A Place to Eat & Enjoy the Alexandrian Skyline

Just a short walk from San Stefano’s Four Seasons is this spectacular view of Alexandria’s skyline and the Mediterranean sea. And right on this spot is one of the many places to eat in Alexandria Egypt whilst enjoying the view.

It takes ten minutes to walk towards the direction of Stanley Bridge, where the area of Gleem is located. Walking is a breeze in Alexandria; the corniche is lined with beautiful pavements that joggers, runners and those seeking a casual stroll enjoy.

One of the reasons I love walking to Gleem is to see the boats that have been lined up a distance from the shore. I think they make such a picturesque photograph.

There are also rocks by the shore in Gleem; a natural landscape that gives photographs an interesting foreground.

On the other side, there is a pier to walk on where fishermen wait patiently for their catch of the day.

Next to the boats is the Gleem beach, busy with children and families soaking up the last days of summer before the new school year begins.

Next to Gleem beach is this building which has several places to eat in Alexandria, including restaurants and cafes. I visited the Latino Cafe on the bottom floor that overlooks the sea, which can be seen in the photograph. It has an indoor and outdoor area. I enjoyed sitting in the outside area next to the sea.

While the service is quite relaxed in Latino Cafe, you can stay as long as you like with no minimum charge. I spotted couples only ordering water, or shisha. I loved sipping my refreshing lemon juice, 18.75 EGP, whilst watching the waters flow next to me, making me feel quite relaxed and at peace while I read my book. The cafe does not bombard customers with music either, so one is free to reflect peacefully or have fun with friends without having to shout over the music to be heard.

I couldn’t believe I found a place that served jacket potato in Egypt! The choice of stuffing was with either chicken, meat or prawns. I had the chicken which came with vegetables and mozzarella, 20,50 EGP. I also had a side order of tuna with mayo, 8.00 EGP, which was perfect to eat with the jacket potato and nachos. For the first time in Egypt, the chef added plenty of mayo to the tuna, not just a drizzle. I could see myself visiting this place again.

The lovely food at Gleem and the beautiful scenery makes this one of my favorite casual outdoor outings in Alexandria.

Because there’s nothing like taking a stroll on an actual functioning pavement in Egypt with the reward of delicious food and rowing boats gleaming in the distance.

Gleem,
Alexandria

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Why Every Serious (And Not So Serious) Photographer Should Have A Photo Book

Being a photographer means sharing your work with the world. And what better way than with a hard copy of your photography. I was always asked how my work could be viewed during conferences, parties, even at family gatherings. And although I have an online portfolio, it wasn"t ’t always guaranteed that those who asked would find the time or even remember visiting my site. But a photo book that was always conveniently stored in my bag for those who asked – and even those who didn’t ask – ensured that I created an awareness about my love for photography, and more importantly, my ability as a photographer.

For when the conversation dies down during a gathering with relatives, a dinner party with family, or a meet-up with friends at the cafe, I have found that taking out my photo books is such an ice-breaker and conversation starter. People generally love looking at photographs and whole conversations have started with describing where each photograph was taken, or the story behind them, or the techniques I used to achieve a certain look. Photographs often spark memories from those viewing them which also creates unique conversations.

It also gets the word out that you are a talented photographer. It opens up opportunities you wouldn’t have necessarily achieved on your own. It’s a form of networking because people know people who know people who might be interested in taking your photography to the next level. “I know someone who works at a magazine who will love your photos,” a friend would say. “I know someone who has been looking for a photographer for her new website,” a relative would recall. After seeing your work, people will remember you if they meet the right people, and if they are good friends, they will even introduce you to them.

During job interviews where examples of your work are needed, photo books are also an impressive way to show your potential boss not only your skills but how organized and serious you are about showcasing your work in such a format. Not only do you get to see their expression as they flip through the pages, but questions can arise and explanations can be given– dialogue one can’t have with people viewing an online portfolio.

