Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Kidnapped Tourists freed unharmed

If you are anywhere in Egypt right now, you must have heard about the kidnapped tourists.

If not, here is a refresher

Seems that they have been freed unharmed. Here is the news on Reuters, CNN and Yahoo

Monday, September 29, 2008

Visit to the Vet

Bacardi was a good doll for most of the visit. She meowed her head off in the car as usual, but I did not let her out of her new carry bag. Just put my hand in and kept petting her. Did not take her out of the bag @ vets (waiting room) either, till we reached her consultation room inside.

Then I kept the bag on the vets table and opened it and she had to be coaxed out, but she sat down quietly on the table once she was out. No catch-me-if-u-can race around the office!

Then I hugged her while she sat quietly. No manic racing around the room, no scratching and clawing. Just let me stand and hug her while she sat in "bastet" position on the table. She then proceeded to let the vet peacefully take a look at her eyes, nose, ears and mouth. Which were all ok.

Then was time for her 2 annual shots. Anti feline rabies and the one for other cat diseases. The doctor turned around to get the injections out of the fridge. Bacardi immediately turned her head into the crook of my elbow as though she did not want to see the injection coming. Even the doctor was laughing at how cute she looked while she filled the syringe. The first one, the doctor gave her at the neck, giving her this shot was not a problem at all (such a huge change) but after the shot, the doctor ruffled her neck fur to soothe her, but this had the complete opp effect as madam doesn’t like anyone reaching at her neck.

So she started protesting. I held her and calmed her down and told the doc to give the second injection elsewhere. So she gave it to her in the rump, which she also was ok with.

Then told the doc I had started her on revolution a couple of months ago, which to me seemed to be good in controlling the fleas and ear mites but I wasn't sure about its efficacy as a worm medicine. I had carried the medicine details, but the doc already knew about this medicine. She also confirmed my fears that it wasn't effective for the worms (she told me this, before I mentioned my same fear)

So now had to give the brat her worm medicine tablet which is as large as a aspirin. I knew this was gonna be tough, so instead of hugging her, I now caught a tight hold on the 2 front legs close to her body and the vet tried to put the tablet in her mouth. It came out as promptly as it went in and then madam slobbered like crazy to get the taste out of her mouth.

The doc said don’t worry, we will make her have it. So in it went, in attempt no 2. The vet held her mouth closed and massaged the throat so she would swallow the tablet. For the first minute she refused to swallow, and managed to scratch me royally, then finally she swallowed, so the vet let go.

One reverse contraction by madam and out it was again and this time she slobbered more than before.

Now the vet was really determined to make it go in. She took some cheese out of the fridge, wrapped the tablet in the soft cheese and repeated attempt no 2. Madam spat it out from the side of her mouth.

For the fourth attempt, we rewrapped it in fresh cheese and this time covered all angles and held the mouth shut for 3 minutes, till we felt it go down the throat to a bit lower. Only then did we give her more cheese so she would focus on swallowing rather than regurgitating and this time it stayed down!

Dread the time when I have to give her the second dose in 14 days at home and this time I will have to do it alone! Will have to powder it and mix it with the tinned mackerel treats if I hope to have any of it go down.

Then there is a gland above the butt which secretes some stuff, which if not cleaned regularly could give rise to infection. I have never heard of this before, but the last time we cleaned it at the vets a year ago, a lot of icky stuff came out. This time there wasn't even 10% of the last time, so the vet said it was a good sign.

Once this was finished, I let her go, she promptly jumped down and ran to her bag and went inside and sat tight. She was very happy when I zipped her in. This is a good sign that she is starting to see the bag as a safe place, it will make it easier for us to get her in there if we need to transport her anywhere. (We just carried her around in our arms for the first year and our backs received a couple of scratches whenever something startled her, she also managed to break 2 thin chains around my neck on seperate occasions)

So this is the highlight of my month!

A relatively stress and fight and race free visit to the vet. and an all clear bill of health to my brat. :)

Note : My vet is really good and kind and gentle with the cat. She never rushes me, listens to everything I have to say and makes informed decisions. She is well read and up-to-date which is much more than I can say of many of the Doctors in Egypt that we have visited for ourselves.

She normally schedules surgeries on Saturday's. She spayed my cat a year ago and it was one of the smallest incisions that I have seen done for spaying here in Egypt.

Her contact information is here.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Ataturk, Cairo

From the outside, it may look like a small hole in the wall, but it has awesome interiors with stained glass and paintings and little blue and aqua touches that are reminiscent of Turkey. . .
. . .For starters, they have a variety of hot and cold mezze from 5LE to 12LE. The almonds salad 6LE (pictured above) is a tomato dip garnished with toasted almonds. I particularly ike their meat sambusak (10LE) as it is more like the Indian meat samosa than the Egyptian sambusak with a finer/thinner dough. The Hummus Shawarma (12LE), yoghurt with spinach (5LE) and stuffed vine leaves are the other mezze that I like at this place and which go excellently with the Turkish bread. . .

Read my entire review on my restaurant review blog

New Traffic Laws in Egypt

All of us have at some time or the other despaired over the traffic situation in Cairo. The government is bringing some new laws into effect within a month or so. The spirit behind the laws seem good and hopefully, it will help bring about some order in the chaos on the streets. But only time will tell how well the implementation goes...

