab explains that when someone stares at another person's food, he or she sends a signal of desire and envy. That act of acknowledging what another person owns can bring bad luck: the antidote is to offer to share. "I'm afraid if I don't give you any," says Mr. Ragab, "I'll get the evil eye."
|Don't look: Staring at another person's food can bring the "evil eye."|
The idea that attention to success can bring about failure is widespread in cultures from South and Central America to Asia and across the Middle East. The sudden misfortune that is said to come with this attention is commonly called the "evil eye." Tourists can often find kitschy amulets shaped like eyeballs and made of blue-and-white glass in Turkey, North Africa, Israel and the Persian Gulf. Their popularity may make the belief seem rather frivolous, but its roots are deep and its influence is still expressed in this detail of Egyptian dining etiquette.
Sometimes, though, it's hard not to look at what someone else has ordered.
"The way I do it, I look but I try not to stare at the plate," Mr. Ragab explains. "I'll look for a second but I won't let my eyes linger. If I get caught I'll say 'Ah, that looks nice!' "
At that point, the offer of food from the plate in question will most likely be extended, and a second, important part of the cultural practice comes into play.
"I know that if he's obliged to give me, I feel obliged to say no a couple of times," Mr. Ragab says. "You refuse it at least once and people even say twice, but you have to eventually take some, otherwise you're saying it's bad, you don't like it."
Amy Riolo, an American food historian who has studied Middle Eastern cuisine and is married to an Egyptian, remembers that it took her a few tries to get the hang of this modest back-and-forth exchange. "I would offer someone something and they would refuse and then I would take it back, but they were waiting for that third offer."
There is one paradox, though: While it is considered impolite to look at another's plate in a restaurant, it is acceptable to do so in the home. This is because the same food is shared and eaten family-style, says Mr. Ragab, so there is no comparison to wealth.
Whether the meal is at home or in a restaurant, never leave a clean plate. When dining as a guest in an Egyptian home, this is an especially important thing to remember. "If there isn't any more food on the table, then the assumption is that they haven't been generous enough," warns David Mack, a former who studied in Egypt before embarking on a 30-year career in the Foreign Service. "They may leave you sitting there while they desperately go to the neighbor's for something else."
A guest signals that he or she is full by leaving a little of each kind of food on the plate.
For the confused traveler, Egyptians thankfully have etiquette on etiquette: "Even though Egyptians have their own etiquette rules," says Ms. Riolo, "they're very gracious about letting foreigners bend them."
The following is a list of places that I know offers yoga classes but as I have not personally attended any of them, I cannot recommend anyone against the other.
1. el Sawy Culture Wheel on 26th July Street, Zamalek has Yoga on tuesdays and Thursdays 6pm-7pm at the Word Hall. 012 440 0100, 736 8881 www.culturewheel.net
2. the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Center (Indian Cultural Centre) at 23, Talaat Harb Street runs yoga classes 4 days a week. There are 3 levels of courses and each one lasts about 3 months. Charges are very reasonable. +2 02 393 3396, macic[@]india-emb[.]org[.]eg
3. Studio 206 in Maadi sometimes has yoga sessions. from what I understand they are more of one person leading a group session, than classes per se. Call and check. Villa 18, Road 200, Degla, Maadi. +2 02 2519 5713 nohastudio[@]yahoo[.]com
4. Ananda Marga organises yoga classes in Heliopolis, Mohandaseen and Rehab City http://egyptyoga.info/
Yoga for women:
Mondays at 10:00 -11:30
Tuesdays at 18:30 -20:00
Thursdays at 10:00 -11:30
Yoga for children (age 8 up to 10)
-Saturday at 10:30
Yoga Classes in Heliopolis:
Tuesdays 19:30 - 21:00
Wednesdays 10:00 - 11:30
Yoga in Mohandaseen
Please kindly register in advance tel. 016 1924763
5. Someone mentioned Studio 21 in Ard El Golf 010 477 7608
6. Heliopolis Sporting Club has classes conducted by 2 different instructors.
Yousri : Sunday, Monday and Wednesday Mornings from 9:30 to 10:30
A Lady : Saturday and Tuesday Evening from 19:30 to 20:30
7. Many clubs like Swiss club, Shams Club organise yoga classes depending on demand. If you are a member of a club, check with them if they offer classes.