But photo books don’t have to be about professional photographs, creating awareness, networking, and portfolios. It’s also a fantastic way to store your memories in a book that looks like it’ll hit the bookstores next week. Often people ask me if a book publisher has created my books. I laugh and tell them, yes and no, and point them to blurb.com. All I had to do was download their free software, choose a ready-made layout according to the theme of my book (you could make a cookbook for example, and you’ll find a recipe template all ready for you), choose the size of my book and how many pages I wanted. The hard part is choosing which photographs to include.

And you don’t have to own a professional camera to create a photo book, or even a point and shoot camera. People have been using their Instagram photos to create mini photo books, which they’ve taken from their mobile phones. Owners of point and shoot cameras have created photo books commemorating the first year since the birth of their first-born child, or their summer vacations, each book labeled by year and prettily stored on their bookshelf. The advantages of creating a photo book rather than a scrapbook are that children (or relatives who really have their eye on a photograph) can’t take out the photos! Time and time again I have seen missing photos from so many albums that my relatives or friends happen to share. Even in these cases, putting them in your bag to show to your friends at work or while having coffee at the cafe, or with your family when they come round, is a beautiful way to share your memories.

One of the most convenient things about creating a photo book is the cost. Choosing the quality of the paper; whether the photo book is a hardcover, has a dust jacket; or is just softcover; selecting the quality of the end sheets; and how many pages you want are all factors which decide the cost of the photo book on blurb.com and presumably other photo book sites.

To go into detail, my large 30x30cm hardcover square book from blurb.com, (photographs #6 and#7), has 50 pages of the Premium Paper, luster finish and cost 48 Sterling Pounds. My standard hardcover landscape book (photographs #1-#5), with the ProLine Pearl Photo Paper, has 40 pages and cost 33 Sterling Pounds. This all excludes the shipping fees.

So for the serious (and not so serious) photographer, photo books aren’t just an affordable and convenient way to showcase one’s work, it’s also a timeless tradition and a perfect way to share your precious memories with friends and family.

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Tamara Lebanese Bistro Iftar at City Stars

In search of a venue to have an Iftar meal, we came across an online review recommending the Tamara Lebanese Bistro and decided to give it a try. It’s right across the VIP cinema at City Stars, next door to Mori Sushi.

I immediately fell in love with the decor and the tiny details like the railings, wall art, and chairs. But unfortunately, I didn’t get to enjoy the surroundings because the non-smoking section is out in the hallway. As non-smokers we felt quite penalized and marginalized because it felt like we weren’t really inside the restaurant, enjoying the ambiance. It also got a little noisy with children playing in the hallway.

 

The Iftar menu is a mix of Egyptian-Lebanese food. The list looked like quite a mouthful and proved to be. Most of the people in the restaurant left with takeaway containers because there was a lot to eat. The salad was already on the table when we arrived, so we weren’t really sure how fresh it was and if insects had already gotten to it first.

That said, the Roca salad and Fattouch were deliciously drizzled with the right flavors which went down very well. But being a hummus fan I was quite disappointed in its concentrated, strong taste, which I am not accustomed to in Lebanese cuisine.

The pastries were delicious, my favorite being the Halloumi Safayeh. The spinach was too spicy, while the meat was cooked nicely.

Next, the tajins were brought to our table, which consisted of the famous Egyptian dish Molokheya and Okra. Strangely the rice was unseasoned and very dry. This was the same with the Molokheya. The Okra, however, tasted as it should in its delicious sauce.

Because the service was quite slow, we received our mixed grill quite late. It arrived in a blanket of bread when uncovered revealed the meat. One plate serves two people whilst two plates serve four. I found the chicken quite dry, so I couldn’t continue eating my piece. While the spices in the kofta were tasty, the meat itself was a little soggy. The highlight of the mixed grill, however, was the pieces of succulent meat; it was perfectly cooked so that you could cut into it easily, and it tasted delicious. I would have been very happy to have only that served.

The Karkadeh was also the best I have tasted– not too strong and not too weak. It was nice to break our fast on this traditional Ramadan drink.

Sadly the service was quite slow and disoriented. Some waiters were not focused on those in the non-smoking section; even the table next to us were upset by this. To be fair the waiters must have been fasting too, but it did take a while to get our food, especially our soup and mixed grill. When the bird’s tongue soup arrived it was lukewarm and lacking flavor, whilst the lentil soup was cold but had these lovely hints of spices and herbs.

