Monday, April 23, 2007


Have you ever walked past shop windows displaying awesome clothes, which you just have to buy? And which you can only look at but not try on cos you’ve been loosing the battle of the girth? If you have, and happen to be male, Tommy XXL has just the stuff for you!

A men’s clothing chain that deals in clothes for large size men, it’s a godsend for those who usually have to walk away from clothing stores because of size. The stores stock formal jackets, trousers and shirts. On the casual front there is a whole range of jeans, cotton trousers, shorts, track pants, shirts, t-shirts etc to choose from.

Shirts start from size 48 and go upto size 58 and prices start at LE 150 and are available in a whole range of blues, beiges with stripes, checks et al…

Trousers / jeans start from size 58 and go upto size 70 and prices are in the range of LE 150-175. For some strange reason (or maybe its just at City Stars), they did not have blue jeans! Many shades of black and grey denims but no blue…

Their showrooms are located at


7 Al-Ahram St Heliopolis
El- Serag Mall, 2 Ebied St, Nasr City
Arkedia Mall, Kornish El Nil
City Stars, Heliopolis
24 Shehas St, Mohendessen
95 El Haram St, City Mall


Semoha, Green Plaza Mall
45 Safeya Zaghlol, El Rami Staion

I wonder why hasn’t anyone thought of a chain doing clothes for large sized women?

Om Ali

Had the most delicious Egyptian dessert today! Served at almost all notable Egyptian eateries, hotels etc, its called Om Ali. Cooked pieces of puff pastry combined with nuts, raisins and coconut, covered in hot sweetened milk and cream, Om Ali is a great comfort food. What makes it even more delicious, are the interesting (if gruesome) stories behind its origin!

Legend has it that Om Ali was the first wife of the Sultan Ezz El Din Aybek. In Egypt, women were not allowed to rule, but were permitted to be guardians to their sons who would become king when they came of age. When the sultan died, his second wife had a dispute with Om Ali over whose son would be the successor to the Sultan. The second wife was heavily guarded making it difficult for Om Ali to get rid of her.

Om Ali hatched a plot bribing the second wife’s handmaids. While the second wife went to the hamam for a bath, she was beaten to death, by slippers, by her own handmaids! To celebrate her death, Om Ali made this dessert and distributed it among the people of the land.

Another story involves again a sultan, who started to feel peckish during a hunting trip in the Nile delta. The hunting party stopped for food at a poor village along the way. The locals called upon their best cook, Umm‘Ali, to feed the hungry monarch. She filled a large pan with the little they had – scrapings of stale wheat flakes with bits of nuts – and put it in the oven together with milk and sugar. It was so well received that the sultan went back again and thus the dessert became known by its creator.

There is also a school (European of course!) that credits an Irish nurse by the name of O’Malley (mistress of the Khedive Ismail!) for the invention of this great Egyptian sweet.

Tales abound, but the most popular is the rather gruesome one about Om Ali.

As with most local dishes, there are a variety of ways to make it. Here is a basic recipe with ingredients that can be found in your store.

6 sheets of fillo (or puff pastry, pancakes, or bread)
6-8 tablespoons of butter, melted
2/3 cup black or golden raisins
1 cup mixed whole or slivered blanched almonds, chopped hazelnuts and chopped pistachios
5 cups whole milk
1 ¼ cups heavy cream
½ - 2/3 cup sugar
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon (optional)

Keep the sheets of fillo / bread in a pile, covered with a damp towel to keep them from drying out. Brush each one with melted butter and place them on top of each other on a buttered baking sheet.

Put the buttered fillo sheets in a preheated 350F oven for about 10 minutes, until they are crisp and the top ones are slightly colored.

When cool enough to handle, crush the pastry with your hands into pieces into a baking dish, sprinkling the nuts and raisins between the layers.

Bring the milk and cream to a boil in a pan with the sugar and pour over the pastry. Sprinkle, if you like, with the cinnamon and return to the oven. Raise the heat to 425F and bake for about 20-30 minutes, until slightly golden.

Serve hot. Serves 8.

