Saturday, December 18, 2010

Mini-Michelin Men

   Maybe people would be more apt than men, but I'm in the mood for alliteration.

  One of the first things you should know about Egyptians is that when it's winter, the coats go on. And stay on. All day. Inside or out. Of course under the coats there's usually a jacket (maybe two) a sweater or two and a vest. Of course this makes sense to a degree, unlike in Europe there's no central heating or insulation and all buildings are designed to stay cool and keep the heat out. Great in the summer, not so much in the winter.

   It's not the fact that people wear several layers that gets to me, it's the fact that once inside they will not take anything off! Coats or jackets stay on indoors and then people complain that they're cold when they go outside again! Of course you're cold, you've got warm inside and then gone outside without adding an extra layer!! Grrrr!!

  Nor does this look to be a generational phenomena that will die out as the next generation grows up, in class students more often than not, refuse to take off their big winter jackets 'because my mum told me not to'. The result is that they sit in class looking like mini-Michelin men and can barely move their arms!

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Rat Pack in Cairo

    Last night some friends and I went to see a Las Vegas Rat Pack tribute band at the Cairo Opera House. It was opening night, which was fun as we got to dress up and be glam for the evening! We had great fun in the intermission spotting and commenting on fashion faux-pas in the audience.

  The band was The Rat Pack Tribute Show a band of impersonators from fabulous Las Vegas and they were pretty good in my opinion. 'Dean' and 'Sammy' bore the greatest physical resemblance to their real-life counterparts but 'Frank' just reminded of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, which isn't really a good thing!

   They sang all the classics, inviting the audience to join in several times. Highlights for me included: Everybody Loves Somebody, Mr. Bojangles, You Make Me Feel So Young, Leroy Brown, Mack the Knife, Me & My Shadow, That's Amore and of course, My Way and New York, New York. My friends and I were swaying and clapping our way through the whole show, although a quick look at the audience seemed to show that we were the only ones! Something that really annoyed me though was the fact that they changed the lyrics to Lady is a Tramp to the lady is a champ! No she isn't!! She's a tramp! The song doesn't make sense otherwise!

   Overall though it was a lovely night and we all had a great time.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Royal Wedding

   In case you spent yesterday (Nov. 16th 2010) under a rock or just didn't turn on your T.V; Prince William is now engaged to long time girlfriend Kate Middleton.

  Yes, I know. Exciting stuff (and I absolutely, definitely did not watch at least an hour's worth of SkyNews coverage) but I have to admit, the thing I'm looking forward to the most is the wedding, the dress, Harry in full uniform at the wedding, nope, none of those. It's the merchandise! Apparently within minutes of the announcement some firms were preparing their cups, mugs, t-shirts, thimbles and God knows what else. I'm looking forward to trawling through websites trying to find the tackiest piece (IMPO) I can, feel free to join in and let me know what you find!

I probably will be getting a coin though. I'm sad that way.

CONGRATULATIONS WILLIAM AND KATE CATHERINE!!! (I wouldn't want your job for all the money in the world!)

A new 'do'!

   Yesterday I was feeling down. No other word for it, at one point I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and couldn't help but grimace. I didn't look like me at all! In a fit of despair I called my hairdresser for an appointment today -fingers, toes and eyes crossed that they weren't closed for Eid. My luck was in! When asked if I wanted an Egyptian or Lebanese stylist, I very clearly told the receptionist that I couldn't care less where they came from so long as they were creative!

  My appointment was at 12, I arrived about 10 minutes early and  I walked out at 12:30 feeling like a whole new woman. No wait, scratch that. I felt like ME again!!

Look out world; I'm back!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hayah's Media Resource Centre