After a while, the sweet was served, which was adequate, not really impressing our taste buds. The Lebanese Khoshaf was too sweet but at this point, we were just happy to relax with the tea served because you can’t go wrong with Lipton tea.

The beautiful décor builds up an expectation that the food will be just as lovely, but for 170+ Egyptian pounds, this Iftar was a poor effort. Was the food filled with the delicious Lebanese taste my family and I know and love? Perhaps it was the “lite” version but in need of a serious upgrade. Would we eat here again? We all said we wouldn’t since the food, the location of the non-smoking section, and service were all sourly lacking.

But if I were to catch an afternoon movie at the VIP cinema across the hallway and I was dying of starvation, I wouldn’t rule out a light lunch with the Halloumi pastry and Fattoush salad.

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Rabaa: The Aftermath

It is quiet as I make my way to Rabaa, making sure I do not trip over the rubble. There is a stench in the air that comes after a mass burning. Once my eyes adjust to the brightness around me I realize almost everything here has been burnt. Trees are stripped bare, the trunks blackened. The pavement, the ground, nearby buildings and fountains are all blackened with the embrace of a recent fire.

Among the rubble is a torn poster of Morsi. Protesters had been camping out in this residential area for six weeks.

The police and army are parked in the area. Cans and tins were among things I spotted in the rubble.

The devastation doesn’t end. There are electrical wires, clothes, trees and planks of wood on this pavement. Cars nearby were also either damaged or completely destroyed when protesters set fire to them.

The petrol station in the back, Mobil, was also torched.

Scores of people are here to sieve through the rubble, picking up anything they can either use or sell.

Children and men posed with the Egyptian army in front of the Rabaa mosque, also the name of the area.

Foreign journalists were among those on the street.

This car was probably one of those torched yesterday. It’s completely destroyed.

The Rabaa mosque was also torched.

The view of the Rabaa mosque from the street. The metal construction on the floor is what used to make the stage.

 

Everything inside is blackened from the fire. The courtyard leading to the mosque is filled with rubble.

Devastating scene of the mosque and its courtyard.

Even the metal gates surrounding the mosque are charred from the fire, along with the trees.

Ashes and rubble in the courtyard.

The pavement has been taken apart here, the paving stones used as either shelter or rocks to throw at the police.

A bulldozer to clean up the rubble. There were many citizens walking around, taking photos with their mobile phones. Some were having political debates with one another. The atmosphere was tense and sad, some women upset at what had happened here. “How can you kill innocent people, the force used here was both wrong and brutal. They were killing their own Muslim brothers, their own Egyptians,” they argued.

There were also men and women who were happy that the sit-in had been dispersed. “This was a residential area, we couldn’t leave our homes because of the sit-in, because of the men in our apartment buildings and gardens. We were routinely checked every time we wanted to leave and enter our house,” exploded one man. Another man climbed the mosque’s gate and kissed general Sissi’s poster. Men watching broke out in cheers.

This building was the Rabaa mosque’s events hall. People here were sifting through the rubble, garbage men looking for recyclables.

This man was expressing his views to a presenter, the microphone’s labeled as the ‘Tahrir’ channel. The man, holding a Qur’an, said “I am a Muslim, I live here and what I saw this past month is not Islam. They were in a residential area, camping below our buildings, searching my wife and other women who live in the building every time we wanted to enter. What is more humiliating? They would sleep outside our apartment and knock on the door to use the toilet. We were terrified. We were not living. That is why I am glad the sit-in has been removed.”

 

More foreign journalists reporting in front of the mosque.

Military police line up inside the mosque.

An ONTV reporter, an Egyptian satellite channel. People were quite happy to express their feelings. Some were talking out loud to themselves, clearly suffering from shock.

These women were also among those collecting anything useful to recycle to make money.

More devastation inside the mosque’s courtyard.

It looks like protesters used to camp here in the Rabaa mosque’s courtyard. The flames did not reach here.

Clothes and bags were on the ground here. The pavement was also taken apart.

What was once a lawn on the right has been reduced to rubble and soil.