Following are the laws as mentioned on the Egypt State Information Website

Dear Driver

• Failing to buckle in your seat belt doubles the risk of your being in an accident and subjects you to a fine of EGP100 to EGP300.
• Hand-holding your cell-phone distracts your attention for driving and subjects you to a fine of EGP100 to EGP300.
• Besides putting you and other people in danger, driving in the opposite direction may cause accidents. You could be fined from EGP1000 to EGP3000.
• Parking in the wrong place causes traffic jams and could subject you to having your license suspended for a period of no less than 30 days.
• You could be imprisoned for a period of no less than six months and fined from EGP200 to EGP1000, if caught in the act of removing your car clampers.
• You could be imprisoned for a period of no less than six months and fined EGP300 for allowing acts of public indecencies to take place in your car.
• Driving at night without the head and tail lights and without the side mirrors subjects you to having your license suspended for a period of no less than six months.
• Driving in unauthorized processions subjects you to having your license suspended for a period of no less than 30 days.
• Having a triangle warning sign prevents road accidents when stopping at night. In the case it is absent your license could be removed for a period of no less than 30 days.
• A first-aid kit will help you take care of your injuries until the ambulance arrives.
• Failing to have a first-aid kit inside your car could subject you to suspending your car license for a period of no less than 30 days.
• Using projector headlights at night endangers other people's lives. Your license could be suspended for a period of no less than 30 days.
• Failing to wear your protective head-gear when riding your motorcycle could subject you to a fine of no less than EGP100.

What does this mean for you? Start following basics of driving on the road. Equip your car with a reflector triangle and a first aid kit.

The government rules do not mention anything about what should be in a first aid kit, but this link on Sahara Safaris official website is a good place to start. Scroll down a bit to get to the Medical Checklist.

Some of the medicines like dehydration powder may be required more when hiking/camping/offroading in the desert, but there is no harm in having a supply of them all in your car.

Also remember to check the first aid kit for expired medications every 3 to 6 months at least, we don't need any nasty side effects, do we? :)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Yoga Classes

I have written about Yoga Classes before. This is another option from an Indian who is currently in Cairo.

Chirag can be contacted by mail on drchirayuthakkar @ gmail . com (without the spaces of course) or by phone on +201 6063 7001

Dearest Cairo Yogis,

I took some time off to check on the trends and costs of Yoga and Alternative Medicine services in Cairo, that's why the silence.

Before we come to our interests, something about me… I am an Indian National. My study at the University was Yoga and Alternative Medicine,which is a 5 years Medical Course. After the University I joined work in my hometown, Baroda, in a Natural Healing (Naturopathy) hospital.
After which I was employed in Libya with a corporate sector MNC, where the job profile was to work towards stress, health and fitness of the employees.

Also was associated with Yoga in sports for one of the national teams of Libya.

Another good break brings me back to Africa. Here in Cairo employed with a govt. authority in the Heatlh and Sports sector.

Coming to our discussion. (FAQ)

1. What kind of doctor are you? Do you provide consultations and counseling?

I am a doctor of Alternative medicine and Yoga. Yes I do provide both consultations and counseling.

2. What kind of yoga do you practice?

I practice Ashtanga Yoga and Hatha Yoga majorly. Also keep knowledge of other schools of yoga like
Bikram Yoga(Hot Yoga), Iyengar Yoga etc. and various streams of yoga.

3. What is the base of Alternative medicine & what alternative therapies do you offer?

The main approach and base of Alternative medicine (& yoga) is Holistic healing.

The major Alternative therapies I offer are…



Therapeutic Massage (for relaxation and for healing)


Hydrotherapy (depends on availability of required equipments)

Fasting Therapy (counseling and guidance)

There are other therapies but they require a setup. I have mentioned the ones which are on offer.

4. I am interested in both Yoga and Alternative therapies. Do I come to you or you will come to me?

I will come to you. My stay in Cairo is at a hotel, which is not an ideal place to have yoga or alternative therapies.

5. I am interested in small Group Yoga. Where can I come?

One option is, if some of you are willing to host the group sessions at your place. If so, then we shall collect people of the same area or the near by areas into one group.

Second option, by and by I am searching for a place / room for conducting group yoga.

6. How many people would you consider in a small group?

Four. Maximum five (4-5 people per session)

7. I am interested in Yoga and so is my Wife/Husband. We do not want group yoga. What can another option be?

Private session for couples is your answer. Privacy and personal attention are maintained.

8. What are your charges for Yoga?

Small Group Yoga (per session per head) LE 60 (Students pay LE 45)

Private (one-on-one) LE 250 (Students pay LE 200)

Private (for Couples) LE 400 (2X200)

9. What are your charges for Alternative Therapies?

Acupuncture LE 100 per session (Students pay LE 80)

Full Body Oil massage LE 250 (Students pay 225)

Full Body Yoga Massage LE 250 (Students pay 225)

Head and Back massage LE 150 (Students pay 130)

Head and Face Massage LE 100 (Students pay 80)

Feet and and Hands Massage LE 100 (Studetns pay 80)

Therapeutic Massage (for aches and pains) (depends on the need)


(depends on the need)

Fasting Therapy Counseling/Guidance

(depends on the need)


: Charges for these Massages are based PER SESSION & not on the time/duration of the therapy.

10. I am interested in Yoga. I am a student studying here. Usually I run tight on my budget and may not be able to afford your sessions. What do you suggest?