Bon appétit!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

After a long day of taking my son to a baseball game and a birthday party, hubby and I decided we would drive down to City Stars to try buy some music CDs and maybe a couple of movies at the Virgin superstore at Citystars..

Citystars is Cairo’s spanking new mall and probably the largest and houses a delightful mix of local and branded shops. After hours of browsing and buying music / movies / toys, we decided we needed to have some coffee or tea and spotted a large corner café called Casper & Gambini. Neither of us had heard the name (came home and discovered it’s a big Lebanese chain) before but the décor looked very much like a lounge bar in a hotel with leather seats and wooden tables (dark but very attractive). Plus one of the tables had a very interesting looking concoction being served, which made up our minds! The leather seats were delicious to slip into especially for feet and legs tired of being on the move since morning.

The menu is divided into soups and salads, appetizers, sandwiches, main courses and desserts. As for the drinks (no alcohol served), a variety of juices, soft drinks and coffees are available. The staff is friendly, quick and unobtrusive.

My son ordered a Hot Chocolate while hubby ordered an After Eight Hot Chocolate! I was not feeling too hungry so settled for some garlic bread topped with cheese and we ordered an Apple Caramel tart.

My husband swore that the mint hot chocolate was absolutely divine as was the apple tart, which is served with ice cream. My son, however, pronounced that he preferred the hot chocolate served at Cilantro. The garlic bread was delicious and was gone in a jiffy!

Portions are large and quite filling. The After Eight Hot Chocolate is obviously very popular as I could see waiters running around with many more glasses of the same. We were tempted to order the open burgers, which looked absolutely divine but saved it for another day.

In line with its up market décor, the prices are a little on the higher side but you are paying for the entire dining experience. We shall definitely be back, especially to try those burgers!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Long hard summer of fun

For all those mothers who are looking at the long summer months ahead with long holidays to keep children occupied, here is a listing from Al-Ahram weekly of places offering activities / options for kids. Out of these, I’ve taken my son to Fagnoon Art School and Pharonic Village, and believe me, my son had a blast!


-Art and Design School: 7 Baghdad St., Korba, Heliopolis. Telephone: 4159752. Contact person: Dr Issac Azmy.

-Art Fun: 2 Hassan Aflatoun St., Ard Al-Golf, Heliopolis. Telephone: 4194611, 012-3472716.

-Bedaya Art School and Conservatory: 93 Farid Semika St, Al-Hegaz Sq., Heliopolis. Telephone: 6374233, Fax: 6328383.

-The Pottery Workshop: 216 Sudan St., Mohandessin. Telephone: 3473445, 3447032.

-Fagnoon Art School: Saqqara road, Sabil Umm Hashim, approximately four kilometres after the turn off to Saqqara Country Club. Telephone: 010-1586715.

-Pharaonic Village: 3 Al-Bahr Al-Azam st., on the Corniche. Telephone: 5718675/6/7.

- The Educational Centre for Development of Artistic Talents: Cairo Opera House, Gezira Island, Telephone: 7370603. Ask for the centre or ask for Dr Ratiba El-Hefny.

- Maadi Music Centre: 38D Road 206, Digla, Maadi. Telephone: 5196917, 0105194518.

-En Vogue Modelling School and Agency: 12 Omar Ibn Al-Khattab St., Ramo Buildings, second floor, Nasr City.Telephone: 4146875.Web site:

-Injie Solh Dance and Fitness Centre: 1 Moussa Galal Square, Mohandessin, near Seoudi Supermarket. Telephone: 3461517.

- Creative Dance and Fitness Centre(Samia Allouba):13b Road 254, Digla, Maadi. Telephone: 5196575, 6 Amr St., off Syria St., Mohandessin. Telephone: 3020572.Web site:

- Fitness and Dance Academy: Nile Tower, 35 Abul-Feda, Zamalek. Telephone: 7377500.

-Smash Tennis Academy: Behind Novotel Airport Hotel. Working hours: from 9am to 4pm. For the summer school, call: 2670897/2670779/2670467.If you are only interested in arts and crafts, you can join the "Art Attack" programme. Contact person: Architect Ayman El-Kashty. Telephone: 2900164/ 0122109217.

