<![CDATA[rss-Magazine]]> All Rights Reserved for The Cairo post <![CDATA[Magazine]]>]]> 100 29 <![CDATA[An Angel Party Look]]>
A Natural, Dreamy Goddess Look

Charlotte prepped the Angel’s skin with her Magic Skincare Trio for a healthy, lit-from-within glowing angel complexion. First, she used her secret to supermodel skin, Instant Magic Dry Sheet Facial Mask, for a glowing radiant looking complexion. The ingredients, including vitamin B3, crocus bulb extract, peptides, oils and butters, penetrate deep in to the skin to provide nourishing nutrients where skin needs it most.

Charlotte then applied Charlotte’s Magic Cream, an instant turnaround cream for the complexion that floods the skin with moisture and provides the most beautiful, glowing base for makeup. It is made up of oils and actives that feed the skin. Hyaluronic acid and peptides that give a plump-effect to the complexion, vitamin C and E that brighten and soothe the skin, and Frangipani and Aloe Vera. It’s Charlotte’s secret to the ultimate runway glow! The cream is applied to model’s skin using Charlotte’s famous Angel Wing Motion Magic Skin Massage to wake up the complexion.

Next, Charlotte gently tapped her Magic Eye Rescue to revitalize the eye area. Time releases retinol molecules in the formula resurface the skin around the eye, helping your eyes appear younger and more radiant with every passing hour.

The Secret to Flawless, Poreless Angel Skin

Charlotte applied her ultimate glow primer, Wonderglow, to the model’s skin. The primer is full of hyaluronic acid and has a genius fluorescent core that redirects light to more flattering angles of the face.

Charlotte buffed on her Light Wonder Foundation for a natural skin effect. Charlotte used a shade slightly warmer than their natural skin tone to give them a healthy glow. For any areas which needed a little extra coverage, Charlotte applied her best-selling Magic Away Concealer to conceal any redness or blemishes, brighten darkness, smooth fine lines and hide the appearance of pores.

Next, Charlotte applied her Hollywood Flawless Filter. With the versatility of a primer, the mega-watt glow of a highlighter, and the perfecting properties of your favorite digital filter, it soft-focuses and instantly illuminates the Angel’s complexions.

A Killer Contour and Ethereal Glow

Charlotte wanted every Angel to have a natural contour and ethereal glow under the runway’s lights. She used her Filmstar Bronze & Glow palette to sculpt the appearance of the face and carve out killer cheekbones, add warmth to the complexion with the most natural bronze tones, and give a celestial candlelight glow to the skin.

The glow was amplified using Charlotte’s ‘Diva Light’ Beauty Light Wand. The rose-gold highlighter gives a soft-focused glow to the cheekbones that beautifully plays with the light. To finish the complexion, Charlotte dusted her Airbrush Flawless Finish powder onto the T-area, soft focusing and blurring away any lines and imperfections to create a soft micro-fine cashmere veil to the complexion.

The Ultimate Natural Supermodel Brow and Exagger-Eyes Eye Filter

To reveal the shape of the brows, Charlotte brushed them up using her magical Brow Lift tool and then used the soft pencil to fill in any gaps using upward strokes. Charlotte used Victoria’s Secret Brow or Never Clear Eyebrow Gel to fix the perfect supermodel brows.

Charlotte curled the eyelashes for definition using her Life-Changing Lashes curler. For the ultimate Supermodel eye, Charlotte brought back her sell-out sensation Exagger-Eyes Luxury Palette. Part of Charlotte’s Beauty Filters collection, the palette makes the eyes appear bigger and brighter, just like an Instagram filter. Using a blender brush, Charlotte washed the enhance shade forwards and backwards across the eyelid like a windscreen wiper. The smoke shade was used along the lash line to add definition.

To enhance the Angel eye look, Charlotte used a second best-selling favorite: Eyes to Mesmerize in Rose Gold. Using a smudger brush, Charlotte applied the metallic rose gold shade underneath the lower lash line to make the eyes naturally pop. To elongate the eyes and create a seductive, sexy, lifted shape, Charlotte lined the eyes with an Angel Wing using her chocolaty powder pencil eyeliner in The Sofia. For extra richness and depth, Charlotte applied her Colour Chameleon pencil in Amber Haze along the lash line. To complete the Supermodel eye filter look, Charlotte used Victoria’s Secret Major Lash to give a dreamy Angel flutter in seconds!

Natural, Pillowy Lips

For the supermodel lips that everyone wants, Charlotte started by re-shaping the lips with her iconic Lip Cheat lip liner in Pillow Talk. The best-selling lip liner loved by celebrities, supermodels, beauty editors and influencers all over the world mimics the natural shade of your lips and gives you the most pillowy pout. She then applied Victoria’s Secret Velvet Matte Cream in Showstopper. A luscious Pillow-y pink matte that makes the lips look instantly fuller and wider. Charlotte applied Collagen lip bath for a natural, dewy veil of gloss on top of the Velvet Matte Cream.

Blush-bronze Like an Angel

To create the look of fresh, natural health for the complexion, Charlotte applied a combination of blush and bronze Beachsticks in Las Salinas and Ibiza. The soft, dreamy makeup sticks blend with the complexion for a natural looking, sun-kissed blush effect.

As the finishing touch, Charlotte applied her glossy Supermodel Body. The product created glossy-skinned perfection in minutes. She applied down the centre of the limbs using the cooling roll applicator, which makes the skin look and feel firmer, toned and supple, so every model could stride down the famous runway with the confidence of
an Angel.]]>
12/15/2018 12:22:00 PM
<![CDATA[6 Fun Party Looks]]>]]>12/13/2018 11:00:00 AM<![CDATA[The connection That Matter]]>
Huda El Mufti, Mohammad Al Sharnouby and Khaled Anwar played brothers and sister on the series and now they’re reunited as brand ambassadors to bring you the latest must-have from OPPO: the F9. In a recent interview all three spoke about the role social media continues to play in powering their success, cementing their interactive relationships with audiences and pushing their careers to new highs. All three agree that breaking into the industry and establishing a name for yourself as an actor takes hard work, resilience and versatility. Which is why they’ve chosen OPPO, the phone that does the job and reflects all those qualities.

This is the first time any of the actors has endorsed a brand as an ambassador, but the three are the perfect faces of the fresh campaign, which is all about color, fun and constant connectivity. And the feature that they’re most excited about: VOOC charge, the battery solution everyone has been waiting for—a quick charge will give you hours of battery use, perfect for youth always on the go. We catch the threesome for a chat on their acting plans and the technology they’re looking for to best match their lifestyle needs.


You’re a model and actress, and of course run your own clothes store, so you’re already a big role model for your followers and viewers. How does your work as a brand ambassador help make that relationship stronger?

Other than the fact that OPPO is a really cool brand that shares the same audience as I do, it’s a pretty cool concept to be a part of. I love the “Make it beautiful” concept and how they’re working on a youthful, fresh and artistic brand. Their marketing strategy is to communicate with young people their own way, the way they understand and in their context and that’s exactly what I do, talk to young women like me in their own language. Fashion is a big part of our lives and so is entertainment, and this step in my career, to be an ambassador, helps me bring these two world together, which is what I’ve always loved doing.

When it comes to fashion, accessories are key to any look, not just for style but for function too. How does this phone connect the two?

I absolutely love the gradient color and design of this phone, it’s really versatile. Flat color profiles can be really dull but with this phone young users can show off their personality and attitude. My favorite has to be the Starry Purple, inspired by starry skies but it’s all about your own character; others might go more for red or blue. Then of course you have ZAAM bringing in the fashion element by creating our outfits—like this dress I’m wearing —which I also love. OPPO’s idea to bring in handbag designer Ahmed Azzam was a brilliant way of supporting local crafts and also connecting with audiences. The idea of creating a collection influenced by OPPO’s colors for Cairo Fashion Festival is really cool. Everyone who has worked on this collaboration just completes each other, in some ways just like the F9 itself.

If you were to describe each of other brand ambassadors in one word what would it be?
Well, Khaled Anwar has a great memory, I guess it has to do with his experience in acting and needing to memorize lines. As for Sharnouby, as you can tell he was the first to arrive, his time management skills aren’t that of a typical Egyptian at all!

Sharnoby, So we heard that you are always on time, how important is time to you and your work?

It is strange to find someone Egyptian who shows up before an appointment, but I do try. There aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything we love—whether it’s work or our own hobbies like sport, getting together with friends and so on. The pace is so fast and yet we spend hours waiting for things to get done. I never noticed how much until I got to try out the phone’s VOOC flash charge technology while we were shooting, and I realized the speed it charges at can save so much time from my day. I really do waste too much time waiting for my phone to charge, just like everyone else did.

What has it been like teaming up with Huda and Khaled again and working together as brand ambassadors?

Having had the chance to work with these guys again has been a lot of fun and brought back some great memories from when we were shooting together.

What other tech features are important for you?

Other than VOOC, which saves hours in charging time, cameras are very important because this is the age of the selfie so I’d go for the F9’s 25mp front camera. Instagram and Facebook are really critical tools that any entertainer needs to use well. As I recently announced I’m about to launch my first album after releasing the single “El-Nafseya.” We all know now how social media really helps the spread of music as online is where the majority of audiences go to view music videos and series episodes. Juggling singing and acting, I’m always on the move so I can catch up with everything on the 6.3inch FHD+ display water drop screen. The resolution is fantastic and it gives you more room to view.


Khaled #Stay With Attention is OPPO’s latest message to show support for young talents and to help them keep the attention they have worked hard for and deserve. Do you feel like this message is resonating well with the youth?

I do. A part of that success is me talking to you right now. Being a young actor in an industry like this here in Egypt, right now isn’t easy. It takes years of hard work, auditions, rehearsals and workshops just get in the door. OPPO has brought four talents together, Huda, Sharnouby, ZAAM and I. Here we are representing fashion, music and acting. Those three industries are the most desired by young talents today and the brand is a true supporter of the arts providing new career opportunities every day.

What is it like being back with Huda and Sharnouby on set after Ka’enoh Embare7?

It’s like a family reunion. It’s great to be working with everyone again, we became so close on set as if we were really brothers and sister. Also it’s kind of cool working with a brand I can relate to like OPPO. The F9 has a really cool design where the front camera resembles a water drop giving you more room to view.

You recently talked about being seen online and how that helps audiences connect with you. Is that changing the way the entertainment industry works today? What’s the trick to stay within everyone’s attention?

Of course it is. Social media means viewer response is immediate, live even, and that can impact decision-makers in any entertainment industry. The feedback is overwhelming, encouraging and very important for any actor or musician. But being constantly connected is important for everyone, not just entertainers. Young people especially are anxious if they feel a lack of attention from their friends and followers online, and we all get a little FOMO [fear of missing out] sometimes. The trick of course is to stay connected and always present yourself in the best-possible light using a good camera. The F9 can do all of that.

12/12/2018 2:14:45 PM
<![CDATA[2018 The Year of Archaeological Discoveries ]]>
January 8, A part of a statue for Amenhotep III, its left foot forward and made of black granite, was found in Sohag. In front of the right foot, there is a collection of hieroglyphs about the coronation and birth of King Amenhotep III.

January 10, A number of archaeological elements and remains of tombs dating back to the Greco-Roman era were found in the eastern section of the Hellenistic cemetery. The most important of these discoveries is a tombstone that was once used to close one of the burial shafts. The find yielded a collection of offering vessels and lamps decorated with scenes of deities.

January 11, There were two massive archaeological discoveries in Aswan. The first was an administrative complex that dates back to the fifth dynasty and is considered the oldest archaeological discovery in Tell Edfu site. This discovery sheds light on how ancient Egyptians used internal architectural structures to store goods, raw material, and gemstones. More than 200 artifacts which belonged to King DjedkareIsesi, in addition to many tools used in trade campaigns to Africa, were also found. The second discovery was a statue of a man and his wife performing religious rituals, and a statue made of sandstone of a seated man, in addition to two statues of the god Horus in the shape of a raven at the temple of Kom Ombo in Aswan.

January 13, A stela of 19th Dynasty King Ramses II was discovered at San Al-Hagar in Sharqiya. The stela is carved in red granite and depicts King Ramses II presenting offerings to an ancient Egyptian deity.

January 17, A tomb dating back to the second century was found in Al-Alamein, comprising a rock staircase leading down into the main chamber of the tomb, where burial holes known as “Locauli” are prominent. The southern part of the tomb contains a Greek decoration on the wall, depicting a horn with a basin surrounded by leaves and flowers.

February 4 , An Old Kingdom tomb was discovered in the Western Cemetery located in the Pyramids area in Giza belonging to to official Hetpet. The tomb dates back to the Fifth Dynasty, about 4,400 years ago.

February 24, Eight tombs containing some 40 coffins of Pharaonic priests and more than 1,000 Ushabti statues were discovered in Tuna el-Gebel in Minya. The tombs are full of jewelry, pottery and jars. In the tombs were a gold mask, coffins, mummies and statues.

February 28, New parts of the statue of Ramses II were found in the Temple of Kom Ombo in Aswan, confirming the existence and use of this temple in the modern state era. Before this discovery, the only proof was represented in Tuthmosis III, where there is a visible part in the statue that depicts King Ramses II accompanied by God Sobek and God Horus, the main gods of the Temple of Kom Ombo.

April 11, An assortment of 4,500 fragments from King Psamtek I’s colossus were uncovered at Souq el-Khamis in Matariya., confirming that the colossus depicts a standing king, with his left arm in front of the body while the right one is extended to the back.

April 22, A marble head of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius is discovered in Aswan and an Osirian temple is found in Luxor. Also found were a collection of clay pots, remains of statues and a winged frame relief decorated with offering tables bearing a sheep and goose. The relief holds the names of the kings Taharka and TanutAmun.

April 30, An ancient royal celebration hall dating back to the era of Ramses II was discovered in Matareya. A number of valuable artifacts were also uncovered such as five stone blocks, a painting of the high priests of the Sun Prince Nept Ma Raa, in addition to some pottery figures dating back to the 27th Dynasty, one of which was a small dog-shaped statue. An amulet depicting Thi from the Roman era is considered one of the most important pieces discovered. The lower part of a statue of a priest from the Ramses era was also unearthed during the digging work.

May 9, A tomb of Great Army General, Iwrhya, from King Ramsses II’s reign was discovered in the New Kingdom necropolis, south of the Causeway of King Unas in Saqqara, Giza. The tomb probably dates back to the reigns of king SethiI and King Ramesses III in the 19th Dynasty.

May 11, Remains of a temple dating back to the reign of Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius were unveiled. Pius reigned from 138 AD to 161 AD and ruled the Al-Hag Ali village in Siwa Oasis, situated 350m away of Gabal Al-Marwa (Mountain of the Dead).

May 24, Parts of a huge red brick building, probably part of a bath dating back to the Greco-Roman era was uncovered. Pottery vessels, terracotta statues, bronze tools, a stone fragment engraved with hieroglyphs and a small statue of a ram were also found. The most important yield is a gold coin of King Ptolemy III. On one faces is a portrait of King Ptolemy III wearing the crown and on the other side is the Land of Prosperity surrounded with the name of the king.

June 24, A gold coin from the Islamic period was discovered by an Egyptian-French mission during an underwater excavation at Abuqir Bay in Alexandria.

June 25, A well-preserved set of canopic jars was discovered in the tomb of Karabasken (TT 391), in the South Asasif Necropolis on the West Bank of Luxor. The jars are made of Egyptian alabaster and probably held viscera. The lids depict a human, a baboon, a jackal and a falcon and are skillfully carved and modeled by three different artists. The jars belong to the “Lady of the House Amenirdis” from the 26th Dynasty.

July 1, A statuette of Osiris was uncovered at the eastern side of the King Djoser Step Pyramid in Saqqara. The statue was found in a small incision between the huge blocks of the pyramid’s eastern façade.

July 10, An ancient city dating back to the Greco-Roman era was discovered in Minya. The city, extending to about 2 kilometres and 600 meters in width, contains many ancient tombs carved in rocks as well as Greco-Roman columns, a church, and a cross.

July 14, Minister of Antiquities Khaled Anany announced the discovery of more than five stone coffins in Saqqara area, and declared it “a great archaeological discovery”. The Egyptian-German mission uncovered a complete mummification workshop which contains burial chambers with mummies dating back to the 26th and 27th dynasty. A gilded mummy mask decorated with semiprecious stones was found covering the face of one of the mummies. Three mummies, a group of canopic vessels made of calcite and 1,500 Ushabtis were also found. The coffins date back to the late period of Ancient Egypt, from the seventh century BC to the fifth century BC and mummification, and can help Egyptologists better understand methods of embalming, ancient workshops and tools.

August 9, A sphinx was found at Al-Kabbash Road in Luxor.

August 15, two ancient pieces made of mud-sand that date back to the Ptolemaic era were uncovered at the Temple of KomOmbo in Aswan. Each piece is two meters in height, and has of numerous codes and carvings.

August 16, A Yorkshire-based expert revealed that Ancient Egyptians were actually consecrating mummies 1,500 years earlier than previously thought; almost 6,000 years ago. The discovery was made after tests were performed on a mummy that dates back between 3,700-3,500 BC.

August 26, an Egyptian archaeological team discovered a cemetery that dates back to the Ptolemaic dynasty in Alexandria.

September 2, one of the oldest villages in the Nile Delta was uncovered. The importance of this discovery is based on the fact that these buildings, which date back to the Neolithic period, are not known in this region, and were only discovered by the Egyptian Exploration Society in one location, namely Sais in Gharbia Governorate. A dozen silos containing a huge quantity of animal bones and botanical remains was also discovered.

September 5, a rocky cemetery, located at the north east of Senusret I pyramid was uncovered.

September 16, a sphinx statue made of sandstone was discovered in the Temple of Kom Ombo in Aswan. The sphinx likely dates back to the Ptolemaic era.

September 18, a tomb dating back to the Late Period containing a sculpted sandstone sarcophagus with a well-preserved mummy wrapped in linen, among other things, was found. Three other tombs were found in the area where remains of clay sarcophagi were unearthed, some of which have paintings while others are inscribed with hieroglyphic texts. The mission found a collection of mummies haphazardly buried, suggesting that the tomb was used as a communal burial. The head of an unidentified sandstone statue was also uncovered along with a collection of faience amulets.

September 25, the Egyptian archaeological mission in Mit Rahina discovered a huge archaeological building in Demerdash basin area located 400 km north of Mit Rahina Museum. The structure is made of brick columns supported by huge blocks of limestone, whose foundations, external walls and inner staircase were built with red brick molds. A second building containing a large Roman bathroom and a room that might have been used for performing religious rites was found. Inside this room the mission discovered offering pot holders made of limestone decorated on one side with the head of the God, Bes. The room also contained basins for disinfection and small columns of limestone. To the north of the building and inside the eastern wall, a limestone entrance with a width of 112 cm, and a height of 106 cm was discovered. Another entrance, leading to a staircase built on two axes from the west to the east and from the south to the north, was uncovered to the right side of the former entrance. A room attached to the outer wall of the building used for servants was discovered in the northeastern corner of the building; the room contains a baking oven tile similar to that used in modern Egyptian villages.

October 1, two ancient paintings made of sandstone were uncovered, one of which belongs to the second king of the 19th dynasty King Seti I while the other belongs to King Ptolemy IV.

The first painting is 2.30 m in height and 1 m wide, with a thickness of 30 cm. It was found broken, divided into two parts but its inscriptions and writings were in good condition. The second painting was found broken into several parts, with a height of 3.25 m, width of 1.15 m and 30 cm in thickness. The first painting depicts King Seti I standing in front of the great god Horus and the goddess Sobek; this scene is topped with a winged sun as a symbol of protection. Below this scene is a text that consists of 26 lines in hieroglyphics, in which the name of King Horemheb is mentioned several times. The painting of King Ptolemy IV shows the king standing, holding a stick whose end is shaped n the form of Horus while behind him stands his wife Arsinoe III. In front him is the triad of the temple, and above them is the winged sun.

October 25, the archaeological mission working in Matareya found a full ancient royal celebration hall dating back to the era of Ramses II.

November 6, a number of fragments and maller statuary were uncovered at the Temple of the Sun in Matareya. The fragments date back to the 12th and 20th dynasties as well as the Third Intermediate Period. The discovered inscriptions refer to the creator God Atum as being responsible for the flood of the Nile.

On November 10,three tombs dating back to the Pharaonic modern-state era of Egypt and four other ancient ones containing a group of artifacts including mummified cats “Bastet”, were unearthed at Giza’s Saqqara necropolis. Bastet was a goddess of the ancient Egyptian religion.

November 14, a grave of a woman and her fetus dating back 3,700 years was uncovered at Kom Ombo, Aswan.

Thaw-Irkhet-If Sarcophagus Unveiled
At press time Egyptian archeologists held an unveiling ceremony for a previously unopened, 3,000-year-old sarcophagus of a mummified woman. The coffin is one of two ancient mummy discoveries found in perfect condition at a tomb near the east bank Nile city of Luxor, with the participation of a French mission from the University of Strasbourg, in November. The second sarcophagus was reportedly opened and examined by Egyptian authorities prior to the unveiling ceremony.

“One sarcophagus was rishi-style, which dates back to the 17th dynasty, while the other sarcophagus was from the 18th dynasty,” Minister of Antiquities Khaled Anany told. the media. “The two tombs were present with their mummies inside.”

The discovery was made following five months of excavation work, and the tomb was named after mummification priest Thaw-Irkhet-If, who is believed to have been responsible for overseeing it. After removing 300 cubic meters of ruble, the team uncovered the tomb, colorful scenes on its walls, holding over 1,000 wooden statues, colored masks, and more.
12/11/2018 12:02:17 PM
<![CDATA[5Easy Christmas Dessert Hacks]]>
Either buy readymade vanilla cupcakes or use a cake mix to make your own. You can find store-bought meringues at any supermarket that you can use to decorate your cupcakes to look like little trees. No holly sprig? Some large mint leaves and pomegranates should do the trick

Festive Cookie Platter

Absolutely no effort in this one—sable biscuits are available year-round at any bakery or supermarket—but it’s all about the presentation. Choose a plain platter or wooden board and arrange your cookies adding conifers, tinsel and some plastic greenery that you can pick up from any stationery store.

Dress It Up Yule Log

This is the easiest hack in the book. Chocolate, English cake or fruitcake are the best companions to plain winter drinks like tea or a mug of steaming cocoa. Buy some ready made cakes from the bakery or supermarket and wrap with plastic Christmas decorations. You can also use rosemary sprigs topped with pomegranate if they’re handy. Serve on a bed of sprinkled powdered sugar for a dramatic effect.

Drink Up!

This one is outright cheating, but your guests will love you for it. As they do every year, Starbucks brings back their festive favorites including the Toffee Nut Frappuccino. Nothing beats the rich buttery flavor of sweet toffee combined with the warmth of toasted nuts blended with Starbucks’ smooth espresso and velvety steamed milk to make the Toffee Nut Latte. The holiday menu also features Ginger Bread Latte, a sweet and spicy flavor combination, and the Signature Hot Chocolate, which will satisfy any chocoholics’ cravings. And, they deliver!

Lazy Cake Snowballs

You only need four ingredients for these simple but delicious sweets; grownups and kids alike all love them! To make 24 snowballs, empty 3 tins of plain Puck cream and beat in 150g of unsweetened cocoa powder. Using a rolling pin, break up 4 packs of butter cookies (Danish is a tried and true favorite). Roll in biscuit crumbs, keep adding until the mix is no longer runny or sticky. Form into small balls, place on a tray and refrigerate. Before serving, take out balls and roll in powdered sugar before dropping each one into a cupcake case. Pipe a little cream on the top of each one and garnish with marzipan holly shapes.

12/10/2018 2:30:00 PM
<![CDATA[That Christmas feeling]]>
“I’m so excited for the holiday season to start, and I’m so looking forward to see how our customers include our products in their celebrations,” says Evelina Kravaev Söderberg, Head of Design at H&M Home. “In many homes, treasured items form part of the traditions and it’s a wonderful thought that perhaps our cheerful fox mug will become part of someone’s childhood memories one day!”

Bring that winter wonderland atmosphere inside with winter white chunky textiles; prints inspired by the flora and fauna of a wintry forest with deers and pine branches; and natural materials such as linen, jute and wood. Along with traditional patterns such as stripes and checks, fake fur and fresh modern reds create a traditional yet contemporary setting to the holiday celebrations. “For those who prefer a more glamorous setting to the celebrations, we were influenced by the elegance of an urban holiday.” Luxury is key to this look, dominated by golden and amber hues along with materials such as fake fur, velvet, brass and bronze.

With the living and dining rooms being the main focal points of any Christmas gathering, this season’s trends will help families personalize their own style. “Customers are more interested in modern, inspiring home decor. There’s a great deal of interest in personal lifestyle living. It’s about living, eating and travelling. We can see that the importance of expressing yourself and your personality isn’t just a matter of how you look—you and your home are a very important part of this concept,” Söderberg explains.

The designer herself finds inspiration in being curious. “I love art and books. I love to explore other artists and designers. Travel is probably our major source of inspiration, along with meeting people from different cultures,” she has been quoted as saying. “I watch and observe different surroundings. . . . The more digital we become, the more we’ll need tactility. When we live in an environment where we’re always connected, we’ll need the contrast of touching and feeling—and that will become apparent from our design. Nature is a source of inspiration that’s still very strong, so we’ll see even more natural materials like wood and ceramics. A sense of comfort and luxury is also something that we’ll be exploring through quality and detail in our forthcoming collections.”

12/9/2018 10:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[The British Council in Egypt celebrating 80 Years]]>
“Over the years, the British Council’s work in Egypt to encourage the sharing of knowledge and ideas has created opportunities for the people of both countries and built our mutual understanding. The ties between our two countries are important, and I welcome the continued contribution of the British Council in Egypt.”

The ambassador—who has been in Egypt for three months and who is the son of Sir Philip Adams, the British ambassador to Cairo in 1973—emphasized his pride the 80th anniversary of the British Council coincides with having its first female director, Elizabeth White. “[Egypt] is one of the best places to do this kind of work.

The young people we work with, they are so amazing. The potential, the interest, the curiosity, the trust, the initiative of these young people is just blinding,” White, who has been in her new position for about three months, told Egypt Today. “Being appointed the new director of the British Council in Egypt during such a momentous year has been marvelous. . . . It gives a real sense of purpose to see how generations of Egyptians have taken up the opportunities we offer in the arts, education, science and sports,” White said in her speech.

She told Egypt Today that at this time, the British Council wants to continue to focus on education and developing the lives of young people. Currently, the British Council runs the National Teacher Training Program that expects to train 37,000 teachers by 2020, as well as the Newton Mosharafa program, which develops the capacity of academics.

The scientific program is funded equally by the Egyptian and British governments with a total of £50 million, and it sponsors postgraduate studies and research programs for Egyptians at UK universities. Recently, the program helped Egyptians discover an early diagnosis method for Hepatitis C, and the national campaign against the virus has thus far proven to be immensely successful.

The British Council also runs the coaching program “Premier Skills,” aimed to develop children on a social and educational level, in communities across Egypt, including those in Upper Egypt. In 2017, over 60,000 children were part of the program.

In mid-November, White flew to Luxor to attend the closing ceremony of the British Council’s ‘1000 Girls, 1000 Dreams’ football partnership with the Ministry of Youth and Sport in Luxor. It is hoped that the program will leave Egyptian female coaches who will continue to train young girls. Back in Cairo she attended a concert by independent British singer Nadine Shah at el-Sawy Cultural Wheel, along with Sir Adams, on the last day of the anniversary celebration.

Shah, whose album Holiday Destination was nominated for the 2018 Mercury Award, said female Muslim second-generation immigrants like herself were hardly ever present in the music scene in the UK. She is super excited to be setting an example for her fellow Muslim artists to pick up their guitars and know they can be respectable while leading a career in music. She hopes the first generation will also learn that such a career can be profitable and allows musicians to see the world. “There’s so many artists from the UK that should be playing here. Lots of people have one idea in their head, they think about what happened in 2011, they think about safety. I mean, London isn’t technically a very safe city,” Shah told Egypt Today.

“It’s perfectly safe to come here. So, it’s so important that we have institution like the British Council present encouraging artists to come and to play and to see these places. It’s a really beautiful, beautiful city,” the young artist said, adding that the Nile represented the best backstage area she ever played at.

The artist, who is of Pakistani heritage, defines her music as “alternative,” with Holiday Destination, which predominantly was about the refugee crisis, influenced by different genres like Afrobeat and bands such as the US rock bank Talking Heads, and scales from the east using, in particular, the saxophone. Here in Egypt she expressed her strong admiration of Egyptian iconic singer Umm Kalthum, emphasizing there is a “real thirst” for eastern music in the UK. “Sponsors and financers should support Egyptian artists to play in the UK, where audiences will spread the message via word of mouth and pictures and videos on social media in the alternative music scene and beyond.”
12/8/2018 12:26:17 PM
<![CDATA[A Journey of Passion]]>
Branded a “landmark” edition by the head of festival Mohamed Hefzy, CIFF opened on November 20 in the main hall of the Cairo Opera House and was attended by a notable cast of stars and filmmakers from Egypt and around the world, in the presence of the Minister of Culture Ines Abdel-Dayem, Minister of Social Solidarity GhadaWaly and Minister of Tourism Rania el-Mashat. Speaking at the opening Hefzy revealed how specially challenging it was to organize this special edition, as its management was striving for excellence. “I have to thank all those who contributed to this edition, Minister Ines Abdel Dayem, the Festival’s Artistic Director Youssef Cherif Rizkallah, and our sponsors. . . . Without their help, the edition would have never seen the light,” Hefzy said.

Taking audiences back in time, the ceremony started with a short documentary about the history of Egyptian cinema narrated by the veteran actor, singer and TV presenter Samir Sabry, who presented CIFF’s first edition. As he shared with the audience his very long relationship with the festival, since it was established by the renowned cinema critic Kamal el-Mallakh, Sabry shared a surprising piece of insider information about the sponsors of the first edition. “Abdel Halim Hafez andWarda donated the profits of one of their concerts to the festival; and Nagwa Fouad managed to convince a few hotels to host the events,’’ Sabry recounted. He concluded by paying tribute to CIFF’s former presidents Saad Eddin Wahba, Hussein Fahmy, Sherif el Shobashy, Magda Wasif and Ezzat Abu Ouf, and the current president Hefzy, who is also the youngest to head the festival. The veteran entertainer then gave the stage to actor Maged el-Kedwany who presented the rest of the festival’s events. “Cinema is a blessing from God,’’ Kedwany said as he took the stage.

Several inspirational speeches were made, among them that of famed Egyptian actor Sherif Mounir who started with an amazing drums performance then went on to speak about his special relationship with the festival, as a loyal attendee of each edition and previous jury member. “Egyptian cinema is a comprehensive art that is connected with all other forms of art, that is why we call cinema the seventh art,” Mounir reiterated.

Starlet Sherine Reda also made an emotional speech, sharing how anxious she felt standing on the huge stage in front of all such great stars. “The cinema hall is the only place where people do not fear darkness because cinema inspires their feelings and emotions; it is the only place where our ideas can take shape,’’ Reda said.

Minister Abdel Dayem voiced similar thoughts, sharing sincere hopes that CIFF would contribute to promoting our art and sharing our vision around the world. “Cinema takes us to different worlds; cinema gives life, and it takes from life, and I hope for this festival to be an opportunity for sharing life’s experiences,” Abdel Dayem said.

This year, the festival was dedicated to celebrate Russian cinema. The first award was presented by actress Nelly Karim to Russian director Pavel Lungin, who has been nominated for 300 international awards of which he received 12, including a Cannes award in 1990. Lugin thanked the festival’s management for “the honor,” adding that Cairo deserves to be the capital of world cinema.

Actress Leila Elwi then presented the Faten Hamama Award to British film director and screenwriter Peter Greenway who talks about how he felt lucky to have made 60 films in 40 years, adding, however, that cinema changes with time and that we must keep looking forward to make cinema that keeps up with reality.

The American film Green Book was chosen to screen at the opening ceremony.

Currently competing for the 2019 Oscars, the film is directed by Peter Varley and stars Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. It is based on a true story set at the height of racial discrimination in the US in the 1960s where an Italian-born driver with racial tendencies takes a black-skinned pianist on a tour around the southern states where racism reached its highest levels. The film landed the Audience Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.

CIFF paid special attention to the sound and images of the presented films, purchasing new screens and screening films using 4k technology. It also showed for the very first time 14 or 15 international premieres. The Cairo Film Forum program was expanded to include a larger number of films; and two new awards were launched to give greater opportunities for more films to win.
12/7/2018 12:37:00 PM
<![CDATA[Life's a Circus]]>
Initially fascinated by the clowns’ world of comedy, acting, mystery and vulnerability, Ahmed focuses on the ability of these solitary figures, often marginalized or venerated by conventional society, to manipulate their audience.

In the circus of life, the performers are so fearless and confident, that audiences go from laughing their heads off to holding their breath in fear and suspense within just a matter of moments. And yet, “the circus is a group that symbolizes the psychological, social and cultural changes that affect society in both its local and Arabic dimensions,” states Dr Faten Wehd. Its effect on reality carries many meanings that capture cruelty and tenderness of reality, and more so, its irony.

As we witness the collapse of moral values, the proliferation of clowns across the board becomes flagrant and establishes new social values taking us further away from humanity. Ahmed cements those changes by portraying the ever-changing masks worn by individuals in our society, and offers a rich subject full of dynamism and drama, whose main aspect is constantly changing, just like life.

Through his intense study of human psychology and of light and colors, Ahmed inspires with a beautiful yet haunting mystery that translates into an underlying sense of human fragility. Just like the Alexandrian-born Wanly brothers, famed for their magical depictions of the world of circus and theater scenes during twentieth-century Egypt, Ahmed felt compelled to continue the conversation, choosing to bring the rise of the clown to the fore.

Born in Luxor, El Zaeem Ahmed graduated from the Faculty of Arts at South Valley University in his native city in 2001. His work is part of the collection of the Egyptian Ministry of Culture and the Museum of Modern Art in Cairo.
“It’s a Circus” will run until December 8 at Art Talks Gallery in Zamalek. For upcoming exhibitions, visit arttalks.com
12/5/2018 11:15:13 AM
<![CDATA[Rediscovering Alexandria’s Heritage Gardens]]>
Marking its ninth year, Alexandrian Heritage Days is an annual exhibition that celebrates the coastal city’s rich history and aims to help preserve Alexandria’s magical history though sadly threatened monuments and landmarks. The event is held under the umbrella of the Alexandrian Center of Studies (CeAlex) in collaboration with a number of NGOs and institutes, such as the Greek Culture Institute, the Applied Arts Museum in Alexandria, the French Institute in Alexandria, Jesuit Culture Centre and the Spanish and Lebanese Consulate.

“This year, CeAlex presents three exhibitions as part of Alexandria Heritage Days; Rediscovering Alexandrian Gardens, 15 years of Exploring Lake Mariut and Alexandria during the First World War,” explains Head of the Outreach Department of CeAlex Marwa Abdel Gawad. Tours and heritage walks have also been arranged around the city’s oldest avenues in El Manshiyya and El Attarin Districts, as well as a walk inside Alexandria Stadium where the Olympic Flag was first flown for the Pan-Egyptian games on April 5, 1914.

The first exhibition ‘Lake Mariut: 15 years of Exploration’ taking place at the French Institute premises (from November 17 until December 27) sheds light on the history of Lake Mariut and portrays a map of its environmental and economic value since the Pharaonic era until the 19th century, after the area was abandoned by farmers. Bedouin tribes began making it their home back in 1970.

The biggest celebration taking place this year is ‘Discovering Alexandrian Gardens’ which is portrayed in a number of exhibitions held around town. The Memory of Gardens takes us on a journey down memory lane, through pictures narrating the stories of gardens and how they remain fondly rooted in the memory of Alexandrians.

Quiet summer afternoons, lazy weekends, sunny winter days and the most splendid springs—back in the day when average Egyptian wore neatly tailored suits and elegant dresses, and when public parks, the smell of jasmine lingering in the air, were the favored outing for families, couples and children.

With a variety of activities taking place in parks such as dancing tango, the hula hoop and the foxtrot, parks actually boasted a special lavish atmosphere, being specifically designed for the luxury of enjoying Alexandria’s marvelous weather. As the years passed, public green spaces —eroding under the burdens of socioeconomic changes—began to be gradually neglected, however they still carry glimpses of yesterday’s charm.

The Memory of Gardens aims to document a significant part of Alexandria’s history in an effort to preserve it, not only in the memory of those who were lucky to be part of its glory days but also in the memory of generations who are yet to come. Also, putting a spotlight on long-forgotten parks around the city, the landmarks each reflect the impact of green spaces on residents of the Mediterranean coastal town.

Sultan Hussein Park (El Shalalat Gardens)

This set of small gardens, first known as the Municipal Gardens, was built around the remains of Alexandria’s ancient east walls located behind the Royal Hospital (now known as El Miri hospital) in El Shatbi. It was described by E.M. Forster as “small but remarkably beautiful, designed by French engineer ‘Monfront’ who has shown great genius in addressing and skillfully designing the area to become one of the most unique green spaces in El Shatbi District, cutting one of the paths of El Mahmoudia canal, later transformed into an artificial pond for ducks.”

The garden was once home to Alexandrian-Armenian politician Nubar Pacha’s bronze statue before it was moved to Sayed Darwish Theatre (Alexandria Opera House) located in Fouad Street where it sits today.

The gardens today are located on Sultan Hussein street, named after Sultan Hussein Kamel (1853-1917), Khedive Ismail’s son. Landmarks of El Shalalat include the remains of Alexandria’s Arabian Walls, which was designed as an outdoor wall and indoor hidden wall surrounding the city from the east harbor (El Mansheya Square today). Other landmarks include El Nabih Cistern; Forster explains the Cisterns of Alexandria were declared as state property by the end of the 19th century, in an effort to remove them from public control after the establishment of the modern water supply system.

A study conducted by the CeAlex entitled “Voice from Cosmopolitan Alexandria” notes, “The area of Ras El-Tin, Bahari, Sayala and Anfoushi was the seventeenth century Ottoman quarter where the Turkish and Egyptian population lived, and thus it was called the Turkish Town by the foreigners. But even here, signs of pluralism were visible. The most well-known mosque of the modern era, the Abou El-Abbass El-Morsi, was designed by the Italian architect Mario Rossi. As the city and its population grew, Alexandria expanded eastwards, into what was called the new European town.
Designed, built and inhabited by the foreign population, it was in the beginning distinct from the old indigenous town. The European town remained the commercial and financial heart of the city, but people were increasingly building garden villas and elitist mansions in Ramleh, the stretch of sand that extended to the east of Alexandria. In 1863, a railway line was laid for Ramleh, and was later converted into an electric tram.

The names of tram stations indicate the rich cultural variety of the expanding city: Chatby (a Maghrebian holy man), Ibrahimieh (the sultan Ibrahim), Camp Caesar, Cleopatra, Sidi Gaber (another holy man), Rushdy Pasha (an Egyptian minister), Bulkeley, Stanley, Fleming (wealthy English gentlemen), Laurens (French cigarette manufacturer), Zizinia (Greek cotton tycoon), Saba Pasha (Syrian postmaster of the Egyptian Post), Mazloum Pasha (Turkish minister), Gianaclis (Greek wine manufacturer); the list goes on.”

Muhammed Ali, French Gardens (Saad Zaghloul)

Located in the heart of downtown Alexandria, in Ramleh Station, the garden used to be around 10,000 square meters. It contains of the most historical landmarks of the city; the statue of Egyptian leader and activist Saad Zaghloul made by artist Mahmoud Mokhtar in 1937 under the supervision of El Nahas Pacha’s government and the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, officially opened in November 1935.

Majestic Hotel
As Forster described, “The hotel situated in the centre of town opposite the Jardin Francais, with a splendid view of the sea, in close proximity to the new quai, the Egyptian Post offices, the mixed courts, and the principle commercial establishment. Mr F.Rure, who managed the Grand Hotel Abat for over 25 years, has announced its arrival a year before its construction.”

The Menasce Synagogue

Baron Yacoub de Menasce was great philanthropist and the first of four Menasce men who headed Alexandria’s Jewish community. He founded an eponymous synagogue in 1871 before the British razed most of Muhammad Ali Square to the ground during the bombing of Alexandria in 1882. The synagogue was located on Midan Ismail El-Awal, hosting the French Gardens, later known as Orabi Pasha square and later as today’s Saad Zaghloul Square, between the Majestic Hotel and the Presbyterian Church. It miraculously escaped destruction in 1882. At the time, it served a growing community in the Manshiyya area where only the small Azouz and Zaradel synagogues were located.

The building still exists today, one of the only two synagogues left in Alexandria. It was entirely funded by Yacoub de Menasce. Forster narrates: “I must have walked dozens of times on Muhammad Ali Square before realizing that many of the sumptuous apartment buildings on the back, forming very rare rectangular courtyards, the Menasce family [had built], significantly contributing to the square’s elegance.” Today the Synagogue is closed and was in 2017 declared a national monument.

The Jardin Rosette

In May 1917, the French magazine La Construction Moderne dedicated an illustrated article to the creation of a restaurant-pub with a cinema and a skating rink located along the Rue Rosette, the main street of the European district of the city that joins the club along its path to Muhammad Ali Square, several consulates, the new Khedive Hotel, the Claridge’s Hotel and the Zizinia Theatre. The Quartier Grec and the Quartier Latin, both dotted with villas and gardens, face the Rue Rosette.

The Jardin Rosette covers an area of around 6,000 square meters at the foot of Kom El-Dikka, just opposite the Municipality and in front of the Greco-Roman Museum. The complex was built by Greek architect Nichols Paraskevas. The restaurant and the coffee brewery used to form a unique 95 meter street front, with large windows that could be dismantled in summertime to circulate the air. The internal front overlooked the garden promenade, which was used for outdoor cinema projections. On the other side of the garden, almost parallel to the building of the restaurant and the brewery, was a skating rink measuring 50 meters in length, which was transformed into a showroom and sometimes a ballroom for wedding parties, the organization of sports meetings and charity events. It was the perfect spot for all public and private parties at the time.

Forster further describes, “The street included a tobacco shop, a pastry shop and wooden frames made by the industrial building company of Egypt. Between 1914 and 1924, the Rue Rosette left the town through the municipal gardens (now El Shalalat) opened in 1906 on the area previously occupied by the walls of Alexandria, extending to the Abu Kir, a beautiful tree-lined street covered by Cocci antichi, used to give riding lessons and the rite of public strollings.”

Other gardens include The Martyrs (Hadikat Al Shohadaa) where Misr Railway station and the Roman Theatre are located. In addition other landmarks such as the popular Neroutsos Street, named after Dr. Tassos Neroutsos, the so-called father of Alexandrian archeology, was the first to record and publish all the existing monuments and inscriptions of Alexandria, presenting the first real monumental topography of the city.

Cavafy, a Greek poet who resided in Alexandria, was lucky enough to meet him personally at a young age, describing him as the “wizard of Alexandrian archaeology.”

He was also the first Alexandrian Scholar to have his works published in international journals. The Egyptian Olympic Club is also one of the landmarks of the garden, founded in 1905 by Mokhles El Bagoury under the name Red Star. The first headquarters of the club was a small apartment in the district of Moharam Bek, changing its name to the Olympic Club in Alexandria after the Paris Olympic games in 1924. It is said that the club had only one door overlooking Wabour El Maya Square (currently Ahmed Zewail Square).

Alex Water Company

In 1857, Egyptian President Mohamed Said Pasha granted French engineer Cordier the privilege of providing Alexandria with pure water, so he established the National Water Company of Alexandria, continuing its franchise until 1867. Until Khedive Ismail bought it and sold it to the government, the company was in charge of producing large pipelines from Wabour El Maya tanks in Kom El Dikka to the whole city.

El Shatby Stadium—Alexandria Stadium (El Etihad El Sakandary Club)
Under the leadership of Angelo Polanski during the era of Sultan Hussein Kamel, who has also served as the delegate of the international Olympic Committee since 1910, the stadium was used for practicing various kinds of sports and was marked by the celebration of the 20th anniversary of relaunching the Olympic idea. On April 5, 1924, the Olympic flag was raised for the first time in the world after the opening of Fouad I Stadium.
12/3/2018 1:29:52 PM
<![CDATA[Sheraton Montazah Hosts 34th Alexandria International Film Festival ]]>
After more than 10 years of absence, Sheraton Montazah management team and staff were delighted to host the 34th round of the festival, making everyone feel welcome with the hotel’s friendly and pleasant ambiance. “We are very pleased to host Alexandria Film Festival for Mediterranean Countries, for its 34 round among est other hotels in town after 10 years of absence. The festival in itself is a symbol of how Egyptians have been in love and interested in arts and culture since forever, along with the superb location overlooking the blue azure of the Mediterranean Sea and the hotel’s exquisite cuisine” said Heba Abou El Ella, Director of Public Relations & Marketing, Sheraton Montazah.

Organizing and managing the festival’s film screenings, meetings, reviews and talks, Sheraton Montazah made it easily accessible for guests, actors and journalists to freely move around the hotel, and for people to take picture with celebrities, providing both a neatly organized and a warm homey atmosphere.

“We are delighted to host this great international event for its 34 session amongst others hotels in town. It shows how far and well Egyptians are in love and interested in arts and culture that they’re raised up with since decades and we are totally ready this year to receive all festival guests and arbitrators with the friendliness, warm hospitality of hotel staff and the quality service offered in all operational areas” said Islam Mahrous, Sheraton Montazah Hotel Manager.

Held under the umbrella of the Egyptian Association for Film Writers and Critics and its director Al-Amir Abaza, the festival included 85 films which from 25 countries such as Morocco, Palestine, France, Switzerland, Greece, Albania, Slovenia and Croatia, which were played at the hotel’s screening halls named after renowned actress Nadia Lotfy and Farouk El-Fishawy who announced he is fighting cancer during the festival’s opening ceremony, stating “there is always hope at the end of the tunnel”.

The festival was held in collaboration with Bibliotheca Alexandrina where the opening and closing ceremonies took place, under supervision of the Minister of Culture Dr. Inas Abdel Dayem and the Governor of Alexandria, Dr. Abdel Aziz Konsowa. The closing ceremony held on October 8th at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina paid a tribute to late actor Nour El Sherif with the attendance of his wife renowned actress Poussy. The ceremony was presented by the Alexandrian Actress Wafaa Amer, other stars attending included Fifi Abdou who greeted the audience with her famous “5 kisses”, Mahmoud Hemeida, Lebleba, Layla Olwi and Syrian Actress Sabah Al Jazairi.

Winning Best Film in the festival’s official competition for long films of Mediterranean countries, The Syrian film Dimashq – Halab (Damascus-Aleppo) played by the 84 year old prominent comedian Duraid Lahham who has not appeared in movies since 2006, the film “sums up the Syrian society in which there is good and evil” as he stated in several interviews. Receiving the award himself and chanting for Syria and Egypt ‘Tahya Masr w Soreya’, Lahham expressed “it such an honor to be here today, part of this joyful festival, Egypt and Syria have always been one”.
11/29/2018 1:56:00 PM
<![CDATA[Going for Skinks in Siwa]]>
That substantive thing is going to Siwa, that oasis in the Western Desert that I have visited many times before and to which I very much look forward to returning. I will be going for the birds and the bees of course and a very special butterfly. I will also be going for skinks.

Skinks are lizards and lizards are reptiles and reptiles do not get good press. But please skink again. Skinks are actually rather beautiful. My first experience with a skink was in an apartment in Garden City where I was flat-sitting. This was 1990. There was a commotion between my then cat, unimaginatively named Oter and a small lump, and a moving, indeed writhing, small lump, beneath a rug. Once the rug was lifted it proved to be an Ocellated Skink, a rather stout, small-limbed lizard strikingly patterned with bold black-rimmed white eyes or ocelli on a beige background. Said skink was gently grabbed much to the chagrin of a very privileged, rescued baladi cat and removed into a neighboring garden. What struck me was not how beautiful the patterning was but just how smooth the lizard was. It was like clasping silk.

There is a reason for this. Many skink species live underground particularly in soft substrate such as sand. This extremely smooth skin allows them to literally swim through that loose sand. The Ocellated Skink is not one of those species but in evolutionary terms it is getting there. I have seen it alive and, in as much as its diminutive limbs can, kicking in Siwa and have a very flat and very deceased specimen from the old fort of Shali. I was presented this by a young lad who had heard that I was interested in wildlife and who wanted to know exactly what it was. It was so very, very flat and so obviously very deceased but I hope my narrative gave some life to it. But I will be looking for three other species of skink in my November visit two of which I have seen before but in Zaranik in North Sinai and one, the Golden Skink, which will be new for me.

The first of these species is called the Sandfish. It is not a fish, it is a skink and hence a lizard but it is aptly named. The Sandfish is robust, perhaps even chunky, with much reduced limbs and around 20cm long which includes a short tail. It is uniformly ochre-beige, paler below and with a series of grey bands across the back. It does literally swim through the sand, as if through sea, ambushing insect prey not from above but from below. Its activity can be traced as the burrows it creates just below the surface collapse as it worms its way through leaving a distinctive trail.

The Audouin’s Sand-skink that I have also seen in Zaranik takes this adaptation even further. It is similar in length to the Sandfish but is much more slender and the limbs are tiny; indeed the forelimbs are vestigial. It lacks the bands of the Sandfish and the ocellations of the Ocellated Skink but is patterned by a series of slender dark stripes along the back. It is often described as snake-like and superficially is but note the limbs, however small, and it blinks. Snakes do not have eyelids. Never try to outstare a snake.

But my skink bucket list (does anyone else, anywhere, ever have a skink bucket list?) for Siwa is topped by the Golden Skink. I’ve never seen it before in the wild and will be looking out for a lizard similar to the Sandfish but much more impressively patterned in bold orange and olive green reticulations and a bright yellow side stripe that becomes particularly bold at the base of the mouth. And it has relatively substantial legs. O for a Golden Skink! A golden fleece with scales.

So to the birds and bees—or rather butterflies. Birds should be aplenty. Although there are smaller bodies of water around Siwa that are fresh, the main lakes such as Birket Zaytun, Birket Siwa and Birket Maraqi are saline but attract a host of wintering wildfowl and waders and also Greater Flamingos. Incidentally wintering Greater Flamingos in Egypt are not particularly pink. Look out for incredibly long and slender necked birds with incredibly long and slender crimson legs. But the rest will be white or at best rose-tinged. When they take flight the black primaries contrast with the deep pink secondaries now exposed. The sharply downcurved bill distinguishes from all heron and egret species.

I have many memories of birds in Siwa. Flocks of Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters sweeping over the desert at dusk to the south of the oasis in spring 2014. Or my first ever Subalpine Warblers for Egypt at Birket Shiata in April 2012. The Subalpine should not be called sub-anything. The male is slaty grey above with a rich deep red throat and breast, pale belly and distinct white moustachial stripe. Sub? Ha! And I found my own Wood Warbler. I had seen Wood Warbler before in Egypt at Zaranik but that was found for me. I found this Wood Warbler—it was my Wood Warbler and that is always more rewarding.

Perhaps my favourite birds from Siwa came from way, way back in April 1993 on my very first visit to the oasis in a clapped out Fiat 131 that did actually get there and even more amazingly got back. I found my first ever Spotted Redshank in a small irrigation pool above which hawked Whiskered Terns in newly acquired breeding finery. Both would be heading north to breed in Europe. And I found a small flock of Garganey.

The Garganey is a species of wild duck that migrates through Egypt every spring and fall and I found this flock not far from Cleopatra’s Pool. I was familiar with Garganey flying in over the Mediterranean across Lake Bardawil each October but they were flying quickly and at a distance. In Siwa, almost in the shadow of the Temple of Amun I watched them at rest on the water. The male is a truly stunning bird with a gleaming white eye-stripe that extends down the back of the neck and, perhaps even more strikingly, pale, grey-blue flanks. How my heart stirred for a bird.

And finally to the butterfly and I’ll be making a beeline for the Grass Blue. The Grass Blue Zizina otis, unlike the male Garganey, is unlikely to turn heads. It has a wingspan of under 2cm and is at best a rather dull blue above in the male and duller still in the female. But what marks it out as extraordinary is its distribution. It is found throughout the Pacific Islands, across South Asia and west to Pakistan. And that is it. And then it reappears as an isolated population in Siwa 3000 kilometers from its nearest kin. The only Siwan records are from 1935 and were almost certainly introduced with imported crops. Even so it is going to be worth a stomp through the Siwan alfalfa fields to see if it can be rediscovered.
11/27/2018 2:17:57 PM
<![CDATA[Fantastic al-Fayoum]]>
Situated on a hill, the 1960s village, the vision and creation of two Egyptian poets, overlooks scenic vistas of Fayoum’s sandy hills and the calm salt waters of Lake Qarun; a stunning contrast of drought and bountifulness; a representation of Egypt’s heritage and landscape.

Taking in the scene, I close my eyes for a minute and go back in time to witness 12th dynasty pharaohs ruling the rural land. I snap back into reality and decide to take a walk across the village before the wedding ceremonies begin. I’m mesmerized by how raw, charming, and slow everything is. Tunis is the kind of place that demands you slow down. It gives you a chance to repaint who you are away from all life’s distractions. It’s the kind of place where you can slowly but surely connect with yourself.

I inhale the crisp, fresh air as I take in unspoiled views and exhale when I come across a beautiful mural of a country girl with dirty blonde pigtails and piercing eyes that tell a story. I dive into her eyes and ask her to show me around; through the eyes of a wandering child, through the eyes of a dreamer. “Badriyah,” the name I gave my mural girl, meaning “full moon,” takes me to my first destination: the pottery studios in the heart of Tunis. She introduces me to Ali, one of the villagers and pottery craft artists.

With his bronzed complexion, relaxed hazel eyes and pitch-black lashes, he looks in the distance as he recalls with a nostalgic smile, “I was one of the student children trained by Evelyne. We consider Evelyne our teacher, mother and the woman who gave life and meaning to our home.”

Evelyne Porret is a Swiss pottery maker who moved to Fayoum with her husband Michel Pastore in the 1980s, building a house and pottery studio. She managed to develop the craft in the entire village, making it a destination for artists, architects, writers and painters from Cairo and all over the world.

Ali offers me tea as he shows me around his studio and around the ovens where they give the pieces their signature glossy finish. I thank Ali and buy a few pieces from his studio and walk away with a feeling that Ali may not know that his pieces are one of a kind—pieces that people would pay thousands of dollars for, pieces that would be worth displaying in posh galleries around the world and appreciated for their time-honored craftsmanship.

I say my goodbye to Badriyah and thank her for this simple yet reflective piece of history then move on to explore my next stop: Lazib Inn. I’ve been hearing stories about this place with some referring to it as the “Adrere Amelale” of Fayoum. The stories are true.

Refurbished like a resort estate, Lazib, owned by Olivier and Nanette Masson, is designed with a bespoke ambiance that reflects comfort and charm, with shisha served in the pool, a full-serviced spa and restaurant that offers authentic Egyptian delicacies and cuisine. I decide to explore to its humble counterpart Kom El Deka, an agri-lodge and a 45-acre olive farm on the hills of Tunis where you can stay overnight and wake up to a delicious breakfast of Alexandrian ful and feteer freshly hand-prepared before you by resident villagers. I take a walk across its refreshing farm and marvel at its beauty. Reluctantly I set back—I have a wedding to attend.

Bringing life to untold stories and thoughts, Rana Kandil is a travel writer and founder of thatwanderwoman travel blog. Follow her on Instagram: @thatwanderwoman
11/26/2018 11:48:37 AM
<![CDATA[The Trailblazer]]>
As we got the chance to talk to the first female filmmaker in Saudi Arabia and one of the world’sacclaimed cinematic figures today, we have singled out one exact title that best describes this unique lady: “a dreams hunter”. Al-Mansour is an exemplar of a strong woman who dreamt big, believed in her dream, haunted it and opened a wide door for herself and many more to pursue a once far away fantasy. She is a pioneer who made the impossible possible, by becoming a renowned Saudi Arabian female filmmaker. She is also the first artist from the Arabian Gulf region to be invited to join the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science.

Al-Mansour studied comparative literature at the American University in Cairo and completed aMaster’s degree from the University of Sydney. The success of her 2005 documentary “Women Without Shadows” was a breakthrough that was followed by a new wave of Saudi filmmakers and front page headlines of Saudi Arabia finally opening cinemas in the kingdom.

“Wadjda,” Al-Mansour’s feature debut, is the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and the first by a female director. It received wide critical acclaim after its premiere at the 2012 Venice Film Festival.

The Saudi filmmaker latest film Nappily Ever After, starring Sanaa Lathan, has already become a popular hit. The film revolves around Violet Jones (Lathan) who has a seemingly perfect life—a high-powered job, a doctor boyfriend and a meticulously maintained, flawless coiffure. But after a life-changing event doesn’t go according to the plan, and a big incident at the hairdresser’s, her life begins to unravel. Eventually, Violet realizes that she was living the life she thought she was supposed to live, not the one she really wanted. Nappily Ever After stars Sanaa Lathan, who is also a producer, alongside Tracey Bing, Jared LeBoff and Marc Platt. Directed by Al-Mansour, and written by Adam Brooks and Cee Marcellus, the film also stars Ricky Whittle, Lyriq Bent, Ernie Hudson and Lynn Whitfield.

Al-Mansour’s Mary Shelley, starring Elle Fanning and Douglas Booth, is also set to screen later this year.


Tell us about Nappily Ever After. Why it was so important for you to create a film like this?
I fell in love with the story because it is essentially about a woman who is only just learning how to really appreciate her self-worth, and on that level it is a journey that is important and relevant for everyone, male or female. Often, we only we see ourselves through others and not through how we really think and feel ourselves, and I believe it is very important to change that perception.

How do you assess your first cooperation with Netflix in Nappily Ever After?
It’s very empowering for me as a director to work on these kinds of projects Netflix are taking which are not only clever but also important, like Nappily Ever After has such a strong female empowerment story that’s wonderful and it wouldn’t have been made without Netflix.

What did you present in Nappily Ever After that wasn’t in you previous movies?
I think it’s the common factor of the strong female character. Female characters who don’t see themselves as victims and basically with Nappily Ever After I fell in love with the storyline. It’s just like a woman who is on a self-discovery journey and self-acceptance, and its hard on me as I am always told you have to set a perfect image and you always have to go through a lot for things to be perfect and it’s a very difficult journey. I was moved by her journey and thought it’s a story that deserve to be told.

Tell us more about what happened behind the scenes of Nappily Ever After and how you chose the movie cast?
I really enjoyed behind the scenes. We filmed inside Georgia and it was my first film in the US because I film overseas, mostly in Europe like in Dublin and Luxembourg. So it was fabulous, it was winter in Georgia and Nappily Ever After was supposed to be in warm weather. But Georgia has such an amazing people and it’s a very pleasant place to work in so I really enjoyed it. Choosing the cast was a journey of finding the right actors, and we used a leading casting agency in Hollywood to help us with choosing the right cast. I was really grateful and the actors we chose were amazing, it was great to work with them.

It is obvious from the trailer of Nappily Ever After that the heroine is an African American girl who is struggling with her identity, how such a serious issue was presented in a comic way? In other words was it difficult for you to direct a movie with such a contrast?
Not at all, i think it’s brilliant and very important to package sensitive issues in such genre, and I think it’s a trick that is sometimes very difficult to do. I think humor can tell so many things, especially when tackling touching subjects, humor make it easier for people to put through and people don’t want to go to movies and get lectured on what’s right and what’s wrong and for me I think it’s good to keep films entertaining and fun to watch. At the end what’s very important is to bring something into the table, that isn’t only creating dialogue and challenging perceptions but also entertaining at the end of the day.

How did you manage to overcome the cultural Saudi barriers and become the first Saudi female director?
I don’t know how, I really don’t. Initially, i started making documentaries and short films and for me it was like a hobby and a place to exist as a woman because sometimes in our society women are very invisible and I think that was the kind of satisfaction that kept me going and making films, not that I wanted to be the first female filmmaker and I wasn’t even aware of that when i started, It’s the desire to exist through film that allowed me to continue making films and still until today that’s what makes me want to make film, I just enjoy being on set and telling a story. We come from a very difficult culture, if you want to overcome it, it’s very important not to focus on how to overcome it as much as how to be happy and that’s what makes us who we are and what enables us at the end to overcome some of the barriers.

You are the first artist from the Arabian Gulf region to be invited to join the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science, How do you evaluate such selection? What will be your exact role in the academy?
I was really proud to be a member in the academy and I hope to vote for more Arab films and put more light on Arab filmmakers and i think it’s important to be part and have representation in such an important establishment and I always feel it’s important to represent the women from the Middle East and give voice that we exist and we matter and its very important that people hear us.

How do you evaluate the cultural openness project adopted by Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, especially in the field of art, theatre and cinema?
I think it’s marvelous, we have a striving economy in Saudi and that striving economy need to be met with a striving culture, and culture can’t survive without art, and art is the heart of every nation and it’s important to invest in cinemas, theatres and also the infrastructure and pay respect for the artists. A lot of people don’t want to be artists in the Middle East because artists are not respected. Many parents don’t want to let their children to become artists. I think it’s very important to make people respect artists and give art its respect in the society. I think it’s an amazing journey that Saudi is going through and it will definitely make Saudi even better.

How do you balance between the multiple roles you play in your life as a director, mother, wife, daughter and even a friend? Which role takes priority?
I think mother for sure, being a mother and a filmmaker is very difficult and very challenging, my family lives in LA so sometimes we have to travel like now I am going to Saudi for my new film and the separation from the kids gives me anxiety because sometimes I am so far away and i don’t want to make it sound easy for women because it’s not going to be easy and that’s the challenge that we always have to go through as women, juggling family and work but it’s also part of life and we have to accept it and I try my best to be with my family, just to be with the kids and volunteer in their school and merge into their life and make the best out of the time that i spend with them and I try to bring them on set when they travel, so it’s difficult but it’s the price of the job and I salute every working mother.

What’s next for you? What’s next in the pipeline?
I’m going back to Saudi Arabia to shoot another film The Perfect Candidate, which is about a female doctor, so I’m preparing for that and I am of course excited to be going back to Saudi.
11/24/2018 2:03:38 PM
<![CDATA[A Celebration of Movement and Dance]]>
In this showing we see her characteristic realism in abundance yet again, this time exploring a theme that is also a new domain for her artistically, that of the colorful world of festivals, carnivals and circuses.

Bakhoum is renowned above all as an expert colorist, with the talent for combining diverse hues and working her palette in ways that few other artists can master. In this collection she shows a welcome versatility and has reduced the portions of her pieces, whilst utilizing an even more eclectic mix of contrasting tones of paint, which she blends together with magnificent taste. There are dreamy landscape vistas, and intriguingly dressed characters set amidst detailed stylized bordering and backgrounds full of decorative patterns, adding an unmistakable new dimension to her work.

This is a special facet of this collection, framing the artwork within the canvas itself in complementary and thematic elements. Some of these offer the sensation as though she is brushing off the dust collected by time and unveiling the picturesque vision of a long lost memory to us.

This collection showcases a celebration of movement and dance, highlighting the beauty of performance art in a sensitive and experimental way. Bakhoum directs our attention with intuitive and detailed brushstrokes to the flowing garments and costumes of her subjects. There is a concerted effort to depict stage-wear in all its grandiosity, typically one of the striking aspects of Bakhoum’s art, and this collection is no exception.

We often see billowing dresses with ornate embellishments, dancers and performers resplendent in clothing that seamlessly blends with the patterns and aesthetics of their backgrounds, created through a special canvas treatment using layering and mixed media. Overall, this is another stunning effort from Bakhoum, one that tackles the amusing world of performance art in her characteristic style, this time with new key facets.
11/22/2018 10:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Practice Makes Perfect— And So Can Disappointment]]>
Most of these people actually wanted to learn French but ended up hating it due to a bad experience. Indeed, it is in the teachers’ hands to make the course interesting or not, to make it easy or not; however, there is more in your hands than in theirs. Let me share with you my personal experience with a teacher that could have made me hate one of my favorite subjects.

Ever since I was a little kid, I always wanted to be a physician. I would play doctor and patient with my siblings and I would even steal my mother’s stethoscope. Until my senior year in high school, I aced all biology classes. Until grade 12. My grades wouldn’t exceed 7 out of 20. I would study harder and harder, but still, I would get similar grades.

I didn’t know what was wrong and it was driving me crazy. And when I asked my teacher, she told me that I was lacking knowledge and that she was actually being generous with me, and that most of the time I deserved a lower grade! I was shocked and started losing hope, but I kept going. I kept studying even if I always ended up disappointed by the grade.

Until, surprisingly, on the day of the French baccalaureate results, I was checking my grades—knowing that exams are anonymously corrected, and by teachers from other schools—and I got 19 out of 20. Highest grade in biology! I knew I deserved it; I worked hard for this and I knew my persistence wouldn’t be in vain.

Moral of the story? Do not give up. Do not let anyone bring you down. Not your teacher, not your friends, not even your family. Fight for what you want and work hard to earn it. Because the road to success is bumpy and full of obstacles.

Orcas is a mobile application that connects parents with over 700 trusted, trained and experienced tutors, language instructors and babysitters, in their area operating in Cairo, Alexandria and El Gouna. You can find tutors for all school subjects and school systems from KG to Grade 12, view their profiles and see the ratings and reviews given to them by other parents. Follow Orcas at facebook.com/CairoSitters/and @orcasapp
11/20/2018 1:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Lost In Time]]>
“Lost in Time” is the title of their collaborative project, which manages to perfectly channel the era through Le Mosen’s nostalgic mood photography. “We can’t step into a time machine,” Darnell once said, “but we can put on clothes from the 20s, the 30s, the 40s and experience at least a bit of what it was like to live in that era.”

While Darnell lived out her passion for the era through fashion, Othman found his through photography. “I’m horrible with words—that’s why I take photographs,” says Othman, who explains he was inspired by the “beauty of this era when everything was simple and elegant, a time when Egypt was known for its trademark fashion sense and appreciation of art and Vogue magazine fashion shoots. Once I saw Colleen’s style and her attitude I contacted her. I had to give it a try and when she wrote back and said she was very excited about the project I dropped everything, even canceling a trip to Aswan for the shoot because I felt was going to be a game changer for me.”

Othman’s images are captivating and full of stories waiting to be told. From the flowing of her dress lifted by the breeze to the sunlight playing off Darnell’s skin, the photographer manages a perfect balance between the awe-inspiring pyramids in the background captured from the Marriott Mena House and the subject herself: a woman who has traveled through time and refuses to give in to norms.


The end result is somewhat reminiscent of Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris where a man who is out of place in his life takes a risk one night while on vacation with his fiance in Paris and hops into a car with total strangers. The passengers end up at a party with Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, characters iconic of the roaring 1920s. To the viewer this is what the shoot feels evokes, a time machine going back to what were troubled times equally full of art, love, fashion and music.

Darnell’s love for vintage fashion and the 20s began when she realized how liberating the era was for women. As the First World War raged across Europe, women found themselves filling the roles of men. They began working, playing sports, taking part in excavations and finally they were given their right to vote. Jazz music came out of the shadows of New Orleans and started to become popular all around the world, and Hollywood’s influence on the public was at its starting point. The Prohibition had forced communities into underground clubs as nightlife and crime were embraced by all classes. Everyone was dancing the Charleston, while the prevailing flapper lifestyle became the new cool with its own slang.

With all of these changes women were also beginning to find freedom through fashion. Skirt lengths went up from ankle to mid-calf, eventually making it all the way up to the knee. The start of the Art Deco era could be felt in the changes of the fashion silhouettes, leaving behind the Victorian-era corsets and crinolines which had been en vogue for over six decades years. Art Deco went on to inspire everything from art, architecture, furniture and typography seen on the covers of magazines like Vogue and in fashion the movement gave rise to the birth of Chanel.

The roaring 20s dropped the waistlines in dresses, and championed the two piece with a cardigan belted around the waist. Beads and fringes decorated gowns, cut from satin, velvet, chiffon, fur, lace or comfortable jersey. Pleated skirts wears matched with Mary Jane heels or T-straps. Winter coats tended to have large buttons and the inside fabric would match the dress.


Bobbed hair, pencil-thin eyebrows and kohl-lined eyes framed features, while the Cupid’s bow was always the highlight of the lips. Headwear was also very popular with the Cloche hats, which would be decorated with feathers and jewels.

To Darnell the 20s were all about being chic and luxurious. In this exclusive interview she talks more about her love for the era, her work as an architect and the “Lost in Time” collaboration.

What made you want to become an Egyptologist?

I have wanted to be an Egyptologist ever since I was a child. One part of ancient Egypt that especially fascinated me as a child was hieroglyphs, and the ability to translate ancient Egyptian is one of my favorite aspects of being an Egyptologist. Ever since I first traveled to Egypt in 1998, I have loved both ancient and modern Egypt, especially working alongside my Egyptian colleagues.

Where did your love for 1920s fashion begin?

My husband, John, and I have always enjoyed historical fashion, and I enjoy the aesthetic of the 1920s and 1930s in particular.

Why did you begin dressing up on excavations and what were the reactions from people working onsite?

Onsite during an excavation, I wear practical and more recent vintage, such as 1970s and 1980s khaki skirts, sometimes paired with a 40s or 50s jacket. For visits to tombs and temples, I often wear flapper dresses or jodhpur pants with boots. I hope that by combining Egyptology and vintage fashion—from a time when Egyptology and Egyptian designs, both ancient and modern, were popular throughout the world—I can encourage more people to be interested in all things Egyptian, and to travel to Egypt. By wearing the clothing of the early modern period, and attempting to understand how it feels to wear and work in the clothes of 100 or so years ago, I also gain some feeling for understanding the different clothing and the lives of the ancient Egyptians.

You’re a vintage fashion collector, how did that begin and where do you find such beautiful pieces?

John and I both collect vintage fashion, and we have fun shopping together, both online and in vintage stores around the world. Our collecting began several years ago, and we have gotten to know some great vintage sellers, so forming connections like that really helps find the best pieces. Vintage fashion shows and vintage fashion stores—both physical storefronts and online shops—are now more easily located thanks to the internet, and some specialize in particular periods and types of clothing.

What is your absolute favorite piece in Egypt?

We love so many places in Egypt, for so many different reasons, that this is a difficult choice. I suppose I would have to say that my favorite monument in Egypt is the tomb of Seti I—the carvings and surviving painted details are exquisite, and since John and I recently finished a complete translation of the Netherworld Books, I love going into the tomb and knowing how all of the texts and scenes fit together. The site of Bir Umm Tineidba, with its early rock inscriptions, Protodynastic burials, and Late Roman settlement, is a special place as well, with so much undiscovered material all together on an ancient road, and it is a site that John and I discovered together recently.

What is your opinion of the local fashion scene, what do you want to see more from Egyptian designers?

I am impressed by the work that Egyptian designers are doing, not only in fashion, but also jewelry. Some vintage-inspired collections—creating new twists on Egyptian revival fashion or expeditionary wear—would be really interesting. Egypt has so many great periods of history with so many traditions of fashion from which to take inspiration that Egyptian designers could easily present important new fusions of earlier and more recent styles for many years to come.

Tell us about your collaboration with Le Mosen.

Le Mosen reached out to me via Instagram, and we were able to plan a shoot at the Marriott Mena House Hotel in May. When I looked at Le Mosen’s amazing fashion portraits on Instagram, I assumed he was a photographer who had been in the profession for a while. I was surprised that he is so young—he already has the talents of a well-established photographer. Le Mosen was incredible with the art direction during the shoot, and he was great at communicating what he needed for the perfect shot.

How do you feel about the outcome?

I was blown away by how incredible the final photos looked. The composition of each image is stunning—in a way that evokes the past, both for ancient Egypt and vintage fashion—and I am so honored to be able to collaborate with Le Mosen.
11/19/2018 1:26:22 PM
<![CDATA[Inspiring Success]]>
Osman—whose biggest goal “is to inspire young athletes to pursue sports and swimming specifically, because the more people start swimming and achieve great accomplishments, the more people around the world will start being more aware of swimming as a sport in general”—is confident that partnering with Hyde Park Developments will allow her to inspire young athletes, and help and support them throughout their journey.

How important is this collaboration to you and how can an established company like Hyde Park Developments help you achieve your goals?

My biggest goal as I said is to inspire young athletes to follow in my footsteps, to follow my journey as an achievable model. Having Hyde Park Developments with me would definitely make that easier and show the world how companies can be very supportive of sports and swimming so we go hand in hand in terms of goals and aspirations. They are very supportive of me not only as an athlete but also as a person. I’ve had a very difficult journey to achieve my success, and having Hyde Park Developments by my side now is helping me achieve more and makes it all worth it. Hopefully, Hyde Park Developments and I can inspire others to go through that journey even if it has difficulties, even if it has ups and downs, because at the end the success is all worth it.

Whose idea was it to create the Farida Osman brand? How do you position your brand and how do you feel the logo represents you?

I think it was a mutual agreement between me and Hyde Park Developments to have my own brand, because it is very important for people to relate and be represented by that brand, so hopefully the Farida Osman brand would be a good role model and good example for others to relate to and be represented by.

I want my brand to represent me as a person, just being a well-rounded person: having a good educational background, being able to excel in sports, and being able to balance my career and social life.Balancing is the key. I just want my brand to be able to represent that balance. So hopefully my brand would be this kind of ‘overall package.’

The logo, also, does not only represent me as an athlete and a swimmer, but also stands for my personality in the sense of it being flowy but also bold, courageous and up to the challenge. I chose a logo with ‘freestyle’ rather than ‘butterfly’ because freestyle is inclusive to all strokes. It’s the stroke that everyone learns first and it’s the easiest to do. I also wanted it to be inclusive of both men and women, so it can be relatable to both. The combination of all these elements in the logo really is a true reflection of my personality.


Sports sponsorship and sports marketing have become high-impact areas in business success. How do you see this partnership between FO and HPD benefit both entities?

I think this partnership between FO and Hyde Park Developments will benefit both of us.

It will support me and help me to achieve my goals faster, so having a supportive company like Hyde Park Developments would definitely boost my motivation and my drive to achieve my dream. It will add to me personally because more people would want to follow my footsteps and hopefully get inspired, so when you talk to young athletes or kids in general I think when you ask them ‘What you want to be when you grow up?’ and they say my name, that’s definitely an honor and I’m proud of it because that means they want to follow my footsteps and I am a good role model for them. Of course that’s something very important to me because at the end of the day that’s my biggest goal. I want to help and support children to achieve whatever they want to achieve and hopefully I can be a good role model for them.

