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

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.”

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.

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.


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.


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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.
11/29/2017 11:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[The Harem Years]]>
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
appened,” 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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
Directors: Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk.
With: Al Gore, George W. Bush, John Kerry.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

Director: Hany Abu-Assad.
Stars: Kate Winslet, Idris Elba, Dermot Mulroney.

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.

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

Happy Death
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
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.”


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.”


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.


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]]>
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.
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.”
10/15/2017 5:19:56 PM
<![CDATA[The Eid Box Office Wars Begin]]>El Khaleya


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


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.

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.

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.”

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.

9/27/2017 4:04:55 PM
<![CDATA[Goodbye Summer, Hello Life Habits]]>
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.

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
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.
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
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
9/19/2017 1:18:50 PM
<![CDATA[The Social Butterfly]]>

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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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 feel this energy not only through the burning summer heat, but also through all that is new, such as places, people and activities.

For the past few weeks, I have been travelling through Barcelona, Athens and Florence. In a short time, I have witnessed first the impact of the summer buzz, which is not only exciting and fast moving but is also distracting.

When travelling to different places, meeting new people, engaging in new activities like art, music, dance and language courses, visiting exotic beaches and going on refreshing nature hikes, you might think that there is little time for a deep, real and meaningful connection with the Inner Self. After all, why worry about the Inner Self when you’re feeling happily stimulated by everything that is going on around you?

My personal experience is that indulgence is never the answer and that moderation is key. I notice how jumping with both feet into new, fun, exciting and adventurous activities can come at the expense of my own personal needs like rest, relaxation, stillness and silence. These are all needs that nurture the feminine quality—which exists in both men and women.

Especially in the summer, when everyone around you is pulling you to go out and do something fun, it can feel very odd to slow down and make time for silence and stillness, to stop everything and make time for rest and relaxation. Yet, your body and mind will love you for it and your spirit will talk to you. You will learn more about yourself in those moments, as you distill the experiences of yesterday to discern what is right for you.

Taking one day off a week away from the busyness, the noise, the mental, visual and emotional stimulation, I discovered that there were many times when I said yes to someone or something when actually this place, food or activity was not aligned with my personal interest. For example have you ever heard someone talking about a really delicious dish that you then started craving, only to find out when it arrived that it wasn’t really what you wanted? Have you ever found yourself making your way to a place even though you felt tired or uninterested but went anyway? Have you ever heard your friends describe a place as really beautiful and felt compelled to go there for a visit only to find out it was not your style?

If you’re like me and you said yes, then you need to realize that when you are in a new place and with new people, the excitement of the unknown can be tempting and so we can easily make fast choices. That’s why it’s important to cultivate little blocks of “me time” where you can come back to your own center and align your choices with your real self. This is because you can only recognize your likes and dislikes, your personal needs and interests, by spending time with yourself. During this time you can rest, take a silent walk, draw, paint, write, listen to music, cook, practice yoga or meditation, do some gardening or whatever you like.

It does not matter which medium you choose. What matters is that you consciously take the time to listen deeply to your heart’s desires, even if what you hear goes against what everyone around you is doing or saying and even if you feel lonely and afraid because you are different than others. Be brave today!

Try this simple meditation technique to help guide you back to your center:

1.Sit in a crossed legged position with your spine straight

2.Place your left hand on your heart chakra (10 cm below the throat at the center of your lungs)

3.Place your right hand on top of your left hand

4.Close your eyes and look down toward your heart

5.Breathe in and ask your Self, “How can I serve you today?”

Shama Kaur is a health, lifestyle and wellness consultant and founder of YallaYoga
9/17/2017 9:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Making Arab Art Accessible]]>

This year, Al-Qassemi sat on the jury of Sheikha Manal’s Young Artist Award, a prestigious Emirati award under the patronage of Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Earlier, in spring, he became a practitioner in residence at the Hagop Kevorkian Center of Near East Studies at New York University, to teach a special course on politics of Middle Eastern art.

Most recently, in July, the art enthusiast was chosen to be a member of the board of Trustees of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago, making him the first Arab to take on the position. “I joined the board in order to help them expand their collection of Middle Eastern art and to enhance their outreach in the region. The MCA Chicago is one of the great art museums of America and it is an honor to be associated with such a prestigious institution, says Al-Qassemi who has been described by Chair of the museum’s board Anne Kaplan as “a leader in global art, culture, and philanthropy,” according to Art News.



Al-Qassemi is also known as a commentator on Arab affairs. He is widely recognized for his Twitter activity of mainly translating Arabic tweets into English from his home in Sharjah during the Arab Spring, especially the Egyptian January 25 uprising. At the time his tweets became a reliable source of news and TIME magazine listed him among their “140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011.” The prominent cultural figure is also a columnist whose articles have been published in numerous international media outlets including The Guardian, The Independent, Foreign Policy, Newsweek, CNN, International Business Times, the Huffington Post, and more. Arabian Business listed him as one of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Arabs under the Thinkers category.

The Emirati art collector talks to Egypt Today about his passion for art and how it can stand up to fundamentalism.



Have you always been passionate about art?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been passionate about arts and culture. It started with my love for reading and attending the Sharjah National Theatre when I was young. But my real exposure to fine art started when I went to Paris to study. I studied business administration as an undergraduate at the American University in Paris, and I hold a master’s degree in global banking and finance from Regent’s University London. I never studied art nor practiced it, yet I have profound passion for it.

After I came back home in 1998, I started looking for Arab works of art. I now envy the younger generation for having art galleries and exhibitions which were much more easily available than they were back in my days.

Your mother, Sheikha Na’ma bint Majed Al-Qassemi, was the first female teacher in the UAE. How has she influenced your love of arts and culture?

My mother was orphaned at a young age. Her mother, Sheikha Mouza [her name means a rare kind of pearl] never went to school, but paid much attention to her daughters’ education. She sent my mother and aunts to study in Kuwait, which was a huge step back then in their conservative society.

My mother and my aunt Sheikha Mahra bint Majid Al Qassemi were respectively recognized as first teacher in a systemic school in the UAE and first school principal in the UAE. My mother’s students are now bright female figures in different fields in the country. This must have deeply impacted me. But as for my passion for art, I believe it is because of both nature and nurture; I am not sure which of these factors has impacted me more.

Barjeel organized the first Arab art exhibition in Iran. Tell us about that.

The idea came to me when I found that here in the UAE we usually host Iranian art exhibitions, but we never sent our own artistic products. So my purpose was to show the Iranians the Arab arts, which they never had a contact with.

Politically, there are tensions between the Iranian and Arab governments, but the peoples have geographic, historic and economic ties. And art has to play an important role in bridging the gap between the cultures of both sides. So Barjeel curated an exhibition of Arab modern art at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in November and December 2016. It was the first time to show Arab art from the modern period in Iran and the exhibition featured works by modern veteran artists from all over the Arab world: Egypt, Iraq, the Maghreb region, the Levant. I insisted on sending works from Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, and Kuwait.
It was a successful exhibition that attracted 20,000 visitors in seven weeks; Iranians and Arabs living in Iran. It was a very nice experience.

What obstacles did you face?

There were some difficulties at the beginning of the preparation, but it was then facilitated from both sides. To avoid any problems, I didn’t go to Iran [myself]. I only sent two people from the foundation to take care of the installation process.

Emiratis are open-minded people who are open to all cultures. The idea of sending our cultural products to the Iranian people wasn’t refused at all.

Is your foundation profitable?

I wish it was [chuckles]. But in fact, I cover all of its costs from my work in the family business.

Who are your audiences in the US and Europe?

I don’t have a breakdown of the ethnicity of our visitors. The exhibitions, like those that took place in London, Paris and New York, were attended by both Arabs and non-Arabs. But let me tell you that I’m happier with Arab attendees, for these exhibitions make them relate to their artistic heritage and feel proud of it.

Given the situation of the Arab world today, some people believe art is an unneeded luxury. What do you think?

Art here in the Arab region is a fundamental requirement. It is a weapon to fight terrorism, extremism and fundamentalist ideals. Unfortunately, there is an attempt to wipe away our identity and cultural heritage—[look at what] the Islamic State terrorist group [did to] Palmyra and Mosul and other places. We also saw it when the Taliban took power in Afghanistan. They demolished the monuments and sculptures, which was meant to erase the Afghan identity. Terrorism is the enemy of art.

There was that very beautiful scene in Egypt during the revolution, when the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir square was under threat, the Egyptian citizens created a human shield around it to protect it [from vandalism and looting]. It was a beautiful response that gives hope and confidence to people attached to their heritage. et

Barjeel curates inhouse and international exhibitions, lending artworks to global forums as well as producing print and online publications. It is also working to create partnerships with international arts and cultural institutions to raise art awareness, developing a platform to raise critical dialogue about the works of Arab artists. The foundation has curated exhibitions in a number of countries like Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan, Iran, the US, UK, France and Singapore, and is currently planning to hold exhibitions in Tunisia, Mexico and India.


9/16/2017 9:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Holding Down the Fort]]>
But climate change is putting these heritage sites, and several others, in danger.
Rising sea levels due to climate change have caused the partial collapse of Qaitbay, with seawater found beneath the northern part of the citadel and waves hitting the upper northern part and boring holes into the walls. This has prompted the government to start considering solutions to protect against the inundation or collapse of the citadel.

“The movement of the sea has pulled sands away from the citadel, exposing it to danger,” Osama el-Nahas, head of the Sunken Monuments department at the Ministry of Antiquitiestold local media in July.

Partial collapse in the Citadel due to the climate change- photo courtesy of the National Authority for Shore Protection

Ahmed Abdel-Aal, head of the Egyptian Meteorology Authority (EMA), believes that changing sea levels would affect a part of the citadel if the sea level rose by 1.5 to 2 meters; something that June 2016 report by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expects to happen by 2100. “If the government does not take all possible measures to protect the citadel, a big part of it could be influenced by the climate change.” He ruled out that the fort could totally be inundated, adding that, “If sea level rises by 4 meters, which could be in the very long run, the citadel and whole Delta will inundate.”

But the threat of inundation is not caused by the sea level rising alone; erosion is also a threat. Abdel-Aal adds that if the citadel erodes beneath the sea waves and the government doesn’t take action to protect it, it could, in fact, collapse. The Supreme Council of Antiquities had previously put in place a total of 180 cement stones, each weighing several tons, along its northern part in the early 1990s to protect the northeastern perimeter from erosion, according to UNESCO data.

Egypt is signatory to the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement aiming to keep global warming “well below” two degrees celsius and has been working on strategies against climate change threats for several years.

The Authority of Shore Protection (ASP) is setting up a LE 100 million project to protect the fort from collapse, Water Resources Minister Deputy for Shore Protection Affairs Taha el-Erian tells us. “Breakwater poles will be installed in a very thin passage between the citadel and cement stones before its northern ramparts,” el-Erian explains, noting that this passage is the only place where poles could be set without damaging the ancient sunken monuments around the citadel.

A map shows where water break poles to be installed in a narrow passage in front of the citadel- photo courtesy of the Authority of Shore Protection

The authority is waiting for approval from the permanent committee of the Supreme Council of Antiquities to start the project; a committee formed by the prime minister has already agreed on the project, el-Erian says, adding that the Cabinet’s committee said the authority should coordinate with the Ministry of Antiquities to begin work.

After the Ministry of Antiquities found water at the citadel, it sent a team to restore the area where the sea had created a hole, the head of the ministry’s Islamic Monuments Sector, Saeed Helmy, tells Egypt Today. “I inspected the citadel myself. It is in good condition and it is safe and there are no threats,” Helmy says. But experts agree that climate change’s impact on important sites lying by the sea needs to be addressed, with historical sites like Qaitbay already seeing some damage, albeit minor ones.

“The Ministry of Antiquities initiated a project to fix the place of holes, which were found in upper northern part of the citadel,” Helmy says. “Specialists, geologists and experts are conducting studies on the citadel’s lower part, which extends into the water.”

Concerning the ministry’s mitigation strategies against sea level rise, Helmy says that one of the solutions under discussion is to build a wall about 15 meters away from the citadel, separating it from the area of the sunken monuments. “The citadel or any vital institution should be completely isolated from any sea waves or currents; then there should be dewatering process in the places where water is found,” Ahmed Fawzy Diab, water expert at the Desert Research Center, says.

After the dewatering process, the citadel’s floor should be refilled to strengthen the ground beneath the fort, Diab says, noting that the detach breakwater process (building a coast-parallel construction inside or outside the sea surf as a shelter from sea waves) should be carried out at this time. Diab says the center can coordinate with the Ministry of Antiquities to protect the citadel using modern techniques.

Citadel of Qaitbay- Google map image

Racing against the elements

Qaitbay Citadel is not the only Alexandrian monument that is vulnerable to the sea, particularly with increasing sea levels. The 800-meter-long Alexandria Corniche, which is opposite the Unknown Soldier Memorial, is also vulnerable to collapse due to increasing sea levels, Erian says. “We also found collapsed parts that form holes along this part of the Corniche,” he reveals.

The ASP is working on an eco-friendly dike, a sheet of rock that is formed in a fracture of a pre-existing rock body, to create a wall in front of the shores, says Salwa Abdel-Basset, head of the Central Administration at the Shore Protection Authority. Abdel-Basset adds that the project, which runs from Burullus City to Rosetta in the governorate of Kafr El-Sheikh with a total length of 46 kilometers, aims to protect Egypt’s low-lying shores.

The authority has hired a company to build another wall into the sea, at a cost of LE 17 million, to protect El-Abd village in Rosetta from the rise of sea levels, Erian says. The projects are conducted with the Shore Institute, which is affiliated with the Water Research Center, to monitor sea levels, Abdel-Basset adds. Egypt will also receive a financial aid from the Global Environment Facility to protect the shores from inundation.

Global concerns

With increasing carbon dioxide emissions leading to global warming, the melting ice around the earth as well as the El Nino phenomenon (releasing ocean heat into the atmosphere) are causing sea levels to rise. In the period between 1910 and 2010, Egypt’s sea level rose by a total of 11.3 centimeters, increasing by an average of 0.113 centimeters annually. In the past seven years, however, increases have slowed down, rising by 0.3 to 0.5 centimeters in most areas, with an average of 0.04 to 0.07 centimeters annually, compared to the former rate of 0.113, according to Abdel-Aal. “That does not mean we are safe; we still face threats to Egyptian coasts,” he warns. “The Egyptian General Authority for Shore Protection is doing well and we have to take all possible measures to protect the shores.” That also doesn’t mean that the general trend is not going upward; despite some fluctuations between one year to the other, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has reported that the sea level is rising at an overall increasing rate.

“However, it’s uncertain whether that acceleration will continue, driving faster and faster sea level rise, or whether internal glacier and ice sheet dynamics—not to mention natural climate variability—will lead to ‘pulses’ of accelerated melting interrupted by slowdowns,” the report outlines, adding that in 2012 scientists expected that the global sea level would rise at least 20.3 centimeters but no more than 2 meters by 2100.

A recent study by the University of Illinois in Chicago argues that the increasing sea levels could double the number of water-related natural disasters in the tropics by the middle of this century. The study, which was published in Nature journal on May 18, 2017, estimates the rate of sea level rise to accelerate from the current rate of 3 to 4 millimeters annually due to ocean warming and ice melting. “ The 10 to 20 centimeters of sea-level rise, expected no later than 2050, will more than double the frequency of extreme water-level events in the tropics, impairing the developing economies of equatorial coastal cities and the habitability of low-lying Pacific island nations,” the study warns. et

9/15/2017 3:43:18 PM
<![CDATA[Facing Bullying ]]>
Bullying is defined as intentionally and purposely targeting other students for recurrent psychological or physical attacks. But with today’s tech-savvy schoolkids, bullying has gone far beyond the classic forms and cyberbullying has become a real threat around the world, including in Egypt.

Clinical psychologist Engy Laz, who specializes in children and adolescents, to give us tips on how to teach your kid to stand up for him/herself and what to do if you suspect your child is being bullied.

What are the most common forms of bullying in Egyptian schools?

Emotional bullying is the most common; and the form it takes is different depending on the ages. Emotional bullying occurs the most in grades 6 to 8. In grades 1 to 3, bullying is normally in the form of bossing classmates around and so on, having exclusive groups and telling friends not to speak to a certain person, for instance. As they get older, bullying normally takes the form of trying to break the person being bullied by making indirect comments that they know will hurt and break them; things like “your hairdo isn’t nice,” “you’ve put on weight,” or “why doesn’t anyone like you?” The comments can be so covert that you can’t hold anything against the person bullying.

Have the forms changed?

Cyberbullying is very common and often starts around the age of 14, of course it can start younger. It takes the form of people hacking accounts, posting photos of your childhood you don’t like and so on. Recently, girls would take pictures of themselves naked and start sending them to boys, the boys would then blackmail them into doing things they don’t want or else they would post the girls’ pictures online and humiliate them. The same happens amongst girls’ gatherings as well; when they take selfies at sleepovers or after pool parties, for instance, and then they fight and are no longer friends and decide to post the photos to humiliate each other. These are all real-life examples from my clinic and such cases are happening more and more these days.

What are some of the signs that parents need to look for?

Injuries, stomachaches and headaches are signs. If your child doesn’t want to go to school, won’t wake up in the morning for school or pretend that they’re sick to stay home. If they’re sleeping too much or start feeling indifferent. Also watch out for changes in eating habits, difficulty sleeping, losing interest in school and activities he or she used to love there, or starts not having any friends. If your child’s personal belongings start getting destroyed or lost and he can’t explain what happened to them, or if the child starts avoiding social situations and his self-esteem decreases. Kids can even start stuttering and some may even injure themselves, which can start at around the age of 13, they might cut themselves with razors or pens in places on their bodies that don’t show.

How should parents approach the subject of bullying with a child if they suspect he’s being bullied without embarrassing them?

The responsibility all rests on the parents’ shoulders; some kids are taught by their parents to say no and stand up for themselves and answer back politely and express their needs and feelings. Other parents beat their kids and generally break him so he’ll accept it from anyone. The parents are the key to the personality. If there’s no bonding, the children won’t tell them about minor incidents before they turn into proper bullying.

It’s very important to say, “How can we help; what are our options? How do you want me to help? What can I do? Do you want me to tell you your options and possible ways of handling the situations? Do you want to tell me what you want to do and plan it together? Do you want me to interfere or not?” You’re guiding, but you’re also empowering the child and making him trust his thinking and abilities.

Should parents resort to the school if they suspect bullying, or tell children to stand up for themselves?

The parents should be very careful in choosing their wording; and there are steps. If someone pushes you, for instance, the first step is to move back, then the next is to hold his hand and push it, then say “stop this at once,” and be firm and look him in the eye. The last step is to go to an adult. Bullying normally happens on buses, in corridors; places with no supervision; so resorting to an adult is the last step. But there will be situations where, depending on the severity, you should interfere, and you have to take the child’s permission first and see what they want you to do and I have to respect their choices.

In general they have to stand up for themselves, be firm and never feed the bully’s behavior. It’s important to stand up and look the bully in the eye, smile and leave. If I’m defending myself because that’s what I always do at home when I am blamed or criticized, I will repeat the behavior at school. It’s important to stand up for, not defend myself.

Why do children bully?

The child bullying is already bullied himself, they’re lacking attention or affection from the caregiver, who are mostly the parents. They might be bullied from an elder sibling or their own aggressive parents.

The teacher might be a bully, so if an incident happens in school, they don’t allow the kids the chance to speak and explain the incident, puts them in time out and if they try to explain what happened then it’s answering back. So they reflect that bullying behavior on their peers. When the child feels he can’t defend himself or take his right, he channels it in different forms, “I will do the same with those who are weaker or younger.” Those who bully lack empathy and never accept consequences of their actions. They always have low-self esteem and don’t appreciate themselves so they try to compensate by bullying.

Who’s more likely to get bullied?

The person being bullied has to be bright at something, good at whatever he’s doing, intelligent, creative, popular, friendly and kind, or he might have an illness, a disability, a physical feature, his skin color; something different. They must have a vulnerability to approach him from and put pressure on. As soon as he reacts, he’s feeding the bully’s ego and so he continues to bully. Those who choose the victim normally fear groups because they can stand for each other, so they go for someone with few friends.

What can schools do about bullying?

A clear, common and consistent definition of bullying that is communicated across the board is key; it can’t be vague. There must be a code that everyone follows without labelling the child as a bully or a victim, because otherwise the child will stop caring and will live up to whichever label they’re described by. We should address the behavior without judging. The rule should be clear and enforceable with implementable consequences based on age that are communicated to students and teachers across the board. It also needs to be worded in a positive voice that is neither threatening or negative. So don’t say, “If you hit someone you will be punished,” but rather “we don’t hit because we respect ourselves and respect body boundaries and we are good and respect ourselves and those in front of us.” The number of rules stated has to be small; three to five depending on the age are enough so students can follow and cope. Lastly, parents and teachers have to set an example and consistency is key. et

Engy Laz studied psychology at the American University in Cairo and received a master’s of science in psychology from California Southern University. She specializes in child and adolescents counseling and psychotherapy and has done extensive work in the field of learning difficulties and behavioral changes.
9/14/2017 4:19:32 PM
<![CDATA[Video: how to drive safely while using your cell-phone?]]>
Moreover, if you use your phone while driving, you will be violating Egyptian law, and risking a fine between LE 100 and 300.

Nevertheless, if it is EXTREMELY urgent and you cannot by any means postpone it for a few minutes, here are few mobile tips for safe driving:

9/6/2017 8:00:00 PM
<![CDATA[Tamer Bashir: be a racer on track not in the street]]>
How do you raise your audience’s awareness and keep them captivated?

“Before having a large audience, I was one of them; I was a racer and I still participate in races in international tournaments. After working in the media for the past 13 years, I started drawing followers and people who are interested and want to know updates on motor sports. Then, I started studying more about the sport because experience and practice were not enough and vice versa.

In both of my shows on the Radio and T.V., my main focus was and still is simplifying the subject for people, avoiding big words and addressing people in the same way they talk on the streets.

If I want to people to learn about the importance of wearing seat belts, I do not have to say it in complicated fus-ha arabic. The key to attracting the audience's attention is to give them a clear simple image of the information. For instance, how it looks like to properly wear a seatbelt, how useful it is when correctly worn and how it can be harmful if it is not properly worn ... How to move from one lane to another? How to take a U turn?"

What got you into road safety?

“As a professional driver and a racer who carries the name of a team, you are bound to follow a number of rules and you naturally feel responsible for what happens in the streets.”

The Past Has No Power over the Present Moment
Photo courtesy of Seif Youssef

“In addition, we recently found out that the government also needs our help. This is why our team is working hand in hand with the Ministry of Interior and we are currently discussing and helping with the new traffic law that will be issued soon.”

What questions are you asked the most and which unsafe behavior do you feel is most commonly repeated on the streets?

“For me, all unsafe behaviour is equally dangerous no matter how small. Unfortunately, Egyptians tend to have a mind of their own in driving, they naturally assume the street is their property and only theirs.

For instance, it has become quite normal for people to park anywhere or stop at the middle of the street to drop people off without paying attention if they were actually blocking the whole street; and if someone alerts them, they act surprised, as if there is absolutely nothing wrong with it."

In addition, Driver do not stick to their lanes …

The Past Has No Power over the Present Moment-2
Photo courtesy of Seif Youssef

There have been several road safety campaigns in the past couple of years – have they been successful in your opinion?

“The main key is in different parties working together … there must be a sense of cooperation between the government, people who are in charge of safety campaigns and/or NGO’s, in order for to have a real influence on people’s behaviour in an indirect and simple way.

If only 2 or 3 percent of Egyptians change their behaviour, the difference will be noticed in the streets and any wrong behaviour will be easily monitored.”

Thousands of Egyptians are on the road now traveling outside Cairo to the beach. What specific tips and guidelines do they need to follow to make sure their cars are prepared for the trip?

Unfortunately the biggest segment of traffic accidents involves male youth. What can different players do to raise awareness of this segment (NGOs, the government, media, radio hosts)? Why is it so difficult to get through to this segment in particular?

“I do NOT think youth make up the bigger percentage of accidents today; many youth are aware of Safe driving basics.

“We are trying to reach out for youth who have a passion for motorsports. If you want to be a racer, come to us and test your limits but do it the right way … We are trying to make youth see that the street is everyone’s property not just one person’s.

During a race, I would be wearing a full gear, focused on a track and 100 percent positive that I would not be faced with any unexpected behaviour; but in the streets, anything could happen and I will not be ready for it no matter how good my driving is.”

Because prices are steep now, more and more youth are buying motorbikes (which are also trendy with some segments). What tips do motorcycle riders have to follow?

“The key tip for riders is to always wear their full gear, which is what we try to make people see whenever we go on riding trips.

Unfortunately, Egypt is climbing the charts on the number of motorbike accidents when we almost do not have any real motorbikes. Most motorbikes we see in the streets are chinese or Indian unknown brands, which have not undergone any safety tests. Moreover, many bikers drive in what we call “Delivery style”. I also believe the media plays a significant role in addressing different segments and should focus on presenting REAL safety campaigns. For example, I cannot present a safety campaign and the hero of it drives his bike up in the air; it is unrealistic.”

The Past Has No Power over the Present Moment-3
Photo courtesy of Seif Youssef

Everyone knows that driving licenses are easy to obtain and perhaps tests for motorbikes are even more lax – what needs to change so that anyone using a vehicle actually knows how to drive?

“We are currently working with the government on a number of safety and traffic related campaigns. Just like there is a car manufacturing technology, there is a Road manufacturing technology and a driving technology as well. These are the main three aspects different parties should work on developing together.”

Perhaps one of the biggest problems we have in Egypt is driving under the influence, not of alcohol so much as drugs. What role does everyone have in tackling this huge problem and so far which attempts have been successful?

"I believe this is should only be tackled by the government through more monitoring, increasing the number of checkpoints and issuing strong laws."

Do you feel you have helped in making our streets safer?

“I believe I still have a lot to do about safety in Egypt; but it is enough for me to feel that even a number of people have actually changed their behaviour. The feedback I get from people through messages on air and when someone in the street tells me ‘I have tried your tips and it feels great … When I started sitting properly, my back and neck stopped hurting … When I repositioned the car’s chair, I felt more in control,” all this different feedback I get from people is great, which has motivated me to study more and apply all I have learnt to my work, with the exception of making some changes to fit the Egyptian driving culture.”

9/6/2017 1:36:01 PM
<![CDATA[ET guide to traffic laws (4): DUI]]>
Deaths and accidents resulting from use of abusive substances such as Hash and Tramadol (an opioid pain medication that has serious side effects including decreased alertness and drug addiction) is far more common than alcohol in Egypt.

Egypt’s current traffic law prohibits driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs. Upon suspicion, the driver is referred to the nearest police station, which should refer him/her to a medical institution for examination, in accordance with the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Health’s instructions and code of conduct.

Fatma Law 4-01
Designed by Mareez Girgis for Egypt Today

There is no such thing as SAFE drink-driving

Alcohol and drugs affect the driver’s ability to judge a situation, as well as his depth perception and vital motor skills required to drive safely. Meanwhile, the driver thinks that he/she is driving normally, exposing other people to harm.

According to the WHO, road traffic crashes increase when the driver’s levels of blood alcohol concentration are above 0.04 g/dl. It further suggests that the risk of a fatal crash occurring among those who use amphetamines (central nervous system stimulants) is about five times the risk of someone who doesn’t.

Strict standards worldwide

The strictest standards for drink driving are applied in Slovakia, Hungary and Romania where any BAC above .00% results in arrest.

In Russia, China and Sweden, a BAC above 0.02% leads to up to 6 months imprisonment.

Asian countries in general have super strict drink-drive laws, having witnessed alarming statistics for drink-driving related accidents. Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong and Korea have set a very low limit of blood alcohol concentration with 0.03% considered intoxicated. Those caught face up to two years imprisonment and a fine of $6,700. If the driver is involved in accidents, jail time reaches 7 years; and if any deaths occur, it goes up to 10 years.

Australia, Austria, Belgium, France, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Norway, South Korea and Portugal all prosecute drivers with a BAC level of over 0.05%.

Punishments vary, including license suspension, imprisonment, fines and compulsory alcohol treatment programs.

Photo 4 Drink Driving Laws by country 2013 - Photo credit WHO
Drink Driving Laws by country 2013 - Photo courtesy of WHO

Egypt’s newly proposed traffic law proposes a deduction of 5 points out of the 30 points system. The driver would also be arrested for a period between 3 and 12 months and/or a fine ranging from LE 1,000 to LE 3,000 for DUI.

9/5/2017 1:11:56 PM
<![CDATA[Under the influence ]]>
Ali is far from being alone. In 2014, a national survey indicated that 24 percent of Egyptian drivers abuse drugs. The figures saw improvement in 2017, with only 11.8 percent of drivers testing positive for drugs, according to statistics provided by the state-run anti-addiction fund.

Playing a large part in successfully bringing down the figures has been a nationwide campaign rolled out in 2014 aiming to end drug-driving in Egypt and launched on the heels of a tragic multi-vehicle crash in the Nile Delta governorate of Beheira which left 18 students dead. The truck driver in that accident was found to have hashish (cannabis) in his system, meaning the accident could have been avoided. The government campaign administers random urine tests to thousands of drivers on a near-daily basis, and those with drugs in their system are prosecuted.

Traffic police forces check drivers' licenses as part of anti-drug driving campaign-Egypt Today

Trials and Tramadaol

Many drivers who take the drug defend themselves as not “addicts” but rather claim they use it to boost their energy so they can work for longer periods. “Before I start each trip I take one pill. I do not feel high like what some people mistakenly believe. It just helps me bear the long road and relax my stiff muscles,” Ali says. The trucker earns a living by traveling between governorates to transfer goods. His job requires him to remain seated for long hours without stretching; Tramadol reduces the pain.

Ali says he is aware of the dangerous consequences for drivers abusing Tramadol. “Sometimes I drink whisky before I drive and I am still conscious, but I never smoke hashish or take heroin,” he says.

Imprisonment up to three years, withdrawal of driving license and a steep fine of up to LE 20,000 are reasons cited by Ali as behind the sharp decline in the number of people driving under the influence of drugs.

But the abstinence also comes at a price. Ali describes “hard” withdrawal symptoms, like suffering anxiety and fever, saying that he plans to quit gradually because the drug is costing him dearly. Other drivers have not been so strong, finding it easier to quit driving than to give up the drug.

Tramadol is the most abused drug by drivers, followed by hashish and then heroin, according to Amr Othman, head of the anti-addiction fund. Drivers constitute 30 percent of the Tramadol addicts psychiatrist Ehab el-Kharrat receives at his clinic. “Most of the drug abusers use it [Tramadol] to kill the pain due to fatigue and stress, enabling him/her to work for longer periods,” says Kharrat, director of the Freedom Drugs and HIV Program.

Sudden loss of consciousness and hallucination are among the side effects of Tramadol addiction, adds Kharrat, warning of accidents that could happen as a result of truckers driving under the influence. Tramadol is an addictive analgesic and withdrawal “is not easy” because the drug is “obtainable,” explains Kharrat who emphasizes that it is still possible to quit the drug if addicts show willingness. It takes around five days to flush the drug out of the body.

Though Tramadol is the drug of choice, new, deadlier drugs are being used by drivers to get high. “Strox,” for example, is similar to hashish combined with chemicals, but can result in “very dangerous consequences,” including cardiac arrest, Kharrat notes.
Drivers have come to figure out when the tests are given and have hit on a way to ensure theirs come out clean: they temporarily stop taking the pills for a few days and rid their bodies completely of the substance. Some drivers manage to pass the tests this way; others fall into their own traps. One bus driver made headlines in 2014 after he cleared a drug-test by using his wife’s urine, but his ruse was uncovered when the sample revealed his wife was pregnant.

At the Root

Although they comprise the biggest percentage of offenders, truckers are not the only drivers canvassed by the anti-drug driving campaign, which also targets bus and school bus drivers—the percentage of drug abusers in the latter has dropped from 12 percent in 2014 to 3.5 percent in 2017.

Yet though the figures show a remarkable decline in the number of drivers testing positive for drugs as a result of the law amendments, road experts and drivers argue the campaign has had an effect on their incomes. “Many drivers I know have quit taking drugs, and their working hours are down to eight hours a day. Those who work for private companies now face a problem when they are asked to work more. It’s either they drop their jobs or return to drug abuse,” says Ahmed Fawzy, a taxi driver who is not against using Tramadol as long as it is taken in a limited way, saying “when drivers use Tramadol it just like when athletes dope.”

Drivers who test positive to any drugs are subject to license withdrawal, imprisonment term of at least two years and LE 10,000 fine, according to the traffic law. The incarceration term might reach three years in prison and the fine is doubled in case the tested driver caused an accident resulting in casualties.

“This campaign is useless,” argues Roads and Transport Professor at Ain Shams University Osama Okail, maintaining that drivers who can afford to pay the fine will end up abusing drugs to work more hours and compensate their loss.

Okail has conducted studies on the status of truck drivers in Egypt, the results of which have given him a glimpse into why drivers resort to drugs. “Solving the problem requires knowing the reason behind this phenomenon, which will enable us to determine the target group in the campaign,” says Okail, who urges authorities to consider drivers who take such drugs not as criminals or addicts, “but rather professionals who try to adapt and work hard to make their living.”

According to him, truck drivers can be classified into three categories: those working for individual associations, working for private transport companies and others working for semi-governmental companies like contractors. Okail reveals that truckers driving their own vehicles are the most to abuse drugs.

A government report indicated a 1.1% rise in road accidents in Egypt during 2016, where 5,343 people were killed-Egypt Today

A Different Approach

“It is never going to be an easy task to quit Tramadol cold turkey as many drivers have been taking it for years . . . it should come gradually,” says Fawzy who suggests the Health Ministry provide an alternative to Tramadol to help drivers work longer hours “at a time the government is demanding us to work harder to contribute in solving the economic crisis.”

Yousri el-Roubi, an expert in traffic, rescue and rapid intervention in accidents in the Middle East, believes that educating drivers about the dangers of drugs is the best way to overcome the problem, rather than “solely toughening the punishment.”

Laws alone are not sufficient to address drug driving in Egypt, says Okail who suggests designing a social security program for drivers that will reduce their spending. His suggestions include exempting drivers from taxes for a short period and building hospitals for them.
9/4/2017 7:08:08 PM
<![CDATA[ ET guide for traffic laws (3): Seatbelt]]>
Egypt’s Seatbelt Laws

The seatbelt law in Egypt currently applies to drivers and front-seat passengers only; and according to 2003 statistics by Egypt’s Ministry of Interior, 70 percent of drivers do wear seatbelts.

Fatma Law 3ai-01 (1)

How can seatbelts save my life?

Seatbelts were originally introduced as an optional facility by American car manufacturers Nash in 1949 and Ford in 1955. The Swedish Saab first introduced seatbelts as standard in 1958.

Seatbelts are the most effective way to save lives and reduce injuries in car crashes by keeping people in their seats. According to Newton's first law, “an object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. Your seatbelt can be that force. It has been proven to reduce the risk of death by 45 percent, and the risk of serious injury by 50 percent.

People not wearing a seatbelt are considered 30 times more likely to be ejected from a vehicle during a crash.

Companies specialized in manufacturing and developing car safety measures also suggest that front-seat passengers are at greater risk, in case airbags inflate while they are unbelted. Therefore, some car companies have added seatbelt sensors; their airbags will not inflate if no seatbelt is detected in the front seats.

Seatbelt laws worldwide

In the U.S., the fine for not wearing a seatbelt is $50 for the first offense and $75 for each repeat offense.

In the United Arab Emirates, the fine amounts to $109 and a deduction of 4 points on the points system.

According to WHO, high profile seat belts enforcement in France and Canada increased compliance with seatbelt laws by 10 to 15 percent within one year.

Photo 3 Seat-belt law by country 2013 - photo credit WHO

Egypt’s newly proposed traffic law proposes deducting two points out of the 30 points system, in addition to a fine ranging from LE 100 to LE 300, if not ALL vehicle occupants are wearing seatbelts, as well as jail time of 1 to 3 months.

9/4/2017 11:44:35 AM
<![CDATA[Get to know Bey2ollak’s safety features]]>
Some 1.3 million Egyptian motorists already use Bey2ollak as a platform to exchange traffic data, but the application, —which was launched around the time of the Egyptian revolution “because there was lack of safety in the country and a lot of cars accidents,” Waleed Mostafa, co-founder and current operations manager at Bey2ollak tells Egypt Today—has also developed a number of features helping understand and apply road safety measures, as well as enabling easy access to report accidents.

“S.O.S El7a2ny” allows users to quickly report accidents by giving easy access to emergency numbers such as police, fire department or road emergency services.

Another recently introduced safety feature is Bey2ollak’s voice note, which allows users to access information about traffic without having to type.

People can also report about traffic using the GPS, integrated in the application, without having to text or even use the voice note. “The GPS feature is safer for the driver; however, it might not be as efficient as the voice note or the text,” Mostafa says.

According to Mostafa, Bey2ollak is also set to contribute in a road safety campaign with the World Health Organization (WHO), aiming to spread awareness among “the huge base of users that they could influence.”

Bey2ollak covers all routes in Cairo and Alexandria and is available on iphone, and android. The application’s Facebook and twitter accounts also actively share traffic news, pictures, videos, information about road problems and safety alerts.
9/3/2017 8:19:00 AM
<![CDATA[Video: How much do you really know about road safety? ]]>

Reporters: Rawan Ibrahim and Mohamed Zain
Camera: Mario

9/2/2017 8:42:00 AM
<![CDATA[ Road safety for children: Make it simple, fun & memorable]]>
As part of ET’s “With You on The Road Campaign,” we have put together some handy tips to help you teach your child about safe behavior on the road, as well as a few red flags that any parent or caretaker must always remember.

Teach your child the “4 Road Crossing Steps”

Children are yet to develop the maturity to grasp what to do and what not to do. Therefore, it is important to avoid giving them more information than they can handle, so:

Stick to the basic keywords “STOP, LOOK, LISTEN and THINK,” to make sure they know step by step how to safely cross the road.

Road crossing Steps-01-2

Introduce your child to driveway safety measures

Too many injuries and unfortunate accidents occur in driveways and parking lots, where children are not aware of the possibility of getting hurt by reversing cars, and drivers have difficulty recognizing children hiding behind their vehicles.

Teach your child these “Two Driveway Rules”:

Screen Shot 2017-08-29 at 1.31.22 PM (1)

A big part of driveway safety responsibility lies in the attention and carefulness of the driver, so make sure to look around the vehicle before getting in, and always check for any children or toys lying around.

Always reverse slowly and be very careful to look out for any children in your field of view and blind spot.

Make sure your child knows how to stay safe in a moving vehicle

The first safety rule you can never forget is making sure your child is always properly strapped in. An adjusted child restraint seat will minimize the chances of your child getting injured in a crash.

To make sure that your child is always safe, even if you are not around, teach them these “Two Car OFF LIMITS”:

Road crossing Steps 3-01-2

Lead by example to keep your children safe

This is what is going on in your child’s mind, ““If mummy and daddy can run across the street, then so can I.”

Make sure that you know and follow all procedures that ensure your own safety on the road as well as that of your child. If you are driving, fasten your seatbelt, be attentive at all times, respect traffic lights, stop at crossroads and pay attention to pedestrians. If you are walking, stay on the sidewalks, cross only at intersections, use the pedestrian crossing and always train your children to look both ways before crossing the road.

Make “Road Safety” fun and memorable

All of the above are some basic “dos” and “don’ts” that you have to keep in mind at all times. But to properly introduce your children to the concept of road safety and deliver a memorable and fun lesson, it never hurts to resort to some magic tools: paint, games, songs and rhymes.

Street Safe Game
Using the arrow keys, your child will have to help the character cross the road safely, following basic safety measures, to collect points.

Stop Look Listen Game
Developed by “Think! Road Safety Campaign” the game will require your child to choose, between two pictures, the safest way to behave on the road.

There are also a lot of animated road safety songs that your child can enjoy and learn from:


9/2/2017 6:31:00 AM
<![CDATA[ET guide to traffic laws (2): Using your phone while driving]]>
Both the old and the newly proposed traffic laws in Egypt state that it is illegal to use mobile phones while driving, unless you are using a hands-free kit.

Fatma Law 2-01

Can a phone call endanger my life?

The World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that using mobile phones while driving increases the risk of road traffic crashes by FOUR TIMES.

Having both hands on the wheel remains a valid argument for keeping the phone away; however, WHO has also noted that using hands-free sets are not much safer than handheld phones.

It has been proven that using mobile phones “slows reaction times,” including braking reaction time, reaction to traffic signals and staying in the correct lane, which could very well be the few seconds difference between safety and tragedy.

Handset and driving laws around the world

More than 30 countries around the world have made it illegal to use a handheld device while driving. Other countries, such as Portugal, have also included hands-free devices.

In 2017, the UK increased penalties on using a handheld device to approximately $244 and a deduction of six points on the driver's license.

In Oman, drivers caught using a handheld device can face up to 10 days in jail and a maximum fine of $780.

There are ongoing discussions in some countries to ban other installed systems in cars like GPS, applications that enable voice calls and online music services; however, some argue that using a mobile phone’s GPS is much safer than the alternative of using paper maps while driving.

Egypt’s newly proposed traffic law proposes deducing two points out of the 30-point system as a penalty and a fine ranging from LE 50-100.

9/1/2017 8:14:00 AM
<![CDATA[Moving the needle for safer Egyptian roads]]>
Since then, the foundation has become one of the most active on-the-ground initiatives and advocacy groups aiming to raise awareness of road safety and to bring it higher up on the agenda of different stakeholders.

Today, the campaign also collaborates with other initiatives and private sector companies concerned with road safety such as the Rotary Club, the Global Biking Initiative (GBI), the Automobile and Touring Club of Egypt (Nady El Sayarat), Cairo Scooters, Vodafone, Pepsico, the import and export company Samex, Uber and Axa insurance company.

Launched at the end of July, “Sayef Safely” (Spend the Summer Safely) is the foundation’s most recent campaign, organized in collaboration with Uber and Axa, to raise awareness of road safety. 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.


With the ongoing mission of empowering citizens, the foundation also launched a joint campaign with Vodafone, adopting the slogan, “Your safety is your responsibility…Speak up.” The initiative aims to make hazards to road safety a stigma, encouraging members of the public to speak up and object if they see a friend, professional 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,” says Nehad Shelbaya, co-founder of the Nada Foundation.

Apart from the public campaigns, the Nada Foundation has also adopted a major advocacy role, calling for roundtable discussions with stakeholders, meeting with policy makers and bringing back expertise from international conferences. They also urge government officials to recognize their role in the process which, Shelbaya says, is not to merely raise awareness or organize campaigns but rather to take action.

The most recent roundtable discussion tackled the new technologies and communication systems being rolled out on the road, such as fully automotive vehicles and smart buses. It brought together experts and government officials from different sectors to discuss a number of relevant issues, such as which of these technologies will be beneficial in terms of safety, whether the roads are being prepared to accommodate them and the government’s role in prohibiting technologies that do not meet safety requirements.


Doing it differently at grassroots level

Nada’s friends and family launched the initiative in 2014, less than a year after she had passed away, turning a sad loss into an incentive 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 grown into a fully established foundation that represents Egypt in international road safety conferences, talks to all stakeholders across different platforms and brings in authorities 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. We began to highlight to the citizens, the public and the government that the situation is dreadful, and to attract attention to a catastrophe that needs to be dealt with,” says Shelbaya.

Adopting an entirely scientific 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.

Although experts sit at the round table and talk policies and recommendations, it is the youth who make up an essential component in the foundation’s activities, working on the ground and conveying their perspective for influential slogans and approaches. They also act as the foundation’s ambassadors in the street and at different universities, such as Cairo University, the American University in Cairo (AUC), The British University in Egypt (BUE), Assiut University and Fayoum University.

“The youths are the ones we lose the most in road crashes […] They are the ones who need to be rescued the most,” Shelbaya says. “Therefore, when they are with us, they can change themselves and be catalysts of change.”

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 initiative to an active on the ground contributor, the foundation organized a fun run in Zamalek in collaboration with the Cairo Runners. Relatable, well-studied slogans like “Hayatak aham mn messegatak” (Your life is more important than your messages) and “La tatasel hata tasel,” (Do not call till you arrive) hit a chord on the street and had a long-lasting impact.


Recently, the Nada Foundation collaborated with the BUE, organizing an event in the memory of BUE students who lost their lives in car accidents. During the event, rap singer Zap Tharwat 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.

The foundation also encourages young members to deliver speeches at university panels, to escape “the atmosphere of a lecture or a class,” Ezzat says, 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 transformed everything 180 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.”

One of the major contributions of the foundation is also reaching out to survivors of car accidents and victims’ families, offering them support and seeking their input in achieving the foundation’s outmost goals. “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,” says Ezzat, recalling an event the foundation organized to commemorate the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. “He admitted it was his mistake that he gave his son the car although he had not practiced very well, and he advised everyone at the event against it.”

On the ground

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.”

One of the tasks the council would be charged with would be identifying who is allowed to have a driver’s permit, whether they were properly tested and can actually drive, as well as the conditions of the car they will take on the road and whether it meets the basic standards of safety, explains Shelbaya. The committee would be also be in charge of the relevant infrastructure and the standards of the road, she adds calling for a “just” implementation of safety laws.

She adds that these elements could be the success formula for preventing road accidents, but that the lack of a system, implementation of the law and an accountable entity or official can be a formula for the death of many.

The recommended council should include representatives from all the stakeholders, 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 should become responsible and accountable.”


9/1/2017 3:07:00 AM
<![CDATA[A guide to pedestrian safety]]>
The stereotype that if you can drive in Egypt you can drive anywhere in the world probably came about because of pedestrians crossing streets or threading through busy traffic without the slightest qualm.

According to the first article of Egypt’s Traffic Law, a pedestrian is defined as anyone who is “walking on foot, sitting in a wheelchair, pushing a wheelchair, a cyclist, or any other person pushing or riding a one-wheel vehicle.”

Almost 50 percent of traffic deaths in Egypt every year are pedestrians, according to a 2017 study by the World Health Organization (WHO). Here’s how pedestrians should behave to stay safe on the road.


Follow the sidewalk etiquette

Although this might seem obvious, many pedestrians often disregard sidewalks. Instead, they choose to share the tarmac with moving vehicles. Often this is because of narrow pavements, no pavements at all, a reluctance to keep going up and down the uneven steps; or they simple do not care enough about their safety.

It is called sidewalk for a reason. … It is on the side and you should actually WALK on it. There is even sidewalk etiquette to follow (a set of norms and off limits that are/should be taken seriously).

Pedestrians should avoid walking on highways or roads that do not have sidewalks, as they would normally be unfit or unsafe for walking. However, if you have to, make sure to walk on the right side of the road and face oncoming, so you can clearly see the vehicles.

Carefully pick where to cross

Pedestrians should ideally only cross the road at pedestrian crossings, and when the crossing signs are green.

If there are no traffic lights, walk the distance and use the pedestrian bridges straddlingmajor highways, where cars are driving at a high speed.

On inner-city roads, if there are no traffic lights you probably won’t find pedestrian bridges either, . Follow these four indispensible road crossing steps, which you should actually know by heart and even if all safe crossing facilities are available.
Always remember to Stop, Look, Listen and Think …

Be seen at night

There are actually dos and donts for walking at night—the rule of thumb here is to be seen, given that 90 percent of a driver’s reaction depends on vision, which is significantly limited in the dark.

When walking at night, pedestrians are advised to wear colorful orflorescent clothes so that they are more visible to drivers from a distance. Avoid wearing black and dark colors if you are planning to hit the road on foot in the evening.

Keep your eyes and ears free

A very important precaution to take into account when walking in the street is heightening your senses. Although many of us are used to turning to our phones to pass the time while walking, being distracted by your mobile or any other device as a pedestrian is almost as dangerous as using your phone while driving.

Don’t look down at your phone while walking on a highway or crossing the road; focus on what is happening around you and avoid running into a car yourself.

Don’t wear headphones or any noise-canceling device because this will prevent you from hearing the honks of the cars coming toward you. Always keep you ears free and your eyes on the road.
8/31/2017 7:50:00 AM
<![CDATA[Road Safety in Egypt: the facts]]>

Text animation by SHERIF IHAB
8/31/2017 5:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[ET guide to traffic laws (1): Speed Limit ]]>
Busy roads, lack of properly marked lanes and, more critically, a drastic lack of awareness and poor implementation of laws, all make for chaotic traffic.

Responsible government bodies, in cooperation with nongovernmental organizations and grass-roots initiatives, continue to work to raise public awareness of the risks associated with various traffic law violations and to strengthen law enforcement, but even those of us who do follow the laws often do so without properly considering safety. We fasten our seatbelts moments before the checkpoint and we put away our phones only if we notice a dedicated cop who might cause us a hassle.

As part of Egypt Today’s With You on the Road Campaign, we explore and present the concepts and justifications behind some of these laws that we follow blindly, as well as shed light on the new proposed traffic law to be discussed shortly in parliament.

In a series of articles, Egypt Today will provide an overview of available traffic frameworks, mechanisms and laws in Egypt, and highlight the importance of each law to save drivers’ and pedestrians’ lives, with a noted focus on safety.

Egypt’s speed limit law

According to Egyptian laws, the maximum speed limit on inner-city roads is 60 km/h. Higher speed limits are allowed on motorways and roads outside cities, reaching 90 km/h and on the desert highway between Cairo and Alexandria, recording 100 km/h.

speed limit
Designed by Mareez Girgis for Egypt Today

Use of speed camera sensors or detectors is prohibited; drivers who use such devices can be subjected to a fine ranging from LE 500 to LE 1,000 and/or can be sentenced to prison for up to 3 months. Traffic police have the authority to seize such devices.

How can speed limit laws save my life?

Speed limit laws are considered the oldest and most proven strategy to limit traffic crashes and fatalities.

The concept behind setting a permissible driving speed is to simply limit the amount of time required for the driver to stop the vehicle, giving him/her more control over it.

If the driver is driving over than the speed limit, the time and distance required to stop and control the vehicle increases.

They argue

Some studies suggest that speed limits also represent an attempt to reduce the environmental impact of road traffic, including vehicle noise and emissions.

In some countries like Australia, it is widely believed that sticking to speed limits reflects on drivers’ behavior in their daily lives, and that when motorists engage in high-risk behavior like speeding, regardless of the consequences, it is an indication of their approach and day-to-day attitude.

Speed limit implementation around the world

In Holland, if caught doubling the speed limit, the driver’s car is permanently seized on the spot.

Finland and Denmark calculate an appropriate speeding ticket based on the offender’s yearly income and the severity of the offense, not exceeding $200,000.

In Norway and Iceland, the highest fines reach 10 percent of the annual income, in addition to jail time in Norway.

In Canada, fines range between $1,000 and $25,000, while the highest fines in the U.S. reach $2,500.

Photo 1 Speed limits on urban roads by country 2013 - photo credit WHO (1)
Speed limits on urban roads by country 2013 - photo courtesy of WHO

Egypt’s newly proposed traffic law:

The new law suggests establishing a points system. The license holder will be given 30 points. With each violation, he/she loses a point or more.

When all points are deducted, the driver’s license is suspended for 30 days. To get the license back, the driver must enroll in an accredited driving school to learn more about the traffic laws.

Upon exceeding the speed limit, there are four penalties depending on the travelled distance. maximum fine is LE 500 and the driver would lose 2-5 points as a penalty.

In case of using speed camera detectors, the driver loses 5 points as a penalty, in addition to the fine.
8/30/2017 5:30:00 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt Today: With You On the Road ]]>
Tragic accidents on the roads can easily be avoided if you drive sensibly and follow the basic safety regulations. Starting today and every day through the first week of September, we’ll be rolling out a series of stories to help raise awareness of road safety issues.

We’re teaming up with safety consultants The Nada Foundation, who are already canvassing Sahel to work with young drivers and families, to showcase how community campaigns really can change perceptions and help save lives.

Celebrity auto expert Tamer Beshir joins us to share road safety tips for both drivers and passengers and reviews of the safety features you need to look for when buying a new car. Beshir is also assessing the challenges of making our roads safe and looking at the successes achieved so far.

How much do you really know about road safety? We hit the streets to ask pedestrians and motorists how they brave capital’s streets, whether they wear seatbelts, strap their kids into child seats or use pedestrian crossings—you might be surprised and even amused by the answers our reporters got back!

What surprised us too was how little people know about Egypt’s traffic law and the new proposed amendments soon to be debated in parliament. Our expert writers and videographers walk you through the various regulations tackled by the law as well as the fines and punishments, comparing how we stack up against other countries around the world.

Other countries have managed to shrink their accident rates by enforcing radical penalties and at times eye-watering fines. We look at how much you’d pay if you drove recklessly abroad, assessing in-depth how measures like proper signage, awareness campaigns and rigorous vehicle maintenance have all worked to keep the numbers low.

While government and private-sector initiatives to fix roads can help save hundreds of lives, it’s changing the culture of irresponsible driving that really needs work. Among the leading causes of deaths and accidents is drinking under the influence and while abroad that’s mostly taken to be drink-driving, here in Egypt it’s actually drug driving, especially among truckers needing stimulants to keep them awake during long hauls. After an especially tragic accident in 2014, Egypt’s government launched an operation to keep reckless drivers off the roads. Three years later the number of deaths caused by drug-driving have been slashed in half, proving that rigorous policing—and educating motorists—can, and does, save lives.
8/30/2017 2:03:01 PM
<![CDATA[Guitarist with a purpose]]>
Ousso speaks to us about his latest venture, music and how he came to be one of the top musicians in the country without getting any sort of formal music degrees. Ousso founded Ewsal Bel3araby (www.bel3araby.net), an integrated musical platform in the form of a musical social-networking platform where people can connect and keep us with the music scene. Under the project, Ousso also launched El Sellem; an online platform and YouTube channel where young talents can learn various instruments through online tutorials in Arabic by professional musicians—free of charge. At a recent jamming session, we got to see Ousso at work.
Tell us about yourself.

My career as a professional musician started in 1995 when I used to play rock music. My first concert in the commercial scene came by coincidence as a replacement to the original guitarist for Samira Said in Adwaa El Madina festival. There, I met important musicians who then recommended me for other work and further collaborations such as recording the soundtrack with Yousry Nasrallah’s film El Madina (The City). I later worked with musicians such as Yehia Ghanam, Hassan Khalil, Ahmed Rabie and Eftekasat, co-founded Nagham Masry as well as played and recorded with all the pop artists in the Middle East, such as Mohamed Mounir, Amr Diab, Shereen, Samira Saeed and Angham to name a few.

In 2006, I decided to slow down on commercial concerts, created and organized a major music festival called SOS (Save Our Sound), aiming to introduce indie music to the scene.

Throughout my career, I managed to perform, compose and produce music projects and recordings for several brands like telecommunication networks Etisalat, Vodafone, and Mobinil (now Orange). I have worked on corporate events, such as Nokia Express Festival that consisted of four stages, all carrying out concerts simultaneously.

How did you end up studying at Berklee College of Music in Spain?

I am self-taught, I don’t have a bachelor’s degree in music, but I used to take lessons with pianist Rashed Fahim who was a Berklee graduate and who taught me jazz music theory. Later, in 2009, the American University in Cairo invited me to teach guitar and music technology. Berklee has constructed another campus in Spain specialized in postgraduate studies. The university’s master’s degree required a bachelor’s degree in music, and even though I didn’t have the degree, I managed to send them samples of my work and they offered me a scholarship to join the contemporary music studio program.

What inspired you to create the 19th Corporation and how did it start?

I enjoy organizing and carrying out events and shows related to music, but anything related to event planning is also probably relevant to entertainment; so you have to consider logistics, organization, production, permits, security and venues. I was inspired to launch activities in the entertainment and music industry that would be more creative, original and new—like the SOS music festival and Nokia Express—as well as create a fusion process that is rarely found in the entertainment business.

In 2010, I stopped all of my activities and founded The 19th Corporation to present commercial events in an effort to resume the SOS music festival, but the revolution in 2011 delayed these plans. Later on, I got back to playing music with pop stars Mohamed Mounir and Shereen, and became a full-time musician then went to Berklee. When I came back, I continued performing music and working on organizing major commercials and music, like the album launch tour of Massar Egbari. The company also carried out corporate events like the Marassi Spring Festival with Emaar Misr, the Classic Cars Show, Halloween and El Moled Festivals.


What makes The 19th Corporation company different from any other music production or event management company in Egypt?

First, we don’t organize events for the sake of only generating revenue; we seek to develop projects that are creative and that create a memorable experience. The company was initiated by a professional musician, not just an entrepreneur or businessman.

What is the most special project that the company has produced?

Ewsal Bel3araby is a 360 musical platform to help discover rising musicians across the country. There, one can listen to music, observe, learn or do anything related to music, even networking and getting introduced to music amateurs and professional musicians.
Ewsal Bela3raby teaches music online as a first step and later applicants are encouraged to take part in El Sellem project to learn music and network for further musical collaborations to start their individual processes in composing music, forming their own bands and starting their own musical projects.


What music genres does Ewsal Bel3araby specialize in?

We teach all genres of music in Ewsal Bela3araby, but we don’t teach classical music as we would like to focus more on contemporary music, oriental, jazz, pop, rock and indie genres.

How can Ewsal Bel3araby further develop?

Our next plan involves expanding the project and creating Ewsal Bel3araby music hubs in Arab countries with vast musical networks in countries like Morocco and Dubai.

Tell us more about the tutors who teach music in Ewsal Bela3raby.
There are several talented artists who take the initiative to teach what they know about music through Ewsal Bela3raby, such as Hany El Badry who is very inspirational and plays ney and is known for being a master in oriental music theories. Electronic music is taught by Amir Farag, a band member in MAF, a DJ and music producer who is very knowledgeable when it comes to equipment and software. Azima and Hani Bedeir are two of the percussion teachers who are specialized in teaching Middle Eastern percussion. We also have 10 guitarists, including myself, bass guitarists, drummers, saxophonists, keyboard teachers, oud instructors like Belqais and Mohamed Abo Zekry who fuse traditional oud with contemporary music and Nagwan who teaches Indian rhythms.

What artists and performers do you seek to work with and haven’t worked with yet?
I don’t have any preferences because I have worked with many artists throughout my musical career, including music producers like Tarek Madkour, Tamer Karawan and Hesham Nazih to name a few. I have also worked with many people in the indie music scene.

What do you think of the current music scene in Egypt? What do you think it lacks and how can it develop?

What I see lacking is exactly what I am trying to tackle in Ewsal Bela3raby, which is that the music industry is only present in Cairo and missing in other governorates. Each governorate should feature its own music industry that includes local musicians, venues, concerts and schools. We lack musical knowledge due to the lack of musical exchange between governorates; a problem that Ewsal Bel3araby plans to contribute to solving.

Tell us about a special experience you had as a musician.
The best experience I had was a project called Music Matbakh, organized by the British Council, where they invited two musicians from countries like Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Syria and England. We all stayed in England for one month in a studio, and we composed and produced a lot of soundtracks that could make up three whole albums. We also went on tours and played music and participated in concerts everywhere in Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Morocco and the UK.

What’s your advice to young, rising artists?

Practice, study hard, be patient, produce a lot, seek all chances and never lose hope. The music scene is tough and being a professional musician requires a lot of training and commitment, as well as patience and an understanding of the market.
Rising artists should also know that they have chosen one of the hardest careers ever because its chances of success are limited and making a living out of music is even harder worldwide.