Trees were used to feed fires, although the Prophet had laid down rules that trees should never be destroyed in a battle or war.

It’s a sad day in Egypt for both sides of the political conflict. But there are many, especially in the residential area of Rabaa, that are relieved that they are no longer surrounded by a sit-in, although they seem deeply saddened that it had to come to this. That Egypt had to be reduced to this.

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Photo Essay on Egypt: Tears of Gas

This is what I woke up to this morning. Bellowing black smoke coming from Rabaa where Muslim Brotherhood supporters have been camping for the past month. Below protesters were burning tires, planks of wood and trees. We couldn’t see the amount of smoke and tear gas but then it cleared up to reveal this.

A small group of Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi supporters stood on the side of the road chanting ‘Down with the military rule’ and ‘God is Great’.

And then it came. My first experience with tear gas. It looked like a comet going through the pitch-black sky. Like a missile. But a few moments after it hit the ground my body reacted to it the way it was designed to.

First, it stings the eyes and one can’t help but involuntary shed a few tears. Then feels as though one’s face is on fire, especially under the eyes. I felt like acid was thrown down my throat. Everyone runs away from the canister when it’s thrown and while I tried to take photographs, I was quite often forced to retreat inside from the power of the gas.

Many protesters came prepared, wearing gas masks I’ve only ever seen in history museums in London. They’re used in modern-day life here.

Those who are not prepared have to go through the stinging pain that attacks one’s senses.

Military helicopters hovered overhead, the black smoke increasing. I used to sing ‘London’s burning’ when I was a child. I never knew that one day my second home would be burning.

A young man was trying to prevent the others from marching towards the police barricade. “You’ll die, don’t go!” he shouted passionately while the man in red responded “I don’t care! I want to die!”

Protesters started gathering garbage bins and metal barriers from construction buildings to make a wall between them and the riot police firing the tear gas.

Men run when the tear gas hits the ground. We had to deal with the tear gas on a frequent basis, around every five-ten minutes.

Then the riot police advance, making ground.

The protesters take material from a building nearby that is under construction to create makeshift barriers.

Cameramen filming the events below. It’s aimed right at me because the clashes are this close.

Two helicopters circled the sky that hasn’t ceased to be black from all the smoke.

Protesters set fire to tires.

Although a minority, women are among the protesters angered at the breakup of the sit-in in Rabaa.

A protester took hold of the tear gas and threw it back at the police.

Chaos ensues on the street that leads to Rabaa.

The riot police are in the background while smoke obscures their view.

More protesters gather in front of the police.

The riot police with their van look towards the protesters, firing tear gas every few minutes.

My eyes do not dry from the continuous use of tear gas.

They enter the street with cheers because they’ve stolen an army vehicle. They empty it of its contents and set it on fire.

A fire truck was also among the vehicles taken.

The bullet holes in the windscreen sent shivers down my spine.

Running from the fired tear gas.

Protesters trying to put out a tear gas canister. Many have Pepsi or Coke to wash their faces from the effect of the gas.

The men throw rocks at the riot police. The street is strewn with rocks and equipment from construction sites. And on the left-hand side, the face of Morsi watches on a billboard.

Even the police and plain-clothed men with them start throwing rocks.

The vision gets a little hazy while smoke drifts our way. Men are still throwing stones and rocks at the police, while the latter do the same.

Smoke continues to come out from Rabaa. I later learn that the smoke is coming from vehicles people set on fire.

 

Men use a wooden construction to hide behind while police continue to fire tear gas.

 

A protester looking quite dejected.

There were some plain clothed men with the police throwing rocks.

Protesters carrying an injured man to safety.

Every now and then men would call ‘Yalla’ to the other men to move toward the police.

This young girl was among the protesters. Tear gas was still being thrown below us.

Chaos continues and it’s only 9:40 AM.

Photojournalists were at the scene.

More tear gas. Protesters throwing water on the canister.

A young man held a container that sporadically burst out with fireworks to scare the police.

Throwing rocks alongside the police.

A policeman shooting at someone with what appears to be a rifle. I’m not sure if this is live ammunition or birdshot.