If your interest is genuine, then rest assured, there always is a way out. We can discuss and come to a mutual agreement.

Cairo Yogis…Now comes an important part... This is for everyone…

Do not hesitate to speak your mind. Do not hesitate to discuss.

At anytime if you have the costs of yoga and alternative therapies stopping you from having them, please feel free to discuss in person or on email.
There is always a way out. There always is a solution, we just need to try. Do not worry… we will not let your genuine interest drown. :O)

I suggest that you mail me.

In Subject type what you'd be interested in (Eg. YOGA - Private one-on-one OR Private Couple OR Group Yoga OR Massage OR Acupuncture OR the combinations)

In body of the mail write your full name, the address and specially the area so that later on it's easy to place you in a particular group in or around your area. Also do mention if you have previous experience in Yoga and a little about it so that we can have groups likewise. Further write something about yourself

That is all for now.
Hope to see you soon in Cairo.
Good Wind.
God Bless.

In Cairo Slum, the Poor Spark Environmental Change

This is not a new story, but was published in April this year. I felt it was still relevant and heartwarming to read some positive news for a change.

From NPR

In Cairo Slum, the Poor Spark Environmental Change
by Liane Hansen

In Cairo, the heart of the city's upscale area is known as Zamalek, a lush island neighborhood in the Nile that thrives with tourists and commerce. Only a short car ride away lies a sprawling slum where impoverished residents have learned to make a living off the trash from Zamalek and other parts of the Egyptian city.

Manshiyet Nasser, with its narrow dirt streets and precariously built houses, is home to tens of thousands of people. They are the Zabaleen, which in Arabic means "garbage collectors," and they have gathered and recycled Cairo's garbage by hand for decades.

While their means of survival may seem lowly, a closer look at this primarily Coptic Christian community reveals that something greater is going on. Here — in the most unlikely of places — the urban poor and some innovative young environmentalists are bringing about environmental change in an age of global warming.

'Living in the Worst of It'

The Zabaleen, like people living in poor countries around the world, are on the front lines of climate change. The United Nations reported last year that greenhouse gas emissions will have disproportionately negative effects on the planet's most impoverished nations — and it cited Egypt as an example.

For the people in Manshiyet Nasser, environmental degradation is already a reality, says Thomas Taha Rassam Culhane. He is the founder of Solar Cities, a nongovernmental organization that is installing environment-friendly solar hot-water heaters on the rooftops of Coptic Christian and Muslim communities in Cairo's slums.

"They're already living in the worst of it. They don't want to see it getting any worse," he says.

Culhane, who is studying for his doctorate in urban planning at UCLA, says poor people like the Zabaleen don't leave a large carbon footprint because their individual energy use is low. But he says their sheer numbers create a problem for the economy because the power they do use is subsidized by the government.

International Attention

The poor don't usually snap to mind when it comes to practicing conservation, Culhane says. But the Zabaleen are doing just that.

Using small vehicles and donkey carts, they haul massive bundles of trash from Cairo — and about 80 percent of the garbage they bring into the community is recycled by hand. Children as young as three sit with their mothers and grandmothers and sort through broken glass, scraps of metal, aluminum cans, dirty diapers and rotted food.

"I'm working all the time," says one woman sorting through piles of refuse. "My hands get dirty, there's no water. The price of food is too high. The gas has gone up to seven pounds a bottle, so it's expensive to heat.

"Everything is so expensive, and I have to live like this?" she says.

A few years ago, Culhane says, the Egyptian government decided to privatize the country's waste-management system, threatening the Zabaleen way of life. But foreign companies hired to do the job found that their garbage trucks couldn't navigate Cairo's narrow streets the way the donkeys could. Today, the slum's residents still collect much of the city's trash.

The Zabaleen's efforts have attracted attention from the international community. Several years ago, UNESCO and Procter & Gamble began investing in an informal recycling school — officially called the Mokattam Non-Formal Education Project.

Culhane says counterfeiters used to sift through garbage, take Procter & Gamble shampoo bottles, fill them with cheaper products and resell them. To get the bottles off the streets, the Cincinnati-based company agreed to fund the school and help the community learn how to recycle plastic.

Today, the school is colorfully painted with P&G shampoo bottles, and serves as a center where young people can learn about the business and economics of recycling. Students are trained to use Excel spreadsheets, and they learn how to shred plastic in machines, wash and dry it using solar energy, bag it and send it out to be melted down for reuse.

Procter & Gamble says that in the past six years, more than 150 children have attended the school, which was created by Laila Iskandar, an education reformer, and local director Azit Nyan Ghindi. And more than a million containers have been recycled.

On the school's rooftop, Solar Cities has installed one of its solar hot-water heaters, and students are taking notice, says Geraldine Samir, manager of the school's scholarship program for girls.

"For the first time, they start to think about other sources of energy. Because for them, energy was gas," Samir says. "So they started to think there are problems not only … of the area, some are worldwide."

Thinking Globally

Hanna Fathy, a young environmentalist who lives in Manshiyet Nasser, works on the Solar Cities project. His neighborhood is home to many of the local craftspeople, and they've played a key role in helping Solar Cities install solar water heaters throughout the community. Culhane says the local steel cutters, copper welders and glass makers made it easy to build his systems.

"We just brought copper pipe … and said, 'Hey can you do it like this?' … Then they say, 'But we could improve it if we did it like this.' " Culhane says. "Then you have this collective intelligence. People here are very talented … it's a participatory process."