I think it will help Hyde Park Developments too because it shows that Hyde Park is very supportive of local talents and how willing it is to give the attention and the recognition that athletes deserve. When we go hand in hand together, I think it would really send a good message.

Female-oriented sportswear brands are not available in our market. Do you see FO brand becoming a sportswear brand in the future?

I definitely see FO being a sportswear brand. I think I’m going to want to start with swimming because I am a swimmer first, but definitely in the future I want it to become more of a sportswear brand in general because I want to inspire, help and support any sport, not just swimming. Having fashionable, comfortable and stylish sportswear that has FO on it is definitely one of my biggest goals. Hopefully FO sportswear can allow our athletes to be confident and believe in themselves to achieve accomplishments.

In what ways do you think this exclusive sponsorship can impact your career?

I think the sponsorship can impact my career because it’s not only supporting me financially and helping me get all the resources that I need to become more successful, it will give me more confidence that there are people out there that care about me and care about my achievements. Knowing that I constantly have the support, care and attention of a company will boost my motivation and confidence to achieve more great things.

I think moving forward, the fact that we’re going to have an academy together is definitely something very important because through this partnership we would help others the way Hyde Park Developments helped me achieve my goals. Through this academy I want to be able to give children or anyone who’s interested in swimming the attention, care and support they need to inspire, help, encourage and motivate them to achieve their goals as well.

Hand in hand with Hyde Park, how will you work toward empowering girls and offering continued support?

As I said I want to be a good role model for all girls and boys, and hopefully through FO Swimming Academy we will achieve that goal. We want to be able to give girls the confidence and the motivation to empower them to become great athletes and great swimmers. I think through the academy and having my name and my brand and just my journey be a good example and good resource for them can empower and inspire them. I will give them the continuous support that they need.

The field of sports management, especially in Egypt, has traditionally been a men’s domain. How difficult is it to make a name for yourself in this sector? What obstacles have you faced so far and how are you planning to address challenges?

I think it is very hard to make a name for yourself in a male-dominant country because women in general are not really known for being good in sports. The fact that I and also other female athletes are excelling in sports is something we should be proud of and something that will change the concept of the stereotype that women cannot excel in sports. The more we have female athletes, the more we can raise that awareness, that we are capable of excelling in sports in Egypt and abroad at the same time.

We face obstacles such as people commenting on what we wear or what sports we play instead of just focusing on our achievement, I think that’s the biggest thing female athletes, not only in Egypt but also across the world, usually face but definitely more in Egypt. I think another obstacle that we face is the fact that we need to work twice as hard to prove ourselves every day.

I am confident in my performance and how I act and my achievements will speak for themselves and they will help break that stereotype that women cannot excel in sports. We need to just focus on the sport rather than the noise around us.

Your academic background will be essential in the way the brand is marketed and utilized. How do you see it being branded, both locally and on an international scale?

I think having an academic background is definitely important especially on the global aspect of it, internationally, the fact that I graduated from UC, Berkeley really shows that I am taking academics very seriously as well, not only swimming. UC Berkeley is the no. 1 public university in the world, so having that in my academic background is definitely a bonus, and adding that to my brand shows that I am an overall achiever. Locally and internationally I can be an example of how Arab girls are capable of being all these things—a good swimmer, good student with great academic background, good person—not just focusing on one area or one sector.

With limited funding and facilities, the government is finding it hard to support outstanding athletes. How much of a role should the private sector be playing to balance this out and boost careers of athletes and sportsmen and women?

I think it is very important. The more companies are able to support, sponsor, motivate and encourage athletes is very important, because we reach a limit or potential to our career and sometimes we need these resources and extra support that would take us to the next level. We need a lot of companies to really support athletes and encourage them to reach the next level because it’s the little details and the smallest things have the biggest effect on our career.

Abroad, private entities and individuals often act as patrons of sports as well as arts, because they have a strong belief that they have the power to change lives. Do you think this mindset is coming to Egypt? How can it be encouraged?

I definitely think that this mindset is coming to Egypt more and more, especially recently because now we have a lot of athletes that have become like sort of influencers, become inspirational, they share stories, people follow them on social media, people follow their achievements and whatever they set their mind into. Sometimes they even give talks to motivate and inspire others, so I think now more and more athletes are using their voice and their platform to help and inspire others to pursue the path they want, and especially in sports. Sport not only gives you medals and achievements, but it gives you a lot more such as a healthy lifestyle and time management skills. You get to know your weaknesses, your strength, how you perform under pressure.


Sports and arts celebrities often give back to communities by raising both funds and awareness of adopted issues. What social causes have you been supporting and how do you feel a sports champion like yourself can change people’s lives?

Social causes related to women or female empowerment are causes I really support and I would do anything to help women reach their potential; so culturally, academically . . . just raising awareness even I feel is very important for the betterment of women in Egypt. Hopefully a lot of athletes will take part in social causes because it will help people in their lives and help encourage and motivate them to follow their dreams and reach their full potential. The more athletes take part, the more we have social awareness and can hopefully change people’s lives.

Taking Mohamed Salah as an example, do you feel sports celebrities can also break stereotypes around the world?

Definitely speaking for myself and other athletes, I feel like the more we compete at the international stage and level, the more people around the world from different countries will start noticing that Egypt has very good athletes. Middle Eastern women are not known for excelling in sports so I think when a lot of female athletes or just Egyptian athletes in general compete more at the international level we raise more awareness that Egypt is capable of having international athletes who compete at the Olympics and at World Cups, whatever the highest stage of competition is in your sport. So by that we would be an example and good role models to break that stereotype that we cannot excel in sports, especially in the Middle East.

Where do you see the Farida Osman brand in the near future and in the long term, 10 years from now?

The FO brand in the near future hopefully will be one of the strongest brands not only in Egypt but in the world. The academy and just being able to use my platform and my name will help me support other people to pursue sports and reach their full potential. In 10 years from now I want to be able to say that the FO brand helped people’s lives, helped people reach their full potential, not only as a swimmer or an athlete but also as a person, as a well-rounded person. I hope I can inspire others to become just as successful as I am. ]]>
11/14/2018 3:47:30 PM
<![CDATA[The Raw, Humble & Controversial..Fishawy Junior]]>
Born in 1980 to actors Farouk AlFishawy and Somaya El Alfy, he has been in the spotlight since he was a child; so much so, that he more often than not just forgets them altogether and does solely what he feels is true to who he is. His first professional role was in 2000 with the one and only Faten Hamama in her last soap opera Wagh El Kamar (The Face of the Moon), playing the part of her son and garnering attention to the young talent. His first leading role came in Afareet El Sayala (El Sayala’s Ghosts) TV series in 2004, and then on the big screen, playing the lead role in El Hassa El Sab’aa (The Seventh Sense) in 2005.

From then on, Fishawy proceeded to present one successful, and unconventional, movie after the other, including Wara’et Shafra (Coded Paper), Zay El Naharda (Like Today), Sa’a w Nos (One and a Half Hours), Wahed Sefr (One to Zero), and Telk Al Ayam (These Days). His movies discuss various issues, from sexual harassment in the eye-opening 678, to gender roles in Hatouly Ragel (Get Me a Man). One of his most impressive performances, and a turning point in his career, came in his role in the movie Welad Rizk (Rizk Sons). His latest movies include Sukar Mor (Bitter Sugar), El Erd Beyetkalem (The Monkey Talks), Youm Lel Setat (A Day for Women), and his latest, and one of the most brilliant works presented lately, Sheikh Jackson.

In an exclusive seminar with Egypt Today staff, the young actor, who has a daughter from a pervious marriage, and just celebrated his marriage to his current wife this summer, opens up about his personal and professional life.

seminar 1

Tell us about your latest movie Gunshot

Gunshot is a suspense thriller that I expect will achieve success. I play the role of a physician in the movie, which is a role I never played before. I prefer to leave [other details] as a surprise for the audience, but I promise them an amusing movie; the makers exerted a great effort in it. Gunshot was premiered at the second edition of El Gouna Film Festival, it was out of the official competition.

seminar 2

In general, what do you like and dislike about your character?

That’s a crazy and unexpected question! Well, I don’t usually talk about myself a lot, but maybe the things I like about myself are that first, I love my job and I give it 100 percent of my effort. I give all I can give in my profession, I always try to be the best at it. I had a few negative points; I was a very careless kid, but I am not a kid anymore, and I am not getting any younger, I am 37. I was also not on time most of the time. But I changed. You see, I came to the seminar just in time!

seminar 3

Do you believe that transparency, or in other words being frank, is key for an actor to build an intimate relationship with his audience, or it is a double-edged sword?

It’s like what you said, it’s a double-edged sword. But at the end of the day, I say what is in my heart and what I am convinced of, not what everybody wants to hear. So maybe some people get shocked by the things I say or how I think, but the fact is that I really care about my beliefs and my thoughts. And at the same time I think my audience who really love me, love this the most about me; they say ‘we like Ahmed because Ahmed is frank, Ahmed will answer honestly, whatever the question is.’

Are you paying an expensive bill for being frank?

Actually, I don’t mind and I don’t care because, like I told you, I care for my fans and my fans take me as I am. I believe in the proverb that says ‘let the haters hate.’ Some haters actually motivate me to do things that are better and more shocking, and [present] different ideas, especially in my films.

Your movie El Erd Beytkalem (The Monkey Talks) achieved unexpectedly high revenues, even higher than other box-office movies showing at the time, like Mohamed Ramadan’s movie. From your point of view, what are the factors that affect the audience’s taste?

I think Egyptian audiences are hungry for more, they are hungry for different types of movies because the movies that used to succeed in the past 20 years are either comic or action movies. There were no films with historical stories, or with love stories like Hepta, which achieved huge success.

A suspense movie like Gunshot is going to be something extremely different, and that’s what people wait for. Egyptian cinemagoers now wait for different types of films; like horror, comedy, action, suspense, historical, romantic movies …they are waiting to see more. I think this is what makes me happy as a filmmaker, because now Egyptian audiences want to see any kind or any genre. They are willing to go and watch any good movie, not only comedy and action. As a filmmaker I don’t search for difference, I make this difference.

seminar 4

In just in one sentence; what is your philosophy in life?

I don’t have a philosophy in life; I am not a philosopher. I wish I was, I would have been smarter then. I believe that every one of us should always try his best to be humble and learn more and learn from our mistakes to do better deeds in the future.

What does working out change in your character?

You know I had never played any kind of sports in my life since I was a kid. So I started working out after 35 years, and it changed my life because it lets out the bad energy and anger, and I sometimes have a lot of that.

seminar 5

What do women represent in your life?

A lot of people say women represent half the world, but I think like a rapper once said, women make men, so I think women are not just half the world, they are the whole world.

Which role do you consider a milestone in your career?

I consider Sheikh Jackson a big milestone in my career, I didn’t know another one will come right after it, which is Gunshot. It is coming out at the same time that Sheikh Jackson was released last year, so I am very excited about that.

You are an untraditional father, tell us more about your relationship with your daughter Lina?

We are more of friends now. I am married to Nada Elkamel AlFishawy, and she has two daughters, so now I have three daughters; Lina, Lilian and Mariam. They are all girls, I love girls! Fatherhood is a great thing for me.
Ordering kids to do something by force will not get you anywhere because kids need to experience. They need to grow up and have their own experiences, not their parents’ experiences.

What has fatherhood changed in your character?

I see Lina grow up and I say I am not getting any younger either, so it made me more relaxed and calmer than I used to be.

I will tell you some names and you tell me what they represent to you:

Farouk AlFishawy: He is the kindest man I met in my life, I can tell you that
Somaya el Alfy: She is a great mother and she is a great friend too.
Nada Elkamel: She is everything to me.
Lina, Mariam and Lilian: They are what makes me really happy in life, when I see them grow and when I see them happy.

What does Egyptian cinema need to compete internationally?

I think Egyptian cinema is now doing what it really needs to do; which is always [presenting] fresh ideas, young writers, directors, actors and producers. Now we have a lot of new films coming out by young filmmakers, and this is exactly what we need to compete globally, and it is happening right now.

Did you perform in plays before?

I performed in few plays produced by the Egyptian National Theatre such as King Lear, The King is the King, The Barber of Baghdad. I really enjoyed them. I love being on the stage.

What does rapping represent to you?

Rap before was all about sex, money and drugs; but now it is different. Rap is now about expressing the streets, expressing what people really feel.

Which of your rap songs is your favourite?

My favourite is Ekramy.

Who is your favourite international actor?

Johnny Deep

Who is your favourite Egyptian actor?

Asser Yassin

Who is your favourite female actress?

I like many, this is a really hard question, but I can say Ruby.

Which director would you like to work with?

On the international level, Tim Burton, but on the local one, I wish to work with Karim el Shenawy, Gunshot’s director, one more time because it was a great experience. I think he is going to be one of the best and most significant directors, maybe in the world, not just in Egypt.

Did the rapid changes that occur in Egypt over the past few years on the political and economic level affect you as a filmmaker ?

People started to say what they really feel and try to express themselves more, I think Egyptians realised that we need to make the change and not just sit there and ask for someone to make the change for us.

Would you have been an actor if you were not the son of Farouk AlFishawy and Somaya el Alfy?

I don’t think so, I would have done anything else probably.

10/27/2018 10:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Urban Business Etiquette: The New Rules ]]>
Business etiquette is more than just saying please. It’s a way of presenting yourself in business and social situations to ensure you are taken seriously.

So here are the five urban etiquette rules walk that very fine line and stand out from the crowd.

1. Workplace attire: What is the best dress code for an interview?
The way you dress gives a huge impact on where you land in terms of your career and plays a crucial part in the way you are perceived by others professionally.

The appropriate attire is always dictated by the culture of the organization that employs us. Whether in a buttoned-up suit, a uniform, or a hoodie, we dress to meet expectations, not to defy them. Subsequently, the first step is asking yourself how you know about the company that just contacted you to schedule and interview. Do your research.

I’d recommend choosing between “Strictly Business” dress code, or “Cocktail Dress code,” depending on the organization’s culture.

Avoid going for a solid-black outfit. You can never go wrong with the black suit, but black can be seen as unapproachable and give an impact that you’re wearing a uniform. Also, do not try to match different black fabrics to ‘make’ a suit.

2. Handshakes: Should you wait for the lady to initiate the greeting?
In business situations, gender is irrelevant, so don’t wait for the lady to extend her hand first. In a business setting, the person in a higher rank should be the one to extend a hand first. But if you make a mistake and initiate it, don’t withdraw your hand because then you would be rude. Always follow through with a handshake. Smile and continue with the introductions. Don’t apologize.

3. Email Courtesies: The battle between the “Dear” and the “Hi”
Sending an email, especially a work one, can be a real challenge. You want to sound kind, yet professional, formal, yet not aggressive. So how do you set the tone? It is a reflection of your manners and social etiquette. The best way to start your email without wasting time stressing over your greeting is “Hi.” It is simple, safe, and yet professional. If you want to sound more formal, simply follow it with a Mr. or Mrs. Starting your email with “Dear” shows endearment.

4. Business card etiquette:
Your business card is the first item someone receives from you, and so it is your first chance to make an impression on that person. It typically reflects on you, and your business. Avoid appearing to rush business by offering your business card too soon, and instead wait to be asked for yours. If that isn’t happening, ask the other person for a card. Reciprocity generally follows.

5. Meetings:
Running all the day from one meeting to another can take its toll on your awareness, affecting your ability to keep up with manners and social etiquette. But by following these simple hacks, you will master it:
•Confirm your attendance
•Have a calendar
•Prepare ahead, with all necessary materials and date
•Arrive 15 minutes earlier than you should
•Be ready with your agenda, keeping a logical sequence and realistic times
•And yes, you can sip tea and coffee during the meeting

You can contact Urban Ettiquet at +201111126599


Facebook: @EtiquetteByDina

10/21/2018 7:22:00 AM
<![CDATA[Beats on the Nile: Exclusive interview with Swizz Beatz]]>
And we caught up with the iconic producer in an exclusive interview to find out about his time in Egypt, his future artistic endeavors, and just what his favorite Egyptian dish is.
“There’s so much history and rich culture in Egypt. We really felt at home,” Swizz tells us. “When you visit other cultures, and step into their territory, don’t ever look down on anyone. Learning about cultures makes your mindset grow, we are always thinking global. It has been life changing for my family and I.”

The 40-year-old Swizz is a DJ, producer and rapper who has been active in the music scene since he was 16. Starting out as a DJ, his name quickly rose in the industry and he launched his own label, Full Surface Records, which featured artists that included Bone and Mashonda. He is the producer behind many popular songs for hit artists like Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Eve, Cassidy, Busta Rhymes and DMX. If you’ve ever danced to the beats of Beyoncé’s Upgrade U, Check on It or Ring the Alarm, for instance, you know you have Swizz to thank for that. He has been awarded several times as one of the top hip hop producers, and was nominated for the Grammy Awards six times and won the “Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group” Grammy in 2010 for On to the Next One.

Photography courtesy Swizz Beatz

Swizz has just released the first single from his latest 10-track album “Poison,” which features Lil-Wayne’s Pistol On My Side (P.O.M.S.), and the album will be released on November 2. With J Cole as the executive producer, the album also features several renowned artists, including Kendrick Lamar, Nas, Jadakiss, 2 Chainz and many more.

Swizz and Keys got married in 2010 and have two children; Egypt Daoud, 8 and Genesis Ali, 4.

Exploring Kemet

The couple’s social media feed was filled with tidbits about Kemet, the ancient name for Egypt and the name the couple used throughout the posts documenting their trip. “I posted a lot to allow others to come on this journey with me. We need others to learn about cultures, and the history,” Swizz says.

Egypt is no strange land for Keys, right when she was in the prime of her career, she escaped here to find herself and find peace. She recalls the places she visited on that first trip to Egypt “I sailed down the Nile, I saw the tombs and I saw the temples and I saw the pyramids,” she said in Oprah’s master class. The feeling that was imprinted onto her from this ancient land was “reinvigoration.” She took that same travel itinerary with her family this year.

KDean_Egypt2 Photography courtesy Swizz Beatz

Egypt has always had a special place in Keys’, and her husband’s heart, so much so, that they named their firstborn son Egypt. When we asked Swizz why they picked that name, Swizz says “the magical history of Egypt [was the reason why we picked that name], we wanted to remember it forever.”

One particular post on Swizz’s Instagram account is a picture of him roaming the streets of Cairo in a vintage car, with Oum Kalthoum music playing in the background. Swizz says that “Oum Kalthoum has been one of my favorite artist in the world for several years now.”

Swizz’s favorite city in Egypt is Nubia in Aswan. While there, they visited a school and received an Arabic lesson from a Nubian teacher. “We believe everyday you are living, you should learn something new. Especially when traveling, experiencing culture is so rewarding and inspiring,” Swizz says.

And his absolute favorite Egyptian dish, Swizz tells us, is macaroni béchamel (baked pasta with meat, cheese and béchamel sauce).

Extending a Musical Hand

Swizz and Keys have founded “The Dean Collection 20 St(Art)ups,” grant program to help all the struggling artists from around the world fund their dream project with a $5,000 grant. Recently, the first batch of 20 lucky artist was announced, and the Egyptian Hana ElSagini is one of them, and will hold her exhibition next year. “I would love to attend [her show], but it depends on both our schedules — her show is not until later next year, so we will see,” Swizz comments.

KDean_Egypt4 Photography courtesy Swizz Beatz

With the competition being open to contestants from around the world, Swizz and Keys are hands-on founders with a team of more than a dozen curators to help narrow down the selections, Swizz says. “But ultimately, we approved each one [of the winners],” he adds.

Swizz also introduced The No Commission Art Fair, an art fair where artists from all over the world are invited to showcase their work and all sale proceeds go to them, without commission. The fair has been held in Miami, New York, London, Shanghai and Berlin, and Swizz is hoping he can bring it to the region. “It would be amazing to bring something like No Commission to the Middle East, this is something we still need to explore more to see how we could make it work.”

A while back, Swizz had told Pitchfork that he was working on a “global album” that will have “all different concepts, all different messages, all different sounds.” Will we hear any Egyptian artists or sounds in it? Swizz answers “I’ve been working with artists from all over the world, for many years now. From South Africa to Japan. I have not found any Egyptian artists yet, but I am looking.”

KDean_Egypt6 Photography courtesy Swizz Beatz

Having recently released the first track from his long-awaited album “Poison” we asked Swizz about the missing track that features Bono and Kanye West, one that we have been hearing about for seven years now. Swizz describes it as “timeless” explaining that “You can hear it now, or in 10 years, and it will not sound out of date or out of place.” Speaking on how such a collaboration happened between that artists “Getting both of them on the track is something that naturally happened, as I have worked with them in the past. Why not?!”

Speaking on why his solo projects tend to take years to be made and released, Swizz says “I am a perfectionist when it comes to my music, that’s why I’ve been going back and forth. … I make a lot of music. A lot. Sometimes it’s just for fun, or to see what I am in the mood for. I can be happy with what I have now, and not happy with it the next hour.”

A final piece of advice for artists; “staying true to yourself is key,” Swizz says. “Music can unite, uplift and put you in a kind of zone that can be your escape.”

KDean_Egypt7 Photography courtesy Swizz Beatz

Photography courtesy: Swizz Beatz
Branded partnership director: Dena Mekawi
10/12/2018 4:34:09 PM
<![CDATA[Art Review: The Sinister Sister Pact]]>Photography by Habby Khalil

Once upon a real time, there were two sisters named Raya and Sakina, who for years kidnapped and killed women for their money and jewelry. With the help of their husbands and others, the two women would lure victims into their home, drug and kill them before burying their bodies under the tiles. Their killing spree spanned a period of one year, leading to the deaths of 17 women. In 1921, they were sentenced to death, making them the first women to hang for their crimes under Egypt’s modern law.

The crimes have been the subject of numerous films, series and plays, but last month’s photography exhibition at Picasso Gallery was the talk of the town where Habby Khalil reimagined the two sisters in a series of photographs, this time with a male victim who is depicted as lost and afraid. “While many artists have worked on the concept dealing with the crime itself, Khalil—a self-taught visual artist who uses history as his muse—explores the execution process and sister’s different reactions; the ‘silent’ Raya versus the boasted bravery of Sakina, thus exploring the possibility of multiple convictions leading to the same act,” the exhibit’s curators explain.

03_Justice For All
Photography by Habby Khalil

The images of the two sisters in crime are styled with modern twists, and many felt they express the power of women and the need to survive and find equality in a man’s world. A closer look reveals the balance and symmetry the sisters convey to the viewer, with their victim. Bracelets and anklets are placed on opposite legs and arms, creating a wall that the sisters use to protect each other and survive, giving no thought to the consequences.

A particularly striking image shows one of the sisters holding a mabkhara, mimicking the scales that symbolize justice. In fact, the mabkhara was used to cover up the smell of the rotting bodies lying under the tiles. The bisha is used as a mask that they hide behind in order to protect themselves from their crimes, as it also keeps them united, while portraying the unbreakable sister pact.

Another image symbolizes spirituality and death, as the bloody hands of their victims have left imprints on the tombstones, where the sisters are hiding. Seduction emanates through their gaze, clashing with what was then considered modest dressing.

06_Inevitable Photography by Habby Khalil

Symmetry and alignment are the major themes of this collection, guiding the viewer to see and feel all of the often-contradictory elements in the photograph. As the curators explain, “The artist explores the story in black and white, symbolizing the eternal conflict and interdependence between different beliefs. The space surrounding the characters reflects their spiritual sanctuary and their inner isolation, a monochromatic state of interaction between subjects and their surroundings. The use of clothing creates a symbolic connection to the connected fate of the two sisters, while visual symmetry invites the viewer to focus on the difference between them.

Exploring the concepts of “trust, doubt, belief, the relationship between justification and action, and which one precedes the other,” the curators add, [Khalil] successfully pits traditional ideologies against modern liberalism by “re-identifying the indefinable elements of an old story that has today become a part of modern Egyptian folklore.”

07_Ceremony Photography by Habby Khalil

About Habby Khalil
Born in 1979, Habby Khalil works primarily in photography, film, and video. He utilizes historical and cultural subjects as a visual language to address sociopolitical issues and has won numerous awards for his photography work, including two gold and two silver medals at the Prix de la Photographie Paris in 2016, and third place prize in Moscow International Foto Awards in 2015. His movie Fi Youm (In a Day) received a Special Mention Award at the 37th Cairo International Film Festival in 2015.

Khalil’s ongoing project, Alienation, depicts five of the most famous deities of ancient Egyptian mythology as they were historically described, but within a different temporal and spatial frame. The project explores our beliefs and how we interpret and practice them, as well as the meaning and purpose of our existence.

10_Burden Photography by Habby Khalil
]]>10/7/2018 6:47:00 AM<![CDATA[The Perfect Culinary Score]]>
While the room is decorated with sports flags, and TV screens that are always showing the latest games in different sports, there is also a pool table where you can have your own friendly match. The outdoor terrace, which has its own large screen is set beside the pool, making you wish that you could change your plans to take a dip in the pool, and escape all of the week’s stress.

Photo credit Mohsen Othman

The menu is full of delicious varieties, with sandwiches that include beef steak, chicken quesadilla and the creative turkey. When it comes to the appetizers (bar snacks) there is no shortage of options from the fresh barbeque French fries, to the English staple fish and chips, crunchy shrimp, and of course onion rings. With main course options that include grilled salmon and lamb chops, those 90 minutes of a football match won’t be long enough for you to get through your meal.

We started our meal with a fresh and healthy cobb salad that was filled with fresh greens, baby tomatoes, corn, a hard-boiled egg and avocado. It’s a new staple item that is best enjoyed on sunny afternoons on the terrace. The new menu offers a chicken fajita dish that arrived at to our table in a sizzling platter, accompanied by the fresh fajita bread, sour cream and tomato sauce. The chicken was flavorful and the melted cheese topping was the icing on the cake.

Known for its great sandwiches, the pastrami sandwich is especially high in demand, and it is a glorious, messy sandwich that will soften your hunger. It’s filled with fried chicken breast, pastrami and is topped off with cheese and served with French fries. We also tried their signature burger, it is stuffed with mushrooms and topped off with cheese, making it the perfect burger to eat and watch the game with your friends.

The shrimp burrito was the highlight of it all for us; after all, isn’t not every day that you try one. The dish was exploding with flavor, and is served with melted cheese on the outside; and it’s definitely worth the trip to the airport.

IMG_3787 Photo credit Mohsen Othman

Of course, between dishes we had to nibble on the new fried chicken wings, dipped in barbecue sauce and full of flavor; and quite literally finger-licking good. What arrived at our table was beyond the perfect chicken, stuffed with caramelized onions and coated in barbecue sauce.

The drinks menu is packed with classics such as the White Russian, Le Méridien’s own unique cocktails, hard liquor, what seems like every country’s own signature drink, such as Australia’s Jacob’s Creek and Lebanon’s Château Ksara.

The clientele mix is friendly hotel guests and groups of friends who have come to enjoy the good food and have a good time. Other than the live sports blared on the screens, there is also a resident DJ and live music throughout the week.

Tel: +2 (02) 2265-9600, extension: 8508

IMG_3820 Photo credit Mohsen Othman
10/6/2018 7:09:00 PM
<![CDATA[The Hair Addict’s Haircare Winter Wonders: 5 Essential Tips]]>

1. Moisturizing
Since your hair and scalp are prone to dryness in winter, you need to regularly moisturize, be it through good conditioners, deep conditioners, treatments or masks. It is also better to go extra with the deep conditioner; twice a week will make sure to keep your hair nurtured with all the moisture it needs. Another perfect way to keep your hair moisturized is to start co-washing and lessen the frequency of using shampoos. Co-washing is the process of cleansing your scalp with conditioner instead of shampoo.

The Hair addict55
Applying conditioner

2. Moisture
Locking the moisture in is a way of creating a barrier between your hair and the weather which is ideal to stop the moisture from diffusing out of your hair. To seal the moisture in, use a few drops of a sealing oil like Jojoba oil or Sweet Almond oil after you apply your moisturizing products. Or, alternatively, follow the LOC method which stands for the order of applying your products “Leave-in conditioner, oil, cream”.

3. Applying Indirect Heat
To further enhance the effect of conditioner, deep conditioner, a treatment or a mask, start using steam or indirect heat such as a thermal cap. This way, you will open your hair cuticle and make it more receptive to moisture from your products. Direct heat like straightening your hair is not good and will dry your locks even more. However, if you still go to the hairdresser, make sure you’re at least using a heat protectant and always take care of the straightener’s temperature not to be too high.

The Hair addict25
Using the hooded dryer

4. Satin/Silk Pillowcase
Sleeping on silk/satin pillowcases is a transformative experience for your hair in winter and in summer too; you will notice the difference right away and kiss your frizz goodbye. The traditional cotton pillowcases that we sleep on are very absorbent, meaning that they will absorb some of the moisture from your hair overnight. Friction also happens between your hair and cotton, so this causes major frizz. A great way of eliminating the above is using non-absorbent soft materials like satin or silk.

The Hair addict333

5. Avoid Going Out With Wet Hair
Going out in this cold weather while your hair is still wet is a major mistake because wet hair is weaker than dry hair, simple friction on wet hair causes brittleness and breakage. So let it dry naturally before you go out, it’s better to use a microfiber towel as it’s soft on the hair and minimizes frizz. If it is necessary to go out with wet or damp hair, make sure to protect your hair and wear your favorite silk/satin scarf or a hat, or wear a protective hairstyle like a braid or a bun.

The Hair addict261
Using a cold-air diffuser

If you’re eager to know more customized tips according to your hair porosity, stay tuned for our next article!

Developed by The Hair Addict for Egypt Today. Follow The Hair Addict on Facebook/Instagram


10/5/2018 6:25:00 PM
<![CDATA[Praise Makes Perfect]]>By Walid ElMoselhy

“My daughter is in first secondary in school. Her biggest nightmare is math. She repeated second preparatory because of math and now she is struggling with every test and fails. She takes private lessons and changed many teachers. We still have the same problem—her biggest fear, and mine too, is that she’ll [have to sit a make-up after summer course] and she might fail too. We are always encouraging her, but [it is] always [the] same result. Any help please.”

I recently received this message from a frustrated parent after I posted a blog about math not being the problem. Some of the other messages I received were from parents who think that they have problematic kids, that their child’s brain is not meant to do elementary level mathematics.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Orcas (@orcasapp) on

Well, your kid is not the problem. You are.

I once had a preparatory school girl struggling with mathematics. During the home interview (at Orcas we do home interviews with the parents and kids before working with a new student so the tutors are aware of the situation), her father told me that she has been depressed for a while after not making it to a TV show where she can sing. She did not make it because he was busy traveling and could not take a few days off to be with her!

I took the challenge and started working with the kid, only to be surprised by how smart she was. The girl was doing four-digit long-division faster that I can type numbers on my phone’s calculator to double-check! Yet she was “afraid” of answering simple algebraic equations and making lots of silly mistakes.

This did not make any sense to me, so I kept working with her over a few sessions and was happy to see her progressing time after time. I was in tears the day she asked me not to help as she would be able to find the answer on her own. And she did.

Then, during our session on an exam night, one that started after a school day and lasted till 10pm, we were laughing that she forgot to add a minus sign. She spotted the mistake, reviewed the answer and fixed it, only to find her father coming downstairs red-faced and shouting at her about how stupid she was to miss a simple minus sign. He continued to scold her about how bad she was at math and that she should know that and not be a failure.

For a second there I was in shock watching him embarrass his daughter in such a way. And when he asked me to confirm his words, I replied that his daughter was smart enough to correct her mistakes on her own; a hopeless attempt to save any confidence she had left.

Later the parent informed me that the girl got a bad grade on the exam, and they wouldn’t be needing my services anymore. I believe there is a special place in hell for parents like him. . . .

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Orcas (@orcasapp) on

Here is my advice to parents who worry about their struggling kids; you need to learn how to accept your kids. Maybe start by reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and see how Steven Covey and his wife struggled with their son and figured out a way to help him by changing the way they see things.

I have said this before and I am saying it again; your kid is not stupid, he is lacking self-confidence because he cannot see your confidence in him. When a kid goes to an exam knowing that his parent believes he will do bad, he will.

A mother once told me that she sits with her son and tells him that she needs to trust him, so she would change the way she treats him. I told her that the kid needs to trust you, so he can change on his own.

Your children are human beings, their only weakness is that they look up to you. They are smart enough to feel it when you are not proud, when you do not think they will make it, when you are ashamed of who they are. And eventually, they become the way you see them.

Your kid is failing? Try to tell them that you are proud of how hard they work, that tomorrow’s exam is not important on the long run, so they do not panic. Stop comparing them to their successful colleagues and stop looking at their colleagues wondering where you went wrong.

Look at your children and provide them with trust, unconditional love and encouragement, and be proud of who they are right now.

Do not be the problem in their path.

Photo courtesy Orcas

Orcas is a mobile application that connects parents with more than 700 trusted, trained and experienced tutors, language instructors and babysitters, in their area operating in Cairo, Alexandria and El Gouna. Orcas aims to make your search for the suitable tutor an easy and convenient experience. You can find tutors for all school subjects and school systems from KG to Grade 12, view their profiles and see the ratings and reviews given to them by other parents. The application also allows online payment to make the whole experience a smooth sailing. Follow Orcas at facebook.com/CairoSitters/and


]]>10/3/2018 5:20:00 AM<![CDATA[Under the Italian Sun]]>
First, I set foot in Venezia (Venice), northeastern Italy. Or shall I say set sail. I take a two-hour water ride from the airport to the city center where I was staying. I remember repeatedly thinking to myself how I’ve never felt such overpowering charm in my life. The interesting thing about Venice’s beauty is that it’s the humbling kind; the sort of beauty that makes you grateful to be around. I knew that I’d find something quite enlightening about this ancient floating city of islands. Canals and bridges; they’re everywhere. There was always a decision to be made; a bridge to cross, and another to burn. Every corner was a sweet discovery, and you’re almost never certain of what could be on the other side. Baroque architecture facades, grandiose churches, ancient scripture on the walls at every curve—it was like history was finding me, and not the other way around. The city of bridges is in tinges of teal, and all the shades between rosewood and terracotta with black-tinted gondolas at every underpass; each vessel coveting a crossing to the journey of life itself with its beautiful combination of faith, desire and struggle powered by that inner fire and curiosity that push us forwards and onwards.

Florence. Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore.
Photo courtesy Rana Kandil

My next destination, Firenze (Florence), was some kind of wonderful. Nothing could have prepared me for standing before the domed Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore with its crimson brick dome. As politician Francis Atterbury (1663-1732) put it, “it is attention to detail that makes the difference between something average and stunning.” I may well have stood there in silence for a couple of hours to take it all in. Feeling hungry, I followed a recommendation for one of the best sandwich makers in town, All’AnticoVinaio. As soon as I walked in, I was greeted by the most delightful aromas and a delicious-looking roast beckoned to me from meters away. I met Luigi ‘the panini expert.’ Like a chemist, he beautifully mixes the most amazing of ingredients as he eloquently explains in an Italian-English accent, “The British may have invented it, but we the Italians have perfected it. We make everything so well; it’s beyond me why we’re not the richest country in the world.” I paid only €7 for the best sandwich I’d ever tasted in my lifetime; an explosion of flavors to say the least, with beef so tender it melts in your mouth. Even the bread had a rich, sweet flavor and just the right amount of crunch to it. This goes to show that the best things in life can come in simple forms; it just requires a little bit of resourcefulness. In my case, it was a ticket to Firenze and a long walk.

Later in the day, with a creamy gelato in my hand, I walked to the Palazzo Vecchio, which houses some of the finest Florentine artifacts owned by one of the richest Italian ruling families, the Medici family, and where a statue of Michelangelo’s David stands. I ended the day with a visit to Ponte Vecchio—Firenze’s jewelry quarter, where all the gold merchants set up shop—and another to Piazzale Michelangelo with views to all of Florence from up above.

Florentine Cabinet. Palazzo Vecchio. Florence Photo courtesy Rana Kandil

I packed my bags and bid Florence goodbye, catching the next train heading to Rome. A few hours later, I stood entranced by the beauty of the Vatican Museum and Church. Everybody had warned me about the long lines to the church but also told me that it’s a must-see; so instead of wasting two hours in line, I went in from the Museum door. I marveled at the beautiful art by Michelangelo, which ultimately led me to the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Church. I walked and walked until my knees hurt, but I felt no pain: I was surrounded by beauty everywhere I looked, especially above in the ceilings. Everything just became beautiful then, even my spirit. One piece of art that had me completely arrested was one in the contemporary art section by El Anatsui titled Then, the Flashes of Spirit. Made from thousands of bottle caps and aluminum, I escaped with this piece to a faraway place in my mind. What if each cap were a puzzle piece to a memory put away by our soul that we are meant to dig for and find before we complete the picture? No one said finding treasures was an easy thing.

With that thought, I made my way to the beautiful gardens of Villa Borghese and took a reflective walk along its geese-filled ponds, Roman statues and cascading fountains. I stopped to take in a scene; the muse of one of my favorite painters, Diego Velázquez, and imagined what it would have been like to be him in that moment in time. In need of energy, I indulged in a cup of cappuccino; the coffee stained my lips with a bitter tinge, its aroma overwhelmingly pleasant, its accents familiar, tickling my senses into motion.

The next day, I walk to the Colosseum. I guess I never really understood the connotation behind ‘All roads lead to Rome’ until I stumbled upon this magnificent site. Looking at its ruins and exteriors, I was left with one line I had read in an Elif Shafak’s book, “If we are the same person before and after we loved, that means we haven’t loved enough,” and thought that must be the story of how time fell in love with a place.

Sanwich at Allantico Vinaio. Florence Photo courtesy Rana Kandil

For dinner, I headed down the alleys of Fontana Di Trevi to a low-key Italian restaurant, the heirloom of an Italian man in his early 30s of Egyptian descent with handsome Greek appeal. Modest tables with crisp white sheets awaited me and a warm smile greeted me, but nothing could have prepared me for the fragrant traditional flavors that were about to do a mini dance routine in my mouth a few moments after. It was a nice reminder not to be too inhibited, to explore, and most definitely not to judge a book by its cover.

To cap it all off, I made my way to the famous Fontana. I threw in a coin and wished for light and love to find me the same way Italy did. With more than a million wishes a year, does the fountain hear them all?

Bringing life to untold stories and thoughts, Rana Kandil is a travel writer and founder of


travel blog.

10/1/2018 5:03:00 AM
<![CDATA[et bites: Dining at the euro-chic Marlyn’s ]]>
A subtle interior design peppered with light pink and flowery patterns holds a bright and simple outdoor seating area with wrought-iron and flowers decorating the venue, making Marlyn’s ambiance truly akin to that of a Parisian afternoon. The restaurant serves assorted European cuisine including French, German, Swedish and Spanish dishes.

To satisfy the shisha craze, Marlyn’s also serves the much Egyptian-loved shisa, but with various twists in flavors. If you’re not a fan, they have a non-smoking area. The private balconies and outdoor area are perfect for taking in the sun and a cool breeze during the long summer, while nibbling on their various menu concoctions.

“People who travel a lot tend to eat a lot of different foods that aren’t available in Egypt. In Spain, they like the paella and tapas. They’ll come here and they’ll have [exactly that],” says Marlyn’s owner Mohamed El Nemr, who sat down with us for a chat after our meal. “In the beginning, we put food items on the menu that will be appealing to the Egyptian customer. After a while, when people started hearing that we serve different food, we started bringing in more dishes from different countries in Europe.”

To bring Europe home, Marlyn’s will soon launch a new concept, where they will build a theme around one country from Europe each month, and will invite their community for a special menu tasting with that country’s authentic dishes. “We are trying to bring European culture into the Egyptian market,” says El Nemr.

With clients from various age groups, be it young adults or people in their 60s, the place has something for every taste. “Every part of the day attracts specific people, and every part of the restaurant attracts specific people,” says brand manager, interior designer and concept creator Nour El Rashidy. “Most of the time the big balconies attract groups of friends, while the small balconies bring those coming for dates, anniversaries and proposals. The outside [area] mainly [attracts] groups of friends.”

Marlyn’s serves breakfast, brunch and dinner. We went for an early dinner and tried their fried potatoes stuffed with minced beef, cheddar and mozzarella cheese, then had the Marlyn’s Chicken dish, marinated with spices and lemongrass, topped with labneh and sweet carrot puree, and served with crispy wedges and cherry tomatoes. We were then served a selection of their tapas; traditional Spanish bite-sized skewers of grilled chicken, glazed chicken liver, grilled halloumi cheese, spicy sweet potato cubes and black olives. For the main dish, we had the Salmon Fettucine, served in a light cream parmesan sauce, and then we topped the indulgence off with The Milky Way; a drink of espresso, chocolate, steamed milk, caramel sauce, whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

8/13/2018 1:01:55 PM
<![CDATA[Ghada Elabsy: Words That Matter]]>
Many will know her as a rising novelist who, in the space of just four years, has managed to win plenty of local and international awards and prizes. Some may even know that while writing is her passion, her professional job cannot be any far removed from the world of fictional characters, feminist literature or the complicated mechanics of the Arabic language. Elabsy, a full-time physician, has yet one more unrelated but impressive talent: she’s also an opera singer with a number of solo performances at the Cairo Opera House under her belt.

Passion, talent and a social duty
With seemingly convergent career paths, Elabsy has decided to follow all of her three dreams. She recounts how she was destined to work as a haematologist after a cousin to whom she is very close was diagnosed with a fierce type of leukemia and lost his sight at the age of four. “Mahmoud asked me to be a doctor to cure him and this is the reason I joined the Faculty of Medicine and specialized in blood diseases,’’ she says.

Elabsy also recalls how she has always wanted to be a singer, ever since she was a student at school. “I am a singer because singing is the first decision I took without any kind of pressure, when I was five years old and my music teacher asked who wanted to sing. I simply raised my hand and started singing,’’ she says. She performed as a solo singer at Cairo Opera House between 1999 and 2002.
Language too held Elabsy’s fascination at quite a young age. “For me, the composition lessons at school were the most interesting things I experienced as a child, I am very grateful to my Arabic teachers who really taught me with all integrity and professionalism the true and the exact basics of the Arabic language,’’ says Elabsy.

Revealing that the first time she started writing was after going through some personal tragedies in her life, Elabsy adds that for her, writing is not just a choice, it is rather a necessity, a daily routine that keeps her balanced. “For me, writing is my way to know myself and the world surrounding me, writing continuously opens closed doors in your life that you can’t ever imagine will be opened,’’ she says, stressing her preference for writing about things that she doesn’t know and that she avoids writing about her life and her personal experiences.

A writer’s journey
In 2014, at the age of 32, Elabsy began writing and released her first collection of short stories titled Hasheshet El-Malak (Angelica). But would her writing create a language of communication between her and her readers? Elabsy wondered, especially that she had never studied writing or even taken any courses or workshops. “At that time [the only thing I had going for me as a writer was] that I am a good reader.’’

The collection was well received, both in Egypt and the region, and even mentioned by veteran literature professor at Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad Nadia el-Henawy in her book on feminist literature.

The unexpected success prompted Elabsy to write her second collection of stories Awlad El-Hoor (The Sons of Nymphs), also in 2014, and to enter it into the Central Competition of General Authority for Cultural Palaces, which is affiliated to the Egyptian Ministry of Culture. “I didn’t expect it to win first place, and I was so happy that the prestigious General Authority for Cultural Palaces published it as it was sold at an extremely affordable price and made available at newsstands,” Elabsy recalls. As most of its stories were published in newspapers and websites, Awlad El-Hoor resonated widely.

Elabsy then decided to try her luck further afield by participating in a competition affiliated to the Iraqi Ministry of Culture in the name of the renowned Iraqi poet, narrator and critic Nazik Al-Malaika. “I wanted to support Iraq on the cultural level because in 2014 the Iraqi crisis was at its peak as a result of ISIS terrorist practices in Mosul.’’ Elabsy won the story section award for her work “Manwella” and describes it as a turning point in her career because she got the chance to interact directly with Iraqis whom she describes as great intellectuals, as well as art connoisseurs. Eager to visit Iraq, “this amazing historical country that was for years and years the headquarters of the Islamic Caliphate State,” Elabsy says wasn’t afraid to travel at that critical time. Upon her return, she wrote a series of articles inspired by her trip.

From Iraq, Elabsy set her sights on Lebanon, where in 2015 she approached Al Saqi publishing house to contract her first novel, Al-Fishawi. “Al Saqi is a huge English-Lebanese publishing house who are very picky in choosing which books to publish. They don’t care if a writer is well known or a bestseller; all they care about is high-quality literary content,” says Elabsy, proudly adding, “Al-Fishawi is now being sold at Al Saqi’s massive bookstore in London, imagine my feelings at that time when I learned that my first novel was to be displayed in that huge bookstore in London.’’

Al-Fishawy narrates 100 years of Egyptian history, starting shortly after the English occupation in Egypt and ending with the events of June 30, 2013. “The main challenge was not to write about this century but to decide what to talk about in these years, what I should highlight and what I shouldn’t,” says Elabsy who explains the novel chronicled her vision of her country as an Egyptian youth, and that she had to return to her origins to form a complete vision. An example is the candid way she presents the history of Christian and Muslim relations. “I searched about our Muslim, Coptic, Arab and African roots and highlighted that there were extremists living in Egypt years ago and why there was extremism in the past.’’

But even before its official release, the polyphonic novel—which is divided into nine chapters each narrated by either a character or an object—was bringing home the accolades, claiming fourth place in Dubai Cultural Magazine competition in 2016. “This award proves that what I write appeals not only to Egyptian taste but to tastes in the Arab world as well,’’ Elabsy says proudly.

The novel also attracted international attention; and Elabsy was surprised when one day she received a call from the University of the Philippines asking if they could run a translated chapter in a book about the world literature in the 21st century. “This book will be included in the Philippines’ high school curriculum, and the chapter from Al-Fishawy will be the only example of Arab-African literature in the book. I was over the moon,’’ Elabsy recalls.

More self-exploration led to her second novel El-Eskafy El-Akhdar (The Green Cobbler), which won the Akhbar El-Adab award in 2016. “El-Eskafy El-Akhdar was more of a letting out of certain inner emotions in the form of words,” says Elabsy who was astonished after finishing the work to find she had unintentionally penned a fantasy novel. “My writing procedure is divided into two parts; the first part any writer does consciously, like setting the plot construction and outlining the characters. The other part; the writer does unconsciously, so you find yourself writing certain things unconsciously then you start to ask yourself how did I write this? And why?’’ explains Elabsy, who believes in the concept of afflatus, or inspiration, and that much of what any writer writes is involuntary.

A leap to realization
On the off chance that she might be chosen, Elabsy, in 2017, submitted the first chapter of El-Eskafy El-Akhdar translated into English to the International Writing Program (IWP), which every year selects 35 writers from all over the world to join its three-month program. After an interview at the American Embassy in Cairo, Elabsy was granted a spot in the program and she joined writers from Macedonia, Belgium, Palestine, Burma, Russia, Argentina and Brazil, among other countries, in Iowa.
“The other Arab participants were a Belgian-Palestinian poet but she applied as a Belgian citizen, an Iraqi Kurdish writer and a Moroccan writer,’’ Elabsy says, adding that only she and the Belgian-Palestinian poet were writing in Arabic. “The experience was very rich, the condensed program is full of fruitful activities. Each writer has a scheduled day to read part from his work in two languages: his own and English.” For her main theme, Elabsy chose “the mood of high emotions,’’ and her paper titled “The Unspoken Language” argued that the truest words that really express our emotions are the ones that are not said.

On the sidelines of the program, Elabsy was invited to speak at the Examined Life annual conference at the Carver College of Medicine. Chosen alongside two other American writers to speak about being both physicians and writers, and the relationship between writing and medicine, Elabsy gave a 90-minute speech about her experience as a doctor, writer and singer. “I prepared a short documentary about Egypt entitled “Takaseem’’ (XXWhat does it mean?XX) with the collaboration of Egyptian painters and photographers; and for the soundtrack I used an Oriental music piece composed by the late great musician Mohamed Abdel Wahab. It was an amusing journey inside Egypt, and the attendees were dazzled by this documentary as its music and every scene truly reflected the Egyptian identity. Every word of my speech showed how I was proud of being Egyptian as I explained to them where I came from, my identity and the sources of my pride.’’

Before travelling, Elabsy had printed pamphlets with the names of the Egyptian artists taking part in the documentary and distributed them at the conference before giving her speech in which she likened herself to an owl. “The owl was the symbol of wisdom in ancient Egyptian culture, and it can see through the dark. In my job [as a hematologist] I must see beyond the darkness,” she said, adding that she is a physician in the first place, which imposes upon her duties that she cannot give up.

At the IWP, Elabsy also got to showcase her skills, not only as a writer and physician, but as a singer too, appearing alongside the Chiara String Quartet in a performance titled “The Memory.” The Grammy-nominated quartet worked without any musical sheets, performing from memory as three IWP colleagues read out parts of their works about memory. Elabsy was asked to sing about memories, and chose “Al-Atlal” (The Ruins) by the late great Umm Kulthum. “After I finished, the audience was crying and applauding for perhaps three minutes continuously, they were deeply and emotionally [touched] despite not understanding the Arabic words of the song,” Elabsy describes.
She also sang at the end of her Carver College speech where audiences told her they were impressed by her voice and the Oriental music. “They asked me to give them the names of the Egyptian singers and composers who made these immortal songs, I was so touched because I felt that I was an ambassador for our great Oriental music.”

Back home Elabsy’s friends recently uploaded a video of her singing in the hospital she works at, while they were celebrating her birthday. The video got hundreds of thousands views, and Elabsy vows, “[I] will continue writing, singing and performing my duties as a doctor all in parallel till the last day of my life.’’

Elabsy is currently working on her upcoming fiction novel, Leilet Yalda (Yalda’s Night), “a somewhat religious novel tackling the relationship between Sunnis and Shiites” through the life of the great Persia poet Khawaja Shams-ud Din Muhammad Hafez-e, dubbed Hafez.

8/12/2018 3:02:16 PM
<![CDATA[Opinion: Change is an evolution ]]>
Every now and then, I feel motivated to adopt a set of lifestyle changes that I keep telling myself that I want to make—or by dropping some unhealthy habits. The motivation to reflect on my lifestyle and its choices is a direct result of my life coaching sessions as well as my personal development research.

Over the past two years, I have been benefiting from life coaching sessions that foster personal growth and consciousness so that I can live the best life while adapting to a huge transition in my life; relocating to a new country. These sessions and accompanying research helped me to build my life tool box to deal with vices and personal challenges. My biggest vices are smoking and drinking so much coffee. I also tend to overthink situations and being stressed often. I want to make changes to my life that allow me to be healthier physically, mentally and emotionally. Therefore, I am aiming at eating healthier, drinking less caffeine, practicing mindfulness, being less stressed and exercising more.

I am not an expert nor certified life coach, but I wanted to share what I have learned over the past two years from these sessions and the active research I have been doing in areas of personal development and lifestyle changes. The active process of changing one’s lifestyle or adopting healthier habits gives us much pleasure, coupled with a sense of challenge to transform our lives and to say no to ourselves when tempted to fall off track.

It is no secret that I always find it difficult to make the lifestyle change I desire; and it is even harder to maintain these changes; no matter how concrete my resolutions are. So, my life coach helped me to stop and to ask myself: Why do we do what we do? And what motivates our choices and guides our decision-making process? And why do some people succeed in maintaining the change they aspire while others do not?

Digging deeper in this topic, the most logical answer I reached was that successful people do not only make resolutions, but rather they think of changes as an evolution. They deal with each change they wish to see in their life as a project with a specific goal, objectives and indicators to measure their achievements as they transform their lives.

My coach also helped me to realize that the way we navigate life is informed by a set of beliefs about ourselves and the world that are developed during the early childhood phases. Those beliefs are subjective and are usually deeply embedded in our memories, operating as an equivalent to an auto-pilot mode. What we believe, think and perceive are entirely unconscious. Furthermore, our auto-pilot mode represents the connection between the mind and body, and is responsible for the factors that promote behavioral change because the unconscious way of perceiving things shapes our choices.

Many of our choices may limit and undermine us. Isolating and questioning these unhealthy thoughts and choices that hold us back is key to shift to better ones – but this can only be done if we dig into our unconscious to recognize the pattern of negative thoughts and to trigger positive changes. Once you have the knowledge and motivation, this is the time to commit, embrace the change, and start the action.

So, my life coach encourages me to start by making your adventure’s road map and prepare a slow and methodical plan of small milestones for your goal. This approach will set you for success by taking things one step at a time. Being able to achieve just a couple of key behavioral changes can have a domino effect on your other habits, leading to a healthier lifestyle.

According to a Special Health Report from the Harvard Medical School “Simple Changes, Big Rewards,” “People can achieve remarkable changes in their lives by taking one small step at a time. The day-to-day choices you make influence whether you maintain vitality as you age or develop life-shortening illnesses and disabling conditions like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke.”

If you, like me, have tried to change your lifestyle before but without feeling much success, do not give up; get in touch with your motivation and remind yourself of what is holding you back from living your greatest potential in life. Change is a process and is always challenging, especially if you want to transform many things at once – so challenge your auto-pilot.

Switching tracks requires some sort of extra effort, extra awareness and extra attention.
What I learned in my personal change, is that during your change journey, never hesitate to seek help as lifestyle changes consume time and require support to strengthen your resilience and commitment. Establish your own support system by reaching out to a friend, co-worker, family member, or a psychologist; or even consider joining a support group to keep yourself motivated and accountable without judgment. Share your struggles and talk about what you are doing – this can make your work easier and the process less intimidating.

A few examples of lifestyle changes that I made and can be easily personalized: I used to ignore my needs and try to earn the approval of others; until my life coaching journey opened my eyes and I decided that I will speak up and believe that they will still like me while I grow and I get to know myself better. I am a workaholic and I associate self-worth with major wins, which badly affected my personal life, so I learned to focus on the small steps in the way to those wins and try to celebrate the successes of others. I also learned to invest in my relationship and enjoy watching it nourish.

Overthinking about the future, is another issue that I worked hard with my life coach to change, I stopped being consumed with what happened in the past; and I learned to let go and have faith that I can handle any chaos that comes especially through practicing meditation and gratitude.

From a personal experience, I would also recommend trying to explore new meaningful and pleasurable things. This might be traveling to new locations and enjoying a totally different experience, or maybe doing some volunteer work, changing something in your daily routine and trying to do things in a more spontaneous way, get more active, cut your cell phone and internet use–or maybe get a new image and an overall makeover.

In a nutshell, what I learned in these sessions is to always remind yourself that you can make the changes necessary for a healthier you and a more rewarding life for yourself–these changes would create a permanent evolution in your life and will lead to a new you that you wish to see.
8/11/2018 11:40:46 AM
<![CDATA[Jazzy & Natalie take on summer]]>
Whether it’s colorful hip shades styled with an off-the-shoulder deconstructed chemise, or fierce cat eye shades paired with a black ruffled blouse, Jazzy and N by Natalie’s latest offerings are all about vibrancy and fun in the sun.




8/1/2018 11:32:37 AM
<![CDATA[Watermelon: The New Coconut? ]]>
What’s even better is that, here in Egypt, it’s all around us at the moment; you can’t drive down a street without passing a cart packed with the familiar green beauties.

But did you know that watermelons were actually first cultivated in ancient Egypt, more than 4,000 years ago? We know this because archeologists have found watermelon seeds as well as paintings in a number of ancient tombs, including King Tut’s.

The wild fruit of those days was actually hard and bitter, rather than sweet, but it did store well and provided a great source of water; hence their popularity in planning for the afterlife. By the seventh century, watermelons were being cultivated in India; some 300 years later, the fruit is thought to have first reached China, which today supplies the majority of watermelons to the world.

Perhaps because it is so common in Egypt, it’s easy to overlook all the tremendous health benefits of this ancient superfood. Packed with vitamins A, B1, B6, and C, it’s also a rich source of the phytochemical lycopene and the amino acid L-citrulline. It even contains small amounts of minerals such as potassium and magnesium. Of course, watermelon is also made up primarily of water, so it’s low in sodium and free of fat and cholesterol.

Here are 8 reasons why you should definitely include the wonderful battikh in your diet.

1. It can aid weight loss
Thanks to its high water content, watermelon can fill you up for fewer calories. Water has also been found to speed up metabolism and flush out toxins and fats, which can help contribute to weight loss, obviously as part of a healthy diet and fitness regime.

2. Watermelon juice may relieve muscle soreness
Try juicing about one-third of a fresh watermelon and drinking its juice prior to your next workout. This contains a little over one gram of l-citrulline, an amino acid that protects against muscle pain.

3. It improves bone health
Vitamin C plays a major role here as the nutrient is good for the bones and aids wound healing. A Swiss study suggests that lycopene supplementation can prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures. The vitamin A content has also been linked to bone growth.

4.The fruit strengthens immunity
Watermelon, being rich in vitamin C, strengthens the body’s immune system. The fruit also contains vitamin B6, which helps the immune system produce antibodies and aids in the formation of red blood cells. The fruit’s vitamin A, meanwhile, helps regulate the immune system and protects it from infections.

5.They’re a great post-workout snack
Watermelons are full of magnesium and potassium. We often lose these two minerals, along with sodium, in our sweat during exercise, and they need to be replenished immediately. Potassium and magnesium are known as electrolytes because they help carry the electrical signals in the body and allow our muscles to contract and relax.

6. Great for good skin and healthy hair
Watermelon contains vitamins A and C, which are important for skin and hair health. Vitamin C helps your body produce collagen, a protein that keeps your skin supple and your hair strong. Vitamin A is important for healthy skin since it helps create and repair skin cells. Without enough vitamin A, your skin can look dry and flaky.

7.Watermelon can help with blood pressure and heart health
New research shows the citrulline and arginine supplements derived from watermelon extract lead to significant improvements in blood pressure and cardiac stress in obese study participants. Because of its antioxidant properties, lycopene extract from watermelons can significantly reduce oxidative stress and blood glucose levels too.

8.It’s anti-aging
According to researchers, L-citrulline also has a profound effect on body composition. Normally, as you age, the number of mitochondria—the so-called powerhouses of cells—in your body decreases, causing muscle mass to decline and fat to take over. However, watermelon juices up the production of regenerative proteins that build muscle and repair mitochondria, allowing them to produce more energy and, in turn, burn more fat.

7/31/2018 12:17:39 PM
<![CDATA[Opinion: Finding myself in Dahab]]>
Determined to escape the mundane and every day hustle and bustle of the big city, and yearning to get just the right dose of solitude without being too remote, we took a 12-hour bus ride to the one and only Dahab, in South Sinai. My travel friend Yasmeen and I started our relaxation journey by humming to Umm Kalthoum’s “Hazehi Leilaty” (This is My Night). Although a long ride, we were very excited to watch the sunrise over the mountains as we approached our resting-place. It already felt very promising!

As we reached our destination, we were greeted by the clearest blue sea you could set eyes on, immediately dissipating all sense of exhaustion. No time to sleep! We enjoyed our first peaceful walk by the sea and a soothing sunset. As we took in the beauty, we continued singing along to Umm Kalthoum’s lyrics, while exploring the colorful wooden two-storey cafes and restaurants, overlooking the sea and echoing a spirit of the good old days.

Love has become you; wishes are you.
So with passion, pour into my glass.
For soon love will change its home and our nest, his birds shall forsake.
And a place which was once home will see us as we see it now: a wasteland.

Meditating under water and in the clear sky

Our first destination was The Blue Hole, a famed diving site that is also known for being quite a dangerous adventure. On the site, there is a wall of honor where, inscribed, are the names of the divers who lost their lives trying to uncover the secrets of the famous submarine sinkhole. But despite the risk, the beauty of the place is just overwhelming.

As it was my first time swimming in the Red Sea, I preferred trying snorkeling over diving. As I dipped my head into the water, I discovered a whole new world; in a three-dimensional, colorful underwater garden, full of bright and yet again colorful reefs and sea creatures going on with their lives undisturbed by the few curious swimmers. I had barely taken it all in, when a school of blue fish welcomed me by swimming right next to my face. I raised my head above the water, laughing in fear, before I swam down again.
I began to meditate, finding peace in breaths going out and in then in and out. But all of a sudden, I heard nothing but absolute silence. I let go of my usual control over my body, and let the water stir me in the direction it preferred. In the deep silence, I found traces of my old self, the one often shut down in daily life. I got out of water with a deep sense of gratitude.

The day might have come to an end, but the night was still young. We decided to experience a taste of the local culture with a traditional Bedouin dinner and entertainment at Al-Twailat Mountain. Under a sky full of stars, we were greeted by the Bedouins with delicious tea with mountain herbs.

We were introduced to the science of the stars, planets and constellations in the clear sky above us, opening yet a whole new world before my eyes.
Before leaving, I took a walk up the mountain to stargaze, and played “Hazehi Leilaty” yet again:
Life shall seek us for amusement and then of us would make fun.

Wadi Gnai: a dreamlike desert spot

The next day, we ran into a couple of childhood friends; and off we went to the three pools, another great place for snorkeling. But instead of settling for another day by the beach Yasmeen and I decided to take a beach buggy ride to the nearby Wadi Gnai, a little oasis at the East end of Dahab.

It was my first time riding a beach buggy, and I confess I was a bit afraid especially after losing control at the beginning. However, my tension eased as a kind and calming 9-year-old boy named Talal rode with me. Young as he is, he took care of me; old as I am, he wanted to make sure I had a good time.

We sang together as we drove alongside the sandstone mountains covered in occasional green shrubs:
Life shall seek us for amusement and then of us would make fun, so let me love you a little bit more now.

When Yasmeen suddenly fell from her ride, my heart skipped a beat but thankfully, she got up easily with only minor injuries. It was a good laugh afterwards.
“Sou’ ‘ala mahlak, terouh l’ahlak” (Drive slowly to return to your family), Talal sang as we continued our ride. Indeed, the fast pace of life makes us forget where we ultimately want to go, safe and sound.

“I’m touched,” I heard a steady voice within me say. It was the voice of my old self again as it gained confidence to arise amidst the stillness.

We reached our destination in Wadi Gnai, a dreamlike spot in the desert, seemingly untouched by mankind, surrounded with mountains and green palm trees. We were told that each of these trees belong to the forefathers of the Bedouin tribes who still live there and carry their names, reflecting pride in their roots and long family line.

“The world forgetting, by the world forgot,” I remembered the words of Alexander Pope, as I stood there, mesmerized by the beauty of the surrounding calm.
We went back to the three pools, where we were united with our driver and his other clients who had spent their day in the sea. We chatted with ease about our lives, and what we do for fun. This seems to happen often in Dahab, conversations strike up comfortably with strangers because it attracts the like-minded. We bid them farewell as we were about to leave the next day, and promised to keep in touch.

After just a three-day break, Dahab was where I met myself, the self that life had managed to distance me from. By reconnecting with nature, I was more at peace than ever.
7/28/2018 11:38:27 AM
<![CDATA[10 fitness myths that could be holding you back]]>
Myth #1: Lifting weights will bulk you up.
Truth: It’s actually pretty hard – next to impossible — for women to bulk up from a normal strength-training routine, because they don’t have as much testosterone as men. It’s the difference in this hormone level that makes it easier for men to bulk up. If you’re a woman and weight loss is your goal, strength training can actually help you lean out—but you have to keep your nutrition in check too.

Myth #2: You can focus on losing fat from certain body parts.
Truth: As much as you may like to believe it, spot training is not a thing. Fat cells are distributed across your entire body. If you want to lose fat from a specific spot, you need to lose overall body fat through a sensible nutrition and exercise plan.
Myth #3: Doing lots of cardio is the best way to lose weight.

Truth: If your goal is weight loss, jogging endless miles on the treadmill isn’t always the best approach. Yes, traditional cardio workouts will help create a day-to-day calorie deficit (in addition to a healthy lifestyle), which is essential for losing weight. But in the long term, having more lean muscle mass, which comes from strength training, will help your body burn more calories at rest, so a combination of both high-intensity cardio and strength training is a good idea.

Myth #4: Not feeling sore means you didn’t get a good workout.
Truth: While soreness and workout intensity are sometimes connected, how tired your muscles feel isn’t always a good indicator of a solid sweat session—it just means that a significant amount of stress was applied to the tissue. Proper recovery will help prevent achy muscles. Refuel within the first 30 to 45 minutes post-exercise, stay hydrated, and get enough sleep. All of these things can help boost recovery and minimize soreness.

Myth #5: Strength training means using machines and heavy weights.
Truth: Strength training means using resistance to work your muscles and that resistance doesn’t necessarily have to come from a machine or a heavy weight. Aside from using your own bodyweight, you can also use tools like kettle bells, medicine balls and resistance bands to add resistance.

Myth #6: The more you sweat, the more you burn.
Truth: Not necessarily. You sweat because your core temperature increases. Your muscles create heat when you exercise, so a tough workout will increase your internal temperature. Humidity also plays a role. It’s not sweating that cools you off; it’s the evaporation (of sweat). You’ll feel like you’re sweating more when it’s humid because sweat can’t evaporate. This is also a reason to be careful when exercising in hot, humid climates, because your body temperature will keep increasing.

Myth #7: Crunches are a great exercise for your abs.
Truth: Crunches are probably not going to hurt your core strength, but they’re not the most efficient exercise you can do to strengthen your midsection. Your abdominal muscles are designed to work most effectively when you’re standing upright.

Myth #8: You have to do at least 20 minutes of cardio to make it worth your while.
Truth: You can get an amazing cardio workout in less time by utilizing high intensity interval training. High-intensity cardio challenges the respiratory system to work efficiently to deliver oxygen to working muscles, and creates an after-burn effect, meaning you continue burning calories after you’re done. One approach is Tabata, which is 20 seconds of hard work, 10 seconds of rest for eight rounds total, which adds up to a four-minute routine.

Myth #9: You need to stretch before a workout.
Truth: While it’s true that you shouldn’t just jump right into a workout, dynamic warm-ups are what you need, so you can save those static stretches for afterwards. Your pre-workout goal should be to improve mobility and elasticity in the muscles. This is best done with foam rolling and a dynamic warm-up, where you keep your body moving (instead of holding stretches still). This prepares your body for work and helps increase your range of motion, which means you can get deeper into exercises and strengthen more of those muscles.

Myth #10: You should work out every day.
Truth: Definitely not true. When you work out, and especially when you’re strength training, you’re breaking down muscle fibers so they can rebuild stronger. However, to do this, you need to give your body time to recover. Aim for one to two days per week of active recovery rest days, which means doing something that doesn’t put stress on your body, like gentle stretching or a walk.

Sherif Elfadalay is an ISSA Certified Elite Trainer and a specialist in sports nutrition and exercise therapy. He is also a member of the European and UK registry of exercise professionals and holds workshops and lectures on fitness and nutrition. Instagram: Sheirf.elfadaly / Facebook: Sherif Fadaly ISSA Elite Trainer
7/25/2018 3:25:35 PM
<![CDATA[Amr MacGyver talks about his career as Egypt’s No.1 stuntman]]>
But it wasn’t on the race track that Mahmoud picked up his moniker “MacGyver.” He got that nickname—for those of you who still remember the popular 1980s TV series starring Richard Dean Anderson by the same name—when he was still in prep school. “I was trying to connect something in the power plug of my classroom when it accidentally caused a short circuit. The explosion took out a whole floor,” Mahmoud says with a laugh. “Eventually, it was my father who gave me the nicknamem after paying for the damages.”

A happy coincidence landed Mahmoud his first experience in the film industry when he was contacted by the producer of Rehlet Hob (Love Journey, 2001) starring Mohamed Fouad to perform a car chase that ends up in a crash on Pyramids Road. At the time, there were no stunt teams to produce action sequences in Egypt, and the producer first turned to British stuntmen. When they arrived in Cairo, they were not able to close off the whole road as a safety precaution, as is usually done in western cinema. “After I pulled off the chase, I started to get many calls to do similar stunts,” explains Mahmoud, who started to work in major films like Sherif Arafa’s Ful El-Seen El-Azeem (The Great Chinese Beans, 2004) starring Mohamed Heneidy. Other projects he was involved with include music videos like Assala’s Tasawar (Imagine) and TV series including last Ramadan’s Al-Gama’a (The Brotherhood). “Stunt coordination became my profession after I had to quit car racing, which is a very expensive sport that is not that rewarding in Egypt,” he says. Aside from working on Egyptian films and TV series, Mahmoud also took part in a Europe-based campaign raising awareness of the dangers of using mobile telephones while driving or walking.

After working with Mona Zaki and Karim Abdel-Aziz on the film Abou-Aly (2005) where he pulled off a car stunt driving backwards, Mahmoud decided to form his own team, the first in Egypt, collaborating with South African stunt coordinator Andrew McKenzie who has more than 20 years’ experience in this field. “McKenzie worked in Egyptian cinema with Ahmed El-Sakka in two of his starring films, Tito and Ibrahim al-Abyad,” says Mahmoud. “I started to work with McKenzie for few years until I gained enough experience to work with my team on our own. Right now, the team includes a group of fit, young men who can climb walls and realize fight scenes with different weapons, in addition to one young lady nicknamed Jojo who has become the stunt double for all our leading actresses.”

Safety on Set

When it comes to stunt work in the cinema industry, safety precautions vary from one country to the other. For instance, when Jackie Chan shot films in the US like his Rush Hour series, the insurance companies didn’t allow him to do the same dangerous stunts he frequently does in Hong Kong. Also, in the US, some insurance companies prevent actors from performing certain stunts. In 1994, the insurance policies of Wesley Snipes and most of the cast of Drop Zone precluded them from skydiving themselves. Last August, a stuntwoman called Joi “SJ” Harris died while performing a motorcycle stunt on the Vancouver set of Dead Pool 2, set for release in 2019. “In Egypt, I always see what I can get most from the actor,” explains Mahmoud, who sometimes performs parts of the action scenes if not all of them. “As for the safety of my own team, we have our own special equipment and costumes. I am the only one among my team who does car stunts since, till now, we don’t have the expensive remote systems which are not that accurate anyway. Until today, Egypt does not have big warehouses where old cars can be used in certain shots featuring exploding vehicles. For the latter, I work with Egyptian pyrotechnic specialist Hany El-Maghraby.”

Our very own MacGyver does have hope that one day Egyptian action sequences can compete with Hollywood’s best. “My favorite heavyweight car chases exist in two films: the 2003 Bad Boys 2, which was directed by Michael Bay with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence starring as two edgy Miami super cops, and the recently released Baby Driver. One day, I want to be able to do something similar in terms of car chases but that is at the same time believable and related to the Egyptian environment,” says Mahmoud. He expresses disappointment that although he has been working for a decade and a half in stunts and special effects, he and his team are not members of the Egyptian Film Syndicate, which has yet to recognize stunt workers as part of the cinema industry.

Mahmoud recently worked on a new action comedy called Okdet el-Khawaga (the foreigner complex) with Hassan el-Radad and Sherine Reda, and is working on follow-up tv show to his 2015 Adrenaline where he performed numerous stunts with Egyptian stars.
7/23/2018 5:38:04 PM
<![CDATA[Behind action scenes in today’s Egyptian cinema]]>
“The movie will present a new action style that was never presented before in the history of Egyptian action movies,” director Peter Mimi promised, shortly before the movie was released. “I recalled in the movie 15 hours from various documentaries, in addition to 1,200 images of different forms of weapons, cars, tanks, armor and outfits to suit the film’s historical setting in order to reduce the percentage of errors. Making this film was not easy or simple,’’ Mimi said on his official Twitter account.

The film takes place in the era of King Farouk, the last king of Egypt, and revolves around a police officer, Youssef el-Masry (Amir Karara), who lives in the district of Karmouz in Alexandria. The film stars famed English actor Scott Adkins, known as “Boyka,” in his first appearance in Egyptian cinema, alongside Karara, Mostafa Khater, Ghada Abdel Razek, Bayoumi Fouad, Fathy Abdelwahab and Rogina, among others.

“Boyka is not the only international star in Harb Karmouz,” said Mimi, adding that stuntman Venko Mishev (of Acts of Vengeance, The Hitman’s Bodyguard and The Legend of Hercules fame) also stars in the epic movie.

In the Making
Mohamed Essam Abdelrazek is the only Egyptian drone pilot licensed in the UK, and the man behind the high-tech action scenes in several recent blockbuster films, including Harb Karmouz. “After I reached the top level in Egypt of filming acclaimed movies and projects, I wanted to go further, so I decided to work on getting the UK license for filming aboard a drone. It’s the same as a private pilot license; I studied for a week, and then took a theoretical test and passed it,’’ Abdelrazek explains. He then came back to Egypt and worked on a related 80-page Operations manual; once he got it approved, he went back to the UK to take his practical test flying heavy lift drones, the top license for drones. “I passed the test and became the first and only Egyptian or Arab registered as a drone pilot in the UK,’’ Abdelrazek says, speaking to Egypt Today shortly before the release of Harb Karmouz.

Abdelrazek is credited for action scenes in El Khaleya (The Cell), Horob Edtrary (Forced Escape), A’antar Ibn Shadaad and Yabany Asly (Original Japanese) in addition to Serry Lel Ghaaya (Extremely Confidential) which chronicles Egypt’s history from the beginning of the uprising against Hosni Mubarak on January 25, 2011 until the ousting of Mohamed Morsi on June 30, 2013. The film, whose budget (an estimated LE 200 million) is the highest of any Egyptian production to date, covers the terrorist attacks and disturbances that occurred during this time.

Abdelrazek explains that action scenes require the best cinema equipment and human resources possible to be carried out perfectly, all of which come at a price. “Experience and talent, in addition to the crew’s capabilities and qualifications, are key in executing the action scenes, but they also require the latest motion equipment and techniques to appear engaging and appealing to the viewer. From cable cams, techno-cranes, cranes, buggy cams, Russian arms, steady cams, camera gimbals . . . the list goes on for whatever makes any action scene look epic. Not only motion equipment, but also advanced cameras, post production graphics and editing. The differences between now and the past are technology, experience, and knowledge,’’ he maintains.

