Scotsabroad's Weblog

January 23, 2008

Just like walking to school back home!

Filed under: Weather — scotsabroad @ 6:05 pm

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January 18, 2008

Exhausted

Filed under: Mercedes — scotsabroad @ 8:41 pm

Think I should write about my day. Woke before sunrise this morning for run in Wadi Degla with a couple of ‘sound’ colleagues from school. Disturbed a desert fox and a couple of unusual birds that I’ve had difficulty identifying from our book.  Is it sad (or an age thing?) that you are texting your mates on a Friday offering suggestions such as a ‘Desert Wheatear’  as to the identity of a bird spotted on a morning run? The recipient too busy to reply as he is doing ‘photo-shoot’ of his baby’s new buggy at Al Azhar Park. Great blokes and a great run. Returned home and then cycled to club for some fresh bread for lunch. Shona bought me a i-pod shuffle recently and it was marvellous peddling like mad across New Cairo with music.

Took the boys off after lunch to search for party things needed for tomorrow when Lucas has his 5th birthday party with his nursery friends at Villa 19. Pushed for time as we had to make it back to Katamaya for Cairo’s first golf lesson at 4pm. Mercedes making strange noises today. Prelude to the exhaust falling off as we drove into Katamaya. This, I assume, is a bit like getting a puncture in a posh bit of Beverley Hills. Waved at a couple of times from parents of children at the school. I forgot to get the antique hazard triangle out of Mercedes boot. Luckily I had the straps for the bike rack in the boot and was able to lift the exhaust off the tarmac. We proceeded to Cairo’s golf lessons. He did alright. Then we went off in search of a garage to fix the car.

Drove slowly to our local petrol/oil change garage where it was finally established that they couldn’t fix it. However, Muhammad (the gem) flagged down a passing truck and told them to take me to a place that could fix the car. Muhammad is a pump attendant at the garage and I felt useless when he tried to explain where I could go.  I also felt ashamed when he refused my ‘thank-you’ in Egyptian money. I disgraced myself. I proceeded to follow a pick-up into the backstreets. Finally we stopped at a roadside where car wrecks and welding sparks were flying. Pick up driver talked with ‘mechanic’ and then said I should pay 40LE (£4:00) for the work to be finished. Finished sounded good. I agreed. In Scotland if your exhaust falls off we are talking credit card abuse – especially in January. Made the mistake again of offering money to pick-up driver who adamantly refused. Think he was delighted that we followed (trusted) him into jungleland. I have met nothing but kindness and help since we have arrived in this city. However Cairo was getting a bit nervous and wanted back in the car. We were quickly surrounded by youths, children and the local population curious as to why we were in this part of town. Mechanic delighted that he had a ‘whole’ car to work on – and a Mercedes to boot. Street drums beating message.  

Half an hour later we are driving out of there with the job done, a shared cup of tea I don’t want to think  too much about inside me, and a personal mechanic to call on when things go wrong with the car. He gave me his (only?) card. We found our way back across the tracks. I love this place but I now need to go to sleep.

January 15, 2008

Found – the ultimate runner’s meal?

Filed under: Food — scotsabroad @ 8:27 pm

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Kushari – what is it? It is only the tastiest meal we have had since coming here! It is made up of seven ingredients: macaroni, brown rice, short cut spaghetti, tomato sauce, brown lentils, chickpeas and very crunchy fried onions. Me, Cairo and Lucas are shown eating it in Aswan but the second photo is when we took Ian and Linda for kushari. The first time we tried it we had a very sedate experience outside a takeaway shop in the pedestrianised Aswan bazaar but the second time involved crossing four three lane main roads during peak time traffic in Nasr City (a huge suburb of Cairo). The screaming and death defying road crossing was worth it though as we sat and ate bowls of the most delicious food. Optional extras include chilli sauce or lemony garlicky juice. Our favourite taxi driver, Saba,  tells me that his wife makes kushari but “its not as good as a takeaway”. Sounds like every chinese meal I have ever made in Scotland! I wouldn’t make kushari here either but I could be persuaded to go back to Nasr City for more – only this time I would park on the correct side of the road. P.S. I forgot to mention that when we had finished eating our kushari in Nasr City Linda offered to pay the bill – she is a very clever lady as it came to (for 5 portions and two pizzas) 32 le = £3.20!

Fair trade Muhammad

Filed under: Cairo,Holidays,visits — scotsabroad @ 7:57 pm

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We recently visited the Citadel. I am ashamed to say that I failed to go there on my last stay in the city. The mosque of Muhammad Ali dominates the skyline of Cairo. Tourists were allowed in but this first picture was taken from inside another mosque, next to the big one, which is Mamluk instead of Ottoman (Turkish) and was altogether a much more cool and attractive place. 

History does not seem to paint Muhammad as someone who valued his national treasures if the story of the clock tower above is to be believed.  In the mosque courtyard you can see this clock tower – a gift from the French King, Louis Phillippe, to Muhammad Ali in 1846. I think it must have arrived after13 years free supply of cognac  – as  it was in exchange for the obelisk of Ramesses II taken from the front of Luxor Temple! It was planted in the Place de la Concorde in Paris in 1833. Nice one Louis. The clock has never worked since the day it arrived. Bit like swapping Eilean Donan Castle for a dodgy Timex.

Thanks ‘Cairo –  The Family Guide’ by Lesley Lababidi for the story.

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What a wonderful start to the year. It was very much Ian and Linda’s visit that made it so. We packed in quite a bit and the boys were delighted to see their grandparents for a fortnight. Apart from the new year celebrations and Shona’s birthday (brightened by Laura’s four day flying visit) we managed: a trip to Al Azhar Park, a walk in Wadi Degla, the Citadel and the Khan al-Khalili market, the pyramids at Dahshur and Giza, the Egyptian museum and a quick sail on a felucca. We also drove to Nasr City to  eat kushari at Tom and Basel. We were also all delighted to hear that Sharon and Craig got engaged on new years day. We spent the last weekend in Alexandria having travelled by train from Cairo. We stayed in the Cecil Hotel and visited the sights. Coincidently, the bar from which Mr Mills drank that ice cold beer, having driven an ambulance across the sand and a few minefields, is now upstairs at the Cecil but is not celebrated. As a huge fan of the final scene I felt obliged to …

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 The photographs are of the library in Alexandria and the big mosque off the corniche. Thanks Ian and Linda for your visit. You are both family treasures and certainly not for swapping. I  would love to take the credit for these photographs but they are courtesy of Linda Fraser (or the mother-in-law).

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