Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Quirky News from Egypt

Today was a day for strange news out of Egypt.

1. The Daily Star reported that a fatwa had been passed by Al Azhar which allowed women to hit their husbands.

2. The BBC reported that a primary school teacher in Alexandria beat a 11 year old pupil to death. - Did he misunderstand the news in point no 1?

3. Also from the BBC Egyptian police arrested a "wife swap" (also known as swingers) couple.

I'm still shaking my head in disbelief......

Monday, October 27, 2008

Car Seats in Cairo ?

A lot of friends with young kids who visit Cairo, are aghast that taxis aren't equipped for Car Seats, even if they do bring their own seats along.

In countries like the US, you need an infant car seat even to bring a new baby home from the hospital.

A lot of expats in Egypt bring appropriate car seats with them from their home countries. There are some shops in Cairo which stock car seats but they aren't as well stocked as parents would like. Also the prices in Cairo are quite prohibitive (as I heard from a friend here, who just delivered her first baby - Mabrook!)

Most people in Cairo as I mentioned before, bring in their car seats from abroad, borrow it from a friend whose kid has outgrown their car seat, (infant car seats aren't appropriate for toddlers), or order them online and pay the shipping charges.

For those who have grown up with car seats, it may seem a huge safety hazard to take a child for a drive (especially in chaotic Cairo traffic) without belting them down into a car seat, but in Cairo as in India and many other countries, children are considered to be perfectly safe in their parents arms. If anything were to befall them it is either "inshallah" (God's will) or "karma" (fate).

Given the high incidence of accidents in Cairo, common sense would recommend a car seat, preferably one that could be strapped into a Universal Stroller so it has a two in one use.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Egyptian sexual harasser jailed

This is a welcome step in the right direction to make Egypt safer for the women who live here or visit.

From BBC news.

Egyptian sexual harasser jailed

Noha Ostadh
Ms Ostadh fought back and then went public about her ordeal

An Egyptian man has been jailed for three years with hard labour for sexual harassment of a woman in the street.

Sharif Gommaa was also ordered to pay 5,001 Egyptian pounds ($895) damages to Noha Rushdi Saleh for the attack in Cairo's Heliopolis district.

Women's rights activists welcomed the ruling saying it was the first known case of prison for such an offence.

The defendant was accused of repeatedly groping Noha Rushdi Saleh as he drove slowly alongside her in his car.

Although many Egyptian women and visiting foreigners complain of unwanted sexual advances in Egyptian streets, the subject is rarely addressed by the authorities or mainstream media.

After an hour-long tussle she dragged her attacker to a police station

However, this attack in June became the focus of media coverage after the 27-year-old filmmaker, also known as Noha Ostadh, went public about her ordeal.

She told the BBC how shocked she had been at her attacker's behaviour, and also at the attitude of passers-by who told her not to go to the police - while others blamed her for provoking the attack.

After an hour-long tussle in which she dragged Gomaa to a police station, she says the police officers initially refused to open an investigation.

Cairo street scene
Women regularly face harassment on the streets of Egyptian cities
The case was taken up by the Badeel opposition daily, which blamed Egypt's oppressive government, and "the majority of citizens who identified with the oppressor", and "decades of incitement against women" in some mosques.


Egyptian women's rights campaigners have praised the judge for handing down what is being seen as a harsh, exemplary sentence.

Engy Ghozlan, of the Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights, told AFP news agency: "This is the first case we know of where someone was jailed for groping.

"The judge was obviously setting an example."

The organisation released a survey this year that showed 98% of foreign women and 83% of Egyptian women had experienced sexual harassment. Nearly two-thirds of men admitted harassing women in public.

But very few reported cases because of a "total lack of confidence in the police and judicial systems", Engy Ghozlan said.

In an unusual development earlier in October, eight men were arrested in Cairo for allegedly taking part in a mob-style sexual attack on women pedestrians.

The attack, during the Eid holiday, was reminiscent of an incident in 2006 during the same holiday which marks the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

On both occasions, witnesses reported that police officers were present but did nothing to protect women who were violently groped and had some of their clothing torn off.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What's on in Cairo - Staying Informed

My Editor at the Oasis (CSA's monthly magazine) asked me to write this article as I run and, 2 groups that inform its subscribers of events in Cairo well in advance, so you may book your tickets when they are still available.

The scan of the published article is here - on my blog of my published articles.

The article would be of interest to the readers of this blog & I post it here.

Stay Informed

Having moved to Egypt and settled into Daily Life, you would now like to explore the Cultural Scene in Cairo. But how do you know ‘What’ is taking place in town and ‘Where’?

Some English newspapers like Daily Star Egypt or Al Ahram Weekly give you a daily listing of events, but often by the time the paper arrives, it is too late to buy tickets to an event.

Your other option is the monthly magazines: Egypt Today, Community Times and the Croc. These magazines are a little more comprehensive than the daily newspaper and give you a little advance warning. You can subscribe to these magazines and newspapers by calling their offices or online.

A better option is to figure out which places you like to attend programs at and sign yourself up for their mailing list. Places like Makaan, el Genaina Theatre, Villa Grey, Institute Cervantes, Aliiance Francais, Diwan bookstore and others.

Places like the el Sawy Cultural Center bring out a monthly program in the last week of the preceding month in English, Arabic and French. You may need to visit their location to pick up the schedule.