Drones, used specifically to shoot videos, have taken the making of action scenes to a new level, says Abdelrazek, who adds that all scenes involving drones “are dazzling, and there is no chance of any fault.” He also explains that, whether it’s for movies or TV, action scenes are much more difficult to make than any other genres because “the shots are quick, with fast-moving targets, a lot of action taking place, maybe several at the same time, and you get the order from the director to move along with them all in a sequence. Sometimes it’s an explosion that can’t be repeated again, a car that falls into a river and gets destroyed, a car flipping over, a hero jumping from a bridge into a river,” says Abdelrazek.

He recounts one scene in Horoob Edtrary with Amir Karara driving a car off Kasr El-Ainy Bridge. “For the actual jump, this car was stripped of all the electronics, engine, fuel, and transmission. There was no one in the car, which we attached to a steel rope hooked to a truck. There was ramp right on the edge of the bridge, and once the shot was about to get executed all the cameras were on and running, including the drone in the air, the truck moves on the word ‘Action!’ to pull the car flying off the bridge and into the water. This scene was very difficult and unrepeatable, because the car was totally destroyed. With the amount of funding we had, we couldn’t do it again. Luckily, we got it right,’’ says Abdelrazek, adding that Amr MacGyver and Andrew Mckenzie were responsible for the motion of the cars.

El-Khaleya also had car chases and cars jumping off bridges, as well as explosions and gun battles. ‘’There was that scene where a car is driven by Ahmed Ezz with Mohamed Mamdouh in the passenger seat and they jumped from the bridge, landing on a truck. In reality, the car moved and stopped at the edge of the bridge and the rest was graphics,” says Abdelrazek, explaining that the area was mapped before the scene using a drone so the graphics could be added in post-production.

Graphics are very important, but very often the scenes are completely real. In Serry Lel Ghaaya, for example, real weapons, tanks and war machines were used. “We went and shot scenes in real military bases and the scenes were designed by military generals. All this adds to the realism of any production, but requires lots of funding that you can’t find in many Egyptian movies,’’ Abdelrazek adds.

One feature that has helped bring down cost is the green screen or the “chroma key.” “In the past, you had to build a huge set just for the background scenery on an action scene or, like in the 1940s and 1950s, just head to a studio and get the background painted on a big chart. Now, you use a big green chroma and the graphics are added in post-production afterwards, and it ends up looking so real. It saves money and time,’’ Abdelrazek explains.

Big Budgets
Most action movies in Egypt lack sufficient funding required to execute realistic action scenes that can compete with global giants produced in countries like the US, according to Abdelrazek. “No doubt the Americans are number one; they have all the tools and qualifications, and their industry is big and always pushes them for the best,” he says, promising that Harb Karmouz and Serry Lel Ghaaya would make a major leap in the history of Egyptian action movies because of their high budget.

That leap will not just come from cutting-edge technology, but also from the experienced crew manning it. “[Low budgets] are why we have few qualified crew members around Egypt. If we get good funding, the industry demand will increase for top-level crew members, which will, in turn, raise the standard. Instead of a strong crew in a certain profession, you will have several more,’’ Abdelrazek says.

Fueling the growth of film production budgets are the viewers themselves, says Abdelrazek, highlighting that the Egyptian audience’s taste has shifted radically in the recent period, with cinemagoers preferring action movies more commonly. The numbers speak for themselves: Horob Edtrary, starring Ahmed El-Sakka, made some LE 43 million in box-office takings but was beaten by El-Khaleya which achieved the highest revenues in 2017 and became the highest-grossing movie in Egyptian cinema history, bringing in some LE 55 million.

El-Khaleya highlights the continuous efforts exerted by security forces to combat terrorism, as well as the obstacles and the suffering they face as a result. Egyptian megastar Ahmed Ezz plays the special operations officer who works to stop more than one terrorist operation and brings down various terrorist cells. Tragically, Amr Salah, the Special Operations officer who took part in El-Khaleya, training Ezz and fellow actors on police exercises shown in the movie, was killed on duty in October 2017 during confrontations between police forces and terrorists in an oasis in the Western Desert. Salah had also appeared in in the film; in one scene changing clothes in the locker room, another time appearing in a raid, as well as taking part in most of the scenes with Ezz in the camp.

7/16/2018 2:11:35 PM
<![CDATA[Unmasking Gender Stereotypes through Music]]>
“While recording our first album, we felt that we want this band to carry on; we decided to name it after the album’s title,” Esraa Saleh, co-founder, songwriter and singer tells Egypt Today. “The name ‘Al-Masarwa’ was inspired by a line in one of the album’s songs. Other Arab countries refer to Egyptians as ‘Al-Masarwa,’ so we thought it would be creative to name the band Bnt Al-Masarwa, in a message that we represent all Egyptian girls and women beyond any stereotypes or classification,” adds Saleh.

The vibrant, passionate young women aim to produce women’s music in Arabic, based on real-life experiences of women and girls affected by different circumstances, backgrounds and identities. Through their music, they attempt to help women from different backgrounds express the reality of womanhood in modern Egypt. They explain that their cause goes beyond singing; as they believe that women all over Egypt face various forms of oppression as a result of culture, customs, religious beliefs and intersectional oppression. “There are many segments of women in society that no one speaks for, like the women of Upper Egypt, indebted and divorced women, girls who are subjected to harassment on the streets and those who face restrictions imposed by culture. Such topics require attention and need to be [highlighted],” says Saleh.
Cofounder, singer and executive director of the band, Marina Samir, has been a passionate advocate of women’s rights and feminism since she was young. The Cairo University political science student is intent on exposing how the patriarchal system controls every small detail of Egyptian women’s lives. “I think of music as a medium to transfer and voice women’s realities and experiences and also to highlight the pressure that falls on men to follow certain stereotypes, shaped by society, to be considered masculine enough. I also believe that all arts production in Egypt, from cinema to literature to music, help reproduce the patriarchal mentality; hence, we dreadfully need different voices in the music production domain to represent strong and independent female role models,” says Samir.

The other two members believe the band has contributed to shaping their feminist identity. “Since I was young, I loved music; now, I am determined to use it as a tool to spread awareness of issues that women face on a daily basis. Music can interpret love, anger, determination and passivity. This band provided me with the opportunity to translate my passion for music and connected me with people like me; people who would like to see social issues presented through music, not only through theories and books,” says Mariam Samir, the main composer and singer for the band. “We realize that history is always documented by the most privileged and the ones who have the power—men. Therefore, women’s stories are usually neglected or presented in a manner that supports men’s roles. Music is the language that we chose to change this status and to document our stories from our perspective. This was the entry point to my interest in feminism that I would like to mainstream in all stages of music production,” says Mariam, who is responsible for the band’s music production.

تصوير منى
Photo courtesy Mona

Meanwhile, Saleh, who used to work as a storyteller before joining the band, says that the women’s group helped her question what she learned and realized about herself and her society since childhood. “I started to identify myself as a feminist only after we established the band. Before, I knew that I was a woman who was not enjoying her full rights, but I never understood why. I thought that it was my own family until I understood that discrimination against women is a worldwide phenomenon, resulting from a deeply rooted patriarchal system. For me, feminism is extremely personal; it is a way of living,” says Saleh.

Following their first album the group decided to introduce themselves to the public as an “independent feminist band.” Bnt Al-Masarwa is currently putting the final touches on their second album, set to be released at the end of the month. The main themes of the 10-song album, Mazghouna (an old name of a village in the Minya governorate, Upper Egypt) are domestic violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and cutting (FGMC) as well as child marriage and forced marriage. The band is planning to release their songs under the Creative Commons License as they believe it is part of their social responsibility to make their songs accessible to the public, free of charge and available for re-use. It is the same approach that they follow in their concerts, “All of our concerts were free. We do not want money to be a barrier for people to enjoy our music,” says Marina.

Mazghouna’s production process was part of the “Bnt Al-Masarwa in Upper Egypt” project funded by the British Council to discuss gender-based violence. The project followed a participatory approach, conducting storytelling workshops with 34 women from different governorates on forms of discrimination, violence and oppression that they face in their daily lives. “We were very aware of our privileges as a group of women living in Cairo, compared to other women who live outside the capital. We belong to the middle class; we have access to resources and services including education but there are other women and girls who live a different reality. We wanted them to speak about themselves and to explain their reality [in] their own words,” says Marina.

The young women traveled to Minya, Assiut and Aswan in Upper Egypt to document women’s stories and life experiences as they believe that all development projects neglect this vital area in Egypt and focus only on the capital. “At first we thought the women and girls would not be responsive and that we would not be able to document any story. But as we opened up and shared our own stories on forms of oppression that we deal with on a daily basis, we broke the ice and gained their trust. They started to reflect on how the patriarchal system and other forms of intersectional oppressions such as social status, class, religious identity, color, race and family prevented them from being free and equal [which] therefore [means] they cannot fulfill their potentials,” says Marina.

After songwriting, the band delivered the stories to the public in the targeted governorates through songs and music. “We delivered the songs generated from the storytelling workshops in Minya in the village’s streets, it was very much like a march. The women who participated in the workshops joined us and they heard their own words translated into songs. The people at the village, including men, were very happy and they interacted positively with us. For me this day was a benchmark that made me even more passionate to continue,” adds Marina.
“In our songs, we embraced different slang and terminologies to represent various areas of the country, from Upper to Lower Egypt and that is what brought us closer to the people,” says Saleh.

Following these workshops, a group of young women from Minya were inspired by Bnt Al-Masrwa’s experience, leading them to write several songs that they hope to sing one day. “Sooner or later we will own our studio and production company, then we will support all young girls who are passionate about music. We need more women to reshape the music industry in Egypt; I hope that we as a band can provide this opportunity to young women because we are aware that they do not have equal opportunities to men to enhance their skills,” says Marina.

Challenges along the way
Bnt Al-Masarwa have come up against many challenges as a feminist and independent band, ranging from lack of funding to being overlooked to finding female musicians with whom they could work.

The band applied for several funding opportunities on the national and regional level to finance the production of their second album but were rejected. “Arts and cultural institutions don’t recognize us as artists and therefore we were not a funding priority for them. As long as we label ourselves as a feminist band, we are not considered artistic enough from their perspective,” explains Mirette Abdel Mawla, the band’s coordinator and a political science student at Cairo University.

صورة من ورشة الحكي في قرية أبو غرير- المنيا- تصوير ندى رياض
Photo courtesy Nada Ryad

Still, the unstoppable young women continued their fund-seeking journey, finally managing to receive a small fund from Frida, an international organization which funds young feminists’ projects. The fund was not enough to cover the album costs, and so in August 2017, they resorted to crowdfunding, managing to secure 77 percent of their $12,000 target in just five weeks. “The idea of the crowdfunding campaign was to persuade people to donate for our album’s production and also to train one of us on music production skills,” says Mariam. Building on this, Saleh explains, “Our crowd funding campaign was successful and we were supported by people from more than 19 countries; we also received support from feminist groups, nationally and internationally, who believed in our work and cause.”

“For five weeks, we did not sleep as we were responsible for producing every video and designing every post and photo for the campaign. We did not have a digital marketer or a video producer to edit our video messages before going on the website. We reached out to friends who could volunteer to help us and some of them allowed us to use their homes to shoot the videos,” says Abdel Mawla, “People felt that we are sincere and passionate. They believed in us and donated to the band.”

The young women believe that the crowdfunding experience strengthened their bond. “We now understand what feminist solidarity means. It means that women should always be there to support and lift each other, the feminist bond is nothing less that sisterhood,” says Marina.
Another challenge that Bnt Al-Masarwa faced was finding enough female musicians for an all-women music production. “We wanted to show the world that an all-women team can produce music as good as men,” says Marina.

The members also explain that the music production industry is strongly male dominated in Egypt. “We struggled to find a female music producer, the only woman that we found was in Alexandria and she was still studying. The situation is not better if you are looking for female music engineers or music players,” says Mariam, who is studying music at the Cairo Conservatoire and plans to study computer programming for music production. “Presumptions about what women can or cannot do in the music field are very strong and the available opportunities for women are very limited. In the music field, men are more privileged and women are constantly prejudged that they cannot play certain types of instruments, like the drums and electric guitars, the way men would do.”

The band gained great publicity and media coverage following the crowdfunding campaign and has been invited to participate at the Festival d’Avignon in France next month. “The festival organizers offered us the opportunity to launch Mazghouna during the festival, but we preferred to do so in Egypt. We are an Egyptian band and we want to stick to our identity,” says Marina. “Our music should see the light in Egypt.”

7/13/2018 9:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[10 Fitness Myths that Could be Holding You Back]]>
Myth #1: Lifting weights will bulk you up.
Truth: It’s actually pretty hard – next to impossible — for women to bulk up from a normal strength-training routine, because they don’t have as much testosterone as men. It’s the difference in this hormone level that makes it easier for men to bulk up. If you’re a woman and weight loss is your goal, strength training can actually help you lean out—but you have to keep your nutrition in check too.

Myth #2: You can focus on losing fat from certain body parts.
Truth: As much as you may like to believe it, spot training is not a thing. Fat cells are distributed across your entire body. If you want to lose fat from a specific spot, you need to lose overall body fat through a sensible nutrition and exercise plan.

Myth #3: Doing lots of cardio is the best way to lose weight.
Truth: If your goal is weight loss, jogging endless miles on the treadmill isn’t always the best approach. Yes, traditional cardio workouts will help create a day-to-day calorie deficit (in addition to a healthy lifestyle), which is essential for losing weight. But in the long term, having more lean muscle mass, which comes from strength training, will help your body burn more calories at rest, so a combination of both high-intensity cardio and strength training is a good idea.

Myth #4: Not feeling sore means you didn’t get a good workout.
Truth: While soreness and workout intensity are sometimes connected, how tired your muscles feel isn’t always a good indicator of a solid sweat session—it just means that a significant amount of stress was applied to the tissue. Proper recovery will help prevent achy muscles. Refuel within the first 30 to 45 minutes post-exercise, stay hydrated, and get enough sleep. All of these things can help boost recovery and minimize soreness.

Myth #5: Strength training means using machines and heavy weights.
Truth: Strength training means using resistance to work your muscles and that resistance doesn’t necessarily have to come from a machine or a heavy weight. Aside from using your own bodyweight, you can also use tools like kettlebells, medicine balls and resistance bands to add resistance.

Myth #6: The more you sweat, the more you burn.
Truth: Not necessarily. You sweat because your core temperature increases. Your muscles create heat when you exercise, so a tough workout will increase your internal temperature. Humidity also plays a role. It’s not sweating that cools you off; it’s the evaporation (of sweat). You’ll feel like you’re sweating more when it’s humid because sweat can’t evaporate. This is also a reason to be careful when exercising in hot, humid climates, because your body temperature will keep increasing.

Myth #7: Crunches are a great exercise for your abs.
Truth: Crunches are probably not going to hurt your core strength, but they’re not the most efficient exercise you can do to strengthen your midsection. Your abdominal muscles are designed to work most effectively when you’re standing upright.

Myth #8: You have to do at least 20 minutes of cardio to make it worth your while.
Truth:You can get an amazing cardio workout in less time by utilizing high intensity interval training. High-intensity cardio challenges the respiratory system to work efficiently to deliver oxygen to working muscles, and creates an after-burn effect, meaning you continue burning calories after you’re done. One approach is Tabata, which is 20 seconds of hard work, 10 seconds of rest for eight rounds total, which adds up to a four-minute routine.

Myth #9: You need to stretch before a workout.
Truth: While it’s true that you shouldn’t just jump right into a workout, dynamic warm-ups are what you need, so you can save those static stretches for afterwards. Your pre-workout goal should be to improve mobility and elasticity in the muscles. This is best done with foam rolling and a dynamic warm-up, where you keep your body moving (instead of holding stretches still). This prepares your body for work and helps increase your range of motion, which means you can get deeper into exercises and strengthen more of those muscles.

Myth #10: You should work out every day.
Truth: Definitely not true. When you work out, and especially when you’re strength training, you’re breaking down muscle fibers so they can rebuild stronger. However, to do this, you need to give your body time to recover. Aim for one to two days per week of active recovery rest days, which means doing something that doesn’t put stress on your body, like gentle stretching or a walk.

Sherif Elfadalay is an ISSA Certified Elite Trainer and a specialist in sports nutrition and exercise therapy. He is also a member of the European and UK registry of exercise professionals and holds workshops and lectures on fitness and nutrition.
Instagram: Sheirf.elfadaly

Facebook: Sherif Fadaly ISSA Elite Trainer

7/12/2018 9:30:09 PM
<![CDATA[Promise of a Home: Egypt tackles crisis of homeless children]]>
Right outside the Sayeda Zeinab Metro Station, the bus of the government’s “Protecting Homeless Children” program was waiting to resume its daily mission. One of 17 teams working in 10 governorates, the West Cairo street team is responsible for one of the most dangerous neighborhoods. The five-member team is credited for saving almost 30 homeless children from the gloomy streets this past year alone; ever since the program kicked off on the ground.

As you enter the bus, the first thing you spot is the PlayStation screen on the wall, a cooler, and a couple of sofa seats. Then there is a door that leads to a small room for medical care for the homeless children, and often adults, who visit the bus on its daily stops.

Photo by Egypt Today/Yasmine Hassan

As I stepped into the bus, I was welcomed by Youssef, 6, who was so absorbed in his PlayStation game; it looked like he was quite familiar with the bus and with the team. Shortly after, we moved to Sayeda Zeinab Square, one of the team’s rotating target areas. We parked; the team got off the bus; and Amr, 12, was the first to come meet us in front of the bus and welcome us; he is a “frequenter” (the children are classified as frequenters and new). Amr was just recounting how the team had taken him to an institution that he hated and how he left after a few days to go back to the street, when he suddenly ran to the parallel pavement to break up a fight. At least four or five girls were quarrelling in an “everyday street fight,” as Amr told me later on; and one of them turned out to be his niece, Shahd, who looked a few years older than him. He had to step in and defend her. Amr has “countless” siblings, several of his brothers died in car accidents, and his whole family is living on the street.

More visitors started coming onto the bus within minutes; including Shahd who had hurt her foot in the fight. The two children were engaged in their PlayStation game, when Shaimaa, an older lady came for medical assistance. Shaimaa, whose arms and face were covered in scars, scratches and bruises, was pregnant; but she had actually come in for first aid for her black eye. The coordinator later told us that Shaimaa is actually a handler of the neighborhood’s homeless children.

Some time later, a kind woman stepped in and offered to train the homeless girls and teach them embroidery. “My girls have a place to sleep; but these girls don’t,” she said sadly, as she gave her contact information.

Photo by Egypt Today/Yasmine Hassan

We were then called by the team coordinator to go talk to two “new” girls (new faces in the area). And this is when we met Aya and Kholoud; who had originally come from Upper Egypt.

Right before leaving the square, two young men, covered with scratches and bruises, came onto the bus. They said they were there for medical assistance but they were actually there for Aya, who got their friend El Brazili jailed the day before after complaining to a police officer about him harassing her. “This girl is mine… And if I ever see her in the street, I will tear her apart,” one of them told the coordinator.

As intensely dramatic as it all may seem, this is actually as real as the life of tens of thousands of homeless children can get. The street team, one of five components of the state’s two-year-old project, makes the direct contact with the target group (the homeless children), providing them with on-the-spot assistance, gaining their trust, and hopefully taking them to the next step, to either reunite them with their families, or transfer them to social care institutions.

From the street teams to renovated institutions, family reunifications, evaluations, inspections, and more, this month, we are taking a closer look at the government’s comprehensive “Protecting Homeless Children” program.

Taking a closer look at two of the program’s main components; we shadowed a street team all the way from spotting two “new” children, to convincing them of how dangerous the street is, and finally taking them to a hosting institution. We then visited one of the institutions that the project has revamped, by providing a humane infrastructure, establishing a new building, staff hiring and training.

About the program

The Ministry of Social Solidarity started developing its strategy to “limit the phenomenon of homeless children, empower them economically and socially, and include them in the society” with a national data collection process back in 2014. According to the ministry’s report, there were almost 20,000 homeless children, 12,772 of whom were located in 10 governorates; Cairo, Giza, Qalyubia, Alexandria, Menoufia, Sharqiya, Suez, Beni Suef, Minia and Assiut. The “Protecting Homeless children Program” was built on the results of this study and focusing on those concentration areas, Hazem el Malah, the project’s media spokesman, tells Egypt Today.

The program consists of five main components: The street teams and mobile units reach out for the children in the streets to offer them temporary medical and psychological services. The second component is the development of the hosting institutions; in terms of infrastructure, staffing, developing their programs, and so on. The case management component is the connecting link among all elements; but more importantly, it is the one that keeps in touch with the family once the child is reunited and makes sure that their needs are met so that they don’t go back to the street. The inspection and evaluation part monitors the whole program; and lastly, there is the social marketing component. “The society is still rejecting the street child… If the society does not accept and help street children, all the effort will be gone… He will be rejected and will turn back to the street,” Malah says.

Launched in April 2016, the program was financed with LE 50 million from the Ministry of Social Solidarity, and LE 114 million from the Tahya Misr Fund. The first year was spent working on things like the infrastructure work of the institutions, preparing the mobile teams, and training; and the whole project was officially put in action in April 2017. It has so far approached 12,251 homeless children, out of which 681 were either reunited with their families or transferred to institutions, according to Malah. The others, however, wouldn’t be convinced to move off the streets and to institutions; a place they still perceive as Draconian.

Mobile Units and Street Teams

The program currently has 17 street teams employed in the 10 selected governorates, seven of which are in Greater Cairo. “We had a problem in the past years with the NGOs; that they did not have a mechanism to deal with the children on the street. The mobile units aim at filling this gap,” Malah says.

Each team consists of five members; social, psychological and activities specialists, a paramedic, and the driver. They work six hours a day, six days a week in preset target areas. “The teams were selected carefully…we had 3,000 applicants and we chose the best elements after several committees. They were trained, in collaboration with international organizations that have experience in the field, like Face, Save the Children and the UNICEF,” Malah explains.


Each unit is equipped with a first aid kit, coloring books and pens, short stories, games and healthy meals. It has a place for activities, with a laptop and a PlayStation, and another for medical treatment, including a bed and necessary equipment.

Each member of the street team has a clear role. They know how to identify a homeless child looking at the back of their head, the dead skin on their heels, their messy hair or untidy clothes; then, they follow the best approach to gain their trust. The psychologist is always observing to make a primary assessment, and eventually, after as many visits as it takes, the child is referred to case management to either be reunited with the family or allocated in a residence or a partner organization.

Once identified, the key to approaching any child is emotional acceptance, Kamal stresses. “These children have a very bad idea of the society and the police,” he adds. “They believe that if found, they would be taken straight to juvenile detention.”

“He would always question [our good attitude] based on previous experiences; a time when he trusted someone and they ended up to be panders or were planning to sexually assault them. They are very conscious… They would study you well when they sit with you and analyze you,” Kamal says.

The team follows different scenarios to approach a child for the first time, according to the situation. “If he is in a group with his handler we have to divide ourselves; we need to distance the child to talk to him. If the child is asleep; there are different opinions, some say we shouldn’t wake him up, but we would risk not finding him when we come back. We would try to talk to him gently and wake him up as if he is at home… He would be afraid at first and we should try to make him feel safe … If it is an urgent case, we take an immediate decision to convince the child to go to an institution or an organization. They must be convinced that this place would change their life,” Kamal explains.

Although this doesn’t actually happen very often, I happened to be there when the team took one of those urgent decisions. On a pavement by Sayeda Zeinab Square, a young woman aged between 16 and 18, was spotted defending a younger girl in what seemed like an everyday street quarrel. Soon after, we were given the alert; these were two “new” girls, not familiar to the vicious cycle of homelessness; and who called for immediate intervention.

Once the quarrel was settled, I went with the “street team” and sat next to Aya, the older girl, on the bus bench. With some small talk, the specialists became almost certain she was a recent homeless child, along with her sister Kholoud, 6.

Aya first told us she came from Sohag, in Upper Egypt, five days earlier and was staying with her aunt. We were then approached by another woman, one of the “pillars” of the street as I was told (and Amr’s sister); she affirmed our suspicions that both girls were “new” and that they had been in the street for days and probably needed help.

As she felt a bit safe with us, the team accompanied Aya and her sister to the bus to evaluate her situation and hopefully convince her to go to a shelter or an institution. “We are not the police … we are here to talk to you and help you. You look decent and not someone who likes problems; and the street is full of danger. How can we help you?” Kamal said gently to Aya.

As she felt more comfortable, Aya told us she was not staying with an aunt, just a janitor whose wife she knew before. “I came to Cairo to work,” she said. “I left my town a year ago … we did not escape. Our step-mother kicked us out and a kind woman told us to leave,” she recounted.

“The street is not permanent and the people sheltering you aren’t too .. The street is dangerous for you and your sister, and no matter how strong you are, you will not be able to protect her,” Kamal pursued gently. “If you want a place to live in, we will take you …. This place is very good; and if at anytime you don’t want to stay there, we will still stand by your side.”

I had always heard that convincing a homeless child to go to a shelter is a challenge. However, in a few seconds the girls were sold on the idea, especially after they saw a video of the institution. “It is much better than staying here in the street with the boys,” Aya said.

We then walked with Aya a few blocks; and she introduced us to the kind janitor they were living with. It turned out that he did not know the girls. He just found them the day before crying near the building and took them in. Aya and Kholoud packed their clothes in two plastic bags, said goodbye; and as soon as we reached the door of that building, I could see the smile of those two girls for the first time in over an hour.

Aya and her sister were immediately on the road to their new home, and would never have to see the two thugs who came onto the bus looking for her again.

The story of Aya and Kholoud ends at a care institution in Agouza, or at least it ends here for me. I was told, however, that the two sisters will have to be separated soon, because of their age difference; Kholoud will have to go to another institution that takes in younger girls. The place looked tidy and the girls were all friendly; and started signing to us and showing us their talents as soon as we got there. Aya and to work while at it to guarantee a good life for her sister.

Photo by Egypt Today/Yasmine Hassan

Developing social care institutions

Although the best case scenario would be to return the children to a healthy family life, this ideal option is not always available. Therefore, one significant aspect of the program targets social care institutions. Following the evaluation of 27 institutions nationwide, a database was developed and a set of quality standards were put forth for all institutions to abide by. “We had a huge challenge with the institutions in Egypt… We have started developing the institutions to have good examples of safe homes to receive the children,” Malah says.

The program targeted 21 institutions in the 10 selected governorates. Six of these institutions were chosen for a full infrastructure development. “Through governorates’ representatives, we spotted the institutions that needed urgent intervention,” Malah explains. And all 21 of them are being developed in terms of staffing and advancing their programs and activities, following a protocol with the faculty of education of Helwan University that set a program to train everyone offering services to the children inside the institutions. “We also listened to the children and heard their opinion on the clothes, the food, the colors of the residencies … And we are making sure that they feel they are partners in [creating] their home,” Malah adds.

Photo by Egypt Today/Yasmine Hassan

Originally founded in 1919, El Horreya (Freedom) institution was the very first to be renovated and inaugurated by the program in April 2017. “The inauguration of El Horreya Institution was considered an onset for the program,” says Mahmoud Abdel Salam, who participated in the development of the project and was appointed director of the institution two months after its inauguration.

According to Eman Haggag, chief of staff at El Horreya Institution who had been working there for seven years before the project kicked in, the renovations have allowed the children to feel “their humanity.” The institution’s capacity was raised to shelter up to 150 children. It is currently accommodating 80 residents, 10 of whom joined through the program’s street teams.

“Once you enter through the door, you can tell that Tahya Masr and the Ministry have made a lot of effort. The football courts were previously like a mountain land. The bathrooms were inhumane, they could not sleep from the voice of the water and the sewage was always blocked. I would go in the morning and find the children sleeping on the floor, tired of fixing the beds that keep falling apart…We didn’t have carpets on the floor or fans, the dining place and the equipment were very difficult, and the children did not have a place to study until the Ministry built a whole education building for them to study and take their lessons,” Haggag says. “The children were always unhappy. They were ashamed of bringing their friends in. Now they are proud and they come asking me to show their friends their beds and wardrobes.”

Photo by Egypt Today/Yasmine Hassan

Apart from the necessary infrastructure, one of the most significant and continuing contributions of the project has been with the staffing, Abdelsalam says, explaining that the institution only had two specialists working with the children, which resulted in non-intentional negligence. There are currently eight social specialists, three psychologists, as well as sports and music trainers. “The employees came with their salaries … I wouldn’t have been able to pay them. As an organization, I did not have the capacity to have enough employees to fit with the number of children we have,” Abdelsalam says.

The children at El Horreya Institution, like most residencies of homeless kids, can be divided into two groups; orphans or victims of a dissociative family. Through mentoring sessions and activities, the specialist’s mission is to straighten their behavior and eventually help the children find their way back in the society and into a normal life. In the case of El Horreya, which focuses primarily on education, the specialists also become teachers when needed. And if the family is still in the picture somehow, they also work on bracing the family to be able to take the children back in.

Everyday, the children of the El Horreya Institution wake up at 6am; they go to schools, then come back and gather for lunch in their newly renovated dining room. Right after the meal, they head to their study room-also brand new-for two hours, before starting their fun activities, in the football court, the music room or the library. In summer, the schedule changes a bit, with more outings, trips and activities.

Photo by Egypt Today/Yasmine Hassan

“I want to work in a bank so that I can help anyone who comes in begging or asking for something,” says Sayed, 13, who joined El Horreya a year earlier. Youssef had stayed in another institution for over four years; then he ran away and lived in the street for three months until he was picked up by the street team. “I didn’t want to go with them; but since I came here, I have loved Mrs. Eman and I do a lot of activities now,” says Sayed. Sayed is now a student at elementary school and member in the football academy. If he doesn’t become a banker, he would also like to be like his idol Mohamed Salah.

Four of the sixth institutions targeted for better infrastructure have already been inaugurated; one in Minya, one in Alexandria, one in Sharekya and El Horreya Institution, and two more should open soon in Greater Cairo.

It is not all rosy, however, many institutions still make the children’s lives so difficult that they prefer to live on the streets. Malah explains that they’re trying to improve the situation through training employees and taking reports by follow-up teams, journalists, insiders or residents seriously. He adds, however, that civil society plays a huge role in monitoring the program and changing the wrong mental image of homeless children.

“We don’t have the capacity to monitor all of these institutions and teams. People should visit the institutions and report if there is anything wrong; and there is a hotline 16439, for anyone who sees children on the streets or spots any problems in the institutions,” Malah says, adding that one major challenge has been the huge gap between the children and the society. “The children need people to sit with them and listen to them. They need to know that people accept them,” he says, affirming how important it is to donate time to homeless children.
7/2/2018 5:57:01 PM
<![CDATA[The Art of Confidence]]>
“Aesthetically better” are the operative words, says Rafla who maintains that “plastic surgery should make you look better, not different. So I always tell my patients that we should not exceed by putting more fillers or Botox; you have to keep your beauty and better it. Plastic surgery is not meant to change the way you look, it is intended to ensure that one is the most beautiful version of themselves possible. I always try to make people look natural. There is a misconception that plastic surgery makes one look fake, or that it should augment one’s natural beauty. It all comes down to using the right amount, operating with the best techniques, and using the best products.”

With demand for cosmetic surgery on the rise—Rafla reveals “plastic surgery has become a necessity for anyone with a middle-class income. You go to the gym for your body and you go to the plastic surgeon for your face”—we visit Rafla’s clinic for plastic surgery tips and to untangle some of the industry’s misconceptions.


Why did you choose plastic surgery?
I chose plastic surgery because I like it. In my sixth year of university, when the results come out in the Egyptian system, we have to write our top three specialties and they allocate one to us for becoming a resident in the university hospital. I wrote plastic surgery as my first, second and third choice. My friends and colleagues told me that I was stupid, but [plastic surgery] is my passion. I told them that is all I want; if I do not get it here, I will go somewhere else and train, in Egypt or abroad.

It was such a baby specialty with so much room for growth, and also it has great diversity, no wound is like the other. In appendicitis, for example, there are only five common positions, so if you do 10 appendectomies; you have seen it all. But you will never have a burn like the other, you will never find an injured hand like the other; you will never operate on a face like the other; you will not find tissue loss from an accident like the other, and so on.

What does plastic surgery teach you?
Humility. It teaches you that you are never the top of the heap. If you see a burn patient, for example, the trauma that they are going through and the tragedy that the family is facing makes you humble. You are humbled by the situation. My favorite kind of surgery is burn surgery. I have done many of them in the past, and I still do a lot of them. I am happy to help people with burns, I have a lot of expertise in this and I believe that my expertise in burns’ surgery and reconstruction is what gives me an edge in aesthetic surgery.

How have you seen the plastic surgery field change over the past five years?
When I started in Guy’s and St. Thomas’s Hospital, London in 2006, we did a lot of face-lifts… the statistics yearly were 200 or 300 in the hospital, but later the amount of surgery for the face increased and we did a lot of injectables. The technology got better, brands got better, and products are better.

Also, if trained well, a plastic surgeon can get great, surgery-like results in just 20 minutes. When you are busy, you do not want to stay at home for two weeks; you want to do something in 20 minutes and then go straight to your meeting. So, when you can get the same results in 20 minutes, it beats surgery. Also, it is cheaper for your health and your pocket.

What are the most popular plastic surgery procedures in Egypt?
Cosmetic surgery is the most in-demand form in Egypt. The most sought-after surgeries are face surgery, breast augmentation and tummy tucks. Face surgery is number one. Many also seek what we call minimally invasive procedures, such as Botox and fillers; basically, rejuvenation of the face.

Can you tell us a bit about the surgical procedures?
Breast augmentation is a procedure where you put an implant underneath the breast tissue to increase the size of the breast, and to elevate the breast and nipple. This is a cosmetic surgery; sometimes we do it after cancer surgery and sometimes we do it for purely cosmetic purposes. Post-surgery, the patient is not allowed to drive for four weeks and has to wear a special medical bra for the first six weeks, and then

By what age do girls typically seek nose jobs; and what is your advice?
First of all, because I get this a lot, patients have to understand that nose jobs will not fix one’s problems in life. I see it often in girls who have not gotten married and they think that if they do their nose, they will get married. She gets her nose with the mentality that it will fix her problems, it will not. She gets a nose job and does not get married and feels disappointed. You are undergoing surgery, you have to really need it.

A lot of people who come to me seeking nose jobs are not candidates for nose jobs; their noses aren’t that bad. Your nose has to have a character, it is not a small pimple on your face; it is a nose. It is not the source of your social problems. Unless of course there is a defect, in which case we do a nose job after the age of 18 years. All surgeries, unless in the case of a previous trauma, happen after the age of 18 or 21.


Why do people seek plastic surgery?
Confidence. For example, one of the most sought-after surgeries is breast augmentation surgery. Patients are typically young and have small breasts, getting their breasts enlarged improves their confidence; she then feels she is prettier and more attractive.

What advice do you have for those who want to undergo plastic surgery?
Two points are important here: Doing your homework and making sure one augments their natural beauty, not changes everything about oneself. I just want people to do their homework as patients: look up the doctor, where they did their training, which products they use, and if they are qualified; these are all questions patients need to ask themselves. We have to emphasize that this is a medical procedure, and you can have a disaster if you use a cheap product. You might think you are saving, but you will be treated for a year afterwards from whatever you get due to bad injections.

More doctors are shifting to plastic surgery from other specialties and, with minimal training, are performing aesthetic procedures. What do you have to say about this?
Plastic surgery hugely depends on conscience and training, as training is key for being able to perform reconstructive surgery [which] is at the very core of aesthetic surgery. You have to know how to reconstruct a burnt eyelid before you try to rejuvenate or aesthetically change an eyelid. Plus, a plastic surgeon has to have top-notch knowledge of anatomy and muscles. Medical procedures need exceptional talents and training, not just good products.

There are people who are doing things without much training now. Some attract good clientele, and many patients go to them. This is a problem because they use low-grade or counterfeited products with no training. Patients have to do their homework on their doctor. They have to look into where the doctor trained and what products they use, because these doctors damage the reputation of the industry and can cause severe damage to patients due to their lack of training.


Dr. Rafla is a member of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland (MRCS), Fellow of Plastic Surgery, University of Alberta Canada and Fellow of Plastic Surgery, Kings’ College London. He has performed thousands of plastic surgery procedures over the years, especially during his time at the prestigious University Hospital in Birmingham where he performed surgery on soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.
6/18/2018 6:05:22 PM
<![CDATA[The Longstanding Egypt-Russia Cultural Connection]]>
Russian Connections in Arabic Literature
“It’s not enough to look at a generation of writers who grew up before and right after the Abdel Nasser period; the roots of Arab intellectuals’ fascination with Soviet culture reaches back to the 19th century,” Boston University professor Margaret Litvin argued in a 2015 lecture at the American University in Cairo (AUC).

Titled “Frosty Utopia: Russian Connections in Arabic Literature from Mikhail Nu’aymah to Sonallah Ibrahim,” Litvin’s lecture refuted the limiting conversation among academics of Arabic literature existing either separately of other traditions, or in conversation with the Western tradition—which she called “insufficient.”

In the 19th and 20th century, Russia was the country where budding artists, politicians and thinkers from the Arab World sought to study ahead of creating their tour de force.

The first of these was most likely Al-Azhar scholar Sheikh Mohammed Ayyad Al Tantawi, whom Ottoman commander and 19th century Khedive of Egypt Mohammed Ali dispatched to Russia to investigate the culture, traditions and modernity of what to them seemed as a distant land.


The product of this was Sheikh Tantawi’s “Trip to the Land of the Russians 1840-1850,” a book which offers invaluable insights on the state of Arab-Russian relations in the 19th century. During his time in St. Petersburg, Tantawi taught Arabic to Russian diplomats and orientalists. Litvin also noted correspondences between Muhammed Abdu and Tolstoy in her lecture, which is accessible through the AUC YouTube page.

Upon its creation, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) inherited the fascination with Russia in the imagination of the Arabs. “Even before Nasser [at a point in the 1940s, for instance], there’s already a fascination about Russia and this desire to emulate its literary heroes…through readers’ curiosity to try the foods, the drinks, the vodka that their favorite characters were known to consume [in the works of Nikolai Gogol, Anton Chekhov and Fyodor Dostoyevsky]. After 1955, this becomes policy; there’s a great wave of translations from Russian literature,” said Litvin.

More recently, she added, the likes of Egyptian writers Ahdaf Soueif and Sonallah Ibrahim have commented on how Russian film and literature have been among the numerous works both have noted as part of the canon they were exposed to.

Litvin further mentioned that the adaptation of Hamlet a generation of Egyptian audiences were commonly exposed to was actually a 1964 Soviet production featuring Innokenty Smoktunovsky as Prince Hamlet, which was a “huge hit in Cairo” at the time. The “magnetic pull on Arab intellectual life” of “the idea of Russia” is clear over the course of over 100 years, she explained.


Founded in 1956, the Russian Cultural Center in Cairo offers courses in languages, computer skills, and the arts. It also runs film screenings once a week, on Tuesday evenings, of both classic and contemporary films subtitled in English and Arabic. Evening classes run popular programs teaching sound and film editing, graphic design, and accredited software trainings for engineers, web designers and web developers under the center’s Computer Department arm. The department has been in existence for 15 years continues to attract large numbers of students seeking to upgrade their skillset to prepare for the job market.

Sherif Gad, a multilingual himself and the manager of cultural activities at the enter, explains that its premises in Dokki also hosts a large library holding 12,000 volumes covering the arts and sciences disciplines. “Russian literature has, by far, been the closest and most affecting [foreign] force on the Egyptian canon and local readers due to the wide mid-century translation wave from Russian texts into the Arabic,” he tells Egypt Today.

Gad further attributes the popularity of those translations to a “sentimental proximity” between both cultures; Russian translations, moreover, captivated Egyptian readers given the subject matter and themes discussed. “You can’t be a ‘cultured’ person if you haven’t read Pushkin or Tolstoy...Russian literature in translation is widely admired among Egyptian audiences,” he says, echoing a sentiment similar to Litvin’s description of 1940s Egyptian readers that seems to remain very alive to this day.


Bridging cultures on stage, and through small and big screens
In the theatre, Egyptians have been performing Chekhov for over 60 years. Writer and playwright Rashad Rushdi, who served as the dean of Cairo University’s English and Comparative Literature department during the 1950s and well into the 1960s, produced a unique translation of Chekhov’s one-act farce The Proposal in Egyptian colloquial Arabic. The play captures how Chekov’s best Russian jokes are quite similar to the Egyptian sense of humor at heart. Rushdi became a founding father of sorts for theatre performed in colloquial Arabic when he translated Gogol’s The Inspector General into the dialect of everyday Egyptians at the time.

Among the most treasured works of Egyptian cinema are the local film adaptations of Anna Karenina, The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment. Gogol’s The Government Inspector was also adapted to a widely celebrated television series directed by the 20th century film director Houssam El-Din Mustafa. Incidentally, the soundtracks of many films Egyptian audiences wholly enjoyed were strongly affected by Russian music.

“Most professors at the Higher Institute of Cinema in the 1970s and 1980s had arrived from Russia after receiving scholarships there,” film director Ahmed Ghanem, who is also a professor of cinema studies at the French University in Egypt and the son of renowned writer Fathy Ghanem, says. “An entire generation of cinematographers and directors was educated in Russia, including [those who are active until today], such as actor and director of photography Tarek El Tilmisany as well as Shawky Ali, a former dean of the institute.” Prior to the demise of the USSR, scholars were sent to the Patrice Lumumba Peoples’ Friendship University (now renamed to the Russian Peoples’ Friendship University) under inter-cultural exchange programs. Separate batches were sent to art academies in Moscow.

The late award-winning, internationally acclaimed film director Youssef Chahine directed Once Upon a Time on the Nile, a Russian-Egyptian film about the high dam that Time magazine referred to as “epic” in a 2008 profile on Chahine published following his death. The film was re-edited by the Egyptian and Russian authorities prior to its release in 1972, and is the first joint Egyptian-Soviet coproduction.

Rania Yehia, a music professor at Cairo Academy of Arts, which holds the Cairo Conservatoire and the Higher Institute of Ballet, makes note of a similar marker for Egyptian music to that which Ghanem notes exists in filmmaking, saying that the academy follows the “Russian school” in terms of instruction. “This dates back to the 1960s, a time when the national tone was that of Egypt becoming a place of innovation and development.” The Academy of the Arts was founded during that era, “with the aim of training a new generation of students to understand global art and cinema.” A heavy reliance on Russian instructors and professors was clear, with an existing community of Russian professors and instructors operating within the institution until today.

“Scholarships to Russia were all-too-common for the promising musicians who became well-known icons,” says Yehia, explaining that this was also the case at the Higher Institute of Ballet. In fact, the man who revived the opera house’s ballet troupe to become what we now know as the Cairo Opera Ballet Company, Abdel Moneim Kamel, was studying in Moscow for his PhD in the art of dance before he came back home to revive and develop the troupe. Today, lauded ballet performances play to compositions by the likes of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.


Cairo Opera House Soloist Hassan Sharara and acclaimed soundtrack composer Gamal Salameh, whose body of work boasts myriad 1970s and 1980s hit films (including collaborations with Chahine), are also among the names Yehia mentions. A mentor of Salameh’s at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow, Soviet Armenia composer Aram Khachaturian, allegedly called him a “genius.” Like many of the Russia aficionados in literature and film, Salameh bred his skill under the influence of Russian, Egyptian, and global art, taken from both his education and his upbringing in “an everyday Egyptian family…yet one of many artists and musicians; he is Egyptian to his core,” Yehia recounts. Another composer she mentions of a similar background and educational experience is Mustafa Nagi, who has written soundtracks for late 20th century films starring the likes of Said Abdel Ghani.

While the allure of studying in Russia may no longer be as applicable to the younger generation as it once was, Gad says he still sees an increasingly large number of students taking up Russian language courses at the Russian Cultural Center, which also offers affordable language courses in German, Italian and French. “The youth are keen to meet the job market’s needs. This includes tourism—so prospective tour guides and hotel staff—and trade, particularly given the recently signed agreement for the East Port Said Industrial Zone, which makes Russian increasingly crucial in many workplaces,” he tells Egypt Today, noting the bilateral agreement for the creation of a Russian industrial zone in the proximity of the Suez Canal.

Other students take up Russian courses in the case of inter-cultural relationships, where if one of the partners is Russian, the Egyptian partner learns the language in an effort to understand their partner’s family. A smaller number of students, Gad sees, begin learning Russian due to a love of Russian literature and culture. “But these are the minority—we also have students coming in to take classes ahead of travelling to Russia to attend the 2018 FIFA World Cup, or signing up to take intensive courses before travelling to Russia recreationally for other purposes,” he recounts.

While the influence of Russian literature and culture on its Egyptian counterparts was far more apparent in the past, it is difficult to ignore a lasting force that long had its sway on Egyptian artists and intellectuals.
6/17/2018 3:11:18 PM
<![CDATA[Finding their way to Umm El-Dunya]]>

“They like the sea, the good weather. Russians often come here for what they don’t have at home: water sports, sunshine,” says Gad, explaining that this is why the majority of the expat community is found in Red Sea towns, in the same manner that most Russian tourists choose to fly into Hurghada or Sharm El-Sheikh for a vacation by the beach as opposed to sightseeing in Luxor, Aswan or Cairo.

Amany Ahmed, watersports center manager

Amany Ahmed (whose name has been changed for privacy), the manager at a major watersports center at a high-end resort in the sleepy seaside town of Dahab, was once one of the Russian tourists flying in briefly. Ten years later, she is still living in South Sinai, married to an Egyptian man. Her young son alternates with ease between speaking Russian, Egyptian Arabic and English fluently as he interrupts our interview to offer marshmallows and sweets, before running off to swim with a friend mere steps away from his mother’s beachfront office.
A former construction engineer, Ahmed says she felt that Egypt is “another motherland” to her upon her first visit to Egypt a decade ago. She attributes this to a few years she spent living in Algeria with her family as a young girl, which led her to feel “connected” to a nearby North African country many years later. She also says that she wholly enjoys her work, and finds pleasure in helping tourists enjoy a positive experience. “I like giving our clients happiness, and they give me some of their happiness,” she says with a calm smile. “I didn’t have this at my office job in Russia.”

“Now, ana Masriya [I am Egyptian],” she affirms, explaining that her lifestyle today is more “Egyptian” than it is “Russian,” and she has few Russian friends and activities in the Russian community given her preoccupation with work and family. “Now, I have an Egyptian husband and an Egyptian lifestyle.” Originally from Yekaterinburg, which lies east of the Ural Mountains and is Russia’s fourth-largest city, Ahmed often misses watching the change of seasons, the tree leaves and weather changing around the year, as she did back home.

As she adjusts her headscarf, she says her only challenge when she first settled down in Egypt was learning to speak English, which she needed to excel at in order to make the career change to the tourism sector. She spent almost two years unemployed following the crash of the Russian Metrojet plane over South Sinai in 2015, but returned to work in recent months as the industry picked up.

Despite the return of passenger flights between Russia and Cairo (charter flights have yet to resume), it’s a hassle for Russian tourists to reach the Red Sea resort towns from the capital. “Russian tourists bear the additional cost and time of commuting from the airports of Cairo, Tel Aviv or Istanbul. To take two flights, or one flight and a long bus ride would be to waste two entire days travelling before and after the trip. For a traveler who only has one week to spend on vacation, this is unfeasible.”

Russians choose to live in Egypt, and specifically Red Sea resort towns, because of the cheap cost of living, availability of water sports, and the appeal of the beach town life, says Ahmed, who adds that windsurfing and freediving are very popular among the Russian community. “It’s much cheaper to rent a flat in Hurghada than in Moscow, and it also gives them the opportunity to relax by the beach. Many people keep their flat in Russia and come here during the winter months, between October and May, work online maybe, because it’s warm and it’s healthy for their kids to be by the sea, in the sun. In Russia, the kids are always sick, they catch colds.”
While some prefer the idea of not entirely giving up their life back home, Ahmed was not afraid of making her move permanent. “I’m like a sponge; always adapting and learning. I never listened [when I arrived] to how people here reveal their mindset and thought, ‘this is wrong’, I was very open,” Ahmed says of her first couple of years in Cairo. While many of her peers found trouble adapting to the local culture, she didn’t find it a struggle as she tried to be open minded. “I tried to understand that things are different here, people think differently [than back home],” she recalls.


Yulia Filimonova, entrepreneur

Yulia Filimonova has been in Egypt for eight years, with a short, year-long hiatus she spent in Dubai in between. Though she’s had many job offers in various countries, she says she is not “motivated by money” and wanted to “live somewhere warm,” which is why she chose to live in Egypt. “Russia is boring . . . people are so negative there.” Like Ahmed and Una, being in proximity to the seashore was also an important factor in her decision.

An entrepreneur and small business owner who previously worked in tourism for several years, Filimonova found the possibility of living in Egypt logistically feasible due to the ease of issuing a visa and the availability of jobs in the tourism sector when she arrived.

“I thought, many Russian tourists come here, so why not work here?” Filimonova says, recounting how she went door-to-door between various hotels in 2009 as she searched for a job, refusing the constraints of online applications and the long response time she found they take. Eventually, she landed an administrative job at the First Mall in Cairo and embraced the challenges living in a new country presented, including adapting to a new culture and improving her English. “I wanted some adventure,” she says with a shrug, remembering her first months in the capital.

Filimonova has also worked at the iconic Castle Zaman, an impressive monument perched in the mountains between Nuweiba and Taba that commands an impressive view of Israel, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. As tourism revenues slowed, she found that her income as a restaurateur in a small Dahab-based pizzeria in later years was no longer enough to cover her expenses, so she started a private housekeeping business, LemonClean Dahab. When the small-town life in South Sinai gets too dull, she likes to attend events in El-Gouna. “I go to Sandbox every year,” she says, adding that the annual electronic music festival held in the resort town south of Hurghada, which boasts a more glamorous and up-scale atmosphere than that Dahab has to offer, “is always a lot of fun. I meet all of my friends from Cairo down there! I love Dahab, but I wish there were more big events here.”

Looking back at the uncertain times of the 2011 uprising, Filimonova says “Russians are quite tough, we’re survivors. Russia can be quite dangerous too.” Her flat mates and friends from European countries, she recalls, were more likely to leave the country in the months that followed the uprising as they were mostly on year-long, contracted jobs and decided to leave once their contracts ended. “I think the future was uncertain for many people at that time, and also many companies closed down.” Meanwhile, she sees that Russian expats were least likely to leave Egypt as they tend to be “more settled down” than their peers from other countries are; many have an Egyptian spouse or partner, and half-Egyptian children, since they’re more likely to have been settled in the local country longer.

Filimonova grew up in the small coastal town of Petrozavodsk in northwest Russia, and describes her childhood as a time spent in nature, taking walks in the forest nearby, picking wild berries and mushrooms in her free time. Restaurants offering Russian cuisine, dumplings and the like, in Dahab are plentiful, and purchasing fruits and vegetables are significantly cheaper than in Russia, where “[produce] is mostly imported.” Yet she says she misses the more authentic taste of Russian cuisine back home, as well as the freshly picked berries and mushrooms.

Asked where she’ll be watching the FIFA World Cup this month, Filimonova shrugs as she responds, “I’m not really into football, but maybe I’ll watch a few of the matches Russia is competing in at Blue Beach [the local bar].” She seems only mildly excited by the prospect—possibly not enough to give up the sunny days on the beach.


Maria Una, actress

Model and actor Maria Una may have a different lifestyle and career path than other Russian expats, but she tells us, “Ana Masriya” just as confidently as she speaks about her experience in the country during the past eight years she has spent living here. Una has played roles in productions alongside the likes of Adel Imam, and has also been a face in many well-known television commercials; the most memorable of these were for Cancan Chocolate in 2012 and for Glysolid Cream in 2014. A conversation with actor Asser Yassin in 2011 encouraged her to pursue acting full-time in Egypt, as her passion for performance developed with the roles she took on.

Una met Yassin on the set of Tarek Al-Erian’s Aswar al-Qamar, a role she was hired for during a winter break vacation she spent in Hurghada to catch up with college friend who was living on the seaside resort town at the time. “[Yassin] really encouraged me, and I wanted to be an actress here because I felt there was a niche I could fill,” she says, explaining the need for foreigners on the set of various films. “I reached a point now where I am well-known, and people often ask me to act in the foreigner roles [because I have done so many of them].” She also recounts that she realized early on that “Egypt is the Hollywood of the Middle East,” making settling down in Cairo ideal for her career.

“People are really warm in Egypt, even on the street. Everyone will help you if you get in trouble. The weather is good, it’s really easy to find somewhere to go to the beach for the weekend,” she says of her newfound homeland. When she isn’t working, she likes to spend time near the sea in El-Gouna, Sahl Hasheesh, or the few “not too crowded” developments in the North Coast. Una is currently preparing digital videos for the upcoming FIFA World Cup, including a widely shared Mohamed Salah fan video. She is also collaborating with director Ghada Ali on an international film with an all-female cast and crew.

Like many Russians, one of the primary reasons she committed to staying in Egypt was the weather; she says her hometown Arkhangelsk is “gray all the time. For Russians [living in Egypt] in particular, the weather is a major factor [in their decision]. We have many long months of winter back home.” Yet she does miss her life at home during August and September, when she could typically dress in more relaxed attire such as shorts and tank tops “without the entire street staring at me; the culture is different.” While Cairo is host to various live music venues, she finds the cultural scene in Russian cities more eventful. “There’s not as many places here where you can go out and listen to jazz, blues, or rock music,” Una says, though her excitement about frequent beach weekends seems to outweigh the drawback of minimal nightlife entertainment in a Muslim-majority country.

“I feel safe in Egypt,” she affirms, speaking about her experience in the most populous Arab country during a time of political and economic turmoil before the country became more stable in recent years. “I think [Russian] tourists will start coming again after they resume the charter flights, making it more affordable for them to come,” she maintains. “It used to be that $300 to $400 was a good budget for a trip to Hurghada or Sharm El-Sheikh from Russia, all inclusive, with flights, hotels, food, and everything. But with the prices of the regular flights, now just the roundtrip flight is $550!”

In terms of safety, she finds that Russians aren’t concerned about the security situation, despite what international news headlines might insinuate. “I think Russians aren’t as worried. Sometimes [tourists] get the wrong idea, because of how Egypt is portrayed in the media; but for Russians, this isn’t so much of an issue.”

Una is travelling to Russia for the summer to watch the FIFA World Cup games live. She plans to attend the matches Russia is participating in.

6/16/2018 9:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Kahk Uncontested]]>
The sweet is believed to date back to the 10th century in Egypt, when palace kitchens made special cookies stuffed with gold coins and distributed them to the poor. Today, they are stuffed with nuts and gooey honey filling instead of gold coins, but as much as they are delicious, the cookies are more about the essence of the celebration than about anything else. It is often an event; an informal ritual that Egyptian families look forward to. The process of making them is rarely a one-man show, but a chance for families to gather around baking trays and share stories and laughs over the hours of preparation.

Kids take part in putting their artistic touches by stamping their designs and filling the cookies (which they’ll only ever eat plain and drenched in sugar), while grownups take over the baking part. Of course, every household has its own unique recipe that they treasure, but the basics remain the same. Kahk is a type of buttery sugar cookie with a sandy texture and mildly aromatic flavor. The cookies themselves are barely sweet, making way for more sweetness in the form of fillings and powdered sugar coating.

Photo by Tasbih Sallam

The signature prints on top are fun to make, help the powdered sugar adhere to the surface and also act as a label to the different types of fillings. The most popular filling by far is the agameya (my favorite!), a cooked mixture of ghee, honey, sesame seeds and optional nuts; most often walnuts. It’s sweet and gooey and irresistible. Kahk can also be stuffed with Turkish delight (malban), sticky sweet date paste (agwa) or plain nuts like walnuts and pistachios.

My own recipe is what I like to call a modern twist on an old fashioned favorite. Unlike traditional recipes, my cookies don’t have yeast, so they don’t taste “bread-y.” The addition of baking powder and a little bit of powdered sugar in the dough makes them much more delicate and finer in texture than classic recipes which produce coarser results. The lightly aromatic flavor comes in part from kahk essence (reehet el-kahk), a special blend of spices, specifically made for kahk, which gives it its distinctive flavor.

Photo by Tasbih Sallam


-An ingredient that either makes or breaks the flavor of these cookies is ghee. Since A LOT goes into the dough, the flavor really comes through, so be sure to use the best quality you could find.
-To perfectly portion your dough balls, use a mini ice cream scoop.
-Before baking, don’t stamp the agameya filled ones. If the dough gets pierced the agameya could ooze out.
-Bake agameya-filled cookies at super high heat (260C/ 500F for about 8 minutes). This bakes the cookies so fast before the agameya has a chance to put its pants on. Bake all other kinds at 180C/350F for 22 to 25 minutes until firm to the touch and golden all over in color.

This recipe makes 135 (1 tbsp-sized) cookies that you can leave plain or stuff with your filling of choice.

Ingredients: For the Kahk
1 kg (8 cups) all purpose flour
100 g (1 cup minus 1 tablespoon) powdered sugar, plus extra for coating
1½ tsp (6 g) baking powder
⅛ tsp salt
1 tbsp (10g) kahk essence (reehet el-kahk)
1 packet vanilla sugar (or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract)
600 g (2½ cups plus 2 tablespoons) ghee or clarified butter, at room temperature
160 g (2/3 cup) milk, at room temperature

For the Agameya
3 tbsp (42.5 g) ghee or clarified butter
1 tbsp (15 g) all-purpose flour
1 cup (340 g) honey
1 tbsp (10 g) toasted sesame seeds
1 cup (113 g) coarsely chopped walnuts or favorite nut (optional)

Photo by Tasbih Sallam

To make the Kahk dough:
1. Prepare your fillings by rolling the agameya (with or without nuts) and date paste into macadamia nuts-sized balls. Keep the agameya in the fridge until ready to use. Cut the Turkish delight (with or without nuts) into small squares and keep the plain nuts nearby.
2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat the oven to 180C/ 350F, for agameya-filled kahk, 260C/ 500F.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, whisk together the flour, powdered sugar, baking powder, salt, kahk essence and vanilla until well combined.
4. Add the ghee (or clarified butter) and mix on medium-low speed until well blended and the dry ingredients are evenly coated.
5. With the mixer running on low speed, gradually pour in the milk. Continue mixing until a cohesive dough comes together.
6. Using a tablespoon or a tablespoon-sized ice cream scoop with a release mechanism, scoop out tablespoons of dough and place on a baking sheet. You should have approximately 135 dough scoops.
7. Roll each dough into a ball, then (if filling) press the center with your thumb to make an indentation for the filling to sit in. Add the filling of your choice, then gather the dough up over the filling to completely cover it. Make sure that no filling is peaking out. Roll the filled dough into a smooth ball.
8. Arrange the dough balls onto a silicon mat or parchment-paper-lined baking sheet, leaving an inch of space between each one.
9. To be able to distinguish between the different kahk fillings, give them some designs. Press lightly on the dough with a kahk stamper (khattama) or decorate with kahk shaping tweezers (mona’ash), if available. If not, make a cross hatch design using the twines of a fork, or simply press down with your hand and leave plain.
10. Bake until firm to the touch and golden all over in color.
11. Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool before dusting with powdered sugar, otherwise the sugar will melt on the kahk, creating a wet surface.
12. Using a small sieve, dust the kahk with a generous amount of powdered sugar or roll into a bowl full of sugar.
13. Serve or store in a container. Kahk will keep well at room temperature for weeks and weeks.

Photo by Tasbih Sallam

To make the agameya (honey filling):

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the ghee (or clarified butter). Add flour and cook, stirring constantly with a small whisk, until the mixture turns golden blonde in color.
2. Add the honey and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Once boiled, cook a little longer until just thickened; 1 minute to 1½ minutes. I actually set the timer to 1 minute and 15 seconds but timing may vary. Test the consistency, by dropping a little bit of the mixture in cold water. It should hold its shape but remain soft and malleable; it should not stick to the teeth. (Do not overcook, or it will harden).
3. Remove saucepan from the heat and stir in the sesame seeds and nuts, if using.
4. Transfer agameya to a small bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.
5. Shape into small macadamia nut-sized balls. Keep in the fridge until ready to use.

For more tips and recipes, follow Tasbih Sallam at Cleobuttera.com

If you’re looking for an amazing Kahk (Feast Cookies) recipe to make this Eid...look no further! This one is perfection 👌🏼 • It’s so easy to make, with a fine crumb and delicate texture. Though not old fashioned-style, since it’s missing the yeast, it’s not any less delicious. It’s a modernized version that yields a more petit four-like kahk that I personally prefer 😉 So many filling variations to choose from, including the ever so popular Agameya; a cooked mixture of ghee, honey, sesame seeds and optional nuts. Make them with your family & friends today 🎈🎉 • • • Get the full recipe details by clicking on ‘link in profile’ in my bio. • • • Video in collaboration with @yallazest 🎥 Powered by @miele_com from @mybtech https://cleobuttera.com/middle-eastern/fabulous-kahk-eid-cookies/

A post shared by Tasbih (@cleobuttera) on

6/15/2018 9:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Ramadan and the Rise of the Food Business]]>Mona El Banna, owner of MonAppetit cooking academy, tells us that unlike the changing operations, the sets of rules to maintain a successful business and loyal clients remain unchanged. El Banna explains that having a successful restaurant with loyal customers, in Ramadan and all year long, hangs on three critical pillars: management, operations and consistency.

On a mission to train amateur chefs and restaurant owners to become certified professionals in cooking and operation management, El Banna launched MonAppetit culinary and hospitality academy in 2014 to offer cooking classes for all different appetites, from authentic Egyptian cuisine to international favorites like sushi. She tells us about the business of cooking classes and how restaurants adapt their operation to fit with the demands of the holy month.

Is there a demand for cooking lessons nowadays? Who signs up for them?
Lately, people have been more interested in cooking lessons because being a chef now is trendy. Those who come to MonAppetit academy are usually foodies who like to learn new recipes, or amateur chefs who try to broaden their cooking abilities, and small business owners who look for new recipes and want to learn how to start their food business, to calculate inventory and basics about how to operate. We also get working chefs who are eager to learn new techniques or want to learn a new specialization in the kitchen.

Many people eat out in Ramadan; how do restaurants and suppliers manage the increase in demand and how much do they gain from it?
Ramadan is the high season of the year to any restaurant, hyper markets or food suppliers in Egypt. They manage the increase in demand by offering less product ranges to be able to control the operations during iftar and sohour. Of course, they make a lot of money during this month because people now tend to cook less, so they usually eat out or cater; and during this month restaurants tend to decrease the amounts served so the profit is much more.

What are diners looking for on the menu during Ramadan other than the traditional dishes?
Diners usually look for new recipes for desserts. Every Ramadan, a new item is introduced and people like to try new desserts. Like last year, it was red velvet on everything. This year it is the biscoff.

Is there a higher demand for healthy dishes and organic produce during the holy month?
Unfortunately, no. People in Ramadan usually go to the fattier dishes, just because it’s a tradition.

When it comes to restaurant owners, what preparations do they need to put in place in Ramadan?
Operations, operations and operations! Ramadan is all about being able to accommodate the number [of diners] in a certain time, eating at the exact moment. And this is very tough to do. It all boils down to the management of the restaurant.

Maintaining a good, high-quality reputation in the dining industry can be hard; what should restaurant owners be doing to earn diners’ loyalty?
Consistency in the ingredients they use, consistency in the service they offer, consistency inside the kitchen and introducing new items every once in a while are all key elements of maintaining loyal customers.

The quality of the dish depends on several elements that must all be in coordination with each other to serve a whole, well-rounded experience for the diners. What are those elements and how can they be achieved?
First of all, the ingredients must be of good quality, which is very hard to achieve nowadays because the cost of ingredients has increased tremendously. Second, the cooking method [is important]; our problem in Egypt is that the food is usually over cooked. Third, the plating or the presentation of the dish.

What tools does a chef need to run a successful kitchen? And what about restaurant owners?
Management. Chefs and business owners need to study how to manage a kitchen and a restaurant. The problem in Egypt is that business owners usually do not have any background about F&B businesses. And chefs usually learn how to be only chefs without getting to learn about operations, and how to run and manage a kitchen.

There is a culinary movement in Egypt; does it play a part in the fact that more people are studying it professionally?
Yes, as I said, becoming a chef now is trendy. And in the Middle East, a chef has to be certified in order to work in a restaurant or a hotel. That’s why many people are asking for certified programs; to be able to work.

Home-catering businesses are another huge trend; are they here to stay?
I believe, yes. The F&B industry in Egypt is booming now. More and more people are exposed to new cuisines and they want to try them out, either through eating out in restaurants or ordering home delivery by caterers.

How does catering affect the restaurant business?
I believe they do not affect each other, because each has different target audiences.
People usually want catering for big events at corporates or homes. This is why some restaurants provide catering; to be able to cover more than one target audience segment.

Are people eating out less?
Not at all. People now eat less at home. People like to eat out and to try new things; as the options grow and grow, people will want to eat out more.

6/14/2018 10:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Make a Different kind of Difference this Ramadan]]>
We’ve rounded up a few interesting, yet a bit off the grid groups, schools and centers around Egypt to give you an idea of where to start giving back in Ramadan.

ConnectIn Groups

Founded by Columbian-Dutch expat and longtime Siwa resident Yuridiya Montoya, ConnectIn Groups is the first training center in the remote oasis. ConnectIn aims to make educational programs accessible for everyone in Siwa, breaking the barriers that might stand in the way of community members from reaching their full potential. Although it first started with only English-language courses, the project has now evolved to offer lessons in Arabic and Italian, as well as computer courses.

Working in a conservative community like Siwa, where women are not permitted to visit public places alone, ConnectIn also hold courses at home for women and take on young girls as students.

All courses offered by the center are accredited. You can help by offering a donation through ConnectIn’s website to contribute to the cost of students’ materials or other equipment, or apply to volunteer as a teacher.

To learn more, visit connectingroups.com


Catherine Exists

What started out as an ambitious social art photography project is evolving into a community service center, catering to the needs of Saint Catherine’s Bedouin population in South Sinai, who suffer from a shortage in healthcare and educational services.

The Jabaleya tribe inhabiting the protectorate is an indigenous population often subject to discrimination; however, award-winning photographer Rehab Eldalil hopes to change that. The center provides the local community with a first-of-its kind opportunity to access medical services, take classes and pursue income-generating activities.

Eldalil explains in a Youtube video that members of the tribe have, in critical situations, lost their lives while being transported to another city for urgent medical care that wasn’t immediately available, making Catherine Exists incredibly important.

The project was made possible in part due to a collaboration with Hand Over, a social enterprise that worked on the design and construction of the Catherine Exists site.
Volunteers are needed in various fields, from physicians and tutors to fundraisers. They are also calling for donations of medical equipment.

To find out more, visit catherineexists.weebly.com


Animal Care in Egypt (ACE)

Based in Luxor, ACE targets veterinary students as well as animal lovers with no prior experience, to prevent and raise awareness about the suffering of working animals through educating the local community, owners and children about the abuses these animals face.
A registered charity, ACE’s veterinary hospital works according to UK standards. Trip Advisor reviews list it as “worth visiting” and an “Amazing charity—not to be missed if you are in Luxor!”
ACE runs a charity shop and hospital to serve the animals. Its website lists guidelines for how anyone can help, in any form, from selling cakes to being wary of riding carriages led by badly treated animals.

For more, visit ace-egypt.org.uk


Educate Me

Founded in 2010, Educate Me seeks to improve the well-being of financially underprivileged children by providing educational programs that help them achieve their dreams. The foundation has received various awards over the years, including the 2012 Child Film Festival Award and the 2013 King Abdullah II Award for Youth Innovation and Achievement.

Educate Me started as an initiative to reinstate school dropouts after founder Yasmine Helmy encountered a man on the streets who had taken his three daughters out of school due to poverty. Today, Educate Me has expanded to run a pre-school facility, a government-certified community school and a professional development program. According to their website, Educate Me trained 2,500 school teachers and staff members in 93 public schools across six governorates in 2016.

Educate Me accepts donations through their website and is seeking volunteers in varied fields, from facilitators to translators.

To learn more, visit educateme-egypt.org


Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals (ESMA)

ESMA works to improve the welfare of all animals in Egypt, including street dogs and cats. It has animal shelters, holds adoption campaigns, and raises awareness concerning the enforcement of animal welfare legislation and combating the government’s policy of killing street animals.

Shelters are located in Giza, and volunteer opportunities include foster parenting, socializing with animals, as well as assisting with shelters cleaning and organization. You can also help by providing or financing needed items listed under their wish list on the website, including veterinary equipment and medicine. ESMA runs a sponsorship program as well to help offset the costs of medical care, food and housing for the 1,000 animals held at their shelters.

To learn more, visit esmaegypt.org


St. Andrew’s Refugee Services (StARS)

StARS seeks to provide services catering to the needs of refugees and asylum seekers, and to provide a space for migrants to meet in a safe and supportive environment. StARS’ programs include psychological services, advocacy for accessing medical services, providing food and hygiene boxes for unaccompanied children and an emergency response program.

Working with UNHCR, StARS seeks to provide refugees with protection and resettlement as needed. Their community outreach program works to improve the situation of refugee services in Egypt to provide targeted assistance.

StARS is recruiting volunteer English teachers and small-group tutors, teachers of professional development courses, and volunteer legal advisors. Modest donations can help finance their activities as well.

To find out more, visit stars-egypt.org

6/13/2018 4:57:44 PM
<![CDATA[The Evolution of the Ramadan Fanous]]>
From beautiful wooden crafts lit with a candle, which celebrate a diligent fusion of Egyptian folklore and Islamic designs, to colorful trendy lanterns made from recycled tin cans, copper, plastics and colored glass, lantern making is one of the oldest industries in Egypt, and has seen many changes over the years.

With Chinese lanterns of all kinds and shapes being shipped to Egypt every year, a new style takes the fawanis (lanterns) market by storm each season. Although the old-style fanous is still a favorite to many, according to several shopkeepers, Egyptian fanous-makers are left to compete with imported Chinese battery-operated lanterns, and have taken it upon themselves to keep up with children’s trends to ensure that they remain in business.

We headed to one of Egypt’s most famous districts for the production and sale of the Ramadan fanous: Taht El Rabea, or better know as El Rabea, district in Old Cairo. Off the main streets, there are dozens of kiosks and small shops selling lanterns made of wood or metal, then deeper down the alley, there is the production area where dozens of fanous-makers hunch over their pieces of art.

The neighborhood buzzes with the Ramadan spirit; two months before the holy month and the iconic red Ramadan cloth could be spotted everywhere. The shops are all decked with traditional fanoos lanterns, peppered with the more modern models, and we can immediately tell that this traditional area is everything but old and outdated. The mix between the very traditional lanterns and the battery-operated ones, shaped after popular characters and celebrities singing odd songs, shows that despite the make holding more conventional views, they ensure modernity and staying on top of the trends. And they weren’t old craftsmen leaning over outdated tools either. There were old, young and middle-aged men and women, all modern-looking, all extremely quick on their feet and merely radiating a sense of friendliness that is true to people working in an industry synonymous with one of the most sociable, charitable months of the year.

Tracing back the fanous tradition
The fanous-makers and shop owners, even though they have solid feet in the present, still value the origins of the lanterns; but even those who have inherited the craft from one generation to the next don’t seem to be certain about the exact origin of the lantern. However, most of those interviewed believe that the tradition dates back to the time of the Fatimid Caliph Al-Muizz li-Deen Allah, or so they were told it all began.

“Growing up, my mother told me that when the Caliph [Al-Muizz li-Deen Allah] arrived, Egyptians were so happy, they went out and greeted him with lanterns at the gates. Since then, Ramadan, Cairo and the fanous have all been connected. They make us happy,” says Nadia, a resident and seller in the district.

Photo by Egypt Today

Nadia is not the only one who recalls this tale. A small market-owner, who overheard the conversation adds, “The children loved the Caliph so much that they would walk around his carriage with fawanis. He would then give them candy and money; I think this is why children today still love the lantern. After all, growing up, we would take the fanous and knock on doors; and they [residents] would give us money or candy.”

Other, less widespread tales suggest that it may have been an old tradition dating back to when children would go out with their lanterns chanting songs and accompanying the Caliph on his way out from the gates of Old Cairo to the Mokattam hill to observe the moon marking the beginning of Ramadan.

Staying in style … or not
Walking around the area, one cannot help but see the joy on people’s faces as they buy their lanterns and other celebratory items to complete the magic of the holy month, but the question remains: How did that shift away from the traditional wooden or metal lantern toward the Chinese battery-operated ones take place a few decades ago? And, as many tell Egypt Today, how was that trend reversed?

Recalling a time when hundreds would flock to her father’s shop to purchase their fanous every year, Fatma, a 28-year-old shopkeeper whose two brothers, 26 and 34, also craft lanterns, tells us that there has been a drop in sales of the classic fanous since the early 2000s.

“Since 2005, if my memory serves me right, we started to produce a fanous with Bakar [the famed Ramadan cartoon character] on it; it was my brother’s idea,” says Fatma. To keep up with the times, they have had to come up with new ideas every year to make sure that people keep buying and to compete with their “hip Chinese competitors,” she explains.

Joining our conversation, Aly, a 27-year-old university graduate who shared stories with us on what it was like growing up in the El Rabea district, explains that technological advances and continuously changing trends have made it harder for the crafters to keep up with trends and to ensure that they stay in style. “We start making the in-style lanterns maybe three months before Ramadan, but we are always scared that they may not be trendy anymore. What if we make them and they do not sell because a new trend has taken over?” Aly says, with a worried expression on his face. For Aly, projecting the trends correctly can make or break his business.
Although many shopkeepers seem to believe that keeping up with children’s trends is key to ensuring their sales stay up, not everyone agrees with the modernized lanterns trend.

Photo by Egypt Today

Abdo is a newly married 26-year-old who told us of his eight-year journey with his wife and how she inspires his pieces of art and helps him through hard days when he does not feel like working. “It is not right to have cartoons on lanterns, we are destroying our heritage,” he says.
Hany and his father also share their concerns about the issue. The two are inseparable, often spending their evenings watching football, even more so if Mohamed Salah is playing, and visiting Old Cairo. “Our children need to know what the fanous represents and what it means to Egypt and Cairo’s history. It is not just a piece of metal or plastic, it is their heritage, our shared history,” Hany says.

Hussein, a 47-year-old widower, also disagrees with the modernization of Egypt’s classic lantern. For him, even lanterns of homegrown cartoon characters Boogie and Tamtam, Fatouta, and Shakshak, much like car-shaped lanterns and so on, are all inappropriate. “We need to hold on to our heritage and Ramadan-themed songs and decorations; otherwise, we stand to become even more westernized. We will lose touch with our roots,” he says.

