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.