Monday, February 25, 2008

Pottery Classes

Very very excited! Just started on pottery classes today...a friend of mine conducts these classes in Maadi. Have been plaguing her to start so that I could join, and, finally I did!!

The class is fun cos she takes in only 4-5 students at a time, and, very reasonable.

The feeling of maleable clay in your hands is just awesome!!

It's so liberating to just be able to knead and shape it any which way that you want - no rules, no bounderies, no constraints, let your imagination run wild within the limitations of the piece of earth that you hold in your hands...

Giving shape to the clay is akin to making a baby.. its creation of sorts, albiet a lot less cumbersome and a lot, lot less painful!!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Cairo Cellar

Name: The Cairo Cellar
Address: Hotel President, 22, Dr. Taha Hussein St.,
Phone Number: 27350652/27350718
Opening Time: 12:00AM

Friends of ours suggested going out Wednesday night to a place called "The Cairo Cellar" in Hotel President in Zamalek. We'd never been there before so directions and getting there was a bit of a task.

Located on the island Zamalek, in between the 2 branches of the river crossing Cairo, Hotel President is within walking distance of the Gezira Sporting Club and other main areas of Zamalek. From the outside, I must admit, the hotel looked very modest.

We walked down the steps to a small cozy, warm, English style pub. At 8 o'clock, it was not very crowded (at that hour which place in Cairo is?), and, they were playing music that was from our generation.

The cafe / pub has a small menu with a range of mezze, foul and some western style starters. We ordered some sausages, cheese balls and oriental mezze which were nice. The lemon drink was delicious. I was surprised to know that you could get your own alcohol and pay the corkage which makes sense if you are planning on finishing a bottle. Wine, unfortunatey is not available by the glass, you've got to down the bottle..

The menu is small and concise. For vegetarians, the choice of food (as always) is limited but some mezze, salads and a pasta arabiatta are enough to see you through the evening. One of us ordered a grilled fish which she said was well done and not leathery for a change. Chicken panee and chicken liver were also good. The tabouleh was very good, as was the Greek salad with feta cheese. The pasta arabiatta was also nice, though we chose to spice it up with chilly sauce. At our request, they gave us some deadly chilly concoction which was really potent but added a zing to the food.

By 11 o'clock, the place had started to fill up, the music became more hip hop and rythmic and the place was buzzing! The atmosphere is really very English pub, and, very alive. The place is frequented by locals and foreigners alike. Definately worth a visit, preferably a little late at night, if you like all that action, but even earlier its worth a visit for the atmosphere, and, decent food.

In terms of damage to the pocket, the place is quite reasonable. For starters and the main meal, for the 6 of us, the bill came to around LE 600 which I thought was very reasonable.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


If you've had too much of the city and want to get away closer to nature where the kids would also have some fun, Mohamed Allam (an Egyptian artist) has created just the spot for you.

Fagnoon Art School, located on the road to Saqqarra, is an oasis in the city dessert offering creative activities and a physical outlet for a child's energy.

I have been told that the word “Fagnoon” itself is a combination of two interesting words Fonoon (art) and Gonoon (wild). In fact, the helpers / oweners at Fagnoon are called by whimsical names like Fagnoon, Tut, Yalla etc.. names which are inteded to add to the unstructured, free feel of the place...

It is a place for families to play, run, dance, paint, draw, as well as as well as try out a bouquet of crafts including pottery, word carpentry, agriculture, baking, jewelry making, iron smithy etc.. Plus there are goats to feed, bread to bake, rope ladders and graplers to climb!

The charge is reasonable with two activities costing LE 40 and another LE 15 for every additional activity that your child wants to do. There are tables and chairs laid out under thatched roofs where you can have your packed picnic lunch. The school just provides some tea and coffee.

The all time favourite with my kid awethe pottery and the painting. While painting, you can paint anything in sight including the table and chairs!. The pottery is the one that almost all kids enjoy. Who would not? Loads of mud, loads of water and permission to mess yourself up completely!! Even I love to sit at the pottery wheel (manual) with my son and get my hands all muddy!!

Its advisable to carry a change of clothes, a hand towel and some wet wipes for the children. They do end up getting very messy with the pottery and sometime you may need to change them if they got too much clay splattered on them.