Fanous trends … from one Ramadan to the next
Whether locally made to keep up with the trends or Chinese-imported, special-themed fawanis have dominated the market throughout the past decade. From one season to the next, a beloved figure, movie or character took the market by storm.

The year of sports, 2008, according to Mohsen, a big football fan and an Al Ahly Club supporter, was the year of acclaimed Egyptian football player Mohamed Abu Treka. The beloved star spawned different fanous designs, all of which, according to multiple shopkeepers, sold well. “It was 10 years ago, so I do not remember exactly why everyone was going for them, but I would go for an Abu Treka fanous any day,” Mohsen says.

Moving on to 2010, Korombo, the detective cartoon that adults and children enjoyed watching at the time, was all the rage. Several shopkeepers and fanous-makers suggest that it was the most sold fanous shape ever. Recalling a few years back when they sold the Korombo fanous, childhood friends Mohamed and his partner Kamal, 27 and 28, respectively, explain, “People would come in and ask for it. specifically. They did not even look around, as they had been doing every other year, they knew what they wanted. The fanous we sold was funny, it told a joke; we also had another one that said his [Korombo’s] catchphrase,” says Mohamed. His partner adds, “Korombo was a great hit. Everyone loved him. Adults would buy him too and we used to ask them who it was for; some admitted it was for them, while others said it was for their children or relatives.”

In 2011 and 2012, the greatest hits were Egypt-themed, mainly military-themed, and the Smurf lanterns, shopkeepers tell us. As electric lanterns from China really hit off that year, says Montaser, a middle-aged married man, many shopkeepers, including himself, produced their own military-themed lanterns to keep up. They used colors, pictures and designs that follow the military theme. “That being said, 2012 was better in sales than 2011. In 2012, I made twice what I made in 2011; In 2011, I barely broke even,” he recalls.

In 2012 and 2013, the Smurf fanous ruled the market, according to Omar, the “lantern-enthusiast,” as he calls himself. “The Smurfs movie had just come out and many children, as well as adults who had watched the series when they were younger, absolutely loved them. They went crazy for them,” Omar, a seasonal fanous-producer and all-year handyman, explains. “That year I barely sold any copper or glass lanterns; they were going for about the same price, and some of the glass, wood and copper ones were even more expensive. Parents don’t want to pay that much and children want something that they can sing to. They no longer sing wahawi ya wahawi [the traditional Ramadan song],” he adds.

Ramadan in 2014 and 2015 was again affected by the political situation, with President El-Sisi lanterns taking the market by storm. “With Sisi on the scene, his lanterns were the ‘it’ item of the season,” explains Lamia, a shopkeeper whose family has been in the lantern business for generations. At 29, the law graduate with big dreams of one day creating a chain, recalls years of experience in the industry. There was only one design for President Sisi, according to Lamia, although another vendor recalls that there were two. Both vendors agree that it was the hit of the season.

Over the past few weeks, Chinese-made imported Salah-shaped lanterns have taken Cairo by storm with their prices rising out of control. Initially sold at LE 98, prices for the lanterns shaped like the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) player of the year for the 2017-18 season rose to LE 155 and more. To ensure they remain in the game, local manufacturers have started producing Salah-shaped lanterns, with one telling us, “Given that Mohamed Salah became the talk of the world, I wanted to design and manufacture another locally-produced Salah-shaped lantern that can be even better than the Chinese one.”

As it stands, classic lanterns begin at LE 20 and go up to LE 150 without lights; adding lights is expected to cost an additional LE 15 for a simple bulb and LE 30 for fairy lights. There are also side items being sold, like tablecloths that start at LE 30 and go up to LE 120, while tissue box covers go for LE 15 and the classic foul table ranges between LE 90 to LE 120.
6/13/2018 4:46:05 PM
<![CDATA[Hypothesis: Don’t Mix! Chocolate and Simple Syrup]]>
I am tired of explaining to people that food is most certainly not just ‘a matter of taste.’ There’s an old Arabic saying that translates to “Eat whatever pleases you, but wear whatever pleases the people.” This notion might be the very explanation of the pastry disasters we are seeing today. There are culinary fundamentals and clear guidelines in flavor-pairing, which are the direct cause of why the recipe for a simple butter cake or pastry cream have not changed in centuries! So, I’m sorry, but you cannot just eat or bake whatever pleases you.

It would be pointless to start discussing why classic flavor combinations have been so successful throughout the ages and across cultures, but let me just propose something here. Close your eyes and imagine yourself holding a bar of chocolate—say it be Cadbury’s Dairy Milk to standardize the experiment, because we all know what it tastes like—and now imagine a bowl of sugar or, better yet, a bowl of orange- or rose-infused simple syrup. Imagine dipping the chocolate in the syrup and then eating it. In case you don’t know what simple syrup is, it’s basically a mixture of equal parts water to granulated white sugar, that is heated until slightly thickened and then cooled; this eventually produces something that tastes and feels like commercial honey. Simple syrup is used to smother most Middle Eastern sweets like kunafa, basbosusa and even baklava, and which gives them all that characteristic sweet taste. Now, back to that chocolate bar. I don’t know if you will like what you are eating, but I can tell you for sure that from a scientific perspective, you will probably be unable to properly taste either the chocolate or the syrup! You would just be getting an overdose on the sweet taste receptors of your tongue, which can be very rewarding for your brain and, therefore, convince your subconscious mind that you are indeed eating something that tastes really good.


While I might be a big fan of traditional desserts, I am not saying that we have to eat the same classic, unmodified stuff forever. There is much room for creativity in the Ramadan desserts department. Using the simple basic building blocks along with some very specific elements from western or French pastry can indeed result in something marvelous and the options are quite endless. Use the Maillard browning on the wheat kunafa or basboussa and add something nutty or creamy to complement it. Think of a special tart shell made of semolina instead of all-purpose flour and fill it with a custard-based pastry cream covered in dried fruit or Qamar el-din.

Ice-cream? Try to combine ingredients meaningfully to create some kind of synergy between taste and texture. While some food establishments have made a real effort to balance originality and flavor this year, others did not shine bright enough for me to remember them. But some of the kunafa concoctions, among other Ramadan disasters that I wouldn’t like to try (ever), remind of me something that would be in the trashcan of a Middle Eastern pastry shop and a school, mixed together in one bowl.

Cheese on a pizza tastes good, right? Soy sauce with sushi tastes good, right? Mayonnaise in tuna salad tastes good, right? And so does chocolate with banana, balsamic with rocket and dijon with steak. So, for those who for some bizarre reason enjoy eating Om Ali with Nutella, kunafa with marshmallows or basboussa with a layer of red velvet cake on top, please tell me why I can’t cook something with cheese, soy, mayonnaise, chocolate, balsamic vinegar and mustard sauce all in one?

The saddest part is that I could probably sell that with the help of some clever marketing! I rest my case.

Follow Mido on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter on his handle @MidoEats
6/13/2018 4:31:15 PM
<![CDATA[The Pharaohs at FIFA World Cup]]>
In celebration of the Pharaohs’ return to the world’s most prestigious football tournament, we are tracing back Egypt’s three precious experiences with the FIFA World Cup, ever since we were invited to the very first tournament.

1930:Inaugural FIFA World Cup

AP photo

One of 20 teams that made it to the third round of qualifier matchers, Egypt had to top its Group E (Egypt, Ghana, Uganda and Congo) The Pharaohs were quite close to represent the whole Arab world and African continent at the very first FIFA World Cup, hosted in Uruguay in South America in 1930; however, they had to back down owing to the long travel distance.

The first World Cup tournament was the only time the participants did not have to play any qualifiers. Every country affiliated with FIFA was invited to compete; however, only 13 teams eventually entered the tournament due to the difficulty to travel all the way to South America at the time.

Today, it would take over 18 hours to travel from Egypt to Uruguay by plane. So imagine how it would have been almost a century ago.

1934: Pharaohs’ first World Cup game

1934 -2

Although they missed the first chance, the Egyptian national team still ended up the first Arab and African squad to compete in the World Cup finals, having qualified for the 1934 World Cup held in Italy. By beating Palestine in the qualifier match, Egypt was one of only four countries that qualified from outside Europe, along with Argentina, Brazil and the United States. The qualifying matches were arranged geographically to end up with a total of 16 teams in the tournament; and only one team was to qualify from Asia and Africa, a privilege that the Pharaohs won fair and square.

Egypt’s first World Cup game took place on May 27, against one of the top ranking teams at the time; Hungary. Although Egypt lost the match 4-2, the Egyptian Abdelrahman Fawzy carved his name in history that day, as the first African and Arab player to score in the World Cup.

1990:A precious comeback


After 11 tournaments and over 50 years, Egypt was back to the World Cup in 1990, hosted by Italy once again. This time, the Egyptians went through the standard African qualifiers as we know them now; we were in group B alongside Liberia, Malawi and Kenya. The national team led its group with 8 points from 6 matches; they won in three games, tied in two and lost in only one match against Liberia, which had on its team current Liberian President George Weah, awarded Ballon d’Or in 1995.

After leading its Group B, Egypt had to play against Algeria, a knockout where the winner in both matches would fly to Italy. The first match took place on October 8, 1989 in Constantine, Algeria and ended with a goalless draw, while the second hosted at Cairo International Stadium, on November 19 of the same year, ended 1-0 for the Pharaohs, scored by Egyptian striker Hossam Hassan.

Egypt finally found its way back to the World Cup after 56 years of absence. The draw put the Pharaohs with two of the top ranking teams in the world back then; England and the Netherlands, and the fourth in the group was Ireland.


The national team’s first game was against the Netherlands, which featured some great football icons like Marco Van Basten, Frank Rijkaard, Ronald Koeman and Ruud Gullit. The game saw Egypt’s only goal in the tournament, a penalty nailed by our own icon Magdy Abdel Ghany. It ended with a 1-1 draw. The second game against Ireland was one for the history as it was the reason for a radical change in FIFA rules.

The Egyptian defenders kept returning the ball to the goalkeeper Ahmed Shobeir, and he kept holding it in his hands, wasting the time of the game. FIFA then put a new term in action; that the goalkeeper cannot hold the ball with his hands if it is passed to him by players of his own team. The game ended with a 0-0 tie.

Unfortunately, the Pharaohs then lost their third game against England 1-0; and the adventure ended there … to be revived 28 years later in Russia.
6/11/2018 8:36:08 PM
<![CDATA[Ramadan Fast on a Vegan Diet]]>
And this all pales in comparison to the looks of older people mocking your “unconventional” dietary options, which becomes part of your daily routine during the holy month.

So what better way to lure former naysayers than with mouthwatering recipes that are just as good as the ones they say you’re missing out on?

Here are a few easy ones that we’d recommend cooking in bulk for family and friends ahead of Ramadan iftars; because when you bring your own food, you’re neither sacrificing your values and dietary preferences nor running the risk of consuming food you can’t fully trust the ingredients of.

These simple recipes are not only ideal for vegans and vegetarians, but also for anyone health-conscious, looking for a delicious, nutritious meal that even the busiest can find time to make.

Indian lentil soup

This one is a variation of the red Indian Dal lentil soup, a satisfying dish rich in flavor, nutrients and protein. The easy-to-make dish is great as a standalone meal to break the fast, without going overboard and feeling stuffed.

Prep time: 35-40 minutes
Servings: 6

1½ cup brown lentils
1½ cup yellow lentils
1½ tbsp cumin
1 bsp turmeric
½ tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
2 chopped garlic cloves
½ cup chopped onion
4 green and/or red peppers (chopped)
2-4 chopped green chilies. to taste
2 lemons
4 diced tomatoes
2-4 diced carrots

1. Rinse the brown and yellow lentils thoroughly. Separately, heat the chopped garlic cloves and chopped onion in a saucepan, adding less than ¼ cup water to allow a slow simmer. Sprinkle minimal black pepper in the pan.
2. Throw the lentils in the saucepan, add 6 cups of water and bring to a boil.
3. As the water begins to boil, add the tomatoes, carrots, peppers and chilies. Stir and set heat to medium-low.
4. After 5 minutes turn the heat up.
5. Once it has been cooking for around half an hour, add the turmeric, cumin and olive oil to the mix, squeezing the lemons over it.
6. After taking the soup off the stove, pour in a blender and blend until smooth.
7. Season to taste.

Indian lentil soup

Apple spinach green smoothies
A smoothie serving is a great way to break the fast, perhaps as an appetizer to a more hefty meal, or a healthy snack during non-fasting hours before anyone dotes on you to grab yet another spoon of koshary or mahshi. This juicy option is certainly revitalizing after a long day enduring the summer heat.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4

1½ cup spinach
1 cup green tea
2tbsp honey (substitute with maple syrup or date honey as a vegan option)
1 tbsp flaxseeds (optional)
½ cup lemon juice
2 peeled cucumbers or green peppers
2 peeled diced apples
1 cup ice cold water
1 cup ice

1. In a blender, mix the water, spinach and green tea. (You can also add the flaxseeds at this phase.) Blend until smooth; blending twice is recommended.
2. Add the green pepper or cucumber, as well as the apple and lemon juice. Blend yet another time.
3. Blend the honey with the mix.


Mushroom cream soup

As they are quite rich in vitamins and minerals, mushrooms make a great substitute for meat, especially given the flavor and texture. This dish relies on coconut milk as a substitute for dairy, making it an ideal light dish for iftar or sohour.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4-6

2 tbsp olive oil
3 cups sliced button mushroom
3-5 cups coconut milk
2 tbsp dried thyme leaves
1 tbsp black pepper
2 chopped green peppers
5-7 chopped garlic cloves,
2-3 chopped onions

1. On medium-high heat, place the garlic and onions into a saucepan and sprinkle black pepper.
2. Add just enough water to keep the garlic and onions from sticking to the pan.
3. Stir until the garlic and onions begin to change color, then add the peppers. Sprinkle the thyme and stir again.
4. Pour the coconut milk and continue stirring, before adding the mushrooms.
5. Stir regularly to avoid sticking.
6. Bring to a simmer and allow it to cook for a few more minutes before serving.

Mahroum CreamSoup
Mushroom cream soup

Quinoa beets salad with greens

This is a low-fat, carb-heavy dish with incredibly low-calorie content, yet strong in the vitamins it provides. Quinoa, a grain recognized as a superfood, is also a great and tasty source of protein. Below is one option for a quinoa salad recipe, but different variations can be made with altered vegetable options. It can be served as an appetizer or a main dish, depending on serving size.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Servings: 4

½ cup red or white quinoa, or both
2 cups chopped beetroot
2 cups sliced cherry tomatoes
4 chopped carrots
4 chopped cucumbers
½ head iceberg lettuce
½ cup chopped onion
¼ cup chopped parsley
½ tbsp black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
3 lemons

1. Place all the vegetables into a large bowl.
2. Boil the quinoa in one cup of water and stir intermittently. Once the seeds have absorbed most of the water, pour into the salad mix.
3. Squeeze the lemons over the mix and toss to combine.
4. Season with black pepper and olive oil; and begin serving.

Quinoa beets salad with greens

Broccoli creamy pasta

This creamy pasta dish is dairy-free and light, offering a far richer flavor and digestive ease than your typical sauce-heavy pasta options. It’s also full of nutritious vegetables, making it an ideal option for the health-conscious.

Prep time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4

500 grams pasta
1 broccoli head
1 cauliflower head
½ kilogram mushrooms (optional, switch with another vegetable of choice. Cherry tomatoes are another good option)
2 cups coconut milk
4-6 chopped garlic cloves
½ cup chopped onion
2 chopped green peppers
½ tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
2 lemons

1. Bring approximately 2 liters of water to boil in a pot set to a high heat
2. As the water boils, cut the broccoli and cauliflower.
3. Toss the pasta, broccoli and cauliflower together in the boiled water, then set to a low heat until cooked.
4. Pour pasta and vegetables into a large sieve, then rinse them and set them aside.
5. Add pasta and vegetables to the sauce.
6. Stir well and serve.

1. Cook the garlic and onions in a saucepan, adding less than a ¼ cup of water to allow a slow simmer. Sprinkle minimal black pepper.
2. After a few minutes, stir the mixture in the saucepan. Add the green peppers and mushrooms then stir once more.
3. As the peppers soften and the mushrooms darken, pour the coconut milk and stir again.
4. Add olive oil and lemon juice.

Broccoli creamy pasta
Broccoli creamy pasta

Orange carrot smoothie

Another energy-fueling smoothie option, this recipe is more on the zesty side. Serve as a delicious snack or appetizer as desired. Make sure to add just the specified amount of ginger, since too much of it might taste too strong.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4

2-3 cups orange juice
4-5 carrots, peeled
½ tbsp ginger
1-2 tbsp honey
1 cup ice cold water
1 cup ice

1. In a blender, place the water, carrots, orange juice and the ginger and blend twice.
2. Add the honey and blend yet another time.
3. Pour the mixture into a narrow

Orange carrot smoothie

6/11/2018 5:59:34 PM
<![CDATA[The Ultimate Egyptian Fattah]]>
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 baladi bread loaves
1 cup chicken or meat broth
½ cup vinegar
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups tomato juice
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp traditional ghee
3 cups white rice (450 grams)
3 seeds cardamom
2 seeds of mastic
800 grams meat cubes
2 tbsp crushed garlic

Photo courtesy of Yumamia

Cooking the rice
1. Wash rice well with running water, then drain
2. Heat two tablespoons of ghee in a medium-sized pot, add cardamom and mastic and cook for two minutes, then add rice and cook for another two minutes
3. Add salt and 4 cups of water. Let the rice absorb the water, then cover the pot, lower heat and leave the rice to cook for 25 minutes

Preparing the sauce and bread:
4. In a small pan, cook the garlic in two tablespoons of oil, then add vinegar, tomato paste and sauce, and mix well.
5. Add ½ cup of water and bring to boil, then remove from heat.
6. Cut bread into squares and place in a big pan, adding the ghee and mixing well over medium heat, then adding the broth and leaving the bread to absorb all liquids

Serving the fattah:
7. Layer the bread on the bottom of the serving tray, followed by the rice, then evenly spread some of the sauce over the rice
8. Layer the meat cubes on top of the rice and sauce, and serve immediately, along with extra sauce to the side.

Yumamia is a food delivery website and application that offers fresh, tasty and clean food using premium ingredients and top hygiene standards.
6/11/2018 5:47:47 PM
<![CDATA[Keeping Active during Ramadan]]>
Timing your Workout

Before getting into the most effective times to work out, you should first be aware of how you are feeling. Some days we have more energy than other days, and we need to get into the habit of listening to our bodies. If you feel like you have the energy to work out, then go for it, and if you feel like perhaps your energy levels are quite low, then opt for either sitting out that day or perhaps going for a lower intensity workout. To get the most out of your exercise, the ideal time to work out is either an hour before you break your fast, or right after you break your fast with something small, such as a few dates and water or perhaps a bowl of oatmeal. This way, your stomach isn’t so full and you are able to train to your full potential.

Duration and Intensity

It’s not about how many times a week you train or how intensely you train, I believe it’s about consistency. It’s about doing your best to maintain a balanced lifestyle while still doing justice to your body. So, you need to work around your own life and own schedule; if 3 days a week is all you can afford to dedicate to train, then that’s totally fine. However, keep with the 3 days a week and try not to drop to less than that. Being choppy in your workouts will not allow you to see improvement, which I’ve often found can demoralise my clients. Again, as with anything in life, consistency is the key to constant improvement and maintenance of your emotional and physical health.

Types of Workout

In general, I always encourage our clients to train at a facility in groups. Find a buddy and find a facility near you, such as Ignite Egypt, and make use of the great energy that comes from training in groups. Sometimes it’s easy to get so lazy after an entire day of fasting that you do not want to leave the house, or maybe there’s a super important event you need to attend so spending an hour to train at a facility isn’t the most practical option. There are some great workouts that you can do at home to help keep your body on track, and a few variations of them that you can alternate on different days.

Tempo Squats/Split Squats

The go-to exercise for most people is squats. I like to shake things up a bit by incorporating different variations of the squat. To squat properly, you stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes turned out 15-30 degrees. With every move there is a dominant joint, with the hip, the dominant joint is the hips. The hips are what begins and ends the movement. With a tempo squat, you begin to lower yourself and slowly move downwards on the count of 4 seconds, holding for 2 seconds and then bringing yourself back up again in 1 second. Repeat for 10-12 reps in a set of 3 times. With a split squat, you place one foot in front of the other, making sure that both your feet are facing forward. You then move your body up and down, making sure that both the front leg and the back one are at 90 degrees. Do it slowly, and opt to do them with the same tempo as the squats as well as the same repetitions.

IMG_7126 (1)

High Plank/Shoulder Taps

A high plank is a great workout for your arms, shoulders and core. You begin this movement by getting into a push-up position with your hands directly underneath your shoulders and your legs extended behind you. The closer together your legs are, the harder the move, and the further apart, the easier it gets. Activate your core so that your hips don’t sink to the floor. Hold this move for 30-60 seconds, depending on what your body can handle. Another alternative to this exercise is lifting one arm at a time and having the opposite arm touch the opposite shoulder. Repeat this about 8 times for each arm, while trying to keep your hips from swaying back and forth.

90 Degree Hold/Bent Hollow Hold

This move is fairly easy to learn, but can be quite difficult to implement. Lie on the floor and bring your legs up straight so that your body is in a 90-degree position, keeping you knees locked so that you get the most out of this workout. If your legs begin to shake, that is totally normal, it is just your body overcoming a weakness. The other variation is a bent hollow hold; with this workout, you are also lying on the floor, tucking your legs into your body so that your legs are bent at a 90-degree angle and then lifting your shoulders up off the ground. With both exercises, try to keep yourself in the position for between 30-60 seconds and then repeat 3-4 times. Your workout will look something like this:

Tempo Squat
High Plank
90-degree hold
Split Squat
Shoulder Taps
Bent Hollow hold
X3-4 Sets
(30-60 seconds each)

I always say it’s not about what the norm is or what anyone else is doing. It is always about you as an individual, where you were yesterday and where you are today. Your improvement can only be measured against yourself. Try and make this Ramadan a wonderfully beneficial Ramadan for you. Set a few targets and goals to achieve by the end of Ramadan, and start mapping out how you plan to achieve them. Make training your priority and do not compromise the integrity of it, no matter what attractive event comes in your way. By making your health and training a priority, you are making yourself a priority.

Deana Shaaban is a Performance Training Specialist at Ignite Egypt.
Instagram: @deanashaaban / @ignite.egypt

5/31/2018 1:08:39 PM
<![CDATA[et Guide: Where to go for Iftar and Sohuor]]>Cairo Marriott Hotel & Omar Khayyam Casino

Spend your Ramadan at Cairo Marriott and enjoy a special dining experience
whether for iftar or sohour.

If you crave Oriental, enjoy a nice iftar at Omar’s Café. Som3a Basha offers a unique street-style sohour experience out on the Patio. Go for the A La Carte Sohour Street Chic experience and ask for the family-style iftar menus, available to book for groups of 15 or more. And for a uniquely upscale iftar, Saraya Gallery now offers a family-style iftar available by reservation only.

The Cairo Marriott will also be happy to share with you your special moments during your events at home with exclusive outside catering services, or you could host a banquet (minimum of 15 guests) for iftar or sohour at the hotel; whether at its palatial ballrooms or the outdoor Nile View Almaz.

For booking, call +20-(0)2- 2739 4646

Fairmont Nile City

After a series of successful Ramadan concepts over the past few years with “3al Corniche,” “Ramadan Zaman,” “El Leila El Kebeira,” and “1001 Nights,” Fairmont Nile City is back this year in all-time-favorite classic tradition with “Ahlan Ramadan,” where you’ll be taken on an extravagant Ramadan experience complete with traditional lanterns, decorations, lighting and music. Fairmont Nile City is offering a remarkable experience featuring a calendar packed with entertainment, festivities and cultural events to celebrate the holy month. Saigon Restaurant will offer the most lavish daily iftar buffet, featuring an array of Middle Eastern and international dishes and stations with Fairmont Nile City’s Oriental specialties including several live cooking stations. At Bab El Nil, you can enjoy the night breeze on the outdoor terrace overlooking the Nile while smoking shisha, playing board games, and catching up on your favorite Ramadan TV series on Bab El Nil’s 138 inch HD mega screen. Bar Kaya will offer traditional Arabian delicacies and mouthwatering dishes and desserts for sohour, along with the best oriental entertainment. Fairmont Nile City also offers special iftar and sohour menus for groups of all sizes with your choice of indoor and outdoor settings; that’s in addition to shisha and dessert packages; or you can impress your guests with customized world-class outside catering service straight to your doorstep serving up to 3,000 guests.

For more information, call 012 8340 7888 / 012 8100 0353 / 012 8618 8882

Grand Nile Tower

Grand Nile Tower is all set to cater to guests seeking fine food and panoramic Nile views with an extensive selection of culinary experiences.

To honor this special time of year, guests may choose between the hotel’s signature restaurants, with myriad bespoke options for gatherings with family and friends during the Holy Month.
At Sakya Souk, experience an extravagant iftar set menu with a spectacular view of the Nile, featuring a generous selection of hot and cold mezze and sumptuous hot specialties. The venue will also offer an a la carte sohour menu featuring light favorites, traditional Ramadan cuisine, and complemented by an array of delicious international dishes.

Nubian Village will offer a lavish array of Lebanese and Oriental specialties for iftar with a special set menu and an a la carte menu for sohour. An Oriental takht entertains.

Delices café offers a spectacular selection of beverages and pastries, including Oriental dessert and a vast bakery selection.

For those requiring a larger gathering venue, Grand Nile Tower’s yacht, Marquise, will provide an iftar buffet and a special a la carte sohour while enjoying a classic Oriental evening at Baccarat and aboard Marquise deck; and for large groups looking for a unique iftar or sohour experience, special Ramadan menus are created for gatherings or corporate events.

Create unforgettable memories by sharing your Ramadan experiences on social media using the hashtag #RamadanAtGrandNileTower.

For reservations, call +202 2365 1234 or email info@grandniletower.com

Semiramis InterContinental Cairo

As the lanterns are lit and excitement approaches Cairo streets, Semiramis InterContinental has set all venues for the most authentic Ramadan this summer. Night & Day is serving up numerous buffets all Ramadan with authentic Egyptian specialties as well as Indian, Chinese and Italian dishes; iftar buffet starts from LE 400++ per person. Nile Terrace presents Fawanees and authentic Ramadan iftar and sohour experiences, with delicious Oriental favorites under the stars, while you can enjoy shisha and live entertainment or watch your favorite shows. At Tea Garden & Café Corniche, take pleasure in all your favorite sweet Ramadan delicacies. For an Italian-flavored iftar, check Pane Vino where you can enjoy special menus curated by Chef Giovanni Romagnoli and his team; iftar set menu starts from LE 360++ per person. You can also experience Lebanese cuisine for iftar and sohour at Sabaya with a set menu for LE 375++ per person. If you are planning an iftar or sohour event, banquet halls are the perfect setting with the largest ballroom holding up to 1,200 persons. Semiramis InterContinental also provides outside catering, from menu planning to cutlery to waiters. Iftar set menus start from LE 320++ per person, Iftar buffet starts from LE 420++ per person, Sohour set menus start from LE 280++ per person.

For more information, call 20 (2) 279 88 000

Jaz Collection

Jaz Collection invites visitors to come and experience the atmosphere of Ramadan, offering special accommodation packages as well as iftar and sohour promotions throughout the Holy Month.

With more than 45 hotels all over Egypt, a stunning selection of breathtaking locations, hospitality and local flavors awaits you, with the opportunity to enjoy a truly meaningful celebration and create lifelong memories.

The uniqueness of Jaz Collection lies in the renowned service standards and the diversity of choices; catering for ultimately every holiday need and taste.

For further information: Tel+20 (2) 3854 2044, Fax +20 (2) 3854 2029, E-mail areej.mohieldin@jazhotels.com

JW Marriott Hotel Cairo

Enjoy iftar and sohour at JW Marriott Hotel Cairo and enjoy impeccable service and exquisite culinary experience surrounded by the unique atmosphere of the Holy Month. Layaly Mirage presents legendary iftar offerings at The Beach. Plateau features a la carte and family-style iftar menus in addition to an extensive range of fine shisha selections. Ease into the welcoming evening vibes at Welad El Zawat at the Clubhouse Terrace, complete with delicious sohour buffet and live entertainment. Pick up your favorite handcrafted Oriental pastries from La Patisserie. Mandara offers an enticing Ramadan spa package.

Steigenberger Hotels & Resorts

To experience the authentic spirit of the Holy Month, gather your family and friends and indulge in the mouthwatering iftar and sohour traditional specialties prepared by Steigenberger El Tahrir’s talented chefs.

Treat yourself and your family to a lavish stay at Steigenberger Alcazar in Sharm El Sheikh this Ramadan. Feel the ultimate spiritual experience along the sunkissed glittering water of the Red Sea at one of Steigenberger adults only hotels; both Steigenberger Coraya in Marsa Alam and Steigenberger Makadi offer tailored special packages to refresh your mind, body and soul.
For a memorable family getaway in the heart of the city of Alexandria, book your stay at Steigenberger Cecil.

Nile Ritz-Carlton, Cairo

This year, The Nile Ritz-Carlton, Cairo invites guests to break their fast with an array of delicious food offerings at Al Qahira and Alf Leila Wa Leila Ballrooms, Culina restaurant as well as Wust El Balad Ramadan tent.

At Culina, the culinary team has put together a selection of gourmet Arabic and international delicacies for an extensive iftar buffet experience. Main courses are provided through interactive cooking and molecular gastronomy stations for main courses and desserts, adding an element of culinary theater to the experience.

Wust El Balad Ramadan Tent, located at the spacious garden and overlooking the magnificent Egyptian Museum, combines contemporary design with Oriental accents. The Ramadan tent includes large TV screens which will air the most popular TV shows and series of the season. Further elevating and enriching the atmosphere, live entertainment and flavorful shisha will complement the joy of creating memories with family and friends.

Suitable for large groups, the Al Qahira and Alf Leila Wa Leila ballrooms are ideal for family gatherings, offering lavish sohour set menus and iftar buffets with an array of delicious food, including traditional Arabic dishes and beverage selections catering to every taste. With a dramatic fountain, leading guests to their spacious foyer as well as exquisite chandeliers, upholstered walls and dreamy lighting creating a magnificent ambience in the main ballroom, the space is welcoming and grand.

For more information, call +202 25778899 ext: 2002, or email rc.cairz.reservations@ritzcarlton.com.

Renaissance Cairo Mirage City Hotel

Renaissance Cairo Mirage City hotel welcomes Ramadan with authentic iftar and sohour offerings during the Holy Month. Afandina is the perfect spot to chill with your family and friends after a long day of fasting around the pool area with a delicious range of food, great shisha, and live entertainment, on iftar and sohour. En Passant offers you a wide range of oriental pasties and dessert to celebrate iftar. Create unique memories this Ramadan by bringing family and friends together at Chinoix offering a la carte menu.

For more information, Tel: +2 (02) 24115588

Royal Maxim Palace Kempinski

Royal Maxim Palace Kempinski presents its Bab Al Qasr Tent, for the second year in a row. The tent will occupy Palace’s courtyard, bejeweled by a dash of color and featuring an exciting lineup of entertainment. Whether it is what is on stage or the activities planned around the tent, it is sure to keep you entertained for a sohour you wouldn’t want to miss (and iftar for groups). This year Royal Maxim Palace Kempinski is ready to cater for private gatherings in a location of your choice. For a minimum of 75 guests and prices starting at EGP 450++ you can have your memorable gatherings in the comfort of your own home, or a destination of your choice, with food quality and service of a five-star hotel.

For restaurant reservations, call 01097111151; and for group or catering reservations send your inquiry to meetings.royalmaxim@kempinski.com

Sheraton Montazah Alexandria

Sheraton Montazah Hotel invites you to celebrate Ramadan in luxury with all its amazing spirit and sharing traditions. El Moled Bedouin Theme at the Beach Cafe overlooking , the superb view of the Mediterranean seashore with elegant seating, serves sumptuous sohour meal, mouthwatering Ramadan drinks and your choice of flavored shisha along with the oriental tunes of Takht Sharky, tanoura, folkloric show and live songs. Families and friends are invited to break their fast at Café Coquillage with its daily iftar buffet that features an array of different traditional Arabic dishes and continental delicacies with exquisite oriental specialties, while watching their favorite TV Shows. You can also bring friends and share quality time at La Mamma Terrace Café, The View Café and Café Trottoir, or try the wide selection of oriental desserts at the Café Rendez-Vous located at the Mezzanine Floor.

Corporate groups are also encouraged to book their special dates early, for sumptuous menus with tempting prices.

Sheraton Sharm El Sheikh

Capture a true essence of Egyptian tradition and savor the spirit of Ramadan at Sheraton Sharm Hotel, Resort, Villas & Spa, enjoying a memorable stay with great deals on rooms, variety of dining options, extravagant Ramadan iftar and sohour buffet with a range of mouthwatering Egyptian delicacies and delights prepared by highly skilled chefs.

Enjoy a delicious iftar at Layalina café outdoor terrace with its breathtaking scenery where you can feel the mythical mood of the Orient with flavored shisha, your favorite Ramadan refreshments along with takht music, live songs, tanoura and folkloric show.

Sofitel Cairo El Gezirah
Sofitel El Gezirah offers you a truly fantastic experience this blessed month. With Fawanees 3al Nile, taste authentic culinary, Middle Eastern specialties, including a delightful variety of Oriental sweets at La Palmeraie. For authentic tagines, Casa Mia offers a lavish buffet created especially for Ramadan, and Kebabgy serves up traditional barbecue specialities with ambient music and live Oriental takht.

Don’t miss the special collection of shisha flavors on the private terrace overlooking the Nile.

Conrad Cairo

Enjoy an extravagant iftar buffet with a spectacular view of the Nile at Solana Restaurant, featuring a diverse selection of salads, hot & cold mezze and sumptuous hot specialties. At OAK Grill, indulge in a contemporary Lebanese iftar set menu served in a deluxe setting. At Jayda Nile Terrace, enjoy a perfect setting for social evenings with iftar and sohour specialties at El Lama El Helwa with daily live entertainment. For large groups wishing a unique iftar or sohour experience, special Ramadan menus are created for gatherings or corporate events. The meeting and events team can prepare family-style or buffet with everyone’s favorite Ramadan flavors and dishes. Also don’t forget to check the spectacular selection of oriental dessert with a special price at the Atrium Lobby Lounge.

To learn more about or connect with Conrad Cairo, please visit www.conradcairo.com or call 02 25808000

Le Meridien Cairo Airport!

Discover magical moments this Ramadan at EVOO with a unique Arabian style atmosphere. A daily open buffet for iftar and sohour features a lavish selection of culinary choices and traditional Ramadan favourites in addition to a delightful variety of shisha, oriental desserts and eclairs, accompanied with soulful sounds of live entertainment by pool. Mezzeh is inviting you to enjoy Ramadan gathering with special iftar set menus including savoury assortment of hot and cold Mezzeh and an extensive range of traditional Lebanese delicacies, desserts and shisha.
Don’t miss Ramadan’s extraordinary rates starting at LE 750 per person

For reservations and more information call: 02-2265-9600

5/29/2018 5:37:14 PM
<![CDATA[Preparing for take-off: Boeing’s Bernie Dunn]]>
Boeing’s business in Egypt dates back to 1966 when EgyptAir first ordered three Boeing 707 aircrafts. Since then, the airline has ordered some 53 aircrafts from Boeing, with the commercial aerospace industry leader, who has delivered the competition six years in a row, looking to become an integral part of the expansions in the aerospace industry that it predicts will become in Egypt.

Boeing’s most up-to-date outlook reveals the importance of the Middle East to Boeing and predicts that the region will buy 3,350 new airplanes over the next 20 years. It further estimates that the commercial services market in the region will record more than $109 billion during the next 10 years; the operating tempo and age of military aircraft in the Middle East are also expected to warrant some $90 billion investment in services within the same timeframe. Given that the Middle East is Boeing’s fourth largest services growth market, after the United States, Europe and Asia Pacific, and that three of the company’s top 10 buyers already located within the region, Boeing is looking to become an integral part of the expansion that it predicts.

With the wind back in EgyptAir’s sail, and forecasts for expansion, Bernie Dun, President of Boeing Middle East, North Africa and Turkey talks to Egypt Today about their partnership with Cairo University, the importance of the Egyptian market and the role the company plans to play in the Middle East over the next 20 years.

ET: Let me start by asking you a question around Boeing’s partnership with Cairo University; can you tell us more about it?

Dunn: In all markets that we consider important, which is almost everywhere that we work, we try to give something back to the community. There is a lot of ways that we can do that but one of the ways with selected markets is that we form a partnership with one or more universities.

We started the relationship with Cairo University last year based on an assessment of what it is doing in the engineering and aeronautical area, and we sponsored a student project. We provided a grant that sustained student engineering projects in the area of aerospace. Kids building planes basically, flyable planes; and we are doing it again this year. And I think that the university appreciates it and that it allows them to do things that they are not able to do for lack of funding. And we are going to continue to do that.

I was at the exhibition last year with the kids models, they grouped up into teams and they had a day when they displayed their projects and it was really gratifying; these kids were so enthusiastic about what they were doing. And they were really enjoying Boeing’s involvement; Boeing helped them out and provided some expertise. So, we are going to continue [this program].

We are also going to look at Alexandria University because I had the opportunity to take my boss and to meet President Sisi a month ago, and he mentioned to us Alexandria University, which has won a major international prize in the United States. So, we are going to go up there—we have already reached out to them—and we want to go up and develop a relationship with Alexandria University as well. Maybe there are ways that we can collaborate; maybe we can help the young people of Egypt in some way by collaborating. This is what the university relationships are all about; [partnerships] are targeted around aeronautics, aerospace engineering and related sectors.

ET: So, do the students have the opportunity to join Boeing?

Dunn: Not in that project, but there are other ways that we get kids to the United States.

When we get involved in manufacturing, for example, typically there are trips and also there are a business internship programs and we take selected kids—about four or five of them every year—and we send them back to Seattle for six months of essentially working as if they are Boeing employees in certain areas.

We are still at the beginning stages with Egypt right now but all of these things can eventually be possible with Egypt as well. We are really putting a lot of emphasis on this market because this market is important to us.

ET: Why is the Egyptian market important? What potential does the market have?

Dunn: We [Boeing] are the majority of the airplanes in EgyptAir and we are seeing a new visions and a new leadership at EgyptAir that appears to be getting increasingly commercial.

Let me put this into perspective for you; this is an emerging market and the airline has not been that active over the years, it has been kind of a plotting airline, a state-run airline. Now, we are seeing a lot of energy and a lot of commercial-minded actions in the airline; I think it is going to really expand and we want to be part of that expansion. We are finding opportunities now that we did not have before; so, I see good things coming for Boeing and the Egyptian market, and we will return that with community engagement and trying to give something back as well.

Egypt has great opportunities to invest in various fields within the aerospace industry; given the long history of cooperation between Boeing and EgyptAir, as well as other major institutions within Egypt, Boeing is looking forward to investing in Egypt.

ET: Turning to the Middle East, Boeing works with many airlines, like Emirates and Etihad, and is expected to have some 4,000 aircrafts in the region by 2036. What are your comments on this?

Dunn: Currently, We have about 700 aircrafts positioned in this region right now; I am not sure if that counts Turkey or not, Turkey would maybe be another 150 probably; we have nearly the similar amount on back loan to this region.

Our present market outlook predicts about 3,350 new planes in the region in the next 20 years, which translates to 63,000 new pilots, 67,000 new technicians and about 92,000 new cabin crew members; so, there are a lot of jobs coming.

Governments in the region have really learnt that if you make an investment in your aerospace sector, you are really making an investment in your whole economy because those high-tech people that I just mentioned demand good places to live—somebody has got to built them; they demand nice schools for their kids—somebody has got to built them and they are going to need teachers. They need good hospitals, good healthcare. They also require places to spend their money; restaurants, entertainment, and so on. All that builds an ecosystem.

If this region buys 3,350 new airplanes in the next 20 years, which it will, somebody will be those pilots and technicians and everything else. We hope that it will be the Egyptians and Saudis and Emiratis, and so, we are trying our best to prepare the grounds for success all the way around.

ET: The U.S. has recently withdrawn from the Iran agreement, how will this impact Boeing?

Dunn: We were involved in negotiations with Iran Air and as I mentioned to CNBC about two weeks ago in Bahrain when I was asked by the correspondent, “So, Trump pulled out of the Iran agreements; what does that do to your business?” The U.S. pulling out of the Iran deal does not affect [Boeing’s] business because we never booked that opportunity as an order and we never built it into our production pipeline for 777 and 737.

We viewed it as an opportunity that might happen; if it did, great; if it didn’t; then, it does not affect us whatsoever.

And you know, beyond that we are taking the lead of the U.S. government on the Iran issue but it is out there of course and I think eventually these problems are going to get solved, but for now we are taking the lead of the U.S. government. But this did not affect our production schedule in any way.
5/27/2018 4:34:16 PM
<![CDATA[Your guide to a healthy, guilt-free Ramadan]]>
But it doesn’t have to be that way. There is a common saying that fasting is a detox for the body; and detox diets are indeed in high demand nowadays. So, where do we go wrong? And how should we make the best out of that detox month?

To avoid any medical complications, mood swings or unsolicited weight changes that might interfere with the magic of the holy month, renowned nutritionist Dr. Cherifa Aboul Fettouh has helped us get all set for a healthy, productive and guilt-free Ramadan.

Is there a certain strategy we can follow to make sure we get a balanced nutrition during the fasting month?
Unfortunately, people lose a lot of [nutritional elements], especially in the beginning of Ramadan. As soon as we break the fast, we start with dates and then hurry into eating empty nutrients that are not of any benefit for the body; so we do not have any appetite for the necessary nutrients. Then we move on to sweets. You come out of Ramadan with more weight and feeling very weak.

To avoid that, I highly recommend the “hour strategy” [organizing your eating according to a regular hour system].

I don’t see a need to break the fast with dates; sweets are full of insulin, which increases your appetite. You can start with water, then go pray … I want you to pass some time and to start feeling a little bit full after five minutes of drinking the water, before you start eating.

Then sit and eat for a full 20 minutes, starting with the beneficial elements like salad. After these 20 minutes, you probably will not be hungry; and if you are, you will only want small quantities of [fatty dishes like sambusak]. You should also talk while eating to pass the time, don’t just focus on the food. After 20 minutes, your stomach sends signals to the brain that you are no longer hungry.


After two hours, you will want some sweets. Now, you can eat the dates or a small portion of konafa or other desserts. Don’t deny yourself anything, but take care of portions.

Then [you should have] sohour; sohour is extremely important. However, if you eat greasy food or simple carbohydrates like sweets and white flour, you will feel hungrier the next day.

Water is the most important thing; you need three liters of water per day. You should also work out, even if it is simply going for a walk.

Can you suggest a specific meal plan for Ramadan?
This is a diet that you can go on for a week.

- First, you break your fast with a glass of warm water with a squeeze of lemon.

- After a few minutes, you start with one cup of grilled orzo (lesan asfour) soup (instead of stirring the orzo in butter, get the full packet (so that you don’t have to do it every day), empty it in a non-stick cookware and leave it until golden, but make sure it doesn’t get burned. Add it to your soup and add one cup of skimmed milk. The white orzo soup is very delicious.

- Then take your plate and divide it. Add salad, vegetables, one serving of rice (use one yogurt cup of 110mg for the portion) and protein. If there is mahshi (rice-stuffed veggies), instead of rice and vegetables, you can have three big mahshi pieces or 10 stuffed vine leave pieces. This first plate you will eat in 20 minutes.

- Wait a bit before eating sweets. Then, you can either take a cake, or any kind of dessert, the size of a small box of matches; or 5 dates.

- For sohour, it is half a cup of foul (fava beans), salad, a piece of Areesh cheese (half the size of your palm) and one cup of yogurt. You could alternatively have a quarter loaf of baladi bread, half cup of foul and one yogurt cup. The third option is two boiled eggs, a piece of Areesh cheese and one yogurt cup.

This plan is for someone who is staying at home and does not do any activities. For someone who does some outdoors activities, they can add fruits, porridge or more to the portion of sweets.


Guilty pleasures are so hard to resist in Ramadan, with all the traditional sweets; can you recommend any specific healthy snacks to eat between iftar and sohour instead of gorging on desserts?

There are a lot of snacks; and there are also fruits that we tend to forget in Ramadan. We can eat three fruits per day; we can eat as much as we want of cucumbers and carrots. We can eat popcorn instead of nuts. We can eat seven to 10 raw almonds. If you do a lot of activities during the day, you can add another meal of oatmeal.


Are there any specific foods or nutritional elements that we should make sure we include in iftar or sohour meals?
Yes, there are; and we also need to be aware of the most widespread nutritional deficiencies.

Teenagers and women in Egypt suffer mostly from anemia; iron deficiency. Since it is widespread, I might be suffering from it as well. Therefore, every day, a piece of protein with a salad is a must. The salad allows the highest absorption of the protein because it includes vitamin C. As for people who don’t eat animal protein, there are complete proteins, a mix between plant protein like foul and seeds; because foul still misses some amino-acids that are found in seeds. This complete protein mix gives you what you need from animal protein; add one egg or a cup of yogurt, and it will be as if you had your piece of meat.

As for elderly people, absorption of protein-bound vitamin B12 is decreased, so they need supplements for it.

Also, Omega 3 is very important, especially that we break it up when we heat oil. Therefore, we don’t have a lot of sources for Omega 3 or vitamin E. We need to learn how to deal with oil as a vitamin that we need for our body. We can pour it cold on cooked food.

Is Ramadan a good time to start a diet and fitness journey for someone who wants to pursue a healthier lifestyle or reach their ideal weight?
It is not a good time. Many people might say Ramadan is a good time to start a new lifestyle; but in fact, Ramadan is not a lifestyle, it is a temporary style of life. Moreover, the temptation is very high in Ramadan; you might get weaker and feel down, so you give up [on the whole idea of a healthy lifestyle]. From our traditions as Arabs, we have a lot of iftar and sohour invites in Ramadan and [they turn into] feasts … If you decide to go on a diet or to start a new lifestyle in Ramadan, you will either get depressed or you get away from people.

However, we can take Ramadan as a step to stop focusing much on food, [but] learn more about it and be smarter than the temptation … Fasting might also be a chance to stop smoking. If you usually smoke one pack during the day and one in the evening, you don’t have to compensate both at night. And to get used to it, you can start a gradual reduction before Ramadan. The problem with cigarettes, however, is that when people quit, they usually gain weight because cigarettes burn from 10 to 20 percent of the food intake. It is very important that if you are going to quit smoking, you should reduce the food you eat by 10 to 20 percent.

For athletes or people who have a regular workout plan, when is the best time to work out in Ramadan?
After eating … Never work out before eating or you would risk a stroke. When you [play] sports before breaking the fast, water deficiency in the body can [trigger] a stroke. It is very important to work out after drinking water; or right before you break your fast—in the last 30 minutes—which is usually very difficult for most people.

Does fasting really affect our mood or mental state? How so? And how do we deal with it?
Definitely. While fasting, sugar levels in the blood are low. This makes you feel depressed and very down; and you can’t concentrate much. This low blood sugar is a huge problem for people who don’t eat well in sohour.
However, once you get used to fasting, you are eating well and you have a stable blood sugar level, you will find that your productivity is the highest.

Can you give us any general tips for a healthy Ramadan?
Many people suffer from constipation in Ramadan, which is normal because your eating habits change. Therefore, I recommend adding flax seeds to your sohour yogurt. It prevents the constipation problem and improves your mood. You can also add it to your salad because it has calcium and vitamin E, and will make up for a lot of the vitamins your body needs.

Dr. Cherifa Aboul Fettouh is a comprehensive nutrition consultant and is the founder of Nutrition Planet. She also has a PhD in nutrition and psychological effects from Williamstown University in Berkley and holds several degrees in nutrition and group therapy.

5/19/2018 9:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Hosting the Perfect Ramadan Gathering]]>

Have a proper seating plan and assess the number of guests and ensure that everyone can be seated. Because after a long day of fasting, who wants to eat standing up? While you may not be able to seat everyone around the dining table, reserve the dining table seats for elderly family members, and prepare additional side tables for the younger crowd.

Table Setup

Consider the table setup before the guests show up to avoid any surprises when your guests arrive. Get out that chinaware of yours reserved for special occasions. Make sure to include the right plate for the type of food you are serving, like a bowl for soup, a small salad plate, and a flat dish for the main course, along with the appropriate cutlery.

Another thing to consider is the size of the serving dishes, so if you have a small dining table it’s best to use small serving dishes; even if you have to split the portion over two dishes, this does not only make the table look more proportionate, it also helps you fit more items, and avoid the line up on the signature dishes as you’ll have doubles of everything.

Zesty Grilled Chicken Platter (Low Cal) 04 (NEW)
Photo courtesy of Yumamia

Make sure you set up the table well ahead to get that out of your way; laying out the plates, knives, forks and spoons in respect of the formal table-set up, and prepare the serving dishes and spoons the day before to have one less thing to worry about. On a perfect table, forks and napkins are generally placed to the left of the plate, while knives, spoons, cups and saucers go to the right.

Mind the small details

A traditional copper tray to serve the meal or tea and a fanous (lantern) are great additions to get into the spirit of the month. But you can also rent table setups from professionals. Wooden chairs are back in trend for Ramadan, and you can also add some loungers and poufs for a comfy, traditional setup.

Also make sure you set up an entertainment corner for the little ones as Ramadan is all about family and so kids are bound to be part of every gathering; so make sure they are kept entertained while the grownups sit and eat.

Photo courtesy of Dina Iskander

Be mindful of traditions

Most people have specific traditions and preferences in their iftar routine and allowing your guests to behave normally helps them feel more at home, and eventually enjoy their time more.

First on the list of Ramadan traditions is the way you choose to break your fast. Some people start off with dates and milk; so make sure to place an assortment of dates somewhere visible, preferably next to the drinks table so people can help themselves to dates if they wish without it taking space on the main dining table.

Food Choice

Obviously, no Ramadan table is complete without soup as a starter. As for the rest of the buffet, one way to help you in your food choice is to pick one or two lavish main dishes like chicken or beef fattah, or a whole turkey with khalta rice to focus on and perfect. Accompany that with an assortment of simple dishes like pastas, fried chicken, or shawerma. Don’t forget the salads and appetizers like vine leaves and sambousak.

Try and opt for food that can be prepared ahead; like mahshi, for instance, béchamel pasta or chicken, to save your energy on the day and not have to prepare it all from scratch as you fast. Also prepare all the marinated proteins and all the salads ahead, keeping the sauce to the side to add upon serving.

As for desserts, beside the trend for this year, and God knows what that would be, make a good homemade dessert; it would mean a lot to your family that you went through the effort to make one instead of buying all the desserts.

Yumamia's Baked Mac & Cheese B 04 (NEW)
Photo courtesy of Yumamia


What makes Ramadan gatherings different are their special theme, so don’t skimp on decorations. A simple Oriental tablecloth or some lanterns can go a long way in giving your home a cosy Ramadan feel. Use decorations featuring small tabla (a traditional percussion instrument) and riq (traditional tambourine), and decorate the area with warm lights. “Inspiration for traditional Ramadan decoration starts with choosing a theme,” she says, recommending the classic color scheme of red and orange with accents of silver and gold.

You can turn on the TV on mute as a background entertainment, we all know Ramadan’s drama series are always a good conversational starter.

Finally, relax and enjoy your party; because a gathering is made perfect only by the special touches of its hosts. Welcoming your guests with a warm smile is the most important element of any gathering.

Photo courtesy of Dina Iskander

Yumamia is a food delivery website and application that offers fresh, tasty and clean food using premium ingredients and top hygiene standards.

Dina Iskander is a leader in events management and planning, the company was established in 1996 and grew to include a team of more than 65 talented employees who manage, plan and execute up to 250 events every year.

Photo courtesy of Dina Iskander

5/18/2018 12:00:00 PM
<![CDATA[Ramadan Away from Home]]>
As for the many expats who find themselves in a foreign country during Ramadan, myself included, we do not only miss the family gatherings, but we also get a sense of nostalgia for childhood and memories of the holy month in our home countries. Celebrating particular traditions can be difficult, especially if you do not have family or a network of friends around you who were brought up on the same practices.

“Family gatherings are one of the most precious aspects of Ramadan that I miss here … it is simply priceless,” says Lana Nawajha, a Palestinian student from Gaza studying at Cairo University. She adds that what she also misses the most is Palestinian food and the memories she attaches to it. “When I was young, we were always so excited when my mum turned the pan upside down to serve the traditional makloubeh dish. I try to make it, but the taste is not quite the same as my mum’s; yet it helps [to cope],” Nawajha adds.

This year, we spoke to several expats, who have been spending Ramadan in Egypt, who share how they have been coping, away from their home countries’ traditions and their families’ spirit.

Palestinian girls pose for a picture with a Ramadan lantern in front of the Dome of the Rock at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem Ahmad Gharabli AFP
Palestinian girls pose for a picture with a Ramadan lantern in front of the Dome of the Rock at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem - AFP/Ahmad Gharabli

Bringing a piece of home to Ramadan practices

One way Arab expats cope with Ramadan in Egypt is by bringing in a piece of home, incorporating traditions in their new homes. It might bring some of the elements of their own culture and share them with their neighbors, friends and coworkers; whether it is a favorite traditional meal that they are used to having, or certain types of songs that they are used to listening to during the month.

For Ghada Lubbad, a stay-at-home Palestinian mother of two who is married to an Egyptian and has been living in Egypt since 2013, Ramadan in her new home was a tough experience until she made some friends, and incorporated some of the traditions and dishes of her home country into her new life. “My husband spends most of Ramadan at work and his family doesn’t live in Egypt, so I am usually alone with my kids. Ramadan used to be just like any other month until I became friends with my Syrian neighbors,” Lubbad says. “We have iftar together almost every day in Ramadan. We cook Syrian and Palestinian dishes. Food does not only have the ability to stir memories, but it can also provide a real source of comfort … Whenever I am homesick, I cook something Palestinian.”

Lubbad’s home traditions also expand beyond the holy month; she has been keen on celebrating Eid al-Fitr (the religious festival marking the end of Ramadan) with her mother’s date cookies, although this year is her first Ramadan after her mother’s passing a few months ago. “I dedicate the last three days of Ramadan to prepare for Eid al-Fitr. I buy the chocolate and candies and start preparing for the date cookies following my mother’s recipe. I share these cookies with my neighbors,” Lubbad says. “My mother used to send me the ingredients from Gaza whenever she could, so that I could still remember the smell of her cookies.”

Rasem El-Attasi, a Syrian living in Egypt since 2012 and a member of a committee that supports Syrian expats in Egypt, has also been keen on keeping her home country’s Ramadan traditions; from social gatherings to sweets. She is also trying to bring some of those practices into her new home.

Ramadan in Syria - Reuters

“Every Ramadan, we organize several events to bring the Syrians and the Egyptians together. We invite Egyptians to these events so that they can learn about Syrian culture. They enjoy the Syrian food, so we offer sweets like kunafa and halawet el-jibn (sweet cheese rolls) as well as Syrian appetizers like msabaha hummus and Ramadan beverages like jallab, tamer hindi and sous-vide. We also have Syrian singers who usually play the oud and sing old Syrian songs during these events. Everyone enjoys their time and we feel that they bring us closer to each other as Syrians and Egyptians,” says Attasi.

The idea of incorporating your home country’s traditions and staying faithful to childhood Ramadan memories becomes much easier if you are part of a community and not just acting as one person longing for home. Salsabel Besaiso, a Palestinian journalist who was born in Egypt but had the opportunity to spend some Ramadan months in the Gaza strip, says, “I am lucky enough to have some relatives in Egypt, so I visit them during Ramadan as hosting iftar gathering rotates between the family members. The first day of Ramadan is usually spent at the eldest family member’s house.” Salsabel also adds that her family tries to keep a Palestinian lifestyle as much as they can during these gatherings, “We cook Palestinian food throughout the month, whether for sohour or iftar, and share it with our friends and neighbors so that they get to know something about the Palestinian culture.”

Besaiso also participates in cultural activities organized by the Palestinian Embassy in Cairo, like other Muslim countries’ embassies, to celebrate the holy month and help fill the void of loneliness during Ramadan. “Every year in Ramadan, the embassy organizes an event at the Cairo Opera House. They bring Palestinian singers and bands to perform Dabkka (a traditional Levantine dance). Despite the nostalgia, we enjoy our time and meet other Palestinians,” says Besaiso. “If I get invited to other countries’ Ramadan events, I always go to learn more about their culture.”

I personally experienced these nostalgic Ramadan feelings twice in my life; once, when I was studying in Jordan and the second was when I moved to live in Egypt away from my family in Gaza, Palestine. Therefore, I can definitely relate to the feelings of Arab expats living in Egypt.

When I was living in the university dorm in Jordan, together with my classmates who came from various Arab countries, we would have iftar every day and plan the menu in the same way our mothers used to do back home. Each one of us would be responsible for cooking one dish, and we did our best to follow our mothers’ recipes. I remember trying Bahraini sweets and Sudanese food for the first time in my life, and they were very delicious. My Bahraini friend used to cook us Bahraini halawa and ballalet with milk, while our Sudanese friend cooked wayka or dried okra in yogurt. Iftar used to rotate between our rooms, and this was our way to imitate the family gatherings and visits we used to have back home.

I moved to Egypt a few years later, and I kept one Ramadan tradition that is close to my heart. Back home, before Ramadan every year I used to sit with my mother to list our favorite dishes to prepare during the month. We would then categorize them into groups: soups, appetizers, main dishes and sweets. She would hang it on the refrigerator, and so do I in my house in Egypt. I wanted to incorporate the traditions of my home country in my daily life, so I have been cooking molokhia waraq on the first day of Ramadan since I moved here two years ago, just like my mom and many Palestinian mothers do. They believe that the dish’s green tint on the table reflects that the whole year would be prosperous. My Egyptian neighbor is now the biggest fan of my molokhia dish.


Getting the Egyptian Ramadan vibe

Another way expats deal with Ramadan away from their home country is by learning more about the culture of the country they are living in, and really immersing themselves innew experiences and ways of celebrating.

This year, expat student Lana Nawajha decided to create a Ramadan-ish vibe in her dorm room, incorporating some little traditions that are customary of Ramadan in Egypt. “I went out and bought myself three big stars with various patterns on them like the ones I see in Egypt and I hung them around my dorm room, I also bought a little lantern,” she says.

رمضان فى سوريا  672665-01-02
Ramadan in Syria - AFP

And when the cultures are a bit similar, it is even easier to feel at home. Zakwan Abu El-Kheir, a Syrian businessman and owner of Abu El-Kheir company for Syrian foods has been living in Egypt for the past six years. He says that Syrians adapted in Egypt very easily given the cultural similarities between the two countries. “Almost 99 percent of the Syrian traditions are witnessed in Egypt, from the fast-breaking charity tables to the misaharaty who wakes people up for sohopr during Ramadan nights.” However, Abu El-Kheir explains that the charity tables in Syria are not as big and widespread as the ones in Egypt. “In Egypt, people join the charity tables not only because they are poor, but they consider it as a gathering and a way to share the blessings of this holy month with others. It is more of an activity in Egypt,” he explains.

Attasi agrees with Abu El-Kheir on the similarities between the Egyptian and Syrian cultures, especially when it comes to religious customs like reading the Quran and singing religious songs. He also explains that he likes the sense of giving among Egyptians during Ramadan. “In my first Ramadan in Egypt, I was amazed to see groups of young volunteers in the streets at the iftar time distributing water, dates and juice boxes to those breaking their fast.”

Sally Osama, an Egyptian-Iraqi journalist who spent most of her life in Iraq, was introduced to the Egyptian Ramadan spirit in her home country by her father. As such, traditions specific to Egypt were anything but new to her when she moved. “In Iraq, Ramadan was different. We did not have this special festive spirit that you feel in Egypt, and it was all about the religious activities. I don’t remember seeing any decorations in the streets or even the traditional colorful Ramadan fawanees (lanterns). But my father wanted to bring the Egyptian traditions to our experience, so he used to get us fawanees and to teach us some Egyptian songs,” Osama recalls. “In our neighborhood, there were some Egyptian families, as children we used to gather after iftar and sing the Egyptian song ‘Halo ya halo, Ramadan karim ya halo’ and some Iraqi songs as well.”

Ramadan away from home and family is definitely difficult; however, the Egyptian spirit does help make most of us enjoy the holy month, even if in a different way than that we are used to. Tala Ibrahim, a Palestinian student at Cairo University, is very excited about spending Ramadan in Egypt for the first time. “This year is my first Ramadan outside of Palestine. It is tough, but I am trying to have as much fun as I can with my friends at the dorm, and to get to know their culture and traditions,” Ibrahim adds. “We always hear how special Ramadan is in Egypt, and now I have the opportunity to experience it myself. I am planning to visit Al Muizz li-Din [Illah El-Fatimi] street as well as Al-Azhar and Khan el-Khalili areas,” she adds. Besaiso wholeheartedly agrees with Tala and says, “Fasting in Egypt is a joyous experience and the feeling the month brings is very special with all these street decorations, Ramadan tents and activities around the city to celebrate the month.”

5/17/2018 4:39:49 PM
<![CDATA[Street smarts: A look into Egypt's food carts business]]>
From the middle-aged man in a galabiya roasting corns on an old, wooden cart, to the college girl selling sushi out of a colorful red bike, today’s food carts have evolved into a way out of the recent economic hardships, especially for middle and upper-middle classes.

دينا رومية (10)

For youth, food carts and bikes are an escape from unemployment and an attempt to step up their income, and they seem to have spread through various upscale neighborhoods, expanding beyond the corniche and poorer areas. Inspirational college graduates are deciding they will no longer cry over their dusty certificates and taking matters into their own hands, often even turning their own car trunks into mobile cafes.

The dilemma of licensing and the endless red tape, however, were soon to threaten that new source of income, finally grabbing the attention of the president almost a year ago. President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi gave his orders to legalize the situation of street vendors; a few months later, the very first street dedicated for food vendors in Cairo was inaugurated, followed by a number of other initiatives. And only this week, the parliament approved, for the first time, a law that would regulate and legalize the situation and hopefully make it possible for youth to pursue that well-needed new source of income.

The first legal step to regulate a decades-old conflict

The Egyptian parliament approved early April a draft law, submitted by over 60 members, to regulate and encourage the idea of food carts, within a legal framework. The draft law, which is considered the first action to comprehensively legalize mobile food carts, grants the right to operate a food cart, following a license from “the respective administrative authorities.” The latter shall also issue the regulatitions and the best practices for the vendors to comply with, as well as stating the conditions and characteristics for each type of food cart.

While licensing a food cart is not as difficult as before, it still requires a lot of money and paperwork from overlapping authorities, and of course going back and forth from one entity to another. “You first need an approval from the traffic authority for the cart, another from the health department for the food, and then an approval from the municipality for the location … And once done, you need to go back to the traffic authority again to check this already-approved location,” says Joseph Aziz, who started a mini food cart next to Waterway Mall in New Cairo a few months ago, along with his wife Maggy Dawood and their friend Sherry Amin.

They first wanted to apply for Share’ Masr but didn’t fit the age restriction and all the spots were already filled, Amin recounts. They asked about the process to license a food cart and found out there isn’t any specific authority to address for that. Without any licenses, they’ve been under attack from the traffic authority and the municipality.

When asked about the new draft law - before it was officially approved -, Dawood said that the terms are still quite vague and do not really clarify whether they will have to go through the same hectic and confusing process. “We are determined to legalize our situation; however, we still do not know which direction to go,” she says.

Deputy Head of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Committee at the Parliament Soad el-Masry explains, “The law coordinates between all respective authorities to make it easier for the applicant to set up their project.” According to Article 8 of the draft law, mobile food carts will answer to the Health and Safety Authority, the Ministry of Health and Population, and the Civil Defense authority. “Several legislations overlapped when drafting the law because it is linked to the safety and health of the citizen,” Masry says, adding that “the local units and the municipalities will probably be the ones responsible for issuing the license in full.”

According to the draft law, the license would only be granted to an Egyptian citizen, over 18 years old, who has not been convicted of any criminal offense; and it cannot be given up or transferred without the approval of the respective authority. The granted license would be valid for no less than three years, subject to renewal, and would cost up to LE 5,000, according to the type of the cart and the duration of the license. “The price for getting the license is the simplest you can pay to start a project this size,” Masry says. The law would also exempt licensed units from taxes on profits for three years from the date of the license.

“Specific locations will be allocated to the licensed carts by the Ministry of Local Development or Urban Communities according to population density,” Masry says. Each cart owner will also be obliged to install a GPS device.

“The law is very important for youth because it reduces the crisis of unemployment to a large extent; and it will help create a lot of job opportunities by helping youth start their own project with a budget that corresponds with their financial capacities,” Masry says. “The law will also protect the Egyptian street from violations and will contribute to resolving the traffic problem caused by unlicensed carts and street vendors,” Masry adds.

The draft law typically sets a number of penalties in case the terms and conditions of the license are violated. However, it also states a penalty of up to one month’s imprisonment and a fine of LE 20,000 (or either), for anyone who works on a mobile food cart without that license.

But can the long-awaited law end up harming rather than benefiting those who are already out in the streets until they re legal? Masry affirms that no one will be harmed if they do not violate the law and that the imprisonment penalty will not be executed since the law is not even out yet. “Everyone will definitely be given enough time to regulate their situation once the law is officially executed,” she says.

Come Eat Habashtakanat

The “Habashtakanat” trio are one example from thousands of middle-class Egyptians who have resorted to the food trucks trend as means to top up their income. However, they are left fighting red tape and compulsory bribes.


The three friends are hanging a big banner on their 2015 Toyota car; “Come Eat Habashtakanat”, it says. Right next to their car-trunk, they have set a small wooden table, on which they put their tiny portable stoves and stainless casseroles.

Dawood, 35, has been working at a bank for 13 years; her husband, Aziz, 42, is a field engineer and he has been working in the marketing field in an international company for over 15 years, and Amin, 36, was in the field of medical and life insurance.

“We have been simply living to send our kids to schools … we save every month to pay school fees and that is it,” Dawood says, saying that an additional source of income was a must, and their other option was to leave the country. “The medium-income class no longer exists … The poor are not the only ones seeking second jobs [to survive],” she elaborates.

The three friends have been relying on their portable stove and car trunk for over five months; however, they are seeking to buy an actual cart soon. “We found that the price is too high; an average of LE 16,000 for a simple clean, respectable cart with good equipment … we were looking for old trucks then had the idea to turn a public bus into a kitchen and an open-air sitting, like a mobile restaurant,” Dawood says.

All Habashtakanat’s products are homemade and sold at very modest prices, starting at LE 5. In winter, they were offering tea, hummus, belila, Egyptian pumpkin pie (qaraa assaly), warm lentils with toasted bread and tomatoes. And now their new menu is all chinese: sweet and sour chicken, rice, linguini, and some sweet delights like creme caramel and bechamel sweet potatoes.

Playback: Egypt wakes up to a “food carts crisis”

It all started with a viral video that showed the municipality confiscating 31-year-old Yasmeen Reheem’s burger cart in Heliopolis in April 2017. “I went out in the street by myself for over two months and worked without taking a single day off,” Reheem told Egypt Today.

Shortly after the video went viral, Reheem received a call from the minister of social solidarity, and was invited to a meeting with the Cairo governor. Sisi also criticized the municipality’s actions during the National Youth Conference in Ismailia, held the same month, and called on the government to issue “temporary licenses” for youth projects like Reheem’s.

burger cart

The Administrative Control Authority adopted the idea of legalizing the situation of young street vendors and reached out to several companies to seek tangible solutions, says Ahmed Mostafa, CEO of the real estate and marketing company that established, and is currently managing, Share’ Masr’s project.

Four months later, Share’ Masr was inaugurated to allow the youth a legal space, similar to a food court, where they can stand with their bikes and carts. The project gathered 12 vendors who were already present in the surrounding area but had no licenses, and granted them one-year contracts that could be extended annually, Mostafa explains.

Following Share’ Masr’s lead, a new project “Shabab Al-Shorouk” (Shorouk Youth) was also inaugurated in Shorouk City. Cairo Governor Atef Abdel-Hamid has also announced three new spots will be established in Nozha, Ain Shams and Nasr City, called “Aswak Masr” (Egypt Markets), to bring together street vendors in different fields in exchange for a modest monthly rent.

Share’ Masr: regulations and setbacks

Eight months after its launch, we visited Share’ Masr to assess the initative. Each spot inside the gated legality measures two-by-one meters and costs LE 1,200 a month to rent, in addition to LE 200 for services like electricity. Moustafa reveals there are plans to impose extra fees on some of the renters, as “the business has increased and some people have occupied extra space.” Future plans also include replacing the bikes with small kiosks to make room for the equipment used and to open in another location, he adds.


The project had initially set a number of conditions. To get a spot, applicants shouldn’t have any other jobs or job insurance, have clean criminal records, a health certificate, a project idea, and be between 21 and 35 years of age. “We chose this age because they are the ones who suffer from unemployment,” Mostafa says. “We also want the renter to be the one working on the bike and not to turn it into an investment and get other people to run it.”

Nevertheless, during our walk on the street, we did encounter a 49-year-old vendor, two employees manning the cart instead of the actual renter, and two others who stood on behalf of their friends.

Mostafa was quick to assure us that the three cases were accounted for and within the accepted regulations of the project. He explained that the age limit extension was only one exception based on the vendor’s critical situation, and the fact that he was already standing in the location, adding that the first priority was to legalize the existing situation. There are plans to stretch the age limit in the future phases of the project due to numerous requests.

As for the substitute vendors, he clarified that while the regulations stipulate that none of the contracted vendors can give away or rent their spots, they can seek the assistance of two or three employees, affirming that the renter is still obliged to be present all the time. “If one of the vendors wants to take a vacation, he has to inform the administration beforehand…to make sure that no one [secretly] rents their spot,” Mostafa adds. If he does not show up after the notified period, the vendor is sent a warning and his contract may be annulled if he doesn’t respond to it; a situation that has, so far, never happened.

As the first phase of the project mostly focused on legalizing the situation of the vendors who were already functioning in the street, future applicants should follow an online process through the governorate’ website to get a spot. The applicant is required to submit a copy of their national ID, a photo of the project, the health certificate, insurance papers and a criminal record certificate. Before submitting the documents, they should also head to the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency to present the idea of the project and seek their guidance to fill in any gaps, Mostafa explains.

“Many people have already applied through the link,” Moustafa affirms. “The selection process will prioritize current renters and those who are already working in the street without license to legalize their situation,” he adds.

Although the project, so far, looks like a promising solution for the dilemma faced by mobile food cart owners, tens of thousands of other vendors, outside the new, gated street-food haven, are still facing the same old red tape. Hopefully, the new law, if adequately executed, can help put an end to the widespread problem.

Street Entrepreneurs

From burgers to Egyptian dishes, Oreo delights, authentic barbecue taste and many more, each cart in Share’ Masr offers a unique taste. And from a marketer to a computer engineer, a former Fairmont Hotel supervisor and employees at multinational companies, behind each counter is a young entrepreneur, and a symbol of young, middle-income Egyptians who have decided to take control of their own fate.



Coming to the conclusion that a combined monthly income of LE 2,000 was no longer a viable option, Ramy Hefny and his wife Marwa decided to start their own mobile food business, Romeo, literally on the pavement of their home in Sheraton Heliopolis.

“I was a front office supervisor at the Fairmont Hotel with a maximum salary of LE 1,200 and my wife was a teacher at an international school and her salary wouldn’t exceed LE 800 [in 2013],” Hefny recalls. After working abroad for a few years, the couple came back to Egypt and, realizing it was very difficult to work as employees with such salaries again, they launched Romeo in January 2016.

It was based on “some experience and passion for the kitchen and cooking as I have a bachelor’s degree from the Faculty of Tourism and Hotels, and I worked in the kitchen for some time during my studies,” Hefny says.

Romeo was one of the first projects to launch in Share’ Masr, and it has become quite famous for its homemade burgers, hotdog, chicken sandwiches, oriental picks like hawawshi and sausages, and more recently, their special pasta and delicious pizzas.

“When we appeared on a TV show talking about our struggle to get a license we were contacted and invited to join Share’ Masr,” Hefny recounts. “I started working legally after I had been a street vendor and any policeman could report me or confiscate my cart…Instead of working at home, I now have a kitchen. Instead of having a bike, I started my own company. And instead of supporting one house, Romeo now is a source of income for six homes,” he says, clarifying that he now has six employees in total, including himself, working at Romeo.

When asked about respecting the condition entailing that the renter himself should be present at all times, Hefny affirmed that he is present at the street constantly; and even when he is not there, he would be preparing the food or working on kiosks to ensure a “civilized and beautiful” appearance for his business.

Hefny explains that the business is “good and profitable in high-peak seasons, however, in off seasons, they might make a loss especially in bad weather.” He adds, however, that we can’t judge the profitability of the business now because the media attention Share’ Masr received led to a popularity that may or may not last.

“Share’ Masr is one step in a dream I have. I want to create an Egyptian brand that would go international,” Hefny says.

Oreo Home


From fresh warm brownies topped with melted Nutella, ice cream and Oreos, to dreamy red velvet cups with layers and layers of sweet delights, very special sweet potatoes with caramel, cake pops, and even a Nutella tagine with Oreos, Oreo Home is one stop you have to make at Share’ Masr.

Oreo Home was established in March 2017 by Abanob Samuel, 25, a graduate of the Faculty of Commerce at Cairo University with over six years of experience in the field of marketing.

“My mother and sister make everything and we work on the harmony of the cup … We know how we can put blueberry with chocolate, but not raspberry … We read a lot and we have tried out different things to know what people would enjoy eating,” Samuel says. “We started with only four products.”

After a month of working in different events and parties, Oreo Home appeared as a bike in Sheraton. “I used to tow the bike with my car every day to a big garage … and I used solar energy to operate a small fridge,” he recalls, praising how, now, at Share’ Masr, the place is secured, clean and equipped with electricity; and right down the street from the spot he first stood.

“The Administrative Control Authority told us they are setting a plan called Share3 Masr; and they would start spreading it all over the country based on our success,” Samuel says.

He asserts that the project provides a “respectable” profit and that the average income is much better than his previous steady job and outweighs the expenses.