8. Golds Gym and Samia Allouba offer yoga classes at some locations.
9. One of my friends in Heliopolis mentioned a Studio called Shake'N'Shape for women in Ard El Golf. The studio offers classes in fitness, abs, yoga, pilates, aerobics. She said they were pretty good and very affordable when she attended a couple of years back. The girl who owns the place is called Noha Hassam and her number is 0106281010.
Added this option on 26 Sep 08.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Heard Johnny Rockets may be coming into
Its an American based international retro diner-style restaurant chain.
Its an American based international retro diner-style restaurant chain.
Possible locations include, City Stars,
Monday, May 19, 2008
1. hiring local bedouin experts
2. disposing sewage responsibly
3. selling camel dung to nearby farms and villages for eco friendly fertiliser.
4. they feed the camels corn and fuul from Cairo and pre-crack them so that they do not accidentally germinate and take root in the desert (not indigenous to the area)
5. they use simple camel drawn wagons for visitors who aren't comfortable sitting ON a camel.
The place is 850 kms away from Cairo, which means needing at least a 3 day holiday to even get a flavour of the place. 4-5 days would be better. Organising that leave is the problem :(
Read el Moro's article on the Fustat in Al Ahram, here. Its a bit outdated, but covers the basics.
For further details and pictures visit http://www.wadielgemal.com
AUC Responds to the Global Food Crisis!!
Start time: Sunday, May 18, 2008 at 11:00am
End Time: Thursday, May 22, 2008 at 4:00pm
AUC Greek Campus, STAR and AYB Booth by OSD office
Student Action For Refugees (STAR) and Alashanek Ya Balady (AYB) are working together to raise awareness of the shared suffering in
Please donate canned and boxed food help fight hunger in
Sunday, May 18, 2008
I know quite a few of you will be leaving Egypt, or have friends who are doing so at the end of term. At St Andrew's we are always looking for donations of the things you will be leaving behind. We run an education programme for adult and child refugees and people are always desperate for clothes, cooking utensils and bed linen in particular.
Other things which you may not think about and just throw away, that the children in particular always want and your half full bottles of moisturisers, shower gel and shampoos as these are luxuries they don't often get to use. Also books are always useful.
If you have stuff that you are going to throw out, please bring it to us. We are here from Monday to Thursday and Saturday from nine in the morning to nine in the evening, in Midan Esa'af, right next to Nassr metro station (Galaa Street exit) (very handy for AUC!). I'm sorry we can't come and pick it up from you but we don't really have the facilities.
+2 02 2575 9451
P.S. Anything we can't use, we can sell and use the money for the programme
Friday, May 16, 2008
Read Part 1: Where to Stay before you read this part.
In my previous message I forgot to state that there is more than one hotel (less than 100LE) in the area of Gebel El-Dakroury, one of them is called Amun hotel. They are usually used in the summer by people who come to experience the curative powers of being buried in sand.
Now to some of the interesting hotels in Siwa:
1. The Desert Rose hotel: "Desert rose" is not just another name for the hotel, but a very meaningful one. After leaving the "noisy" town behind and on your way to the hotel, you pass a long stretch (by bicycle/donkey cart/car) of land, where there are gardens on the right side and thedesert on the left.
It is located about 3 kms away from downtown on the way to Bir Wahed in an area called "el-shahayem" (Southwest of Siwa). I felt as if I was on the border of the great sand sea as the old asphalt ends only about 200 meters after the hotel (my personal conclusion is that this asphalt was paved when king Fouad visited the oasis).
There are only 8 rooms with external bathroom. Prices on B&B are 70, 120, 180 LE for single, double or triple room respectively. But add everyday transportation to move anywhere (about 20LE each time) to your costs. They can prepare Siwan food.
2. Dream lodge: Located in the Northeast of Siwa in the area of Gebel el-mawata. It is built and operated by a local Siwan "Gamal Youssef" who is originally a builder.
The lodge consists of only 6 rooms (planning to build more) Each room with attached bathroom, TV, fan and heater.