Fathy, who taught himself English and put himself through school, has one of Solar Cities' heaters on the roof of his four-story home. A bright blue barrel filled with cold water is connected to solar panels made from recycled garbage bags, framed in aluminum and covered with glass. The aluminum frame is attached to a Styrofoam block by an array of recycled plastic and copper tubes.

Fathy says his neighbors often laugh when they see the contraption — but many are intrigued.

"I work in the street and I talk to them about the system and they say … 'Tell me the story, talk to me, tell me what's happening,' " Fathy says. "And they see very hot water, and many of them ask me to get the system."

Shifting to a solar-powered water heater can help prevent climate change, Culhane says, because it lowers a household's carbon-dioxide emissions by as much as 35 percent.

He and Fathy say they're building solar hot-water heaters in places that are visible from the elegant local monastery, in the hope that residents and visitors will spot the bright blue barrels

"We want to create as much exposure as possible," Culhane says.

Read the original article here.

Dusshera/Dashera - Indian Celebrations in Egypt on 10th October

A couple of people had asked me about this last year:

To those who were concerned, at the community gatherings there will be absolutely no religious symbols or ceremonies being performed, it is just the party part of the celebration. Especially since these are not the actual dates of the festivals. So please do not be worried on that issue.

The Dushera function on 10 October is reasonably informal with traditional Indian dance (garba & dandiya) being performed by anyone in the crowd who is interested, the more colorful the clothes you wear the better you will blend in (see poster) There is also a high pre-disposition to wear clothes with mirrorwork on them.

The Diwali function will be a more formal sit down dinner at the Mena House Oberoi, which will also be colorful, but in a more understated way.

Dashera will be all about colors, food, dance and fun. Oh and in the dance, men and women may dance in different circles if they feel more comfortable with that or you can just dance in your own group. Or you can just eat the yummy food from the stalls (there will be non spicy food available) and watch the myriad colors swirl and turn. I personally fall in the second category :)

For those who can't read the poster too well. Entry is 20LE for members and 40 for non members. Kids are at half price. This is just entry charge.

You can sign up for membership on the spot (if you are an Indian or married to an Indian)and avail the discounted membership entry for the function. Membership is somewhere between a 50 and 100LE, but we paid up for a family membership a while ago, so I don’t remember the exact amount.

The admission fee includes admission and a few freebies and the chance to dance, enjoy the music etc. The dandiya sticks you can bring your own, or buy on the spot (which may be expensive, since they have to be imported from India and they are heavy) Food pricing depends on individual stalls, because they can price it to their convenience. A lot of home made Indian food will be on offer. I think last year prices per item started from 15LE. I would roughly say that prices would be similar to anything in a food court in Dandy mall or city stars. The Karvin hotel and the Oberoi hotel might have stalls and they may charge a little higher but not as high as eating at the hotels themselves. I have to highly recommend the jelebis made on the spot by the Oberoi chef if he turns up this year and the motichur laddus that the Alexandria Carbon black group distributed last year (don’t know if they will do it this year too)

Do come along, its pretty informal, you can either mix with the Indian community or stick to your group of friends, we are pretty welcoming of everyone

Below is the message from the Indian Community Association in Egypt.

Dear Community Members,

Further to our last mail on Dushera celebrations in Cairo on 10th October, we would like to thank everyone for the tremendous response. We have got a lot of inquiries from people who want to put up food stalls, and also from talents who want to perform on stage. We would like to remind you that if you are interested either in having a food stall or exhibition stall, this would be your last chance to register. Also, if there are any more talented people out there who want to perform on stage, do call us immediately.

Detailed maps to help all of you get to the Dushera venue is attached. One map is for people coming from Nasr City/ Heliopolis area. Second one is for people coming in from Mohandeseen/ Downtown area. Maps will also be on our website www.desiegypt.com. A Dushera poster is also attached,with more details.

Also just to mark in your calendar, the festive annual diwali nite in Cairo will be held at Mena House Oberoi on 14th November night. This is going to be a very grand dine and dance function with exclusive entertainers flown in from India, tickets will be on sale at the Dushera venue. Further mails would follow on Diwali.

Warm Regards,
Infodesk @ desiegypt . com

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Kidnappers seize foreign Tourists in Egypt.

This news is 3 days old. It happened on Monday.

You can read more about it on CNN, BBC or Yahoo News

A lot of blame has been apportioned on Egyptian authorities by the media for not preventing this from happening.

An Egyptian friend who is an avid off-roader helped explain why the government isn't necessarily to blame.

To help illustrate the reasons, take a look at this map.