Yummy Street Food


The brainchild of a creative food mind, Yummy Street Food offers a variety of sandwiches, with special mixes and seasoning. Some are inspired by the most traditional Egyptian dishes and others are just so international.

Tamer Fawzi Ibrahim, 49, is the only vendor who has been accepted as an exception to Share’ Masr’s age limit condition after seeking the help of the presidency office. A former employee at an international maritime transportation company, Ibrahim found himself unemployed after the January 25 uprising in 2011. Two years later, he started Yummy Street Food with a friend.

“We started by making drinks in our car trunk and with a small fire. We kept developing until we made the bike and started offering food,” Ibrahim says. They stood in the street for two years, until the municipality gathered and met with all the vendors in the area and brought them into Share’ Masr.

“Outside, you have more freedom in terms of when to open and close and what to serve,” he says. “However, the municipality can easily confiscate the bike for two months … Here, there is more stability, security and respect.”

Ibrahim explains that the project also provides several job opportunities for a very low cost. “One bike can provide jobs for over four people and costs only LE 2,000,” he says. And for the average daily income for their bike, Ibrahim reveals it can be between LE 300 and LE 400.



Unlike all of the other vendors we came across, Mina Maher, the founder of Munchies and graduate of the school of computer sciences, already had a licensed cart before entering Share’ Masr. However, when he was contacted by the governorate, he still brought in his bike, and is now standing inside the food court, where he believes “they look better.”

“We wanted to start a project that would work well in Egypt … And food is what works best in the country,” Maher says.

Munchies offers a variety of burgers, grilled goodies, and Egyptian Hawawshi. “All of the food is homemade and it is prepared by my partner Mrs Samia,” Maher says.

5/15/2018 7:35:59 PM
<![CDATA[The Formula That Is Netflix]]>
To be part of that new lifestyle, the American entertainment provider has been preparing for over a decade, expecting that people will look for a new pattern to watch entertainment.

Originally founded in 1997, Netflix had a strategic 10-year vision in 2007: They wanted to become an “entertainment technological company.” Everybody inside the company was asking at the time what this meant. The answer was clear; entertainment companies will not last long if they do not have the right technological tool to reach viewers and digital companies will not develop until they provide entertainment as part of its services; and Amazon is the best example of that.

Quality content at your fingertips

Netflix works on two parallel tracks; the first is buying or creating good content, and the second is making this content accessible for hundreds of millions of viewers around the world.

“It was very different then; we were only streaming to PCs, only to Windows even,” Chief Product officer Greg Peters tells Egypt Today. “The library was much more limited than what you see today; and of course, we were available only in the United States. So fast forward 10 years, there’s been a lot of change. But a lot of that has actually happened just in the most recent couple of years.”

Their services and followership have evolved drastically since that fateful decision. Today, Netflix has almost 118 million subscribers, which translates into nearly half a billion viewers watching from 190 countries in 20 languages. According to their figures, people watch Netflix for a total of 140 million hours every day.

This boom started five years ago when Netflix launched its first original production, House of Cards series. Today, just five years later, the global content library of Netflix has content from over 100 different countries. This year, the company plan is to spend over $8 billion to make that library even bigger.

“Just two years ago, we actually completed our global rollout of our streaming service. In one day, we launched 130 countries [in addition] to the countries we already serve, [which] brought our total up to 190 countries and made Netflix available, essentially, [on a] global [level],” he explains.

The next step for Netflix was accessibility; reaching hundreds of millions of viewers on different devices and operating systems. According to Peters, Netflix was able to reach 450 million individual devices in the past few months, ensuring that their services run efficiently on 1,700 different types of devices that range from desktops to smart phones and smart TVs.

Their product strategy focuses on being simultaneously local, personal and global; that means presenting Netflix in the country’s language through subtitles and dubbing, as well as ensuring that the services are available on their device of choice and through payment methods they trust.

Peters adds that a part of making Netflix local is providing culture-relevant content to tell the story of every country and community; and Netflix is now working on productions in more than 20 countries; from Denmark to Mexico and Mumbai.

“We thought that these local shows would only matter to their communities, but the contrary just happened,” he says. Germans, for instance only represented 10 percent of the total viewers of the Netflix original German thriller series Dark; so 90 percent of the viewers were watching from outside of Germany. Narcos is a similar case, enjoying the same global popularity, despite it telling the story of the notorious Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar and other drug cartels.

“That story of a local show that goes viral globally is repeated again and again; whether it’s 3% series from Brazil,Money Heist from Spain, or Godzilla from Japan,” Peter says. “By connecting specific, individual shows with individual users, we’re able to create a much bigger audience and find people to watch these shows who would have never even considered seeing entertainment content from other countries.”

The impossible logistics of producing around the world

As Netflix has evolved to become a global producer of entertainment, producing 126 series and movies across the world in 2016, the need for technology to connect the production teams with the company became key. The company mainly outsources its production; which means they are in dire need of a technology that allows for an effective, smooth and reliable workflow and communication between various members of the team around the world.

Unlike other industries, cinematic production has not utilized technology to enable innovation, collaboration and communication. For Netflix, producing content in dozens of countries across the world and coordinating thousands of production personnel has become a challenge.

“We have been exploring this problem for the past two years and are excited about the opportunities we see to shape the intersection of technology and production,” said Chris Goss, the director of studio technology at Netflix in a press statement. “One focus of this effort has been an initiative called Prodicle.” Prodicle provides freelance production crew with applications that leverage existing technologies to reshape production planning and logistics fundamentals and collaborate with other members of the team in real time. Such technology basically help coordinate hundreds of people who have to work together on one project, but who might be based in various places around the world, in different time zones, cultures and environments.

One of those applications, Goss explained, is Prodicle Move, which is handy in answering one simple question: “What is happening on set right now?”

“We’ve been piloting Move for several months on a few of our biggest productions. Our partners on GLOW and A Series of Unfortunate Events are just a couple of examples who have been amazing in their willingness to change keys areas of their workflow to try something new,” Goss said. “We believe success is dependent on finding and developing solutions that equally benefit the production and studio environments. The partnership between Netflix, the tech community, and the entertainment production community is key.”]]>
5/7/2018 4:33:37 PM
<![CDATA[Sand Storytelling]]> Andrew Magdy speaks about the undervalued art of sand painting and his seven-year journey as a sand artist.

CAIRO - 28 April 2018: An effective finger movement, a light box, an ample of sand and a camera are all he needs to create a masterpiece of sand art drawing. Andrew Magdy took a life-turn seven years ago when he resorted to Youtube to learn sand art and moved on to pursue that dynamic and inspirational live performance art.

A lawyer turned sand artist, Magdy found in sand art a challenge similar in difficulty to presenting defense arguments in court, he tells Egypt Today. He shifted careers and has been a sand artist for seven years now.

A sand drawing portrait by Andrew Magdy - Courtesy of Andrew Magdy

done 1-8 -2014
A sand drawing portrait by Andrew Magdy - Courtesy of Andrew Magdy

“I remember that I used to draw up to seven hours per day to master it,” Magdy says, adding that it took him a year to refine his sand drawing technique. He moved to Dubai in 2016, where he has been pursuing a freelance career as a sand artist, “converting sand into art that tells a story.”

A sand drawing performance is a journey that the artist and the audience share together, starting with a blank screen, Magdy says. “People are involved in the drawing… [they] feel and admire the beauty of art while [the drawing is] still in process,” he adds.

Sand Artist Andrew Magdy during a performance - Courtesy of Andrew Magdy

done so
A sand drawing portrait by Andrew Magdy - Courtesy of Andrew Magdy

The artist creates the pictures during a live show, by moving his fingers on a glass board covered with sand, while colored lights are projected on the glass and a selected music is played in the background.

The live performance, attended by audiences who share an interest in this art, shows the artist’s capabilities, and proficiency in building a unique, expressive picture then wiping out his artwork to build another one within a set timeframe. The artist repeats the process several times to create a storyline that could be a drama theme, or portraits of famous people, among other infinite creative ideas. Magdy explains he chooses different themes that are relevant to the events he is participating in.

A sand drawing portrait by Andrew Magdy - Courtesy of Andrew Magdy

A rule of thumb in performing a sand art show is to rehearse to be able to synchronize with the music in the background, Magdy says. “No improvising, you have to rehearse everything and every single detail and master it before you go on stage.”

Although he believes there are places in Egypt, mostly touristic cities like Sharm el-Sheikh, where sand art shows are demanded and artists can make a living by practicing it, Magdy says that “there are no venues to teach sand art in Egypt; it’s a self-taught kind of art.”

UP done
A sand drawing portrait by Andrew Magdy - Courtesy of Andrew Magdy

How-to-do videos on Youtube have greatly helped Magdy, who in turn advises beginners interested in learning about this type of art to rely on them. He explains that the timeframe for mastering sand art varies from one person to another according to their talent and practice time.

While Magdy plans to go to Europe next year to complete his studies and become an international artist, he would also like to return to Egypt one day and offer sand art classes to those who share his passion for this type of art.]]>
4/28/2018 4:20:40 PM
<![CDATA[The Ripple Effect of Buying Fake Goods]]>
But those consumers disregard the bigger picture—not only in terms of how much effort, skills, talents, research and time are behind this pricey original piece, but also in terms of what the counterfeit market means on the macro level.

The masterpieces audiences love were once just a sketch on a piece of paper; take for example the journey of creating the Chanel 2.55 and Christian Louboutin iconic red-soled shoes; a long process and financial investment takes place until the products reach store shelves. For the designers, it is increasingly frustrating when a few minutes after each design is launched, a remote workshop somewhere, or a big factory, steal the designs they have been developing for months, and then sell replicas at a fraction of the original price.

Nike tops the list of the most counterfeited brands, with RayBan glasses, Rolex watches and Louis Vuitton bags following. Egypt’s economic situation has made affording luxury brands far less possible, with the cost of one item often amounting to the price of one’s rent. In a way, this has been positive for local brands and designers, as more consumers prefer buying Egyptian over imported. But in another, it left many consumers finding counterfeited products all the more desirable in an effort to reflect a financial status they aspire for but can’t afford.

Screen Shot 2018-03-14 at 4.15.53 PM

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), imported fake goods are estimated to be valued at around $0.5 trillion a year. This constitutes around 2.5% of global imports, with profits often going into the pockets of organized criminal organizations.

In 2013, OECD and the EU’s Intellectual Property Office placed the value of imported fake goods worldwide at $461 billion, compared to a total imports in world trade of $17.9 trillion. Up to 5% of goods imported into the European Union are counterfeit, most of which are produced in the likes of China and Bangladesh. The report analyzes nearly half a million customs seizures around the world between 2011 and 2013 to produce the most accurate estimate to date of the counterfeit trade’s sale.

No longer a distant phenomenon in a Far-Eastern country

According to the report by the OECD and the EU’s Intellectual Property Office, US, Italian and French brands are the main targets. But any brands with international recognition, however, are usually those that most easily fall victim to counterfeiting; and that has recently started to include Egyptian designers as well.

Designer duo Okhtein have been on the rise since 2013, but it was last year that they started gaining the international following as A-listers like Gigi Hadid, Beyoncé and Solange were spotted carrying their bags. Due to this international spotlight, they are now becoming victims of the Chinese counterfeit world. “As designers, our bags are considered our invention and it’s outrageous that someone can just put this notion aside and support piracy…buying the fake items hurts the local economy,” Mounaz Abdel Raouf, one of the Okhtein sisters, says. “Our bags are manufactured in Egypt from A to Z. Instead of supporting the local economy by encouraging the export of these local goods, people who buy the fake bags are actually hurting [the economy] by importing the fake bags from China.”

The most vital legal action brands must be taking even before they launch is to register their trademarks worldwide so they have the right to take legal action when piracy happens. But still, that doesn’t mean that designers can go around chasing after each and every counterfeited piece.

Screen Shot 2018-03-14 at 4.16.05 PM

Iconic Egyptian jewelry designer Azza Fahmy has also been a victim of counterfeiting, especially among local producers and upcoming designers who mix between being inspired by her design and outright copy-paste them. This shows that Egypt is not only a customer of counterfeited products, but also a producer. In her 50 years on the market, Fahmy says she has faced this issue endless times and always patents her designs. She had filed legal cases until “one day I realized that people copy my work due to how successful it is. So at the end of the day, I remind myself that being copied is a sign of my success rather than a threat,” she recounts.

Another form of counterfeiting that is largely popular and mainly affects the home interiors industry in Egypt is consumers visiting showrooms and exhibitions to get a look at the newest trends and products and, rather than purchasing these items, they get a carpenter to recreate the product for them at a fraction of the cost. This form of counterfeiting is very hard to prevent.

As alarming as this is, interior design creators tend to be assured that fakes will never measure up to their originals.

Mohamed Fares, a partner at Alchemy Design Studio, affirms, “Good design remains good design and has quantifiable benefits. Copies generally do not have that…There is no doubt that an artist’s intellectual property must be legally protected in the form of copyright laws. These laws should be clearly defined and prosecutable, and must be taken seriously.” While he is aware that Alchemy’s own products may have been copied, he notes, “We do not get discouraged by that as we are well aware that this exists across all design fields be it industrial, fashion or product design.”

باعه عطور

Similarly, Eklego’s head designer and founding partner Dina El Khachab tells Business Today Egypt that “Eklego’s retail philosophy is really about the whole picture, about the whole feeling and the home.” Addressing those who commission counterfeit products, she explains, “If you go to a carpenter and copy a coffee table or copy any product, you’re not going to get the home that we can make you…they’re not coming to Eklego, they don’t want an Eklego product. They want a coffee table.” Eklego has seen many other companies imitating their products, but El Khachab says it’s not done on a professional level, only a consumer one, so she is more tolerant with this line of consumer-driven counterfeiting.

Chairman and CEO of Amr Helmy Design Amr Helmy believes that “most designs can only be recreated by the original producer. Egyptian workmanship has trade secrets that are unique to each production entity.”

After the fake Gucci

People may think that the only side effect of their bargain purchase is taking away a small profit lining the pockets of billion-dollar organizations, or that perhaps they’re protesting their use of child labor production factories. But taking an in-depth look at what happens after purchasing counterfeit goods, be it in fashion, electronics, medicine or food, it becomes clear that the ripple effect of what happens next is quite frightening.

The ripple effect resulting in the reoccurrence of counterfeit incidents may involve a decrease in production and risk the jobs of competent, specialized workers, especially when emerging talents like Okhtein’s are hit by the knockoff markets. Some experts may argue, however, that consumers who purchase counterfeited products are not the target market of luxury brands. But that still leaves a large grey area for products that are neither luxury brands, nor as cheap as knockoffs.

دينا رومية (22)

Poor-quality fabrics, plastic sunglasses and imitation makeup place one’s health, eyesight and skin respectively at dire risks. If we take a look at any nearby kiosk, we’d find cheaper, less attractively packed and poorly produced versions of favored confectionery foods. Asides from the chemicals and unknown ingredients, many of these products have also been found to fund terrorist organizations.

Alastair Gray, a counterfeit investigator, shed light on the inner workings of criminal organizations that produce the imitation bargain products flooding markets and pavements globally in a recent TED talk. He explained how counterfeit networks span over three countries where the seller is just the equivalent of a street-corner drug dealer. Gray unveils how fake luxury handbags are often made by children who are likely the victims of human trafficking. As for the cheap brake pads that the local mechanic tries to sell, they are probably lining the pockets of an organized crime gang that is embroiled in the drug trade. The worst realization for Gray was of counterfeiting as a form of funding that terrorist organizations often opt for. Meanwhile, selling fake goods online leads to sky-high profits with little risk or penalties in the process.

Diane von Furstenberg, the world-renowned fashion designer and president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), penned a piece to the LA Times titled “Fashion Deserves Copyright Protection,” where she expresses her aspiration for the US government to protect the creative work of fashion designers by implementing the Design Piracy Prohibition Act. “The Design Piracy Prohibition Act pending before Congress would provide a minimal three years of design protection,” the article reads. “Once enacted, this law would protect only unique and original designs, leaving absolutely everything already designed in the public domain and available to copy. This short-term protection offers support to creative designers while preserving the flow of trends and styles at the heart of fashion design.”

French designer Christian Louboutin has been also been combating counterfeiters with the “Stopfake” call to action on his website, which states, “We have adopted a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy and have put in place a comprehensive program to deal not only with websites offering fake Christian Louboutin products, but the sources, the distribution systems, the auction sites and other avenues of trade in the fake products.” The website also asks shoppers to always “Keep in mind that when something looks too good to be true, that’s usually what it is worth.” It also points out keywords like “Cheap Louboutin”, “Christian Louboutin Sales” or “Louboutin Outlet” that should raise a red flag when it comes to finding alarmingly cheap Louboutin products.
4/23/2018 4:29:19 PM
<![CDATA[Fayoum: Chasing Waterfalls ]]>
Fayoum is all about pottery, and the artist colony of Tunis is the place to buy it. Start with the Fayoum Pottery School, founded by Swiss artisans, and then stroll around to other studios nearby. Tunis Village has grown to become something of an artist’s colony, attracting Egyptian and foreigners alike. Well-known Egyptian artist Mohamed Abla opened the Fayoum Art Center in 2006 to become, as the website put it, “an oasis of creativity and a meeting point of dialogue for artists from all over the world.” The school offers courses in painting, printing, and cartooning, features Abla’s Caricature Museum onsite.


An annual art festival is held here in late fall, featuring local handcrafts made in Tunis Village. Artists from around Egypt and from around the world attend this festival. It is not always on a set date, so it’s best to contact the Fayoum Art Center or the local pottery schools for updates.

Shoppers love local sturdy and spacious straw baskets and containers, used for everything from laundry to storage. Many handicraft and fair trade stores carry these baskets, and vendors also set up carts laden with the goods in some Cairo neighborhoods. And with all its lakeside greenery, Fayoum is known for duck dishes, particularly duck with orange sauce.

Grilled fish from Lake Qaroun is also a local favorite. The area’s many farms mean that mahshi is a must-try, as are the fitir and bread served hot from a baladi oven. The adobe-sealed stone oven gives the bread a smoky, slightly earthy taste—especially it’s hot and fresh.

There are many outings to be enjoyed in Fayoum, including desert safaris, horseback riding and boat trips along Lake Qaroun. A haven for migrating birds, Fayoum is classified as an Important Bird Area, or an area that holds priority in conservation), and more. The lakes of Wadi Rayan and indeed Qarun in Fayoum itself host tens of thousands of waterbirds in winter, waders, ducks, gulls and terns.

A 35 km ride from Wadi Rayan will take you to Wadi El Hitan, where the Whale Museum is dedicated to climate change and to the fossils, whales and very much more, that abound in the area. It is airy and interactive. It is extensively labeled in English and Arabic and follows a clear chronology from Big Bang to the modern day. And the centerpiece, two massive 20 meter skeletons of the wadi’s showpiece, the extinct whale Basilosaurus isis, complete with hind limbs missing from modern whales, the hind limbs that highlight its pivotal place in whale evolution. Wadi El Hitan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site such is the importance of these fossils.

There are some gorgeous places to stay in Fayoum—be sure to book at Tunis Village’s Lazib Inn Resort & Spa, an exclusive boutique hotel with just eight suites. Overlooking the lake is another exclusive resort, the cozy Byoum, brought to you by the founders of Gouna.

4/17/2018 7:16:15 PM
<![CDATA[Combatting Fake News]]>
The forum, which has been held since 2012, will be held this year from April 15 to 17 and aims to cover the latest topics related to media and technology, including all audio-visual and digital platforms.

The forum includes three main activities; workshops combating fake news in media production to develop workers’ capabilities, a forum for media education in universities, and a round-table for media educators teaching new media and technology. It aims at bridging the gap between media practitioners, educators and new technologies. The forum also provides grants for Arab journalists and outstanding students.

The AMF was awarded the Arab Media Innovation Award by the Arab Thought Foundation in 2016 as well as an award from the Arab Academy for Science and Technology for their role in promoting media innovation at the university.

AMF’s founder and executive director Ahmed Esmat speaks to Business Today Egypt about social media’s role in spreading rumors, how fake news are affecting the media business and how to combat them, as well as the role that the AMF plays. Esmat is also the director of the monthly English-language magazine Alex Agenda and a media and communications consultant who has been working in the media field for the past 12 years.

You have covered various themes since you launched, and this year’s aim is combating fake news. Can you tell us why you chose this particular theme this year?

Actually, this year’s theme is “Media Technology and Post Truth,” and we translated that in Arabic to “Against Fake News.” We think [the latter] terminology is more appealing for participants, while the “Post Truth” would be more appealing to those with an academic background.

After much discussion, debate and research, the Oxford Dictionaries chose their Word of the Year 2016 as post-truth; an adjective defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

The term “fake news” was also named Collins’ dictionary Word of the Year 2017. Usage of the term has risen by 365% since 2016. Defined as “false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting,” the term “fake news” will now be added to the next print edition of Collins Dictionary.

People are suffering from fake news globally, and it affects every aspect of their life. Rumors are part of the psychological war, as it changes the way people think about a particular topic. So we will try to tackle how fake news is produced, distributed and how to combat that.

How do you think fake news could affect the media business?

Mainly, the sources of income for any media institution are subscriptions, advertisements and direct purchase for its products. The big problem arises when media consumers cannot differentiate between real and fake news, so they start questioning everything, even the real ones. They stop reading, listening or watching news, which is reflected on revenues of all types of media. Businesses then lose their main source of income, highlighting the industry’s fragility.

We are in the era of new media, more fake news lead to weaker user engagement, especially online, so advertisements don’t get the attention they need from these platforms.

Would you say that social media breeds fake news, or has the concept always been around?

I think the concept has [always] been around. Let’s not blame the social media platforms, they are just tools that we use however we choose to. We can use our pens to write a constructive opinion piece or destructive opinion piece. New media is not all bad. Before social media, we used to have rumors everywhere, but now, reporting on world affairs has become decentralized and things go viral faster.

How would you advise reporters to verify and fact-check news in a market where the speed of disseminating information has become crucial for the survival of news outlets?

Reporters should double-check, then double-check again any piece of information they got. Ask different sources and dig deeply for the truth. There are many online tools that can help journalists verify any information.

How would you advise the reader to verify and combat fake news?

Media and information is the answer. People should be educated, learning how to analyze and evaluate the information they receive, starting from the media ownership and agenda they are following. Audiences need to start to have a critical point of view, and to verify the information they receive.

Last month, Unilever warned Facebook that it would pull more than $2 billion in online advertising if they cannot curtail “toxic content” and fake news. Do you think that big businesses changing the advertising strategy can help avoid the spread of fake news?

If giant media corporations really want to do that, they can simply do it. In different ways, fake news badly affects business. If they started to have different advertising strategies, especially for the online platforms, this may combat fake news.

Facebook, Google and other major digital players use algorithms that affects how people deal with their newsfeed and the search results. How do these algorithms work, and can they serve fake news?

At the beginning I’ll try to simply define algorithms: They are equations behind everything taking place online to collect huge data about consumers and predict what types of content they would prefer. A multitude of factors are taken into account, such as content structure, search intent, connection strength, device brand and readability.

Sometimes accelerating certain types of algorithms can serve how things go viral. On the other hand, some digital platforms focus on fake news topics that extend beyond politics. This includes headlines that mislead, withhold or encourage clicking. Accompanying this, algorithms will also decide if the content in your article is factual, backed up with research and of good quality.

Can the regulations force big brands to stop funding fake news sites?

My personal point of view is that we have already enough regulations; it is better to invest in people’s media education and tell them how to figure out the fake news. Audiences are the cornerstone of this industry.

Tell us more about who is participating in this year’s edition of the Alex Media Forum, in terms of speakers and attendees, and how are you preparing for it?

The AMF was established in a collaboration between Alex Agenda and the Swedish institute in Alexandria. Swed Alex has been our main supporter since we started working.

We don’t accept direct funds for the forum, people are sponsoring the events and help us with the vision, mission, business model, as well as connecting us to experts and speakers. For example, this year we are receiving experts from international media agencies like France 24, as well as experts in new media technology and algorithms from Sweden and Germany, the Egyptian Japanese University, the German University in Cairo, in addition to the Arab Academy for science and technology. We expect 150 participants this year.

4/15/2018 1:15:12 PM
<![CDATA[Inside the Tourism Industry ]]>Kamel Abu Ali, the Red Sea Tourism Investment Association’s chairman and head of Albatross Holding for Tourism, talks about the ministry’s expectations for the tourism sector this year and how they are preparing for 2018.

How was your first meeting with the newly appointed tourism minister, Rania El-Mashat?

I’m optimistic about the new minister, we’re giving her all the support to succeed in her mission. El-Mashat is very active and productive—her economic background will help her provide promising ideas to revolutionize tourism.

Additionally, I believe that Egypt’s tourism recovery would also lead its economic recovery as the sector has a pivotal role in creating millions of job opportunities, providing foreign currency, and serving many related sectors like aviation and transportation.

In her first meeting with heads of tourism chambers, she listened to different points of view and then managed to create a state of mutual understanding among everyone, aiming to work together to cooperate for our main missions.

What are the main challenges the new minister has to work on?

Egypt is the perfect country for a mix of activities combining culture, adventure and relaxation. But the main challenges tourism faces are promoting Egypt’s tourism, improving the country’s image and conveying the true picture of events taking place in Egypt.

Also, the sector is in need of structural reform and communication. We need to find ways to collaborate with all the sector’s stakeholders to be able to successfully attract investors and target the problems mentioned above.

Russia will resume flights between Cairo and Moscow for the first time since 2015 starting this month: How this will impact the tourism sector in Egypt?

The tourism sector suffered badly following the Russian travel ban—but after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s latest visit to Egypt, Egypt’s tourism sector heaved a sigh of relief.

According to the Egyptian-Russian cooperation protocol maintaining civil aviation security, inked after a meeting between Civil Aviation Ministe13r Sherif Fathi and Russian Transport Minister Maksim Sokolov in Moscow last December, the Russian air flights will resume first to Cairo, not Sharm el-Sheikh or Hurghada.

Russian tourists can easily pay visits to Sharm el-Sheikh and other resorts, but the real impact will occur when the charter flights come back with direct flights to Red Sea destinations. Then, we will notice real higher indicators in the numbers of Russian tourists.

As more travel restrictions to Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt’s most popular tourist destination, and other Red Sea destinations are lifted, how is the tourism industry getting ready to receive the expected increase in numbers of tourists coming to Egypt?

During 2017, I think Egypt welcomed about 6 million tourists, and I believe the increase in 2018 will be about 40%. The tourism industry will do its best to offer competitive services and prices; also, promoting Egypt’s destinations for specific markets that already allow traveling to Egypt [is important], while exerting further efforts to lift the travel restrictions that still occur, for example, from the British market.

Additionally, we need to work with PR companies to put together marketing and promotional plans for tourist destinations in Egypt that highlight the diversity of its attractions. We could put in place an entertainment events calendar hosting a wide range of cultural, artistic and sports events that could attract more sustainable visitors during the whole year, not only related to beach or historical tourism.

Moreover, we need to raise citizens’ awareness in dealing with tourists, teaching them to become more welcoming and respecting.

And, finally, we need to increase investments in the tourism sector by building more and new venues to help the sector to recover.
4/13/2018 8:29:50 PM
<![CDATA[Your guide to packing the perfect picnic]]>
A few tips on what needs to go into your basket:

Think Inside the Box

Disposable containers are easier to, well, dispose of, but aren’t such great news for the environment. Glass containers are too heavy to lug around and break easily, so opt for lightweight but airtight plastic containers that you can wash and reuse. The ones divided up into compartments (available at Carrefour and major supermarkets) are great for packing a variety of food, and are perfect for sharing. Alternatively, pack an individual box for each picnicker.

Cutlery should be lightweight but not flimsy – sturdy forks won’t break as you’re trying to spear your salad and heavier cups won’t blow away when they’re emptied. Bring your condiments in sachets or mini jars and make sure you’ve stocked up on both tissues and wipes to mop up hands and faces. Also make sure that the blanket you’ll be spreading out is large enough to hold all your picnic-goers, your food and your basket/bags.

Screen Shot 2018-04-09 at 12.06.04 PM

Nothing’s worse than unpacking your basket and realizing you’ve forgotten an essential.

Make yourself a checklist as follows:

• Blanket or spread (the larger, more lightweight and easier to fold the better)
• Cutlery and stackable cups
• Tissues/paper towels and a pack of wipes
• Tongs or other utensils as needed
• Large plastic bag for all your used utensils and containers (you likely won’t have access to running water so wipe these down with paper towels so there’s no spillage before putting in the bag.
• Rubbish bag to collect disposable tableware and unwanted leftovers
• Knife for slicing bread or cold cuts. Bring one with a plastic cover or wrap in a towel so there’s no risk of anyone getting hurt.
• Ice packs or bags to keep food cool and safe. Remember that food spoils faster in warmer weather and packing in ice will allow it to keep longer.
• Chopping board (optional)

Screen Shot 2018-04-09 at 12.01.26 PM
Photo courtesy of AP

Roll Up Your Sleeves
Since it is Sham El-Nessim, then renga (herring) will headline any picnic spread. Prepare a herring salad with lots of lemon juice and vinegar and you can bring along a small bottle of oil to keep it from spilling. See our recipe below.

Renga trimmings necessarily mandate green onions, colored eggs and a stack of baladi bread, so put those into your basket first thing. Make sure you also bring fresh lemons which when halved and rubbed into your fingers and nails will help take the edge of the pungent renga door.

Screen Shot 2018-04-09 at 11.57.32 AM
Natural colours for your Easter eggs

Not a Fan of Renga?

Not everyone is a renga fan, especially children, so make sure you have something for everyone. Fried fish fillets (which many Egyptians enjoy cold) can be an easy-to-eat seafood alternative and you can bring a small tub of tahina salad for dipping.

Avoid food that spills easily or that contains fats that coagulate when cold. Sandwiches are perennial picnic favourites over the world – chicken or cold cut wraps are your best bet.

Remember that veggies wilt or sweat in a sandwich so keep salads and condiments separate for everyone to choose from as they’re eating. You can slice up in advance but if you’re not eating straight away, it might be a good idea to bring washed whole veggies and a small chopping board with you.

Other foods you can eat without having to heat up or use utensils include baked or fried pastries like sambousek, minced meat goulash and kobeiba.

Sweet Endings

Creative Commons via Flickr/julie rohloff

Fruit is the best dessert to pack on a picnic because you won’t need forks or spoons. Apples, pears, strawberries, tangerines and bananas require minimal fuss – needless to say watermelon and mango are not the easiest fruits to cut up and eat without the amenities of running water. Even if you slice them up and bring in a container they tend to droop and sweat.

For something both kids and adults will love, why not prepare a light fruit pizza drizzled with white chocolate? It looks colorful and tastes delicious and the dough can be made ahead and frozen for easy preparation — turn to page xx for a recipe. For a traditional Easter treat, bake up a batch of brioche too.

Pickled Herring recipe (15 mins to make)

Screen Shot 2018-04-09 at 12.00.54 PM
Photo courtesy of AP

Renga (herring) is a perennial Sham El-Nessim favorite. Garlic and herbs in this recipe bring out the flavor of the fish. Serve with piping hot baladi bread, spring onions and lemon wedges.

2 lemons, coarsely chopped
2 spring onions, sliced
3 herrings
6 garlic cloves, sliced
10 thyme stems (can substitute with any other herb)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 tbsp white vinegar


• Sterilize jar (lid as well) in boiling water and dry, making sure there is no remaining moisture.
• Fillet herring, making sure all bones are removed.
• In the bottom of the jar spoon chopped lemons and spring onions. On top, alternate a layer of herring fillets and a layer of garlic and thyme. Pour lemon juice, vinegar and olive oil over the layers. Close the jar tight and shake to make sure liquid has reached the bottom. Refrigerate overnight to set before opening the jar. You can store renga in the fridge for up to a week.

4/9/2018 12:09:10 PM
<![CDATA[et special coverage: Special Olympics MENA Regional Games]]> This piece is dedicated to my friends with determination, who have accompanied me through the whole trip in Abu Dhabi, playing, laughing, singing, drawing me hearts in the air, and holding my hand to show me the way from one venue to the other.

Over 1,000 athletes from 32 countries flew to Abu Dhabi in March for the 9th regional Middle East and North Africa Special Olympics (SO )games, the most recent regional commitment to end discrimination and injustice against persons with intellectual disabilities. The athletes competed across 16 different sports aiming for gold, but more importantly to send a message of determination. “I am a champion,” is the only way each and every SO athlete at the regional games introduced themselves to the whole world.

It was an early celebration of SO movement’s 50th anniversary and a test phase for the world games that will be held for the very first time in a MENA country in less than a year.

Photo of the day

At the time of writing I was inspired by a national strategy of the host country to no longer use the term “persons with intellectual disabilities” in reference to Special Olympics athletes, but rather persons with determination, a way to recognize their achievements in different fields.

“I am a champion”

The regional games officially kicked off on March 17, when the delegation of each country held high their national flags as they entered the openeing ceremony in a dazzling parade, led by famous Egyptian actor and SO global ambassador Hussein Fahmy.

Speaking at the ceremony, Shamma El Mazroue, UAE minister of state for youth affairs and chair of the Special Olympics UAE board, affirmed how the preparation process for the games highlighted the many similarities between the vision and message of SO movement and the UAE principles. “Special Olympics carries the torch of a divine message that does not only empower athletes with intellectual disabilities to play, but it empowers the character of the athlete and the entire ecosystem . . . to become all what they can be. And these are exactly the founding principles of the United Arab Emirates,” she told the wide audience.

Special Olympics Regional Games Opening Ceremony - Egypt Today/Yasmine Hassan

President and managing director of Special Olympics MENA Ayman Abdel Wahab started his speech by asking all attendees to stand up in salute for H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. “Your presence means a great deal to all the athletes, their families and all of us in the region, and significantly [supports] our vision of a changing world, a world of common acceptance, inclusion and joyful celebration of the human potential … It is our hope that our vision of acceptance will stem from Abu Dhabi and take root in all nations across the world,” he spoke to the crowd.

WhatsApp Image 2018-04-14 at 16.23.30
President and managing director of Special Olympics MENA Ayman Abdel Wahab with H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. - Photo courtesy of Special Olympics MENA

The athletes then lit the “flame of hope,” signaling the start of the regional games in athletics, aquatics, badminton, basketball, bocce, bowling, cycling, equestrian, football, gymnastics, handball, powerlifting, table tennis, tennis, roller skating, volleyball and speedball. For the very first time, the regional games also invited 13 other programs from outside the region, including Canada and China.

“What is different in these games is the commitment to a long-term vision of an inclusive nation…With these games, we are sending a message that the Middle East governments and leaders can join in building inclusive countries and not just inclusive events,” Shriver told regional media.

Describing the development of SO movement in the MENA region in relation to the rest of the world, Shriver stressed that SO does not compare but they rather “ask the region to be the best that they can be, which is more difficult.” “I think in some ways the unique contribution of the Middle Eastern region to our movement is the contribution of the courage … because many have operated in very difficult situations, yet they continued,” he told Egypt Today, referring to instability and wars in some countries in the region, such as “Syria, Libya and Iraq.”

The future is “a world where SO movement is the world’s movement for inclusion, teaching children, families and countries how to include,” Shriver said. “The first 50 years have been about opportunity and skill and sport. The next 50 years will be about all these things and inclusion. Instead of focusing only on the people with intellectual disability and building an opportunity for them, we will be thinking about the whole world. You can join SO … I can join, your children, my children, brothers and sisters and everybody,” he explained, referring mostly to the SO Unified Games, where each team consists of persons with and without determination, playing side by side.

I was lucky enough to witness a fair number of the championship games; and If I told you I could not tell the difference from any other ones we see on television, you would probably think I am exaggerating. To be quite fair, there are of course some variations, but you still find the spirit, the enthusiasm, the tension, the frustration in case of a loss and the extreme happiness in case of a win. The inclusion Shriver talks about is easy and doable, if we simply give it a try.

Screen Shot 2018-04-08 at 8.51.28 PM
Egypt against UAE, semi-final football match - Egypt Today/Yasmine Hassan

Following the games, the athletes received their medals in award ceremonies delivered by government officials and leaders from around the region, cheering high and holding their countries’ flags with pride and happiness.

Egyptian Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Wali, who led the Egyptian delegation parade during the opening ceremony and was present to support them throughout the whole event, was chosen to deliver the gold medal to the Egyptian winner in the roller skating event, Sherif Mohamed.

Screen Shot 2018-04-08 at 8.53.46 PM
Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Wali delivers the gold medal to Egyptian rollerskating winner Sherif Mohamed. - Egypt Today/Yasmine Hassan

“I am very proud of the [Egyptian] participants, very proud of their performance, their will and their power,” Wali told Egypt Today.

A total of 115 athletes represented Egypt in the games, including 78 males and 37 females, which is the nation’s biggest participation since it hosted the very first regional SO games in 1999. Our athletes have just come home with 96 medals: 52 gold, 23 silver and 21 bronze, as they competed across all 16 sports.

“I think it is very important for the participants, the families and for society as large to see how determined they [special athletes] are, to believe in their right to participate and to see the real contribution they can make. We are far from full inclusion [in Egypt], but we are working on it. I believe that we are on the right path . . . with the law that was approved a month ago; it protects the rights of the four types of disability. We still have to invest a lot in changing the culture, changing misconceptions and full inclusion in education,” she added.

Left to right: SOI chairman Timothy Shriver, H.E. Mohamed El Junabi, chairman of Abu Dhabi World Games and President and managing director of Special Olympics MENA Ayman Abdel Wahab

“Special Olympics changed my life”

Although getting the most attention, sports in Special Olympics are only the gate to a much broader and diverse mission to empower persons with determination, guide their families, facilitate their inclusion, guarantee their rights, and ensure their good health and well being, among others. As such, the regional games also offered several non athletic programs, including the “initiatives” programs; 9th Regional Families Forum, 9th Regional Youth Summit and the Athletes Leader workshop; as well as the 4th Demonstration of Special Olympics Young Athletes program.

Nihal Fetouni, regional initiatives director, said, “The purpose of all workshops is to create an inclusive world.”

At the youth summit, 10 teams represented their countries, each consisting of one SO athlete, a young man or woman the same age of the athlete, and a mentor. They were introduced to the basics of Special Olympics, and offered guidance and activities to apply locally in order to create inclusive communities.

Hadia Hosny El Said, Africa Badminton champion and two-time Olympian, was present as a mentor for athlete Mariam Naim, 15, and Sanaa Awad, SO volunteer. “This is our first activity together but we have a full year, the three of us, working on activities to promote inclusion and interaction,” El Said said. “When you sit with them and deal with them, it is really hard to get out of it … You feel something is different in the day; they are very pure,” she added, encouraging all professional athletes to volunteer.

“I was not expecting this [high] level [from the athletes] to be honest; however, what matters the most is not winning but the participation, communication and trying hard . . . and putting special and non special together,” she said.

Screen Shot 2018-04-08 at 8.57.14 PM
Hadya, Sanaa and Mariam at 9th regional Youth Summit - Egypt Today/Yasmine Hassan

The family program works with the parents; and for the very first time this year, it brought in the siblings to the regional workshops. “All [workshops’] topics are built upon the parents’ needs and what we need from them,” Fetouni said.

The athlete leaders’ workshops train SO athletes who aspire to do more in the organization, such as becoming coaches or public speakers. For the very first time as well, during the regional games, the upcoming leaders were also to review all sports and fill surveys by asking the athletes about their experience at the games and their lifestyle in general.

Photo of the day-2

As for the young athletes demonstration, it was an amazing performance by the children, aged 2 to 7, who are being prepared to get involved in SO sports once they reach the appropriate age.

“I am quite convinced that the earlier you start with any child, the better it is and the more it is going to stay with them for the rest of their lives,” Mary Davis, SOI Chief Executive Officer, told Egypt Today. “The fact that it is a unified program and that you have children from a young age participating in a fun way together means that they will grow up understanding differences and that they will be more open and more exposed towards living in a unified way.”

“We see the future as a unified future . . . It is very important that there is an opportunity in every school, in the MENA region and all over the world, where they have the facility to play in a unified way with our athletes,” Davis added. “It is the only way forward.”

Young Athletes Demonstration - Egypt Today/Yasmine Hassan

For better health, awareness and well being
Apart from the inclusion activities, the Healthy Athletes Screening Program offered free screening in seven medical disciplines throughout the games week; Opening eyes (vision), Special Smiles (dentistry), Fit Feet (podiatry), Fun Fitness (physical therapy), Health Promotion (healthy living) and Strong minds (positive coping strategy).

“Although they would be screened in their own countries, individuals still did not have a complete medical screening. This program aims to uncover unknown medical conditions,” said Dr. Maha Taysir Barakat, director general of Abu Dhabi Health Authority.
We made a stop at Opening Eyes clinic, where athletes pass by different stations, each screening an aspect of their eyesight. In case they need a new pair of eyeglasses, they are offered a free one, provided by SO global partners within a few hours of the exam, often bringing their sight back up to 100 percent.

As we entered the clinic, Mounieme Elouhabi, Moroccan tennis player, had just got a prescription for his new eye-glasses. He had stopped wearing his old ones, but he told us the new ones are good and he would wear them. Elouhabi had been playing for two years; although participating for the first time outside Morocco.

Screen Shot 2018-04-08 at 9.42.38 PM
Stefan Schwarz, a global clinical advisor at SO- Egypt Today/Yasmine Hassan

“The problem here is that many of them [the athletes] never had an eye exam before because practitioners are not trained to examine these people,” said Stefan Schwarz, a global clinical advisor at SO. Persons with intellectual disabilities are also sometimes not self aware of eyesight problems, he added. “For example, if they only see with one eye, the other eye compensates. They feel that they can see; that can cause difficulty especially if they have an injury with the other eye during the sports.”

Pointing out that the awareness problem is spread in all countries, Schwarz explained, “It is not part of the curriculum to treat people with intellectual disability … the majority of eye care professionals over the world are not properly trained.”

When Nada Montaser, a 20-year-old swimmer from Egypt, came to Opening Eyes to get her eyes tested, doctors found the intraocular pressure (IOP) of her right eye was more than double the normal rate, and that it had already damaged her optic nerve. According to Schwartz, if it were not for that screening, Nada would have completely lost her vision soon. And because that eye disease is hereditary, he also brought in her family, checked them and found out her father and sister also had highly elevated pressures. That discovery might have just saved Nada’s eye sight, and her family’s; however, she has to pursue the treatment when she goes home.

Leila Mohamed Mostawe, a senior dental student at the University of Ras Al Khaimah UAE and a volunteer in Special Smiles clinic, also noticed that most of the athletes have “really bad oral hygiene and really low awareness.” “Cote D’ivoire and Canada are really the best. The others don’t really get much care,” she said.

Screen Shot 2018-04-08 at 9.44.55 PM
Leila Mohamed Mostawe, a senior dental student at the University of Ras Al Khaimah UAE and a volunteer in Special Smiles clinic- Egypt Today/Yasmine Hassan

The young doctor shared one case that she had just examined and referred for professional dental care. “An Egyptian athlete came in; and when we asked him if he had pain, he said ‘I have a very bad pain in the morning.’ When we examined him, we found a deep cavity that really needed to be treated. Most probably, they will extract his tooth. I really felt sad for him; that is why we tried to help him as [quickly as we could,” Mostawe said.

Special Smiles clinic also teaches patients about brushing their teeth and flossing, using a crocodile teddy to illustrate the process.

Persons with intellectual disability are usually not able to express their pain or discern signs of illness. Therefore, such checkups are essential to ensure that they are not suffering from any discomfort that they are now aware of.

“The goal is to make the screening and the education available at the local level . . . We need to add more opportunities to see the doctor. We do it at national, regional and international games but we have to do it in local competitions,” Shriver said, speaking of the future of Healthy Athletes program.

Screen Shot 2018-04-08 at 9.48.00 PM

MENA makes the leap in Special Olympics movement

Special Olympics MENA is one of SOI’s seven regions, which comprises 22 Arab countries and Iran. The first regional games were held in 1999 in Egypt, witnessing the participation of 206 athletes and 89 coaches. The number of registered athletes in the region reached 20,433 in 2000. Today, it has increased by seven times, reaching nearly 160,000.

“There has never been an Olympic event in the Middle East, of a worldwide nature. So we are coming here to make history, to affirm that in this region, there are governments that are open, tolerant, compassionate, have the value of empathy and respect for difference, and the joy of building a community of inclusion,” Shriver said, affirming that that upcoming historic event will send a message that these values are indeed ones that are rooted and entrenched in the Middle East.

Photo of the day-3

4/8/2018 10:03:58 PM
<![CDATA[Free from Plastic]]>
Over the years the area has become more and more popular with tourists, who come to see sea turtles in the summer digging holes in the sand to lay their eggs, explore the marine life, and enjoy the simple serene Bedouin life, eating traditional food and drinking tea and coffee while watching the sun disappear behind the golden sand dunes at the end of the day. At Hamata island, visitors stop at Qulaan, which is known for its white sands and shallow warm lake that cuts into the waters of the Red Sea. The area is full of mangrove trees where many migratory bird nests can be found. For beach enthusiasts the park has it all: colorful sands, coral reefs, dolphins, sea turtles and many other delightful sea creatures to be seen.

But the tourists who come to appreciate the breathtaking natural beauty are threatening the park’s ecosystem by littering and dumping plastic items into the sea, threatening both the marine and the wildlife of the area.

“When we started [following] documentaries [showing how] birds eat plastics, we decided to start by removing plastics and wastes from all birds’ nests, such as from osprey nests. We also made a short film Permission to Save Birds to raise awareness of the extreme dangers of plastics to birds,” explains Ahmed Fathi, director of Shabab Betheb Masr, a national youth foundation working to promote ecotourism in Egypt.

Together with the Red Sea Protectorates team, Shabab Betheb Masr (Youths whoLove Egypt) has launched a five-year campaign called “Red Sea Islands Free from Plastics” to help clean up the Red Sea and raise awareness of littering and plastic waste.

Fathi attended the United Nations Environment Assembly held in Nairobi in December 2017 where plastic pollution was the main topic. He explains that the meeting identified that one of the major focuses of 2018 is minimizing plastic pollution and highlighting how dangerous plastics are to natural resources and environmental sustainability, especially that they take too long to decompose.

“They are ingested by animals and fish, poisoning and killing them, and ultimately that comes back to our food chain as referred to by many UN reports. They also cause acute damage to coral reefs and marine ecosystem,” says Ahmed Ghaleb, director of Red Sea Protectorates, which is affiliated to the Ministry of Environment.

In response to the stark UN warning over the consequences of increasing plastics in oceans and seas, the Red Sea Protectorates is determined to remove plastics from diving spots and beaches at Wadi el-Gemal National Park with the goal of making it completely free of plastics within five years.

Marsa Alam’s Wadi el-Gemal islands.

“Funded by the Ministry of Environment and Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, we have started this campaign since 2017. We have pledged to declare all of Wadi el-Gemal’s shores and beaches as zero plastic in 2018,” Fathi says.

In addition to protecting the national park’s living organisms, the initiative aims to promote tourism by cleaning up the touristic areas such as Qulaan and Hankurab as low levels of pollution can mean spectacular visibility for tourists while snorkeling or diving, Ghaleb remarks.

“We decided to begin our campaign with Wadi el-Gemal National Park because while we were making documentary films about the most important natural reserves in Egypt, we found that the terrestrial and marine life at Wadi el-Gemal are littered with plastics,” Fathi says.

They first headed to Mahabis Island, which is famous for sea turtle and osprey, where they arranged two camps with the participation of 55 volunteers. Off the island alone the participants collected six tons of wastes, varying from plastics, iron, carton and paper, Fathi says.

“In October, we declared the island zeroplastic with the attendance of Canadian Counsellor Isabelle Savard at the Canada Fund, and before the UN Environment Assembly’s meeting held in Nairobi, where we presented a documentary about the island,” Fathi adds.

The second camp was launched last December on the small island of Om El Sheikh, where 38 volunteers from Cairo and Ismailia helped remove three and a half tons of plastics. Today, it is the second island free of plastics in Wadi el-Gemal, Fathi says.

“We also moved to Marina Hamata and Qulaan areas, collecting three tons of waste in only eight hours. However, we have not totally gotten rid of the waste due to their massive amounts and rising tourist activities there.”

This year the initiative aims to clean up three more islands, namely Wadi el-Gemal, Siyul and Showarit, in addition to with clearing remaining waste from the Marina
Hamata and Qulaan areas.

To ensure sustainability, Shabab Betheb Masr and the Red Sea Protectorates plan to cooperate with officials in Red Sea governorates to construct a factory, which could replace plastics used to manufacture bags with paper, Ghaleb says.

“Previously, the Red Sea governorates had taken a decision to ban plastic usage in 2009, but it did not come into effect due to the absence of factories to substitute synthetic materials with paper in manufacturing,” Ghaleb explains.

As part of the campaign two workshops have already been held to raise awareness among Wadi el-Gemal citizens to give their attention to the dangers of synthetic materials to biodiversity and to the ways to properly dispose of plastic waste, Ghaleb says. “This is in addition to the workshop convened for the primary stage children at Hamata schools as well as the two training workshops for the campaign’s volunteers on the importance of natural reserves and the harmful effects of plastics,” he adds.

“Saving Sea Turtles” is another initiative by the Red Sea Protectorates in Hurghada to preserve the Red Sea’s creatures and protect them from extinction. “We are also planning in the future to open new diving locations in Hurghada, which would be some of the biggest in the Red Sea,” Ghaleb concludes.
4/8/2018 9:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Fashion Today: Pack Your Bags!]]>

Adidas - Deerupt
Adidas - Deerupt


Gant (3)


H&M (4)

H&M (6)

Iris and Ink
Iris and Ink

Longchamp (1)

Ted Baker (3)
Ted Baker

Ted Baker (7)
Ted Baker

Ted Baker
Ted Baker



Reform Studio
4/7/2018 9:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Tips for keeping your sanity when you’re traveling with kids]]>
Now, of course, there are children who sleep peacefully through an entire flight and never throw tantrums in public. If yours fit that description, you can stick to the expert guidelines. If they’re of the unruly variety, then here’s some advice from a desperate Cairo mum.

Disclaimer: These are the fruits of my own trials and tribulations. They are, for the most part, completely anti-establishment and may come as a bit of a shock to some. I do not, in any way, promise that the following guidelines will shape your child into a better person. They won’t. But they will make your trip far more bearable.

Bribery Will Get You Everywhere

On most occasions I don’t give in to my children’s every whim. I save that tactic for when we’re out of the house and the rest of the population is at risk. Being far more intelligent creatures than you think, your kids will take advantage of the hours on the road or in the air. They will whine the entire length of the trip until they get what they want. Trust me, eventually you will give in and buy that bag of candy or useless toy at the gas station shop. Cut your losses early and let them know beforehand they’ll be getting a treat. That way you can build up their anticipation and reward them for being good. And do make sure it’s a treat; wholesome bananas and nuts do not count. Candy and toys are a surefire guarantee they’ll be on their best behavior until they get their hands on their goal.

Packing Tips

Sometimes you won’t find a convenience store handy so come prepared and pack your own goodies in advance. Just be sure to hide them the night before, and make sure the kids have no clue you’re carrying secret weapons in your bag.

When traveling with kids in tow there’s only so much luggage you can carry yourself. Forget giving them their own rucksacks or messenger bags as they weigh children down and often hurt their backs. Wheelies are great for older kids who want to feel all grown up. For the younger ones, go for colorful Trunkis that double as a much-needed seat when you’re in that never-ending customs queue. They’re also great for small items (like chargers and other accessories) that would otherwise weigh down your own bag. Along with coloring books and crayons or pencils, make sure each child has a favorite snack as well as a packet of wipes.

Keeping Them Occupied

Your best friend on any trip? An iPad, because they can keep the kids occupied for hours. They’re light and easy to pack and are loved by all children above the age of 18 months. Here are a few of my recommended iPad travel apps for kids, from toddlers to elementary schoolers.

Hidden Objects: Great for teaching kids about new destinations, kids will love the hidden object and spot the different games in exotic locations such as the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids of Giza.

Elmo’s ABCs: The perfect app for iPad novices. Toddlers and preschoolers love the letter puzzles and tracking options.

Kindle: With this free app, you can download the e-books and magazines you buy on Amazon and read them on the iPad.

Star Walk-5 Stars Astronomy Guide: Kids and grownups alike love to play with this app. Point it at the sky, and you’ll see a virtual starscape on your screen. Move around and the view changes with you, highlighting the constellations above you.

A serious word of advice: If you have older kids and are on an internet plan, make sure your access will last throughout the trip. Most airports, restaurants and some planes do have wifi, but if the kids find themselves without a connection at any given point, they will complain relentlessly. At the very least, have them download episodes or movies that they can watch

Are We There Yet?

You’ll invariably hear this question a couple of hundred times before you get to where you’re going, even after treats and iPad time. This is to be expected. Children were not created to be confined to seats, so you need to let them stretch their legs every once in a while.

Babies and toddlers in particular will be a test in stamina. Babies want to be carried, so prepare to stand for long periods at the airport or on the plane. If you don’t have a sling, invest in one or borrow from a friend. Slings are a life-saver if you have a small baby and need both hands for your own carry-ons. If you are borrowing, make sure the sling is in good condition and meets safety standards.

In the car, your best bet is to try and put your baby down to sleep for the better part of the ride. Most babies are lulled to sleep anyway by the car’s motion, but there are some (like mine) who just won’t calm down and get overly cranky in a cramped area. On the road, try to stop every 40 minutes or so at a gas stations or roadside shop for a snack and a quick stroll.

Some people swear by over-the-counter sedatives for babies, but I wouldn’t go that route if I were you. Sedatives are known to have a reverse effect on active babies, making them absolutely hyperactive! Instead, go for more natural options like chamomile or aniseed tea. Airport security measures mean you can’t check in with liquids, so bring sachets of these and get the hot water from a café.

Back to planes here for a quick tip: During takeoff and landing, air pressure can wreak havoc on a baby’s sensitive ears. Hug your baby close for assurance and feed him or her. The sucking and swallowing motion alleviates the pressure. For small children, give them chewing gum,m which has the same effect.

Kids expect you to keep them occupied every minute of the trip. Now this sounds much harder than it actually is, because we, parents, also get cranky when we’re traveling, but it can be done once you’ve boarded the plane or are settled in the car. Grab a soothing chamomile, take a deep breath and start to give them your undivided attention. Family sing-alongs will drive everyone insane, so let’s not suggest that, but I Spy is a classic hit every single time. Not only is it fun, but you can throw in bits of information about where you are going and what you are seeing along the way.

Better yet, read them a story. Read up on your destination and hit a couple of bookstores that may carry titles that can be fun reads for kids. Virgin, Shorouk, Alef and AUC Press all have a good number of kids’ books.
4/6/2018 9:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[10 great places for Easter and Sham El-Nessim]]>Nile Ritz-Carlton, Cairo

Spring is here and The Nile Ritz-Carlton Cairo is certainly one of the top spits to celebrate. This Easter, gather your family to enjoy an exclusive Easter celebration with an endless selection of family activities and events. From a lavish Easter brunch at Culina restaurant to an exciting Easter Kids Festival at The Garden City, or a special family day at the pool, The Nile Ritz-Carlton Cairo offers a variety of options for different ages. Parents looking to treat their little ones to an Easter fun in the sun experience can book the family pool package, providing each family with an exclusive pool cabana and lunch for a family of four (two adults and two children). Activities include an Easter bunny surprise visit with Easter basket giveaways and arts and crafts at the Kids Cabana. Vivo, the sophisticated Italian restaurant helmed by Italian Chef Carmine overlooking beautiful views of the Nile River is also offering an international Easter four-course dinner where you can delight in some of Italy’s finest dishes. For those who wish to celebrate Easter in style, Nox is the place to go.

For more information call +2 (02) 2577- 8899.

Grand Nile Tower Hotel

Start out your day with a scrumptious breakfast indoors at the Fontana Restaurant. For lunch, the weather and the panoramic view can be appreciated in tranquility of El Sakya Souk terrace while listening to the DJ, live band and engaging your children in activities that include arts and crafts, clowns, magician and Muppet show. For authentic oriental cuisine, the Nubian Village offers a wide selection of Lebanese and Egyptian cuisine during lunch while enjoying the Oriental Takht. On board the Marquise yacht, Baccarat restaurant offers gourmet international cuisine and authentic oriental entertainment featuring a folkloric show during its lunch and dinner cruises. For those seeking exotic flavors, the hotel’s international restaurant Promenade is the perfect place to gather with family and friends for delicious Japanese, Indian, Italian or seafood cuisine. Easter would not be complete without some traditional chocolate eggs and bunnies, which Delices patisserie will offer daily.

For more information call +2 (02) 2365-1234.

Hilton Cairo Heliopolis

Hilton Cairo Heliopolis is throwing a Sham El-Nessim bonanza on Monday, April 9 from 1pm to 5pm by the pool area, Pizza Bar and Aqua e Luce. Enjoy a succulent traditional brunch featuring live cooking stations, along with live entertainment, a belly-dance performance, kids’ activities, and several other pleasant surprises.

For more information call +2 (02) 2267-7730.

Cairo Marriott

Enjoy the warm spring weather and start coloring those eggs, welcoming Easter at the Cairo Marriott Hotel. Every year, Easter comes with a lot of fun surprises, treasure hunts and plenty of chocolate bunnies at the Marriott. This year, dine at Roy’s on April 8 for an exclusive Easter Sunday dinner buffet, or begin Sham El Nessim on April 9 by unwinding over delicious meals and fun surprises. A breakfast buffet will be served at Omar’s Café from 6am, featuring classic Easter favorites. If you’re not an early riser, Omar’s Café and Promenade Café will both offer a brunch buffet for Sham El Nesssim. Promenade Café will feature a Jazz Band for a little extra fun. No Easter is complete without some chocolate bunnies, and The Bakery will have special Easter treats of chocolate bunnies, cakes and many more holiday-inspired desserts.

For more information call +2 (02) 2728-3000.

Semiramis InterContinental Cairo

This Sham El-Nessim, relax, unwind and indulge in scrumptious food at the Semiramis InterContinental Cairo. Enjoy the fresh air and live entertainment at the Palm Garden and Night & Day if you prefer staying indoors located on the lobby level.

Starting noon, enjoy a special Sham El-Nessim brunch and sing along to Onsy and Natalie’s epic tunes while your children enjoy an array of activities, including a puppet show, magic show, egg colouring and everything in between. Why not relax the day before and start your day with a healthy breakfast before brunch? Enjoy a special Sham El-Nessim package starting from LE 2,000, inclusive of a delicious breakfast followed by a mouthwatering brunch .

For more information, call +2 (02) 2798-8188.

Fairmont Nile City

For the second year in a row, Fairmont Nile City is bringing the circus back to its rooftop this April, with a delicious Easter brunch, in collaboration with the world’s finest toy shop, Hamleys. Fairmont Nile City is creating a fun-filled brunch combining family-focused activities, first class hospitality, an unbeatable setting and quality cuisine. Enjoy their signature Sham El-Nessim brunch with its decadent food and beverage choices on Cairo’s highest rooftop, while enjoying various circus entertainers and Easter kids’ activities tailored by Hamleys entertainment team for LE 350*. An extensive afternoon of circus fun awaits you with a very special welcome from Hamley’s very own ring master, along with performances that include clowns, magicians, mimes and jugglers, ensuring memorable moments for the whole family.

For more information, call +2 (02) 2461-9494. Price is subject to service charge and applicable taxes.

Hilton Zamalek

Enjoy a flavorful Sham El-Nessim brunch in a festive buffet spread, interact and sing with duet singers and DJ, and join in with various activities for children,all at LE 450 per person. You can spoil your family by booking one of the hotel’s luxurious suites from LE 2,300 for up to four persons, or just pick one of the comfort rooms starting at LE 900 including a breakfast buffet.

For room reservations, call +202 27370055. For restaurant reservations, call +201001604031.

Renaissance Cairo Mirage City Hotel

Renaissance Cairo Mirage City Hotel is an ideal getaway during Easter and Sham El-Nessim. Guests will enjoy the live band’s spring vibes, complemented by creative activities for younger guests at the Sol Pool Bar.

Celebrate the holiday with colorful and delicious Easter treats from En Passant. Alternatively, take home one of En Passant’s beautifully crafted Easter cakes, created by the hotel’s very own talented cake artist, which is perfect for family gatherings.

If you are looking for a vibrant nightlife experience, head to Vintage Bar & Lounge and enjoy a fabulous party with belly dancer and live entertainment.

For more information, call +2 (02) 2406-3333.

Sheraton Montazah Hotel Alexandria

If you’re looking to celebrate a special Easter and a quiet escape from everyday life, head to the Sheraton Montazah Hotel Alexandria where you can celebrate a stress-free Easter holiday with plenty of activities, fun and a homey ambiance. Starting the first night of Easter, guests will enjoy live entertainment at Caesar Bar, as well as Beach Cafe & Aquarius Discotheque, including belly dancing, a DJ, top hits and live music from hotel’s Trio Band.

Staying at Sheraton Montazah, you have all the necessities nearby, including a nice selection of cafés to keep you well entertained, as well as chocolate eggs, bunnies, brioche and all Easter desserts at Café Rendez-Vous located on the Mezzanine floor. End your night at the Pergola, La Terrace, the View Café, or pass by La Mamma Restaurant, which serves international and specialty cuisine for a fine dining experience. Easter room packages start at LE 1,600.

For more information, call +2 (03) 5480-550.

Sheraton Sharm El Sheikh

Celebrate the Easter holiday with family and friends in the magnificent atmosphere of Sheraton Sharm hotel. Enjoy an unforgettable day’s festivities with the hotel’s delicious Sham El-Nessim breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet, offering an array of specialties including traditional dishes, in addition to Easter treats, chocolates cakes, cookies and bunnies from our bakery. Guests will also enjoy a daily live entertainment program, folkloric show, belly dancer, live band, Nubian Show, African Show, Karaoke show, Miss Sheraton competition, mini disco for sweethearts and a kid’s club to keep little angels entertained.

For more information, call +2 (069) 3602-070.
]]>4/5/2018 3:11:59 PM<![CDATA[The underlying effect of music in film and the art of film scoring]]>
Describing the crucial effect of music in film, composer Bernard Herrmann once said, “I feel that music on the screen can seek out and intensify the inner thoughts of the characters. It can invest a scene with terror, grandeur, gaiety or misery. It can propel narrative swiftly forward, or slow it down. It often lifts mere dialogue into the realm of poetry. Finally, it is the communicating link between the screen and the audience, reaching out and enveloping all into one single experience,”

Music composer and filmscorer Tamer Karawan - photo courtesy of Tamer Karawan

The world’s universal language, music, has long been defined as an indispensable part of the film industry and has developed into a fixed element of the filmmaking process. In the past decades film scoring has helped create a harmony between the music and the various elements of filmmaking to craft the final piece of art.

Music creates an independent, dramatic scene in its own right, says Muhammed Naglah, a young aspiring music composer and distributor who has collaborated in the production of silent animation shows. Naglah, who composes music for short films, explains to Egypt Today the value that music adds to any visuals, including art exhibits where live music is played as guests take in the artwork, adding that it plays strongly on the subconscious mind, and is an essential element that gives depth to any experience.

Attempting to revive Egyptian heritage, Naglah’s music often pays homage to various aspects of local culture. He frequently plays live piano to accompany screenings of classical films in the heart of downtown Cairo, aiming to revive the spirit of old, silent movies. “The live piano recitals evoke the audiences’ personal experiences and inner emotions,” he says, recounting that as the music was so in tune with the spirit of the film, the audience forgot there’s someone playing the piano next to the screen.

Music composer and filmscorer Tamer Karawan - photo courtesy of Tamer Karawan

Characteristics of film scoring

Despite the flexible rules of composing a film score, certain characteristics should stand out vividly in any score, according to a study by prominent media psychologist and award-winning screenwriter Stuart Fischoff. Dedicating a full career to film and music, Fischoff argues that film and music both resemble a unified effect in a work of art where one plays a visual role while the other is auditory.

Among the important characteristics of film music is providing a narrative of the scenes, communicating elements of the film setting and emphasizing the psychological states of the characters, as well as delivering a collective emotional tone or mood to the viewer. All these elements vary, depending on other external factors including the plot of the film and the filmmaker’s vision, among others.

“Different elements like the film’s language, editing, flow of dialogue, lighting and editing have to be synchronized to produce a [harmonious] product, these functions need to work together in parallel to deliver a strong musical outcome to accompany the visuals,” explains renowned Egyptian film score composer Tamer Karawan. “Consequently, a film score has to be coherent and operate as a complementary element to the final outcome.”

Fischoff describes music in film as a “highly expressive sensory element.” Whether music, sound effect or speech, sound in any film manages to fill the void created by a total silence that would otherwise be irritating.

Evolution of music in Egyptian cinema

In the early decades of the 20th century, music was used as a mood enhancer and a friendly accompaniment to a visual product, starting with the old silent melodramas and comedies of Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy. As Fischoff described in his studies, “Music was mainly composed to make up for the absence of speech,” producing an overall refined mood through the basic live piano performed during the screening. It was very easy to mimic a certain mood in any scene at the time; for example, a scene of a villain was accompanied by the sound of a piano recital featuring a diminished minor chord progression, while a scene presenting a hero was accompanied by a piano recital of a boosted-up anthem.

“Music for film in the older decades consisted of either soundtracks or existing music compositions that accompanied the film. Back then choices were limited, and therefore, the type of music chosen had, and still has, a major influence,” Karawan elaborates.

As the cinema industry evolved worldwide through feature-length films, the music accompaniment also grew. Music developed to add other sound effects and melodies to visuals through violin, at first, then cello, and later other instruments that synched together with an orchestral quality. Consequently, music in film was similar to that of a symphony orchestra and the material was supplied by musicians and conductors.
Soundtracks were also used to accompany films, viewers would even often remember these films by their soundtracks, as is the case with Pretty Woman by Roy Orbison in 1990 and the song El Ard law Atshana (If the Land Is Thirsty) by Walid Elalfy in film El Ard (The Land) by the late director Youssef Chahine.

The use of soundtracks in cinema has created a great sense of emotional belonging between viewers and films as it manipulated an audience’s emotions, says Karawan. He argues, however, that a soundtrack is only a “garnish” or the “cherry on top of the cake.” “A piece of music composed especially for a film is part of the actual ‘cake’ and plays a major role in having a deeper effect in manipulating emotions, unless a film is originally built in a way that makes the use of the soundtrack the greater influence,” he argues.
Karawan points out that this dynamic flow was also implemented in Egyptian cinema in the old classical Arabic films of the “golden-age cinema” and developed intensively during the 1960s.
“Film score composers such as Fouad El Zahary and Egyptian musician and composer of the Palestinian national anthem Ali Ismail, among others, had begun to be invited into the Egyptian cinema industry to compose new film scores during that time,” he adds.

Effects of film score on cinema

To be able to understand what music does to films, one should observe a visual production before and after it has been scored, first in the rough cut or editing phase, and then in final cut. The huge difference the score has made on the dramatic effects, the perception of voices, faces and characters can immediately be felt.

“When I compose a film score, I take several steps before reaching the actual phase of composing; including reading the scenario, understanding the filmmaker’s vision and the type of music he expects,” Karawan says. “I then compose my music based on the final film production phase in which the movie is completely edited and finished. Working on this phase gives me a specific type of energy that I don’t get from earlier phases of filmmaking.”

Apart from strengthening a certain psychological state and manifesting a sense of continuity, a film score should be built by a composer who is not only a musician, but who is also qualified to understand the verbal and body language of a film, according to Karawan. A composer should also be aware of the cinema industry, filmmaking process and topics tackled.

“In general, music is a subjective art and at the same time, it is abstract, and therefore easily stirs feelings; a certain music piece can entirely change the message of a film or scene,” he says. Karawan adds that the multiple roles of a film score include working as a perfect ending for a film with a silent final scene, for instance, covering up for actors’ mistakes or creating an ethnic theme.

Pianist and music composer Muhammed Naglah during one of his performances accompanying a silent film- photo courtesy of Naglah's official Facebook page

Films without music are more realistic

Despite the marked effects music can produce, there is an ongoing debate concerning the use of music in film. Artists in the 1950s led a movement toward realism, including directors who felt obliged to go with the trend by excluding music scores from their films or drama works. The goal behind the “cinematic purism” movement was a more realistic version of human lives that didn’t include any background music or sounds that dictated the flow of dialogue. The movement was short-lived, with most concluding that excluding music from films led to a dead movie.

Naglah argues that such a movement could turn a film into a documentary, while Karawan describes this debate as “pretentious” and unworthy of discussion because realism could also be depicted with the use of music, stressing that there is no generalization in the matter.

“We have been in a cycle where we are used to listening to music while watching a film. Music is able to make up for certain feelings that can’t be fulfilled solely by film directors or visuals, therefore it is not easy to exclude music to create more realistic works,” Karawan explains. He adds that the decision of adding music to film depends on many variables, including the type of film, performance, editing and the topic, which means it is a subjective matter.

Pianist and music composer Muhammed Naglah during one of his performances accompanying a silent film- photo courtesy of Naglah's official Facebook page

The art of composing film score

A successful film score composer of many drama works and films, Karawan says that some of the special projects he enjoyed working on include Fi Sha’et Masr El Gedida (In the Heliopolis Apartment), Bab El-Shams (The Door to the Sun) and Alwan El-Sama El-Sabae (The Seven Colors of the Sky). What made these films special, he adds, are the cooperative relationships he had with the movie directors, which he believes is essential in composing film scores.

Naglah, on the other hand, prefers composing for drama works as it gives him different colors and options to work with and a freedom that a composer should use wisely. But in both cases, composers need to understand the basics of classical composing as a reliable composing technique and writing an orchestral composition, including the use of string instruments. A composer should also be aware of the diverse music types a film needs; for example, a film may need music that is composed using only one instrument or orchestral music to fit a big setting and mood.

The art of composing, like any other type of arts, is challenging; but these challenges bring out the best of cinematic work. “I love works that pose challenges, some of the challenging films and drama worksthat I composed for include Wahet El Gheroob (The Sunset Oasis), a serious drama set in the 19th century and was the result of extensive research, and so it was challenging to come up with music that that depicts this historical era and citizens of that time,” Karawan explains.

Pianist and music composer Muhammed Naglah during one of his performances accompanying a silent film- photo courtesy of Naglah's official Facebook page

It is important to tackle works in an unconventional way, a traditional story of love and betrayal such as that of Ana Shaheera and Ana Al-Kaha’en (I Am Shahira, and I Am the Betrayer), a series currently being aired, which features music composed by Karawan. Karawan says that he used untraditional methods to convey emotions, including orchestral instruments, classical guitar and cello, alongside a light sound of oud to sync together unique tunes and melodies that stir feelings.

Karawan continues to pursue new challenges in film scoring and is currently working on a film score for Amra and the Second Marriage, a film by Saudi filmmaker Mahmoud Sabbagh set for release this year.
4/4/2018 9:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Sudan Calling]]>
I have been to Khartoum and to next-door Omdurman. There is something quite visceral at being at the confluence of the Blue and White Nile, the former rising in the highlands of Ethiopia and the latter way south in the Nile Basin’s Lake Victoria. Otherwise Khartoum has little to offer save wildly tasteless roundabout statues and a suggestion of what could be the most exciting city in the world—the confluence not just of rivers but of the Arab and African cultures.

But there are areas of greenery and greenery excites. On the banks of the White Nile is the Forest of Sunt and extensive area of acacia woodland heavily grazed and under threat but home to such birds, certainly new to me at the time, as the White-headed Babbler and the African Grey Hornbill.

Then there is Tuti Island, accessible by local ferry, sitting in the Blue Nile and with a village all abustle and with extensive farmland. There I ticked off African Silverbill and Striated Coucal. But it is not just about African specialties. At dusk on the mudflats on the island’s eastern tip flocks of Sacred Ibis would glide in to roost, a species now extinct in modern Egypt but worshipped by the Ancients. And delightfully there were Egyptian Plovers. What a striking bird! All dove-grey and black and white and pale peach and known as the Crocodile Bird for its supposed habit of picking parasites and old food from the maws of the giant reptiles. Herodotus first recorded this in the fifth century BC but it remains somewhat anecdotal.

Ornithologists sometimes refer to the Egyptian Plover as the non-Egyptian non-Plover and with some reason. It is not a true plover but rather related to a small family known as the Pratincoles and Coursers. And not having been recorded here since the 1930s it is considered extinct in modern Egypt.

While I have not been able to get down and catch up with the birds of Northern Sudan, the birds of northern Sudan seem to be making a real effort to head north and catch up with me. Particularly after the formation of Lake Nasser after the construction of the Aswan High Dam a number of birds normally considered (sub-Saharan) African species are being recorded further north.

At Abu Simbel the Yellow-billed Stork is now a regular visitor, often in summer. Superficially similar to the migrant White Stork it is just over a meter in length with a bill that is indeed yellow, crimson facial skin and an all black tail. Note the all-black tail.

The African Skimmer has been recorded breeding on sandbanks close to Abu Simbel and the African Collared Dove is regular now too. It is very similar to the familiar Collared Dove but is slightly smaller, slightly paler and with slightly darker primaries. So many slightlies but the combination of features make it slightly distinctive.

BBC Courtesy Ol Projeta Conservancy Sudan - The Last Male Northen White Rhinoceros

Another dove recently claimed for Abu Simbel is Bruce’s Green Pigeon. One of a largely Asian genus Treron this is a beautiful pigeon, a world away from the feral pigeons of city centers worldwide. It is green above with mat purple shoulders and a sulfur belly though despite the colors it is difficult to find in the yellow green acacia canopy.

Perhaps the most spectacular colonist from the south over recent years has been the Black Bush Chat or Robin. It is all black, around 22 centimeters long and with a long, graduated tail tipped white. I sit on the Egyptian Rarities Committee and we have received and approved so many records of this species in recent years that it may no longer be considered a rarity. The ever-increasing hotel development along the southern Red Sea coast with the gardens that attend the hotels seems to have allowed the Black Bush Robin to spread north. I have seen it in Sudan, in the Forest of Sunt sunbathing. The bird—not me. But it is not just the birds that are creeping across the border into southern Egypt. There are butterflies too.