I would recommend going with 3-4 families with kids and taking along a picnic basket. You can spend an idillyic morning chatting while the kids play around, and then enjoy a lazy picnic lunch.

A word of caution though. If going on a Saturday, it is recommended that you reach early by around 10 o'clock. Many of the local schools get the children there on Saturdays making the place quite crowded..

Thursday, February 7, 2008

A KHAWAGA' STALE: You know you’re a Cairene when…

Hubby got home the Daily Star, was flipping through, when I came across this article that made a very entertaining read... Reminded me of Jug Saraiya...

So all you expats, put on your reading glasses, and figure out if you are a Cairene as yet?

A KHAWAGA' STALE: You know you’re a Cairene when…By Peter A. CarriganFirst Published: February 3, 2008

You know you are a Cairene because you read Khawaga’s Tale every Monday in Daily News Egypt.

You know you are a Cairene when you leave the airport and sign your name as Donald Duck in that book administered by a lonesome policeman, who records your vehicle registration and destination.

I mean really, what is that register of vehicles leaving Cairo Airport all about? There must be hundreds of those dusty journals back at police HQ dating back to Agatha Christie. I wonder if she was the first to write down Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse.

So, are you a Cairene? Following is the Khawaga’s Tale’s check list to whether or not you can consider yourself truly immersed in Cairene culture.

You know you are a Cairene when you don’t care for haggling with taxis and just take the airport limousine service. Your bawwab pays for your ride when you arrive home and your luggage is brimming with pork products.

You know you are a Cairene when your phone rings in the cinema. You have a friend in Maadi who you’ve been meaning to call and you’re unsure whether Palestine is a State or a state of mind.

You have a delivery menu from your neighbourhood fuul and ta’amiyya spot. You have sushi home delivered for dinner parties and your morning coffee is also delivered on weekends, when you answer the door in your pyjamas.

You know you are a Cairene when you have eight random phone numbers of black & white taxis saved in your phone. You don’t know who Ahmed, Mustafa or Jane is, but you also have their phone numbers. And you have left a phone in a taxi, restaurant or on a felucca.

You are always busy when invited to Maadi for lunch or a genteel afternoon tea. You have attended more leaving parties than you have friends and you’ve been to Aswan, Luxor, Siwa and Dahab, but prefer Moon Beach.

You know you are a Cairene when you say you support Al-Ahly after realizing the Club is based in Zamalek, but feel you should be supporting Zamalek because that is where you live.

You always nod with authority when asked if you have read Max Rodenbeck, Robert Fisk or Noel Barber. You have two or three Arabic language books on your bookshelf, but spend most of your time weighing up whether or not to have both Showtime and Orbit.

You make an effort to go to historic Cairo and Khan Al-Khalili when you have visitors, but send your visitors off to the Pyramids by themselves.

You know you’re a Cairene when you have kissed a diplomat, fallen in love, fallen pregnant because there is something in the water here and fallen out at After 8.

You have a wallet full of unused bar tickets from the Canadian Club, BCA, Rugby Club and the British Embassy’s Phoenix club.

Reading Al-Ahram Weekly makes your head hurt, though you have heard it is more entertaining in French.

You know you are a Cairene because you wear shades inside, you think it is rude to be on time and you’ve finally realized that IBM is not a computer brand. You’ve stopped flicking the wing mirror in after parking as you’ve also realized that you never use it and you need constant noise to get to sleep.

You pine for the African Cup of Nations. You can’t remember that sailor’s name from Alexandria’s Spitfire bar and you have finally realized that you could never leave your cat and couldn’t afford quarantine anyway.

You write a blog with a hip name like; whatzzupegypt.blogspot, for expatriates. You have started a cottage industry and gotten lost in the Mogamma.

You know you are a Cairene when you are wearing your blue jeans inside your knee high boots. You have one blow heater which you carry from room to room during January and you are wondering whether or not to join the exodus to Dubai.

Though, you realize you have been in Cairo too long because you remember your home country through rose tinted glasses; where politicians were honest, the streets clean and the service brilliant.