He also shot on protesters on the other side of the road, while those with him threw rocks.

A man on the side of the police started to approach the protesters with a peace sign, so the protesters approached him by putting their hands up.

The man with the helmet braved the police and with arms stretched out approached them and the man who had initially tried to make peace between the two camps.

In the middle of the chaos and rock throwing, they hug. As though showing that both sides can love each other, I’m not sure.

And so that man with the helmet leads the men to force the police to back a few meters behind. With their hands held high in a peaceful gesture, the police retreat slowly without firing anything at them. But they only retreat a few meters behind.

Too close for comfort, the police fire tear gas, dispersing the crowd and pushing them back again.

We could also hear what sounded like gunshots. These men started running for their lives.

I always associated these scenes with Iraq or Palestine. Never Egypt. Never Tayaran Street in Nasr City.

It gets worse when police keep firing tear gas and gunshots.

It momentarily turns dark from all the smoke and tears gas. I can’t breathe from the smell. My head is throbbing.

This injured man is carried away on a motorcycle. His shirt is bloody and so is his hand. He is holding his temple. Even his mobile phone is bloody.

This man was also shot at by police.

Ambulances try to go through every few minutes. Men are injured inside. I see another man injured by shots and carried away.

They continue to throw rocks, angered at the shots fired and the injuries.

A foreign journalist making notes, phone calls and in another picture trying to breathe through the tear gas thrown on the street. She’s waiting for her photographer who joined her after taking a few photographs. They left quickly.

The protesters regroup and try advancing on the police again. It’s a continuous game of cat and mouse.

The protesters set fire to the army vehicle.

The protesters gathered in more numbers. They haven’t stopped banging rocks on metal poles, barricades, and the street lights to make more noise to intimidate the police.

The policeman on the right is shooting at someone high up.

Police fired tear gas directly at the barriers protesters were hiding behind, causing the barriers to fall over. One man is running away from the falling canister.

A military helicopter hovers overhead, assessing the scenes below.

Gunshots fired from this policeman towards Mohamed Fahmy street where protesters are.

The police retreat while one continues shooting. A billboard has been uprooted from its place by protesters, written on it ‘Leave Sissi’.

Then all hell breaks loose at the 4 pm local time. I have run for cover because of the sheer amount of live ammunition being fired towards us. When I look up I see it’s coming from this police truck, a sniper on top. In the background, two men are laying on the floor lifeless. I assumed they were just ducking to show the police not to harm them.

Two of these vans charged towards protesters on both sides of the road, shooting.

On the pavement, I noticed the two men had not moved, even after the vans had retreated. Then I zoomed in and saw the pool of blood forming on the floor below one of the man"s face.

The protesters set fire to a car.

The man lying on the floor has been clearly shot on the forehead. A pool of blood has formed on the floor. These men become so angry at the deaths, they scream at the police on the other side. From as far as I can tell these deceased men were not armed. We did see one person armed earlier on, with a handgun, and even got upset that we were taking photographs, but he was not among those shot.

It all ended as the sunset prayers were being called from mosques with imam’s crying through the microphone as they prayed. The police shot several times at protesters until all we could hear were the deafening sounds of the gunfire. There were no more protesters after that. The street became eerily quiet. Bulldozers later came to clean up the paving stones protesters had built and all the other barriers, rocks and stones. Helicopters still hover above. The police are sitting on the pavement. Shots are fired every now and then. And we are all wondering what’s next for Egypt and its Egyptians, wondering how much more will die for their version of the Egyptian dream.

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Kishk – My Favorite Egyptian Dish


Ever since I was a little girl I loved eating homemade Kishk. Like a savory rice pudding, my favorite ingredients of rice, milk, tomato sauce and fried onions unite into this spectacularly tasty marriage that makes my taste buds dance. It was also a favorite dish while I was growing up because it would bring a piece of Egypt to our London home, brightening up any rainy day. It would remind me of our times in Egypt when my relatives, family and I would gather around the dinner table, breaking bread together and diving into its creamy white texture whilst drowning the Kishk with its delicious and quite special tomato sauce.