In his book The Butterflies of Egypt Torben B. Larsen notes that Egypt has a relatively sparse butterfly fauna of just 58 species. But of this 58, 28 have been recorded from the Gebel Elba range in the very southeastern corner of the country on the border with Sudan. Six of these have never been recorded anywhere else in Egypt namely the Elfin Skipper, Yellow Splendor, Desert Orange-tip, Crimson Tip, Golden Arab and Cream-banded Charaxes. The latter is particularly impressive with a wingspan of 10 centimeters and elegant double tails on the hind wings. Most excitingly Larsen when reviewing those 28 species from Elba Larsen writes, albeit in 1990, that ‘I would not be surprised if the tentative figure of 28 were to be doubled. How exciting is that! If Gebel Elba were indeed to yield 56 species that would be a species count almost as large as that of the entire country.

One of these Elba species is Junonia hierta or the Yellow Pansy which in recent years I have been seeing regularly in the gardens of the American University in Cairo. The wingspan of this species is up to six centimeters. The male is strikingly patterned in bold patches of deep chocolate brown and bright orange and with a blob of purple-blue at the base of the hindwing. The female is similar but the blue is more subdued. In Larsen’s day it was described as a rare visitor, resident in Gebel Elba and an uncommon migrant elsewhere. It is not a big butterfly but it is very distinctive and easily identifiable. I think Larsen may be wrong or at least outdated and that it may well be resident elsewhere in Egypt. I will be looking out for its caterpillars this spring in my gardens.

Mammals deserve a mention. The Zorilla is a relative of the weasel that creeps into Egypt from northern Sudan. It is a large black and white weasel that readers from the Americas may more easily liken to a skunk. Shaggy and bushy-tailed, black throughout with three bold stripes along the back and a bold white, but broken, band across the forehead it has only been recorded from Wadi Darawena in the Sudanese Government Administration Area.

The Zorilla might be very, very rare in Egypt. But it thrives elsewhere in its range across sub-Saharan Africa. Another species—or at least subspecies is not so lucky. And there is a Sudan connection. Sudan, the Northern White Rhino, was the very last male of his race and he passed away on 21st March 2018. He died at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya at the ripe old age of 45—a good 90 in human terms. The only other Northern White Rhinos left are his daughter and his grand-daughter. He may not be a full species —taxonomists can debate that—but what is undebatable is that the demise of the Northern White Rhino is completely and utterly and entirely due to human agency—to ruthless hunting for trophies, for the senseless slaughter for the supposed medicinal and aphrodisiac properties of its horn and for its misfortune of living in a region of civil war that is also a human tragedy—and of human making. That Sudan’s sperm is now frozen along with those of other Northern White Rhinos and hence may be used in IVF is of no solace. He’s gone. His species is gone. We must take better care of our planet.

4/3/2018 1:47:06 PM
<![CDATA[Islamic Cairo ]]>
We often forget how magical the busiest areas could be; Allam’s shots capture authenticity from the heart of the city and the lives of everyday Egyptians, to the more intriguing street corners.


Puppeteering is an old art in Egypt, one that was enjoyed by children and adults alike during religious and other cultural festivals, including El Mawled El Nabawy, which inspired one of the most popular puppet shows in Egypt: El Leila El Kebeera.


From tablas (traditional drums) to trinkets and accessories, you can buy just about anything on the streets of Old Cairo.


The streets of Old Cairo, especially El-Moez Street, are filled with artisan gems, crafting everything from copper and brass to needlework and Khayameya art.


A batata (sweet potato) vendor serves up one of Egypt’s most popular winter street foods.


Many stores also sell antique or second-hand items and shoppers are bound to pick up a bargain.


Makeshift decor: a stand dressed up with traditional beaded scarves and topped with a tarbouche adds a splash of color to the drab sidewalk.

3/29/2018 9:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[et Home: Gardening 101]]>
Once you begin, the benefits are many; it is meditative, it gently stretches your body, and it gives you a sense of appreciation for little things we tend to take for granted, like greenery and food.

Don’t know where to begin? Everyone who perceives gardening as a daunting and complex commitment couldn’t be further from the truth. There are actually only a few simple outlines that you would need to know to make your life a little greener.

Here to help is Mashtal, an online gardening center that offers a comprehensive catalog of plants, gardening tools and information. It aims to provide novice and professional gardeners in Egypt with a convenient and enjoyable shopping experience through which they can acquire all the supplies, equipment, services and information that they need to develop their gardening projects. This month, the Mashtal team shares a few tips to get you started on your new garden.

Be ready to experiment:

The most important thing to understand about gardening or owning plants is that it is not an exact science. There is no single instructions manual that, if followed, will guarantee success.

Plants are beautiful and fickle biological phenomena. Their survival is influenced by various elements; and any different combination of these elements can either allow a plant to thrive, or cause it to wilt away and die.

Therefore, if you are going to own plants, you have to be ready to experiment, even in the most simple things. For example, if you place a plant somewhere in your home where there is little sunlight and you notice that it is not doing well, this means you will need to move it to another spot. The same applies to watering a plant, the amount of compost (organic matter) you add, or the choice to place it indoors or outdoors. The point is that you have to constantly experiment to find the best combination of elements for your plant.

Know your tools:

You will also need a few basic tools to help you get on your way.

You will need secateurs to prune hard branches of trees and shrubs, up to two centimeters thick. A gardening trowel is necessary for digging small holes and moving soil, as well as taking out weeds. A hand cultivator or rake is used to smooth the soil in a new or existing bed before seeding and planting and to remove any clumps.

You cannot forget your gloves to avoid cutting your hands while you work; a bucket to transport or hold soil while you are moving plants or doing other work in the garden; and the sprayer, which is very useful for watering hanging plants, spraying fertilizers or pest control and cleaning the leaves of your plants.


Plant care basics:

Before you start your gardening experience, there are some basic facts that you need to know to make sure that you take good care of your plants and that you are always on the right track.

Healthy plants usually have lush green leaves and will flower when in season. If a plant’s leaves are changing, that does not necessarily mean it is not doing well. It could be that the leaves are simply losing vigor to make room for new ones. This is how plants grow.

However, there are some other discoloration cases that you need to keep an eye out for because it could mean your plant is not getting its sunlight or water needs.

If there is some discoloration on a cluster of otherwise healthy leaves, this could generally mean the plant is receiving too much water. And if the leaves are wilting and drying up, this means your plant requires more water.

If a plant’s leaves are changing color at the tips, and they almost look like they are burnt, this could mean the plant is receiving too much sunlight.

You also need to know a few things about composts and fertilizers. Generally, decorative plants will occasionally need a little bit of fertilizer. The basic elements that plants require are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), or NPK for short. These elements can be found in liquid or powder form and are diluted in water prior to application.

Of course, there are exceptions to all these rules, plants can be quite fickle and as always, you will have to experiment.


Once you know your tools and basics, you can choose your plant:

House plants have the ability to completely transform any indoor space. They create an atmosphere that is warm, cozy and inviting, and purify the air in that space. They also create a space of positive energy.

A good place to begin is to select plants that work well in low-light areas and require minimal care and attention, such as Peace Lily, Spider Plant, Bamboo Palm, Chinese Evergreen and Rubber Tree.

All that these plants would require from their gardener is indirect light, watering approximately twice a week and very minimal pruning (removing dead leaves when they have wilted). They are excellent intro plants for anyone who wants to get started with making their lives a little greener.

As for outdoor pants, if you have a garden or even a small terrace, a great way to start experimenting is to begin with cacti and succulents.

These types are extremely resilient; they require very little water and even less care and attention. They end up growing beautifully, and would teach you a great deal regarding handling plants.

You can start with Aloe Vera, also used to produce hair and skin products, or Jade Plant, which is known as the money tree and is believed to bring great wealth and fortune, or the Madagascar Palm.

Now you are ready to begin making your life a little greener. All you need to remember is to have plenty of fun, be patient and experiment. To get you started, visit masthalegypt. com to shop for tools, fertilizers and other gardening essentials or check their Facebook group at MashtalEgypt. Also make sure you visit the annual Orman Flower Exhibition held in April at the Orman Garden in Dokki.

For more advice from Mashtal, visit mashtalegypt.com

3/28/2018 9:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[et Home: March Selection’s ]]>

0000 (1)
Jewelry Hardware - PullCast

0000 (2)
Jewelry Hardware - PullCast

Beit Matta (1)
Beit Matta

Caravanserai (1)

Caravanserai (2)

Damask (1)

Damask (2)

Heba Linens
Heba Linens


Kilim (1)

Koket - Serpentine Mirrior
Koket - Serpentine Mirror

Koket - Serpentine
Koket - Serpentine Mirror

Moderna Kabbani
Moderna Kabbani

Tamara Fabrics 2
Tamara Fabrics

Tamara Fabrics
Tamara Fabrics

Inca 1
Inca & Co

Inca 2

3/27/2018 9:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[The Birds of Spring]]>
My other book read so far in 2018 is infinitely more beautiful and proofread. It is Winter Birds by leading bird artist and illustrator Lars Jonsson. The book is a winter journal largely based on observations from his Swedish homeland even more specifically, his Swedish garden “and explores the beauty of the birds that surround him during the Swedish winter months.” I bought my copy from a real bookshop so much better than an Amazon package dumped on the doorstep back in London and wallowed in it. The cover sports a stunning image of a pair of Bullfinches foraging through snow-decked brambles. The male is so spectacular thickset, with the bull-neck of his name and with grey, black and white upperparts offset by a deep rose pink breast. The female lacks the rose pink, but Jonsson argues she is even more attractive: “The pastel-like buff-brown of the belly reminds me of a colour chart for warm brown lipstick or eye shadow,” he writes and he waxes on lyrically, but it is not for me to expand here as the Bullfinch has never been recorded in Egypt and I do not want to tease.

What I was hoping for was a chapter on the Great Grey Shrike, a bird I have long associated with winter in England, where it is a rare winter visitor, let alone Sweden where it breeds. Sadly, there is just one reference to it buried in the introduction with a tiny vignette portrait in the margin, although Jonsson’s art is so breathtaking even a vignette becomes a masterpiece.

No, I had to wait until I got back to Egypt for my Great Grey Shrike fix. In the gardens of my workplace it is a fixture, a yearlong resident and soon to breed. In some ways, it is not unlike the Bullfinch, being grey and black and white above, but it is a larger, longer and slimmer bird, long tailed and with a hook at the end of the dark bill that announces it as a predator. Sometimes referred to as the Butcherbird, it preys on large insects, geckos, eggs, nestlings and the like. In times of plenty, it impales excess prey on the thorns of acacias. These rather gruesome stores for leaner times are known as larders, but the shrike is a modern bird; in a place where acacias are rather passé, it will happily substitute barbed wire.

Perhaps the defining feature of the Great Grey Shrike a common bird over much of Egypt’s agricultural areas is the black mask that runs through the eye, a bandit mask if you like. It shares this feature with all the other shrike species passing through Egypt in spring: the Red-backed Shrike, the Woodchat Shrike, the Lesser Grey Shrike, the Isabelline Shrike and of course, the Masked Shrike. Look out for them all in the coming weeks. They are bold birds often perching in the open. Wadi Degla seems good for the Masked Shrike and I found a female Red-backed Shrike last year at the Gezira Club.

Bandit masks are found elsewhere in the animal kingdom and unsurprisingly so. The eye is a peculiarly important organ for many species and a very vulnerable one, but a sweep of black across the face can effectively obscure it from unwanted predatory attention. Perhaps the best example is the Common Raccoon from the Americas, though here in the mountains of Sinai and more rarely across the North Coast is a mouse-like rodent called the Middle Eastern Dormouse or Asian Garden Dormouse. It is about 13 centimeters long with a tail of similar length buffy grey above, whitish below and with much of the tail, not the base, bushy and black often with a white tip. The throat is white and there is a black mask through the eyes, that bandit mask once more.

In the Red Sea, one of the most visible groups of fish are the butterflyfishes. Most are between 10 and 20 centimeters long, though the Lined Butterfly fish reaches almost 30 centimeters. All are rather disc-like from the side, often with a slender snout for poking noisily amongst the coral for food particles. Most are boldly patterned, especially in yellows and blacks; almost all have that black bandit mask through the eye. In the Lined, Blackback, Chevron, Threadfin and Striped Butterflyfishes, this is the conventional single black band. Indeed, the Striped Butterflyfish is sometimes called the Raccoon Butterflyfish. However, the Exquisite Butterflyfish has a double band; in the Masked Butterfly fish, the band is reduced to a deep blue patch around the eye and in the Orangeface Butterflyfish, rare in the Egyptian Red Sea where I have only seen it once, the whole face is dark save for a lovely orange dark. In many of those species described, the tail end is similarly patterned or marked. Any predator approaching a butterflyfish will be unsure which end is the front end or which end to attack and at which direction the butterflyfish will try to make its escape.

This strategy is used in other fish species too. Among the wrasses, a large and diverse group of fish found in all Egyptian waters but at their most prolific in the Red Sea, the Cleaner Wrasse and the Fourline Wrasse both are patterned with longitudinal black stripes that run through the eye, again obscuring it. The juvenile Dusky Wrasse, diminutive at just over three centimeters, takes this a step further. It shares the striped pattern, but on the rear of the dorsal fin, there is a very prominent ocellus, a false eye. In the adult, some 11 centimeters long, the pattern is lost but the eyespot is retained bigger and bolder than the actual eye with the intent to fool predators.

Perhaps the most famed example of the false eye is that of the Common Peafowl or peacock. Known for its stunning beauty all resplendent in gleamingly iridescent blues and greens, the male sports a long train of feathers, not actually its tail, that it can erect in a huge fan decorated with hundreds of ocelli by which it beguiles its potential mate. I was reminded of this when reading a bizarre story from Newark Airport in the United States. Apparently, people are now allowed to take animals on planes with them if they are therapeutic and help calm nervous fliers. For the most part, these are cats and dogs. However, an artist from New York’s Brooklyn was banned from taking her “emotional-support peacock” on board a plane as it did not meet the guidelines of United Airlines due to its “weight and size.” Pictures of the peacock ostentatiously perched on a baggage scanner went viral. His name was Dexter and he was a rescue peacock.

A peacock with full train approaches two meters in length. Perhaps next time, the artist should take an emotional support juvenile Dusky Wrasse.

Richard Hoath is a Senior Instructor at AUC’s Department of Rhetoric and Composition. He has published extensively about Egypt’s wildlife and fauna.
3/26/2018 2:21:24 PM
<![CDATA[While I Was Waiting Inside Syria’s War-Driven Coma ]]>
“We tried to deliver a work that can describe how we see our situation far from what the media gives people,” Syrian actress Nanda Mohammad, who plays Nada in the play, tells Egypt Today. The project is entirely based on Syrian events, which triggered several questions, Mohamed says. “Those questions were also similar to the questions asked by the character I’m performing in the play including; Where is home? Should I stay or leave? How can I help my family? What can I do for my country? Is there any hope?”

The play, which features a six-member cast, first premiered in Brussels in 2016, and then was staged in different countries around the world, including France, Lebanon, Japan, and the United States at the Lincoln Center Festival Production, among other places. Abu Saada personally knew the late young man, who had high hopes during the Syrian uprising in 2011; the family later decided to portray the Syrian crisis through their story within a factual play, which became Abu Saada’s newest project.

Revolving around a young man named Taim and how his family is disheartened by the lack of answers about what happened to their son, While I Was Waiting mimics the Syrian reality, sending the message that all Syrians have lost someone or something dear to their heart at some point during the past seven years.

reham kassar and mohamad alrefai. foto by Stavros Habakis

“I have specifically chosen to work on this story because I have personal ties with the people involved in it; I visited the patient [Taim] in the hospital in real life, and that later deeply affected me and it continues to resonate in my memory,” Abu Saada explains.

The director recalls how going back and forth to visit Taim in hospital led him to observe other patients also in a coma, and to reflect on their psychological and physical wellbeing. “I was able to deeply understand the state of a coma, which is a prolonged period of sleeping featured in a dream world, and its relevance to the art world. At this point, I began investigating and searching for the artistic and technical elements that I [later] used in the play,” Abu Saada says.

Many Syrians fall into a “coma” in their 20s, Abu Saada says, using the word “coma” both literally and metaphorically to refer to a state of helplessness that all Syrians would experience. Syrians have become observers of the situation in Syria, he believes, rather than actual agents of change, which was the case at the beginning of the Syrian uprising in 2011.

Depicting an undesired feeling of emptiness, the play sheds light on the state of “waiting” that is imposed on all Syrians, not only the ones living a constant battle in their homeland but also those who are living abroad, regardless of their religion, sociopolitical views and socioeconomic classes.

Each scene in the play acts as a metaphor of the infuriating consequences endured by youth, who managed to lead demonstrations and document mass protests yet have lost hope for change following an unexpected and twisted sequence of events. Abu Saada uses Taim’s comatose state as a metaphor for the lack of power to change things.

The play aims to speak on behalf of all Syrians by shedding light on the daily lives of middle-income Syrian families in 2015, zooming in on detailed events rarely discussed or tackled in the media. “Documenting reality from this perspective serves as one of the main functions of art,” says Abu Saada, who teamed up with writer Mohammad El Attar for the play. Attar told the media that despite viewing the Syrian crisis as a tragedy, the greater tragedy is not having the courage to think about the events of the war and courageously criticize it.

nanda mohamad and mohamad alrashi. foto by Stavros Habakis

This play is the second joint project between Abu Saada and Attar; previously, they worked in Beirut on an adaptation of the Greek legend Antigone, which was performed by an all-female cast of Syrian refugees.

Production challenges: from visa restrictions to artistic value Although the play delivers an undeniable moral value and was popular amongst the audience, having been staged in different places, the cast faced a number of challenges throughout the preparations and production. Visa restrictions made it hard for them to meet all together in one place either for rehearsals or to perform later on.

They ended up rehearsing in France, says Attar. And when they were to perform in the US, they faced another critical challenge. “A few of us had problems with the visa and they had to apply twice; and in the end, we all got our visas, except for our lighting designer. I think that if we hadn’t been invited by a prestigious and well-known culture center, such as the Lincoln Center, it would have been impossible to obtain the visas; the center played a major role in facilitating this procedure,” Mohammad says.

She adds that Syrians are not welcome all over the world, not only in the US, adding that Europe has tightened visa regulations. “Officials in Europe are currently making it hard to travel there, as well as to Arab countries,” she Says.

“There were plenty of challenges other than the visa restrictions, including the fact that we can’t work anymore in our country, which is something I knew, but had a hard time admitting it,” Mohammad adds.

Abu Saada agrees. “We, as cast members, live in different countries in Europe and the Middle East; hence, it was hard to [bring together] one artistic Syrian cast comprising 15 people to produce a theatrical performance.”

mohamad alrefai and mustafa kur. foto by Masashi Hirao
Photography courtesy of Stavros Habakis

Another significant challenge that haunted the play’s production was creating an artistic value, one which would shape a meaningful project that could resonate with the audience. “We worked for so long to create an artistic production that would blend imagination with actual documentation of real events, in which the imaginative aspect of the play acts as an extended depiction of our reality,” Abu Saada says.

War-torn Syria changes the way Syrians make art.

Having worked in the field of theater since 2001, Abu Saada has always managed to introduce works mirroring events taking place in society. He believes that since the Arab uprising in 2011, art productions have begun to adapt a sociopolitical angle through ideas that are shared and discussed with the audiences, hence influencing Syrians as well as Arabs in making art.

“We had been placed in a recession period in which any form of expression was stalled in one way or another; however, post-2011 communities of this region became less stagnant and began to explore more ideas, debates, visuals and stories that [emerged] amid the revolutions. This change in behavior and actions has created material worth showing in theatrical performances among other various types of arts,” says Abu Saada explaining that “all Syrians still live trauma, whether their lives were endangered or they lost their loved ones. Death had never been close to us to that extent; most Syrians were forced to deal with death in one form or another; and that itself encouraged them to look at life differently and to value all its little blessings; this change in perception was also mimicked in art.”

Art is radical and so are revolutions, says Mohammad, who thinks that the revolution took art to a new path, in which new artists who were previously unknown are now under the spotlight, specifically those who lived away from Damascus and were barely known to anyone.

She also adds that she invested all the events that occurred within the past seven years of her life into her acting career. “I had a lot of moments when I was weak and couldn’t even think that I can make art anymore.”

Syrian artists are currently going through a process of self-exploration and asking existentialist questions, while experiencing a deep understanding of one’s self, according to the 40-year-old Syrian theater director. This course of exploration has rarely occurred due to the long-term suppression in the lives of Syrians.“ Theater to me is freedom and a means of liberation. I was able to explore and understand myself, as well as create dialogue with society,” Abu Saada says.

While I Was Waiting closely communicates with audiences of the Arab region over others, as it consists of certain dialogues and slang Syrian language that can be easily comprehended by Syrians and Arabs; Abu Saada says he had to modify some of the play’s monologues and dialogues so they could be understood by the European viewer.

Syrians who attended the performances perceived the play differently than others, as they would relate more to the story. However, all types of audience members were able to relate to the state of coma on a broader humane level; and as a result, they would engage thoroughly with several scenes in the play, he adds.

“Audience members were not the only ones influenced, on my part I tried to dedicate all the power of change that is occurring to us now and direct it to my work, which encouraged me to try a new approach in acting,” Mohammad Adds.

She mentions one special scene, in which her character arrives in Damascus to see her comatose brother; she was very afraid at the border between Lebanon and Syria when the officer took a long time holding her passport. The character explains in the play how hard it was for her to go back to Damascus.

“Each time I performed that scene I was jealous of my character that she can go back to her homeland Damascus but I can’t.”
3/25/2018 9:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Reviving a Colorful Nubian Heritage ]]>
With the hope of protecting that colorful heritage, a 50-member project known as Mashrou El Saada (Project of Happiness) has been frequenting the island every year to revive its bright culture. So far, they have been to Nubia four times and painted 39 houses. “When we paint their residential neighborhoods, and make them more beautiful, we spread happiness among the [residents]; and this is reflected in their contributions to their own future,” Dalia al-Shamy, the project’s social media head, tells Egypt Today.

Founded by Hashem Raafat in 2013, Mashrou El Saada tours slums and neglected places in Egypt to provide psychological support for the residents and heal them through color therapy. “I was an architecture student at Misr International University (MIU), and I had a desire to use all I had studied to help slums or touristic areas through a long-lasting psychological method, not financially, but by using colors,” Raafat says, as he recalls their first project at Bab El Khalq, Cairo, where they painted just one wall.

Since then, every time they go to a new destination, the number of volunteers increases. Along with painting, they have also introduced human development activities and cooperated with several initiatives. Both Shamy and Raafat believe that colors can change people and inspire them to improve their lives and restore their positivity and ambition to better the place where they live. Before launching any project, the team usually sits and chats with the residents about their culture, ideas and traditions to be able to reflect them in their designs and colors.

Capture 2
Photography courtesy of Mashrou El Saada

We talked to the team two days after they had returned from their fourth tour in Heisa island, which took place between January 25 and 29.

“Raafat saw how neglected and colorless the island has become after the [construction of the] dam… That contradicts with the colorful Nubian nature. So, Nubia has become the
biggest project of Mashrou El Saada,” says al-Shamy, explaining that the team’s target is to inject a little dose of color with drawings and designs to preserve them, as well as to draw a smile on Nubians’ faces.

During the first two phases of the Nubian project, Mashrou El Saada just focused on painting houses; but to shed more light on their main target of reviving Nubian traditions, they later collaborated with many initiatives to organize human development activities for Nubians during their tours.

Starting the third phase, in 2017, they have been holding brass workshops for the women of the island. “Women in Heisa are known for their talents in [making] unique artistic brass handicrafts, including jewelry and domestic items . . . but all they need is to develop these artistic talents and [get access to] materials. So, under the supervision of Misr Foundation for development, we would hold these workshops and get them all the necessary materials,” says al- Shamy.

In 2018, they took the brass workshops a step further, by cooperating with Taqat, a local jewelry brand manufacturing its goods with all natural materials, including stones. During the workshops, women would create artistic products made of brass mixed with stones.

“To motivate them in the workshops, we promised to select the three best accessories and financially award their creators. So, during our four-day tour, they produced many beautiful handicrafts like necklaces, bracelets and earrings,” al-Shamy says.

Believing that every child deserves a happy childhood to create the brightest future, Zeinab, a trainer, educates the island’s children through a football training course. This breaks the boring traditional learning means in classrooms, and the children get to enjoy some outdoor fun in the kids’ play area built by Ready Made, explains al-Shamy.


This year the project has also teamed up with Marwa Fayed’s Toy Run Institution, founded by Omar Samra, the first Egyptian to climb Mount Everest. The institution collects unwanted toys, repairs and wraps them, to distribute them among children. The project has also worked together with Educate Me initiative to offer children educational sessions.

If not for the cheerful atmosphere created by Heisa’s residents and their unparalleled hospitality, the members would never have been able to achieve so much, al-Shamy says. “They host us in their houses, provide us with food and water and the best things they have, as well as helping us in painting.”

To promote Nubian traditions and culture on a larger scale, the team also posts about the project and about Nubia and its traditions before every phase. “This has a great impact as it brings more tourists to the island. The island’s head, Yasser, told us they have begun to see more tourists since the team came to the island,” al-Shamy says.

“As Heisa is a big island, we seek to go there every year to finish painting all of the houses, so it will be our main project in the coming years,” Raafat says, adding that they are also working to “spot more places especially in Upper Egypt, Kafr El-Sheikh and Fayoum, and to include more human development sessions in the program.”

Fayoum is another governorate to which Mashrou El Saada brings happiness, as they have gone three times so far. The first two times, they painted Ezbet Abdel Salam School in Fayoum, in collaboration with Nebny Foundation and Master Crafter. In their third phase, they painted the houses of Abu Hamid village, in cooperation with Let’s Build Egypt Initiative. “Painting the houses in Abu Hamid village in just one day was so challenging, so we called this project ‘24-hour challenge,’” al-Shamy recalls.

Mahrou El Saada also headed to Nuweiba, where they spent four days in 2016, painting and renovating 15 houses at El Malha village; and they put together a library in the village to serve both residents and visitors. They also worked together with Marwa Fayed’s Toy Run to distribute toys to children, both in El Malha and other Nuweiba villages.

If you’d like to volunteer or sponsor the project’s efforts in Nubia and other cities, visit their Facebook page, Mashrou El Saada, for more information.
3/24/2018 9:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Amir el-Masry: A Rising International Star]]>
Born in England in 1990, Masry (Arabic for Egyptian) has made quite a shift from his previous studies of criminology and sociology at Royal Holloway University. His first acting role was in a school play at 6 years of age, and he ventured into Egypt’s professional acting field many years later to star with veteran comedian Mohamed Heneidy in 2008. Soon after, he was standing opposite international stars, such as Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie, working his way to becoming a young Hollywood sensation.

Mastering his first role as Ramzy, the rich spoiled son of the minister of education in the Egyptian comedy Ramadan Mabrouk Abou El Alamin Hamouda starring Heneidy, Masry caught the audience’s attention and won the “Best Young Actor” award at the Egyptian Oscars in 2009. In 2010, he appeared once again as the careless university student, Nabil, alongside acclaimed actress Yasmine Abdel Aziz in El-Talata Yashtaghaloonaha (The Three Are Deceiving Her).

From there, the rising star joined the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) to advance his skills. He graduated in 2013 and, a year later, he appeared as Alireza in the American movie Rosewater, his first major role in Hollywood, with Gael Garcia Bernal and Kim Bodnia. In 2016, he participated in the American TV mini-series The Night Manager, where he appeared in two episodes as Youssef, opposite Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie. He later performed in a number of English plays, most recently Goats.

His latest movie, The Arabian Warrior, to be released toward the end of this month, tells the story of a young Saudi Arabian studying in the US and trying to make it as a professional footballer against his parents’ will. El-Masry speaks to Egypt Today about his short, yet impressive, acting journey, his hopes and dreams.

Tell us about your first acting experience.

I discovered long ago that acting was a gateway to escape and be someone else. I was a rather shy kid growing up; I remember when I was 6, my mom took me to after school drama classes in the hope of getting rid of that shyness. They were holding auditions for the end-of-year performance, a play called Town Musicians of Bremen about a rooster, a donkey, a cat and a dog escaping their homes in the search for freedom in Bremen as musicians. I played the cat. It was out of my comfort zone as a 6-year-old, but as soon as I went on stage it became an addiction.

You studied criminology and sociology. How did such studies affect your performance as an actor?

I was always fascinated by the way our law is structured and why certain people get branded as criminals whilst people who are committing crimes on a global scale remain in positions of power. Despite what we perceive to be a crime, it is important as an actor to always find the human side and empathize [with the character], even if we disagree with a lot of their moral decisions. I thought that this degree would therefore give me the [needed] intellectual structure, as well as enable me to learn about people.

The great late actor Omar Sharif was the first to discover you; tell us more about your relationship with him, his influence and his advice to you.

When I first met Omar Sharif, he greeted me as if I was family. He was someone who really loved people; when he found out that we were [both] Egyptian, we bonded instantly. The main piece of advice he gave me was to start in Egypt and get that experience under my belt before trying to have a career internationally. Rather than attending the premiere of his own movie, [he sent me] instead, and I learned a lot by being shoulder-to-shoulder with all these amazing filmmakers. I felt too undeserving to sit in Omar Sharif’s seat, so I sat on one of the steps next to the writer and director of Hassan w Morcos, starring Sharif and Adel Emam.

Tell us more about the two Egyptian movies you participated in.

Ramadan Mabrouk Abou El Alamin Hamouda came about from a meeting in Paris. The writer and I were talking and he mentioned that they were looking for someone to play this kid who attends the British School in Egypt and speaks English really well. They didn’t specify at that point whether it would be a main role or just one scene, but I didn’t hesitate nonetheless when he offered me the chance to do a screen test with Heneidy in Cairo. After the test went well with Heneidy, Wael Ehsan, the director, offered me the part of Ramzy. When I asked for the script to work on until the shoot, he told me, ‘I want you to improvise around the dialogue, and just be yourself.’ I had been a big fan of Heneidy growing up, so for my first experience in Egypt to be with him was really special. Concerning El-Talata Yashtaghaloonaha, I got a call from a producer telling me that Abdel Aziz saw Ramadan Mabrouk and wanted me in her movie. It was a really great honour working with another huge star in the Arab world.

Photo courtesy of Amir el-Masry

What is the difference in terms of performance and techniques between working in Egyptian cinema and working in international cinema? Which did you gain more experience From?

There really isn’t much difference from an actor’s standpoint. Egyptian cinema is very advanced and professional in terms of how they go about things; that prepared me well for when I went to work on foreign projects. I remember when filming Ramadan Mabrouk, the cast and crew of Transformers were in the studio next to us, and even they were impressed with what we were doing. That made me feel very proud.

You started working with internal international films in 2014, performing the role of Alireza in the American movie Rosewater. Tell us more about this experience.

The casting directors of Rosewater came to see a show of mine when I was training at drama school. They asked me to audition for the film and [said] that Jon Stewart would fly in to personally to meet with me and a few other actors. From the second I met him, he was incredibly fun to be around, and made what could have been a long shoot [one that ended up being] full of laughter. I learned that, when tackling a serious subject matter, it is vital to treat it with as much integrity as possible but never take yourself too seriously.

Tell us about your part in the American TV mini-series The Night Manager with Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie.

Something that a lot of people don’t know about The Night Manager [is that] in the last episode of the series, the scene with Tom Hiddleston in the kitchen was completely improvised. Susanne Bier was very passionate about the whole experience being a collaboration, so we sometimes came up with our own suggestions, whilst at the same time honouring John Le Carre’s amazing original story. It was also refreshing to play a chef and learn the busyness of a five-star hotel’s kitchen.

Having performed in several English plays as well, which do you prefer; movies, TV series or plays?

As long as the project moves me in some way, makes me feel something strong or challenges me, I don’t really have a strong preference. Film is definitely my first love. Having said that, you feel this electric [energy] when you’re on stage that you can’t get when working on a film or in TV. I especially felt that when I performed recently at The Royal Court in London.

How are you preparing for your first experience in a leading role for The Arabian Warrior?

When I read the script and auditioned, I knew it would be really special. Aymen Khoja and Allison Walter have done a great job creating this world that merges the West and Middle East together, tying it with the universal love of football. It will be something that a lot of people will relate to no matter where they’re from—we have all felt like we needed to prove something
to someone or been the underdog in a situation [at some point in our lives]. In terms of preparation, I trained regularly and went on a strict diet to look and feel like someone who wanted to be the next Ronaldo of the Arab World.

What are your future plans?

I have a few things coming out this year besides The Arabian Warrior. One is a new series called Jack Ryan starring John Kransinski, and then there’s also two BBC shows called McMafia and Age Before Beauty, so I am excited for them to come out.

Which project has been the closest to your heart so far?

I recently got to do something very special that merged both performing live like on stage with film, when I worked on Woody Harrelson’s film Lost in London. It was shot and performed live in 550 cinemas across America and England in one take. The film also starred Owen Wilson, so it was great to learn from those two comedy heavyweights. Another project that was very special to me was The State, directed and written by genius Peter Kosminsky, one of the most emotionally exhausting roles I’ve played, but one that carries a very strong message.

Do you currently have any plans in Egyptian cinema?

When the time is right and the right project comes along, I would love to take time out from working abroad to work in Egypt. It would love to go back at some point.

Who is your favorite actor or actress, and the director you hope to work With?

Tough one — but Robert DeNiro, Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks and are all up there. I would have loved to work with the late Ahmed Zaki. As for a director, I would love to work with Martin Scorsese.
3/23/2018 9:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up? Married, She Said]]>
We listened to the Frozen movie song “Let It Go,” loved by possibly every kid around the world. The song, although it had been playing on repeat for days on end until I couldn’t bear the sight of blue anymore, speaks of not conforming to social norms and being true to one’s self to release and fulfill your potential. It speaks about sibling bonds and, at the end, it is sisterly love, not prince charming, who saves the day. I loved the song and the movie; the twins and I danced happily to the voice of Elsa taking control of her talents and powers. Then the song “How Far I’ll Go” was on, from the movie Moana, and I was happy because it spoke of adventure, risking your comfort zone to fulfill your dreams and dreaming big.

Then YouTube suggested Nancy Agram’s “Ya Banat” (Girls), and I was happy because I do want them to listen to Arabic songs and read books in their native language fighting cultural imperialism and all. The song starts off really mellow, speaking about how nice it is to have daughters, how compassionate and giving girls are. It also speaks against traditional proverbs preferring sons over daughters; I was impressed to hear the line “wala shoft el ard ethadet wala mallet el hetta alaya,” in reference to the proverb saying that when mothers give birth to girls the earth shatters and the wall falls upon them. The girls were giggling and it was a very cute bonding moment. I was mostly twirling around with them, so I wasn’t paying much attention to the video clip. But then it happened; a sore monstrosity of a line shattered my cute Sound of Music bubble.

Agram sang in her melodic voice, “you are not afraid of the wedding, you’ve known ever since you were very young; you’ve been wanting the veil, you little bride, ever since you were in diapers.” No, just no; it can’t be that a song that is supposedly empowering girls is actually telling them that their one aim, their one childhood dream, is wearing the veil and becoming a bride to be wed. So the dancing stopped, I dropped the girls, snapped back to a sexist reality, repeated the track and started paying closer attention to the “childfriendly” song.

The entire music video is splattered in pink and cupcakes. All the activities carried out by the girls and Agram who seems to have a particular charisma with little girls take place in the kitchen or in front of the vanity table. They’re either baking chocolate cupcakes, playing dress up with bridal veils or putting on lipstick. Is that it for little girls? Is that everything they should hope for? Forget about being doctors or teachers or ambassadors; let’s frame little girls’ minds to be clad solely in pink and all its shades and chase after the groom who would fulfill their childhood dream of being a bride. Let’s do it ever so often that the mention of adult life would only evoke pictures of lipstick and happily ever after.

The song isn’t particularly offensive, neither is it downright sexist in the way it is presented. In fact, it is a song that allegedly empowers little girls, so parents may not pay close attention to what it insinuates, and this is why I find it even more problematic. The media, in the simplest interpretations, has strong agenda-setting effects; meaning that the media may not have the power to tell everyone what to think but it sure does tell us what to think about. It sets priorities in our minds through constant exposure to similar messages and topics. It lights a bulb of an idea in our heads which keeps shining brighter the more we’re exposed to it.

Photo courtesy of Nancy Ajram Team Turkey

But with young minds, those who are most vulnerable to outside influences, the media can greatly affect how they think and their beliefs. Erving Goffman’s framing theory from the 1970s suggests that our minds find it easier to process and interpret information, especially unfamiliar information, through tying it with frames. Those frames, either set naturally, socially or through the media, help us make sense of information we receive. Those frames work particularly well if the mind has no set frames, which is the case with young children, whose minds are clean slates shaped by their surroundings.

A study by Darcy Haag Granello in 1997 shows that girls aged 12 looked at the media to define how their lives would be in the future and believed that if they modeled themselves after the characters, they would achieve the same status and rewards.

The stronger those frames are set, through repeated messages, the more powerful they are in evoking certain feelings and beliefs surrounding the topic in discussion and, later on, influencing their choices. And repetitive as they are, a study by the Geena Davis Institute shows that children are subjected to an average of 16,000 images per day, including ads, logos, labels, songs, shows and others. When we frame marriage as the ultimate goal, as opposed to one aspect of a very diverse life, keep repeatedly telling girls we can’t wait to see them as brides and expose them to similar media messages, little girls will grow up obsessing about landing their prince charming. When we frame it as the natural evolution for any girl, when she turns 30 without having found the right guy, she will either be miserable because she feels like a failure even if she’s successful in every other aspect in her life or will end up marrying any guy who knocks on her door.

But it’s not just Agram’s song that’s problematic. It’s far from an isolated incident. It is a global problem that, although media professionals are slowly starting to realize the role they contribute to it, is far from getting solved.

A study by Oregon State University of 100 girls aged 14 to 18 exposed the respondents to four pictures, accompanied by a brief list of their accomplishments and biographies. The pictures featured actress Jennifer Aniston, model Heidi Klum, a CEO and a military pilot. The respondents rated Aniston and Klum higher on likability and believed them to be more competent and relatable than the other women. Yet the girls also felt that the CEO and the pilot were better role models. This shows that while the girls believe the latter are good role models in theory, in reality, because the media has been framing them as popular and appreciated by the wider audience, the girls have come to believe actresses and models are more likeable and more relatable, partially because they’re framed as such, but also because they are constantly in the media. And whereas they do admire professionals like businesswomen and pilots, they do not find themselves relating to them and they do not believe these are the kind of women appreciated or liked by society.


The media in the UK and the US seems to have realized that the rhetoric presented to girls and boys alike needs to change. And we have been starting to see movies like Maleficent, for instance, stressing that love isn’t necessarily just prince charming’s love, it’s also motherly bonds and friendships. Moana and Frozen are also great examples of telling girls to break norms and be true to themselves; especially Moana, who doesn’t conform to the predominant beauty standards of Disney princesses. Moana has thick ankles, a strong build, a larger-than-a button nose and wavy hair, something most girls can relate to far more than they can to the picture-perfect Snow White, among others. This is not to say that all messages coming from the West are positive; on the contrary, many are demeaning to girls, sexist and leave them obsessing over body image and the perfect nose, hair and lips. But at least there are both messages and parents can direct their kids, especially younger ones, to either of them.

Over on the more eastern side of the world, however, we’re still singing to little girls about marriage and marriage alone. Other suggested YouTube videos for children in Egypt were Hamada Helal’s “SpongeBob” and a song by a very cute little girl named Hala Al Turk, singing about being miserable at home and wanting to leave the house.

So we started listening to Donia Samir Ghanem’s songs, and the kids just love her. I think many kids do, as she is talented, knows how to put on a show and makes smart choices. But then I remembered a popular song she sang titled “Wahda Tania Khales” (A Completely Different Person), which speaks about a girl who has changed for a man she loves. I am all for improving to the better and compromising in relationships, but the song is far from that. The lyrics literally read “I don’t say no to anything he wants, I see life the way he sees it, I follow his orders to the dot; he simply controls all my life. I don’t speak to any other boys and he even picks my girlfriends out for me; what can I do? He doesn’t like most of them.” I would have completely understood had she been singing about how miserable he’s making her life and how she wants to leave him. But she goes on to say, “What’s weird is that I am happy that way.” So for the many young girls religiously following Ghanem’s songs and shows, for the many teenagers who take her as a role model of a successful singer, actress and mother, we are presenting a sadistic relationship as the norm and telling them they should conform and comply to keep their man, that this way they’ll be happy and loved.

It isn’t just the songs. I tried looking for Arabic books for our bedtime storytelling; I did find many nice books speaking about how kids shouldn’t play with electric sockets, about being giving and helping others. But I found absolutely nothing specifically targeting girls to empower them. Meanwhile, I have bought the twins a book titled Girl Power, a series of animated short stories with messages ranging from loving yourself with all the flaws, hair frizz and quirky teeth, to being a warrior saving and defending people, and not a princess waiting in towers to be saved. I would have loved to find something similar in Arabic, but we ended up buying Goha, which they absolutely love, and I absolutely abhor. There is also another book I am eyeing called Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls that lays out the history of 100 influential women, including our very own Cleopatra, might I add, as well as astronauts and pilots and generally awesome women. As excited as I am to read this book to my girls, it did pain me that a country like Egypt does not tell little girls about our strong feminist heritage in a way that will appeal to them and frame being strong, kind, proud and successful as opposed to merely physical beauty and having long, flowing hair as desirable. Egypt has a long list of very powerful, pioneering women, from Cleopatra all the way to the first female pilot Lotfia El Nady, but very few girls, or women for that matter, are told about it.

It is important to remember that it isn’t only girls who are exposed to these messages; boys are too. So if we don’t change our narrative, and change it now, we will have yet another generation who are torn between messages of women’s empowerment, and others telling them that a girl’s place is at home at her husband’s beck and call.
3/22/2018 9:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[et Guide: where to take your mom out this Mother’s Day]]>Frank & Co.

Frank & Co. is offering a special Mother’s Day promotion: Every son or daughter, who treats his or her mother to a bite at Frank & Co will receive a free glass of sparkling wine.

Frank&Co • 11 Rd. 18, Maadi Sarayat, Degla • Tel: +2 (0106) 545-8547

Le Méridien Heliopolis

Shower your mum with surprises at Le Méridien Heliopolis five-star hotel’s restaurants, where for every three persons, mum dines for free. The offer is available for lunch or dinner and include a complimentary four-portion cake. And speaking of cakes, the Boulangerie Pastry Corner has a great assortment of French pastries and cakes specially crafted for Mother’s Day, and don’t forget to stop at their original Le Méridien Éclair section.

Le Méridien, Heliopolis • 51 Al Orouba St., Heliopolis • Tel: +2 (02) 2290-5055/2290-1819

Hilton Alexandria King’s Ranch

This month, treat your mom to a stay at the Hilton Alexandria King’s Ranch. The hotel boasts the largest pool in the city (2,500 square meters) adjacent to breathtaking greenery landscape, heated indoor pool, kids area and extensive leisure facilities. The hotel features a spa covering more than 6,000 square meters managed by Premedion that is designed to offer a comprehensive portfolio of services tailored to customers’ need in the field of prevention medicine and wellness. This medical spa focuses on physical rehabilitation with state of the art equipment and programs, non surgical procedures and luxurious treatments.

Sheraton Montazah Hotel

Sheraton Montazah Hotel will help you find a simple and thoughtful gift that will draw a smile on the face of the dearest lady in your life; a refined cake that was created, designed and specially innovated by the pastry chef for this particular occasion on March 20-21, with a 25 percent discount. Treat your mom to a scrumptious dinner at either La Mamma Restaurant or Caesar Inn for LE 499, or book her a room at LE 1,100 per double room (sea and Montazah view), including buffet breakfast.

Grand Nile Tower

Treat your mother to an exceptional dining experience at the Revolving Restaurant with a view of the Cairo skyline and Nile River. An elegant assortment of additional dining options are available, ranging from traditional Japanese cuisine with teppanyaki seating at Okashi to international dining at El Sakya Souk with its enticing menu of a wide variety of authentic Indian, Italian and Tex Mex cuisine, fresh seafood and Mediterranean classics with stunning views of the Nile River. Mothers who prefer an oriental atmosphere will feel right at home with authentic Middle Eastern cuisine and live oriental takht melodies at the Nubian Village. Another exceptional dining experience can be found at Marquise, Grand Nile Tower’s yacht, offering a cruise with views of Cairo’s nightscape, a mouthwatering menu, live entertainment and oriental folkloric show. To sweeten the deal, find a treat for mom among the specially prepared cakes and chocolates from Delice.

Grand Nile Tower Landscape Photo
Grand Nile Tower

Ramses Hilton

Take your mother out on her special day for a themed culinary demonstration session at the Ramses Hilton, where Chef Dimitrios and his kitchen brigade will spend their day sharing their vast culinary expertise and a specially designed menu with all participants. A scrumptious three-course lunch will then be served at the restaurant overlooking the Nile. Moms will eat for free when dining with their family at Maharaja India Restaurant on Wednesday, March 21. If you want to spoil your mom and let her get a bit of rest and relaxation on her special day, ask about the Mother’s Day special offer (available for Egyptians only). Surprise your mother with a sweet treat from the Garden Court Café and order the special heart-shape cake.

To reserve a cooking session, call +2 (0100) 600-1494 • to book at Maharaja call (0102) 221-8977 • for room offers, call +2 (02) 2394-7070

Nile Ritz-Carlton, Cairo

Treat her to exclusive made-just-for-mom events and give her plenty of time to be spoiled with gourmet dining and a soothing spa treatment. Spend an afternoon celebrating mom with the family at Vivo over a lavish Italian lunch from 12:30 to 3:30pm, with many different set menus and a la carte dishes. For dinner, Vivo will also feature its delicious a la carte menu, but will also have a special supplementary menu with Mother’s Day specials your mom is guaranteed to love. Plus, all moms will receive a complimentary white rose and a box of macarons. Pair the Italian experience with an indulging spa treatment for a very special price on both. Bab El Sharq restaurant is offering an exceptional Arabian dining delight. Dine in a group of four guests and moms will receive a complimentary dining experience. Pamper her at the Nile Ritz-Carlton Spa with a holistic 60-minute treatment, followed by her choice of complimentary facial or massage.

Nile Ritz-Carlton, Cairo

Le Meridien Cairo Airport

Whether you’re looking for a massage session, a memorable dining experience or a comfortable night’s stay, Le Meridien Cairo Airport is giving you every opportunity to pamper Mum on her special day. Spoil your mother with a memorable stay including one hour massage session for a more relaxed experience (LE 975 per person in a double room including breakfast for two). You can also treat her to a heartwarming dining experience at EVOO! Bring the whole family and dine at EVOO where moms eat for free and get a complimentary cake and roses.

Tel: +20 2 22659600

]]>3/21/2018 2:22:16 PM<![CDATA[How I came to love my afro curly hair]]>My hair is not curly; it is a a mixture of textures that more closely resemble afro, kinky hair. However, the techniques and tricks I’ve taught myself and learned from black women over the years, in real life and from the internet, have helped me coax it into heat-less curls. I learned all the braiding and twisting techniques and adopted a hair care routine that consists of trial and error to get the curls I want. My hair, like most people’s, is a mixture of textures.

Over the course of my life, I’ve never met a hairdresser in Cairo who would happily agree to cut and style my hair in its natural form. They didn’t know how to. Not that I could blame them—my mother didn’t know what to do with it either. Everyone was programmed to do the opposite; straighten. It was, and still is, the knee-jerk reaction people have when they see my hair. I haven’t cut it for four years in an effort to challenge myself to learn more about how to care for it. Before that, I would cut it short myself. I haven’t been to a hairdresser or a salon since 2010.

For a very long time, they made me feel like my hair was the issue, that my hair was unmanageable, unattractive, not ‘normal’ or good. The word “khishin” [rough or coarse] was thrown around a lot about my hair, and every time I heard it—which was often from family and hairdressers—I felt like I had “bad” hair. I didn’t have good, easy or manageable hair, which fell down my back and blew in the wind. I didn’t have white-people hair, and this made me feel ugly. It took me years to unlearn this Eurocentric beauty ideal, and eventually, I began to unconditionally love my natural hair.

Eurocentric beauty pressures
From a very young age, I felt like my hair would be a burden and a struggle my entire life. My mother didn’t understand how or why each time she came to detangle one section of my hair, another part would become ridiculously tangled. Knotted hair and a tender scalp meant I absolutely dreaded getting my hair wet because of the pain combing it out entailed. On the recommendation of a hair stylist, my mother decided that to save us both the pain of hair maintenance. It was decided that my hair should be cut short…very short, so short that I spent a couple of years in my childhood being regularly mistaken as a boy. I didn’t mind having short hair at all as a kid, in fact, it was a blessing and a freedom. It was everyone else who minded.

By the time I was 12, my hair had grown out and my mom invested in a blow dryer, hot irons and several different chemical straighteners. During my teen years, my hair was subjected to all manner of daily, weekly and monthly chemical or heat treatments to keep it straight. I was still afraid of getting my hair wet—but for different reasons now. I was afraid people would see my hair frizz and all that work I’d put into making it straight would be wasted.

When I turned 16, the years of hair straightening had taken their toll on both me and my hair. As I stopped caring about what anyone thought about my hair, or caring for my hair at all, I unknowingly entered into my transition phase where chemical relaxers and other treatments were left to work their way out of my hair and allow for healthy hair growth take place.

For the first time, my head felt lighter and I felt freer than I had in years. I still didn’t love or know how to care for my hair, but I finally felt like I had agency over it instead of blindly wanting what others had, or listening to hairdressers about what they thought was best for it. I started to learn what my hair looked like, what it did and didn’t like, and how to love and care for the hair that naturally grew out of my head.

I started rethinking every aspect of myself that didn’t conform to social beauty standards I would later realize were deeply Eurocentric and glorified white, western beauty ideals that demanded a social group as varied as Egyptians conform to a one-size-fits-all beauty standards.

I slowly began questioning the lack of representation of people who looked like me, and how even Egyptian women prized western beauty over their own. Were the women in my real life, the ones I saw every day, not beautiful? I couldn’t subscribe to this ideology any more as I started to know and see so many beautiful Egyptian women who did not fit in this mold.

Creative Commons
Photo Via Creative Commons

As I could finally spot other forms of beauty, in particular African beauty and the black community in the US and African diasporas across the world, I understood that beauty is vast and not uniform. It is not just what the predominately white media represents and tells us is beautiful. This belief has caused industries to sell us harmful products that bring consumers closer to whiteness; skin lighteners, bleaching creams, and of course hair-straightening chemicals which strip the protective coating of your hair to leave it fragile and damaged. But we can never be white.

You know better than your stylist
I haven’t stepped foot in a salon in almost a decade since going natural. I had been traumatized time and again by my bad hair experiences.

In 2009, a renowned stylist insisted that to cut my hair, it first needed to be straight. I told him I wore it curly…I stood my ground and insisted that if he didn’t know how to deal with my hair texture, I might as well just leave. I obviously touched on a nerve, and despite his reluctance to cut my hair curly and wet, he eventually did. I left with the worst haircut of my life. I was so upset I broke down into tears on my way home, upset less about my hair and more about how embarrassed I had been made to feel about my own hair. There remains nothing as intimidating to me as stepping into a hair salon and being condescended to. It was at this moment that I decided no one would do anything more to my hair without my consent, knowledge and full understanding.

Unfortunately, in Egypt, the stylist knows best, and what they say goes. This is the shared sentiment across Egyptian society, with women carrying the burden of having “presentable” hair, which usually means white-passing straightness. As the majority of hair-straightening techniques and products come with a high price tag, in a country suffering from economic woes, it speaks volumes about the social pressures women face. They are expected to spend hundreds and thousands on products and services that will make them look a certain way.

Keratin treatments, which are widely available in Cairo, will set you back anywhere from LE 800 to LE 2,000. Relaxers, the go-to staple in my household and a more economical alternative, are a harsher and long-lasting form of the recently popular Keratin trend. Relaxers will set you back LE100 to LE300, a more affordable, yet more harmful alternative to getting straight hair.

Lastly, we have heat treatments, epitomized by the blow dryer and the hot iron; which invariably lead to long-term damage that affects its health and growth.

Sharing the communal struggle
Is all of this damage worth looking like people we will never be, rather than embracing the idea that beauty is not one defined look or hair texture? I talked to several women who, just like myself, have rejected social pressures and began the journey to embrace their natural hair textures. Unsurprisingly, we have all shared the same struggle.

Leila Fahmy, a recent graduate from the American University in Cairo (AUC), was always pressured to straighten her hair during college years, despite having kept it curly for most of her life. “All the girls had their hair done and they looked good every single day. I felt like a child compared to them. So I decided I didn’t want curly hair anymore and I was going to straighten it. I didn’t do any treatments but I used to straighten my hair myself at home,” she recounts. Years of doing this have left Fahmy with damaged hair that she describes as very thin, dry and in a much more fragile state.

Since going natural a year ago, Fahmy says her hair has transformed. It’s still a work in progress, but she remains extremely optimistic and enthusiastic, keeping a hair journal with her goals for healthy hair growth.

Every time Fahmy steps foot into a salon, stylists still give her unsolicited advice about straightening her hair despite the fact that she’s usually there for a manicure.
“At the age of 14, my friends didn’t like my curly hair, so I straightened it with Keratin, but it ruined my hair, so I had to cut it very short to get rid of the damaged part. It had become neither straight nor curly,” Norhan Elfarra, now an architecture student at Sixth of October University, recalls.

As her hair got longer, Elfarra continued to tame her curls into straight or wavy styles as her self-confidence took a hit again and again. “People would call me ‘mankoosha’ [messy] or tell me to comb my hair, it really affected me for a while,” she says. However, ever since she has entered college, Elfarra proudly wears her hair curly and doesn’t care as much about what people think.

Adaora Oramah, a Nigerian student at New York University who previously lived in Egypt for 18 years, recalls her experience here, having big, curly hair. “I was never confident about my natural hair, until I moved to New York. I hardly ever wore my natural hair out in Egypt because I was insecure about it and I subconsciously didn’t believe it was beautiful. That’s why I always had my hair in braids because it was the closest thing to the long and straight style I’d always desired.” Since moving to New York, however, Oramah says she has embraced her natural hair in a way she didn’t feel able to in Egypt.

A new generation’s hair revolution
Women with hair similar to mine have gone through similar experiences of being conditioned to straighten their hair, and subsequently not knowing any other way to care for or style it. The online natural hair community has helped me in more ways than I can explain, but a lot of it still feels very distant. Most bloggers, video tutorials and natural hair products tend to be based abroad and target a different audience with different experiences from mine.

All is not lost, though, as there is a small but growing and committed natural and curly hair community emerging in Egypt. Attitudes and mentalities are shifting towards inclusion; and with every woman who embraces her natural hair, more women are encouraged to wear theirs. Fahmy is an ambassador for the Hair Addict, an online community that embraces curly natural hair and provides representation for women with curly hair to encourage and communicate with each other. The recently opened Curly Studio, the first salon to cater solely to curly hair in Cairo, is also a beacon of hope and a potential hub for women with natural hair. While progress may be slow, things are definitely changing, and I remain optimistic for women in Egypt making peace with their natural locks.

Nour 2
Photos courtesy of Nour Ibrahim

3/19/2018 7:44:01 PM
<![CDATA[et Guide: a token of love for MOM]]>
For Her

via Egypt Today

For her piece of mind (home essentials)

via Egypt Today

3/18/2018 5:04:03 PM
<![CDATA[Lunch out with Mom]]>
I had been watching Frank & Co.’s Instagram lately and their food looked very interesting. Since my mom is not big on food anyway, some elegant appetizers in a calm atmosphere seemed to be a good idea.

We headed to the restaurant in Maadi, Degla; and a little birdie had already told Frank, the founder and owner, that I am a food blogger, so I really appreciated that he was serving us personally. We also got a chance to meet with his lovely head of customer relations; Gehad. How’s that for VIP treatment, Mom?

For those who know me, you’d probably know that there are three or four things in the world that I do not eat. I don’t eat olives. I don’t eat old, smelly, soft cheeses like blue cheese. And I am not a big fan of green bell peppers or cumin; everything else is fine for me. For those who don’t know my mom, hang on... She only eats lettuce and cheese. She doesn’t eat meat, chicken or fish (or so she claims), she doesn’t eat ethnic food, she doesn’t like to consume too many carbs and she doesn’t come near any unusual combinations of sweet and savory, which is the epitome of all culinary innovations. Sorry Frank, but you’re in for a challenge!

We started with two dips; a red one and a white one, along with some freshly baked bread bites. I immediately grabbed red, while my mom went for white. Red was roasted bell peppers with chili and pistachio; and the sweetness of the peppers with the mild kick from the chili was very well balanced. White was obviously cheese; and I just had a small taste of it because mom seemed to like it a lot. Her first comment on the roasted pepper dip was, “It’s sweet!” and I said “Yes, it’s beautiful.” She just gave me a look and dipped another bread bite into the spinach-cream cheese.

Then we were served a Buffalo Bocconcini and a Kale Apple Salad with Tikka Chicken. Apart from how amazingly good both salads were, the only other thing I seem to remember from that moment was how I was passing over a serving of the kale apple salad to my mom and she quietly asked me to remove the apples with a look like I should have already known to do that before trying to serve her a portion. They are Granny Smith apples, Mom: They’re not even sweet! Gosh!

Tipping the scales to my mother’s favor, Frank then offered her a bowl of fried olives. She asked me to try them because they were “so good.” No, thanks.

We were starting to feel a little bit full when Frank came loaded with a quintet of different nibbles. Grilled, fried and baked; it was all here. We were treated to an assortment of delicious octopus served with smoked paprika potato wedges, baby potatoes stuffed with bacon and cheese, chicken wontons, lemon calamari with chili garlic sauce and a ‘Berliner Currywurst’ with curry ketchup that took me back to my childhood in Germany. I got so nostalgic that I almost cried. I could seriously taste the memories from eating Currywurst as a child in the hills of Allgäu, near the town of Sonthofen.

To finish off our meal, we were presented with an absolute showstopper; Camembert cheese with honey. Mom did not hesitate to grab another warm bread ball and dip it into the baked cheese. “It has honey on it,” I said, but it was too late. She tasted it and she absolutely loved it. Who needs dessert when you can end your meal with this glorious concoction?

Big thanks go out to Frank (and his Co.) for converting my mom into an appreciator of culinary excellence. And bigger thanks to you Mom, for trusting my choice. I love you more than words in this article could ever carry me.

“My name is Dena Mekawi. I am an Egyptian first-generation American. Growing up in America, I have always felt like I had an identity crisis. I was always ashamed of telling my peers my nationality and my religion due to the stereotyping that existed, so I lied and told people that I was Italian. But I went home and realized that I was trying to hide from my identity. I had self-esteem issues that stemmed from the bullying and the desire to achieve ideal beauty standards. This is why I spend my career [as a] self-esteem educator,” Mekawi introduced herself in the first video, as she moderated the UN International Day of Peace in 2016.

I found myself relating to her from the very first moment: She is Egyptian, accomplished, and more importantly, she looks strong; the kind of strong I have always wished I could become.

A social entrepreneur, Miss Arab US contestant, UN representative, the thought that jumped to my mind after a little stalking was: “A success story in the making.” Needless to say, I rushed to answer her message and schedule the interview.
Controlling the narrative

From the struggle for identity to the power of rejection, Mekawi’s challenging path has inspired her mission to advocate for women’s rights and empowerment and to be a voice of Arab and Muslim women struggling with social misconceptions in Egypt and abroad.

I am an “advocate for women empowerment … I use my voice and experiences to break barriers of what it means to be a Muslim woman, especially living in America,” Mekawi, 27, says. “I have used everything I have gone through from mental health issues to depression to be the voice of not just Arabs, but all those who feel underrepresented.”
Mekawi narrates how her parents came from Egypt to America on their honeymoon and decided to settle in that very different society, full of cultural differences and identity challenges for their later-to-come boy and girl. Mekawi and her brother became first-generation Americans destined to juggle the social and cultural contradictions, as well as the struggle to fit in, physically and ideologically, as Arabs in a western society.


“I think the struggle for me was not feeling like I belonged in America, because as a first generation, there is always that barrier of trying to conform to the American lifestyle versus what your family back home was taught … Also, being ashamed after 9/11 of being Muslim and Arab,” Mekawi explains. “As a first-generation American, you are seen here as an Arab and when you go to Egypt, you are seen as an American,” she says with a laugh, as she recalls her upbringing. She says there was also the challenge of navigating cultural differences with her dad, societal expectations versus what she really wanted, and body and appearance issues. “I was always curvier than my peers,” she recounts.

Even little things like going to junior prom would have ignited a tense family situation due to the constant battle between the moral code her family grew up understanding and the lifestyle she was exposed to as a teen. “It was a struggle … I felt alone because there wasn’t any girl going through a similar situation or a role model to talk to or relate to and discuss various issues with,” Mekawi recalls.

“Yes I am Egyptian, but I am also Italian,” she would tell everyone to escape from the challenge to fit in as an Arab in a western society. She then finally had a breakthrough when a group of girls from different ethnicities decided to celebrate their cultural diversity through different acts, dances, and so on in a high school international festival. Mekawi, of course, took part with the belly dancing team, celebrating all-Egyptian heritage.
“The power of storytelling and learning that there are other people like you was very helpful … it was a moment for me where I started developing confidence and really understanding where I am as a person … And my journey started from there,” she tells us with much confidence.


Strong and determined, Mekawi took her identity struggle and turned it into a mission. Her different, yet beautiful, curvy body that at one point dragged her into a depression ended up shaping her career, as she is set to advocate for more realistic and representative media images. The longing she had for a role model has inspired her to lend a helping hand to any Arab or Muslim girl who might be going through the same battle.

Not at all “a pageant girl type,” she laughs, Mekawi’s first step was running for Miss Arab USA in 2013, with the purpose of “empowering and representing Arab women.” Although she didn’t win, she came back more confident and proud of her uniqueness. She now uses her voice to “empower women on a global level,” as the NGO youth representative to the United Nations, representing The Women’s National Book Association.

Working in the fashion industry, writing for Oprah magazine for a while, then acquiring her master’s degree in digital publishing, Mekawi also experienced first hand the selective and exclusive media field, which was another breakthrough that inspired her to take action. In response, she founded her media company Style and Resilience two-and-a-half years ago to create her own narrative, as she puts it.

“I was working a lot with models and people who looked one way and I was always that curvy Arab girl … I knew I wanted to see myself in magazines and in media,” she says. “When I couldn’t see that, I created my own platform and my own lane to give voices, diversity and realistic images,” Mekawi says. She also wanted to provide a platform where young ladies get to learn about stories like hers growing up, to know that other girls like Mariam, whose story is shared on the website, couldn’t go to the prom because her dad wouldn’t let her. “Growing up, [if I learned about stories like that], it would have empowered me,” she adds.

Working with celebrities and non-profit collaborations, using art, sports, fashion and music, the company aims to “strategically implement unique marketing messages to influence society, but also make sure that every race and ethnicity is really represented in mainstream media,” Mekawi explains.


A message of solidarity
When asked about her biggest accomplishment so far, Mekawi first said it was becoming a representative to the UN. However, she quickly retreated and said, “it is the feeling of using my accomplishments to serve other people.”

Although still young and early on her path, Mekawi has been doing all she can to “use her voice to empower,” and call on young people in Egypt and the Arab world to uncover the power of their own voices.

As she has made sure to disseminate her story and struggle of growing up as a Muslim girl in the US, Mekawi is sending an explicit message for any girl there to seek her advice and relate to her, filling a gap that she had longed for someone to fill growing up.
She is already getting messages from girls in Egypt and abroad, asking her advice and guidance as they struggle with their identities in different ways and contexts. “One of the things I relay to girls is that they are worthy, regardless of what decisions they make,” Mekawi says.

“One girl messaged me from Egypt. She was wearing the hijab and did not want to wear it … She was struggling with what society wants you to be like versus what you want to be like at the moment. I walked her through, made sure her life was not in danger if she took any decisions and used my voice to give [her] the perspective not to be afraid to express [herself],” Mekawi narrates. She proudly recalls how she gave another girl resources about social initiatives, and “she messaged [her] later, telling [her] she founded one of the first UN model chapters in her high school.”

Having adopted an even broader mission to engage youth and millenials to become socially conscious and create a positive impact through fashion and arts, Style and Resilience also succeeded in organizing one of the first sustainable fashion events at the UN headquarters in New York on November 16, 2017. “Using Fashion as a Vehicle for Change,” was the event’s motto.

“We [only] had designers [who were] ethical and sustainable, from using organic material to their transparency and manufacturing,” Mekawi says. “The briefing highlighted some of the harms of fashion industry, how to become a circular economy and how to encourage more designers to be more ethical and conscious.”
Mekawi is also growing up as a symbol of power, representing our strength and accomplishments as Arab women through different platforms.


She was invited to moderate the UN’s International Day for Peace in 2016, alongside two media giants, Michael Douglas and Leonardo Dicaprio. “They were all in the same room with me for one reason: to use their voice to empower youth,” Mekawi says, as she describes the “most memorable moment” in her path so far.

A successful social entrepreneur, she was also invited to speak about how she created her brand by finding her calling, at the “Her Legacy Conference & Gala 2018” hosted by Columbia University in January. “When you find out you’re sharing a panel with the founder of #metoo movement, Tarana Burke. Wow, humbled!” Mekawi posted ahead of the conference.

And apart from events and conferences, she has dedicated her social media and YouTube channel to deliver all kinds of empowering messages, tackling gender equality, Islamophobia, identity and other related topics.

“I want to be a voice for Arab-American women … I want to empower, educate and create space for underrepresented communities.”

3/11/2018 6:59:26 PM
<![CDATA[Educating the pillars of society ]]>
According to the World’s Women 2015 report, published every five years, 781 million adults over the age of 15 are illiterate; more than 496 million of them (two thirds) are women. In Egypt alone, women and girls constitute 10,469,330 of the illiterate population, compared to 7,596,425 males.

A more recent study by the state’s statistics agency CAPMAS published in 2017 places illiteracy at 20.1 percent in Egypt, or 14.3 million individuals, with women forming 9.1 million of the total number. Women constitute almost 64 percent of the total number of Egyptians above the age 9 who can’t read or write.

large web photo template
Literacy rate in the Middle East and North Africa segregated by age group - source UNESCO

This month we shed the light on Egypt’s adult learning programs and how the General Authority for Adult Education has been catering to the hopes and needs of girls and women, giving access to essential schooling and learning at any age. Along the way, we came across some of the most inspirational women, of all ages, who have overcome social and economic challenges and life barriers to receive their well-deserved and needed education.

“I cannot express how much I love learning. I still remember how I cried my heart out when I was six years old when my father decided to prevent me from going to school. He said boys do not succeed in school; so how would girls? I got married at 19 and never allowed my kids to skip one day of school as their education was my life goal. When I turned 25, I enrolled in a literacy class at my kids’ school, I used to go with them and I obtained the literacy certificate. Now I am in preparatory school and I will continue to learn as there is no limit to education,” says Attiyat Mohammed, 55, enrolled in one of the General Authority for Adult Education (GAAE)’s literacy centers at El-Gamaleya neighborhood in Cairo.

large web photo template
A female adult learner enrolled at the General Authority for Adult Education (GAA) literacy program in El-Gamaleya, Cairo - Egypt Today, Yasmine Hassan

Mohamed is one of 4,823,994 adult learners, of both sexes, who have been enrolled in literacy centers around Egypt during the last three years, according to GAAE. A total of 2,682,721 have been granted their literacy certificate and some of them have went on to pursue their graduate studies.

Access to quality education at any age is a basic human right guaranteed by all human rights treaties. The interest in universal education dates back to the World Declaration of Human Rights (1948), stating that primary education is free and compulsory for all children, taking into account quantitative and qualitative aspects of education. As the former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan said in 2015, “without achieving gender equality for girls in education, the world has no chance of achieving many of the ambitious health, social and development targets it has set for itself.”

Egypt’s education reform efforts

As a member of the global community that has one of the largest education systems in the world, with more than 16 million students at different levels of education, Egypt has been keen to pursue reform efforts to improve the status of formal and informal education in the country for years. Hence, the Egyptian constitution of 2014 ensures the importance of education as an issue of national security and a basic right for all. It affirms that education is the vehicle for progress, development and prosperity. It also guarantees that education is free and compulsory until the end of the secondary stage or its equivalent.

In light of this commitment and to realize the full potential of the Egyptian population, Egypt developed a National Education Strategy (2014-2030) “Together We Can,” which pays special attention to adult learning, gender parity and school drop-outs, with the goal of achieving human development and modernizing the education system in Egypt through adopting an inclusive approach.

“Together We Can” introduces several innovative models, aiming to provide school drop-outs, youth and adult learners with the skills necessary to reintegrate into formal schools and to improve the educational services delivered by informal education. These models include the one-class schools, community and local schools, girls-friendly schools and literacy opportunities for disabled learners.

Egypt’s education reform efforts are guided by global agendas to promote equal accessibility to quality education for all people. These global agendas include the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015, and feature a dedicated goal to education and lifelong learning that calls on countries to “ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning;” as well as the goals of the global movement “Education for All (EFA)” launched in 2000 by UNESCO in coordination with the UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF and the World Bank.

The General Authority for Adult Education: programs and goals

The concept of literacy and adult education has become more diversified to include kinds of education other than basic literacy. It has also become more advanced in terms of goals, content, methodologies, teaching and learning skills, monitoring of progress and evaluation of results. Widening the adult education concept and going beyond acquiring the basic literacy skills in Egypt allows for promoting critical thinking, tolerance and acceptance of others.

To further validate the current status of literacy and adult education in Egypt and the policies undertaken by the government or civil society to provide literacy education programs, we talked to the main actor in this field, the General Authority for Adult Education (GAAE). The GAAE was formally established in 1993 as an agency under the Cabinet of Ministers to open literacy centers across the country. The GAAE is the only provider of officially recognized literacy certification.

The GAAE defines the illiterate person, according to law number 31 of the year 2009, as “any citizen between the ages of 15-35 who is not registered in any formal school and does not know how to read, write or do arithmetic.” However, they still accept any person who would like to join the literacy programs even, if they are not in the targeted age group.

With a vision to create an environment where access to literacy programs is a valued right to everyone, the agency adopts annual implementation plans with specific objectives and targets to improve adult literacy in Egypt, mainly focusing on governorates with higher illiteracy rates. For the year 2017-2018, the GAAE plans to educate 2 million illiterate persons, whether as direct beneficiaries of their programs or through other national initiatives across the country.

“The authority’s representatives communicate with community leaders and influential figures like imams, mayors, businessmen and local council members or parliamentarians who are trusted by their communities to help us spread the word about the available programs and promote people’s enrollment,” Acting Chairperson of the GAAE Ahmed Hassan says.

In addition to its literacy centers, the GAAE supports any educational activities that take place within and outside the educational institutions for anyone who is not enrolled in formal education, had previously dropped out of school, or those who never had the chance to receive formal schooling due to social or economic reasons, or due to the failure of basic education systems to retain students.

The duration of the literacy programs ranges between three to six months, according to the educational level of the adult learner. The only rule to start a classroom is to adopt the GAAE official curriculum “Learn and be Enlightened.”

In cooperation with several partners, including the UNESCO, the agency developed 11 educational courses, responding to the actual needs of the learners, to complement the basic literacy curriculum. These courses include training for employment, life skills, human rights and health education—which attracts female learners the most. The GAAE also pays special attention to learners with disabilities; there are dedicated classes for the blind or visually impaired in Aswan, among other governorates.

Hassan adds that many individuals and organizations have contributed to adult literacy work in Egypt. The authority has signed more than 600 cooperation protocols with all relevant ministries and organizations, Hassan says, including the ministries of endowments, education, health, youth and sports. GAAE also cooperates with the Armed Forces, universities, mosques, women clubs and health clubs in all governorates to reach illiterates.

Moreover, the GAAE organizes regular information convoys to promote their literacy programs and raise awareness in every home, neighborhood, village, town and district. Once a classroom is established, people inform others about it; so the students are usually familiar with each other’s classes. “All classes are designed to fit the learners’ needs and address any barriers. We have classes that run in the evening so that the students can join after they finish their work,” Hassan explains.

All programs are free of charge, including the books, tests and certificates, which motivates the learners and makes it easier for them to seek education. Hassan also explains that there are some gender differences in the adult learners’ motivation; men and boys mainly enroll to obtain the certificate required for issuing some official documents, like a driving license or a passport, or to decrease the duration of compulsory service in the army. For women, they mostly participate in the literacy programs to be able to help their children with homework or to read the Quran, transportation and hospital signs, as well as reading subtitles of foreign movies and TV series. “I used to be scared of going out of the village because I cannot read the transportation signs. Now I even have the courage to go to Al-Attaba,” says Faten, who is enrolled at the GAAE literacy center in El-Badrasheen, Giza.

Adult Learners' literacy class in El-Badrasheen, Giza - Egypt Today, Yasmine Hassan

Adult learners can participate and voice their needs as well as the needs of their communities as they learn. Education provides people, especially women and girls, with the opportunity to exercise their civic participation rights and to have a role in the development of their community and the decision-making processes within their private life. “Reading and writing empowered me and improved my self-esteem. Now, I can write my full name and help my son with his homework. As I learn, I can voice the needs of my village and actively claim them,” says Sharbat Isamil, a woman enrolled in a literacy center in El-Badrasheen.

The GAAE focuses on promoting the concept of lifelong learning through raising awareness that obtaining the literacy certificate is the first step before continuing advanced studies and becoming public servants. Every year, the authority publishes a book titled From Illiteracy to University documenting success stories of learners who continued their studies after the literacy program.

Stories of success, empowerment and inspiration

After exploring the programs and goals of GAAE, we were invited to visit two different classrooms; one in the countryside at El-Badrasheen, where women and girls sit in on the ground and take their class in an open area surrounded with farms and greener, and another urban classroom in El-Gamaleya, Cairo, where learners gather in rooms affiliated with the nearby Al-Salam mosque.

Each of the enrolled learners has a different story, but they all share the same motivation and inspirational dedication to pursue their education. They spoke to us about the difficulties and struggles they went through because of their illiteracy and their paths as they returned to education as adults.

Wafa Ahmed Ali, 50, is a student of El-Gamalya centre. She enrolled two years ago, passed the literacy level and is now in the second year of preparatory school.
“I wanted to learn to be able to communicate with my three children who are all at university. I also wanted to read the Quran and to use the internet. Now, I have a smartphone and I use applications like Facebook and Whatsapp to communicate with my friends,” Ali says.