The kidnapping took place here (in the little red box)

1. Gilf Al Kebeir where the group was kidnapped is in a remote area of South West Egypt and practically in a no mans land between Sudan, Libya and Egypt's borders.
2. As you can see in the map, this is in the middle of the deep desert many days tough ride away from Aswan (the closest city).
3. People who do make this trip are well aware of the dangers of making such a journey where every drop of water and fuel and every grain of food has to be carried with them for all the days journey from Aswan and the return journey and some extra to spare. Often one 4x4 is required just to carry the fuel and another to carry the food and water. Even if just 1 or 2 tourists wish to visit this area, they need to travel together with at least THREE 4x4's for a relatively safe journey.
4. If you look at a map of Africa, there are plenty of straight lines diving the countries (unlike say Europe) and a lot of this continent is arid desert where habitation is impossible. These borders are evident only on a map, but being in the middle of the desert it is easier to cross national borders without even realising it, unlike trying to cross a busy street in Cairo.
5. Given points 2 and 3, it is ridiculous to expect a security presence at these borders.
6. Given point number 5, it is easy for smugglers, outlaws and gangs to cross borders and operate with relative freedom exploiting the vulnerability of tourists to the area. (although they too have to do this in extremely tough conditions)
7. The army/tourist protection sometimes sends an officer with such groups (as anyone who has driven in an official convoy in Egypt from Aswan to Abu Simbel or Sharm to Luxor would know) armed with a basic gun, who would be helpless when faced with gangs with advanced weaponry from Sudan or Libya (where it is relatively easy to come across arms and ammunition)

The government of Egypt cannot practically do anything to patrol the middle of the desert. The only thing they can do is prevent permission and access to these areas, which unfortunatley may be the result of this tragedy as the media keeps hyping up how ineffective the government is. For heavens sake media members (I refuse to call them professionals, as most of their ilk, doesn't qualify to be called that), stop trying to hype up the situation (and increase readership or eyeballs) and try to think of practical solutions instead!

And for those of you who are planning to visit Egypt, don't let this incident scare you off. A large part of this country is much safer than a lot of other places in the world and the government is doing its best to keep most tourist locations safe for tourists.

Temporary non tourist residence

The Official Website states that the following people are eligible for temporary non tourist visas to Egypt.

Granted to the following categories:

1. Employees of governmental administrations, public sector, municipalities & enterprises sector companies as well as their wives & children.
2. Students enrolled at universities & schools according to their enrollment certificates.
3. Parents of students who acquire this residence for the purpose of study.
4. Foreigners coming to Egypt for voluntary work on their own expense.
5. Sons & daughters above the age of adulthood, whose fathers have a residence permit based on work license issued by the Ministry of Manpower & Employment.
6. Parents of an investor granted a 5 Year Residence Permit, would be granted Non-Tourist Residence Permit on the bail of their sons/daughters’ residence & upon a letter of recommendation from the Investment Administration.
7. Foreign divorced women who were married to Egyptians when children are under their custody.
8. Husbands & children of foreign women granted Temporary Residence Permit in their personal status.
9. Those who have personal bank account of minimum $ 50.000 or an equivalent sum in any other currency deposited at an accredited bank in the A.R.E. The deposit must be kept in the bank for a year. This residence permit is renewable and extends to their wives & children for a maximum period of one year.
10. Owners of real estates - whose ownership is established by contracts registered in the Public Notary - are granted this residence which extends to cover their wives & children, provided that the value of the estate is not less than $ 50.000 to be transacted through an Egyptian bank.
11. Relatives of Egyptians till the second degree.
12. Those who are over 50 years of age who had a permanent residence in Egypt for (5) years and who have a source of income or financially supported by relatives till the fourth degree.

Tourist Visa Extension in Egypt

An update to my last post on Tourist Visa Extensions another acquaintance who visited the Mugamma for the same said :

The Mogamma will now issue only a 3-month visa of this sort. The only circumstances under which one can obtain a long-term visa are:
  • by having a job
  • by owning real estate (e.g., a shaqqa tamlik)
  • by having a child who is here on a study visa
  • by having a child who is married to an Egyptian
  • by marrying an Egyptian

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Plagiarists at agnabee.com

Today, I received an invitation to view a site called agnabee.com

To my shock and horror, my blogposts from this blog are being copied in entirety onto their website without any credit or link back to my blog and without my permission or knowledge from the 25th of Augusut onwards..

While I do not normally have a problem with someone linking to my site or posting a snippet from my blog or copying my blog posts while Giving me CREDIT, what is going on here is PLAGIARISM and Completely Unethical!

This practice hurts my page rankings in google and other search engines (because of duplication of articles).

They are doing this with some other blogs too. I also recognised articles from trailing grouse's blog.

I have written to the people behind the site and I'm hoping for an answer some time soon. This could be wishful thinking, but I still believe in the inherent goodness of human nature.

I'm also curious to see if this blog post will also make its way to their site ;)

Ramadan around the world in Pictures

Mandy sent me this link from boston.com and it does have the most beautiful pictures of people around the world observing Ramadan.

Take a look, it will be worth it.

The Hijablog - a blog on Hijab fashion

Just saw this blog sometime back. The latest post today has some outlandish fashions from an Iranian fashion show, but the previous posts showcase some innovative ways to wear the headscarf and some very wearable hijabi fashion.

Take a look:

Friday, September 19, 2008

Toilet Hygiene - Grand Hyatt

I saw a new innovation that is so much more practical than the old one on my last visit to the Grand Hyatt.

On a visit to the washroom, I saw the toilet seat, loosely wrapped in plastic and I was initially horrified, because loosely wrapped plastic has the potential to harbour germs and other wastes for longer than the vanilla toilet seat and is more difficult to thoroughly wash clean (because of the folds in the plastic)

On a closer look. I saw a green button to be pressed, which rotated a fresh roll of plastic around the toilet seat, so every user can sit on a clean seat! This is so much better than the old butter paper toilet seat covers, which tended to get soggy if the seat wasn't dry and wasn't 100% hygienic.

This new invention is foolproof, the only problem of course being the plastic waste being generated. But I'm sure the makers have taken into account the proper micron count.