Are there any other company projects in the pipeline?

Most of the projects we plan to conduct will be under Ewsal Bel3araby initiative. We want to build a center to teach music and include venues carrying out many live concerts. Other projects will include tours and live concerts. We also plan to implement a five-year plan that will include small venues representing Ewsal Bel3araby in all governorates. These plans will also be in parallel with joint performances with bands and organizing events with other companies.

Earth 19 is another project that The 19th Corporation plans to carry out annually, and it is a music and arts festival organized in collaboration with Earth Gallery in October. The festival will feature a three-day camp including all handmade and eco-friendly materials in an effort to provide awareness and tell people that they can have fun without damaging the environment. It’s a full-on environment-friendly camping experience. The festival will host professional bands and DJs like Massar Egbari, Nagham Masry, Nour Ashour, HOH and MAF. et]]>
8/26/2017 12:00:00 PM
<![CDATA[A Display of Hope ]]>
Thetford is famed—probably a too big a word—as the birthplace of the English philosopher Thomas Paine and is also a rather good place to find a small brown bird called the Wood Lark. But over recent years in early July it has become the venue, courtesy of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), for the Annual General Meeting of the Ornithological Society of the Middle-East (OSME). This year was no exception, and on the July 1, I found myself amongst the great and the good of Middle-Eastern bird study swapping anecdote and analysis and generally gorging on a bird-fest. Papers were delivered on migrating Bar-tailed Godwits from Oman to Siberia, on new migration bottlenecks in Azerbaijan and educational projects in Armenia. There was a sobering report on illegal bird killing over the Arabian Peninsula (Egypt was covered a few years back with damning results), and there was a review from BirdLife International on Important Bird Areas in the OSME region. All uplifting stuff for the specialist and I was duly uplifted.

But for me, the most important part of the meeting was the announcement and recognition of the publication of an Arabic version of Richard Porter and Simon Aspinall’s Birds of the Middle East. This has long been available in English, the second edition being published in 2010. What was missing for a region that is predominantly Arabic speaking was an Arabic translation. This is now available, beautifully illustrated in 176 color plates by some of the world’s foremost bird artists, courtesy of funding from such organizations as the Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB), BirdLife International, OSME and others, and translated by Said Abdullah Mohammed.

Translators rarely get proper credit and it was fitting that Said was awarded for his work at the conference and was presented with the original painting for the cover of the book, a stunning pair of Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters.

The Arabic translation of the book is not yet—to my knowledge—available in Egypt, but can be ordered online at www.spnl.org/product/birds-of-the-middle-east-arabic-edition. Just a word of caution: While the title would indicate that Egypt is one of the countries covered, it does not fall within the region considered the Middle East by the authors whose remit stops at the borders with Israel, Saudi and Jordan. However, the vast majority of birds found here are covered in much more detail than any locally available guides, the exceptions largely being the African species that are increasingly being reported from the very south of Egypt’s mainland.

It seems odd that the Ornithological Society of the Middle East should hold its conference in rural England and perhaps that should be a matter of debate though the reasons are administrative and logistical. The meeting was made live over Facebook for the first time though and the morning session accumulated seven friends. Early days!
We used to hold our meetings in London at the Natural History Museum back in the 1990s, and it was to the Natural History Museum that I returned later last month. The museum is an icon of all things naturally historical and I can remember many inspirational trips as a schoolchild drinking in the vast galleries of natural memorabilia, of birds and animals that I never thought could exist but did; and that I then thought I would never see alive, but in many cases I have now thus seen. Since 1979 the immense opening hall of the museum has been dominated by a huge skeleton of a dinosaur, a Diplodocus to be precise, a vastly tall and extremely long creature (actually a plaster cast) that appealed to the wonder that every child has for dinosaurs and the wonder that in many of us our inner child retains. It was inspirational to many, myself included and part of my childhood. I used to be in thrall as I walked through the museum portals and found myself confronted with a once-living creature that simply defied even the most lively infant imagination.

The museum made the decision to take down the Diplodocus, fondly known to generations as Dippy, and replace it with another skeleton, this time of a blue whale, a skeleton that had languished for decades, since 1934, in the mammal section of the museum largely unnoticed and unloved. The rationale was straightforward. While the Diplodocus was awesomely proportioned and dramatic and filled the potential void of the museum’s breathtaking entrance, it was a fossil. It was of a dead creature, a creature from many millions of years ago whose demise had nothing to do with humans, but in all probability an asteroid impact.

The replacement, the blue whale named Hope, is the skeleton of the largest animal to have ever inhabited Earth. Blue whales can weigh nearly 200 tons and measure 30 meters in length (Hope’s skeleton comes in at just over 25 meters). They are still with us in the oceans but by the mid-twentieth century their population had crashed from around 230,000 to less than 14,000 due entirely to hunting by humans. Since the complete ban on whaling in 1979 further enforced in 1986, their population has stabilized in some areas or increased, but they are still critically endangered.

Hope was not killed by whalers. She was stranded off the coast of Ireland in 1891. She was purchased by an entrepreneur who sold her blubber for oil and her baleen for use as stays in ladies’ corsets. Her skeleton was sold to the Natural History Museum, and I can remember her being displayed stiff, straight and huge in one of the many side rooms on my early visits.

Now she is displayed as if in life, her huge back arched and the vast mouth open, a mouth whose lower mandible is the single largest bone in the animal kingdom—ever. The visitor is today greeted by this breathtaking display and one can only stand in awe. The message is clear. This magnificent animal was brought to the brink of extinction by man. It has now been brought back from that brink and stands testimony to our responsibility to the natural world. A whole new generation of visitors will be inspired. When I visited on July 14, the first day Hope was open to the public, people were walking in jaws agape by the spectacle and I hope the message.

The blue whale has never been certainly recorded from Egyptian waters. There is a possible record from Marsa Matrouh in 1892, but this more likely to have been a fin whale. A 20-meter fin whale in a highly-emaciated condition was washed up at the El Omayed Protected area in March 2010. Large whales are rare in Egyptian waters, so for most the best chance to see them is far in land at the excellent museum at Wadi El Hitan and in the surrounding desert. These skeletons may not sound inspiring but in a curious way they are. This is what the director of London’s Natural History Museum had to say about its new centerpiece. Speaking about Hope and the research that had been done in putting her in this dramatic new location he stated that “it is our hope for the future that we can use good science and good evidence to make the right kind of decisions about those big environmental issues.”

Tragically washed up on an Irish beach over 100 years ago Hope may be providing just what her name suggests to a new generation of custodians of this planet. There’s hope. 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.]]>
8/25/2017 10:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[When Books Are Brought to Life ]]>
His novel La Tutfi Al-Shams (Don’t Set the Sun Off) and Bahaa Taher’s Wahet Al-Ghoroub (Sunset Oasis) are two adapted, televised literary works that plunged last Ramadan into endless debates on how true, and fair, the two were to their original texts.
La Tutfi Al-Shams tells the story of an upper-middle-class family in the 1950s who slid down the social ladder after the death of the patriarch

Sunset Oasis is an award-winning, best-selling novel set during the post-Urabi revolt period in the 1900s. It introduces readers to the undiscovered world of the Siwa oasis where the protagonist, Mahmoud, is sent off on a military assignment with his wife, the Irish-Egyptian Catherine who is in love with archeology. The screen adaptation was so controversial that, late last June, a group of residents from Siwa oasis sued the series makers for misrepresenting the original inhabitants of the oasis; something the people behind the lawsuit claim the original novel does not do.

Viewer reactions ranged from downright refusal to see any changes happening to the characters and storylines they’re familiar with, to appreciation of a faster-paced television adaptation. The audiences have had their say, and, this month, we ask experts to weigh in on the two much-discussed series.

La Tutfi Al-Shams


By the time of the novel’s release in 1960, La Tutfi Al-Shams was made into a novel-faithful version, starring Faten Hamama, Nadia Lotfy, Emad Hamdy, Ahmed Ramzy and Shokry Sarhan. It was also converted into a TV drama that garnered poor attention; so much so that when scenarist Tamer Habib first started on his more contemporary take on the novel this Ramadan, he was not aware of the older series based on the same novel. This year’s series was directed by Mohamed Shaker and featured Mervat Amin, Fathy Abdel Wahab, Ingy El Mokadem, Zaki Fatin Abdel Wahab and Sherine Reda, alongside a younger ensemble cast including Riham Abdel Ghafour, Gamila Awad, Amina Khalil, Ahmed Malek and Mohamed Mamdouh.

لاتطفىء-الشمس-1961-001 film

As soon as the series premiered last Ramadan, the comparison game began on social media platforms between the old and modern adaptations. Film critic Safaa Al Leithy tells us that the 2017 La Tutfi Al-Shams involuntarily fell into the comparison between the classic and new adaptations, which Karim Farghaly, a TV presenter and writer, finds unfair. Farghaly adds that a playwright doesn’t have to outright copy the exact original storyline and characters in the visual-translation of the novel and adds that there’s no point having a line-by-line comparison between the two.

Aside from the fact that Habib’s vision is set in the contemporary world while the original one is set in the 1950s, there are a number of clear differences between the movie and Habib’s modernized version. In the series, the older brother Ahmed resorts to substance abuse to escape the remorse of contributing to the demise of his younger brother’s life and goes to prison as means of self-purging. In the movie, however, he joins the army to fight in the 1956 war. In Habib’s text, Injy and Mahmoud end up splitting over the class divide, while in the novel Nabila and Mahmoud get together after the war is over.

NUORAW2 قصشغش

These differences weren’t well-received by everyone. On the one hand, Farghaly praises Habib for incorporating a gay character, Aya’s husband, into the new version and tastefully touching upon the controversial topic. On the other hand, film critic Tarek El Shenawy says the series was stripped of the social and historical context of the novel.

Accordingly, El Shenawy argues, it did not exactly transfer the spirit of the novel that was set in the 1950s when Egypt witnessed a great deal of radical changes due to the political situation, and the Egyptian family was no exception. He adds that he would have preferred to see the televised version adhere to the novel’s historical context.

“I would have loved to watch Tamer Habib’s self-invented work instead of rewriting Abdel Quddus’s own work whose essence was not truly captured on screen,” El Shenawy adds, noting that Habib hit the mark with his Ramadan 2016 series Grand Hotel which is why the audience had high expectations for his work this year.

Likewise, film critic Khairya El Beshlawi argues that the series failed to retain the spirit of the novel; it only represented the same storylines depicted in the book without a real context.

Wahet Al-Ghoroub


Wahet Al-Ghoroub, Bahaa Taher’s character-driven epic adventure, was presented on the small screen in Ramadan 2017 by director Kamla Abu Zekri. She introduced us to the unknown world of Siwa oasis and the traditions of its residents in the 19th century. The series starred Menna Shalaby and Khaled El Nabawy. Mariam Naoum wrote half the script while Hala Al-Zaghandy finished the second half.

The protagonist, Mahmoud, is a military officer accused of siding with the Urabi Revolution against King Farouk and the British allies in 19th century, and as a result is sent into exile in the isolated oasis of Siwa with his Irish wife Catherine. During their journey in Siwa, they both go through a self-discovery process and end up drifting apart.

The series exposes the locals’ traditions, which affects all its residents, including Malika, the female deuteragonist, played by the fresh-faced Rakeen Saad. Malika was a victim of sexist traditions and the ever-lasting absurd war between those living in the east of the oasis and those in the west. The series version introduced us to the character of Radwan, Malika’s husband, who was killed during a war between the westerners and the easterners, arguably symbolizing the absurdity of the purposeless yet inevitable war.

wa7t el 3'roub

Critic El Beshlawi praises the visual display delivered by Abu Zekri, adding that she managed to capture a magnificent, picturesque setting of Siwa, and she was accurate about the clothing and decorations.

Agreeing with El Beshlawi, activist and writer Sekina Fouad says that Abu Zekri, alongside the scriptwriters, managed to evoke the epic atmosphere of Siwa as it was portrayed in Taher’s novel, emphasizing it was never an easy win.

Scriptwriter and critic Rami Rizkallah argues that the incoherent script was the greatest shortcoming, inflicting the work with lack of the rhythm. Similarly, writer and critic Mahmoud Abdel Shakour says that the screenplay writer paid a lot of attention to the characters at first in a quite uneventful drama, with each story being told separately.


Abdel Shakour stresses that Wahet Al-Ghoroub should have been properly edited, adding that the cloying narration was not beneficial and what appears to be acceptable on paper may not work well when displayed on the screen.

When it comes to the plotlines, Safaa El Leithy thought the scriptwriters were so enamored by the novel that the they tried to remain as faithful as they could to the original in a way that actually backfired on them. She believes that events and plots should have lined up in parallel, especially that the sufferings of the protagonists are incredibly intertwined.

Meanwhile, screenwriter Naoum says, “I was enchanted by the epic world of the Oasis depicted in Taher’s masterpiece, as well as how it touches on the not-too much-covered Urabi revolt, and I felt the urge to bring it up.”

“The novel started off with the protagonist’s journey to Siwa and then events unfolded; I preferred to bring what’s been brought in the past to the present,” Naoum emphasizes, adding that she preferred that Siwa oasis be introduced in the third episode, which, after disagreements, did not end up happening. She admits that the scenario is slow-paced, but setting the episodes’ rhythm was entirely left to the director’s viewpoint.

Taking stock of the two adaptations, El Leithy describes how neither the radical departure from the original of the former work nor the faithful retelling of the latter managed to succeed on screen. “La Tutfi Al Shams wasn’t faithful to the original source to a disruptive level, and Wahet El Ghroub remained true to the original source to a disruptive level as well.” et
8/24/2017 12:10:00 PM
<![CDATA[Living Sustainably]]>
Ambassador to the International Future Living Institute and the Well Faculty Amira Ayoub is one of the few people in Egypt who are experts in sustainable buildings and living. The architect explains that sustainability involves three main aspects that can be applied to almost everything around us: from how we design or build our homes to what we eat, how we drive our cars and how we invest in anything. There are three pillars of sustainability, the planet being the first. Living a sustainable life is about making sure we are not harming the environment or consuming energy from nonrenewable resources; in a bigger sense, being earth friendly.

The second pillar is profit. Many people think that profit is about buying a product that is affordable, which is true, but a sustainable product should also save money and guarantee that we are not wasting it on something unworthy.

People are the third pillar of sustainability and this entails paying attention to the physical and mental health of those around us; which means not buying products that are marketed as “diet” or “healthy” just because the label says so.

These three pillars can pretty much apply to anything we are purchasing, be it a washing machine, a new car, a house or a microwave. “If I am buying a new car, for instance, the first questions I should ask myself are these: Will it harm the environment? Is it better to buy an electric vehicle instead of a gas-powered one? Similarly, if I am buying a plastic chair, I should ask whether any of its parts are recycled,” says Ayoub.

Although people tend to focus on one of the three pillars more so than the other two, Ayoub argues that for people to get the best out of sustainable living, they need to apply the three pillars as much as they can.

She adds that people should not fall into the trap of false sustainability, explaining that we should differentiate between a real healthy lifestyle and greenwashing. She defines the latter as delivering a false image of being environmentally friendly, healthy or green and spending a lot of money to promote the idea without really doing much for the environment. Because of the spread of greenwashing, the first step for people seeking a sustainable lifestyle is research. “I do not have to be an expert to live in a sustainable home, that is why research is very important because, unfortunately, greenwashing is found everywhere, not just in architecture,” Ayoub stresses.

People must be aware of basic sustainability standards when buying a house and ask if a neutral party has certified this building or house as a sustainable one. There are international bodies like the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), which assesses how green a building is through assessing whether it uses recycled material, the indoor air quality, whether it employs water-saving faucets and the sources of energy used to power it. In an effort to provide a similar neutral body in the region, Ayoub, who is recognized by LEED as a sustainability expert, has founded the first collaborative of the Living Building Challenge in the region, the Cairo Collaborative. The Living Building Challenge is an international sustainable building certification program created in 2006. According to Ayoub, today, Egypt has around 12 or 13 certified green buildings.

Ayoub reveals that the damage done by non-sustainable architecture is more than anyone expects, something she is fighting to raise awareness about in the region. “The contribution of architecture and buildings in global warming and climate change is actually 40 percent, which is more than other sources of pollution such as transportation and factories,” she says.

Air quality is one of the items on the sustainability checklist and there are two kinds of ventilation; natural and mechanical ventilation through air conditioning. Ventilation usually depends on the location of the building, Ayoub explains, so if your house is close to the Sixth of October Bridge, natural ventilation wouldn’t be a good option as a window would be a big source of pollution, as opposed to natural air. But it isn’t as simple as cracking a window open to air out a place and rid it of accumulating bacteria from people’s breath; the materials used inside our homes also play a significant role in our health and green lifestyle. “It is sad to say that most furniture items, paints and adhesives present in Egyptian homes emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), Ayoub explains. “Unfortunately, even if I am sticking to a strict cleaning system involving good ventilation, VOCs will not go away.” VOCs, Ayoub adds, are harmful to human beings, can cause headaches and are the leading cause of cancer. They especially affect babies and young children who are often playing on the floor and mats. This is why it is important to know which places sell environment-friendly, low or zero VOC items. “The easiest one to start with is paint; many shops in Egypt sell low VOCs paints,” Ayoub adds.


Ayoub stresses that awareness is the first key to living a sustainable lifestyle. “If people become more aware of the concept of sustainability and green homes, a market shift will occur and there will be more demand for real green products,” she adds.

Studies show that most people are under the impression that green buildings are more expensive than traditional ones but the truth is, “if we are thinking long term and what is best for our future benefit or the ROI (return on investment), we will see it differently,” Ayoub argues. “For example, the LED lamps usually cost around LE 120 but they live up to four and a half years, so if we made our calculations we will find that they save up to 40 percent, compared to normal lamps.” She adds that the same concept applies to green homes; you might pay more now but will reap the cost benefits in the future.

Pioneering sustainable living

As one of the leading companies in sustainability, IKEA applies the concept of sustainability in its own stores in Cairo and worldwide by reducing the consumption of energy through using water-saving faucets and electricity-saving modes. “We are also hoping to start using solar panels soon [in Cairo’s store] and that more people can benefit from Egypt’s great sun,” says IKEA Family Manager Doaa Hashem.


Hashem adds that, in line with their global policies, IKEA Egypt started recycling different types of waste last year, including restaurant’s leftovers and the store’s wastes. To raise awareness about the concept, the home furnishing and accessories giant presented the idea to their different suppliers. “The company started addressing different factories and presenting them with simple steps to save energy; such as using recycled material and designing boxes that will fill 100 percent of the supplying cars, making sure no space is wasted unused and then directly delivering the products to the store,” says Hashem. “This resulted in cutting costs and presenting people with affordable environment-friendly products.”

Hashem explains that there are two kinds of products; ones that help live a more sustainable life at home and others that are sustainable themselves. The sustainable products contain either recycled materials or materials coming out of renewable resources or that have been certified as environment-friendly. A wide range of sustainable products can be found at IKEA, such as food containers that help reduce food wastes, water taps equipped with sensors to minimize water consumption and a wide range of LED, energy-saving bulbs, according to Hashem.

Simple steps to sustainability and saving energy


•Switch to LED lamps
•Close room door when the AC is on
•Use dryers only when needed
•Use pots to boil water instead of electric boilers


•Buy water-saving faucets or low-flushing taps
•Look for home items and materials with low VOCs, especially paints

Health and Wellness

•Avoid processed food
•Drink plenty of water
•Try as much as possible to plant and bake your own food.

The dynamics of recycling

Recycling helps more than just the environment and in the long run can contribute to the economy. For businesses, buying near-perfect, recycled material is more cost-friendly than buying refined material. But as Ayoub explained earlier, the short-term cost is high, meaning that for the time being at least, recycled products are actually more expensive.
“The challenge in Egypt is not the stores that sell recycled products . . . the challenge is not even in the factories, the challenge is the collection; the supply chain,” says Mostafa Hemdan, CEO of RecycloBekia, a local e-waste recycling company.


The supply chain is controlled by the informal sector which makes it harder for recycling companies to find waste products, map the market, and practice business ethics in matters that concern taxes and such because the competition with the informal sector is very high.
Hemdan explains that the process of sorting out the trash to “plastic,” “glass” and “metal/can” is extremely time consuming and costly. Second, the cleaning waste requires a lot of time and energy to return it to a reusable state which again requires a lot of money. Therefore, although the costs of using recycled material decreases the price, the production of recycled material increases the price.

But with factories operating locally, the costs of recycling have decreased because the shipping costs are much lower, and with the introduction of the three compartment recycling bins, the sorting costs are significantly lower. The decrease in costs means that recycled products are not as expensive as they once were. And though recent price hikes have seen shipping, raw material and production costs increase, prices of recycled products would have been more expensive if they had not been made of recycled material. On the macro level, then, recycling is economic for both the consumer and businesses.

While commercial recycling might come at a high price, recycling around the home is easy to turn into a sustainable living habit. How many times have you turned your old shirt into a kitchen cloth, for example?
Going sustainable
More and more people are pursuing a sustainable lifestyle and there are a growing number of venues in Egypt catering to the demand for recycled materials. Most bookstores have books and notebooks made from recycled paper. Several food outlets and coffee shops like Costa Coffee use recycled plastic and cardboard for their take away plates and cups.

Gezazy recycles glass bottles into lamps, candle holders, fish tanks, vases and other glass work. Originally focusing on glass waste, Gezazy recently expanded their scope to wood recycling. Their wood work includes tables, chairs, doors, and much more.
Like Gezazy, Reform Studio is a store that recycles plastic into handbags. Working with a type of reused plastic material called Plastex, Reform recently expanded their product line to chairs, benches, stools placemats and storage bags. et

—Additional reporting by Nour Eltigani]]>
8/23/2017 10:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Living Histories or Lost Legacies?]]>
A little further on the left, a rounded luxurious façade attached to a grim and gloomy building that welcomes you with a garbage dump at the gate begs for attention. At the entrance, a fairly new banner announces Monument No. 358 in the Sabil-Kuttab of Nafisa al-Bayda complex. Attached to it is the Wikala of Nafisa al-Bayda, listed as monument No. 395. But the cracked walls and shattered doors, and the gloomy, rickety stairs that take you to a set of slum-like rented apartments do not seem to fit with the “usual” definition of a monument.

The Wikala of Nafisa al-Bayda, known as Wikalet El Shamaa (Candles Caravanserai), is an Ottoman building dating back to 1796 AD. Cairenes have been coming to the heritage caravanserai since the Middle Ages to buy candles for birth and wedding celebrations. Foreign merchants would store their goods and spend a night or two in the inn, located near the southern walls of the old Fatimid City. The sabil (public water fountain) and kuttab (Qur’anic school for children) were built by Lady Nafisa next to the Wikala, the sabil at street level and the kuttab on the upper floor, was financed by the revenue of the Wikala.

Today, the conditions of the heritage hostel are saddening to say the least. No longer serving its original function, the Wikala is used mainly for workshops and local housing, and it has fallen into disrepair.

Among the ministries of antiquities, awqaf (endowments), culture and education, there seems to be a wide range of conflicting responsibilities and overlapping authorities, in the midst of which lots of our legacy is getting lost. Our attempt to find out which jurisdiction the Wikala falls under or whose responsibility it is to maintain the registered monument was met with a series of closed doors. The Ministry of State for Antiquities says it is the Ministry of Awqaf’s property and the Awqaf argues that, as a registered monument, it falls under Antiquities. As for the residents and merchants occupying the heritage building, they say they have rented the property from the government, legally and officially.

Photo for Egypt Today by Yasmine Hassan

Falling between the cracks

The Wikala, like a significant part of our cultural heritage, exemplifies a dual responsibility between the Ministry of Awqaf and the Ministry of Antiquities.
Nafisa al-Bayda, a very wealthy Muslim woman, endowed the building in the 18th century as a waqf (endowment designated to generate income for good deeds); however, the façade of the building was later registered as a monument, entailing responsibility on the part of the Ministry of Antiquities.

Today, the monument/waqf supposedly falls under the authority and responsibility of both entities, becoming a living example of the dilemma of who is in charge of what; and, in this unfortunate case, who is to blame for the degradation of a valuable piece of history.
The way the awqaf have been managed, the entities in charge of these properties and the relation between the Ministry of Awqaf and that of Antiquities have been in constant flux from the reign of Muhammed Ali in the 19th century until today. A turning point was the new antiquities law in 1951, which separated the “Comité de Conservation de Monuments” from the Ministry of Awqaf, and dropped any reference to the type of relation between the two entities or the properties they share responsibility for.
Since then, nothing legal seems to be governing the relationship between Awqaf and Antiquities, according to a 2014 study conducted by Dina Bakhoum, a specialist in cultural heritage conservation and management. She explains that one building can be managed by the Ministry of Awqaf, the Awqaf Authority and the Ministry of Antiquities—all at the same time.

“The management of such sites is a very complex process and there are numerous interest groups involved in it,” Bakhoum says. “The responsibilities of each body need to be set clear, especially when it comes to conservation and maintenance, and more importantly, who is designated to pay for these activities.”

The antiquities law stipulates that the “Ministry of Awqaf, Egyptian Awqaf Authority and Coptic Awqaf Authority shall bear the costs of restoration and maintenance of registered archaeological and historic properties” under their jurisdiction. According to the provisions of Law 44/1962, the Awqaf Authority is to retain 15 percent of the revenue generated by the charitable endowment, such as rent, and spend it on the maintenance and management of the waqf.

The agreement sounds lucrative—until you found out that one room on the roof of the Wikala costs a mere 35 piasters a month.

As for the Ministry of Antiquities, Bakhoum explains, it is responsible for the supervision and oversight of the monument. The fate of the Awqaf monument is therefore a joint liability between the supervisor and the funder.

Let’s imagine a hypothetical scenario, where the Antiquities Ministry prepares a bill of quantities and sends it to Awqaf, urging it to restore that very unique monument that is in a deplorable state. The Awqaf, which will bear the costs, replies and says the bill is too expensive or unpersuasive. Letters keep going back and forth until the monument decays or collapses; and each entity finds its way out by blaming the other.

The Wikala is just a case in point—our monuments and heritage are divided among the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Antiquities, the Ministry of Awqaf, the Ministry of Education and Technical Training and the Egyptian army. None of these has full authority over heritage assets and the law has, as shown above, disregarded establishing any guidelines to regulate this hodgepodge of authorities and responsibilities, not to mention conflicting interests.

Photo for Egypt Today by Yasmine Hassan

Divided authorities, divided blame

To address the management-funding issue of Awqaf-owned antiquities, a decree was issued in 2012 to form a committee of representatives from the two ministries to coordinate the process.

In her study, titled Awqaf Properties Maintenance and Management, Bakhoum cites an Awqaf Authority official reporting that the ministries had signed a memorandum of understanding, dividing the funding burden of their shared properties. According to the agreement, the Awqaf reportedly agreed to pay for structural restorations, while the Ministry of Antiquities would be responsible for the studies of the projects and the conservation. Egypt Today was unable to confirm whether the memorandum was put in action.

The Heritage Preservation General Administration in Cairo Governorate has also recently assumed a limited role of supervision and coordination among the different entities responsible for monuments and heritage sites in the governorate. Founded in 2013, the administration has become the only executive authority in charge of the urban surroundings of the monuments and all kinds of heritage buildings in Cairo. In addition to executing its independent projects, the administration has assumed a monitoring and supervisory role over all heritage sites.

As part of a revitalization project in Cairo’s Darb Al Ahmar district in 2016, the administration signed a protocol with Awqaf concerning the Wikala of Manasterli, which has been turned into a heritage boutique hotel, Riham Arram, general manager of the administration, tells Egypt Today. The project, which Arram explains “has been funded entirely by the governorate,” also includes developing the streets of the neighborhood and the surroundings of the monuments, and working on the buildings from inside and outside to achieve adequate urban rehabilitation.

Yet the scope of the administration’s authority in terms of registered antiquities is limited to removing any infringement on the monument and urban rehabilitation of the surrounding neighborhood, while neglected or abused monuments still fall under the Ministry of Antiquities, Arram explains. As for Awqaf properties, any interference from the administration has to be preceded by a protocol between the two entities.

Living histories or lost legacies?

Back on Al-Muizz, and having established the story behind the “Antiquities” banner hung on the door of a desolate Awqaf building, we take a step inside.
The ground floor of the Wikala consists of a number of shoemakers and wax workshops and a small supermarket upfront. Somewhere in the dark courtyard inside, rows of barrels line what seems like an abandoned storage area.

The dark, shaky staircase to the roof leads to a small corridor with dozens of doors on the side. Beyond the beautiful view of one of the minarets of Old Cairo, the yard of this heritage roof has been turned into a garbage dump. Two doors to the left of the shared bathroom lives a man in his 50s who says he has been renting his apartment since the 1980s.

“The most expensive apartment here costs 35 piasters a month,” he tells us, explaining that some of the apartments have one room, others have three, and some have rooms and a small corridor. “There is no water or natural gas and almost no rent,” he says. “But if you asked me to move out, you would be harming me because I will have to pay for all of this.”

By law, these residents have the right to keep their properties, as long as they pay the 35 piaster rent to the Ministry of Awqaf, who is then tasked with using this revenue for maintenance, management and technical work expenses.

While to many the idea of residential and workshop rentals using and abusing a piece of our heritage seems perplexing, experts and activists agree that the concept in itself is not totally wrong. The problem rather lies in the implementation and awareness. “Part of the culture and heritage is using the heritage itself,” Mariam Dawood, a researcher at RISE AUC and a volunteer at several heritage conservation initiatives, explains. “If the heritage keeps its main function, this is very successful.”

“Sustainability means having these buildings remain in function for a ‘socially useful purpose,’ as stated in the Venice Charter (1964), because this is what will save them for future generations,” Bakhoum says. “If you stop the use, you stop the benefit.” She adds that evacuating the buildings and sites from their local users and communities and transforming them to solely touristic attractions is unacceptable and contradicts with the sustainable development goals set by UNESCO.

According to culture and archeology activist Sally Soliman, “clearing out the buildings would actually be the biggest mistake. . . . We have to look at the monument as part of the social structure in the locality and respect the functions it was originally built for,” Soliman says, stressing that there is nothing wrong with keeping the Wikala as a commercial and residential property “if it is made sure that it fits with the conditions of the 21st century, in a way that preserves the safety of the people and the monument. We must see if the type of workshops in the Wikala is safe, install modern alarm systems, and ensure the safety of the building because it has become a monument; however, evacuating it is not called for.”

Although this is “what should be done,” Soliman points out that there are no policies or ideas being put forth to preserve the building nor use its functions in a way that generates revenue to be spent on its maintenance or restoration.

Sustainable solutions

Wikalas by nature are at the center of this controversy. Unlike mosques, castles or citadels for example, the main function of the wikala is residential and/or commercial. Since experts agree that fencing the heritage and turning it into a museum is not always a sustainable solution, only two available options remain: one is what, in antiquities terms, would be called adaptive reuse, and the other is incremental awareness.

Adaptive reuse means adapting a historic building for a contemporary use in a way that it remains beneficial in terms of current needs, without endangering its heritage value. An example of this approach is Wikalet El-Ghouri in Cairo’s busy Al Azhar area. After being restored in 2005, the Wikala has been turned into an arts center, operating under the Ministry of Culture and the Cultural Development Fund (CDF). It hosts a number of cultural events, such as the bi-weekly El Tannoura dance performance, and its rooms are currently being rented as studios for artists.

While the experience has been deemed successful, as it revives the cultural and historic value of the building while ensuring its maintenance and adequate usage, evacuating all wikalas and implementing the same adaptive approach is hardly an option. The other possibly sustainable, but quite long-term, solution is community awareness. Bakhoum explains that heritage sites carry diverse values and meanings for different interest groups and that understanding of this complex matrix of values and respecting them all is crucial for safeguarding the heritage and the spirit of these sites. “Working with the different interest groups and stakeholders is a very long, but necessary process.”
One independent initiative that is built entirely on this concept is AtharLina (Monuments Are Ours). The main idea of the project has been that “heritage is a resource and should be seen as such,” says Project Coordinator and Chairman of the holding NGO Megawra May El-Ebrashy.

“If they have a sense of ownership that derives from a sense of benefit, people will take care of the heritage,” el-Ebrashy says. “For the people to hold the government responsible and help it take care of the properties, they have to feel that they derive benefit from heritage.”

AtharLina was first launched in June 2012 with a participatory design workshop focusing on the neighborhood of Al-Khalifa in Old Cairo. Exploring the relationship between heritage and community, El-Ebrashy explains it has come up with three conclusions: Conservation of heritage buildings should come with benefit for the community, awareness and education has to start with children, and whatever work done has to be done with an understanding of the socioeconomic conditions and be contextualized within improving the quality of life.

“There shall be a smarter use of heritage, so that it becomes beneficial and becomes a resource, in a very pragmatic matter,” El-Ebrashy says.

Focusing on Al-Khalifa neighborhood, AtharLina has restored four domes, launched a free school for kids in the summer where heritage education is mandatory, and worked on upgrading open spaces and infrastructure. It also holds an annual “spend a day in Khalifa” event, hosting guided tours and cultural performances to raise the profile of the neighborhood.

About the Wikala and the best way to preserve it, El-Ebrashy believes, “part of the value is related to use and function in history. People should use it; it is a wikala and it is meant to be used for trade. However, there should be some sort of monitoring to ensure that it is not misused,” she adds.

Several other initiatives, either international or grassroots projects, are also contributing to the efforts of preservation and conservation of the local cultural heritage. Among them, the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) has been remarkably active in supporting scholarship, training and conservation efforts in Cairo and Luxor. ARCE carried out the architectural conservation project of the Wikala in the late 1990s, with funding from USAID. It restored the street front and the gateway to the courtyard, which are the only parts of the property registered as historical monuments, while the rest of the building is still only listed as Awqaf.

Apart from non-governmental initiatives, Cairo’s Heritage Preservation General Administration is also playing a role in developing and rehabilitating heritage sites and neighborhoods, “as part of the state plan is to take care of heritage sites and revive them,” Arram explains.

“We want to restore the monument without affecting the interest of the citizens,” she adds, pointing out that the administration focuses on reviving and reusing heritage and that the inhabited sites are the biggest challenge.

As Bakhoum puts it, “If you have a diamond in your hand, and you were not taught the difference between the diamond and a piece of glass, you might think it is glass and throw it away. The same applies to heritage; if we are not taught to appreciate its values we would also not protect it or appreciate its significance.”

Historically, both the government and the Egyptian public have been dedicating attention and funds to the “polished diamonds” that are immortalized in our sizeable monuments and famous touristic venues. Sadly, we have been overlooking hundreds, if not thousands, of priceless heritage sites that capture the story of who we are and where we come from. et

8/22/2017 10:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[If You Think It, You Can Probably DIY It]]>DIY is all about creativity and style, so do not be afraid to add your own personality to any project you come across.

DIY resources on social media

One of the best tools to get creative is to follow DIY tutorials on YouTube, which has a pool of instructional videos to create or revamp anything from distressing your old jeans to give it a new look to making chandeliers out of old bottles. Almost every YouTube user has made a DIY video to hop on the trend train, but these we recommend: LaurDIY, SaraBeautyCorner, JENerationDIY, Gillen Bower, Nicole Skyes, Rclbeauty01, AlishaMarie, IdunnGoddess and MyLifeAsEva. These channels are dedicated to DIY, and you will definitely find a use to just about anything around the house on them.

Not new, but a trove of DIY ideas is Pinterest—download the application as it is easier to navigate than the desktop version. The catalog of ideas includes paint color palettes for living rooms all the way to natural shampoo recipes. From fashion, accessories and food to décor and gardening, Pinterest has got it all on an easy-to-follow poster. Our favorite DIY pinners and boards to follow are New Uses for Old Things (by Real Simple, DIY Network, Studio DIY, D.I.Y Home Décor (by A Beautiful Mess), Inspiring DIY (by Centsational Grl), P.S. I Made this DIYs (by P.S. – I Made This), DIY Crafts + Tutorials (by Follow Charlotte), To Make (by Brit + Co), Easy DIY Projects (by Joann Stores), DIY it (by LearnVest), Create (by A Subtle Revelry), Inspiring Things (by Young House Love), Cleaning Tips (by The 36th Avenue), DIY/Crafts/Cleaning (by Savings Mania), POPSUGAR Smart Living

Where to shop for DIY

There are quite a few places in Cairo where you can buy inexpensive DIY material like fabrics, beads, decorative paper, wires, glue guns or anything you need.

The Attaba area

Attaba is one of the most, if not the most, crowded areas in Cairo since it is home to many wholesalers and supply stores. Located in the center of Cairo, Attaba is divided into subsections depending on what you need. The most convenient way to get there is by metro through Line 2 and 3 at Al Attaba Station, but there is a six-storey garage called the Opera Garage where you could park your car. Every alley in Attaba sells different products.

Darb El Barabra is a narrow alley that is devoted to lighting, like chandeliers, lamps and other lighting fixtures. They are sold at reasonable prices and you can always bargain your way to a cheaper price.

Sour El Azbakia is another market in Al Attaba that hosts the largest book collection in Cairo with over 100 bookstores.

Al Mouski is one of the destinations where you could find all kinds of fabrics, textiles and sewing accessories at very good prices.

Abdel Aziz street is the holy grail for all tech-geeks. This street has all the hardware tools and electronic parts you can think of.

El Manasra is a market for wood products: tables, chairs, cabins, any other furniture or just wooden pieces for a DIY project.

Hamam El Talat is the go-to place for many future brides because it has a wide range of kitchen utensils and culinary kits.

El Rewaie is a market dedicated for bathroom and kitchen utensils as well as plumbing tools.

The Alley of Watches is a market for watch-lovers and collectors. It has spare parts, batteries and vintage watches.

Wekalat El Balah

Wekalat el Balah is considered a haven on earth for textile fanatics. There, you will find all kinds of fabrics, patterns, textures, colors, and sizes. Again, it is a very crowded area that might overwhelm you with various resellers shoving their products in your face.
However, if you are looking for good quality, inexpensive fabric or just enjoy bargaining in general, you might want to pay Wekalat El Balah a visit. The easiest way to get there is through the metro. You can take Line 1 or 2 and get off at Sadat Station in Tahrir Square. Then, you can either take a taxi or a microbus straight to Wekalat El Balah. If you have a car, and patience, you can drive. Parking might be a little bit of a hassle, but you will be able to find a place to park in the Wekala with the help of a sayes (parking attendant). At the center of the Wekala, there is a parking lot as well.


Any stationery store you go to would probably have glue guns, scissors, paint and decorative paper. However, Alwan is a second home for many artists and crafters because it offers a selection of craft utensils like different kinds of paint from acrylics to gouache, brushes of all shapes and sizes and abstract decorative paper. You can save the trip of going to the store and order your necessities online or call their hotline 19275. Alwan has nine branches across the capital in the Fifth Settlement, Sixth of October, Fagala, Haram, Heliopolis, Nasr City, Zamalek, and Downtown Cairo.

Nomrosy store

Located in Shehab street in Mohandiseen, Taha Hussein street in Zamalek, Midan El Game’ in Heliopolis and Abu Al Atiha Street in Nasr City, Nomrosy stores took the DIY game to a whole new level. Nomrosy is a haberdashery that sells everything from lace and satin ribbons to embroidered patches and buttons. If you need bridal veils, beads for DIY accessories or rhinestones to bedazzle a purse or heels, Nomrosy’s got your back.

Al Arabi

Al Arabi is a large home accessories and hardware store where you could buy things like hinges, pliers, toolkits, bathroom accessories, baskets and much more. It is has several branches in Downtown Cairo, Heliopolis, Roxy, Mohandiseen and New Cairo. They also have a hotline, 16336, and a website where you can easily access their current collection.

Guide to DIY courses

If the Internet has not taught you enough, or you would like to learn further about DIYs, there is a more professional way to learn fashion DIYs and that is through various sewing classes. Many institutes offer courses with professional instructors who will guide you to make accessories, clothes and even pottery to flaunt some DIY clay vases and statues around the house.

Kemet Art and Design is a certified institute that focuses on various art practices. Kemet holds a jewelry design and making principles course where you learn basic jewelry making techniques. It is six-day workshop for four hours each. The course costs LE 1,750 or LE 1,560 for early-bird registration.

Art Café is another institute that teaches various crafts like jewelry making, textile, patchwork, sewing and pottery. Their jewelry making workshop is composed of four classes, held once a week for three hours and costs LE 950. Their sewing course is conducted over six, two-hour long classes held once a week and costing LE 1,050. The patchwork course is five classes, lasting for two hours and conducted once a week. The course costs LE 950. The pottery workshop is a four, two-hour class that runs once weekly, costing LE 600.

Gozoor Project focuses on cultural development, teaching you how to mix and match patterns and textiles. They hold a sewing course, teaching the basics of fashion design over two months, held twice a week and costs LE 2,000.

Darb 1718 is the hub of everything related to arts and culture in Egypt, and hosts month-long pottery and ceramic workshops for LE 1,350 twice a week. et
8/21/2017 10:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Feyenoord Comes to Egypt]]>
The award-winning football team and academy has a track record of grooming young talents and producing renowned players like Robin Van Persie, former Manchester United and Arsenal player, and Givanni Van Bronckhorst, current Feyenoord manager who achieved domestic league title this year with the club.

“Our academy has won the best academy prize in the Netherlands from 2009 to 2014. Now, we have half of the first team from our academy members,” Melvin Boel, international development coach at the academy, tells Egypt Today.

Gido Vader, international relations manager of Feyenoord Rotterdam Club, explains that they chose Egypt as a place to grow their brand internationally in countries that share the same passion for football. “We found the right partner to start something here, in Egypt. This was the moment to do it,” says Vader.

Egypt has previously produced players for Feyenoord, including Haitham Farouk, the first Egyptian to play at the club, Hossam Ghaly who played for four years at the club and national team goalkeeper Sherif Ekramy.

The academy targets kids, ages 6 to 18. “Six is the age when the child starts to gain awareness, and 18 is the age when players reach their professional level,” owner of Feyenoord in Egypt Mohamed El Boghdady tells us.

Going international
Aiming to prep their players to become international stars and join top teams in Europe, the academy is bringing in Dutch coaches—including professional players—who will receive annual professional training here and abroad to keep abreast of the latest techniques.

Vader explains that unlike their cooler-tempered Dutch counterparts, Egyptian players “stand out due to the passion they put in their game.” He adds that this passion is something they like to see on the field, which means that, with the right training, young talents can easily reach international professional levels.

“If we combine the eagerness of the Egyptian player to win and our tactical approach, who knows what we can achieve?” says Vader.

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This training, however, goes beyond gaining basic playing skills and includes psychological and mental training to learn restraint. “The academy’s aim is not only to teach the basics of football, but also to help build the personality of professional football players,” El Boghdady says. He adds that Egyptian players are often gifted, but need to work on their manners outside the playing field; something the academy will work on improving to equip young talents to become international players.

They are aiming to send at least 10 players to play in Europe annually, including sending some to play with Feyenoord. “The club will market young players from the academy to join others in Europe,” El Boghdady adds. They will also send 120 players to summer camps at Feyenoord to gain international experience.

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The academy will operate at Maadi Sports Center in Cairo, Hilal Aswan Sporting Club in Aswan, Borussia Club in Tenth of Ramadan and the Sports Center in Ismailia. et

On the Ground
Egyptian footballers who played in Feyenoord talk about their experience in the Netherlands.

“It was a very important journey, and it was difficult at the same time. I went there, did a trial and I succeeded. I didn’t go through the Egyptian National Team.
Playing abroad changes the player in the way he communicates with others and in the discipline. In Europe, you have to put your maximum effort in the training to play. Feyenoord is a big name in Europe. They are also the current Dutch league-winners. They are the last club from the Netherlands to win the Europa League in 2002.”
—Haitham Farouk, the first Egyptian player to play in Feyenoord

“Feyenoord was the beginning of my career in Europe. I learned how to depend on myself, to be patient, and learned the basics of football. Also, I learned to adapt to live in Europe. I benefited a lot from playing there.
The differences between Egyptian and Dutch players are in the discipline and the players’ professional level, meaning that the player has rights and at the same time he has duties that he is supposed to fulfill.”
—Hossam Ghaly, Al Ahly’s current midfielder who played for Feyenoord

“With Feyenoord, I played with the first team for the first time in my life. The club gave me the opportunity to play against big teams, and I will always have great feelings towards the club.
This academy will help to transfer the Dutch football culture to the Egyptian youngsters; it provides a link between young Egyptian talents and such a big club like Feyenoord.”

—Sherif Ekramy, played for four years in Feyenoord

“I went to Feyenoord in the start of my managerial career. They were so organized, and I think they will help to improve the quality of talents in Egypt.”
— Diaa Elsayed, former Egyptian national team under-19 coach about his time in Feyenoord as a coach.]]>
8/20/2017 11:03:12 AM
<![CDATA[Stories of informal sector under economic reform program]]>
On the other side of the road, another young man with a piece of cloth wanders around cars, offering to wipe windowpanes and windshield in exchange for a few pounds.

Meanwhile, a worker at a gas station is pumping fuel in cars and staring at the drivers’ faces, waiting for tips that today he probably won’t end up getting.

These are some of the daily scenarios of informal workers who are facing tougher times than they’re used to with inflated prices and painful economic reforms that have left them, and others they depend on for income, struggling to make ends meet. Informal workers are not officially employed by either private or governmental institutions with fixed salaries, but rather offer different services for other citizens in return for tips or daily pays with no contracts or legalities involved.

Those informal workers represent a large sector of the population that is geographically spread across the nation. Nevertheless, it is difficult to place this segment within the hierarchy of social classes or find exact statistics on the sector because they are informally employed.

In 2014, the Middle East Institute estimated the number of informal jobs in Egypt to be around 10 million, according to Mohamed El Dahshan, professor of development economics at Cairo University. In the same year, another study conducted by the Egyptian Centre for Economic Studies (ECES) reported that informal jobs represent 65% to 70% of the size of the formal economy.

Egypt’s annual inflation stood stable at 30.9% in June, according to statistics released by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS). A sector that is excluded from government services and with little rights or securities, the current economic situation puts the informal labor market in a more vulnerable position given that those who employ or tip them are becoming poorer themselves.

Meanwhile, middle- and upper-middle-class citizens are struggling to meet life requirements, especially that the increments were mainly imposed on the products and services which they frequently consumed. This means that the workers who relied heavily on tips from satisfied customers will face drastic income slashes as customers stop tipping altogether in efforts to cut their own spending. Whereas the government continues to support low-income citizens through the social safety net included in the plan for the reform program, tipped workers remain marginalized.

Gas Station Attendants:

Fueling anger

The majority of individuals working at gas stations do not receive monthly salaries from the station administration; so they rely on the tips they take from the clients as their only source of income. However, some stations pay monthly salaries ranging between LE 140 to LE 200.

At Mobil gas station on Sudan street, workers tell us that the tips they receive daily have seen significant decreases after the fuel price hikes because customers are already paying hefty prices to fill their tanks and so they have little to spare on tipping.

Rawash Mohamed, a worker in his late 40s, said he usually collected between LE 50 to LE 90 per day in tips, but after the recent price hikes, such amounts are rare.

“The reduction did not affect tips only, but the fuel sales as well were affected. Now, we sell 7,000 to 8,000 liters of fuel, while we used to sell 10,000 to 15,000 liters per day,” he continues.

Mahmoud Abdel Salam, a graduate of the Faculty of Commerce who currently works with Mohamed at the station, says he starts his shift at 8 am and finishes at 3 pm, then leaves to another informal job to earn his living.

“Many of the workers at the station are working second jobs as the tips we receive from the clients are not enough to sustain a life and amount to nothing amid the price hikes,” Abdel Salam adds.

Mohamed, on the other hand, suffers from health issues that prevent him from taking up an additional job after his work shift at the station. “I can’t do any other job beside my work here, yet my financial conditions are worsening. I’m required to help my daughter get married, but I cannot afford the home appliances whose prices skyrocketed,” the worker says.

“It is not only about the tips, but people now pay for the gas with a frown on their faces, they sometimes even leave without saying thank you,” Mohamed concludes.

Jacks of all trades

Amr Ahmed, 35, goes to Al Etimad in Imbaba every afternoon, and joins dozens of other men coming from different governorates looking for any job with a daily pay.
“Every day I come here and wait until anyone assigns me a job. I might get one job per day, such as moving furniture for LE 400 to LE 600, but I could spend 10 days or more without any work,” Ahmed says.

Ahmed explains that each one of the workers waiting for gigs would have around five assignments per month, earning about LE 1,000.

“Still, LE 1,000 is nothing with the [latest] price hikes. People no longer hire us like they used to; instead, they do their jobs themselves,” he says.

“I came from Al-Ayyat village in Upper Egypt to work here and improve my income, both my wife and my 15-year-old daughter are also working as housemaids; we are all working to eat, drink and pay the apartment rent,” he explains.

Another worker sitting next to Ahmed agrees, “I sometimes work for one day and stay 10 [days] without any work, so I would have less than LE 1,000 to spend for the whole month,” he says, adding that he supports his wife and children back in Fayoum, his hometown.

Amongst those day workers are some who already work as housekeepers but do not receive monthly salaries. Instead, they receive symbolic amounts every month from each apartment in the building, ranging between LE 20 and LE 30. So they are forced to look for other jobs like carrying sand to construction sites, moving heavy appliances or removing debris to make ends meet.

The Bawab:

Making ends meet

Nabil El Sayed is a door attendant for a building in Mohandeseen who receives LE 1,100 a month, a salary he says cannot cover increasing prices. “I do some cleaning, such as washing furniture or carpets, or even clean dogs’ houses. I also sometimes do infrastructure and electrical work,” the 40-year-old El Sayed says. “I do anything to get extra money. Any amount will make a difference with me; even if it is five pounds.”

“I’m supposed to pay for my children’s school fees, buy food and clothes for feasts, provide medical care and send money to my parents, but my income doesn’t cover all this,” says another door attendant of a three-floor villa in October City.

He makes LE 600 for taking care of the villa, and when he asked for an increase, they rejected saying they already offer him a room where he stays with his family.

Similar to door attendants, many women have formal morning jobs and informal evening jobs as housemaids to make ends meet.

Self-declared worker

The informal street profession known in Egypt as sayes (a parking attendant) appeared as a solution for those who are seeking a source of income and cannot get proper jobs. Many have taken up the job without a work permit for the extra money.

A street valet, who preferred to speak on condition of anonymity, says he gets around LE 1,000 monthly for parking cars. “I am supposed to finish preparing for my marriage, but I cannot even afford the infrastructure work on my apartment,” he says.

Valets could also be employees receiving monthly salaries from their formal jobs that are not sufficient to cover necessities, so they resort to other jobs to make money from the tips.

A security guard receives LE 1,200 from a car dealership, but to improve his condition, he puts stones in front of the dealership so people would pay him to park their cars.

Difficult Times Ahead

“As long as inflation is increasing, conditions of those relying on tips will never improve, but will worsen even more. It is the first time in Egypt’s history to witness this size of inflation,” Aliaa El Mahdy, the former dean of the Faculty of Political Science and Economics at Cairo University tells Business Today Egypt.

El Mahdy said that the government cannot do anything for this segment; the solution is to call on the private sector to increase the salaries of the middle-class citizens. This solution, however, is difficult under the current conditions.

“I personally used to leave LE 4 or LE 5 as tips. Now, I leave the change which might be LE 2 or less,” El Mahdy says. “Under the economic reforms, only two categories are impacted: those whose salaries are frozen, and others whose income relies on tips.”

“The value of the pound has decreased to 25%, which means that LE 1,000 is as good as LE 600. Hence, the money they already receive can do nothing in light of the soaring prices.”
8/19/2017 12:25:52 PM
<![CDATA[A Different Direction]]>
A film’s fame and success are usually attributed to its stars, but Marwan Hamed, a creative director with a unique style, is one of the very few who captured the heart of their admirers, so they wait eagerly for his next film. To his audience, he is the real star of the movie.

Hamed is an Egyptian filmmaker and director who was born in 1977 in Cairo. He graduated from the High Institute of Cinema in 1999, then started his 16-year career with the short movie Lili (2001), based on a short story by the veteran writer Youssef Idris.

In 2006, Hamed directed his first feature film Omaret Yacoubian (The Yacoubian Building) which brings together giantslike Adel Imam, Nour El Sherif, Yousra, Khaled El Sawy and Essad Younis.

The Yacoubian Building garnered several awards from important international film festivals. Following his first success, he directed Ibrahim Labyad (2009), starring action hero Ahmed El Sakka, El Feel El Azraa (The Blue Elephant) in 2014, starring the heartthrob Egyptian star Karim Abdel Aziz, and finally El Asleyeen (The Natives) with Menna Shalaby and El-Sawy, released over El Fitr.

Hamed speaks to Egypt Today about his career, films and extraordinary cinematic vision.

You were still a young director when you took on Omaret Yacoubian. How did you manage such a big cast of veteran superstars?

Everyone was aware this was my first experience, so they helped me. I will never forget the great support I received from the mega star Adel Emam; his was the first scene to shoot. Also the late, renowned star Nour El Sherif, the heartthrob star Yousra and the lovely star Essaad Younis all supported me to succeed.

El Asleyeen is your second film with scriptwriter Ahmed Mourad after El Feel El Azraa, how are the two experiences different?

El Asleyeen employs one cinematic style and El Feel El Azraa employs another; both experiences with Mourad are different in all aspects.

How does El Asleyeen stand out from your previous films?

El Asleyeen’s narrative was executed with a great deal of stenography, and the cadence is new and variant. Each one of my films has its own spirit, topic, mood and belongs to a different cinematic style. My principle is not to repeat myself. This distinguishes the path I have chosen since I started my career as a director, which is to present sundry experiences, and put myself in my spectators’ shoes. Every director has two options after finishing a successful movie: to repeat himself by making the same type of film to guarantee success or to [take a chance] and direct a completely different kind of film.

Authentic cinema productions are based on being bold and adventurous. It is very important to develop myself because the new generations of spectators, particularly those under 20, are evolving so fast. Therefore, I must always be a pioneer and present attractive movies to this category.

How did you cast for El Asleyeen? Did you make decisions about choosing a certain actor for a particular role at the first read of the script?

Usually, I put more than one suggested name for each role. I ask for the producer’s and the scriptwriter’s opinion. However, the one actor I saw suitable for a particular role and insisted on was Mohamed Mamdouh.

Whose performance exceeded your expectations in El Asleyeen?

I enjoyed a lot working with everyone. This is my third cooperation with Khaled El Sawy after Omaret Yacoubian and El Feel El Azraa, and we maintain good rapport. This is my first time, however, to work with Maged El Kedwany; he possesses such depth of character, which enriches his performance with a humanitarian touch, and is reflected significantly in the role he plays. Kinda Alloush is definitely a bold actress to accept such a different role. Frankly speaking, when I offered her the role, I expected her to refuse, but her enthusiastic acceptance astonished me.

Alloush is a very smart actress and brilliantly reads and understands her character. Menna Shalaby plays the significant, leading female role of Soraya Galal, who has to be someone who possesses highly feminine features, on top of being a woman who seeks knowledge. She was so creative, especially that her role was an extremely a difficult one. Her two lecture scenes were so tiring. Shalaby is a brilliant actress who tends always to play different roles with adroitness.

How would you assess the audience’s reaction to El Asleyeen movie?

It was very satisfying to find diverse reactions to the movie and witness the controversy it created. It worries me when a movie generates no discussions or debates. When we decided to make El Asleyeen, we knew it would create a lot of arguments. I noticed also that both proponents and opponents talked about the movie in detail; in general, I see this as a positive sign. I read a lot of what critics had to say; some were very objective and accurate. In the end, everyone has the right to express their opinion, and all opinions should be respected. El Asleyeen stirred up controversy, which means it is a strong movie and that is all I care about.

Who is your target audience?
Cinema spectators mainly belong to the youth segment. We are currently witnessing a tussle between television, the Internet and Netflix audience on one hand, and the cinema audience on the other. Watching a movie at the cinema means they have to exert more effort to go out, pay for a ticket, and consume petrol as well as pay for the parking and popcorn. Going to the cinema is much more costly than watching television at home. Youth are active enough and go to the cinema as an outing; they are the majority now.

How much time do you spend preparing for each movie?

Each of the four movies took two years of preparation. Even Lili, which was supposed to be my graduation project, took two years. It may seem too long, yet it could take even more time to prepare for a movie elsewhere in the world.

Nobody knows the secret success formula to determine which film will thrive. For example, The Mummy for Tom Cruise was recently released, and it did not succeed despite all the expectations that it would. When I presented Omaret Yacoubian, Ibrahim Al Abyad and El El Feel El Azraa I did not know if they would succeed or not because there was nothing out there like them.

Many critics opposed directing Omaret Yacoubian since adapting a movie based on a novel was not popular at that time. Others strongly opposed introducing a veteran comedian like Adel Emam in a non-comedy role; they believed the audience would not accept it. In addition, the film tackled a lot of taboos, especially in the Middle East, like pederasty. Despite all of these concerns, it was screened and was a booming success. Nobody can predict in advance whether a film will succeed or not.

Which is more difficult for you as a director: directing a film adaptation or dealing with a movie script?

Not all texts can be transformed from a 500-page novel to a 100-page script.

Are film adaptations negatively affected by the fact that the audience already knows the storyline? Do they lose the element of surprise?

On the contrary, I view it as a peculiarity. For instance, almost all the movies directed by Anthony Minghella, director of The English Patient and Cold Mountain, were based on novels. I see that the audience’s prior knowledge of the plot and their admiration guarantees a minimum level of success to the movie; all we have to do is choose a popular novel and provide good cinematography and production.

Which of your movies do you enjoy watching the most?

It is difficult for me to watch a movie directly after its production, because with every scene I feel I could have created something better. But after some of time, the movie becomes a memory and I can watch it. In general, I enjoy to watching some of the scenes in Ibrahim Labyad.

Some believe that your works are few considering that you have been in the industry for 16 years, what do you think of this?

Quantity is not important, quality comes first. Your movie is your history, it will be watched by today’s audience and the generations to come. I bear this fact in my mind all the time; hence, I am so picky. High quality movies live forever and could be even watched later from a different angle. For example, Ibrahim Labyad was highly criticized; when it was first released, it was described as a bloody movie, because it contained plenty of violent scenes. Although the film mirrored reality, people at that time denied this hard truth and refused to accept it. However, people now started to view the film from a different perspective and began to like it, especially the new generations. ]]>
8/18/2017 12:43:42 PM
<![CDATA[Artist of the Month]]>
Tell us a little about yourself?
I’m an architect and whenever I need to take a break, I escape reality by becoming an artist. Both worlds are connected to each other—it’s all about lines, and I love playing with lines. The art that I do is known as doodle art, zentangles and line work.

What inspires your work?
I’m inspired by my fears, thoughts, dreams and feelings. I attempt to portray fantasy, emotion and intense feelings in my work. The very small details in every drawing are inspired by nature and wildlife. Whenever I want to make a decision about any serious thing, I start to draw and just let the pen take over while my mind is thinking. After two to three hours of working, you will find me happy with the decision I’ve made and the masterpiece I just finished unconsciously!