Rania Ibrahim, 20, is a first-year student at the faculty of commerce; her ambition is to become a businesswoman. “Feeling neglected in the formal schooling system and the lack of attention or care from teachers were the main reasons why I dropped out of school in the third grade. In 2015, I joined the literacy center feeling scared and embarrassed. However, being surrounded by committed teachers and friendly colleagues helped me overcome these feelings,” Ibrahim says.

An iconic figure and the godmother of El-Gamaleya center is Laila Ismail. In 1997, she approached the GAAE to open the center and collected donations to build two classes on top of the mosque’s ablution or Wudu’ area. “When I started I only had one student, she was a woman. After one week, I had 41 students,” Ismail says.
To reach a wider group of people, Ismail cooperated with the imam to announce the program in the mosque. She also designed comics with messages highlighting the importance of literacy that she distributed after the Friday prayers.

“I organize open days in the neighborhood to attract people and introduce the program to them,” Ismail says. “I want to do something for my people; most of the students that I teach were forced to leave education and I want to help them.”

Ismail told us that she still has many ideas to develop the program. She wants to add a digital literacy component to teach learners how to use computers. She also suggested signing an official protocol with the mosque to guarantee that no one would ask them to leave the building.

The dynamo of both literacy centers were the teachers. All learners agreed that they were very supportive and understanding, and that they are always keen to make sure that everyone understands the lessons.

We met with Sabah Darwish, who was herself an adult learner at El-Gamaleya centre and is now a tutor. Darwish obtained her literacy certificate and finished her diploma despite never being admitted to school before. She teaches Arabic and arithmetic to literacy students. “When I enrolled in the literacy program, my life changed and I discovered that much information people used to tell me were false. Now I know how to look for any information I need.”

Khaled Ahmed is also a tutor at the center. He volunteers to teach English and Mathematics. “Education is like medicine. You have to prescribe the right medicine to the diagnosed disease, and that is how I deal with learners. I teach each one according to their needs,” Ahmed says.

He believes the only approach to eradicate illiteracy is to tackle the root causes of school dropouts, including the alleviated financial burdens of formal education and the consequences of private tutoring. Ahmed also capitalizes on raising awareness about the value of education. “The educational process needs to be developed in Egypt, because education is no less important than combating terrorism as it affects the whole country,” Ahmed says.

Such successful women illustrate an inspiring example of willpower and dedication to the key element of empowerment; that is, a person’s agency. They decided to improve their lives as individuals and to have a positive role in their communities through learning and fighting social stigmas. “We are still treated differently in universities and other [formal] institutions because we are literacy program graduates. They think that we are inferior, but my colleagues and I will challenge this perception and prove to the whole world that literacy program graduates, and especially girls, are smart and independent. We will succeed,” Ibrahim says.

3/10/2018 5:04:26 PM
<![CDATA[Hend Sabry: A Woman of Character]]>
This month we get to know her on a much more personal level—as the romantic wife, dedicated mother, loving daughter and friend you can share a laugh with just as well as you could have a deep, existential conversation. And did we mention she’s also professional, punctual and just about one of the sweetest actors we’ve interviewed? Sabry took two hours out of her busy schedule, on a family trip abroad nonetheless, to answer our flood of questions; and the cherry on top of the cake is that she promised to call by 10pm, and call by 10pm sharp she did.

Born in 1979 in Kebli, Tunisia, Sabry studied law and completed a master’s degree in intellectual property and copyright law in 2004; but by then, she had already been acting for about a decade. She started her acting career in 1994 with the Tunisian film Samt El Qosour (The Silence of the Palaces) and starred in The Season of Men in 2000; both movies were directed by Moufida Tlatli. She was then introduced to the Egyptian cinema scene by Inas El Deghedy in 2001 with the film Mozakerat Morahka (The Diary of a Teenager), co-starring alongside Ahmed Ezz.

Over the years she’s worked on movies and dramas tackling the difficulties and stigma facing people, especially women, and she serves as the World Food Program’s regional ambassador. The starlet has received numerous awards for her cinematic career, artistic achievements and her role in tackling key social issues, including an award by the America Abroad Media organization in Washington.

Sabry got married in 2008 and has been blessed with two daughters, Alia and Laila, who are now 6 and 4, respectively. The WFP ambassador and the beautiful inside out Sabry gets up close and personal with Egypt Today about a more intimate, softer side of her and chats about her work, daughters and just how she manages to perfect it all.

WhatsApp Image 2018-03-09 at 16.50.19 (1)

On acting

You’re set to play Pharaonic queen Hatshepsut again in Elkenz II. How important is it to portray influential women on screen?
It was a big honor for me to play the role of Hatshepsut because she was one of the most prominent and powerful women in history. Despite this, she is quite unknown to most people; being such a strong and powerful queen, men tried to conceal her power and erase her from history. So in portraying her character, it was important for me to give her a human aspect; that of a woman with strengths and vulnerabilities. Though she was a ruler, she was a woman with a heart that is full of passion, and a character that is full of weaknesses. She had a huge impact on her country and on her people and the world in general. I like those role-model characters and I am very lucky to have portrayed Hatshepsut.

March marks both International Women’s Day as well as Mother’s Day. To what extent do cinema and TV play a role in portraying women’s issues? Can these platforms actually help address societal problems, offer solutions or even change mindsets?
It depends; cinema and TV in general can have a very liberating role when it comes to women’s issues. On the other hand, they can also have a very limiting and stereotyping role. Unfortunately, most TV series and movies portray women in a stereotypical way in that mold of the weak creature, who depends on men, who is not autonomous or independent and who always follows the male character or reacts to what the male character does and says. This is something that I am personally fighting against, so I always try to portray characters of women in power and in control of their own lives and destinies, or fighting their limitations and circumstances to get a better life because I think one of our duties as actresses is to inspire other women.

Many of your roles have promoted women’s empowerment. How do you feel about the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements sweeping the globe?
I am a big and full supporter of #MeToo and #TimesUp. I find it very ironic that it is gaining momentum among Western countries—where, of course, there are huge gaps in pay and there are huge problems of harassment and workplace harassments—but not in the Middle East, where the gap is even bigger and harassment is not only in the workplace but also in public transportation and on the streets. The problem is bigger here than it is in the West, and yet it is not at all gaining momentum in the Middle East; so it really shows the silence that we impose on ourselves or that is imposed on us. I am a huge supporter of gender equality without pushing the limits to it becoming a general accusation against an entire gender.

Off screen, actors also serve a public duty; you’ve chosen to support the WFP as its ambassador to the region. Tell us about that and how it has affected your perspective on different issues.
Yes, I have been WFP ambassador since 2009, so it has been a long journey that includes field visits and learning more about what the WFP does worldwide, and especially in the region.

We are overwhelmed with the number of refugees and internally displaced people in the region due to ongoing wars over the past six or seven years.
We have presence in Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Yemen; we are simply everywhere, we are a neutral organization and we don’t take sides when it comes to political conflicts. We provide refugees in urban locations or refugee camps with the nutrition they need to be in average, good health.

But we also have other projects that are less linked to crisis, war zones or conflicts; these projects are in collaboration with governments in Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan and Palestine. So we offer food to schools and provide parents who send their children to school with food as well. We offer food in return for work or labor. We also try to help eradicate child labor by providing food portions to families to prevent them from sending their children to work. So it is a very large and broad operation, and that’s why I am very proud of being the WFP ambassador for the region.

WhatsApp Image 2018-03-09 at 16.50.20

In 2017, you topped the Forbes Middle East top 10 Arab actresses list. What did that award mean to you and how do you see your role as an influential actress in the region?
I received it as a surprise and a huge honor. I may not have the biggest number of followers, or the biggest presence on social media, although I try my best. But what I post, according to Forbes Middle East, has an impact on the region; that is really what any actress or celebrity dreams of and looks forward to. So it only means that people who read my posts or watch my movies and soap operas relate to what I say and do; this gives me credit with the audience.

What is the most demanding role that you have played until now and which of your roles has touched or affected you the most?
Actually, most roles I have played till now were very demanding, and it has nothing to do with the genre. The role of Ola Abdelsabbour in the comedy series Ayza Atgwez (I Want to Get Married) was very demanding, despite it being a comedy role. Amina el Shamaa in Halawet el Dunia (The Sweetness of Life) soap opera was also very demanding because of the subject and the theme we were introducing, and because of how relatable Amina’s character is. The roles of Asmaa in Asmaa, Hatshepsut in El Kenz (The Treasure) and Horreya in Ibrahim el Abyyad; every role is demanding in a particular way and is different from the other. But if I have to choose, it would be Ola Abdelsabbour and Amina el Shamaa.
The role that has touched and affected me the most is Amina el Shamaa because of the people we lost to cancer along the way, and how relatable and relevant this role is.

What is your dream role?
I dreamt of performing the role of an ancient Egyptian queen, and it happened with Hatshepsut. I would love to play the role of a feminist like Huda Sharawy, or an Arab woman in the 1950s and 1960s who worked to make a great impact on changing mindsets and evolving and modernizing how the society views women. I also still dream to portray the great Umm Kulthum on the big screen.

Which actor, actress and director do you want to work with the most and why?
They are endless; I really hope I can act again with Maged el Kidwany. I never acted alongside Youssra, so I would love to do that too, and I wish I could have worked with the late, renowned actor Ahmed Zaki.
There are also many directors I would like to work with. I was lucky to have worked with Sherif Arafa, I loved working with him and would love to repeat the cooperation. I also want to work with Marwan Hamed and Yousry Nasrallah, and would have loved to work again with the late Mohamed Khan. There are also many other young people I would love to work with.

WhatsApp Image 2018-03-09 at 16.50.19 (2)

You’ve acted in period dramas and taken on comic, tragic, romantic and social roles. Which is the closest to your heart?
The closet to my heart are the social roles because of the relevance of the subject and the relevance of the treatment as well. Social drama always grabs the attention of the audience more and is easier to get more involved in because the viewer feels part of the relatable story.
Social can also go with many genres; Ayza Atgwez series’ success was due to the fact that it is not pure comedy or fantasy, but rather a social comedy. The series’ theme is very relatable because it discusses girls and marriage in a conservative society. Halawet el Dunia is also a social drama.

What are the one movie and the one soap you consider milestones in your career?
I am lucky enough to have many; for movies I can say Ahla el Awaat (The Best Times) and Omaret Yacoubian (The Yacoubian Building) were milestones in my career. As for TV series, of course Ayza Atgwez was a huge milestone, and so was Halawet el Dunia.
In 2017, you received a number of prominent awards; which one are you most proud of?
I was lucky to receive an award in Washington from the America Abroad Media Organization, and the award of excellence from Cairo International Film Festival, or the Faten Hamama Award, which is the one I am most proud of because this is the first time for someone who is not originally from Egypt to get this award, in addition to it being associated with an iconic actress that we all love and respect. So yes, I am very proud of the Faten Hamama Excellence Award.

Are you working on a TV series for Ramadan 2018?
No, I usually take a one-year break between TV series as they are hectic. I have a family, so I have to balance between work and family, so my next soap opera will hopefully be in 2019.

What are your plans for the future? Are you considering an international career?
I believe that I am leading an international career, I portrayed characters in movies that were internationally critically acclaimed. So not large audiences, but the press and film critics around the world knew about it, whether in Tunisia or in Egypt, so that is good enough for me. The rest is pure luck and timing.

On motherhood

How do you balance between the multiple roles you play in your life as an actress, mother, wife, daughter and even a friend? Which role takes priority?
My family is my absolute priority, which includes my father, my mother, my two daughters and my husband; all of them are my first priority. It is true that sometimes things get blurry but most of the times it is clear to me.
Balancing my different duties is actually very difficult; so I view myself as a chairman of the board of a company who should perform multiple roles at the same time, I also try to exercise sports, be a good friend and to have some fun from time to time. So the balance is quite difficult. I really feel for every mother who has a career, and despite this chooses to keep a life of her own.

WhatsApp Image 2018-03-09 at 16.50.19

How do you manage maintaining a tight ship at home and staying close to your daughters when you have such a demanding job with long, unexpected hours?
The first thing is that I explain to my family, especially my daughters, the hardships of my job. They know that it is tough and that I always try to do my best but sometimes, I find myself unable to do everything. My relationship with my daughters is built on honesty. I take them on set when they want to so that they learn about my life on set and so that my job is not just a mystery to them. I am a perfectionist, so I don’t know how I manage; it consumes a lot of energy from me but at the end, I manage.

Can you describe a day in the life of Hend during shooting season?
I don’t sleep, it is usually 24 hours of hard work, and the few hours I spend at home I try to spend with my girls. It is basically sleepless days and nights, a lot of waiting on set, I try to read or watch something. But it is during shooting seasons that I am more focused because when I am not shooting, I usually do more things; so it gets even busier and more chaotic.

Tell us more about your day-to-day life. Do you wake up early with your kids to prepare them for school? What’s your morning and night ritual as a mother?
I wake up early and I drive my girls to school but not every day, of course. Morning rituals include working out as well. Then our night routine is that I read a story to my daughters, or we watch something together before putting them to bed, and then I’d also go to bed early.

Tell us about your support network. Who helps around with your kids when you are spending long hours on set?
I have a great support system, my mother helps around with the kids; without her I wouldn’t have been able to juggle both. My husband is always very supportive, he usually spends a lot of time with them when I am on set.

WhatsApp Image 2018-03-09 at 16.50.20 (1)

How has motherhood changed your personality?
Motherhood made me more grounded, but also more anxious; but sometimes it calms me down and pushes me to save my energy for the little ones.

What are the principles and values that you are keen to instill in your daughters?
They are many; but basically I try to instill values like always being kind, nice, polite and empathetic with others, especially with people who are different from them or those they can’t relate to.

Are you friends with your daughters or do you think that there should be a limit between a mother and her children that they shouldn’t cross?
I always try to be a good friend to my daughters and build a strong relationship with them so they can tell me everything, and in return, I also tell them everything. I think there should be a limit between the mother and her children only in terms of respect but not in terms of what should be said. I believe children should be able to reveal everything and express all their feelings in front of their mothers, there shouldn’t be any secrets between us.

What are the main parenting obstacles you face while raising your daughters? How do you overcome them?
I faced many parenting obstacles; sometimes you fluctuate between being too strict and being too flexible or passive. You also never know what is the right balance between exerting authority and letting go a bit. I don’t always overcome these obstacles, I am not perfect, I will always have my weak points as a mother, just like any other mother; there are no perfect parents.

What are the tips that you want to give other mothers to help them while dealing with their children?
To believe that there is no perfect parent and to be ok with making mistakes. There are no set guidelines to be a good parent; you learn with time.

This generation is clearly difficult to deal with; and most millennials feel a sense of entitlement to everything: How are you managing that?
I am not yet dealing with this age as my daughters are still young but I am bracing myself for what is to come. I think empathy is the key to fight the sense of entitlement, exposing children to different situations, different social circumstances and different worlds; exposure in general is key.

How has your work with the WFP affected your attitude toward motherhood and the extravagant demands of today’s kids?
The good thing is that my daughters are fully aware of what I am doing. I talk to them a lot about the kids I meet and encounter during my trips with the WFP and the refugee camps. So they know that they are lucky compared to other children and they know that they are only lucky by coincidence and that anything can happen at anytime to anyone. It is very important to give them that sense of empathy toward others because others’ situation is not that far from them; making them feel that we are all interconnected so we can make someone else’s life better.

How do you feel generations have changed? And are we better off as women with more rights than our mothers and grandmothers?
I don’t think so, actually, and my TedxWomen talk was about that. I think my mother’s generation was better than ours, we received most of those privileges on a silver platter but they had to fight to join universities, work after marriage or convince their parents that life is not only about raising children. We are lucky to have this generation as our mothers and grandmothers. So I think that they should get more credit than us; the path that they took, nobody took it before them, so they became multitaskers, they made careers, they raised us, they raised a generation that is now running this world. We are better off in terms of having more rights and privileges than they enjoyed, but I don’t think we are better off as women than the previous generations.

Screen Sensation Hend Sabry’s Most Iconic Roles
Sabry collaborated with Khaled Abul Naga, Salah Abdalah, and Shaaban Abdel Rehim in Mowaten Wi Mokhber Wi Haramy (A Citizen, a Detective and a Thief), directed by the veteran Daoud Abdel Sayed. Abdel Sayed surprised everyone by nominating her for the role of an Egyptian girl in the movie; and by then, Sabry had put all her studious skills to work and perfected the Egyptian dialect so well that we often forget she’s Tunisian.

She went on to play many acclaimed roles in films like Halet Hob (A State of Love), Ahla El-Awqat (The Best Times), Malek Wi Ketaba (Heads and Tails), Omaret Yacoubian (The Yacoubian Building), Asmaa, Al Gezira (The Island), Heliopolis, Banat West El-Balad (Downtown Girls), Ouija and Genent Al Asmak (The Aquarium). She also starred in various TV series, including Veritgo, the satirical take on post-revolutionary Egypt Emberatoreyet Meen and various others. Her latest movie, El Kenz, portrayed a snippet of the life of ancient Egyptian queen Hatshepsut.

On the small screen, Sabry presented issues like the stress on women to get married and the difficulties they face in the process through her role in Aiza Atgawez (I Want to Get Married). Her latest TV drama tackled the journey of a cancer patient through the various stages and the impact the disease has on a patient’s loved one through Halawet El Donia (The Sweetness of Life).

3/9/2018 4:44:00 PM
<![CDATA[Your Guide to D-CAF’s Latest Edition]]>
For the very first time, Egypt’s only multi-disciplinary, international contemporary arts festival will be inaugurated outside the downtown Cairo area, with the opening music concert set to take place at Al-Azhar Park. And as it sets off on International Women’s Day, this year’s event has been planned as a special women’s edition, D-CAF Founder and Artistic Director Ahmed El-Attar tells Egypt Today.

“The opening concert will feature outstanding local, regional and international female musicians from different genres,” Attar reveals. On top of that, the festival provides a 50 percent voucher for all female attendees.

Established in 2012, D-CAF has been held for three weeks in March and April for the past five years and is now in its seventh edition.

“What makes this year special,” he adds, “is that the festival offers free tickets of theatre, dance and musical concerts to civil organizations for refugees, disabled people and orphans, giving them a chance to come and see these events.” A crowd-funding campaign has been launched to help offer free shows and affordable tickets for D-CAF performances.


From Arab Arts Focus, to directors forum, disability shows and much more, D-CAF’s unique program is taking place in some of the most spectacular downtown theatres and cinemas, as well as renowned historic and cultural locations in the centre of the city, such as the recently restored Maq’ad of Sultan Qaitbey and Al Alfy Bey Street in Downtown. “Performing in streets would enable all Egyptians to see different contemporary arts shows, spreading this modern art among them and reviving it,” Attar says.

Aiming to shed light on cutting-edge Arab talents, the festival is once again featuring the Arab Arts Focus section, where gifted Egyptian, Moroccan, Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian actors are invited to present their stories through unique performances, including Egyptian actor Ramsi Lehner and Syrian actress Nanda Mohammad.

The festival is also hosting, for the fourth time, a four-day Arab Contemporary Art Forum, where international fim and theater directors are invited to witness Egyptian and Arab arts, to eventually “market Arab creativity across the world,” Attar says.

Pursuing its long-term mission to use the power of art in breaking misperceptions toward persons with disabilities and raising awareness of their great ability, the 2018 edition is offering several street performances by dancers and actors with disabilities. The festival’s film and literature program also includes an Irish film, Sanctuary, shown in Egypt for the first time, and two symposia about the concept of disability, given by national and international experts.

“In last year’s edition, Europe’s oldest band of persons with mental disabilities introduced a sparkling international dance show, which the crowd cheered in appreciation of, as they felt like anything is possible [for anyone to do],” Attar says.


“When we present the arts of people with disability in streets, to be watched whether by interested audiences or a passerby, we correct the misconceptions in our community about those people by showcasing their talents,” he adds.

The festival is also cooperating with Medrar Institution for Visual Art to organize a “Meet the Artist” open studio, offering a six-month training program for eight young Egyptian artists under the supervision of professional artists, giving them a chance to acquire creative skills in contemporary arts, Attar says.

“This is a new experience, as we will continue working after the festival. Their works would probably be presented in September. But, during the festival, audience members interested in visual arts could pass through the studio to see them while working,” he explains.

With its distinguished international contemporary arts in genres ranging from interactive and dance theater, visual arts and more, D-CAF has managed to attract more and more followers over the years, mostly youth who relate to the opinions, visions and performances they witness in the festival.

“Holding the events in different places such as streets, apartments and rooftops, along with cinemas and theaters. allows for a variety of audiences,” Attar notes. He cites the example of a special show that is now in the sixth edition, where 15-year-old children performed on the roof of the Greek Campus, expressing their vision for the next 20 years.

Despite its successive accomplishments, the festival is still facing some challenges as it struggles to preserve its position among international contemporary art festivals, Attar reveals. One of these challenges is funding, as the festival does not receive any governmental support, especially in light of the economic upheaval Egypt is facing. “To resolve this problem, we cooperate with many embassies to cover the expense of the international artists and performers,” he concludes.
3/7/2018 7:19:22 PM
<![CDATA[How love works beyond the Time of Cholera]]>
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s "Love in the Time of Cholera" is a true portrayal of human nature and what it entails in needs and deeds.

While the novel did not live up to my expectations, one cannot deny that Garcia Marquez is successful in illustrating his moral vividly: love is unlimited, can occur in any place, at any time, and in any form. Albeit in his book it was always sexual (and one cannot help but question if it can be defined as ‘love’), he nevertheless managed to build a successful, engrossing fictitious network of lovers, spanning decades and eras.

The most prominent aspect of his book, and perhaps the one most underrated, was the characters he built. Yes, they fulfilled their roles as needed, but they did not feel real, despite the author’s intention. The story was meant to portray the reality of love, which never happens smoothly or easily, but the characters were the book’s hugest shortcoming. From their inception to their development, they felt like paper men; two-dimensional, as though their impact didn’t extend beyond the page they were on. Garcia Marquez failed to create an innate bond between the reader and the characters.

Nonetheless, one must take into consideration that the book was set in an era very different from our own. In our era, there are no Florentino Arizas chasing after Fermina Dazas for half-centuries. Not that many, anyway.

In this day and age, we have exes fighting over who moves on first, who starts dating again first and who seems happier post-breakup. My intention here is not to favor one plot over the other, but to highlight the differences between both.

People love in all sorts of different ways and maybe it is difficult to relate because of the different perspectives on the matter. You’ve got Kahlil Gibran telling you, “make not a bond of your love,” and modern-day spiritualists highlighting the importance of an individual’s awareness of his/her own self and the role they play in any relationship. Then comes Garcia Marquez playing a somewhat similar but what can be deemed as a “dysfunctional” symphony, presenting a love story that feels more like a tragedy despite its happy ending.

While all of this is good and well, one fact remains unchanged through all eras and times: The protagonist, Florentino Ariza, was definitely sold short in the initial stages of his development and that is why he didn’t end up with the love of his life 50 years earlier. Even though his lovers favored him for his fortitude and incessantness, he was nevertheless constantly belittled by the only woman he relentlessly cared for. We can’t claim that he was the underdog, no, Garcia Marquez wanted him to be less than average, even in terms of physical attractiveness. He wanted Florentino Ariza to be the type of character that in our day and age would always end up with a “Thanks for the Effort” trophy, but never the prize.

Fermina Daza, initially in love with the heartsick Ariza, slowly grows into his complete opposite. While he lives in a haphazard manner; she has everything calculated. A pragmatist at heart, (and I use pragmatist very loosely; she’s an opportunist as well) she belittles Ariza and marries the prominent physician instead. She jumps on the train of marriage solely because she was scared she would miss it forever, and because she liked the prospects Dr. Juvenal Urbino might have. An equivalent of a modern-day gold-digger, if you want to argue that. She knew how much Florentino Ariza loved her, but even she treated him with disdain and couldn’t fathom loving a man who was simply falling all over himself for her.

But when one looks at the matter with today’s perspective of a relationship, most women also wouldn’t. It’s not a defense of Fermina Daza’s behavior, only an observation. A group of researchers at the University of Graz, Austria undertook a research study in 2016 to test for the attractive traits each of men and women seek. With 90 participants engaged in the study, the results showed that women were more attracted to men with “Dark Triad” personality traits. Dark Triad personality traits refers to men characterized with psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism. In other words, men who are impulsive, manipulative, vain, opportunistic, selfish and who don a trail of superiority in the air surrounding them.

At the point of his inception, Florentino Ariza is only a shadow of a character and his love interest even notes so: “She [Fermina Daza] said: ‘It is as if he were not a person but only a shadow.’ That is what he was: the shadow of someone whom no one had ever known.” Ariza’s entire life is spent solely loving her; Fermina Daza. He knows nothing else, but only how to love her. On its own, that is one of the book’s saddest concepts and one of the biggest hallmarks of a person’s failing sense of individuality.

Quite ironically, some 500 affairs later, Florentino Ariza transforms into an embodiment of the Dark Triad personality traits. Although lacking in some of the traits, he exhibits most at one point or the other during his development. His Dark Triad even peaks in his last affair, when he lures a 12-year-old girl into sleeping with him, who eventually takes her own life at 17 when he reunites with Fermina Daza and refrains from sleeping with her again.

At the end of the day though, when he finally ends up with Fermina Daza, we see his Dark Triad fading and he becomes the person he was from the beginning; that is to say, the writer used Florentino Ariza’s greatest love to redeem him and his story.

Garcia Marquez delivered a product that fulfilled its very purpose; he managed to create characters that we wouldn’t love easily and allowed us to become privy to their most heinous moments. If they had existed within our close circle of friends, we would find them difficult to understand. Up close and uncomfortable, the characters teach us that even at one’s worst, one is loved. In Paolo Coelho’s words, “One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving.” Such was the message of the book’s most prominent passage:

With her Florentino Ariza learned what he had already experienced many times without realizing it: that one can be in love with several people at the same time, feel the same sorrow with each, and not betray any of them. Alone in the midst of the crowd on the pier, he said to himself in a flash of anger: 'My heart has more rooms than a whorehouse.’
3/6/2018 8:54:12 PM
<![CDATA[Maria Una: Making It in the Hollywood of the Middle East]]>
Maria Una (born Maria Orlova) is one of those few artists. Una first got into acting and modeling in Egypt after an accidental meeting with film director Tarek al-Arian. She was then spotted in many bit part roles on Egyptian TV and in films, before becoming a popular face in TV commercials and print advertising.

“I was born in the Russian northeastern city of Arkhangelsk,” Una tells Egypt Today. Like many Russian girls at early childhood, Una took dancing and singing lessons, which fostered her curiosity about the arts while growing up. Eventually, she joined the local art secondary school then received a bachelor’s degree in art history studies.

After her graduation in 2009, Una visited Egypt for a vacation, following an invitation from her best friend and classmate who had opened a hairdressing salon in Hurghada. Once she arrived there, ten months before the Egyptian revolution in 2011, another friend of hers helped her get an audition as an extra on a film that happened to be shot by the sea; Walls of the Moon (Aswar al-Kamar), directed by al-Arian and starring Mona Zaki, Asser Yassin and Amr Saad. “Instead of being an extra, the producers gave me a speaking role, the girlfriend of Amr Saad’s character, which became my Egyptian film debut,” she says.

However, the film was delayed for five years and only saw the light in 2015. By then, Una had moved to Cairo where she became a sought-after model and actress. “During that period, I did many TV commercials, but the most memorable ones were for Cancan Chocolate in 2012 and for Glysolid Cream in 2014,” she says.

With Adel Imam on set of Adly Allam's Ghosts (1)
With Adel Imam on set of Adly Allam's Ghosts

Una’s next career move came with the great star Adel Imam in his Ramadan series Naguy Attalah’s Squad (2012). “In the episodes, I played a cabaret artist who became the girlfriend of Mohamed Imam’s character, but we soon discover she is an undercover agent,” she explains. “I only knew some words in Arabic like yalla, shukran and maa elsalama, so I had a dialogue coach who translated the dialogue for me into English and helped me with the Arabic pronunciation.” Flash forward to Ramadan 2017, Una reunited again with Imam in Adly Allam’s Ghosts, where she played one of the ghosts appearing to Imam’s title character. “Although my Arabic has improved, this time, my role was a silent one where I appear as a speechless ghost,” she says with a laugh.

In 2017, Una landed her first starring role in the narrative short film Oil: The Three Appearances, directed by Fady Gamal Atallah. The film revolves around an artist who encounters a mysterious girl three times during his life: The first when he was a little boy as she guides him to discover his talent in painting, the second when he became an adult as she inspires him to achieve his masterpiece. Finally, she tells him goodbye when he becomes an old man. “I play the muse to this painter,” explains Una, who will soon start promoting the short movie at film festivals I am enthusiastic to attend film festivals like El Gouna’s because it’s where I met many Egyptian and international stars,” she adds.

Una’s upcoming project is a collective series of film projects where the cast and crew are all women from Egypt and other countries. “The project is led by Egyptian independent filmmaker Ghada Ali, who is seeking new means to tell stories from different perspectives,” explains Una, who joined the project without hesitation. “Our first step was to meet many filmmakers and producers during the first edition of El Gouna Film Festival last September to seek ways of kickstarting our first feature film entitled In Another Place,” she adds.

Since her arrival Una has been taking in both Egyptian and Arab culture as background research to her roles. “I think I have developed a personal thermometer to know who is serious and who is not among many people I meet on a daily basis. You must have it, if you want to continue working in the entertainment business.”
3/3/2018 9:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Islamo-phobia: A Message of Peace, Love and Unity]]>
Abigoted teacher puts down a student for wearing a hijab; the other students refer to them as “terrorists.” At a restaurant, customers start to leave because they see one woman wearing a hijab.

A mosque is set on fire by arsonists. All of these are scenes from an upcoming movie, but they might as well be real-life stories of refugees living in Europe and the U.S. today. Speaking about his upcoming movie starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Turkish director Omar Sarikaya says Islamo-Phobia is a story that needs to be told, particularly in light of current events.

Following the journey of Amina and her son Omar, two refugees who escaped from Bosnia in 1992 and headed to the Netherlands where, years later, as a student at the University of Rotterdam, Omar continues to be haunted, the huge production “aims to defend Islam’s image in front of other countries that do not know the truth about Islam, especially in this critical period where most European countries and the U.S. suffer from Islamophobia,” explains Sarikaya. Egypt Today chats with Sarikaya, discussing the ambitious film’s message and the universal notion that cinema is a common language understood by the whole world.

What’s the idea behind this movie?

Islamophobia literally means the extreme fear of Islam and Muslims, an irrational hostile understanding due to discrimination and prejudice. The Islamophobia Europe is currently suffering from is hostility, prejudice, discrimination, hate and racism against Islam. In addition, most of the world suffers from anti-Semitism, anti-Russian sentiment and anti-African sentiments. The movie will showcase the traumatic effects of prejudice and discrimination against Muslim refugees. Every movie changes something in the minds of its audience, channelling their thoughts and ideas in a certain direction.

What perceptions are you hoping to change with IslamoPhobia?

Does every Christian or European hate Islam? No. Is every Muslim a terrorist? No. Is Islam a religion that promotes violence? Of course not. Islamo-Phobia will work to make everyone watching ask himself/ herself these three questions. Viewers will realize the answers at the end of the movie. Our mission through Islamo-Phobia is to provide a practical visual answer to these questions. We want every viewer to strongly believe that Islam is not based on terrorism. The film will portray the true meaning of peace, love, unity, respect, compassion and, most importantly, mercy. Without any kind of exaggeration, Islamo-Phobia tackles the most important principles in the world, which are peace and tolerance, which if rightly understood will make for a better world full of justice and happiness.

How would you categorize the movie?

Islamo-Phobia is a peace, charity and solidarity film that consolidates the concepts of compassion, mercy and blessing. The film is an epic feature-length movie of approximately 130 minutes. Islamo-Phobia will be filmed in Turkey, the Netherlands, Germany, the United states and Egypt. Its genre is drama, action and romance. The movie will be executed with the highest of Hollywood standards. Islamo-Phobia is a film that defends contemporary Islam and carries a message of tolerance towards all religions. It will participate in the most prestigious film festivals around the world to widely spread its message to the largest segment of people. Our aim is to be nominated for the Oscars and receive a Nobel Prize for peace. We target that over 300 million people will watch Islamo-Phobia. We’ve already shot almost 30 percent of the movie and my plan is to shoot about 25 percent of it in Egypt in front of the Giza Pyramids. The film will be released this year.

Tell us about the movie cast.

We have actors and actress from 48 countries who are participating in this peaceful mission. The most famous are Belgian megastar Jean Claude Van Damme, American star Daniel Baldwin, famous American actor Chris Mulkey, Egyptian-Italian actor Fabio Abraham, American actress Bobbie Phillips, American-Turkish actor Adam Dormi, Italian actress Antonella Salvucci, Spanish actor Jesus Sans and French actor Aksel Ustun, among others.. All these actors and actresses are joining the movie as vol-unteers because this is a non-profit movie. None of them will be paid because they all strongly believe that this movie is a step toward world peace. This indicates how important a movie like Islamo-Phobia is.

How will you finance it?

I will produce Islamo-Phobia along with an English production company, with logistic aids granted from the Dutch and the Turkish governments. The production company is responsible for accommodation, food, catering and travel expenses. Producers, co-producers and writers will be paid for their own efforts, on a deferred basis, which means that they will get paid only when the film is released and if there is net profit. All the investors and sponsors will get their money back, but without any kind of profit. The profits of the movie will be fully dedicated to charity work and humanitarian aid under the UNICEF umbrella. Cast and crew members will get credit on IMDB and the film will be distributed on blue ray, DVDs, VOD (video on demand). There will be a world premiere for the movie.

Going back to the film’s message, why is there so much Islamophobia in Europe today?

One of the main reasons is the cruel and inhuman acts of terrorist organizations that have emerged in the Islamic world, especially after the 9/11 attack, in addition to the terrorist attacks in Western countries carried out by Muslims. Such acts are wrongfully reflected and somewhat distorted in Western media and public opinion. However, it is not the Western countries but it is those Muslims who are incomparably the biggest targets and victims of those terrorist organizations and their cruel acts in their own countries, resulting in loss of lives and devastation. There are various strategies prepared to counter terrorism at the international and national levels. It would be useful to know how these strategies, directly or indirectly, address Islamophobia. One of the main aims of this movie is to discuss the role of terrorism in spreading Islamophobia, and to analyze the relationship between counter-terrorism policies and Islamophobia.

Can cinema help eliminate Islamophobia?

Cinema is an effective tool in eliminating Islamophobia. What we need to do is not to wait for others to portray Islam and introduce it in their cinema with a wrong image, we must go to them with subjective movies like Islamo-Phobia telling them what the real Islam is, and how it sends a message of peace to all the other religions. The movie will highlight the coexistence of the three religions by presenting three families, one Christian, one Jewish and one Muslim, illustrating how they [live] alongside each other. It highlights how, despite politics separating the families, they remain cohesive, mutually supportive in critical times. The bonds between them remain strong and firm and the families remain united to ward off a great danger that threatens them all during the movie.

Why did more than eight Arab countries refuse to finance the movie at the same time that Israel offered to fund production?

Eight Arab Islamic countries refused to finance the movie, but I refused the Israeli offer to produce the movie. Unfortunately we didn’t get any help from any Arab country despite the fact that a number of them are rich. Only the mayor of Antalya-Turkey helped us a little bit. The rest of the Muslim countries didn’t help us because IslamoPhobia promotes the real side of Islam. I think these Arab countries don’t like what we are doing because it’s for peace. These Arab countries should be ashamed of themselves.
3/2/2018 11:25:31 AM
<![CDATA[Celebrity Tattoos & The Stories Behind Them]]>
Ghada Abdelrazek

Ghada Abdelrazek - Archive
Ghada Abdelrazek

Ghada Abdelrazek rocks three tattoos: the word “Faith” in English on her right arm, the word “Determination” in Arabic on her left arm, and a third one on the fourth finger of her right hand that appears tor ead “7.”

On the 10 p.m. show with Wael Elebrashy, Abdelrazek was asked about the meaning of her tattoos, to which she replied, “They are the two things I believe in and go by in my life.” She never, however, explained what the number seven means to her. Abdelrazek went on to emphasize that determination is everything for her, it has gotten her where she is today. Meanwhile, faith is what gets her through every day. When asked by Elebrashy if she means faith in the content of the movies, soap operas and series she presents and the messages conveyed in them, Abdelrazek replied, “Yes, but also faith in general. Faith in God. Faith in Everything.”

Amr Diab

Amr Diab

Since 2009, the superstar has been wooing his audience with new tattoos, which he usually reveals with the release of each new album. Starting with the album Wayah (With Her), Diab has gotten multiple tattoos, all of which are tributes to his family and convey his love and appreciation for them.

In 2009, the singer got two tattoos on each arm in celebration of his children. The one of his left arm says “Abdullah” in Arabic, the name of his only son, while the one on his right arm reads Jana, Kenzy and Nour in calligraphy, although the design is difficult to read. After his parents passed away, Diab got both their names inked on his right forearm, “Abdelbaset and Roqaya,” in Arabic calligraphy to honor them.

With the superstar’s latest album, another tattoo was released, this time in English. On his chest, the tattoo reads “Stamina,” representing his ability to stay on top of the music industry for more than 30 years—not to mention maintain a rigorous workout routine to keep up a youthful appearance. During his career, the singer has been able to develop and evolve his music and style and never fade out, something that takes determination and stamina.

Diab also has his birthday written in Latin numbers on his calf, shown for the first time during the video clip for his song “Gamalo” (Her Beauty).

Ahmed El Fishawy

Feshawy - tattoo 3

We can’t talk about celebrity tattoos and not mention El Fishawy; one of the most controversial inked artists in the Arab world. The Sheikh Jackson star sports dozens of tattoos all over his body, all of which, according to an interview with him on El-Leila Di show, has a meaning. “I have become addicted to getting tattoos and their pain,” El Fishawy said on the show.

Feshawy - do not drink and drive tattoo
Ahmed El Fishawy

Getting his first tattoo over 10 years ago, the actor has covered his torso, neck and arms with some of the principles he stands for, like “Don’t drink and drive,” and the Camel cigarettes’ logo with the word “kills” under it, as well as others that express his personality. He also has “Omy” (Arabic for my mother) and “Aby” (Arabic for my father) tattooed on his right and left arms.

Mai Ezz Eldin

Mai Ezz Eldin - Archive
Mai Ezz Eldin

The actress has several tattoos which all make her “happier and stronger,” she told Hia Magazine.

“I once got two new tattoos at a difficult time in my life. It was a difficult period for me; I was depressed,” she revealed to the the Dubai-based magazine. “Tattoos are addictive and you miss the feeling of getting one… You find yourself slipping and wanting another one, and without realizing, you have one more tattoo.”

The most prominent tattoo she has is the word “Princess,” one of Mai Ezz Eldin’s nicknames, and a crown over it inked on her forearm. In an interview with Hend Reda on Nogoum FM radio station, Ezz Eldin explained that her favorite nickname given to her by her fans is “Princess,” which is why she got it inked. “I like this title because it does not [pigeonhole] me into a specific category. For example, I have also been called ‘The Queen of Drama,’ but I do not like it as much as I like ‘Princess’ because there are many great actresses with me in the field, many of whom have been around longer than I have,” she said. “I am called a princess, I feel, for a reason. It is not me showing off. It is linked to the song from the movie Omar and Salma, a movie that is extremely dear to me. And, I like Disney princesses too! I like it when people compare my look in the wedding scene in the movie Omar and Salma to a princess. It makes me happy.”

Ezz Eldin got the tattoo to record her life-changing journey as Salma in the movie, a major milestone in her acting career. She also has a flower on her shoulder, foot and ribs.

Hannah Zahed

Hanna Zahed - Archive 1
Hannah Zahed

Hannah Zahed got her favorite quote “Le meilleur est à venir,” French for “the best is yet to come,” inked on her shoulder blade while filming in Croatia. Commenting on her tattoo to Fuchsia YouTube channel, Zahed said, “This is my favorite quote. I have written it on everything.”

The message of hope speaks to the bubbly, hopeful, forward-looking personality of the actress. Timeless, the quote signifies that each day is better than the one before and that the best hasn’t yet arrived, signalling that one should always look forward to the future and have faith in life.

Asser Yassin

Screen Shot 2018-01-27 at 11.33.55 PM
Asser Yassin - Courtesy of Star Ink Official FB

Asser Yassin, or The King of Clubs as he puts it on Instagram, recently got an artistic club shape inked at Star Ink, who posted photos of Yassin during his visit and his tattoo on their social media accounts.

Yassin seems to have a thing for clubs, which was featured on the video clip he directed and starred in for Wust El Balad’s “Al-Ekhtelaf Al-Moa’talef” (Our Familiar Difference). The king of clubs generally represents good character and loyalty as well as knowledge, wisdom and maturity.

Club suits represent summer and earth. The summer symbol behind Yassin’s club tattoo signifies youth, discovering new things and being an outgoing person, while the earth element symbolizes him being well grounded, with high productivity and creativity levels and a capacity to change his ideas into something tangible.

Dalia El Behery

- Archive 2داليا البحيرى1 (3)
Dalia El Behery

The former model sports two tattoos: one on her right shoulder blade and another one on her left arm. The latter reads “Kesmat” in Arabic letters, her daughter’s name. To celebrate motherhood and as a tribute to her daughter, El Behery took Kesmat to a photo session on Mother’s Day where they were photographed together, and got her name inked. The actress tragically lost her daughter, Khadija, who suffered a rare disease and passed away aged eight months.
3/2/2018 9:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Tales of Ink: Love, Life and Loss]]>
My friend was disappointed when I returned to Egypt proudly tattooed. He was scared for me, and he was the only one who stood up for what he perceived to be my sake. But I never got to explain why I would risk so much for a tattoo most people didn’t know I had. It wasn’t for them; and he knew that, but I never said more.

To me, getting a tattoo was not a whim or a desire to ride the wave of popularity. Not at all. Getting a tattoo is akin to marking one’s growth on the bedroom’s door sill.

If you’re waiting for the reason, there isn’t one; it was a culmination of blows. In 2015, I had broken apart so much it was, to me at least, a miracle I am still to put together. I witnessed my mother undergo her first year of dialysis and it hit me that I no longer had the luxury of being foolish or irresponsible. I was 19, but I had missed my entire childhood it seemed. I blinked and suddenly I was now in charge of taking care of her.

I was barely holding at the seams. Even if I had mentioned it passing or even complained sometimes about how hard it was for me, I never really said anything I felt. It was just a rule for me; I never say exactly how I feel. I always say the ‘adjacent feeling,’ the neighboring one, the one that isn’t dominating or isn’t going to bother me for long.

But poet Dante Collin once said that tragedy was synonymous with silence, and the phrase has stuck with me ever since. “When my uncle was killed we had to send out a search party to find my father’s voice,” Collin recited. I, on the other hand, hadn’t recognized that I needed to send a search party for mine.

When I looked around me and decided to ask several other people who had tattoos why they’d done it, I found that most of them were doing the same thing I was; trying to hold onto something.

“‘Hallelujah’ [the word he got tattooed on his arm] played a part in reminding me that things get better, despite how bad it seems at the time or despite how you think you won’t grow out stronger and better; you will, eventually. Anytime I feel the same way, I remember all the times I worked my way out of whatever [hardship] was going on, what I call a ‘Hallelujah Point,’” Mina Ghattas Ayoub explains during an online interview. Ayoub wanted something to hold onto; a whistle, a lighthouse, a lifebuoy.

Photo Dec 13, 1 55 51 PM
Mirit Agaiby - Photo by Hend Hodhod

Trapped in a toxic relationship for over a year, Mariam Naghi got a bird tattooed close to her heart to remind her that freedom wasn’t a lifeless chant in a rally. Eventually, her ink has become a part of who she is. “At first, it was really exciting and I couldn’t stop obsessing over it. Then it became a part of me like it’s always been there, you know?” she says.

Mohamed ElBegirmy got a phrase tattooed on his arm from the novel The Spiritualist. “The problem of the people is that they are not in control of their emotions. To deny is to invite madness and to accept is to control,” the novel read, and ElBegirmy got the second sentence inked on his forearm because it spoke to him. He got tattooed to conquer.

Nour Khaled chronicled loss and release with a little balloon drawn above her ankle. “It symbolized letting go, of my grandfather and in general, and making sure I always keep my inner child alive,” she says. It also symbolizes “happiness with simplicity,” she adds.

We all wanted—one way or the other—to hold onto something. To say something and to show it. We wanted to celebrate. We wanted to tell the world that we can handle this. So, we all chose a symbol of strength, a starting point and a finish line, and we all marked how far we’d go between the markers we put down for ourselves.

Ayoub chose a prayer and a compass with his mother right in the middle to remember where he’s going and where he came from. ElBegirmy chose a wakeup call, Naghi chose a pair of wings, and Khaled chose to accept letting go. There were others who were simply celebrating life and their own selves; to simply say “this is who I am.”

WhatsApp Image 2018-01-26 at 7.19.40 PM Photo courtesy of Mina Ghattas Ayoub

Shahir Eskander, a physicist by profession and a musician by passion, opted for a tattoo that would display his two passions in life. Combining two designs together, one to do with physics and the other to do with music, he came up with his own portrayal. It took him three years to find the right one.

It was the same for Laila Said, who dons a yin and yang right below the back of her neck. “I’ve always felt a connection with nature, and I’m happiest when I’m near the sea and mountains. My tattoo is basically the yin and yang symbol, with the sea on one side and the mountains on the other. It resembles the unity of life, the wholesomeness of nature in and of itself and within me at the same time. My two favorite elements of nature and I am not complete without either.”

As for me, I was becoming. I was becoming a survival mechanism; I was becoming, whether I liked it or not, someone else. Someone my surroundings required. So I chose a phoenix because they consume themselves by themselves into better, stronger creatures. They die unto themselves and are reborn of themselves: a natural process unfolding unseen, unheard; in solitude, silently.

Our bodies sustain wounds and scars all the time; some heal and some don’t. I can’t stop my skin from randomly getting torn by a broken wooden rod and I couldn’t help my leg from scarring that time I fell on coral reefs by the beach. I don’t deny my scars; but why should I be held back from showing you one that I couldn’t speak about? What’s the difference? Is flesh really more
valuable than what is inside?

I got tattooed because I wanted an anchor. Everyone seemed scared of permanent and I craved it badly. Maybe that was the thing for me: I was so heartbroken over everything; I was losing with time that I just wanted one thing, one thing that
would still be constant.

Two years and a half later, that tattoo has become akin to that scar that I’ve had on the back of my left hand ever since I was two: it never changes and I never mind.

WhatsApp Image 2018-01-26 at 7.19.39 PMPhoto courtesy of Mina Ghattas Ayoub ]]>
3/1/2018 9:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Special Olympics athletes ... get to know them ]]>
On the international arena, Abdel Moneim is representing Egypt in summits and conferences all around the world as the official spokesperson for hundreds of thousands of Egyptian athletes with ID, who are all as impressive as she is.

But we don’t get to learn about the proud achievements of people like Abdel Moneim, nor do most of us think about integrating and understanding them, something Special Olympics aim to change. Surveys conducted by the international Special Olympics Committee reveal that a lot of us have had either no contact at all or only superficial contact with persons with disabilities during our lifetime, ranging from 13 to 47 percent in different countries.

special olympics
Sondos gives a speech at the opening event of Egypt’s Special Olympics National Games

Waiting for my interview at the office of Special Olympics in Cairo, a young man stepped in and sat by my side. Recognizing he has a certain ID, I was clueless what I should do. But the 28-year-old swimming champion initiated the conversation and led it brilliantly; I found myself telling him about my job and my family and in a few minutes, Mohamed Gaballah happily told me, “We are now friends.” For the first time I realized how ignorant I actually was and how urgent it is to raise public awareness about these forgotten and unfairly excluded members of our society.

Persons with disabilities are gradually granted a lot of their overdue rights and the public debate is gaining momentum every day. Nevertheless, too many people are still holding on to false perceptions and stereotypes that are standing in the way of adequately including these, not different, but “special” individuals.

Distorted assumptions and obsolete generalizations in most societies still set a significant barrier against the individual development of these persons, and consequently their chance in a normal life.

“Our children are like any other child, you should just give them the chance to achieve what they can… The society has to help them and the family has to understand their capacities and never treat them as if they were special,” says Rania Mahmoud, the mother of Mostafa Hossam, 22, a swimmer and equestrian who has just won a bronze medal at the National Special Olympics games held last December. “As a mother, I am trying to prove my son in the society; but up till now, there are still mentalities that hinder what we try to achieve.” Mostafa’s academic capacities are not very high, his mother says; however, in terms of speaking, socializing and playing sports, he is doing significantly well.

Egypt Today/Yasmine Hassan

What we don’t know about ID

The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities defines people with intellectual disabilities as “characterized by significant limitations both in intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior.”

According to the World Health Organization, up to 3 percent—or almost 200 million people—have intellectual disabilities (ID) worldwide, cutting across races, ethnicities and social and economic backgrounds. While research has proven that 85 percent of them are only mildly impaired, which means that they can still learn practical life skills, blend in socially and function in ordinary life with minimal levels of support, many of us still automatically, and falsely, assume that any person with ID cannot engage in a conversation or participate in activities. In fact, only 1 to 2 percent have profound disability, which causes obvious physical and congenital abnormalities, while the others are either mildly or moderately impaired.

“When Sondos was younger, we would have to deal with a lot of situations and looks. Even her professors would first have a wrong impression, but once they sit with her, they would say she is even better than other students without ID,” says Abdel Moneim’s mother. “We were determined that she would succeed; we pressured her and she helped us, until reaching where she is now.”

Omar El Shenawy, 24-year-old Special Olympics Athlete, serves as Sargent Shriver International Global Messenger, representing the Middle East and North Africa region. He travels around the world to spread a message of love, acceptance and dignity for all intellectual disabilities athletes. He is also a university student, a successful athlete and a leader. However, his mother says, Shenawy is still facing a lot of social challenges. “He was never invited to a birthday and he does not have friends to go out with. People have to know they are humans like us and they have feelings.”

It is time to start a long-term transformation in our attitude toward these special individuals who deserve respect and admiration. This can only be achieved by getting to know them, training them and training ourselves, which is in the core mission of Special Olympics International (SOI).

“Special Olympics is a style of life. They completely and absolutely turn the person’s life, whether in terms of health through their doctors, sports, or even socially through the conferences…especially that this is the only life our children can actually have,” Mahmoud tells Egypt Today. “It is a place that guides you to the right direction.”

“Mostafa loves sports…And since the equestrian federation does not recognize players with special needs, Special Olympics is the only chance for him to achieve his dream. He feels very happy and confident that he is doing something new. I myself was not expecting he would be able to control the horse and win championships and reach this level,” she says proudly.

Courtesy of SOE

A catalyst for change
Recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), SOI is considered the world’s largest sports organization that has prioritized children and adults with intellectual disabilities, seeking to overcome misconceptions. Using sports as a catalyst, SOI seeks to empower people with intellectual disabilities by enhancing their confidence and building up their personal skills. They also help create an all-inclusive society by spreading awareness about the “abilities” of persons with intellectual differences.

“SOI’s main target is social inclusion through sports…We chose sports because it is the best field that proves these people have the right to live like us and even better,” Ayman Abdel Wahab, Special Olympics Middle East and North Africa Regional President and Managing Director, tells Egypt Today. “Secondly, we want to change the public’s perspective about them from ‘oh! Nice’ to ‘important,’” he adds.

The initiative first started when American Eunice Kennedy Shriver recognized the special talents of her sister, living with intellectual disabilities, in the early 1960s; and she became aware of how much people like Rosemary have a lot to offer. The first International Special Olympics Games took place soon after, in 1968, at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois, gathering 1,000 athletes from 26 US states and Canada. Today, SOI has reached more than 5.7 million athletes from 172 countries.

“When people see them winning trophies, they are shocked. And this is what we want; to show them the ability, and not the disability,” Abdel Wahab says. “The cruelest thing is to tell me as a parent or brother [of a person with intellectual disability] ‘Oh poor you’…But the best thing in the world is to tell them, ‘Well done.’”

Special Olympics Middle East & North Africa is one of SOI’s seven regions, which comprises 22 Arab countries and Iran. The first regional games were held in 1999 in Egypt, witnessing the participation of 206 athletes and 89 coaches. The number of registered athletes in the region reached 20,433 in 2000. Today, it has increased by seven times, amounting to nearly 150,000.

Courtesy of SOE

The fact that Egypt hosted the first regional Special Olympics competition was not a coincidence or by chance. Egypt’s battle for the rights of persons with intellectual disability goes back over four decades, when the late Magda Moussa, also named Mother of Special Olympics, was the first principal to integrate special classes for students with cognitive disabilities in Egyptian schools. She initiated the Special Olympics program in the late 1980s, and was named national director of Special Olympics in 1994 and then president of the program in 1998.

In 1994, the program started organizing competitions between schools and organizations; participating in tournaments abroad, as well as hosting trainings for coaches and marathons. Egypt’s first national games were held in 1997 and the latest round took place last month, witnessing the participation of 2,000 athletes representing 11 governorates, and competing in 16 games.

Mohamed Desoki has been a Special Olympics Football coach for 17 years and is based in Menofeya. “We first started with around 10 schools [in Menofeya]; today we have 28 schools, organizations and clubs, after we had started spreading awareness about the importance of Special Olympics because it is not just limited to sports programs,” Desoki says, adding that they combat the marginalization of “this very important part of the society.”

Coach Mohamed Nasr, head of the special needs program in El-Shams Club in Cairo, first joined the program as a volunteer in Special Olympics in 1999, after taking Special Olympics’ coaches trainings in swimming and handball.“ The first training you need to know as a coach is that these players are normal; the only difference would be in repetitions. And at the end, the athlete would reach the same potential as anyone and learn the same skills…There is always an advancement, as long as there are trainings and the player pursues the programs,” Nasr says. “We had one player, Mostafa Galal, now 38, who has an intellectual disability and he was very afraid of the water. With training, he became a world champion and he was hosted twice at the White House.”
With social inclusion as a primary goal, Special Olympics welcome any person identified as having intellectual disabilities, with a minimum age requirement for competition of 8 years old. As for younger athletes, another sport and play program is dedicated to children with and without intellectual disabilities, aged 2 to 7 years old.

Offering high-quality trainings and competition in over 30 Olympic-style individual and team sports, SOI applies the power of sports to develop the athletes’ confidence, improve their health, teach them to dream and reach their goals, and help them uncover their strength and potential.

“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt,” says the Special Olympics Athlete’s oath.

A decade after it was first founded, Special Olympics is still filling a big gap in Egypt, being the only chance for persons with disabilities to engage in certain sports, especially the not-so-popular ones. “Up till now, I cannot find neither a governmental nor a private place for Mostafa to train,” Mahmoud says. “I have to keep looking for a farm or someone who would rent me a place…I went to clubs and they simply refused to train him without even testing him and seeing if he actually had any problems. There are certain places that reject us for the sole reason that we have ID.”
Defying all challenges, Egyptian athletes are winning gold, silver and bronze medals in regional and world games year after year.

A wholesome approach
Unlike the Paralympics, which gather athletes with ranges of disabilities, and the international Olympic, Special Olympics is not merely a sports organizations. It rather works with and for persons with intellectual differences pursuing two goals; to directly empower them and enrich their skills and talents, and to get rid of social misunderstandings and underestimation of their capabilities and ensure their social inclusion.

“Through sports, we [seek to] change a whole community, create social inclusion and show people that these children are important and that when they are given a chance, there is some return on investment,” Abdel Wahab stresses.

“When the player comes back carrying a medal, he would walk proudly and people would feel his importance,” coach Desoki says. “When he feels his own importance, the surrounding society will start to feel there is some light that Special Olympics offers to these people. When we address them as heroes, people would take notice…This is the importance of social inclusion that we are seeking.”

SOI’s tailored health programs are also designed to help the athletes improve their health, fitness and wellbeing all year round, making it the largest global public health organization dedicated to serving people with intellectual disabilities. The Special Olympics Healthy Athletes® has in all conducted over 1.7 million free health examinations in more than 130 countries, according to SOI official website.

SOI further offers training and guidance to the coaches and physicians who deal with the athletes, and provides a support network for the families. “Family conferences offer awareness to the families, to know how to deal with their children and treat them as part of the family,” says Mostafa’s mother, who has also been volunteering in Special Olympics for years, as well as her other son. “The families have to understand the needs of their child and that they have personal capacities…Once you make them feel self confident, be sure that they will prove themselves.”

In an effort to promote social inclusion through sports, the Unified Sports Program brings together people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team; they train together and play together. Around 1.4 million people worldwide are currently engaged in the program. “A handball team would include three players with ID and three players without ID…We try to explain to the players without intellectual disability that they have to match their level to the others and play together as one team,” Nasr explains.

According to the latest Unified Sports Research overview, 82 percent of family members of athletes in the United States reported that participating in Unified Sports improved their children’s self esteem. And 83 percent of the athletes themselves said that they ended up having more friends without ID after taking part in Unified Sports. “The Unified Sports Program is what accomplishes the goal of social inclusion,” Desoki says.

SOI’s confident and empowered athletes are also encouraged to take on bigger roles as mentors, coaches and officials, or even as public speakers and spokespersons. “It’s time to redefine our world and take our rights in our societies,” said Omar when he was first selected as International Global Messenger in 2015, according to Special Olympics official website.

“He speaks before kings and presidents, which boosts his self confidence; and it has changed his life,” says Mira Morsy, Omar’s mother.

Choose to include
As long as we are holding tight to our misunderstandings of special persons with intellectual disabilities, we will keep losing precious opportunities to get to know them, to see their talents, to listen to their ideas and thoughts; and we might also be missing out on a perfect and sincere friendship. From now on, I want to say hi to Mohamed when I see him in the street; I don’t want to freeze like I did. Mohamed and all of us need to acknowledge him as a powerful individual and an integral part in our society. He is not “different,” he is simply “special.”

At press time Mohamed had won one gold medal and two silver ones in the last national games.

2/28/2018 11:23:45 AM
<![CDATA[Women of the Revolutions ]]>
“My first university thesis focused on the reasons behind immigration of Egyptians,” explains Nielsen, who interviewed several Egyptian youth for her thesis, supervised by Hervik. Nielsen noticed that there were many young Egyptian women who tend to have more choices than earlier generations with their “old-fashioned social customs,” especially if these young women were living in villages across the countryside. The graduate was curious to start another study focusing on these Egyptian women living far from the big cities, especially since many studies conducted by Western organizations in the aftermath of both the 2011 and 2013 revolutions, only focused on Egyptian women living in major Egyptian cities like Cairo and Alexandria. “Hence the idea of my first book was born,” explains Nielsen, who says she wanted to put the stories and aspirations of these young Egyptian women in a recorded and written form.


It took Nielsen six months of travels across Egypt because she wanted to make her interviews as broad as possible. “Most of the interviews were done in Arabic with the help of an Egyptian translator. From a logistic point, Egypt was the prominent destination because there are direct flights from Copenhagen to Cairo,” Nielsen says.

Upon arriving in Cairo in 2012, Mette started to meet Egyptian women from different age groups and educational backgrounds living in Cairo and Alexandria, Nuweiba and Sinai in the east then Assiut and Minya in the south of Egypt. “I collaborated with several local NGOs in Cairo and Alexandria to bring young women from these two cities along with me during my travel across Egypt as assistants in interviews and translations,” explains Nielsen, who noticed that many of them had not travelled across east or west Egypt before. “Of course, depending on education, family and surroundings, the characters of Egyptian women differ from one location to the other. However, one should see that the two revolutions have impacted many Egyptian young women on how they can see their future and make their own life decisions through continuous open discussion with their parents. The two revolutions made Egyptian women believe that they can realize their dreams. This is reflected in the first part of the book where each one of them tells her story in her own words.” Women in Post-revolutionary Egypt is divided into three parts. The first examines the perspective of Egyptian women with respect to the revolution, the political environment in the country, and the many changes it has witnessed in recent years. The second part is about the daily life of women, the issues they face, the things they’re proud of and the things they value. The third and final part is about the women’s hopes and ambitions for the future. It shows how Egyptian women with different backgrounds do not only have aspirations for a better tomorrow but also personal visions on the ways of achieving it through development and collectiveness.

While the book is published in English and can be purchased online in soft format or hard copy, Nielsen is still looking for a publishing house to produce an Arabic translation.

2/27/2018 9:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[et Fitness: Stronger Together]]>
It always helps to have a workout buddy; be it a friend or a significant other because on the days when you don’t feel like going to train, they’ll be the ones that push you just a little bit further to throw on your training shoes and rock ‘n’ roll. Alone, each one of us truly has unparalleled strength but together, we are far stronger than we ever dreamed possible. Find someone who is close to you, whom you trust to help motivate you on the days when you can’t seem to find your own motivation. Come up with a weekly training schedule that you both must stick to. When one of you falls short in the motivation points, the other one will help pick up the slack. Here are a few workouts that I thought would be super fun to do with a workout buddy to get you started:

Plank Taps

Both you and your workout buddy get into a plank position while facing each other, hands directly underneath shoulders and hips in a straight line. At the same time, you extend opposite arms, clap each other’s hands, then repeat.

Seated Wall Squats and Push-ups

One partner will sit with their back flat against the wall, making sure that their legs are positioned in a 90-degree angle. The other partner has to finish 15 push-ups. Partners can only switch exercises once the 15 pushups are complete.

Squat Hold and Dip

Partner 1 should place hands on the edge of a chair seat and then bring their hips out and away from the chair. Partner 2 will hold the other partner’s legs up. Together, both partners will move toward the ground; partner 1 will dip with their hands and partner 2 will do a squat at the same time.

Burpee Over Plank

One partner will be positioned in a low plank position on their elbows, making sure to activate their core and keep hips up. The other partner will do a burpee next to partner 1 and then jump over their legs. Partner 2 will do ten burpees, and only then can the partners switch positions.

Try out these fun exercises to help get your blood flowing and your adrenaline pumping alongside your favorite workout partner. If you continuously get your buddy to motivate you, you’ll get the training momentum going in no time. Always, #StrongerTogether

Deana Shaaban is a Performance Training Specialist at Ignite Egypt: @deanashaaban @ignite.egypt
2/26/2018 12:55:53 PM
<![CDATA[Saving Abu Simbel: 50 Years On]]>
Fresh out of college, I was assigned by the government to go work near the borders of Sudan on the Abu Simbel project. I was ecstatic to receive the assignment, despite it meaning I would live in the middle of the desert for four years. It was a prestigious and interesting project with international experts; it was bound to give me tons of experience. The experience was an educational one, and it truly set my career off and opened many doors for me.

Image 1

When we first got there, there was nothing but a temple and the desert. Initially, all us Egyptian engineers lived in a boathouse right next to that of the international engineers’, which really meant we all got close to one another and socialized all the time.
Shortly after, I was tasked with building the housing complex, which is now the Nefertari Hotel, in addition to my work at the temple. I would work from 8am to 2pm on construction work and then go back to the boathouse to finish paperwork.

The Abu Simbel temple complex is located in Nubia, 230 kilometers away from Aswan and dates back to 1244 BC. Only discovered in 1813, after being buried by sand, the temple complex was built by Ramsis II over the course of 20 years and consists of two massive rock temples. The complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Nubia’s most important monuments.

After the Aswan High Dam was built, the Nile water level in this area continued to rise dangerously, posing a serious threat to the Nubia area, including the Abu Simbel temples. The UNESCO joined forces with Egypt and a team of international engineers from Germany, France, Italy, Sweden and Egypt to launch the ambitious project to relocate the Abu Simbel temples in November 1963, and successfully completed the mission in September 1968. Costing $40 million at the time, the international collaboration effort aimed to protect and safeguard one of the biggest historical monuments in the world.

The project to relocate and save the Abu Simbel temples was a complex and carefully designed one, with various details involved, and absolutely no room for mistakes or lack of planning. There is no doubt that building the High Dam in Aswan kept a lot of water behind the dam, and day after day, the water levels became higher and higher and would have eventually flooded the temples of Abu Simbel.

Salvaging Abu Simbel
Until a permanent solution was found to relocate the temples, a cofferdam was built around the two temples to protect them against the rising water levels. The 370-meter-wide dam was made of steel sheets that were filled from both sides and reached 27 meters in height. A pumping station and drainage were built to prevent any water from sweeping away the project area.

The complex is made of several rooms and halls that are filled with drawings and ornaments and that tell tales of victories achieved by Ramsis II, including his victory in the Battle of Kadesh. It is divided into two temples; the Great Temple is dedicated to the sun god Amun-Ra, Ptah and Ra Harakhte. The small temple is dedicated to the goddess Hathor and carries various depictions of his wife Nefertari.

The statue of Ramses the Great at the Great Temple of Abu Simbel is reassembled after having been moved in 1967 to save it from being flooded.

The temple complex measures 63 meters in length from its entrance and all the way to the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctuary. Inside, two statues, that of Amun and Ramsis II, are illuminated on the sunrise of October 22 and February 22 of every year, but never on the other days, which shows intricate astrology and engineering knowledge of the time. Historians argue that these two dates most likely coincide with the king’s birthday and coronation day.

On the outside, four distinct 20-meter-high statues of Ramsis II and two of his wife, Nefertari, adorn the entrance and show the greatness of ancient Egyptian arts.
To start excavations to extract the two temples’ walls and ceilings from inside the mountain, we had to cover the entire facade with sand fills to protect them from any debris from the excavation process, then dig a tunnel for workers to enter and exit the site.

The temple’s roof was supported by steel scaffolding; and rubber sheets were placed to protect the inscribed blocks throughout the cutting process.

The excavation process was then carried out carefully from the top of the mountain using bulldozers. Before reaching the roof, engineers ensured workers used only electric jack hammers till they reached a depth of 80 centimeters, to cut the roof without any damage. At this point the workers had to be very careful in saving the pharaoh’s art by using sawing machines until they got to 70 centimeters of depth. The last 10 centimeters were cut with handy saws.

The entire 807 blocks of the Great Temple were re-cut and re-built in this manner, as were the 235 blocks of the Small Temple. Each block was duly numbered, and two pore holes were bored inside each block. Steel bars were fixed into the holes with epoxy before the blocks were carefully transferred by crane to a storage area.

The next stage was re-erecting the walls and roofs of the temples using reinforced concrete from the back, so visitors couldn’t see them once complete. Two domes were then built to cover the structure of the temple, which was a very clever idea to hold the construction. The thickness of the reinforced concrete dome was between 1.4 meters and 2.10 meters, and it measured 17 meters in depth. The foundation dome was 22 meters high and 60 meters in diameter. The dome is considered one of the strongest in the world because it is effectively carrying the great weight of the artificial hill, several layers of rubble and rock that were compacted together to form a mountain shape.
The statues of Ramsis II were then placed and the cutting lines were filled with chemical materials and powder mixed together with fine dust of the cutting blocks that were carefully chosen to give the exact original colour.

Complicated as it was, the most impressive thing about this salvage project, from the engineering point of view, remains the intricate calculations to achieve the original solar-alignment, something ancient engineers carefully designed to let the sun pass twice a year for 63.1 meters through the temple to illuminate Ramsis’s face on February 22 and October 22.

Life in the Camp
When my duties were done, it was time to socialize; I am a very sociable person and had very good relationships with my coworkers. I would arrange boat trips on Fridays for foreign and Egyptian engineers to go to Lake Nasser, which is beautiful. We also had a club on the premises and a swimming pool, so we spent our free time playing golf, table tennis, tennis and swimming. The social relationships we built there with Germans, Swedes, French and various other nationalities really made a difference in the experience and we kept in touch after the project was done.

But I did more than work and have fun; I was very active in the community and constantly making suggestions through the media to improve the area. I remember once working on a feature for Akher Saa magazine on Nubian weddings; but because all the workers on camp were men, and I wanted to stage a wedding for photography, I got some workers to pose as brides inside camel caravans.

Almost 50 years later, I was invited for an event by the UNESCO to celebrate our efforts. I went back to the site, and I was proud to see the work I have done remain intact throughout all those years. I also got to reunite with everyone I worked with; Egyptians and foreigners.

But overall, Abu Simbel was the project of a lifetime, and I still remember all the happy, difficult and rewarding moments I lived there.

Medhat Ibrahim is an architect and one of the consultant engineers who worked on the 1968 UNESCO-led project to relocate the Temple of Abu Simbel.

2/22/2018 5:29:59 PM
<![CDATA[8 Egyptian celebrity couples we’ve fallen in love with, off and on-screen]]>
But when on-screen couples become real-life partners, that’s when the fans and media alike fall into a star-struck frenzy, following their every move, every fight and every trip. From comedy sweethearts Fouad El Mohandes and Shwikar and the power (not to mention gorgeous) couple Faten Hamama and Omar Sharif to the ultimate sex symbols Roshdy Abaza and Samia Gamal, Egyptian cinema is studded with celebrity couples we avidly followed. Modern cinema has also brought us many favorite couples; from Egyptian cinema sweetheart Mona Zaki and comedy superpower Ahmed Helmy to the couple whose wedding pictures took social media by a storm, Amr Youssef and Kinda Alloush.

Faten Hamama and Omar Sharif

The Lady of the Arab Screen Faten Hamama is a legend in her own right, who has wooed the Arab world with her charms since she was just 7. By the time she was 23 she had already been an established actress with more than 40 movies under her belt when Youssef Chahine picked her to star in the movie Seraa Fel Wady (Conflict in the Valley) in the 1950s. Chahine also recommended the handsome Omar Sharif, born Michel Demitri Shalhoub, who was still making a name for himself as an actor but was quickly gaining a following with his tanned skin, deep drown eyes and killer charisma. Hamama had been married to Ezz El Dine Zulficar for less than seven years and finalized her divorce in 1954; the year she met Sharif, who was then a Catholic and far less know than Hamama.


During the movie, Sharif gave Hamama her first on-screen kiss, one that apparently had a strong effect on the two stars. Sharif couldn’t wait till they finished the movie to confess his feelings; and a year later, in 1955, Sharif converted to Islam and the two were married and soon after had their son Tarek, who appeared in Doctor Zhivago as Yuri at the age of 8.

Their marriage lasted for 19 years, and together they carved some of Egyptian cinema’s most memorable movies; Ayyamina El-Helwa (Our Best Days) in 1955, Seraa Fel Mina (Conflict in the Port) in 1956, the war drama Ard El-Salam (Land of Peace), La Anam (I Don’t Sleep) in 1957, Sayedat El Kasr (Lady of the Castle) in 1958, and finally their last film together before their divorce, Nahr El Hob (River of Love) in 1961.

Sharif then directed his efforts to Hollywood, working with David Lean in Lawrence of Arabia, the film that went on to win the 1962 Oscar for Best Picture. Sharif got countless admirers for his role and his international career then took off, keeping him away from his family and home most of the time and eventually leading to the couple’s divorce in 1974.

While living abroad, Sharif was linked to many beauties and international stars, but would always talk about his true love and the one who got away, Hamama, whom he often called “the love of his life.”

Kinda Alloush and Amr Youssef


After a long friendship between the two, having worked together five times in as many years before getting married, the two announced their engagement in late November 2016 through a small family celebration. The two then got married in January 2017 in a much-photographed wedding in Luxor.

Youssef and Alloush worked together in Hepta in 2016, Aad Tanazoly (The Countdown) in 2014, Niran Sadika (Friendly Fire) in 2013, Bartita in 2012 and Wahed Sahih (A Whole One) in 2011.

The couple had two weddings, the first was in Cairo where only family members attended, and then a big, star-studded wedding at the Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan a week later.

Ahmed Helmy and Mona Zaki

منى وحلمي

One of the most adorable Arab celebrity couples, the duo has now been married for 16 years, and have three children; Lilly, born in 2004, Salim, born in 2014, and Younes, born in 2016.

The two worked together on Omar 2000 and Leeh Khaletny Ahebak (Why Did You Make Me Fall in Love with You?) in 2000, and that’s when they fell in love. When Zaki was away filming Africano in South Africa, Helmy confessed his love; and a year later, in 2002, they got married.

After marriage, the couple acted together in Sahar El-Layaly (Sleepless Nights) in 2003, and appeared as guests of honor in one scene in Adel Emam’s film El-Tagreba El-Denmarkya (The Danish Experiment).

Samir Ghanem and Dalal Abdel Aziz

samir ghanem

Dalal Abdel Aziz was just starting out when actor George Sedhom recommended her to the king of comic theater Samir Ghanem to co-star in the play Ahlan Ya Doctor (Hello Doctor) in 1981. Abdel Aziz then landed her first major role and developed a crush on her co-star, who is 20 years older than she is.

Abdel Aziz recently appeared on several TV shows recalling how Ghanem would drive her to and from the theater every day, buying her flower garlands to show his love. Eventually, the couple got married after wrapping up the Ahlan Ya Doctor play, beginning what has now become one of the most famous families in Egyptian cinema and giving birth to Donia and Amal, known as Amy. The couple has been married since 1984, and are one of the most stable celebrity unions in the industry.

Roshdy Abaza and Samia Gamal

Marriage is like lottery tickets, and I believe that there is a soulmate for every person; it doesn’t matter whether they are celebrities or not, reasons for the success or failure of marriages are still the same,” Egyptian heartthrob Roshdy Abaza, speaking about artists’ marriage during a TV interview in the 1970s, told presenter and actress Mervat Amin.

Abaza was one of the most charming, charismatic actors on Egyptian screens, and quickly became a symbol of the mischievous yet charming playboy. Before he met Gamal, he had already been married and divorced three times; his first wife being the late actress and belly dancer Taheya Karioka and his second the American Barbara Abaza.

samia gamal

Actress and belly dancer Samia Gamal had been making waves in the art scene in Egypt, offering a new interpretation of belly dancing and attracting millions of fans with a mischievous smile, to-kill-for body and movements only she could perfect. She had married an American who converted to Islam while touring in the U.S., but two and a half years after, he stole all her money and she divorced him and came back to Egypt.

Abaza met his match when he and Gamal worked together on the movie Al Ragol Al Thani (The Second Man), where Gamal played the role of his secret wife in 1959. Their on-screen romance turned into a real-life marriage in 1962 that lasted for 18 years, and was the longest of Abaza’s five marriages.