The Opera House brings out its annual program at the beginning of the New Year in September. Since most acts are international, the programs are planned well in advance. You can buy the annual schedule at the Opera House in the evenings before a program starts. (It is not normally available at the Ticket Office) does post movie listings and concert schedules, but they seem to have moved onto a more Middle East regional perspective, publicizing events in Dubai more than those in Cairo. Plus their information isn’t always 100% accurate as I found out the hard way, when trying to book tickets for the Disney Ice show which led me on a wild goose chase across Link Dot net offices. Friends have reported that the movie timings mentioned are mixed up pretty often. So the best way to use this site is, as a very general guideline and then call the location and verify details.

If you use Facebook, there are a number of online groups like Cairo Gigs and local bands whose groups you can join and then you will get a mail when they have a new concert planned in the city.

If you listen to 104.2 NileFM, you will get to hear of the major concerts and events happening in Cairo.

Expat Women’s clubs and The American Research Center in Egypt, have their own mailing lists and you automatically get sent mailers, once you are a paid up member.

Some special smaller scale events like the American Independence Day Party, the Green and Gold gala etc are advertised in the Oasis, so make sure you pick up your copy every month.

The site has an online calendar for CSA specific events with a feature that lets you automatically save an event in your Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express calendar.

A simple alternative to signing up for multiple lists is to subscribe to whazzupcairo on googlegroups or yahoogroups. It is a completely free service where you receive notifications on events occurring across the city straight into your mailbox. You can save the events you are interested in, in your online calendar. Signing up is simple. Just send a blank mail to or and when you receive a mail to confirm that you requested the service, mail back with your approval. All you need is an email id.

If you find that the service brings too many emails into your inbox, you can switch to the digest version (25 emails together or one for all the emails in a day, whichever comes first) or no mail version, where you can continue to view the posts on the web.

If you check on even a few of these options, I am sure you will find a lot of events to fill up your time, especially your evenings and weekends.

Helpful Websites and Blogs:

Karishma Pais (Kim) is an expat trailing wife in Cairo. She has a Masters Degree in Human Resources and Behavior. She consults on HR projects, delivers intercultural training at the CSA, counsels new and experienced expats, writes for several magazines – online and offline, she runs and among other activities.
Her Social Commentary and blog about life in Egypt can be read at

Monday, October 13, 2008

Life Coaching in Cairo

Amal, a friend of mine in Cairo has started Life Coaching specifically targeted for English Speaking practicing Muslim women in Cairo(and the rest of the world - since it is conducted by phone or internet).

Life coaching is a process that helps clients to articulate their dreams and aspirations, to clarify their purposes and goals, and to then help them achieve outcomes in any area of their life: personal, professional, relationships, health…

Amal was trained in Canada by Muhammad Alshareef (the founder of AlMaghrib Institute among other organizations) through DiscoverU ( to use techniques and methods that are successful in secular coaching, and apply them within an Islamic framework.

If you’d like to know more about her service, you can go to: and get more information. She does have a special offer of a free session before October 15th that could give you a taste of the service before signing up with her, if you’re interested.

As far as we know, it’s the first service of its kind here in Egypt.

Added on 18 Oct 08: Amal has extended the offer for a free session until the 20th of October.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

More sexual harassment this Eid?

Returned from a vacation to hear about this :

Reminded me of the time when I had just come to Egypt 2 years ago and heard that some harassment had taken place downtown and the clothes had been torn off of some women. This really scared me at that time as I was new to the country, female with a husband who was working extremely long hours at his new job. It took me awhile to figure out that such an incident was an exception not the norm, although milder forms of harassment like cat calling, exposing themselves and trying to touch a woman are more commonplace.

There are people who argue that since the harassment rarely results in a rape, it means the situation isn't as bad. I say that : Anyone who has not felt the guilt/shame/rage/helplessness at being on the receiving end of this kind of treatment, is not qualified to talk about it.

We were flying out on 1st morning and passed by gamaet dawal inside a car at 4am. The roads were choked with people (not cars) milling on the streets at that early hour, that it took us as much time to pass, as though it were peak rush hour traffic.

I mentioned to my husband at that time, the warning of an Egyptian female friend - to stay away from the downtown and Gamaet dawal streets on Eid just because of the sheer numbers of men who would be gathered there. Looking at the pressing crowds at that early hour, my husband felt it was very valid advice.

Unfortunately her advise was further validated by what happened that day. These are not situations where one is happy to say "I told you so"

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Flawed Jewel - The Jewel of Medina, a fictionalized version of the life of Lady Aisha

From Egypt Today

October 2008
Flawed Jewel
The Jewel of Medina, a fictionalized version of the life of Lady Aisha, has reopened the debate on portraying Islam’s sacred figures
By Ethar El-Katatney
Join me in a harsh, exotic world of saffron and sword fights, of desert nomads living in camel’s-hair tents, of caravans laden with Persian carpets and frankincense, of flowing colorful robes and kohl-darkened eyes and perfumed arms filigreed with henna.” . . .

. . . In her ‘day job,’ 46-year-old Jones is a correspondent for the Washington DC-based Bureau of National Affairs, an international news agency, and Women’s eNews in New York, with 28 years in journalism. Speaking with Egypt Today by phone, she says she became interested in Islam after observing how Americans perceived Muslims as a monolithic entity after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

Jones says she wrote the book to provide her Western readers with “a greater understanding of Islam [so] that we can start to build bridges with Middle Eastern and Islamic cultures [which] we’ve demonized.”

If that is the case, then her bridges are built on sand. . .

A very well written critique with valid debate points. Do read the original review here on Egypt Today

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Eid Karim / Eid Mubarak / Eid Sahid

Its holiday time again with Ramdan coming to an end.

Best wishes to anyone celebrating any holidays : Eid / Navratri / Durga Pooja......

Happy Hols to everyone in Egypt - have a great extended holiday weekend. See you all on the 7th!
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