       A library is more than just a building full of books; it is a place where you can lose yourself in a magical land and do battle with fearsome beasts. You can travel back in time and feel history take place around you. If the past is not your thing, then why not imagine what the future might be like. Will we be living in space or will we have reverted to wild savages? Burning questions about science, geography and any other subject under the sun can be answered in a library, and if you don’t know where to look then there is always a librarian to ask. School assignments can be written in peace and quiet and embellished with the information that can be found around you.
     This past Thursday, October 14th 2010 saw the opening of Hayah International Academy’s Media Resource Centre. The three-storey centre is currently home to over 3000 titles covering both fiction and a wide range of non-fiction texts and research resources, as well as subscriptions to numerous online databases. Administrators, teachers, students and parents all celebrated the opening of this first phase of the library, with many parents donating books to the new library( Dar El Kotob publishing house donated 700 books). To help launch the new centre the school was privileged to welcome Zahi Hawass- the Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities- and Mohamed El-Sawy- the founder of the Sawy Cultural Wheel, as well as several Egyptian children’s authors and the former President of UNESCO Dr. Fathy Saleh.
    Dr. Hawass kept the audience enthralled with the tale of his quest to unravel the mystery of King Tut-Ankh-Amun’s death, while Mr. El-Sawy reminded us of why we should feel pride in our Egyptian culture and language; its intricacies and subtleties. This was re-enforced later when the school choir sang a beautiful song about the hope for the future in both Arabic and English. This was followed by a presentation of Cultnat, an amazing 180˚ interactive journey through 5,000 years of Egyptian history.
     The whole evening was one to make you feel proud. Proud of how far this school has come in such a short space of time-seven years, proud of the students- the choir and the four students who spoke to the gathering were great ambassadors for the school and proud of the part you play in the school, no matter how small.  

Monday, October 11, 2010


   A few months ago a friend introduced me to Weekend Trips a group that was founded to help people find more interesting things to do at the weekend than just go out for dinner and a movie. The first trip I went on was to a beautiful island in the Nile, once there you'd never guess you were 15 minutes away from the busy suburb of Maadi or actually under one of Cairo's busiest bridges.
   This past Wednesday was the 6th of October, as any Egyptian schoolchild will be able to tell you, this was the day -in 1973- that the Egyptian army crossed the Barlev line (a defencive sand barrier reinforced with concrete) in Sinai and regained control of the peninsula. To commemorate this victory October 6th is a national holiday and this year-thanks to Weekend Trips- my friends and I spent it shooting at people we had just met!

    The group had organized a paintball battle at Rehab Club in Rehab City  and we were divided into 6 groups and pitted against each other. My team decided to call ourselves 'The Expendables', unfortunately, we didn't channel Sly Stallone and his crew and we lost all 4 of our matches! Did we care? Nope!! We had so much fun just running around pretending to be soldiers and picking up bruises that winning wasn't important.

   So next time you're stuck for ideas of what to do at the weekend, take a look at the itinerary at Weekend Trips, let your hair down, do something new and have a blast!!

Egyptian Weddings

    The first thing you should know about Egyptian weddings is that they are loud. LOUD! The loudest part is the 'zaffa', this is the procession the bride and groom take-usually into the hall where the wedding is taking place. They are preceded by a band of traditional musicians with 'tablas' , the traditional Arab drum, trumpets and occasionally dancers with candelabras on their heads. There are traditional wedding songs, usually singing the praises of the bride and the joys of marriage. The zaffa can be as long or as short as the couple want but I've never attended a wedding where the zaffa has been shorter than 10 minutes. Sometimes the couple spend some of this time dancing with each other and friends and family, other times they simply watch on as others dance, it just depends on the couple's preference. As with anything else, the quality of the zaffa, in terms of musicians depends on the amount of money spent on the band, the songs are the same across the board but the difference is seen in the costumes worn by the band members.

    Once the happy couple reach the doors of the hall they do not simply walk through. Oh no. As if the last 10-20 minutes hasn't been enough of a hint that they're ready to party, they are whisked away into a ante-chamber before a big announcement to mark their entrance. Once in the hall, they usually head to the 'kosha' a seating area reserved for the couple, usually on a slight stage. Depending on the couple they may either spend most of the wedding there, talking to guests and having pictures taken or they barely sit down, spending the whole time dancing. Different strokes, different strokes.

     Some weddings will include the 'katb ketab' the actual marriage vows part, if they don't then the couple have already tied the knot officially and have decided to split the celebrations.

    As usual the highlight of any wedding is the buffet. Don't expect a piece of wedding cake, as my friend colleague and fellow blogger IrishAlexandrain recently discovered, there's a high probability that the cake is actually a foam model and the bride and groom cut a piece of cake hidden to one side.

    The most important thing to remember about Egyptian weddings is that they never start on time. If your invitation says 8:30, don't go before 9:30 and don't expect anything to happen till 10 at the earliest. Most are held in hotels at night although it's starting to become popular to have alternate venues. Some people rent villas out for the occasion, allowing for an outdoor party.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Eid time!!

