Archive for December, 2010

Surprise

Surprise surprise. Hosni Mubarak has been elected again as President of Egypt for 30 years in a row. It doesn’t take Einstein to work out that something smells fishy here. Again the long suffering people of Egypt are left with a dinosaur of a man. One who doesn’t like change (judging by the decaying buildings, offices where papers are processed by hand rather than computers etc) and a government which is stagnant and cares more about lining their pockets than caring for the people.

What I’ve noticed here in Cairo is that governmental or police buildings are looked after well. The buildings are managed effectively and the roads outside the buildings are newly laid with pavements. This is important as one thing you’ll notice in Cairo is that there are no usable pavements. Even touristy parts of Cairo are managed well with no rubbish dumped on the street corner.

Now if you were to visit a local part of Cairo you would find rubbish dumped on roads, railway lines, and street corners. Just about anywhere. It is then burned as the government doesn’t provide a good enough service to pick up the rubbish. Roads are dug up and then badly repaired causing people to serve wildly in order to avoid the craters left behind.

There’s no such thing as a good education here, with public schools crammed to breaking point. Even the ‘western’ schools charge ridiculous high prices for education that would otherwise be free in the UK.

Regardless of the way the country is treated by a decaying oldie, the people of this country make Egypt the amazing place it is. And for that part I’m glad to be here.

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Smile

You might read negative stories of Cairo and think that it’s all doom and gloom. But honestly Egypt is a country full of so much kind hearted and helpful people. I randomly find myself smiling when I see this kindness. Here are some examples:

The other day as I was hanging my washing out I saw the bawaab opposite checking his bike with his son besides him. The little boy was snuggly dressed in a woollen hat and clothes ready to take on the winter cold. His dad carefully picked the boy up and placed him into the basket at the front of the bicycle. He was joking and laughing with his son as he cycled off ready for a days hard graft.

The neighbours upstairs bringing us fish and Egyptian food thinking that I didn’t know how to cook!

The children playing in the streets and the sound of their laughter brightens my day.

How helpful and willing people are at giving directions when you find yourself lost.

How everyone says salam (peace) to each other when boarding n a microbus.

These moments make me glad to be in Egypt 🙂


He’s Mr lonely

In Egypt taking taxis is considered a luxury for the locals. But if you’re a westerner then it’s a necessity.  It’s far cheaper than a bus journey in London and so is the main form of getting around Cairo for expats. I loathe taxis and chose to use the local mini buses. As far as I know I’m the only one of my friends who does so, but more about that in a later post. In the meantime the form of topic is taxis.

If you speak to anyone who’s been to Cairo and lived here they’ll tell you strange and exciting stories. Ones of taxi journeys where they’ve been ripped off, the driver meddling with the meter and increasing the price, wailing Arabic pop music blasted to deafening levels and men flirting with female passengers looking for a second wife! But no story I’ve heard (or experiences I’ve encounted) lives up to one my friend told me the other day:

Her and her husband were in a taxi happily talking in English amongst themselves, as you do. Once they arrived at their destination they paid the driver but he wasn’t happy and wanted a word with them. He then started to chastise them in Arabic complaining, not about the money, but how rude it was of them to talk amongst themselves and not talk to him! Classic


Fish and thread

After my Arabic lesson, on the way home I nipped into the local fish restaurant. I carefully chose two fishes that were probably swimming in the sea a few hours earlier. In my broken Arabic I told the man to gut the fish, clean it and chop the head off. I couldn’t do with the sad eyes staring at me. I watched as he did all this and then washed the fish in the sink and bagged it. The fish here is very cheap and it all only cost me 12 LE which is roughly £1.40.

The reason I decided on buying fish was that although I would say I’m a healthy person e.g I eat lots of fruit and veg and never consume any fried foods, try to exercise etc, I felt that I needed to try harder.  And what better place to try and be healthy then in Egypt. The fruit and vegetables are very cheap so you end up buying bags full of the stuff and mass cooking it.

Having said that, judging by the copious amount of fast food places here you could easily become a junk food addict. It doesn’t help that most places are open 24 hours and have a free delivery service. Now you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your home to eat a big Mac.

I decided to walk the 30 minutes home to try and get some exercise and absorb my surroundings. But the walk wasn’t as enjoyable as I hoped. Smoke poured freely from ramshackle cars and rusty buses as i walked by. Sand blew wildly from the streets and rubbish dumped at the side was being burnt releasing the familiar smell that reminds me of Cairo.

I finally made it home and prepared the fish. I chopped up onions, garlic, tomatoes, corriander, yellow pepper, lemon juice and chili.  I seasoned with salt and black pepper and drizzled olive oil over the fish which I placed on a flat tray and put in the oven. Cook for about 20 minutes or till the fish is moist and cooked. Serve with steamed vegetables and boiled potatoes.

Repairing clothes

I bought my favourite jacket to Cairo in time for the winter, and boy am I glad I did. Whilst people are shivering with their acrylic lined jackets I’m toasty warm in mine made from 100% wool. I’ve had my trusty jacket for over two years and it’s still in good shape. But the other day I noticed that the small hole that materialised a while back has now developed into a huge gap right at the elbow.

I’ve been walking around with that hole trying to hide it by putting my hands to the side like a soldier, and at the same time looking completely stupid. So this morning I went to the local haberdashery and bought some thread. I will now attempt to stitch it up.


You know your Egyptian when…

You get excited about your new duvet

You see queue jumping as a human right

You buy your food, clothes and electronics all from Carrefour

Nothing fazes you


Weather

Thirty people have died in Egypt and twenty are missing after heavy rainstorms and freak winds. I’m okay though as this is all happening in the costal city of Alexandria. During the summer Alexandria is tranquil and pleasant. It seems though that in the winter the weather freaks out making it very dangerous indeed.


The Labour party

With recent developments in the increase of student fees in the UK it’s easy to blame the Conservatives.  Fine it was the policy of their party, backed by a Liberal Democrat majority to triple the tuition fees from £3,000 to £9,000. But think about this-Who was it that introduced tuition fees in the first place…

LABOUR