How has your work developed over the years?
I started doodling when I was in school. But back then I wasn’t much into art, I would doodle during classes and whenever I felt bored. Since I’m a self-taught artist, I had no proper idea about drawing and things that are involved in it, I even had no idea that there’s something called doodle art, until one day I got a message from a famous artist telling me “you’re a real doodler.” I googled it then I realized its exactly what I’m doing.
In 2014 there was a global doodle art competition and I got first place in Egypt. I traveled to Cape Town to represent Egypt and after that people started to notice me and my artwork on social media. Once I found encouragement, I started to develop myself and follow new art techniques by joining collaboration artworks, going to exhibitions and entering competitions. In 2016, I entered and won a Middle East competition, ranking first among nine Arab countries. The following year I started preparing for a doodling workshop and working on something big. I started learning some modeling software programs to find a way to link doodling to architecture.

What do you like most about your work?
The fact that I can do it anywhere, anytime. Just a pen and it could be on paper, table, board, car, or even someone’s skin!

Tell us more about your work. What process do you generally follow?
Get my sketchbook and the pen ready, then let the pen take over!

How do you see the art scene in Egypt?
Well, in Egypt, it is not fair. There are many amazing creative artists who are not noticed and deserve more attention on social media. On the other hand, there are too many popular artists who are doing ordinary stuff and not developing their skills further, but they are noticed and have a huge number of followers. I wish everyone who is making progress would get noticed and get attention from everyone. As for the popular artists, I hope they develop their skills. At that point, the art scene in Egypt will be one of the best.

Who are your favorite local and international artists? Why?
There are a few international artists I admire. I love Faye Halliday’s style. It is perfect.
Christo Dagorov is the best in detail work. Kerby Rosanes is almost the most popular doodle artist out there. In Egypt, there is Noha Bahr who is a visual artist; a totally different style, but I like how creative she is. She is amazing and the best in what she does. I also like Fariedesign because he explains something that is meaningful through very simple designs.

What are your plans for the future?
I live in the future already. I’m working on finding a way to make the doodle join the world of architecture. The world of doodling is a little messy. On the other hand, architecture is not a messy thing at all! So finding the link between them is not easy thing, but I will find it. et

Artist of the Month is brought to you in 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

8/16/2017 11:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Becoming A Saving Guru]]>
If we never had a proper financial plan to insure our kids’ future and education, safeguard our savings against inflation and maximize whatever income we bring in, now is surely the time. The key, experts agree, is to find proper investment alternatives to maximize our savings and survive inflation.

“Investment alternatives in general, not only in Egypt, will be somewhere between capital market [stocks trading] or equity market from one side and money market [bank savings] from the other side,” said the financial and risk assessment expert Hisham Abdel Fattah. Normally, when the capital market is in recession, banks offer higher interest rates and vice versa, Abdel Fattah says. The current situation in the country, however, breaks the rule. Abdel Fattah explains that the situation in Egypt now is that banks’ interest rates are high and the equity market is doing extremely well, but definitely at a higher risk. “Egypt is now living in an exceptional period because it is not normal in all the international economies that both returns are high; the capital market returns and banks interest rates,” he adds.

“So you either go to the capital market with higher risk, or you go to the bank and take a lower interest but with zero risk,” Abdel Fattah advises. “The famous economic fundamental is ‘high risk, high return,’ so the choice is yours.” When considering your options, bear in mind what is known as the “risk premium,” which is the maximum level of risk acceptable to shift from a risk-free investment like banks to other higher-risk alternatives that offer higher returns, Abdel-Fattah adds. “Because of the current inflation rates, the average Egyptian now does not have the luxury to risk his devaluated savings in a high-risk investment where he might completely lose his savings,” he stresses. “So as a result of the inflation, security in investment alternatives comes first.”
From a personal point of view, Abdel Fattah believes bank savings, at this point, are better. Investing in capital markets yield faster and higher profits, so you might get 40 percent return on investment (ROI), but you also might lose 40 percent of your money, especially under the current, unpredictable situation in Egypt. On the other hand, banks can generate between 10 to 20 percent, but bear no risk at all. Abdel Fattah says that the current bank interest rates are some of the highest in the Egyptian banking history, which provides a good, safe opportunity for investors.

Financial advisor Mostafa Barakat, however, believes that banks and stock markets are not recommended at the time being because interest rates and returns will be absorbed by the currency devaluation. Instead, he believes the optimum investment in Egypt at the moment is real estate, which is “both, secure and profitable.” Barakat explains that one of investors’ biggest fears is the stability of the currency’s value and so investment in real estate can overcome this issue as property prices increase with inflation, and hence safeguard money against it. “Real estate investment is the fastest investment in Egypt as well.” Barakat argues that buying an apartment and leasing it will mean that you would get a monthly income and the apartment value will increase annually. Your savings will then not only yield monthly returns on investment, but the sum invested will also increase in value over the years. That way, “You can get back what you paid for the apartment within three or four years,” Barakat adds.

In general, the investor must choose an investment alternative that will not scale down as quickly as the Egyptian currency, Barakat argues. “For instance, LE 5,000 saved at the beginning of 2016 is expected to lose 20 percent of its value by the end of 2017,” he explains. So one way of safeguarding your money from inflation is to put your savings in gold and not money to ensure it will increase, and not decrease, in value.

How to save

We often struggle on setting aside money for savings, we always have this extra trip we absolutely need to go on, this video game our kids absolutely need to buy, or even those pair of shoes we have to have. But with the increasing cost of living, saving is becoming even harder, and yet, even more essential.

Abdel Fattah argues that we all need to set a saving plan from the minute we start a family. “If you decide to save whatever is left of your salary, nothing will be left or saved,” Abdel Fattah explains. Instead, make a decision upfront on what portion of your salary will be saved, set it aside monthly, and then set your budget of the portion left of your salary after deducting savings. “Make your own budget and stick to it,” he says.

There is no right formula, however, and each person should set his own plan based on his needs and circumstances. You need to consider recent and future needs like kids’ education and school fees, for instance, and start dividing the sum you will need in the future on the months left until you need them to know how much you should save. If you’re buying a car, for instance, with LE 2,000 monthly installments, you need to factor that into your budget plan.

One tip Abdel Fattah has is to make it hard for yourself to spend your savings. “If you want to save money for your kids, you have to save it somewhere you cannot reach until they grow up,” Abdel Fattah suggests.

Before setting any financial plan, however, you need to first be aware of what you spend if you want to cut it. Barakat says there are many ways to track your money and make your own budget, ranging from going old-fashioned and writing your expenses on paper to using online and mobile tools. But after tracking your spending, Barakat says, it will be extremely easy to make your own budget to help you save for the future.

“People need to plan more as well as rationalize their consumption,” Abdel Fattah adds. He explains that if we take a look at our daily routine, we could easily find several resources that could be saved; things like leaving the watter running for long times, leaving the air conditioner or the television switched on when nobody is in the room and other similar habits cost us more than we think. Abdel Fattah also argues that we need to reconsider the clothes we buy unnecessarily to fit new trends, and cooking more than we need then throwing away the leftovers as opposed to consuming them the next day.
Abdel Fattah advises against taking loans for marriage, education or any other occasion because interest rates on loans are high, and so it is a very costly alternative. “I save my money in the bank with an average interest rate of 17 percent while loan interest rates range from 20 to 25 percent.” Barakat agrees, adding that the first course of action is tracking your spending and creating a budget to save for important stages of life like marriage. “Creating a practical budget is the only way to help you achieve all your life goals, be it marriage, education or any other,” says Barakat.

It is also important to have money saved for emergencies. “Securing funds is not only for your known needs and goals, it has to be for your unknown future needs as well,” Barakat says. This means saving for unpredictable future events so you’re not left looking for loans and paying more interest than you need to.

Budget applications

If this reading has pumped you up to make a financial plan and start saving, you might make use of the various budgeting applications out there. Budget applications are tailor-made to help you save money and track your expenses to avoid penalties from late payment, and know where you overspend and where you can cut back. These budgeting applications are easily installed on almost any smart phone and help you, within a few seconds, set a budget for each item and keep track of your spending on food, clothes, telecommunication and any other label you input. They also notify you when payments are due and help you optimize your budget.

This year, the best budget applications can be connected directly to bank accounts to automatically discover where you spend money, get notifications on bills due date and find out how much money is left for a specific item. Most of the budgeting applications are downloadable for free, and those who are not, do not cost more than a few dollars.
One of the best budgeting applications is Mint, which you could easily connect to your bank account, and it will work on the details of the account then make a budget based on that. The Mint budgeting application is designed with high security standards to ensure that your bank account and your data is fully secured and will send notifications when unusual charges occur as well as giving you the needed tips to reduce the disbursed money and see clearly your budget and personal expenses.

The best budget applications in 2017

•You Need a Budget (YNAB)
•Level Money
•Digit bot
•Albert. et
8/15/2017 11:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Measuring the Nile]]>
The structures were of three types: a simple vertical column in the water (as in the medieval example in central Cairo, the modern ornate housing of which is pictured above); a well with a culvert to the Nile (as, supposedly, at Kom Ombo temple, although this may simply be a well rather than a measuring device); or a set of steps cut into the bank (as at Elephantine Island, Aswan). Each was calibrated in Egyptian cubits (roughly 54 centimeters or 21 inches) subdivided into seven palms, and then into four fingers.
The medieval nilometer at the end of Roda Island in Cairo—though of the simplest type—is particularly beautiful with its nineteenth-century Turkish conical roof, though, as a rather small uninteresting building from the outside, it is often overlooked even by those who have lived in Cairo all their lives.

Standing on the site of an older building (destroyed in AD 850, ironically enough, by the Nile’s flood) from AD 715, and probably on the site of a Pharaonic nilometer, the current structure dates to 861, when it was ordered to be built by the Abbasid caliph Al-Mutawakkil under the direction of Ahmad ibn Muhammad Al-Hasib. It was restored by Ibn Tulun in 872–73, and again in 1092 by the Fatimid caliph Al-Mustansir.

The architect of the existing structure, Abu’l ‘Abbas Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Kathir Al-Farghani—rather more pithily known in the west as the astronomer Alfraganus—was a native of Farghana, in West Turkistan (now Uzbekistan), an important staging post on the North Silk Road from Xi’an. There is a statue dedicated to him at the entrance to the Roda Island site.

Alfraganus’s design was quite straightforward. Three tunnels at different heights lead in from the river to the east into a stone-lined pit around a central marble column, resting on a large millstone and capped with a Corinthian capital, marked in 19 cubits. Thus, the nilometer was capable of measuring a flood of 9.2 meters. If the flood measured much below 16 cubits, it was too low, and if it measured above 19, it was too high.

In the days immediately preceding the maximum flood, the column was anointed with saffron and musk in order to help induce the most beneficial water level.

In addition, around the top of the pit are talismanic Qur’anic inscriptions in Kufic script (said to be the earliest surviving examples of architectural epigraphy in Egypt):

“We sent down water from heaven as a blessing, causing gardens to grow, and grain for harvest” (50:9).

“See you not how God sends down water from heaven so that the earth becomes green?” (22:63).

At one time, a short dedicatory inscription, indicating that the nilometer was built in 861, completed the frieze. This was removed in 872 and replaced by more Qur’an inscriptions, probably by Ibn Tulun as a means of asserting his independence from Abbasid Baghdad.

The stone-lined pit—circular at the bottom and rectangular at the top—is accessed by a staircase hugging the interior wall. At one level the walls have recesses on each side with pointed arches and framed by thin columns, decorated with zig-zag patterns. These ‘tiers-point’ arches are, remarkably, of the same type that would characterize Gothic architecture in Europe some three hundred years later than their appearance here.

In the medieval period, and possibly before, the moment the Nile flood reached 16 measured cubits along the vertical central column was a key moment for celebration. This was the signal for the Festival of the Opening of the Canal at Fumm Al-Khalig (the mouth of the canal). The Khalig lay along modern Port Said Street and consisted of a narrow waterway that bisected Cairo from south to north until it was finally paved over in 1898.

The Khalig was dry for most of the year, and, certainly in its later years, widely considered a health hazard. Cesspit workers were employed to clean the canal every year by hand, and as late as 1870 a petition was presented to the Ottoman authorities urging them to do something about the awful stench and “forestall the possibility of an epidemic.”

Nonetheless, John Gardner Wilkinson (1797–1875), considered by many to be the father of British Egyptology—he first numbered known tombs in the Valley of the Kings from KV1 to KV21, among other achievements—wrote extensively about the Festival in the 1847 Handbook for Travellers in Egypt, published as part of the well-respected John Murray handbooks for travelers (a series which eventually mutated into my all-time favorite set of guidebooks, the Blue Guides).

On the night before the festival, according to Wilkinson, thousands of Cairenes crowded booths on the shore or boats on the river where they were suitably entertained. Marquees were also pitched along the north bank of the canal for the Governor of Cairo and other dignitaries.

At about 8 am on the morning of the festival, the governor would arrive with his troops and attendants, and upon a signal, men would cut the dam holding back the Nile with hoes. A pillar of earth, ‘Arousat al-Nil’ or ‘The Bride of the Nile,’ would be left in the middle of the dam which, tradition held, was a substitute for a human sacrifice to the river gods in Pharaonic times.

While the flood rushed into the canal, the governor would throw silver coins, and the men who had cut the dam would dive into the rapidly swirling water to retrieve them, with the occasional unfortunate result.

As soon as sufficient water had entered the Khalig, boats full of Cairenes would pass through the canal.

This no-doubt colorful spectacle came to an abrupt end, of course, when the Khalig—which was a particularly noisome ditch running through the center of the city for most of the months of the year—was paved over (and became the first tram line in Cairo).

After the initial damming of the Nile at Aswan in the early twentieth century, nilometers
also began to fall out of use, and, indeed, the fine example on the end of Roda Island no longer connects to the river at all, though it may have done so as late as 1970.

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8/14/2017 11:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Crust Pizza: The everyday gourmet pizza place]]>
For a vegetarian, a pizza is about the only fast food to indulge in, and after having had my fair share of pizza pies, today I can safely and honestly say that I have come to the holy grail of pizza places in Cairo: Crust Pizza. Perfectly baked, the authentic pizza made with fresh ingredients is delivered to your home fresh, hot and simply delicious. It was also a nice surprise to see that the premium pizza and fresh ingredients are not overpriced.

If you’re a Maadi resident, you’ve probably either ordered Crust Pizza or seen their old branch, complete with swings and an outdoor area. The new branch off Nasr street is small and cozy; tucked in a side street, the place has three benches and a wooden bar, funky pizza-inspired graffiti on the wall and a heavenly smell of freshly baked dough. It’s not meant for a night out: Primarily a delivery and pick-up place, the branch is made for a quick, casual bite.

We started off with the chili salami Stromboli (LE 44) and the soft pizza rolls (LE 30). I opted for a salami-free Stromboli piece and it was perfectly crispy on the outside and softer on the inside with a sweet kick from the chili jam and melted cheese. The soft pizza rolls were a crowd-pleaser, featuring tomato sauce, cheese and olives.

I then went for the Italian vegetables pizza (LE 52) while my friends ordered the oriental sausage pizza (LE 65), two Chicago deep-dish pizzas; hotdog (LE 90) and cheese lovers (LE 95). The Italian vegetables pizza was unlike anything I have tried within this price range; perfectly baked, the right thickness (not too American, not too crispy thin) and perfectly cooked veggies that are neither too well-done nor too crispy. The pizza came topped with homemade tomato sauce, peppers, zucchini, eggplant, roasted tomatoes, fresh mushrooms and chunks of yum goat cheese. We were sold on the fresh mushrooms alone, but the gourmet goat cheese was definitely a bonus in our books. The oriental sausage pizza, I was told, was a welcome change from traditional options and the sausage was well-spiced.

One of those guilty pleasures you can’t resist even if your scale disagrees is the Chicago deep-dish pizza. In traditional Chicago style, the pizza has a thick crust to surround the incredible amount of cheese and tomato sauce inside and is definitely not for the faint-hearted. We would recommend you share this dish with a minimum of two people; do not attempt to finish it on your own—you’ve been warned. A quarter of the pizza was enough for me, but I did have a whole medium-sized pizza to gobble on my own, so that’s not really a fair judgment.

Although we were full to say the least, we couldn’t resist the temptation of their Reese’s wrap (LE 55), a calzone stuffed with melted Reese cups, to satisfy our sweet tooth.
Overall, we would definitely be coming back for more next time we’re around Maadi. Bonus tip: Crust Pizza has a branch in the North Coast this summer at Lake Yard, Hacienda Bay. et
Pizza Crust • 6/5 Shawky Abdel Moneim Street, off Nasr Street, Maadi •Tel: +2 (010) 1866-1771.



8/13/2017 10:37:11 AM
<![CDATA[A Practical Guide to Minimalism]]>
Over the past few years, a minimalist movement has been on the rise, calling for us to ditch everything we do not need or use, and strip down to the basics for a more fulfilling life—with the added bonus of spending far less than we normally do.

“Imagine a life with less. Less stuff. Less clutter. Less stress, and debt and discontent. A life with fewer distractions. Now imagine a life with more. More time.

More meaningful relationships. More growth, and contribution, and contentment,” said the self-proclaimed minimalist Ryan Nicodemus to a small audience while touring with friend Joshua Fields Millburn.

The two have co-authored a book called Everything that Remains, advocating minimalism and arguing that if you surround yourself with the things you really need, you will not only save money, but also become happier.

Another American minimalist, Joshua Becker, lives in Vermont with his wife and children, committing to a life of minimalism and sharing their stories, guides and tips on his blog becomingminimalist.com.

Becker argues that one of the many benefits of this lifestyle is spending less money on material things, and hence, saving money on storage, maintaining, mending and cleaning your excess belongings.


With the recent economic conditions forcing us all to become tight when it comes to spending, it might be worth getting a basic introduction to leading a minimalist lifestyle—or at least adopting a few aspects of it.

Becoming a minimalist

One of the first steps to becoming a minimalist is to declutter your life and surround yourself with things you need on daily basis while stripping yourself from everything else. This may sound a bit extreme, but a decluttered life can both, cause less stress and save you a little money. Think of all the clothes and shoes in your closet. How many items do you really use? Consider the stuff you have stored away in boxes, only good for collecting dust. So take a bold step, go through that closet of yours and sell whatever items you do not use on daily basis that have value, and give away the stuff that you cannot sell.

Stop buying, start borrowing

The newest iPhone, several cars in the garage, clothes only fashionable for one season and having anything they can afford, for some people, are signs of success in life. However, the next step to becoming a minimalist and saving money is to stop buying excessively.

Instead of spending a fortune on a new dress, borrow one from a friend the next time you go to a party and feel like you have nothing to wear. Things like books, kitchen appliances and party clothing can easily be borrowed. We tend to buy things, then use them only once or twice.

Fix it

Another way to avoid buying new things is to attempt fixing those that break; in a country like Egypt, this is a specially easy task. Household appliances, gadgets and toys can often be fixed by professionals for a smaller price than buying a brand new one. Smart phone screens are particularly sensitive, so make sure you have a cover for your phone.

Clean out the closet

The closet is often the most cluttered and unorganized part of any home, but a trick to cleaning it out is to turn all hangers around so they face the wrong way at the beginning of each season. After you have worn an item, turn the hanger around so it faces the right away. At the end of the season, sell or give away all the clothes you have not used in the past months.

Shopping detox

Challenge yourself not to buy new clothes, shoes and accessories for 90 days. The detox will force you to get creative with the clothes you already have, and hopefully you will find new ways to combine tops, bottoms and accessories. Do not tempt yourself by going to malls or looking at clothes online. If you think 90 days is an impossibly long time, challenge yourself not to shop for 30 or 60 days to begin with.

There are plenty more tips and strategies, but it is important to remember that at the end of the day there is no right or wrong way to lead a minimalist life.

On stage, Nicodemus pointed out that if you are in love with books and smile every time you look at your collection, you should absolutely not throw them away.

Minimalism is not about living a Spartan life with bare white walls and denying yourself pleasures; it is about living a meaningful life where dead things are not prioritized over financial security and human relations. et

For more inspiration, podcasts and guides check out these websites:
becomingminimalist.com, simplifymagazine.com and theminimalists.com.

8/8/2017 4:33:18 PM
<![CDATA[Guitarist with a Purpose ]]>
Ousso speaks to us about his latest venture, music and how he came to be one of the top musicians in the country without getting any sort of formal music degrees. Ousso founded Ewsal Bel3araby (www.bel3araby.net), an integrated musical platform in the form of a musical social-networking platform where people can connect and keep us with the music scene. Under the project, Ousso also launched El Sellem; an online platform and YouTube channel where young talents can learn various instruments through online tutorials in Arabic by professional musicians—free of charge. At a recent jamming session, we got to see Ousso at work.

Tell us about yourself.

My career as a professional musician started in 1995 when I used to play rock music. My first concert in the commercial scene came by coincidence as a replacement to the original guitarist for Samira Said in Adwaa El Madina festival. There, I met important musicians who then recommended me for other work and further collaborations such as recording the soundtrack with Yousry Nasrallah’s film El Madina (The City). I later worked with musicians such as Yehia Ghanam, Hassan Khalil, Ahmed Rabie and Eftekasat, co-founded Nagham Masry as well as played and recorded with all the pop artists in the Middle East, such as Mohamed Mounir, Amr Diab, Shereen, Samira Saeed and Angham to name a few.

In 2006, I decided to slow down on commercial concerts, created and organized a major music festival called SOS (Save Our Sound), aiming to introduce indie music to the scene.

Throughout my career, I managed to perform, compose and produce music projects and recordings for several brands like telecommunication networks Etisalat, Vodafone, and Mobinil (now Orange). I have worked on corporate events, such as Nokia Express Festival that consisted of four stages, all carrying out concerts simultaneously.

How did you end up studying at Berklee College of Music in Spain?

I am self-taught, I don’t have a bachelor’s degree in music, but I used to take lessons with pianist Rashed Fahim who was a Berklee graduate and who taught me jazz music theory. Later, in 2009, the American University in Cairo invited me to teach guitar and music technology. Berklee has constructed another campus in Spain specialized in postgraduate studies. The university’s master’s degree required a bachelor’s degree in music, and even though I didn’t have the degree, I managed to send them samples of my work and they offered me a scholarship to join the contemporary music studio program.

What inspired you to create the 19th Corporation and how did it start?

I enjoy organizing and carrying out events and shows related to music, but anything related to event planning is also probably relevant to entertainment; so you have to consider logistics, organization, production, permits, security and venues. I was inspired to launch activities in the entertainment and music industry that would be more creative, original and new—like the SOS music festival and Nokia Express—as well as create a fusion process that is rarely found in the entertainment business.

In 2010, I stopped all of my activities and founded The 19th Corporation to present commercial events in an effort to resume the SOS music festival, but the revolution in 2011 delayed these plans. Later on, I got back to playing music with pop stars Mohamed Mounir and Shereen, and became a full-time musician then went to Berklee. When I came back, I continued performing music and working on organizing major commercials and music, like the album launch tour of Massar Egbari. The company also carried out corporate events like the Marassi Spring Festival with Emaar Misr, the Classic Cars Show, Halloween and El Moled Festivals.

What makes The 19th Corporation company different from any other music production or event management company in Egypt?

First, we don’t organize events for the sake of only generating revenue; we seek to develop projects that are creative and that create a memorable experience. The company was initiated by a professional musician, not just an entrepreneur or businessman.

What is the most special project that the company has produced?

Ewsal Bel3araby is a 360 musical platform to help discover rising musicians across the country. There, one can listen to music, observe, learn or do anything related to music, even networking and getting introduced to music amateurs and professional musicians.

Ewsal Bela3raby teaches music online as a first step and later applicants are encouraged to take part in El Sellem project to learn music and network for further musical collaborations to start their individual processes in composing music, forming their own bands and starting their own musical projects.

What music genres does Ewsal Bel3araby specialize in?

We teach all genres of music in Ewsal Bela3araby, but we don’t teach classical music as we would like to focus more on contemporary music, oriental, jazz, pop, rock and indie genres.

How can Ewsal Bel3araby further develop?

Our next plan involves expanding the project and creating Ewsal Bel3araby music hubs in Arab countries with vast musical networks in countries like Morocco and Dubai.

Tell us more about the tutors who teach music in Ewsal Bela3raby.

There are several talented artists who take the initiative to teach what they know about music through Ewsal Bela3raby, such as Hany El Badry who is very inspirational and plays ney and is known for being a master in oriental music theories. Electronic music is taught by Amir Farag, a band member in MAF, a DJ and music producer who is very knowledgeable when it comes to equipment and software. Azima and Hani Bedeir are two of the percussion teachers who are specialized in teaching Middle Eastern percussion. We also have 10 guitarists, including myself, bass guitarists, drummers, saxophonists, keyboard teachers, oud instructors like Belqais and Mohamed Abo Zekry who fuse traditional oud with contemporary music and Nagwan who teaches Indian rhythms.

What artists and performers do you seek to work with and haven’t worked with yet?

I don’t have any preferences because I have worked with many artists throughout my musical career, including music producers like Tarek Madkour, Tamer Karawan and Hesham Nazih to name a few. I have also worked with many people in the indie music scene.

What do you think of the current music scene in Egypt? What do you think it lacks and how can it develop?

What I see lacking is exactly what I am trying to tackle in Ewsal Bela3raby, which is that the music industry is only present in Cairo and missing in other governorates. Each governorate should feature its own music industry that includes local musicians, venues, concerts and schools. We lack musical knowledge due to the lack of musical exchange between governorates; a problem that Ewsal Bel3araby plans to contribute to solving.

Tell us about a special experience you had as a musician.

The best experience I had was a project called Music Matbakh, organized by the British Council, where they invited two musicians from countries like Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Syria and England. We all stayed in England for one month in a studio, and we composed and produced a lot of soundtracks that could make up three whole albums. We also went on tours and played music and participated in concerts everywhere in Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Morocco and the UK.

What’s your advice to young, rising artists?

Practice, study hard, be patient, produce a lot, seek all chances and never lose hope. The music scene is tough and being a professional musician requires a lot of training and commitment, as well as patience and an understanding of the market.

Rising artists should also know that they have chosen one of the hardest careers ever because its chances of success are limited and making a living out of music is even harder worldwide.

Are there any other company projects in the pipeline?

Most of the projects we plan to conduct will be under Ewsal Bel3araby initiative. We want to build a center to teach music and include venues carrying out many live concerts. Other projects will include tours and live concerts. We also plan to implement a five-year plan that will include small venues representing Ewsal Bel3araby in all governorates. These plans will also be in parallel with joint performances with bands and organizing events with other companies.

Earth 19 is another project that The 19th Corporation plans to carry out annually, and it is a music and arts festival organized in collaboration with Earth Gallery in October. The festival will feature a three-day camp including all handmade and eco-friendly materials in an effort to provide awareness and tell people that they can have fun without damaging the environment. It’s a full-on environment-friendly camping experience. The festival will host professional bands and DJs like Massar Egbari, Nagham Masry, Nour Ashour, HOH and MAF. et]]>
8/6/2017 3:35:02 PM
<![CDATA[What Women Give ]]>
Women are often left with the responsibility of childcare, household chores, running a home and caring for family members, but all too often they are also responsible for putting bread on the table; in fact, the Central Agency for Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) estimates that women are the heads of 18.1% of households in Egypt, and although women constitute only 25% of the employed labor force of people aged between 15 to 64, when accounting for their contribution to the informal sector as well as their unpaid household work, the percentage becomes far greater.

That means women are often overburdened inside and outside their homes, and are left undercompensated due to discrimination and working in environments unfavorable to women in general, and especially childbearing women.


Hidden contribution to the economy

Egyptian females do unpaid household work that is worth 30% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), but the work remains largely unstudied and uncompensated or accounted for in economic studies done on the country, according to a 2016 report by Salwa El Antari, former manager of the research department at the National Bank of Egypt and head of the economic committee of the Egyptian Social Party.

A study of trends in women’s involvement in the workforce released by the International Labor Organization (ILO) argues that, globally, 34.2% of employed women work less than 35 hours per week, compared to 23.4% of employed men. The figures suggest that women undertake more unpaid household work than men, making it impossible for them to invest more hours in paid work. Therefore, they are underpaid and overworked.

El Antari’s study, released by New Woman Foundation, an Egyptian non-governmental organization that attempts to empower women and reduce inequalities, argues that it’s crucial not to overlook women’s unpaid contribution to the economy, in addition to studying their formal and informal work. Her research covered a sample of 12,000 families from all Egyptian governorates and data was used from a 2012 survey. Her findings were the first estimate of their kind ever obtained of the value of Egyptian females’ unpaid household labor.

Throughout her interaction with various women as the subjects of her research, the Director of the Women and Work Program at the New Woman Foundation Mona Ezzat discovered that many females who worked for their families described themselves as housewives or unemployed.

Through her research, El Antari found out that many females who work for their families or in family businesses do not receive an income. According to her, this leaves female workers not only economically dependent but also more vulnerable to family violence and less empowered to participate in decision-making.


While she admitted that household work estimates cannot be included in GDP calculations, El Antari explained that they reflected a more precise image of the female contribution to the economy as they provided services that support the income-generation processes.

While El Antari’s findings bring Egypt one step closer to that goal, the researcher herself believes that real progress is not possible without the active application of laws. “The real step that we needed was the constitution but it remains to be translated into legislations that are applicable on the ground-level,” she says.

According to Ezzat, females who are in the labor force are involved in fields that require work similar in nature to domestic caretaking work. “There are specific fields where women are present in very small numbers. These include mining, building and construction,” she explains. Ezzat adds that this is due to the deep cultural belief that delegates the burden of child-raising on the mother alone rather than encouraging a shared-responsibility approach.

This failure to share responsibility might explain why two out of every three women who leave work in Egypt for family-related reasons do not return to work, according to the ILO, and why women’s employment rate in 2015 was 25.5% less than that of men’s, compared to only 0.6% in 1995.

Associate Research Professor Hania Sholkamy from the Social Research Center at the American University in Cairo agrees with the ILO research, having authored several works on the reality of work for Egyptian women. “They [mothers] have to find ways to make income and work that does not intrude on their idealized reproductive role,” she says.

Informal work

Due to the difficulty of getting employed formally as a woman of childbearing age—be it due to the inflexible hours conflicting with childcare and home responsibilities or employers preferring men over women in many sectors—many females resort to the informal sector to be able to balance paid with unpaid domestic work.

According to Sholkamy, these factors along with the ease of entry and exit are what drive many women to seek informal work. Sholkamy believes that the flexibility of informal work is especially attractive for the less-privileged women with unsupportive families. She gives the example of some women having to work to provide an income while pretending not to work around visiting family members either by missing shifts or avoiding talking about the subject.

In fact, that was the case with Zizi Mohamed, a 33-year-old widow who, lacking her late-husband’s family’s support, went on various business endeavors. Women offering informal cleaning services is a popular example. For Mohamed, it was selling homemade falafel and cheese on the street.


Informal work typically means less yield and much more danger. Research conducted by Taha Kassem published in the International Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences shows that informal employment increased from 30.7% in 1998 to 40% in 2012, accounting for 68% of the GDP in Egypt. The study adds that formal employees who do the same work typically receive lower wages. In addition, women in the informal economy receive lower wages than men in the same jobs.

Workers in the informal economy hardly have job security, which jeopardizes their income. They do not have any form of social protection, including maternity leave, health insurance and retirement pensions. Most importantly, there are no accurate estimates of their numbers or contribution and they are hardly contributing to the country’s GDP.

Discrimination in the workplace

CAPMAS shows a visible gap between working women and men in Egypt, with women’s participation in the economy standing at 23%, one of the lowest rates in the world according to the Economic Research Forum (ERF).

The number comes down to around 10% in Upper Egypt, according to Heba Handoussa, the head of Egypt Network for Integrated Development (ENID), an organization dedicated to developing women in Upper Egypt, and former managing director of the ERF. CAPMAS argued that the gap ought to be minimized in order to ensure fair share of the economy which leads to equal opportunities for both genders.

Sholkamy explains that this is due to the patriarchal social order in Egypt that relegates women’s work to secondary status. “When they do compete in the market, they get the bad jobs,” she adds.

That means that formal and informal sectors often prefer males over female counterparts. Ghossoun Hamdy, the primary breadwinner in her family and a secretary at Gloria Ceramics, explains that she would often get rejected at job interviews because she is a woman. “If I am applying for a job at a call center, for instance, they would often say they need men because they’d be able to work night shifts,” she recounts.

Hamdy also often works selling products on commission in parallel to her full-time job.

Aside from the discriminatory environment, balancing work and family obligations in a society that often puts pressure on women to answer the needs of children and household needs, women in the workplace often face harassment. A study by the Egyptian Labor Union in 2014 shows that 30% of women in the workplace are subjected to verbal harassment.

Hamdy recounts an interview where her potential future boss asked her whether she knows how to give massages because he has a slipped disc and needs a secretary who can give massages. “The concept of a secretary is wrong in many people’s heads,” she adds.

Sholkamy believes safety, dignity and security in the workplace and transportation are key to developing women’s role in the economy.

Several non-governmental organizations, like the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), try to seek solutions to empower women economically in Egypt. UN Women announced that equality in the workforce can increase the country’s GDP by up to 34%.

Egypt has made great progress in educating women, increasing their lifespan and lowering their birth rates since the 1990s. However, when it comes to equal opportunities in the economy, there is still a lag, according to the World Bank report released on Egypt and the Middle East.

The lack of women’s participation is due to discrimination in their careers which many women have to deal with in their everyday career paths.

“The first thing that comes to my mind as a form of discrimination against females is the job opportunities. The real index shows a big unemployment rate for women compared to men,” says El Antari. “The unemployment rate in Egypt is 13.4 %, and if we divide this percentage into two segments, we will find the percentage for women is more than 25% while men weigh 8.5%, which is three times lower than the percentage of females.”

Although the labor law under Egypt’s constitution stresses the implementation of gender equality in the labor market, job titles, job ranks and pay scales, it is not entirely implemented. Policy makers should consider that laws can be subjected and limited by cultural differences.

For example, women are not allowed to work in factories until late as it is not safe for them to go home late, which minimizes their participation in this field, El Antari says.

She explains that governmental stakeholders are helping men to take many opportunities from women which makes the gap wider, preferring male candidates over females, even if the official ads say the job is open for both genders.

Wage discrimination is one major form of gender inequality in Egypt since women are paid less than men while working in the same positions and putting in the same effort; men still get a higher monthly salary compared to women.

According to the ILO’s 2015 Gender Pay Gap index, women’s wages range between 4 and 36% less than men’s, according to the International Association for Research in Income and Wealth (IARIW). Men and women are equal under the constitution. However, the ILO index estimates that women still have 75 years to reach the “equal pay for equal work” principle, according to the IARIW.

Ezzat, from the New Woman Foundation’s Working Women program, says some corporates would discriminate against women by making claims that women are not committed to their jobs as much as men are as mothers leave the job at anytime or take a break to look after their kids or due to pregnancy.

Ezzat adds that this comes from a culture of masculinity which puts women in the “mother” category only while ignoring a woman’s capability of performing a job just as well as a man can. “There is an absence of applying the law regarding working women which is a result not only of lack of governmental supervision but also the societal stereotype of women being responsible for the kids,” says Ezzat.

Economic empowerment

The ILO has announced the recognition and valuation of unpaid care and domestic work as one of the fundamentals of women’s economic empowerment, leading to gender equality on their 2030 agenda. But prioritizing and defining issues within economic empowerment differs from one expert to the other.

El Antari defines economic empowerment of women as “empowering females to become active economic participants so that they have the right to participate in the decision-making process inside the house, at the workplace and in the political arena on the societal level.”

On the other hand, Handoussa believes that education is key in empowering women. “Economic empowerment means that you understand what options are so if you’re illiterate, you’re starting at the very bottom of the pyramid and you need to climb a ladder that’s quite high, so that’s step one,” she says.

She adds that the role of NGOs dedicated to women is crucial because they teach women to become leaders and entrepreneurs, especially those focusing less on charities and more on development of women, and engaging them in economic activities in a more sustainable approach.

Hanaa El Hilaly, current UN advisor on sustainable development and former managing director of the Social Fund for Development at the Cabinet of Ministers, believes that empowering women economically is essential to “raise the standards of living of their families.” She adds that if women guarantee bread on the table at the end of the day, they will have more appetite for political participation.

Women do set precedents in some fields such as banking and public relations. However, significant change in social behavior toward women’s participation in the economy needs to take place to support the need to adopt labor market policies which stand for working women.


Supporting an effective women’s entrepreneurship policy could be an effective way to tackle female unemployment in the market. Founder of Charisma Arts and entrepreneurship coach Vivian Labib warns, however, that being an entrepreneur is not easy and women need strength and support.

“You don’t have a sustainable income every day, you’re not an employee so you know nothing about your salary at the end of the month,” she explains. “Many people, including your own family, don’t know what it is exactly that you are doing.”

On the other hand, Dina El-Mofty of INJAZ Egypt is more optimistic about the situation of women in the global economy which is giving them more opportunities. “In areas, women are not given equal rights, and in other areas, they are getting their recognition.

There is always room for improvement, especially in this new generation of women who are very resilient and are creating change across the board; and now there is a movement to include more women globally. So I am sure with time, this will happen here in Egypt,” she says. She believes women in Egypt are already empowered.

“There is not one solution, and we don’t need to empower women. Women are very powerful already. They just need to be included, and included within different areas of economies, of companies and so on.”

Timeline of Women in the Workforce

1800s Women were mainly involved in the agriculture sector but also served as traders, entertainers and midwives while women of higher social classes were restricted to domestic duties.

1832 Mohamed Ali inaugurated a midwifery school for women at Abu Zaabal to encourage women of higher social classes to work.

1900 Influential writer and feminist Qasim Amin and Sheikh Mohammed Abdou called for women’s education and involvement in the workplace.

1909 Nabawiya Musa was the first woman to graduate from a secondary school and started writing later in her life on women and work.

1923 The first Egyptian feminist union was formed, calling for voting and education rights for women as well as providing handicrafts production training for girls

1937 The Egyptian Feminist Union demanded female participation in the League of Nations to represent Egypt internationally.

1951 About 1,000 women stormed the Parliament to demand equal voting rights.

1956 The constitution replaced the 1923 declaring all Egyptians to be equal, regardless of gender. It also forced employers to grant women paid maternity leave of 50 days and provide daycare services wherever 100 or more women were employed. The constitution also forbade employers to fire women on maternity leaves.

1962 A women’s rights clause was added to the national charter stating that “women must be regarded as equal to men and must, therefore, shed the remaining shackles that impede her free movement so that she may play a constructive and profoundly important part in shaping the life of the country.”

Hikmat Abu Zayd became the first Egyptian woman to become a minister, holding the position of the minister of social affairs.

1963 The ministry of social affairs supported vocational training centers, dedicating LE 5.5 million to the start-up of 27 female vocational training centers run by the state.

1966 A study by the Institute of National Planning showed that 82% of female agricultural laborers worked for family businesses for free and didn’t receive any wages to compensate for their work.

1979 Late President Mohamed Anwar El Sadat modified the personal status laws to include more women’s rights, granting women the right to work without her husband’s permission.

1960-1980 Female unemployment rate rose from three times that of the male rate to four times in the 1980s and until 2008.

2017 President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi declared 2017 to be the year of women, announcing several initiatives to support economic empowerment of women, including funding SMEs and supporting mothers.

A new draft of the Egyptian labor law is expected to grant female employees the right to three unpaid maternal leaves instead of two and expand each leave’s duration to reach up to two years and reduce the pregnant employee’s working hours after the sixth month of pregnancy.

Nadia Abdou became the first Egyptian female governor.
8/5/2017 11:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Le Passage Cairo Hotel & Casino Ranked 2nd Best by Trip Advisor 2017]]>8/3/2017 7:36:49 PM<![CDATA[Happy Tummy:Vegan, gluten free delights for your sweet tooth]]>
There is a decent variety of vegan and lactose-free substitutes that can be used while baking, and they can fit nicely into a low-calorie diet. You can actually make a perfectly delicious dessert without having to use milk, eggs or butter. Vegan options for dairy milk include soy milk, produced by soaking dried soybeans and grinding them in water, almond milk, manufactured from almonds with a creamy texture and nutty taste, as well as delicious coconut milk.

Dairy-free coconut cream is also a handy trick to make your very own fluffy vegan whipped cream. You can also replace eggs with ground flax seed, applesauce (1/4 cup for one egg) or bananas; and vegetable shortening is the magic ingredient you can use instead of dairy butter and margarine.

All of the above ingredients are available in Egyptian supermarkets; however, they might come at relatively expensive prices.

To make a delicious gluten-free sweet, dessert lovers can substitute wheat with coconut flower, almond flower (homemade), oats (might contain trace amounts of gluten) or simply use gluten-free wheat.

Follow Yummy Tummy at facebook.com/happytummy.eg

Vegan/gluten free Churros


1 cup water
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour (you can use almond or coconut flour for gluten-free churros)
½ cup sugar and vanilla
Oil, for deep frying

1.In a small pot, heat water and oil.

2.When they start to boil, add the vanilla and flour and stir quickly until a dough is formed.

3.Leave dough to cool.

4.Heat oil. Using a piping bag drop finger-sized shapes into the oil and deep-fry until golden.

5.Roll churros in cinnamon-sugar mix and serve hot

Vegan/gluten free black bean brownies


1 can black beans
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup oats
¼ tsp salt
1/5 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp sugar
¼ cup coconut oil
2 tsp vanilla
½ tsp baking powder
Chocolate chips

1.Grind oats then place with all other ingredients in a food processor and blend until soft.

2.Paint baking tray with oil, sprinkle with cocoa and pour in mixture.

3.Bake for 20 minutes.

Vegan strawberry ice cream
ice cream


1 can coconut cream
2 cups frozen strawberries
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup maple syrup
Dash lemon juice

1.Place ingredients in a food processor and blend till smooth.

2.Pour into a deep container and place in freezer.

3.Take it out of freezer and stir quickly every 30 minutes, for three or four hours.

4.Leave to set.

8/2/2017 8:02:49 PM
<![CDATA[Face Value]]>
The 30-year-old accountant is fond of all forms of art as she also plays the violin (both solo and within an orchestra for amateurs), and teaches sign language to children.

Kamal is known for manifesting elements of life through her face paintings; with humble techniques and ordinary tools, she manages to deliver strong humanitarian messages through her artistic works. Egypt Today speaks to Kamal about her passion, aspirations and face painting projects.

When did you start face painting? And what inspires you to do it?

Two years ago, I set off on the path of face painting. I was basically inspired by my surroundings and situations in my life, such as humane causes and new ideas, which I acquire when watching new movies alongside ideas that I come up with on my own.

Drawing and painting make me happy and communicate my feelings to others. I think I would go crazy if I quit! I may put it aside for a while, but never quit.

Tell us more about the material and methods you use.

I use makeup brushes and drawing brushes, eye shadow and watercolors to produce my work. My work has appeared in newspapers, and I was also a guest on TV shows where I spoke about my art. I used to draw face portraits on paper for a long time before I proceeded with face paintings, and that helped me draw on my own face, as I quickly grasped the technique.

What social causes are you trying to raise awareness of through face painting?
I was very influenced by one Ramadan charity ad that portrayed a poor woman drinking unclean water because she didn’t have access to sanitized water. The TV ad repulsively ridiculed poor people and failed to draw attention to the actual cause of poor water access in Upper Egypt.

My paintings have expressed several social causes, including awareness on cancer, abuse to the elderly and violence against women, among others.

Portraying mental health issues is among the social causes I seek to shed light on in the upcoming period. Many people suffer from depression which I think is a serious illness; therefore, I want to express that issue in my drawings and emphasize its seriousness.

Do you ever think of developing this into a real business?

I am always drawing in general; however, drawing for social causes is something I consider as a special project with various outputs and issues to express.

How is a finished project different from what you expected when you started?

My expectations of a project are always different than the final output. The output is only 60 percent of what I had in mind which is somewhat frustrating to me. I try for long hours to meet that expectation; however, I believe practice will improve my final projects.

What are your favorite drawings?

My favorite drawings include those expressing the elements of life, such as water and trees, emphasizing their importance in human life.

What have you learned from your projects?

I learned persistence, patience and redrawing certain paintings if they don’t come out right. I learned the importance of applying different techniques and demonstrating more social causes I am passionate about.

Aside from awareness, what messages are you trying to drive through your projects?

One of my goals is to encourage more people to pursue painting activities. I don’t want to be among the few people who pursue face painting. It is already a small platform, compared to other forms of arts which include artists that use photography to launch these face painting projects.

These rising face-painting artists will be able to bring more techniques to the face drawing and painting spectrum, thereby encouraging competition among more artists.

My goals also include raising audience awareness on social issues. Once I drew a painting about skin diseases on my own body to urge people through social media to be kinder to patients who suffer from these diseases and support their families.

Who are the face painters and artists you look up to as inspiring role models?

I am very appreciative of the works of face painters Jordan Hanz, Jody Steel, Ana Cedoviste and Ines Innanai.

Tell us more about your future projects.

I will proceed with my face painting projects, but I am also planning to launch an art exhibit which will feature paintings on the entire human body, not only faces.

8/1/2017 4:03:34 PM
<![CDATA[A Dream of Light]]>
“In 2012, it was a difficult time, the country was passing through serious political changes, and the strenuous, enthusiastic, youthful spirit prevailed. But there was also a spirit of public frustration. We decided that at this dark time, we are in most need of light,” Fayez says.

Fayez and his friends utilized their skills and connections to design a program that would graduate unique artists in various art fields. Today, Helm Elnoor has created a longer program that, not only discovers talented youth, but helps them develop on the artistic, social and psychological level so they are equipped to succeed locally and internationally.

Helm Elnoor’s team is a diverse pool of geographically-spread volunteers from different age groups and backgrounds. “They are all dreamers . . . [have] goals for their lives, and are trying to achieve them, who accept challenges on any level and face them. That was the most important condition,” says Fayez, who himself has overcome challenges to follow his dream. Fayez graduated from the Faculty of Commerce, but went on to train as a director, actor and acting trainer, holding workshops across Egypt and in other parts of the world. Nonetheless, Helm Elnoor is quick to reassure trainees that becoming an artist does not mean leaving their lives behind and neglecting their studies. Instead, they encourage studying and art side by side, assuring that even if one does not eventually choose to be a full-time artist, serving the local and global community through another profession is as commendable.

The team spent the first six months preparing themselves and seeking the counsel of experts in multiple art fields; including conductor Nayer Nagui, novelist Sahar Elmougy and influential civil society figure Yasser Gerab, director of Rawab Theatre at the Townhouse Gallery.

At first glance, Helm Elnoor may resemble many other nonprofit art initiative and training programs in Egypt and the region. “I would like to believe that we are not different, but complementary. We support others working in the field and focus on the human aspect. . . . We have two pillars for the initiative: one is art training, the other is personality development, which was the basis for the program’s design,” Fayez explains.

A dream is born

Helm Elnoor program started in October 2015 and was implemented in three phases. First was the Art Camp held in Alexandria, training 64 participants in nine different art fields under the supervision of renowned professionals including Nagui, Maggie Morgan, Reda Shawky and Mariam Naoum, among others. Phase two was comprised of workshops where trainees dealt with real-life situations and gained hands-on experience. The outcomes of these workshops were presented in two graduation celebrations in March 2016, attended by the families and friends of the youth, trainers and public and media figures.

An initial challenge was to bring all the busy trainers together and constantly motivate them by keeping the vision clear. They generously sacrificed their time, “which equals money, to invest in a group of youth. . . . This was exhausting, and we could not get them to meet; we had 13 principal trainers and others assisting them. It never happened.” Bigger sacrifices were made to meet the trainers individually according to their schedules. Fayez recalls meeting with some starting midnight to 3am, whereas others preferred to meet at 7am before they went to work. Working with volunteers, who are not full-timers, was another stretch, having to tailor schedules to suit their availability while maintaining the balance of responsibilities and roles.

Unlike many other initiatives, Helm Elnoor does not offer a free training program. According to Fayez, trainees need to feel they shared the cost and at the same time find it affordable. Additionally, the dream’s success necessitates visibility in order to produce viable social transformation by connecting with the community. The Helm Elnoor team communicated with governmental offices and entities in the governorates, not for funding, but to urge trainees to collaborate with them.

“Although it took us four months to issue permits from the Ministry of Education to hold events in schools in one governorate, we persisted in cooperating with the ministry, knowing that the security condition was difficult. Later, they realized we were serious about it, they started encouraging us to continue. We insisted on holding an event at the cultural palace of Assiut by cooperating with the governorate office. In Minya, we held our opening ceremony at the Minya Theatre,” Fayez says.

The community day and ceremonies held in governorates ahead of the camp aimed at launching the initiative and spreading the word. In addition to social media, the organization distributed leaflets at libraries and cafes, and posters in the streets and art centres to reach youth outside the centralized capital.

In Assiut, the group obtained the approval of the governorate’s office and set off to paint graffiti in the streets, covering five neighborhoods where 90 percent of the volunteers were local youth who are not part of the team. Three years later, the drawings are still gleaming on the walls. One of them was very special because it was painted on the wall of a landfill. The youth in the area found the team and the volunteers drawing in an area nearby and were excited about a similar work of art to beautify their area. Upon their request, the team moved to paint and craft graffiti drawings after the local youth had cleared the garbage.

The power of networking

Knowing that the NGO does not allocate much funds for art activities, since they are more concerned with societal projects, the team resorted to more creative ways to raise money, sharpening their communication and networking skills. They shared the vision with like-minded trainers and company owners. Trainers, who require a fortune to recruit, decided to volunteer. Company owners, surprisingly, did not pursue publicity as sponsors; they generously provided funding or tools to save money and cut cost. One company, for instance, specialized in creating websites, designed and launched the website free of charge. Another company supported financially by paying the team’s debts. They also reached out to the Ministry of Youth to request a place for one of the events at discounted rates. The team members themselves continue to contribute from their own salaries, or their allowance if they are students, and everyone has the option of a monthly commitment to contribute with “a seed.”

“People’s lives have changed. It was a surprise for me to see the trainers’ lives change. They said they felt something was different. Although the trainees’ artistic level was modest, trainers wanted to give their best, their time, they wouldn’t rest. Trainers chose to join trainees and share their food although they were offered special meals in a space dedicated for them. They would spend the whole day with the trainees and go to their rooms at bedtime only,” says Fayez of the positive spirit among the group.

Donia El-fares, a graduate of the program, is a senior at the Drama and Theater Department at Ain Shams University. She has attended many art camps, but Helm Elnoor’s was one of a kind, she says, describing how after filling in a long, detailed application and going through two interviews—technical and interpersonal to explore her background, knowledge, personal qualities, experience and ambitions—she was finally enrolled in the program, despite having very little background knowledge in film directing.

Participants were divided into groups and over the course of seven days received team-building training in the form of games and focus groups (approximately 10 hours of training per day). They enhanced their communication and interpersonal skills through interaction with one another, discussing the lessons learned on a daily basis and maintaining rapport with their trainers.

El-fares was exposed to the theoretical and also practical side of directing. Her trainers gave her a comprehensive idea of directing and what the process entails. A post-camp 10-day workshop saw teams working collaboratively, each participant in their own area of expertise, on their graduation projects. Helm Elnoor helped the team put what they learned into practice by providing equipment, tools or materials, and even transportation.

After graduation, El-fares worked with film director Tamer Adly, participating in six short films. She is now seeking opportunities to join big productions and considers herself ready to face the challenges. “I can now do it on my own, from A to Z with the right team,” she says confidently.

Helm Elnoor’s graduates also worked on a support network (which they named “Daie,” another word for light) to support each other and work on joint projects. At press time they were also preparing for their first video clip.

For Fayez, honest evaluation is the best way to ensure both success and continuity. “We evaluated the previous program, and I think this is a point of strength that we can evaluate, reasonably self-evaluate, from different points of view and different groups; we listen to trainees, trainers and ourselves. We are happy with the results, but we need to pay attention to the shortcomings,” says Fayez who admits there have been challenges along the way.

“Helm Elnoor is a tool, so we do not glorify it to the extent that we cannot stop the initiative after two years, for example. We can stop Helm Elnoor if the vision is in people’s hearts. Helm Elnoor is not a program that we keep developing and growing or even worship. We can do something different, start a new initiative; the youth themselves began something new, but the idea remains... We hope that the upcoming program involves people from the Arab nation...When we first established Helm Elnoor, we did not want it to be a local program, but a program that could serve the Arab region.”



7/31/2017 11:46:12 AM
<![CDATA[Actor Yasser El-Masry talks about role as Gamal Abdel Nasser in Al-Gamaa 2]]>
Met with critical acclaim, the series successfully attracted many viewers, not only in Egypt, but across the Arab world, given its strong script and topnotch performances.

One cast member that caught the audience’s attention was Jordanian Yasser El-Masry, who skillfully embodied Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. We catch up with El-Masry to talkn about his 20-year career and what’s next forthe talented actor.

Tell us about your background and when you first started taking interest in acting.

I was born in Kuwait and went to school there. Then, in 1990, when I was 19, my family and I returned to our home country, Jordan.

My childhood was like any other child’s: I grew up under the guidance of both, a loving father and a mother who raised me and my six siblings on tolerance, patience and diligence. God bless them. My journey with folk arts and folklore

started on stage when I was 16. Quite by accident, I substituted the main actor at the Second Festival for Youth Theater, which was organized by the Jordanian Ministry of Culture. It was my first major theatrical appearance in 1993, a journey that lasted for more than 20 years until 2007.

Between the two paths, folk art and theater, I performed some 40 roles in important plays. In 1996, I ventured into TV with my debut serial entitled Ors El-Sakr (The Falcon’s Wedding) directed by Ahmed Deaibes to whom I owe my introduction to the world of television. So far, we have worked together on five other TV series.

How did your music studies influence your career as an actor?

There is no doubt that both studying music and my specialisation in folk arts were the scientific bases which helped me gain experience in my acting career.

You’ve worked with many important TV directors during the last 20 years.

Who do you consider had the most impact on your career?

No doubt there were many stops that characterized my beginnings across Jordan and the Arabian Gulf, including starring as the title character of the 2007 series Nemr bin Adwan, whose positive reception is still echoing in the minds of the audience. Produced by the Arab Telemedia Group, Talal Awamleh, in Jordan, the series were the start of further collaboration on another historical one, Malek ibn El-Reib, directed by Mohamed Lotfy.

How did you land your co-starring role in the 2011 Egyptian film Kaf El-Kamar by Khaled Youssef?

This film came when I was looking for a new artistic adventure after many years in TV drama. I did not think that my gateway to Egypt would be with a high-class director like Khaled Youssef.

Acting in the film was like adding years of experience to my career, given its production values and the great ensemble cast.

In performing my characters Dahi and El Kott, I learned how to build the history of the character in flesh, blood and feelings.

I think that my casting in the film hasput me on the Egyptian art map and reflected the importance of cultural exchange between Arab countries.

I must also pay tribute to the late and great star of the film, Khaled Saleh, who was also keen to see me succeed. He was a great brother on and off screen—God rest his soul.

In 2014, I returned to Egypt with theRamadan series Dahsha, starring Yehia El- Fakharany as a character loosely-based on Shakespeare’s King Lear. It was a great acting experience playing the character Abou El-Yazeid alongside the great Hanan Motawe, who played Rabha.

How did you get your casting call for the role of Egyptian President Nasser in last Ramadan’s El-Gamaa 2?

Were you worried about being compared with other actors who played Nasser on the small or big screens?

It was the great scriptwriter Waheed Hamed who nominated me for the role of President Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Of course I have watched the previous actors who played Nasser, including the late and great Ahmed Zaki, who made a great impression, full of honesty and sincerity.

All these actors had a good impact on the Arab audience as they have been very close to bringing back this great character.

As for me, I got the script of El-Gamaa 2 some 50 days before the start of shooting. Without feeling worried, concerned or tense, I focused my research on previous performances.

I studied the text which included dramatic details based on history. To portray the character, we researched the physical details and various Nasser moments: his calmness, serenity, anger and emotion in each scene, which intertwined with the whole text.

I must acknowledge the efforts made by the director of the series, Sherif El-Bendary, and our acting coaches, Osama Barakat and Youssef Noman, who helped me to perfect Nasser’s accent and tone.

After watching many videos, speeches, events and documentaries, and reading many newspaper clippings, I think I have succeeded in impersonating the spirit of Nasser to a large extent.

When the shooting started, all the actors, including myself, had already learned their lines like we used to do on stage.

I must also mention that makeup artist Mohamed Fahmy and director of photography Victor Credi helped me get closer and closer to Nasser.

El-Gamaa 2 included many difficult scenes written with dexterity, even those scenes without dialogue.

The most difficult were the Manshiya scenes, when the attempt on Nasser’s life took place, and the final scenes in the last episode.

7/29/2017 4:46:19 PM
<![CDATA[Talking to Kids about Terrorism]]>
At what age should we not keep them sheltered from what’s happening and sit them down and explain terrorism?

It’s appropriate to exchange information and have conversations with children starting the age of 9. Children today are by far more open, and exposed and they understand so much more than what we expect. However, it is important to put things in a manner in which their still-growing minds can accept it, explaining the facts only and answering their inquisitive questions to the point truthfully. As parents, sharing your emotional side of the story, how it makes you feel and how concerned, scared, worried you are is not productive and will teach the child that life is scary and is to be feared, which can have an impact on their sense of security and safety towards their surroundings.

What about younger children? Do you believe we should keep them sheltered?

I do not believe in sheltering children at all. I think it is best to always be truthful to children, but share the amount of information that they can cognitively comprehend, allowing them room to question you and answering these questions honestly. Do not go talking politics to a child, but explain that, at times, these disagreements between points of view happen and they can lead to things that are not good.

How should parents answer questions like why people kill in the name of religion in a way that doesn’t traumatize them but also doesn’t mislead them?

Although it has been widely believed that religion is the reason behind the killings and children could have heard this from other sources, it is important to explain that religion actually aims differently. Parents need to explain the values of religion and its teachings. Provide the child with information that will build and encourage the child to feel safe in their religion and honestly explain that the choices of killing made under the name of religion are not correct.

How would you advise parents to deal with the post-traumatic stress of a terrorist incident like those that have been recurring lately?

Ensuring the routine is the same, having planned fun activities with children and allowing them to ask questions. Explain to them honestly and simply the truth about the matter, while at the same time stressing that they are safe and things are business as usual. If the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) persist and start affecting the day-to-day functioning of the child, then they need to seek professional help.]]>
7/26/2017 5:40:18 PM

Indulge at the rooftop pool and delight in the stunning view of the Nile at Semiramis InterContinental Cairo. Their day use package includes lunch from the pool menu and open soft drinks for up to two persons at LE 2,000, inclusive of taxes and subject to availability, open from 9 am to 5 pm.

Corniche El Nil , P.O. Box 60 : Cairo ,11511 • Tel : +2 (02) 2798-8000


Relax in the heart of Heliopolis, only a 45-minute drive to the center of town and old Cairo. Summer day-use rates for Egyptian residents are LE 500 for single or double rooms (bed only) and LE 575 for a triple room (bed only), available from 10 am to 6 pm. Overnight rates for Egyptian residents are LE 900 for a single room, LE 1,000 for a double room and LE 1,300 for a triple room, rates are inclusive of applicable taxes and on bed and breakfast basis.

51 El Orouba Street, Heliopolis, Cairo • Tel: +2 (02) 2290-5055. lemeridienheliopolis.com/


Day use rates at the fascinating golf resort are $80 for single rooms and $90 for double ones, all inclusive (bed only). Day use rates are not available in Eid and peak periods.