The only other comparable technique is the one at Dubai airport washrooms, where disinfectant solution is provided in every stall to wipe down each seat before using it.

Australia at the last minute

With 2 cousins studying in Australia and a lot of good friends being transferred there. This looks like a good time to travel there.

But, as usual with the husbands erratic schedule, I doubt we can do any major planning and it will all have to be done at the last minute as usual. Fortunately, I found a decent website which seems to be just appropriate for travelers like me. http://www.lastminute.com.au/home.html

You can book anything here at the last minute from domestic flights, travel insurance and hotels to entire holidays and experiences.

Although this site would be very useful for people living in Australia, (it has some killer deals to Singapore, Penang and Langkawi right now) its useful for visitors to Australia too. We can use it for all our internal travel and accommodation bookings for all across the country. Worth checking out.

My morning laugh - donkey jailed for theft

From Yahoo News
Thu Sep 18, 12:06 PM ET

CAIRO (AFP) - An Egyptian donkey has been jailed for stealing corn on the cob from a field belonging to an agricultural research institute in the Nile Delta, local media reported on Thursday.

The ass and its owner were apprehended at a police checkpoint that had been set up after the institute's director complained that someone was stealing his crops, the state-owned Al-Ahram daily said.

The unnamed ungulate was found in possession of the institute's corn and a local judge sentenced him to 24 hours in prison. The man who had his ass thrown in jail got off with a fine of 50 Egyptian pounds (nine dollars, six euros).

Basics of Traveling - TSA Approved locks

Following up on my post on luggage, I just wanted to mention this helpful tip to people traveling to the US from countries where checking in unlocked bags, is not advisable.

As most people may know by now, the US does not allow any locked bags in check-in baggage even if the luggage is just transiting through the country.

Finally harried travelers have an option.

PostPoints - If you don't get it, you don't get it.

TSA-Approved Locks

If you want to lock your checked luggage, be sure to use TSA-approved locks, available anywhere travel aids are sold. If a screener needs to search your luggage, he or she can use a universal master key to open your approved locks. While TSA spokespeople maintain that officers know how to recognize approved locks and will not cut them off, sometimes mistakes are made. If your bags are damaged by a screener snipping off your locks, be sure to file a claim. To do that, go to www.tsa.gov, click on “For Travelers” and then go to “Claims Management Office.”

-- Travel section

If you have any questions about PostPoints or need additional information,
please visit washingtonpost.com/postpoints.

PostPoints, The Washington Post, 1150 15th Street NW, Washington, DC, 20071

PostPoints--The Washington Post

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Will the dam burst?

From The Economist


EGYPTIANS have long excelled at putting a good face on things. Four millennia ago they built temples whose towering fa├žades and grand doorways hid dark and cramped interiors. Relief carvings depicted giant pharaohs smiting dwarf-like enemies, and showed the Nile teeming with fish and waterfowl. In reality, ancient Egypt was often invaded. Ruinous famines punctuated its years of plenty.

Today, a blinkered visitor might choose to see nothing of Egypt but posh beach resorts and gleaming factories, and hear of little but strong economic growth and a stable, secular government committed to reform. In the Smart Village, a campuslike technology park on Cairo’s western outskirts, construction cranes glint in the mirrored glass of office blocks bearing multinational logos such as Microsoft, Oracle and Vodafone, as well as those of fast-expanding home-grown IT firms. Beyond its perimeter, past a strip of hypermarkets, fast-food outlets and car dealerships, stretch thousands of acres of new suburbs, complete with gated communities, golf courses and private schools. Twenty years ago, the highway that stretches 200km from there to Alexandria ran through empty desert. Lush fields now line the entire crowded, six-lane route, many planted with drip-irrigated garden crops for lucrative European markets.

Read the entire article here.

New Tourist Visa Extension Law

Amal, a friend of mine who visited the Mogamma recently was given the following information. She hopes this information will help others who are in Egypt on short tourist visas.

Just a heads up to everyone who is staying here in Egypt long-term on a Tourist Visa or who knows anyone who is: I went to renew my tourist visa at Mogamma in Cairo today to be told that the law has now changed and the maximum extension permitted on a Tourist Visa now is only 3 months. After that time you either have to come back with an application for residency based on work, studying, marriage, or a child studying here. If you can't do that you will have to leave Egypt at the end of the 3 monthst!!

The option of keeping on coming back into the country with a new visa isn’t available, as it was when they saw that I already had an immigration file for previous visas that I was told I could only have the 3 months extension.

Looks like Egypt is finally catching up with the rest of the world in regard to tourist visas!

From the things they were saying to me it sounded as if they were trying to stop employers employing foreigners without a work visa, as they kept on telling me to get my company to get me a visa, even though I kept on telling them that I wasn't employed by a single company, but a freelance worker.

Pictures of Cairo from 1966

This Lady's dad clicked these pictures way back in 1966 and turned them into slides. So they have amazing quality and colours.

Dare I say the city looks so beautiful and peaceful? :)


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Villa Grey Cultural Center

Villa Grey
24, Abdallah al Kateb Street
Between Midan Fini and El Nil Street
Dokki 12311

+2 02 3338 2184

Villa Grey is the latest location on the Cairo scene to host photography/painting exhibitions and screen interesting off beat movies that do not normally make it to the regular cinema halls.