But because Kishk is a carb-fest meal – flour! rice! bread! – and I cannot stop eating it when it"s around, we only make it once a year during Ramadan, for the sake of our health. It’s a pure indulgence during Ramadan, without a hint of guilt.

Kishk is usually made alongside chicken or duck, to add protein to the meal. The chicken or duck stock is used in the Kishk, adding an extra dimension to its taste. The fried onions are like icing on the cake, and the darker, the tastier. It’s pure comfort food. Nervous about exam results when I was in high school, I would ask my mother to make Kishk. During the freezing cold winter evenings, its aroma would warm up our home. There are so many comforting memories attached to this dish, and it would have the same delicious, heart-warming taste every time.

I remember I was a student at university when I first made Kishk. It turned out beautifully and I found the steps quite simple, even if there were quite a few things to do it was worth it when it was finally time for dinner. It’s the tomato sauce that gives it that extra flavor and punches and it’s one of the many reasons why Kishk will always be my favorite Egyptian dish. Because I have so much of it when I do eat it and I’ve filled up my quota for this year, I feel quite satisfied with waiting until next year’s batch.

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Curfew in Cairo: Before & After

Cairo and many parts of Egypt have been under curfew since Wednesday. With curfew hours starting at 7 pm and ending at 6 am, it feels as though I’ve been transported to London where shops close early and silence fills the night air; quite unusual for a busy city.

An hour before curfew I visit Rabaa. Traffic was sprawling through the area, the police and army have allowed cars to pass through. A green tent has covered the mosque, presumably while renovations are carried out.

A man stands in front of a destroyed flower shop. I used to buy flowers here. Behind the flower shop are the Rabaa apartment buildings; the sit-in was right below these apartments and stretched out across the road. It was here that there was a strong stench of excrement and urine.

Scaffolds are being erected against the Rabaa hospital. We asked the doorman — captured in the distance — if he had been present during the clashes. He nodded wearily at us. When we asked if he saw who torched the buildings he replied, it was the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi.

This a poster was found at multiple locations around the street. It translates to: “Martyrdom Project”, visually preparing supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi to die for their cause.

The residential buildings in the background are opposite the Rabaa mosque. Being at the site of the sit-in, these residents have expressed that they experienced the most stress. But this is not only a residential area, these buildings contain many doctors’ clinics, offices, and a private tuition center. A friend, a doctor who owns a clinic in one of the buildings, hasn’t been able to make a living since the sit-in closed off the area.

Many people driving by would momentarily park in front of the burnt buildings and take photographs on their mobile phones. They looked bewildered, saddened and upset by the sight. One bearded man with his veiled (niqab) wife also taking photographs told us to curse the people who had ruined the whole area. Strangers spoke to each other on the street, a silent sadness written all over their faces.

Life before the curfew was busy. The roundabout in the middle was always filled with cars trying to get to their destinations until the wee hours of the morning.

Shooting the same roundabout during the curfew has rendered it into a quiet, ghost-like street. There are, however, a few curfew breakers, as the white light shows a car passing after hours.

Being locked in at home forces one to look upwards to the sky, especially during clear nights like this. I had a go at photographing this star using a tripod, but for some reason, it came out looking like an icy ring of fire. How fitting, I thought to myself, it’s as though nature is reflecting exactly what is going on down below and shedding a silent tear.

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Adam’s Doner & Grill: A Divine Tandoori Experience

“I thought you said this was a doner kebab shop?”

It’s on the evening of the first day of Eid that I’m standing in a small shop my brother has brought me to. He was craving a doner kebab and had read reviews recommending Adam’s Doner & Grill. The only problem is that it didn’t smell of a doner kebab shop as I step in and read items listed on a chalkboard behind the counter– very London-Turkish-Kebab-shop style. It smells of the most delicious Indian spices. My mouth is salivating. One look at the menu and we both realize they not only serve doner kebab here but tandoori. We look at each other and smile. This is turning out to be a very good Eid.

It takes half an hour to wait for our order, so we know it’s fresh. We can see the staff behind the counter working hard on our food. I’ve chosen the tandoori with rice. I could have chosen it with a wrap or salad, but I’m in the mood for saffron-colored basmati.