Road 90, New Cairo • starwoodhotels.com/westin/directory/hotels/all/eg/details.html

]]>7/25/2017 8:46:24 PM<![CDATA[Glitz and Glam: Bahig Hussein ]]>
Hussein was born in Alexandria to Egyptian-Lebanese parents and graduated from Victoria College School and then the Arab Academy for Maritime Transport. He studied fashion illustration for one year before starting his career as a designer in 2007. He has won a number of international awards and designed costumes for several drama series like Leila Mourad and El Zebaq (Mercury) which screened in Ramadan.

“My main inspiration while drawing a new design is the cinema, a good movie inspires me to design a dazzling dress,” says Hussein.

With 56 fashion shows under his belt, Hussein has designed thousands of wedding dresses but the nearest to his heart are his sisters’ and stepsisters’ wedding dresses. “Another one of my famous wedding dresses is the one I designed in Laila Mourad soap opera,” Hussein says.

His spring and summer collections were showcased last March, featuring light pastel colors like off-white, turquoise, beige, light purple and bois de rose and using a mixture of chiffon, lace and tulle.

“The latest hits in wedding dresses are the ones with royal looks, rich fabrics and simple design; simplicity is simply the keyword,” Hussein says, adding that what make his designs different are the rich fabrics and simplicity.

“My tip to any summer bride is to choose the dress that goes with the theme of her wedding, whether outdoor or indoor, the one that makes her look great but is still simple,” says Hussein, explaining that being fancy is not about cost but rather choices. “Long veils are so in fashion, also a pinch of a blush color makes for a trendy effect.”

Hussein’s next project is The Golden Needle Awards, which aims to support fashion designers who don’t have the chance to showcase their talent. “Through The Golden Needle, we will encourage these talents and put them on the right track to enrich the fashion designing field,” he explains. Four prizes will be distributed to the winners of the best evening gown, daywear, accessories and men’s wear designs. The minimum age of the applicants is 21 and they must hold a bachelor’s degree and be fluent in English. Once the panel chooses a selection of the submitted designs, the voting will be public through social media platforms.

Follow Bahig Hussein on Instagram @BahigHusseinOfficial • 26 Abu El-Mahassen El Shazly Square, Mohandessin


7/24/2017 3:53:41 PM
<![CDATA[Seashell: The Beach Essential ]]>
The brand, specializing in practical, easy to carry summer bags and towels to fit all your beach needs, started when Mostafa Magdy and Mohamed Ali came together to offer a unique brand to the local market. Magdy, a graduate of human resources and operations management, and Ali, a business informatics graduate, soon became a summer fashion sensation. They launched an ingenious beach essential; a towel that easily folds into a bag, featuring a waterproof pillow. The invention is padded enough for our comfort and has waterproof pockets for mobile phones and valuables to stay dry and sand-free, and can be bought off their Facebook account.

What are your designs inspired by?

Our designs are inspired by customers’ feedback and we are always looking into doing our designs and products based on what the customer wants and is looking for in a beach bag.

What is new in your collection this summer?

This summer, we want to offer our customers everything they need on the beach, we are launching new, trendy see-through plastic fillet bags and wicker-made bags with colorful Bedouin designs that are made in Fayoum and are high in demand. We also have new colors and designs for the cool portable bag/towel.

What would you say is key to your success?

The most important aspect of our success is customer satisfaction which falls into making sure our products fit well into summer days and are simply made of strong material that cannot be easily torn. We have been through the experience when we first started the business, because wicker bags are easily torn, but we added liners in the bags to make them more durable, and this year we added leather as a more protective material.

Our main aim is customer satisfaction at all costs. That is why we have a three-day return policy for any reason where we refund the customer’s money if they don’t like the product for any reason, or they can even check the item upon arrival and if they don’t like the product , they can refuse to receive it.

Follow Seashell on Instagram @SeashellEgypt • Products sold on their Instagram and Facebook pages


and on their website at www.seashell-egypt.com ]]>
7/23/2017 2:43:26 PM
<![CDATA[Sahara: The Cotton Queens]]>
CAIRO - 22 July 2017: Known for the softest of cottons and a mix of bohemian and Egyptian designs, The Sahara Collection has become a staple for summer wear, whether it’s a funky t-shirt or a flowy summer dress.

From perfectly cut basic tees and racer backs with King Tut designs all the way to crochet-trimmed dresses, The Sahara Collection has made a name for itself that is synonymous with top-notch quality and designs cut to perfection.

The Sahara Clothing Company, established in 1990 and rebranded in 2011 to The Sahara Collection, is focused on encouraging local production, collaborating with women from Nagada, Siwa and Sinai to translate their traditional crafts into modernized collections that appeal to their target market.

“The clothing line’s designs ensure a blend of comfort and style, using the finest and softest Egyptian cotton,” says Karmah Sabry, co-founder and chief designer of The Sahara Collection. “As an Egyptian brand, The Sahara Collection aims to provide a service for Egyptians by producing sophisticated, on-trend designs at affordable, fair prices for a greater lifestyle.”

Sabry studied broadcasting and art at the American University in Cairo then pursued a certificate in fashion from Career Gates to develop her interest in pattern, print and colors.

“The inspiration for the clothing line stem from around me, both from within the city of Cairo as well as merging my design with global trends. Architectural spaces, cultural styles and the physical environment opened my eyes and guided me to use clothing design as not only a form of self expression, but as a mirror to representing the present moment,” adds Sabry.

What sets The Sahara Collection apart from most local brands is that it combines the latest fashion with a mix of vintage elements to produce comfortable clothes with an affordable price for all ages and genders. Sabry puts an ethnic twist using rich and rooted heritage and prints of many tribal cultures of Africa and Egypt, and this is why pattern clothes are the prominent style found in the shop.

“Versatility is key: Picture a flowing dress on the beach then traveling back to the city and pairing it up with heels for a swanky night out around town. The classic gentleman at an office meeting in a polished blue shirt heading to a beach resort in a suave linen combo,” explains Sabry. She adds that The Sahara Collection is all about “everyday cotton basics with an uplift for the daily grind in style.”

The Egyptian designer also aims at creating and providing clothes that give people comfort, confidence and ease, reflecting a mixture of bohemian, African and Egyptian inspirations in the prints and patterns used. “Effortlessly chic in breezy fits and fun prints, being out and about all day with your look on point, getting dolled up at night in festive prints and detail: It is all about the essentials juiced up with ethnic and fashion-forward fusion,” says Sabry.

When did you start getting into fashion?

I have always been interested in fashion and art ever since I was a child. I used to always play dress up as a child with my sister and my cousins, and then once I started being able to draw I was always interested in art and sketching.

What are the essential trends this summer?

You have a lot of midi-lengths, 1990’s fashion is definitely back in, with halter necks and floral embroideries and you also have the gypsy style. There are also lots of different sleeves, like the bishop sleeves, and especially the gypsy style that you can find in Sahara.

How can we stay updated with the latest fashion trends?

I think that, now, there are so many different ways [to learn now about trends] especially through social media. I think Pinterest always has a good lead on that. You can always check out your favorite fashion bloggers, international ones. Different TV channels and magazines can keep you up to date with the latest fashion trends and styles.

What colors should we be wearing this summer?

I think you should always stick to colors that suit your skin tone and your hair color best because these always bring out the best in each person. Also, white and black are always essential in every wardrobe because they always look neat and they go with everything.

What is the one summer fashion tip you would give people?

Keep a waterproof clutch in your beach bag because that is really useful for your phone, your small accessories and money; it will always keep them dry.

Which of your pieces fit slimmer bodies and which flatter curvier ones?

We have a lot of flowy pieces like tops, skirts, maxis, kimonos and pants; these go for both, slim and curvy body types as they are flowy but have a little bit of curves at the waist line so they help flatter both body types.

What are the summer 2017 essential pieces, for beach and generally a day out?

I would say for girls, an off-shoulder top is an essential as they are very in style this season: It comes in many different styles and designs. It can go well for a day on the beach as well a day in the city. On the beach, you could wear them with a pair of denim shorts, and in the city you could always wear it with jeans or a pair of pants and dress it up with some jewelry and wedges. It will suit a lot of girls, especially since it is very feminine.

Pick your favorite piece and tell us how your client can style it for a beach look, an evening look, and a day in the city.

I would say a wrap dress is an essential piece in every girl’s wardrobe. It is very flattering, especially at the waistline because it ties around the waist. It goes well so many different occasions; it can be worn at night, at a resort with a pair of wedges and some simple jewelry, in the city with a different pair of shoes or heels, and different jewelry of course and bags so it’s easy to change it up. It comes in essential black and in festive prints, so these can also be styled accordingly, whether you want to wear it at night or during the day in the city with a pair of flats. It can also be worn at work because it is essential as it goes with so many things and it is very comfortable to be worn at the office all day.

Follow Sahara on Instagram @TheSaharaCollection • Products sold online at TheSaharaCollection.org, in their stores in Zamalek at 13 Mansour Mohamed Street and 10 Brazil Street, and in the North Coast at Diplo 3 shopping complex

7/22/2017 1:04:59 PM
<![CDATA[Yasmine Seoud: The Jazzy Shades]]>
Launched last summer, the main idea behind JAZZY is to create good-quality sunglasses without that hefty price tag.

Yasmine Seoud, founder of JAZZY, has been in love with sunglasses “since forever.” With a good experience in marketing and public relations, Seoud decided to establish her own Egyptian sunglasses brand.

As the name entails, JAZZY is all about funk, fun, fashion and affordability with premium-quality lenses and materials.

JAZZY has established a following in a short time, selling their pieces online through their website and in several boutiques around Greater Cairo. Their latest summer collection features a lot of color, mirrored lenses and unusual, cool shapes.

How did the idea of JAZZY start?

I’ve always had a love for sunglasses and had noticed a spike in sunglasses prices that I thought would prevent us from buying multiple pairs. I know that good quality sunglasses don’t need to cost that much, and this is the rationale behind JAZZY.

The main idea for creating this brand was to offer trendy, fun and affordable sunglasses.

We want everyone to enjoy sunglasses as the fun accessory they should be and also enjoy premium quality lenses and frames. We don’t want you to be stuck with one or two pairs only, we want you to change it up according to your mood, activity and season.

JAZZY encompasses the functionality and style of what we think sunglasses should offer.

What do you believe makes sunglasses stand out?

I think an original design would definitely make a pair of sunglasses stand out. There are endless possibilities, with different colors, shapes and lenses.

What are the latest sunglasses trends this summer?

There are so many new sunglasses brands now, the market is not dominated by the famous designer names only. With this change, we now see that each brand has a different character and style, and offers something different to the consumer.

It’s not just one trend that takes over. Having said that, new trends on the market are unusually-shaped frames, transparent lenses—mirrored lenses are still quite popular—and wooden frames.

Which shades would you recommend for a day on the beach?

The best and most versatile sunglasses for summer should be a pair that is comfortable and light. Colorful sunglasses just pop on the beach, and mirrored lenses are also great for the beach.

What about the most suitable sunglasses for a day in the city?

If you are out in the city, you can go for something a little more dramatic or unusual, I personally like that.

In the end, it’s all about how you feel and what you would like to wear at that moment. An original design definitely makes a pair of sunglasses stand out.

There are endless possibilities, with different colors, shapes and lenses.

How do you choose the right shades for your face shape?

People with heart-shaped faces can usually pull off any sunglasses. It’s hard to generalize a fit for a specific face, but the general guidelines are: for a round face, usually square-shaped sunglasses work best. Likewise for square-shaped faces, round-shaped sunglasses are best.

Aviator-shaped sunglasses usually work well with heart-shaped faces, if you have small features, then don’t go for large, overpowering sunglasses. Oval-shaped faces can pull off pretty much any shape. Having said that, it really is about what you feel comfortable in and which pair makes you happy and suits your mood.

Other than a trendy design, what else should we look for when choosing sunglasses?

First, I would really consider the level of sun protection the lenses offer, after all that really is why we need them.

We take pride in the lenses we use and make sure that they offer a high level of protection, and also the frames and material used.

Good-quality sunglasses don’t need to cost a hefty price and JAZZY is proof of that.

Follow JAZZY on Instagram @byjazzy.

Available in Sahel at Pop-up Shop at Lakeyard and Ghazl Banat at Hacienda, in New Cairo at Pop-up Shop at Downtown Mall, in Zamalek at Mounaya Gallery, Ghazl Banat and Asfour El Nil, in Sheikh Zayed at Maison Pyramide at Mall of Arabia and RAX at Galleria 40, and in Heliopolis at Flair Boutique

Swagger Black
7/20/2017 4:02:11 PM
<![CDATA[Souraya Hassan: The Dreamy Home Guru]]>
The 28-year-old behind Binti Home, an interior styling company and personal blog, started her business in 2009 after graduating from Artemis Styling Academy in Amsterdam. Having travelled to beautiful places and worked on amazing projects, devoting her energy to Binti Home full-time seemed like the best decision Hassan has made so far—except maybe for marrying the love of her life Mahmoud Sherif, a filmmaker and actor, in early 2017.

Hassan is half-Egyptian, half-Dutch, and she and Sherif recently moved to Cairo after having lived in Amsterdam. Recently married, the world of social media followed the makeover she gave her Cairo apartment, transforming it from a dreary red-windowed and black-tiled apartment into a dreamy, pastel-colored, plant-filled haven. Hassan describes the renovation as a heavy, yet inspiring journey—one she is immensely proud of today.

Hassan has several connections in the Egyptian creative field, and in collaboration with local craftsmen, she has designed cushions, vases and kilim carpets. She is particularly inspired by colors, history and details, and some of Hassan’s favorite things are coffee, music and travelling.

What are you inspired by this summer?

When I think about the summer, I think about travelling. Travelling is a big source of inspiration. Discovering places in Egypt, Europe and my first home, Holland. Getting inspired by color palettes of the street, creative arts of the city and bringing beautiful souvenirs back home as both memories and decoration.

What color palette, patterns, materials or textiles are in fashion right now?

Pure materials such as marble and glass combined with brass. Gold is big this year, combined with soft pastels, green tones and layers of neutrals. In our home, we use all of these colors. My husband and I love this bright modern and Scandinavian style, which is also a big trend right now. But I’m also so proud that oriental and authentic influences are still visible in collections worldwide. The best is to combine the two worlds.

What are some of your favorite places to shop for summer home accessories?

I love to shop at bigger stores as well as small boutiques. In Egypt, I love PopUp Shop, Caravanserai, Inca&Co and Ikea. But also the online shops WhitemosDecor, Etsy and Anthropologie are amazing.

How do you give your home an easy and cheap summer overhaul?

It’s all in the accessories: This is the perfect way to change the feeling of your home. Create a color palette of two basic colors and three accent colors. Try to avoid dark colors and work with soft materials such as linen, cotton and light woods. Combine different light tones together and add some pastels for a real summer look. What accessories can you change? Think about the rug, cushions, paintings on the wall and vases. And definitely bring flowers into your home, they are a beautiful addition to every room.

Do you have any tips on how to make a home look clean and fresh? What kind of furniture, color palette or art would be a good choice?

As I said before, bright and light colors are the best. My whole house is painted white (Classic White by Jotun) and I add some accent colors on the walls; Minty Breeze in the living room and Pale Green in the office, all by Jotun. These soft colors combined with white give the space such a bright and uplifting look. We chose simple furniture, for example the big, white sofa combined with small, round tables. Also, the big dining table in oak combined with the ahwa (coffeeplace) chairs we painted ourselves: simple but cozy.

What do you do to prepare your home for summer?

Inside the house, just make sure you have a good AC! Try to avoid heavy curtains, but work with light linen curtains to let the daylight in. I have to admit I am not really a garden person, but I love to do some styling in the garden every now and then, like when I did table styling for an online Dutch magazine. By day, it’s too hot, but at night, surrounded by plants, it’s amazing to celebrate summer nights with family and friends.

Check out more of Souraya Hassan’s work on her blog bintihomeblog.com and @bintihome on Instagram • Follow Binti Home @BintiHome and @BintiHomeShop • Products available at BintiHomeShop.com and latest cushion collection sold at Inca@Co showrooms in Zamalek and Downtown Mall in New Cairo]]>
7/19/2017 1:47:00 PM
<![CDATA[The Perfect Bikini Body ]]>
A week ago, I was hanging out with a friend who asked me, “So what type of beach look do you like? What attracts you?”

I was taken aback by the question and my reply was, “I don’t think of attraction in this way. I am more attracted by qualities rather than form.” But his question left me wondering, to what extent did I really care about the outer form? The way of dress? The look?

In the world of yoga, we constantly teach about the inner journey of the soul. In every class, as we sit quietly in meditation and connect with the breath, we learn that beyond the stresses of daily life—traffic, money problems, arguments, not knowing what tomorrow will bring—there is an innate vastness of stillness and silence that gives us inner peace and tranquility. A vastness that we can tap into at any moment. A space that requires nothing to change on the outside world. A space that is always the same—vast, expansive, open, embracing, perfect, comforting, loving, healing and quiet. This vast expanse of space brings us one step closer to our Higher Self. A Self that is stable, steady, firm, secure and contained regardless of all that happens outside of it.

Yet in our daily lives, we lose connection with the inner world and become totally blinded by the outer world. Our mind plays tricks on us and we live a life of competing and comparing, and so we become confused. We measure our success and happiness based on how much better or worse we are than those around us. And with the summer season approaching, this measure is magnified. Our eyes are sharp as a hawk’s as we scan the beaches hoping that we either stand out or at best fit in.

Since the day our Soul arrives on Earth, it longs to be by reunited with the One that created it. As we live day in and day out, longing to belong, to fit in, we all need to remember that this longing has little to do with the outside world and has more to do with being one with the One.

So in those moments, when your mind races, when you look around and wonder whether your perfect body is impressing or if your less-than-perfect body is being judged, stop and remember that your soul is perfect. It is pure. It needs not be changed or reshaped. Remember that inside the body of everyone you come in contact with, there is a soul that is pure, perfect and a reflection of the Creator Himself.

So this summer, consider making a shift. Pay attention to your inner dialogue. What is your mind telling you about yourself? What kind of self-sabotaging dialogue is present? Are you judging yourself for not meeting expectations? Are you setting unrealistic expectations for yourself? Are you comparing your self-worth, your value, with that of someone else’s?

Take time to cultivate a steady, stable and firm relationship with your Inner Self so that you become unshakable in the face of any pressure and anyone that surrounds you, especially bikini bodies on the beach! Train yourself to feel happy, confident and at peace.

Shama Kaur is a health, lifestyle and wellness consultant and founder of YallaYoga.
7/17/2017 6:00:59 PM
<![CDATA[Artist of the Month ]]>
Can you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Ahmed Lotfy, however, people have been calling me El Koshy ever since I was four. I started amateur mobile photography in 2009 with a Nokia N70, photographing what I think are neglected perspectives. Along the years I learned more about mobile photography and got myself an iPhone 5S for better quality. Roaming the streets was, and still is, my utmost passion. I joined Instagram in 2014 to share my work on a very small scale with my friends.

What inspires your work?

The possibility of expanding the common understanding of perspectives; based on this idea, I always try to show the unseen sides of ordinary streets, taking place in our daily lives within the boundaries of Cairo.

How has your work developed over the years?

Along the years of sharing my work on Instagram, I ran into other participants from the Instagram community. That worked in my favor because it expanded my own perspective to a bigger world and more tools that can be used for a greater outcome. My passion grew bigger and my willingness to improve never left my head. A few months later, Instagram supported what I do and featured my account as one of the best photographers in Egypt.

What do you like most about your work?

Having accomplished all that with my cellphone.

Tell us more about your work; what process do you generally follow?

Charge my phone, roam the streets and capture what I see.

How do you see the art scene in Egypt?

At the very beginning of my days with photography, I actually thought it would be a very long shot for me to accomplish anything, but along the past few years, I witnessed a great expansion in people’s minds and their way of accepting and acknowledging the existence of art.

Screen Shot 2017-05-22 at 3.22.29 PM

Who are your favorite artists, both local and international?

My favorite international artist is Olivier Wong (@wonguy974 on Instagram), and locally, my favorites are Taimour Othman (@Taimouro on Instagram) and Hana (@hanaperlas on Instagram).

What are your plans for the future?

Till now, my goal is to shoot a movie with a cellphone.

Can you tell us about your experience with Artspine and how and whether it helped advance your career?

Artspine was a great opportunity for me to run across some very talented people and motivated me to never quit what I do. I believe that Artspine will be a great chance for me to expand my work on a greater scale in the future.

Artspine is the first arts portal in Egypt bringing 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/artspine, on Instagram @artspine1 and on Twitter @Artspine1 • www.artspine.net]]>
7/16/2017 2:11:27 PM
Flowing summer dresses in floral patterns, geometric patterns on loose-fitting, comfortable overalls, and tribal pants that carry you perfectly from a day on the beach to an evening out in the city; Fufa is all about the bohemian, free-spirited woman that reflects the personality of its designer Farah El Ashiry. With a bold collection of tribal and ethnic patterns, El Ashiry combines eclectic fabrics with crochet and ventures into patchwork bags for a day on the beach or a weekend away.

El Ashiry explains that her grandmother used to collect patterned and colorful fabrics whenever she traveled to exotic destinations around the world. This eclectic collection has inspired El Ashiry to develop her very own bohemian line with a signature pattern of vibrant and eccentric prints. What gives FUFA an edge in the Egyptian fashion industry is combining uniqueness with simplicity, designing comfortable, playful, flattering and bold pieces that would appeal to her target audience.

El Ashiry, 25, launched Fufa in August 2014, introducing her first collection “A Summer to Remember” paying homage to the laidback woman inspired by art, fashion, travel and music. Her collection instantly sold out and she decided to develop her entrepreneurial and design skills.

Having studied integrated marketing communications at the American University in Cairo (AUC), minoring in arts, entrepreneurship and graphic design, El Ashiry pursued a degree in fashion from the Italian Fashion Academy in Cairo where she “acquired knowledge in the fields of fashion designing, pattern making, hand and machine sewing, cutting and collection building,” says El Ashiry.

She then traveled to London to study fashion further at the Central Saint Martins (CSM) art school at the University of the Arts London (UAL). She also took a fashion business course at the British Council in Egypt, held by London College of Fashion, also part of UAL, to help her understand the fundamentals of business and kickstart her own brand.

“Traveling to CSM helped me learn how to turn inspiration into effective and commercial collections,” says El Ashiry. “Since my first launch in August 2014, I taught myself some foundations such as pattern making, hiring and managing, marketing and distributing, handling all sorts of financials and even photo shooting and fabric sourcing. It was a tough journey, but I have released 10 more fashionable collections to date, which are showcased at my mini boutique and online e-commerce store.”

At what age did you start becoming fascinated with fashion?

I honestly don’t know how my fascination with design and making clothes started. I started painting at a very young age. My grandpa was an amazing artist. He taught me how to mix colors and got me my first coloring box. We would sit for hours painting flowerpots and all kinds of landscapes. Around the age of 10, my paintings drifted more toward doodles of dresses and clothing garments. The dream job I used to always write in friendship books switched from art teacher to fashion designer. My interest took a new turn, and I started experimenting with fabric pieces and old unused articles of clothing.

What is the new trend for this summer’s collections?

This summer we are focusing on a mixture of plains with prints. We have a range of different styles, all funky, comfy and striking at the same time. We want each customer to feel like every piece is a favorite and one she’d want to wear every day.

How can people learn about the latest fashion trends?

I don’t believe in trends or influencers of trends. I believe every girl has a style of her own that reflects her personality and character. She should decide what to wear based on her preference and her comfort. When I design, I base my research on my customers and what their needs consist of, and begin my brainstorming from there.

What are the summer 2017 runway trends?

I wouldn’t know. FUFA is not about fashion trends or fashion shows. It reflects the lifestyle of a bohemian girl who’s driven by music, art and traveling. She doesn’t follow the latest trends; she has a comfort style of her own and our pieces are designed to fit that lifestyle. We focus on customer demands and needs, and design according to what they want to see in the market. Sometimes there is a huge trend everyone goes for, like prints and ruffles, and when the demand is high, we incorporate that into our designs.

What colors would you advise people to go for this summer?

Never black! Summer is all about joy, freedom and activities. I think bright colors and prints are what people should be wearing.

What are the summer 2017 essential pieces, for beach and generally a day out?
We’re focusing on pieces that are easy and flattering to wear on the beach and for lunch after. We’ve got a selection of exotic prints and in cuts that are comfortable and adorable. We’re making dresses, tops, rompers and a lot more to satisfy every girl’s needs.

What is the ultimate entrepreneurial tip you would give people?

My main advice is to put all your fears aside and just go for it! It’s so, so scary starting something completely new on your own and waiting for people’s judgment to decide whether or not your dream has a future, whether it’ll succeed or fail. But in the end, at least you tried and you know you had a hell of a time doing it. It feels so good making your own clothes or, better yet, seeing a person on the street wearing something you made with your label on it. It is always good to reach out to others. There’s no competition, just different ideas and with different styles; everyone has an idea and a style of their own.

“Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game,” I really believe in this saying and it should be a guide for all young talents wanting to pursue their dreams.

7/15/2017 7:13:11 PM
<![CDATA[Azza Fahmy Goes To Sahel]]>
The collection features snakes, owls, ladybirds, and hand-carved scarabs, while focusing on faceted stones in vibrant and natural colors—a continuation of a story of nature.

The Fashion’17 Collection is available starting July 15 at Hacienda’s El Corte Mall.
7/14/2017 10:58:51 AM
<![CDATA[Samra goes rowing: Interview]]>
The challenge, which is quite different from his previous adventures that mostly involved snow and climbing, has been on Samra’s mind for over three years. After a lot of research, watching documentaries and talking to people who have done it before, Samra and Nour last summer took the decision to row, unsupported, 5,000 nautical kilometers from the Canary Islands to Antigua, departing from the Canary Islands this coming December. In this exclusive interview, Samra talks about the challenge and how he is mentally preparing to spend a minimum of 40 days rowing in a two-by-seven meter boat with only Nour for company.

All your previous challenges involved hiking or trailing across ice and snow, this is the first adventure that involves water and rowing, why did you choose this challenge in particular?

I am a climber but I am also an adventurer. I am open to trying new adventures in different environments. For me that’s more challenging because it involves learning new skills and developing myself in new fields. Even though I have not done much rowing, I am attempting something very difficult and challenging within the rowing world so, from a personal perspective, I believe this is something very exciting and will help me learn a lot of new skills.

From an external perspective, I believe it is something more inspiring for people, I have been a climber for many years now, when I climb a new mountain, okay, it is interesting but Omar is already a climber; but if I can demonstrate that I am taking on a challenge in something completely outside of my scope, it is basically proof that anyone can achieve whatever they set their mind to. The trip usually takes 31 days for four-man teams, but for two men, it is usually between 41 and 109; who knows, we could break the record and do it in 40 days.

Why did you choose Omar Nour?

We met in 2013 and got along very well. We both complement each other really well in terms of how we work and in terms of character. We get along very well personally, which, I believe, is the most important aspect of the trip because you are spending two months or so with someone in a place and you cannot just say, “I’ll go take a walk and come back.” This is not something likely. The boat is two-by-seven meters: You cannot escape from the person you are with, this is why it is very important to choose wisely.
Nour lives in Dubai but he was in Cairo last week, I was in Dubai the month before; we make sure we are on the same track. We are close to getting our first sponsor which will allow us to buy the boat and then ship to Dubai. Nour and I are planning on rowing for 1,000 miles before the start of the challenge in December. We are also planning on going on a number of small trips and spending days at sea to live the experience and make sure how to deal with any unexpected setbacks.

How are you preparing mentally for the isolation?

I believe nothing can prepare you mentally for actually doing something, all the experiences that I have had before in both my personal life and in adventures and all the mental strength that has developed through these experiences is what is going to count. I know very well, having done it before, that you will prepare as much as you can, but the expedition itself will always be much harder than anything you have prepared before.

How different is training for rowing?

This is different for both of us, myself and Omar as he is a professional triathlete, which involves running, cycling and swimming. Both climbing and triathlon are more related to physical fitness but rowing, on the other hand, has to do with power and muscle endurance and little to do with the body’s cardiovascular system; the movement of the body during rowing is very slow and the heart rate is not high.

The challenge is that we are almost changing our bodies’ physiology, from endurance athletes to strength athletes, which is a totally different process.

When did you start? And how many hours are you training?

We started the actual physical training in March but the planning started last September, including research on the type of food we should eat and the courses we should take as well as preparing the proposal of our trip and writing it, which also involved meeting people because at the end of the day we need sponsors to cover it.

I usually do a strength training five days a week, two days of yoga and two days of physiotherapy. Eventually, it will involve one or two days of rowing, and strength training will increase from five days to 10 times per week two months before the trip.

What equipment are you taking?

The boat is obviously the most important thing. It has a cabin for one person, but in case of a storm, we can both go inside and close the hatch. We cannot row during a storm so we use a parachute anchor that helps slow the boat down. It also has water desalination equipment because we will be drinking and cooking from ocean water, solid panels for electrical equipment and GPS navigation equipment. It is a very sophisticated boat, it also has an inflatable raft, radio communication and VHF and satellite in case we have any trouble. However, if we call for any kind of help, we are disqualified from the race. We also have food for 90 days, and nowadays we are talking to nutritionists about the best food to eat on the trip that is light and does not need a lot of space to store and at the same time gives us the energy we need.

A couple of months before the trip, we will talk to experts about sleep because it is one of the hardest challenges in the trip. We will need to divide our rowing and sleeping schedule. We will be sleeping for two hours and rowing for two hours consecutively until we finish the race, so we will never sleep six hours straight. Other challenges include going under water every two days to clean algae off the boat, and we will be in the middle of the ocean with all the creatures down there. Another thing that is very common and that most rowers experience is getting blisters and stores because of the friction which we will have to just bear.

How have you raised funds?

The boat costs around $70,000 to $80,000. We have two options, either buying a used boat which has won a race and crossed the ocean before, which is a plus, but the problem is we will have to pay cash, so it depends on the sponsor. The other option is that I can build my own boat that if I order now will be delivered by August. I can buy it in installments and get sponsors to pay the rest, but we need the boat as soon as possible to start training.

Did you find it easy getting sponsors?

We are very close to getting one, I would imagine if everything goes well, we will have a sponsor by this month. It is hopefully a significant sponsorship, it will not be covering all the expenses we need, but it allows us to buy the boat, which is the most critical; we need to buy the boat as soon as possible.

Will you broadcast the experience live?

Not exactly a live broadcast but we will have satellite communication which will allow us to send photos, videos and audios. We will have our team on the ground who will be in charge of posting our day-to-day experience on social media. We are currently discussing making a documentary of the trip, but it is still not guaranteed or confirmed yet.

How has fatherhood changed the way you look at these challenges and how does your daughter feel about you rowing across the Atlantic?

I involve her very much in everything I do. She will be 4 years old soon but she already understands that I am crossing an ocean and what the Atlantic Ocean is and that I will be rowing from here to here. She knows that I am planning to go to space and that I climbed many mountains and went to Antarctica; she understands all that.

Basically, one of the hardest things in the expedition is that I am going to be away from her for two months, but at the same time it is very important to live my life as well. For me, this is a calling, the way I am wired, the way I am built is I am attracted to these challenges and it is how I feel alive and how I become a better person. I learn new things, all this adds to me as a person and it makes me really appreciate the time I spend with her. Yes, I am going to be away from her for two months, but in the grand scheme of things, in 10 or 20 years, it is not really going to matter. This will be the longest time I have ever been away from her, and she is mentally growing so fast, by the time of the race she will be more aware of it. I am hoping some family members will travel to Antigua and meet me there after the end of the race, and hopefully she will be there waiting for me on the other side.
7/13/2017 10:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Jude Benhalim: Jewelery with an edge ]]>
Famous for her bulled-shaped pendant with engravings like “Hazihy Ana” (this is me) set in silver and embossed with colorful stones, Jude Benhalim quickly made a name for herself in the world of accessories, designing jewelry inspired by geometric shapes and Nubian architecture.

Her handcrafted jewelry is daring and powerful, yet feminine and flattering.

The 23-year-old Syrian-Libyan designer admits that her jewelry is not for everyone and because of that, the typical Jude Benhalim woman is someone who wants to stand out by being edgy. Her pieces are a mixture of Arabic calligraphy and modern, sharp designs, combining crescent shapes with tribal, geometric lines.

Her designs also have a feminist touch as she says she’s inspired by the women who wear her jewelry and the strong women she surrounds herself with.

Born in Cairo to an architect and a mother who worked in fashion, Benhalim studied film direction at the American University in Cairo, but was always interested in jewelry.

After doing a creative design project at school, designing accessories with beads and selling them at a charitable event, the young designer started the brand in her own name when she was only 17 years old.

Benhalim’s mother and later partner, Rana Alazm, supported her since the beginning. Benhalim says she wouldn’t have accomplished what she did if it wasn’t for her mother who guided her through the journey.

Benhalim designs are sold on her website as well as concept stores like Pop-Up Shop and Mounaya in Egypt, O’ de Rose and Galeries Lafayette in Dubai, Milk in Bahrain, and will soon be stocked on Yoox.com.

What are you inspired by this summer?

This summer capsule collection is an extension of the Urban Rebel collection, following the story of the ever-evolving female muse as she now breaks free from the jungle-like metropolis that has long kept her caged in, emerging more confident and vibrant than ever before.

The city lights and pulsating energy of the jungle-like metropolis are what spurred the inspiration for this imaginative collection.

Multihued resin paired with empowering calligraphy in silver gives this 1970s-inspired collection a modern-day makeover.

The Urban Vibrance collection is a colorful take on a selection of existing Urban Rebel pieces, but this time translating the vibrant energy of the chaotic city into colorful, wearable structures. As with the main collection, this capsule collection channels the vibrant energy of an orderly city while incorporating the spirit of the 1990s punk and the rhythmic pulse of the city life, but all with a summer spin featuring bright colors like orange, pink and blue.

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photo courtesy- Jude Benhalim

What color palette, patterns and materials are in fashion this summer?

Bright, vibrant colors: flame orange, fuchsia, kale green and sea blue.

How can we make jewelry survive a day on the beach?

It’s not always a good idea to expose jewelry to salt water, humidity or too much sun. To keep the jewelry piece safe from the above, keep it stored in a sealed bag, away from the heat and humidity.

Speaking of the beach, what do you think the perfect beach outfit consists of?

Swimsuit, cover-up, shades, flip flops, a beach bag and statement earrings.

How would you style your own jewelry for a night out?

I usually have a statement jewelry piece make my outfit. My style is mostly very simple, so I like to give it an edge with a piece of jewelry. I usually go for a choker or big earrings and I’m good to go.

Where do you shop for summer clothes and accessories?

I love to shop online, it’s so much easier and very convenient. Some of my favorites are asos.com and nastygal.com.

Follow Jude Benhalim on Instagram @Jude.Benhalim • Products sold on JudeBenHalim.com and on Facebook at facebook.com/jaysds/

7/12/2017 2:15:18 PM
<![CDATA[ Dessert Taste Challenge]]>
Whether you were diagnosed with gluten intolerance or you have chosen to follow a gluten-free diet to stay slim and healthy, you probably know how challenging it is to find gluten-free baked goods in Egypt.

Suffering from gluten intolerance herself, and having experienced the struggle to find gluten free bakery or even ingredients in Egypt, Dalia El Shafie decided to bake and sell homemade bread, pastries, cakes and pizzas for health enthusiasts and gluten-intolerant foodies. Dolly’s Bakery, a Facebook-based business, offers 100 percent gluten-free products, using wheat alternatives such as corn, rice and potato flour.

“There are two kinds of customers who care about gluten free: the yoga people and health enthusiasts who want to have perfectly toned bodies, and those who suffer from severe allergies of gluten or who are gluten intolerant,” explains El Shafie who says she is always experimenting with new and creative versions of traditional recipes to come up with a mixture that tastes like the original­—or even better.

El Shafie mixes up her specially made dough, substituting all the off-limit ingredients, to cater to the cravings and needs of her diverse customers. “One of my customers and her kids are allergic to wheat, corn, milk and soya, so I make them special bread and chocolate chip cookies,” El Shafei says.

Using a secret ingredient to hold together the gluten-free dough and maintain its perfect crumb, the innovative baker has come up with recipes for tasty bâton salé, Kaiser rolls and petit pain, scrumptious chocolate chip and butter cookies, and delicious jam sablés, not to mention cute chocolate cake pops for kids.

“The first time I tried the pops was as a treat for a little 4-year-old girl, who saw her friends at the nursery eating cake pops and was very sad not to be able to try them,” El Shafie says. The pops are made without gluten, milk or eggs.

The little girl, suffering from gluten intolerance, was always craving sandwiches like her friends, “I made her gluten-free petit pain; and her mum told me she came home happy and energetic for the first time after finishing her lunch,” El Shafie says.

Dolly’s Bakery also recreates some irresistible Egyptian pastries, for all those foodies out there who have been deprived from our traditional delights, such as Ramadan’s special qatayef and sambousek. Her soft and tender gluten-free pita bread is almost impossible to distinguish from the traditional Egyptian bread that is indispensable in every home. And for fitness enthusiasts, the low-carb toast, made with quinoa, is a must try.

Follow Dolly’s Bakery on Facebook at Dolly’s Bakery (Gluten Free) and on Instagram @Dollys_BakeryGlutenFree. Her products are also available at Sunny Supermarket.


Dolly's Bakery1

7/9/2017 2:22:51 PM
<![CDATA[Beautique: Cairo ]]>Uncovering Fashion Talent

Training for Competition (T4C) is holding the third round of their fashion design course, presented in collaboration with Lebanese designer Nada Chokr, and aimed at teaching young talents fashion design, pattern-making and sewing.

The course started on July 1 and will run for five months. After the course, participants will take part in the Cairo Young Fashion
Design Competition (CYFDC), held as part of the La Mode A Beyrouth fashion week in Cairo. Participants would showcase their talents at the CYFDC in front of a panel of judges who will decide on three winners.

The first winner will get the chance to show 20 dresses in the next La Mode A Beyrouth fashion show and the second will showcase 10 dresses.

Smart In-Salon Service

L’Oreal Professional announced their new in-salon service, Smartbond, will soon launch in all their partner salons in Egypt. Smartbond is the latest technology introduced by L’Oreal and specifically designed for hairdressers. Smartbond is a system that protects and strengthens the hair during technical services like bleach and coloring.

The system consists of three components; the first two used in salons and the third at home. The first step is an additive to be put in colors, lighteners and bleachers to protect and strengthen the hair during the technical services. The second step is a pre-shampoo to be applied after rinsing the color or bleach for a finishing action after the service to help rinse off all chemical residues breaking weak bonds. The last step is a conditioner to be used weekly at home.

Let It Breathe

Teaming up with MuslimGirl .com, the largest online platform for Muslim women in the US, Orly just launched a collection of
breathable nail polish that is 100% halal, dubbed #HalalPaint. With a collection of six different nail polish shades, the varnish allows oxygen and moisture to pass through them, making them prayer-friendly as it allows water to pass through during ablution. Allowing the nails to breathe means it actually promotes nail health, but it is also enriched with vitamins C and B5 and argan oil.

Although this isn’t the first breathable nail polish on the market, it is the first time an American brand releases one, and, unlike others, it is specifically tailored to Muslim women.

The collection features nude colors like beige, dubbed Ig-Noor the Haters; and a pinkish shade of ivory, dubbed The Perfect Amani-cure, as well as a transparent variety called Wallah Bro Wipe Out. It has some more vibrant colors like metallic taupe, called What the Fatima?, red, called #MuslimGirlFire, and plum called Haram-Bae.

]]>7/7/2017 1:24:43 PM<![CDATA[Nature Notes: Beaches and Bird Watching]]>
And then along comes Donald Trump. Regular readers may remember a piece I wrote back in January entitled “Eye on the Environment” in which I made my environmental predictions for 2017. Gazing into my green-tinged crystal ball, I reflected on the appointments of Rick Perry and Rex Tillerson as US energy secretary and secretary of state respectively and predicted that the US would, if President Trump was to fulfill his campaign promises, withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. By the beginning of June, he was poised to do exactly that. The Paris Accord, signed by 195 of the 197 members of the UN group on climate change (the two exceptions were Syria and Nicaragua who abstained) had further been ratified by 147 of those nations, including the US.

It matters, as I argued in my January piece, because the US is, after China, the second-largest emitter of carbon dioxide on the planet, so the second-largest contributor to global warming (dismissed by Trump as a China-sponsored hoax), and global warming by its very definition affects everyone—Egypt very much included. The coral reefs, for instance, Egypt’s greatest source of biodiversity (and of tourist revenue in the past and hopefully in a brighter future), would be dramatically affected. But it is the Nile Delta that is of most concern.

The Nile Delta is one of the great river deltas of the world, and like all such deltas is by definition very low-lying. It is also a cradle to a large proportion of Egypt’s ever-growing population and an even larger proportion of its agriculture. Even a relatively small rise in global temperature is predicted to cause a significant rise in sea level directly threatening the Delta, its human population and its food production. All Egypt’s coastal areas would be threatened as sea levels rise, necessitating massive expenditure on coastal defenses. Anyone with property along the Red Sea or North Coast should be especially concerned.

And it is to the North Coast that many will be flooding—no pun intended— over the summer, especially with Egypt’s emphasis now on ‘local’ tourism and with the proliferation of gated communities along the Mediterranean shore. In many ways I resent these developments and the resultant destruction of the fragile North Coast Strip ecosystem. This narrow biome is cooler and wetter than the vastness of the Western Desert to the south and supports a unique flora and fauna. That said, the gardens and golf courses that are part and parcel of these developments may well be of great benefit to migrating birds in spring and autumn. Some of my best North Coast birding has been in fall at the war cemeteries at El Alamein.

However, this is July and the migration has not yet taken off, so wait a couple of months. But there are some special birds that in Egypt are entirely confined to the North Coast and are resident there. Yes, even in July. Take the Red-rumped Wheatear. This bird is entirely confined in Egypt to the northern coasts though the North Sinai population brooksbanki may well be extinct and there is very little way in which to check up on that. I have seen the Red-rumped Wheatear south of El Hammam west of Alexandria and courtesy of a clapped-out Fiat 131 managed to find a pair in an area of Bedouin barley fields. It is not a bird of open desert, but not a bird of gated community gardens either. It is a bird of those fields, and those fields are rapidly disappearing beneath the developer’s bulldozers. It may still cling on in the El Omayed Biosphere Reserve further west.

Further west still, further west even than the resort city of Marsa Matruh, are other gems. The area of semi-desert scrub at the junction of the road to Siwa is possibly the last place in Egypt where Dupont’s Lark has been recorded but way back in the 1990s. It is a small, almost mouselike bird about 18 cm long and with a slender, slightly decurved bill. It is also very secretive. Indeed, Lars Jonsson, author and illustrator of Birds of Europe with North Africa and the Middle East, admitted it was one of the only birds of the region he had written about and illustrated, yet had never seen. It is that rare.

Venture further west and the Western Desert escarpment meets the coast beyond Sidi Barani and toward Salloum. There may well be crows here, large black birds, their vociferous cousins the gray and black Hooded Crows so familiar in Cairo and elsewhere. But look more closely. These large black birds just here are a bit special. Anywhere else in Egypt a large black crow, all black, is going to be a Brown-necked Raven. West of Sidi Barani it is going to be a Common Raven, a stonking black bird all of 65 cm in length and with a wingspan to match. It is the largest of all the passerines, the songbirds or perching birds, and the size of a Steppe Buzzard, a bird of prey that as a migrant from Europe will be flying through from next month on.

On that escarpment, loosely screed and with scrub, is another much smaller bird. Anyone driving along the Cairo-Alex road and elsewhere may be familiar with small drab brown birds that erupt from the roadside in the face of traffic. These are Crested Larks and they are small and drab, but they do have a crest though not always obvious at 100 kmph. The small drab crested larks on the escarpment at Salloum are not Crested Larks but Thekla Larks and can be found nowhere else in the country. For those with eagle eyes or binoculars, look out for the clearer spotting on the breast, the slightly shorter bill and the habit of perching on low desert scrub rather than on the ground.

Also found here, and very rarely elsewhere in Egypt, though perhaps common to the south in Siwa, is the Saharan Swallowtail, one of Egypt’s largest and most spectacular butterflies. With a wingspan of up to 10 cm, this impressive lepidopteran is dappled in deep blue and pale yellow with crimson on the hind wings, wings that also sport the narrow tail filaments of the species’ name. The caterpillar is similarly impressive in pale green, black and orange and when threatened it everts a pair of orange tentacles (technically the osmeterium) behind the head that smell very nasty. It is some time since I have been to that escarpment at Salloum. But if the US does actually withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement then as sea levels rise and the Delta floods, all these species may relocate to Mokattam, my nearest escarpment. I hope not.

Richard Hoath is a Senior Instructor at AUC’s Department of Rhetoric and Composition. He has published extensively about Egypt’s wildlife and fauna.
7/6/2017 12:59:14 PM
<![CDATA[Keep Cool With Fruit and Veggies]]>Lychee Salads: Fresh and Chemical-Free

Lychee Fruit Bar is taking its healthy mindset philosophy to new heights with the launch of its fresh salads. Made with hydroponically grown greens that don’t touch soil, Lychee’s salads are chemical- free. With a 24-hour policy, salad vegetables are freshly picked from the farm and transported to Lychee’s factory where they are washed and sorted, and sent to Lychee’s branches on the same day.

A strict five-stage chemical-free washing and sorting process ensures that vegetables maintain freshness, crispness, and nutritional benefits. The cleansing process begins in a Jacuzzi where jets separate the leaves, the vegetables are then moved to a conveyor belt where any remaining dust is removed, followed by a second washing with purified water on a second conveyor belt. The third stage entails a sorting of defected vegetables, and finally, vegetables undergo a drying process via a blower to maintain freshness.

The five salads available at all Lychee branches are: Goat Cheese and Beets (made with arugula, goat cheese, roasted beets, mushroom, and balsamic); Lychee’s Tuna Salad (made with green/red Batavia, tuna, red onion, sweet corn, olive, and herbal lemon); Clean Green (made with green Batavia, mushroom, sweet corn, roasted beets, red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, sliced carrot and balsamic); Quinoa Steak (made with green/red Batavia, quinoa, beef, mushroom, roasted bell pepper and balsamic); and King Kale (made with kale, green Batavia, grilled chicken, Parmesan, croutons and Caesar dressing).

Visit any of the Lychee branches for freshly picked, chemical free same-day salads • @lycheecairo • facebook.com/lycheecairo

Fresh from the Farm

Too busy to visit the vegetable and fruit stalls to pick out your daily produce? Greenway Egypt in New Cairo delivers straight to your door. Follow their Facebook page for updated produce prices, and you can also order cleaned and prepped veggies ready for cooking or tossing into a salad.

Banafseg 9, New Cairo • @greenway.eg • Tel: 01003294151 / 01125008585

Say It with Fruits

Flowers are the perfect gift for any occasion, and now Julia’s makes irresistible fruit arrangements that resemble a beautiful bouquet of flowers that not only look great but that you can actually eat! Julia’s provides a healthier gift alternative than traditional chocolates and more fruitful than a bouquet of flowers. Their fruit bouquets are not just about introducing a quality presentation of fruits in bouquets; they also select the freshest, healthiest and tastiest fruits for their bouquets. The edible arrangements are laced with delicious gourmet chocolate, caramel and nuts. Keep an eye out for Julia’s shop opening soon on Road 9, Maadi.

fb.com/juliasegypt • @juliasegypt • Tel: 01014444077


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Lychee salad
7/5/2017 12:01:45 PM
<![CDATA[Fruits of Summer ]]>
Also this summer is the Fête du Citron at Vivo; the hotel’s 2 Michelin-starred managed Italian restaurant. Experience.

Chef Carmine’s culinary artistry at its finest as he presents an assortment of exquisite citrus masterpieces composed of modern creations and delectable Italian dishes featuring fresh citrus ingredients, seasonal and carefully selected lemons, limes, grapefruits and oranges. Treat your palate as you indulge in a healthy menu balancing nutrition and flavors.

Weekly specials are offered throughout July.

For more information and reservations, call (02) 2577889.
7/4/2017 6:40:13 PM
<![CDATA[Not Your Typical Therapist]]>
Savvides is not your typical therapist; she doesn’t speak too formally, neither does she meet you with a stern face and suit. She is as scientific as she is warm, approachable and casual and has evidently mastered the art of juggling various things at once.

“I am the kind of person who would share personal experiences with my clients if it could be empowering for them,” she explains. “When you share your experience you give them hope and a strategy that worked for you.”

With a new book, My Journey, that came out in April, therapy duties and a new television show to be launched in November, Savvides, who is also consulting for several dramas and movies, has quite a lot on her plate. The reason she’s doing it all? Removing the social stigma about seeking psychological help and opening the doors to discussing the most taboo of things.

Savvides has a degree in psychology from the American University in Cairo and two doctorates in counseling psychology, one from City University in London and another from the Southern California University in the U.S. Her life work is dedicated to bringing her international experience to the Egyptian society. Her various projects have one goal: to change the way the society perceive patients with psychological disorders and raise awareness about mental illness.

Her Journey

Sharing not only her 25 years of experience in counseling but also her own, personal experience, Savvides’ autobiography is as personal as it is professional, including details about the therapist such as her struggle with sexual harassment. Writing the book, she explains, has brought her and her family, clients and readers closer together through more transparency and honest communication.

“Life is a journey and the relationship you have with yourself is a journey. You continue to develop constantly; I don’t think like I used to think when I was 18 and when I hit my 50s I won’t be thinking like I am thinking now,” Savvides explains. Wanting to show her clients and the society that therapists are no more perfect than their own clients,
Savvides hopes her book will encourage others to not only share but see the light at the end of the tunnel and embrace experiences as life lessons. “You evolve and you develop and if you don’t keep in touch with what’s going on with you then you won’t be able to overcome it.”

Savvides explains that seeking psychological help is one of the major stigmas people have to overcome. “People don’t even want to say that they’re seeking psychological support,” she says. She wanted to share her own upbringing and background to show her readers that whatever she went through didn’t define her, but that through acknowledging her issues and getting appropriate help, she was able to overcome it and develop because of it.

“There’s also a lot of stigma about sexual abuse.” In her book, Savvides shares her experience with sexual harassment and the resulting scars. Learning about her sexual harassment for the first time through the book, her father was surprised to hear about what she went through in her youth. “It is easier now because I am not longer going through it,” Savvides reflects. “I think if I was still going through it, it would have been more difficult for my family and myself to mend or come to terms with it.”

Other stigmas she often comes across have to do with communicating with children and teenagers about various issues, including religion and sex. “We have a lot of girls coming to therapy because of a condition called vaginismus, which is the tightening of the vagina muscles, and it’s an anxiety condition . . . and the main treatment is through psychological support,” she explains. She adds that this is normally either due to a history of sexual abuse or an upbringing that stigmatized all sex into an act that is against religion and morals. “So you develop all these beliefs about sexuality and then when the moment comes all these conversations come to mind and you get a panic attack that goes straight to your vaginal muscles,” she explains.

Sharing her own experience and that of a client on the lack of sexual education, Savvides adds that parents often ignore sexual education altogether for fear of raising “a bad girl.” “But children are going to learn about these things anyway, so they would rather get the information from you [parents] and you form a bond where they are comfortable enough to talk to you about stuff like that rather than discuss it with friends.”
But lack of communication isn’t just on topics that are sensitive; it is, Savvides explains, becoming an epidemic in the fast-paced world of today. “Some parents are too busy, others think that as long as the kids are fed and well-provided for then this is all they need,” Savvides explains. “Others don’t have the patience or tolerance to do it…it’s become more about quantity than quality.”

She adds that one of her main messages is to encourage communication and open discussion about everything; from sexuality to questioning religion. “This is part of being a child; being curious and asking questions. If I am not allowing him to ask questions then I am not helping his brain develop.”

The Approachable Therapist

Coming back from her studies in London with a nose ring, Savvides never imagined her little hoop would get in the way of her landing a job. “I was told, ‘You’re not going to be working with that hoop, right?’” It was right then that Savvides decided on her therapy approach; she was going to stay true to who she was, nose ring and all.

“In my day-in-day-out clinical job I would wear jeans, a t-shirt and flip-flops, because the person coming to me would be dressed like this so I don’t want to create this wall between us,” she explains.

Her approach emphasizes a familiar collaboration between the client and the therapist; “I always tell my clients that it is a process and it takes two to tango,” she adds. “I want the client to feel like they’re going to someone else’s home and it’s comfortable and we can talk. The way I will reply is scientific, of course, but the setting is casual and comfortable.”

Savvides follows the behavioral cognitive approach to therapy, which emphasizes analyzing and working on one’s thoughts and then remodeling and reshaping the behavior that is a result of these thoughts and emotions. She also follows the person-centered approach; providing unconditional positive regard to her clients and being non-judgmental, empathetic and accepting. “I believe this is the building block to develop a relationship with your client,” she explains.

“I am a very unconventional therapist because I can hug my client or kiss them hello and pat them on their backs, depending on the client, of course,” Savvides says. “If someone is working on self-confidence and did something they are proud of then of course I would jump up and down for them.”

Psych Cinema

A few years back Savvides started offering consultation services to improve how accurately therapy and psychological issues are portrayed on the small and silver screens. She has consulted on movies like Hepta and television dramas like Nasiby wi Esmetak (My Fate and Yours), 30 Days airing this Ramadan and the second season of Qaadet Regala (A Guys’ Gathering) show on DMC.

One of the main things she provides through this service is support for actors, directors and people in the media who may be going through burnout syndrome and method actors finding difficulty detaching from their roles.

Savvides also works with writers to provide research and depth in the process of building the characters, especially if the character has a psychological issue. “I also mentor the actors on their performance, it’s not acting classes, but it’s about discussions with actors who are playing roles where, for instance, they go through shifts of different emotions or a psychological disorder to make it as real and genuine as possible,” Savvides says. “Not all psychological disorders are about biting your nails and shuffling your feet. It is more about little tricks in your body language and facial expressions.”
Having already successfully worked with actress Reem Mostafa on the set of Nasiby wi Esmetak, Savvides believes many actors and directors are now open to advice from professionals to ensure accurate portrayal of the characters. “The director of 30 Days for instance was very open to implementing my comments exactly; including names of medications, where they would be placed, how someone would carry needles and so on.”

Also coming up later this year is a show Savvides had dreamed of for a long time. Wara Kol Bab (Behind Every Door) will discuss different psychological problems each episode through a dramatic portrayal of real-life cases, including information, statistics and tips for the audience on each particular issue. She will also host some of her former and existing clients to talk about their success stories and be an inspiration to others who might be going through similar things. The show, launching in November, aims to de-stigmatize psychological issues and raise awareness of various common issues, including depression, parenting issues, addiction and sexual difficulties.

“I think it’s about time to bring things into the light,” Savvides concludes.

Editor’s Note: Savvides will be contributing regular columns to Egypt Today discussing various psychological issues with hands-on, practical tips on how to spot and handle symptoms.
7/2/2017 2:50:02 PM
<![CDATA[Powered by Energy]]>
What is Taqat? Tell us more about the premise behind your jewelry line
Taqat is a jewelry line inspired by different cultural and traditional symbols with a mix of modernity and simplicity; therefore it falls under a “modern nostalgic” theme.
The name Taqat, meaning energies in Arabic, refers to the energy found in stones and crystals that is believed to have healing powers. I’ve always believed that an outfit could rely completely on the jewelry you wear with it and this is what Taqat aspires to offer: jewelry that stands out.

How did this turn from a college project into a startup business?
My graduation project was mainly about crystal healing and how to create jewelry that incorporates it. After I created an interchangeable necklace that reaches your seven body chakras (energy centers), by changing its stones, people were very drawn to the modernity and simplicity of the design itself and how the leather, silver and stones were used. That’s when I decided to start this business and create several designs under the same theme.

What sort of experiences and tips can you share with other young people who want to launch their business?
It’s only been a month since the launch of my brand, so I’m sure there is still a lot to learn. What I would share is that Egyptian craftsmen have really shown me that we do have talented people in Egypt and that there is a lot of room to grow in that field. Also, I would add that if someone wants to launch their own business they should have unconditional dedication and not let obstacles force them to quit—obstacles should make them work even harder.

What inspires your work? Which designers inspire you—both local and international?
Actually what inspires me most and has always been an object of fascination to me is Ancient Egyptian jewelry. Having a meaning for each symbol, piece and stone shows the true value of this artistry. Other than that, I find inspiration in everything around as well as other jewelry designers from random people on Pinterest, to Azza Fahmy, to Cartier.

Tell us about your work process
The work process really depends on the collection and what materials are used next to the sterling silver, however, the main steps are smelting the silver, creating the piece, sanding and polishing it, cutting the stones, adding them to piece, finalizing it, wrapping the piece and delivering it.

Where do you find the materials you work with? If anything is imported and no longer available, is it easy to find local alternatives?
I find most of my material in different places in downtown Cairo. The silver and stones I use are found in El Sagha area. As for the import issue, I try my best to use stones that are either mined or very abundant in Egypt to avoid having to face these issues. As for the small pieces that are usually imported, such as earring backs, I try to buy them in bulk to have a large stock to use.

What is it like dealing with local craftsmen: Do you find it difficult? Is it easy to obtain the quality and the designs that you commission?
Some of the craftsmen I work with are extremely talented and their neatness and quality of work is really good. However, maintaining the same quality and having the work handed in on time is always a challenge. This is why I have to be on top of the whole process and have a strict quality control system.

Local jewelry design has become a very competitive field in Egypt. What would you say sets your work apart?
It is indeed competitive and some of the local jewelry designers have become very strong. I would say that what sets my work apart is mainly the distinctive use of various materials together to create jewelry that is inspired by some very old symbols, yet looks very modern and edgy.

How are you promoting your work? Is social media being integrated into your marketing campaign and how important is it to getting your work known?
It is very important to promote your work to the correct audience. Fortunately, social media has made this very doable by using online advertisements and promotions, which you set to reach this audience.

Do you have a physical shop? If not, are there plans to open one?
I don’t have a physical store yet, but it is definitely in my future plans. I am currently looking for a concept store that would offer the perfect atmosphere for the brand so I could display my products there. However, there is an online store and since online shopping has become more common nowadays, it is much easier for emerging brands to sell online.

What are your plans for the future?
The bigger dream is to open an atelier or gallery, where we could display our products and also give jewelry courses as I already give children’s workshops. As for the near future, I hope to start selling in stores and attending several events related to this field locally and internationally.

You describe your range as modern yet nostalgic. Can you tell us more about that?
7/1/2017 1:54:17 PM
<![CDATA[Azza Fahmy Collaborates with KarmBuild on KarmSolar Headquarters]]>Azza Fahmy Jewellery, will collaborate with Karmbuild on building the KarmSolar Sahl Hasheesh Campus Headquarters. KarmSolar, the fastest-growing solar technology company in Egypt, will unveil the project during its first annual forum on December 8 during the RiseUp Summit satellite event held at the Falaki Theatre at the American university in Cairo (AUC).

The project is a joint venture with Fahmy and KarmSolar coming together to imagine and attempt a different vision for real estate development and architecture in Egypt. A vision that reformulates a new progressive architectural expression and experience using abstract, artistic and intellectual interpretations of strongly embedded historical and current local cultural identity influences. Fahmy continues expanding on her design methodology that places value on design character and has clear interpretations of culture and heritage and translating them into modernized designs.

The KarmSolar Sahl Hasheesh Campus Headquarters features inspirations by various elements, such as the Palmetto plant of Pharaonic, Roman origins, and Pharaonic ceilings in temples in Aswan, Nubian architecture and traditional architectural motifs.

