<![CDATA[rss-Magazine]]> All Rights Reserved for The Cairo post <![CDATA[Magazine]]>]]> 100 29 <![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.

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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.

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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.

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

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.

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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


Decoration

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.

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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.


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Photo courtesy of Dina Iskander



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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”





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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Romeo

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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

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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

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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.

Munchies

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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.

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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.

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A sand drawing portrait by Andrew Magdy - Courtesy of Andrew Magdy


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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.

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Sand Artist Andrew Magdy during a performance - Courtesy of Andrew Magdy


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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.


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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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)

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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.

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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

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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)

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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.

Ingredients
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

Method

• 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.



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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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


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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.

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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.
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4/8/2018 9:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Fashion Today: Pack Your Bags!]]>
Coach
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Adidas - Deerupt
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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
offline.

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.
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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,”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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From tablas (traditional drums) to trinkets and accessories, you can buy just about anything on the streets of Old Cairo.

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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.

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A batata (sweet potato) vendor serves up one of Egypt’s most popular winter street foods.

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Many stores also sell antique or second-hand items and shoppers are bound to pick up a bargain.

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Makeshift decor: a stand dressed up with traditional beaded scarves and topped with a tarbouche adds a splash of color to the drab sidewalk.

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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.

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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.

beginners-kit

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

mashtal
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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

Caravanserai (2)
Caravanserai

Damask (1)
Damask

Damask (2)
Damask

Heba Linens
Heba Linens

Ikea
Ikea

Kilim (1)
Kilim


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

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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.
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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.”
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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.

Capture

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.
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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.

MV5BZTFmNjkwYTQtMzMyMS00ZDQ4LWFjMTgtOGQxM2VlZjJmM2Y5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjQwMDg0Ng@@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_
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.
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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.

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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.

Moana_promo_2

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.
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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.

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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

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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


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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”









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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.







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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).




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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.

Urban-Visions

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.

PA-AAF-Before-the-Revolution

“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.
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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.’
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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.”
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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.
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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

90-124450-egypt-amr-diab-singer-3-1
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

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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.

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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.



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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.

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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.

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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
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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.

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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.

abousimple
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.

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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.

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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

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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.

amy

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.

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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.

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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.

datingapps

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.

saad
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.

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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.

Click

here

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.”

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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.

cubes2

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


smores

Ingredients
Milk chocolate
Semisweet chocolate chips
Marshmallows
Biscuits

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



strawberry


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.

step

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.

step2

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.

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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.



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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.

b
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.
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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.

1

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.

2

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.

5

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.



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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).



Patchi
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.



Duke’s
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


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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).



Patchi
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.



Duke’s
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


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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.

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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.


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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.”
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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.

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The 15:17 to Paris (Warner Bros)

Winchester
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.


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Winchester (Lionsgate)



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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.
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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.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.




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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.
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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, that’s what the album mainly focuses on. At the same time, the name is open for anybody to interpret it based on their perception.

What are the messages you want to send to your audience through your new album?
There isn’t a certain message we want to deliver through the album as it is personal; and not just in the sense that it speaks of my personal life, it also expresses my perspective on societal issues. We use art to express what we, me and the band, have passed through in our lives. At the same time, I’d love that the listeners feel that the songs describe what life has become in our present time due to our own experiences.

Which of the songs do you think might greatly affect people? Why?
I hope all the songs influence people but I cannot expect what the most inspirational song is, as most of the time what happens is different from what you expect. For example, the song “El Soor” (The Wall), I had never expected that it would receive a lot of attention. Although there are many life experiences that could help you anticipate which song would hit the top and make a difference among people, you can never tell on what basis these songs reach the top.

You’ve launched a campaign to crowdfund your first album, tell us more about that.
As a first push for us, we took a music production scholarship from Arab Culture Fund in 2016. We also spent our own money on the album; then, we decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign to complete the fund and make the album to the standards we;ve been dreaming of. This kind of campaign is well known abroad as it is used to raise money in many fields, including music. But it is the first of its kind in Egypt, especially for music. Our fans and those who are interested in music helped and supported us, until we raised the fund we needed for the album.

What inspires your songs in general?
Most of the songs reflect my own personal experience, events that happened to me or a subject I read about and that inspired me. As for the album, some songs were made just a few months ago, while I was in France studying accordion. I had travelled for two years, and I used to come back for vacations and to hold some workshops, prepare for the album and do rehearsals. The other songs were made before I travelled. That’s why the album was created at various times.

The album includes two songs that we had produced when we first started playing music in 2012; “Jessica” and “Rehet El-Foraa” (The Smell of Goodbye), as they were not initially produced as we wished. So, we decided to rework them in a better way. For the first time, we only used live instruments, at the highest quality possible when creating songs professionally with music recording studios with the help of our producer Adham Zidan.

In addition, we have wanted to reflect the spirit of friendship among us, in the recording that started in June. We are inspired by a folk music style, as most of our songs depend mainly on telling stories. Through accordion, violin and harmonica we also produce gypsy Jazz.

Do you feel that travelling abroad has promoted you as a singer and musician?
When I travelled to France, I was taught different music styles that I had never learned before, such as Jazz and Kango through accordion. I was afraid that travelling would change my way of writing and composing songs. Yet, we were able to keep in the album the spirit that our audiences are used to.

You began your career by joining Altamye theater group, and then The Choir Project, tell us more about this experience
I was first introduced to an audience when I joined Altamye theater, a theater troupe that performs a show while playing music and singing. The Choir Project is an artistic and social project, through which we have organized workshops in coordination with Salam Youssry [a painter, writer and theater director] for anyone who wants to learn how to write song lyrics and compose.

Which of your songs do you consider the most special, and why?
“El Soor” is very special to me as it was the first song through which I became well-known. Audiences started to know me and whenever my name was mentioned, they would remember the song.

What do you think of the current music scene in Egypt?
The music scene in Egypt has become significant, as it survived despite all the events witnessed by Egypt, and it has become more diverse than before with the emergence of different styles. People have also become more interested in music than ever.

What are your future projects?
I have not planned yet what I’ll do but I hope to participate in different projects with different bands, as I do not like to be in the same project for long. What I am really concerned about is that audiences like the kind of music I introduce more than my voice.
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1/26/2018 11:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[“Writing my Diary with Colors”]]>
The artist’s bold canvas paintings have since then been exhibited at numerous art galleries across Egypt and Dubai, and she was invited to attend the ‘Mercatino Dell’Antiquariato’ Festival in Venice, Italy and Spectrum Art Basel week in Miami. Her entry into the art world was an incredible leap from her beginnings as a lonely housewife in Dubai. Egypt Today talks to Fawzi about her life, work, inspirations and the personal elements hidden in her artwork, which is characterized by a harmonious mixture of abstract styles.

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How and when did you start painting?
I started when I was alone in the United Arab Emirates with my baby, far away from my home, my family and my friends. It was a dark period in my life, and I was desperate for some form of emotional security. Staring into my son’s eyes, I decided to pick up the brush and I painted him right there and then. I hadn’t done any art since I was a child back in school, but it was something I just felt I had to do. When my friend saw my picture, she remarked that it was amazing and asked me to draw something for her. My friends encouraged me to where I am today.

Portrait of Gehan's baby son (1)
Portrait of Gehan's baby son


When did you decide to become a professional artist?
I felt that I needed to be better before I could sell my art, so I wanted to study art until I was confident enough to go professional. I took courses and got a diploma online. The turning point for me was when the Egyptian Embassy was hosting a ‘Tahya Masr’ event to support Egypt, and I decided to participate with my art. It was a very successful event and my pictures went viral; eventually, I did live shows in Dubai.
It was unexpected when curators from Russia and Italy saw my artwork and asked to host it; my art got even more popular thanks to their social media accounts. And my work was the only one that got sold in the Italian exhibition, even amongst the other Italian artists. That’s what made them ask me to return to Italy in 2016 for four exhibitions.

Do you follow any schools of art?
I can’t say that I follow a certain school; my work is a mixture of abstract art and other styles. When you look at it, I have my own style; the secret comes in mixing the colors together in unexpected ways. That’s what everybody says when they see my pictures, they point out how striking and strong the colors are; they’re amazed by the harmony.

What’s your routine while drawing?
When I start, I feel like I’m transported into another world. I use a wide variety of colors and I love to listen to music because I feel that music and art are connected. When I paint it’s like writing a diary with colors. I can stay for nine or even up to 20 hours until I make sure there isn’t a single millimeter of white space left on the canvas. Even when I’m done, I don’t feel satisfied. Looking at the picture, I still find more to add. One painting took me two years and I’m still adding to it. The only way to save a painting from me is if it gets sold.

Do you sell all of your paintings?
I sell most of my paintings but there’s one I could never part with no matter the price; it’s called ‘The Black Secret’. In this canvas, the eyes of my sister, Nora, look through a pair of branches. She died when I was six years old, and it was one of the most dramatic moments of my life. To this day, the emotions continue to inspire me, and when I look at those eyes, I still feel like she’s looking back at me.

The Black Secret (1)
The Black Secret


To what extent does your personal life bleed into your art?
There’s always part of my life in my paintings but there’s one in particular I just finished, called “Story of an Artist.” I woke up one day with this idea in my head and I felt I had to put it into a painting. It was during Ramadan and I drew a 13 year-old girl, me, holding a baby, Nora, with my other sister Hanan holding my hand. There were dark shadows under my eyes, since my mother made me take care of my sisters while she worked. I felt so sad, since I was like a grownup even though I was still a child. When I posted the painting on social media, Hanan phoned me from Egypt and said that she was sure the picture was of us.

The Story of an Artist
The story of an artist

Speaking of Egypt, when did you start exhibiting back home?
Three years after my first exhibit, I noticed that while I was already established in Dubai and internationally, I was only known outside of my homeland. So I decided to hold my first exhibition at El Sawy Culture Wheel, and it went really well. Even the media was talking about it. I saw a lot of young people who came to the exhibit, all talented and interested in art.

What have you done to help out other younger artists?
I was inspired by all the young talents I saw and I wanted to do something to showcase their art. So I decided to give them a hand and help them because I’ve been there; I know how hard it is. I gave lessons and live shows teaching my technique, along with online video sessions. I even held a competition on Facebook where artists could submit their work, and visitors could vote on the best piece. However, there was a downside as I noticed people would get upset whenever they didn’t win. I wanted to do something less competitive, so last October I returned to El Sawy Culture Wheel with another exhibition, only this time I didn’t put up any of my art at all; instead I exhibited the works of over 60 Egyptian artists. It ran October 21-29, and it was such a wonderful event. People communicated; exposed different styles; and artists, young and established, shared their techniques and experiences together.

As an artist, what advice can you give to those interested in art?
Take care of your materials. The quality really matters, good tools show in your work and last. Study, keep pushing yourself. Put your own personal touch, don’t imitate others. Practice every day, even if it’s just for half an hour. I believe there’s an artist inside everyone, and if you give it a chance to come out, it will.”

What’s your dream for the future?
I saw so many talented artists who just didn’t have the ability to support themselves financially, so they gave up and shifted their careers. My dream is to open up a free art school, where artists can learn and have access to materials without needing to worry about finances. Artists need tools, time and money, and I’ve seen so many people stop because they can’t have these things. I hope that experienced artists can help out and also that the state furthers its support for art, by lowering taxes on imported materials and [developing] the education of art in school. Art is the secret to a good life.


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1/25/2018 10:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Farida Osman: Yes I am Egyptian but I can be faster than others]]>
The 22-year-old international swimming champion was named the Best Female Athlete from Africa at the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) Awards held in Prague in November, only a few months after she had made national history by claiming Egypt’s first-ever medal in a World Swimming Championship in July 2017.

“Winning the world championship was a dream of mine since I was a little girl. I trained so hard to achieve that goal and it was definitely the best feeling ever,” Osman tells Egypt Today. She won the bronze medal at the women’s 50m butterfly final, breaking the African record at 0.25 seconds.

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Farida Osman at World Swimming Championship, July 2017 - Courtesy of Farida Osman


Starting her swimming career at five years old, Osman participated in her first official championship at the age of 11, where she won four gold medals. Less than a year later, she joined the Egyptian national team, specialising in sprint butterfly and freestyle swimming and it wasn’t long before she was representing Egypt in the African League. “I was the youngest player in the league and I didn’t understand what was going on,” she recalls with a laugh.

At a very early age, the aspiring athlete had to learn to balance between her academics and her sports career. Waking up at 6:30 every day, she would finish school at 3pm, followed by four hours of fitness and swimming trainings. And after a long day, she would have to start her school work by 9 o’clock in the evening.

“I would be exhausted and I would not want to do any schoolwork but I had to. And whenever the clock struck midnight, I would go to sleep to be able to continue the next day,” Osman remembers.

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Farida Osman visiting Plan Egypt project in Ezbet Khairallah slum - Egypt Today/Yasmine Hassan


This challenging daily routine, as well as the lack of support she felt for playing a less loved sport than the ever-popular football, was the first of many challenges the young athlete struggled to overcome. “Between 15 and 18 years old, I didn’t like swimming at all. No one supported me and all my friends would go out and travel while I was training all the time,” Osman says. “It was a very difficult phase and if it weren’t for my parents, I wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I did. They have been supporting me since I was very young and they later supported me to travel to the U.S. which also helped me a lot.”

Osman recently graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, having completed her studies in marketing and advertising. She had been offered a full sports scholarship to swim for the university, which was her perfect chance to pursue her academics and sports career at a university that excels in both. As a freshman, Osman qualified for the 2014 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championships and placed eighth in the 100m butterfly. She also earned NCAA All-America honors; and later won the team’s “Most Improved” award.

Though there were a lot of advantages in the U.S., there were different challenges, Osman says. “The coach didn’t know much about what swimming is like in Egypt, so I always had to prove myself and that I am as good as the others are. . . . ‘Yes I am Egyptian but I can be faster than others,’” she recalls telling him, adding that the competition was very strong and keeping her place on the team required continuous effort.

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Farida Osman - Reuters


With her bachelor’s degree under her belt, Osman is currently training for her third Olympic participation, at the Tokyo 2020 games.

Although it’s still early in her career, the young athlete’s significant accomplishments at international swimming championships have been much more than a personal achievement, sparking a wider social influence. She has managed to spotlight the wide spectrum of sports and activities that Egyptians can excel at, other than the beloved football.

“At the beginning, no one encouraged, supported or even gave attention to any sports other than football. So after I had overcome all these obstacles to show that there are other sports [in which we] can achieve even better than football, now I think it will be easier for others to pursue this path,” Osman says proudly.

The federation also started to increase efforts to support swimmers in the past few years, Osman says. “We are getting more of the care and the attention that we need,” she says, adding that Egyptian swimming is moving in the right direction, as “a lot of great swimmers are now competing more and more on the international level.”

An international champion and a symbol of hope, the young athlete has also embarked on a social mission, seeking to become an ambassador for young Egyptian females and to “give back to her community.”

“I am really interested to help young females to achieve what they want to. I try to be as much of a role model as I can because I want to help and inspire other people—not only in sports but whatever goal they have,” Osman says, stressing that misconceptions about females are starting to change, thanks to “a lot of great athletes and great women who do great things in society.”



Having some free time away from the pressure of school and exams, the young athlete is also pursuing a new passion for kickboxing; and trying to keep up with fashion trends. “I love fashion and I really enjoy fashion designing,” she reveals to Egypt Today.

In future, Osman is hoping to open a sports academy and to work in sports marketing and management, combining her academic and swimming backgrounds.


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1/24/2018 6:58:16 PM
<![CDATA[Ahmed Mekky: Street Smarts]]> Wa’fet Nasyet Zaman (Standing on the Corner of My Old Street) sums it all up in the story of the old street corner. Released by Egyptian actor, scriptwriter and rapper Ahmed Mekky on his official YouTube last month, the seven-minute clip gained over 10 million views in a few days, quickly becoming the most trending video in Egypt.

Whenever you see a group of guys standing on a street corner these days, the first thing you might think about is that they are there to harass girls or smoke hash—which is, in most cases, true. But Mekky harks back to the old nasya (corner), where the men would be there to protect the girls of their neighborhood; they kept girls safe and were never a threat. Before the days of the ipad and the iphone, the street corner was a social gathering, where you would learn from the expertise of older generations, acquire the good ethics, and even resolve problems and conflicts, says the top hit song, written and produced by Mekky.

“I have always had this conversation with my friends, that we lived a phase in our lives where we would never see a strong man hitting a weaker one or a dispute between one man against 16 others, and where attacking someone from behind was extreme cowardliness. … I feel so much pain when I see this happening casually today,” Mekky tells Egypt Today .



The song highlights several controversial issues and ethical deteriorations in our society, including harassment, lack of respect for older people, drug abuse and the influence of social media. “I made sure to tackle this [social networking] in the song because standing on the corner for us was like a school where we learned the real essence of life, a rehearsal for what we would face in the future, we picked up the expertise we needed to be able read the people around us, and it trained us to live normally. I don’t think that people who live behind the screen live normally … They are plastic or robots, who lack feelings and emotions because they do not deal with humans and all their relations are electronic.”

Calling in to a local TV show hours after releasing the video on his YouTube channel, Mekky gave his take on why things have changed so much. “There are many factors that led to the deterioration of values and ethics in our society nowadays, the most important is the lack of role models. In the past there was a leader for each district, an old man who is like the father to all those who live in this neighborhood, we used to respect this man, obey him and ask his advice when we had problems,” Mekky said, emphasizing that he “learned a lot of morals from standing on the corner of my old street as I described in the song, as well as useful hobbies like raising dogs and pigeons.”

Mekky added that parents in the past were not afraid of leaving their children on the streets because they were safe. “Nowadays the smell of the drugs youth smoke in the streets is spreading everywhere.”

Street smarts
Although the first teaser for the song was released in August, it took over three months to launch the full clip because of the “difficulty of the song,” Mekky says. “I wanted to deliver a harmonic mix of eastern and western music that does not sound like two different types simply played side by side. ... It took long hours and several attempts to mix the audio tracks,” he explains.

The song is a blend of modern rap performed by Mekky, along with Jazz and Blues music, interspersed with the instruments and soul of traditional Egyptian music, and the pure voice of folk singer Hoda el-Sonbaty. The song also starts with a native Egyptian “mawal” performed by the singer Zigzag.

“I heard her [Sonbaty’s] voice and found it fit perfectly for the song, and it has many good features. It is a strong folkloric voice that carries a great deal of suffering; and this is what I wanted for the song, which I presented in a way similar to popular tales,” Mekky says.

The clip is indeed real, starring some of Mekky’s friends and neighbors, and featuring locations the rapper frequented. “More than 90 percent of the characters in the clip are my friends and people I know from primary and secondary schools; those who appeared in the scene with the pigeons are my friends at Kerdasa Homing Pigeons Association, and the ladies next to them are residents of the area near their homes,” Mekky says. “We shot in real places at Al-Hussein, Old Cairo and Haram, so that the residents [of these places] would sense the meaning of the song, as well as to look at the beautiful folk side of these neighborhoods.”

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Despite the song’s objection to social media taking over our lives, it is this very same media that Mekky chose as a platform for his song, and the Youtube numbers speak for themselves. “The response to a good thing is seen from the people in the street. I have received a lot of positive reactions from people saying the clip represents them and touches something inside them, which makes me happy.”

Having suffered from a liver virus that strongly affected his health and due to which he was unable to pursue his workout routine, Mekky dropped over 30 kilograms. Going back to his fit body shape for the video clip was quite a challenge for Mekky. “My body was extremely weak … Two and a half months before shooting the clip, I intensified my workout, training three times a day,” Mekky recalls. “The phase where I was sick influenced my artistic choices … I became certain that I only want to present what I feel and love,” he adds.

As for his plans for 2018, Mekky reveals he will only be focusing on his music album, “where all the songs will be about topics stemming from inside me.” He also intends to takle on a new cinema project, but will not take part in any drama series this year.

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1/22/2018 12:40:05 PM
<![CDATA[Dima Rashid Charming the Stars]]>
Using only the highest-quality stones, precious gems and alluring pearls matched with 18-karat gold, Rashid’s designs are simple and a perfect representation of fine art. Worn on the covers of international fashion magazines, by the original supermodel Naomi Campbell, Heidi Klum and A-list celebrities the likes of Victoria Beckham, Vanessa Williams and Eva Mendes, Rashid’s pieces are being sold at the finest boutiques all around the world.

Ahead of the launch of her Zamalek boutique last month, we chatted with the inspirational designer about her love for jewelry and her career, her advice for designers and tips for essential jewelry every woman needs to have.



Tell us your story with jewelry and design.

I’ve always been in love with gemstones, a passion I’ve inherited from my father who collected antique jewelry and had a particular fixation on stones which he introduced me to at a very young age. But it was only when I was in London and took up a beading workshop to create a special gift for my friend that I realized my passion for jewelry. I was completely in love.

What was the first ever piece of jewelry that you created?

It was a charms necklace with pearls, blue calcedony, and my own personal baby charms which I remember were a Scorpio sign and a family amulet.

Who is the Dima woman that you design for?

A refined woman who appreciates fine art and understands stones. She’s a jewelry collector, tasteful and daring, and finds [her] muse in being expressive. Stars like Heidi Klum, Eva Mendes and Naomi Campbell have worn your pieces; how have you managed to achieve international success.



How did you market yourself to reach such exclusive clientele?

It was a combination of being ready at the right time and the right place, a lot of networking and relationship building, people falling in love with the jewelry, and many coincidences.

How would you advise aspiring designers to go international?

First, they have to understand that sometimes you only get one chance to prove yourself so you always have to be prepared. But also to remember that nothing is impossible and that anything can be achieved. Coming from the Middle East or a different country makes it of course harder to penetrate international markets but with the right amount of networking, presence, market research and self-belief you can achieve anything. Be present, be resilient, and know your audience.

Tell us about your current collection

The new collection is very evidently different from the ones you’ve seen before yet they’re very much Dima. You’ll see more glamour, a lot of color, edge and drama. You’ll find a lot of warm stones and unique combinations from our signature 18kt gold, rubies and sapphires to blue lapis and green chrysophrase that you can wear on a night out, a festive dinner or even on the red carpet.

Which stones do you like using the most? And if you could only chose one to use for the rest of your life which would it be?

Opal. Always. Not only is it my birthstone but it’s been my favorite for the past 30 years. I find beauty in its depth and how it reflects a mix of other stones. When I look at an opal, I see pink sapphires, garnet, diamonds and many more.



Who are your favorite designers?

The Gem Palace; an Indian jewelry design house that I grew to love since a very long time ago. Their late designer and founder Munnu is one of my favorite designers. I’ve grown to love their timeless and priceless creations and Munnu’s evident passion for stones and color. I find his design approach very similar to mine; falling in love with a stone and creating a piece around it, making it the core-center of every design. Every piece is created as if it’s been the very first.

Who is your favorite style icon?

Queen Rania. She’s beautiful inside-out and I find her style very relatable, not exaggerated yet very individual. She’s not typical and she has a lot fun with her fashion which makes her a trendsetter in her own way. A working woman, a mother, and an active member of her community, all put together, makes her overall style empowering.

What is the staple item that you believe every woman should have in her jewelry box? And what is yours?

Every woman should have a pair of hoop earrings, something in pearls, something in turquoise and something antique. Naturally, these are also my own.

Where do you think the Egyptian jewelry industry stands today and how far does it still have to go?

We’ve been seeing a lot of new designers emerging from the younger generation. I see a lot of promise, potential and growth in the industry. What they do need, however, is a lot of support, educational opportunities and training on how to present their collections and get more international recognition.

What are you favorite accessories trends this season?

Mix and match will always be a fun trend and one that I’ll always love seeing on women.

Do you have any plans to venture into creating men’s jewelry?

Yes, men’s and bridal for sure are on our radar in 2018.

What are your plans for the future of your brand? Are you planning on opening up other showrooms around the Arab world this year?

We’ll be focusing a lot on our regional presence in 2018 with exhibitions and networking events. We’re also working on a lot of new and exciting collections that we can’t wait to reveal!

For a look at the new collection visit 1 El Kamel Mohamed St., Zamalek • Tel: (2012) 21709871


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1/20/2018 7:04:27 PM
<![CDATA[At The Cinema]]>

12 STRONG
Director: Nicolai Fuglsig
Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon and William Fichtner

Twelve strong tells the true Story of the Army’s Special Forces “Green Berets,” who within weeks responded to the 9-11 attack. Green Berets and AFSOC took over the country and allowed other Special Forces and the rest of the conventional military to begin the real war. The movie is based on Doug Stanton’s non-fiction book Horse Soldiers.

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DARKEST HOUR
Director: Joe Wright
Stars: Gary Oldman, Lily James and Kristin Scott Thomas

A major contender for the 2018 Oscars and Golden Globes Award, Darkest Hour stars Oscar nominee and BAFTA Award winner Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in yet another great performance. The film focuses on Churchill’s first weeks in office during the early days of the Second World War, when the entire British army was facing the Nazis in France.

At the 2

INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY
Director: Adam Robitel
Stars: Lin Shaye, Spencer Locke, Josh Stewart

In this fourth installment of the Insidious horror series, Lin Shaye returns as parapsychologist Dr. Elise Rainier who must investigate otherworldly presence in her own house. The story is rumored to be a prequel that leads directly into the first Insidious; as the events might occur before those of the first film in the franchise.

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DOWNSIZING
Director: Alexander Payne
Stars: Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz and Hong Chau

Although it is not the first film about shrinking people (Remember the 1989 Honey I Shrunk the Kids or even the 1951 The Incredible Shrinking Man), this sci-fi comedy received warm welcomes at Venice, Toronto and Dubai festivals last year. Because of overpopulation and the cost of living, a couple played by Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig decide to be the first to test a new shrinking technology that allows one to move into a mini-community.


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1/17/2018 3:31:42 PM
<![CDATA[Let’s Dance]]>
The month kicks off with a six-week step-by-step contemporary course with dance artist and educator Nicole Roerick will explore dance techniques that include modern and contemporary dance. Participants will work on skills that include alignment, balance, strength, flexibility, fall and recovery, turning, jumping, weight shifting, isolation of body parts, rhythm, musicality, expression, and improvisation. The class will include working on set pieces of choreography and building upon them each week.

Ahmed Azmy, a graduate of the CDC’s fulltime, three-year professional program, is teaching an Animal Flow class next week. Animal Flow is an innovative fitness program that combines quadrupedal and ground-based movement with elements from various bodyweight-training disciplines to create a fun, challenging workout emphasizing multi-planar, fluid movement. Animal Flow is for everyone who wants to get into their peak physical condition and have fun while doing it.

For something a little more relaxed, check out the Floor Work workshop with Shady Abdelrahman. All about the relation between the dancer and the floor, the workshop focuses on body movement and positions on the floor level; how to move between different levels and arriving to the floor smoothly; learning different techniques: how to fall, how to use gravity power in the movement with controlling the rhythm and the continuity of it; as well as working on different tools and muscles.

Contemporary course with Nicole Roerick, January 2 to February 6 • Animal Flow course with Ahmed Azmy, January 20 to March 3 • Floor Work workshop with Shady Abdelrahman, January 18-20. For more information, visit facebook.com/cairocontemporarydancecenter
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1/16/2018 2:23:46 PM
<![CDATA[All in the Mind]]>
It is not what we say out loud that really determines our lives. It is what we whisper to ourselves that has the most power. Self-talk creates reality. Negative self-talk can lower your self-confidence, self-esteem and happiness, keeping you from accomplishing your goals. Studies show that it is pretty easy to go from positive thinking to negative thinking, but it is far harder to shift from negative to positive. The good news is that, like any other muscle, our mind can be trained. It will take some effort, but it is absolutely worth it because it is a life-changing skill.

So how do we train it?

1. Watch what you focus on
There is a great metaphor that describes the mind as a computer that has tons of files and a search window. Our focus is the search button, so if we are focusing on the negatives in ourselves and others, it automatically keeps searching all the files for more negatives. And if we focus on positive thoughts, it comes up with even more positive thoughts. What you focus on grows.

2. Self-awareness
Noticing what type of conversations you have with yourself is important. Are these conversations positive and affirming or the opposite? Learn to catch yourself when they are negative and immediately replace them with positive ones, reminding yourself of your past achievements, success and of the good comments that you have previously received.

3. Choose your words carefully
The most powerful two words are “I am” so be very cautious how you use them. People say things like “I am so stupid” or “I am completely blowing this.” Instead, stop and use words like “I am tired and cannot concentrate” or “this is not my best performance. I will do better when I am rested.” The words you choose are planted in the fertile soil of your imagination and take root. Listening to positive affirmation on a daily basis can help you change your vocabulary about yourself and boost your self-confidence.

4. Gratitude
Research at UC Davis shows that just by writing for a few minutes each day about things that you are grateful for can dramatically boost your happiness, well-being and even your health. We tend to think that misery loves company and that venting will help get rid of our negative emotions, so we continuously talk about all the bad stuff and we forget to talk about the good stuff.

5. Here and now
The past is over and you cannot go back in time except in your own mind. Replaying yesterday takes away today’s precious moments. Do not let the past control your present and future. Release all thoughts about what you should have/not done/ said. The past is over and has no power over you. Today’s thoughts create your future; you are in charge.

6. Release your fear
We’ve all passed through some harmful experiences that we do not want to repeat again. Past experiences are here to teach us a lesson and help us grow; not to haunt us for the rest of our lives. Release all fears from past negative experiences. Tell yourself that you have learned your lesson, and if the same situation happens, you will react in a wiser way. Reassure your mind that you will not be harmed twice by the same situation because you are in control.

7. Meditation and mindfulness
To do all of the above you will need to have some quiet time in your daily routine to connect with yourself and reflect on your thoughts and feelings. Meditation is to listen to your intuition trusting that life is happening for you and not to you.

Marlin Soliman is a PR guru and celebrity manager. She holds an executive management diploma and a certificate in training TOT from the International Communication Training Institute in the UK. Follow her on Facebook at “Right by Marlin Soliman”
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1/12/2018 9:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Beyond Strange ]]>
Directed by Matt and Ross Duffer, the series is set in the fall of 1984, bringing back nostalgic recollections of some signature eighties movies such as E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Audiences have been wowed by its peculiar magical plot and supernatural forces that keep them on the edge of their seats. Its second season has earned a 94 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, just a few points down from its 96 percent rating for season one. The irresistible drama is currently one of the top viewed Netflix shows worldwide, and more remarkably in the Middle East.

Even more complex and detailed than the first season, with its drama, science fiction and great jumpy moments, season two is the perfect mix of horror, excitement and comedy. It combines jokes with frights, family moments and loads of fun. The Duffer brothers certainly have succeeded in making season two even darker and scarier without losing the nostalgia of the 1980s.

Screen Shot 2018-01-10 at 4.56.30 PM

Here in Egypt, Stranger Things 2 has been a huge hit and is today one of the top 10 shows on Netflix Egypt. “I am impressed by the incidents where the imagination is mixed with comedy, especially when it is played by the character of Dustin Henderson,” says Netflix subscriber Saad Mustafaa Ismael.

What really helps the second season is that it witnesses many developments on its own, so even if you didn’t see the first season, you would still enjoy it. Frequent flashback scenes introduce viewers to the main characters. However, some viewers believe that certain characters should have appeared more. “When we take a closer look at some characters like Dustin, Max and Billy, for example, I’ve always wanted to see more of them on my screen,” says Aya Ibrahim.

Season two also sees some huge character developments. As the main faces have ventured into the Upside Down World, Hopper became ill shortly after being trapped in the tunnels, while Dustin had some of that weird floating stuff sprayed in his face. Lucas and Dustin are also captured by the affection of the newcomer Max. The season does give some characters more spotlight. Will, for example, had disappeared in the Upside Down World for the entire first season and wasn’t seen much on screen. In the second season his mind is controlled by the “Shadow Monster,” making him unable to remember anything after returning from the Upside Down World. “All characters played their roles pretty well and gave more dynamics to the plot,” Ibrahim says.

But while some fans like the change, others haven’t been as enthusiastic. “In this season, they focused too much on Will’s fantasies and drawings, which were dragged out and boring most of the time,” says viewer Nouran Moussa.

Other fans were disappointed certain roles, such as that of Eleven’s, were not properly developed and that the finale was unfortunately predictable. Spoiler alert: The season ends with a lovely snowball scene as the camera slowly turns, revealing the Upside Down and the “Shadow Monster.” Fans are left to wonder at the meaning and whether Hawkins is in for Round two next year.

“They kept it open in a nice way to prepare for season three and also satisfied almost everyone at the same time,” Ibrahim says.

]]>
1/11/2018 9:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Art for Advocacy]]>
What inspires your work?

I’m always inspired by the problems I’m facing or the issues of equality and humanity. Also, I find inspiration in movies and novels—I see how women are depicted with contempt within them and I try to reflect this in my work.

How has your work developed over the years?

At first, when I developed my love for art I drew a lot without knowing how or why my work could affect anyone. Then, I began to discover the real propose of art and design—the way I like to see it is how art or design can affect generations. So I started sending messages in my work, trying not to force it into people’s minds but making them feel it. I developed my techniques by taking people’s criticisms into consideration and learning from my mistakes, and I think that that’s the way to succeed.

What do you like most about your work?

I like the feeling I have when I’m finished with it. I’m really bad at conveying my feelings and thoughts through words and since I was a child, I used art to express them. My work gives me the space to address major problems and show how I’ve been touched by them.

How do you see the art scene in Egypt?

I see failure across the board when it comes to supporting art in Egypt, a bare minimum appreciation of designers. Art is the most important part of people’s lives—the films they are watching is art, the clothes they are wearing is art, the posters they’re admiring is art, paintings hanging on every wall in their house is art. But then along comes one parent telling his son or daughter to go study engineering so they can have a brighter future—well, there’s nothing brighter than art. I don’t think graphic is appreciated in Egypt even though we have amazingly talented graphic designers.


unnamed 3
Artwork courtesy Donia Nagy



What’s it like for young artists trying to break to the scene in Egypt? What are the obstacles you’re facing?

As I said, there is very limited support for art and development. I always try to get [people out of their comfort zone] and confront them with the truth of their culture and the community they are living in, the way media does when directors try to portray very realistic and unembellished truth in their work. The audience is easily shocked and offended, as for example with the series Sabe’ Gar (Seventh Neighbor) which was criticized for the negative behavior of the characters and the director allegedly bringing up ‘such lies’ even though they are only expressing the truth of what people are dealing with. People have to accept different perspectives of art as they’re not living in our bodies nor do they know what we’re going through.

Who are your favorite artists? Why?

Locally, Batool Al Daawi is one of my favorite photographers; she’s so talented and successful even though the industry that she is working in is largely perceived in Egypt as a man’s job, that it needs a man to ‘handle it.’ I’m totally against this concept. She’s getting orders from all sorts of media in Egypt and is being contracted for many projects, from the song “Talat Dakat” (Three Beats), the Orange World Cup ad, Vodafone’s Ramadan 2017 ad as well as the one for Pure juice starring Dorra. She’s also worked for TV on Al Gamaa’ (The Brotherhood), Al Kabreet al-Ahmar (The Red Matchstick) and the movie Bashtery Ragel (I’m Paying for a Man), among many others.

Amr Salama is one of my favorite filmmakers; he is unlike other directors because he really knows how to depict real life through his movies, sending people messages through his work without forcing them onto his viewers.

Internationally, Frida Kahlo was one of my favorite painters, I admire the way she saw things and the way she expressed her pain with surrealism.


What messages do you want to send through your art? Tell us a little bit about your most recent project with Mostafa Mohsen and Amr Allam.

I mostly send indirect messages to support women’s rights, I’m still not professional enough to ensure I’m making strong statements, but I’m working to improve my projects.

One of my favorite experiences was a recent project in the North Coast where a client commissioned me, Mostafa Mohsen and Amr Allam to work on her Greek-themed restaurant named Athena. To come up with a concept, we researched Greek culture and the goddess Athena. She was associated with large cats so we visualized Athena with a puma’s head and for color we used wallpaint and black permanent markers.

What are your plans for the future?