Prices on B&B are 120, 160, 190LE for single, double or triple room respectively.
Contact 046/4601745 , 010/7625862, 010/0999255. The lodge is still new.
They can prepare Siwan food.
Speaking with the owner gave me insight into the operational problems that he faces because he is a local and not an investor.
As a builder, he built every part of it himself, so it cost him material and finishing about 240,000 LE. Now to get a licence from the tourism authority he has to pay some fees where the lodge is priced at a value of 2 million LE!!! He also stated that some Non- Egyptians bought houses in Siwa and operate them as lodging facility, marketing through the internet and accepting the guests officially as friends not tourists hence they pay nothing to the tourism authorities.
3. Adrar Amellal Ecolodge: in the Siwan language it means 'the white mountain', sometimes also called Ga'far for the Shrine of a holy person in the area named "Ga'far". It is located about 17 kms to the West of Siwa at the Western end of the Western lake. Adrar Amellal Ecolodge is built using Siwan materials.
There are several locations on the premises for having breakfast and dinner (about 5-6 places, check the photos). Lunch is served in the garden (amidst palm trees) where there is a natural water pool.
Normal room price may be 250 - 350 $/night and reaches 400$/night in the Royal Suite. (Prince Charles stayed here and so enjoyed himself that he extended his stay from 1 to 3 nights) As far as I know a desert safari is included in the price of the room.
However, there are some people who disagree with the building of such lodges. Some locals say that a poor man can't build a house anymore as such ecolodges increase the prices of building material. For example a palm trunk which used to cost 1LE now sells for 6 LE (600% increase). Palm trunks are used as ceiling and must be used at a specific time of the year otherwise it needs some extra "treatment" before being used for building.
One more "resort" I would like to point to is "Royal Cleopatra International Touristic Resort" It is just behind Gebel El-Dakroury and it seems to be targeting guests interested in the sand burying technique.
Pictures and more descriptions can be viewed here
Thursday, May 15, 2008
If you have teaching experience in other subjects such as Computer, Accounting or French there may be volunteer opportunities for you as well or you could simply lead a Conversation Class.
St. Andrew's is a wonderful and rewarding place to use your teaching skills to serve the refugee community, build relationships and learn from students as well. Many of the students are from Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia or Iraq.
Please contact the Director of Adult Education, Abigail Sylvester, for further information. A current CV is required. Tel: 2575-9451 or Email: abigail[.]sylvester[@]gmail[.]com
See our website to learn more about us: http://kathykamp.tripod.com/standrewsrefugeeservices
St. Andrew's Refugee Services
Adult Education Program
38 26th July Street
Tel: (+20) 2 575 94 51
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Sockets will be compatible with most European systems (C, E and F), however other systems will need an adapter.
Electric sockets are mostly the same as for Europe (220V/50Hz), outlets are two-prong European style but not grounded. If your device is compatible with the voltage, there are lots of plug adaptors and power bars available for US-style plugs.
Adaptors (so you can plug in US devices into Egyptian outlets) are available in many stores in Cairo for just 1 LE each. Check on Shara el-tahrir near Midan el-Tahrir if you don't see them elsewhere.
You might be better off buying a multipoint from home though. I am yet to find a multipoint that lasts me over a month, even when just the laptop and wifi transmitter are plugged in.
Could be the absence of grounding in the electrical connections here.
Stop 2 was the Korba Street Festival Heliopolis
Stop 3 was a quick halt to click pictures of the City of the Dead & Souq al Gumma
I later proceeded to the Talent Show hosted by the Indian Cultural Association in Cairo - ICAE for Indian adults and children. There were about 55 participants for the talent show and another 5 or so for the Fancy Dress.
It was fun to see the kids dressed up in Indian clothes and all made up. Over 200 people turned up to support the participants. Yummy chicken biryani, spicy samosas and hot gulab jamuns were on the menu for the hungry few as were a range of chilled drinks.
The stage at the Maadi British International School seemed a little large for the individual performances by the tiny tots, but they did an admirable job.
It was a fun informal way to meet the Indian Community in Egypt especially the bus load of Indians who came in from Port Said for the event.