This center was opened under the auspices of Grey worldwide and Gerard Avdessian, their Managing Director in Egypt.

Gerard studied theater in the Soviet Union and has directed, produced and written plays in Lebanon for several years, a parallel with his almost 40 years in the advertising business. He came to Cairo in April 2007 to head up Villa Grey and to realize, as he puts it, the “dream child” of Grey’s director in Lebanon, Philip Skaff, the “madman” behind the beloved community arts project.

“The idea behind this is to create a social link between the agency and the city of Cairo, the people of Cairo. It is non-profit because I don’t think it is our calling to make any money out of this. Once we cover our expenses, whether from sponsors or from sales of art, all the rest is cashed by the artist himself. We don’t charge a commission, la’a. We’re not an art gallery. We just have this non-profit movement within the agency and in the garden, and we open our doors to talented people, whether young or old.”

This talent will come from the visual arts — including painting, graphic design, sculpture and installation, photography and fashion, performing arts, music concerts, poetry, script readings, film screenings — and whatever else shows up on the marble steps to inspire Monsieur Avedissian and his team.

(Italicised extract from Egypt Today, December 2007)

We had the chance to visit the Villa a couple of weeks ago and check out "Oum el Dounia" - a photo exhibit by Dr. El-Sayed M. El-Sayed. Dr Sayed retired in 2005 and took the opportunity to develop his talent for photography. This is his first solo exhibition and the theme is Old Cairo and Egypt, its architectural heritage and its people.

We had gone for the Wednesday night movie screening that the Villa Grey holds, hoping to watch the Oscar winning German movie "The Lives of Others"

Unfortunately, the copy of the movie that they received that day, did not have English subtitles, so they could not screen it. They ended up showing Travolta's Hairspray so we left. (We had already watched the movie)

The viewing room is quite cosy and comfortable, so I'll definitely go back when they next show a movie that I want to watch.

To receive the schedule of Villa Grey movies and other events in Cairo, do send a blank mail to whazzupcairo-subscribe@yahoogroups.com or whazzupcairo-subscribe@googlegroups.com

The Villa Grey building itself is worth a trip. Its a traditional old style Egyptian bungalow with lots of Mashrabiya work, beautifully inlaid doors, ornate ceiling and lovely flooring. Reminded me of the Eicher Consulting office in Bangalore for the use of an old building as an office space. This is one of the best kept old bungalows with access to the public that I have seen in Cairo.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Basics of Traveling - luggage

When traveling to any place, there are 2 things to consider.
1. What are you going to pack, given the number of days you are traveling for?
2. What luggage to carry it in?

What you carry is of course dependent on the number of days you are traveling for, the kind of climate at your location, the kind of events you will be attending.
Carry your toiletries and first aid kit with medicines that you commonly use for things like colds and headaches (your particular brand of medication may not be available in other countries)
These things have to be put into your checked in baggage with the new rules and regulations. Don't put them in your hand luggage, you may be forced to dispose of them at the security check point.

Personally, I prefer to travel with a matching luggage set or with a "different" color/print on it. I definitely make sure I (tightly) tie up some brightly colored ribbons on my travel luggage to easily identify my bags when they come in on the baggage carousel.

If you are traveling for business, then you will definitely need to take along a laptop bag and a suit bag. Suit bags are more convenient if you do not want to wear your blazer/suit when traveling.

If you buy a soft case garment bag, then this can fit inside your main suitcase. I prefer this, since with the single hand luggage restriction, I prefer to utilise that for my laptop bag.

As my hand luggage, I like to carry a bag that fits my laptop, important papers and a fresh set of clothes. I have had too many incidents of luggage not arriving with me at my destination and when I have training or presentations in the morning, I don't want to attend them in crumpled clothes of the previous day, nor do I want to go shopping at the last moment and make do with ill fitting clothes.

I also like this to be on wheels, so I'm not lugging the weight on my shoulder through huge airports.
I prefer a slightly sportier one, that can also double as a backpack when I'm traveling on holiday.

I like to carry my laptop so I can transfer pictures and work on them when the details are still fresh in my mind. Also in case of a work emergency, I have all my data accessible.
When sightseeing, the laptop can be locked inside the suitcase and the backpack is used to carry the guidebooks, cameras, cap, sunglasses, water and a light snack.

As a woman, we are also allowed to carry a purse when flying. Make sure you remove your cosmetics from this bag before flying and transfer them to your check in luggage. The purse will have a wallet, passport, a pen (for filling out forms), keys, cell phone, camera and any precious items that you cannot afford to lose if the checked in baggage is lost.

These are some basic pointers to consider when packing for your next trip.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Exam cheats jailed in Cairo

Seems like Egypt has some of the problems that India does, but at least the guilty get punished unlike India where cases drag on in the courts for ages.

From http://www.iol.co.za/

Cairo - Fourteen Egyptians, including officials and parents, were jailed for up to 15 years on Monday for involvement in leaking secondary school exams in a scandal that has rocked the country.

A court in Menya, 240km south of Cairo, convicted the group for trying in June to cheat the dreaded "thanawiya amma" - Egypt's equivalent of A-levels or SATs - that largely determine a child's future.

The court found the accused guilty of "having organised leaks, which damaged the principle of equality of opportunity between pupils," in the English and maths sections of the exams, a judicial source said.

Ringleader Ezzat Khalil Mansour, head of Menya's Examinations Committee, was jailed for 15 years and sacked.