I’ll continue with my projects and work on improving my techniques. I plan to specialize in media and work on my filmmaking skills so I can produce real projects that send important messages to people; messages that would change the world and the way people have contempt for humanity. All my life, I knew that my passion for art would make me better and benefit the world. My next project is going to be an awareness campaign about female circumcision. I hope it will help me learn and improve my skills.

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1/10/2018 11:41:12 AM
<![CDATA[The Hidden Artisans Gem: Souq el-Fustat]]>
Carrying the ancient name of the city, Souq el-Fustat (Fustat Market) brings about a renaissance of signature Egyptian arts; from leather to glass, mosaic, copper, wood art, Bedouin embroidery, jewelry inspired by diverse traditions and more. Gathering 30 Egyptian artists from different fields, the market offers a unique and authentic shopping experience for one-of-a-kind handmade and customized crafts.

The market was opened in 2001-2002 as part of a larger plan to develop the religious compound in collaboration with UNESCO, Monica Adel, an Egyptian leather artist and co-manager at the market, tells Egypt Today. The mar-ket was first created as a means to in-troduce underprivileged children of the neighborhood to authentic Egyptian arts, while also offering visiting tourists the chance to buy handmade crafts.

The market hosts 38 shops that are rented out by the Tourism Develop-ment Authority to the artists. Some of the shops are also rented to a number of organizations, including the Association for the Protection of the Environment (APE), famed for its recycled crafts, the Association of Upper Egypt for Education and Development, which sells woven fabrics and woodwork made by talented Egyptian women in the countryside, and Istabl Antar Organization, selling beautiful products handcrafted by residents of one Egypt’s poorest slums.

Seeking to serve as a hub for tradi-tional art as well as raise the social and financial status of the residents, the market offers free workshops, where each artist takes a turn to introduce the children to their craft and help them learn it. Seperate workshops are offered with minor fees.

As promising as it sounds, the mar-ket is barely known among Egyptians, a drawback that has especially taken its toll since the crisis that hit the tourism industry over six years ago. “Our big-

gest challenge today is for people to know that we exist,” Emad says. “There are almost no Egyptians who ever heard of Souq el-Fustat.” Before the revolu-tion, she explains, most of the shoppers were foreigners. Promoting the market locally didn’t seem like an immediate priority.

The artisans at the market all echoed the same feeling; the souq is a very spe-cial, spiritual, cultural and artistic hub that deserves a higher rank on the tour-istic map. Each of these craftsmen have mastered their own unique art, and most also carry on the initial social mis-sion of the souq, with a determination

to develop the neighborhood, all the while reviving traditional arts and pass-ing them on to other generations.

Walking into the market is a reward-ing experience on its own, one would enjoy every inch from the architecture of the building to the paintings on the walls, the tree trunk sofas in the empty spaces between the shops and the va-riety of artwork decorating the shops’ windows. Moreover, there is almost no ‘tourist hassle,’ which makes shopping there a very calm experience.

Dar Gallery: a haven for crochet-ers and crochet fans

From traditional scarves to fashion-able bags, accessories, rugs, blankets, cushions and bunnies, Dar Gallery is the perfect occult to find any crocheted product one might be looking for. Pass-ing through the door, the colorful sight definitely grab attention; it has this ir-resistible positive vibe that would lure you inside.

Offering all kinds of handmade cro-chet products by creative Egyptian women, the gallery first came to the souq five years ago. “We are trying to support this traditional craft because many women in Egypt love to practice it,” artisan Dalia Ibrahim Nabil says.

crochet
Dar Gallery for crochet productes- Egypt Today/Yasmine Hassan


Both a gallery and a workshop, Dar aims to gather as many women who practice crochet or are trying to learn it. Every single artist there has her own style and talent that characterizes her work, which is easily seen in the huge variety available at the shop.


Carrying on the broader social mis-sion of the souq, Dar also offers train-ings for the ladies in the neighborhood who need a source of income to support their families, according to Nabil. “We start with a toy or a small bunny, un-til they are capable of producing larger items … Once they are trained, every-thing they make is sold in the shop.”

“Souq el-Fustat is a great place with a capturing spirit. It can educate, host ideas and execute them…and it needs to take the position it deserves,” Nabil says with a wide smile.

www.facebook.com/Dargallery/

El-Moled: Mixing creativity, inno-vation and youthful passion
Each corner and every spot on the wall exhibits a masterpiece, carrying its own identity and flavor. El-Moled is a free space of creative and flourishing art embracing the work of three passion-ate young artists: Khasaba, Zakzoka and Eshk. The three artists, inspired by Egyptian folklore, share a venue that beats with authentic spirit and creativ-ity.

The first thing visitors to the diverse gallery will see are the arquette (scroll saw woodwork) portraits hand-carved by passionate artist Hassan Khaled. Taking a modern approach to one of Egypt’s traditional arts, Khaled’s brand, Khashaba, embraces different applications of wooden carving to create accessories, customized portraits and one-of-a-kind decor pieces that add an authentic ambiance to the gallery. Right below the portraits are the masterpieces of Eshk, an elegant mixture of leather art, vintage stones and copper wire. Each piece of jewelry is a unique creation, handmade by journalist and artist Mariam Raafat, inspired by Arabic and Hindu cultures, as well as Bedouin and Nubian influences.

Adding the final touch are beauti-ful handicrafts of Zakzoka, created by Shaimaa Esmail and based entirely on recycled and natural materials with a Bohemian spirit.

“The three of us were already fond of Egyptian Folklore, we found that Souq el-Fustat embraces the same taste,” Raafat tells Egypt Today. “Each of us has their own direction but we all want-ed a place that celebrates the value of our art and does not simply turn it into a business.”

Apart from exhibiting their pieces of art, the three young artists also hold artistic workshops, classes and activi-ties for both children and adults at the souq, aiming to foster artistic develop-ment and teach Egyptian traditional crafts.

www.facebook.com/moled.gallery/

True Harmony: An elegant exhibi-tion inspired by two civilizations
A harmonious fusion of Syrian and Egyptian cultures, this one is an entire exhibition of unique and bespoke art crafts, furniture, light fitting, paintings and jewelry.

Fond of the artistic potential behind all and every natural resource, Egyptian-Syrian artist Thaer Jrab works with dif-ferent textures and fabrics, from brass, silver and leather, molding them into unique art pieces.

“I have two civilizations that crashed in my genes; the Ashurian Babylonian Venetian and the Pharaonic,” Jrab says. Inspired by both rich cultures, he start-ed his artistic journey in 1989 and first came to the souq in 2001 with a mis-sion to develop Middle-Eastern art and handicrafts.

A selection of masterpiece jewelry, from sterling to Swiss silver, gold, cop-per or brass are available at the gallery. If you wish, you can add semi or precious stones to your individual piece. There is also a variety of lightings and furniture, from decorative mirrors to ornate cabinets and everything in be-tween.

“Souq el-Fustat is the most wonderful market in Egypt because it is very real … It is a very strong and powerful place, where everyone is producing something,” Jrab says.

www.thaerjrab.com

The Association for the Protection of The Environment (APE) Gal-lery: The art of recycling

Stepping into this small shop, entire-ly cloaked with bright-colored textile, you would have never guessed it is all made of factory leftovers and patches, in the excluded neighborhood known as Hayy El Zabaleen (The Garbage City).

The bright side of a normally sad story, the APE’s gallery at Souq el-Fustat is the only permanent exhibition for the beautiful handmade product hand-crafted by the talented residents of the Garbage City. The shop offers a variety of creative, recycled products from bags, rugs, cushions, bookmarks, note-books, coasters, and accessories.

“We invite the ladies to the associa-tion where they learn the craft, thenwe ask them to write their names on the products,” says Samaan Awni, the APE marketing manager. “That way, we lure them to learn reading and writing as well.”

From rug weaving to patchwork and paper crafts, APE’s gallery is an excep-tionally elegant and vivid bazaar for all kinds of creative recycling products.

Association of Upper Egypt: Reviving local art

Capitalizing on authentic and im-memorial traditions in the Upper Egyp-tian governorates of Sohag and Luxor, the gallery exhibits a variety of artistic woodwork, as well as creative weaving and embroidery motives.

Rented by The Association of Upper Egypt for Education and Development (AUEED), the venue showcases the products of talented artists in the cities of Akhmim, Sohag and Hijaza in Luxor. All textile products are 100 percent cot-ton, handmade by community members who create their own spontaneous designs, inspired by nature or by their personal lives. As for the unique wood-en sculptures, they are all engraved us-ing exclusively local wood and shaped into boxes, plates, candles, flowers, pan-els or small furniture pieces.

Trained and mentored in the asso-ciation’s workshops, the community members were taught to develop their traditional crafts and mold their lo-cal treasures into creative and modern products.

For almost 16 years, Souq el-Fustat has been the only permanent gallery showcasing these artistic masterpieces carrying the spirit of Upper-Egyptian traditions.

Delta for hand-crafted glass art

The newest addition to the conglomeration, Delta Glass offers a variety of traditional, blown glass and the more modern Pyrex glass products. Owned by engineer and Vice Chairman of the Chamber of Handicrafts Yasser Rahal, the gallery was first opened a few months ago, presenting various types and shapes of handmade glassware, from the most traditional perfume bottle inspired by Pharaonic remains, to more contemporary utilities, such as tea and coffee sets, as well as delicate antiques.

Whether you are looking for the per-fect perfume bottle with pastel colors to match your dresser, shopping for some antiques to decorate your home, or simply seeking to explore one of the most elegant and graceful arts inspired by our ancestors, this one is worth one long stop.

Walking further into the market, you will find a lot more young and experi-enced artists, antiques collectors and a few other social initiatives that have taken that place as their hub to revive Egyptian arts, putting together the most perfect venue for a cultured shop-per.

To prevent any confusion and ensure that you have landed the best bargain, all prices are fixed and labelled.

Whether you are looking for a uniquegift, seeking an antique for your home, or if you have a very specific and detailed idea that you want to be cus-tomized especially for you, using any kind of materials or crafts, this underrated market should definitely earn a place on your shopping list. It is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day.

To figure out the best time to visit this 100 percent Egyptian artistic and cultural market, you can check the Facebook page at www.facebook. com/SouqElFustat/ for their monthly events, when the whole place beats with the passion of one of its art types, offer-ing workshops, exhibitions and a great ambiance.

Souq el-Fustat also hosts special seasonal events, where Nubians, Bedou-ins and other indigenous groups from Egypt’s diverse culture come to the market and plunge it into their most traditional music, activities and of course, their signature arts.


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1/1/2018 8:47:53 PM
<![CDATA[Mohamed Salah: Man of the Year]]>
He raised his arms up to signal he would not celebrate his goal, paying tribute to the victims who died in the brutal mosque attack in Arish, North Sinai on November 24. The left-footed player, a label for most of the promising talents in the world of football, became the protagonist of this year. Not only has he been Liverpool`s main player in the English Premier League or the UEFA Champions League, he also led the Egyptian national team to the 2018 World Cup for the first time since 1990 edition.

Even football was affected by the political situation.The national team failed to qualify to two consecutive World Cups and three consecutive African Cup of Nations tournaments. The golden era of Egyptian football was about to end until a young man from a small Egyptian village returned hope to all Egyptians and gained their love and respect.

Mohamed Salah is an Egyptian player who challenged all obstacles to achieve his dream of becoming a professional footballer. He has a stunning career in Europe and played a major role in the Egypt national team’s successes in recent years. Egyptians look to their national team winger as a national hero. Of the seven goals Egypt scored in total in the World Cup qualifiers, Salah scored five in six games, qualifying Egypt to the World Cup, and proving that he is a player why always pays his dues.


“I had the honour to play for the Egyptian national team. The flag of my country will always have a special place in my heart,” he said, according to ‘Liverpool echo’ website.

He has 25 years old but his bushy beard adds a couple of years to his appearance. His youth was mostly spent in Basyon town at Al-Gharbeya government. He grew up in a normal family, neither poor nor wealthy, but his name had a global impact within a short time frame. Salah has gained acclaim in European football in the past years.

“I was not a very good student. I was thinking only about football and this was the reason to be there [at school],” he said in an interview with ‘Liverpoolecho’ website. Salah`s parents had preferred hefocus on his studies, but there is a point where he persuaded his family to surrender to his will and allow him to play football. The young Salah took five buses from Basyon to Cairo every time he went to train at Al-Mokawlon Al-Arab club.

“My first successes were at the same time my family had to make sacrifices. It was a very difficult time for them. I used to leave the house early in the morning and I used to come back home very late. I was forced to take five buses to reach my club,” he said, according to ‘Liverpoolecho’ website. He had his debut when he was18 and scored his first professional goal against Al-Ahly in December 2010.

That goal made his name widely known in Cairo, as the every player scoring a goal against Al-Ahly and Zamalek clubs. “Football for me was nothing but a game. Maybe it was not even a hobby. Maybe it was a distraction - an impossible dream. I thought, for the first time, it could also become a job when I was 14. I was playing for a club called El Mowkaloon and I was left-back, wearing shirt number three,” he said.

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File - Liverpool fans

The most critical decision of Salah’s career, setting him apart from other Egyptian players, was when he took an offer to play in Europe with the Swiss team Basel. “When I was at El Mowkaloon, my old club, and the coach told me ‘you will be with the first team tomorrow’. It was, for me, an unbelievable moment and I couldn’t believe it. I was 16 years old,” Salah said. Salah took the leap. In 2012, he debuted and started a two season campaign in which he scored nine goals in 41 games.

He was champion of the Swiss Super League and grabbed the attention of a stronger league, that of England’s Chelsea. “Honestly, I never thought about playing in Europe. But I always tried to improve myself, even when I was a kid. I wanted to play at the top level in Egypt. But in Europe, I didn’t expect this. When I played in the first team in Egypt, I said ‘why didn’t you play in Europe? You should play in Europe’.

Then when I played in Basel, then I said ‘let’s go to bigger club’ ,” he told ‘Liverpool echo.’ However, Salah did not play many games as he scored two goals in 13 games from 2014 to 2015. “In England, I struggled to impose myself, but I don’t disown that experience. I compared myself with a big club and a big league like the Premier League,” he said, according to ‘Liverpoolecho’ website. Moving to Italy’s Fiorentina, he did very well and he scored six goals in 16 games.

“I chose the number 74 jersey because I wanted to pay a tribute to the victims of the stadium in Port Said in 2012, where so many fans died because of tragic clashes [a riot following an Egyptian Premier League game led to 74 supporters dying]. And to be clear, no one has ever asked me to put this number on the jersey. It’s something I felt inside and chose to do it,” Salah has also said. AS Roma hired him for the next two seasons, where he has been key to the team that fought for Series A title with the powerful Juventus of Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain.

He scored 29 goals in 65 appearances. “It’s very simple. I want to win with this team, with a club that is so popular in my home country and in this great city with which it’s impossible not to fall in love...This is one of the reasons I chose Roma. I like to play in the Champions League.” In June 2017, while his legend was growing with Rome and taking his Egyptian teammates to the World Cup, Liverpool broke the chip and gave him a new chance in the competitive Premier League.

“I’m very excited to be here. I’m very happy. I was in Egypt and I came two days ago. I was in Liverpool and I just signed one hour ago. Now I’m here and I’m very happy to be here. I would like to win something with the club. Everyone knows the club is very big. We have to do something for the fans and win something,” he told Liverpool’s official website. He proved himself and now he has more goals than Luis Suárez, Barcelona`s star, in the same number of game. Salah, with 15 goals in 20 games with the Reds, is already a household name around the world.]]>
12/26/2017 11:31:11 AM
<![CDATA[The Burnout Mode]]>
Sports are great for a kid’s mental and physical development, they also improve social skills and help teach hard work,determination and perseverance but in moderation. Moderation, experts agree, is the keyword here.

Many parents interviewed expressed how sports benefitted their children. Dana Hashem’s daughter Layal, 10, learned about time management, punctuality and hard work through gymnastics, which she has been practicing for seven years now. “She became very efficient, she would brush her hair in the car, for instance, or even study on her way to practice,” Hashem explains. “She also learned to be independent.”

Engy Laz, a clinical psychologist who specializes in children and adolescents, explains that sports help increase self esteem and keep a child healthy, both physically and mentally, developing a purpose in life beyond homework. “Kids have big amounts of energy that need to be channeled properly,” Laz says. “But balance is key.”

But with today’s obsessiveness about having a child who’s best at everything school, friendship, looks and, of course, fitness many kids have become over scheduled, overworked and over pressured. “Now you’re always running around that you can’t enjoy your kids and they can’t enjoy your presence...it is a military camp and everything runs so quickly,” says Laz.

According to a study by child psycholo- gist Sam Wass and Center Parcs published in 2017, the average British child works longer hours than their parents, between school, homework, sports and extra prac- tice, being tied up for an average of 46 hours a week.

Egypt is no different. Most parents inter- viewed said their kids practice four to seven hours a day for six days a week; month in, month out. Practices even get longer and harder during summer. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children take at least one or two days a week that are completely free from sports or trainings as well as two or three months off every year; something that barely ever happens with children who play competi- tive sports. In fact, most of the parents in- terviewed explained their children are often told off for taking a week or two off on summer breaks.

Laz explains that when a child is deprived from normal activities, relaxation, quality time with the parents and socializing, he becomes overstressed, which has various psychological implications.

Life coach and family counselor Mai Kamouni explains that many kids go to her suffering from stress. “There has to be a balance between keeping kids busy and putting too much pressure on them. They need routine, yes, but can’t be running from one thing to the other,” she explains. “They’re physically very tired and so become angry, can’t focus, and can’t function well at school.”

The worst bit is not that children’s schedules are so packed that they have no room to goof around and be children, it’s that the training can often end up in overuse injury or injury from poor stretching.

In fact, a survey by the Centers for Dis- ease Control and Prevention found that kids aged 5 to 14 had the highest sports related injury rates, almost 6 percent, followed by those age 15 to 24 with a rate of 5.6 percent, compared to an average of only 2.1 percent for people aged between 25 and 44.

Heba El Hadidy, a long-time basketball player, a former international referee and currently a board member of the Giza Basketball Zone, explains that injuries happen to everyone, including professional players abroad who have a huge entourage of experts. But here, injuries are, yes, sometimes due to inevitable accidents, but often times it is a combination of coaches who aren’t well-qualified, over training, ignoring prop- er stretching and recovery, as well as over- stuffed practices.

System Overload

Challenging muscles helps them grow stronger and, with the right stretching, leaner. But exercising eight hours a day at such a tender age can take a severe toll on a child’s body.

According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics in 2007, about 60 percent of sports injuries among children 12 years and older are due to overuse. Research published at the Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics shows that despite the overall rate of injuries decreasing, the number of overuse- related injuries are increasing year after year. “When you train hard, the muscle doesn’t get the adequate time to relax and heal, so it can’t flex and stretch properly,” physiotherapist Ahmed Galal, who specializes in sports, explains. “This starts affecting the growth bone so the problems start hap- pening.” What happens next is pain, fol- lowed by the inability to move properly and all the way to ligaments actually separating from the muscles.

All parents interviewed had rather simi- lar schedules; all of them trained for six days a week during winter and summertime, and the trainings tend to be even longer before tournaments. A typical day for their chil- dren involves training after school for four to seven hours and going to bed as late as midnight or 1 a.m., either due to practice or to finish school work, then waking up around 6 a.m. to get ready for another day. “Of course she’s always sleepy at school and her teachers keep telling us they need to sleep eight hours a day, but she makes up for missed sleep during the weekends,”
Hashem tells us.

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Dina Marzouk’s daughter, Salma, 15, was a basketball player at the national team before she moved to Germany a couple of months ago. Marzouk explains that, in Egypt, Salma trained daily from 5 p.m. and the practice often lasted until midnight, but in Germany, the schedule is drastically different. There, she only trains three times a week and they hold games on weekends. “The pressure [in Egypt] was unbelievable,” Marzouk says.

Squash practice seems a bit less intense; Rania El Sherbiny explains that her son Mohamed, 16, has been practicing squash for 11 years now. He practices a little less than three hours daily, six days a week. It may be worth mentioning that squash—the sport where players seem to be practicing the least hours is one of the sports that Egypt excels in; with various players like Nour El Sherbiny and many others win- ning international championships.

This insane number of hours the play- ers are spending in courts and at practice is most definitely one of the leading causes of rising injury rates. The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that adolescents who spend more hours a week than their age practicing one sport are 70 percent more likely to suffer overuse injuries. This means that a 13-year-old should practice no more than 13 hours a week and take two days off, averaging to around 2.5 hours a day worth of practice. This is a rate we haven’t seen with any of the interviewed families, whose kids train an average of five hours a day.

Galal explains that although now there is more awareness about recovery and stretch- ing, there are some sports like water polo where the players are over-trained and burn out easily. “In many sports, we achieve very good international ranks with juniors, but the players don’t perform as well when they grow older…because they get injured,” he says. Galal adds that a young child’s sched- ule is often busy from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and so they barely get time to properly stretch and recover.

Rasha Nabil is a mother of two diving players, aged 16 and 13, who have been practicing diving for nine and seven years, respectively. Nabil explains that her chil- dren are constantly getting injured, with her elder son, suffering an inflammation on his shoulder and a mild degeneration from the severe practice. His injuries got so severe that he had to have plasma treat- ment on his shoulder. Her younger one has been having eye and ears infections from the pool since he started diving at the age of
6. Other players in the team suffer mainly from inflammation to the tendons in the shoulder, or torn ligaments, among others. Similarly, Marzouk’s daughter has knee injuries, a cruciate-ligament injury on both knees. El Sherbiny’s son, Mohamed, has also suffered various injuries on the court, be it from training or aggressive players
who intentionally target his injured spots.

Injuries only get worse when parents,coaches or the children themselves ignore doctors’ orders to rest and go back to training before due time, the second they feel a bit better. Galal explains that while many coaches are receptive to his recommendations for injured players, others don’t and say “you don’t know this player, he’s mine and I know him better and I made him so I know what’s right and what’s wrong.” Others just pretend to agree with him but end up doing what they think is right anyway, leaving the player confused as to whether they should follow their coach’s or the doc- tor’s orders.

Other times, Galal adds, it’s the parent who doesn’t want to follow the coach’s orders. The greater percentage of parents and coaches, however, are inclined to follow medical orders, “but aren’t too happy about it and stress about the impact of this on their performance and the upcoming championships.” Others would only follow Galal’s orders until they feel better, they then cut off the recovery and therapy process to resume training only to come back with more serious injuries. “I would have an injury in my right foot, so I would put more effort on my left side and come back with a back injury in my left side. You overuse, so things get tired, so your body puts the pressure on other areas which then get affected too. The body manages in a 100 ways but that means you might cause even more injuries in other areas of the body, even if the area that was affecting you at first doesn’t hurt anymore.”

Injuries later have an effect on the child’s mental health, who then starts stressing about not training well and about perfor- mance levels falling. This can lead to depres- sion, Laz explains. “This is the one thing I know in life; when it stops, who am I?” she says, adding that the imbalance leads to a sense of loss when this major part of their lives is threatened.

A good way to prevent injuries in addition to proper recovery, stretching and time off is diversifying the sports that kids play so the muscle groups involved are maximized and there is no strain on a specific muscle. Even though there’s a common belief that specialization is better for players to become professional athletes, a study by the Medical Society for Sports Medicine published in 2013 proves otherwise. The survey conducted found that 88 percent of college athletes played several sports and 70 percent didn’t even specialize until they were above 12 years of age.

Tfte player-turned-coacft epidemic

Many coaches have studied anatomy, fitness and even nutrition, and know exactly how to handle different ages, fitness levels, strengths and personalities. Others, how- ever, are simply former players of the sport who know the ins and outs of how to score a goal or run the fastest, but might not be as experienced or knowledgeable when it comes to training others while maintaining their physical and psychological well being. The latter situation is where problems occur. Former gymnast, physical education teacher and gymnastic coach Nada Mohamed explains, for example, that in gymnastics, any former player with experience trains.

Galal says that coaches are now more aware, but many of them are former play- ers who often train children how they were trained, with disregard to how technologies had changed or the differences between them, as individuals, and the players they train.

Although injuries due to accidents hap- pen everywhere, “a big part of injuries among children is that they don’t have good muscle structure,” El Hadidy says. “For instance, my own muscles are short because I never focused on stretching and no coach ever stressed on it; maybe due to lack of experience or training too many kids at a time. So players grow up and they get injured.”

Nabil’s elder son’s injuries, she explains, are largely due to the fitness coach focus- ing on a set of muscles and ignoring others. “So his back muscle is weak, but his chest muscle is very strong, which draws his chest and arms downwards, affecting his shoul- der,” she explains. She adds that players of different ages train together, so the training is never specialized to the capacity, strength and needs of the player, or even his age, and the kids never had one-one-one fitness training because the coach is “too busy to address individual needs.”

Nabil’s remarks are on point, as Galal explains that the first reason behind many injuries is that muscle strength is different from one person to the other, which is rarely taken into consideration as everyone trains together and follow the same exercise, regardless of their strength or age.

With endless kids to train and not enough time to attend to specific needs, the sports industry suffers. El Hadidy echoes the same feelings as Nabil and Ga- lal, explaining that coaches, especially in academies, often have 20 kids to train at a particular session, and practices run back to back, so a coach may be training 60 play- ers a day, which means the performance of the kids is bound to be affected and “there are too many players to focus on individual talents.”

She recounts the story of a player who moved to London, where she continued her swimming practice. “They immediately spotted her talent and put her with people older than her because of her advanced lev- el,” she states. “There, in a week’s time, they spotted her talent, but at the sports club where she practiced here, she was just one of the 20 other players practicing with her.” Another key issue, El Hadidy adds, is the failure to implement rules and regulations when it comes to hiring coaches. Many sports federations have clear regulations on qualifications for coaches, but more often than not, they are not implemented. El Hadidy explains that although the crite- ria and regulations on hiring coaches and promoting them are improving, they lack implementation and it is often due to nepo-tism, which leads to many exceptions.

Another problem is implementation.

Marzouk explains that although there is a rule that players need to get checked up before tournaments, they often just stamp the papers and don’t really do any check- ups, as it costs LE 2,200. Marzouk adds that she has seen many issues when it came to the medical team looking after the national squad, including lack of awareness when it came to giving out random supplements, as well as misdiagnosis of injuries. For in- stance, they once diagnosed her daughter with a dislocated disc, and after checkups with private hospitals, it turned out it was just a bruise.

But it’s not all Dickensian and sad; many kids find sports enjoyable and it keeps them in shape, out of trouble, disciplined and in the comradery of amiable teammates. Al- though sports injuries in kids are wide and common, staying fit and active is key in maintaining a balanced and healthy child.

Stretching, proper rest and recovery time, a balanced training routine and a well-in- formed coach are all key to keeping injuries at bay and ensuring safety during and after practice.

young-swimmer-2504990
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12/23/2017 11:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[The great pyramid ]]>
“This is definitely the discovery of the century. There have been many hypotheses about the pyramid, but no one even imagined that such a big void is located above the Grand Gallery,” archaeologist and Egyptologist Yukinori Kawae told National Geographic.

At least 100 feet long (30.5 meters) and located above the Grand Gallery linking Khufu’s burial chamber to a tunnel leading out, this discovery marks the first ever major structure found in the pyramids since the 1800s, the scientists assert. Highlighting the importance of the new findings, Salima Ikram, a professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo and author of several books on Egyptian archeology, tells Egypt Today that it “might help explain how the pyramid was build.”

The hidden cavity was discovered by a scientific mission that was launched on October 25, 2015 under the name of the “ScanPyramids” project. According to official statements, the mission aimed to “probe the heart of the largest pyramids of Egypt,without drilling the slightest opening.”

Under the authority of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, and in collaboration with the Faculty of Engineering of Cairo University and the French Heritage Innovation Preservation Institute (HIP), the project uses an imaging technique called muon radiography and subatomic particle scans to identify any possible cavities hidden in the
pyramids.

“Just because a mystery is 4,500 years old doesn’t mean it can’t be solved,” the mission’s video teaser states. Co-founder of the ScanPyramids project and president of HPI Mehdi Tayoubi explained in a press conference that the purpose of the uncovered void remains unclear. “Researchers are cautiously avoiding the word ‘chamber’ for the time being.

What we do know is that this void is there, that it is impressive, and that it was not expected by any kind of theory,” he stated. Ikram explains that the void’s purpose may have been a functional one. “Possibly, the void was used for manipulating blocks, as well as providing a way in and out of the pyramid during its construction,” she says.

However, it is still unclear whether the cavity played any role in construction.The plane-sized void is believed to be completely locked away from the known passages of the pyramid, which lead to the three main chambers: the Grand Gallery, the King’s Chamber and the Queen’s. Although it is still unclear whether this void is a chamber
or even a corridor, the measurements show it has similar dimensions to the Grand Valley.

Controversial, even 4,500 years later

Although the discovery has brought about various hopes and speculations in local and
international news, some experts still doubt how far such a discovery could take us in
resolving the mystery of the pyramid, affirming that it calls for further investigations.In a statement released early November, head of the government’s antiquities council Mustafa Waziri criticized the announcement of the discovery, explaining that it raises
more questions than those answers and that further investigations must be conducted.

Zahi Hawass - Egypt Today
Zahi Hawass - Egypt Today

“The project has to proceed in a scientific way that follows the steps of scientific research and its discussion before publication,” he said.Archaeologist and head of the science committee overseeing the project Zahi Hawass even denied there was any “new discovery.” Scientists from Scan Pyramids “showed us their conclusions and we
informed them this is not a discovery,” he said in a statement to Agence France Presse
(AFP).

“The pyramid is full of voids and that does not mean there is a secret chamber or a new discovery,” Hawass added. As a renowned Egyptologist who has worked on several archaeological projects herself, Ikram believes that future plans following such a dazzling discovery will definitely include further studies and a deeper understanding of all three pyramids.

Salima Ikram - Egypt Today
Salima Ikram - Egypt Today

“I doubt that, in this generation, anyone will obtain access to the void, unless there is some way of teleporting into it without damaging the structure,” Ikram adds,affirming that the scientists have only established the existence of the void, without making any allegations of its purpose, which is up to Egyptologists to uncover. The ScanPyramid mission is pursuing its work to uncover the void’s secret, continuing to “research with non-destructive techniques,” the HIP Vice-President stated in a TV interview, affirming they will not be “drilling bore holes into the void.”

Whether the “big void” is a chamber, a passage or just an empty space, using advanced technology to find out more about it is perhaps a discovery in itself, a tool that will keep revealing more about the secrets of our ancestors, their ancient construction techniques and how they built pyramids to last.]]>
12/22/2017 10:24:23 AM
<![CDATA[Queen of the Dunes]]>
“With every race, I force people to respect what I do and who I am,” she tells Egypt Today.

Entering the world of rally racing four years ago, Shalaby has already made a mark in the field; she won the first position in the amateur category of the 2014 Pharaohs international Cross Country Rally, and the second overall position. She has also won the second position in the amateur categories of the 2013 El Remaly Desert
Challenge and the 2014 El Gouna Rally Cup.

She is now Egypt’s ambassador to the Women in Motorsports organization.

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Like many Egyptians, especially her male counterparts, Shalaby began driving well
before the legal age, when she was only 12 years old. Her family outings used to be in the desert, one of their favorite places during her childhood, where they would go on safari trips during their travels.

“I was scuba diving when I was 15 years old, my family had no restrictions over sports and encouraged me to do any kind of sport [I was interested in],” she says.

“I used to try any adventure sports and I did not care if people would say ‘this is a girl and she cannot do it.’ I did hiking, rock climbing, parachuting and I still want to try more.”

Inspired by her parents, who are aviation engineers, Shalaby joined Ain Shams University’s Faculty of Engineering, where she studied civil engineering and graduated in 2004.

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“When I was young, I was fond of flying and airplanes,” she recounts.

She was fond of the desert as a child, and of extreme sports as she grew older, but it wasn’t until theage of 30 that Shalaby discovered her passion for the world of rally during one weekend trip in the desert. “I saw how we were getting rid of obstacles that during the trips with my parents I thought were impossible to cross,” she recounts. It as then that she bought her first four-wheel-drive car, the cheapest one she could find, and ever since she’s never left the world of rallies.

Although she is now a regular rally driver, a team leader and founder of Gazelle Rally Team, Shalaby still maintains her day job as a technical Oracle consultant at QNB Group. She is also mother to an 8-year-old, Aamen.

On top of her mom-duties, passion for rallies and her job at the bank, she is also an amateur kayaker. She led a team of 15 kayakers on November 30 across the Gulf of Aqaba, from Sinai to Jordan and back for a total distance of 42 kilometers.

This is Shalaby’s second time kayaking across the Gulf; her debut trip was in 2015
when she, along with four others from the Cairo Nile Kayak Club, paddled for eight consecutive hours for 20 kilometers. In preparation for the event, the team has been
raining every weekend for the past two months.

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Queen of the desert Her success didn’t come easy; in her first race in 2013, she came in 10th. In 2014, she overturned her car and had a problem with the engine that forced her to drive on a maximum speed of 60 kilometers per hour throughout the 500-kilometer long track.

Despite the advice of her technical team, Shalaby drove all night. in the dark and with hardly enough power to jump the dunes, for 12 hours. She arrived just 15 minutes before the next stage began.

She ate, fixed the car and accelerated again; she came in fourth in that race. Shalaby felt that losing her first race in 2013 proved all those who felt that a woman, an Arab woman, couldn’t become a rally driver right.

“That motivated me more. I wanted to show them that I did not surrender,” she says.Since then, Shalaby has only been improving, she finished second in the Pharaohs Cross-Country Rally in 2015 and was then recog-nized as the Best Rally Driver 2016 in the same race the following year.

She then joined the Toyota-sponsored professional racing team Rahalla, trading her Wrangler car for a Land Cruiser, after taking a loan and telling her family that Toyota sponsored her.

She now has her own team, the Gazelle Rally team, which is a group of people with discrete backgrounds and experience coming together to form the team, with their pilot being the only female rally driver currently in Egypt. Shalaby makes a point to endorse fellow women drivers.

“I liked to have most of my team comprising women; I encouraged them the most and helped them to break the barriers,” she says.

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Shalaby and her son, Aamen, are often featured together in pictures of her celebrating her wins, where they’re both beaming with pride. “He likes the desert so much, but he doesn`t like the rally and motorcycling, especially after I had a motorcycling accident in May, 2015 at Sakkara,” she says. “I spent six months on a wheelchair so he hated that kind of sports.

Step by step, we got back to the track together and now he attends every race with me.”

Rally racing in Egypt Although many people confuse rally with racing, Shalaby explains that they are completely different. “The difference between rally and auto racing is huge. The most important thing in auto racing is that you have to push your car to the ultimate peak to win the race,” she argues, “but in rally, you have to be smart and with high technicality in mechanics as there are many obstacles you will face in you race.” She adds that on soft-sand dunes, for instance, every moment is critical and the player needs strength and speed because there’s always the risk that the car will overturn or gets stuck in the sand.

“[The desert is] deceptive and often treacherous,” she explains. It is a place you can easily lose your sense of direction and where a map is of little use. The engines also overheat and the driving is a permanent flow of adrenaline, she explains. “It is like a pyramid and you have to take care of each point of the three points: car,driver and co-driver. If any of the three variables is not quite ready; you will lose the race.”

Despite receiving funding from QNB (National Bank of Qatar) since last year, Shalaby had to add LE 20,000 to the LE 30,000 fund from her bank to cover expenses for participating in the rally. She admits that she still needs new sponsors before facing international projects such as the Morocco Rally, which was launched in 1934 and held irregularly until 1988 before it was revived as the OiLibya Rally of Morocco in 2013.

The Morocco Rally is one of the more advanced rallies and is considered a sort of prelude to the advanced Dakar rally, now held in South America.

“The Dakar is a dream, [that I am planning on in] three years from now,” says Shalaby.

An additional obstacle in the world of rally is that in Egypt, this sport is still quite unknown and lacks support from the government. In the UAE, where Shalaby has also taken part in several races, there is a dedicated budget for this sport that attracts sponsors and the public alike.

Similarly, Qatar recently organized a training workshop for women from the world of rally, from pilots to copilots or navigators with representatives from all over the world, with Jutta Kleinschmidt, the first woman to win the Paris-Dakar race.