Gamal said during the same “Cinema Al Kahera” show, which took place inside Abaza and Gamal’s house, that mutual confidence and understating are the main pillars for any successful marriage. She stayed away from the cinema for ten years, devoting her time to take care of her husband, but came back to the screen, starring alongside Abaza in the movie Al Shetan Wal Kharif (The Devil and the Autumn) in 1972. Abaza said that he was impressed by his wife’s dramatic performance. During those ten years, Gamal had said that she lived through her husband’s roles.

But then Abaza broke Gamal’s heart when he was in Lebanon and married the famous Lebanese actress and singer Sabah over a dare from the latter, a marriage that had only lasted 24 hours before he ended the marriage and apologized to Gamal. But the marriage had taken a hard hit; and a year later, in 1977, the two divorced, bringing to an end a passionate love story.

Hussein Fahmy and Mervat Amin

ميرفت امين وحسين فهمى

They met for the first time during their movie Raghabat Mamnoa (Forbidden Desires) in 1972. They then worked together again in El-Ekhwa El-A’adaa (Enemy Brothers) in 1974, and again in Nagham Hayaty (The Melody of My Life) in 1975. But at the time they met, Amin was married to guitarist Omar Khorshid and Hussein to Nadia Moharram.

They both divorced their spouses shortly after; and when they were shooting the movie Mokalma Baad Montassaf El-Leil (A Midnight Phone Call) in 1978, they announced their marriage and the wedding scene in the movie was shot with the pair wearing the same wedding gown and suit they wore for their real-life wedding. A year later, they had their daughter, Mennatullah, the same name as the daughter of her close friend Shwikar. Their marriage ended in divorce 14 years later in 1992.

Amy Ghanem and Hassan Al Raddad

Another love story from the comedian legend Samir Ghanem’ house, this one stars two young actors. Lots of rumors surrounded Amy and Raddad after starring together in the movies Zana’et Settat in 2015 and Elbes Ashan Khargeen (Get Dressed, We’re Going Out) in 2016. Soon after, the couple announced their engagement; and a year later, in November 2016, they got married in El Gouna in a star-studded event.


Fouad El Mohandes and Shwikar

A story of a lifetime love and friendship, the comic duo El Mohandes, better known as “El-Ostaz” (The Professor) and Shwikar, represented one of most sincere love stories born on stage.

In 1963 El Mohandes was already established as a comedian, starring in the play El-Secerter El-Fanny (The Technical Secretary)—when Abdel Moneim Madbouly recommended the fresh-faced Shwikar to star opposite him. At the time, she was only 25 and El-Mohandes was 14 years her senior. Shwikar was a widow at the time, having lost her first husband Hassan Nafei, and the father of her only daughter Menna, after two years of marriage.

fouad and shweikar

The two then worked together again on the play Ana w Howa w Heya (Me, Him and Her) in 1964 and that was when El Mohandes proposed to her—on stage, while performing. “Tetgaweziny ya bascota? (Marry me, cookie?)” became one of the most iconic phrases depicting the golden cinema’s off-screen romance.

They were shooting the last scene of the movie Hareb Men El-Gawaz (Escaping Marriage), one where the two characters were getting married, when they headed to the maazoun (religious clerk) straight after wrapping up the scene and got married in the same outfits they wore during the scene.

Together, they performed a number of unforgettable works on stage and on screen for more than 20 years; Sayedaty El Gamila (My Fair Lady), Motarda Gharameya (A Romantic Chase), Mister X, and many more, the last of which was in 1990.

Their marriage was one of the most prominent unions in Egypt’s entertainment industry, and so their subsequent divorce came as quite a shock to the society and the industry 20 years later. They did, however, manage to turn their love into a faithful friendship that lasted until El-Mohandes died in 2006 at the age of 82.

El Mohandes called Shwikar “the first and last love” of his life after the divorce; and Shwikar stayed by his side during his last days. “I loved him and I still do, this man gave me love, affection, security and tenderness and I always remember our good days. He is the love of my life, my life started with him and I worked with him and everything I made was shared with him. We were never able to separate, until the very last moments and I was with him until the last day of his life,” she had told Egypt Today in 2016.

2/14/2018 5:56:08 PM
<![CDATA[Email from Cupid: how online dating is changing the relationship scene in Egypt]]> "Yasmine ... 24 ... I work at a magazine"
I’d just signed up on a dating website and was having to repeat the same info over and over. After several trials and attempts to avoid full disclosure, I had to upload a clear photo that showed my face; otherwise the photo would not be accepted. In just minutes, I was flooded with messages.

Since I’d joined basically out of curiosity, I chose the matches I responded to based on the biggest variety. In one hour, I felt like I’d entered a completely different world. I met a young man who played the funny flirtation game really badly. I met an Iraqi refugee trying to get from Greece to Europe. The first thing he asked me was whether I was married. I asked him if he is used to meeting married girls on dating applications. He said ‘no’ then he went on to ask me if I had a boyfriend; I found that weird.

There were also a bunch who went straight from Hi to let’s chat on whatsapp. The bold step intimidated me; why would I give anyone my number after the first Hi? Then, there was that too-polite guy who decided to start with “I hope my greeting finds you well my dear,” and another who kicked off with “Hi cute girl.” No need to say that this is where that conversation started and ended.

I found myself in a dozen of those conversations in a few minutes. And of course, there are some sick examples everywhere… Thankfully, I was only approached by one inappropriate user and I blocked him immediately. I literally couldn’t keep up so I muted the application to go to bed… and woke up to find more than 200 notifications.

So who was it that said, ‘We don’t have such things in Egypt?’

online dating 1

A recent online dating study ranked Egypt as the easiest country for men to find women online—not one of the easiest or even among the top 10, but actually the best country for online dating worldwide. According to the study conducted over six months by leisure portal Wogoal.com, and released in December, Egypt has the highest Total Acquaintance Probability (probability to get acquainted with a woman in this country through an online dating website) among the 60 countries covered by the study. “Women are most communicative. They like to reply to messages more often than average, and also love to stay in contact,” the study found.

online dating2

Although online dating has been around for quite some time, a lot of Egyptians of certain generations or classes will confidently tell you, ‘we don’t have such thing in Egypt.’ Well, we obviously do and we use it extensively in so many forms and for different purposes as well.

Most of our parents, if they do not deny the existence of online dating altogether, think of it as an unacceptable tool for sexual encounters and are not able to see it in any other way. The idea is not totally false; however, it is also not entirely accurate. Some use it to casually meet up; others use it for friendships; for others, online dating has become localized as the natural progression of the traditional Egyptian khatba, who we see in most old movies and who is hired to help in finding a suitable marriage partner.

Online dating in Egypt, in fact, is used for all of the above and more. From our social media accounts that we use every single day to special mobile applications and dating websites, digital romance has become a growing part of our daily life. This month we go into the world of online dating in Egypt, looking into its pros and cons, and asking experts on the best way both users and parents can deal with the increasingly popular trend.

Online dating in conservative societies: far out or a perfect match?
Using a standard profile of a 40-year-old man, the Wogoal study tested the success probabilities of online dating in 60 different countries. “In Africa and Asia, men have the best chances to meet a woman online,” the study revealed. While Egypt came first, Iran came seventh on the list; and only one European country was in the top 10: Ukraine.

Courtesy of Wogoal.com

The results do make us wonder about the perceived contradiction between the whole dating idea and the “traditions” of “conservative” societies. However, according to counseling psychologist and founder of Inside Out counseling Center Najla Najib, these traditions are actually a very good incentive for online dating, and not the opposite.

“It is the only solution for them. … The idea is that I cannot date in reality,” Najib says. “Many families do not allow their girls to even go out for group outings. They don’t accept their daughters to date; therefore, online dating becomes more popular and more applicable for the girls,” Najib explains. “Our problem also is that outings are expensive for most people. I would be online all day and if I received any message, it would be a good way to be entertained,” she adds.

Lina Saad, 23, recounts two different experiences with Tinder, an international mobile dating application. The first time, Saad says, “All the men who approached me would jump in the first few sentences to ‘are you a virgin?’ or ask about my sexual experience. They wanted to see how far I would go.” She deleted the application after only three days but then went back a year later, was “pickier” and “more attentive” and she has been using it for six months so far and “no one even mentioned sex.” Saad is using Tinder for casual chats and dating; and she is not looking for marriage, as she says.

Saad comes from a very conservative family herself, and says online dating was the only way she could meet someone, especially that she is not into arranged marriages and is not looking for marriage to begin with. “In Egypt or Cairo, it is not as easy as the west. … We don’t go out every week, the community is very judgmental. It is not comfortable or easy to find someone. … There was no other way,” Saad says.

Najib further explains that lower social classes, and the ones that are the most traditional, actually resort to online dating even more. “Upper-middle and upper classes go out more and do more activities, which makes it easier for them to meet others. So the online part would not be the first [stage] of the relation but the other way around. Other classes, where it is difficult to go out for traditional and financial reasons, they would resort more to online dating,” Najib says.

Sociologist Said Sadek further underlines the fact that our “traditional societies” experience a lot of sexual problems “because there is no mixing or interaction between the two sexes.” This has led to sexual harassment, which has entailed more alienation between boys and girls, Sadek says. “Dating and the internet created a revolution in intersexual relations, the more important of which is expanding the horizons,” he adds, explaining that online dating has widened the pool of matches, which was extremely limited by “urbanization and conservatism.”

It has been quite challenging to pinpoint any recent studies or researches looking into online matchmaking in Egypt. However, if you simply Google ‘online dating + Egypt’ or any other Arab country, you will find loads and loads of online dating sites, Facebook pages and groups and applications. Online dating is gaining more popularity and becoming easier and more accessible by the day in these conservative societies.


The stigma of digital romance has gradually faded over the years and a lot of success stories have been reported. Mohamed, 24, tried online dating twice. The first was when he was 17 years old through an online game, but he stopped when he started college. The second time, however, is another story. It began with a random message in April 2014, and looks set to end with a lifelong commitment soon.

“She was from Alexandria, in her second year of high school, while I was in my second semester of college. … We started talking in a very official manner but we got so close within a month, until I Skyped her and I fell for her voice. Our talking since then was intimate but we never announced a relationship until I met her in person in the summer of 2015. We actually made it a relationship in July 2017; we know each other’s families and we plan to get engaged in a year,” Mohamed says.

Fatima el-Wahaidy, a Palestinian, and Ahmed Sultan from Egypt, are another success story that started on Facebook and ended up in a happy marriage. “He used to comment on my friends’ posts and his comments were both irritating and exciting. … I wanted to know who this person is. I sent him a friend request and he rejected it; and some time later, I sent him another one,” Wahaidy says. They started talking in 2013, while she was in Palestine. “It was normal talk and we would fight about some of his comments … He would post a photo of girls playing volleyball and wonder why Egyptian girls wouldn’t be like that. I would tell him it is about the environment and culture.” On her way back from a training course in Amman to Ghaza, Wahaidy passed by Cairo and saw Sultan for the first time, in June 2013. On her second trip to Egypt in January 2014, the Rafah borders were closed and she got stuck in Egypt for 12 days, which they spent together. He saw her in Amman a month later, and “up till now, if anyone asks me how we got married, I say I don’t know. It just happened,” Wahaidy says. They got married in 2015 and she moved to Egypt.

Sadek, who himself met his second wife, from Tunisia, online 20 years after he had lost his first spouse, explains that the internet has highly expanded the prospects of finding a compatible match. He underlines how finding a match in our “Eastern” societies had been very limited to only neighbors, college mates or work colleagues.
“Social media opened up a gate for more matches; from different governorates, or countries. … You see their profile, photos and opinions … and the virtual relations then turn to something more intimate, by talking on Skype, meeting in real life; you either develop the relation further or not,” Sadek says.

Dr. Said Sadek (R) and his wife

Najib agrees. “Online sites give you different personalities; and this matching will guide you to a dating partner that might be more compatible with you,” she says, explaining that people today usually meet through common Whatsapp or Facebook groups.
“This [online communication] could be a better or easier way for introverts or very shy persons who have problems with face-to-face interaction … no risks or time commitment. You can reflect your own self and talk as you like,” Najib adds.

Online dating site user Saad says there is one reason she’s resorted to online dating, “I am a bit of a shy person, my circle of friends is not that big and I am not a party animal. Tinder makes it easier; it pushes you as if you are there for a reason.”

The pros and cons of online dating
On the other hand, digital romance comes with a set of drawbacks to bear in mind. Although Najib insists on the importance of communication before marriage, as “most of the problems that happen later on are caused by lack of communication … and would lead to marriage failure,” she also points out that the virtual connection can never replace face-to-face interaction. “Body language is 70 percent of our communication,” Najib says. “Online dating can actually help in making communication … however, as it starts cheesy and nice, after a while, online problems start.”

Another drawback of online romance is that “it evolves much faster than reality,” Najib explains. “On social media, you are not realistic. The relationship can take a faster pace than it would in real life. Then, you meet the person in reality and there is a clash because what you expected was that you would be comfortable and at ease, and when you meet face-to-face, you realize it is very different,” she says. Not to mention that you might get stuck endlessly, as if you are shopping for the perfect partner, which might eliminate “the touch of the click and the romance,” she says. Therefore, even if you do initiate an online romance, at one point or another, you have to take that very intimate relation to real life.

Rawya Ragheb, 24, tried Tinder for six months, until she “got bored of swiping right or left.” “It kind of trivializes what relationships are about (real people not just faces or bios),” Ragheb says. “It subliminally teaches us to be more judgmental (hey, you have to make a decision, you have to swipe left/right) so you start judging people using a criterion that isn’t necessarily realistic—what they choose to show you, some pictures and very brief lines,” she adds.

Another risk of online communication is that you can be easily misguided. “I might present something that is not my personality or lie about my social class,” Najib says. “If we accept to initiate online dating, we need to investigate the person before going deeper into the relationship,” she stresses.

In a 2012 study conducted by global research agency OpinionMatters of over 1,000 online daters in the U.S. and the UK, 53 percent of U.S. participants and 40 percent of British participants admitted they have lied on their online dating profile. There are also numerous reports on online dating scams, rapes, extortion and you name it.
From personal experience, Mohamed believes online dating sets a big challenge, especially for girls. “Girls should be smart enough to tell a sincere guy from an unfaithful one, who is actually in for the fun and wasting time … because healing from an online relationship is actually painful, the person you meet online becomes your life and you isolate yourself from the real world and real friends. You lose them and lose your world,” Mohamed says.

So, if you decide to take that step, you have to consider both sides of the story and you need to be careful at all times. You can check if there are any common friends between the two of you first, check their profile and try to figure out their tendencies and opinions. And if you try it out and want to pass, you can always go for a limited profile or even block.

Into the world of Egypt’s online dating
From Tinder to Grindr and dozens of dating websites, the platforms for digital romance are too many to list. With the technological revolution, each and every one of us might have a different dating outlet on our smartphone.

Martin E. is the founder of Date in Egypt, one of the very first dating websites launched in Egypt over six years ago. He remembers it actually started as a joke, as he was working in Sharm el-Sheikh as a website developer and thought of “connecting more foreigners to Egyptians through relationships to increase tourism and international commitment to Egypt.”

date in egypt

Without marketing and with only one administrator, Date in Egypt today has around 30,000 members. “The big boom was more or less after the Egyptian revolution, as people started going out of traditions,” the Italian expat says. “Before, I would get like five registrations a day; in the past few years, there has been a bloom,” he adds.
“As Facebook became more popular, the hype of dating apps decreased,” the developer says. Nevertheless, by launching his Facebook page and group, he was able to once again redirect people to the website. “I have around 10 to 15 member requests to approve every day,” he says.

When you go on the website, you first need to register with a username and password and prove you are not a bot. Then, you start working on your profile; filling up some basic info about your appearance and ethnicity; personal traits, like your interests, religion and sense of humor; your lifestyle, including smoking, drinking and living situation and your marital status and occupation. You also have to upload a personal picture that clearly shows your face. Then, you have access to numerous profiles to choose from. Like most websites, Date in Egypt is free to join; but you’ll need to pay for a membership if you want to send an unlimited number of messages.

Unlike many international platforms, the thing about Date in Egypt is that it seems to be more adapted to our society. You can see it in the profile questions and the layout; but even more in the hook: “Dating in Egypt, Single & Marriage Chat.” You can use the website both for casual dating and for seeking a marriage partner, the website owner says. Although, it makes no difference whatsoever in the process, as the admin explains, it is a way to adapt to Egyptian social customs. “In Egypt, you have a lot of people who don’t want to date but want to marry directly. They wouldn’t go to a dating site,” he says.

When asked about the security and safety of the site, the admin explains that “harassment and sexual behavior are not permitted. … People who don’t behave in the right way are blocked and messages are deleted.” “We also have a report button; I analyze the message and according to the standards and rules I either delete or block the person, or let it simply be,” he says.

Admins of course have full access to your information once you register. Only an administrator can have access to the backend area; and a normal user would not be able to see any of your personal information.

“Facebook” Khatba: somewhere between the traditional and digital matchmaker
From the international apps to our own local version of digital romance, we talked to an online khatba, as localized a version of online romance as you can get. Although common up until perhaps the 70s and 80s, the oldtime professional relations mediator seems to have found a way back, setting a middle ground between traditions and the new technological age.

Screen Shot 2018-01-14 at 10.13.43 PM

Soheir Mansour, known as Khatba Sousou, took her passion for matchmaking to social media only a few years ago. She is now using Facebook and Whatsapp to keep up with her mission that she started over 20 years ago. Through social media, “I met people from new social classes and higher positions, I expanded my horizons and now I have a higher prestige,” Mansour told Egypt Today.

A former public relations manager at Egypt Telecom, Mansour said she first started matching her friends and colleagues as a talent; she later had her own Khatba office; and moved on to Facebook and Whatsapp to keep up with the evolving mentality of the younger generation.

“I found that the way people think has changed. … You have to keep developing with the mentality and the new age to connect to reality and maintain your credibility. People used to come to me at my workplace and I used to stick to what I hear, now I look at the girl, see her image and information [on Facebook].”

The prospective groom or bride, or the parent, reaches Khatba Sousou through her Facebook page, sends a message; they then communicate on Whatsapp; and they have to send her their national ID and a photo to confirm all the information they provide. She sits with them, asks them what they are looking for in their bride or groom and works her magic.

When asked about the age or social class of her customers, Khatba Sousou insisted that they come from all social classes and all the way from 19 to 70 years old. Sousou wouldn’t give us an exact number of customers, but said they were in the “hundreds.” As for the cost, it is a “token” amount that is divided over two payments. The first installment is received before she starts working to guarantee the sincerity of the client and the second after the official engagement. “I offer you a groom on a golden platter; and it is up to you to say yes or no,” she tells me.



to read the full interview with Khatba Sousou.

Dear parents, “there is no choice”
Although online dating is hardly limited to one age group, it is more common among the younger generations and might still be a long way from getting accepted by our parents or elders, especially in an inherently “traditional” society like Egypt. When I first asked my father what he thought of online dating, he said “it is virtual prostitution.” Such a perspective immediately nips any conversation in the bud and highlights a huge “generational and technological gap,” as Sadek puts it.

“My parents have no idea I am dating to begin with … not to mention online dating,” Saad says, with such a cynical laugh at the thought of sharing the idea with her parents.
Mohamed too would never consider telling his parents. Even though his is a happy story, with hopefully a happy ending, the couple have decided to keep the whole online part of their relationship private. “We never told anyone that we met online. We are worried it would be misunderstood. Parents in general have a very negative idea of people meeting online,” Mohamed explains.

For Najib, dating itself, let alone online dating, continues to be a stigma. “Out of experience, parents wouldn’t be comfortable if their kids are dating. Even when parents are open and they did date themselves, when it comes to their kids, they tell them no. It is still not acceptable,” she explains.

That said, dating is a fact, whether online or offline—and parents need to figure out how to protect their kids instead of scaring them away. “There has to be a communication. Parents have to talk to their children about it and assure them that they will protect them from the dangers of dating,” Najib says. “We are surrounded by dangers from all sides, if not online dating, it is terrorism, drugs—parents need to realize they cannot protect their children 100 percent. They have to loosen the restrictions about dating so that their children talk to them.”

“They [parents] are the best advisors and the safest place to go to,” Najib affirms, calling for the older generation to accept “there is no longer a choice. … We are in a new age; we cannot apply the same belief system of 2000 in 2018.”

2/14/2018 3:12:01 PM
<![CDATA[Dreamy desserts: 3 perfect recipes to celebrate love ]]>

Ice Cube Tray Chocolates

All you need is a few Galaxy milk chocolate bars, white chocolate bars and your favorite fruits like strawberries or cherries.


1. Melt the Galaxy milk chocolate and the white chocolate over a bainmarie, each separately.
2. Add a bit of chocolate milk to the Galaxy chocolate so that it sets well when you refrigerate it.
3. Pour one layer of your milk-chocolate mix into the tray, just enough to cover all sides of each cube.
4. Place it in the fridge for 10-15 minutes until it sets.
5. Add a bit more of the chocolate mix along with your choice of cherries or strawberries and refrigerate for ten more minutes.
6. Add a final layer of white chocolate to seal the cube.
7. Pop them out and you have a set of perfect chocolate cubes, which look as amazing as they taste.

S’mores Dip


Milk chocolate
Semisweet chocolate chips

1. Cut the chocolate bars into small pieces.
2. Add the pieces in an oven-safe pan along with the chocolate chips.
3. Add the marshmallows to cover the top layer.
4. Place in the oven for five minutes until it browns.
5. Bring along your favorite biscuits and start scooping

Strawberry and White Chocolate Mousse


For the strawberry mousse
300g strawberries
60g sugar
5g gelatin powder
2tbsp cold water
200g whipped cream

For the white chocolate mousse
200g white chocolate
150g double cream
5g gelatin powder
2tbsp cold water
200g whipped cream

For the base layer
120g biscuits and melted butter
For the top layer
One packet of jelly

1. Place biscuits in a plastic bag and smash with a rolling pin until crumbled. Add melted butter and mix well.
2. Lay it in a 20-centimeter pan and put it in the fridge to cool set.


3. Start preparing the strawberry mousse, by heating the strawberry and sugar in a pan. Bring to a boil. Mix using a hand blender and leave to cool.
4. Meanwhile, put the gelatin powder in cold water and leave it for five minutes, until it sets.
5. Heat the gelatin mix until it melts and then leave it to cool down.
6. Prepare the white mousse by melting the chocolate in a bain-marie; and prepare the gelatin -the same way as with the strawberry mousse-.
7. Back to the strawberry mousse, whip the cream and gradually mix it with the strawberry mix.
8. Take out the pan, add the strawberry mixture and refrigerate it for another hour.
9. Meanwhile, go back to the white chocolate and add the melted gelatin powder and mix it well. Leave it to cool down and then add the whipped cream until it is all homogenous.
10. Take out the pan again, add the white chocolate mousse and leave it for an hour.


11. Meanwhile, prepare the jelly.
12. Add the jelly on the top and some pieces of strawberry.
13. Leave it all in the fridge over night and bon appétit.

2/14/2018 2:32:59 PM
<![CDATA[OPINION: Why is Israel still trying children in military courts?]]>
Israel is the only country in the world that automatically prosecutes children in military courts. Two generations of Palestinian children are victims of violence and mistreatment. Hopefully, a third generation would have a brighter future.

Ahed 1

Of Power and Powerlessness
“Ahed Al-Tamimi is a victim of her family and community. Palestinian men should man up and stop sending their children to clash with the army instead of going themselves. They know very well that the Israeli judicial authorities do not impose severe penalties on minors.”

Those were the words of Edy Cohen, an Israeli writer and research fellow at Bar-Ilan University, during a televised interview with the BBC discussing the arrest of Palestinian Ahed Al-Tamimi, for slapping an Israeli occupation soldier in December. She was 16 at the time.

Cohen’s accusations did not stop at Ahed’s family; he also claimed the whole incident was fabricated by the Palestinian authorities to incite sentiment. Not only were his comments audacious, but he even went on to salute the Israeli soldier for practicing the maximum degree of self-control.

Israeli media carried the same accusations, with one journalist, Ben Caspit, publishing an article in Maariv newspaper arguing that the soldier should have shot Ahed for threatening Israel’s image and defying military authority. On January 5, Haaretz accused Tamimi and her family of fighting to destroy Israel, adding that the Tamimi fight is seasoned with Jew-hatred.

The incident, and specifically Cohen’s comments, brought to my mind the repeated claims by the Israeli occupation that Palestinians were to blame for the killing of their children and of Palestinian women during the three assaults on the Gaza Strip between 2009 and 2014. Israel accused Palestinians of using women and children as human shields, and efficiently worked toward spreading these allegations as facts using biased media platforms.

But what about statistics? Statistics from various agencies, including the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) show that about 495 children and 253 women were killed during the last Israeli assault on Gaza in the summer of 2014 alone. These children and women were either in their homes or on their way to shelters, as homes were not safe anymore due to Israeli shelling and bombing of one of the most densely-populated areas on earth—the Gaza Strip. And the situation is echoed in the West Bank.

Among these civilian victims, there was a number of pregnant women. Did any of these unborn Palestinian children plan or conduct any acts of hate or incitement against Israel?

Let’s go back to the year 2000 and Muhammed al-Durrah, the 12-year-old child who was shot dead in cold blood by Israeli occupation soldiers while his father was desperately trying to shield him with his body. The incident was filmed and played out across the world. Israel claimed that] the footage was staged and was part of a campaign to delegitimize Israel.

ahed 3

In 2006, footage of 10-year-old Huda Ghalia running down a Gaza beach, after her father, stepmother and five of her siblings had been blown up in front of her eyes, made international headlines. The media called it “The Gaza Beach Massacre,” but again Israel argued the army was not to be blamed. The incident was a cover-up as Hamas was responsible. Huda was acting, they argued.

Later, in 2014, four children aged between 7 and 11 from the Bakr family were killed on a Gaza beach while they were playing hide and seek among fishermen’s shacks close to Al-Deira hotel, the base for many international journalists covering the Gaza conflict. Israel announced that the target of the strike was Hamas terrorist operatives and that civilian casualties from the strike are a tragic outcome.

Palestinian civilians are affected by the armed conflict and occupation policies and practices that increase their vulnerability to violence, neglect and exploitation.

There is plenty of evidence, some recorded on camera documenting these violations committed by the Israeli occupation forces or settlers against civilians, including children and women over the 60-year conflict.

In his statement recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the Jewish nation, US President Donald Trump described Israel as one of the most successful democracies in the world. Cohen also said that Palestinians know very well that the Israeli judicial authorities do not impose severe penalties on minors—but is that true?

Aside from the fact that Trump’s statement is a politically incorrect analogy that defines Judaism as a nationality rather than a religion—religions do not have capitals—the so-called “most successful democracy in the world” ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, yet did not make it part of the Israeli law, despite the obligation to obey the convention’s directives, including making the laws of the state compatible with them.

This fact makes it impossible to enforce most of the convention’s directives directly in courts. Israel also implements dual standards in dealing with Palestinian children who are prosecuted each year.

According to Defence for Children International, which provides legal assistance to children held in Israeli military detention, each year, approximately 500 to 700 Palestinian children, some as young as 12, are detained and prosecuted in the Israeli military courts system, the most common charge being stone throwing.

An example of the Israeli occupation legal system bias is Yifat Alkobi, an Israeli teenage settler in Hebron who slapped an Israeli soldier in 2010 for trying to stop her from throwing stones. She was taken for questioning but released on bail the same day and returned home. Alkobi was previously convicted five times for throwing rocks, assaulting police officers and disorderly conduct, but was never jailed.

And she is not an exception. Tamimi, on the other hand, was arrested in the middle of the night from her home. The soldier she slapped was trying to take position from her house to shoot at Palestinian demonstrations in the village—the Tamimi family were attempting to prevent him and to protect their relatives, neighbors and friends. Tamimi, her mother and cousin were arrested, and the 16-year-old teenager remains behind bars rather than studying at school like other children of her age. Her cousin, Nour, was freed on bail.

Tamimi, who belongs to the second generation of Palestinians growing up under occupation (her mother is also being tried today, is being tried in a military court and faces up to 14 years in prison, after being charged with 12 counts of attacking and threatening soldiers, aggravated assault, stone-throwing, preventing soldiers from carrying out their duties, incitement, including online calls for more action to support the Palestinian cause, and disturbing public peace. Some of these charges go back to April 2016.

Polarized opinions on Tamimi’s case were discussed on social media platforms; some saw her as a symbol of resistance and a freedom fighter and compared her to Malala Yousafzai. Others, however, said that she is being used by her parents, schooled in violence and that she deserves punishment.

Over the past years; Tamimi’s father (born in 1967; the year when Israel seized most of the Palestinian lands in the six-day war), mother, uncles, aunts, brothers and cousins have been arrested by occupation forces many times. Their houses were targeted by tear gas and night raids.

The occupation also issued an illegal demolition order of Tamimi’s home and some dozen others in the village; promising to turn all these children’s memories into dust.

The teenager’s aunt, cousin and uncle were killed by the Israeli occupation forces, and her mother was shot in the leg by a sniper and could not move for a long time. On the same day of the incident, Tamimi’s 15-year-old cousin Mohammed was shot in the head by a rubber-coated steel pellet and part of his left skull had to be removed, with the bone to be replaced upon recovery.

Tamimi’s family said that Mohammed’s grave injury helped set her off against the soldiers that day. Also, in the same month, in the neighboring village of Deir Nidham, the Tamimi clan mourned the 17-year-old Musab Tamimi, who was killed by Israeli occupation fire during clashes with stone throwers.

Ahed’s incident is not the first in Nabi Saleh village, a small village of approximately
600 members of the Tamimi clan near Ramallah city in the West Bank of Palestine, and surely will not be the last. For many years, the Israelis have been seizing the Palestinians’ lands to build and expand their internationally condemned settlements; specifically the settlement of Halamish, an Israeli army base is situated next to the settlement to protect the settlers while they provoke the Palestinians. In 2005, the settlers of Halamish appropriated the village’s spring and prevented the Palestinians from using it, even though the majority of them are farmers.

Palestinians of this small village decided to start a popular resistance movement against Israel’s attempts to take over their lands. They hold near-weekly protests against the Israeli occupation in conjunction with protests in other villages in the West Bank. They march towards lands taken to build or expand the settlements. And often, these demonstrations lead to clashes with the Israeli occupation soldiers who use excessive violence including tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannon and live ammunition and break into Palestinians’ homes to arrest ‘wanted’ troublemakers, including children.

Ahed’s story is the story of generations. Her case is not the first and definitely will not be the last until a just and sustainable solution emerges. As long as injustice is long running in Palestine, and the Palestinian people are not granted their full right to live freely and with dignity, there will be thousands of children caught in the middle of the politicized conflict. Palestinian children are growing up in an environment where normality is dominated by checkpoints, detentions, house demolitions, night raids and violence—and the conflict is damaging them on a long-term basis while shaping their lifetime attitudes.

These children will grow up to realize how the international community has failed to protect them and how it is turning a blind eye to the ongoing suffering of Palestinian women, men, girls and boys.

Hopefully, it will not fail a third.

2/13/2018 11:55:30 AM
<![CDATA[February Finds ]]>
February is one of the last chances to catch up with some of our winter visitors; and some of the most rewarding sites are the Delta lakes in the northernmost part of the country.

Immediately to the south of Alexandria is Lake Maryut, obvious for the unfortunate reason that the lake’s odor hits you as you head toward the city. But it is good for birds, for wintering waders, ducks, herons, egrets and gulls. There are smaller lakes to the south—outliers of Maryut itself and these can be rewarding for a couple of species not common in Egypt and largely restricted to the very north of the country. The first is the Common Starling, a short-tailed, dark bird with a rather slender, yellow, very sharp bill and about 22 centimeters long. In winter, it is all dark, heavily speckled with pale buff but by the end of this month, many birds will be adopting their breeding plumage, a beautiful shining black throughout glossed with purple and green. On the ground, in dull light the Common Starling bears a passing resemblance to the Blackbird, an increasingly common winter visitor and resident. However, the Blackbird hops and the Starling walks in a rather staccato fashion, erect and with an almost military bearing.

The best time to find Starlings is at dusk when flocks known as murmurations wheel over the lakes ahead of descending into the reeds to roost. It is not a common bird in Egypt but in much of Europe the murmurations can be of hundreds of thousands of birds wheeling around in almost cloud like formations.

There are lots of gulls on Maryut and most will be Slender-billed Gulls and Black-headed Gulls. In winter, the two species are rather similar but around this time of year the Blackheaded Gull adopts a dark hood—not black as the name more than suggests but deep chocolate brown. Flocks of Black-headed Gulls are worth a closer look for amongst them there may be a much smaller gull, which also adopts a hood but a real coal black one. This is the aptly named Little Gull. From a distance, or with lone birds when size is not apparent (the Little Gull is the world’s smallest gull at just 28 centimeters long), the Little Gull can readily be identified by its uniformly dark underwings.

To the east of Maryut continuing along the International Coastal Road is Lake Idku. In the past, I have found this a good place for Avocets, a handsome black and white wader with a very slender up-turned bill—its generic name is Recurvirostra—and the Golden Plover. The latter is a small, short-billed wader that in winter is a rather uniform mottled buff with a streaked breast. It is less tied to water than many waders and the farmlands around Idku may be more rewarding than the lake itself. That is where I have found small flocks but otherwise I have only seen singletons at Zaranik.

Elephant Hawkmoth-adult

On further east, beyond Rashid (or Rosetta, discovery site of the iconic stone) is Lake Burulus. Separated from the Mediterranean by only a narrow causeway along which runs the Coastal Road, this has a more marine feel about it than the other lakes and my target species here would be the Sandwich Tern. Named after a small coastal town in southern England and not the popular convenience food, it is one of Egypt’s largest terns at 40 centimeters long. Like all terns, it is slender, long and narrow-winged but lacks the long tail streamers of some species. Its defining features include short, black legs, a long slender black bill with a yellow tip and moulting into summer plumage as now, a shaggy black crest.

The easternmost of the Delta lakes is Lake Manzala, the eastern shore of which is protected, at least on paper, by the Ashtum El Gamil Protectorate. While I have yet to see it here, Manzala is worth a visit, not least after a seafood lunch at Damietta for another gull, this time Audouin’s Gull. This is one of the world’s rarest gulls and restricted to the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic coast of north-west Africa. By the 1960s it had been reduced to just 1,000 pairs but has since recovered somewhat and is establishing new colonies but not yet in Egypt.

It is more strictly coastal than other gulls but I have seen it along the coast of North Sinai and Manzala seems to provide similar habitat. It is a handsome gull, pure white with a gray mantle, rather dark grayish legs and a deep red bill with a black and yellow tip. Special. France has just agreed to lend the UK the famous Bayeux Tapestry, a 1,000-year-old, 70-meter-long piece of embroidery documenting the defeat of King Harold by the French King William Conqueror and there is much debate in the English press as to what we can do in return. The least I can do is to mention that Audouin’s Gull owes its name to the famous French naturalist Jean Victoire Audouin.

In writing this, I was going over previous notes and found that last year was a spectacular year for a spectacular group of insects—the hawkmoths. These powerful insects are heavy bodied and winged and can reach a prestigious size, the Death’s Head Hawkmoth amongst the largest with a forewing of up to six centimeters (that’s a 12 centimeter wingspan). Last year I noted Striped Hawkmoth, Hummingbird Hawkmoth, the sumptuous as well as spectacular Oleander Hawkmoth and the Elephant Hawkmoth. The latter I had not seen myself but I had several photographs sent to me of its caterpillar by people from as far afield as Alexandria, Maadi and Fayoum wondering what on earth it was. The caterpillar can reach eight centimeters in length and is rather dull ocher to green variably speckled. The name comes from the rather small and elongated front segments that some suggest (to my mind very vaguely—what are they on?) an elephant’s trunk. Its defining feature is a pair of large eyespots that are revealed when the head is tucked in and the dorsum raised giving the impression of a much larger animal. The adult is simply beautiful. With a wingspan of around eight centimeters, it is a soft olive green throughout with the wings and body boldly marked in magenta pink with gleaming white legs and antennae. I have never seen the adult insect in Egypt but many years ago it gave me one of my first memorable insect experiences.

Coming home from primary school on the roadside, I saw this spectacular, if dead, moth resplendent in its greens and pinks. I took it home, hit the books and with wonder was able to match my find with the pictures. The Elephant Hawkmoth—simply beautiful. I’ll be looking out for the adult in Egypt this spring and if I find it, and given the number of caterpillars I have been made aware of, I should. I am sure it will evoke that same wonder.

Richard Hoath is a Senior Instructor at AUC’s Department of Rhetoric and Composition. He has published extensively about Egypt’s wildlife and fauna.
2/12/2018 5:59:06 PM
<![CDATA[Meet the adventurous couple behind "Around Egypt in 60 Days"]]>
They’ve been an inspiration to many and even plan to publish a book on their travels in a move to boost tourism. Omar Attia and Dalia Debaiky are the couple behind the “Around Egypt in 60 Days” Facebook and Instagram pages that have taken the local social media scene by a storm.

The two Egyptian marketers decided to market the local tourism industry by documenting their trips on an Instagram page, garnering close to 10,000 followers on in less than a year.

Egypt Today chats with Attia about the couple’s exciting project and how it all began.


Who are Omar Attia and Dalia Debaiky? How did the idea behind Around Egypt in 60 Days come about?
We have been married for about three years. I work as a marketing and sales manager in a family business, and Dalia is marketing manager and business analyst in her family business too. This, in a sense, is related to our project because we are simply, marketing Egypt.

At the beginning of our relationship, we didn’t want to get to know each other more deeply through traditional outings or romantic dinners. We decided to do things unconventionally: sailing the Nile on a felucca, visiting the Cairo Tower, and visiting several museums. We explored ourselves by exploring our country. This was how the idea of Around Egypt in 60 Days sparked—the evolution of our relationship was the first and main spark.

Later matters went smoothly, we chose to hold our engagement party in a venue overlooking the Nile instead of a five-star hotel or wedding hall. Our official wedding ceremony, the signing of the contract (Kat Ketab), we held at the Salah El-Din Castle. As for the party, we hosted it at the Mohamed Ali Palace (Manial Palace).
We wanted to explore all the touristic iconic landmarks in Cairo. After we returned from our honeymoon, we asked ourselves, why do we have to stop here? We must continue our exploration journey. I told Dalia, let’s start to visit all the touristic attractions in Egypt, and not only in Cairo.

Later, the project developed and we decided to document our journey in a book, to have something consolidated to our followers and readers, to be some sort of a guide; how everyone can visit all the touristic places in the 27 Egyptian governorates within a certain timeframe. The second lightbulb moment was our first journey to Luxor and Aswan after we were back from honeymoon—it was the first time for both of us to visit either of these dazzling destinations. We spent three days in Luxor and the same in Aswan, documenting this trip by posting photos that we took there on our personal Instagram and Facebook accounts.We divided them by days: Day 1 we went to this place, day 2 we went to the other place. We found that a lot of people started to follow us and like our photos, then Scoop Empire featured us.


So the trip to Luxor and Aswan was a few years ago?
Yes, it was three years ago. We started to roam Egyptian destinations three years ago, in January 2015, but we launched Around Egypt in 60 Days online in May 2017. We have a huge library of past photos and current photos, some of our photos were taken on the spot, like last summer’s photos that we took at The North Coast and Marsa Matrouh. Since we launched, in May 2017, we have been posting photos on a daily basis. Some are more recent, and some aren’t.

We try to have fun with it, so for instance, sometime we have quizzes on the page where audiences guess the attraction or we have a photography contest. With these activities, we aim to keep the followers alert and active, to encourage them to learn about major touristic spots and explore our beautiful country.

Who usually took the photos?
Usually, it’s Dalia and I. But if we want to take a photo of both of us, we usually ask a passer-by. We have a close friend of ours who is a professional photographer, Amr el-Gohary; every now and then, whenever he is free he joins us to capture a few photos.

What is the main aim of the initiative?
The main purpose of our project is to promote Egyptian tourism by marketing all of its touristic attractions, be the famous commercial ones or those of the beaten track that most don’t know anything about. Our aim is not only foreigners—of course a big part of it is to boost tourism inflows—but also, a huge objective of this project is to introduce the real, beautiful Egypt to Egyptians, orient them with the touristic attractions, so they become more familiar with these dazzling places and have more detailed information about them. I used to believe that we can’t completely rely on foreigners as long as a large number of Egyptians don’t know a lot of things about their country.

One of our main objectives is to have a subject called “tourism” in the Egyptian education curriculum, like Thailand and Malaysia do. If we want radical change in the Egyptian tourism industry, we should raise our children from the beginning to realise its importance and to know all the touristic attractions in their country. We hope that the book we are currently writing would be one of the books on this subject. Luxor and Aswan host one third of the world’s monuments, so if we paid more attention to Egyptian tourism, it would contribute to more than 50 percent of the national income. It annoys us that most of the foreign tourists know more about our country than the typical Egyptian does.

Did you take any steps concerning adding tourism as a subject to the Egyptian education curriculum?
The first step was the promotion of our project through the online platform—we now have about 10,000 followers in about seven months. We have reputable magazines, newspapers and websites who are covering it, including the BBC Arabic.

Our second step is writing the book but because it will be a huge book we thought either to make it a trilogy or to divide it into a series, with the first tackling Cairo and Giza.
Large books will be expensive for readers; and most of them may not prefer reading big books. It will be in the form of a narrated novel with photography, where two ordinary Egyptians roam Egypt. We aim to publish our first chapter about Cairo and Giza in 2018.
The third step, after the release of our book, will be taking on our solid material and approaching both the ministries of education and tourism, to try to achieve a collaboration. If we find this difficult, we will approach international schools and dedicate our book to them, asking that they support it with field trips.


What are some off-the-beaten-track attractions that you visited and felt that most people don’t even know about?
In Cairo, the National Geological Museum in Maadi ... This museum is full of dazzling fossils and dinosaur displays. These fossils were in Wadi El Hitan and Qarun Lake in Fayoum—most people don’t know it exists.

We visited this amazing museum three times, and every time we were the only ones there, despite the fact that it is located in Cairo and the ticket is very cheap; LE 5. We always say that Egypt deserves more; so to make foreigners realise the true worth of Egypt, we, Egyptians, need to know this value to start with.

The other example is that we visited a hill named Bubastis in Zagazig city, which holds a big temple full of precious Roman and Pharaonic monuments.

How do you assess the initiative now? Are you satisfied with what you have achieved so far?
I am for the time being, primarily because of the feedback from those who have sent us a lot of messages like, “thank you for making us fall in love with Egypt more,” or others who said that we encouraged them to visit a certain place. Some tag us in the photos of their visits.

Our followers are both Egyptians and foreigners. One of our Romanian followers sent us a message saying,“I just came across your Instagram profile and I loved Egypt and loved your photos too, and I am currently booking a ticket to Egypt.”

What are the destinations that you have covered on the page till now?
There’s Cairo, Giza, the Western Desert, Fayoum, MarsaMatrouh, Alexandria, Alamein, Sharm El Sheikh, Taba, Nuweiba, Hurghada, Giftun Islands, Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbel, El Quseir, Zagazig, Assiut, Benha and Tanta. What is left for us to visit is Siwa, Dahab, Upper Egypt cities like Sohag, Qena and Minya, as well as, further South, MarsaAlem, Halayeb and Shalateen. The 60-day journey we are documenting is scheduled to end in 2019.

2/12/2018 3:08:29 PM
<![CDATA[In search of the perfect chocolate gift for your Valentine]]>
February 14 is a bit more special for us, we have to say, being the very date that we met five years ago! So this year we hit the the streets of Cairo to pick our favorite chocolatiers in town, to make our celebration even tastier than ever.

Of course it was not easy for us to choose being in love with everything ‘chocolatey’—but here are some selections that simply stole our hearts.

Sale Sucré
They take things one step further with their customizable chocolate jars, on which you can have your significant other’s name written! Apart from their tasty heart-shaped chocolate selection served in heart-shaped boxes; their amazing cakes and delicious hazelnut chocolate spreads can also be great gifts for anyone.

La Poire
They will be offering a special Valentine’s Day selection in February. La Poire might also be a great option for those who want to go classic with their chocolate “date” box (pun intended).

A safe choice that you can never go wrong with. Thanks to their high-quality ingredients and wide selection, they’ll always remain on the top ranks of our list. We don’t have photos of their special Valentine’s Day Selection yet, but even their regular boxes look so chic they might just do the job for any occasion.

A rather new contender in the desserts scene, they are already everyone’s sweetheart with their signature dirt cakes. They offer a wide selection of quality desserts, and soon will be presenting beautiful Valentine’s Day Special cakes.

Of course there might be other chocolatiers that missed our radar in this ever-growing city, but we’re always open to new tastes to explore! In the end, chocolate is just another word for love; and it should be shared with your loved ones any day of the year.

Instagram: @cairofoodiecouple
Facebook: Cairo Foodie Couple

2/11/2018 4:03:58 PM
<![CDATA[The Food of Love]]>
February 14 is a bit more special for us, we have to say, being the very date that we met five years ago! So this year we hit the the streets of Cairo to pick our favorite chocolatiers in town, to make our celebration even tastier than ever.

Of course it was not easy for us to choose being in love with everything ‘chocolatey’—but here are some selections that simply stole our hearts.

Sale Sucré
They take things one step further with their customizable chocolate jars, on which you can have your significant other’s name written! Apart from their tasty heart-shaped chocolate selection served in heart-shaped boxes; their amazing cakes and delicious hazelnut chocolate spreads can also be great gifts for anyone.

La Poire
They will be offering a special Valentine’s Day selection in February. La Poire might also be a great option for those who want to go classic with their chocolate “date” box (pun intended).

A safe choice that you can never go wrong with. Thanks to their high-quality ingredients and wide selection, they’ll always remain on the top ranks of our list. We don’t have photos of their special Valentine’s Day Selection yet, but even their regular boxes look so chic they might just do the job for any occasion.

A rather new contender in the desserts scene, they are already everyone’s sweetheart with their signature dirt cakes. They offer a wide selection of quality desserts, and soon will be presenting beautiful Valentine’s Day Special cakes.

Of course there might be other chocolatiers that missed our radar in this ever-growing city, but we’re always open to new tastes to explore! In the end, chocolate is just another word for love; and it should be shared with your loved ones any day of the year.

Instagram: @cairofoodiecouple
Facebook: Cairo Foodie Couple

2/11/2018 3:58:05 PM
<![CDATA[Make 2018 Your Year for Giving Back]]>
On the first day of 2018, I was so excited to start planning for my New Year transformation, with full force geared to self-improvement promises, including changing my eating habits, getting more sleep, dedicating more time to connect with my family in Palestine, whom I don’t get to see nearly as often as I’d like to, as well as planning fun activities with my husband and loved ones.

Going through these resolutions, however, it struck me that all I thought about was centered on me, while none of those ideas addressed giving back to the community in any way. I had to take a moment to remind myself that while self-improvement and self-care are important to feel fulfilled and to be able to care for others, it is equally as important to contribute to the community and to give back to something that is bigger than us.

There are so many ways to give back to the community, which can be easily incorporated into our New Year resolutions. You can support a cause that you are passionate about by raising awareness and funds, whether through already established local initiatives or supporting entrepreneur projects with special focus, for example, on women empowerment projects, poverty reduction, health and so on.

Charity and donation are some of the simplest forms of supporting the community; this might include donating food, clothing, furniture, toys or books. You can also donate your hair to support cancer survivors and knit hats for cancer patients. We can also give back to the community through socially conscious shopping that supports local manufacturers and industries.

Another way of giving back is offering your professional skills that would be of value to others and can support them in reaching their goals, such as volunteering your time, and organizing special courses or teaching classes in coordination with local NGOs and initiatives that adopt a cause you can help with.

You can also dedicate some of your time to help others by donating blood or helping out as a blood drive volunteer, volunteering at an animal shelter, organizing fundraising events with your friends or volunteering at children or refugees camps. You can also visit nursing or elderly care homes, orphanages to put smiles on children’s faces or cancer hospitals.

zaatari camp
Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan - Courtesy UNICEF Middle East official FB page

There are also charity events and marathons that you can participate in to help support your cause, or even plant trees in your neighborhood and participate in environmental cleanups.

While you are using various social media platforms, you can also utilize this time to learn about the living conditions outside of your community. This would enhance your sense of empathy toward others and would serve as a reminder of the great things you have to appreciate in your life.

One of the most rewarding acts of giving back is when you volunteer together with your partner or family. Families that are actively engaged in their communities are thought to have higher chances of creating generations of change-makers. Modeling such behavior for your children, nieces, nephews or grandchildren is one of the greatest gifts you can offer them, as they learn that they can have a positive impact by caring for and helping others. Raise young people to appreciate the threads that make up the society by being in touch with other people and learning about their suffering, and most importantly, by learning to be grateful and to dream of ways they can help, even if by simply caring about little injustices.

If you are not an Egyptian, like myself, you might have to go the extra mile to connect with some local people or other expats who spent a long time in Egypt, until you learn about places in your area, where you can volunteer your time and help the community.

As 2017 drew to a close, the year was recognized as one of the worst in recent memory, with natural disasters hitting many areas of the world, political divisiveness, conflicts and terrorist attacks that lead to the death of large number of innocent people, whether in Egypt or other parts of the world. That said, I look forward to 2018, and I believe that we have the potential to make it better, not just by achieving our personal goals, but also by helping others to achieve theirs.

We can also make our community and the world a better place when we learn about issues together, develop a sense of responsibility to our planet, do small acts of kindness or share our sense of gratitude with our loved ones. These are simple steps that you can plan to take to reach a much larger goal. You can start now, with a strong grounding in your home, family and community to make 2018 your year for giving back.

Fatima Al-Wahaidy is a Palestinian Gender-Based Violence and Protection expert with more than nine years of experience honed by working with key development actors, including: the United Nations Population Fund and Norwegian Refugee Council’s Experts rosters. She is passionate about community development and gender equity in conflict and post conflict settings and is actively engaged in interventions aiming to improve international and local ability to prevent and recover from crises. In late 2015, she moved to Egypt and recently joined Egypt Today Magazine as a writer in development and gender issues.

2/11/2018 12:38:26 PM
<![CDATA["Khatba" Sousou: professional matchmaker in the digital era]]>
We might have thought that the khatba profession (professional matchmaker) has ceased to exist over the years as communities became more open and technologies have widened the pool of accessible matches. However, Soheir Mansour—known as khatba Sousou—affirms that people are once again resorting to the khatba for the perfect match, primarily seeking “sincerity” and “credibility.”

A former public relations manager at Egypt Telecom, Mansour, 49, started romantically matching her colleagues, friends and neighbors as a “talent” over 20 years ago. She then opened her own khatba office, where she used to receive her clients up until last summer. She has now switched to a digital operation; depending mostly on Facebook and Whatsapp, as she had to “evolve with the mentality of young people, and maintain sincerity and credibility,” Mansour tells Egypt Today .

We met Mansour at her home in Helmyet El-Zaytoun in Cairo for a long chat, where she told us how she has developed the khatba profession to fit the modern age; and gave us precious insight into what her hundreds of clients are looking for in a partner these days.
People have revived the khatba profession “because there is no trust,” Mansour says.

“Most of the girls I have met had been previously misguided with wrong information, or they were engaged for a year or two, or even met someone who wanted to talk online and that is it,” she explains, adding that she resolves those problems by asking them—mostly men—to pay a first installment upfront to make sure they are serious and by asking for their ID.

To contact Khatba Sousou, you first send her a message on her Facebook page; she talks to you and confirms “you are who you say you are.” She then gives you her Whatsapp number, to which you have to send your photo, a copy of your ID and proof of your claimed job. “Some refuse to send their info, which is a sign for me to doubt them,” Mansour says. Once you send the documents, you meet her in a public place or at her home; and she starts working her magic. “I meet two or three a day. … In the evening, I put the information together and I start offering and giving my comments.”

Although she refused to give us an exact digit for the cost of matchmaking, Mansour says it is a “symbolic” number, adding that the first installment is to “test the sincerity … and that they are not playing around.” Mansour follows up with the parents until the engagement is done, and only then collects the rest of the cost.

“They [clients] find sincerity in the information and the treatment. … I confirm all the information myself,” Mansour says, stressing that she does not take any steps until she meets the person face to face. “There is a new application that I discovered a 60 year-old bride had used and it made her look 40. … I realized it when I saw her face to face and I was shocked,” she says with a laugh.

Khatba Sousou believes she has come up with the perfect combination; “public relations, a good attitude, applying theories to reality and confirming information,” not to mention her “charisma.”

“One time, I was taking the metro. I met a girl coming from college, I approached her with my charisma, took her address and went to her dad and I married her off to a general in the Armed Forces. Now she has a boy and a girl,” Mansour says. “I never just give a groom’s number to a girl. ... What if he caused her problems?”

Although she had previously stated that she matched more than 300 people for marriage over the years, Khatba Sousou once again would not give us an exact number, as she is afraid of “people’s envy.” Prospective brides and grooms come from all social classes, and ages between 19 and 70 years old. She also gets concerned parents who “are afraid that their girls might be getting old,” Mansour says. “I have just received a Facebook message from a man in his 50s looking for a bride.”

Khatba Sousou has also crossed state boundaries, as she is approached by Egyptian brides and grooms living abroad to find them the perfect match, or foreigners seeking to marry Egyptians.

“An Egyptian groom and bride both reached me on Facebook. They were both living abroad in the same country and seeking a match. I got to know them through Facebook, met their relatives here and they got engaged abroad and came to visit me later,” Mansour recounts.

A changing industry
In the field for over 20 years, Khatba Sousou says that both men and women have changed their recipes for the perfect partner over the years. The mentality of both ladies and men has changed, becoming “more materialistic,” Mansour says. She explains that “40 percent of young men want to marry older women or divorcees,” asking for brides 15 or 20 years older than they are. “They tell me ‘young girls want an apartment and dowry, while divorcees or older women will not ask for that and it is better than doing something haram [against religious teachings].”

Girls have also changed, now looking for money and public image rather than religion or good behavior, Khatba Sousou says sadly. However, as she sees her role more as that of a friend and not simply a matchmaker, she also guides the girls to “what suits them and what doesn’t.”

“You start guiding the girl to the core and not just the image,” Mansour says, adding that “Syrian girls are now taking away Egyptian grooms because they have fewer requests.”
Speaking of materialism and how the financial situation has highly affected people’s thoughts and behaviors, Mansour says she was recently approached by a woman looking for a bride for her own husband and father of her children. “This is the weirdest situation I have seen in the past 20 years. … She is beautiful and in a high position,” Mansour says. “She told me ‘everything is so expensive. If he marries a rich woman, it will help us out.’ Marriage has become a business.”

Some old traditions and beliefs have died out with the technological revolution, but Khatba Sousou here is one living example that the ‘black and white’ professional matchmaker is one of those few trends that survived and made it to the 21st century.
“I am asking girls and boys to have mercy in their requests, to have good social relations and not to be dictators in their choices.”
2/11/2018 6:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Asser Yassin: The man of many roles]]>
Always a hard worker seeking new challenges, Yassin has also been assuming the director’s chair, working first in 2016 on the video clip of Abu’s Ahwak (I Love You) song, featuring a retro vibe evoking old Agamy days on the beaches of the North Coast’s Marassi, and now the video clip for the latest Wust El Balad song El Ekhtelaf El Motalef (Our Familiar Differences).

His latest work as a director has created quite the social media buzz; featuring an unconventional storyline and a rather quirky vibe. Egypt Today sat down with Yassin to discuss his latest works, including a rather challenging role, and what role he still wishes he would play.

Tell us more about your experience as a director? Where do you feel more in your element; in acting or directing?
I have directed two video clips, one for the famous Egyptian singer Abu titled Ahwak and the second for the famous Egyptian band Wust El Balad. Definitely the medium I feel more comfortable in is acting. I am still a beginner in the field of directing, trying as much as I can to know more about it and to get the needed experience. It is a new medium I am happy to work in, and I’m happy that a famous singer like Abu and a popular band like Wust El Balad trusted me and gave me these opportunities.

I think my experience as a director [so far] is successful; Ahwak achieved over four million views, and I got positive feedback from people about Wust El Balad’s song. I love directing and I enjoyed what I did.

You are now playing the lead role in the massive production Torab El-Mass (Diamond Dust), which is a new and challenging part; tell us more about this experience.
This is an important movie adapted from a successful novel bearing the same name. It’s written by the acclaimed novelist Ahmed Mourad and directed by the renowned director Marwan Hamed. We have almost finished shooting the movie and I am so happy with this experience, cooperating with a director like Hamed and a scriptwriter like Mourad. Torab El-Mass is a movie with all the right elements, every part of this movie was executed in the optimum way.

Of course, performing the role of Taha in such a movie is a big challenge for me, I reached details in Taha’s character that I have never reached before in any of my previous roles. I worked a lot on the details with the director. I spent two years preparing for this role, I learned to play drums. I lost weight especially for this character before shooting and the shooting was delayed, so I gained weight again then I lost weight again, so it was not only performance preparations, I made physical preparations as well. I worked a lot on the history of the character, I even worked on every word Taha is supposed to say. I can say it is the most tiring role I’ve played till now.

How do you develop your performance throughout your different roles?
I develop my performance by the experience I take from one role to the other. The more I perform, the more mature I become. As time passes, I become older and more mature as a result of the life experiences that I live.

What is your favorite role?
I love them all. I don’t really have a favorite. In most cases it’s the role I am playing [at the moment]. So you can say that Taha is my favorite role now.

And what character would you love to play?
My dream role is to play the world-famous physician Magdy Yacoub. Yacoub is an inspiring human, not just a clever heart surgeon, he is Egypt’s heart.

What can we expect in Ramadan 2018?
I am working on a new series but it requires special licenses from security agencies, so I am not allowed now to announce the series’ name or its plot. All I can say is that is directed by the veteran director Khaled Marie and will feature Zeina.]]>
2/11/2018 12:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Now Playing]]>
The 15:17 to Paris
Directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Jenna Fischer, Judy Greer and Lillian Solange Beaudoin, this is the first drama about the Paris train attack of August 21, 2015. While travelling in France, three young Americans intervene to save the lives of around 500 passengers on board the train. The film is based on the book The 15:17to Paris: The True Story of a Terrorist, aTrain, and Three American Heroes by Jeffrey E. Stern.

Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 4.12.57 PM
The 15:17 to Paris (Warner Bros)

Oscar-Winner Helen Mirren plays real-life Sarah Winchester, the heiress to the Winchester House, with its seven stories and hundreds of rooms. Unbeknownst to her niece (Sarah Snook) and her guest Dr. Eric Price (Jason Clarke), Sarah believes she is building a prison for hundreds of vengeful ghosts who have a score to settle with the Winchesters.

The film is inspired by true events of the Winchester Mystery House, a mansion located in San Jose California which is now a tourist attraction. Directed by Michael Spierig and Peter Spirit.

Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 4.12.50 PM
Winchester (Lionsgate)

2/10/2018 4:19:12 PM
<![CDATA[A guide to proper nutrition against Cancer]]>
So eating the right kinds of food before, during and after cancer treatment can help the patient feel better and stay stronger. Nutritionist Dr. Shady Labib clarifies that while researchers admit that nutrition can’t actually cure the disease, a healthy diet is key to maintaining patients’ strength and weight.

“Research shows that many cancer patients die due to losing weight, and not because of cancer,” Dr. Labib says, adding that this makes a balanced, healthy diet key.

Patients lose muscle and weight during cancer treatment, and while foods alone cannot stop the muscle and weight loss, they can slow it down by providing the proper caloric intake that supports the body from breaking down. Labib adds that a proper, balanced diet before chemotherapy helps minimize the side effects.

Labib explains that, in general, a healthy diet includes eating and drinking enough nutritious foods and liquids that replenish the body with vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, fats and water. However, with over 100 types of cancer, carrying various side effects and treatments, nutritional needs do differ from one patient to another. So while one cancer patient may be able to eat normally, another might not and would require a juice-only diet that is easier to digest.

Cancer treatment sometimes makes it hard on patients to eat well and it can affect the head, neck, stomach or the intestines. Side effects of the treatments alter taste, appetite, smell and ability to eat, and may include loss of appetite, mouth sores, a dry mouth, trouble swallowing, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation. All these treatment side effects leave patients unable to eat enough foods to get the right nutritional value they need to stay healthy and maintain an adequate body weight at a time when it is crucial for them to keep their strength and energy. Good nutrients also help cancer patients defeat the pain and nausea.

Load up on . . .
Labib explains that the best foods for cancer patients are vegetables, fruits, proteins and carbohydrates. He suggests a diet heavy relying on fresh fruits, yogurt, cereal and whole grains. If the patient can’t tolerate solids, liquid nutrition is also effective and important; and that includes juicing fresh fruits and vegetables.

Vegetables: Load up on tomatoes, carrots, peas, pumpkins and turnips for vitamins and fiber, as well as cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage to reduce the risk of cancer and prevent relapse. Leafy greens like spinach, kale and romaine lettuce are rich in antioxidants.

Fruits: Bananas, kiwi, peaches, mangoes and pears and berries, including blueberries, cherries and strawberries, are rich in antioxidants. Avocados, guava, apricots, figs, prunes and raisins are also good for providing energy. Bright orange fruits like citrus fruits and pumpkins are also great antioxidant sources.

Herbs: Turmeric and black pepper are good for fighting inflammation while ginger, raw garlic, thyme and basil are good for boosting immunity.
Green tea, as well as traditional teas in general, is a great antioxidant.

Avoid . .

Deep-fried foods, baked meats, excessive salt, refined sugar and oily food, hydrogenated oils, processed red meat, preserved food and alcohol. Fatty foods also increase nausea so are best avoided.

Get moving . . .

“Cancer patients should not depend only on the food, they have to exercise,” Labib explains. “During chemotherapy and radiation, patients feel exhausted and tired, but this tiredness does not get better with rest, it gets better with exercise.”

Aerobic exercise like walking, bicycling and running is great to stay active and advised after cancer treatments. Ask your doctor before you take on strength training, however.
2/4/2018 12:25:37 PM
<![CDATA[Ultimate Guide to Russia 2018]]>
The draw was held on December 1 at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow and has put Egypt in Group A, alongside Uruguay, Saudi Arabia and the host nation, Russia.
The Egyptian team will play the group stage games in three different cities. The team’s first game will be against Uruguay on June 15 at Central Stadium, Yekaterinburg. Our second game will be against Russia on June 19 at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg. The team’s third and last game in the first round will be against Saudi Arabia on June 25 at the Volgograd Arena in Volgograd.

So if you’re planning to visit the historically rich and beautiful country this summer, make sure you plan your visit around the dates the national team will be playing.


A guide to Russia 2018

Booking a ticket to one of the World Cup matches will help you a lot during your stay as it will allow you to register online for your personalized FAN ID. Using your FAN ID, you can enter Russia without a visa, and you can also use all public transportation for free. In other words, this Fan ID will be your visa and your ticket.

The easiest way to travel to Yekaterinburg is booking a flight from Cairo to Moscow. EgyptAir flies from Cairo to Moscow via Larnaca in around six hours. Make sure you book early on to get the best fares. Upon your arrival in Moscow, take a train from there to Yekaterinburg, a journey that is 1,755 kilometers and 22 hours long. Train tickets can be booked through www.RussianRail.com and FAN ID holders ride for free, the tickets would otherwise cost $50 to $200.

Yekaterinburg, founded in 1723, is the fourth most populous city in Russia, with a population of 1.4 million, making it an important center for sport and arts.

The Central Stadium in Yekaterinburg was founded in 1957 and was renovated between 2006 and 2011 in preparation for the World Cup. The stadium has a capacity of 35,696.
Accommodation in Yekaterinburg motels per person costs between $10 and $15 per night. Prices for hotels in Yekaterinburg are running quite high during the World Cup, a three-star hotel costs around $450 per night for a double room. If you’re looking for something cheaper or traveling with family, find an apartment through websites like www.airbnb.com, where you can get a one-bedroom apartment starting $40 a night. Hotels are also running out fast in the small town, so go ahead and book your stay.


You can spend your time in Yekaterinburg visiting the Church of All Saints, Historic Square and Water Tower on Plotinka before watching the Egypt-Uruguay clash.
After Egypt’s first game against Uruguay, Egyptian fans will travel to Saint Petersburg to watch the game against the Russian team.
There are three nights separating the two games. Egyptian fans will spend about 24 hours on a train to reach Saint Petersburg, and they will have two nights to spend in the city until the game.

Saint Petersburg, 687 kilometers north of Moscow, was founded in 1703 and is Russia’s second largest city, with a population of 5.2 million. It is known for its many tourist attractions, drawing in 5 million tourists a year.

The Krestovsky Stadium has a capacity of 68,134 and was opened earlier in 2017, hosting the 2017 FIFA Confederation Cup final.

Accommodation in Saint Petersburg motels per person costs between $12 and $18 per night, and a double room at a three-star hotel costs around $150 per night and you can get a one-bedroom apartment through Airbnb for around $45 a night.
You can use your time in Saint Petersburg to visit the beautiful sights in the city, like the Hermitage Museum, Peterhof Palace, Church of the Savior on Blood, and St. Isaac’s Cathedral State Museum.


Egyptians will spend about six days between their second game and their last group stage match against Saudi Arabia, which will be played in Volgograd.
Like the last two trips, it will take about 20 hours to arrive at the city.

Volgograd, founded in 1589, was known as Stalingrad until 1961. The city witnessed the famous Battle of Stalingrad, which played a huge role in the outcome of World War II.
The city is 941 kilometers south of Moscow and is an eco-touristic hub for the country. The Volgograd Arena is one of the venues for the World Cup, with a capacity of 45,568 and you are expected to spend the biggest period of your trip in Volgograd. In your five days there, you should visit The Motherland Calls’ Sculpture, Mamayev Hill Monuments, The Eternal Flame, State Historical and Memorial Preserve The Battle of Stalingrad and the Planetarium before the clash between Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Accommodation in Volgograd motels per person costs between $10 and $18 per night, $35 per night in a one-bedroom apartment and $350 per double bedroom, although bedrooms are selling out fast throughout the city.


How to buy the tickets

Tickets were sold over three phases, with the first one held from September 14 to October 12, 2017. The second phase is a random selection draw and was launched on December 1 and will last until January 31, so apply quickly to get your tickets to avoid black market prices. The third phase will run from March 13 to April 3 and, unlike the first two phases, the tickets will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis.

If you didn’t catch the first three phases, you can still opt for the last-minute phase, held from April 18 and until the end of the World Cup.

You can then apply for your FAN ID after receiving your ticket confirmation email following the conclusion of the random selection draw sales period. You can submit an application for a FAN ID only after the FIFA approves your ticket-purchasing application.
FIFA has split the tickets into four categories. The fourth category is reserved for Russian residents. The other categories are available for purchase through online ticket sale.

1/30/2018 1:17:58 PM
<![CDATA[Dynamics of Digital ]]>
This may seem utterly ridiculous. With depressing, and expensive, regularity a new i-thing is launched and the media is tsunamied by pictures of sleep-ridden geeks queuing round the block to get their hands on the latest version of their beloved gizmo packed with a zillion features that they will never use but are almost euphoric to pay out for. It is the parents who fund this tech fest that I feel most sorry for as bank balances drain to fund the must-have hardware.

Not me. My new camera has been gathering dust since my last travels but I am now dusting off said dust and will likewise try to dust off my techno-phobia and embrace the brave new world of my new camera. New Year—out with the old, in with the new.
I do so reluctantly. I admire photographers enormously and cannot possibly achieve the glossy heights of the professionals, and especially wildlife photographers—which is part of my problem.

Likewise I have no talent for music. I was forced to learn the piano in my youth and I hated it. My tutor was an elderly woman with a tiny dog that smelt like my socks and she had the charisma of a soggy bowl of overcooked molokhia. I had no talent for music and certainly not for the piano. My progress was such that at the end-of-term public concert held in the local school hall I played the same piece four years in a row. It was called “The Witch’s Ride” which I presumed was an anthem to my tutor. In my fourth year I also performed a duet with my younger sister. We never finished. So disgusted with my performance was she that midway through she just stood up and walked off stage. Thankfully because of that my parents stopped funding the piano. Sadly they swapped allegiance to the violin at which I was even worse.

I digress. I am not a photographer but I have got this fancy new camera which I need to use and need to know how to use. I will explain why later but first I will explain why I did not rip the packaging open in a fit of orgiastic excitement and try out my new toy asap.
Firstly and most importantly cameras hinder observation of the natural world. They undoubtedly enhance recording it but they hinder watching it. I have been on so many safaris where the cameras are out and everyone is going click, click, click or rather a digi click, click, click but they are not actually watching the animal in front of them. So sad.

This was brought home to me years ago when I was in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with wild Eastern Lowland Gorillas and then the famous Mountain Gorillas. It is a tale I have related a number of times but basically until I went to see the animals without the lens I could not claim to have truly experienced them, to have watched and encountered them. That and the fact that using a flash in photographing the gorillas, most of my pictures taken in the forest gloom of the Virunga Volcanoes were little more than blurs. The sketches I have are clear and crisp and I had to watch gorillas to make them.

That was in the dim and distant days of camera film and a trusty SLR. More recently in 2015 I was in Oman at a breeding beach of Green Turtles. It was near Sur in the southeast of the country and the female turtles come to shore to lay their eggs at night. In the reserve I and a small group of other visitors was escorted to a laying female. As she deposited her eggs all the i-pads, tablets and phone cameras came out to record the nascent event. “No flash photography” announced the ranger to mass disgruntlement. I was not disgruntled. I had my sketchpad and I watched and drew and watched some more. And I still have those sketches.

Which brings me to another reason why I do not embrace photography. I am not very good at it. In this media age we are buried, swathed, swamped and circled by the most incredible images of the natural world. The quantity of images is bewildering and the quality breathtaking. Just look at the BBC’s latest blockbuster Blue Planet II. Wildlife photography is an art in itself. The photographer has to be concerned about lighting, angle, focus, shade and depth of field. As a naturalist I want to concentrate on the animal.

I can remember in the Madikwe Reserve in South Africa on the border with Botswana I had a fleeting nocturnal encounter with African Wild Dogs. These were no baladi curs but one of Africa’s rarest predators. I grabbed my journal rather than my camera and managed a few quick sketches in the dark—scratchy charcoal lines made under enormous pressure in the African night. They are among my most precious drawings. I have never ever regretted grabbing the pencil in that instance rather than the camera.

That sketching becomes even more important when it morphs into illustration. In this digital age when a zillion images of virtually any animal on the planet can be accessed instantly, most field guides are still illustrated by hand-painted plates. Yes there are many photographic guides out there especially of the birds but the serious guide, the seminal guides, are still illustrated by paintings.

The reason is not just aesthetic—though give me a fine watercolor plate any day. What an artist can do is portray all, or at least most, of the salient features of a bird in one carefully crafted image. To take, pretty well at random, a Mourning Wheatear. This is a small desert chat found over much of the Sinai, Eastern Desert and parts of the Western Desert. It is largely black with a pale crown and nape and a white belly, rump, and tail the latter with a clear black tip. The much rarer Pied Wheatear is recorded here in winter and on passage. It is very similar but the base of the pale crown is much more angular, the vent has an orange tinge and the tail pattern is subtly different. To find a photograph of either bird that demonstrates all of these features would be difficult. To find such photographs of both birds would be much, much more so. But an artist can weave his or her magic.

So why after a thousand words of dissing photography is my camera not still in its bubble wrap? It is because photographs are now a necessity. I sit on the Egyptian Rarities Committee along with some of the region’s leading ornithologists. We review reports submitted by field observers of birds potentially new to Egypt or that are very rare. Once we have made our deliberations a new species or record may be added to the official list. Photographic evidence is now the most overwhelming support for such a record and without such support today new records are much less likely to be accepted. I need a good camera.

Just over a year ago—November 26, 2016 to be precise I spotted an Indian Silverbill in the gardens of the Hotel Auberge du Lac in Fayoum. I spotted it, noted it, had my field guide and photographed it on my mobile. The result, blown up massively, shows a grayish blur in a privet bush with a great white fuzzy blob on its backside. It is an Indian Silverbill. Have I seen an Indian Silverbill in Fayoum where it has never been recorded before? Yes. Would I accept it on the basis of this blur if it was submitted to the Egyptian Rarities Committee? Probably not.

I need a proper camera. Off with the bubble wrap! But the sketches go on.
1/28/2018 9:43:06 AM
<![CDATA[Singing the True Story]]>
Filled with the alluring and harmonious tunes of her accordion, Hawary’s hit single “El Soor“ (The Wall) was her first track released in 2012; a biting political commentary about the situation in Egypt. She then began to pursue a professional music career.
The young artist’s constant thirst for progress and renewal helped her quickly rise to fame and establish her own seven-member band. Since then, the band has been performing in Egypt and abroad, after winning a travel grant from regional nonprofit organization Al Mawred Al Thaqafy (Cultural Resource) to help cover their travel expenses and present their work across the Arab world.

The band consists of Shadi El Hosseiny on piano; Sedky Sakhr, harmonica and recorder player; Carl Capelle on the mandola and guitar, Yamen El Gamal on the bass guitar and Mohamed Emad “Mido” playing mandolin.

Accordionist and storyteller Hawary speaks to Egypt Today about her very first album No’oum Nasyeen (We Wake Up Forgetting), released early December, her inspiration and her future projects.

Tell us about your new album
This is the band’s first album. For me, it is like a documentation of what I have lived in the past period since I started playing music in 2011 and performed my first concert in 2012. In the beginning, I played alone; then, our band was formed with various instruments. At first, we were uncertain about making a whole album, so we began to record some singles in the studio, some of which were liked by many such as ”Babtesem“ (I Smile) released in 2014. After making music and playing concerts for the past four years, we felt that the time had finally come for us to record our first album. This album is the outcome of the journey we’ve taken so far; and at the same time, it is a new journey on its own.

Did you write all of the album songs?
No, I only wrote two songs, “Jessica” and “Akbar Mn El Aoda” (Larger than the Room). The other songs were written by Salah Jahin; Salam Yousry, who wrote four songs; Walid Taher and Amr Mamdouh.

Why did you name it ‘No’oum Nasyeen’ (We Wake up Forgetting)?
Choosing the name of the album is the last thing we did, we chose it after we had finished recording and mixing. ‘No’oum Nasyeen’ is taken from my song “Kolna Hanam Belil” (We Will All Fall Asleep At Night). For me, it is the most expressive word of our present time that is full of events, sometimes rough ones. But, when we wake up the next day, we face new events, forgetting the old ones. So, t