- Katamiyya Tennis Centre ó Al-Shafie Ranch: New Cairo, off Katamiyya Road. Telephone: 7580805/7580516/17, Ext: 272, 273.

-Cairo American College: 1 Midan Digla St., Maadi. Telephone: 5196665.Web site:

- Integrated Care Society-Culture Centre: 42 intersection of Thawra St., and Abdallah Deraz, Ard Al-Golf, Heliopolis. Telephone: 4172084/5/6/7/8. Working hours: 9.30am to 2.30pm. Web site: Club in Cairo: Villa Pax in 90, Gihad St., off Sudan St., Kit Kat, Imbaba. Telephone: 3142811 /3151455.

- Misr Al Gadida Library: 42 Al-Orouba St., Heliopolis. Telephone: 4158880. Fax: 4181618. Working hours: 9am to 9pm except Fridays.Web site:

- Greater Cairo Public Library: 15 Mohamed Mazhar St., Zamalek. Telephone: 7362271/7362278.Working hours: 9am to 5pm. Closed Fridays and Saturdays.

- Maadi Public Library: Al-Nasr St., New Maadi. Telephone: 1458457/2458457/3458457.Working Hours: 9am to 8pm except Mondays.

- Mubarak Public Library: 15 Tahawiya St., at the corner of Corniche Al-Nil and Tahawiya. Telephone: 3360291.Working hours: 11am to 7pm. Closed Tuesdays.

- British Council: Agouza Branch: 192a, Al-Nil St., Agouza. Telephone: 3031514/3476118.Heliopolis Branch: 4, Al-Minya St., off Nazih Khalifa St. Telephone: 4523395/7. Closed Fridays and Saturdays.Web site:

-International Language Institute(ILI): 2 Mohamed Bayoumi St., off Merghani St., Heliopolis. Telephone: 2919295/4189212.

- Centre Francais de Culture et de Cooperation: Mounira Branch: 1 Madrasat Al-Huqouq Al-Faransiyya. Telephone: 7947679 /7941012.Heliopolis Branch: 27 Sabri Abu Alam St. Telephone: 4193857. Recommended readings:Cairo: The Family Guide, by Lesley Lababidi, the American University in Cairo Press. 292 pages, price LE60. An excellent Cairo guide for families with children. Organised by city areas. Each section contains an overview of history, detailed guide to activities and places of interest with maps and plans.

Recommended Web sites:

www.cairokids.comIt is probably the only Egyptian site that deals with kids health, culture, entertainment and education. A whole section is dedicated to kids outings and excursions.

BUA KHAO - delicious Thai food


LOCATION: Maadi 9 Rd. 151 Cairo

HOURS: Daily noon - 11 PM

A small Thai eatery, hidden from view by foliage and trees, offering authentic home cooked Thai food. Its run by a Thai lady who I believe flies in ingredients from Bangkok!

We went there for lunch with friends one Saturday and returned the subsequent Saturday to take another friend who wanted to have spicy food! The food is delicious, authentic and smells and looks good.

We started with Spring Rolls (vegetarian), some Beef Satay and Chicken Soup. At 9 LE, 3 pieces of spring rolls were nice and my husband and son polished the Beef Satay (LE 25) as soon as it appeared on the table.

We decided to go with our hosts' recommendation and ordered the vegetarian (LE 22) and chicken (LE 25) Phad Thai. Phad Thai are flat Thai rice noodles tossed with vegetables, chicken, shrimp (your choice) with a sweet tamarind sauce and crushed peanuts and something else, which I could not quite make out but was absolutely delicious.

To accompany the noodles, we ordered some Chicken Thai Red Curry (LE 25), Fried beef in Sweet & Sour sauce (LE 29), Vegetables in Oyster Sauce (LE 12) and lots of plain rice (LE 3 for each bowl). The lovely part of the place is their willingness to rustle stuff off the menu.The food was delicious and the helpings just right. A bowl of Thai curry and a bowl of rice (or perhaps two as the rice portions in Egypt tend to be rather small) would be just enough for one person so don't plan on sharing one. The Phad Thai can be shared between two people.