But in Egypt, it is difficult to garner public, government or private sector support.
“Sponsors lately have been interested in motor sport, but not in rallies. Rally is mostly held in deserts, so only a few fans would attend the race,” Shalaby says, adding that the low visibility means sponsors shy away from putting their money in rallies when they can sponsor seemingly more visible events like football games.

Despite the challenges, Shalaby is insistent on making her dream come true and is now preparing for the Dubai International Rally held on December 8. On the horizon for her also is the biggest event of the year, the 2018 FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) World Rally Championship held in Abu Dhabi in April.]]>
12/21/2017 10:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Now Showing]]>The Man Who Invented Christmas
Director: Bharat Nalluri
Stars: Christopher Plummer, Dan Stevens,Jonathan Pryce and Simon Callow December 20 A perfect Christmas tale for moviegoers:
this is the magical journey that led to the creation of Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher
Plummer), Tiny Tim and other classic characters from A Christmas Carol.

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Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) mixes real- life inspirations with his vivid imagination
to conjure up unforgettable characters and a timeless tale, forever changing the holiday season into the celebration weknow today.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Director: Rian Johnson
Stars: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Mark
Hamill and Carrie Fisher December 13 In this continuation of the previous Star Wars episodes, Rey (Daisy Moore) develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who is unsettled by the strength of her powers.

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Meanwhile, the young fighters of the Resistance prepare to do battle with the evil First Order..

The Greatest Showman
Director: Michael Gracey
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Zendaya, Rebecca
Ferguson and Zac Efron December 27 Inspired by the imagination of P.T. Barnum,
The Greatest Showman is an original musical that celebrates the birth of show business and tells of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation. The film will feature eleven new original songs written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the Academy Award winning lyricists of this year’s Oscar winner La La Land (2016).

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12/20/2017 10:10:00 AM
<![CDATA['Tis the Season with more hits]]>Last Cftristmas

This one is an impressive, and quite enjoyable, song by English pop legends Wham. Released in 1984, the ines- capable holiday favorite about love and friendship is the 10th most downloaded holiday song in history according to Billboard and Nielsen SoundScan, and played nonstop last year when lead singer George Michael passed away on Christmas day.

It is tfte Beginning to Looft a Lot Lifte Cftristmas

Portraying the perfect scene of a home hosting a Christ- mas party, the song captured a detailed picture of children enjoying their new toys, Christmas trees and the season’s clothes. It was written and composed by the American com- poser Meredith Willson in 1951 and has been covered by many singers, including Perry Como.

Blue Cftristmas

A classic rock and roll hit released by the legendary Elvis Presley, this is a mixture of country music and the blues and is all positivity and joy. The song was originally released on Presley’s first Christmas album Elvis’ Christmas Album.

Lonely tftis Cftristmas

Another song about separation, Lonely this Christmas was originally released
by the glam rock legends Mud in 1974 but has since been covered by several oth-
er artists. The song is about a lonely Christmas after be- ing separated from a loved one.

So Tftis Is Cftrist- mas

One of the best- loved Christmas songs, this track symbolizes the in- ner struggle be- tween New Year’s hopes and wishes versus the reality of what was actuall yachieved. It is originally composed by the legendary John Lennon, and was covered by crooner Celine Dion. The sounds of bass with acoustic guitars intermingled with beats of the triangle creates a contradictory atmo-sphere between black and white, warmth and cold, and joy and sorrow.


Merry Cftristmas, Darling

This could be one of the most underrated Christmas songs, though it is a real romantic classic. The song was released in 1966 by the Carpenters and is full of beautiful vibes and Christmas symbols. The impressive saxophone solo adds to the catchy jazz tune.

Cftristmas Eve

This one is a metal cover of the classic Christmas Eve, re- leased by leading heavy-metal band Savatage. It was released on Savatage’s Christmas Eve and Other Stories album with Trans-Siberian Orchestra in 1996. The song sets an epic musical atmosphere delivered through symphonic instru- ments and the powerful tunes of guitars.

Tfte Cftristmas Spirit

A song by Johnny Cash, one of the most influential art- ists in the 20th century, this Christmas spirit track is high- ly spiritual and takes the form of a poem. The track was released as part of Cash’s first Christmas album Christmas Spirit in 1963.

AN ARABIC CHRISTMAS

Bayt Laftem and Saftret Eid (Cftristmas Nigftt)

Majida El Roumi’s classic, warm voice is another Christ- mas favorite, and these two songs are no different. Released in 2013, Bayt Lahem is a slow, instrumental hymn that is heavily reliant on the violin and string instruments. Sahret Eid is another orchestral song by El Roumi and both songs are part of her Christmas album Nour men Nour (Light Born of Light).


Haat Aftlamna Ya Baba Noel (Santa Clause, Grant Us Our Dreams)

Egyptian singer Moustafa Amar, actor Hassan Kamy and singer and actress and performer Nelly are certainly a rare combination, but the trio pulled off what became an Egyp- tian childhood classic for the holiday season. It narrates the dreams of a man who seeks to meet his imaginary lover on Christmas night.

El Yawm Lailet Eid El Milad (Today Is tfte Cftristmas Nigftt)

The soundtrackof the Leba- nese film Rehlet Baba Noel (Santa Claus’s Journey), the song is about chil-dren who are waiting for Santa Claus to bring them gifts. The tunes are similar to the classic Christmas song Jingle Bells but with an oriental twist that features happy trumpet tunes, violin and flute.

Lailet Eid, Kona Nezayen Sftajara Sgftira and Talj, Talj

We’ve already mentioned these off Fayrouz’s album, but can’t really drop them from the list of Arabic Christmas tunes as they’ve become synonymous with the season in the region.

Jayi Papa Noel

An upbeat, happy and quite cutesy Christmas song call- ing on Santa Claus, this song was released in 1992 from the album Pascal Sings Christmas by Pascal Sakr and the musical genius Elias Rahbani.
]]>
12/19/2017 11:00:00 AM
<![CDATA['Tis the Season]]>
Christmas music originally dates back to fourth centu- ry Rome, in the form of rhyming carols and hymns.Simple church music instruments were and still are popular, including the triangle and cymbals. Over the years a vari- ety of different genres like pop,jazz and rock have been incorporated into Christ- mas music which often narrates tales of the birth of Jesus, like the iconic Si- lent Night by Franz Xaver. More recently, Christmas music has expanded to include more themes, like traditions of the season or the cold weather—Frank Sinatra’s Let It Snow be- ing one of our perennial favorites. In Arabic, Lailet Eid (Christmas Night), Fayrouz’s rendition of Jingle Bells, has also become iconic.

So whether you’re looking to add a fes-tive vibe to your home or office this month,here’s a rundown of Egypt Today’s essential Christmas songs.

THE CLASSIC CAROLS

Jingle Bells

The most iconic Christmas song in the world, Jingle Bells has been covered endlessly, and in lots of different lan- guages and productions, but the original song was written by James Lord Pierpont and was at first titled One Horse Open Sleigh and released in 1857. Since then, famous acts like Louis Armstrong, The Beatles, The Million Dollar
Quartet, Luciano Pavarot- ti, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand and Ella Fitzger- ald have paid homage to the song in their own ren- ditions.

Silent Nigftt

One of the most famous Christmas carols, Silent Night was composed by Franz Xaver Gruber and the lyrics were written by Joseph Mohr. The song originated in Austria’s
Oberndorf Bei Salzburg city in 1818 and was declared an intan- gible cultural heritage by the UNESCO in 2011. Our favorite renditions include those by Michael Bublé, Elvis Presley and Mariah Carey.

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Mariah Carey

Petit Papa Noel (Little Fatfter Cftristmas)

A French favorite, the song was released by Tino Rossi in 1946. Written by Raymond Vincy and Henri Martinet, the song is now one of the bestselling singles of all time in France.

Joy to tfte World

This is one of the oldest, and most most-known Christ- mas carols and was written by Issac Watts in 1719. It has been performed by a number of leading singers, including Mariah Carrey and Whitney Houston, whose version is clos- er to jazz and pop music than the original classic.

It Came upon tfte Midnigftt Clear

Another classic carol, this spiritual song mixes flute, violin and other string instruments. The lyrics were written by American author Edmund Sears in 1849 and com- posed by Richard Storrs Willis in 1850. Julie Andrews’ version is considered one of the best covers of the song.

Decft tfte Halls

This popular yuletide classic was originally a traditional Welsh song that dates back to the 16th century but was rewritten in English by Thomas Oliphant in 1862. The line “Tis the season” has become syn- onymous with the fes- tive season.


THE ALBUMS

A Jolly Christmas from Franft Sinatra and Christmas Songs from Sinatra

The legendary American singer Frank Sinatra re- leased two full albums of Christmas songs; A Jolly Christ- mas from Frank Sinatra (1957) and Christmas Songs from Sinatra (1948). Including favorites like I’ll be Home for Christmas, Let It Snow and White Christmas, both al- bums—not to mention Sinatra’s iconic voice—are Christmas essentials. Sinatra also performed covers of old Christmas songs like Silent Night, Jingle Bells, It Came upon the Mid- night Clear and Have Yourself a Little Merry Christmas.

Taratil Aid El Melad (Cftristmas Hymns) by Fayrouz

The legendary Fayrouz is a Christmas classic in the Arab world, with many favorite Arabic renditions of popular international songs like Lailet Eid and Sawt El Eid (The Sound of Christmas), which is the Arabic version of Silent Night. The album also has many original Arabic Christmas carols, including Arsal Allah (Got Sent), Ya Maryam el Bekr (O Virgin Mary), Talj, Talj (Snow, Snow) and Kona Nezayen Shagara Sghira (We Were Decorating a Small Christmas Tree), featuring happy sounds from the piano and the flute.

Cftristmas by Micftael Bublé

With classics like It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, Ave Maria and Silent Night, Bublé has made himself a Christmas essential with this album, released in 2011. Topping the charts after its debut, the album be- came the first holiday compilation to win the Juno Award for Album of the Year.

CONTEMPORARY CLASSICS

All I Want for Cftristmas Is You

This song written by pop star Mariah Carey appeared on her Christmas album Merry Christmas (1994), and became an instant holiday hit. Although essen-
tially romantic, the song maintains the tra-ditional beats of Christmas songs, in- cluding the sound of bells in the background.
Throughout the album, Carey also covered many classic Christmas songs such as Santa Clause Is Coming to Town.

It is tfte Most Won- derful Time of tfte Year

Appearing on the Andy Williams Christ- mas Album in 1963, this song is full of energy and spirit. Re- volving around par- ties and gatherings, the tune brings gentle
warmth to a cold holiday. It was written in 1963 by Amer-ican songwriter Edward Pola and American conductor George Wyle.

2000 Miles

This Christmas song is composed by the American Rock band The Pretenders and was released in 1984 on the album Learning to Crawl. The song portrays a scene of vast lands painted in white snow and a lonely lady stand- ing waiting for her lover. It is all about separation, telling the story of a lady who spends a whole year waiting for her lover to come back and can’t feel the passing time, but finally recognizes Christmas when she hears the children singing. Coldplay recently performed a cover of the song, using only the piano.]]>
12/18/2017 12:00:00 PM
<![CDATA[Twin Power: Hegazy Sisters Sing Against Stereotypes]]>
Born in San Diego, California, to an Italian mother and an Egyptian father, each of the twins started pursuing her own solo music career at a very early age. Omnia was 10 when she chose the violin and later on picked up an acoustic guitar and started to write her own songs, while her sister played the piano.

The twins maintained parallel careers as solo artists until they graduated college, and then united musically in 2012. On their website Leila is described as “a vocally driven R&B singer and Omnia [is] a rebellious pop-rock artist,” but they managed to combine their individual styles and form a duo in 2016. In commemoration of their late father who always insisted they were stronger together, the sisters joined forces as “HEGAZY” band.

The sisters talk to Egypt Today about their mission to fight wrong social and political concepts and stereotypes in different cultures, using the power of music.

Tell us about your first works and how you think you have developed throughout the years.

Leila: My debut was a short Extended Play (EP) called “The Black and White,” recorded by Grammy-nominated producer Joseph Ferry, while my second release was a full album called “Looking Glass”. After our father passed away in 2016, we began to form our duo band and soon after produced “Of that Record” and “Alive.”

Omnia: My first EP was Jailbird in 2012. The album revolves around feminist themes and women’s rights, as I am greatly inspired by some women I have met in my life, who have given up on their dreams when they [were] married [off] early. My second album, “Judgment Day,” in 2013, is about political freedom and child marriage, as I was influenced by the ongoing Arab Spring at the time.

Both of us have different music styles; we attended different high schools and colleges, which was crucial for our development as individuals and for our duo band later. We also used to listen to diverse types of music, besides working as solo artists in different genres.

When we combine our different individual styles, we create very powerful and totally different art from what we are both used to, a meeting in the middle of our styles. You write your songs as well, tell us more about that.

Omnia: We write our songs separately. What we do is that one of us starts writing a song and the other finishes it. We also sit together to formulate the ideas and go back and forth over lyrics.

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How does your audience react when they find out you are Arab women?

Omnia: I initially met some difficulties being a female guitarist, as men in the band thought I would not be professional and serious in my work.

As Arab women, we chose to team up as “Hegazy” because it is an Egyptian name and we are proud to be Egyptians, even though some people feel weird about our name and sometimes mock it.

Leila: … But our audience is not racist toward us for being Arabs, as many of them like Arab music; they are liberal and open-minded. They are against stereotypes and that is why they agree with our songs, through which we try to fight such concepts.

How is your music contributing to changing stereotypes, especially the ones you face?

Omnia: We have not yet produced many albums to be able to actually change the

stereotype … Yet, what we are doing is using our songs and writing to combat the stereotypes we face. We are hoping to challenge prejudiced people with their [set] minds and very restrictive thoughts without arguing with them.

Do you think that stereotypes could affect the society?

Omnia: Of course, that’s why we have just released a documentary-style music video “Alive,” where we follow, with a camera crew, five people during their day-jobs, passions and their side hustles. Through each of these characters, we criticize those who judge others based on how they look from the outside, which, in most cases, is untrue.

In the video, each of them does what they love, which is considered by some as contradictory to their appearances. For example, there is a woman wearing a hijab and singing, running and playing music, which is contrary to what people think of a Muslim woman who does not have anything to do with music.

Omnia: We have not only tackled Arab stereotypes in the documentary but we also address other cultures. One scene features an Asian man listening to hip-hop music, even though Asian males are stereotypically associated with some specific kinds of music.

Art has no limits; it is one of the ways to break stereotypes and borders between people. People nowadays listen to everything and are affected by music that[evokes] their emotions regardless of its genres.

However, people stereotype musical genres by referring them to their origins. For example, classical music is a style of art produced and rooted in Western tradition, or jazz and blues are another style found in the culture of black Americans. But that does not mean that white Americans do not listen to jazz and blues or vice versa.

Of course, some people prefer a certain type of music because it is what they and their
parents grew up listening to, but that does not mean that they do not like listening to other kinds of music.

Are you planning to release any albums soon?

Omnia: In a couple of weeks, we will release “Here to Stay.” And, in February 2018 we will produce our EP “Young,” focusing mainly on the problems youth face after college, including economic uncertainty, loan debts, jobs, as well as their concerns figuring out what they would do in their future. We try to encourage them to have a place in the world and to be outspoken.

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12/17/2017 1:13:12 PM
<![CDATA[A Wild Goose Chase?]]>
I have never seen a Common Turkey in the wild. I have, however, seen its cousin, the much rarer and more localized Ocellated Turkey. I encountered this endemic of Central America’s Yucatan Peninsula in the rainforests of Guatemala. This bird is listed by the IUCN as Near Threatened. As I got off the bus in the Tikal National Park, I almost tripped over a small flock and they were constant and quite charming companions throughout my visit—spectacular in gleaming greens and bronzes with the naked head and neck bright cobalt ornamented with crimson wattles. Such a rare bird should not have been so easy—I almost felt robbed. The thrill is in the chase.

This Christmas, visa permitting, I will be in Djibouti. This small country strategically positioned at the mouth of the Red Sea has an area roughly twice that of Cyprus and a population of somewhat over 700,000. For naturalists, it is perhaps best known for the Whale Sharks, the world’s largest species of fish, that congregate in the Bay of Ghoubbet each winter. For those of more geographical bent some 100 kilometers west of the rather unimaginatively named capital Djibouti City is Lac Assal, at 150 meters below sea level the lowest point in Africa. I have every intention of catching up with Whale Sharks and am a sucker for geographical quirk. But to carry on the game-bird theme, my real target this Christmas is the Djibouti Francolin.

The francolins are a group of partridge-like birds, like that which sits atop the pear tree, with short tails and stout spurred legs—indeed one I have seen in Ghana is called the Double-spurred Francolin. The Djibouti Francolin is the rarest francolin and is classified as Critically Endangered. Only formally described as recently as 1952, it is entirely restricted to Djibouti, an endemic, and even there found only in the Goda Mountains to the west of the capital and the Mabla Mountains to the north. In both areas it is threatened by habitat destruction, its dry forest habitat disappearing due to wood cutting, livestock grazing and clearance. There may be fewer than 1,000 left and it is found nowhere else on the planet.

The Djibouti Francolin, according to my “Pheasants, Partridges and Grouse” by Steve Madge and Phil McGowan, is some 35 centimeters long, rather dark brown above and heavily blotched and streaked buff below. The face is dark with a rusty crown and the legs are pale yellow. To find it, I am going to need a lot of luck and field craft. It is described as “shy and elusive” and “most active just after dawn and very difficult to locate except by voice.” I will be stomping the acacias and junipers ears pricked for a loud erk, rapid kaks fading to a chuckle and a “low conversational clucking.” Oh for an erk.

I’m not sure how the Djibouti Francolin was first discovered, but game-birds have the unfortunate tendency to be described after being served for dinner. Tanzania’s Udzungwa Partridge, described as recently as 1994, was first brought to the attention of the scientific community when an odd pair of feet turned up in a local cooking pot. In Vietnam, the extremely rare Imperial Pheasant, Edward’s Pheasant and Vietnamese Pheasant are virtually unknown in the wild, save for specimens trapped for the dinner table. It makes the Common Turkey seem very pedestrian. Hunting is a further threat to the Djibouti Francolin, so perhaps I will steer well clear of chicken on my trip just to be on the safe side.

Possibly even more enigmatic than the Djibouti Francolin is the Toha Sunbird. Not yet formally described, in my Birds of the Horn of Africa by Redman, Stevenson and Fanshawe it is merely given the moniker Chalcomitra sp. With only one sight record of three birds in Djibouti in 1985, it is estimated to be 13 centimeters long, grayish above, grayish white below and with a dark tail. What was assumed to be the male had the chin, throat and crown metallic yellow-green while in the presumed female this was limited to the crown. There is much debate as to its status as the yellow-green may have been a dusting of acacia pollen (most sunbirds feed on nectar and insects) rather than true color. There’ll be no erks or kaks or chuckles or conversational clucking with the Toha Sunbird—its voice is utterly unknown.

So Djibouti, all 22,000 square kilometers of it, has one, possibly two, endemic bird species. Egypt, with an area of over 1 million square kilometers has, er, none. Zilch. Nil. Not even one. I can remember talking with the late, great Mindy Baha El Din about this when she was on a mission to show that the form of the Yellow Wagtail breeding in Egypt Motacilla flava pygmaea the “Egyptian Yellow Wagtail” was actually a good species. It is found throughout the Nile Delta and Valley in agricultural areas, wetlands and marshes.

It is a slim bird, 19 centimeters long with a longish (though not as long as the wintering Gray Wagtail) tail that it does indeed wag. It is olive green above, bright yellow below, especially in the male and in breeding plumage has a gray head with darker cheeks and a white throat.

But why should Egypt have no endemic bird species whereas a country as small as Djibouti has one if not two? The answer lies in border and habitat. Djibouti’s borders, like most African borders, were drawn by the colonial powers but within these borders, it has areas of habitat that have long been isolated—notably the forested mountains of Goda and Mabla. They are, in effect, islands and on islands, evolution works rapidly.

Egypt’s modern borders too are a colonial legacy and have little bearing on natural features. Egypt’s Western Desert sweeps seamlessly into Libya and to the south, along with the Eastern Desert into Sudan. In the east, the deserts of North Sinai continue across the border into the Negev. The Nile is a green corridor running up from the Nile Basin countries. There are few or no isolated pockets of habitat. Even the oases of the Western Desert are relatively recent. Until perhaps 10,000 years ago, or even less, the Western Desert was largely savannah. That said, the breeding form of the Palm Dove from the oases is sometimes described as a unique subspecies Streptopelia senegalensis dahklaea. But even that is largely disputed.

Endemics aside, I’ve come up with a list of Djibouti birds that would be new for me were I to find them. Most are African species such as the Red-fronted Warbler, Somali Starling, Greyish Eagle Owl, Somali Courser as well as the Yellow-breasted and Black-throated Barbet. Others, unsurprisingly given Djibouti’s location, are also found in Arabia, including Ruppell’s Weaver and the Arabian Golden Sparrow. But a few make it into Egypt. The stunning Rosy-patched Shrike and the Arabian Warbler both creep into the country on Gebel Elba in the very southeast of the country. I’ve never got permits to visit, so Djibouti might be my best chance.

So this Christmas, what I want from Santa is a festive francolin, a Djibouti Francolin. Let’s hope it is not just a wild goose chase.

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12/16/2017 1:27:41 PM
<![CDATA[Heritage Streets of Alexandria]]>
Once you get there, a nameplate reads “Cavafy’s,” and is one of the various plaques, houses and streets bearing witness to Alexandria’s rich history. In celebration of many similar houses, the city’s heritage, its immortal streets and the stories of the names behind them, the Centre d’Etudes Alexandrines (CEAlex), or the Alexandria Center for Studies, and the French Institute (Institut Français d’Egypte à Alexandrie) hosted the “Alexandrian Streets” exhibition, as part of the 8th annual Alexandria’s Heritage Days week.

Held during November 13 -30, the exhibition highlighted Alexandrian roads and alleys, as well as original streets’ nameplates, which make up a big part of the history of the ancient city. “We want to put a spotlight on our city’s heritage and make people, particularly Alexandrians, more aware of their history; a great way to do so is through highlighting the history of some of the most popular streets of the city,” Marwa Abdel Gawad, head of the outreach department of CeAlex, tells Egypt Today.

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Cavafy’s house - Egypt today

Held at the French Institute premises in El-Nabi Daniel Street, the location of the exhibition was, in itself, part of the heritage it portrayed. The street’s name has not been changed for the past 150 years.Several interpretations for it have been put forth for it by scholars and historians. Some believe the street was named after Mohamed Daniel Al-Mosuli, an Islamic scholar who came from Mosul to Alexandria in the 14th century and was buried in a mosque in the same location.

Famous landmarks in the area include El-Nabi Daniel mosque, Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue and Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral. “I was utterly surprised by the depth of information I have read about all the streets because most of the information is new to me, even though I considered myself quite familiar with it all,” says Nadine Youssef, one of the visitors of the exhibition. “A huge effort has been made to bring back the city’s lost glory and revive the memories of the streets, where we spent our childhood and where our grandparents lived. Each street name carries a wealth of memories, mysteries and hidden secrets.”

Another street featured at the exhibition is Safeya Zaghloul Street, which was originally named Al Masala (The Obelisk) as it contained two obelisks dating back to 13BC. In 1877, Khedive Ismail offered one of them to the United States and the other was moved to London in 1879. In 1930, the street was named after feminist and human rights activist Safeya Zaghloul. The historical street includes a number of old charming spots, such as Trianon and Elite Cafes and Strand and Rialto cinemas.

It extends from Sultan Hussein Street, named after Khedive Ismail’s son Sultan Hussein Kamel (1853-1917), to Fouad Street, which played a significant role in the planning of Alexandria, connecting the whole city together. In the Roman era, Fouad Street had an
eastern gate dubbed The Sun Gate, and a western one The Moon about 5 kilometers
long. It was named Bab Rashid toward the end of the 19th century as it was the main
road linking Alexandria with Rashid City. The street was eventually named after King
Fouad (1917-1926) in 1920, the first to substitute the title of King for Sultan.

After the 1952 revolt, the name was changed to El Horreya, then to Gamal Abdel Nasser after the late president’s death. However, Alexandrians still know it by Fouad Street. Today, it is a European-style street, as many residents call it, and it holds a great deal of the city’s past glory with its quaint houses and aura of mystery. It was also home to a number of notable landmarks, most of which are unfortunately gone and can only be found in drawings and photos, such as the Mohammed Ali Pasha Club, Zezenia Theatre and the Khedive’s Hotel.

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Cavafy’s house - Egypt today

Much like Fouad Street, many other Alexandrian street names have changed over the years, but the city’s residents still remember the original ones, to the extent that sometimes they would not be familiar with the new official labels. Paying homage to that tradition, the exhibition featured some original Alexandrian streets’ nameplates. “Even if some street names were changed for any reason, people still call them with their old names, and for good reason,” AbdelGawad says.

The first nameplate in Alexandria’s streets dates back to 1891. The plan of establishing a list of street names and numbering buildings took around 10 years, until it was officially established in 1901. The first nameplates Alexandria has ever known were made of enamel-coated steel sheets, with a ribbon on the corner. Names were written in white in Arabic and French. Letters were big in size, whether Arabic or Latin, and each letter was a piece of art in itself.

Another generation of nameplates started appearing after World War II and through to the 1970s. They were green and the designers had made sure to write new street names as well as old ones, with the phrase “previously known as.” Later on, the French names were replaced with English ones. In 1997 and 2000, new nameplates started appearing on the streets of Alexandria. They were more of signboards, usually put on the corner of the street and not on buildings’ walls.

Patrice Lumumba, Soliman Yousry, El Shaheed Salah Mustafa, El Faraana ‘Pharos’, Dr. Ali Shousha and Nubar Pasha Gardens are all names that have never been erased from the collective memory of Alexandrians. According to CeAlex, Alexandria’s old maps are living evidence of how the city was planned and neighborhoods were divided, as well as the streets’ original names, which all bear witness to ancient traditions and a road network that belonged to early or middle ages. But beyond the country’s history, residents of the old city bear emotional links to its streets, and many special memories that deserve to be celebrated.]]>
12/15/2017 4:57:17 PM
<![CDATA[Combating Cancer with Nutrition]]>
“The idea began when I was in a conference in Gustave Roussy [one of the world’s leading cancer research institutes] last September. And for the first time, physicians were talking about the role of nutrition in treating cancer … not as a supplement or to boost immunity but as an actual treatment,” Aboul Fettouh tells Egypt Today.

Such research is already underway in France, America, Germany and Japan, Aboul Fettouh adds. “So where is Egypt in this? Do we always have to take the results of research from others? Why don’t we work on this research as well, since we desperately need it? I started thinking what we can do in Egypt to arrive to that.”

Envision was granted the official status as an Egyptian civil society organization specialized in development in November. Actress and cofounder of the foundation Youssra headlined the launch event and first annual conference under the title “Nutrition and Cancer: A Rational Way of Thinking.” It hosted the minsters of social solidarity and local development, alongside numerous public figures, physicians and civil socity institutions. “We are generous in everything [in Egypt], everything but scientific research. We need to put more money to become pioneers in scientific research,” United Nations Goodwill Ambassador Youssra says, adding that through the foundation “we will learn a lot” about eating right and living right to combat cancer, “the disease of the century.”

Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Waly agrees. “This foundation introduces Egypt to a new science and intellect … Elements of success are all present, the most important of which is passion,” She said, urging the founders to expand the organization’s mission to other Arab countries, such as Syria, Yemen and Libya, which suffer a critical lack of medical infrastructure. “The idea to treat this disease with nutrition would have a lot of impact in a country with limited economic resources … We need to have a plan from the start for Egypt to adopt and export the idea of nutritional therapy to the whole region,” Waly recommends.

المؤتمر تصوير محمود فخرى

Articulating the vision and strategy of the initiative, Managing Director of Phoenix IHSCS and Vice President of Envision Foundation Dina Omar highlights the three major aspects of the foundation’s mission, stressing that the initiative primarily aims to coordinate between different research institutions to facilitate their role and increase the impact of their work. Envision, Omar explains, focuses mainly on the “prevention” of cancer, working on three phases: spreading public and community awareness about cancer and nutrition by reaching out to Egyptian housewives and average citizen; edu
cating professionals and doctors to incorporate these ideas in their interaction with patients; and finally, advancing scientific research by coordinating between different entities and analyzing the data on a larger scale.

“This is the first annual event and it will be held every year to assess what has been done, with transparency,” Omar says, adding that a quarterly plan will be published on the foundation’s website, including financing and budgeting.

The first mandate of the foundation. as well as UN representatives, is “to place Egypt on the world map of scientific research,” Dr. Ahmed Aboul Fettouh, dental consultant in periodontics and oral implantology, said at the conference. “This is the first institution in the Middle East to address cancer and nutrition,” he added. The two other aspects are to “establish factories specialized in this kind of nutrition … which will set a first in the whole world” and finally “building a generation that will pioneer new ideas,” he explained.

One cancer survivor who has personally seen the great influence of good nutrition throughout her treatment is Yasmine Geith, who sent a message of hope at the end of the conference. “Never lose hope; and when you think your life is coming to an end, sometimes those endings are just a beginning of a better life.”]]>
12/14/2017 11:39:17 AM
<![CDATA[Breast Cancer Is Also Blue]]>
In a study by Eileen Thomas from the University of Colorado, Denver in 2010, the researcher highlighted that 80 percent of surveyed males were not aware that they could even develop breast cancer, and the majority could not identify any symptoms of MBC other than a lump in the breast. The study also reported that 43 percent of participating men in the study said they would question their masculinity if they were dia nosed with breast cancer.

Although rarer, male breast cancer (MBC) carries a higher mortality rate than females resulting from breast cancer, primarily due to a lack of awareness, leading to delay in seeking treatment. This is reflected on the size of tumors diagnosed in males, as they tend to be larger and the cancer is more likely to spread to other organs as a result of late diagnoses.

The truth is, breast cancer is a sexless disease. Males also have breast tissues containing ducts and cells in these ducts that can develop to breast cancer, just like females. In both sexes, if the breast cells grow uncontrollably and don’t die off as they normally would, the result would be breast cancer. The cancerous cells can enter the lymphatic vessels of the breast and grow in the lymph nodes situated above and below the collarbone, under the breast bone. Once in the lymph nodes, it is likely the cancer cells enter the bloodstream and spread to other areas of the body.

The most common diagnosed MBC type is Ductal Carcinoma, where cells around the breast ducts begin to invade the surrounding tissue, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation (INC). Cases of lobular carcinoma and the Paget disease of the nipple are more rare, accounting for around 2 percent of all MBCs.

But the lack of awareness alsogather enough participants to comprehensively and effectively study MBC. This hampers the development of malespecific breast cancer treatments and hinders developing management guidelines for the disease.

MBC in numbers

The MBC incidence rate is less than 1 percent of that of females globally. However, males should check themselves periodically by doing a breast self exam while in the shower and reporting any changes to doctors.

The low percentage of breast cancer occurrence among males is explained by the fact that males have less breast tissue and lower Estrogen hormone levels, the main contributors to the development of breast cancer. However, the low percentage might also reflect under diagnoses of MBC and lack of reporting of the disease.

The Chinese German Journal of Clinical Oncology reported that the incidence of MBC has increased significantly from 0.86 to 1.08 per 100,000 populations over the past 26 years in the United States. Also, the American Cancer Society estimates that 460 males in the United States will die from breast cancer in 2017.

The same journal published a study carried out by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Cairo University, Egypt which indicated that MBC constitutes 1.5 percent of all breast carcinomas. The NCI study targeted a total of 123 male patients with a median age of 58 years. The sample included patients diagnosed with breast carcinoma over the period from January 1999 to December 2009. The NCI study revealed that there are some gender differences in relation to breast cancer, including stage, hormone profile and tumor subtypes among the patients.

In 2012, the Mansoura University Hospital carried out a study to report clinic athological characteristics, treatment patterns and out comes of MBC in Egypt. The study focused on 37 patients diagnosed with MBC during 2000-2009 with a median age of 57.7 years. The conclusion of this study was that MBC is a rare disease often diagnosed at a locally advanced stage and that further research for better understanding of the disease is needed to improve the management and prognosis of MBC patients.

In Egypt, each year the Breast Cancer Foundation of Egypt (BCFE) launches campaigns on breast cancer to mark the international breast cancer awareness month of October. As part of this campaign, the foundation targets males, not only as partners and family members of females affected by the disease, but also as victims of MBC. In October 2015, the foundation launched a campaign on social media outlets with the theme “the blue ribbon for males” to highlight that men can be affected by breast cancer. The BCFE reports on its official Facebook page that 65 percent of males are not aware of MBC while the remaining 35 percent do not take preventive action.
Males diagnosed with MBC and their supporters, especially in the US and the UK, advocate for allocating the third week of October as a week to raise awareness on MBC, raising a blue ribbon. In addition, male support groups and programs are becoming more common to help patients and their loved ones understand the disease and to manage their lives through the process.

While the precise reasons behind breast cancer are not known, risk factors include smoking, obesity, liver and testicle diseases, exposure to radiation, high alcohol consumption and abnormally high levels of the estrogen hormone, which stimulates cell growth and multiplication. Baby boys born with higher levels of estrogen than normal are 20 times more likely to develop MBC than other boys.

MBC is most common in older males, although it can occur at any age. It is also more common among males with family history of breast cancer, as one in every five males diagnosed with MBC has a first degree male relative who also has a history of breast cancer.]]>
12/13/2017 1:25:00 PM
<![CDATA[Inside the Pakistani Ambassador’s House]]> Shahida Shah, wife of the Pakistani ambassador in Egypt, invites us into her home to chat about her charity work, empowering women and her beautiful Cairo residence.


CAIRO - 12 December 2017: Shahida Shah likes it when people think she is Egyptian, “because I am Egyptian.” Wearing a traditional Pakistani outfit and wrapped in a yellow dupatta, the wife of the Pakistani Ambassador Mushtaq Shah warmly welcomed us into her house in Cairo, which is tastefully furnished with a mix of traditional Egyptian and Pakistani handmade carpets and artifacts.

Shah first arrived in Cairo in 2003, accompanying her husband who was then deputy head of the Pakistani mission. Back then, she never imagined she would return 12 years later and still recalls her Egyptian friends telling her, “once you drink from the Nile, you are destined to return.” Shah is heavily involved in charity work.

She showed Egypt Today around her Cairo home and spoke about challenges facing women in both Egypt and Pakistan, the cultural similarities between the two countries and, of course, her design sense.

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Egyptian and Pakistani-made artifacts and carpets hanging on the walls of the house of the Pakistani ambassador in Cairo. Photo by Ahmed Hussein/Egypt Today

What changes have you seen since you left here in 2005?

There is a huge difference, believe me. Back then, for example, there was only one Carrefour, located in Maadi. But now, there is City Stars, Mall of Arabia, Arab Festival Mall and so many other shops. Also, then, nobody knew Sixth of October City, Sheikh Zayed, Qatameya; only the people who lived there did. Zamalek was then more exclusive to diplomats.

What’s your daily routine in Egypt?

Before my husband’s assignment, I used to have more space on my daily agenda, I had very good Egyptian friends I used to have my morning coffee with every day. Also, my husband and I used to travel around Egypt every weekend. There is no place in Egypt that we did not visit, be it Sharm El-Sheikh, Hurghada, Luxor , Aswan and many other places. Nowadays, my routine is a bit different and more formal. I have a busy life as I am a part of different active groups like the Pakistani Women’s Association. I am a mother to four children, three of them studying abroad, while my little daughter is studying here in Egypt at the Pakistani International School.

Do you think the wife of an ambassador shares the responsibility of conveying an accurate image of the host country?

Without the ambassador’s wife’s support [the mission] is not possible. Sometimes, my husband assigns me important delegations, and shares with me certain issues that are not top secret. As for conveying an accurate image, I have an example about Pakistani women; they are mistakenly represented in the European media as being similar to their conservative Afghani [neighbors], who wear burqas. When we were in Hungary, I used to go out in jeans, and my husband would tell the media: “Look! Do you think she is like the Afghanis? She is a common Pakistani woman.”