Stop 2 was the Korba Street Festival Heliopolis
Stop 3 was a quick halt on the bridge over the City of the Dead (an interesting concept, that I will cover once I actually manage to walk through that city) and where the Friday market takes place.
This Friday market as the name suggests is held once a week and is a place where you can find everything from genuine and "new antiques to used toothbrushes, animals and birds of many varieties, Toilet seats, car seats and many other things besides. Kinf of like the Chor Bazaar in Bombay.
Didn't have the big daddy with me, so contented myself with clicking pictures from above the bridge, hence all the following pictures are aerial views.
City of the Dead:
For more details on the "City of the Dead", you can also read el Moro's article in the Al Ahram
Souq al Gumma:
Baghdad street was closed off to traffic and stalls were put up along the sidewalks. There were stalls from the Asean countries selling native food and some handicrafts.
The Indian stall just had posters urging visitors to visit India. Nothing else. :(
There were tables along the sides for families to relax and grab a bite and the main road was left free for kids to express their creativity on the road with chalk and paints.
Marriott's Bakery, Swiss Inn, Sultana Ice Cream had tables on the road and were serving food there. The Swiss Inn even had a buffet set up on the road. But the more exciting stuff to eat were the street stalls which were selling things like cotton candy,the hummus drink and beans.
I attended in the morning half and left by 1:30pm, before the crowds really started to pour in. This meant I missed out on the musical performances (by Wust el Balad among others) and the puppet show, but what I managed to catch was great anyway.
My friends tell me, there was a short parade later in the noon with flower covered floats and giant coke bottles. More of advertising than Spring flowers was a comment I heard.
What I got to see, kind of reminded me a bit of the Kala Ghoda festival in Bombay, but just a little bit. The concept is similar, but there is so much further that the Korba festival can go. Its a good start though, just to have an open air event in a residential area of Cairo.
I would definitely catch it again next year.
Also published on desicritics.org
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
The exhibition was 2.5 tables full, with overpriced Bedouin cross stitch clothes and accessories (you can get them at half price at locations like Fair Trade Egypt and the like) But this trip was worth it, as I finally visited the gem called the "Swiss Club Cairo"
You can avail an annual family membership for 750LE or single membership for 500LE which gives you unlimited access to the club, discounted rates for hiring the grounds for a party and a few other things like a library and stuff.
If you aren't keen on an annual membership, you can just pay 10LE at the gate at every visit. You do not need a member to sign you in.
Why would you want to join:
Its vast garden is a green lung in the chaotic madness of Mohandaseen and Agouza.
There's a lovely children's play area with swings and tires and ropes and even a basic tree house.
Cars aren't allowed past the entry gate (there's plenty of parking in the outside compound) and so its safe to let the kids run around.
They have a decent restaurant which serves some varieties of Swiss German and some Egyptianised dishes.
Some alcohol is available for those lazy Friday afternoons when you want to sip beer and admire the 19th century villa on the premises.
Where is it Located:
Swiss Club Cairo
90, El-Gihad Street,
Off Sudan Street,
3314 2811, 3315 1455
Its normally open from 10am to 8pm. which gives you time to catch an evening walk but not really a morning walk. Members are a mix of Expats and locals. Membership makes sense for people with kids in Mohandaseen/Agouza who are looking for a safe green space for them to play
I loved the greenery, the sound of birds chirping (had almost forgotten what that sounded like), the ancient villa and the cute camel who was giving camel rides to the kids.
Here are my contributions. 2 from Egypt, where I currently am and 2 from my home town in India.
Sadat's Memorial in Heliopolis - Cairo.
Natural formation which inspired the tombs in Valley of the Kings - Luxor.
Standard Tiled roofing in most houses in my home town.
The pyramid structure on the very top of a modern multi storeyed structure which retains the roofing element of the older dwellings.
Since I don't speak enough Arabic to sort out/escalate the problem, my husband super-efficient secretary called them on my behalf.
Seems that, all the cells in the office are taken as a bundle package and in this bundle not more than 50% of them can have international roaming activated. Only in Egypt!
My international roaming is always active because of my travel schedules and last week a lot of my husbands company employees left on an International conference so they needed their International Roaming activated.
Since I wasn't traveling at the same time, the company approved that International Roaming be temporarily withdrawn from my cell number.