   Well folks, it's that time again. After a month of fasting from dawn till sunset Muslims around the world will tomorrow (10/9/2010) celebrate Eid El-Fitr-a three day celebration of the end of Ramadan which literally translates into the feast of breaking the fast.
   The streets will be filled with the sounds of celebration and children's play (in fact I can already hear the fire-crackers going off in my street). One of the traditions of Eid is to buy a new outfit for at least the first day of festivities so the shops have extended their sales in the weeks leading up to Eid to entice people to spend. For those less fortunate, donations of second-hand clothes will be distributed so that underprivileged children will get to experience a sense of joy at this time of the year. Families will meet up, either at the grandparents or go away together for the break to the beach or maybe the family farm.
     Once again people will be able to turn to Caffeine first thing in the morning to help get them through the rest of the day. Snacking can once again begin in earnest despite the plans of many to stop this year so as not to regain any weight lost over the holy month. But few will be able to resist traditional Eid cookies or Kahk, a buttery biscuit sometimes filled with dates and sprinkled with icing sugar. A delightful sugar rush after a month of daytime lethargy.

Eid Saeed everyone!
 PS: When the internet begins cooperating again, I'll upload a link to an Eid song!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Ramadan and Food!

   A nice juicy steak with all the trimmings. A big bowl/plate of pasta. A pizza with your favourite topping. Roast potatoes. Molokhya*. Fatta*.  Whatever food you like, and sometimes even ones you don't like much, at some point during the  day in Ramadan you will be thinking about food. If you're not thinking about it, you're talking about it. Or watching a cooking programme. Or reading recipes. Or shopping for/preparing food for Iftar-literally breakfast-the main meal of the day. 

  It may be breakfast Jim, but it's not as we know it! Forget cereal, toast and pancakes. This is a breakfast of soup and dates rice or potatoes of vegetables and meat, especially  in Egypt, meat reigns supreme. No gathering of friends or family would be complete without copious amounts of meat. Red meat cooked in various ways, chicken, turkey, you name it, chances are it'll be on the table!
A traditional liquorice juice seller.
  The juices are equally varied but usually include Ammr elDin which is an apricot drink, made from sheets of dried apricots dissolved in hot water (much like sheets of gelatin). Karkadeh is a tea made from the hibiscus flower and can be served hot or cold. Kharoub  is another favourite in my house as is liquorice. All these drinks have medicinal benefits,  some can help regulate blood pressure (Karakadeh lowers while liquorice increases), cholesterol and blood sugar levels-essential when a person has been fasting.  

  And now, dessert! Although the sweets eaten in Ramadan are available all year round, they have a special place in any Ramadan meal. In Egypt most people stick to Oriental sweets at this time of the year, the most popular being konafa a dish made with shredded fillo pastry, drenched in syrup and stuffed with nuts or cream or raisins. Basbousa is a semolina dessert again cooked with syrup. Baklava, golash (pastry not meat) and various other sweet things also make an appearance. 

  Sohoor  is the meal eaten about an hour before dawn as a chance to fill up the tank before another day of fasting (all that food from earlier doesn't count!). This is a much lighter meal usually of eggs, fool( broad beans) and cheese. 

  It should be noted at the end of this piece that although food plays a major part of this holy month, it is about much much more. This is the first time I've experienced Ramadan in the heat of summer (Ramadan gets earlier by about 11 days each year, following the lunar cycle) and never in my life have I been more grateful for a glass of cold water and count my blessings that I have access to clean, safe drinking water. And that is the main reason behind this month, to remind us of how lucky we are to be able to eat and drink and to give a taste (if you'll excuse the pun) of how people with little or no food and water feel everyday and to remind us to help as many of those people as we can. A common sight in streets during this month is Moa'ed Rahman  or Mercy Tables where people pay or provide food to feed the needy, these are open to anyone all throughout the month.

All images were found using Google Images. No copyright infringement intended. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ramadan Lanterns

   Well it's that time of the year again; Ramadan! The ninth month of the Islamic Hijri calender. (The word Hijri comes from the Arabic word Hijra or migration, as the Islamic calender counts years from the Hijra-when the Prophet Mohamed left persecution in Mecca for Medina.) In Egypt one of the most obvious signs that the Holy month of fasting and piety is about to begin, apart from worse-than-normal traffic, is the appearance of the 'fanoos' or the Ramadan lantern.