The seating is outside with quaint canteen-style wooden bench tables on the pavement in a quiet street in Heliopolis. They’ve even put marble counters around a couple of pillars in front of the shop with stools to sit on. I could see myself relaxing with friends and family whilst gathered around one of the tables and enjoying a meal.

“Doesn’t it feel like we’re in London?” my brother tells me as he leans against a noticeboard Adam’s has put up that has all sorts of adverts and postings. On the glass door, there is even a London underground sign that warns “Mind the Glass”, as opposed to the “Mind the Gap” signs found in London. It’s almost a shame that we are taking our food home.

With the delicious aromas wafting around the car, we’re thinking it wasn’t a good idea to order take out. This food was made to be eaten right away. The drive home is a very long, agonizing journey and it’s very hard not to reach over to the back seat and grab a bite. And then there’s getting home and having to photograph the food before I can devour it. While I took a couple of photographs I pinched a chip from the small packet and had to sit down. Adam’s chips are by far the best I have tasted. They not only taste oven cooked, although I saw that they were fried, there is an incredible seasoning of paprika and salt that sent my taste buds to heaven. It’s a shame that the small packet is expensive for its tiny size, 10.00 LE, but worth every penny. I did not want to share.

The food is in a plastic take-out container which is a good, generous portion for one person, although to be honest, it’s the portion of the rice that is generous. The tandoori has been cut up and scattered over the basmati rice, with some fried crispy bread, slices of tomatoes and garnishing.

The chicken tandoori, 20.00 LE, is delicious. The spices are perfect. Although mild, there is a container of yogurt on standby. To think I had to visit a doner and grill to find the perfect tandoori spices in Cairo, not an Indian restaurant.

The crispy bread pieces provide a crunchy texture, giving the experience an extra dimension. Everything was perfect except for the basmati rice, 18.00 LE. I think I felt it tasted more of the factory it was previously in. But it is great that Adam’s offers choices, so next time I could order the tandoori in a wrap if I felt the rice hadn’t improved. On the menu, it does mention they add garlic mayo sauce to the tandoori wrap, 28.00 LE, so I would definitely request they hold the mayo so I could specifically enjoy the taste of the best tandoori spices — and chips! — I have had in Cairo.

Adam’s Doner & Grill
3 El Mamaleek Street
Off El Marghani Street (Opposite Heliopolis Club),
Heliopolis,
Cairo
Tel: 02 22 58 42 79

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The Baby Who Was Discarded on a Bridge in Cairo

Rania’s first day in the world is a traumatic one that she will thankfully never have to remember. Premature and only a few hours old, she was discarded on the busy Imbaba bridge in downtown Cairo last autumn. When a driver actually took notice of a lump moving in a plastic bag, she was rescued and taken to an orphanage.

Of course, they had to take her to a hospital first, where they found all sorts of problems, including a tiny hole in her heart. An experienced female guardian, addressed as Mama, was chosen in a particular orphanage to look after the traumatized baby. But what appalls me as I stand in front of a sleeping Rania is the fact although she is tiny, she was rescued a month ago. Just how small was she when she came to the orphanage? She was much smaller when she came to us, her guardian tells me as she smiles fondly at her. A little larger than my hand.

Rania sleeps soundly, as though exhausted by her ordeal. Take a picture with her deformity, the Mama tells me, don’t hide it, it’s a part of her. I begin to wonder aloud how a person could have the heart to throw a baby away, especially one that needed medical assistance. It happens, she tells me quite calmly. I’ve been working as an ‘alternative mother’ for forty years and I’ve seen it all. Either a young couple marries secretly and the girl has to throw away the child in fear of a scandal, or the parents are ashamed and horrified of the baby’s deformed arm and decide not to keep her.

I can’t stop smiling and playing with Rania’s hand as she wriggles and tries to hide her private parts while her guardian changes her much-too-large nappy. They are the smallest size in Egypt, the Mama tells me, but you should have seen it when she first arrived; it was such a big mass around such a tiny body.