“Karmbuild and Azza Fahmy have come together to imagine and attempt a different vision for real estate development and architecture in Egypt: A vision that reformulates a new progressive architectural expression and experience using abstract, artistic and intellectual interpretations of strongly embedded historical and current local cultural identity influences,” says Karim Kafrawi, KarmBuild Principal Architect.

He adds that Fahmy has successfully developed the fusion of cultural references from an artistic, intellectual, cultural and historical perspective and incorporating this fusion into wearable art. “By bringing this approach into architecture and combined with renewable solar energy and environmentally conscious design, we are reimagining how our built environment can be developed for the future,” Kafrawi adds.

KarmBuild, a subsidiary of KarmSolar, provides architecture design and construction in parallel with the values and mission of Karmsolar.

Internal upward view of Light Ray (Use Outdoor Terrace & Shading Structure)

A close-up view of Light Ray (Use Outdoor Terrace & Shading Structure)

Light Ray (illuminating your space with interplay of light) (Use Outdoor Terrace & Shading Structure)

Outdoor Terrace & Shading Structure . Solar Integrated Screen (Palmetto) designed to shade the living room from the sun.

W Florett (Use Outdoor Terrace & Shading Structure)
6/30/2017 3:06:28 PM
<![CDATA[Darb 1718: The Art Refuge ]]>
“I think we’ve become as significant as we are, partly because we’ve been going for so long, partly because of our credibility. And work talks. When people see you work and see the quality of the work you’re doing, you gain favorability,” explains artist and founder of Darb 1718, Moataz Nasr.

But the art refuge that extended a hand to artists and the surrounding community needs a helping hand from the public to continue their mission.

Darb had recently initiated a call for funding—they need the public’s help to keep on going. But artist and founder Moataz Nasr explains that it’s not only financial help the art space needs. Showing up to events, doing projects in collaboration with the art space or even donating spare wood or paint can also help Darb—and the art space gives something in return with year-round community outreach programs for residents of Old Cairo.

We look back to the history of Darb, just what it presents to the community and why everyone should help in their own capacity to maintain the place that served as an arts and music haven for the past nine years.

The idea of founding an art space had been forming in Nasr’s head for a long time, before he took the first steps towards establishing the place in 2007. He wanted to help artists by creating a space where they could exhibit, develop their art and collaborate with other artists. On his travels abroad, Nasr had seen the success other countries have had with establishing art spaces without the government’s involvement. A similar concept was missing in Egypt, he thought, and so Nasr began building Darb 1718.

“However, we were shut down in late 2007 because a government official found out that we were building this place. How can a private person build something that is usually handled by the Ministry of Culture? He came and sealed the building with red wax and raised a case against me,” Nasr says, adding that he was very surprised by the government’s reaction to the project.

Despite the struggles from the very beginning, Nasr carried on, and the result speaks for itself. Darb 1718 started out with a space of about 330 square meters. Today, the art space is the size of a museum, around 1,500 square meters. And it’s not just Nasr anymore, the team has now grown to 20 members.

“There are so many people who have dedicated their time and love to the project,” he says. “We decided from the beginning that we were not going to be commercial, we are some sort of NGO. We’re depending on the small fees we collect from the cinema, the shop and the restaurant we hope to open soon.”

Darb is reaching out to kids too to develop their love for the arts early on. “It’s a bit difficult to work with the old people, but much easier to work with the kids. For example, we have workshops on recycling, painting, acting and we even taught them how to skateboard. At the same the kids are getting used to being inside art spaces—we’re teaching them that it’s not forbidden.”

In a way, Darb 1718 has become a way of mixing different social classes. Nasr explains, that it’s often the same 200 or 300 faces that show up to art exhibitions in Cairo, but with Darb 1718 he wanted to open up the art world for the broad public. Today, Darb’s events can be composed of 10 people for a workshop or host up to 2,000 people in concerts.

“Darb is essentially a place where everyone can express their feelings or what they believe. I want the space to be for everyone and for every kind of art.”

6/29/2017 5:31:23 PM
<![CDATA[Omar El Amroussy: Photographer of the Stars]]>
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am currently from college and I have been taking photographs for four years. My career in photography began when I first started pursuing street photography, taking photos on my cell phone camera. I began my professional photography work when I bought a professional DSLR camera and began to take photos while I am travelling. My travel journey began two years ago when I visited Saint Catherine, Siwa Oasis, Dahab, Nuweiba and Taba.

What inspires you as a photographer? How does it show in your work?
The idea of travelling alone far away with my camera is what inspires me the most. I feel great when I am sitting for days to get a very specific shot and I wait for hours to capture a good shot like the Milky Way passing across my lens.

Tell us more about your recent foray into filmmaking
My filmmaking journey began earlier when I started filming short movies, it wasn’t planned and I never studied it before but I had this vision about a movie playing in my head and I wanted to bring it to life, even if achieved with basic tools.
When you have a vision of a film you try many times until you get it right without excuses and inevitably you become a professional. I first started filming time lapses and then went to do stories, for example, portraying the routine of an individual’s daily live.

How has your work developed over the years?
I believe that the education process is infinite, I still have my first-captured photos on my Instagram account and no matter how much I developed I will still be proud of the first steps I took. Each stage of my work life I had a certain vision that I achieved and a step-by-step progress commenced. I learned by listening and observing both younger and older photographers on the scene.

What do you like the most about your work?
The best thing I like about my work is capturing photos of stars because it’s the thing that I am well known for as people who saw my work didn’t believe that these photos were taken in Egypt. Photographing the stars is untraditional and challenging.

Tell us more about your work, what process do you generally follow?
To take photos of the Milky Way you have to have a special lens to be able to capture the stars; you need to adjust your tripod and use a remote control to adjust your camera without manually touching your camera.
I travel anywhere with my camera, tripod and remote control. The camera doesn’t have to be full frame but it has to be professional; however even if you don’t have these tools you can also take photos on your phone that will develop once you put your heart in to it. I developed from the standard lens to an advanced lens of 24-70 mm that is capable of zooming. Most importantly, not giving up is essential to make this process work.

How do you see the art scene currently in Egypt?
There are artists who are really trying to develop and work hard while others have very strong tools and assistance yet don’t have any unique work or vision. There is nothing better than working extremely hard to see that hard work pay off. The [art] platform lacks a pure spirit that shows while performing the job and guarantees output. When I take photos when I am happy the output is much better than I could ever imagine than when I take photos when I am upset. Today’s Egyptian artistic platform needs to acquire pure spirit and patience.

Who are your favorite artists and why?
One of my favorite photographers is Hossam Atef also known as Hossam Antikka. I respect his personality, thoughts and photography because he started with very basic tools but photographed everything and has gone to a lot of places—this shows that photography is a hard field that requires a lot of hard work.

What are you future projects?
I plan to conduct some landscape projects as I travel to Luxor, Aswan, Marsa Alam and Gebal Elba, a natural reserve area located in Halayeb and Shalateen. My upcoming projects for portraits include drawing a painting on a model’s face that will glow under a certain type of lighting called black lighting.
I plan to film a promo video about pre-Ramadan life which will be launched these coming days, depicting details about the few weeks before the month of Ramadan, such as people selling lanterns. This will be an introductory video to a short film that I will shoot about life in the holy month.

Artspine is the first arts portal in Egypt bringing 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/artspine, on Instagram @artspine1 and on Twitter @Artspine1 • www.artspine.net
6/26/2017 12:28:31 PM
<![CDATA[Ramadan Around the Clock: Kamel Hassan, Tailor]]>
Hassan describes how some of the tailors while away the time, enjoying a game of football in an empty lot outside the mall an hour before the maghreb call to prayer. “In Ramadan, we have two shifts a day; the first one starts at 11am to an hour before iftar and the second starts following the night prayers until 1am,” says Hassan, who opened his dressmaking shop in 2011.

During the first ten days of Ramadan, work is light because the customers are busy preparing their basic goods for the holy month, he adds. “However, in the last days of Ramadan, some dressmakers stay in their shops and do not return home due to the heavy work ahead of Eid El-Fitr.”]]>
6/23/2017 2:41:49 PM
<![CDATA[Ramadan Around the Clock: Hoda Zakaria, Reporter]]>
Used to covering challenging topics, Youm7 reporter Zakaria broke the story about deceiving the recent stem cell therapy scam, and went undercover as a Sudanese refugee to expose a fake artificial limbs business. This Ramadan she’ll be working mostly from the office.

“Before getting married, it was only the first day of Ramadan that I gathered with my family for iftar,” says Zakaria who is used to working long hours during the holy month, breaking her fasting with her fellow journalists.

This year she’ll need to make more time for her family. “Working as a journalist is like an addiction . . . and anyone who has chosen to be part of this field should know that it will be difficult to find time for friends and family amid the unrelenting demands of work.”

Zakaria is of Nubian origins but grew up in Cairo where she pursued her dream of working as a journalist. Her goal is to draw attention to Nubian society and its many successful figures in business, medicine, engineering and so on.]]>
6/22/2017 2:25:35 PM
<![CDATA[Faces of Ramadan]]>
The Mesaharaty
“Es’ha ya nayem, wahed el-dayem, Ramadan Karim. Es’ha ya nayem, wahed el-razaq”
(Wake up, oh faster and praise Allah. Welcome Ramadan, the month of forgiveness)
—Traditional mesaharaty call

Zain Ali has been working as a mesaharaty since the early 1970s. Now 72, Ali used to roam around the neighborhoods of Agouza and Dokki with his father since he was 10 years old. “Ramadan has always been my favorite time of the year,” he says.

Throughout the rest of the year, Ali works as a security guard. Ali used to accompany his dad during Ramadan in summer while he was on school holiday. “My dad taught me the basics of the job, I inherited his strong, booming voice and memorized the names of the children to wake them up. Some of them grew up and got married in the same houses and now I call the names of their children.”

Considered one of the oldest Ramadan-only jobs in Egypt, the mesaharaty has been present in Egypt since the Fatimid Caliphate, and his job involved waking people up for sohour (meal before dawn) usually an hour or two before starting to fast. He would also chant traditional Ramadan songs and call people, particularly children, by name to wake them up.

“Many children used to come down to the street and walk with us carrying their fawanees [candlelit lanterns].” Ali explains that up until the 1980s, like many jobs, the mesaharaty was still what you would term a “traditional” Egyptian job.

But as the years passed, the job started gradually taking a more “modernized” form, particularly after the arrival of technology and smart phones. “The mesaharaty was an important job when people used to sleep early. Nowadays most people do not sleep until after dawn,” Ali says.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s the mesaharaty used to wear a special uniform—“the traditional Saedi (Upper Egyptian) galabeya,” and carried a small wooden drum, recalls Ali. Today most mesaharatys don’t wear galabeyas or carry special drums: “Today any drum or anything with a loud drum-like sound will do the job, people do not really pay much attention,” Ali adds, confiding that even though times have changed, he still feels proud to do the job and is pleased when people greet him as the mesaharaty.

Gift Shop Owners
Omar Fattouh has been a gift shop owner in Midan El-Gamea, Heliopolis since the 1980s. A couple of weeks before the holy month, he gives his shop a complete makeover: “It becomes more like a color festival, decorated with all kinds and shapes of fawanees and Ramadan ornaments,” he says.

“This year we have a high demand on khayamiya [traditional handmade patchwork] lanterns and tablecloths. I have already received a number of special orders who want to design their own fanous.”

Fattouh also stocks a wide variety of Ramadan gifts and lantern-shaped boxes for birthday presents during the holy months.

“Ramadan is always special and every year we must come up with something more creative. This year I feel that people are longing for the past, there is a sense of nostalgia in the air. Many people still ask if we sell the traditional candlelit lanterns that are rarely found anywhere today.” Lantern prices range from LE 20 to LE 300, depending on size, shape and material.

Kunafa and Qatayef Makers
One of the oldest kunafa (traditional cream, cheese or nut-filled pastry served with syrup) and qatayef makers in Heliopolis, El-Ahd El-Gedid was founded in 1927 by Hossam’s (not his real name) grandfather who was known for making the best kunafa in town, my grandmother, who’s been living in Heliopolis for over 55 years, tells me. The shop is the oldest kanafanis (kunafa makers) in Heliopolis and one of the oldest three in Cairo.

“The key to our success is we make kunafa and qatayef right in front of customers and they know for sure that it is fresh,” Hossam says. “It is quite manic, particularly with fasting, but Ramadan is our lucky season. We usually sell double or even triple what we sell in the other 11 months of the year.”

El-Ahd El-Gedid has six workers and another two usually join the team during Ramadan “because we make it fresh, the process goes on all day until all of it is sold,” Saeed, one of the workers, tells us. “In Ramadan the shop does not close at all, maybe for a couple of hours after dawn, but other than that it is open all the time.”

Unfortunately, this year many of the ingredients, such as milk and flour, cost double the price they did last year “However, we are doing our best to cope and we are still optimistic about this Ramadan,” Hossam adds. This year kunafa and qatayef prices range between LE 10 and LE 12 per kilogram.

Syrians in Ramadan
Selim El Syoufy is a 35-year-old Syrian business graduate who came to Egypt in 2012 after being forced to close down his family business in Homs, Syria. Starting from scratch, Syoufy decided to open his own Syrian restaurant. “That was my dream, but I knew I had to start small,” says Syoufy who opened a Syrian desserts kiosk in Heliopolis in 2012 followed by a second one in 2014.

In 2016, Syoufy founded his own Syrian food restaurant in Sixth of October City. “The official opening was in Ramadan, which gave us the chance to introduce a number of Syrian dishes that were mostly new to Egyptians such as fish and orange kebabs,” he says.

Unlike the traditional Syrian and Lebanese flavors Egyptians have gotten used to, this Ramadan Syoufy’s restaurant is presenting new dishes and appetizers such as mango paprika pickles.

A tradition most Syrian restaurants follow in Ramadan is offering specific food items for free. “This year we are introducing a new Syrian dessert called awamat, which are similar to the Egyptian zalabia (small dumplings made of sugar, flour and milk) but with a Syrian flavor. We are also offering a new cheese kunafa recipe,” he says. Unlike normal working hours from 11pm until midnight, they usually open at 2pm in Ramadan.

“Our chefs start cooking nonstop until sohour and most of my employees only get two hours of rest, including myself,” Syoufy adds. “It is pretty hectic but at the end of the day we want to deliver the best.”

The Fanous Maker
The traditional Egyptian fawanees (lanterns) date back to the Fatimid Era when lanterns were typically made out of copper. Over the years, Egyptians perfected the art of crafting lanterns made of either copper or wood.

Ahmed Abdul Meguid has been working as a lantern maker in Old Cairo since he was 18. Now 42, Abdul Meguid says that even though Chinese lanterns (mostly made of plastic) have flooded the Egyptian market for a while “Egyptians have always loved the original candle-lit fanous more than anything.”

Abdul Meguid starts to work on lanterns six months before Ramadan in a small workshop and does not need a lot of space for inspiration.

“I cannot work anywhere spacious, I feel most inspired in any small corner inside a workshop around Cairo’s old mosques and aisles,” he says. Taking approximately two to three months to finish a medium-sized copper lantern, Abdul Meguid makes various wooden and copper lanterns using a flame, “my main tool,” he stresses. Fawanees vary in shape, color and brightness.
“Anyone can learn the craft, but it’s rare to find someone who has real talent.
6/20/2017 2:19:55 PM
<![CDATA[Ramadan Around Clock: Muhammad Hommos, Air Traffic Controller ]]>
Air traffic controllers work shifts all year long, including Ramadan, to ensure the tower is always covered. During Ramadan, however, each shift is divided into two groups. “The first group gives instructions to the pilots and handles air traffic only while the second group is a coordinator for the first group,” explains Hommos. “They are saving airplane data, giving instructions to vehicles on the group and everything moving in the airspace, to mention a few [duties].”

Come Ramadan Hommos makes his way to the airport far earlier than normal to catch the midnight shift because many more people are travelling during Ramadan. “This makes both the airport and the traffic leading up to the airport a lot busier so I usually leave home one hour earlier in case the traffic is bad.”

There’s an increased sense of camaraderie at the airport too, says Hommos. “The atmosphere is very nice and motivational. When we show our ID and go through security, the police officers tell us ‘may God be with you and give you strength and power to focus on your hard work.’ The atmosphere is completely different because in the beginning or end of every call you’ll hear ‘Ramadan Kareem!’ Those two small words always make me feel good,” Hommos says. “It gives me energy and really motivates me.”

At sohour Hommos takes turns with his partner to go eat. “Rule number one in the air traffic control room is no food or drinks in front of us, because we have to be careful around all the instruments. So for sohour and iftar I take a 30-minute break, where I leave the responsibilities to my partner to go and eat. When I come back, my colleague leaves to eat and I take the responsibility alone.”

Once sohour has ended and the fast begins, Hommos says the work gets more stressful. “Work is more stressful and tiring than the rest of the year. It’s harder to focus and concentrate without food or water but I keep focused because I have a workmate as a coordinator. He keeps me alert if I lose focus, and shares the responsibility with me.

When it’s not Ramadan I work alone and take full responsibility and only get help if I need to use the bathroom or feel sick. We have two bosses always watching everyone work, so if anything goes wrong they can take the microphone and let us rest for a little bit.”

Mohamed Homos by Anna Bersen
6/19/2017 12:12:37 PM
<![CDATA[Dressing the Cast]]>
Graduating from the costume design department at the High Institute of Cinema in 1967, Abd El-Aziz studied among many renowned contemporary filmmakers including Dawood Abd El-Sayed, Aly Badrakhan and Khairy Beshara. Her leading professor of that era was the late filmmaker Chadi Abdel Salam (1930–1986), director of the two Egyptian classics Al-Mummia (The Night of Counting the Years, 1969) and El-Fallâh el-Fasîh (The Eloquent Peasant, 1970) and art director and costume designer of several historical films like the Polish film Pharaoh (1966) by Jerzy Kawalerowicz and the Egyptian film Saladin the Victorious (1963) by Youssef Chahine.

Upon graduation, Abd El-Aziz worked as assistant designer to Abdel Salam himself in the Islamic-themed historical drama Dawn of Islam. The
following year, she became the costume designer of Al- Shayma: Prophet’s Sister by Houssam El-Din Mustafa. After four years of postgraduate studies in Russia, Abd El-Aziz came back to Egypt during the mid-1970s with her PhD to venture into a career that spanned over more than four decades in period dramas and films.

Customizing the customs
“Researching historical dramas was more difficult in my generation than nowadays,” explained Abd El-Aziz in her office at the High Institute of Cinema where she still teaches. “We used to read tens of books to land a lead about the look of certain eras. We were taught by Abdel Salam to research then to imagine and create. Some eras weren’t documented in images or drawings and we needed to let our imagination and our knowledge be our guides.”

Abd El-Aziz also gives a lot of importance to the impressions she gets from the characters after reading the screenplay during the pre-production phase to retrace its timeline and reflect it in her designs for the character. “Once I finish reading, I start to imagine all the characters coming alive in front of my eyes,” she says. “After scanning all the styles of this certain era, I start to decide what to implement and what to pass on for the series and its characters. I also like to have my own take on my designs and not just copy history completely. The costume of each character along with the hairstyle and make-up must reflect the inner psychological aspect and its interaction with the other characters.”

The latest series Abd El-Aziz worked on is The Sultan and the Shah, taking place in the 16th century and retracing the conflict between Selim I, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and Ismail I, the Shah of Iran. In the series, Mohamed Riad plays the Shah and Samer El-Masry. The rest of the cast is made up of Arab actors. “Because of the multitude of the characters in such a production, I design specific characterization for each society in the series,” explains Abd El-Aziz. “There’s the Persian society, the Turkish society and the Arab society and each [has their] own visual characteristic in terms of costumes and set decorations, which should be coordinated with the art director and the director of photography,” she explains. “From a technical point in this specific series, I had to design all the costumes without the green color although it prevails in Persian culture because it was a request from the director who was shooting using a green screen in the background that is necessary for adding visuals using computer graphics depth during the postproduction phase.”

During her career, Abd El-Aziz collaborated with leading television director Mohamed Fadel in more than 10 series and films. Most prominently, the two worked on the black-and-white Nasser 56 where the late Ahmed Zaki played President Gamal Abd El-Nasser. “The challenge in that film was to reflect the period without colors,” says Abd El-Aziz. Fadel got Abd El-Aziz dozens of books and documents from Hoda Abdel-Nasser, the president’s daughter, to facilitate the research. “Because all Egyptians, being contemporaries of Nasser or not, knew about his looks and charisma, it was a great challenge for me and all the filmmakers to bring him back to life on celluloid. On the opposite side, a character like the president’s wife Tahia Kazem, played by Fardous Abd El-Hamid, was difficult to approach because she was not a media regular during that era and so we had very few photos of hers.” This is where Abd El-Aziz had to let her creativity take over, based on the few documents she had.

“I remember Ahmed Zaki was always in character between takes to the extent that he addressed me the way Nasser would have addressed a lady speaking to him,” Abd El-Aziz recalls.



6/18/2017 2:30:39 PM
<![CDATA[Discover the Stars of Tomorrow]]> If you’re stuck home in July with energetic kids whose friends have all gone to Sahel (North Coast) and they’re left whining about how bored they are, we have just the solution for you: Take them to the biggest sports event held in Egypt this year.

For the first time in Africa’s history, the FIBA (International Basketball Federation) Under-19 2017 Basketball World Cup will be held right here in Cairo, from July 1-9 at the Cairo International Stadium with 16 countries taking part.

But if seeing future NBA (National Basketball Association) players and their national team competing isn’t enough for your little athlete, the organizers are holding family days daily throughout the week of the competition, ranging from face-painting to mini basketball tournaments.

Competing against Latvia, Israel and Italy, Egypt in March landed the bid to host the cup this year. “This is the first time we ask to organize the Basketball World Cup, and it’s the first time in Africa and the Middle East,” says Mohamed Abdel Motaleb, Local Organizing Committee’s (LOC) director and vice president of the Egyptian Basketball Federation.

15 mu19 game3 trier 800jpg

“The committee unanimously approved Egypt, with the exception of the United States who had reservations on the security situation.” When the bombings took place in April, FIBA send a security expert working with the German government to assess the security situation in Egypt. “The expert presented a very good report on the situation,” Abdel Motaleb adds.

The Cup is all the more exciting given our national U19 team is not only taking part in it, but also competing against a strong team this year and has an international coach behind them. With a few championships under his belt, Spanish head coach Juan Antonio Orenga is expected to take our team to the quarter-finals for the first time in Africa’s history.

Abdel Motaleb explains that the team has been preparing for this Cup since last year and is now in a preparation camp. “The national team is a strong one, we have been forming it for the past four years and six of our players are playing abroad, one in Spain and five in the U.S.,” he says, adding that all players playing abroad will join the national team by June.

“We also have very good players playing here. So with the Spanish head coach Juan Antonio Orenga, we have good chances of reaching the quarter-finals; a stage no other Arab team has reached.”

Shooting Guard Tarek Raafat, who has come from the U.S. where he’s currently playing to join the national team, is excited about Orenga. “The coach is really good and he understands new techniques of basketball,” he says.

Raafat explains that they train for around three hours in the morning and two hours at night. “We do gym in the weight room then have a team practice and play five-on-five and shooting and so on,” he tells us from his training camp in Alexandria. “The next day we do the same but do fitness, running for about 45 minutes.


We then shoot 200 to 300 shoots for five days straight then get a day off where we go to the spa to go to the sauna and Jacuzzi and take an ice bath.” Raafat adds that he believes the training facilities are similar, if not better, to those he gets at the schools’ facilities where he plays in the U.S.

From June 17 to 19 the team will head to Spain where they will play friendly games with France, Italy, Spain and Germany. They will then compete against Argentina and an Asian country. “That means they will play against five or six of the teams who will be taking part in the cup, which will give them great practice for the Cup,” Abdel Motaleb says.

The team has been together for a year and have kept communication, including with those playing abroad. “Our team chemistry is really good,” Raafat says. “We should be really good this year.”

Center Player Ahmed Abou El Ela, better known as Beebo, is also joining the team from Spain for the tournament and agrees with Raafat on the team spirit. “We have all played together on several tournaments, we keep in touch and we are all friends,” Beebo says.
Egypt, ranking number 16 on FIBA, is among group B, along with Germany, Puerto Rico and Lithuania.

There are a total of around 300 players, coaches, physicians and other members of the delegations expected to arrive starting June 27 from New Zealand, Korea, France, Germany, Puerto Rico, Lithuania, Canada, Japan, Spain, Mali, Iran, Angola, Italy and the U.S.

With 100 committee members and 230 volunteers working on the Cup, preparations are well on way to ensure as smooth a competition as possible and the best image for the country.

The team behind the Cup is composed of 15 committees, including marketing, transportation, accommodation, security, venues, ticketing and media. Volunteers Committee head Sherif Abou El Enein has a doctorate in sports marketing and has been working on sports competitions since 2006.

Abou El Enein interviewed 1,500 volunteers and chose 230 of them to join him in organizing the event. The volunteers were then divided into specialization according to skills and expertise, including accompanying teams and VIPs.

With some of the volunteers distributed across committees, the rest, known as organizers, are around 180 and they receive theoretical and practical training that lasts for up to two and a half months on the game rules, history and teams as well as how to behave, hypothetical situations and how to solve them, where to stand and how to guide people. “The organizers then have rehearsals and they are evaluated to make sure they fit all criteria,” Abou El Enein explains.

Because it is important for teams to have their escorts speak their language fluently, Abou El Enein is providing nine languages this championship. “The organizers accompanying the teams are the link and it’s important that the teams feel like they are part of the delegation,” Abou El Enein says.

“So I deal with them as members of the delegations who speak Arabic; this means that the organizers escorting the teams are always supporting their team, even if they’re playing against Egypt.” He adds that organizers working directly with the teams and the VIPs are important because they reflect the image of the championship and so need to have fluent languages, perfect attitudes and good information and background on the game.

One of the obstacles the LOC faced was a FIBA regulation that stipulates wooden floors in the court. “We don’t have that so we had to import it,” explains Abdel Motaleb. Heba El Hadidy, accommodation manager, explains that one, rather amusing, obstacle they face is that many players are well over two meters tall. “The beds are two meters in length at most, so we have to actually use bed extensions to accommodate taller players from the delegations.”

But the biggest obstacle has been promoting the event. Any non-football sport in Egypt is less than fortunate when it comes to game turnouts, but given that the Cup will be held right after Ramadan when people are normally on the beach somewhere, there is a double challenge to face.

“The competition is held right after Ramadan and we are worried it might affect the awareness around the World Cup,” explains Abdel Motaleb. Ahmed Bayoumi, head of the marketing committee, agrees and adds that it is also challenging to compete against the Ramadan advertising race and manage to get the message across the commercials clutter during the month. The best way to promote, Bayoumi feels, is through social media “because people are always on the phone in the morning during Ramadan and before iftar.”

While worldwide, football is the biggest sport in terms of fans, with around 2.15 billion fans, basketball comes in next, with around 1.4 billion fans. “In Egypt, however, handball comes in second after football and basketball comes third,” Bayoumi explains.

With the slogan “Discover the Stars of Tomorrow,” Bayoumi adds that because this competition is for U19, they are targeting youth and families who would view the under-19 players as their role models and where they want to be in the near future.

“We will target youth and families through activations in malls and sports clubs to raise awareness because this is where they would be in summer holidays with schools and universities off,” Bayoumi says. He adds that they would set up mini-basketball courts to host competitions with giveaways and prizes to raise awareness about the Cup.

To attract kids, Bayoumi explains that Hall 4 will be a “fan zone” with activities for kids including bands playing, face-painting and competitions. “Each day has eight games, you don’t just come watch a game and leave, you come and spend a day, attend games you like and spend time at the fan zone,” he says.

The tickets will be sold online, in youth centers and at the Cairo International Stadium.
6/17/2017 10:29:21 AM
<![CDATA[People of Ramadan: Nour Nageh Ali, Sufi Chanter]]>
He has not always been so in tune with his faith, however. Sitting in the shade outside the Cairo Opera House a few weeks before Ramadan, Ali revealed something he doesn’t often speak about to the press: how it was that he came to Sufism. As Ramadan approached in 2013, Ali was discontent with his life and searching for change. A friend suggested he use Ramadan to reconnect with his spirituality and God, and as he did, Ali’s whole world changed. He found himself enveloped in Sufism and was fascinated by the chant; most importantly, by the way the music and chanting brought him closer to God. After more than a year spent simply sitting, listening and learning, Al Hadara was born in 2015.

“Ramadan, for all Muslims, is a nice month for two things: spiritual practice and gathering with family and friends and going out in the evenings,” says Ali, adding that chanting and performing with Al Hadara “kind of takes me from friends and family.”

Last Ramadan was particularly frustrating for Ali. “It was hard for me to see my sheikh,” he recalls. “I was really in trouble, it was really annoying for me. . . . Sometimes someone [would agree] to a concert on the day I meet the sheikh, because I only see him once per week in Ramadan, and it was for me really, really annoying.”

For Ali and Al Hadara, Ramadan is the busiest time of the year. Usually Al Hadara plays two to three ticketed concerts per month, plus a handful of smaller concerts or events. As of mid-May, the band already had seven concerts booked for Ramadan at major venues such as Sawy Culture Wheel and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, and Ali expects they will end up performing at least twice that number by the time the month ended.

During the first week of Ramadan, the band will travel from Cairo to Ras el-Bar then back to Cairo and then to Alexandria—in only four days!

Despite the hectic pace, Ali loves and values his work. “It’s better, because it’s a season,” he says. “There is a season for each musician. It’s nice to go to new places, to work and to work a lot. It’s a great opportunity for the level of our group. It’s good for the harmony, [and] it’s good for everyone to get paid well, too.”

With performances falling so soon after iftar and a necessary pre-concert soundcheck, Ali says the band “usually eats iftar at the place of the concert.” While sometimes the venue provides iftar, more often they bring their own food with them or go to a nearby café or restaurant to break their fast.

Ali, whose favorite Ramadan dessert is “qatayef, it must be qatayef!” says the holy month is all about mercy and sums up his Ramadan in three things: “spiritual practice, chanting, and gathering with friends and family.”
6/16/2017 12:55:32 PM
<![CDATA[The Art of Revolution: “A Thousand Times No”]]>
Bahia Shehab never believed she had it in her to go out and spray paint “no” in the streets of Cairo during the revolution in 2011. After all, she was a mother of two girls, a historian and a professor at the American University in Cairo (AUC).

She also never expected that her graffiti art series “A Thousand Times No” would land her the UNESCO Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture, making her the first Arab woman to ever receive the award. Her project combines calligraphy and graffiti, featuring 1,000 ways to write the word “no” in Arabic, along with drawings symbolizing political and economic injustices as well as personal issues and gender discrimination.

“I would never have imagined myself as a graffiti artist. I had actually just done an anti-vandalism campaign for the Ministry of Antiquities, so it was quite ironic,” Shehab says with a laugh.

In her office at the AUC campus in New Cairo, Shehab recalls that she had never used graffiti as a way of expressing herself before 2011. But the spray can was a tool that was available to her, so she picked it up and began spraying her now-iconic stencils of the word no in Arabic and the blue bra, which came to symbolize the revolution.

“The same way lawyers were helping people out of prison and doctors were helping the wounded, I felt that it was my responsibility as an artist to do the minimum that I could; and that came out as grafitti,” Shehab says.

Some of Shehab’s messages were against violence, creating a new pharaoh, killing, stripping Egyptian women, creating barriers to keep people from demonstrating and gender discrimination.

The Sharjah prize, carrying a monetary value of $60,000 divided between the laureates, was created in 1998 and is awarded annually to two individuals, groups or institutions who have done an outstanding job in spreading the knowledge of Arab culture and art. Shehab, along with French artist eL Seed, were this year’s winners and received their awards in April at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. During the awards ceremony, UNESCO

Director General Irina Bokova described the laureates’ works as “exemplary of the vitality of Arab culture, its richness and the link it establishes with our cultures by means of openness, creation and optimism.

“It’s an honor to receive the award, because it’s also a validation of the ideas I’ve been promoting. I don’t see myself representing only myself—I never did it for my own personal glory, but I’m proud, because I represent a part of the society that I think needs representing,” beams Shehab.

But even though Shehab represents women and women’s rights, she thinks it is even more important to promote human rights.

In her mind, the two cannot be separated, explaining that she was inspired to develop courses for a graphic design program based on the visuals of the Arab world. She now teaches the program at AUC, graduating around 40 students annually.

“I teach design from an Arab perspective and a lot of the course material is based on social development. For their graduation project, a lot of the students come up with a solution to a problem they have experienced or seen in the society, and they are part of the solution,” says Shehab.

Even though Shehab is busy teaching, she is not done using spray cans to create art. Last year she travelled to nine different cities, from Tokyo to Vancouver, to paint on walls.

“Every message I paint highlights an issue in the Arab society. On a wall on a Greek island I painted a stanza that declared, ‘Those who have no land, have no sea’ and in New York I painted a piece about prisoners in reference to the political prisoners.”

This year, she is travelling to Italy and Norway to paint on walls there. However, her next trip abroad is to Istanbul to set up and open her first solo exhibition called “The Chronicles of Flowers.” Shehab first came up with the idea for the art exhibition when she was bedridden after breaking a knee in 2011.

“My mother flew in from Beirut and every morning she put small flower arrangements next to my bed. I started taking photos of these flowers and a few months later I found out that I had hundreds of these flower photos. Then I worked with the concept of a wooden mashrabia window screen and the question of how knowledge is transferred from one generation to the next,” Shehab explains, pausing to show a video of the exhibition.

Three screens are placed next to each other featuring geometric flower patterns and video sequences of her flower pictures, along with photos of her mother and daughters projected on the screens. “The first screen represents my mother, the next myself and the last one my daughters,” Shehab explains.

The art exhibition is multi-sensory—the audience will be able to smell the flowers while looking at the three screens and flipping through the 300-page book showing the flowers and their scientific name that Shehab also designed.

“I love street art, it’s so simple to explain. You see it, you get it. I don’t have to tell you my life story for it to make sense,” says Shehab. “With gallery art there is a more complex concept behind it; and that’s why I definitely prefer street art.”
6/15/2017 11:39:39 AM
<![CDATA[Alternative Narratives]]>
Hoopoe (the fiction imprint of the American University in Cairo Press) has just celebrated its first birthday. In the past year, we have released a wide range of fiction, and this spring we continue in this vein, publishing authors from Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq and America, writing in distinct genres and across vastly differing experiences and subjects.

As well as showcasing the diversity of writing in this region, it has been central to Hoopoe to offer alternative narratives. Publishing from a region so often in the news, for all the wrong reasons, our books reach behind headlines to offer fresh, unexpected stories that will move, entertain and engage readers across the world.

Last October we released Khaled Khalifa’s acclaimed No Knives in the Kitchens of This City. Set between the 1960s and 2000s, it tells the story of the disintegration of one family from Aleppo under the weight of Assad’s cruel regime, and in so doing speaks to the wider persecution of society as a whole. This book was released just as the destruction of this historic city hit international news headlines, and Khalifa’s lyrical and eloquent prose provided a startling window into Aleppo’s collapse, one that began many years ago and that presaged the current war.

Two of our spring books (both released this month in Egypt) have also revealed themselves to be, sadly, topical. The Baghdad Eucharist by Iraqi–American writer Sinan Antoon (originally published in Arabic as Ya Maryam) charts 24 hours in the life of a Christian family in Baghdad, amid the onslaught of extremist sectarian violence that was unleashed by the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Although set in 2010, it remains relevant today, and seems to foreshadow the rise of ISIS in Iraq, not to mention its echoes of the recent attacks on churches in Egypt.

It is not a book without hope though, as the brutality of the current era is tempered by the voice of the elderly Youssef, from whose perspective the first half of the book is told. While aware of all that has been lost, he has not despaired and looks back on peaceful, happier times—before war, before sanctions, before Saddam. He refuses to leave the house that he grew up in, and the memories of his beloved city, despite attempts from his younger relatives (who have lived only through the bad years) to persuade him that there is nothing left for him.

The second book to recall this year’s headlines is Embrace on Brooklyn Bridge by Egyptian author Ezzedine C. Fishere, which tackles the immigrant experience in the US. Set mainly between Cairo and the US, it tracks the interwoven lives of eight Arab–American characters as they struggle with all the complications of a life lived in exile.

We first meet Darwish, now an old man looking back on the life that he has made for himself in New York, far away from his native Cairo, as he prepares for his granddaughter Salma’s 21st birthday party. Each chapter is told by a different guest of this celebration, all of whom revisit old memories, struggles and conflicts as they make their way there. It is a story of alienation and the search for home and belonging, but also of love in unlikely places.

As with Khalifa’s novel, both of these books offer particular, individual insights into much-discussed, much-debated, but possibly little-understood subjects. But what should really recommend them is the quality of their writing and the humanity of the stories that they tell—all are intimate tales of families, relationships, love and loss, hope and fear set against the backdrop of big-picture politics and social upheavals.

These authors are also all acclaimed writers in their own right and masters of their trade: No Knives in the Kitchens of This City, The Baghdad Eucharist, and Embrace on Brooklyn Bridge have all been shortlisted for the prestigious International Prize for Arabic Fiction (commonly referred to as the Arabic Booker) when first released. No Knives in the Kitchens of This City also won the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for literature.

And these are not the only prizewinning books in Hoopoe’s latest lineup, with two other Mahfouz Medal winners released this spring. First is a new edition of Latifa al-Zayyat’s influential feminist work The Open Door, a book that continues to captivate audiences decades after it was originally published in Arabic in 1960. The Arabic edition is still in print (recently reissued by Dar al-Karma) and many will know the story from the classic movie of the same name, starring Fatin Hamama. In it, we follow Layla through her political and social awakening, as she navigates and rebels against the conservative mores of the time—just as Egypt rebels against British imperialist rule. This coming-of-age story broke new ground in the sixties, and has earned its place as a landmark in Arabic literature—in the words of the illustrious Naguib Mahfouz, “Latifa al-Zayyat greatly helped all of us Egyptian writers.”

Second is renowned Lebanese author Hassan Daoud’s introspective novel No Road to Paradise, which tells of one man’s struggle with religion and tradition. This sparse and elegant novel lays bare the innermost thoughts of the disillusioned imam of a small village, who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Having always done what was expected of him, he must now face up to the life choices he has made and that have left him unfulfilled and disenchanted.

Last but not least, we add to this mix two distinct stories set in modern Egypt. The Book of Safety by Yasser Abdel-Hafez is a quirky and intriguing narrative of Cairo, set around a young man, Khaled, who works in a mysterious government office called the Palace of Confessions, where his role is to mutely transcribe interrogations. In one such session, he comes across Mustafa Ismail, university professor turned master thief and blackmailer, whose life’s work is The Book of Safety, the ultimate handbook to his murky trade. As Khaled gradually descends into obsession with him, we meet a cast of colorful and outlandish characters—from the regulars at his local ahwa to Ismail’s eccentric daughter.

Meanwhile, Menorahs and Minarets is the third book in Kamal Ruhayyim’s trilogy set in Egypt’s Jewish community. It sees the return of Galal, after ten years in Paris, to a city that he hardly recognizes. Still caught between his dual identity—his mother’s Cairene Jewish family and his father’s Muslim family from the Delta—he struggles to find a place for himself.

We hope that this eclectic mix of books will provide something for everyone—whether it’s a feminist classic from 1950s Cairo, a family saga in modern Baghdad or an immigrant novel in New York that you are after.

For more information on Hoopoe titles, visit: http://hoopoefiction.com/

Nadine El-Hadi is managing editor of AUC Press and acquisitions editor for Hoopoe

6/14/2017 2:43:24 PM
<![CDATA[7 Habits of Highly Effective Ramadanites ]]>
Between trying to sleep the fasting hours away, obsessing over which new dessert to buy from where for the thousand and one iftar and sohour invites and simply how to reciprocate all those invites without losing it, the month slips away as we indulge in desserts, television and a year’s worth of social life crammed into 30 days.

This month, follow these simple tricks to keep yourself on the right track: spiritually, nutritionally and physically.

Goal 1: Finish reading the Qur’an
While it makes little sense that the holy book sits on the shelf for 11 months and is only brought out for these 30 days every year, many Muslims plan to read the entire Qur’an during Ramadan. There are many ways to do it, all tried, tested and sworn by.

First, read four pages during each of the five daily prayers, this will amount to about 20 pages for the five prayers, or roughly a full chapter. Another way is to read one goz’ (part) every day during the last hour before iftar—you know, that hour you’re normally left twiddling thumbs and obsessing about the meal to come. If you miss a day, simply divide the chapter’s 20 pages and read an extra five pages daily for four days to make up and stay on schedule. Alternatively, download a Qur’an app on your tablet or phone and Uber or carpool your way to work every day; this way you can make use of the commute in finishing your daily goz’.

Goal 2: Do good
Ramadan is about doing good and helping others, so make it a point to give back to the society and do one good deed every day, leaving you with 30 good deeds a month and at least 30 happier people. It doesn’t have to be a big gesture, perhaps as small as helping an old lady cross the street, giving a gift to that little boy you see working for the shop next door or contributing to a charity table.

One simple way of ensuring you do one good deed a day is that you rummage through your clothes and kids’ toys and put about 30 mixed items of clothes, toys, blankets and even cookies and chocolates in your car. Make sure you give one item away on a daily basis to the boy selling tissues, an old lady, your security guy or even an orphanage. By the end of the month your bag of gifts for others should be empty and you should have a fuller charity account.

Alternatively, make a little extra food every day and feed the security men in your building.

Goal 3: Kick bad habits for good
If you can quit a bad habit for more than 12 hours a day for a whole month, you can certainly stop it for life—anything you do for a month becomes a habit. So take it step by step, convince yourself you’re giving it a trial run for Ramadan, then extend it a month after until you’re over it. The trick is to take it day by day. We’re not just talking about coffee and cigarettes, by the way, this includes any bad habit like talking behind people’s backs, name-calling and lying. If you can fix it for a month, you can fix it for life.

Goal 4: Hold back your temper
Your lack of coffee fix is no reason you should lash out at your parking attendant or kids. Fasting isn’t only abstinence from food, it’s also about taming your soul. There is no point in not eating all day if you’re just going to curse at every person on your way home for iftar and use your fasting as an excuse for rudeness. As hard as it is and as provoking as people can be, especially during daytime in Ramadan, do not lose it. It is as simple as that. Surely enduring being thirsty on hot summer days and going through the day without a single bite of food is far more difficult than holding your tongue.

A good way of doing it is to perform lots of zikr (remembrance), when you feel the temper raging up inside you, do some tasabih (recalling the names of Allah on your hands or rosary) or read a verse each time you feel you want to kill someone; that’ll surely help you finish the Qur’an, probably 10 times over. Keep a note to yourself in your car, on your desk, your living room and even in your bag. You can also keep a rosary nearby to remember your tasabih.

Goal 5: Save time on the mosalsalat
Ramadan is far less about mosalsalat (television dramas) than we make it to be, although they have become an integral part of the holy month. This year, ditch watching the shows on television and opt for the internet instead; that way you can actually finish the show in 20 minutes as opposed to a whole hour and save yourself 40 minutes for each show. If you’re watching three shows, and let’s face it, many of us are, then you’ve saved yourself a good two hours daily.

Many channels, like CBC and DMC, actually upload their shows a few hours after they’re aired on their official YouTube channels. Subscribe to MBC’s video on demand service Shahid and watch the latest shows through their website or application. You can also download the app on your smart television for easier watching and OSN offers similar on-demand services.

Bonus tip: Stick to a maximum of two shows and follow the rest of dramas you’re interested in after Ramadan; they air throughout the year and you’ll have plenty of less-crammed months to watch them.

Goal 6: Stay fit and multitask
Remember those two hours you just saved on mosalsalat? Well, use at least one of them to stay fit and burn off the kunafa so you don’t end up looking like you’ve spent all month munching on oriental sweets with all sorts of new twists; which you probably have.

Because our social lives during Ramadan are busy, we recommend home workouts during this month. Three apps we swear by are Fitness Blender, available in an app form as well as on YouTube, HomeWorkout and Sweat by Kayla Itsines. Fitness Blender and HomeWorkout are free, and while Fitness Blender has a wide range of short and long videos featuring everything from high intensity interval training (HIIT) to resistance and yoga, HomeWorkout’s application comes in the form of an app with instructions and short demonstration videos for each exercise listed. You can subscribe to Sweat, also known as the Bikini Body, by paying a monthly fee of about LE 180 for a full nutrition plan along with recipes as well as workouts. The workouts are only 28 minutes long and the exercises are complete with demonstration videos and full instructions.

You can actually save yourself some time and work out right before iftar while you watch last night’s episode of your favorite show online—multitasking at its best. If you are following any of those apps on your mobile or if you hop on your treadmill, it’s quite easy to follow a show and it’ll make the time pass much faster.

Goal 7: Do all of the above without turning down invitations
Ramadan is actually a great chance to reconnect with your family and friends and do some major bonding. But more so, it’s a time to be good to others, so it doesn’t make sense that you fail to show up when the poor family has been slaving in the kitchen all day to feed you. Don’t reject iftar or sohour invitations; nothing is worse than preparing a feast and having no one show up. Remember, what goes around comes around and the day may come when guests bail out on you too. If worse comes to worst, at least swing by for dessert.

Plan your Ramadan schedule well ahead to be able to reciprocate invitations but do not mix large groups of people who don’t know each other just so you can get it over with in one day.

Remember to grab dessert on your way to any invitation, most people are too busy preparing the actual meal and depend on the invitees to pick something up on their way.
6/13/2017 11:38:51 AM
<![CDATA[Ramadan Lights: Inside the world of the lantern makers]]>

In this short video, Maghraby talks to craftsmen who argue that Chinese lanterns were nothing but “toys” and could never compete with the traditional fawanis lovingly handmade here in Egypt. Times are tough though, with inflation and last year’s pound devaluation hitting both customers and fawanis makers hard. Although 80 percent of lanterns are Egyptian made, more than 75 percent of their components are imported and this year reports indicate lantern sales have plummeted 55 percent as prices double, raising fears that the industry could soon die out.
6/12/2017 3:42:03 PM
<![CDATA[Cultural Calendar: What to do in Cairo this week]]>
Gypsum Gallery and Adsum Art consultancy are collaborating to show the exhibition Paper Trail. twelve artists are exhibiting 150 pieces, all drawings or monoprint on paper. The collection is intimate and shows a moment, a memory, an experience or a place. Amongst the artists are Nehad Saeed who creates delicate drawings of people and Mustafa El Husseiny who draws intricate maps with ink.
Open daily from noon to 8pm (Friday 4-8pm, closed Sunday) • Exhibition runs until September 2017 • For more information, click here

A Nubian night

RT Nuba was founded to revive Nubian music and to preserve the heritage of Nubian art. The band offers a more contemporary take on the traditional music in an effort to keep up with today’s Egypt. Catch them this Tuesday at Makan in Garden City—your chance to experience a unique part of Egyptian culture.
June 13 at 7:30pm at Makan Egyptian Center for Culture and Arts • Tickets are LE 30 • For more information click here

Symphonic sounds at CFC

Legendary composer, pianist and conductor Omar Khairat will perform this Thursday at The Marquee in Cairo Festival City. Khairat has composed many musical pieces for both inaugurations, festivals and movies.
June 15 at 9:30pm at The Marquee in Cairo Festival City • Ticket prices start from LE 400 • for more information and tickets click here

Workshop: Abstract art

If you feel like releasing your creative spirits this Ramadan, then this might be the perfect workshop for you. The workshop The Art of Abstract will first introduce you to the basics of art, then move on to discussing the works of established artists and then you will have the chance to paint your masterpiece. The workshop takes place over three days and the instructor is Tawfik Nahra, who has exhibited in both Cairo and Boston.

Price: LE 500
June 15-17 from 6 PM at Bab 18 Art Space in Heliopolis
More information and booking here

Acoustic night in Heliopolis

Finish the week off with a night of acoustic music at Bab 18 Art Space. Singer May Abd El Aziz will fill the room with her beautiful voice, and she will be accompanied by Hassan Khayrat on guitar and Moustafa Abd El Aziz on cajon.

June 17 at 9 PM at Bab 18 Art Space in Heliopolis
More information here

6/11/2017 1:22:26 PM
<![CDATA[The Talent Hub]]> A pair of university students launch Egypt’s first talents portal, bringing together up-and-coming artists, photographers, writers and musicians.

CAIRO - 10 June 2017: Fayrouz Khaled and Rana Ashraf are two aspiring young writers who recently launched Artspine, a talents portal aiming to connect artists in one place. Frustrated at the lack of encouragement from older generations when it comes to arts and creativity, the social media-savvy pair—who are both freshmen at MSA—began building their own dream to raise awareness of the importance of fostering talent.

“We’re trying to raise awareness of a certain community that is invisible to generations who are older than us. So for example some people like to draw but their families refuse to allow them to enroll in arts and design classes, believing that this major is not serious enough,” begins Khaled. “Sciences and these majors are already around, but the arts community is afraid to make an appearance. So Rana for example, though her writing is really good, never used to like reading her work in front of people. A space like Artspine could motivate her so that in the future she writes novels or develops her work in say movies, in screenplays, to do something she loves. Just the same way others love computers so they choose to study computer science and become developers then sit at a computer all day—why should that be seen as normal or acceptable whereas someone who paints or photographs is not allowed to follow their talent?”

Ashraf shares the same frustration. “Our society and culture do not appreciate photography, painting or writing, all these things are underestimated. It’s rare that talent is recognized—in the end a photographer is just a mosawaraty. Artspine is a collective space where talented people can come together and where they feel they can fit. When others click on the website it’s not as if they’ll see the world from a different angle, but people’s horizons can be broadened by appreciating talent.”

The notion of appreciation, or lack thereof, is one of the factors that got the girls thinking about launching the hub. “We started meeting people on Twitter. Both of us love to write and I noticed how these people all write and what they share brings in 300 to 400 likes. But then they go into recents and then they disappear, as if they never wrote anything and everyone forgets. These people have created something emotional, something that has come from within and in the end all they get is some likes that are then forgotten” says Khaled. “So we thought of bringing all these people together in one space. We started with writing, because me and Rana like to write, then we thought this person draws, another photographs, another sings. We began to communicate with people from all over on Twitter, then on Instagram so we could follow these people’s social media, the work they do and the followers they have.

Both girls are quick to point out that the number of followers isn’t what their gauging as much as it’s the quality of someone’s work. “Some people have very few followers but their work is better than others who have followers in the millions. Twitter is a community where everyone knows the other users, but no one really knows the real person behind the handle,” they say.

Although Artspine is an open platform, Ashraf and Khaled stress that they do not accept just anyone’s work. “It depends on quality. Some people think they have a great voice but in reality they can’t sing or need voice lessons and training. The same with writing and art. We give ourselves time to evaluate before we respond and other the team members sometimes help us to assess and select. We have a vision for the type and quality that we want our portal to be, and based on this we make our decisions,” says Khaled.

Today there are about 40 talented artists from Cairo and other governorates in the Artspine community across fields including writing, painting, photography, typography and singing. “We still haven’t launched a Youtube channel though,” says Khaled who explains that short movies and other media are shared on Twitter and Instagram for now.

Egypt Today is proud to partner with Artspine to power our Artist of the Month section every month. This edition, we talk to photographer of the stars Omar El Amroussy about photographing everything from the Milky Way to capturing the enchanted skies of Siwa Oasis. Follow artspine on facebook at facebook/artspine, on Instagram @artspine1 and on Twitter @Artspine1 • www.artspine.net
6/10/2017 2:00:26 PM
<![CDATA[Azza Fahmy: Essential Ramadan Jewelry]]>Azza Fahmy Jewellery recently unveiled its Wonders of Nature ‘Classics’ 2017 Collection. The collection, which can be described as “Victoriana meets Egypt” consists of must-have timeless pieces including irresistible chandelier- and hoop-style earrings with cascading detailing, an eye-catching choker, the cool Classic Cuff with geometric motifs and poetic verses that creatively resemble a lace pattern adorned with semiprecious stones.

A signature piece of the collection is the impressive pearl and diamond Indian tribal ring and earring set.

Each piece is lovingly handcrafted and features intricate ajouré wire work and calligraphy, one of Azza Fahmy’s popular personalization signatures with hidden messages of love courtesy of the iconic singer Umm Kulthum and famous poets.

For more about the Azza Fahmy collection, click


Beaded choker inscribed words sung by Umm Kulthum

Beaded Tassel Chandelier Earring adorned with black and white diamonds, filigree, and inscribed with- فرحة - Happiness - in 18kt Gold and Sterling Silver

Chandelier earring adorned with semi-precious stones inscribed with - سعاده - happiness - in 18kt Gold

Classic cuff adorned with pave precious stones inscribed with poetry verses by Omar Ibn Abi Rab'ea in 18kt gold and sterling silver

Classic indian inspired tribal earring adorned with pave diamonds and pearls inscribed with - الهوي-love-18kt gold and sterling silver

Classic Indian inspired tribal ring adorned with pave diamonds and pearls inscribed with حبيبى يسعد اوقاته - wishing you joyful times my beloved in 18kt gold and sterling silver
6/9/2017 2:18:35 PM
<![CDATA[Nature Notes: Of Fur and Feathers ]]>
My father was the same but his passion was buses. I have never had, do not have and devoutly hope I will never have an interest in buses.

But my passion is natural history and while I would love to spend my entire life travelling the globe looking for anything with fur, feather or scales, the economic reality of earning a living precludes that. With the exception of David Attenborough. I do get to live my dream in the summer when sub-Saharan Africa or Southeast Asia beckon or in winter when a flock of Greater Flamingos on Lake Qarun adds local color, in flight a very pink tinged local color. But much of the travel is vicarious. I have friends and colleagues traversing the world doing meetings and conferences and the like but grabbing precious moments between to take some time out and they send me their photographs of the birds and animals they have seen and I take enormous pleasure in trying to identify the critters. I have a friend in Connecticut who sends me his excellent photographs of feathered stuff and it helps me keep abreast of my American ID skills. I love it. I truly do.

I have another colleague who promised to send me her wildlife photos from the Masai Mara in Kenya. She has not done so. I’m begging her. Rania—if you are out there send me the photos. That was until last week.

Last week I made just the same request of a friend and colleague who had spent mid-April in Tanzania and at the Ngorongoro Crater and on the Serengeti Plains specifically. I have visited both and marveled in the wildlife extravaganza of both. The Ngorongora Crater is exactly that, a huge extinct volcanic caldera which provides a natural arena for the full cast of East Africa’s finest fauna. The Serengeti Plains sees the last great migration on Earth, home in winter to unequalled numbers of wildebeest, zebra, antelopes, gazelles and of course all the attendant predators. Send me the photos I said. Send me the photos I’ll identify them, identify them all. I really enjoy doing this. I really, really do. And I do.

So he sent me the photographs from his Facebook page. I should do Facebook but I don’t. I signed in one time because I was once required to for a conference but that was it and I am probably now in the Guinness Book of Records for having the least number of “friends” or “likes” on Facebook. But I digress; I got the images and it was everything that I had expected. There were lions, excellent photographs of a leopard doing what leopards do best, lounging around in a tree and cheetahs doing what cheetahs do best, standing around on slightly taller stuff scanning the savannah for dinner. There were Thomson’s Gazelles and Grant’s Gazelles and Impalas and Topis.

There were Giraffes and Olive Baboons and some very approachable weaver birds. When it comes to photo-identification I love the challenge of weaver birds. There are, after a brief skim through my Stevenson and Fanshawe’s Birds of East Africa nigh on 34 species recorded from Tanzania alone. In Egypt we have one—the Streaked Weaver that breeds in the Delta but that is a bit of a cheat as it has been introduced from South Asia. But amongst all of these safari stalwarts was one image that made the blood run cold as the “green-eyed monster” of Shakespeare’s Othello unpleasantly emerged. Pure jealousy.

The image was of a cat. But this was no pampered Persian or rescued baladi. This was a wild cat and of a caracal. The caracal is neither a big nor a small cat and I will lay my naturalist credentials on the line to describe it as medium-sized. Weighing it at some 15 kilograms it is around a meter long including a tail of some 20 cm—proportionally short for a cat. It is uniform brown-beige throughout, slightly paler below so lacking the spots and stripes so typical of many cat species. Its defining feature is the ears. They sport long and elegant tufts and the backs are black whence the name—from the Turkish kara (black) and kulak (ear).

These cats have an extensive range over much of sub-Saharan and northern Africa, the Middle East and on through Asia as far east as India. In Egypt they have been recorded from the Eastern Desert and North and South Sinai.

I have been to much of sub-Saharan Africa. I have travelled throughout the Middle East and on to India. I have been to Egypt’s Eastern Desert and to North and South Sinai. I’m a naturalist and I am looking for these things and I have never seen a wild caracal. And yet here, hidden in a portfolio of East African staples, was this very special cat.

The Iago in me arose and not for the first time. Another friend of mine saw the caracal in South Africa and reported the sighting nonchalantly embedded in an e-mail of much blander stuff. This was a person who had seen Egyptian Nightjars, an elusive and very difficult to find nocturnal bird, while riding in the desert near Saqqara—and reported back to me describing them as “flying teddybears.” To identify an Egyptian Nightjar from the moniker “flying teddybear” is probably my finest bird identification moment but only confirmed after I mounted my own steed, my beloved Samarkand and found them near Abu Sir for myself. But she had seen a caracal!

I find solace in the less elusive stuff. Here in Egypt spring sprang and summer is upon us. There was a magnificent flyover of migrating European Bee-eaters in late April and early May and the odd few are still passing over as I write. A few will stay and breed in North Sinai. In Cairo the Blackbird has been in full song and I have seen males resplendent in all black with golden bills and eye-rings, and females unresplendent in dark brown and no golden bills and eye-rings—they will be breeding.

And the Rufous Bush Robin has arrived. I get excited by the Rufous Bush Robin for two reasons. Firstly it is a very attractive bird, a 16 cm relative of the thrushes and chats that sports a brightly chestnut rufous tail often cocked and tipped black and white. Secondly it is one of the very, very few land birds that actually visits Egypt in summer to breed.

The other that springs to mind is the Blue-cheeked Bee-eater. Many bird species are resident and breed here. Many others spend the winter here and many more migrate through here in spring and fall. Very few visit just for the summer to breed.

On the cold-blooded front I am looking forward to a fresh generation of Egyptian Square-marked Toads. I saw a pair embraced in amplexus in April. Amplexus is indeed the Latin for embrace and refers to the diminutive male toad clinging piggyback-style to the much larger female toad. The result will be strands of toad eggs in irrigation canals, backwaters, ponds and puddles throughout the Delta and Valley. Who needs caracals?

6/8/2017 10:54:04 AM
<![CDATA[Ramadan Around the Clock: Mohamed Shady, high school student]]>
Managing time in Ramadan is also difficult, says Shady. “I sleep almost four or five hours a day and studying is very hard because of lack of food and water. . . . I can’t deal with my family or even talk because they put too much pressure on me, they shout at me and yell all day long, and most of the day is just complaints. For sure studying is harder than ever because there are too many priorities and too much pressure on me, like the teacher, the exam, my family and of course the fasting. . . all of these aspects make it much harder. My brain doesn’t operate well at the beginning, but I manage to work it out.”
6/7/2017 12:55:52 PM
<![CDATA[Celebrating Ramadan in Singapore ]]>
Ramadan’s magical spirit is present in every part of Singapore’s lively culture. “The streets become filled with colorful bazaars and people get together to welcome the holy month with traditional music and delectable dishes served in tents around the busy streets of the Geylang Serai district where people come to celebrate the beginning of Ramadan, even non-Muslims,” Yaman recounts.