    The origins of the fanoos isn't exactly clear some think it is an evolution of the use of candles in certain Ancient Egyptian religious ceremonies which was adopted by Coptic Christians and then by Muslims. The story I've heard most often is that the use of the fanoos during Ramadan was popularized during the Fatamid period when the Chaliphe ordered the streets of Cairo be lit at night by lanterns.

   Traditionally fawanees are made of tin and coloured glass (see pic above) by artisans all over the country, often using recycled scrap metal. Unfortunately recent years have seen an influx of cheap, mass-produced plastic lanterns from China. These often bear very little resemblance to the traditional fanoos, can play music (either traditional Egyptian Ramadan folk songs or the latest hits) and are completely lacking the soul and calender of the traditional models.

  The aforementioned Ramadan folk songs are another sign of the month, this first one is traditionally associated with the fanoos. Entitled "Wahawey ya Wahawey" it celebrates both Ramadan and the fanoos.

This second is a called "Ahlan Ramadan" or "Welcome Ramadan"

So, Ramadan Kareem to you all!!

All images on this page were found via Google Images. No copyright infringement intended. 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Tewkesbury Medieval Festival

   First off, some history: The war of the roses was fought in the 15th century 1455 – 1485 between the Houses of Lancaster and York (the roses part of the name comes from the fact that the Lancastrians’s emblem was a red rose while the Yorkists’s insignia was a white rose).
   The final deciding battle took place in May 1471 in the town (at the time village) of Tewkesbury which stands at the point where the rivers Avon and Severn meet. The battle was here because the Lancastrian army was trying to cross the Severn to reach Wales where they had hopes of allies to join them against the Yorkists. The battle took place on a meadow near Tewkesbury Abbey, known since that day as Bloody Meadow. The Yorkists won the battle, led by the King Edward IV and his brother Richard Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III).

The re-enactors prepare for battle!
   Now on to the fun stuff! Every year in July the battle is re-enacted at the original location with re-enactors, historians, enthusiasts and tourists from around the world, in the largest medieval festival in Europe. The normally empty meadow is transformed into a 15th Century battle camp with tents, banners, soldiers, knights and men-at-arms. 

The battle is re-enacted twice over the course of the two day festival, ending each time at the Abbey- where the defeated Lancastrians had sought Sanctuary-which was stormed by the Yorkists to arrest the leaders of the Lancastrian army.
  For the two days of the festival, and the weeks leading up to it, the town of Tewkesbury proudly shows off its history. All the shops in down the High Street and other main roads hang the colours and coats of arms of the various lords who fought in the battle, they also change their window displays to reflect the medieval mood, with beautiful costumes replacing the usual jeans and t-shirt combination in clothes stores and bookshops highlight books of local history over the latest bestsellers.

The Merchant House and Shop in the Abbey Cottages.
   One of the black and white timber-framed Tudor buildings near the Abbey is opened up as a working merchant’s house and shop and the ‘merchant’s wife’ gives regular tours, explaining what life would have been like for the family living and working in the space at the time. The food would have been cooked over the fire in the kitchen/living space (and here’s us thinking we invented open plan living!) using herbs and as many vegetables as could be grown in the garden. The herbs would have also been used in making simple household remedies as an apothecary would have been an expensive luxury for everyday ailments.


Here are some more pictures from the first day of this year’s festival.

FalafelandChips with a BowandArrow!
Ye Olde Medieval Advertising! 
 I Don't Think I Need to Explain Why I Took This One!

A Selection of Helmets

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Falafel in the land of Chips!

Greetings from the Great Smoke aka: London!!

  Just a quick note to let you all know that I'm currently in the capital and so far everything's been great!! Met up with the Irish Alexandrian a couple of times to take in some of the sights.

   Looking forward to heading to another capital city on Monday, Cardiff this time. Look out Wales FalafelandChips is on the way!!!

   More detalis of my trip so far willl be posted once I'm back in Cairo and will include:
  • Report and pictures of the Tewkesbury Medieval Festival.
  • Report and pictures of Tewkesbury Abbey.
  • Report and pictures of The Tower of London.
  • Report and pictures of Cardiff.
  • Anything else I can think of!!
Blog to you all soon!


Friday, July 2, 2010

To 'B' or to 'P'? That is the question!