Good food, decent portions, authentic flavors, unobtrusive service, polite and helpful staff, reasonable prices - all in all a great experience!

Khan el-Khalili

One of the must-dos on every Egypt tour, the Khan el-Khalili, once known as the Turkish bazaar during the Ottoman period, was built in 1382 by the Emir Djaharks el-Khalili in the heart of the Fatimid City (Islamic Cairo). Legend says that this market was involved in the spice monopoly controlled by the Mamluks (Slave dynasty of Egypt, ruling the country as an independent state from 1250 until 1517, and as subjects to the Ottoman Empire until 1811), which encouraged the Europeans to search for new routes to the East and led Columbus, indirectly, to discover the Americas!!

Locally known just as “the Khan” its very reminiscent of the local wholesale bazaars that you get to see in the eastern world especially in India. Just imagine the Byzantine lanes of Sadar Bazaar in Delhi or Crawford market in Bombay. The difference being that this place is full of history, gorgeous artifacts, hordes of smiling Egyptians who follow you around with promises of wares never seen before…

For Indians, there is the added charm of every shopkeeper waylaying you with a curious mix of Hindi and English, not to mention a keen curiosity to satiate their quest for information about the Hindi film industry, its stars and of course Amitabh Bachhan. As you walk past myriad shops, cries of “ Hindi? Kaisa hai? Achha hai? AmitaR Bachhan?” dog your footsteps. An enterprising young gentleman in an attempt to transcend the Egyptian obsession for “Amitar Bachhan” had moved his object of affection Aishwarya Rai. Little did he know that he’s transferred his affections to yet another member of the same family!

Claims of kinship to the Bachhan family are heard ever so often that you can’t help but involuntarily smile…

The market comprises a number of crisscrossed small streets selling everything from artifacts, the Egyptian galabiyas, spices, sheeshas, hand blown glass to rip offs on designer leather bags. Louis Vuitton, Gucci, YSL etc are available in every shape and size. Bargaining is the order of the day! The process of bargaining with the Egyptian shopkeeper woefully wringing his hand, shaking his head, but giving you a brilliant smile when the deal is done, is all a part of the Khan experience! An Egyptian friend of mine told me that the thumb rule was to start at one third of the price! I have stuck to this formula and have generally got good bargain (or so I’d like to believe!)

The trip has to be rounded off with a cup of Nescafe (Turkish coffee for the more adventurous) and hot Egyptian pancakes topped with butter and sugar (yum!) in one of the many local cafes populating the Khan. Small aluminum tables flanked by wooden chairs, surrounded by locals sipping coffee or partaking the sheesha, while many a vendor passes by hawking Gucci, Prada, Dior sun glasses, is the perfect end to a delightful sojourn in one of Cairo’s most popular markets!

I am enclosing some photos picked from the web. While they give you a flavour, you’ve to walk through the lanes, breathe the air and live the Khan experience to understand it!

Home away from home

Pardon the ratehr late post but jst wanted to post this to reinforce the fact that we dont really pay toomuch attention to what is easily available and accessible to us...

Played Holi on the 9th at the Chancery at the embassy.Its amazing how much importance these festivals seem to gain when you are away from home. The Indian community was there in large numbers and food was good old chicken / veg biryani, parathas, makhni curries et al and hot freshly fried JALEBIS!!

Hi there! Just back from a 4 day Nile Cruise a sailing trip through Ancient Egypt’s history. It was an awesome trip except for a wretched stomach that marred my last day a wee bit. I have, subsequently been told, that this is supposed to be the finale of the trip – an upset stomach. The remedy? None of the fancy medicines that doctors prescribe but a cup of hot, steaming Turkish coffee with lots of lemon juice! Inshallah, the next time!