But that doesn’t matter as much as the fact that everyone at the orphanage loves Rania, even the female staff stop by to see how she’s doing. The orphans living with her love her to bits and look after her like they’re trying to make up for what happened to her, and at the same time, trying to make up for what happened to them, for they have all been discarded in similar ways.

She’s a first-time mother’s dream baby, I tell the Mama as she describes what an easy-going baby she is, quietly observing her surroundings, smiling at her ‘siblings’ and sleeping soundly throughout the night. Sometimes when she moans sadly in her sleep Mama tells me that the angels are telling her that her mother threw her away, an orphan living with Rania tells me. It breaks my heart that the Mama would tell a ten-year-old child this, but perhaps this is the guardian’s way of thickening her skin to deal with what happened to all of them.

A few months pass and Rania is growing into a happy little baby. She is happy…Rania’s sibling trails off before confiding in me, But sometimes I notice that she looks at her deformed arm and give me a puzzled look like, where is my hand? Why don’t I have a hand like you? Although the other orphans love her dearly — they’re always fighting over whose turn it is to hold her, take her out to the garden, feed her, bathe her, etc — it hurts them to see her not able to play with two hands like the rest of the children in the orphanage.

Maybe Rania’s parents didn’t love her enough to keep her, maybe they saw her as incomplete, but that tragedy is made up by all the people who do love her, just the way she is.

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Protests in Cairo: a Daily Occurrence

It has been a week of loud celebrations, thunderous displays of solidarity from military jet planes soaring overhead, and more recently, the angry chants of pro-Morsi protesters not only demanding his return to power but to bring justice to the 51 killed on Monday.

Egyptians are tense. And afraid. The recent split in society is the relatively new territory. Families are divided in their differences of political opinions– a father will make his way to anti-Morsi protests in Tahrir Square while his son will make his way to pro-Morsi protests in Rabaa. It’s now normal to overhear political conversations on the streets, in supermarkets, and in waiting rooms. From being active viewers of the tens of talk shows discussing and dissecting political events, people want to take their turn at talking– and they’ll gladly talk to anyone. From being a politically repressed society for so long, Egyptians are talking politics at every opportunity because of the turmoil the country scene since the 2011 revolution.

This afternoon saw pro-Morsi supporters walk away from the Rabaa intersection where they have been staging their sit-in and demonstrations since before 30 June. The men on the front line held honorary coffins symbolizing those who had been killed in Monday’s deadly clashes between Morsi supporters and the army. Each coffin is labeled with the name of the deceased, with the Egyptian flag resting above the coffin.

While accounts are shady on how the deadly clashes started, or by whom, at the end of the day 51 human lives were taken. In the battle to demonize each side, some are missing that point – that life is sacred, no matter whose side an unarmed person is on. Seeing these coffins pass the street brought a somber mood to bystanders.

Following the coffins, men held their funeral attires in a dramatic display to show they weren’t afraid of dying. These protesters want the sympathy of a public that is glad to see the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi go.

Women and children were also part of today’s protests. These women adamantly believe the president they elected should be returned to power. They chanted, “We are staying for 3 more years!”

Streets across Cairo have had their walls, signposts, and billboards defaced with anti-military graffiti. These pro-Morsi protesters write “Hasbi-Allahu wa Ni’ma Al-Wakil” in Arabic, which translates to Allah is Sufficient for Me, and He is the Best Trustee. Mentioned in the Qur’an, Egyptians like to use this expression when they are in difficulty or under a threat, to seek Divine help and support.

It’s still unclear how things will turn out for Egypt. But for these Morsi supporters, it looks like they’re staying, much to the dismay of residents around the Rabaa intersection.

“I haven’t left my house in 10 days because we’re frightened and it’s impossible to,” complained one elderly woman at a local supermarket as she rushed to stock up on food for the start of the holy month of fasting for Muslims.

“Today is the first day my husband and I left the house because of dwindling food supplies,” she told a group of Egyptians waiting for their turn at the butchers. “No supermarket will dare deliver in our area. They have literally trapped us in our own homes and we are afraid,” she added before using the very same words the pro-Morsi supporters had spray-painted earlier on the walls: “Hasbi Allahu wa ni’ma al-wakil.”

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