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Classic dining room, with the design of the walls made by French and Moroccan artists several years ago. Photo by Ahmed Hussein/Egypt Today

How would you describe Egyptian women?

Egyptian women have strength, they are brave and intelligent; they know how to run the house, bring up children, earn money, and they never stay home asking for help. If they have some education, they would do some work. If they are not educated, they seek other businesses which might [include] selling vegetables or garments on the streets. Honestly, I see women participating in Egyptian society much more than men. Women here are not [inferior] to men, they are both equal.

What about women in your country, are they independent?

In my country, they are improving. If you ask me about my mother’s time, less women had education. Education is the main key for women to gain their rights. If you get one woman educated, then you are educating the whole country. We now have women who are doctors and pilots and they are even joining the army. Benazir Bhutto is the first woman in a Muslim country to [take on the post of] Prime Minister. Now we have a quota for women in the people’s assembly.

What do you think Egypt and Pakistan have in common?

We have a few similarities as well as differences. Like Egypt, we, in Pakistan, believe in the family system, we respect elders and love children; this is our culture. We also have some common things in our cultures like henna drawing, jewelry and some types of food.

You are the head of the Asian Diplomats’ Spouses Association (ADSA) in Cairo; what kind of activities does it run?"

The ADSA was established in 1975 to promote Egypt-Asia mu-tual cultural cooperation, and it constitutes 28 member Asian countries. The ADSA’s president is elected for a one-year term. The association is mainly concerned with empowering women and children in Egypt by funding associations and supporting them with the required equipment. The associations [we help support] include the Children’s Cancer Hospital 57357, the Nile River School, the Light and Hope Association for blind girls, Dar el Hanna Orphanage, Women’s Health and Improvement Association and Tora House for disabled women. Our main fundraiser activity is the annual charity bazaar that was held on November 11.

How does ADSA empower women?

I believe this is strongly fulfilled when the ADSA funds associations like the Nile River School in Giza’s Ayyat district, where we help them with equipment like computers for the children. We visited a school recently established by the Women Health Association and gave them more than LE 20,000.

What’s the goal of the annual charity bazaar held in Cairo?

For five consecutive years, we held the bazaar with member countries selling traditional handmade Asian products and performing cultural shows; the revenues are used to help underprivileged people in Egypt. We offer NGOs tables for free to display their products, and [they keep their] revenues.

Why is this event being held annually?

Because we live here, in Egypt, and we consider ourselves part of its society.

How was this year’s turnout and how much revenues did you bring in?

This year’s Egyptian turnout was superb and we had Suzy Shoukry [Foreign Affairs Minister Sameh Shoukry’s wife] as the guest of honor of the bazaar. I printed 200 posters and sent them to all international clubs, UN offices and all embassies, not only Asian ones. We also witnessed huge participation, with 20 Asian countries and 15 NGOs partaking in the bazaar. We sold nearly 2,000 entrance tickets for a total of LE 17,000 and the raffle tickets for LE 9,730, without counting the revenues of the products sold. All the money collected will go to the associations we deal with; we never remove organizations off our charity list, we add new ones. The feedback was very positive. Egyptians love Asian culture, they love our dresses and women love the long scarves that we call dupatta in Pakistan. I gave out my new dresses, which I never unwrapped, to be displayed at the Pakistani stall at the bazaar.

How do you select the associations that receive ADSA funding?

The association members meet monthly to discuss charities’ future plans and vote on the associations that will receive the funds after field visits. The visits are important to verify that the association to receive the donations is a well-established place and that our money goes to the right hands.

Were you engaged in charity work before joining ADSA?

Yes, in my country I was the education secretary of the Pakistani Foreign Office Women Association (PFOWA), a charitable organization based in Islamabad, where we arrange an annual fair, provide welfare for the deserving among employees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, curricula books for their children, and medical assistance. I have [done] so much charity work, and I learned a lot about charity from PFOWA.

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A side of decorations picked by Mrs. Shahida Shah after she received the house two years ago, where it was "in a terrible condition". Photo by Ahmed Hussein/Egypt Today

How does it feel staying in a house that is considered a historic monument in Cairo?

Our house in Cairo is registered as an antiquity, so it was very difficult to make changes in the house. I [went] crazy when I arrived as the house’s condition was terrible and I have a sense for decorations, so I decided to do minor decorations step by step while maintaining the house’s original condition.

Who decided on the decorations in your house?

Most of these decorations are my decision because I traveled a lot, and I used to buy artifacts from different countries. Many of the Pharaoh statues placed in the house I [had] bought in the past when I visited Egypt were original ones, you cannot find them now at any price. I brought crystals and alabaster souvenirs that I got [from] my travels to Luxor and Aswan, handmade Pakistani carpets, new tables, changed the lampshades and painted the walls. Other than that, a few tables, furniture [pieces] and sand tableaux [paintings] belong to the house; the wall drawings were made by French and Moroccan artists in the past.

What traditional Egyptian foods do you like?

I love Egyptian food, especially koshari, ful and taameya, kofta we call it kebab and sambousek.]]>
12/12/2017 12:46:50 PM
<![CDATA[Christmas Workout]]>
On the contrary, however, if we give ourselves just 20-30 minutes a day, we can take care of our bodies the way they need to be taken care of, and from the comfort of our homes. Simple workouts like the ones below give most of your body the exercise it needs to help it revive and make it feel alive.

They also give you strength to help you dance the night away no matter where it is you are gathering throughout the holiday season. As they always say, where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Find an empty wall in your house with nothing around it. Rest your back and neck flat on the wall, descending into a seated position where your legs are on the floor at a 90 degree angle. Hold this po-sition for 45 seconds, then stand up and rest for 15 seconds.

2

If you would like to make it a bit more difficult for yourselves, hold something weighty—it can be a wa-ter bottle or anything else handy around the house—then punch forward and backwards toward your chest with the ob-ject in both hands. This way you can get both an upper and lower body workout.

Plank

Lie down on the floor and raise your-self on your elbows, start at this position and then come up onto both hands then back on both elbows. Make sure your hands are placed directly underneath your shoulders and that your hips are in a straight line with your body as you are moving.

One-leg glute bridges

Lie down on your back and bend your knees so that your feet are flat on the floor. Lift one leg up straight in front of you with your knees next to each other. Keep that position then begin lifting your hips off the floor, hold in the air for two sec-onds and then come back down again. Re-peat for a total of 10 reps then switch legs.

3

High knees

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and then run in place. As you run, bring your knees up as high as you can. If you have space, you can do the high-knee running back and forth; if your space is limited, then you can do this in your place.

Repeat these exercises for 45 sec-onds and then rest for 15 seconds before moving on to the exercise after it. Once you have done each move one time and you have completed them all, repeat four rounds of this workout.]]>
12/11/2017 12:00:00 PM
<![CDATA[A Bridal Affair]]>a frantic bride at ease, ensuring harmony between the makeup, gown and hairstyle, a
natural look and a picture-perfect bride. Mariam Makhlouf’s career took quite a turn from a call center to the world of beauty when she decided to become a professional makeup artist at the age of 25.

Now 28, Makhlouf has proved she’s able to cut through the clutter and compete with the gurus of the profession. Soon enough, her name became a favorite among brides, already harnessing over 165,000 followers on Facebook. It all started when she was a little girl giving all her Barbie dolls a makeover.

Her mother noticed her special talent and encouraged her to learn about the profession and encouraged her to attend courses taught by professional makeup artists so she could develop her talent from an amateur to a professional level. Makhlouf speaks to us about her journey, makeup and how she managed to break through in such a competitive industry.

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Sample of Mariam Makhlouf’s artistic work

Tell us about your journey to becoming a professional makeup artist.
I read a lot about the profession and attended international workshops here in Cairo. When the Lebanese makeup artist Fady Kataya came to Cairo, I attended his workshop and he taught me a lot;it was a lifetime experience. He taught me how to do the “no makeup makeup” so that the girl would look beautiful without appearing too artificial. I still plan to attend international workshops every year to be updated on the new trends.

How did you start marketing yourself ?
I felt I am ready when I was 25 years old. I started to do my friends’ makeup and some random models posted the pictures on my Facebook page. I thought that it would take time to [gain clientele], but literally in just one week, I couldn’t handle the bridal requests; but that’s what happens when you exert effort and do what you love. This was when I decided to leave my main job as a call center agent to focus on my new business.

Where do you see yourself now among the famous makeup artists?
There are too many makeup artists. Some of them succeeded to be different and have their own styles, and others weren’t as lucky. I have this feeling that I want to be a different person to get honest insight on how people recognize me in the profession. But
the feedback I get is very positive, which makes me afraid of this success. I want to keep working on myself to evolve by time.

How do you deal with your brides?
My attitude changes by time and it depends on the bride herself. If she is worried, I try to play music for her and talk to her. I always tell her that it is my job to make her look beautiful so that everybody would tell what a professional makeup artist I am. I show her
the brands and colors I will use so that she’s satisfied. I also don’t allow her to look in the mirror until I finish so that she doesn’t get worried. I put myself in her shoes; if I were the bride, I would want everything to be perfect.

What makes you different than other makeup artist?
Simplicity; I prefer simple makeup. I don’t like artificial looks like applying very long lashes or the wrong contouring. It also depends on the dress, her eye color and the hairstyle the bride will choose. If she has green eyes, I have to choose colors that would make her eyes look beautiful. It also differs if she is veiled or not. What I want to say is that I love the harmony; I want the dress, the bridal bouquet, the hairstyle, the manicure and the makeup to be consistent.

Who is your favorite makeup artist?
Mario, the American makeup artist who does Kim Kardashian’ makeup. He gave her a special signature look. Many girls are trying to achieve Kardashian look now.

What are the latest makeup trends?
As we are welcoming autumn, it’s a whole new story. I love autumn colors. There is the peachy and orange eyeshadow colors, which I prefer to mix with brown or nude colors for a simple look. Brown lipsticks are back again, but I use specific shades of it.The dramatic lashes are still trendy. The natural-looking rose blush that reflects the real color of blushing, healthy cheeks. Although matte lipsticks were trendy during the past year, glossy lipstick is now back in fashion.]]>
12/10/2017 10:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Christmas Gift Guide]]>still quite a few gems on the market to snatch this season.

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House of Select

Accessories are always a safe gift, be it for your sister’s Christmas tree, or even to take to a dinner party instead of the normal overload of deserts.

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Azza Fahmy 18kt gold and

Dangling earrings are big, and nobody does them more intricately than Azza Fahmy.

Reem Jano also has a trendy collection of architecturally-inspired pieces, and then of course there’s the edgy Jude Benhalim’s collection of rings, necklaces and bracelets.

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sterling silver kerdan; a tribute

Nonetheless, we’ve seen some nicer, more practical trends this past year; from the
rise of the sneakers to the glorious comeback of the backpack.

A look back at the fashion trend essentials of 2017.

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to Taheya Karioka ]]>
12/9/2017 4:38:54 PM
<![CDATA[Escape from the City]]>getaways back to nature, with sporty, rustic and Native American influences.

The women’s items feature masculine lines, ethnic influences with fur and checked patterns taking the lead, as well as decorative elements such as pompoms, embroidery, pearls and other embellishments.

A mainstay in Stradivarius collections, this line’s denim items are awash with handmade details, patches and metal adornments. Classic offerings of the authentic American jean, with its lasting appeal and worn-out designs are also available.]]>
12/5/2017 3:40:41 PM
<![CDATA[The Netflix Addiction]]>
Netflix fulfilled every TV junkie’s dream and introduced a binge-watching culture to the entire world, becoming the leading internet-streaming service for home television audiences around the globe.

Through an affordable subscription, viewers have access to the biggest library of entertainment content and Netflix has also produced a few original productions that hit the jackpot with viewers all over the world, including shows like Orange Is the New Black, Narcos, House of Cards, The Crown and 13 Reasons Why. Now, Netflix has announced its commitment to bring its original content to the Middle East, especially in Egypt where it was introduced in 2016. Consumer PR of EMEA and Netflix spokesperson in the Middle East Leyla Guilany-Lyard speaks to Egypt Today about binge-watching trends in Egypt and the Middle East and Netflix’s plans for the region.

Is there a big binge-watching culture in the Middle East?

Yes, people in the Middle East have that culture. We believe that people in the region have different tastes in binge shows. This is because audiences in the Middle East really like entertainment, so they do not go for only one show genre. Many viewers in the region, for example, segued from Marvel’s The Defenders, which comes at the top, to Dead or Alive, which is a completely different genre.

Do you think Netflix could signal the rise of binge racing here in Egypt; particularly that Egyptian audiences already have an interest of following soap operas?

I think it is obvious that TV is a part of Egyptian culture. But binge racing is a recent phenomenon globally, not just in Egypt, because of what Netflix now offers; whether in Egypt or in other countries. Netflix does not dictate how and when people should watch the content as it gives them freedom of choosing their shows by proposing entire seasons of best shows available at once with easy access to the platform. So people could take in a whole season in one sitting in less than 24 hours, or just go for it whenever it suits them.

Generally, what are the characteristics of bingers?

When people subscribe to Netflix we just ask them to fill in their email address and the method of payment. The way the platform operates is that we care only about people’s interests in watching and about providing them the best platform and the best content, but we do not care about who they are in terms of gender or profession, and so on. So Netflix’s recommendations work differently from one person to another according to their preferences. Netflix will learn about their viewing habits as they watch more content, offering them customized genres that they would prefer.

Have you noticed different habits among international viewers?

Two months ago, we studied the genres people are watching at a certain time of their day in various regions. We observed that people globally watch the same type of shows at various moments. But, what was interesting is that these shows differ from what linear TV proposes as information. For example, people subscribing to Netflix like to watch comedy in the morning rather than informative shows. People choose to watch comedy in the morning as part of deciding what content they want to watch, when , and where, and as a result people globally enjoy watching comedies in the morning

Does the Middle East audience have specific concerns or interests?

There is something very specific to people in the Middle East that I love, that is that they enjoy standup comedies. That’s why we have recently announced that Netflix will have a first local production in the Middle East with Lebanese comedian Adel Karam performing his stand-up comedy.

Are there any plans to expand the available selection to users in the Middle East?

Despite the existence of Netflix in 190 countries, it was only accessed in 60 countries. Since our launch, we have made all content and all original shows available to these 190 countries at the same time. For an example, when Netflix launched the film Glow in June 2017 or Narcos season 3, they were screened in all markets. But, two or three shows such as House of Cards were not because their contracts were negotiated on before our launch in 2016, and we respect the and content licensing by geographic location.

Are there any plans to expand Arabic content as well to the list?

Yes, our plan aims to focus on the Middle East by providing the widest range of content across every genre. For less than $10 per month, our platform offers original shows such as the upcoming films Bright or War Machine that people rush to watch in cinema or theater. Having original shows ranging from exclusive movies to local films, documentaries and comedies at affordable prices and with up to five users in a profile make people enjoy the Netflix service.

Credit card penetration remains relatively low in the Middle East, especially in Egypt; has that affected Netflix’s expansion in the region?

Are Not yet, we are happy to see more and more people from Egypt getting into the platform, but we are also willing to work with partners, which is part of our strategy globally, and to ease the access to the platform for everybody in the best way possible.

Viewers in the Middle East might find some of Netflix’s film content controversial, like that of Ashraf Marwan, an Egyptian agent during the 1973 war with Israel; how do you think such films could be perceived if aired in the
Middle East?


Our main target is to provide people the content they enjoy. So, regarding the Arabic content generated in markets, we depend on peoples’ interests. On November 27, we are coming to Egypt to see what Egyptians like most. I was telling you people in the Middle East love comedy, so our first original sign in the region is stand-up comedies. Consequently, controversial topics don’t go in parallel to our aims.]]>
12/1/2017 2:35:40 PM
<![CDATA[Dine in Style at Aqua e Luce]]>
We were greeted by the managers and the main chef Eduardo Bronte upon our arrival and were excited to learn that Thursdays were Brazilian cuisine nights. The restaurant serves an international contemporary cuisine, with Wednesdays being dedicated to Alexandrian fish and seafood nights. The manager also told us that while salads and desserts are served at their open buffet, steak and chicken are ordered a lacarte.

My colleague and I started with the salads, choosing the Brazilian Beef salad and the Brazilian Salpicao. The Brazilian Beef salad was sweet and sour, mixing honey, soy sauce, garlic, ginger and spinach. Meanwhile, the Brazilian Salpicao was sweet with a spicy kick, combining cantaloupe, mint, red pepper and white cheese. Both of the salads tasted spectacular and balanced off flavors perfectly well.

After gobbling down our salads, we were served Brazilian garlic bread and cheese bread. Both had a fluffy texture that quickly melted inside our mouths. Although a treat on its own, when dipped in one of the sauces served—chimichurri, barbeque sauce and Brazilian vinaigrette it took it to a whole new level.

The bread basket was just the start of a true treat of a meal. Next came the appetizers; which included a fried banana that tasted incredibly good but was a bit hard to chew. We were also served the stuffed potato, alongside grilled halloumi cheese; which were both creamy and delicious.

After we were finished with the salad, breadbasket and the starters, we were served different kinds of Churrasco, a Spanish and Portugese term for beef or grilled meat, and grilled pineapple. We were served 14 different kinds of Churrasco, including Picanha (rump steak), Maminha (tri-trip), Fraldinfa (flap meat), veal ten- derloin, tenderloin, chicken heart, chicken breasts with smoked cheese and dried tomato, lamb chops, lamb leg and veal rack. All meats were tender to the bite and easy to chew and swallow. The pineapple is delicious on its own, but when it is grilled with honey, lime juice and cinnamon, it becomes a feast of flavors. My colleague and I were left pleading for more.

We then ordered lemon and orange juices that were fresh and tasty and then headed to the buffet for some sweet indulgence. The desserts were not Brazilian, but rather traditional desserts like English cake, chocolate cake, fruits and fruit salads. I tried the chocolate cake and fruit salad, which were both heavenly.
The food was great, but the atmosphere was fantastic and the service attentive.

Aqua e Luce, Fairmont Towers, Orouba Street, Heliopolis • Tel. +2 (02) 2696-0000 • Open daily from 6 am to midnight.
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11/29/2017 11:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Shaarawi's 'The Harem Years' Highlights Life Under Strict Conventions]]>
Shaarawi spent her childhood growing up in the segregated world she calls harem before she was married off to her cousin at the age of 13, and they separated merely months thereafter when she learned he was expecting a child from a slave girl.

Many of the female characters in her life, fellow members of the last generation growing up in those confines, led similarly unhappy private lives. A family friend, Atiyya Saqqaf, suffered “grief and desperation... that [undermined] her health” as her unfaithful husband took on marriages so numerous “he couldn’t count them, nor did he know the number of children he had.”

Shaarawi’s mother, a woman of Circassian descent, is described as melancholic, often carrying a profound sadness. Shaarawi herself is betrothed against her will to the relative referred to as “lord and master of all,” despite her being “deeply troubled by the idea of marrying [her cousin] whom [she] had always regarded as a father and family member deserving [her] fear and respect.”

Rigid gender norms characteristic of the turn of the 19th century into the 20th are clear in almost every line of Shaarawi’s narrative, where she grows from a somewhat passive woman often forbidden by her husband from visiting friends or other relatives, to a nationalist and a driving force of the flourishing feminist movement.

At the age of 44, she was elected as the president of the first Egyptian Feminist Union she co-founded in 1923, and activism became central to her later life.

Upon her return from attending an international feminist conference in Rome alongside Nabawiya Musa, the first Egyptian woman to earn a secondary school education, and Seiza Nabarawi, the younger daughter of a late friend of Shaarawi at the time, the pioneering feminists drew back the veil from their faces in a revolutionary act that signaled the end of the harem system.

Other women imitated, keeping only the veil on their heads and long black cloaks that were customary at the time. With this incident, the first layer unraveled of a culture of seclusion where women—particularly in wealthier circles—were entrapped in guarded walls and kept separated from men, covering their faces in the few instances where they left their homes. Interestingly enough, academic Margaret Badran notes in her introduction to the English-language translation of the memoir that peasant women had long uncovered their faces before unrelated visitors and strangers of the opposite sex as the practice was deemed unrelated to Islam.

Shaarawi’s memoirs end with the beginning of her activism. She returns to her husband in her 20s after a seven-year separation, and as the dual struggle for the liberation of Egypt and women heightens, their relationship grows stronger. “My attention was drawn from my private life to serving my country. The Egyptian national movement brought my husband and me closer to each other,” she writes. A man who had once clapped his hands in indication of his presence in the women’s quarters, who Shaarawi mentions as being “stern,” and one she had been “determined not to return to . . . whatever happened,” became her partner in fulfilling her newfound purpose.

Earlier in the memoirs, she muses over why her half-brother, Ismail, who she has a close and affectionate relationship with, is treated differently than she is, particularly given his illness at the time. His mother, Umm Kabira, then tells her, “But you are a girl and he is a boy . . . when you marry you will leave the house and honor your husband’s name, but he will perpetuate the name of his father and take over his house.”

While Shaarawi recounts this explanation was satisfactory at the time, her more egalitarian mindset and actions are clear with the foundation she sets in adulthood for a later generation of Egyptian feminists.

In the first year of the movement, the feminist union’s achievements included passing legislation to have a minimum marriage age set by law. By 1924, the first secondary school for girls opened in Shubra and soon, Egyptian women were permitted to obtain a postgraduate education. Shaarawi’s activities were also key to founding the Arab Feminist Union.

Shaarawi’s intellectual development is a critical aspect of her formative years, where she spent time learning music, languages, fine art and Arabic gram mar as a child and teenager. She played the piano long into the night as a catharsis to emotional pain and attended concerts at the Khedival Opera House.

She developed an interest in French literature, invested in deep friendships with peers she discusses cultural matters in the company of, and eventually played a role in organizing the first public lectures for women.

By the age of 9, Shaarawi had memorized the Quran, although she had been condescendingly told by one tutor that it wouldn’t be necessary for her to learn Arabic, given the limitations her gender entails.

Her journey is one of emancipation from social convention, and the beginning of this path is most apparent with her drive to establish the Intellectual Association of Egyptian Women in 1914. Initial members included Lebanese-Palestinian poet Mai Ziyada, founder of "Fatat al-Sharq" (The Young Woman of the East) magazine Labiba Hashim, and Luxembourgian women’s rights activist Marguerite Clement.

Although "The Harem Years" is an informative account of an iconic feminist actor whose positive influence was felt across the Arab world, the narrative is arguably weak and not particularly compelling.

Badran’s somewhat abridged translation from the original Arabic is loyal and truthful, but the detailed account of a time when women’s lives were more constrained and dull reads as tedious. "The Harem Years" is nonetheless an inspiring read of one leader’s journey to empowering others and paving the way for radical change.]]>
11/27/2017 5:50:20 PM
<![CDATA[The Power of Access to Knowledge]]>
The ratio of online to physical classrooms education varies from institution to another and depends a great deal on the context and nature of the course, but on average, blended learning entails replacing 20 to 50 percent of class time with online instruction, discussions and activities.“Blended learning is a very interesting way of learning…it eliminates geographical distance,” said Ahmed Said, a student undertaking micro master’s degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), during a panel on blended learning held by the American University in Cairo in September.

“Learning with a huge university like MIT became very easy through blended learning…I can study whenever I want, after work or on weekends.” The panel aimed to promote and raise awareness about blended learning, and hosted Minister of Education Tarek Shawki, Vijay Kumar, associate dean of digital learning at MIT, a leading provider of blended courses, and CFO of the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education Maya Jalbout. AUC Provost Ehab Abdel-Rahman, who moderated the panel, explained that to promote online education, AUC has announced a new position of Associate Provost for Blended Courses, appointing Aziza El Lozy for the position.

The university has already trained 68 faculty members on blended courses, with four courses currently taught in blended format and 15 more courses being designed to follow suit. The university is also working on offering the first blended-learning certificate through the School of Continuing Education.

Pioneering blended learning in Egypt
Shawki explained during the panel that the ministry’s efforts are going toward implementing blended learning, assessment and management. The ministry is set to launch a “one-of-a-kind blended learning [initiative] on a mass scale,” that they were
“confidentially” preparing for throughout the past two years. The ministry has also coordinated with the Ministry of Industry, the military and various local manufacturers to provide children, teachers and administrators with access to devices to improve students’ access to technology.

There are also plans to provide access to the 22 million students in the education system with free 4G access to the internet. The program focuses on teacher preparation first to implement blended learning, training staff on using technology in classrooms. The initiative has also already trained 2,000 teachers in Ain Shams for kids with special needs and inclusion.He added that the ministry is working on a digitally-available Egyptian knowledge bank as a foundation to build basic and higher education on. “This has grown tremendously and in the next two months we are going to witness almost a doubling in size to expand and become Egypt’s e-learning bank, adding 17 different content providers for it to become a huge e-learning system,” Shawki announced.

“Content is already brewing in the kitchen.” Several other projects are underway for the ministry, including a radical change to the Thanawya Amma structure by September 2018, introducing a new education system, as well as restructuring and reforming the ministry with new rules and regulatory frameworks and moving part of the new ministry to the New Administrative Capital. “We have to kill that monster guarding those rules,” Shawki said. New regulations will also be introduced to govern private schools.

More opportunities, less cost

Blended learning allows the power to tap into students around the region who can’t access high-quality education without elearning. And with cost of online learning going down, blended learning provides an answer to students who can’t afford to relocate
either internally or to another country, need more flexible hours to balance between a job and education, or can’t afford tuition fees. And although blended courses are normally cheaper than conventional ones, with a lot of overhead cost being cut down, some institutions set the same price for both methods of learning.

However, blended learning still means a student can access a university in the US without having to suffer the costs of living there, of relocating and of losing a job to study abroad. A leading model of e-learning is MIT, which opened its courseware to make all course content available for people around the world for free, becoming a pioneer in the field of blended learning. “The impact was unprecedented; millions of users in the world were either looking at these courses, modelling their curriculum after it or directly using it as supplemental course material,” explained Kumar.

“This widens access to learning opportunities in an unprecedented manner.” Jalbout’s foundation, Al Ghurair, provides access to education to high-achieving students without access to private universities like AUC. With the numbers of students needing the foundations’ help increasing, Jalbout explains that even with the resources they have, “there’s no way we would be able to scratch the surface.” That is why, to Jalbout, blended learning is the answer. “With the help of AUC and AUB [American University in Beirut], we were able to get some of these students to campus,” she said.

Kumar added that blended learning provides access to education, but it is also a great resource for professionals wanting to update their knowledge in certain fields, and allows for online collaborations between people around the world to exchange knowledge and expertise. “Our value proposition [at MIT] is active learning, doing science is learning science, combining online with offline is more valuable,” Kumar said. “We find the blended solution to be much more [valuable].

Education is a contact sport, and for novice learners, blended is a more [valuable] approach.” Blended learning, however, isn’t without its drawback; students might not be ready or accustomed to independent learning, they might not have access to the internet and they might be wary of the quality of courses offered. With the majority of courses being offered in English by Western universities, the content is also inaccessible to students around the region who can’t speak the language fluently.

“The challenges are plenty but not insurmountable,” said Jalbout. “Many governments are reluctant to accredit online education.” And in an education system as big, old and troublesome as Egypt’s, one Shawki calls “an elephant of a system loaded with problems,” blended learning is a rather hopeful initiative. Shawki explained that Egypt’s education system is host to 22 million students who go to school every morning, in addition to 1.3 million teachers in 27 governorates, each with a different administrative structure that needs managing, controlling and upgrading.

“Trying to manage this is a nightmare,” he added. “The stakeholders are the entire country because the parents of these 22 million kids are the rest of the population; so basically everybody is asking and kicking you and it’s very difficult to manage everything.” In addition to the system being overburden and underfunded, the concepts of modern education, including blended learning, are foreign to many stakeholders in the system.

“We’re not talking the same language; blended learning is safe to [discuss] here, at AUC, but to the public, they thought I was a lunatic talking about flip classrooms,” Shawki lamented. “This is a very ambitious program, but I can’t even market that on public television; I have to censor myself. . . . I am the minister from Mars.” Still, the minister remains hopeful. “I am either optimistic, or crazy,” he said with a laugh. “But I see no other way than using these technologies wisely.”

He realizes, however, that the road ahead is a rocky one, and when asked about the challenges facing blended learning, Shawki sarcastically replied “To answer that question, you need to bring enough food here to last us for the next few days.” Shawki believes that to improve the system in Egypt, it needs to be uprooted and rebuilt. “The word disruption is a dear word to me; we are trying to leapfrog the Egyptian education system from where we are to a much higher place in the ranking through huge disruption,”

he said. “The education system is an old car, it’s always going to be an old car, even if you paint it or fix it, so let’s just get a new car.” The minister argued that the core problem isn’t the use of technology, but rather a cultural issue when it comes to attitudes to education, a culture that cares more about “certificates on the wall, as opposed to actually learning,” Shawki said. “Bring back the joy of learning.”

He called on the media to prepare society on what is to come to consolidate efforts in changing people’s cultures about learning. “The culture is a problem; young parent are not aware that they [schools’ are not really teaching anything to their kids, but they [parents] just want degrees,” Shawki added.]]>
11/25/2017 5:22:56 PM
<![CDATA[Light As Air]]>
That the woman is in command of her dress; the dress does not wear her. The wedding gown collection is composed of soft fabrics, that are light and airy to mimic the softness and delicate nature of a woman, yet bold enough to show the unlimited strength that lies within her.

Each dress is composed of several different fabrics, meshed, molded and hand-stitched together to portray the different personalities of every woman wearing the wedding dresses.

When searching for a wedding dress, one finds great difficulty in finding a piece that speaks entirely to who we are and portrays our personalities through a culmination of different fabrics. Silk, organza, lace and satin have all come together in these DS wedding gowns to have pieces that are born of the different personalities of a woman.
]]>
11/23/2017 4:29:23 PM
<![CDATA[Cairo’s Queen of Fried Potatoes]]>
A few meters away from Talaat Harb Street in Cairo’s Downtown, she toils behind two deep fryers, serving a hungry crowd. Halima Mohamed, who is 47 and who is known as Um Amira, arrived to Cairo 25 years ago with her husband and two daughters from their hometown in Aswan.

She barely knew her neighbors, and Um Amira never asked for help from anyone, even when her husband suffered from a sudden heart attack she carried him on her back to the hospital. After he lost his job, Um Amira became the breadwinner of the family.

She began with selling biscuits and tissues, and then started street cooking. “Every time people suggest a meal, I’d add it to my list.

I used to cook lentil soup and then fried potatoes,” recalls Um Amira. Today Um Amira is the queen of the fried potato sandwich which, although simple, attracts not only Downtown dwellers but customers from all over the capital. Fast, cheap and filling, Um Amira’s baladi bread sandwiches are overstuffed with piping hot chips unembellished with any toppings, salad or seasoning—and cost just LE 4.

“I have to feel for others who are also working to make their living,” says Um Amira, whose daily routine starts at 1am, when she checks the butane gas cylinder, buys potatoes and bread, and pours the frying oil, which she says she “changes regularly.”

Her food cart draws lines of customers early every morning for what’s become known as “the rocket” breakfast because it is so filling.

“I have never seen such a large amount of potatoes in one sandwich,” a man waiting in the line says, describing the sandwich as a “blessing.” Diners usually stand in two rows to be served the mouthwatering meal, a tradition set by Um Amira who says she is always watchful for pickpockets and harassers sneaking into the lines. Although Um Amira has had to double the price of her sandwiches (last year they cost just LE 2), customers are not complaining.

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Um Amira smiling behind her frying cart as she serves queues of hungry crowds - Egypt Today/Ahmed Hussein


“Nowadays, one might pay a lot for such sandwich if bought elsewhere. This filling could make five sandwiches. No kidding!” says another man waiting for his order. But last year’s pound flotation and price hikes have taken their toll.

Visiting her cart a year ago, Um Amira barely had a second to speak to us what with the large crowd of on-thego customers lining up for their “rocket” breakfasts.

Today, lines have shrunk by half. “People are still coming to my cart. They are the reason why I returned to sell fried potatoes after I gave up for three months due to economic worries,” says Um Amira who exlains she used to unpack 10 to 20 frozen potato cartons per day. “Now, I cannot afford cartons, so I substituted them with sacks of local potatoes, each weighing 70kg. They are affordable and sometimes they are overfilled with extra potatoes.”

Um Amira recalls how those three months out of work were not easy for her or her loyal customers. “I couldn’t pay my debts and it was hard for me to raise prices; my customers liked my sandwiches as they were affordable,” she explains.

A documentary film featuring Um Amira’s story and life struggles after becoming the breadwinner of her family and which was screened at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2014 cut short her three-month hiatus from work.

The film was seen by a Saudi businessman who decided to pay off her debts and buy her supplies. “I have never seen this man, and never heard from him. I wish I had the chance to thank him,” says Um Amira who was hesitant about resuming work as she would have to raise her prices.

But it was her customers who encouraged her. “They told me it should be fine as price hikes are a general issue everyone is suffering from, but [the customers] still can afford my sandwich.”

“We are happy she is back because her sandwich is indispensable,” one of her customers tells us. In the last three years, Um Amira lost her husband and her daughter Amira, 21, who suffered from heart disease. Her second daughter Basma, who just turned 22, was kept out of school for three years due to a financial crisis facing the family.

Today Um Amira and her daughter live on a daily wage of less than LE 100, besides a government pension of LE 360 per month, which “is not enough and mostly goes for Basma’s private tutors,” Um Amira says, outlining how she has failed multiple times to rent a shop because she cannot afford the average LE 5,000 rent.

“How can I get all this money? If I were a drug dealer, I would not have collected all this money each month!” Her cart could be removed anytime due to lack of licenses. Since 2014, the government has expelled hundreds of street vendors from Downtown, relocating them in established markets in a bid to ease traffic congestion.

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Um Amira receiving payment from customers who consider her sandwich is an indispensable meal- Egypt Today/Ahmed Hussein


Like many vendors, Um Amira laments the new relocation as “far from the pedestrian flow” and from her home, making her hesitant to apply for a license, and preferring her current, unsecure location.

Despite her suffering, Um Amira has always kept a satisfying smile on her face while serving customers along with her assistant Hany, whom she playfully likens to Turkish President Erdogan, swearing there is a resemblance.]]>
11/21/2017 1:38:31 PM
<![CDATA[Star Attraction]]>
American actors Dylan McDermott, Michael Madsen and French actress Emmanuelle Béart attended the event, which opened with an honorary tribute to legendary comedian Adel Imam as he was presented with a Career Achievement Award.

The festival is co-founded by business tycoon brothers Samih and Naguib Sawiris, who are confident the event sends a message to regional and international artists that El Gouna is safe and that the festival will honor cinema and talents around the globe.

“I have always been a movie lover and this is the main reason why I founded this festival. I am honored to have worked with everyone on this experience and I look forward to a very successful first edi- tion, which will help energize us to host the festival annually,” said- Naguib Sawiris. Egyptian movie star and the co-founder of Gouna
Film Festival Bushra Rozza added, “We’ve been working with a vi- 55
sion to live up to the expectations for a film festival that was born to compete with other established international film festivals from day one.’’

The chosen message of peace appealed to the international ce- lebrities attending, including well-known American actor Michael Madsen. “Things going on in the world nowadays, a lot of them not good; the film festival is an opportunity for anybody to get together to celebrate the cinema I love the most,’’ said Madsen, admitting that he had been warned it wasn’t safe to fly to Egypt, but that he felt safe in El Gouna. “Movies are an interesting way to reach immortality and a perfect messenger to promote mutual understanding and hence, El Gouna Film Festival’s slogan; ‘Cinema For Humanity’,’’ Madson added.

“The El Gouna Film Festival pays special attention to provide rel- evant tools and networking opportunities to young filmmaking tal- ents in the MENA region through its unique support platform Cine- Gouna, and we take the workshops and panels very seriously as our main role through this important initiative,” El Gouna Film Festival (GFF) Director Intishal Al Tamimi explained.

Superstar Imam expressed a similar sentiment as he got up to receive the award. “A nation without art is a nation without con- science,’’ he announced, commending the choice of the festival location. Also honored was Lebanese critic Ibrahim Al-Ariss who agreed, “El Gouna is one of the world’s most attractive spots for tourism and a great place to hold a film festival.’’