The streets of the Geylang Serai are decorated with jubilant lights and glittering baubles “usually visible from several kilometers,” Yaman adds.

The bazaar is held throughout the holy month hosting a various number of cuisines; Singapore’s traditional fruit and veggies salad dish, biryani, laksa (a spicy chicken and prawns noodles dish), satay (grilled meat) and the most popular dessert Singapore has ever known, the ice kachang (ice balls covered in a sugary syrup with jelly cubes, sweet corn and various toppings).

Other Singaporean Ramadan traditions include henna art and craftsmen making customized calligraphy during the nights of Ramadan. “Houses are renowned with colorful hand-woven carpets to add to the spirit of the holy month,” Yamman explains. “Women usually dress in light-colored baju kurungs [a wraparound dress, the long established Malay costume].”

Another notable custom of Singaporeans in Ramadan is “giveaways” following the Qur’anic verse: “You cannot attain to righteousness unless you spend out of what you love.” Yaman explains that the giveaways are not just food, “After taraweeh prayers, many people let their children pass around their neighbors houses and each family gives something they love away; be it a toy, a dress or a book or a special dish. Afterwards, all the giveaways are distributed to the underprivileged.”

6/6/2017 3:14:01 PM
<![CDATA[Asian Fusion Extravaganza at the Marriott]]>
To celebrate the new menu, Torii invited guest to sample the sushi rolls, fried seafood and live Teppanyaki.

The new menu combines traditional favorites with innovative new dishes including crispy Japanese tacos. Try the Joy Roll and enjoy the explosion of smoked salmon with eel, cream cheese, avocado and a twist of pineapple. For those of you who are not big on seafood, the Chicken Cashew is a Torii specialty and you can never go wrong with noodles: take your pick from glass, fried wheat or Chinese egg noodles to complement your meal.

To book, call +20 (02) 27394691. ]]>
6/6/2017 3:04:02 PM
<![CDATA[What to do in Cairo this week]]>Ramadan football tournament

SODIC Sports Club and Foundation Atletico Madrid Egypt are for the first time co-hosting this year’s Ramadan football tournament. The first match will take place on June 5, and matches will take place every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday starting at 9 PM. The first prize is a whopping LE 20,000.
For more information, click



Love for Latin

If you are looking to get some exercise, meet new people or just have fun, Latin Love dance school is launching their summer course this Saturday. You will learn salsa and bachata from experienced dance teachers and all courses end with an exam and a certificate. So dust off your dancing shoes and get moving!
Starting June 10 at 8pm, Latin Love Dance School in Maadi • cost is LE 500 • for more information click



Ramadan at the Cairo Opera House

The holy month is a busy one for the Cairo Opera House on Zamalek. Their calendar is filled with classical music, gala concerts and symphony orchestras. For example, head to the beautiful Opera building on June 7 when El Hadra gives a Sufi performance • check out the full schedule



Exhibition: My Favourite Things

For the second time, Mashrabia Art Gallery hosts the exhibition My Favourite Things. The exhibition brings together original and contrasting works from young and promising Egyptian artists. The art pieces share a symbolic language but are open for interpretation. Among the pieces are Azza Mostafa’s colorful paintings. Don’t miss Fadwa Ramadan’s pieces that use words and letters to create simple and monochrome shapes.

Exhibition runs until June 22 • for more information click


my fav ]]>
6/5/2017 10:47:03 AM
<![CDATA[ The Foodies Guide to Ramadan Eateries ]]>

Ramy Soliman says finding a place that offers high quality food in Ramadan is a bit difficult. “Only very few places present high-quality food in Ramadan,” says the food blogger who recommends two restaurants: The Edwards in Cairo Festival City Mall and Enab Beirut in Tivoli Dome, City Square in Rehab and Cairo Festival City. “The Edwards is international cuisine restaurant that offers not only mouthwatering food but a cozy atmosphere as well. I feel at home at Edwards. The food at Enab Beirut is really amazing,” Soliman adds.

Omar El Shabrawy admits that he is not a big fan of going out for iftar during Ramadan, especially for iftar buffets. “Despite this, I had a great iftar experience at Crave restaurant,” he says. El Shabrawy adds that everything was organized and served on time. “Just make sure you book ahead and place your orders and you'll definitely enjoy it,” he adds.

“I was impressed with two venues, the first is Fairmont Nile Towers buffet at Napa Grill,” says Karim Petsa. Petsa adds that the place has a huge variety of stations that he has never seen in a buffet before, Egyptian street food like liver and kidneys, Asian dishes and American steak. “They have amazing dessert variety as well,’’ Petsa adds. The second venue he recommends is also Enab Beirut. “We all agree that having iftar out in Ramadan could be a bad experience as the food may be served late and the quality of food is sometimes not good,” Petsa says. “However, Enab Beirut defied these issues and managed to serve a delicious iftar menu that was presented directly after adhan (call for prayers).” 


Soliman highly recommends Taghmisa restaurant for ful and ta’miya (fava beans and Egyptian falafel). Located in Nasr City, the eatery opens at 9pm and offers “the best beans and falafel I have ever tasted in my life, they offer a lot of beans recipes that are all delicious,’’ says Soliman.

“One of the most unforgettable sohour experiences I've had was at the Four Seasons Nile Plaza hotel,” El Shabrawy recalls. “The restaurant at the pool area [Pool Grill] served the most amazing food, great variety of all the classic oriental sohour food, plus other stuff like this sweet potato appetizer with honey and cheese that I'll never forget.”
Petsa says that he is going to pick just one place he loved so much that he went there twice, despite the fact that he rarely eats sohour out in Ramadan; Ayadina restaurant in Heliopolis. “They have a splendid buffet with all the Lebanese mezze that you can imagine in addition to lots of yoghurt to help during fasting.”

Ramadan Tents

Soliman recommends Cairo Marriott Hotel’s Ramadan tent. “Not only was the food splendid, the way they present it, the decor, the whole atmosphere was magnificent,” Soliman says explaining that the food was presented on carts.

El Shabrawy says that every year a new tent comes up and makes a new impression, in addition to the classic ones like Si Omar and 3al Nile. “However, I recommend 3al Tawla at Galleria 40, last year they had an impressive lineup of performers every weekend.”

Petsa strongly recommends Bab Al Sharq tent at Nile Ritz Carlton. “The view of the Egyptian Museum along with the Ramadan atmosphere and the screens that show almost all the Ramadan series will definitely put you in the right mood.”

Follow Ramy Soliman on Instagram @ramysoli, Omar El Shabrawy @omarsfood and Karim Petsa @Karimpetsadsis

6/4/2017 11:45:31 AM
<![CDATA[Ramadan Around the Clock: Hassan Salem, Metro Driver ]]>
The company provides the drivers with snacks, mainly sandwiches, to break their fast as the metro continues to move during the maghreb call, Salem says, adding that he sometimes breaks his fast after the end of the trip to avoid causing commuters any delay. “In Ramadan, I have my breakfast with my family only once a week due to the intensive work and the shortage in the number of the drivers; sometimes I work on my day off.”

The 47-year-old complains about the high temperatures during the fast, describing the driver’s cabin as a “sauna,” but says some commuters’ behavior when their trip delayed few minutes is much worse. “As drivers we hear insults from commuters if the trip is delayed any reason, particularly during the 15 minutes before maghreb,” Salem says. “The commuter does not know that we have to follow traffic lights at each station; he wants only to arrive at his station as quickly as possible to break his fast at home,” Salem says, explaining that he makes from four to five successive journeys in his seven-hour shift. “One complete journey takes 70 minutes along 43 kilometers from Helwan to Marg. The line serves around 60,000 passengers per hour.”

6/3/2017 11:38:34 AM
<![CDATA[Ramadan Around the Clock: Uber Driver Mohamed Moshen ]]>
Mohamed Mohsen, 41, started his work as an Uber driver a year ago; and that’s when he started becoming a storyteller through a job that enriched his experience, listening to different stories every day. Ramadan only means more clients and more stories with the endless family gatherings making his daily rides during the holy month all the more interesting.

“Many people may view driving in Ramadan while fasting, especially in such a hot weather, a mission impossible. Frankly speaking, yes, it is, but what make it a little bit tolerable are the nice clients, especially the first client when he greets you with a dazzling morning smile on his face and say Kol sana we enta tayeb ya Mohamed (Happy Ramadan Mohamed) as they learn my name from the Uber application before they start the ride,” Mohsen says, smiling proudly. “Clients are sometimes edgy and some, not all, of course, may shout and get angry over trivial things, but during Ramadan, the clients are more patient and just say ‘Allahoma eni sa’im’ (God knows I am fasting) to control their anger.”

During Ramadan, Mohsen wakes up at 4am to read a chapter from the Qur’an, then sleeps for two hours before his day starts. “I usually have a bottle of mineral water and candy in my car, even in Ramadan, some of my clients may be foreigners or Christians,” Mohsen says. He recounts that one of his Christian clients refuses to drink, despite being thirsty, because he doesn’t want to hurt Mohsen’s feeling.

Mohsen works two shifts; from 8am to 2pm and then from 9pm to midnight, which means he works more while fasting than he does after iftar. “I prefer to work more while fasting because hard work makes me forget hunger and thirst,” he tells et, adding that he enjoys chatting with clients during the fasting hours. “We mainly talk about Ramadan series, the actors, the high prices of Ramadan products, the food,” Moshen recounts. “I only chat with the clients I feel want to talk, if I felt that the client is exhausted or doesn’t want to talk I remain silent.”

In the middle of the day Mohsen goes home to rest before iftar, which he says helps his wife prepare. “I do so for two reasons, the first to help my wife, the second is that when you see food, your eyes start eating and this significantly reduces your hunger,’’ Mohsen explains. “After eating, I watch some series with my family and then head to taraweeh prayers with my son. After he returns from his second shift Mohsen shares sohour with his family.

“Most of the time we eat sohour with family or friends, either they come to our house or we go to theirs,” he says. “Ramadan is the month of family gatherings.’’

Uber driver by Angy
6/2/2017 1:39:32 PM
<![CDATA[Why I Love Fasting]]>
The Body
Fasting is a beautiful way to cleanse the body. When we abstain from food and water, we often feel dizzy and experience headaches and fatigue. The good news is that these are some symptoms that tell us that the body is impure and it is going through a cleansing process. The cleaner the body is, the more sensitive we become to how different types of foods affect us. For example, have you ever noticed how many hours worth of energy one date and a glass of water or milk can give you?

The real reason we eat is to help the body support the mind so that it can do what is required. For example, sometimes our body feels sluggish and the mind needs to work. That’s when we need foods that are high in sugar to energize the body such as bananas, dates, mangos and dried fruits. Other times, the mind is ready to relax but the body is full of heat and stress, and that’s when we need foods that are high in water to help the body cool down like cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe, lettuce and other green leafy vegetables.

This Ramadan, break your fast with a date and some milk, but before rushing to the main meal ask yourself why am I eating? Is it out of habit? Do I feel pressured because of the social gathering? Or is it out of fear that I am going to get hungry later?

The Mind
Fasting allows us to reconnect with our willpower and mind power. Suddenly, all of the cravings and ongoing demands of the body for coffee, chocolate, water and food, can be ignored. Isn’t it amazing how much power we can exert to control the body?

But when the body is impure, it is challenging for the mind to gain control over the body. This is because many of us consume foods that act like drugs and produce chemicals in the brain that induce a craving, essentially developing into an addiction. For example, foods such as sweets, cheese, caffeine, refined wheat products (like pasta, pastries and breads) and sugary carbonated drinks. But if we come to understand that the real reason for eating is to sustain us through life, then we can align our willpower with a desire to eat healthy foods and say no to the foods that produce cravings and addictions.

If you can say no to food and water for 16 hours a day in Ramadan, then why not take that a step further and say no to addictive foods and behaviors (like excessive smoking) when the month is over? Moderation is often the key, as is gradual substitution. Replace sweets with natural honey and fruits and drink herbal teas to reduce cravings.

The Spirit
Fasting is a wakeup call. It allows us to really feel what it’s like to live without food and water. It gives us the opportunity to feel the pain of those who do not have access to food at any time of day, and we realize how often we take food for granted and eat out of pleasure or boredom.

When we fast, we come face to face with our emotions. We feel bored, sad, afraid, angry, frustrated, disappointed. Most of us react to our emotions by grabbing a drink, chocolate bar, cigarette, shisha or a coffee, but when we fast, it is no longer possible to hide behind a curtain of food or stimulants to shelter us from how we feel. Thus, fasting is an excellent way to reconnect with how we feel and take ownership of our feelings. After all, it is feelings that propel us into new directions. They are a little like traffic signals: red, yellow and green.

So this Ramadan, why not take the fast to a new level and take ownership of negative emotions rising up inside you. Respond by embracing the emotion—you’ll notice that when the emotion is strongest you’ll feel an urge to shout at someone, bang on the desk or even grab a drink or have a cigarette. At this point just pause and ask yourself, what is the reason or trigger behind this emotion? What is it trying to tell me about me?

6/1/2017 12:26:15 PM
<![CDATA[Around Cairo: What to do this week in the capital]]>Live music at Room

Room Art Space in Garden City is one of the few venues that hosts live music during Ramadan. Head to the quaint little space on June 1 when band Telepoetic plays a smooth mix of acoustic and electronic music. Or be there on June 3 when Estabena band fills the space with a blend of Mediterranean tunes from Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Lebanon, Syria, Spain, France and Italy.

June 1 and 3 • 9:30 to 11pm at Room Art Space in Garden City. Tickets are LE 50. For information click here and here

Telepoetic at Room

Angham concert and sohour

Listen to the melodies of Angham while you savor a sohour at Sehraya in New Cairo. Angham, the number one best-selling female artist in Egypt, will host the evening and deliver some of her songs, which mix modern pop music with the classic Eastern roots.

June 1, 9 pm to 3 am at Sehraya in New Cairo (Lake House Club, extension of Dust Thani Hotel) • Tickets are LE 800 • For more information click here

Angham concert

Find your motivation

Do you need motivation to achieve your goals? Or do you need to boost your self-esteem and confidence? Then the workshop “Activate your self-motivation” hosted by Bab 18 Art Space is for you. Spend an afternoon learning self-improvements techniques, how to fight demotivation and lots more. The trainers are Injy Nabil and Medhat Adel Emam, who are both experienced instructors.

June 2, 2-5 pm at Bab 18 Art Space in Heliopolis • LE 200 • for more information click here

Activate your self-motivation

Cupcakes with a Ramadan twist

Take a break from the hectic holy month and spend a fun afternoon with your kids, as you decorate cupcakes with a Ramadan theme. The event is hosted by Cake Pops, and the Ramadan Cupcakes Decoration Party will be accompanied by kids’ Ramadan music. All materials are included, so all you have to worry about is a having a good time with your little ones.

June 3, 2-4 om at Flow Wellness Centers, LLC in Heliopolis • LE 200 • for more information, click here

Ramadan cupcakes
5/31/2017 11:22:06 AM
<![CDATA[Waheed Hamed: The Return of El-Gamaa]]>
Part II of El-Gamaa was supposed to air in 2011 but Egypt saw a revolution and a wide period of instability that delayed the production. When the Brotherhood rose to power and Mohamed Morsi was elected president in 2012, their minister of information Salah Abd El-Maksoud banned the first part from being rerun on Egyptian TV. Another revolution then erupted in 2013 and the project went on hiatus.

Hamed took those seven years to work hard on researching and writing the script of this second part which will span 30 episodes depicting the exploits of the Muslim Brotherhood under the leadership of their second Morshed (Supreme Guide), Hassan El-Hodeiby (played by Abd El-Aziz Makhyoun) and their conflicts with King Farouk (played by Mohamed El-Bayaa). The series will then move onto the late Nasser era, along with the rise of Sayed Kotb (played by Mohamed Fahim) whose ideologies and books have since become the bases of violent jihadism.

Series creator and acclaimed screenwriter Waheed Hamed talks to et about the second part of El Gamaa, the Brotherhood and his two upcoming works.

Why did you choose to name the series El-Gamaa (The Society) and not Gama’et El-Ikhwan (The Society of the Muslim Brotherhood) to make the title more distinctive?

For everyone, if you say El-Gamaa it will immediately refer to the Muslim Brotherhood. I will also tell you something I never mentioned before: Al-Gamaa has the same syllable of al-essaba (the gang) in Arabic and this is the title the series indirectly refers to.

In 2010, the first part came to an abrupt end without showing the assassination of Hassan El-Banna—instead he was shown to have been defeated by the rest of the Brotherhood members who took over, leaving him regretful and wishing he could go back to teaching religion. What was the symbolism of that ending?

Historically, El-Banna died morally before his assassination. He was powerless against the other members of the Brotherhood who took over. I did not want to close the curtains on the first part with an assassination because his assassination is a crime. What interested me is to show the death of the idea rather the death of its founder.

I also think that if El-Banna wasn’t assassinated and continued to live, the Brotherhood would have died with him of natural causes. Although El-Banna showed modesty, he was a media man who loved the lights and cherished having names like “Al-Imam” or “Man of the Light.”

Do you think El-Banna was influenced by non-Islamic ideology when he founded the Brotherhood?

I can say that El-Banna was influenced by Masonry, Fascism, Zionism and Shiism, which he studied very well. There are symmetries between the rules of the Muslim Brotherhood and those of Freemasonry; oath, allegiance, complete secrecy and absolute obedience. El-Banna was also heavily influenced by the order of the Assassins (Hashshashin), a branch of Shia that existed in the 11th century and was founded by Hassan El-Sabbah.

The proof is that even before joining the Brotherhood, Sayed Qotb himself used to address Hassan El-Banna as Hassan El-Sabbah. It was Egyptian novelist Abbas El-Aqqad who said that Hassan El-Banna was of Moroccan-Jewish descent. But from our side, we didn’t have information about El-Banna’s grandfather.

What we knew of his father is only that he was a mosque teacher and of his childhood is that he learned how to fix watches, hence the nickname Hassan El-Saaty (the watchmaker), which shows a meticulous character.

The second part of El-Gamaa focuses on the conflict between Nasser and the Brotherhood, especially with Sayed Qotb whose ideologies were said to initiate violence. Can you elaborate on that?

Qotb worked for years at the Ministry of Education, hence with the government, with aims to be promoted to minister. When this seemed impossible, he switched sides and joined the Brotherhood where he became chief editor of their magazine. Qotb’s ideas and books were mostly influenced by the ideas of the Pakistani Abul A’la Maududi.

Unlike stories about him being tortured in prison, Qotb spent most of his incarceration at the prison’s hospital due to his health conditions. Due to their friendship since the days that preceded the 1952 revolution, President Nasser gave orders that books and publications are permitted to reach Qotb during his imprisonment. However, Qotb conspired twice with the Brotherhood to assassinate President Nasser.

The first was during the famous El-Mansheya incident in 1954 that resulted in his imprisonment. Qotb was let out of prison by the end of 1964 at the request of Iraqi Prime Abdel- Salam Arif, for only eight months before being arrested again in August 1965 and accused of plotting to overthrow the state. These events will be dramatically depicted in the second part.

What’s the importance of El-Gamaa during our current times?

El-Gamaa is not your regular television series. It is a challenge; I must rewrite history in an adequate dramatic form that can be digested by a wide range of viewers, regardless of their age or culture. It took an incredible effort to research and write the episodes. The first part of El-Gamaa introduced the viewer to their origins and the second part will continue to do so. I think that all the events of the first part were brought to life during the period of Morsi’s presidency from 2012 to 2013: The part where people had delusions about the Brotherhood being good religious people who wanted Islam to prevail and then finally discovered the truth. They are not a religious group but they are a political and economic group. The Muslim Brotherhood has a very strong economy within Egypt that can, until today, compete with the local economy of the country.

Speaking of the economy, what do you think of the Brotherhood satellite channels broadcasting from Turkey?

Although we live in a world of overpopulated media venues, I am sure that in Egypt, after two revolutions, the people have reached enough maturity that permits them to differentiate between truth and lies. The media of the Brotherhood cannot change the year when they ruled Egypt, despite any lies they may spread.

In the aftermath of the 2013 revolution and the dispersal of the Raba’a sit-in, many thought that the fleeing members of the Brotherhood could assemble a government in exile. Do you believe they would do something of the sort?

Like we witness in the second part, the Brotherhood has always tried to initiate a state within the state but this won’t happen because we are one country and one system.
They want their own state. But the Egyptian people tend toward a civil state rather than the state that the Brotherhood wants to establish—an economic and business state pretending to be Islamic and religious. After 85 years, the Brotherhood has roots and power that still deceive many people. One of the examples in their history that we will see in the second part is when there was a conflict between King Farouk and the Wafd Party, the Egyptian people took to the street cheering, “The people support al-Wafd, The people support al-Nahhas.” So King Farouk went to the Brotherhood for support and they then hit the streets cheering, “God supports the King.”

You have two other film projects related to the Brotherhood—one is historical and revolves around the Assassins and the other is contemporary about the Ittihadeya incident in 2012. What’s the status of those?

The script for the Assassins was put on hold due to its forecasted high budget. Another reason behind the delay was a drama by Jordanian producer Talal Al-Awamlah who asked me for a favor; to postpone the film for the release of his series. However, that was last year and he hasn’t started production till now. As for the second film, I think we will shoot it soon. ]]>
5/30/2017 1:06:15 PM
<![CDATA[OPINION: Learning to Appreciate Ramadan]]>
Don’t get me wrong, being deprived in my youth of a shiny colored lantern to swing around and show off to friends hasn’t ruined my life or turned me into a crazed serial killer. If anything, now that I am (considerably) older, it has made me appreciate all the things you can’t have the other 11 months of the year.

Looking back, the fanous—or lack thereof—defined what it meant to be celebrating Ramadan abroad. It was London during the 1980s, a London with a much smaller Muslim community than there is now. There were no satellite channels beaming mosalsalat 24 hours a day.

No sitting at the table those last agonizing five minutes willing the muezzin to start the call. And of course there was no corner basboussa store from which to get an order of syrupy-sweet goodies for after iftar. Ramadan in London was like every other month of the year. It went by relatively unnoticed, save for the few annual dish party bashes, the makeshift iftar and prayers at the Regent Square Mosque.

My first Ramadan in Cairo was a huge culture shock. The sights, sounds and smells—and of course the fawanees. By then, I was too old to play with them, but when the ozoomat company got too loud or the mosalsalat too mind-numbing, I would sneak into my room, dim the lights and just gaze at the beautiful colors shining out of my fanous. Even though I am now a parent myself, every year I get my very own lantern, courtesy of my mother.

And there are so many other things I have come to love and look forward to during Ramadan. The burst of colorful lantern stands that gradually take over the streets in the weeks leading up to the holy month. The way supermarkets stack huge round jars of pink and orange mekhalil (pickles) on the floor outside their shops.

The smell of spices wafting out of kitchen windows and into the streets, tickling the noses of people rushing home from work an hour before iftar. The marathon jostle for freshly made kunafa and qatayef every day of the month.

And then there’s the food. Ramadan has always been a month associated with mounds of delicacies. Over the past decade or so, those mounds have grown into mountains, and though I am in principle against excess, I appreciate that this meal is more of a reward for a successful day of fasting.

In my mind, there’s nothing wrong with tons of food piled on the table—as long as it brings family and friends together to celebrate and appreciate what they have been given by God. More importantly, I find it acceptable if the premise of making so much food is to give much of it away to the needy.

Because that’s what Ra­madan is all about: sharing. It’s not wrong to splurge on an extra kilogram or two of meat and nuts, as long as others are given a share of what’s being put out on your table.

Now even the most avid of Ramadan aficionados, myself among them, admit there are those irritating little nuances that have a tendency to overshadow the goodness the month brings. The hordes of beggars who attack your car the second you roll the windows down. The logic-defying volume of traffic grid-locking the streets and the annoying proselytizing commuters (particularly those in the Metro) who feel it their righteous duty to spew lectures on how we should all behave.

There are ways to cope with all the hassles: first, always try to look on the bright side. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, Ramadan has not singled you and you alone out for torture. So if you’re mired on the roads, roll up the windows and try to relax. Everyone else is stuck in traffic too; at least you’re liv­ing in a country where countless do-gooders will be lining the streets providing you with a glass of water and a handful of dates, unselfishly giving up a meal in the comfort of their living rooms to guarantee you break your fast on time.

As for the preachy busybodies, I too get annoyed at them, even if they are well-intentioned. But have you ever willed yourself to get over the initial irritation and try and listen to what they are telling you? Perhaps we could make use of their lessons after all.
Finally, the next time a gang of annoy­ing street kids cajole you for charity as you make your way to your Beemer, try and look beyond the dirt, the grime and the greed.

The underlying concept of Ramadan is to get people to see how the less privileged live their lives. Ever given a thought to what it would be like if you had to trade places? This year, please do.

For all those who see Ramadan as a living hell on earth, please find a more mature ar­gument than your withdrawal from cigarettes and coffee. Both can be given up in a matter of seconds if you have the willpower to do so.

I have my reformed chain-smoking father to thank for teach­ing me all there is to know about willpower—he proudly tells the story of how when he first married my mother she bet him he couldn’t cut down from three packs a day to a single pack, let alone kick the habit. He was just lighting up when she threw him the challenge and, without hesitation, he stubbed out his ciga­rette. He hasn’t touched one since.

Instead of whining about what an in­convenience it is not being able to go to the movies, walk down the streets wearing your favorite tube top or, heaven forbid, forego a cup of coffee in the morning, think about all the things you do have that you cannot do any other time of the year.

When else is it cool to have ful for dinner and hang out at places you usually wouldn’t be seen dead in, like Al-Azhar and Al-Hussein? When else does your boss seem happy to see you walk out the door early so he can leave work shortly thereafter?

Detox the crankiness along with all the other poisons in your body and think good thoughts. Think qatayef and loqmet el-qadi, about sitting down to a proper meal with your family for once. Most importantly, think about how for every good thought you get a reward, and for every good deed you get the same reward a thousand times over.
5/29/2017 12:07:50 PM
<![CDATA[Ramadan Gift Ideas]]>Toya


This year the bookstore and art space has prepared a special Ramadan To Do package. Inside you’ll find prayer times and daily duaa, a Ramadan planner and a to-do list divided by pre- and post-iftar slots. There’s also a dinner part schedule, personalized goal stationery, coloring pages, duaa stickers and a book mark.
For more visit facebook.com/Toyabookstore

The Gift Box

The Gift Box

This year The Gift Box has launched an outstanding collection of Ramadan gifts and accessories. Items include colorful wooden trays, leather-bound Qurans in saturated ocher hues, and khayamiya metal storage tins.
To order, visit www.facebook.com/thegiftboxbybico/

Help Club


“Prices are increasing, families are suffering and we are one community and we should always try to be there for each other,” is the motto community service association Help Club has adopted this month. Help Club is collecting donations for Ramadan Packs and meals to be distributed to 3,000 families in Old Cairo and Upper Egypt. The association also sells Ramadan decorations (lanterns and tablecloths), mugs and pillows.

Help Club also stock pack and meal gift cards, a different way of greeting someone who invited you over for iftar in Ramadan. Customers donate either a meal or a pack in their host’s name, write their name on the card and give it to the hosts when they go to their house for iftar. Proceeds from all sales will go toward the food packs.

For more information visit facebook.com/helpclub/. To donate call 01116363261 / 01028893386.

5/29/2017 11:35:36 AM
<![CDATA[Inside the World of a Sculptor ]]>
While some artists adopt the position of not explaining their work or art to the public, maintaining that every individual should understand what he or she wants, Doss believes the exact opposite. “This position is a kind of unjustified superiority,” he argues, explaining that his pieces are for the layman just as much as they are for the art connoisseur.

Born in 1971 in the Upper Egyptian city of Malawi in Minya, Doss graduated from the sculpture department of Minya University’s Faculty of Fine Arts in 1993. He then moved to Cairo to pursue his career in the arts. The artist’s work is internationally recognized and many of his pieces were selected by the Ministry of Culture to represent Egypt in various exhibitions.

Doss chose his atelier in the area behind the Mosque of Amr Ibn El-Aas in Old Cairo when, in 1997, the Ministry of Culture in cooperation with the Italian government adopted a project to develop that area and provide workshops to artists there.

For the past 10 years Doss has used granite, basalt, quartzite and marble following the ancient Egyptian tradition. “The West was not able to use these materials in the same way that ancient Egyptian sculptors have,” observes Doss.

These rocks are found all over Egypt’s natural habitat and were used to build temples, obelisks and statues. Doss continues the tradition but adds a contemporary touch; his portrait of Cleopatra, for example, is that of an Egyptian peasant. The image combines the goddess Isis with the famous queen to look like any Egyptian woman.

Four years ago Doss shifted to bronze. Since then he has succeeded in developing his own unique style, demonstrating a freedom of form without sacrificing any of the meticulous details involved in transforming the wax model into a finished bronze piece.

Doss follows what is called the “lost wax technique,” also known as the method of metal-casting in which a molten metal is poured into a mold that has been created by means of a wax model. Once the mold is made, the wax model is melted and drained away.

Determined to spread his message and pass on his techniques, Doss has been giving sculpture courses for the last three years, and has already taught 50 students. He likes to keep his classes small, with never more than 10 students in one course.

This past year Doss has managed to advocate for his art even further, holding a monthly artistic salon for artists from different backgrounds at his home on Geziret El-Dahab. It all started when his wife posted pictures of their country-style house on Facebook.

The Doss home is built in the traditional Upper Egyptian style and uses organic materials, shying away from anything processed like plastic and embracing the environmental and cultural elements of the island and Upper Egypt, where Doss grew up. “The reaction was overwhelming and many people loved the idea of a country-style house,” Doss says.

Seven months ago the small family decided to set up an artistic get-together the last Friday of every month, inviting portrait artists, sculptors, photographers, musicians and friends.

The art fest is a day-long visit, where statues of clay are made for guests, portraits are drawn, food is served within view of the Nile and music is played. Doss invites a different crowd every time in an attempt to reach out to as many people as possible.

“The idea of interactive art gives more value to the salon where the talents are shown and the crowd understand more about the artist’s work,” says Doss who plans to keep hosting the salons at his home.

Nathan at work - forming the statue with wax

Cleopatra, Isis, contemporary woman

The Wailers after the Maspero massacre [involvement in the political arena]

The space and the freedom of form
5/28/2017 2:50:38 PM
<![CDATA[Tips for following a PBD in Ramadan]]>Fasting gives our bodies a natural detox that can give us a great kick-start to losing weight. “All you have to do is control the food types and portions you eat between iftar and sohour,” says Fayrouz Youssef, nutritionist, member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the founder of health magazine The Daily Crisp. “Adding exercise to your diet is a huge plus in Ramadan.” Many Egyptians tend to gain weight during Ramadan because they eat too much of only one type of food, mostly sweets, but the happy news is that you can still have alternatives following a plant-based diet. Here’s what to do:

Do not feel alienated during iftar gatherings: One cannot avoid gatherings in Ramadan. Unless your family and friends are following a PBD themselves, you will most probably have a hard time sticking to your diet because many people will not be familiar with PBD. “It is something I went through when I first started PBD and it was in Ramadan particularly because it is different from all ‘well-known diets,’” Youssef remembers. “Nothing got me out of feeling like an alien except believing in myself and that what I am doing is the right thing. At the end it is a mental thing.” At the same time social life is very important for your wellbeing—“just because you are eating healthy does not mean you should isolate yourself from the rest of the world.”

Follow Sunnah (Prophet Muhammad’s habits): “Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) used to break his fast with dates; a great energy boost to wake up your stomach slowly after 16 hours of fasting.”

Graze: Do not make iftar a huge meal instead divide the eight hours between iftar and sohour into four or five small meals.

Drink up: Stay hydrated by drinking no less than two to three liters of water; that means at least one glass of water every hour between iftar and sohour.

Increase your varieties: Plan a PBD-friendly desserts and meals menu ahead of time to ensure you always have a variety of options to choose from.

Follow the Plant Based Diet (Egypt) Facebook group on

facebook.com/groups/175153699520925/ and the Real Foods & Nourishing Traditions Egypt Facebook group on facebook.com/groups/realfoodsandnourishingtraditions/ • For PBD recipes visit the Plants Rule PBD blog at plants-rule.com/blog//passover-recipes-for-a-healthy-plant-based-vegan-dinner and The Daily Crisp online health magazine at thedailycrisp.com ]]>
5/27/2017 2:32:13 PM
<![CDATA[ Pink Floyd Live Tonight!]]>
Paranoid Eyes members are Wissam Sultan (lead guitar, vocals and backing vocals), Waled Shaaban (drums), Ahmed Radwan (keyboard and backing vocals), Bassem Abu Arab (bass guitar) and Ramy Nabil (rhythm guitar).

Check out this link for more on Paranoid Eyes, https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=yCe-VLCbjGM

Performance starts at 8pm • Tickets are LE 50 • For more information click here]]>
5/26/2017 1:03:45 PM
<![CDATA[Enjoy the Multi-Cultural Lebanese Ramadan ]]>
Although the beginning Ramadan is officially announced annually and most often predicted months in advance, many Lebanese Muslims still follow the tradition of taking to the streets and parks at night to watch the waning moon. The tradition is often accompanied by a festive mood and storytelling to get into the Holy month’s spirit.

The tradition of fasting is not as common in Lebanon as it is in other countries with Muslim-majority populations. This is both due to the fact that Lebanon has a large Christian community, but also because many Muslims do not fast during Ramadan. So unlike many other countries in the region where not fasting during the month is socially shunned, fasting in Lebanon is viewed more as a personal choice than a collective tradition. This means that if you take a stroll through Beirut during Ramadan, you will be able to get a meal from most restaurants and cafés as they do not close down during the day.

Ramadan is not celebrated only by Muslims, several organisations, businesses and charities host iftar dinners. It is also tradition that the president hosts a formal iftar dinner for a large number of politicians, religious figureheads, community leaders and diplomats—regardless of their religions.

5 Things to do in Beirut this Ramadan
Beirut is warm and humid during Ramadan, so stay out of the sun while keeping yourself entertained with these five activities.

1. Visit the Sursock Museum
The beautiful museum building is almost a work of art itself. Located in one of the older neighbourhoods of Beirut, the modern art museum showcases pieces from prominent Lebanese artists. The entrance is free, so make sure to enjoy the quiet and peaceful atmosphere of the museum if you find yourself in Beirut this Ramadan.

sursok museum
Sursock Museum - Creative Commons Via Wikimedia

2. Watch Lebanese Ramadan TV
Although Lebanon does not produce as many Ramadan shows as Egypt, there is still plenty to watch on TV. This year MTV Lebanon is broadcasting a quiz show, several historic soaps and a show revolving around a car driving through Lebanon collecting interesting stories.

3. Worship in Beirut’s largest mosque
The beautiful Mohammad Al-Amin mosque in downtown is definitely worth a visit whether you are Muslim or not. Inside, the intricate decorations on the ceiling and the five-ton heavy chandelier will take your breath away. With its azure domes, the mosque is also referred to as the Blue Mosque.

4. Eat delicious iftar and sohour
After a long day of not eating or drinking, the fast must be broken properly and where else to do that if not in the home of one of the world’s most cherished cuisines?. Beirut is overflowing with restaurants serving delicious food, but the neighbourhoods around Hamra Street and Armenia Street will provide you with plenty of options. We recomment the T Marbouta restaurant on Hamra Street for iftar and the Falafel M. Sahyoun on Damascus Road for delicious falfel sohour.

5. Take a stroll on Zaitunay Bay
Help your digestion after iftar by taking a walk on the completely modernised Zaitunay Bay. The lights from the buildings and the impressive yachts will keep your eyes busy as you walk beside the water. There are also plenty of cafés on the waterfront if you are in need for coffee or ice cream.

Zaitouna Bay - cerative commons

5/25/2017 5:25:36 PM
<![CDATA[A Time of Blessings]]>
The journal, which comes in hardcover, is available in two color combos—yellow and orange—and includes enough pages for the whole year.

Each page carries a series of boxes, covering people and objects, to tick that users can follow to document the things they are grateful for—from family members to events, gifts, food and others.

The journal is a perfect gift for the Holy Month as well as any other time during the year.
To reserve your copy or browse the Frog collection, visit


5/24/2017 3:48:45 PM
<![CDATA[From Our Archives: Tribute to Denys Johnson Davies]]>
translating the Holy Qur’an. In tribute to the legendary translator, who passed away on Monday at the age of 95, we reprint our 2006 article. Edited excerpts:

Denys Johnson-Davies does not have a place he calls home. “I am very pleased I don’t have a home,” says the internationally acclaimed translator of Arabic literature, who now lives with his wife, Italian photographer Paola Crociani, in a small house with a large garden at the end of a cul-de-sac in Marrakech—when he’s not traveling, that is.

“I suppose I felt that about Egypt, that it was home. But I don’t really feel the necessity for a home. I am looking around the world now, and saying to myself, ‘Where would I like to live?’ I find it difficult to decide. I find the world a pretty bloody place nowadays. Nowhere is safe. So, Marrakech; but no way would it be England, for instance. Anyway, it is too cold for me,” he says, sitting back in a lounge chair at Zamalek’s President Hotel during a recent sojourn in Cairo.

“Am I right in settling in Morocco, in Marrakech? I like peace and quiet, and these things mean something to me at my age. I went there much earlier and I felt I couldn’t take it. It was too dull.”

Johnson-Davies was born in 1922 in Vancouver, Canada but spent most of his life in the Arab world. “I then came to Egypt, or my father came to Egypt—I had no choice in the matter,” he recounts. From Egypt to Sudan and from Sudan to Uganda and Kenya. He traveled to England for the first time at the age of 12.

The most recognized name in Arabic literary translation, having published 28 volumes of short stories, novels and poems, Johnson-Davies was the first to introduce the works of Arab writers to the English-speaking world. He was also the first to translate Naguib Mahfouz, selecting a short story by the man who became a Nobel laureate in 1988.
“I never thought of myself as a translator, it was something I did,” he says now. “I’ve never made a living out of translation. I may be well known for it, but it is a very badly paid profession, so I’ve done all sorts of things.”

His fascination with Arab culture has spanned more than six decades, and he’s rubbed elbows with heads of state, writers and intellectuals. Living in Cairo, Iran, Beirut and the Gulf, Johnson-Davies has served as a lecturer in English at Fouad Al-Awwal University (later Cairo University), an oil company representative, a lawyer, businessman and director of an Arabic broadcasting station.

Between 1949 and 1950, Johnson-Davies took up work for an American oil company in Qatar, which was exploring for oil under the seabed. They wanted a local representative who could deal with the ruler, Sheikh Ali bin Abdallah, in Arabic. “There was no electricity, there were no roads. When you compare it to what is happening today in Qatar, it is a miracle, and the miracle is called oil,” he says with a smile.

Despite his interest in languages, Johnson-Davies never enjoyed studying Latin and Greek in school. Instead, he chose, at age 14, to study Arabic. As a child growing up in Wadi Halfa with Sudanese children, he had spoken fluent Arabic, but forgot every word by his teenage years. He went on to attend London’s School of Oriental Studies before going on to Cambridge. When he took up Arabic, it never occurred to him what sort of career he would pursue with it. After Cambridge, he went to work for the BBC Arabic section, where he served throughout the Second World War. Apart from the 20-odd staff of Arab broadcasters and translators, no one in the Arabic section of the BBC had more than a basic command of the language. He roomed with the Arab employees, which he credits as being a sort of university, as he practiced written and spoken Arabic with native speakers.

He returned to Cairo in 1945, immediately after the war. “Cairo was a wonderful place then. There were only a million and a half people,” reminisces Johnson-Davies. “It was just the time when littérateurs like Tawfik Al-Hakim, Yahya Hakki, Mahmoud Taymour and Naguib Mahfouz were emerging.” He got to know them all and felt that among so-called Orientalists, no one was taking any interest in what he terms “the renaissance in modern Arabic literature.”

In cafés and writers’ forums, Johnson-Davies joined the raging debate over the finer points of literary style. “I am a supporter of the use of the colloquial language,” he explains. “I just feel that if you are a writer of fiction, you want to employ every weapon at your disposal. You’ve got two languages in Egypt and a very expressive language in the colloquial language. Why not use it?”

Classical Arabic is hardly a language for humor, or so Johnson-Davies would maintain, asking, “Do you know a good joke in classical Arabic?”

Al-Hakim, Hakki and Yusuf Idris all used colloquial prose in their writing. Mahfouz is an exception, using classical Arabic even in dialogue. “I used to argue this question with Naguib Mahfouz. One hesitates to say that a man like Naguib Mahfouz is wrong. I said to him before he was a Nobel Prize winner that I thought he was wrong—and I still think he is wrong,” contends Johnson-Davies. “In my opinion, I think it is just ludicrous to have everybody speaking the same language. They don’t. You show a person’s character and background through the way he speaks.”

Mahfouz was famously unconvinced, arguing that the classical language is what Arabs read. Writing in the colloquial would make the literary work inaccessible to readers not familiar with the Egyptian dialect.

Early on, Johnson-Davies translated short stories, which were published in periodicals such as the Egyptian Gazette or broadcast on the English program of Radio Cairo. At his own expense, in 1947 he self-published, under the imprint aptly called Renaissance Bookshop, 800-1,000 copies of a book of short stories by Mahmoud Taymour, a pioneer Arab writer in the genre, with an introduction by Abdel Rahman Azzam, the secretary-general of the Arab League at that time. It was perhaps the first volume of Arabic short stories to be published in translation. It did not sell particularly well, but Taymour was a moneyed man who came from an aristocratic family, and when Johnson-Davies gave him a copy of the published book, he paid him back the LE 200 or so the translator had spent printing it.

Next, Johnson-Davies considered publishing a volume of works from across the Arab world but had a hard time finding a publisher. “They are terrible cowards,” he groused. “Arab writing? There ain’t such a thing! For them, it was the Arabian Nights and that was it.”
It was only by contacting somebody who knew somebody who knew somebody that he got through to Oxford University Press which, much to his surprise, agreed to publish a book of short stories translated from the Arabic. Their one condition was that a big-name academic write an introduction. Johnson-Davies got in touch with Arthur J. Arberry, a scholar in Arabic and Persian studies who also translated the Holy Qur’an. Although ill at the time, Arberry, who acknowledged that he knew little about Arabic literature, agreed to write the introduction. Entitled Modern Arabic Short Stories, the book came out in a disappointing year—1967.

It hardly sold and received scant notice in the English press.
Still, Johnson-Davies’ motivation was to bring Arabic writing to a wider audience. “I said, ‘Let’s try to find a way of getting past the prejudice of Western publishers who did not want anything to do “I never thought of myself as a translator, it was something I did.” Johnson-Davies translated about a third of Mahfouz’s Zuqaq Al-Midaqq (Midaq Alley) in the late 1940s, but put it away in a drawer because he knew he would not find a publisher.

It took the Nobel Prize for anyone to realize the value of Arabic literature, and especially the works of Mahfouz, notes Johnson-Davies.

“You’ve got to realize that readers on the whole are not all that interested in literature with a capital L,” he says. To give an example, in the early 1970s the literary editor of the Sunday Times selected Tayeb Saleh’s Season of Migration to the North as the year’s best novel. Johnson-Davies walked into one of London’s leading bookshops and asked for a copy of the book by the Sudanese writer, which he had translated. The bookseller told him, “Oh, you’ll find it in the basement.”

The bookstore did not stock the book, even in the cellar. “The big commercial presses still want either fairly traditional narratives or somewhat sensational works which may not be the greatest literature. This, in turn, shapes what audiences think contemporary Arabic literature is,” remarks Marilyn Booth, professor of comparative and world literature at the University of Illinois.

“There is more audience for the translated Arabic literature around the world with an increasing ‘curiosity’ to know more about Arabs and Muslims,” explains Baria Ahmar, who translated two novels by Algerian writer Ahlam Mosteghanemi. “They are, of course, confused between what they read in these novels and what they read in their morning paper. It is a different picture.”

“Literature has a way of explaining how a civilization and a culture operate on a different level than television or the news,” adds Anthony Calderbank, who has translated novels by Sonallah Ibrahim, Miral Al-Tahawy and Naguib Mahfouz.

Johnson-Davies has been very much against the academic approach of many Arabists and Orientalists in translating literature. He works to preserve the literary style in translation and neither adds to the original nor omits from it. “You will not find notes in my translations,” he says simply. “If something has to be explained, I endeavor to incorporate it into the narrative itself.

It just seems to me that what one wants to do now is to make Arabic literature as acceptable and easy as possible for the average English reader and not storm him with all sorts of academic knowledge you may possess—and which he does not really need.”

For a while, Johnson-Davies was the only one translating the work of Arab writers into English but, after all, a translator cannot translate everyone. “I’ve had the difficulty of writers saying, ‘Why do you translate Fulan [the Arabic equivalent of “Smith”] and not me? Am I less good?’ The answer is there is very little to be gained in writing in Arabic unless you get translated.”

Arabic literature is limited even for the Arab audience. Egypt, although having produced the Arab world’s most prominent writers, has not really developed a reading culture. “Being an Arab novelist is a rather thankless task,” adds Johnson-Davies.

“A friend of mine, Mohamed El-Basati, gets paid like LE 400 for a novel when it is published. But many of these people are paying money to these publishers to get published, which says a lot about the literary situation in the Arab world.”

Literary phenomena such as dentist-turned-novelist Alaa Al-Aswani, whose book Omaret Yacoubian (The Yacoubian Building) was a Denys Johnson-Davies and Naguib Mahfouz international best seller in Arabic before being translated into English, are few and far between. Even rarer: Yacoubian is one of the few Egyptian novels to be turned into a screenplay; the film adaptation of Al-Aswani’s book is one of this year’s most hotly anticipated books.


Johnson-Davies was well aware that he could put writers on the world literary map. “But it was it was not a power that I wanted, really. As I say, you can only translate so much. I feel like I’ve done my bit,” he says. “If one is doing work, which is really quite hard and for which you are not really going to get paid, one wants to translate something that one enjoys. And there is a lot of good literature around which maybe one doesn’t enjoy.”

In the words of Peter Clark, a writer and translator, “Translating is far more than a competence in two languages. The translator has to take possession of—or be possessed by—the work undertaken.”

Johnson-Davies never worried about whether an author was well known or not and has instead been on the lookout for new writers, including women. “I am interested in the short story and I also feel that when you are dealing with the short story you are giving a lot of people the chance to be known.”

He translated Sonallah Ibrahim’s 1966 novella Tilk Al-Ra’iha (The Smell of It) by the iconoclastic but then-unknown writer soon after it was censored in Egypt. The story of a man’s release from prison and the alienation he faces, Tilk Al-Ra’iha features shocking descriptions of homosexuality, prostitution and masturbation. “It had just been banned and somebody brought a copy to me in Beirut.

I thought it was a very good novel,” says Johnson-Davies. “I think Sonallah was disappointed that I never translated anything else by him. The reason is that he became very much a political novelist and I am not interested in politics.”

Johnson-Davies returned to London, where he stayed from 1954 to 1969, but could not find a job working in Arabic. Instead, he became a barrister, practicing specialized equity law.

“It is a question of akl aish [daily bread], as they say,” confiding that he was never happy attired in his wig and gown, “It bored me to tears.” He later gave up law and set up an office specializing in Arabic translation. Clients hired him to translate in negotiations for contracts, especially in Saudi Arabia.

He started the Arab Authors series with Heinemann, a small publishing house in London which published some 24 paperback editions of translations from Arabic. He also began a quarterly literary magazine called Aswat (Voices), which lasted all of 12 issues.

In 1969, Johnson-Davies left London for Dubai, where he became director of Sawt Al-Sahil, the Arabic broadcasting station for the Emirates, which was then under British control. When the British left, Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Rashid, offered Johnson-Davies the job of heading the state broadcasting, but he turned it down.

“I said, ‘Here you are, an independent Arab country—what do you want an Englishman for?’” Had he stayed, he concedes without the slightest hint of regret, he would have been a very rich man.

In addition to his translations, Johnson-Davies also authors children’s books. His latest two are due out soon from Dar Al-Shorouk, Egypt’s leading publisher, which has made a foray into foreign-language children’s books. They are about Amr Ibn Al-As, the commander of the Muslim army that conquered Egypt, and Saladin, the Kurdish general who established the Ayyubid Dynasty in Egypt.

His first book for children was about the life of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). The idea came about when he was chatting with a wealthy Syrian friend at his vacation home in the south of Spain. The man’s young son passed by, and his father called the boy over and asked him what he knew about the Battle of Badr. Aghast, the child said he knew nothing. His father then asked what he knew about Omar Ibn Al-Khattab.

Again, the boy drew a blank. The father turned to Johnson-Davies and said, “As you can see, my son, who goes to an English public school, knows nothing about his religion. What about writing a book about the Prophet for children?”
He wrote Johnson-Davies a check on the spot.

“I looked at this very handsome check and went away to write this book about the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) for children and just couldn’t get started,” he recalls. “I was within an ace of sitting down and writing another check back to him giving him back the money.” He persevered, and the book hit stores.

Since then, he has written dozens of books for children, including three about the endearingly ‘wise fool’ Goha of Arabic lore and other stories derived from fables, folktales and the oral tradition of the Arab world. He possesses a fondness for animals, and they too are the subject of his children’s books.

“I am not very keen on children, actually,” Johnson-Davies freely continues, saying that he wasn’t a particularly good father to his only son because he was away so often.

These days, Johnson-Davies is still involved in literary projects. He has compiled an anthology of modern Arabic literature, forthcoming from Random House. In Memories in Translation: A Life Between the Lines of Arabic Literature (due out in February from the American University in Cairo Press), Johnson-Davies reflects on the landscape and people of contemporary Arab literature in an autobiographical sketch of his life in translation.

And as if this were not enough, Johnson-Davies, with Ezzeddin Ibrahim, an Islamic scholar and cultural adviser to the president of the United Arab Emirates, translated three volumes of hadith literature. They are currently working on a translation of the Qur’an. “It is a Qur’an under subject matter, which is something that really hasn’t been done,” explains Johnson-Davies, saying that translating the Holy Book is a daunting task.

“I would like to do one more book of short stories,” he contemplates. “If I could [convince] Oxford University Press to do it, I would be happy to have the very first one done by them and the very last one done by them.”

Or perhaps another two—just to round off his number of translated volumes to 30.

5/23/2017 2:18:29 PM
<![CDATA[Art Helping Children ]]>
On the walls of the open gallery space jostle paintings created by both prominent Egyptian and up-and-coming artists.

The organiszer behind the event is Caire Accueil, an association run by volunteers that helps French and French-speaking people adapt to their new life in Cairo. The event is the first of its kind, organizer Zeynep Lecrosnier tells Egypt Today.

“The event tonight is similar to one in Turkey, which is organized by the Accueil branch in Istanbul. Their charity exhibition has been taking place annually for 11 years, and we hope our project will keep on too,” she says.

On an easel near the entrance, a painting of tanoura dancers in white clothes has been given a special place in the exhibition. The picture is painted by Mohamed Azhary and was auctioned away for LE 11,000—the proceeds going toward the House of Torah School.

The goal is to help the preschool in providing medical consultations and healthy meals for the 400 children. All profits from the exhibition will be donated to the cause, while the 16 exhibited artists will donate 30 percent of the sales to the underprivileged communities of Torah.

Among the artists exhibiting are Al Assmaa Takidden, Mohamed El Shimy and photographer Banu Diker.

Artwork By Anna Bersen

Artwork By Anna Bersen

Artwork By Anna Bersen

5/22/2017 12:43:35 PM
<![CDATA[Around Cairo: where to go this Week (May 21-27)]]> Six singing sisters
The band Binti, six sisters who born to a Belgian mother and an Egyptian father, have been playing together for a few years now after their shared passion for music inspired them to create the group. The sisters’ voices are accompanied by a guitar and a flute, and they interpret songs from different genres, from reggae to barbershop.
May 25 at Darb 1718 • 7pm • Tickets are LE 55

Learn to draw beautiful mandalas
Mandala means circle or center, and it represents the relationship with infinity and perfection. Drawing the beautiful patterns is a form of meditation that enables the mind to get rid of disturbing thoughts and the opportunity to rest and unleash creativity. In this four-hour workshop, you will learn and practice the principles behind Mandala-drawing with Hala Galal, a self-development trainer.
May 22 at Blue Lotus Foundation in Heliopolis • 5-9pm •

Ramadan detox
Yoga and fasting go hand in hand: The combination of the gentle movements and twists along with the deep stretches and breathing exercises all help speed up the detox process. Marwa Fathalla will be giving a detoxifying Ashtanga Yoga workshop during Ramadan. Fathalla is a 200-hour certified Ashtanga Yoga professional instructor.
Every Tuesday starting May 23 at The Workshops in Heliopolis • From 6pm •

Artist Talk: Adel El Siwi
Mashrabia Gallery hosts artist Adel El Siwi, Yousry Nasr-Allah and Wael Abdel El Fattah as they discuss the exhibition “In the Presence of the Animal” created by El Siwi and currently exhibiting at Mashrabia Gallery. The display reflects the result of six years dedicated to an intense reflection on the nature of the animal and its ambivalent relationship with the human being.
May 24 at the Mashrabia Annex in downtown Cairo • 7-8:30pm • Free admission •

Tribute to one of rock’s greatest
Head to Room Art Space this Friday for a tribute to Pink Floyd, performed by the five-man Paranoid Eyes. The Egyptian progressive rock band plays Pink Floyd covers, with a great passion for the London-based rock music, the spiritual atmospheric mood and state of mind.
May 26, at Room Art Space • 8pm • Tickets are LE 50 •
5/21/2017 9:19:41 AM
<![CDATA[Amin Rida: pioneer pro-skater ]]>
Egypt Today: How did you start skating?

Rida: When I was a kid, I liked to watch skateboarding videos and play skateboarding games. But we didn’t have any community or shops that supported skateboarding. But then in 2005 Skateimpact came into business, and that was really cool. And so on August 28, 2005 I bought my first skateboard there, and I have been skating ever since. I’ve been skating for 11 years now, so I guess I can call myself one of the very first skaters in Egypt.

ET: How did you end up being a part of the Skateimpact team?

Rida: We used to make short videos of us skating and putting them on YouTube. Skateimpact was sponsoring skaters, so we sent them videos to get sponsored. In 2009 I became a flow rider for Skateimpact. A flow rider is a skater who is temporarily sponsored by someone, and so they have a limited amount of time to prove that they’re good. After a year or two I became a permanent team member of Skateimpact.

ET: How are you trying to spread the culture?

Rida: Our aim is to support the scene and get more people to go out and skate. We post videos of us doing tricks and we encourage other people to do the same. The nice thing about skateboarding is that you can do it alone or with your friends. At the same time there’s a lot of freedom in skating because you don’t have a coach that tells you to run laps.”

ET: What’s the future of skateboarding in Egypt?

Rida: The scene is growing slowly because not many people support skateboarding, it’s really just our small community. But I think, in the next 10 years there will be real skateparks in Egypt and there will probably be more skateshops. And more people will know the sport better. At the moment, not a lot of people know what skateboarding is. When they see us in the streets they think we are aliens.”]]>
5/20/2017 1:48:47 PM
<![CDATA[At a Cinema Near You]]>
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Director: James Gunn
Cast: Chris Pratt, Vin Diesel, Karen Gillan, Zoe Saldana and Kurt Russell

In this action-comedy/sci-fi sequel the adventures of Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and his friends continues as they fight their new archenemy Ego (Kurt Russell). Many characters from the classic Marvel Comics will come to life in this sequel that prepares viewers for an ultimate team-up in The Avengers: Infinity War next year. James Gunn, who also directed the first film, is slated to direct a third Guardians adventure in a couple of years.

A love Story
A love Story

Vengeance: A Love Story
Director: Johnny Martin
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Anna Hutchison, Talitha Bateman, Deborah Kara Unger and Don Johnson

Nicholas age must be the busiest actor alive: he stars in around six films a year and most of them arrive in Egyptian theaters. In this thriller, he plays a police officer who takes matters into his own hands when a gang of criminals attack a woman in front of her 12-year-old daughter. Cage was slated to direct but gave the director's chair to Johnny Martin due to scheduling conflicts.

How to Be a Latin Lover
How to Be a Latin Lover

How to Be a Latin Lover
Director: Ken Marino
Cast: Eugenio Derbez, Salma Hayek, Rob Lowe, Kristen Bell and Raquel Welch

Finding himself dumped after 25 years of marriage, Maximo (Eugenio Derbez), who made a career of seducing rich older women, must move in with his estranged sister Sara (Salma Hayek), where he begins to learn the value of family. This is popular Mexican actor Eugenio Derbez’s first English-speaking starring role.

alien Cover
Alien Covenant

Alien: Covenant
Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, James Franco, Guy Pearce and Billy Crudup

Alien: Covenant is one of the most awaited sci-fi horror films on this summer. Why? All the fans of the Alien film series want answers and revelations after the 2012 film Prometheus left all viewers speculating after its cliffhanger ending. Covenant picks up few years after Prometheus ended as a team of astronauts embarks on a space journey to uncover the whereabouts of Elisabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and the android David (Michael Fassbender). The journey takes them to another planet where David has become a hybrid of several Alien monsters.

5/18/2017 1:13:56 PM
<![CDATA[Back to Egypt]]>
With the dawn of the Egyptian film industry during the early days of the 20th century, Cairo became a new Mecca for Arab artists, musicians and cineastes where they launched their career and gained their stardom. One of those pioneers was Shaaban al-Lawand, a multidisciplinary artist working as a songwriter, painter and calligrapher.

Nicknamed “sheikh of artists” in his home country Lebanon, al-Lawand moved to Kuwait where his son Fadi was born then to Cairo where the family lived for thirty years.

Shaaban made a name for himself in the Egyptian cinema industry as the painter of posters and artworks of films on billboards and cinema theaters. He also designed album covers for cassettes released by Maurice Iskander’s Morriphone, the music company responsible for early albums by the Tunisian Latifa, the Moroccan Samira Said, the Algerian Warda and the Saudi Talal al-Madah.

“In Cairo, I lived in Dokki for 13 years,” remembers Fadi. “I was a student at Orman School and all my childhood memories across Egypt are still in my mind and my heart.” Since he was five years old, Fadi has been on sets, getting to meet actors like Mahmoud Yassin and his wife Shahira, actress Isaad Younes during her early career and veteran film and TV director Tayseer Abood.

“During the 1970s, I was fascinated by Egyptian theater, especially comedies made by Mohamed Sobhy like the popular play El-Joker,” explains Fadi. “At school, I was the best child actor, either performing or imitating famous artists. However, in the late eighties, our family returned to Beirut.

There were difficult times during the civil war going on in Lebanon. We needed to go back because my father could not renew his Egyptian residency visa anymore”

In Beirut, Fadi, then 14, ventured into professional acting. “My first experience was on the stage of the Piccadilly Theatre on Hamra Street with the late actor Ibrahim Maraachli co-starring in a comic play called Ibrahim Effendi and the 40 Thieves.

The following acting experiences came with another iconic comedian, Mahmoud Mabsot, known for rendition of comic character Fahman, which he played for several years. “Growing up I studied arts at the Lebanese university while appearing in several Lebanese serials on LBC, Future and many TV stations,” Fadi says.