You have a thousand and one taxi stories. Your weekend starts on Wednesday night and you’ll never get used to going to work on Sundays. Your apartment has the ugliest chandelier in Cairo and your maid must have drunk that second bottle of gin!

And of course, you know you are a Cairene, because you never miss reading Khawaga’s Tale every Monday in Daily News Egypt.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Ancient City uncovered in Egypt

A team of US archaeologists has discovered the ruins of a city dating back to the period of the first farmers 7,000 years ago in Egypt's Fayyum oasis, the supreme council of antiquities said on Tuesday.

"An electromagnetic survey revealed the existence in the Karanis region of a network of walls and roads similar to those constructed during the Greco-Roman period," the council's chief Zahi Hawwas said.The remnants of the city are "still buried beneath the sand and the details of this discovery will be revealed in due course", Hawwas said.

"The artefacts consist of the remains of walls and houses in terracotta or dressed limestone as well as a large quantity of pottery and the foundations of ovens and grain stores."The remains date back to the Neolithic period between 5,200 and 4,500 BC.The local director of antiquities, Ahmed Abdel Alim, said the site was just seven kilometres from Fayyum lake and would probably have lain at the water's edge at the time it was inhabited.

Source: www.Arabian

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Budha Bar!

Having spent most of my time visiting monuments, mosques etc, decided it was time to let down my hair (figuratively and literally speaking) and go shake a leg at a nice night spot.

Had been hearing about the Budha Bar for a while, so decided that come Friday evening, that's where we would head!! The Buddha Bar was started by a Raymond Visan in Paris, and later co-owned by his current partner Gerard Guez. The bar are dominated by a large statue of Buddha Buddha Bar has also opened venues in Dubai, Beirut and Cairo. Smaller versions named Little Buddha Bar are located in Las Vegas, Vienna, Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh. The Buddha Bar originally became popular because of the DJs choice of avant-garde "Lounge" and "Chill Out" genre's of music. Compilation CDs of similar music are released under the Buddha Bar series.

Egypt has three Budha Bars - one at Sharm-el-Sheikh, one at Hurgada and the third in Cairo. The Cairo one is located in the Sofitel Geziera on the banks of the Nile. The way it is designed, the Grand Mezzanine houses the bar, while you have to troop down the staircase to the dining area.

Being new to the Cairo night scene, we of course reached much too early. While 11 o'clock may not be early by many standards, it certainly is by Cairenes' yardstick. The bar was not completely full, they had some lounge music playing, and the dinner place downstairs looked full! Though I suspect, even for dinner, it was probably the expat population / hotel guests. No Egyptian worth his salt, would be caught dead having dinner at 11 o'clock, that too on Friday night!!

We ordered drinks which included a strawberry magherita. My friend almost ordered an additional shot to add to her maargherita to get a taste of the alcohol that she was supposed to have ordered. Surprise, surprise, the glass had sugar instead of salt lining the rim of the glass ( I thought that was carrying the Egyptian weakness for sugar too far!). Other than that excitement, our drinks were fine, the juices fresh and undiluted, the lighting appropriately dim and the music very lounge...

After a while, we moved down for dinner. As you walk down the steps, a huge statue of Budha greets you. We were ushered to a table right by the window which gives you the most gorgeous view of the Nile, as you overlook the palms in the hotel courtyard. Looking out from our vantage point, you could be forgiven for believing for an instant that you are in the Carribean instead.

The menu is predominantly sea-food (heavens help my poor vegetarian stomach!) but the desserts sounded absolutely delicious!

As we waited for our food to arrive, we suddenly realised that conversation was begining to prove to be a tad difficult. The music had suddenly become a lot more hip hop and loud! My oh my, what great music - I swear I have not heard such fantastic Arabic music before. Maybe it was just the remixing, maybe the atmosphere or maybe the drinks, but the music was fabulous. A mix of English, Spannish, Arabic, the place just rocked.

We finally left around 1.30 am (still very early by Cairo standards) promising to return very soon, and this time not before midnight!

Edit: 18 Mar 08: Went to Budha Bar again last night, around 11.30 pm. For a Monday night, it was decently populated but the buzz of a Thursday or Friday night is missing. So it would appear that even the Cairenes take a break from partying late, begining of the week!!