At the end of the opening ceremony, the festival screened the local premier of Egyptian film Sheikh Jackson, directed by Amr Sal- ama and starring Ahmed el Fishawy, Ahmed Malek, Amina Khalil, Dorra and Yasmine Raees. The movie celebrated its international premier days ago during the Toronto International Film Festival, where it received excellent reviews.

Sun, Sand, Sea . . . and Culture

Serving as a cultural bridge between Egyptian and international filmmakers, the GFF’s workshops brought together participants and mentors to voice regional art and humanitarian stories on the international level, as well as bring about partnerships targeting “cinema for humanity,” which was the motto of the festival.

“Most grants target production and directors, primarily. We do not tackle the step before that, scriptwriting, so that needs more attention in the Arab world, not just Egypt,” Haitham Dabbour, a scriptwriter whose film Photocopy is competing in GFF, told Egypt Today.

Helming one of the scriptwriting workshops were U.S. screen- writers Jeff Stockwell and Richard Tanne where, Dabbour says, con- versations discussing his script in the workshop were dynamic, as Stockwell and Tanne played the roles of authors and producers to pinpoint certain details from all perspectives possible.

“[The participants] are so talented; it’s unbelievable. They have such clear visions of the stories that they’re telling; it’s coming from such an authentic, deep place inside them. I think they’re filled with so much hope and positivity, and I think they’re really, really great representatives of your country and others areas in the Middle East,” said Tanne, an award-winning scriptwriter whose Southside With You premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. As a teen, Tanne nabbed the New Jersey Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Arts Education. His feature film Southside, With You was nominated for several awards, including the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival, Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award and Audience Award at Gotham Awards, and the Golden Space Needle Award at Seattle International Film Festival, taking home the Audience Award at Maui Film Festival in 2016.

Cannes of the Middle East

Amr Mansy, the CEO of GFF, now expects El Gouna to boom as a global tourist destination and that many more hotels will be built in the Red Sea; all hotels are already fully booked in the first year of the festival, according to Mansy. “El Gouna is a self-sufficient town that also has beaches and beautiful nature that can attract any tourist,” Mansy told Egypt Today.

To Dabbour, El Gouna could easily draw attention for both the GFF and its tourist services, much like Cannes is most known for its film festival. “It is a smart idea to [utilize] a nice place you have to create a new festival, because we needed a strong one … El Gouna is quali- fied to be a celebratory city for cinema,” Dabbour said.

To be like Cannes Film Festival, however, takes many years, Stockwell emphasized, while Tanne maintained the opening of the festival “was a very good start, and in your first year you’re already attracting Forest Whitaker, you’re attracting Dylan McDermott, you’re attracting other international actors and filmmakers.”

“That, actually, may be the key. At the core, it is Egypt, but then making sure that it’s a global enterprise that’s bringing in people from all over the world in addition to showing movies; that becomes a cultural exchange between people like us [as] we get to sit down and have a conversation [while] teaching a workshop,” he continued. Mansy has high hopes for next year, as Euronews is sponsoring the event and several international media outlets are covering it. “Dylan McDermott told us he’s calling his friends who were reluc- tant to come this year, same thing with Michael Madsen and we also have Oliver Stone; all of them will go back home and talk [about the
festival],” he said.

Mansy added he is particularly happy with the workshops and the CineGouna Platform, anticipating requests from international film- makers to shoot in Egypt.

International attention might also help put Egyptian movies back on the map. Stockwell, who produced feature credits such as The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys starring Jodie foster and Disney’s Bridge to Terabithia, admitted that though he has watched Egyptian comedy and recognizes it is appreciated across the Middle East, he said he could not name an Egyptian movie or director. Stockwell also wrote the script for Wilder Days, a drama film which was nomi- nated for a WGA Award for Best Original Long Form TV in 2004. He has also written multiple other scripts, including the films A Wrinkle in Tome, Our Wild Life, and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tu- lane. Since 2004, Stockwell has been a mentor at Screenwiriting Lab and has previously conducted two workshops, one in Oman and the other in Los Angeles, California.

“I know The Mummy,” quipped Tanne, “which isn’t even Egyptian; it’s depressing to admit, but it’s actually one of the reasons that it’s so exciting to be here is because one of the participants [in the work- shop] is going to be making a list of Egyptian films for us to watch.”

Expecting that language would be a barrier, Stockwell and Tanne were lucky enough to have a translation booth in their classes al- lowing the participants who speak Arabic and French to instantly grasp their thoughts. “At first, we were nervous about this because we have so much to share but we were worried that the language would make it difficult to talk about the ideas we want to deliver, but it was proven otherwise,” Stockwell cheered. “It’s great because the workshop is a big stew of ideas flying around.”

Stockwell hopes that, ultimately, people will be able to enjoy films from different countries, “because that’s what allows people to con- nect with each other and with the films regardless of the films cul- ture and setting. And it’s an exciting time because it’s easier now to see each other’s films with streaming and you don’t have to wait until it screens in a specific movie theater. It’s really the quest of how we can get people to see each others’ films, and El Gouna could be a lovely platform for promoting that.”
Which is why Tanne finds GFF’s slogan “Cinema for Humanity” so apt. “Every movie contributes in one way or another to humanity. Cinema is powerful on its own. In the 21st century, it’s become the most important provider for images, so if you see yourself repre- sented on screen you know people who look like you, that have the same color of skin, that speak the same language that is bringing people together, because the more I could understand your culture from a film perspective, the more I could understand you.”

A Safe Haven

Security is another major factor in attracting international visi- tors. “El Gouna seems very securely locked down and not at all what the stereotypes of Egypt are in America,” Tanne said. Stockwell agrees. “One big advantage of El Gouna too is the sense that it is such a welcoming, easy place for people internationally to come, be- cause the reality is, people from different countries don’t know what to expect . . . you will not believe how luxurious and comfortable this is,” he says recalling how, after missing the person he was supposed to meet at Hurghada airport, how easy it was to talk to people who told him where to go.

“[El Gouna] is lovely, It’s strange to land in El Gouna, I will say, directly, without having seen any other part of Egypt. It’s almost like I’m in a science fiction story because this could be anywhere, El Gouna. This is very similar to Palm Springs or places in California where there are resorts and developments, so it’s strange. I know we’re in Egypt, I don’t feel it yet.”

Both Tanne and Stockwell have high hopes for GFF and are very excited for what is to come, “For being the first year, the opening [was] like no other. No film festival has an opening has an like that! Automatically, I’m interested in this festival and already wondering what will happen next year and after that.”]]>
11/18/2017 12:03:37 AM
<![CDATA[Rocking the Science Scene]]>
Adding to a long list of inspirational women who have been contributing to the technical advancement of humanity throughout history, two young Egyptian scientists were recognized by L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science regional program at the third annual award ceremony early last month.

Menatallah el-Serafy, a molecular biologist, and Basma Mostafa, a computer and operations researcher, were awarded the 2017 regional fellowship, granting them €10,000 and €6,000 respectively to undertake their progressive research ideas in genetics and mathematical models.

“The mission of the L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science program is to identify, reward and encourage exceptional women scientists from around the world, women who can serve as role models for younger scientists,” says Nahla Mokhtar, L’Oreal Egypt Corporate Communication Manager.

Leading a revolution in molecular biology

Having acquired her PhD before turning 25, as well as having a rich list of publications in the field of molecular biology and a research project offering advanced knowledge for new health innovations made Serafy an outstanding candidate for the award amongst 90 other applicants. Today, she’s revolutionizing research in her field in Egypt, and she hasn’t even turned 30.

Looking up to late scientist and Nobel Prize winner Ahmed Zewail ever since she was a child, Serafy’s primary goal has always been to make a difference and have an impact similar to the renowned Egyptian chemist’s. She graduated from the German University in Cairo in 2010, with a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology; and on the evening of her graduation ceremony, she was on a plane to Germany, to pursue both her master’s and PhD in just five years at Heidelberg University. “I wanted to learn some practical skills, so I decided to travel abroad to get proper direction in research,” Serafy tells us.

She later decided to return to Egypt and apply her knowledge at the Center for Genomics (CG), affiliated with Zewail City for Science and Technology, focusing
mainly on ways to repair DNA damage. Currently a postdoctoral researcher, Serafy applied for the L’Oreal-UNESCO fellowship to be able to advance her project, which uses yeast to identify new genes and proteins, and which is expected to contribute toward repairing DNA damage.

“The research has so far uncovered 11 genes that are believed to be involved in a certain repair pathway; and which no one has ever reported in any publication,” Serafy says. The current step in the project is to try to look for mutations in these genes in different patients centres to see if there are certain diseases that are, indeed, caused by this mutation.

“Knowing the genetic cause will open the way for personalized medicine that targets the exact disease causing mutations; it will reduce the side effects and avoid the risk of prescribing certain medicine that the patient would be resistant to,” Serafy says. “It also improves the diagnosis and facilitates early detection by looking at the mutation in the gene.”

Having won the regional fellowship, Serafy plans to direct the full €10,000 to purchasing chemicals in the lab and publishing high-impact articles in renowned international publications. “I want the whole world to know that we produce respectable research here, in Egypt, that we have a contribution and we are not just consumers,” Serafy says, adding that she believes this fellowship has enabled her to have more impact on society. “People are more aware about the research and my students became more motivated,” she adds.

When asked about the experience of being a female scientist in Egypt and in the Arab world, Serafy notes that while the whole world is moving toward empowering women in science, “the only problem here is social constraints, which are starting to change. . . . We need social awareness to appreciate that women want to balance between the two things [personal and professional lives], as well as social support at the workplace, like providing nurseries, or being able to take a break and come back to proceed,” Serafy says.

Being a newlywed herself, Serafy has praised how supportive her husband and family are, calling for every motivated woman to choose a man who would appreciate and support her goals. “My husband works with me and he knows I am very motivated and I want to make a difference. . . . Each of us has his personal goals and we have common goals as well. And each of us has the duty to support the other to reach their goals in their careers,” Serafy says.

Having won the regional postdoctoral fellowship, Serafy is now eligible for the International Rising Talent Award, which recognizes 15 women scientists internationally. The fellows are selected among the winners of the national and regional fellowship programs, and receive a grant of €15,000.

Applying mathematics to monitor heart devices remotely

Assistant lecturer at the Faculty of Computers and Information at Cairo University, Mostafa, 30, was awarded the L’Oreal Unesco Fellowship for her PhD thesis entitled “An optimised mathematical model to monitor the internet of things network.”

Having graduated first in her undergraduate class, and receiving her master’s degree in 2014, Mostafa is currently working to acquire her dual PhD at the University of Montpellier, France and Cairo University.

“My goal is to target the devices monitoring the health of patients, especially if they are old and they cannot go to hospitals all the time.” Mostafa says. The thesis aims primarily at developing a mathematical algorithm that would monitor health devices connected to the internet and make sure that there is no delay or malfunction in reading the data, sending it to the doctors, and automatically alerting the system for any emergency to send an ambulance. “It is very critical to make sure there are no problems or delays in such a system,” Mostafa stresses.

The Network of Things includes billions of smart devices; phones, heart monitors, blood sugar monitors, cars and TV monitors; all connected to the internet. “However, it still needs models to monitor it and make sure that the required quality of services is realised,” Mostafa says.

Mostafa’s developed mathematical model aims at creating this remote monitoring at the lowest cost, and allowing for realistic application that “would touch people’s lives,” she explains.

With nine months left to fulfill her PhD requirements, Mostafa has initially applied for the fellowship to help finance her travel expenses to Paris. However, she also puts great weight on the impact of this recognition in introducing her project to the people and helping realise its importance in the society.

“The mathematical model is already accomplished but this is a primary phase. It needs to be turned into a code and tested,” Mostafa says, adding that she has already communicated with doctors involved in the industry who are waiting for her to finalise the product to be able to find a patient who would use her research results.

A wife and mother of two children, Mostafa stresses the challenge to balance between the responsibilities of a scientist and a mother. “I am grateful to the support of my husband and his appreciation of me being mentally occupied, as well as accepting that I am working towards a big thing that would be rewarding for myself and for our home,” Mostafa says.

For Women in Science

The competition, which covers Egypt and the Levant, featured a total of 111 applications this year, 50 percent of which came from Egypt, reveals Mokhtar.

The L’Oreal-UNESCO initiative was first founded in 1989, but the regional program launched in 2014, aiming to recognize and honor female scientists from Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq, Syria and Egypt for the quality of their research work.

“We wanted to have a larger representation of women; all women, women from the Arab world, and specifically from the Levant region and Egypt,” Mokhtar says. “[We wanted] to acknowledge their crucial role in the development of the region.”

For the past two years the L’Oréal program in the Levant and Egypt used to award five outstanding female postdoctoral researchers with a grant of €10,000 each. However, in 2017, the figure has increased by adding a new category, now offering three postdoctoral fellowships, amounting to a total of €10,000, to Arab women researchers working in research laboratory, institute or university. Four other fellowships, amounting to a total of € 6,000, are granted to Arab women pursuing doctoral degrees. The fellowships are all granted by the L’Oreal Foundation, L’Oreal Egypt and L’Oreal Liban SAL.

Since its inception 19 years ago, the L’Oreal UNESCO’s international program has recognized 2,800 women scientists in 115 countries; including eight Arab Laureates who won the international award, and more than 90 promising Arab talents.

Egyptian women scientists have been recognized by initiative for years. In 2001, Amal Ahmed was awarded the international fellowship for her project focusing on the elaboration of simple tests that allow the measurement of seawater pollution using shells.

In 2002, Nagwa AbdelMaguid was awarded the Africa and Middle East fellowship for her advanced research in the fields of psychiatric genetics. The same fellowship was given to Karimat El Sayed a year later for her post-doctoral research on small impurities in metals.

In 2006, Ghada Abu El-Heba was named international fellow for her project in improvement of nitrogen-fixation in legumes. Hadeer El-Dakhakhni also received the international fellowship in 2010 for her research in the field of biomaterials and their use in clinical applications. Rashika el Ridi was awarded the Africa and the Arab states award the same year, having conducted research that led to the development of a vaccine against a tropical disease. Shahenda el Nagar, research director at the Children’s Cancer Hospital 57357, was named Pan Arab Fellow a year after, followed by Heba Salama in 2012. Sherien Elagroudy was also awarded the Arab fellowship for her research in novel solid waste treatment system in 2013. Nourtan Abdeltawab was recognized twice for her work in pharmacogenetics of Hepatitis C virus, winning the Levant and Egypt fellowship in 2014, followed by the International Rising Talent award in 2015. Nashwa Mamdouh El-Bendary and Mai Fathy Tolba also won the regional fellowship in 2015 and 2016 respectively for their projects in information technology, and mechanisms of resistance of hormone-responsive cancers to chemotherapy.

“We have a say we are proud of, 'The world needs science and science needs women' because the women in science have the power to change the world,” Mokhtar says. “We have number of talented, exceptional women in science that are working day and night to change the world. Our role as a corporate, believing in their power and committed to science as it is in our DNA, is to show the success of those successful models to the community to inspire others.”]]>
11/15/2017 5:49:43 PM
<![CDATA[Sacred Gold]]>
Authors of the book Gold and Gold Mining in Ancient Egypt and Nubia Rosemarie Klemm and Dietrich Klemm explain that gold was not only worn by men and women as jewelry, but it was also linked to the Sun God Ra, with its yellowish and reddish shades.

Alfred Lucas, one of the early researchers in the study of ancient Egyptian technology, believed the red color found in ancient Egyptian jewelry resulted from the tarnishing of silver-bearing gold. Salima Ikram, professor of Egyptology, explains that ancient Egyptians named gold “the flesh of the gods” because it did not get discolored and was believed to be sacred. They also believed it had spiritual pow- ers.

Hamdy El Sayed, an Egyptologist and researcher at Cairo Uni- versity explains that ancient Egyptians were buried in gold. “The famous Tutankhamun tomb, that of a young boy, contained three golden coffins made of 110 kilograms of pure gold, his gold throne and his mummy, which was also covered with a gold funerary mask,” he explains.

“So you can imagine what the tombs of kings and queens have hoarded.” Most of ancient Egyptian treasures were stolen before they were discovered. “The valley of the kings, for instance, contains 62 tombs that were already stolen and left open before being discovered, which only leaves us wondering about the number of treasures these tombs contained,” he adds.



El Sayed explains that it is without doubt that ancient Egyptians loved gold and were very much aware of its value. “They designed accessories out of it, buried their kings and queens with it, used it as decoration, made pieces of furniture out of it and used it as ex- change in international trade.”


They also saw gold as a precious tool in maintaining their relations with allies and keeping their strong empire. “Treasures and gifts of gold were given to military leaders and were exchanged as part of diplomatic relations between neigh- bors to maintain good terms and ensure Egypt’s borders were kept safe,” El Sayed adds.


Gold and its uses were clearly engraved in hieroglyphs since 2,600 BC and its importance and abundance evident in some of the Amarna letters. In the late 18th dynasty, King Tushratta of Mitan- ni wrote to Queen Tiye, “I have asked Mimmuriya, your husband, for massive gold statues. But your son has gold-plated statues of wood.


As the gold is like dust in the country of your son, why have they been the reason for such pain, that your son should not have given them to me?” one Amarna letter read.

According to the map on the Turin Papyrus, there were at least 1,300 such mines in ancient times. Considered one of the first civi- lizations of the world to discover gold, ancient Egypt’s discovery of gold remains enveloped by mystery.

But we know that it was largely found in Nubia and the Eastern Desert, which means that gold miners and expeditions were sent to the area to explore and extract gold found in the desert and in riverbeds. The process of gold mining was mostly carried out by prisoners and slaves, who were ordered to carefully store gold chunks and gold particles in linen bags and transport it to the Nile Valley. According to the writ- ings of the historian Diodorus Siculus in his Bibliotheca historica written around 60 BCE, “these unfortunate souls were treated very badly; being made to work in appalling conditions, with little food or water and being beaten if they weren’t thought to be working hard enough.”

After being transported to the Nile Valley, gold was mainly collected by the pharaohs and priests and reserved only for use of royalty and nobles. Although several of the ancient mines still exist but that ancient Egyptians were very thorough in their gold extrac- tion process, leaving little behind. She adds, however, that with modern technologies, we might be able to extract more gold from these ancient mines.

In their book, Rosemarie and Dietrich Klemm explain that “concerns over the authenticity of gold led the Egyptians to devise a method to determine the purity of gold around 1500 BCE (or earlier).

This method is called fire assaying and involves taking a small sam- ple of the material under test and firing it in a small crucible with a quantity of lead. The crucible was made of bone ash and absorbed the lead and any other base metals during the firing process leaving only gold and silver. The silver was removed using nitric acid and the remaining pure gold was weighed and compared to the weight before firing.”

Gold jewelry in ancient Egypt were often custom made for kings and queens and varied from rings, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, pendants, pins and brooches to pieces of furniture like chairs and beds. British archeologists have also found that electrum, a mix of copper, silver and gold, was extensively used in making obelisks and pyrimidines used to cover the top of pyramids.


A commodity for the kings, goldsmiths perfected their crafts- manship. Different manufacturing and designing techniques in- cluded a technique called filigree, which is based on pulling gold into wires and twisting it into different designs.

Other techniques included beating gold into thing shapes and granulation, which is decorating surfaces with small, soldered granules of gold.

Several of these techniques are still followed by jewelers today, such as beating gold into different shapes such as leaves and the lost- wax technique to make statues and sculptures, in addition to mix- ing gold with other metals to produce alloys.

In fact, in their book, Rosemarie and Dietrich Klemm argue that some jewelry sold in modern Egyptian bazaars may actually contain traces of ancient Egyptian gold. Ikram agrees, saying that “A fragment probably exists in much of the Egyptian gold today.”

Soon, the goldsmiths of ancient Egypt gained prestige and wealth, they were, after all, the craftsmen who created and de- signed such well-made, elegant jewelry, furniture and funerary masks for the pharaohs.]]>
11/12/2017 3:06:00 PM
<![CDATA[Striking Gold]]>(1549/1550 BC to 1292 BC) tomb was announced. The tomb, unearthed in Luxor,
Upper Egypt, belonged to Amun-Re’s goldsmith, Amenemhat (Kampp 390), Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities Khaled Anani announced in a press conference last month.

The tomb was found to contain a number of coffins carrying the remains of the goldsmith, his wife and his son. It also houses a large well at a depth of eight meters, as well as artifacts, pottery vessels and ushabti statues and equipment used by the famous Pharaonic gold trader.

‘’The newly discovered tomb has taken the archaeologists to the entrances of new tombs that are about to be discovered,’’ recounted Mostafa El Waziri,= the head of the Luxor Antiquities sector, during the conference, which was attended by Governor of Luxor Mohamed Badr, the Cypriot ambassador and members of both local and international media.

Famed Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass described the latest discovery as “one of the most important discoveries in the modern era.” Waziri agrees, announcing he is confident that the new tomb, which is located in the West Bank in Luxor,will be an even more important find than the Osrahat cemetery, which was discovered last April.

The number of ushabti statues discovered is about 1,400, in addition to mummies and masks belonging to the owner of the tomb that are plated with different colors.

Inside the tomb

Located in the Draa Abul-Naga necropolis on Luxor’s West Bank, the cemetery contains an entrance situated in the courtyard of another Middle Kingdom tomb, Kampp 150. Hawass explains that the discovered tomb was extremely rich with antiquities as its owner was a jewellery maker, and almost half of its contents were in a good condition.

The entrance leads to a room that contains a niche with a dual statue depicting the tomb owner and his wife. The statue shows Amenemhat sitting on a high-backed chair beside his wife, who wears a long dress and wig. Between their legs stands a small figure of their son. The cemetery has two burial shafts.

X-LuxorDiscovery21-xxx
The Tomb Unearthed In Luxor

The main burial shaft is seven meters deep and has a collection of mummies, sarcophagi and funerary masks carved in wood, along with a collection of ushabti statues. The second shaft contains a set of 21st and 22nd Dynasty sarcophagi subject to deterioration during the Late Period.

In the open courtyard, the mission stumbled upon a maze of Middle Kingdom burial shafts, where a family burial of a woman and her two children was unearthed. It includes two wooden coffins with mummies intact and a collection of headrests. One of the coffins contains the head-rest of the deceased woman, as well as a group of pottery vessels.

The mummies of both their sons were found in good condition. The Egyptian mission also discovered limestone remains of an offering table, four wooden sarcophagi partly damaged and decorated with hieroglyphic text, scenes of different ancient Egyptian gods and a sandstone dual statue of a gold trader in King Tuthmose III’s temple named Mah.

A group of 150 small ushabti statues carved in faience, wood, burned clay, limestone and mud brick were also found. The mission also discovered a collection of 50 funerary cones. Waziry announced that the work in this tomb is not over yet, as the coming period is expected to witness the discovery of several pharaonic tombs and the excavation work will continue in the coming months.

Buried under the sand

About 70 foreign missions will begin working on the different archaeological sites in Luxor within the upcoming weeks, according to Waziri. He adds that the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities is seeking to improve all archaeological sites ahead of the
tourist season by developing and renovating temples, royal tombs and archaeological sites. Hawass had previously announced that what Egypt discovered thus far represents about 30 percent of its total antiquities; the remaining 70 percent is still buried under the sand. ]]>
11/11/2017 4:34:17 PM
<![CDATA[Collective Memory]]>
Zayed goes back to the airstrike as a good example. “Most of us think of Mubarak as the only hero, when in fact it was a coalition ef- fort comprising an Iraqi flight squadron, 200 Egyptian pilots and some 5,000 soldiers, engineers and technicians, in addition to the public who also pitched in. For instance, in To commemorate the 1973 victory this month, we look at 73 Group Historians: an online portal working to keep the memory of the battle alive.

Mansoura the airbase was manned by mili- tary staff but it was everyday civilians who helped fill and lug the sandbags and so on.” To help raise awareness of the airstrike and the momentum of its impact Zayed notes that the element of surprise was certainly in Egypt’s side but that Israeli ar- tillery, technology and machinery was far more advanced Group 73 Historians in 2010 put out a documentary film entitled Wings of Anger. The film, self-funded and costing LE 500,000, was helmed by director Ahmed Fathy who “contributed with his own inheri- tance,” says Zayed. To raise the rest of the money, Zayed sold off his wife’s jewelry.

The film was screened free of charge four times on ONtv. With the help of one of the portal’s Facebook fans, Zayed adds, the film, which includes 45 minutes of high- tech graphics content, was shown on Israeli national TV just 90 minutes after ONtv’s first screening. Otherwise, there appears to be very little interest from TV channels. “I’ve been on TV several times to talk about how very little is being done to document the war and to draw attention to our plight but to no avail,” Zayed says. “I even sent in a copy of the film four days before the anniversary one year to be aired for free on national TV but they didn’t show it.”

In addition to producing documentary films, Group 73 Historians has organized scores of lectures, bringing on veterans as key speakers. “El-Ghitany helps us put

these events together and reach out to the war heroes,” says Zayed, who recounts that among the most prominent heroes they have interviewed were Generals Saad Eddin El-Shazly, Galal El-Haredy and Nabil Shoukry, in addition to many others.
“We videotape and record these inter- views so that visitors to the site are sure the accounts are authentic,” explains Zayed. “Naturally we do our own research to cor- roborate but since people may get bored of reading such descriptive details we have the

recordings online as they are more engag- ing.”
Also on the portal are a collection of ar- ticles, videos and photographs as well as a “Hero of the Month” segment, which visi- tors find an interesting and important tes- tament to the many veterans who served in the war. “It’s especially important to have this because the veterans with us today will not be here tomorrow,” says Zayed. “We’re working hard to capture their achieve- ments.”]]>
11/9/2017 2:15:48 PM
<![CDATA[No Lost Generation]]>
For a few seconds, Ghaith’s innocent smile and pure dreams would overshadow the sad story that brought him and his family fleeing from Syria to Egypt over five years ago, until he starts talk- ing about his home country, of which all he knows is that “there are missiles; and houses are being destroyed.” Ghaith resides in Sixth of October City, along with hundreds of Syrians who fled the violence in their home countries and chose their area as their new homes. In fact, out of millions of refugees who fled the death and destruction in Syria, 122,000 registered with the UNHCR in Egypt— and 40 percent of those are children. Actual figures, however, are likely much higher as many migrants reside in Egypt and work ir- regularly and informally without registering with the UNHCR.

In Au- gust 2016, the number of Syrian refugees in Egypt was estimated at 500,000, with tens of thousands of those being school-age children, according to an announcement by Egypt’s Assistant Foreign Minis- ter Hisham Badr.

With the Syrian crisis entering its seventh year, children are paying the highest price for the destructive war. Most of these young migrants had already lost out on years of critical education before coming to Egypt. Those who were old enough to witness the de- struction of their homes and the loss of their families have arrived carrying intense emotional and psychological scars.


Generous policies in an overloaded, bureaucratic system

Registered Syrian refugees legally have unrestricted access to Egyptian schools and public health services. The Egyptian law stipulates that any student funded by UNHCR is entitled to educa- tion enrollment. A 2012 presidential decree has also given Syrian children in Egypt equal access and right to all levels of education as Egyptians and full access to public services.

According to the Ministry of Education, public schools are currently hosting around 36,000 Syrian children across Egypt. Over the past six years, the ministry has also exempted Syrian children from tuition fees and provided required support to facilitate their enroll- ment, according to UNHCR data. The unrestricted schooling policy is also beneficial for other family members of the enrolled child as it provides them with a one-year residency permit, as opposed to the six months granted to all other categories of refugees and asylum seekers. But although many Syrians are praising the decisions tak- en by authorities to facilitate their lives at their new homes, others are still struggling with bureaucracy and the standard of education their kids receive in public institutions here; especially if they don’t have financial access to private tutoring.

Hala Ibrahim Bekdash, who arrived to Egypt with her family five years ago, made sure to enroll her kids in Egyptian schools “to en- able them to cope and learn the dialect of the country,” she tells Egypt Today. She adds that she has not personally experienced any problems with her children’s schooling.

“My kids speak such perfect Egyptian dialect that you cannot tell they are Syrian…they are happy here” she says, adding that she in- tegrated her children in the Egyptian society since their arrival. But that doesn’t mean it is all well and dandy at the Bekdash’s house- hold. “In terms of belonging, I am Syrian and I love my country, but this is the country where we will live; and only god knows whether we will be back to Syria or not,” she wistfully says. “My son (12) re- members Syria a bit but my daughter (7) does not know anything of Syria,” she speaks sadly.

While some are unable to adapt to the available facilities, others are still struggling with enrollment; whether due to the hectic procedures, residency papers and letters from the UNHCR or the likely loss of previous certificates, forcing students to repeat two or three academic years. “Education is the biggest challenge facing Syrians in Egypt,” says Roaa, 22, who arrived here five years ago. Unable to enroll in school, Roaa ended up attempting suicide. Having suffered from the Syrian crisis and its aftermath first hand, Roaa then decided to dedicate her life to helping and caring for other Syrian refugee children to overcome the barriers they face through volunteer work as a teacher and facilitator in several educational projects and initiatives in Egypt. “The system is not adapted to facilitate our education at all … They would make you go through a lot of trouble, administrative papers, residence and visas.” She calls for authorities to facilitate their residence permits to be able to enroll in schools.

Syrians in Egypt are also suffering from inadequate school facilities, overcrowded classrooms and vast differences between the Egyptian and Syrian curricula. Based on a sample of 1,700 Syrian refugees in seven Egyptian governorates, a 2013-2014 study by the Center for Migration and Refugee Studies (CMRS) at the American University in Cairo shows that without costly private tutoring, children often fall behind their Egyptian classmates.

Although she refers to Egypt’s unrestricted access to education policy as “very effective,” pointing out “the high, and sustained, enrollment rate in public schools,” Shaden Khallaf, senior policy advisor for the UNHCR’s MENA Bureau in Amman, says that “over-crowded classrooms and an apparent low quality of education are the main challenges facing both Egyptian and Syrian refugee children in Egyptian public schools.” Additional funding needs to be allocated to both the Ministry of Education and UNHCR education sector to build additional schools and reduce the density in classrooms, she says, that families also need to be supported with an improved cash program to enable them to meet their basic needs and not resort to sending their children out to work.

Similar challenges also apply to available health care services for Syrians in Egypt. According to the ministry of health, there are significant numbers of Syrians who use public primary health services. The Regional Refugee & Resilience Plan report issued by the UN for 2016-2017 states that in 2015, “46,721 primary health care (PHC) consultations were provided to women, girls, boys and men, including follow up visits for more than 5,000 suffering from chronic illnesses; 714 mental health consultations were addressed; and 26,548 secondary and/or tertiary care services were provided.”

However, the same report also suggests an acute need for early diagnostic and treatment services and underlines the weakness of emergency services, as well as “the increased burden and risk of diseases associated with overcrowding, poor sanitation and hygiene and inequitable distribution of health care facilities.”

Grassroots efforts

With resources failing to meet ambitious refugee policies put by the government, a number of NGOs, along with UN agencies, have stepped in in recent years to fill out the gap. The programs address the deficiencies in the education system, financial issues facing Syrians in Egypt, emotional and psychological needs and physical well-being of Syrian mothers and children, as well as an essential focus on their social integration in the Egyptian community.

Plan International: a comprehensive relief for Syrian families

The international organization has been active in Egypt since the early 80s and has been adopting a series of programs targeting Syrian refugee children since 2014.
“We focus on promoting the protection and integration of Syrian refugees through our work with the children and their families, focusing on education as the main component,” Mona Hussein, advocacy communications coordinator, tells Egypt Today.

Plan’ first intervention with Syrian children was a pilot project in Alexandria in 2014. The project provided cash grants for their school fees and supplies, remedial classes to compensate for the difference in curriculums and dialects, psychosocial support for the mothers through parental education programs, and organized open days to promote integration between Syrian and Egyptian children. Plan has since launched several projects, which, although focus on children and their education as the main hub, “target the whole family as one unit,” Hussein says. The projects start with early childhood, and move on to the education period, youth economic empowerment and human development programs.

A recent project, Education in Harmony, has added new components to Plan’s mission, such as working on the infrastructure of public and community schools, providing essential utilities and equipment for the students, as well as training the teachers in dealing with Syrian kids. The project is done in collaboration with the Egyptian Ministry of Education and targets almost 59,000 Syrian refugee children in Egypt.

“All of our work in is cooperation with the ministry of education and under its supervision. The classes we offer go in parallel with the schools and their main aim is to help Syrian children cope and be at the same level of their Egyptian colleagues,” Hussein says.

Some of Plan’s key partners include the Canadian government, the ministries of youth and sports, justice and social solidarity as well the Youth and Children Council and the National Council for Women. In addition to their work with the children, Plan has also been offering economic empowerment sessions and useful tools for the mothers to be able to generate income. “One of the biggest challenges facing Syrian refugees—which make their kids vulnerable to escape education or to early marriage—is that they don’t have enough money to support their children,” Hussein explains. “So the
option is to take their kids out of school.”

For information, contact Jacinthe Ibrahim, Plan International Egypt’s program area manager for Greater Cairo and the Delta, at jacinthe.ibrahim@planinternational.org or visit plan-international.org/Egypt

Beyout Amena: a successful intervention for Syrian children

We spent a day at Safe Homes (Beyout Amena); a project launched by both, Plan and Syria el Ghad in Sixth of October city, making up a model of successful intervention by Syrians, for Syrians, with the support of independent donors.

Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 2.04.43 PM The project targets kids aged 2 to 6, to “prepare them for school, both academically and psychologically,” says project administrator, Sanaa Hassan. The total target is 800 children in three centres.

“Syrian parents were faced with a problem of costly nurseries and a wide difference in the level and capacities of classes, compared to Syria,” Project coordinator Samah Kamal says. “Through the project, the mum can leave her kid in a place where she is not worried; and she does not have to carry a financial burden.”

From 10 am to 11 am, it is time for sports and physical workouts at Beyout Amena. From 11 am to noon, children stay in their classrooms with their facilitator and engage in educational activities. The following hour is for games, intellectual activities and videos.

The project’s administrator and seven facilitators working with the children are all Syrians who dedicate their efforts to helping their youngsters overcome the trauma and the struggle they have gone through at a very early age. “I am responsible for organizing educational and entertainment activities for the children,” says Inas, one of the facilitators in the program who came to Egypt five years ago. “We teach them letters and numbers in Arabic and English in a creative way, using clay and sand…Entertainment activities include sports and handcrafts.”

Inas is also a student at the faculty of commerce at Cairo University and is looking forward to graduating in a few months. “I had to repeat a school year when I first arrived, and the dissimilarity between the two countries was problematic; but afterwards, it has been going very well,” she says.

The project also works on alleviating the stress and traumatic experiences the children experienced at an early age. “We have endured the problems ourselves: We understand their struggle,” Roaa says. “Our children grew up in tough situation that destroyed them.” Beyout Amena, like most projects by Plan International, hosts both Egyptian and Syrian kids together to facilitate their integration in the society. The project also incorporates a weekly awareness session for the parents, built upon Plan’s Parents Education program, which covers 30 topics on raising kids, kids’ health and psychological well being, as well as teaching them basic ethics and useful skills.

Syria el Ghad: grassroots support by Syrians for Syrians

Founded in 2013, Syria el Ghad first focused on rescue services to deal with the aftermath of the war. Its mission then shifted to human building, focusing on children, women and all Syrian individuals. The organization is currently a key partner in six projects, targeting kids in all levels of education. Their relief programs help provide books and school supplies for the children, offer remedial teachings for students and technical sessions for young adults, and seek to improve the psychological status of the kids through outings and activities. Other projects also focus on health services and women empowerment.

“The main focus of the organization has been the generation at risk of getting lost,” says Hisham Shehab, executive director of the organization, adding that children have been the most influenced by the Syrian crisis. “We focus on the child so that, since his very early raising, he is a normal person, with good education and a safe environment.”
The organization also offers health services through two clinics at Obour City, Qaliubya Governorate and Sixth of October city.

“We receive 500 patients per day; they are offered a medical examination, their needed x-rays, and the medication they shall use; all for a total of LE 35, which is almost for free,” Shehab says.