The geniuses at Vodafone withdrew my International Dialing instead of my international Roaming!
Only in Egypt!
Fortunately the Super Efficient Woman was able to make them see the error of their ways and within 15 minute of me telling her my problem, she got me my international Dialing restored and I was back in 'talk-2-mom' paradise :)
Monday, May 12, 2008
I'm not sure how true this is, but will check it out the next time I head to The Hard Rock Cafe for my Margarita dose. Well, if they have stopped the sale of alcohol, then I will just have to content myself with the high of the hot chocolate fudge sundae, won't I? :)
Possible reasons being ascribed are, that this is a marketing strategy by the Saudi based owner to entice his high-spending countrymen with this unique religiously compliant USP.
Other rumours also say that the Hyatt group, may pull out of the joint venture if this stalemate continues!
Edited on 15 April 2008, to add the following links to relevant news articles:
1. They accept donations of gently used clothes. Please make sure they aren't in bad condition. If you are leaving Cairo and don't have enough suitcase space or have clothes you or your children have outgrown. They willingly accept them. They work with refugees of all ages, so any clothes are welcome. They run a clinic for the refugees too, so medicines may be welcome too. Just check though.
2. They are often looking for volunteers to help teach English, computers and other skills to children and adult refugees.
3. They train refugee women for domestic service and the staff they recommend is normally very honest and trustworthy. They train the women/men in a housekeeping course before they send them to anyones home. They sometimes have gardeners and drivers too, but not all the time. There is a one time registration fee I believe, but Joseph (refer below) will explain everything to you when you meet him.
All Saints Church Refugee Rehabilitation program
The contact person is Joseph and his number is 010 200 4772.
He sits in an office on the church premises.
How to Get There
Are you familiar with Diwan book shop on 26th July street?
If you cross the road at Diwan and go under the flyover and across the main street and keep continuing down the short side street, you will arrive at the All Saints Cathedral directly in front of you at the dead end. The British School in Zamalek is located in the same compound. Hope this helps.
There are many hotels in Siwa with great variety in prices starting from 10 LE/night and upto 400 $/night :)
I'll start with the cheap and budget hotels:
1. Cleopatra Hotel: It is 5 minutes walk away from the main square, good location in my opinion.
This hotel has 3 levels of accommodation, the cheapest is a room with an external bath for 17 LE and with internal bath for 23LE (single).
The one I tried was a normal room with bath for 35-50 LE (single-double).
There are rooms with air conditioning and TV for 85 LE with an excellent view on Shali.
2. Kelany Hotel: In the main square. The normal room with bath and view of the market and Shali is for 50 LE with fan and water heater.
A side view room with TV, receiver and fridge costs 70 LE.
Triple room is for 120 LE.
The hotel has a restaurant on the roof with a good view of Shali and prepares normal and local food and is reasonably priced.
3. Arous el-waha: Very close to the main square and looks very good, prices start from 50LE, I thought it was much more than that because of some comments I read on the internet.
4. Palm Trees Hotel: 2 buildings away from the main square.
15-25LE for bed with external bath (single-double).
35-45LE for double- triple with attached bath.
50LE for Siwan Chalet in the garden of the hotel.
5. Youssef Hotel: In the main square
10-16LE single-double with external bath.
15-25LE single-double with attachedbath.
(not advisable unless you really want to rough it out)
The following hotels most of them have a natural water pool and some are 3 stars, prices are around 150-300 LE
1. Kenoz Shali Lodge: few minutes walk from the main square, built in the Siwan style, there is a restaurant for anyone to dine.
2. Siwa Safari Paradise: has a natural water pool, 3 stars, few minutes walk to the main square.
3. Reem El-waha: has a natural water pool, on the way to Aghouramy (more than 1 km from the main square).
The rooms have TV, fan, water heater and fridge.
90-140LE for single-double room.
110-160LE for single-double room with air conditioning
All rates on B&B basis.
4. Taghaghein Island: few kms away from the main square, it is an island in the Western Lake of Siwa with lodging and day use facility.
5. Mubarak Hotel: Long walk from the main square, no pool.
About 150 LE for B&B.
Mainly used for official events.