"Later, starting from the year 2000, I was travelling across the Arab world performing plays I also wrote and directed at Arab theater festivals in Muscat, Jerash and Doha.

Four years later, the family decided to move again. This time, Fadi, his wife and his father Shaaban al-Lawand relocated to Belgium.

“Arriving in Europe, it was difficult to continue in the art field during my first years,” says Fadi, who then dedicated his time to working on and finalizing European residency paperwork for himself and his family.

“I returned to the Middle East artistic scene when I was invited as jury member of the short film competition at the 2014 Muscat film festival. Many Egyptian celebrities were there and I was very happy to reconnect again,” he remembers.

Fadi eventually came back to Egypt this year after two decades of absence. It was in Aswan International Women Film Festival whose organizers invited him among many other international celebrities.

“I became the festival’s representative in Europe after meeting its president Mohamed Abd el-Khalek and the director Hassan Abou el-Ela at Malmo Arab Film Festival last year,” explains Fadi. “I wanted to do anything for Egypt, a country I adore, and so I started to contact European media and artists to invite them to Aswan to promote the new festival and Egypt.

After attending the first edition that took place last February, I can say that the Aswan Festival has great potential in promoting tourism and culture, especially in the Upper Egyptian region.

Egyptians have a great way in welcoming foreigners and communicating with other cultures. This is why visitors who came like to return.”

Back to Flanders, Fadi succeeded in establishing Espace Mondiale d’Interculture Euro-Afrique (EMIEA). “The name stands for or the World Space for Intercultural Euro-African,” explains Fadi.

“It is a new association that will venture into organizing an African-European festival and many other artistic events to support the dialogue between Europe and Africa. On the other hand, I hope to finalize several coproduction deals between Egyptian film companies and their European counterparts to release quality feature films in the near future.”

5/17/2017 2:47:06 PM
<![CDATA[The Coolest Kids in Alex]]>
One of the skaters is 23-year-old Hana Azmi, who tells me it is her first day out skating in nearly two years. She is among the first female skaters in Egypt, having skated on and off since 2007, when she got a skateboard for her 13th birthday. “Skating is the hardest sport I’ve tried, because you have to control both your mind and your body as well as the board. You have to have the guts to perform a trick many times, even though you know you’re going to fall and that it’s going to hurt,” she explains.

Azmi used to dream of skating professionally, “going pro” as skaters says, but Alexandria and the rest of Egypt lack proper skateparks. “Outside of Egypt there are good facilities and competitions for pro skaters, but we don’t have that here. To go pro, you have to compete in a lot of different tournaments in order to gain access to the title games—it’s a sport. Here, it’s a bit different. It’s more of a community and a subculture,” Azmi says.

Skating is a somewhat new subculture in Egypt. The foundation of the community was laid in 2005 when Skateimpact opened. The store is the only one of its kind in Egypt and is at the core of the Egyptian skating community.

Omar Adel, who is 20 years old, is another skater hanging out and riding his board around the open space. Adel got his first skateboard some nine years ago. “The first board I bought broke within the first week because it was bad quality. So my friends told me that next time I should buy my skateboard at Skateimpact. I went there and met Omar and Cherif Herrawi. I asked them how I could join the skate community, and they introduced me to some of the other guys and told me to come to their skate sessions.” Since then Adel has been a big part of the Skateimpact team and the skating community.

The sun is still baking on the smooth surface of the plaza, and the skatersvdecide to call it a day. Cooling down in the shadow of a big monument, many of them are satisfied with the tricks they have landed this afternoon, several of them sporting fresh bruises from their less successful tricks.

We head from the plaza to Skateimpact’s shop in the Ibrahimiya neighborhood. Adel is DJ’ing, while another Skateimpact member, Karim Alexander Forsberg, is driving. Azmi is sitting next to me, and she tells me that they are often kicked out from wherever they are skating by security guards. “It’s very hard to skate in Egypt, because it’s not considered a sport like football or swimming, so when you’re skating in the street, people always give you weird looks,” Adel adds from the front seat.

From the outside, it’s hard to tell that Egypt’s skateboard hub is right inside a gray apartment building on a quiet street. There are no signs, and like a secret club, you have to know it is there. But that is part of the concept behind Skateimpact, Omar Herrawi tells me, once we all make it inside. The two brothers founded the store to give skaters a place to buy proper decks and parts, and to create a space where people could come and just hang out and discuss their interests—a place the two brothers did not have when they initially started skating.

“When I was a kid and I wanted to skate, I had to wait for a friend to come back from travelling abroad to bring me a new skateboard. And if you ordered via mail, the package was usually damaged or lost on the way,” Herrawi says.

Aside from colorful boards, t-shirt and caps and a work bench for repairing boards, Skateimpact is furnished with sofas and there is a computer in the back where some of the skaters are watching YouTube videos of professional competitions. The skaters all feel at home in the shop. “Skateboarding is not a sport. It’s a lifestyle. It’s an art form, a way of expressing yourself with a skateboard,” Herrawi says, explaining that a lot of people who start out skating eventually move on to another artform, for example drawing, graffiti, music or photography.

“What is good about skateboarding is that you get your midlife crisis early. Why? Because when you’re in your teenage years you think that you have what it takes to become a pro-skater. So once you figure out that it’s maybe not going to happen, you start to rethink your life and discover other ways of expressing yourself creatively,” Herrawi adds.

His theory seems to stick. Herrawi himself has studied fashion, Azmi is majoring in architecture this summer and Adel plays keyboard and guitar, when he is not studying business at university or skating. For the group, skating has opened new doors that have led to creativity in new shapes or laid the foundation for new friendships, Herrawi explains.

“When you skate, you find yourself.”
5/16/2017 10:16:36 AM
<![CDATA[Around Cairo: Where to go this week (May 14-20)]]>Synchronization of music and history

Legendary composer, pianist and conductor Omar Khairat will perform this Saturday in Giza. The event is described as a place where sound and history will synchronize and with the pyramids of Giza as backdrop, it is sure to be a magical night. Khairat was born in Alexandria and raised in a family of musicians. He has composed many musical pieces for both inaugurations, festivals and movies.

May 20, 6pm at the Sound and Light Theater • Tickets start at LE 600 • For tickets and more information

omar Khairt
Omar Khairat

Arabic pop, The Beatles and Danes in the mix

The Cairo Jazz Club has a jam-packed lineup this Thursday. Malak El Husseiny Band opens with their Arabic pop tunes led by soft-voiced frontsinger Malak. Next up are Danish band In Lonely Majesty who plays a mix of folk, indie and rock music. The Beatles cover-band Glass Onion rounds off the night with their throwback tunes.

May 18, 10:30pm at Cairo Jazz Club •

Cairo Jazz Club

New art behind old walls

25 Egyptian artists will exhibit their art behind the walls of the City of the Dead. Their art ranges from ceramics to paintings, and from textiles to glass. Find your way to the Sultan Qaitbay Mosque for an art exhibition unlike any other.

The exhibit runs until May 25, every day from 7pm •

New art
New art within old walls

Jazz workshop with Rashid Fahim

Work on your jazz skills with musician Rashid Fahim. You will get the chance to learn the minor and major scales of the jazz genre in this workshop. The workshop will teach you all about scales and chord structure.

May 19, 6-8pm at Madaar in Maadi • Tickets are LE 125 • For more information call 01011940844

Bike your way to Sokhna

Wheelers Cycling is arranging a bike trip from the capital to Sokhna by the Gulf of Suez. The trip is 123 km long, but don’t worry, Wheelers will help you along the way with energy supplements, hydration and first aid if you’re in need.

May 19, 4:30am to 8pm • Tickets start at LE 200 •


5/15/2017 12:29:28 PM
<![CDATA[A Message of Peace]]>
“True faith is what makes us more loving, sincere and human. It is that which refreshes the hearts, and drives them to the love of all without distinction,” the Pope said, adding, “True faith is what makes us spread the culture of dialogue and brotherhood, and gives us the courage to forgive those who harm us.”


Pope Francis also gave his blessings to two newlyweds who attended the mass and a number of elderly and sick Egyptians.

The mass witnessed the presence of 25,000 citizens from all over the country, as well as a number of public and political figures, ambassadors, politicians and diplomats. Pope Francis arrived in a convertible golf cart and toured the stadium in a glorified reception ceremony, before starting his holy sermon. Following the mass, the Pope was set to head to the Seminary College of Coptic Catholics in Maadi.

The visit, which came at an invitation from President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, marks the 70th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between Egypt and the Vatican.


“The purpose of the Pope’s visit is to underline that we must not accept an interpretation of terrorism and terrorist attacks as a conflict between religions. The real conflict is between those who use violence and a religious terminology in order to provoke such an interpretation and those who want to promote coexistence and cooperation for a harmonious future for mankind,” Jan Hjärpe, professor emeritus at History of Religions and Religious Behavioural Science, Lund University, tells Egypt Today.

The Pope’s visit, for which high security measures were deployed, comes three weeks after bombings at two Coptic churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday that killed at least 45 people.

The Islamic State (IS) terrorist group claimed responsibility for the Palm Sunday attacks as well as a bombing which killed 28 people at Egypt’s main cathedral before Christmas 2016.

“The purpose is obviously to show that we are together against terrorism and violence that affects us all; to see us all as human beings, and, as for Egypt, to stress the role of Egypt and its ancient an new contributions to civilization as a common heritage regardless of religious affiliation. We belong together. That is a message to the World—in religious terms: to all the Children of Adam,” Hjärpe explains.


The Pope had landed in Cairo early Friday, April 28, and was received at Cairo airport by Prime Minister Sherif Ismail and top Christian clerics.

President Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi then received the Catholic pontiff at the presidential Ittihadya palace, giving him an official welcome, accompanied with a military band playing the national anthems of the Vatican and Egypt.

The 80-year-old pontiff highlighted the sacrifice of members of the army and the police, the forced exodus of Christians from Sinai and the latest church bombings. Moreover, he stressed respect for human rights and religious freedoms.

Pope Francis and his delegation then headed to Al-Azhar Conference Center to participate in the closing session of Al-Azhar International Peace Conference, which kicked off April 27 with representatives of Islamic and Christian religious institutions and a large number of politicians and public figures.

“Let us say, once and for all, no, to every form of violence, vengeance and hatred carried out in the name of religion or in the name of God,” the Pope said in Italian during the speech

After the peace conference at Al-Azhar, the Pope and Sisi arrived at Al-Masa Hotel, where the Pope focused on Egypt’s role in fighting terrorism in the region, highlighting its role, given some incidents from its biblical and modern history.

Following his speech at the hotel, local news outlets reported that Pope Tawadros II, head of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church, received Pope Francis at Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo’s Abbassiya district.

Francis commended the efforts of Tawadros II, whom he called a brother, in organizing meetings between the Coptic Orthodox and Catholic churches.

Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros II signed a joint cooperation protocol of reiterating the fraternity between their churches.

“The tragic experiences and the bloodshed by our faithful who were persecuted and killed for the sole reason of being Christian, remind us all the more that the ecumenism of martyrdom unites us and encourages us along the way to peace and reconciliation,” Pope Francis said during his speech at the church.

“The innocent blood of defenseless Christians was cruelly shed: their innocent blood unites us,” he added.

At the end of the first day of his visit, the Pope went to the Vatican embassy in Cairo, where he was received by around 300 young people whom he spoke to from his balcony.

5/14/2017 11:07:40 AM
<![CDATA[In Pictures: Female Freedom ]]>
pic 1

The captivating portraits with their distinctive backgrounds feature a dramatic bird motif, clearly indicating the desire to of the female protagonists be uncaged and fly free.

pic 2

“Abd Elmalak’s current exposé is centered around the ever-significant theme of female empowerment, identity and prowess, and through his canvasing of these exclusively female profiles we are made to feel and appreciate the intense bond between females and their environment, the woman’s unchangeable, indispensable and constant role as nurturer, provider, lover as both mother or wife, and citizen of society,” Safarkhan curators write on their facebook page.

pic 3

“Abd Elmalak’s most recent collection is a celebration and homage to the complex and often troublesome and taboo relationship between women’s identity, rights, suffrage and her constantly contested role in society in the modern age, as conservative and liberal ideologies regarding women’s role and worth are increasingly at odds with one another.


Abdel ElMalak’s collection here is simultaneously both a poignant critique of the treatment of women in what he calls ‘Eastern society,’ and a glorifying tribute to the women of Egypt and by extension the world, a token of his compassionate and sincere gratitude as to their cherishing love and protection, and the somber forewarning that we must put an end to this cultural and societal war against the woman, who are undoubtedly as he states, the key to life, in our societies,” the page adds.

Elmalak graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Minia University, and his works have been displayed in several galleries across Egypt as well as Paris and Washington.

Horra continues until May 19 at Safarkhan Art Gallery • 6 Brazil St., Zamalek • Tel: +20111 0070707 • Monday to Saturday 10am to 9pm • safarkhan.com • facebook.com/groups/safarkhan/]]>
5/13/2017 3:29:57 PM
<![CDATA[How Not to Raise a Terrorist]]>
Before they became suicide bombers, before they master planned attacks against innocent souls, they were children asking their parents’ permission to go to their friend’s house. Somewhere along the way—however early or late that may have been in their lives—they became names we fear and dread. We can argue about nature versus nurture, but in most cases, terrorists aren’t born to extremist families. Societies and home environments contribute a large part to youth becoming killers and fanatics. It might have been an absent mother, an abusive father, a sexual assault, too much time on their hands, too little freedom to explore their identities, no communication with their parents or simply lack of knowledge of their religion. Somewhere along the line parents contributed, be it a small or large part, to the formation of an extremist who may later become a terrorist.

Back to basics
On a more macro level, terrorists are formed when societies fail to modernize religious discourse. Professor of International Studies at the University of Washington Daniel Chirot argues that in the late 19th century and early 20th century many Muslim thinkers, including Jamal El Din Al-Afghany’s disciple Muhammad Abdu, attempted to reform Islam the same way Western Europe “had overcome the religious rigidity of both Catholic and Protestant conservatives.” Chirot, who is an expert on political extremism, ethnic and religious conflict and tyrannical governments, adds that the reform was bypassed by secular modernizers leading anti-colonial nationalist, mostly socialist, movements in the 20th century, including Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser. While trying to repress and limit religious influence, Nasser and leaders with like strategies also failed to adequately modernize countries and “turned into brutal and repressive dictatorships.” This gave rise to alternative ideologies like that of Sayyid Qutb who became an influence on many Islamist groups.

“There seems to be no solution as long as a more secular, moderate form of modernizing ideology does not start growing again,” says Chirot. “That will take a very long time. Meanwhile, the number of angry young people grows and because the secular left—communism, Nassserism, the Ba’ath—no longer have any appeal, they turn to ever more extreme forms of religion.

Another factor is social changes that lead to a rise in unemployment, including farmers abandoning their lands and moving to cities. “If they cannot find jobs, they suffer and their youth are more likely to join extremist movements,” Chirot explains, drawing parallels between his research on how Western societies transform and the social changes in Egypt and other similar Arab countries. “Handling the discontent is only possible with rapid economic growth that can accommodate those displaced by modernization,” says Chirot, citing examples like the French and Russian revolutions as societies that underwent violence due to failure to adjust quickly enough. Chirot describes the lack of economic growth to match the social change as “prescription for future disaster” not only in Arab and Muslim countries, but also in Europe where Muslims feel left out of the prosperity they see around them and so turn to violence.

With the lack of an alternative ideology for youth to adhere to and the rise of poverty and unemployment, a repressive society paves the way for extremism. “The more repressive a society, the more extreme its opponents become,” Chirot argues, adding that with the lack of moderate religion and its failure to promote its ideas well, “the field is left to the violent extremists who can appeal to and alienate young people.”

Who becomes a terrorist?
Experts agree on one thing: when it comes to terrorists, there’s no mold that fits all. They come from rich and poor backgrounds, strict and liberal families and all ends of the spectrum. But research gives some insight on common aspects in a terrorist’s profile.

Mia Blooom, professor of communication at Georgia State University and leading expert on terrorism studies, has conducted intensive research on child soldiers, how Islamist groups recruit children and suicide bombing. In a joint research project with expert on terrorism psychology and terrorists John Horgan, Bloom came to the conclusion that there is a wide variation among countries and within societies. When we look at Palestine, for instance, “Children are facing occupation so they are involved politically at a very young age, at the beginning they’re throwing stones against Israeli soldiers coming into their villages,” Bloom explains. They then grow up watching media that propagates martyrdom, and are indulged in a culture where martyrdom “is held to a lofty goal and is the best thing you can do to your society,” Bloom argues, adding that the streets and parks are named after martyrs, they see graffiti encouraging it, violence is always surrounding them, so they are raised to view martyrdom as the ultimate goal.

On the other hand, children in Pakistan, for instance, are kidnapped from their families if the families do not pay the extortion money terrorists demand. In Sinai, for instance, ISIS is recruiting teenagers convincing them that they can do far more in death than they can do in life.

“Horgan and I argue, however that at such a young age of 9 or 10, children can’t possibly understand what a shahid [martyr] is, and this is where the brainwashing comes in,” explains Bloom. “Psychology is everything; from mild coercion where the community expects everyone to contribute to the ultimate goal, independence or shaking off the occupation or whatever it may be.”

Living a hedonistic lifestyle, indulging in sex, drugs and generally ignoring religion altogether, means that the switch to religion can be easily manipulated. “If you keep hearing you’re going to hell because you did this, imagine how they can manipulate you,” Bloom argues. If the person can’t communicate with someone they trust about worries like those, they soon become desperate enough to do anything, including killing others and suicide bombings, to atone for their sins.

Based on research and interviews with 60 terrorists, Horgan and Bloom came to the conclusion that, although we can’t generalize a terrorist profile, we can see some common traits in terrorists; they feel angry, alienated, victimized or disenfranchised and believe they don’t have the power to effect real change through political involvement. They also identify with perceived victims of social injustice they are fighting and feel the need to take action rather than talk about the problem. They believe that violence against the state is not immoral and that joining a movement offers social and psychological rewards like adventure, camaraderie and a heightened sense of identity. Finally, they have friends or family sympathetic to the cause.

Other leading experts have come to similar conclusions. Professor of Psychiatry, Political Psychology and International Affairs at George Washington University Jerrold Post argues that the recipe for terror includes a combination of a strong sense of victimization, fear of group extinction and a feeling of higher moral condition, while forensic psychiatrist Marc Sageman of the University of Pennsylvania, after examining the records of 400 terrorists, concluded they are neither brainwashed nor socially isolated as 90 percent of them came from caring, intact families and 63 percent went to college.

How not to raise a terrorist
Although society, friends, culture and the media play a big role in shaping a terrorist’s mind, there are some things families can do to ensure a child isn’t lured into terrorism.

Bloom sees the lack of religious knowledge as key in making people more vulnerable and susceptible to brainwashing. “If someone cites the verse in Tawba saying ‘kill them wherever you find them,’ and you don’t know the Quran or that this verse is talking about a particular tribe not all Christians and Jews, then you can be easily manipulated,” argues Bloom. She adds that although profiles of terrorists vary widely, “the lack of knowledge of faith is common across the board,” making converts, for instance, very vulnerable to ISIS recruitment. With the lack of knowledge and the language skills to read and understand Quran, Bloom argues, converts and Muslims who can’t speak Arabic remain prone to misinterpretations of the religion. “Having knowledge of Islam is defense against extremism. They can manipulate you if you’re a blind slate,” she argues. The more you teach your children about moderate Islam, the less likely they are to fall prey to extremist interpretations.

Chirot argues that tyranny at home is a strong contributor to extremism. “Growing up in an authoritarian culture which allows little scope for individual rights makes the rise of extremism all the more likely.” Award-winning journalist and professor of practice at Middlesex University in London Yasmin Alibhai-Brown has on several occasions spoke out against how many Muslims raise their children in an ultra-collectivist environment with little regards to their unique identities or autonomy. “The inner life of a young person is often left unattended so they seek other networks to be understood and get rid of their pains,” Alibhai-Brown tells us. “The ‘I’ is always submerged into the ‘we.’”

“The politics makes us angry, the situation in Israel, the Iraqi situation, what’s happening in Muslim countries; that’s one source of their [the youth] anger, but the other source is living an unfree life in a very free world,” Alibhai-Brown argues.

Associate Professor of Psychology and Chair of SAPE Department at the American University in Cairo Hani Henry agrees with Chirot, adding that authoritarian parents who are “extremely structured” and use harsh discipline methods can lead to an oppressed child who grows up to identify with his parents’ aggression and then channel it toward society, “especially toward those who are weaker and less privileged.”

Bloom agrees that being too strict can backfire, but believes that being too liberal can be just as bad. She cites the case of 27 youngsters from Minnesota who disappeared to become suicide bombers. “One of those kids was about to have the best life; he was going to Harvard on a scholarship,” she explains. “But in those cases, a lot of it was that these children were left by themselves for long periods of time with access to the internet and social media without supervision.”

Being involved in sports, Bloom advises, is a good defense against extremist behavior in general. “There is supervision, it is an outlet for energy, children don’t have too much time on their hands to spend on the internet unsupervised.”

On a more macro level, Chirot argues that better and fairer economic growth, education on history and science and leaders having enough courage to stop feeding self-serving propaganda to their people are key in countering terrorism.

Bloom sees that ISIS, for instance, plays on the psychology of Egyptian men by promising them jobs, houses, wives and even sex slaves in a society where, due to economic conditions, men don’t get married until their 30s. With the lack of premarital sex, this means that the idea of marriage to an 18-year-old and having multiple women is alluring given the fact that it could be 12 years before he is able to afford a wife.

This is why Bloom argues that it is crucial to communicate with children and make them feel comfortable enough to come forward with anything they may have done without feeling ashamed. This also includes not feeling ashamed if they are sexually assaulted and being able to speak with their parents without feeling they violated the family’s honor; something that all too often has led to abused children treading extremist courses.

Henry identifies the lack of emotional coaching as one of the main factors contributing to building an extremist personality, arguing that repressing emotions will eventually lead to exploding. “Sometimes parents fail to talk with their children about their emotions and prevent them from expressing and experiencing them,” he says. “As a result, some of these children end up repressing their emotions only to explode later only in the form of toxic rage that we often see manifested among members of extremist groups.”

Bloom also stresses on always being aware of what a child is doing online and having the computer where kids are not alone in the room using it to be able to monitor their activities online.

“Spend time with the children, have a conversation with them, if they’re on the internet, ask them what they are checking, let them feel comfortable enough to ask you, instead of the internet, for whatever. The more information the child has the less someone can manipulate them,” advises Bloom. “The same thing that would get the kids off drugs would keep them from getting involved in terrorism; a family meal a few times a week without phones or tablets where the family is talking together and can see what’s going on with the kids and spot early signs to get early intervention.”

Spotting early signs of extremism
Early signs of extremism vary, but they are easy to recognize. One surefire way to spot an extremist is to look at his or her social circle; “People tend to radicalize in groups, so you will see clusters of people from same neighborhoods and schools radicalizing together,” says Bloom.

Henry agrees that there is no answer to who becomes an extremist and argues extremists aren’t born that way, but flags a few warning signs parents should look out for that may indicate the child’s readiness to adopt an extremist position. These signs include anti-social behavior, including callousness, truancy and even possibly torturing animals. “As they become adults, this disorder may turn into anti-social personality disorder,” said Henry.

Marginalization and isolation, Henry adds, are also key to developing an extremist personality. “They may fall prey to extremist groups who help them develop a new identity and a cause [as well as] give them the social support they always lacked,” he explains. The need to fit into a group resonates with Bloom’s argument that people radicalize in groups and there’s always peer pressure involved in the process.

Embracing religion, in general, is not an alarming sign and is a sign that parents often welcome, given that the alternative is getting involved in drugs and gangs. “So the initial switch to becoming more religious is a good thing and parents don’t normally question it or monitor what the message [their sons and daughters are subject to] is,” argues Bloom. Henry agrees, “For many parents, it is always great to have a child who is disciplined, spiritual and God-fearing.”

But when embracing religion is extreme and sudden, parents should begin to worry. “They go from zero to 100 overnight,” Bloom cautions. They then stop being friends with many of their former colleagues, they change their social circle completely, they change at school and then start distancing themselves from their families. “The son may, for instance, give the mother a hard time because she’s not wearing a veil,” Bloom says. “These are the telltale signs.” Henry similarly advises parents to be vigilant about the source of religious teaching their children receive and the message being conveyed to them.

Because people are at their most vulnerable undergoing psychological distress, Henry argues that it can be channeled into a form of anger, including terrorism. “Sometimes anger is directed to society in the form of extremist behaviors and ideology,” he adds.

Course correction
If you spot any of these signs, make sure you resort to course correction straight away. “The person who has the most credibility [for the child] would be a legitimate sheikh [scholar] who can also be an advisor,” Bloom says. She adds that any non-religious figure will not be influential over someone who’s becoming religiously extreme because they will immediately be deemed as secular and so not in a position to give them advice. This means that a psychologist might not be the first line of defense in course correction.

“Children who are emotionally or sexually abused will always be vulnerable,” says Bloom. “They need to have someone at home, school or the mosque they can go to with a problem, any problem.”

5/12/2017 10:43:04 AM
<![CDATA[Escaping Violence]]>
As he veered into the dust, an officer at a checkpoint ran to help him and took him to a hospital. “This officer who helped me got shot two days later, Samer was his name,” Sohaib recalls. At the hospital, “militias tried to kidnap me, I don’t know why,” he says.

“Once the telephone rang, I knew I had lost one of my sons, I could feel something bad happened,” Sohaib’s wife recalls. “In Syria, no one knew the religion or the doctrine of the other, and no one cared,” she says. “All we know is that the war has torn us apart.”

Despite the destruction, Sohaib would choose to go back if the war ends. “I would forgive the death of my son, the bloodshed, but take me back home,” says Sohaib. “God granted me a son, and He took his soul back, I understand His will.”

Surviving Homs
“He who leaves home is lost, and whoever comes back is reborn,” says Hassan, describing life in his war-torn hometown of Homs. Hassan, who has spent the last four years of his life in Egypt, recalls how he faced the horror of walking down the streets with the fear of never coming back. He was injured three times in three different bombings, once in Homs and twice in Damascus. He used to work for the labor union in Syria and had to leave his family, home and source of living to save his life. Hassan was injured by shrapnel and gunshots, was jailed, moved from one city to another and from one hospital to another due to the lack medical facilities in his hometown at the time. “I couldn’t afford medical treatment in Lebanon either,” he recalls.

There was no electricity or water in Homs, and when asked how the community managed to stay alive in such abject poverty, Hassan answers with a single word: “solidarity.”

“My family’s apartment was on the last floor and we had to move to the first floor so that any airstrikes would not affect us on the upper floors,” he explains. They helped each other with gas pumps and exchanged basic goods until they ran out. They couldn’t get out to buy necessities and had no access to markets or main streets. “Men gathered in one of the apartments on the first floor and women in another. We never felt scared, instead we showed solidarity,” Hassan continues.

“I never know who’s responsible for the bombings, I just used to feel numb and thrown meters away every time. I watch people die and shattered bodies everywhere,” he says. “When I got hospitalized the first time after being injured, I used to entreat the doctors to tend to those who are in more dire condition, as the number of victims is usually huge.”

After fleeing to Egypt where he received the medical assistance, Hassan started making a living as an electrician. Like Sohaib he too says he would go back to Syria if he could. “I would love to reunite with my family members, I’m feeling grateful to the life I have in Egypt and the peace I feel here, but I would like to go back to my homeland. I pray for peace in Syria.”
5/11/2017 11:56:04 AM
<![CDATA[The Human Side of Fear and Loss]]>
“He urged mom to hurry for the prayers, since he wanted to sit in the first pew as usual. My mom heard a very loud explosion and saw a lot of smoke and that’s when she saw her husband being thrown from his place, flying in the air from the impact of the explosion. He was just a few meters away from the suicide bomber,” Tadros tells Egypt Today.

On April 9 worshipers and families gathered at Mar Girgis Church to attend to celebrate Palm Sunday. An explosion ripped through the church at 9 in the morning, taking the lives of 28 people and leaving over 70 others injured, turning the festive celebration into a blur of screams and bloodshed. The footage of the blast at Mar Girgis shows a choir practicing some hymns before the start of the celebration, seconds later turning into sounds of horror and panic.

Tadros received the news in Alexandria, where he was at his sister’s house. He had been with his father just one night earlier, running errands together and making sure everything was set before the festive Week of Pain.

“My only consolation is that my dad joined heaven on such a day. At first I was shocked when I received the news, yet I felt relieved by a strong faith, my dad is a martyr,” Tadros says. “I suddenly feel 40 instead of 26, my dad has left me with the huge responsibility of a younger brother of 13, and a mother in shock. . . . He didn’t even didn’t get the chance to see me happily married. I need his support.”

Tadros was forced to put his grief and shock aside and attend to proceedings. It fell on him to identify the body of his dad, get the license to bury him and follow up DNA tests as the explosion had ripped his father’s body in two—police only found the lower half of his body. His mother was able to identify her husband by the belt he wore that morning and their pain was only prolonged when the DNA samples were mixed up with others and the tests had to be redone.

“My dad was an army officer in the Egyptian Armed Forces, he has always lived his life to serve,” Tadros remembers, expressing anger about watching the terrorists’ families being interviewed on TV.

Tadros recounts that after the funeral, the imam of the mosque in front of the church pointed to the picture of his father and told of how courageous he used to be, how good a friend he was and prayed for him during the prayers at the mosque.

“We won’t be scared and we will continue to pray in church, and I will pray where my dad had prayed, at the same church.”

Living with Fear
The tragic attacks are not the first of their kind, Egypt’s churches have seen a series of bombings in the past decade, leaving many more families as angry and grief-stricken as Tadros. The past year had a tragic ending after an attack targeted St. Peter’s church near Cairo’s Cathedral in Abbasiya in December. Considered one of Egypt’s deadliest terrorist attacks on churches and taking place during Sunday morning prayers and less than a month before Copts celebrated Christmas, the bombing, targeting the women’s section of the church, left 29 dead and 49 wounded, most of whom were women and children. Video footage of the incident showed a broken roof, shattered windows and walls collapsing into ruins. ISIS claimed responsibility, issuing a statement saying it was a suicide operation.

“It does not really matter who claimed responsibility, it will not bring back those who are gone,” says Mariam Shohdy, a close friend to one of the victims, recalling the events of the tragic day. “I had spoken with Mary* the day before and we had not spoken this long since I do not know when, we talked for more than two hours nonstop, mostly about our childhood memories and how the times have changed. She told me that she wished her daughters felt safer. For some reason I felt worried about her. I did not know what was going to happen.”

Mary, 34, was badly injured and passed away minutes after being rushed to hospital, leaving a mourning husband and four-year-old twin daughters. Shohdy happened to be late for Sunday prayers and was on her way to the church, which is only a 10-minute walk from her home, when she heard the sound of an explosion. “It was sudden and lasted a couple of minutes, my gut feeling told me the sound was coming from the church. I kept running and praying I was wrong but unfortunately I was not.”

Mina Victor’s relative Emad I., 37, made it out of the explosion at St. Mark’s church alive but his arm had to be amputated. Emad is still being treated at Al Amiri hospital in Alexandria, and Victor is just as anguished as Shohdy. “[Emad] was not able to talk for days but when he finally started to talk it was like it all came to him like a flood, he kept describing the horrific scene of people falling to the ground, a lady without her head, hand and body pieces on the floor. He said that those who passed away are in a much better place [than] those who are left badly injured for life both physically and mentally,” Victor says. Emad will probably not be able to get his job back as an accountant who spent most of his working hours on a computer.

Both Victor and Shohdy express anger at being targeted as members of Egypt’s largest religious minority. “Why do Christians have to pay the price of terrorism? And after all the big words and statements we are left with only one ugly truth: our children and friends are not coming back, we will not see them again. Me and my family and friends are torn with anguish,” she says.

Victor agrees. “We need a completely different strategy to fight terrorism. Christians deserve to be protected by the government. It is their responsibility in the first place,” says Victor.

Three hours after the first Palm Sunday attack last month, another blast hit Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria where Pope Tawadros II was leading the holy day prayers. The death toll from both explosions rose to 47, with more than 100 injured. Video footage showed bloodstains on the floor and seats and on woven palm branches carried by churchgoers to celebrate.

Later that day and after meeting with security officials, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi announced a three-month state of emergency. “Terrorist attacks will not undermine the resolve and true will of the Egyptian people to counter the forces of evil, but will only harden their determination to move forward on their trajectory to realize security, stability and comprehensive development,” Sisi told the press.

Mervat Adly, an Alexandrian shop owner living near the area of St. Mark’s Cathedral says the tragic events have not stopped Christians from going to churches and giving thanks to God at this holy time. “Pope Tawadros told the woman who lost her baby girl that we raise our children in good manners, to serve God and go to heaven and your daughter cut a long way short and is in heaven now,” Adly says.

*Mary’s name was changed based on the source’s request

5/10/2017 12:08:00 PM
<![CDATA[Paying the Price of Unity]]>
“Terrorists chose this time of the year because they know what it means for Egyptians, it’s the start of the Week of Pain, which is a festive week,” Al-Ahram Center for Strategic Studies expert Amani El Taweel told Egypt Today, adding that the attacks come in the wake of recent statements released by Bayt al-Maqdis vowing to “drain Coptic blood” from Egypt.

Last month’s threats by the same group drove many Christian families to flee the South Sinai city of Arish to Ismailia.

“The target is Egypt as a state, and…even superpowers with their elaborate security measures face the challenge of the ‘lone wolf’ phenomenon of terrorism, where one or two elements carry out an operation away from the main terror organization,” El Taweel said. “More efforts should be exerted on defying radical discourse, especially that concerning Copts of Egypt.”

The bombings can be seen as “revenge” attacks against Egyptian national security and armed forces following the successful operations carried out in Gabal El-Halal in Sinai, where terrorist groups lost strategic territory.

From a strategic point of view, the governorate of Gharbiya, and the city of Tanta in particular, is one of the most politically engaged of Egyptian governorates, showing a healthy voter turnout during both the parliamentary and presidential elections.

The price of unity, of choosing to preserve identity over extremism, is punishment.

“The reason is to weaken Egypt as a state and Islamists are trying to weaken Egypt’s economic and political plans for stability and development,” El Taweel maintains. “Targeting the Copts in particular is an attempt to incite civil war or division—they’re trying to export a negative image of Egypt to the international community as being incapable of securing minorities on its land.”

The easiest thing to do would be to blame security measures, but despite terrorist acts aiming to weaken the nation, Egypt chooses to keep strong.
5/9/2017 3:53:09 PM
<![CDATA[Opinion: A Time to Heal]]>
“Dear God, this is the fifth year in a row that we’ve not been left to celebrate”

“Why have we all become so ugly inside. . . . ”

It’s been one month since the Palm Sunday bombings rocked churches in Tanta and Alexandria.

For weeks after April’s Tanta and Alexandria church bombings, this was the general sentiment on all our social media feeds: overwhelming grief, anguish, disbelief at how any human can unleash so much hurt.

Today marks a full month since the bombing and it’s been a difficult month for us all, and for me, especially, at the office. Being part of a media organization, watching tragedies unfold on your newsroom screen day in day out can all be very jading when you see so much bloodshed and destruction, and the waves of pain they leave behind can often leave one at first raw and then desensitized.

The challenge is always in trying to keep up spirits so that everyone can get on with their work while at the same time coming to terms with all the violence, grief and, I quickly realized, anger.”

I didn’t realize I was carrying around so much pent-up anger until a Coptic colleague walked into the office a few days after the attacks and broke down in tears at my desk.

“Why do they treat us like this? What have we ever done?” she sobbed.

After calming her down I was able to glean that she had been harassed on the underground coming in. A man in a short galabeya and long beard walked up to her and let her know he was happy at the attacks and branded her an apostate. A female passenger in a hijab got up and gave him a piece of her mind, but the damage had been done. The hurt had been inflicted, the knife twisted in the wound.

And that was when I realized that the feeling that was weighing heavy on my heart was actually anger—anger at the non-humans who could possibly believe in such a discriminatory and repulsive ideology. This is not our Islam and perhaps the one consolation is that attacks like these, whether the cowardly verbal abuse shouted on the metro or the violent explosions ripping apart houses of worship and people’s lives, do not have the power to be divisive. The community, regardless of religious faith, stands as one.

As the world struggles to define terrorism, we are all still reeling from the recent wave of brutal attacks that have left the nation grieving but determined to stand together. We may be bruised, but we are healing. And we will never be divided.
5/9/2017 12:13:00 PM
<![CDATA[The Oath of the Soldier]]>
I wonder, then, why we see and hear about soldiers in other countries around us who, like us, are defending their land against ISIS, but who take off their military uniforms, flee their positions, leave their weapons, and choose not to defend the women, children and the elderly. The soldier and the officer alike go into battle knowing that their predecessors were killed by treachery and guile, and yet they know too that their duty in front of God is to their family and their homeland—it is with honor that they carry their arms with sincerity and integrity in defense of their country.

I wonder if our youth ever stop to think why some media personalities are vocal about their positions in defense of their homeland. Why do they make their voices heard even though their names are on lists of people targeted for assassinations? And even without these lists, these people know that they are a potential target for every villain who thinks he is defending the religion of Allah.

Have any of our young skeptics ever asked if there is still anyone who works for the sake of God, the homeland and a decent life for the people of Egypt?

On his Facebook page Professor Alaa Hamouda said, “I don’t have any secret information to disclose. I am not connected to intelligence officers, and I am not familiar with what’s going on. But I do have a group of friends in the line of fire from whom I know the following:

The Egyptian Eagles are fighting over who will pilot the aircraft
The soldier or officer who was on leave and voluntarily canceled his vacation has come back to defend his country
The Christian soldiers and officers give up food in Ramadan; they do not eat out of respect and solidarity with their fasting Muslim comrades. They too fast from dawn to sunset.

Every time our soldiers capture a prisoner from the terrorist camp, he starts crying like a baby and says: “I was tricked into fighting with them”
Morale is high, the enemy is losing, dying or being captured; they are trembling, cowardly and terrified
Our men swear to cleanse the pure soil of Sinai from the last crawling “pest.”

Do you know the secret to all this? It is the military’s pledge of allegiance, its oath: “I swear by the Almighty God, to be a loyal soldier of the Arab Republic of Egypt, maintaining its security and safety, defending its land, sea and air, inside and outside the Republic. Obedient to the military orders, I will always protect my weapon and never lose it till death, and God will be my witness.” It is this oath that protects Egypt. It is this oath that drives our fighters to shame the worthless murderers of this era, those who call themselves Muslims yet have nothing to do with Islam. Our soldiers are standing strong against the enemy, forcing the latter to flee, dishonored and defeated in front of our heroes, Muslims and Christians, from southern Egypt to the north, east and west.

ISIS has targeted our heroes over and over, launching several deadly attacks, but our soldiers have prevented them from raising the ISIS flag on Sinai soil, from declaring the collapse of civilization and the victory of barbarity.

How? With this oath.

We are proud of you, and we will not allow anyone to question you or your patriotism, not in good faith nor in ignorance. Please read the oath again. This oath has and continues to protect Egypt and is what will empower us to move forward—when we turn it from the oath of the soldier to the oath of the whole community.
5/8/2017 11:11:48 AM
<![CDATA[Cultural Calendar: What to do around Cairo this week]]>CAIRO – 7 May 2017:

Ghost cars of Cairo
Ghost cars of Cairo
Have you ever noticed all the old cars people have abandoned in the streets of Cairo? For his exhibition Ghost Cars of Cairo, photographer Steve Double pictures the most ghastly of them. Double has previously photographed musicians Daft Punk, M.I.A. and Eminem to name a few, but this time it is broken-down cars that get a celebrity treatment.

Showing until May 31 at Arcade Gallery in Maadi. Daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays by appointment. For more information, click



From Farm to Fork
Farmers market
Skip the supermarket and shop at this Saturday’s farmer’s market instead to support the sustainable concept “eat fresh, buy local.” The Swiss Club in Mohandiseen hosts the market, where visitors can find fresh produce and all-natural goods.

May 13, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Entrance is LE 10. For more information, click



Rima Khcheich takes stage
Rima Khcheich
Lebanese singer Rima Khcheich released her newest album, Washwishni (Whisper to Me), last October. Khcheich, winner of the Arab Creativity Award in 2014, performs classical Arabic music and joining her on stage this Sunday are her Dutch band members. The ensemble will play songs from her latest album and numbers from her repetoire.

May 14, 8 p.m., El Genaina Theater, Al Azhar Park. Entrance is LE 50. For more information click



Acoustic night with Hania Fansa
Hania Fansa
Singer and songwriter Hania Fansa performs an interesting mix of raw alternative rock, grunge acoustic guitar and electric indie. This Friday she is joined by Ali Kaliuby, who plays electric guitar. The duo will play both Fansa’s own music and cover other artists’ music.

May 12, 7 p.m., Bab 18 Art Space, Heliopolis. Entrance is LE 50. For more information, click


5/7/2017 4:06:07 PM
<![CDATA[Celebrating Sagini]]>
The exhibition, which opened last week, features a series of paintings depicting arousit el-moulid candy dolls that portray Sagini’s love for local culture. “Each painting documents an important event in Egypt’s modern-day history, starting from the war in 1967 (El Naksa), and ending with the liberation of Sinai in 1976.


The moulid doll suffers many ailments in these paintings, and yet, despite the sadness felt in the broken or even hanged body of each doll, she remains colorful and beautiful. To Sagini, these candy dolls are Egypt: A survivor in vibrant colors despite the tragedies it has been through,” according to the gallery.


Zamalek Art Gallery also sheds light on the iconic statue of diva Um Kulthoum crafted by Sagini. “Um Kulthum's music is felt through her inimitable voice, as one could hear her music through Gamal's unique vision of the world-renowned singer, or in the words of the writer Tharwat Okasha, ‘The eye listens and the ear sees,’” according to the gallery’s Facebook page.


In parallel with the retrospective, Zamalek Art Gallery launched El Sagini's Centennial , published by AR Group. The book will be available at Diwan Bookstores soon.


Gamal El-Sagini is hailed as the successor to the legendary Mahmoud Mokhtar, and his sculptures are appreciated worldwide. Of his most famous pieces is the statue of the Prince of Poets, Ahmed Shawky, currently residing at the gardens of the gorgeous Villa Borghese in Rome, where the works of Masters such Bernini, Titian and Caravaggio call home.



5/6/2017 10:38:27 AM
<![CDATA[Nature Notes: Unicorn Dreams ]]>
At least having been I could boast that I had visited every country in the world that begins with Q but it was not going to be a wildlife extravaganza.

I went with low expectations. I came back having seen unicorns!

The unicorn is a mythical beast whose origins go back thousands of years to the Indus Valley through the writers of Ancient Greece to Medieval European folklore and through to the modern day, not least in heraldry. Popularly depicted as a white horse with a single straight horn emerging from the forehead, the real origin of the legend is unclear.

Some authors refer to the rhino and two of the three modern Asiatic species; the Javan and the Great Indian Rhinoceros do indeed have just the one horn. Others point to an extinct wild ox from Eurasia, the Aurochs, or of a wild goat.

Then there is the Narwhal, still sometimes referred to as “The Unicorn of the Sea.” The male of this small arctic whale species does indeed have a single straight tusk, up to 2.7 meters long that emerges from the snout. Another possible source is the Eland, a spectacularly large antelope from sub-Saharan Africa with straight horns that are twisted just as popularly depicted in the unicorn. And then there is the Arabian Oryx, a small desert antelope once found throughout the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula and historically extending into Sinai, possibly until as late as 1800.

The Arabian Oryx is a member of a small group of dry country antelopes known as the Horse-like Antelopes of the Tribe Hippotragini. They include some of the largest and most spectacular of the antelopes like the Roan and the Sable, the male of the latter being glossy black with immense backswept curved horns. They have not fared well at the hands of humans. Of the seven modern species, the Bluebuck was hunted to extinction in southern Africa by 1800. The Scimitar-horned Oryx of North Africa is now officially Extinct in the Wild though efforts are being made to re-introduce it in a number of states from captive-bred individuals. The Addax, a unique desert antelope also from the Sahara, is down to perhaps 500 animals left in the wild.

The Roan, Sable and Gemsbok are doing better but their existence outside reserves and protected areas is hardly assured and the Giant Sable subspecies from Angola is on the verge of extinction. And then there is the Arabian Oryx. The Arabian Oryx stands only a meter or less at the shoulder and weighs in at 65-75 kilograms.

It is almost entirely white with brown legs and a brown blaze on the snout and in the male a brown patch from the throat up the cheeks to the eye. In the female these markings are less clear. Both sexes carry horns, those of the female being longer but thinner than those of the male and it is the horns and the gleaming white coloration that explains the unicorn connection. Sadly they very nearly became just as mythical as the unicorn itself. While it had probably always been hunted by desert tribesmen, the advent of modern weaponry and four-wheel drives meant that the vast desert tracts that were their home no longer provided protection. It is likely that the last truly wild Arabian Oryx were killed by hunters in 1972.

Fortunately by then a number of captive herds had been established in Arabia and also at Phoenix Zoo, Arizona in the United States. Phoenix−what a wonderfully apt name for an institution that has overseen the rebirth of an entire species. By 1982 a herd was re-introduced into a reserve on the Jiddat al-Harasis Plain in central Oman under very careful management. Since then there have been other releases in Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. I visited Oman in 2015 but with limited time could not get the required permissions to visit the reserve.

Fast forward to Qatar and to last month and my Lonely Planet guide. Page 290 “ . . . a protected herd of Arabian Oryx can be seen with prior permission from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Agriculture though it is usually easier to go with a tour guide who will arrange the formalities for you.” Bingo!

To cut a long story short April 12 found me bouncing around the Qatari desert in a Toyota Landcruiser and in the very capable hands of my guide, a Sri Lankan called Ajith Wijenayaka. We were in the El Reem Reserve, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and site of an introduced herd of Arabian Oryx. Wijenayaka had been very careful not to get my hopes up too high. Like many desert species the Arabian Oryx ranges widely depending on pasture availability and are found in very low densities.

They could be virtually anywhere in the park. However, as part of the introduction project and in order to facilitate the care and health of the animals, they did sometimes return to an area of shade built for them at the center of the reserve where water is also available.
The Arabian Oryx can get by without drinking for long periods, getting sufficient moisture from their diet but will drink if water is available. This would be my best chance of finding them.

We passed through areas of suitable habitat and surprisingly rich pasture with healthy stands of acacia. But no oryx–and no gazelles, the Slenderhorned Gazelle had also been introduced into the park. I knew what to look for as I was familiar with the Arabian Oryx from Whipsnade Zoo near London. My eyes strained for a glimmer of bright, white coat in the heat haze but to no avail. Perfect habitat, but no antelopes. It would seem that the shaded area might be my only realistic chance of catching up with them. We changed tracks, rounded a bluff and there was the shaded area, a simple covered framework and beneath the shade, gathered like a welcoming committee, was my herd of Arabian Oryx. I had found my unicorn!

There was a tinge of disappointment at finding them beneath their man-made shade but it was just a tinge and momentary. Any hope of me ever seeing truly wild Arabian Oryx in the vastness of the Arabian Desert disappeared in 1972 when those last wild animals were finished off by the hunters. This is as wild as Arabian Oryx get now and I was not going to let the niceties of scientific minutiae spoil the moment. I grabbed my binoculars, camera and journal and watched and photographed, sketched and noted. I recorded the tracks and the poo, taking reference photos and measurements.

So I apologize to Qatar for thinking so disparagingly of it in terms of natural history. And I did catch up with other creatures, not least some great birds at Semeisma and Al Thakira mangroves north of Doha. But to catch up with the Arabian Oryx in its natural habitat was special. My unicorn–I would not have mythed it for the world.

5/5/2017 11:24:30 AM
<![CDATA[Islamic Treasures Return]]>
The news reports and photographs in the following days were not encouraging, and it is a great testament to the restoration and conservation staff of the museum, the commitment of the Ministry of Antiquities, and the financial and technical support of the UAE, Italy, Germany, the United States and UNESCO that the museum has been able to reopen so relatively soon afterwards.

The well-lit and well-ordered modern galleries somewhat belie the history of the museum and its collection. The idea for a museum of Islamic art was first mooted in 1869 by Khedive Ismail, only five years after the Egyptian Museum— housing an ancient Egyptian collection—had been built, and by 1880 a small collection had been assembled in a corner of the al-Hakim mosque.

For many of the pieces collected during this period, it has been a race against time, decay and neglect. Often only relatively small parts of greater original artistic wholes could be saved, conserved and displayed—a characteristic that is still evident in the museum today.

Even so, the collection, and the need for a more permanent home grew so quickly that by 1898 the foundation stone of a dedicated ‘Arab Museum’ was laid, and the current building completed in 1903. The architect of the striking neo-Mamluk building, Alfonso Manescalco, was of Italian descent, but born in Egypt and influenced by the late nineteenth-century style which had begun with the construction of the mosque of al-Rafa’i from 1869 onwards.

Today the Museum of Islamic Art contains over 100,000 objects, and those on display represent one of the world’s most impressive collections of Islamic art, expertly described by Bernard O’Kane in The Illustrated Guide to the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo.

As before in this column, I cannot lay claim to expertise in the field, but can only place before you a few pieces from this treasure house that appeal to me. The first is a simple wood panel that may have come from a palace door from the time of Ibn Tulun. It is in a subtle, curved style known as Samarra C—which can still be seen in the woodwork within the Great Mosque—and was probably imported to Egypt by artisans from the Abbasid dynastic capital, some 125 kilometers north of Baghdad, in which Ibn Tulun had spent his formative years.


The graceful lines of the abstract design at the bottom of the piece terminate in what appear to be the stylized heads of birds. It is an elegant and subtle piece. These are ducks that are not quite ducks. While this may reflect the injunction in Islam against figural art, there are many examples that demonstrate that this did not hold particular sway in secular art, and it is more likely that the artist was simply demonstrating his virtuosity.

This is equally true of the four Fatimid (11th century) ivory panels on display which probably formed part of boxes. The two on the left came from the excavations in Fustat in 1918; the two others were bought in the 1930s. Two of the panels are exquisitely carved, and the detail is remarkable. For me, they are on par with other better-known examples from elsewhere on the Mediterranean.


One panel includes a rider with a falcon on his wrist, a foot solider carrying a lance and a woman on a camel looking out from a palanquin. Another shows an intricately carved, crowned sphinx on a foliate scroll, with additional scrollwork on the crown and body.

There are, of course, many larger and richer objects on display in the museum, including a very fine 18th-19th century Ottoman door in wood revetted with silver, which came from Turkey, and other wood, stone and textile masterpieces, but let us stay, for the moment, with objects which come from Egypt.

A 9th century Tulunid palace door panel

Although not as immediately spectacular as the Ottoman door, the wood and copper alloy Mamluk door (before 1300) from the mosque of al-Ashraf Barsbay at al-Khanqah appeals to me particularly as it has weathered to resemble a finely tooled leather book cover.

A 15th century astrolabe

The makers of the door certainly knew how to thickly lay on the compliments to their patron. The inscription at the top reads, in part, “The making of this blessed door was ordered by the auspicious, his lofty excellency, Shams al-Din Sunqur al-Tawil, may happiness never cease. . . .”

A 12th century Mamluk palace door

This lofty gentleman is not thought to have commissioned any religious building in Cairo, though he did build a palace in the area opposite the Sultan Hassan complex. That the corner pieces include a large number of birds and animals suggests that the door may have come from this palace, before being acquired by al-Barsbay for his mosque (built in 1434).

Two 11th century Fatimid ivory box panels

But back to small exquisite objects. The role that the medieval Islamic world played in the curation and development of mathematical, scientific and medical knowledge is often underestimated in the West, which was often the heir—frequently through Moorish Spain—not the originator. Nothing is more evocative of that role for me than the astrolabe—a device used in astrology, astronomy, navigation, and as an aid to determining the time of prayer.

These could be very fine pieces—as is this one made of copper alloy, inlaid with gold and silver from Ottoman Turkey, and made in 1486, probably for (based on a Persian inscription in verse on the back) Sultan Bayazid II (who ruled 1481-1512). Persian was the literary language of the Ottoman court at the time and until the mid-16th century.

That the Islamic world was also heir itself to the knowledge of the ancient Mediterranean world is beautifully illustrated by the early 17th-century manuscript on display in the museum of ‘Human Anatomy’ (Tashrih al-badan) in ink, watercolors and gold leaf on paper.

In 1396, Mansur ibn Ilyas, a physician from the Persian city of Shiraz, produced what is considered to be the first color anatomical atlas. He drew heavily on his own observations, of course, but he also included comments and observations from Hippocrates, Aristotle and the most famous Greek physician of the Roman World, Galen of Pergamon (who was associated at one time with the great medical school in Alexandria).

There is so much else to see in the museum that these images offer a very poor selection, and the newly reopened collection deserves to be on the list of things to see for every visitor to Cairo.

The Islamic Museum in Cairo is open from 9 to 5pm during the week, and is currently also open from 5 to 9pm on Saturdays.

5/4/2017 1:23:43 PM
<![CDATA[Talking Talent]]>
Egypt’s broadcast entertainment industry is in a state of flux: in recent years it has seen the meteoric rise of TV channels that have gone on only to collapse or be bought out. Most of the A-List Egyptian film stars have migrated to Ramadan TV, leaving the arena to small-budget productions that are needed to keep the cinemas rolling. Though the times are challenging, there are a handful of pioneers with creative ideas and practices who are ushering in a new era of entertainment with their dynamic business approaches. Amr Koura and his Creative Arab Talent (CAT) is one of those few.

Having graduated as an architect, Koura decided to pursue a different kind of career in media and advertising. “During my architecture studies, I also studied photography to execute my university projects,” recalls Koura. Experimenting with the idea of capturing a unique moment in time, in 1983 he became a professional photographer, quickly becoming recognized as one of the top portrait photographers of the time. (He even realized a cover or more for Egypt Today back when it was called Cairo Today.) After working with homegrown advertising legend Tarek Nour as resident photographer, Koura opened his own advertising agency, Image, which was later acquired by TMI Advertising, later to be bought by the global agency JWT.

In 1998, Koura secured a contract to produce 130 episodes of Alam Simsim, the Egyptian version of the world-famed kiddie show Sesame Street. He founded Alkarma, Egypt’s leading edutainment company, which eventually produced 10 seasons of the program.

Koura is an advocate of using media to deliver educational and inspiring content to promote social change. In 2010 Koura produced and directed Al-Jami’a (The University), the first-ever teen drama targeting young Arab audiences. That same year he directed the horror drama series Abwab Al-Khouf (Doors of Fear) starring the internationally recognized Amr Waked in a narrative reminiscent of paranormal US 1970s series Kolchak: The Night Stalker and its 1990s counterpart The X-Files.

In January 2011 Koura switched to the other side of the business and joined Adline Media Network, the second-largest media representation and buying agency in the Middle East. “It was very cutthroat, a ruthless and merciless aspect of our business which is quite different from its creative side,” he says of his experience as CEO of the network’s Egypt operations department where he was responsible for the representation of high-profile media vehicles such as Al Mehwar TV, Dream TV as well as Egypt’s premier independent newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm. Koura later joined Al Nahar TV network, which is co-owned by the group, as chairman of the board.

The idea of media representation took Koura’s fancy. “I began reading and researching about venturing into talent representation and management to promote Egyptian artists abroad,” Koura says. “It is basically the most powerful job to hold in Hollywood and elsewhere. This power comes from the agent’s talent,” adds Koura, who in April 2015 established CAT, the first creative talent representation and management agency of its kind in the Arab world, with a casting arm responsible for discovering new creative talent.

“What I love about this job is that I can use all my accumulative experience of the past decades. Here, the challenge in Egypt comes when a producer is negotiating with a talent to take on a project and there is no agency like ours in between to close the deal,” Koura says.

Today, CAT has an A-list roster of clients, from actors Hesham Selim and Youssra to acclaimed screenwriters like Mariam Naoum. “Sometimes, Egyptian producers hand me their scripts in order to look for unconventional ways to produce them,” says Koura. “One of these new ways is Netflix which is currently seeking, commissioning and producing new content worldwide. Right now, I finally have a script they are interested in producing because it has an international appeal while also meeting their criteria. In other words, working as an agent is a job that opens doors that were closed for producers.”

The broadcast entrepreneur identifies big changes happening in the broadcast market since the late 1990s when satellite channels became popular in Middle Eastern homes. “The business became more money-led than creative-led,” explains Koura. “In other words, the tendencies changed from having a great TV writer like the late Osama Anwar Okasha to seeking a leading man or woman to secure sales. Few cared about the script and its quality because they focused on raking in profits from the sales of the broadcasting rights. The same applies to cinema when comparing content to distribution. Now, the challenge exists for advertisers who must choose where they to put their ads among this big number of TV channels. Big companies are now rethinking their advertising strategies.”

Koura believes that 30-second commercials will eventually disappear because online streaming ads are becoming alternatives either on YouTube or private company sites but that advertisers and agencies are refusing a complete migration to digital. “Most TV channels will ultimately go off air. The channels that are still making profits are the broadcasters of exclusive live sports events,” he says. “Hence, the future is open for video-on-demand and digital content. This is what Europe, Asia and the Americas realized a few years ago. As for regional channels owners, they are still in denial because some of them are not quite fit to run this business. They lose a lot of money in return for a certain image in media. The only network aware of these changes is MBC, which is gradually shifting its audience from broadcast to stream.”

Ahead of the curve, Koura is looking for greener pastures abroad and seeking international production for his clients. CAT’s challenge, he says, is to cast their rising number of talents in foreign production by promoting these artists at glamorous film festivals like Dubai or Marrakesh. “We see ourselves as an agency during that is very needed in this time of change. The core of this business is that talents will be always needed.”

By Sherif Awad
5/3/2017 4:01:10 PM
<![CDATA[From Our Archives: Neoliberalism vs. Social Democracy: Perspectives on Labor]]>
The differences between the two systems are huge, sometimes even considered as opposites of each other, raising endless debates among economists about which system is the best one.

Neoliberalism is heavily associated with a free market system. It is, however, considered one of its radical or very loyal forms. In terms of the economy, neoliberalism believes the market functions itself, and that state intervention is a bad idea, except in very special cases. The “free-thinking” extends to all other economic aspects, including labor. For instance, the ideology is not in favor of social security programs and heavily argues against them, and as a result, labor workers become more and more absorbed in their jobs. Terms like a cog in the machine became popular as neoliberal systems rose more and more to power, showing how the system makes laborers feel.

In neoliberalism, the main goal of the economy is maximizing profit and generating growth, and to do that, minimizing cost is crucial, and labor is considered another cost. This is highly related to the assumption that when growth happens, the benefits will be spread to everyone, and not only will the rich get richer, but everybody else as well. An assumption that has been proven wrong in many cases. A research paper published by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2015 titled “Causes and Consequences of Income Inequality” raises the argument that the policies of “Reaganomics” are not working. Reaganomics refers to the economic policies presented by the U.S. President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. The policies were based on the trickle-down theory, that lowering taxes to decrease the burden on businesspeople will increase investment and that will lead to the creation of more work opportunities and thus people will have income.

According to the research, which studied data from 159 countries from 1980 to 2012, the economy grew slower by 0.08% over 5 years when the richest 20% have their income share increased by 1%. “In contrast, an increase in the income share of the bottom 20% (the poor) is associated with higher GDP growth,” the report says. Meaning that when tax cuts and higher salaries are given to the poor, the economy grows much more than when these are given to the rich.