  Well it is if you're an Arabic speaker learning English or a teacher tearing your hair out in despair at silly spelling mistakes.
   Despite the fact that the Arabic alphabet has 28 characters to the English alphabet's 26, there is no equivalent to the letter 'P' only 'B'. This has lead Egyptians to come up with a unique way of differentiating between the two to help with spelling, there's B khafifa ('light' B) and B tekila ('heavy' B).
   Now if you guessed that the 'light' B is 'P' and the 'heavy' B is B,well sorry you're wrong! For years I was convinced that was the right way round, because to me as a native English speaker it made more sense, and the I had to remember that it was the opposite of what made sense. The only reason I've managed to find so far for the naming is that P is light as its 'hump' is at the top, while the hump of the 'b' is at the bottom making it heavy.Get it?

 So tomorrow I'm off to change my Egybtian bounds into Pritish pounds and sign things with a plue ben!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

School's Out For Summer!

  Books and artwork have been sent home. Displays have been taken down and supplies have been packed away for the summer. Rooms that have been noisy for 10 months are now silent till August when it all starts again. Yep, the school year's over and done with for another year! Summer's here and it would be difficult to say who enjoys it more, students or teachers.

So, to all my fellow teachers I wish you a summer free of planning, grading, meetings and other people's children and plenty of lie-ins, we've earned them!


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Korba Festival!

   The first Korba Festival was held to celebrate the centenary of Heliopolis in 2005. Heliopolis was established in 1905 by Belgium Baron Empain, Ă‰douard Louis Joseph an amateur Egyptologist. When building on the new suburb began it was a stretch of desert 10 km away from the centre of Cairo (now known as Old Cairo or Masr El- Kadima), nowadays it is slap-bang in the centre of the city. 

  Since 2005 one street (Baghdad St.) in the Korba area of Heliopolis has been closed to traffic on a Friday to become a place where people can enjoy a stroll around through the street with shops and coffee shops spreading out onto the pavement to display their wares and entice you to spend. There's the chance to leave your mark by drawing on the roads and pavements in chalk and for several days afterwards it makes driving down that street a little bit more colourful. 

   This year the theme of the festival was Music the Language of Peace and featured various artists from around the world (don't ask who, I arrived late and missed the line-up!) the star attraction of the evening though was Egyptian jazz musician Yehia Khalil. The atmosphere was loud (this is Egypt after all) and electric with plenty to see and do and other music styles available further down the street if the music at the main street wasn't to your taste. 

  So if you're ever in Cairo and the Korba festival is on, I highly recommend you hop in a taxi and go have fun at the Heliopolis street party.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

World Cup Fever!

  It's that time again! Every four years 32 countries become very patriotic, flags are hung on anything that stays still long enough, national anthems and other patriotic songs are sung and for a few weeks club differences are put aside as the national team takes centre stage. I'm talking, obviously, about the FIFA World Cup.
  The first World Cup was hosted, and won, by Uruguay in 1930 and since then has been played every for years except in 1942 and 46 when it was stopped due to WWII (which was just as well really, can you imagine if England had lost to Germany on penalties then?!).
   This year the tournament is being hosted by South Africa, the first time an African country has ever hosted the event and they've done a stellar job so far. The opening ceremony was a tribute to the whole continent and was a colourful and varied as the land itself.
   Since Egypt (once again) didn't qualify, I will be supporting England and Spain. England out of patriotism and because they need all the help they can get and Spain because they stand a pretty good chance of winning (at least that's what the 'experts' say).

C'mon England!!!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Out in the cold?

     You know that feeling you get sometimes, that people are talking about you or keeping secrets behind your back? You probably felt it the most when you were between the ages of 11-13 when everyone had secrets that you weren't included in. Most of the time it was just your imagination and there was probably someone else saying the same thing about you, on the other hand, if you're a woman, chances are some of those girls really were being mean. We can't help it and it's a sign that you've started growing up when you realise that you are-unintentionally- hurting people around you and you begin to reign in some of those comments. Not all the time though, sometimes saying those couple of comments to someone who you know will agree with you is all that gets you through the day!!  So imagine the frustration of people who walk into a room to find people speaking a language you can't understand and not feeling welcome to share in a conversation.

     Being considerate and switching languages won't endanger your national identity or language, nor will it make you look like a show off to your fellow countrymen, who knows, you might even enjoy talking to someone with a different point of view. You could even learn something and broaden your views. 

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Fashion and Style.

