Scotsabroad's Weblog

June 28, 2011

Goodnight Cairo

Filed under: School trips — scotsabroad @ 6:59 am

It took a bit of organising this one – but well worth it. We all returned yesterday morning from an over-night visit to the Kottamia Observatory just off the Ain Sokhna Highway. Twenty three  students from Year 5 spent the night under the stars. Lucas and Shona came too. We left after school on Sunday, arrived around 4:30 pm, set up camp, explored the site and watched a beautiful sunset. A BBQ and a camp fire for roasting marshmallows prepared us for an evening of star gazing. A rather wonderful, enthusiastic and expressive host and guide, Dr. Fady Morcos, had arranged for telescopes to be set up to view certain stars. One was pointed at Saturn – it was amazing to focus through the lens and see the rings of Saturn. A few constellations pointed out – Scorpio’s body and tail. The highlight was being allowed access to the telescope (built in 1955) housed in the observatory. We watched the ceiling panels open and the telescope turn. Unfortunately, the telescope was unable to be used on this occasion – something to do with nitrogen gas.  We were in our sleeping bags and asleep by 11:30pm. A night of shooting stars and meteorites stitching the black sky. The night so clear and light-free that the Milky Way powdered the sky above the observatory for most of the night. The temperature dropped significantly around 3:00 am and condensation formed on our sleeping bags and camping mats. The camp was awake by 5:00 am – Nina awoke to find a scorpion crawling over her sleeping bag. Buses left at 6:30 am to get us back to school and back into our school uniform. Sleepy smiles throughout the school day. Brilliant.

We leave our flat tonight and relocate to the Sofitel in Maadi. Goodbye Cairo.


June 21, 2011

See this Place

Filed under: Uncategorized — scotsabroad @ 7:10 pm

June 10, 2011


Filed under: visits — scotsabroad @ 5:32 pm

The house and studio for the artist Mohamed Allam. We are not a restaurant or a club or a touristy village. We are an Egyptian experiment. So states the sign inside Fagnoon.

Our boys are veteran visitors to Fagnoon. They have both been many times with the school or with friends. Our home contains artistic creations brought back from previous visits. Today, Shona and I experienced the Art School for the first time as we went with our boys, accompanied with a friend each.  Fagnoon is an amazing place. I now regret not visiting sooner – as I would have used this resource with my students each year. The site is on the Sakhara Road. A multitude of shaded wooden areas on different levels, painted and tiled. The biggest den in the world. Sculpture and experimental pieces everywhere. In designated areas, children can work with metal, or wood, paint on glass or tiles, paint a clay pot or work with clay on a potter’s wheel. As they wait for materials to dry, or harden, they can swing on the ropes and climb the tree-house structures or play hide-and-seek within the grounds. Over a small canal, the view from the edge of the garden, before it resorts back to farm-land, is of a couple of pyramids. A potter sits in this deserted garden, creating miniature vases and pots for no apparent reason or audience.

The boys chose to do metal-work. They paint on glass and on ceramic tiles. Four young boys enjoying a morning. Focused on a task – then unleashed within the grounds. A great experiment.

June 4, 2011


Filed under: visits — scotsabroad @ 7:28 pm

We have always intended to visit the Suez Canal up close. We have just returned from, what will probably be our last road trip in the car,  and a very interesting few days in Ismailiya. The hotel was on the shore of Lake Timsah. We arrived quite early Friday morning and attempted to check-in. We began to realise that the Egyptian national squad were staying at the hotel. They play South Africa tomorrow and the manager’s job is on the line. Didn’t stop Shona going over and asking the great man (Hassan Shehata) for a photograph.

We eventually found the Ferri Setta (no.6 ferry) and attempted to cross into the Sinai. First attempt failed when we were asked to leave the ferry. Passports had been left with some soldiers where we were told to park the car. Later, without camera, we managed to get across. Not strictly the canal but still impressive to see the ships sailing through this narrow passage. We could see the Bar-Lev Line, breached with water hoses from Bavaria ordered by the Cairo Fire Department. The 73 monument, a testosterone fuelled bayonet.

We seek the Ismailiya museum around 4pm. We arrive to find the doors being pad-locked. No problem. We are ushered in to a small but delightful building. Highlight being the 4th century mosaic floor depicting scenes from mythology. Wise words even then…. man must avoid wine to protect his-self from the evil done and hatred.

Ignoring the advice, we seek a beer at George’s. A very unimpressive facade hides a great wee restaurant and bar. On Sharia Sultan Hussein and established by a Greek in the 1950s. The search for the perfect Stella is over. They come out of this cool-box.


Shona and the boys had a wonderful time in the hotel pool. Indeed, we didn’t want to rush home to Cairo and asked for late check-out. Egypt continues to delight and surprise us.

Mercure Forsan Ismailiya

Filed under: Worst Hotel Room Art — scotsabroad @ 5:40 pm

Two paintings from this artist in the hotel’s restaurant. When I was spotted taking this photograph by one of the waiting staff I was proudly pointed towards the other – and informed that the artist was well-known to the Mercure. Owner? Manager’s wife? Brilliant.  

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