Also, recently OXFAM published a report paper stating that “The global inequality crisis is reaching new extremes. The richest 1% now have more wealth than the rest of the world combined. Power and privilege is being used to skew the economic system to increase the gap between the richest and the rest. A global network of tax havens further enables the richest individuals to hide $7.6 trillion. The fight against poverty will not be won until the inequality crisis is tackled.” There have been growing voices during the past couple of years that criticize trickle-down economics and its effects on economic inequality and how that affects growth and social stability, even by the same institutions that promoted it.

Social democracy on the other hand is considered a more sympathetic approach. Despite popular belief, social democracy does support capitalist economies, and supports innovation and creation, however, it also supports government intervention to achieve social justice. So while social democracy supports a free market economy, it believes that in certain aspects, particularly those related to achieving social justice, the market should not be 100% free to act on its own. The logic behind this belief is to try to avoid the unjust consequences of neoliberalism, where often, the ideology has resulted in rich people becoming richer, while the poor become poorer.

For example, in Nordic countries which are social democracies, free healthcare is guaranteed to all citizens, alongside free education.

At first glance it may seem obvious that social democracy is the much better choice, but many argue that unless certain conditions exist, it may not be applicable. Many economists believe that unless a country is already wealthy enough and has enough money, social democracy will not be a realistic goal. Therefore, it can only be implemented later on, as a shift from a successful neoliberal system, and developing countries according to that argument, should focus on achieving high growth levels through capitalist neoliberal systems first as their main priority.

Egypt straddles the line between the two systems when it comes to labor. The economic system in Egypt has handpicked things from both systems, and has yet to settle on one to implement in this crucial period.
For example, public and private hospitals are almost free, yet the quality is extremely substandard, so while a worker might think he does not need to be covered through his job, it is not true, because otherwise he will receive extremely bad service. In terms of rights, Egyptian labor suffers a lack of proper securities, starting from not having formal contracts allowing many to be fired at any time, in addition to discrimination in the workplace and illegal employment. Egyptian labor lacks proper representation as well, as many movements and unions were fought during Mubarak’s era in fear of them turning into political movements, and as a result that made it harder for labor in Egypt to mobilize as a force.

Recently, there has been a shift toward a more neoliberal approach, with subsidies already being lifted, and plans to lift the rest in the future have been announced.

Egypt’s case is proof of the inefficiency of neoliberal systems when it comes to labor. During the last few years of Mubarak’s era, and as a result to the neoliberal economic policies implemented, Egypt’s growth rate levels were tremendous, reaching more than 6 and 7% each year. This, however, did not trickle down to the people. Unemployment and poverty levels kept getting higher, while the rich kept getting richer. This was at the end, among the main reasons why the 25th of January revolution happened.

It can be argued that Egypt is actually very capable of implementing a proper social democracy, and that the country does not lack any resources, but only suffers from corruption and lack of proper vision. Considering the fact that Egypt has some of the world’s most beautiful and ancient touristic spots, the Suez Canal, and a population of 100 million, creating a great marker of opportunities for any investor, the claim that Egypt can be a social democracy may not be far from the truth.

“The argument dominating the world right now is the neoliberal one, which believes that economies should not have fixed regulations when it comes to labor, since they work as a disincentive to working harder, and hinder creativity. Also, they make employers fear working their labor probably which affects production. In reality though things don’t work like that,” says Professor of Economics at the American University in Cairo Ibrahim Awad.

The former director of the International Migration Programme at the International Labour Organization argues that in Egypt, for example, even though the labor market is not strictly speaking regulated, as there is a disparity of power between workers and employers, it did not result in better conditions for everyone.

“We know now that growth by itself is not sufficient. The whole idea that creating growth will as a result create employment is not true. In 2008-2009 we used to achieve very high growth rates, but poverty increased nonetheless and employment did not get any better,” he explains.

Awad believes that the key to achieving balance between growth and benefiting labor is having strong, clear policies, while guaranteeing proper working conditions for workers.

“There are certain conditions that should be respected, and it is not just a matter of human rights, but respecting these conditions will prove to be beneficial for everyone. These conditions will help workers improve their productivity, which will also help the employer,” Awad adds.

Having proper employment policies is also crucial in Awad’s opinion, as they will help create employment and protect workers’ rights. “Growth accompanied by employment policies is the best way to formulate the market. Employment policies should work as incentives that encourage people to work harder, while protecting their rights. Assuming that Egyptians are going to react by being lazy if guaranteed employment is racist, and this argument is actually used in many other places, and it’s a common approach when it comes to the relationship between workers and employers and labor relations, but it is not true.”

5/2/2017 8:57:49 AM
<![CDATA[What to Do around Cairo this Week]]>
The Mice Room -- courtesy Darb 1718
Film screening at Darb1718
Make your way to Coptic Cairo’s contemporary art space Darb 1718 for a screening of The Mice Room. The movie follows six different characters living in Alexandria, who all share the same feeling of being lost at various points in life. After the screening, the movie’s six directors will answer the audience’s questions in a Q&A session.
April 30 • 8pm • free entrance

Ahmed Shawki Museum wikipedia
The art of portraits
This week is dedicated to the art of portrait-making at the Ahmed Shawki Museum in Dokki. Different events will take place throughout the week, from portrait painting workshops to film screenings. The museum also hosts an exhibition featuring Egyptian artists showing off their incredible skills in making portraits.
April 30 to May 11 • all events start at 11:30am at Ahmed Shawki Museum

Ayloul_courtesy Ayloul
Ayloul courtesy Ayloul
Boogie to Jordanian beats
Jordanian band Ayloul is coming to Underground Cairo in Mohandessin on Friday. The band plays upbeat tunes, and the lyrics are often about social and political issues faced by the younger generation. Ayloul was formed in September 2013 after the band members met at Jordan’s University of Science and Technology. The six-man band hopes to be a platform for positive change.
May 5 • 10pm • for more information click here

Art Room_courtesy Room Art Space
Art Room courtesy Room Art Space
Karaoke night in Garden City
Practice your vocals and put on a show at Room Art Space & Cafe’s weekly karaoke night. The small and quaint space in Garden City has the perfect setting for an intimate night out, whether you’re there to hop on stage and give it all you have or simply sip a cup of coffee and play a game of Monopoly with your friends.
May 1 • 8pm • minimum charge is LE 50 • for more information click here

Sayed Rekabi_youtube
Sayed Rekabi youtube
Upper Egypt pays Cairo a visit
Head to Makan at the Egyptian Center for Culture and Arts this Tuesday for a concert with Sayed Rekabi, one of the few singers who still perform the original songs of the tribes of Upper Egypt. Born in the village of Jaafra in Aswan, Rekabi learned the traditional singing styles under the tutelage of the great masters of the Jaafra tradition. Rekabi will be joined by El Leithi and Abu El Amin, whose repertoire encompasses numerous examples of popular poetry.
May 2 • 7:30pm • tickets are LE 30 • for more information click here

4/30/2017 1:37:32 PM
<![CDATA[From Our Archives: The Path of Faith]]>
Tradition holds that the Holy Family went from Bethlehem to Rafah, El-Arish and Farma in North Sinai, where excavations yielded ruins of several ancient churches. From Farma the Holy Family continued to Bubastis, city of the Pharaonic lion goddess Bastet, just outside modern Zagazig. “When Jesus entered the temple, the idols crumbled before him," says Father Maqar in Zagazig. “The idol worshippers wanted to kill him and the city was cursed. The prophet Ezekiel (chapters 29 and 30) had prophesied the end of the Pharaonic Egypt, and that the mighty Bubastis would turn into a heap rubble.”

Photo by Norbert Schiller for Egypt Today 2
Photo by Norbert Schiller for Egypt Today

The Holy Family escaped to Mostorod, north of Cairo, where they were well received and stayed in a crypt which today is part of the church. Because the inhabitants of Mostorod were good to the Holy Family their village was blessed with a well. Today, Mostorod hosts throngs of pilgrims who come to touch the walls of the crypt and drink from the blessed water of the well.

Fearing Herod’s soldiers, the caravan fled north, stopping briefly in various spots including Sakha. In 1984, a team working on a sewage system just outside the church suddenly hit a stone. Recalling the Coptic Synaxar (book of saints), they exclaimed, “This is the footprint of Jesus!”

Since a man suffering from an eye disease washed in the water where the stone was found and was healed, it has been treated as an icon. It was sent to Pope Shenouda, at that time under house arrest in the Monastery of Bishoi, who confirmed its authenticity.

Today the stone is displayed in a glass box in the church, where people come from all over the world to pray.

“This discovery shows that the Holy Family is still living among us,” says Gawdat Gabra. “It is part of the people’s experiences.” Medieval manuscripts had mentioned such a stone, but also that it had disappeared.

Photo by Norbert Schiller for Egypt Today 5
Photo by Norbert Schiller for Egypt Today

In Deir El-Garnus and Ishneen El-Nasara, the tradition of the Holy Family is very much alive among the Chrisitian communities. Both villages have wells where the water rises at the beginning of June, when the family arrived in Egypt.

Farther south lies Gebel El-Teir (Mountain of the Birds). The cliff, boasting a marvelous view of the Nile, is also known as Gebel El-Kaff (Mountain of the Palm) because, according to a medieval manuscript describing the dream of Pope Theophilus who ruled the church from 384 to 412 AD, this is the place where Jesus left an imprint of his hand in the rocks. The imprint of the hand no longer exists and some say the Crusaders stole it, while others believe it as taken by the British and kept in storage at the British Museum. The church at Gebel El-Teir deserves a visit for its beautiful church door, a masterpiece hewn out of solid rock.

After Ashmonein, with its ruins of a huge fifth-century basilica sided by Pharaonic temples, the Holy Family crossed the Nile to the east. In the cemetery of the Muslim village of Sheikh Abada is Bir Sahaba, the well Jesus created.

Radi, a villager from nearby Deir Abu Hinnis, strongly believes in the miraculous capacity of the 23m deep well. “Pregnant women and the sick come here to drink from the water for Baraka [blessing]. We know of many miraculous healings of people who drank from the well and prayed.”

Photo by Norbert Schiller for Egypt Today 1
Photo by Norbert Schiller for Egypt Today

4/29/2017 5:33:08 PM
<![CDATA[Inside Deir al-Maymun, A Historic Egyptian Coptic Village]]>
Today, Deir al-Maymun is still quite isolated and boasts a predominantly Coptic population. Its approximately 500 families, almost all of whom are Christian, make it one of the few almost entirely Christian villages in the country.

Approximately 500 families, almost all of them Coptic, live in the isolated village of Deir al-Maymun

Most men in Deir Al-Maymun work in agriculture or the local quarry.

Wheat being prepared for baking bread in Deir Al-Maymun.

A mother with her baby in Deir Al-Maymun.
The Saint Antony church is at the center of the village, alongside the church of Saint Mercurius, which locals believe to be the oldest church structure in the world.

The Church of Saint Mercurius in the village of Deir al-Maymun served as the seat of the Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria from 1300 to 1500, and still has its original foundation intact.

The entrance to the Saint Antony church.

A nun in Deir Al-Maymun.
The village of Atfih lies approximately 80 km south of Cairo on the east bank of the Nile. There, the local historic church of Deir Al-Rasul (Monastery of the Apostle) can be found. The church is said to house the holy site where Saint Paul the Simple sheltered himself from the outside world in the late 3rd century.

4/28/2017 11:09:33 AM
<![CDATA[Shot on Location]]>El Naser Salah El-Din (1963)

The Crusades as told by iconic Egyptian director Youssef Chahine and great Egyptian writers Youssef Al-Sebai and Abd Al-Rahman Al-Sharkawy, Saladin the Victorious was also ranked among the top 100 films in the history of Egyptian cinema. When Muslim pilgrims are slaughtered by Christians in the holy lands, Saladin (Ahmed Mazhar) succeeds in taking back Jerusalem under the leadership of Richard the Lionheart of England. The film was shown at Moscow International Film Festival in 1963. The movie had one blunder: among its various battle scenes are the attack of Richard’s fleet and the Siege of Acre which Chahine shot near the Citadel of Qaitbay. However, history tells us that the Siege of Acre took place between 1189 and 1191 while the Citadel of Qaitbay was constructed in 1477.

El Naser Salah el Dine (1963)
El Naser Salah el Dine (1963)

008 Operation Exterminate (1965)

Many Italian films came to shoot in Egypt during the 1950s and 1960s. Some belonged to the “Sword and Sandals” genre like The Slave aka The Son of Spartacus (1962) starring muscleman of the era Steve Reeves and our very own Ahmed Ramzy in a supporting bit role. Others belonged to the spy genre like 008: Operation Exterminate where Ingrid Schoeller played the title character A008, a female-like James Bond searching for a stolen anti-radar device. Writer-director Umberto Lenzi created many action sequences at the Pyramids, Cairo streets and the Mosque of Muhammad Ali. The film featured cameo appearances by several Egyptian actors including Ahmed Luxor and Omar Al-Hariry, both playing their signature roles as an outlaw and a policeman.

008 Operation Exterminate (1965)
008 Operation Exterminate (1965)

Pharaoh (1966) / al-Mummia (1969)

This iconic three-hour Polish film was directed by Jerzy Kawalerowicz, who adapted the fiction novel of the same name by Boleslaw Prus. The Pharaoh of the title is Ramses XIII, played by Jerzy Zelnik, who must overcome the loss of his father and political intrigues to keep Egypt safe. Some scenes were filmed at authentic Egyptian locations like the Pyramids of Giza. One of the many consultants on the film was Shadi Abdel Salam, the legendary Egyptian film and art director who had worked on the 1963 Cleopatra. Three years later Abdel Salam, who was the costume designer for Pharaoh, directed his renowned The Night of Counting the Years aka al-Mummia in Arabic. Through Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation, the film was restored and presented at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009. Abdel Salam passed away in 1986 before realizing his ambitious project on Akhenaton, aka The Tragedy of the Great House.

Pharaoh 1966

4/27/2017 3:12:17 PM
<![CDATA[Azza Fahmy Goes to El Gouna Thursday]]>CAIRO - 26 April 2017: Premier luxury Egyptian jewelry house Azza Fahmy Jewelry is partnering with El-Gouna Beach Polo Silver Cup event, as a proud sponsor for the first polo event held in Egypt.

The championship is set take part in El-Gouna from April 27-30 and will crown a champion from one of six polo teams competing in front of hundreds of spectators.

The polo arena includes a VIP tent, bar and food stands, as well as pop-up shops.

Stop by Azza Fahmy's pop-up shop in Soul Galleria, Abu Tig Marina starting tomorrow till May 6.

Azza Fahmy
4/26/2017 3:04:57 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt on Celluloid ]]>

As a result, landmark places and destinations have inspired many to come and visit Egypt to experience the glory captured on the silver screen. We look at both international and local films shot on location across the country.

Jungle Girl and the Slaver (1957)_Creative_Commons_WIKIMEDIA
Jungle Girl and the Slaver (1957)_Creative_Commons_WIKIMEDIA

Jungle Girl and the Slaver (1957)
This sequel to Liane, Jungle Goddess (1956) featured for the second-time model and singer of the era Marion Michael as Liane, a Tarzan-like German girl who was born and raised with African tribes. The film takes place mostly in Egypt where Liane is captured by Arab slave traders. A scene near the end of the film with Liane taking a bus in Cairo streets features young pedestrians looking and laughing at the camera beside the Nordic blond.

The Spy who loved me_Creative_Commons_WIKIMEDIA
The Spy who loved me_Creative_Commons_WIKIMEDIA

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
A wonderful title track, Nobody Does It Better, by Carly Simon and a beautiful costar, Barbara Bach, mark this James Bond adventure that brought the British agent to Luxor Temple in search for stolen nuclear warheads. Roger Moore returned to Egypt some 22 years later as a goodwill ambassador for the UN in 1999 and posed in front of Cheops to promote the country’s tourist attractions.

Death on the Nile_Creative_Commons_WIKIMEDIA
Death on the Nile_Creative_Commons_WIKIMEDIA

Death on the Nile (1978)
Like all Agatha Christie’s mysteries, the plot revolves around a murder where everybody is a suspect. Starring the great Peter Ustinov for the first of his six appearances as the Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot, this British film was shot on location in Egypt, on the steamer Karnak and in Aswan, Abu Simbel, Luxor, and Cairo. Re-adapted for television in 2004 as part of the series Agatha Christie's Poirot, an episode was shot across Egypt in 2004 with another great performer, David Suchet. The photo shows Ustinov and David Niven between takes.

Cairo Time_Creative_Commons_WIKIMEDIA
Cairo Time_Creative_Commons_WIKIMEDIA

Cairo Time (2009)
Cairo Time (2009), an exotic, romantic drama by Canadian-born writer-director Ruba Nadda, features English-Sudanese actor Alexander Siddig as an Egyptian named Tareq who is asked to watch over Juliette (Patricia Clarkson) during her visit to Egypt. A love story evolves between Tareq and Juliette with Nile and Pyramids as a backdrop.

Wa Islamah_Creative_Commons_WIKIMEDIA
Wa Islamah_Creative_Commons_WIKIMEDIA

Wa Islamah (1961)
Directed by Enrico Bomba and Andrew Marton, Oh Islam aka Love and Faith was selected as the Egyptian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 34th Academy Awards (Oscars), but did not make it as a nominee. It was the first Egyptian film to be screened at the San Francisco International Film Festival. Through the story of Jihad (Lobna Abd Al-Aziz) who was separated during her childhood from her brother Mahmoud (Ahmed Mazhar), the film depicts the defense of Egypt against the Tatar invasion. Andrew Marton, who has among his credits as second-unit director the famous chariot race sequence in Ben-Hur (1959), directed the Arabic version with Egyptian actors. Bomba directed an Italian version with some alternative actors including Silvana Pampanini as Queen Shagaret El Dor, a role played by Taheya Cariocca in our more familiar version. The climax scene in the photo featuring the reunion of Jihad and Mahmoud after the defeat of the Tatar was shot near the Citadel.

4/25/2017 5:13:13 PM
<![CDATA[Visiting with Loula]]>Cairo - 24 April 2017: The closed shop would always catch my eye as I made my way home from college. “Loula for Manicure and Pedicure,” said the pink sign on the door, adorned with a branch of artificial flowers. The shop has been around for some 40 years and I would wonder what happened inside, who worked there and if it were ever open.

02 Loula -2
Drawing has always been a way of letting off steam for me and, having come home after a bad day at university, I decided to go on a walk to find something new to inspire me. I made my way to the district of Ibrahimiya in downtown Alexandria, following the tram tracks, and happened to pass by the shop. It was open!

Without hesitation I pushed the door open and walked in. For a minute time seemed to have stopped still and it was like I had stepped into a movie scene. Everything was so organized, neat and beautiful it almost seemed unreal. I found the color palette easy on the eye, exuding the feeling of being beautiful without trying too hard.

An old woman who appeared to be in her 70s looked up in surprise as I walked in. I blurted out the first words that came to my mind: “I want to do my

I took a seat as she finished a client’s manicure and pedicure then began preparing my nails, gently and professionally going about her work. Loula tells me she has been the owner of the nail spa for 40 years now, launching her business as an unwed woman at a time when girls depended on their fathers or husbands for everything.

03 Loula -3
“Some pieces of furniture were taken from my family home,” says Loula, adding that her father was her greatest supporter.

“He bought me the place which was previously a bar. There were tables built into the walls and there was a bar and shelves for drinks. I saw the place and asked my father how he would turn this mess into a manicure shop! He told me not to worry and asked me not to come back until it was finished. Later, he handed me the keys, and I entered the shop to see it fully finished and suitable for business.”

We shared personal stories, Loula talking about the past and especially about Christmas when her shop would be extremely crowded and she would open her doors 24 hours to customers.

She told me about the furnishings in the shop: the Italian tiles her father got her when he worked at the Customs Authority, the tables she designed after interning at a Batta shoe store and about the equipment that she uses—all gifted to her by her foreign customers who bring her nice things when they travel abroad because they love her, the genuine, hardworking and beautiful Loula tells me.

04 Loula -4
I tell Loula about how my own study of interior design has definitely influenced my perspectives, that I liked how genuine her furnishings are and that modern designs always, in a way or another, look back to the past for inspiration.

Loula was delighted that I showed interest in her unique shop and told me that though I’d walked in without an appointment, she took a liking to me and that’s why she agreed to do my nails.

“I live to love others and be loved back,” Loula explains, happy that I was planning to work on illustrations of her shop. I promised to bring her the original copies of the drawings.

“You don’t have to bring me anything, darling. What matters the most is that you benefit from it.”

My nail treatment over, I got up to leave. Loula didn’t want me to go before giving me her number and a hug.

At the door she took my hands in hers. “Oh just look at those lovely nails!”

You can find Loula’s nail spa just past Safwany restaurant and beside Abdel-Moneim Riyadh school. The shop is right in front of the tram station in Ibrahimiya, on the way to Sporting. Loula only works by appointment. Call (03)5925123 to book.]]>
4/24/2017 10:52:52 AM
<![CDATA[What to do around Cairo In April ]]>
Portraits meet architecture
Egyptian painter Karim Abd Elmalak mixes portraits of beautiful women with interesting architecture in his oil paintings. His art is concentrated around the themes of female empowerment and identity, and the paintings portray a woman’s many roles in society. Elmalak’s art can be seen at the Safar Khan Art Gallery until May 19.
Safar Khan Art Gallery is open Monday to Saturday 10am-9pm


Leila: A Broadway worthy musical in Cairo
Watch as the love story between Leila and Karim unfolds on stage as the first modern Egyptian musical premiers in Cairo. Set in a little town near the sea, the butcher, the baker, the hairdresser and the two starcrossed lovers all live in peace, until the legend of the evil witch living in the lighthouse begins to come true. Leila: The Musical is an Arabic rock musical playing at The Marquee Theatre in Cairo Festival City.
On until May 22, showing every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 7pm. Click


for more information.


Indie band Shahira Kamal plays at Darb
On April 27 Shahira Kamal band will play their original music at contemporary art space Darb 1718 in Coptic Cairo. The band’s music is in Arabic, and mixes several music styles all falling under the Indie genre. Aside from Shahira Kamal, who is the band’s singer and songwriter, the group consists of four other musicians, and they have all played together since October 2016.
Concert starts at 7pm. Tickets are LE 50. For registration go to


or their

Facebook page

thumbnail_Shahira Kamel band

Jazzy night in Garden City
The seven-man jazz band The Gypsy Jazz Project is playing live at ROOM Art Space this Thursday. Gypsy Jazz was first created by guitarist Jean “Django” Reinhardt in Paris in the 1930s. The Gypsy Jazz Project is the first band to bring this genre of jazz to Cairo, and their music is an exciting mixture of upswinging and waltzy tunes.
Concert starts at 8pm. Tickets are LE 50. For more information see ROOM’s Facebook event


and listen to The Gypsy Jazz Project



The clash of man and nature
The modern human and nature’s beasts clash in Adel El Siwi’s art exhibition In the Presence of the Animal. Featuring 280 artworks created by El Siwi over the course of the last six years, the exhibition is an intense reflection on the animal’s instincts and its complicated relationship with man. Siwi was born in 1952 in Beheira, Egypt and studied both medicine and art at Cairo University.
Exhibition opens April 27 at Mashrabia Gallery and runs until May 11. Open every day between 11 and 8pm. For more information click


Adel Siwi
4/23/2017 1:21:35 PM
<![CDATA[Palace Intrigue]]>CAIRO - 22 April 2017: One of the most iconic hotels in Cairo is the Marriott hotel in Zamalek, a palatial building that stands on the grounds of the original sixteenth-century structure. Wael Abed, author of Zamalek—My Home Island, tells the story of how the Gezira Palace was built by Ismail Pasha, who ruled Egypt from 1863-79.

A passionate builder, Ismail improved the city of Alexandria and greatly expanded Cairo, building a whole new quarter modelled after France’s capital, Paris, on the city’s western edge. Ismail began building the Gezira Palace, which is located just south of today’s 26th July Street, in 1863.

The project’s architect Julius Franz promised that the palace would be “the most beautiful building of modern Arabic style,” according to Abed. Six years later the palace and its interior were finished and ready to host Eugenie of France, wife to Emperor Napoleon III, who would travel to Egypt in November of 1869 to attend the opening of the newly built Suez Canal.

After Ismail used the palace as a summer retreat, he gifted the building and its gardens to his son, Prince Hassan. The prince lived there until it was sold in 1890, and turned into a hotel. The new owner was Paolino Draneht Pasha and his partner Oblieght, and the building was renamed Gezira Palace Hotel.

The relaunch of the hotel took place in the winter season of 1893-94, and Drahnet spoke of the hotel as the “world’s most comfortable and luxurious hotel,” writes Abed. The hotel was advertised all over the world and pictures of the garden featured on postcards.

But when World War I began, the luxury hotel was repurposed and used as a hospital. During this time the Australian General War Hospital tents were erected in the garden to house more patients, while the nurses lived in nearby apartments. Years later, when the world was at war once again, the Allies also turned the hotel and its grounds into a hospital.

In 1961 the property was nationalized, and the building was turned into a public-sector-run hotel and named the Omar El Khayam Hotel. It wasn’t until the late 1970s that the lease of the hotel went to the Marriott International, which turned the buildings into the splendid palace hotel it is today. ]]>4/22/2017 1:36:22 PM<![CDATA[Flavors of the World]]>CAIRO - 21 April 2017:
Egypt Today takes you on culinary journey through the world—right here in the capital, as we ask three five-star chefs to share their favorite international dishes.

“Fajitas simply always let my appetite run wild, there is something about the mixture of flavors that get my taste buds going as they remind me of the warmth and authenticity back home,”
Mexican chef Diego Casillas, Maria’s, Fairmont Heliopolis & Towers

“My favorite dish to make has to be the Beijing Duck. For China Red, I have carefully seasoned it in our traditional Chinese marinade then added a modern range of ingredients to fit Le Méridien’s philosophy on cuisine. The presentation also is very important to me. I cut the crispy duck into perfectly sliced thickness, and make the sauces and sides so that you taste the Beijing Duck dish as a whole. All of our products are being carefully selected based on their quality. The pancake bread is homemade daily in order to keep its freshness and traditional flavor."
Chef Jiayin Zhu, China Red, Le Méridien Cairo Airport

“One of my favorite dishes is definitely the mushroom risotto, and it’s also the guests’ favorite! It can be modified according to dietary habits, is gluten free and is loved by everyone.”
Italian Chef Giovanni Romagnoli, Pane Vino Restaurant & Terrace, Semiramis InterContinental Cairo

]]>4/21/2017 7:33:53 PM<![CDATA[Norwegian artist Britt Boutros-Gahli exhibits at Arts-Mart Gallery]]>
Boutros-Ghali has been awarded the St. Olav Order by King Haakon of Norway, the highest order given to artists in Norway, and her works have been displayed internationally throughout her career.

The exhibition will run until April 22

Arts-Mart Gallery • Km 28, Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road, before Dandy Mall and behind Total petrol station • Tel: 01000773860 • arts-mart.com
4/21/2017 11:53:47 AM
<![CDATA[Nanoelectronic Superhero]]>
When Dr. Yehea Ismail was a child, he dreamed of studying the stars and the planets. He always “did horrible in humanities” so science was the way to go. But when the time came to choose a college major, Ismail’s parents advised him not to study astronomy. “Choose something that gets you paid at the end of the month,” his parents said. So Ismail ended up majoring in engineering at Cairo University.

“I’m still interested in astronomy, but on a hobby level. I like to study the planets, the certain things, not quantum gravity. I think there is a relation between the cosmos and the smallest objects,” Ismail says.

Today, he works with just that: the world on a cellular level. For the past six years Ismail has been developing a biochip that will be able to distinguish between sick and healthy cells in the human body. Eventually, the mass-produced biochips will quickly and cheaply be able to diagnose an array of illnesses, like cancer, for example. When we met with Ismail, who serves as Director of the Center for Nanoelectronics and Devices at the American University in Cairo and Zewail City of Science and Technology, he had just delivered a presentation on his biochips for students, colleagues and several media outlets. To explain the biochips for someone not sufficiently versed in the world of nanotechnology, Ismail compares his biochips to dogs.

“It’s like teaching a dog a new trick. If we can teach the standard electronics to do medical functions, without adding any other technology to the chip, then we can benefit from the mass production capabilities of established electronics foundries. That’s our objective,” Ismail says.

For a person on the brink of revolutionizing the way illnesses are diagnosed, Ismail is very calm and collected. And in his soft tone and the way he casually speaks of his path to become one of the leading Egyptian scientists, we get the impression that he has always been this serene.

After obtaining a master’s degree from Cairo University, Ismail moved to New York where, sponsored by IBM, he began specializing in biochips at the University of Rochester.

“I later joined IBM during my Ph.D. studies. I worked there as an intern, but during the first year I saw some serious problems with a product, which they didn’t expect to be pointed out to them by an intern. So IBM ended up funding my research, and when they later offered me a job I received the highest salary ever for someone who had just gotten his Ph.D.,” Ismail says.

Even though the money was good, Ismail left to Chicago to work at Northwestern University. Between 2008 and 2011, Ismail travelled regularly back to Cairo to help with Nile University. “Zewail asked me come and help here in Egypt so I travelled between Northwestern and Cairo. I helped some 40 students go to America and Europe to study at some of the best universities,” Ismail says about his time spent at the Zewail City of Science and Technology, a nonprofit, independent learning institution founded by the acclaimed Egyptian scientist Ahmed Zewail in 2000.

“Before 2011, Northwestern let me come to the Middle East frequently, but then the revolution came, and they told me to come back to Northwestern for good. They pressured me to come back, so I had to make a choice.” Ismail decided to live permanently in the US, but as he began settling down, he realized that he had made a mistake.

“No one was happy, because it wasn’t a well-thought-out decision. I was put on the spot to make a decision, so out of pressure I made one. But I never look back. Only forward,” Ismail says. And so after moving back to Egypt for good, Ismail began looking toward a future where people all over the world can be correctly diagnosed by placing a drop of blood on a biochip.

“We’re pretty far along with our research, but there is still work to do. If we’re lucky, we’ll be able to produce the chips in a couple of years. But we have to have the proper approvals and so on, and with products related to medicine, it always takes some time,” Ismail says.

The chips, Ismail hopes, will be used everywhere: hospitals, diagnostic labs and even the local pharmacy. “We hope that people will be able to go to a pharmacy, buy a chip, put a blood sample on it, and then it will give you a full picture,” Ismail says. “A lot of people are working on this, so even if we fail, the biochips will still be a part of the future.”

4/20/2017 12:31:03 PM
<![CDATA[What to do around Cairo this week]]>(April 16-22)

Pink babies and giant flies

Experience Hany Rashed’s contemporary paintings as Mashrabia Art Gallery displays his works in the exhibition The Last Farewell. Rashed’s art is colorful and somewhat surreal, with previous exhibitions showing portraits of blue and green people with their heads sliced in half. Rashed is considered one of the most important contemporary artists in Egypt, and he has previously exhibited in London, Vienna and Paris.
Runs until April 20, open daily (except Friday) between 11am and 8pm at Mashrabia Art Gallery.

Last Farewell_courtesy Mashrabia Gallery
Last Farewell_courtesy Mashrabia Gallery

Music Collage festival in Zamalek

Head to the green area near the Opera House in Zamalek for the one-day festival Music Collage. The lineup includes Wust el balad, Sharmoofers, Islam Chipsy, Disco Masr and DJ fabric—a mix between underground music, Arabian shaabi beats and heavy house. You don’t have to worry about going hungry as several food and beverage stands will be present, along with mobile phone charging booths.
April 21, 1-11pm at El Horreya Park in Zamalek • Ticket price is LE 250 at the door

Music Collage_courtesy e7gezly
Music Collage_courtesy e7gezly

Sakia film festival

In its 14th edition, the El Sakia festival for short featured films will be held on April 19-20. The open call for contributors began in the middle of February, will films submitted no longer than 45 minutes. The winners will take home a prize of LE 3,000, while the judging committee will also give out awards, including best actress and actor.
April 19-20, 6-9pm at the Sawy Culture Wheel, Zamalek • Ticket price is LE 25

sakia film fest_courtesy Sakia Culture Wheel
sakia film fest_courtesy Sakia Culture Wheel

Swedish tunes in Cairo
The Swedish trio Bazar Blå have played together for the past 20 years, offering instrumental music that mixes the traditional Swedish instrument nyckelharpa with percussions and bass-guitar, making their music appealing to an international audience.
April 22, 8pm at El Genaina Theater • Ticket price is LE 30

Bazar Bla-courtsey Swedish band
Bazar Bla-courtsey Swedish band

Endless sushi night
Every Sunday and Wednesday Sushi Bar at the JW Marriott hotel in New Cairo throws an all-you-can-eat sushi night. For LE 250 guests can savor delicious maki rolls and tasty nigiri, while sipping refreshing green tea.
Every Sunday and Wednesday, 6-10pm at JW Marriott Hotel Cairo

Sushi Bar_courtesy JW Marriott Hotel
Sushi Bar_courtesy JW Marriott Hotel

4/17/2017 11:39:18 AM
<![CDATA[Let the Feast Begin]]> As the Coptic community celebrates Easter today, we look back at one of the oldest traditions in Egypt’s Coptic history: Great Friday

By: Georgette Rizk

Standing in the middle of the ancient Saint Shenouda church in Old Cairo, I can easily imagine myself among the congregation of Roman-occupied Egypt. The church of dates back to the fourth century AD and is a living manifestation of Coptic history. The wall surrounding the building was raised to the level of Amr Ibn El-A’as Street since the church itself is now below street level. To actually enter it I have to go through the wall via an iron gate and descend two flights of stairs, until I’m at the church’s level: the street level of ancient Egypt.

The church is a large, rough square stone building and is a wonderful example of cultural appropriation, displaying a unique mixture of Roman, Coptic, and Islamic influences. Its high ceiling is supported on gray and white marble columns, and pointed arches rest on top of the Roman columns, leading the eye to the ancient Coptic icons in glass cabinets hanging on the adjacent wall.

The ceiling, perhaps 10 meters at the highest point, is elevated in the middle, rising to form a triangle above the aisle leading to the central altar. Three stunning, intricately decorated meshkawat (lanterns) of different sizes dangle from the peculiar triangular ceiling.

ceiling resized
Saint Shenouda church in Old Cairo - Photo by Mohsen Allam

Today, Egypt’s Coptic community celebrates Easter and the tradition of Great Friday is one of the oldest in Coptic history. In Orthodox churches, it’s a nine-hour ceremony that commemorates the last day of Christ’s life—his trial, crucifixion, death, and burial. Some of the Coptic hymns sung on that day, such as “Pekthronoc” and “Golgotha,” can be traced back to ancient Egyptian hymns sung as part of the funerary rites to send off the deceased’s soul to the next world. When the Egyptians converted to Christianity, they changed the lyrics of these hymns to accommodate their new faith but maintained the music and started singing them to Christ on the day of his death.

The experience of Coptic music is radically different from one church to the next. I find that the ancient churches adhere more to the original conduction method of Great Friday as passed down through church traditions. This means that prayers and hymns aren’t abbreviated and are—to a larger degree than in more modernly constructed churches—recited in Coptic. One ancient church that holds fast to the old traditions is that of Saint Shenouda where the ceremony of Great Friday takes the listener straight to Golgotha.

On our way to St. Shenouda’s, my mother and I pass by the florist and take a bouquet of roses to be placed next to Deket El-Salaboot (a wooden table, outlined with roses, designed to support an icon of the crucifixion). As we enter church through the high wooden door on the right, we’re greeted with the spicy, warm scent of incense. The deacons and priests are dressed in mourning attire: the priests are in black and the deacons—still in their usual white Tunias—have their red sashes on backwards to reveal blue crosses.

The church itself is dressed for mourning. The altar’s red shroud has been replaced with a black one bearing no sign but that of a Coptic cross. Black flags carrying the image of a thorn-crowned Christ are attached to the church’s columns. Even the lights illuminating the meshkawat are off to represent the darkness that fell over earth when Christ surrendered his soul to the Father, and no light can be seen in church except that of the faint sun’s rays coming in through the clerestory.

Saint Shenouda church in Old Cairo - Photo by Mohsen Allam

Deket El-Salaboot is placed in the center, between the altar and the congregations’ pews, housing an icon of the crucifixion, and adorned with red roses. My mother’s bouquet as well as those brought by others are taken by a deacon to be placed before the slab. Three shorias (silver and gold-plated incense pots) hang before Christ’s image. The priests burn incense before Christ on the cross as the prayers and hymns start, and they continue to add incense to the shorias throughout the ceremony so that the air, my clothes, headscarf, and even my hair beneath are never without that sweet scent.

Numbers quickly increase around me until I’m breathing other people’s breaths and I can only get some refreshing coolness in this stifling heat by touching the marble column to my right. All seven of the daily prayers are recited and soon I find myself swimming in a sea of Coptic with only limited knowledge to help me navigate my way through my own mother tongue. The Bible chapters as well as the psalms sung before these are all read in Coptic at a slow, serene pace, and then repeated in Arabic at a quicker one. But what distinguishes that day from any other in the week of Christ’s passion is the famous, most-beloved, and rather long hymn: “Amanet El-Les El-Yameen” (The Right-hand Thief’s Honesty).

Though people may lose their energy somewhere in the middle of the ceremony, the moment the prayer of the sixth hour starts (the hour of Christ’s death) everyone is on their feet and when it concludes with that hymn, hundreds of voices chant in unison with the thief crucified on Christ’s right “remember me Lord when you come into your
Kingdom” in a sound so loud, so heartfelt, so truly honest that the foundations of the church shake beneath my feet. No music accompanies that hymn, and none is needed to help us hit every note. At that moment nothing matters, not the stifling heat, not the college assignments waiting for me at home, and not even the “real” world outside.

Nothing is as real, as profound, as this moment when my hands are digging into the pew before me, burning an invisible print into the wood. I am one with every soul in church, one of a people, and God is listening. I look at the people around me, some are silently weeping, some have their eyes closed, my mother among them, and some their hands held up in supplication. At that moment, I can’t help but recall my ancestors, the Egyptians who stood in my place centuries ago and sang this hymn to God on this very day. What did they sacrifice to stand here? Did they have to hide from Roman soldiers? Did they risk their lives to sing this hymn I’m singing now? I think of where they are, if their hearts are with us at their old church, as their souls stand before God’s throne still singing, commemorating Christ’s sacrifice that has granted them their eternal life.

Great Friday ends with Christ’s burial. The church sets up a projector screen to let us see what’s happening inside the altar. I watch as the image of Christ is taken off Deket El-Salaboot and into the altar, washed and covered in rose petals before beingwrapped in a white sheet and buried. After the ceremony ends at around 5pm, the priests return to the altar to recite all 150 psalms at Christ’s grave and my mother and ascend the stairs of St. Shenouda’s to reach the street and it feels like I’m stepping outside one era and into another. The first thing we do is cross the street and buy a bottle of vinegar from a nearby kiosk to break our fasting with vinegar in homage to Christ’s being given it on the cross. To me, this officially marks the end of Great Friday.

This article was originally submitted for AUC’s 2016 travel writing class, taught by Dr. Richard Hoath ]]>4/16/2017 2:47:14 PM<![CDATA[Spring Getaways ]]>CAIRO MARRIOTT
This Easter, surround yourself with family and friends in the sun. Cairo Marriott invites you to a fun and relaxing day on April 17. For the early risers breakfast will be served at Omar’s Café from 6 to 11am, where guests will have a choice of classic Easter favorites from the buffet. If you will not be waking up with the sun, both Omar’s Café and Promenade Café will serve a brunch buffet from 1 to 5pm, the latter featuring jazz band Our Waves. No Easter is complete without chocolate! The Bakery will have chocolate bunnies, cakes and many other Easter-inspired desserts at the ready.
For reservations call 227283000.

Take a break from the everyday with a stay at Conrad Cairo this Easter. Enjoy a luxurious room overlooking the Nile for LE 1,057 per person in a double room including breakfast buffet at Solana Restaurant. Or enjoy an extensive brunch buffet at Jayda Restaurant with friends and family on April 17. DJ Z.Shark will spin the records, Yana will belly dance while the kids are entertained. Brunch buffet costs LE 375; kids aged 6-12 are 50 percent off, while kids aged 5 and under eat for free.
Ask for the special weekend rate. For reservations call 225808000.

Spend this Easter with your kids at Fairmont Heliopolis & Towers.
Indulge the little ones in a special brunch buffet at Pizza Bar before heading to the pool, where special kids’ activities and live entertainment will take place. You also don’t want to miss the authentic cuisines at restaurant Aqua E Luce and Fairmont Heliopolis’ special room packages.
For reservations call 02 22677730

Relax, unwind and indulge in scrumptious food at the Nile Terrace and Pool Deck which will serve a delicious brunch starting at noon. Oriental music will be playing while the kids are entertained with a puppet show, magic tricks, egg coloring and much more. The hotel also offers a special Sham El Nessim package starting at LE 2,000.
For reservations call 02 27988000

This Easter JW Marriott is your home away from home. Begin your day with a refreshing 60-minute traditional Turkish bath followed by a relaxing hour-long Balinese massage at Mandala Spa. Soak up the sun at the outdoor swimming pool, go to “The Beach,” a water park with sandy shores and a wave pool, and watch your kids having a blast with fun activities at the Kids Club. Restaurant Plateau offers a taste of the world, with set menus for breakfast and lunch, while Mirage Café presents a unique and diverse taste of Sham El Nessim.
For reservations call 02 24115588

On April 17 enjoy a breakfast buffet from 6:30-10:30am for LE 150 at Latest Recipe restaurant. If you’re not an early bird, wait for the lunch buffet, which will be served between 1 and 5 pm for LE 250. Children aged 3-12 years get 50 percent off, while those under 3 eat for free. A DJ will play music throughout most of the day, while a kids’ show will be take place at 1pm.
For reservations call 02 33777070

Kempinski has the perfect mix of relaxation, live entertainment, good food and activities for the children. While the kids go on an egg hunt, attend the Soma Bay music festival or go snorkelling. Delicious breakfast and dinner buffets are on offer at the View restaurant, or try the selection of spiced charcoaled dishes at Beachcomber Bar’s BBQ. If you are more into fish, taste the fresh catch served in Almar restaurant. Easter package rates start at LE 8,850 per double room for three nights’ stay on a half-board basis from April 14-17, including tickets with access to all concerts.
For reservations e-mail reservation.somabay@kempinski.com

Choose from three different offers this Easter at the Palace Kempinski. Royal Maxim is offering silver, gold and platinum packages featuring a special Easter breakfast or brunch. The family’s youngest members will be happily entertained while the parents dine. All bookings made during Easter will receive a special offer for a 30-minute massage at Resense Spa.
For reservations call 223899000.

The Nile Ritz-Carlton has something for every taste. Culina restaurant will serve a specially enhanced brunch with a seafood station and extensive carvings. An Easter Kids Festival will take place at “The Garden City,” where children can join in on fun activities such as an egg hunt, arts and crafts and a visit from the Easter Bunny. Nox is the place to go for those who want to celebrate Easter in style, with an “Easter Oyster” dining and party experience.
Reservations 02 25778899

Celebrate Easter by the Nile at Ramses Hilton. Go for brunch by the pool at Breezes Lounge & Grill. With a view of the Nile, enjoy the delicious BBQ and Sham El Nessim specialties, while you are entertained by a DJ and a singer. Activities are planned for kids too. Brunch costs LE 299 per person. Ramses Hilton also offers a special Easter room package including breakfast and brunch for LE 828 per person.
For฀ table฀ reservations ฀call฀ 22659600฀ •฀ call 23947070 for room reservations

This Easter relax at Safir Hotel, which is offering an exquisite breakfast and brunch at Palm’s Coffee Shop, including a wide variety of international dishes and Easter specialties. Blue Pool Café serves up delicious cocktails and a tasty BBQ menu to the tunes of a live DJ and singer.
Children are welcome to join the fun activities including face painting and a magic show.
Reservations 02 37482424

Spend this Easter under Alexandria’s sun, where Sheraton Montazah invites you to celebrate this holiday. The first night of Easter, guests can enjoy lots of entertainment at Caesar Bar, Beach Café and Aquarius Discotheque, including belly dancing and DJs. Next day begins early with a breakfast buffet, where kids can join the fun activities and competitions. Up all night? Don’t worry, the open-air BBQ lunch buffet to the tunes of DJ-spun music is just for you. Finish off Easter with fine dining at La Mamma Restaurant for international and specialty cuisine.
For reservations call 03 5480550

Share your great moments with family and friends at the Sheraton in sunny Sharm El Sheikh. A buffet will be served at breakfast, lunch and dinner with an array of traditional dishes and Easter specialties. Enjoy a packed entertainment program, including folkloric show, belly dancing, karaoke and a kids’ club to keep the family’s youngest members occupied.
For reservations call 069 3602070

Celebrate Easter and welcome spring by inviting your loved ones on a stay-cation. SOL Pool Bar offers a BBQ lunch along with a live DJ and loads of entertainment for the children such as egg hunts, a bouncy castle, a magician and face painting. Afterwards, gather your family around the eclectic buffet at Citron or sample the special salt-crusted fish dish at Chinese restaurant Chinoix.
For reservations call 02 24063333

4/15/2017 1:21:04 PM
<![CDATA[Mountain View: The Happy Company]]>
We want peace and quiet, but also a vibrant community, we dream of a neighborhood where our kids can ride bikes in the streets but also refuse to walk for more than a minute or two and demand easy parking options. Our homebuying needs are complicated to say the least; and real estate developers Mountain View are offering the solutions we’re looking for.

Despite the current economic turbulence, Mountain View continues to grow, with an mpressive number of residential projects under construction in New Cairo, Sixth of October, Ain Sokhna and the North Coast. With two projects on the North Coast and two in Ain Sokhna, Mountain View has carved a name for itself in the coastal real estate development segment. Ras El Hikma, built on 121 acres, is designed to transport you to the island of Santorini; with typical whitewashed houses, blue shutters, cobblestoned streets and Greek-cuisine restaurants. Whilst their second project, Diplomats Ras El Hikma, emulates Tuscany, in all its classic elegance; set over 36 acres of land. True to their name, the Sukhna I project is nestled on top of the mountains with panoramic views of the Red Sea. The Sukhna I and Sukhna II projects, built on 50 acres and 23 acres respectively, are both designed to reflect a Hawaiian ambiance, with exotic flowers and tropical gardens.

And with post-flotation price drops and affordable living costs potentially attracting
international buyers, the real estate giant is looking to move into residential tourism for foreigners. We sit down with Chairman Amr Soliman to talk about why their ultimate goal is making us all happy, the complicated list of Egyptian clients’ needs and Mountain View’s pride and joy: the iCity in New Cairo.

What would you say are Mountain View’s pillars of success?
Mountain View if founded on several core principles; integrity, honesty and happiness; these in addition to our focus on healthy living have allowed us to create a trusted and credible brand, which has driven both client and employee trust and loyalty. Our vision is clear, to make our people happy and this is something that is reflected in everything we do.

We work on three axes: empathy, creativity and rationale. We achieve empathy through seeing, feeling and hearing our clients completely, not just through market research and focus groups, but by and with the help of psychologists, who help us gain a deeper understanding of our client's true needs. Then we employ creativity to achieve and exceed expectations, solve issues and create something truly unique. Finally, we employ rationale to see how all of this is logically achievable.

We have learned to ask the right questions; the developments we create are more than just residential units, they are fully integrated communities that account for every aspect of life. We carefully, study the points that ensure happiness is created through everything from our master plans, to landscaping to communal areas and more, with Mountain View committing to their promise; the dream we sell, is the dream we provide.
Yet our concept of creating happiness doesn't stop at our clients. We understand that happy employees will be able to provide better outcomes for both the company and our clients. In fact, we believe in this so deeply, that we partnered with world happiness experts Zappos, to create a scientific process for this!

Can you give me an example of some of those needs you are addressing to ensure your clients’happiness?

We have 500 feddans in New Cairo and another 500 in Sixth of October; this is the
size of the city of Monaco. So while we were planning it, we spent a year and a half thinking about what really mattered to people. We found that people faced a huge and complex paradox; they wanted to be able to easily access everything by car but didn’t want to see rows of cars in the streets where they live in. Different clients had different needs, depending on their age, gender, and even at different points throughout the day, depending on their priorities and the stresses of everyday life. Any compound has a very diverse set of residents and to truly be successful you need to understand how to balance and fairly cater to the needs of all. So we sat down, and identified key concepts we wanted to move towards and those we wanted to move away from.

Cars were the biggest issue: There isn't really etiquette to driving in Egypt, people don't follow the rules and as frustrating as it is, it's something we have come to accept. But how can we guarantee safety for kids, for instance? These are real concerns and a source of daily stress for almost every Egyptian out there, regardless of age or gender. To solve this problem, we created two levels in our Hyde Park project to separate cars from people, but we wanted to do more, in our iCity project. Normally, in residential projects about 35 percent of the land is dedicated to streets for driving. In iCity, we brought this percentage down to 10 percent. We have no intersections and no roundabouts and use circular roads with cars and houses and facilities on separate levels. Houses are also built on separate islands, so the whole compound is made up of small, individual compounds, ensuring greater safety and offering piece of mind for residents who want to live somewhere away from the traffic and overcrowding that causes their daily frustration.

What else are buyers looking for and how are you meeting their needs?
Buyers put a number of things into consideration, when choosing their home, security, safety and practical home solutions are all things they think about. Storage for example, is a big issue. Egyptians like to keep things, so it was important for us to create an alternative other than keeping their belongings in the balconies and ruining the view for everyone, this is why we integrated storage spaces in basements.

There was also the question of security; normally if you know someone’s name in a
compound you can use it to get into this gated community, which is a cause of concern for many. Delivery guys can also access facilities once they are let into the compound. But by separating the streets from the houses and connecting the individual islands with bridges hard to navigate and access by strangers, we were able to achieve greater security for the residents. We also included state of the art digital cameras throughout our developments to monitor the movements and actions of security guards.
We basically provide our clients an environment which takes away the stresses of daily life and helps to facilitate happiness. It's like living on an island, with a car-free compound and three parks the size of Azhar Park; and each with its own theme to ensure the wants and needs of our diverse residents are met.

There’s a growing interest in sustainable development and environmentally-friendly projects; how do you implement that in your projects?
I think one of the major issues in sustainable development is to get the revenue needed to maintain it. The financial dimension is essential to maintain these types of projects.
So yes, solar energy is important, but you need financial resources to maintain it.

It’s also important to make use of and adapt your solutions to nature and the surrounding climate. In one of our projects, for instance, we found marble and other materials in our land and so, we started incorporating this in our designs. We also make use of the natural design of the area; so if it’s a mountain area, we don’t try to make it flat, we work with the nature of the areas to create something integrated that respects that natural environment.

Building on this point, in iCity, we found a source of salty water, rather than perceiving this a challenge; we utilized it to create an opportunity. We used this water for the lagoon and then treated it and sold it to the municipality.

In terms of creating concepts that support the environment, we decreased the percentage of streets in iCity from 35 to 10%, decreasing the CO2 emissions. We also plant fruit trees in our parks that are relevant to the natural climate and that our farmers know how to handle and maintain. We then sell this fruit in the farmers’ markets we hold.
Once water supply decreases, we will have to prioritize what plants we irrigate; so fruits will definitely continue to be a priority, as it serves as more than just visual landscaping, but also a source for organic produce.

We have seen a boom in real estate development in the past few years, especially in projects targeting upper economic classes. Are you worried about market saturation?
There is very strong competition in today’s market and there are a number of good and strong developers, which is great, because this creates healthy competition, which drives developers to work harder to meet and exceed their client's expectations and
needs, whilst providing a more diverse range of options and services, for buyers to choose from. Greater competition has actually made the market smarter and more sophisticated. People are more aware of what they are looking for, so, for me, we have not reached saturation, but rather are moving towards a more mature market.

With maturity, we also need to look for new opportunities, which is why we are starting to look at residential tourism for foreigners. Egypt has the opportunity to be a leader in residential tourism; we are cheaper than other countries, the cost of living is becoming even more affordable to foreigners after flotation and we are just four hours away from Europe. Once tourism is back, we have solid opportunities in the field of residential
tourism, which is ultimately very beneficial for the economy. We are already prepared to compete in that segment, in terms of the quality and the level of services in our projects, but ultimately it will take time, until tourism returns, in full.

What about market saturation in second homes?
Second homes are more difficult because you’re competing with second as well as first home providers, so it’s more competitive. But there is still a state of maturity in the market. In the A and A+ segments, I would say there is a high level of maturity that may eventually result in market saturation, yet as you move toward the B and C classes, the gap grows; there’s far less maturity in that segment. On the other hand though, the population is constantly expanding; so this is constantly creating new demand.

With the flotation of the pound, some believe the real estate market will weather through while others believe it will take a hit, much like many other industries; how well would you say the industry is coping?
Both views are actually true and logical; with the flotation of the pound, everyone’s
incomes took a hit. The real estate market in 2016 and 2017 was good, but the hit to personal incomes meant people were able to spend less. Clients, however, also tend to want to buy now because they want to guarantee today’s price and pay in installments as they don’t know what the prices are going to be like in a few years, given the state of the economy. At the end of the day, the real estate market’s cost hasn't increased 10-fold like that of other industries; the materials used in construction, the labor and the land itself are all Egyptian, so expenses haven’t gone up as much as other industries.]]>
4/14/2017 6:08:43 PM
<![CDATA[Your Brush, Your Story]]>
“Moses,” the first large painting from my 1971 exhibition, gouache on cardboard.
“Moses,” the first large painting from my 1971 exhibition, gouache on cardboard.

Now 46 years later, I still own the painting and have decided to show it in my first retrospective exhibition! I often think how lovingly strategic my mother had been and now my dear wife Mona continues to carry the torch. Since we married in 1988 she has been advising me to keep at least one painting from every exhibition as a memorable milestone of my artistic journey. “I don’t want you to beg collectors for your artwork once you decide to hold a retrospective show,” she said as she remembered how she had to do that for a Sabry Ragheb retrospective exhibition at AUC.

“Let the children live their childhood,” 2017

Though realism oozes out of most of my paintings, there is always a hidden message inside. A common one for all though is the essential role of beauty, harmony and balance. A quiet, warm sunset painting, inspired by a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, in Ain Sokhna depicts this theme quite clearly. I painted it. A second message, “Let the children live their childhood,” is another one featured in this collection and shows three girls happily swinging on primitive road swing. They are having a lot of fun with no need for modern gadgets and the like. I think they look much happier than many children today who cannot tear their eyes away from video games and mobile screens.

I take my hat off to working women in rural Egypt. They work all day long carrying heavy loads, raising children, preparing meals, baking bread, farming, selling at the local market and caring for livestock—and they often don’t hear a word of appreciation. I pay tribute to the heroic Egyptian woman in two paintings. A smiling woman is depicted in one painting shucking corncobs while in another we see a lady in red and yellow carrying freshly ground wheat, a vast green landscape in the background.

My story goes back to my early childhood. I started drawing in college at the tender age of three. It was more a need than a hobby, visual expression and communication became a real part of who I was. I drew everything that interested me, mostly from memory. When I was nine, my mother opened a new world for me as we went through her textbook The Story of Art by E. Gombrisch. I particularly loved the Renaissance period and at once started my first drawing of the Mona Lisa. A period of watercolors followed where I did my unfinished annunciation and several portraits and landscapes including a screaming self-portrait. My first two exhibitions in 1971 and 1972 were a true display of all my interests as an early teen. Many paintings were done using finger gel paint in an expressionistic free style. Upon the opening of my fifth exhibition in 1975, the head of the Egyptian Parliament recognized my talent and I was awarded a trip to Italy to experience Western art first hand. I stayed with a fellow artist at the Egyptian Academy in Rome and our neighbor downstairs was the famous painter Seif Wanly. We quickly developed a good friendship and exchanged our view on art as we made the museum rounds at Villa Borghese.

“The Unfinished Annunciation,” watercolor painted in 1970 (aged 8)

“Blessed are those who believe without seeing,” a message for Easter week 2017

Time constraints during my medical studies did not stop my artistic output—on the contrary, some of my medical student friends joined me in several art shows that we gave at Kasr al Aini’s faculty of medicine. During the 1980s I became more interested in portraiture, landscapes and still-life subjects. When I married, my wife became my muse, as did our two daughters Dalia and Lily.

The early 1990s saw the illustrations of New Testament stories; a five-year commitment with no exhibitions, but as my dear wife says, “a Bible is forever.” Now I have to bare my soul and share my vision. I believe beauty is an integral component of any creative expression. Some artists merely reflect the society in their works with its good and bad, but often it becomes pessimistic, horrible and ugly. Literary and performing arts may tackle a variety of controversial subjects, but then they are not with us 24/7. Plastic arts, however, have the privilege of a continuous presence therefore they carry a certain social responsibility coupled with aesthetic balance. In this way we can build a personal relationship with a painting or a piece of sculpture as it becomes a part of our environment, our home, our life.

In 1997 I distilled my thoughts in a short manifesto of what I called Aesthetic Integrated Naturalism (AIN). At a lecture at the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio I argued that naturalism has always existed as an artistic undercurrent throughout human history. If art is not always synonymous with beauty, it is at least the legitimate channel to satisfy the aesthetic needs of humans. Yes, we are born with a need to look at and enjoy something beautiful. It is perhaps befitting that this retrospective collection of paintings should include a dozen paintings all done in 2017, each with a social/moral message.

One in particular took a lot of thought in its making. It depicts the exterior and the interior of a colorful Nubian House, separated by a crystal palm tree: “Let your inside be as good as your outside” is the message. The crystal palm tree symbolizes transparency which is essential to moral integrity. In the same way, my advice to my art students is: “Be yourself, don’t worry about finding a style, just be free, look inside, look outside, paint a lot and one day it will all come together, and your brush will be able to tell your story.”

Messages by Farid Fadel is now showing at the Salah Taher Gallery, Cairo Opera House, Zamalek • The exhibition will run through Thursday, April 20 • open daily from 10am to 2:30pm and from 4:30 to 8:30 pm except Fridays

4/13/2017 6:44:43 PM
<![CDATA[Fairmont Nile City is your home away from home in the bustling capital]]>
Leaving behind the constant honking, uneven sidewalks and dust of the busy Corniche I enter the Fairmont Nile City to the subtle sound of water trickling from the indoor fountain and spotless marble floors. I walk across the lobby to the reception, looking up and around and take in the classic combination of black and cream complimented by wooden panels and elegant furniture. At reception I am given a warm greeting and the option to choose between a kingsize or twin beds — naturally I go for the kingsize. I pop in to the lobby café, Onyx Lounge, for a quick cappuccino and see a mix of families with little children and businessmen in suits enjoying a little downtime.

The spacious hotel employs about 1,000 people, and with 540 rooms, five restaurants and bars, a casino, a sky pool, and a spa complete with fitness center and personal trainers, it makes perfect sense why it takes that many people to keep the hotel running. My room was waiting for me and as I opened the door, all I had eyes for were the soft bed and view of the Nile straight ahead. I kicked took off my shoes and jumped on the comfortable, turning my head to look out the enormous window and take in the Nile’s blue water, the Zamalek skyline and the bank of Giza.

fairmount - 2
Fairmont Nile City - photo by Anna Bernsen

I could lie here forever, but feeling the stirrings of hunger I head to the hotel’s Middle Eastern themed restaurant Bab El Nil for lunch. Inside the brightly c