No, they're not the same thing! As Coco Channel (or Yves Saint Laurent, I'm not sure which) said; ''Fashion fades, only style remains the same.'' Oh how I wish some women here would follow that!

Now picture this if you will; it's your child's sports day at school and the theme is water sports so that means that -if you deign to go and support your child- you will be poolside for most of the day. A hot, Egyptian summer day. Ok, got that image in your head? Good. Now I'd like you to imagine what you would wear for such a day. Jeans and a light weight top? Perhaps a hat and flipflops or trainers. Well not if you're an Egyptian mother of a certain class. If you are then you wouldn't dream of leaving your house without at least one designer item of clothing. Of course, why stop at one when you could be decked out in designer clobber from head to toe? How else will people know that you can afford it?! And don't forget your diamonds dahlings, you are only as impressive as your ring's ability to blind someone at  ten paces. Not to mention your earrings and bracelets. Don't get me wrong, I like diamonds and nice things and sometimes the things I like come with a designer label, but I try to be subtle about it. I've been wearing a silver Tiffany necklace for nearly a year and although I've received compliments on it, no one has noticed that it's Tiffany because it's not emblazoned all over it.

The thing is, and this is only my opinion, the more you bombard people with labels, the less they are likely to actually see them. The more styles you try to include into a single outfit, the more complicated, uncomfortable and ridiculous it looks. Think about where you're going and what you're going to be doing when you get there, wearing high heels to just go grab a coffee with friends or, as one mother did today, to watch your child swim is ridiculous. Comfort doesn't just feel better, it looks better too.


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Tree Massacre!

I like trees. They give us oxygen-need that for breathing last time I checked, flowers, fruits and what's that other thing? Oh yeah. SHADE! So why, oh why in this hot and sunny country do people insist on cutting trees into ridiculous shapes or, as happened recently where I live, practically hack them to death and leaving them with stumps for branches and no leaves at all?!
I can understand the need to trim, trim mind you, branches that dangerously overhang the street or if the tree is diseased. But other than that, there really is no excuse, and yet all around Cairo, you see round trees, square trees and at one point on the airport road, you could even glimpse the elusive lesser-spotted pyramid tree!
If the tree wasn't diseased before, chances are it is now. Birds live in trees. Bugs can make trees sick. Birds eat bugs. Tree is healthy!
Birds can't live in round trees. Bugs can. Birds can't eat bugs. Bugs make tree sick. Tree dies. The moral of the story? Leave the trees alone! We need shade, temperatures in the summer often reach the high 30s C and being able to walk in the street or wait for a taxi under a tree in a bit of shade would make life much more pleasant. Is that too much to ask?


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Egypt's Hidden Treasures.

The next time you come to Egypt, or even if it's your first time here, try and expand your horizons beyond the pyramids, the museum and temples. Yes I know the pyramids are awe-inspiring, the final resting places of kings who wished for immortality and have-in a way- achieved it should definitely be on your list. After all where else in the world can you see one of the original 7 wonders of the world? But this isn't all this country has to offer, there's so much more than just the Pharaohs and their treasures.

What you won't find advertised as much or on the zillions of cheap tourist tat available is the beauty of medieval Cairo. Known locally as Masr El-Kadima, or Old Cairo it contains Roman ruins and remains of the pre-Cairo capital of Egypt, El-Fustat. El-Fustat was built by the Arab Khalifa (literally; follower or he who comes after) Amr Ibn el Aas after the Arab conquest of Egypt in the 7th century. He built the first mosque in Africa in his new capital city. Cairo itself was not built till the 10th century during the Fatimid rule of Egypt and at that time it was a separate city to the north of El-Fustat. Eventually the cities merged as Cairo expanded and El-Fustat fell into disrepair.

The location of El-Fustat was near the Roman Babylon Fortress, which today is in the area known as Coptic Cairo. This area, as the name suggests, is home to some of the oldest churches in Cairo and is thought to have been where the Holy Family visited during their flight into Egypt. Most of the churches were not built until after the Arab/Islamic invasion of Egypt when Christians were tolerated unlike the persecution they faced under the Romans. The fortress itself has had churches built into or on its walls.

One of these churches is the Hanging Church of Babylon, so named because it was built on the gatehouse of the Roman Fortress, so its nave is suspended, or 'hanging' over a passageway. Due to the construction of the High Dam in Aswan, and the subsequent lack of floods has lead to the ground level rising and so the dramatic effect of the church has been somewhat lost. The church contains icons dating from the 8th century to the 18th and the alter is carved ebony and ivory decorated with coptic crucifixes.