For more information visit their website www.Syria-AlGad.org or follow them on Facebook @SyriaAlgadRF

Enty el Aham: essential health awareness for mothers and kids

Enty el Aham (You’re More Important) is one of Misr Foundation for Health and Sustainable Development’s latest projects, dedicated to providing health services and awareness sessions for Syrian mothers and kids.

The NGO focused on health awareness for women and children in Egypt and has launched this initiative to provide day-long programs that incorporate basic medical screening and awareness sessions on health and nutrition, psychological help, gender-based violence, family planning and reproductive health. They also distribute free medical samples. “We are simulating the same concept we have adopted for Egyptian women and children,” Dr. Amr Hassan, the founder of the initiative and a lecturer and consultant of gynecology and obstetrics at Cairo University says, adding that the program is only slightly modified to fit with the needs and problems of the Syrian community.

DSC_0025
Photo courtesy of Enty el-Aham

The first project organized by Enty el Aham gathered 1,000 Syrian women and their children, Hassan recalls, adding that the women were offered the medical screening for blood sugar level, blood pressure and virus C, while the kids were examined for anemia, and measured to ensure normal and healthy growth, in addition to health and psychological awareness sessions. “What was the most noticeable is the problem of malnutrition of kids, which has a lot to do with the living conditions and poverty here in Egypt,” he says.

The project has since expanded, building partnerships with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), CARE, a major international humanitarian agency delivering emergency relief and long- term international development projects, the Arab Women Organization and Syrian NGOs working in Egypt, like Fard and Watan.

During the program, the children also receive educational coloring books on the dangers of smoking, and other simple, yet critical problems, Hassan says. They are also planning on producing new books to specifically address the issue of Syrians in Egypt, such as a coloring story about Syrian and Egyptian friends to promote their integration in society.

Follow them on Facebook @Enty.Elahm

Int’l organizations work hand in hand with the government

The UNICEF and the UNHCR have also been very active stakeholders in the crisis of Syrian war children. Committed to providing refugee host governments and communities with sustainable support, UNICEF co-leads the “No Lost Generation” initiative, an ambitious commitment to action by humanitarians, donors and political actors or policy makers to support children and youth affected by the Syria crisis.

In Egypt, UNICEF is collaborating with the Ministry of Health and Population, the Ministry of Education, the National Coordinating Committee on Preventing and Combating Illegal Migration and the National Council for Motherhood and Childhood to ensure practical and immediate response are in place for Syrian children in Egypt.
“UNICEF has reached over 1,900 Syrian refugee children (3-5 year) through a network of 80 community kindergartens (KG) across seven governorates; Alexandria, Damietta, Daqhaleya, Giza, Greater Cairo, Qalubiya and Sharkia,” UNICEF Representative in Egypt Bruno Maes tells Egypt Today. He adds that they have also supported 2,923 Syrian refugee children, including those with disabilities, to access primary education across 16 public schools in Damietta and Alexandria.

Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 2.07.46 PM
Children receive Taekwondo training in Omar Ibn Al Khattab CDA, Faisal, Alexandria. February 2017 - Photo courtesy of Unicef


With the generous contributions of €1 million from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) of the European Commission, UNICEF has been able to boost access to basic education, offer psychological support and community- based recreational activities for refugees in different governorates. They were also able to provide specialized child protection services in Family Clubs, which offer life skills for adolescents and recreational activities for children, and local Egyptian Community development associations. “These places are safe havens for children. They can play and learn through playful activities; and a counselor is available to help them overcome their trauma and to provide professional guidance to their parents,” Maes says.

The UNICEF has also partnered with the Ministry of Health and Population to give Syrian mothers and children access to primary healthcare units located in 16 governorates across Egypt. “These units have delivered vaccinations, maternal and child care services and other medical services,” Maes says. “Child protection services are also provided in health care units throughout the activation of the Family Club initiative.”

“As a strategic partner to the Government of Egypt, UNICEF will continue to support the efforts of the government to ensure that Syrian children continue to access needed services and opportunities that ensure their wellbeing,” Maes says, affirming that “UNICEF’s main approach to the refugee crisis is to support the ongoing efforts of the Government and the ongoing efforts of community based initiatives.”

The UNHCR has also been working very closely with the Ministry of Education, to enhance the capacity of schools hosting Syrian refugee children through construction of additional classrooms, refurbishment of schools and improving the general physical environment. Focusing on the quality of education, the UNHCR continues to deliver teacher training and social workers training programs, as well as printing school books for early grades and establishing computer and science labs in the most impacted areas across Egypt.

Underlining that “countries like Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq have been bearing the responsibility of providing safety for Syrian refugees fleeing war and armed conflict remarkably,” UNHCR’s Khallaf points out that the international community must continue to support them through increased funding and solidarity, to compensate for the impact on their own economies, societies, and demographic challenges.

Indeed, it was this shared responsibility from agents of change, NGOs and independent initiatives that have contributed in making refugees lives a little easier and smoothen the transition to a country that has its own set of economic, educational and health problems.

“If the world continues to turn its back on Syria, it is the children who’ll continue to suffer the most,” said Wynn Flaten, director of World Vision’s Syria Crisis Regional Response, in 2014; a year that has been named as one of the worst years in history for children.

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11/8/2017 2:31:20 PM
<![CDATA[Mountain View’s iApartments: The Success Story]]>
Mountain View is offering a wide range of selections to its consumers from luxurious apartments to stand alone villas. The leading real estate company has just set new standards for living through its full customization concept for the first time in Egypt. As the consumer’s choices are affected by the variety of options presented to them due to the technological and social media dynamics, standing out has become more difficult than ever.

iApartments is part of Mountain View’s iCity project, which has granted homeowners the ability to choose the size of every room, bathroom, and balconies. The unique factor is involving the consumer in the process from start to finish to create a sense of identification with every brick built in the home.

Mountain View’s cutting edge 4D designs are separating residents from vehicles through four clusters, Islands, Cornish, parks and cars ensures homeowners safety and comfort. For configurations, customers can choose between different areas, bedrooms, bathrooms, luxury items, housekeepers’ quarters and in-house laundry rooms. Customers can also choose between different views; from the 360 view, park view, and park front, all the way to a court view; all based on your own personal preference. You can also choose whether or not you want a roof, garden, and/or a terrace.

Mountain View is a project by leading real estate company Dar Al Mimar Group (DMG) and one of the largest and most successful Egyptian Real Estate enterprises. Mountain View is also known for its high-quality products and reasonable prices, as well as its extremely reliable customer service. Mountain View boasts a multinational management team with local and international experience. This unique mixture of local and international expertise gives Mountain View an edge in the Real Estate market, enabling Mountain View to provide unparalleled services with professionalism and creativity.

Check out their exclusive activations this month in Cairo’s East Fifth Settlement areas (waterway, point 90, AUC, Galleria, downtown), and Cairo’s West October locations (Arkan, Galleria 40, Americana plaza, Tivoli Dome, Hyperone, Mall of Arabia).

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11/7/2017 8:49:32 PM
<![CDATA[Star Attraction]]>“Cinema for Humanity.’’

American actors Dylan McDermott, Michael Madsen and French actress Emmanuelle Béart attended the event, which opened with an honorary tribute to legendary comedian Adel Imam as he was presented with a Career Achievement Award.

The festival is co-founded by business tycoon brothers Samih and Naguib Sawiris, who are confident the event sends a message to regional and international artists that El Gouna is safe and that the festival will honor cinema and talents around the globe.

“I have always been a movie lover and this is the main reason why I founded this festival. I am honored to have worked with everyone on this experience and I look forward to a very successful first edi- tion, which will help energize us to host the festival annually,” said- Naguib Sawiris. Egyptian movie star and the co-founder of Gouna
Film Festival Bushra Rozza added, “We’ve been working with a vi- 55
sion to live up to the expectations for a film festival that was born to compete with other established international film festivals from day one.’’

The chosen message of peace appealed to the international ce- lebrities attending, including well-known American actor Michael Madsen. “Things going on in the world nowadays, a lot of them not good; the film festival is an opportunity for anybody to get together to celebrate the cinema I love the most,’’ said Madsen, admitting that he had been warned it wasn’t safe to fly to Egypt, but that he felt safe in El Gouna. “Movies are an interesting way to reach immortality and a perfect messenger to promote mutual understanding and hence, El Gouna Film Festival’s slogan; ‘Cinema For Humanity’,’’ Madson added.

“The El Gouna Film Festival pays special attention to provide rel- evant tools and networking opportunities to young filmmaking tal- ents in the MENA region through its unique support platform Cine- Gouna, and we take the workshops and panels very seriously as our main role through this important initiative,” El Gouna Film Festival (GFF) Director Intishal Al Tamimi explained.

Superstar Imam expressed a similar sentiment as he got up to receive the award. “A nation without art is a nation without con- science,’’ he announced, commending the choice of the festival location. Also honored was Lebanese critic Ibrahim Al-Ariss who agreed, “El Gouna is one of the world’s most attractive spots for tourism and a great place to hold a film festival.’’

At the end of the opening ceremony, the festival screened the local premier of Egyptian film Sheikh Jackson, directed by Amr Sal- ama and starring Ahmed el Fishawy, Ahmed Malek, Amina Khalil, Dorra and Yasmine Raees. The movie celebrated its international premier days ago during the Toronto International Film Festival, where it received excellent reviews.

Sun, Sand, Sea . . . and Culture
Serving as a cultural bridge between Egyptian and international filmmakers, the GFF’s workshops brought together participants and mentors to voice regional art and humanitarian stories on the international level, as well as bring about partnerships targeting “cinema for humanity,” which was the motto of the festival.

“Most grants target production and directors, primarily. We do not tackle the step before that, scriptwriting, so that needs more attention in the Arab world, not just Egypt,” Haitham Dabbour, a scriptwriter whose film Photocopy is competing in GFF, told Egypt Today.

Helming one of the scriptwriting workshops were U.S. screen- writers Jeff Stockwell and Richard Tanne where, Dabbour says, con- versations discussing his script in the workshop were dynamic, as Stockwell and Tanne played the roles of authors and producers to pinpoint certain details from all perspectives possible.

“[The participants] are so talented; it’s unbelievable. They have such clear visions of the stories that they’re telling; it’s coming from such an authentic, deep place inside them. I think they’re filled with so much hope and positivity, and I think they’re really, really great representatives of your country and others areas in the Middle East,” said Tanne, an award-winning scriptwriter whose Southside With You premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. As a teen, Tanne nabbed the New Jersey Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Arts Education. His feature film Southside, With You was nominated for several awards, including the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival, Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award and Audience Award at Gotham Awards, and the Golden Space Needle Award at Seattle International Film Festival, taking home the Audience Award at Maui Film Festival in 2016.

Cannes of the Middle East
Amr Mansy, the CEO of GFF, now expects El Gouna to boom as a global tourist destination and that many more hotels will be built in the Red Sea; all hotels are already fully booked in the first year of the festival, according to Mansy. “El Gouna is a self-sufficient town that also has beaches and beautiful nature that can attract any tourist,” Mansy told Egypt Today.

To Dabbour, El Gouna could easily draw attention for both the GFF and its tourist services, much like Cannes is most known for its film festival. “It is a smart idea to [utilize] a nice place you have to create a new festival, because we needed a strong one … El Gouna is quali- fied to be a celebratory city for cinema,” Dabbour said.
To be like Cannes Film Festival, however, takes many years, Stockwell emphasized, while Tanne maintained the opening of the festival “was a very good start, and in your first year you’re already attracting Forest Whitaker, you’re attracting Dylan McDermott, you’re attracting other international actors and filmmakers.”

“That, actually, may be the key. At the core, it is Egypt, but then making sure that it’s a global enterprise that’s bringing in people from all over the world in addition to showing movies; that becomes a cultural exchange between people like us [as] we get to sit down and have a conversation [while] teaching a workshop,” he continued. Mansy has high hopes for next year, as Euronews is sponsoring the event and several international media outlets are covering it. “Dylan McDermott told us he’s calling his friends who were reluc- tant to come this year, same thing with Michael Madsen and we also have Oliver Stone; all of them will go back home and talk [about the
festival],” he said.

Mansy added he is particularly happy with the workshops and the CineGouna Platform, anticipating requests from international film- makers to shoot in Egypt.

International attention might also help put Egyptian movies back on the map. Stockwell, who produced feature credits such as The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys starring Jodie foster and Disney’s Bridge to Terabithia, admitted that though he has watched Egyptian comedy and recognizes it is appreciated across the Middle East, he said he could not name an Egyptian movie or director. Stockwell also wrote the script for Wilder Days, a drama film which was nomi- nated for a WGA Award for Best Original Long Form TV in 2004. He has also written multiple other scripts, including the films A Wrinkle in Tome, Our Wild Life, and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tu- lane. Since 2004, Stockwell has been a mentor at Screenwiriting Lab and has previously conducted two workshops, one in Oman and the other in Los Angeles, California.

“I know The Mummy,” quipped Tanne, “which isn’t even Egyptian; it’s depressing to admit, but it’s actually one of the reasons that it’s so exciting to be here is because one of the participants [in the work- shop] is going to be making a list of Egyptian films for us to watch.”

Expecting that language would be a barrier, Stockwell and Tanne were lucky enough to have a translation booth in their classes al- lowing the participants who speak Arabic and French to instantly grasp their thoughts. “At first, we were nervous about this because we have so much to share but we were worried that the language would make it difficult to talk about the ideas we want to deliver, but it was proven otherwise,” Stockwell cheered. “It’s great because the workshop is a big stew of ideas flying around.”

Stockwell hopes that, ultimately, people will be able to enjoy films from different countries, “because that’s what allows people to con- nect with each other and with the films regardless of the films cul- ture and setting. And it’s an exciting time because it’s easier now to see each other’s films with streaming and you don’t have to wait until it screens in a specific movie theater. It’s really the quest of how we can get people to see each others’ films, and El Gouna could be a lovely platform for promoting that.”

Which is why Tanne finds GFF’s slogan “Cinema for Humanity” so apt. “Every movie contributes in one way or another to humanity. Cinema is powerful on its own. In the 21st century, it’s become the most important provider for images, so if you see yourself repre- sented on screen you know people who look like you, that have the same color of skin, that speak the same language that is bringing people together, because the more I could understand your culture from a film perspective, the more I could understand you.”

A Safe Haven
Security is another major factor in attracting international visi- tors. “El Gouna seems very securely locked down and not at all what the stereotypes of Egypt are in America,” Tanne said. Stockwell agrees. “One big advantage of El Gouna too is the sense that it is such a welcoming, easy place for people internationally to come, be- cause the reality is, people from different countries don’t know what to expect . . . you will not believe how luxurious and comfortable this is,” he says recalling how, after missing the person he was supposed to meet at Hurghada airport, how easy it was to talk to people who told him where to go.

“[El Gouna] is lovely, It’s strange to land in El Gouna, I will say, directly, without having seen any other part of Egypt. It’s almost like I’m in a science fiction story because this could be anywhere, El Gouna. This is very similar to Palm Springs or places in California where there are resorts and developments, so it’s strange. I know we’re in Egypt, I don’t feel it yet.”

Both Tanne and Stockwell have high hopes for GFF and are very excited for what is to come, “For being the first year, the opening [was] like no other. No film festival has an opening has an like that! Automatically, I’m interested in this festival and already wondering what will happen next year and after that.”]]>
11/5/2017 4:03:22 PM
<![CDATA[Aliaa Ismail first female Egyptian Egyptologist]]>
Under the supervision of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiqui- ties, the Theban Necropolis Preservation Initiative utilizes digital technology to preserve cultural heritage. Ismail’s role as director of the training center for Luxor’s 3D scanning and documentation is to lead a team of scientists working on cre- ating exact facsimiles of tombs, including Seti I’s tomb, that are, or will soon be, closed to the public for conservation.

Aliaa Ismail - Karim Abdel Aziz - Egypt Today
Egyptian Egyptologist Aliaa Ismail - Egypt Today/Karim Abdel Aziz
She explains that “3D scanning is basically a method for understanding the surface that you are dealing with. When you look at something, what you see is not what you get.For example, a flat wall is not flat, it has details, it has scratches, very minor things that you cannot see but only feel,” explains Ismail. “What we try to do is get this data that you can only feel into a form where you can actually see it. Understanding objects in this way allows you to conserve them and to docu- ment them better because it gives you a permanent record as they exist right now.”

Located in a small lateral valley in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, the tomb of Seti I was discovered in October 1817 by Giovanni Battista Belzoni, and quickly made international headlines with exhibits held in London in 1821, and later in Paris. The tomb, which is the largest in the Valley of the Kings, remained closed to tourists for some four decades before be- ing officially reopened in 2016.

In collaboration with the Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation in Spain and the University of Ba- sel in Switzerland, the Mapping Project focuses on sustain- ability and knowledge transfer, and depends both on devel- oped technologies and human skills. It began in March 2016 with the recording of the vast Nineteenth Dynasty tomb of Seti I, and will include the development of a new training center for digital technology in conservation at Stoppelaëre´s House, also known as Hassan Fathy’s house. “The Factum Foundation would like to have an Egyptian team of up to 10 people onsite in Luxor. What we’ve started doing is training them two at a time, and the ones we have now are brilliant and very recep- tive to understanding new technology,” says Ismail, explaining the eventual results will help enable conservators, scholars and historians to see various layers of each artifact and understand the complex history that comes with it, just by its texture and color.

Although Ismail now gets along well with the team, she says it was a real challenge at first. “I’m leading a team of men and that’s hard in a place like Luxor where women are perceived to [have a lower status] than men,” says Ismail. “I had to establish myself in a manner enabling them to perceive me [positively], and not be threatened by me as a woman, as a boss.”]]>
11/4/2017 4:46:38 PM
<![CDATA[Sides of Humanity]]>
Set in Egypt, Palestine and Jordan, Three Cards probes into the way humanity has evolved in Arab nations, depicting psychological insights, struggles of nations with lands and religions, women’s rights, relationships, parenthood and Arab identities emerg- ing in a cosmopolitan society. El Sherbini speaks to us about her personal contact with cosmopolitan societ- ies which inspired her to produce the illustrated novel and her plans to trasnlate it into French and English and turn it into a film directed by acclaimed filmmaker Ali Badrakhan.

Tell us about your novel. The entire novel is inspired by real-life situations and experiences that I was close to in reality where I met with people from different walks of life. There is a scene that is very close to my heart where the lady is on a swing and her entire surroundings ro- tate around her. The scene depicts the actual inner struggles that humans experience. A person comes to a certain point of self-doubt and tends to look back at their lives, at their accomplishments and pains while questioning the truth and their realities. They then enter into a cycle of denial where they refuse to confront their realities, pains and fears; a state de- picted in the dizziness that happens after swinging. At this turning point, one doesn’t reach any conclusion except falling down into nothing. The swing is a sym- bol of desired freedom from inner human conflicts while the dizziness symbolizes the escape from the unpleasant reality.

The main goal of the novel is to highlight the cruel world we’re living in on all levels. This includes, among other behaviors, deception, which pushes you to ques- tion the moral conduct of the closest people and the strangers that cross your life. The immoral human be- haviors are strongly highlighted in the novel through several characters; for example, the grandmother that depicts the mostly fake world we live in.

What do the three cards of the novel symbolize?
The title Three Cards portrays several things, in- cluding women rights, land and ethical manners. The cards also have sub meanings in depicting how various generations deal with these aspects. The three cards also portray the three children in the novel.


You grew up with different women from different countries, tell us a bit about this experience.

When I first entered the cosmopolitan society where these women lived, it was an enclosed community, in- nocent, good-hearted and [punctuated] with tragedies mainly revolving around land and its great psychologi- cal struggles. For example, the Palestinian woman Om Gehad treated her children harshly by limiting their freedom and not allowing them to go out of the house. She grew up seeing family members and those around her getting arrested at a time when Israel occupied Palestine and was constantly launching random ar- rest campaigns. Women of this society I lived in have changed compared to back then. They were granted less freedom to education and travelling, however that changed as they grew up pursuing higher educational degrees. These women still have struggles from dif- ferent psychological conflicts resonating from vio- lence and pain due to the loss of land and family.

How do you think parental behavior needs to change to produce promising generations?
Parents of today should treat their children as adults regardless of their age. We should always introduce new ideas into our children’s minds and challenge them because their brains are only operating around the questions they ask based on their surroundings. We should seek to expand their horizons but also re- spect their choices.

You were very passionate in discussing the sta- tuses of Jordan, Egypt and Palestine through these women in the book, what did they all have in com- mon back then and now?

The common aspects are that the community in ev- ery nation changes their behavior toward their country as a result of, or in parallel to, the change in the coun- try’s policies. All three countries were underdeveloped in the past. For example I went to Jordan during the 1980s and I felt like it was the 1960s due to the closed societies, but this changed over time.

What common sentimental behaviors did you find among all three nationalities?
We are all struggling communities and divided into many factions; however human struggles are always the same in all nations of the world in my opinion.

If you could describe the three countries in one word each mentioned in your book, what would they be? Palestine is Ahlam, Egypt is Reem and Jordan is Gamila.

Ahlam is a Palestinian character you are clearly very passionate about and you mention her on several occasions in the novel. What does Ahlam resemble to you?
Ahlam resembles the lost nation and anyone we tend to lose due to being ignorant of their true worth, and anyone we reject because they’re different.

Tell us more about the drawings in the book.
My drawings are symbols of many things, such as authoritarian aspects that continue to haunt humans. The drawings also symbolize forgotten martyrs and graveyards. The Christian cross found in some of the drawings symbolizes injustice, discrimination and suf- fering. I drew these without a plan, it was as if my soul was drawing and impersonated my inner struggles that I couldn’t express through words.

Ali Badrakhan is planning to turn the novel into a film. Are there any updates on that?
Prominent filmmaker and director Ali Badrakhan and director Ahmed Deiaa El Din have shown great interest in turning the novel into a film [and we are planning to meet again to] discuss further plans of the film production, including logistics, potential scenarists and finances. Badrakhan has a vision of roducing a drama portraying the characteristics
f the novel and factions of cultural and societal tances as well as inner humanitarian conflicts. He elieves there is potential in the novel and has even ompared it to international cinematic artworks hen he first read it.

ell us about your future project
I am working on a novel, Maraya Younis (Younis’s truggles) which will be a very short story where ach page of the book will include one line. Another ovel I am working on is Titos, based on societal esearch investigating human behaviors of our ommunity.]]>
11/3/2017 11:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[The Pernicious Promise]]>
“One hundred years have passed since the notorious Balfour Declaration, by which Britain gave, without any right, authority or consent from anyone, the land of Palestine to another people. This paved the road for the Nakba (catastrophe) of Palestinian people and their dispossession and displacement from their land,” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stated at the United Nations General Assembly’s (UNGA) 71st session in 2016.

Abbas renewed his calls in his address to the UNGA 72nd session in September, appealing to the British government to “rectify the grave injustice it inflicted upon the Palestinian people when it issued the Balfour Declaration in 1917,” he said.“Until this moment, the British government has not taken any step to correct this historical injustice and has neither apologized to the Palestinian people nor compensated them, nor has it recognized the state of Palestine.”

Balfour declaration: History and implications

Sent on November 2, 1917 from the British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Lionel Walter Rothschild, a leading British Zionist, the Balfour Declaration stated the British government’s support to the establishment of a national homeland for the Jews in Palestine, marking the first international recognition of Zionism.

The declaration paved the way and laid the foundation to the creation of Israel. “His majesty’s government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country,” the letter read.

While Balfour claimed that the second half of the Declaration had to be honored as it reassured explicitly the rights of the “non-Jewish communities in Palestine,” which were in fact 90 percent of the population at the time, it was not put in practice.

After World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire that ruled Palestine and the Arab orient, the empire was replaced by the British-mandate for Palestine, based on the principles of the Covenant of the League of Nations and the decisions made during the San Remo Conference of 1920.

In 1922, the Council of the League of Nations formally confirmed the British mandate document, including the Balfour declaration. Later, Britain prepared a Palestinian Constitution that also included the declaration in its introduction.

On the last day of the British Mandate, in 1947, the Zionist leaders proclaimed the state of Israel and referenced the Balfour declaration. A war broke out between the newly declared state of Israel and the Arab countries, including Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.

The war, known as Nakba, led to driving some 700,000 Palestinians from their homeland; and Israel annexed large tracts of land and destroyed over five hundred Palestinian villages. After the 1948 war, the borders were redrawn, and the Green Line border was created.

Israel ended up with 78 percent of historic Palestine. Furthermore, Jordan controlled the West Bank and Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip, while Jerusalem was split between Israeli administration in the western part and Jordanian administration in the eastern part.

Balfour Declaration, as published in the Times on November 9, 1917
Balfour Declaration - File Photo

Hungarian-British author and journalist Arthur Koestler described Balfour declaration as “one nation promising an- other nation the land of a third nation.” Indeed, in an unprecedented move in international laws, with less than 70 words, one person affected the whole world and gave rise to one of the most intense, bitter and protracted conflicts of modern times. Its consequences were not confined to Palestine, as it created enmity that poses threat to the world peace until today.

Some researchers argue that Britain’s motives were not derived from favoritism of Jewish religion, but rather to build allies who could help secure its post-war influence on the strategic area east of the Suez Canal.

Britain did not have an indigenous community that could take on this responsibility, unlike the French who had the Catholics and the Maronites in the Middle East and the Russians who had the Orthodox Church. The British government had defended the declaration, claiming that it was written in a world of competing imperial powers, as World War I had raged and the Ottoman Empire was diminishing. The government explained, “In that context, establishing a homeland for the Jewish people in the land to which they had such strong historical and religious ties was the right and moral thing to do, particularly against the background of centuries of persecution.”

The most significant implication of Balfour declaration is the establishment of the state of Israel which used force and violence to displace the indigenous population from Pales- tine. Palestinians have since lost their homeland, became refugees and have been living under a military occupation since 1948.

Demographic implications of the Balfour Declaration Before the Balfour declaration, the region was remarkably heterogeneous; with 85 percent Muslims, around 10 percent Christians and 5 percent Jews.

There was no distinct Christian, Jewish quarter or Muslim quarters; until the Declaration was made. The Declaration altered the balance and changed the religious makeup, not only in Palestine, but in the region. It transformed the concept of religious communities into religious-national movements that conflict to control lands, creating consequences beyond its boundaries.

The British mandate officials in Palestine turned a blind eye to Zionists’ illegal immigration to Palestine; and the declaration later prompted significant demographic changes as it allowed massive immigration of Jews from all parts of the world to Israel. In addition, it led to the exodus of more than 700,000 Palestinians in 1948.

The Balfour Declaration
Balfour Declaration - File Photo

Israel has done everything possible to prevent Palestinians from returning to their land, which reflected a demographic perspective related to the attempts to create a Jewish state. The responsible agency for Palestinian refugees, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), reports that the total number of registered Palestinian refugees in 1950 was 750,000,while in 2016 the number reached
5.59 million Palestinian refugees.

The situation is much different when the populations of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (the State of Palestine) are considered in addition to the Israeli population. The first British census of Palestine in 1922 counted 750,000, of which 78 percent were Muslim, 11 percent Jewish and 10 percent Christian. In 1950, the population exceeded 2 millions, representing an almost equal balance of 50 percent Jews and 47 percent Muslims, in addition to 3 percent Christians.

At the start of the 21st century, the Jewish proportion peaked at 53 percent, followed by Muslims, amounting to 45 percent, and Christians, two percent.The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) reported that the number of Palestinians in the world was 12.70 million in 2016, of whom 4.88 million live in the State of Palestine, 1.53 million are citizens in Israel, 5.59 million live in Arab countries and around 696,000 in foreign countries. The Palestinian population is young, half of it is 18 years old or less, making it the youngest population in the region.

Demographic projections show that Palestinians will make up the majority of the population within 10 to 20 years, which has been the Israeli left’s evidence for all supported policies since the Oslo Accords in 1993. In addition, the Palestinian National Authority (PA) utilizes demographics as evidence of the legitimacy of an independent state of Palestine.

Geographic implications

The tract of land at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is small. The relative proportions of this combined territory are 79 percent Israel and 21 percent Palestine territory (20 percent West Bank and 1 percent Gaza Strip). Despite this fact, the question of land and who rules it remains at the heart of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Following the Arab-Israeli war in 1948, Israel further captured Palestinian lands in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem during the 1967 war. Palestinians demand a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, which only comprises 21 percent of what was originally Palestine. They have rejected any other proposal as it would divide the Palestinian state into disconnected regions which would not free them from Israeli occupation and would not make for a truly independent state.

For decades, Israel has pursued a dangerous policy of dividing and disconnecting Palestinian cities and villages. In 2002, Israel established a 700-kilometer long separation wall, which winds deep into Palestinian territory, along the borders between the lands controlled by the PA and the lands controlled by the Israeli occupation in 1948.

Furthermore, Israel continues to build settlements on territories that Palestinians seek for a state, an action deemed illegal by virtually all other states and under international law as it creates an obstacle to peace.

By building the wall and settlement expansion, Israel retains control over important Palestinian economic areas, agricultural grounds and natural resources like water. The International Court of Justice has ruled that Israel’s West Bank wall violates international law, yet the building and expansion continue.

Major restrictions on freedom of movement are also en- forced to chock Palestinians through establishing check points and requesting special permits to be issued by the Israeli intelligence to allow Palestinians to travel between towns in the occupied territories. These restrictions are equally also applicable on Palestinians who would like to perform Muslim or Christian religious rituals. The Israeli government allegedly says that such restrictions are driven solely by security concerns and by the imperative to ensure the country’s survival.

Since 2007, Israel has been forcing a blockade on the Gaza Strip preventing basic, medical and humanitarian supplies from reaching people in need and violating the basic right of freedom of movement.The Palestinian position was weakened further, as rival factions Hamas and Fatah clashed in the Gaza Strip in 2007. Hamas took full control over the Strip and removed Fatah officials. Israel seized the opportunity and forced a closure on the Gaza Strip, and launched three military operations on the Strip in 2008, 2012, and 2014 respectively. The military operations resulted in mass destruction, killing and displacement of Palestinians in Gaza.

The military operations, along with the siege, exacerbated the already worsened situation in the Strip that has a population of 2 million people. Israel also alleged that there is no Palestinian partner to the peace process as long as the Palestinians are divided, which freezes all the peace attempts.

In October 2017, Egypt managed to bring the conflicting Palestinian factions to overcome the obstacles and to invest the opportunities to create new conditions away from the fear of exclusion. The Palestinian factions signed a reconciliation agreement that ended a decade long Palestinian split.

Modern-day Britain stance on Belfour declaration

Not only has Britain has refused to apologize to the Palestinians for the Balfour declaration, it is also planning for celebrations commemorating 100 years on the declaration in November. British Prime Minister Theresa May has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli officials to attend the events.

A popular petition in Britain to call on the government to openly apologize to Palestinians for causing a mass displacement and injustice in Palestine failed to pass the benchmark for a debate in the British parliament. However, the British government formally responded to the petition saying; “The Balfour Declaration is a historic statement for which Her Majesty’s government does not intend to apologize,” the response continues; “We are proud of our role in creating the State of Israel. The task now is to encourage moves towards peace.”

The Palestinian leadership vowed to sue the British government for refusing to apologize for the declaration. In July 2016, Palestine asked the Arab Summit meeting to support the Palestinians in preparing the legal case against Britain.

Palestinians and their supporters are planning a series of activities in 2017 to remind the world that Balfour declaration is the source of the historic injustice witnessed by the Palestinian people, and to demand Britain to acknowledge its role in an unmitigated catastrophe that ruined the future of generations of Palestinians.

In a world where equality and equity are being presented as the drivers of humanity, it seems that it is turning a blind eye on how it failed to protect the indigenous people of Palestine. The whole world deserves an apology for Balfour declaration, not only Palestinians, as it demonstrates a disrupt approach to fairness, equality and human rights.

The most viable solution to this century-long conflict is to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks based on a two- state solution that recognizes an independent state of Pales- tine alongside Israel, and a mutually-agreed solution to the refugees’ issue. The boundaries between the two neighboring countries must be established first, and the only basis for negotiations should be the international law that can provide objective and unbiased standards applicable to both sides.

المصالحة الفلسطينية -رويترز
Hamas and Fatah Reconciliation Accord - File Photo


Egypt brothers Palestinian reconciliation accord

Hamas and Fatah, Palestine’s two main factions, signed an Egypt-brokered reconciliation deal in Cairo last month, in a key step toward ending a decade-long rift between the two movements. The deal will see administrative control of the Gaza Strip handed to a Fatah-backed unity government.

Nikolay Mladenov, UN special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, praised Egypt’s role in the mediation that led to a reconciliation after a decade of rivalry. “The recent understandings between Fatah and Hamas would not have taken place without the important role of Egypt and Egyptian officials, and I thank them for what they have done,” announced Mladenov, adding that he welcomed Hamas’ decision to dissolve the administrative committee and call on the government to carry out its duties in the Gaza Strip.

Mladenov deemed the step timely and important to stop the blockade on Gaza Strip. According to Mladenov, the United Nations discussed a plan with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that entails that a UN delegation would supervise the assuming of government duties in the Gaza Strip, pointing out that the Palestinians went through 10 years of division, “so it is important not to miss this opportunity.”]]>
11/2/2017 7:07:12 PM
<![CDATA[The Art of Simplicity]]>
Karam recently designed the latest logo for artspine, an online platform showcasing the artwork of emerging Egyptian artists. Inspired by Francis of Assisi’s quote “He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist,” Karam has a style that is as innovative as it is understated.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a 22 year-old graphic designer and English typographer based in Cairo. I study at the High Institute of Applied Arts.

What inspires your work?
I usually get inspired by the weirdest stuff; like old buildings that people no longer admire their beauty and value, distort- ed photos or glitches. I also have times where I get inspired by movies or writings that touch me. I like creating art for people to admire the weirdest and unappreciated stuff. I tend to aim for changing people’s perspectives or [broaden their horizons].

How has your work developed over the years?
My development technique is a little bit different from most, as I welcome and accept criticism openly. I’m often self-critical and tend to always think that I can do better. In other words, I am my own designer and critic. I also surf online and I am always open to learning different methods and techniques while creating my own.

What do you like most about your work?
I don’t just like simplicity, I admire it; I admire the complexity of simplicity. One of the most famous quotes by Da Vinci is, “Simplic- ity is the ultimate sophistication.” Many people might not under- stand the depth of this simple quote, but in my opinion, that would be ironic. I love my ability to create art out of the simplest, yet weirdest stuff and turn it into something sophisticatedly simple, which many people might not understand.

Tell us more about your work. What process do you follow?
Whenever I have a task or project to work on, I usually meditate in my own way. Sometimes I roam in the streets alone while listen- ing to music and just wander inside my imagination. The next step I take is holding a paper while trying to visualize a basic design to what I have on mind. Minutes later, I find myself holding the mouse while focusing hard to create something new and different.

How do you see the art scene in Egypt? How about graphic design —is it considered art here?
To be honest, in my opinion, art in general is very underappre- ciated in Egypt. Graphic design is not even considered an art in our country; it’s more commercial. I believe in the quote that says, “life without labor is crime, and labor without art is brutality.”

Who are your favorite artists and why? Who are the best graphic designers working in Egypt?
Vincent Van Gogh is my favorite artist of all time. Not only is his artwork brilliant and creative, he inspires my being personally. Van Gogh suffered from a mental illness, however, he was able to create magnificent artworks to prove to the whole world there’s no illness but the illness of willing. because graphic designers are not really famous or well-known in Egypt. I consider Ali Naguib, who is also my friend, as my favorite graphic designer in the coun- try; I do admire his work.

Digital art and design are a popular medium for Millennials to express themselves. Do you agree and why?
I agree. The world of graphic and digital design is so expressive
in my opinion. However, in general, any kind of art would be expres- sive for the artist. Millennials, who are more critical now [in com- parison to their predecessors], should be introduced to such type of art from an early age. I think that we’re living in a [progressive] world, where technology is used effectively; so, why not art too? Digitalization has given art a new perspective; so yes, it’s definitely another way to express themselves than an old, traditional way.

What are your plans for the future?
I don’t always have a plan for myself. I have always had this pos- itive-negative attitude; I usually go with the flow and make the best out of the present moment as much as I can.