His friend Ayman Rabie was jailed for 10 years for having bought the exam papers for 300 Egyptian pounds and for subsequently selling them.

Four other accused, including a policeman and a headmaster, were jailed for seven years and fined 5 000 Egyptian pounds. The other accused, including parents who bought the leaked exam papers, were jailed for between three and five years.

Five suspects were acquitted, including the owner of a bookshop whose photocopier was used to copy the exams.

In a country rife with corruption where some 20 percent live below the poverty line, a university education, especially a degree in medicine or engineering, can help to break down rigid class barriers.

When the scandal broke in June, public prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmud said the problem was limited to Menya and did not affect the majority of the 800 000 pupils who took the exam nationwide.

That declaration was greeted with scepticism by many parents.

The case has gripped the nation, bringing together state and opposition media in a rare show of unity to demand answers. Columnists have demanded a re-sit, with teachers and academics supporting them.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Egypt rock slide toll rises to 32

From Yahoo News

CAIRO, Egypt - Hopes diminished Sunday for finding survivors among hundreds of people believed trapped beneath massive boulders that destroyed an impoverished neighborhood on Cairo's outskirts, killing at least 32 people, including whole extended families.

The devastated shantytown tied to clear the large slabs that split away from the Muqattam cliffs early Saturday. Survivors among the 100,000 residents of the Dewika slum were also left to spend the night without shelter.

"The area turned into a mass grave," one bearded man shouted, while a tearful young woman in a black robe clutched a picture of a newlywed couple whose bodies remained trapped below.

State television reported that another body was pulled from the rubble Sunday, bringing the death toll to 32. A security official said 46 people were treated at hospitals, but that many other people remained buried.

The densely populated shantytown, part of a sprawling slum known as Manshiyet Nasr, is sandwiched between unstable cliffs and an unused railroad track that has made it difficult to get heavy recovery machinery into the area. More than 24 hours after the incident, rescue operations were still being carried out largely by hand and by residents.

Army personnel and Civil Defense workers managed to cut into the railway track and demolish several houses to clear the way for bulldozers.

Aboul-Ela Amin Mohammed, the head of the earthquake department at the National Research Institute for Astronomy and Geophysics, said the entire plateau is in danger of further collapse.

"It is not the first time or the last time," he told The Associated Press. "The area is full of densely packed informal housing with no central sewer system. ... When the sewage touches the fragile surface of the limestone it changes its consistency into a flour-like paste."

Similar disasters happened in 1994 and 2002.

Like much of the housing, Sayyed said his one-floor house of bricks with a wood ceiling was built illegally near the cliff edge — made possible by a bribe to the city council's engineer.

Hundreds of new government-provided apartments have been built just a 10-minute walk from the slums, but residents say only 5 percent is occupied because few can afford the necessary bribes.

Haidar Baghdadi, the parliamentary representative of the area, told AP that 388 apartments from this complex would be made available within 48 hours to those who lost their homes. Most residents interviewed Sunday, however, said they had yet to be approached.

Osama Sayyed Abdel Rahman, a shoemaker, said he left his house in the slums 20 years ago to a temporary shelter on the cliff, but instead of staying there for six months only, he remained for 20 years.

"The building is shaking whenever you shut a door and the walls are full of cracks. I live with my four sons with their mother in this cave," he said.

Read the entire story on Yahoo News

Friday, September 05, 2008

Egypt Voices : Sexual Harrassment

From the BBC

Seven Egyptian women talk about their experience of sexual harassment on the streets of Cairo. It is an increasingly common problem, with a recent survey suggesting more than four out of five women have been sexually harassed, while nearly two-thirds of men admitted assaulting women.

Noha Wagih
Noha Wagih
TV announcer
Posy Abdou
Posy Abdou
Shop worker

Nora Khaled
Nora Khaled
School pupil
Nancy Fakhr
Nancy Fakhr

Zeinab Boulaki
Zeinab Boulaki

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Ramadan Kareem - Ramadan begun in Egypt

With the appropriate sighting of the moon, yesterday (September 1st) was the first day of Ramadan in Egypt.

This begins the Holy month of fasting for Muslims over the world.

What specifically does it mean to expats in Egypt?

Treat everyone with utmost respect. Lack of nicotine and caffeine to bodies used to consuming them every 5 minutes can lead to extreme crankiness.

What work normally takes a day to be done, will take longer. (yes, than usual)

Offices are working shorter hours.
Expect major traffic jams around 3pm when people start heading home.
Expect near zero traffic at sunset during Iftaar time.

Ramadan is a time to share with the less fortunate. Expect more people lining up for Baksheesh and remember your house help have to be given half their annual bonus at Eid time.

Expect to be invited for at least one iftaar party where you will be treated to a large variety of foods. If you are unlucky enough to not have any Egyptian friends to invite you, make sure you attend at least one iftaar buffet in town this season to be treated to delicacies that aren't prepared during the rest of the year. The buffet at the Marriott is a good option.

Definitely wander around the Khan late at night and soak in the atmosphere, maybe even waiting until Sohour. Try to attend a Sufi Performance at the Wikalat al Ghuri.

There are plenty of special cultural events being hosted in the city, try and attend as many as you can and take full advantage of the shortened work days.

Ramadan in Egypt is a unique experience, enjoy it as much as you can. Who knows where you will be next year :)
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