In the Islamic area of Old Cairo has some of the most beautiful mosques in the city one of which is the Rifai Mosque ( el masged el Rifa'i) commissioned by the 19th century rulers of Egypt to complement the 11th century architecture of the Sultan Hassan Madrasah (madrasah literally means 'school' in Arabic but is most commonly associated with the learning of Quraan-Islam's holy book). The Mosque has a beautiful inner courtyard with a central water fountain area for wudu' (the ablutions performed before prayer) and this is surrounded by four areas for prayer. The mosque is the final resting place of, among others, King Farouk-the last King of Egypt.

For pictures of the places mentioned above please click here

Movie Marathon!

Yesterday a friend and I made a spur-of-the moment decision to have a movie marathon. We narrowed down our choices to three films but decided the order would be down to our mood once we reach the cinema. After navigating Cairo traffic-which is a topic for another time- we arrived and were off to get the tickets! First up was From Paris With Love a bang-bang-shoot 'em up with a fairly predictable plot, I figured out the 'twist' about 10 minutes in. Don't let that put you off seeing this film though, it's good fun, mainly down to John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Travolta's character is OTT and wonderfully flamboyant and contrasts well with Rhys Meyers' more straight-laced rookie. It's thier chemistry that provides the humour in the film and I'd be quite happy to see a sequal if the powers that be decide on one.

After a lunch that was not quite as guilt free, calorie wise, as we had hoped, it was time for the second movie of the day. We thought we had bought tickets to When in Rome, turns out we were actually in the theatre showing Remember Me Now this is a bloody good film! Honestly, I'm not sure what I was expecting, Twilight without the sparkly skin? Maybe. A film for teenage girls to swoon over their latest heartthrob? Definitely. I was wrong on both counts. Sure Pattinson is almost as emo in this as in Twilight but-unlike Edward Cullen- Tyler has valid reasons. Without giving too much of the plot away, it's suffice to say that Tyler doesn't have the happiest of family lives. Neither does the heroine, Ally who lost her mother 10 years earlier when she was murdered in front of her and yet she appears to be a much happier person than Tyler. The two, naturally, fall in love but the film is so much more than just another love story, it's about how events and people in your life can truly have an effect on who you are and how you relate to others. The ending is wonderful in its simplicity and I highly recommend this film to anyone, especially for those last 10 minutes.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Lazy days (or evenings)

Don't you hate feeling that you really should be doing something, anything, but that you just don't have the energy? One day away from the weekend- a blissful three day one at that- and I'm ready to crash. The only thing making me feel a bit better about my current state of lethargy is the fact that everyone around me seems to be feeling the same way. One look around the staff-room at work and you'd be forgiven for thinking we've all just finished running a marathon! The combination of heat, dust, reports and kids who I swear must be sneaking drinks of red bull in the bathrooms has us all at the end of our tethers.

The weekend can't come soon enough, a good night's sleep is what I really need and if the horrible turkeys (I hate and fear turkeys!) that turned up in my dream last night stay away I think I might just manage it. So I am off to bed because the sooner I go to sleep the closer the weekend will be. Lets just hope the B.F.G blows some good dreams my way tonight.

Night night.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Introduction and first mini rant.


I'm typing this by candle-light as my neighbourhood has just plunged into darkness; an auspicious start for my blogging alter-ego! It's quite a romantic setting I suppose, although I do wish the unpredictable Egyptian electricians had found a way of having the country's air-conditioners wired so that they were never affected by these power cuts! BTW the unpredictability of Egyptian electricians, plumbers etc. is a topic for another day. It would be fairly long!

After that -slightly random- ramble allow me to introduce myself; my name, as you may have guessed, is falafel (no, really). I'm a British-Egyptian girl in my mid-twenties, born in England (Cheltenham), raised and currently living in Cairo. I graduated from the faculty of Pharmacy in June of 07 and by September had realized that none of the career paths available in the field appealed to me at all; so in October I applied for a position as a co-teacher at an international school, started the same day and haven't looked back! In fact before the lightswent out I was looking up MA courses in education in the UK, suffice to say, I'm in it for the long haul!

That's all for now,I'm sure it will be easier to get to know me as you read my blogs; whether they be in the form of a ramble, a rant or a fangirl 'squee!'