Artist of the Month is a collaboration with Artspine, the first arts portal in Egypt. The portal brings together talented artists from various fields, including art, photography, writing and music. Members of the digital hub are invited to aspire to inspire by showcasing their work and exchanging experiences and contacts. Follow Artspine on Facebook at Facebook.com/Artspine, on Instagram at @ Artspine1 and on Twitter at @Artspine1 • www.Artspine.net]]>
11/1/2017 5:53:24 PM
<![CDATA[AT THE CINEMA]]>AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL
Directors: Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk.
With: Al Gore, George W. Bush, John Kerry.

0
An Inconvenient Sequel Truth to Power
Nearly 11 years after the powerful Oscar- winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, former Vice President Al Gore re- turns to spread awareness of climate change again in the highly anticipated follow-up An Inconvenient Sequel:Truth to Power.The new sequel addresses the progress made to tackle the problem of climate change and Gore’s global efforts to persuade governmental leaders to invest in renewable energy, culminating in the landmark signing of 2016’s Paris Climate Agreement.

BLADE RUNNER 2049
Director: Denis Villeneuve.
Stars: Harrison Ford, Ryan Gosling, Ana de Armas.

0
BLADE RUNNER 2049
Surprise sequel to the classic sci-fi Blade Runner di- rected in 1982 by Ridley Scott. Thirty years after the events of the original film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Ford), the former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.

MOTHER
Director: Darren Aronofsky.
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Ja- vier Bardem, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer.

0
MOTHER
A young woman’s (Lawrence) tranquil life with her husband (Bardem) at their remote country home is challenged by a mysterious couple (Harris and Pfeiffer) who arrive and lodge with them.

THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US
Director: Hany Abu-Assad.
Stars: Kate Winslet, Idris Elba, Dermot Mulroney.

3333
THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US
Palestinian-born director Hany Abu-Assad gets his first shot at a big budget Hollywood studio production. Based on an acclaimed novel that revolves around two strangers who become stranded after a tragic plane crash.Both must forge a connection to survive the extreme elements of a remote snow-covered mountain.When they real- ize help is not coming, they embark on a perilous journey across hundreds of miles of wilderness, pushing one another to en- dure, and discovering strength they never knew possible.

HAPPY DEATH DAY
Director: Christopher Landon.
Stars: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine.

Happy Death
HAPPY DEATH DAY
A new rewinding horror film in which a college student (Rothe from La La Land) relives the day of her murder with both its unexceptional details and terrifying end until she discovers her killer’s identity. She must relive that day, over and over again, dying in a different way each time. Can she solve her own murder?]]>
11/1/2017 5:33:10 PM
<![CDATA[Tough Love]]>Different is what you’re born to be.

Dear baby brother, don’t be afraid of life. Live to the fullest, and do whatever you please, as long as you don’t hurt anyone, as long as you don’t hurt yourself in any- way.
As long as you’re not hurting either your- self or anyone else then it’s absolutely fine.

Dear baby brother, Learn how to listen.
Learn how to listen to understand, not just to respond
Learn to accept other people’s differenc- es, and let them be who they want to be. Accept people for who they are as long as they don’t change you for the worse.
Accept people but know that you don’t have to deal with what you don’t like.
You don’t have to like everyone, you just have to accept people as they are, and choose the ones who you like, the ones you know how to deal with.

have come to accept life’s lessons after too many failures, and because of that as my baby brother, who I love so much, turns six I feel like I should tell him or lead him somehow through life. But how am I supposed to lead him when I’m 13 years older than him? I’m going be mar- ried with kids and he’ll be just starting his
life.
So I thought maybe I could write him a letter and give it to him when he turns 15, because as we know 15 is the age where it all starts if not earlier! Teenage years are what determine what you’re going be or who you’ll turn out to be in your life.
Mine weren’t the perfect teenage years but they were years of tough lessons.

I can’t lie, it was horrible half of the time, especially because I didn’t really have a good friend that I could trust en- tirely; that good friend came later when I turned 17.
The point is I thought it would be perfect if I just talked to my brother through my letter, teenager to teenager, so if I grow older and don’t have the chance to say it all, then at least my letter will when he turns 15.

Dear baby brother
Don’t be afraid to dive deep into some- thing.
Don’t be afraid to jump into the sea first when the boat stops.
Don’t be afraid to fall in love and give all your heart.
Don’t be afraid to express your emotions, but choose who you’re expressing to.

Dear baby brother,
Life won’t be easy, it won’t be all sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes you’ll have to pass through challenges. Sometimes you’ll have to deal with failure and accept it. Sometimes you’ll have to go through hardships to know how much you can take.

Just know that failure does not define you as a failure. Only quitting does. And you’re not gonna be a quitter.

Quitting is only accepted when the situ- ation turns from pushing to be better to pushing a wall.

What I mean is, quitting is only when the thing you try to do doesn’t suit you any- more; like failed relationships or a boring job. Other than that quitting is not what we do.
Quitting is not what wolves do, baby boy, and you’re a wolf.

Dear baby brother, Know your worth.

Love yourself.
But never be self-centered, never let your ego control you.
You’re the best but know that there is another best in other ways, because ev- eryone is good at something, everyone is unique in their own way.
Just like you’re unique in so many ways. It’s okay to have an ego as long as it doesn’t hurt others.
Love yourself and know your worth.

Dear baby brother,
Help those who ask you for help. Give a hand to those helpless.
Be there for the people you love.
Be there for the people who are there for you.
Give love with nothing in return. Be good to people for no reason,
But also know that sometimes people can hate you for being better, richer or stron- ger
And it’s okay, you don’t have to hate those people just say el7amdulelah for being who you are ,and for having what you have.
Take care of those people and avoid their hating looks and envious souls, but accept that they don’t have satisfaction with who they are
And that you should always be satisfied with what you have. Aim for the better, aim for the best, but be happy with what you own as well

Dear baby brother, Family comes first Family comes first Family comes first Family comes first Family comes first

Five times is not enough but you know family always comes first.
No one is gonna love you the way your family does,
No one is gonna accept you the way your family will.
Family is the only unconditional love you’ll ever have and experience in your life.
Family are the people who care without asking for anything in return.
Family are the people who love you for who you are even if you are a bad person (which you’re not)
Family are the people who care and al- ways will
Family is everything. . .

Dear baby brother,
You’re gonna fall in love . . . A lot.
You’re gonna think that this is it every time,
But baby boy when it isn’t don’t be sad. We fall in love and go through relation- ships to learn.

Hardships are what teaches us life.
One day the girl you need will come. She’s gonna feel like family.
She’s gonna respect you and your needs. And when she does, buy her red roses and tell her my big sister told me that red ros- es are the roses of love and passion.
Choose the girl with the mind not the looks. Looks are great but looks without a mind are useless.
Choose the girl who loves you for you, not for what you have.
The girl who wants you comfortable and satisfied.
Choose the girl who accepts you and you accept her as well.
The girl with a kind heart and smart mind. Choose a smart one, baby boy.
Choose the girl who sparkles for you and gives you her all, and trusts you entirely and you do the same for her.
Love is the most amazing thing you’re gonna experience, true love baby, only the true one.
Choose your friends wisely. Don’t trust blindly.
Don’t trust easily.
Don’t share your family’s problems with anyone ever, unless she’s your wife.
Don’t trust easily I’m gonna say it again. Don’t give someone your all unless they are ready to do the same for you.
Choose your friends wisely and know that friends are measured by quality not quan- tity.
One or two good friends are worth thou- sand fake ones.
Have that one friend by your side and treat everyone the same, because not everyone has to be special.
Don’t promise what you’re not going to do. Be a man of your word as long as it’s the right thing to do.
Don’t underestimate anyone’s emotions no matter how overrated they maybe.
you don’t have to deal with them if you don’t want to.
You’re gonna meet some fake people and its okay.
they’re gonna hurt you and it’s okay.
Just walk away from anything that doesn’t make you comfortable anymore.
Don’t take rushed decisions.
Don’t decide anything when you’re either very angry or very happy.
Trust your instincts. Appreciate good art.
Never ever have a meaningless tattoo. Also one more thing, do things with pas- sion or not at all.

Baby boy, this is the most important one, Pray to God.
Remember him. Know him.
Feel him in your bones. Know He’s there.

Know He’s everywhere.
Even when you’re doing wrong, get back to Him.
Tell Him you’re sorry. He’ll listen.
He’ll be there.
Even when He puts you through hell, Just tell Him how you feel.
He’ll listen.
He’ll be there for you always.
Pray to God, baby boy, He’s gonna be there all your life, watching you, leading you, showing you signs on your way, in every situation.
He loves you because you are His.
So pray for him and always talk to Him. He’ll always show you the way, and when it gets dark, trust me, He will light up the
darkness or He’ll give you the power to 17
light up that darkness yourself.

Dear baby brother,
I love you endlessly. I love you always.
I will always be here for you, To listen.
Even if you did the worst thing a person can do.
I will listen.
I will be there at your worst and accept you.
I will be there when you need a shoulder, Or when you screw everything up.
Dear baby brother, I will always be there for you.]]>
10/23/2017 9:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Out of the Blue ]]>
It’s an unfortunate name, Common Crane. Cranes are special. Some, such as the Whooping Crane of North America, are extremely rare. Others, such as the Sarus Crane of South and South East Asia and the Red-crowned Crane of Japan are revered in their respective cultures. While not deified in Ancient Egypt like the Sacred Ibis, cranes are frequently portrayed in Egyptian tomb and temple friezes. Sometimes the portrayal is almost of semi-domestication. The cranes were almost certainly wild-caught, not captive bred, and there are scenes of trapping and of cranes being force-fed such as at the VIth dynasty tomb of Mehu at Saqqara. My favorite is a portrayal in the Vth Dynasty tomb of Ti at also Saqqara. Here, a flock of Common Cranes 14 in number are depicted being herded in a scene of almost semi-domestication. A close look at the depiction reveals two interesting anomalies. Firstly, the number of legs is wrong. With 14 cranes there should be, barring accident, 28 legs. There are 24. Secondly, while the bulk of the cranes are clearly Common Cranes, three are smaller, with a curl of feathers curving round from behind the eye. These are Demoiselle Cranes.

The Demoiselle measures stand at 90 cm, with a wingspan of around 180 cm smaller than its Common relative. It is uniform dove grey with elegantly ornate plumes falling over the tail—demoiselle means maiden or young lady. The head and neck are black, and that curved plume contrastingly white. While the Common Crane is reasonably numerous on migration, the Demoiselle is much rarer. It breeds on the steppes of western Asia and winters in sub-Saharan Africa, but is rarely recorded in Egypt. I have seen it here just once—a single bird at the sewage ponds at Sharm El Sheikh way back on September 6, 1993.

What a day that was! Early morning, a flock of some 200 White Storks descended on the ponds all gleaming white and black with coral red bills. The gleaming white was not to last as the birds foraged in the garbage mounds that surrounded. There was my first male Golden Oriole for Egypt. This is a 24 cm exercise in brilliant yellow and black with a deep pinkish bill. For all that brilliance, it is hard to see in dense sun-dappled foliage; this was my first clear view amongst the eucalyptus groves. The female is even more cryptic in olives and yellow-tinged greens. At dawn, I watched flocks of Crowned Sandgrouse fly in to drink while at dusk; as a further 300 White Storks arrived, they were replaced by Lichtenstein’s the males dipping their breasts in the ponds to absorb the water sponge-like prior to flying back to their desert nests.

Other demoiselles are rather easier to find. Over virtually any irrigation canal, pond, stream or marsh will be dragonflies and damselflies. At rest, the two groups are readily distinguished as dragonflies settle with their wings spread out either side, and the damselflies with their wings closed over the back. Few insect groups are more spectacular. To turn once more to Hopkins but this time to quote, “as kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame.”

Dragonflies are robust insects and powerful fliers sometimes found far from water. While some are short and stocky, others are large, long and exquisitely colored. Those of the genera Aeshna and Anax are especially impressive, with a wingspan of up to 10 cm and a length of over 7 cm. Despite their intimidating appearance dragonflies—they are sometimes known as Devil’s Darning Needles—are harmless, do not sting and are beneficial preying on many insect pests. Damselflies are much more delicate with extremely slender abdomens, often brightly colored and sometimes with dark patches on the otherwise clear wings. One group is called the demoiselles and number among some of Egypt’s most beautiful insects as befits the name.

The true demoiselles include those of the Genus Caloptery, that includes the Mediterranean Demoiselle commonly found in the northern part of the country. In a wider definition, the Tropical Bluetail Ischnura senegalensis has been described as “the most abundant [dragonfly] in Egypt” in a report published in Ornithological Studies in Egyptian Wetlands. It is a slender insect less than 3cm long and with a wingspan of 4cm. And it is beautiful. The needle-thin abdomen is dark bronze above with a brilliant turquoise subterminal segment. The thorax is black and turquoise and the wings clear but clearly veined. In the female, the turquoise is largely replaced by rich rufous. The key to the success of this species in Egypt is its tolerance of stagnant and polluted water, in which the larvae live for up to a year.

Damsels and demoiselles are found elsewhere too. The same day I found my Demoiselle Crane in the prosaic surrounds of Sharm’s sewage ponds, I cleansed myself with a mid-morning snorkel. Even in the developed confines of Naama Bay, admittedly far, far less developed than now, I clocked up 34 species of fish of which four were damselfish.Damselfish are generally small reef fish related to the larger and often more flambuoyant angelfish. On the list that day was the Red Sea Clownfish whose close relative found fame as the protagonist in Finding Nemo. I communed with shoals of very confiding Indo-Pacific Sergeants, one of the most familiar reef fishes named for its bold black and white stripes, the stripes of authority for a senior NCO. I saw the Sulphur Damselfish, which is glowing sulphurous yellow relieved only by a small black spot at the base of the pectoral fin and the back of the dorsal fin. And I found a Half-and-half Chromis, a damselfish of just 9 cm long and uniform chocolate brown infront and bright white behind.

Damselfish are very numerous on the reefs, with 37 species recorded from the Red Sea alone. In all probability, I saw but failed to identify many more that day. I’ve caught up with more since. I’ve found the Royal Damselfish, the Onespot Damselfish, the Reticulated Damselfish and the Black-bordered Dasyllus amongst others. One I missed on this particular day was of the genus Chrysiptera namely the Black-barred Demoiselle Chrysiptera annulata. It is white, with five black bands, and while I have caught up with it several times over the years, it is relatively uncommon—perhaps partly because of confusion with the delightfully named Humbug Dasyllus, which only has three black bands.

I mention the Black-barred Demoiselle as its alternative name is the Footballer. As Egypt nears qualification to the 2018 World Cup, top of its group table two points clear of Uganda as I write, it seems very apt. And if to reinforce a perhaps tenuous sporting link, Egypt’s Mohamed (Mo) Salah, the Flying Egyptian of England’s press, has just scored for Liverpool in its 1-1 draw with Burnley in the English Premier League. Dreadful match. Fabulous goal. And a wildlife connection. Footballer.Richard Hoath is a Senior Instructor at AUC’s Department of Rhetoric and Composition. He has published extensively about Egypt’s wildlife and fauna. ]]>
10/22/2017 10:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Man in the Mirror ]]>
The film raises the timeless and universal question, “What is right?’’ The existential movie, which runs just over an hour and a half, transports the audience deep into the life of a bearded young mosque imam named Khaled Hany (played by Ahmed el Fishawy). Hany, who follows the Salafi ideology, preaches at the mosque, broadcasting his ideas and sermons to his followers.

Sheikh Jackson begins in 2009, the day pop legend and icon Michael Jackson died. Hany, just a teen back then, is very passionate about the entertainer and Salama uses the death of Hany’s beloved pop idol as a trigger to reveal the human contradictions, struggles and even the crises of faith that exist deep inside the young sheikh. Jackson’s death is a turning point in Hany’s life because it makes him realize that his old passion for the pop singer still exists—and that it violates his principles as a Salafist.

Amr Salama
Amr Salama
Despite its simplicity, the movie’s idea—a brainchild of Salama and his cowriter Omar Khaled—is a profound vehicle that succeeds in reflecting the confusion of the young imam and that of each one of us. The ingenuity of Fishawy, Salama, Khaled and actor Ahmed Malek (who plays the teenage Hany), drives everyone in the audience, this reviewer included, to see part of his or her inner soul contradictions, struggles, confusions and faith crises through Hany’s character. The sheikh represents an entire society full of contradictions and struggles as well as many youths who are torn between their desires and what they think is right.

Salama expertly uses flashbacks to depict the protagonist’s sufferings with his cruel father, played by the veteran actor Maged el Kidwany, as a teen living in Alexandria. Hany is pushed to leave his drunk, womanizing father to live with his fundamentalist uncle in Cairo, marking just one of the contradictions in his life.

The flashback rolls to a scene where Hany is shown sleeping under his bed—a Salafist notion to remind oneself of the torture of the tomb. Other extremes are portrayed: Hany forces his wife, played by the talented Amina Khalil, to wear a full veil. “I love you because you love God more than me,’’ she tells him in bed, and Hany is extremely happy to hear this. In another scene Hany cuts off the internet connection after seeing his young daughter watching a Beyoncé video, forbidding her from listening to “this devilish music.”

Hany has another flashback to the time he found his female classmate listening to Jackson and coming home to ask his father and mother about him. “Jackson is an effeminate man,’’ his father responds. “Jackson is a famous musician and singer,” adds his mother, played by Tunisian actress Dorra. In this brilliant scene, Salama shows clearly how the contradictory thoughts were born in Hany’s mind since he was a child.
Later a flashback to Hany’s adolescence shows how obsessed he was by Jackson at this stage. His father attempts to push him to hate Jackson, his male classmates make fun of him for emulating his hair, clothes and movements, but at the same time girls are drawn to him and this gives him confidence—yet another contradictory consequence of his love for Jackson.

Back to present and it is now clear to the audience why Jackson’s death has deeply affected the young preacher. Jackson starts to appear to Hany as the preacher gives his sermon at the mosque, leading the prayer and even when having a discussion with other sheikhs, prompting Hany to approach a psychiatrist, played by Basma. Hany and his psychiatrist have long discussions where he explains his crisis of faith, that he is no longer able to weep during prayers, his nightmares and hallucinations that usually come to him at the mosque, how his mother death dredges up painful memories of his father cruelty’s and finally his failed adolescent love at school.

After a flashback to this love story, the present Hany wants to know what happened to the girl he used to love. He reaches out to her via Facebook, where he is surprised that she still remembers him. He goes to see her and asks her why she used to love him. His hesitation and contradictions reach their peak when he tries to kiss her by force. Slapping him, she confronts him with the words, “You are ashamed of your love for Jackson in the past and proud of yourself now?’’

Jolted, Hany begins to track down his hidden fears and their origins rooted in the past to free himself of them. After realizing that God is great and will forgive his sins, the young sheikh gradually begins to set free his ghosts of the past. In one inspired, deeply emotional, scene he confronts his father after being separated for 15 years, only to realize that behind his father’s cruelty there was a lot of love. Hany’s father reveals how he had longed for his son to come home.

Fishawy turns in a genuine performance, as does Malek. And although they don’t look at all alike, both of them convince the audience that they are the same person. Salama’s directing lives up to expectations—the filmmaker revealed that it took him 35 years of experience, which is his age, to make such a movie, while Ahmed Bishary’s photography accurately reflects the identity crisis of all youth. The film prods us to probe and to search for our identity, and perhaps accept our contradictions.
Ahmed el Fishawy - Hussein Talal
Ahmed el Fishawy - Hussein Talal ]]>
10/21/2017 4:39:39 PM
<![CDATA[From farm to table: tradition meets tech at Sara's Organic Farm]]>
“Growing up in Switzerland, my grandparents had a farm and my mother was an avid gardener. Fresh, healthy and organic produce was the norm,” Sara-K Hanning Nour tells us as she welcomes us at the farm, located on the Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road. A strong believer in organic and the good it does for the environment, farmers and consumers, Nour launched her project in 2011 when she first came to Egypt.

“I was in awe at the beautiful produce available in Egypt, but unfortunately, due to lack of regulation [and awareness], much of the produce is also pesticide ridden and exposed to pollution; and the source of food is unknown to the average consumer,” says Nour. “It was clear to me that we had to try growing organic food.”

Setting out with a few kilos of cucumbers at the Farmers’ Market in Zamalek, Sara’s Farm entered the organic market product by product. The project later settled at Desert Lake Farms, where Sara’s organic produce is currently sourced on 972 acres of arable land. “There has been a swift development throughout the past four to five years,” says Khaled Mahmoud, vegetables and seeds manager at Sara’s Farm. “This land was like a plague, full of grass and woodland. The reclamation work set out from scratch, starting with digging the wells, paving the soil and establishing clusters for grapes, mangos and so on.”

peach

The project currently consists of two brands; Sara’s Organic Food and Lara’s Premium Produce. Sara’s Organic food is grown sustainably on the farm following the European Commission organic standards. Lara’s Premium Produce is sourced from hydroponic pioneers in the market who grow without the use of pesticides, or from small farmers who allocate a percentage of their produce to be grown without chemicals and pesticides. In 2017, the growing farm sourced 700 tons of fruit, 32 tons of organic vegetables and 29 tons of premium vegetables, all in line with European Union (EU) organic requirements. “Each year we have increased the amount of produce that is either organic certified or premium. We manage to sell everything we produce, with demand for more,” Nour says.

Capitalizing on “a wave of awareness taking place in Egypt,” Nour’s project has focused on “slow growth and high quality,” she explains. It has also embarked on a mission to educate people about the benefits of clean food, which is “healthily grown and healthy to eat” and to invite its customers to see firsthand where and how their food grows.
“Knowing your food is essential for your own wellbeing, as well as the wellbeing of farmers, animals and the environment,” Nour says. “It allows for a green and natural environment in line with a healthy and mindful lifestyle.”

To cater to their customers’ curiosity and concerns, Sara’s Farm organizes day-long events in collaboration with schools and individuals, says Zeina El-Badry, events and exhibitions manager at Sara’s Farm. They also host a bi-monthly picnic where farm visitors are welcome to come and see how the crops are grown and ask all the questions they have. Schools organize the trips to the farm to introduce the children to the concept of organic farming, which is not very popular in Egypt, Badry explains.
The students are invited to take a tour on the tractor and explore how organic food is grown and what crops looks like, plant mint seeds, feed the farm animals, paint rock pieces and enjoy two meals prepared with newly-harvested vegetables and freshly-baked bread.

“Since January, we have welcomed over 400 students from numerous schools,” Nour says. “We plan to host more workshops, events and a farmers’ markets at our farm in the future.”

grapes

How organic is Sara’s Organic?

Sara’s Organic Food is grown according to the European Commission’s organic standards, which respect an overall system of farm management and food production. According to EU legislation on organic production “foods may be labelled ‘organic’ only if at least 95 percent of their agricultural ingredients meet the necessary standards,” which includes a set of regulations for growing, storage, processing, packaging and shipping.
“At Sara’s Organic Farm, we abide by these principles by conviction. We believe that everyone should have the right to access clean, healthy and pesticide free food,” Nour says. “When I had my first daughter Lara, this became as important as ever—we want only the best for our children.”

Applying an all-inclusive philosophy of sustainable farming, the project takes into consideration the fertility of the soil, the biodiversity of the environment and the welfare of the animals, as well as providing better working conditions for its 45 farmers, engineers and technicians. She adds that they are safeguarding the soil against degradation and fighting against depleting natural resources.

legumes

Is organic too expensive?

Although the organic market has flourished worldwide in the past 20 years, the relatively-high cost of pesticides-free produce remains discouraging for many customers who refuse or cannot afford to spend 20 or 30 percent more on groceries. In Egypt, the challenge is even bigger; the weak demand and the limited availability make it difficult to buy organic food at a convenient price.

The price of one small basket of Sara’s organic food and Lara’s premium line’s freshest products reaches an average of LE 300; one kilogram of premium potatoes sells for LE 11.25 and 500 grams of organic white eggplant costs over LE 7; almost three to four times the price of conventionally-grown produce.

The price “represents the real cost of the food,” says Nour who explains that one reason behind the higher cost is that growing organic is more labor-intensive, as a lot of work that chemicals can do is done manually, like keeping weeds at bay, or controlling pests.
The yield of organic crops is usually lower, entailing a percentage of loss, Mahmoud explains, adding that, “90 percent of organic pesticides and organic sources for calcium and iron has to be imported” and so comes at a high price.

In addition to the basic needs for organic cultivation, sustainable farming also means “treating everyone involved in the process fairly; which entails fair wages, respecting animals’ rights and safeguarding the environment,” Nour adds. “The benefit to the consumer is that, for every kilogram of produce, he or she is getting more nutrients and less harmful substances than from a conventionally-grown crop. Also, they are paying a price that is more fair to everyone involved in the production of food,” she explains.

Sara’s Organic Food and Lara’s Premium Line are available at a number of supermarkets, such as Gourmet stores, Carrefour supermarkets and Nature’s Market online shop at NGS-Egypt.com. Customers can also choose the freshest vegetables, fruits and herbs of the season from Sara’s Organic Food website SarasOrganicFood.com, make their own “Sara and Lara’s basket,” and have it delivered to their home, in a hand-woven, reusable basket. Follow them at Facebook.com/SarasOrganicFood


]]>
10/20/2017 4:12:25 PM
<![CDATA[Fusing East and West]]>
IMG_0426
Mohammed Sami
Throughout his career, Sami has helped establish some of today’s leading Egyptian bands, including Al Dor Al Awal, and participated the Sharkiat project led by musician Fathy Salama. Now working on his second solo violin album, Sami speaks to us about his musical journey, future projects and his view of the current music scene in Egypt.

How did you start your musical journey?
I come from a musical family, but I decided to become a musician when I was 14 years old. I attempted to learn different instruments, such as the flute, but I had more passion for the violin and I later enrolled in the Higher Institute of Arabic Music.
I used to compose musical pieces even before I started learning violin. Generally speaking, the violin is an instrument that features a lot of technicalities and can be used to create something new and relevant to our oriental, classical music that portrays Egyptian identity. I try to develop the concept of the typical classical oriental music and introduce more technological aspects and new techniques.

Why did you choose to pursue classical music in particular?
Classical music is the basic foundation of music production and is the only genre that is well documented throughout history that features more technicalities than oriental music. Throughout history, oriental music has focused on the value of lyrics and melody instead of the quality of music itself, making it less instrumental.
I don’t focus on producing Western or Middle Eastern classical [music], but on leading a music scene because people nowadays rarely listen to any music.
Music production is a message in the end, so it is either you do it right or you don’t do it at all. I don’t seek to be a commercial musician, but I seek to leave something behind that is authentic music.
There are examples of those people who lead a pure music scene, such as the prominent Egyptian musician Fathy Salama.

What inspires you to compose music? And what type of music compositions do you usually produce?
I don’t have any reservations on any music genre presented in the current scene and this is the result of being raised in an environment with mixed tastes in music. The idea of diversity is part of professionalism in music and the duty of a composer. I am required to be aware of all the genres of music in the scene. This is how musicians [find] new ideas and inspiration to then later re-introduce it in another frame and benefit the audience and other musicians. I believe in improvisation.

What you think is the best way to fuse Arabic and classical music?
We have evolved in melodies but we didn’t evolve in harmony. However, some musicians, such as the famous Lebanese Ziad Rahbani and Fayrouz, were able to implement this harmony by blending with well-recognized international melodies. [Through this mix, they] succeed in giving a unique effect creating their own contribution to the music scene.
This [mix] requires musicians to study music all their lives and to continue developing it. The harmony should always develop carefully, adding a tone of guitar and so on. I believe that all instruments can be blended, but creating a good music production and harmony depends on the cultural musical education.

Who are your role models? Why?
Violinist Abdo Dagher, Indian violinist Lakshminarayana Subramaniam, Scandinavian artists, flamenco artist Paco De Lucia, and Jazz musician Bill Evans. The special thing about them is that they make the performance look easy and smooth, but when you try to replicate it, it’s extremely hard.

What do you like most about playing the violin, and what message you seek to present to the audience?
The violin symbolizes a lot of things to me; it’s the only instrument that presents things that I don’t know how to express no matter what is my energy and my emotion. It is one of the best methods of self-expression to me.

Which of your projects do you consider special?
El Dor El Awal is one of the most special projects because we all compose music. The composition is the most enjoyable part of it because we learned from each other.

What are your upcoming projects?
There is a plan to form a trio of musicians; Fady Badr, Mahmoud Abdel Aziz, and myself, in addition to a drummer and a keyboardist. I am also working on a solo project, producing my second solo album within a year. The solo project will have a different theme; it won’t only include a violin, it will also include harmony from a guitar and a keyboard.

Name three composers or recordings you think everyone should listen to.
Pieces by classical composer Bach and Abdo Dagher, Camel Dance and Rasiny by Fathy Salama and Gamal Sheeha. Sufi, religious and folklore recitals by Mohamed Omran and Taha Al Fashni.

حفل القلعه تصوير صلاح سعيد‎ 3-9-2014 (17)
Fathi Salama
Are there underrated Egyptian music composers?
Musician and artist Shreen Abdo, who I believe could perform better and whose voice I admire. ]]>
10/18/2017 4:55:25 PM
<![CDATA[Historian Daniel Rafaelic on the portrayal of Ancient Egypt in cinema]]>
He has also just finished his book Cinema of the Sun: Ancient Egypt on Film, expected to be published by the end of this year in New York and Cairo.

Born in 1977, the film critic and cinema historian Rafaelic now hosts a weekly TV segment about cinema on Croatia’s leading morning show Good Morning and is the head of the national Croatian Audiovisual Centre. As a filmmaker, he directed a documentary titled The Other Side of Welles about the life and work of Orson Welles in Croatia.

We sat down with Rafaelic to chat about his new book and the mystery that is Ancient Egypt.

Tell us about your new book.

There is an introductory chapter that sets the tone for the whole book—generally about the films on ancient Egypt as perceived in the wider corpus of more familiar films about ancient worlds [like Greece and Rome]; the similarities and differences. Then the book describes [pre-historical] Egypt being perceived as the mythical time in human history. [Similar to attempts] in literature, cinema tried to answer the question of superb technical abilities of the “civilization before civilization,” namely Atlantis—which is always in one way or another associated with Ancient Egypt, first and foremost in terms of imagery, pyramids and so on. As we know today, the Atlantis myth arose primarily from the volcanic eruption of the Island Thera, which is now Santorini, and the destruction of indigenous civilization in Akrotiri in 17th or 16th century BC. But the image of the ill-fated island was regularly depicted as a replica of an Ancient Egyptian town, with the pinch of non-terrestrial influence. Films such as Ronald Emerich’s 10.000 BC (2008), Disney’s Atlantis (2001), Hercules (1983) and The English Patient (1996) linked Egyptian protohistory with the construct of the big picture of the so-called far-advanced civilization, out of which the Egyptian [civilization] would emerge.

Tom Cruise made a third Mummy film that was released worldwide last June; the one made in 1999 was banned in Egypt based on claims that it was not historically accurate. Then there was the unsuccessful spinoff The Scorpion King in 2002. How do you assess these works?

Early recorded Egyptian history, the beginning of the dynastic period as the starting point, focuses primarily on a king simply called Scorpion. This persona has been transferred to film [at least three times], however with totally different approach. In Stephen Sommers’ The Mummy Returns (2001) the Scorpion King is fairly depicted as an earthly warrior who, after selling his soul to the devil, Anubis, becomes the most powerful figure of his time. After the big box-office success of the film, a spinoff was born, simply called The Scorpion King, with its sequel Scorpion King 2 released in 2008.
Contrary to popular belief, this film was not set in Egypt as all, but rather in an amalgam of the uncharted Hellenistic landscape.

back ground
Empire Film - File photo

How do you interpret this fascination with Egyptian history?

The discovery of the solar boats of King Khufu at the foot of his Great pyramid in Giza incited a new wave of Egyptomania in 1954, like the one set off by the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in the 1920s. The grandest result of this ancient Egyptian craze was Howard Hawks’ Land of the Pharaohs (1955), with still unsurpassed mechanical solutions for the secret devices that were used in building and sealing the most popular large structure in history. This was still the time when films really tried to reflect as much as possible ‘true’ nature of the film subject’s world, thus creating the film as close as possible to the ‘real’ ancient Egypt. On the other hand, the other famous monument, the Sphinx, or its ill-fated nose to be precise, became a frequent joke that was frequently used among cinematic Egyptians.

Lots of papyri that survived throughout time preserve the most interesting examples of ancient Egyptian narratives. Some of those stories were intriguingly transposed to the media of film (like The Story of the Eloquent Peasant). Michael Curtiz’s The Egyptian (1954) combined in its structure several different layers: fragments of the Middle Kingdom stories, fragments of demotic tales, great parts of Mika Waltaris’ novel Sinuhe the Egyptian all mixed together with unique image references to one of the bravest endeavors in Egyptian civilization—namely the famous Amarna period. The period itself has been portrayed several times in films from different perspectives in cinematography hailing from America, France, Italy and Mexico. The genres also varied, from ‘typical’ large-scale spectacle, to the cheap sword-and-sandal production; from the animated feature to the intimate and erotic portrayal of the period.
Howard’s 1922 discovery unleashed original Egyptomania as well as a myriad of films about the mummies and their curse. Although mostly relegated to the horror genre, these films succeeded in painting a portrait of Ancient Egypt as a fascinating yet dangerous mystic and hidden civilization.

Daniel Rafaelic
Daniel Rafaelic - File photo
Shady Abdel Salaam was the only filmmaker in Egypt who reflected Ancient Egypt in an accurate way; how would you assess his works?

Modern Egyptians were often disregarded whenever the topic of Ancient Egypt on film was dealt with. Yet it is very interesting how, in their own films, they reflect on their own past and heritage. Although several successful attempts exist, for years they were left unrecognized outside of the country’s border, or the Islamic world for that matter. However, the rightfully revered personality of Shady Abdel Salaam tried and managed to bring close modern Islamic audiences to the civilization that existed long before they did. His film Al Moomia, or The Night of Counting the Years (1969) was also recognized all around the world, eventually becoming one of the films restored by Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation. Adel Salaam’s El-Fallah El-Fasih (The Story of the Eloquent Peasant, 1970) was also preserved by the same foundation and shows that Abdel Salaam dedicated his whole life to the making of the films on Ancient Egypt, up until his premature death in 1986. However, his script and unsurpassed drawings for the sadly unfinished production of The Tragedy of a Great House at least throws some light on a film that might have been a superb intellectual sequel to Al Moomia. The topic [of the movie] was the Amarna period.]]>
10/17/2017 5:07:59 PM
<![CDATA[The collector]]>
Over the years Sadek, who was born in the neighborhood of El-Darb El-Ahmar, has managed to secure a number of properties in Faisal to house his large collection of books, magazines, posters and collectibles. He considers his current work not a hobby, but a message he inherited from his grandfather. Back in his grandfather’s days, in the early 20th century, collectors like Sadek were referred to as El-Warakeen, or the paper men, who work in everything related to paper. Sadek’s family owned a store called Sadek Bookshop on Port Said Street (then called El-Khaleeg El-Masry Street) in El-Sayeda Zeinab neighborhood. As soon as he was old enough, the young Sadek started to take his father’s place in the family shop.

But sales of books and magazines were slow and Sadek decided it would be more lucrative to dabble in collecting. Starting in the early 1990s, Sadek has amassed his own archive of magazines, books, pressbooks and posters retracing Egyptian and Arab history, arts and politics. “It was in the aftermath of the 1992 earthquake when I decided to develop my practice from a secondhand salesperson to a collector and archivist,” remembers Sadek. “At that time, the Egyptian government needed their officials to get around smoothly in their private cars to reach any crisis location so they decided to kick us out from our usual place near Al-Azhar and move us up the Moqattam mountain, near the entrance of the infamous El-Batneya neighborhood.”