Very good hotel, I tried it couple of years ago.
6. Penta: Relatively new, it is between the gardens on the Eastern side of Siwa.
7. Siwa Inn: Far from the main square, has a natural pool, prices from 160-280LE.
Many more interesting hotels with photos in the next message.
Pictures and more descriptions can be viewed here
How to Get there
Siwa is 306 kms from Marsa Matrouh to the Southwest. It is about 800 kms from Cairo, 600 kms from Alexandria.
It is connected by bus only to Marsa Matrouh and Alexandria, the bus leaves to Alexandria only once a day (as far as I remember about 10 pm from Siwa). From and to Marsa Matrouh the bus leaves 4 times a day at 7 & 10 am and 1 & 4 pm, the bus from and to Marsa Matrouh costs 12 LE, if you missed the bus there are microbuses all the day to and from Marsa Maatrouh (for 13 LE)
If you're going by car then I guess it is an easy way :)
Last time I was coming back from Siwa I was with someone who used to pass the way from Marouh to Siwa in the 70s, he was talking about how the gazelles / Ibex used to jump around.
Personally, I took the bus from Cairo to Marsa Matrouh at 12 midnight (50 LE) reached Matrouh about 6 am, couldn't wait for 7 am, so I took a microbus, arrived at Siwa 10:30 am (still had the full day to enjoy).
I got a crazy idea that a visit to Siwa could be on a weekend, leaving Thursday night, arriving at Siwa Friday morning, leaving Siwa to Marsa Matrouh Saturday night (about 8 pm) so as to reach Cairo early enough on Sunday :) maybe I'll try it one day.
1- Hire a bicycle: it is for 2 LE/hour or 10 LE/day. You can hire one and do most of the visits in one day.
2- Donkey cart: written on it Siwa taxi, you can use it for short distance, long distance and even make a deal for the complete tour.
3- Hire a truck: for the long distances like the temples in the West, the water springs in the East and West. Price depends on both distance and time. The prices I got are 50-70 LE to Abo-Shrouf depending on time. 20 LE to the nearby hot spring in the East. 35 LE to Taghaghein island. 40LE to the temples at Maraki. Those prices are for one hour and increases by 20LE in case of more time (he didn't tell me for each extra hour).
You can find such trucks downtown, I have one phone number 0129750865 his name is Soliman.
Pictures and more descriptions can be viewed here
I have an earlier article on traveling from Cairo to Siwa that you can read here.
A lot of people assume it doesn’t get cold here, but it does.
Heat can go upto 48C. Peak summer is July August.
Cold can go down to 4C. Peak winter is Jan-Feb
This is in Cairo. If you are visiting the desert/Luxor/Aswan the temperatures will be hotter and colder than the limits for Cairo.
Air conditioning and heaters make it manageable but there is no central heating or air conditioning. So please bring appropriate clothes.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Why oh why can't they just stick to English programs on MBC4?
They have a range of channels for Arabic programming. The MBC series MBC4 (English serials) MBC2 (English Movies) and MBC Action (Action based serial and movies) are the only free to air English channels in Egypt other than Dubai One.
I just watch an hour or so of TV in the evening if I get the time and to have all my regular programming Ghost Whisperer/Medium/So you think you can dance on primetime 9pm-10pm replaced with a soap and an Arabic one at that, and daily, is no fun at all :(
Monday, May 05, 2008
Essentially the article states "A booklet distributed by a parliamentary committee dominated by the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) said the price of 90 octane fuel would rise 35 percent to 1.75 Egyptian pounds ($0.33) a litre. The parliament is in session to debate the proposal"
If the cost of fuel does indeed rise, it will mean increase in costs of everything else and will accelerate inflation.
As of now, I'm adopting a wait and watch policy.
A lot of my Egyptian friends are huge fans of Akshay Kumar and his action sequences and I'm sure they would appreciate the chance to see him in person. Personally, I never liked him too much in his action roles, but I have to grudgingly admit, I do respect his comic timing in his latest few movies with Paresh Rawal and others.
I'd be more interested to know if Kirron Kher would be accompanying the group. I'm a huge fan of both her and her husband, Anupam.