Sadek recalls how many intellectuals criticized this evacuation, including novelists and columnists Gamal El-Ghitany and Youssef El-Kaid “until we were resettled near El-Azbakeya Garden in El-Attaba. Once there, I tried to boost sales by attracting pedestrians’ attention. Every day I would rearrange my newsstand so it features a thematical variety of history, arts and pop culture,” explains Sadek, who gradually found himself becoming a celebrity guest on radio and TV programs. Today many writers come to Sadek or send their assistants seeking archival information for their research—among them bigtime screenwriters Waheed Hamed and Youssef Maaty, to name just a few. Blockbuster celebrities like Adel Imam and Youssra visit Sadek or send helpers to get books and magazines either featuring them few years ago or to research roles.

Sadek has organized many exhibitions both in Egypt and abroad. The most prominent was during the 2014 edition of the Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) when he exhibited classic posters from the golden era of black and white Egyptian cinema, in addition to pressbooks, lobby stills and even old formats of box office tickets retracing decades in the film industry. Sadek was also invited to the UAE, where he managed to track down publications and photos retelling the 70-year history of the UAE until today.
Sadek also has a great line of customers of film fans and collationers like himself. “My biggest sale was a folio-sized poster of Youssef Chahine’s Salah El-Deen (The Conqueror) which I sold to an American guy with a prize of $,1000,” reveals Sadek, who says he likes to “sell and buy in the real world.”

“I have never been convinced of posting my items on sites like ebay for sales or auctions. You know why? Because it is quite an experience for a customer to come and see and feel the real thing. A photo of an item on the internet could be unreal and deceiving,” explains Sadek, adding that he doesn’t want to sell online or to digitize his archives like most organizations and individuals do.

Instead, Sadek is optimistic he can continue to track down and document local culture. “I hope I can deal with an Egyptian organization to retrace the history of Egypt like I did in Saudi Arabia and the UAE,” he says, calling on authorities to facilitate his efforts in finding spaces to exhibit his memorabilia.

Sadek will be exhibiting again during the next edition of CIFF coming up in November before jetting off to the UAE in December to commemorate National Day.
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10/16/2017 11:56:29 AM
<![CDATA[A Day at the Sagha]]>Egypt’s gold treasures have no end and unique Pharaonic pieces are still being unearthed to this day. It is believed that gold holds the secrets to our Egyptian heritage, which is why there is an ancient and special connection between Egyptians and the precious metal.

On a recent visit the gold market appeared fairly crowded, despite the economic downturn and price hike following last year’s currency flotation. As I strolled around the stores—which offer everything from touristy pharaonic and traditional Egyptian peasant-style designs to imported high-end Italian pieces, midrange Turkish items and cheap Chinese jewelry—I noticed a couple standing in front of a gold shop window trying to find a wedding ring. “Prices are very expensive for us, so we are trying to get a suitable ring,” they told me.

I left them to their window shopping and stepped inside the store where another couple have come with their parents to purchase a shabka, the present a groom is expected to give his bride. The bride, Nada, 24, told me that she was just there to select the piece she wants. It’ll be up to her father and the groom to discuss prices and bargain with the shop owner.

The owner, Karam Awadallah, has been in the gold business for 38 years and says he started as an assistant, then as a craftsman in a workshop, and soon after he began gold trading he was able to buy out the shop. “Twenty years ago things were better. People used to buy gold sets weighing about 120 grams, but now it rarely happens, they mostly just buy the wedding rings,” Awadallah says. He explains that gold items are priced according to their weight in grams, but that the masna’aya (workmanship) charge varies from one piece to another according to its shape and the type of gold.

“Other popular products people may buy are necklaces, earrings and bracelets,” notes Awadallah who says the skyrocketing prices are driving customers to look for alternatives. He recalls how a few years ago “Chinese gold” became popular in Egypt and customers, wanting to show off that they got a good shabka, began buying it up.

“But not all that glitters is gold!” warns Awadallah who claims the Chinese gold is fake. “They are all gold-plated ornaments with designs similar to the Egyptian ones. They just became more popular because they are very cheap, the piece may cost LE 50. But after a month or two, its color will disappear, and it cannot be compared to the real original gold that stays valuable forever,” he adds.

I left Awadallah’s shop and strolled around, taking in the ancient spirit of the old souq with its distinct scent of incense hanging heavy in the air, its architecture and beauty. The streets are home to countless shops catering to all tastes and price ranges, many with fancy marble entrances and flashy window displays, the sellers standing outside and inviting would-be customers to come inside and take a look. But it’s among its dark, narrow corridors that you find the real golden treasures inside the shops, where the sellers ask you to come inside not to buy, but to sell. Inside these shops, the circle of the gold industry starts, and it’s doing a brisk business as jewelry owners exchange their treasures for much-needed cash.

Amr Said is one of these gold shops owners who deals only in second-hand jewelry. He explains that the bulk of unwanted items are sold on to goldsmiths who transform them into golden bars. Traders cover the needs of the local market and then export the rest to get foreign currency.

“Egypt sells a considerable amount of gold to Dubai, one of the largest gold markets in the Middle East,” says Said who started up a Facebook page named Souq el-Dahab “The Gold Market” where he updates international prices of gold with their equivalent in Egyptian pounds, and where traders and customers can follow rates. The page has just under 33,000 followers.

“This profession is very old, but it has been affected badly for several reasons, mainly the decline in tourism and the economic situation,” says Said who adds that the recent inflation raised the price of the dollar from LE 8 to LE 17, so the prices of gold were doubled, from LE 350 to LE 650 a gram. “This huge raise affects the purchasing process, and more people now sell their used jewelry to make use of the differences of prices. And those who buy because there is a need, as in cases of marriage.”

El-Sagha is home to another segment of the gold industry: the workshops. Edging my way between some long, tight corridors of a very old building, I walk up to the second floor to chat with goldsmith George Michele, who started working in the profession since 1990. “Each workshop works in specific golden pieces, here, I only work in rings, as they are the item people look for the most,” Michele explains.

First they collect second-hand golden jewelry, melt and then reshape it into golden bars. This is followed by a step called sheshny (inspection), where they analyze the type of gold. Next, these bars are cut into longer and thinner ones, and finally reshaped into new pieces of jewelry. Soon after, the welding and polishing step comes. Finally, the items are placed in boiled water so they are clean and shiny.

“A great development occurred in the industry since I started 20 years ago, new machines now are included in the process which made it faster, but workshops had to decrease the number of workers, which affected the industry,” Michele says. He adds that the number of workshops and gold shops in Egypt was about 7,000, but that between 2012 and 2017 that number has been slashed by more than the half because of the economic situation. “Many workshops closed down and many craftsmen changed their jobs. But before they left these craftsmen had been working as goldsmiths for at least 10 years, so we need 10 more years to bring in a new generation.”

A number of gold sellers and workers are lobbying to create a syndicate for precious metal makers and traders, which aims to protect those who work in the industry, especially craftsmen who may lose their job at any anytime. Another goal is to provide them with training according to the latest techniques, Michele says.

Anton Mounir wholeheartedly supports the effort. At his workshop, where he has been fashioning intricate pieces for about 35 years, Mounir appears to hold all the secrets to the gold craft. “Before machines invaded the industry, I used to make a golden piece by hand from A to Z,” recalls Mounir who maintains “The Egyptian craftsman is very professional and talented, as he learns the profession from an early age...The gold industry is very important to any country and we have to work on improving it. But I have hope that things will get better in the future. With patience and determination, we will get the fruit of our patience.”
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10/15/2017 5:19:56 PM
<![CDATA[The Eid Box Office Wars Begin]]>El Khaleya

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El Khaleya (The Cell) looks at security forces and their fight against terrorism. The high-budget action movie stars heartthrob Ahmed Ezz as a special operations officer working to stop more than one terrorist operation. Starring alongside Ezz are Samer El Masrie, Mohamed Mamdouh and Amina Khalil. Tarek El Erian wrote the story and direct ed the movie. which features a duet between popular singers Assala and Mahmoud Elessily.

Khair w Baraka

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Khair and Baraka are two Egyptian brothers whose goal in life is to find a job and make their mother proud. While job-hunting they find themselves engaged in a number of funny situations. The comedy stars Ali Rabea, Mohamed Abdelrahman, Mai Selim and Tara Emad. The movie is written by Sherif Naguib and George Azmy and directed by Sameh Abdel Aziz.

El Kenz

محمد رمضان

El Kenz’s (The Treasure) storyline spans the Pharaonic, Abbasid, Ottoman and modern periods of Egypt’s history, leading all the way up to the 1970s. The plot revolves around corruption and how religious figures impose their authority over politics to secure high positions and power, as well as the issues related to mixing religion with politics. The administration of the Cairo International Film Festival, which will take place at the Opera House from November 21-30, specifically asked for this film to participate. Rumors are it is slated for the top spot and will headline the festival. Directed by veteran filmmaker Sherif Arafa, the all-star cast includes Mohamed Ramadan, Amina Khalil, Sawsan Badr, Mohy Ismail, Mohamed Saad, Hend Sabry and Ahmed Rezk.

Shantet Hamza

شنطة حمزة

Shantet Hamza (Hamza’s Bag) tells the story of Hamza—performed by popular singer and actor Hamada Hilal—who works as a professional conman. Hamza finds himself falling in love with a powerful woman, only to discover that she used to work for a famous gang. The film, which combines both comedy and action, stars Yousra El Lozy, Ahmed Fathy and Bayoumi Fouad. The movie is written by Ahmed Abdallah and directed by Akram Farouk.

Bath Mobasher

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Bath Mobasher (Live Broadcasting) revolves around a suspended officer named Faris (Sameh Hussein) who finds himself caught up in a number of incidents when an anonymous person live broadcasts important events on social media and TV channels. The action/comedy follows Faris as he goes on to deal with the corruption cases, which involve powerful officials and businessmen. Starring alongside Hussein are Yasser El Tobgy, Mohsen Mansour, Mostafa Abbas and Samia El Traboulsi. Bath Mobasher is written by Tarek Ramadan and directed by Morcous Adel.

Aman Ya Sahby

Aman Yas Sahby

Aman ya Sahby (Peace My Friend) tackles the story of two singers who live on Mohammed Ali Street, an old street famed for its singers, dancers and musicians. A friend of the two singers suggests that to get out of their financial crisis they have to marry well-off girls. They manage to find these girls and make them fall in love with them, but they have conflicts with the girls’ brothers. The two singers are played by real-life shaabi favorites Saad El-Soghayar and Mahmoud Ellithy who star alongside Nermin Maher and the Armenian dancer Safinar in the light musical comedy. The film is written by Elsayed Sobky and directed by Hany Hamdy. ]]>
10/7/2017 12:00:00 PM
<![CDATA[Moving the Needle for Safer Egyptian Roads]]>
Nada’s friends and family launched the initiative less than a year after she had passed away in a tragic car accident, turning a sad loss into a motive for a good cause. “We took a hard decision to deal with it from a positive side, to keep her smiling and keep her as happy as she had always been,” says Sara Amr Ezzat, Nada’s childhood friend and one of the first volunteers in the foundation.

First launched as a Facebook initiative in 2013, the Nada campaign has since witnessed a rapid growth, becoming today a fully established foundation that represents Egypt in international road safety conferences, talks to all stakeholders on different platforms and brings the authorities under the spotlight for constructive discussions.

“We started by shedding light on the issue and showing that behind the numbers there is a face and a family that has completely changed,” says Nehad Shelbaya, co-founder of The Nada Foundation. “We began to highlight to the citizens, the public and the government that the situation is dreadful, and to attract the attention to a catastrophe that needs to be dealt with,” she adds, describing the foundation’s early debut.

Adopting an entirely scientific based approach that relies on the expertise of public health doctors and road safety engineers, and seeking innovative community based intervention tailored accurately for every stakeholder, the foundation has already managed to generate a vibrant buzz introducing a momentum for road safety awareness.

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Photo by Yasmine Hassan

Doing it differently, at grass-root level

The Nada campaign took the streets for the first time in March 2015, where volunteers went out, simulating car accidents while running in the streets. Evolving from a virtual i nitiative to an active on the ground contributor, the foundation organized a run fun in Zamalek in collaboration with the Cairo Runners.

The very light and well studied slogans, such as “Hayatak aham mn messegatak” (Your life is more important than your messages) and “La tatasel hata tasel,” (Do not call till you arrive) have left quite a vibe and a long-lasting impact in the streets.

The next step was extending the arms of the campaign to penetrate the universities and bring attention to the youth.

“The youth are the ones we lose the most in road crashes … They are the ones who most need to be rescued,” Shelbaya says. “Therefore, when they are with us, they can change themselves and be catalysts of change.”

The Nada foundation has recently collaborated with the British University in Egypt, organizing an event in the memory of BUE students who lost their lives in car accidents.

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Photo by Yasmine Hassan

During the event, Zap Tharwat, famous Rap singer, told the students a story of a personal motorcycle accident. He ended up taking an oath to do things right while driving; and the attendees repeated after him.

Although the experts are the ones who sit on the round table and talk policies and recommendations, the youth make up an essential component in the foundation’s activities, by working on the ground in the campaigns, conveying their perspective for influential slogans and approaches, and acting as the foundation’s ambassadors at different universities, such as Cairo University, AUC, BUE, Assiut University, Fayoum University, as well as in the streets.

The foundation also encourages young members to deliver the speeches at universities’ panels, to escape “the atmosphere of a lecture or a class,” Ezzat states, pointing out that the volunteers are trained and accustomed to talking to people and making them understand the cause, especially “stubborn young drivers.”

“We tell them we are just like you. At the beginning, we did not care about anything. We were living our lives, until this moment turned everything 360 degrees,” Ezzat says, referring to the tragedy of Nada’s accident. “We tell them you do not have to wait until you feel the pain and then try to change,” she adds.

One of the major contributions of the foundation is also reaching out for survivors of car accidents and victims’ families, offering them support and seeking their input in achieving the foundation’ outmost goals.

Recalling the foundation’s event on the occasion of The World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims (WDR), Ezzat told Egypt Today, “The most memorable moment for the whole team was a speech by the father of a victim who passed away in a terrible accident; we were astonished by his emotional stability … He admitted it was his mistake that he gave his son the car although he had not practiced very well; and he advised everyone in the event against it.”

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Photo by Yasmine Hassan

Joint effort and advocacy for further impact

Seeking to eventually accomplish a unified platform that would stop the bleeding, the campaign is also collaborating with other initiatives and private sector companies concerned with road safety, such as The Rotary Club, the Global Biking Initiative (GBI), the Vehicles Club, Cairo Scooters, Vodafone, Pepsico, Samex, Uber and Axa.

“Sayef Safely” (Spend the summer safely), launched by the end of July, is the foundation’s most recent campaign, organized in collaboration with Uber and Axa insurance company, to raise awareness about road hazards. The campaign is mostly active in the North Coast, aiming to minimize the chances of collisions and to educate the public about the best ways to respond to accidents.

Apart from the public campaigns, the Nada foundation has also adopted a major advocacy role, calling for round table discussions with stakeholders, sitting with policy makers, bringing back expertise from international conferences and putting government officials under the spotlight to recognize “their role” in the process, which, Shelbaya states, is not to merely raise awareness or organize campaigns but rather to take action.

The latest round table discussion, Shelbaya recalls, tackled the new technologies entering the roads and communication system, such as fully automotive vehicles and smart buses. It brought together experts and government officials from different sectors to unfold a number of relevant issues, such as which of these technologies will be beneficial in terms of safety, the government’s role in preventing the entrance of technologies that do not fit with the required safety requirements and whether the roads are being prepared to accommodate these technologies.

Citizen in power: enforcing informal safety laws

Although the Nada campaign has already succeeded in moving the needle in terms of awareness and advocacy for the road safety crisis, the foundation is aiming at a higher goal.

“Up till today, with all of the daily deaths we see, the issue is still not a priority on the agenda; and there is no political will to make it a priority,” Shelbaya says. “We call for a political will to make it a national issue, and for the foundation of an independent council for road safety, equipped with resources and authority.”

The process starts with identifying who is allowed to enter the system and whether they were seriously tested and can actually drive, Shelbaya explains, as well as the conditions of the car they will take on the road and whether it fits with the basic standards of safety, the infrastructure and the standards of the road and a “just” implementation of safety laws.

“All of this is both a formula of success and of death,” she states, stressing the need for a system and an accountable owner of the issue.

The recommended council should include representatives from all the departments responsible of road safety, such as the ministries of interior and health, the traffic unit, the ambulances system, the NGOs, the private sector and experts, Shelbaya says. “All of these have to research and assess the problem and come up with a solution and implement it … they shall become responsible and accountable.”

Meanwhile, the foundation’s ongoing mission is to empower the citizens. “Until there is a formal law to be implemented, we’d implement an informal law,” Shelbaya tells Egypt Today.

This mission is being realized through the foundation’s joint campaign with Vodafone, adopting the slogan, “Your safety is your responsibility … Speak up.”

The campaign aims to make of road safety hazards a stigma by the public and the surroundings, encouraging citizens to speak up and object if they see a friend, uber driver or even their parents committing any act of distracted driving.

“Changing human behavior is a long term mechanism; however, one of the most effective behavior change approaches is creating stigma around a certain negative behavior and showing it as an incorrect and unacceptable social norm,” Shelbaya says.





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9/27/2017 4:04:55 PM
<![CDATA[Goodbye Summer, Hello Life Habits]]>
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Photo Courtesy Deana Shaaban

Know yourself. It’s important for you to understand why you want to train. It’s all good and well for us to aspire to train every day, but most people start out strong and then go back to their old habits before they truly begin to see results. The first step to changing your habits and starting to work out is to understand yourself and why it is you really want to work out. If you can do that then you can understand how you can turn your old habits into new ones then lay down a plan to make it happen.

Have realistic goals. It’s all about baby steps. We can’t expect to change the direction our life was heading in one single step; slow, gradual improvement tends to stick for a lifetime.

Once you reach a goal, make another. Try to incorporate working out in your life by exercising twice a week for the first two weeks. Once you’re able to do that comfortably, start incorporating exercising three times a week for another two weeks. If you can see your goals materializing in front of you, it will motivate you to push a little more every day.

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Photo Courtesy Deana Shaaban

One slipup is just a slipup. If you have an off day and go on a bingeing spree, don’t let that one slipup upset your routine. You’re a human being, you’re going to have cravings, you’re going to have momentary weaknesses. Collapses often come from feeling deprived of what it is you psychologically and emotionally need. Lead a well-balanced, deprivation-free lifestyle; give yourself small quantities of what you feel you need. One moment of weakness, is only that, one moment. Nothing more, nothing less.

Move your body at home. Stretch it out. You don’t have to be a yogi, or even into yoga to stretch your body out. We’re conditioned for bad habits: we sit too long at a desk or a computer, our backs arched, necks hunched over. We bend over to pick things up without bending our knees for support, we carry things too heavy for our backs. To counter that, try and give yourself 5–10 minutes every morning to stretch your body out and then 5–10 minutes at night to do the same thing. No matter how busy you are, you can also put aside 20 minutes of your day to take care of yourself and your body. et
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9/26/2017 2:47:27 PM
<![CDATA[Natural Cycles]]>
But it should first be noted that parental care is relatively rare in the animal kingdom.

Most invertebrate species exhibit no parental care whatsoever though there are exceptions. Female scorpions make attentive mothers, the young scorpions climbing on to the mother’s back and benefitting from the protection of her formidable pincers and even more formidable sting. Female wolf spiders carry their cocoon of eggs around in in some species make the ultimate sacrifice with the female dying and sacrificing herself as food for the emerging spiderlets. But they are spineless exceptions. Perhaps the greatest example occurs below water with coral blooms where a multitude of coral sperm and ova meet at random but at very specific times when the water turns cloudy as a result. But there is no parental care—not even contact.

Staying beneath the waves though some of the most dramatic differences between adults and juveniles can be witnessed—so dramatic that the juvenile creature might even be taken as a different species to the adult creature. In the Red Sea fish families such as the angelfish and butterfly fishes, the parrotfish and wrasses and even some sharks exhibit this phenomena. My favorite is the Clown Coris. This is a wrasse species the adult male of which is a fairly unassuming, though up to a meter long, dull green with a single pale band down the side and a slightly bulbous forehead. He looks nothing like a clown—no red nose, big shoes or wacky haircut. The name comes from the juvenile. Much smaller this is pure white with the head and fins dotted with black and with two large black spots with red blotches below - the tears of a clown—on the dorsum that do look very much like clown eyes. In my experience the juvenile is much harder to find than the adult but should be looked out for on shallow reefs.

Another wrasse species is the African Coris where the adult male is unresplendent in 40 cm of rather dull greenish brown but the juvenile is brightly orange boldly striped with three white bands bordered with black. In this case the juvenile may well be a clownfish mimic, gaining protection from that species, elevated to stardom by the movie Finding Nemo through its association with poisonous anemone.

In these cases the juveniles and adults may be found together though in slightly differing habitats but there has been little parental care. In the reptiles and amphibians that too is often the case. With sea turtles such as the Green Turtle and the Hawksbill Turtle that both breed on Egyptian beaches there is no rearing of the young. After perhaps years at sea the female sea turtle will return to her breeding beach, the beach where she will have been born, and she will clamber ashore and bury her dozens of eggs in an excavated burrow in the sand. She makes her laborious way back to the sea that same evening and that is that as far as she is concerned. Weeks later the eggs hatch and entirely independently the hatchling turtles emerge from the sand and make their hazardous way down to the sea to embark on their careers as marine reptiles. Sans mere. While dozens of eggs are laid very, very few will make through the vagaries of life on the open wave to return to that beach to repeat the process years later.

So to the birds. One of Egypt’s big natural success stories of recent decades has been the spread of the Blackbird. Until the 1970’s this 27cm relative of the thrushes was merely a winter visitor to Egypt. By the 1990s it was breeding in the Delta and in North Sinai and since then has hugely expanded its ramge along the North Coast and south up the Nile Valley and to the Western Oases, even Siwa. The male is matt black throughout relieved by a canary yellow bill and eye ring. The female is plain dark brown.

Many residents may have heard the fabulously mellifluous song of the males in parks and gardens throughout Cairo and elsewhere in spring. The young will have fledged the nest some time ago but may still be distinguished from the adults by being paler and browner and with rather more scaled underparts. Look out for them scrabbling around at ground level beneath deep shrubbery or out in the open on grassland.

Another resident that is dispersing is the Great Grey Shrike. This is a grey, black and white bird with a distinctive black bandit’s mask through the eyes. An alternative name for the shrikes is butcherbird. Shrikes feed on large insects, small reptiles, nestling birds and the like and in times of plenty they impale excess prey on thorns—the result known as a shrike’s larder. Modern birds now use barbed wire. The Great Grey Shrike was known by that moniker until the 1990s when many experts felt that the birds breeding in Egypt and the region should be split as Southern Grey Shrikes. It now seems the pendulum has swung back and in recent publications we are back to Great Grey Shrike again. While the adults are rather striking slim and long tailed birds the juveniles may be distinguished by a shorter tail, stubbier bill with a pinkish base and discreet barring below. Again this is a common bird of farmlands parks and gardens through much of Egypt even down to Gebel Uweinat in the very south-western corner of the country.

In most birds the immature or first winter plumage is short-lived before the bird molts into the full adult garb but in some of the larger, longer-lived birds this aging process takes much longer and in the case of some of the larger eagles up to six years. For me September marks the true end of summer as the migrants start passing through after leaving their breeding grounds in Europe and Asia and flapping and soaring their way through Egyptian airspace. A few, such as the Common Swift may have started passage in August but September is the beginning of the real flypast. Scanning the skies for the large birds of prey such as the Steppe, Greater-spotted, Lesser-spotted and Imperial Eagles it is possible to not identify the birds just down to species but by looking carefully at the plumage to age them as first, second or third year birds. For instance, the Greater-spotted Eagle as an adult is completely devoid of spots—it is almost completely plain dark brown. The juvenile and first winter birds however are very clearly spotted but by the second winter this spotting is much less apparent. The lake at Dashour used to be a good spot for at least one of these eagles in winter.

My favorite though is the Cuckoo. This slender winged, long-tailed rather hawk-like bird passes through Egypt in Fall, the male dove grey above and white, barred black below. Some of the females are similar but others are deep chestnut barred black above. The immature is similar to the rufous female but with a white patch on the nape. It is uncommon in Egypt and indeed I have never seen an adult Cuckoo here just juveniles.

And there is the fabulousness. The juvenile Cuckoos will never have seen an adult Cuckoo either. The female lays her eggs in the nest of a much smaller wren, or pipit, or warbler somewhere in northern Europe. Brought up by the duped foster parents the juvenile Cuckoo heads towards its sub-Saharan wintering grounds in fall with no parental guidance whatsoever driven purely by instinct. Incredible! et

Richard Hoath is a Senior Instructor at AUC’s Department of Rhetoric and Composition. He has published extensively about Egypt’s wildlife and fauna.
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9/22/2017 3:39:07 PM
<![CDATA[The Daring Darine]]>
“What I liked about Lana is that she was a tough woman, and had a sharp edge to her.

She portrayed an addiction to risk, which I personally think is usually portrayed for male heroes and rarely for women. This made her different and fearless and that drew me to playing her character,” Hamzé says. Hamzé also served as co-writer, co-producer and casting supervisor for Nuts, French filmmaker Henri Bargès’ directorial debut. “The award meant a lot for me since it came from a country I visited for the first time, [and one that is] rich in history and intellect. It was an honor, really, and a delight.”

Born in the middle of the Lebanese civil war, a young Hamzé was sent to a private boarding school in London. Hamzé then received a bachelor’s degree in drama at the Institute of Fine Arts in Lebanon in 2002 before receiving a master’s in arts and media practice from London’s University of Westminster. Her academic background in the theater and her love for the arts has since then pushed her to pick diverse roles and languages, collaborating with filmmakers from around the world. In fact, her film debut in 2009 required her learning Persian to lead the cast of the Iranian-acclaimed long narrative film The Book of Law, co-staring the legendary Iranian actor Parviz Parasui and directed by Maziar Miri. The film was Hamzé’s first brush with media scrutiny for controversially criticizing the way Islam is being practiced erroneously in certain Iranian regions. She then had to brush up on her French and take singing classes for her role as Zoha in yet another controversial film, the 2011 Beirut Hotel, co-starring French actor Charles Berling. Directed by Danielle Arbid, the film revolved around Zoha, who is a wildly romantic club singer who falls in love with a French spy. Hamzé recorded the whole soundtrack for the film, which was banned in Lebanon due to suggestive scenes depicting the Lebanese government as covering up information pertaining the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Harriri. The film, however, was eventually aired on the German-French cultural channel Arté, leading to further backlash from the press and the public over Hamzé’s love scene with the French actor.

Hamzé came to the attention of international audiences in 2016 with her performance in the Lebanese-German film Halal Love, a social comedy directed by Assad Fouladkar, the Lebanese director known to Egyptian audiences for the long-running sitcom A Man and Six Women. Halal Love was produced by Razor Films and went on to be screened at several international festivals, including Sundance Film Festivals, Hamptons International Film Festival and Cairo International Film Festival. In the film, Hamzé depicted the role of the dreamy Loubna, a young divorced Muslim woman trying to live her life and desires without breaking any of her religions rules, which drove her to accept a “pleasure marriage” for a short while. Her performance landed her a Best Actress Award from the 2016 edition of the Fukuoka International Film Festival in Japan.
She continues taking on challenging, politically unaccepted, out-of-the-box roles in the region, with her latest this year being Nuts, which premiered at the Dubai International Film Festival.

Hamzé also played an important role in the TV series People of Alexandria (2014) along with Amr Waked and Hesham Selim. The series, though produced by the state-owned Egyptian Media Production City, was reportedly banned from being broadcast for three years, possibly due to the filmmakers’ political beliefs.

After Oran, Hamzé is returning to Beirut where she will continue writing a romantic comedy to produce through her own company and in which she will eventually star. The rising starlet has hopes too that Egyptian film producers who brought many actresses from Lebanon will cast her in a challenging new role. et
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9/20/2017 2:53:53 PM
<![CDATA[Game of Thrones: How Egypt Watched]]>
The show has a cult following all over the world and here in Egypt ,audiences, on the edge of their seats ahead of the finale, are just as smitten. GoT is rising in popularity among Egyptians, and a quick, informal office survey yielded the following findings: it’s one of our favorite top 10 series; we appreciate the symbolism behind the “games” portrayed; we love the directing, the way the series was shot, the intricate details of every scene; overall we think it’s ‘wonderful’ and ‘realistic.’ So much so that we mapped an alarming outpouring of heartfelt grief upon the king’s death.

The series always kept us guessing, with cliffhanger endings and teasers—like when in episode five many viewers predicted that Ceresei will be queen and that the game is still not over. There were the haters, too, who felt that as the series progressed, it got worse, and that the first four seasons held more action and served the message better.

On the eve of the finale we polled viewers on what they liked best about the season and their predictions for the next and final season, expected to begin shooting this fall.

“I watch the series at home alone because I consider it ‘Holy’ and that it requires focusing. I stream it online. I don’t buy the paraphernalia and collectibles. I haven’t read the books so I don’t have many theories on the series. I really hope something goes wrong with the dragon white walker because it’s a spoiler in the end.”
—Leena El Deeb

“I watch it at home. . . It has 18+ scenes. I don’t buy it, it’s illegal of course but I don’t know anyone who pays. For me life is divided into ‘The denial before GOT,’ ‘The OMG this is the best thing ever’ and ‘Now this has a meaning.’ I think Arya will kill Sansa, put on her face, meet Gendry and call his name and doesn’t know Sansa so it’s going to be extra weird. He will start suspecting Arya and he will find out what she did. Jon will sleep with Dany . . . Obviously! But things will change when he finds out that she burned Sam’s father . . . Sam will kill her . . . Jon will ride the dragons . . . and HE IS THE KING.”
—Noor Samir

“The season is rushed and predictable and overall underwhelming. Usually used to gather with friends and we all write our predictions for the episode and put money on the table and whoever was closest to what happens takes the money. This hasn’t been happing since the middle of the last season because we all had to watch the episode as soon as it’s released to avoid spoilers. I have the action figures that were released with season one and a few fashion items.”

—Raghda el Sayed
“It’s my least favorite season. I usually get together with my friends and watch it together. Yeah I had a t-shirt.”
—Marwan Salim

“This season is ok but not as exciting as expected—me and my friends gather, order a pizza and watch.”
—Yasmine Adel

“They hyped it too much and now I’m disappointed . . . but hoping the finale would change my mind. Yes we gather my friends and I and watch it every Monday.”
—Khaled Seif

“Amazing season, too fast-pace though. Traveling between lands is very fast and not logical. Amazing war strategies. I watch a live broadcast with all of my friends. We get pizza and have made the same order these last three seasons. I have hand of the king seal with raven papers—I wish I had ravens to use them though.”
—Ahmed Adel
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9/19/2017 1:18:50 PM
<![CDATA[The Social Butterfly]]>
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PHOTOGRAPHY BY BATOOL AL DAAWI

You have almost one million followers on Instagram alone—how do you keep up with your fans?

It scares me every time I see the number. But at the same time it humbles me to know that these people support me and are eager to know my career updates.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY BATOOL AL DAAWI

How do you feel Instagram and other social media have helped promote your work as a model and actress?

When I started, social media wasn’t much existent. There was no Instagram, only Facebook and it wasn’t as it is nowadays. Now realizing the amount of work, and exposure I get through social media and how it can truly help you reach a wider audience I feel everyone has a higher chance of reaching out with their product or their hobby/career to their target audience.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY BATOOL AL DAAWI

Selfies and group selfies are always top-performing images on social media—how do you style your own posts and how do you go about selecting the best ones? And why do you choose to use OPPO F3?

The people who follow you are always more excited to see you and your friends and what you are up to. So I always create a mix between my posts, some pictures of me while filming, some with friends and some random ones. I prefer to keep it as natural and spontaneous as I can because that best describes me as a person.

Actually, I chose OPPO, not the other way around! I have been using OPPO’s products for the past six months and think that it reflects me as a person. Young and fun, yet elegant and sleek; the perfect fashion accessory and a secret weapon for creating the perfect selfies and groufies in all settings; a must for someone as social and fun loving as me.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY BATOOL AL DAAWI

What tips do you have for bloggers and Instagrammers for the perfect selfie?

Stay natural and know your best angles. OPPO can help a lot with this utilizing the beautify feature that helps to amplify your best features through a range of options adapted to different complexions and face shapes, as well as numerous filters that fit whatever setting you’re looking to capture.

Groufies or group selfies really are trending these days amongst bloggers and influencers. OPPO has a great and unique edge over its competitors thanks to its double view group selfie camera, which ensures wider views that truly capture friends, family and the amazing setting of each photo.

How do you choose the products that you promote and how do you work on your selfies and posts so that they appear natural as opposed to direct advertising?

I choose to promote products that I am acquainted with through ambassadorship programs. My criterion is always that if I truly am a fan of this product and believe in it, I would promote it. Otherwise, I’d rather not post random posts as I would lose my credibility with my fans.

For me OPPO was the perfect match. Their product persona is based on ideas of purity, beauty and delight—all values that I share and I love their philosophy of making everything beautiful, because this is something I commit to doing in my daily life; so really, it just works! What made things even more exciting was finding out that OPPO are an official sponsor of the Barcelona team. I am absolutely obsessed with the team, so it was just the cherry on top.

We’ve heard you’re a big fan of football—tell us all about that. Have you ever attended a Barcelona match?

I do love to watch a good match! However, I don’t watch it on a regular basis. But yes Barcelona is my favorite team and the first match I attended for them was last year in Granada. And as for my favorite player, I would say Pique. And that was the first thing that grabbed my attention to OPPO brand even before working with each other.

Fashion and football stars are the most followed celebrities around the globe—what are the perks? And what are the pressures?

Those two professions are constantly under the spotlight therefore their news is always highlighted. The pressures would be that your private life won’t be private any longer. You realize that you share most of it with nearly everyone. It has its ups and downs of course.

Modeling is a tough business to get into anywhere in the world. Tell us about your experience breaking through.

I do agree that it’s a tough business. I’d always dreamt of going to a pageant competition as a kid, and when I did I truly enjoyed the experience. However, now I don’t feel I would want to continue and go to other pageants, I feel that it doesn’t resemble me, what I believe in or stand for. My perception of beauty has changed drastically over the past few years. I’ve realized how many girls torture themselves to fit in the “standards” that society has put us in and whenever I can, I speak up for myself and for every girl who has struggled to see herself beautiful. As for how modeling and the pageantry helped me launch my career, they have both built my confidence in front of camera drastically.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY BATOOL AL DAAWI

How has the local modeling industry changed?

In the last five years the modeling scene in Egypt in my perception has been booming. When I started 10 years ago it wasn’t like this or anything near it. No social media and very little competition. But now, many more make-up artists, models, photographers, designers and stylists are getting acknowledged and they have more space to create, design and unleash their artistry. And a healthy competition is always a win-win.

Who are your favorite designers and what trends are you following this year?

My favorite designer is Krikor Jabotian. I am madly in love with his designs. And as for the trend, I prefer to explore than to stick to a specific thing.

How do you style a trend to make a statement?

I really like the color red—it can offer a bold and fashion forward look and also allow for a real fashion statement. Red is such an interesting color to correlate with emotion, because it’s on both ends of the spectrum. On one end you have happiness, falling in love, infatuation with someone, passion, all that. On the other end, you’ve got obsession, jealousy, danger, fear, anger and frustration. It’s all about getting the balance right, a splash of the bright color can make a statement without going over the top, which is why the new F3 really is the perfect accessory and statement piece—A bold color to match my outfits and a fan hallmark that any Barcelona fan would be proud of, what more could you ask for?

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY BATOOL AL DAAWI

Which film and serial have you enjoyed working on most? Tell us about it and why?

It would have to be Saheb El-Saada. It was really an honor for me to work with such a great actor like Adel Emam; it was a breakthrough for my career.

Who’s the director you’ve learned the most from on-set?

Rami Emam and Amr Arafa.

Today you’re a successful international model and rising actress—what are your dreams and goals for the future?

I want to compete internationally in the acting scene and become an Egyptian actress in Hollywood.

What message do you have for your fans?

Always stay natural, no matter what beauty standards the society puts. Life isn’t always really glamorous and fabulous. It’s about encouraging people to go back to natural beauty.]]>
9/18/2017 9:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[The Importance of Me Time]]>
Summer season is one of the most high-energy seasons of the year. You can fee