Akshay to romance Katrina amidst pyramids
Wednesday, March 12, 2008 11:14 IST
MUMBAI: Akshay Kumar is hell bent on covering the seven wonders of the world. Currently, he is preparing to shoot action scenes on the Great Wall of China and next month he plans a stint in Egypt amid the pyramids.
This time, it's for a song with Katrina Kaif in "Singh Is King".
"We'll be shooting the introductory song of the lead pair. This will be where Akshay first meets Katrina. The film is complete after this," Vipul Shah, who teamed up with Aneez Bazmi for the movie, said.
The last time a romantic song was shot amid the blow-dried pyramids of Egypt, it featured Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol in Karan Johar's "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham".
"Not surprising that Akshay wants the song to be canned in Egypt. He wants to better Shah Rukh Khan's success score with Kajol. Most trade pundits see Akshay and Katrina as the next most-successful couple after Shah Rukh-Kajol," the director said.
After "Namastey London" and "Welcome", Akshay really feels Katrina is his lucky mascot.
"But we aren't shooting in all the normal places in Egypt. We want to capture parts of the country other than the predictable pyramids," Bazmi said.
The laundry boy had already brought my ironed clothes at 10:45pm - he normally turns up anytime between 10:00pm and 11:30pm - so I was wondering who it was. Being Egypt, I knew it wasn't an emergency (they would have rung the bell 5-10 times in quick succession if it was) so I thought it was probably someone who needed me to turn the key in the elevator or something like that.
Turns out it was my electricity guy with the bill for the last month. At 11:45pm!
Only in Egypt!
1. Will the electricity man hand deliver your monthly bill at your door step.
2. Will the electricity man also collect the payment for the bill.
3. Will the electricity man land in your house at odd hours of the night.
4. Will your electricity bill range from 40Le to 300LE for almost similar levels of usage of electricity.
Gotta love this place!
Sunday, May 04, 2008
11am - 2am
Wessaya is a local fast food joint with a subway sandwich kind of menu. Take a look at the menu here
Their bread is soft and moist when eaten fresh. But because of the toasting it may harden if kept for too long.
The spicy sandwiches are truly spicy and suit my Indian palate, so for me thats a good thing. Go for the regular options if your spice tolerance is low.
Read the Rest of My Review
Saturday, May 03, 2008
On further investigation, I figured out that my Whazzup Egypt blog was one of the blogs the students of the LALT 101 course at AUC had the option to review and evaluate.
If any of the students of this course read this post, I would appreciate it if you could share your findings with me. Please, pretty please :)
Will Rasmussen of Reuters has written an article delving into this phenomenon.
CAIRO (Reuters) - For a prime spot on Qasr el-Nil bridge, spanning the River Nile near the heart of central Cairo, it's best to arrive well before sunset.
On warm spring nights, the bridge is the place to be for courting couples in the capital of the most populous Arab country, where poverty, crowds and a conservative culture leave few other meeting places.
"We know how to be in love in a place like this," says Ibrahim, 19, a student and part-time DJ in Cairo. "We come for the breeze, the view, and to be far from the pollution," he said, resting on the bridge's iron railing with his fiancee, Marwa, an 18-year-old technology student.
The high cost of getting married -- from gold jewellery for the bride to the ceremony itself and a place to live -- and the poverty of many residents of Cairo, means engagements can last years.
On Thursday nights on the eve of the Muslim weekend, couples line the bridge, each pair a few meters apart. They face outward to enjoy the view and avoid being seen by relatives. . . . . . .
Friday, May 02, 2008
10Le (tax included) gets you a lovely brownie with a scoop of ice cream and tons of chocolate sauce.
When I reheated the stuff today, the brownie was quite good, good texture but not nutty enough. The fudge melted amazingly well on reheating and regained its consistency once it was poured over the ice cream and brownie. The ice cream was a disaster, that was to be expected since it had obviously melted on the 4 hour ride from Alexandria to Cairo and refreezing it wasn't a good idea. Fortunately I had a tub of vanilla ice cream in the freezer which I used for the brownie. It did taste pretty good.
Not as good as the Hot Fudge Brownie Sundae at Hard Rock Cafe, but pretty good competition.
Read my entire review here