The ship / boat itself was lovely – a luxury cruise ship with a lounge, bar with a dance floor, wood and marble paneled lobbies for each floor and beautifully appointed rooms. It had a scrumptious dining room – wood paneled with shining chandeliers, over 20 covers of 6 seats each, Turkish carpets, formally laid out table with the most gorgeous tableware and snow white napkins - it reminded me of the Titanic (on a much much smaller scale) which was not very comforting! However, the Nile at this time of the year is a gentle river and the sailing was so smooth that one had to look out of the window to remind oneself that we were sailing!

We boarded the ship at Aswan after having flown an extremely crowded Egypt Air flight. The domestic airport at Cairo is like an overcrowded DTC bus at this time of the year. In the Easter break, all of Cairo heads off to either Hurgada, Sharm-el-Shaik, Marsalam or Luxor / Aswan, if not overseas.

Our first visit was to The Temple of Philae, which is dedicated to the ancient Egyptian Goddess Isis. Isis (one of the oldest deities of ancient Egypt) was the mother of the great Egyptian god Horus and was revered as the great protector, prayed to for guidance, and for peace. In fact she was subsequently worshipped by the Greeks and Romans as well!! As a result, this temple was actually converte into a Church for Mother Mary!!

Many Egyptians come here to offer prayers so that the Goddess bestows on them the good fortune of progeny. Unfortunately, parts of the etchings on the wall were defaced during the Roman occupation. This was one of the last strongholds of ancient Egyptian religion which continued to flourish here into the 6th Century. When the Temples where finally closed 550 AD, it ended 4,000 years of worship of the pagan gods in Egypt.

With moonlight gently lighting up the shores of the temple, we heard the sound & light show, which is structured as a dialogue between the river Nile, and goddess Isis and traces the history of Egypt through the story of Isis. Listening to the show, it suddenly struck me that back home rivers are treated as female ( the mother, the giver of life) but here the Nile is male. Maybe a reflection/indication of the fact that ancient Egypt was essentially a patriarchal society?

Next stop was the Temple at Kom Ombo which is actually two temples consisting of a Temple to Sobek (Crocodile headed god) and a Temple of Horus (the falcon headed sky god). Since Nile was infested with crocodiles, the ancient Egyptians worshiped Sobek in order to appease him (the crocodiles), and, to insure the fertility of their people and crops. They would keep crocodiles in pools (oh oh!) and temples and ornamented them with jewels! The highlight of the visit were the mummified bodies of 3 crocodiles which are on display!!

The temple of Horus at Edfu, the Karnak and Luxor temples at Luxor were equally awesome albeit similar in structure. The etchings, while similar to a layman’s eye, tell myriad stories to Egyptologists and people who can read hieroglyphics.

One of the best parts the trip was the visit to the tombs of Tutankhamen, Rameses IX etc at the Valley of the Kings & Queens which were breathtaking. Not in the structure (in that respect Philae or Edfu are striking) but in the nature, clarity and colours of the etchings on the walls. The walls in the tombs have managed to preserve 3000-4000 year old colours in the etchings, which in places are still very bright!

Standing at the Edfu temple at night, I could not help but remember our carvings at places like Ajanta, Ellora, Khajrao which are probably more life like and intricate. But then you realize that these structures and etchings are twice as old as Khajrao / Ajanta and yet so detailed and so sturdy that they have stood the tests of time. On the other hand the Mohanjodaro / Harappa civilizations were perhaps even more advanced – they had the first plumbing system in the known history of mankind, ancient Egypt had the next. Thinking about this, kindles a sort of kinship with the Egyptians. We share so much history and are so similar in so many ways – two of the earliest ancient civilizations, emotional people, family oriented, friendly, proud, argumentative! Perhaps I’m more Egyptian by temperament than I realize!

The Karnak temple has etchings which depict medical instruments used by the ancient Egyptians. These appear to indicate that they undertook surgical processes to cure complex human illness like tumors etc– makes you realize that man is destined to reinvent the wheel time and again. Millions of years ago, our ancestors knew much more than what it took us years and years to discover. Guess that is the cycle of nature , the nature of time...

Unfortunately, over the years settlements have come up around these temples burying other tombs and treasures in their wake.

As the trip came to the end, sitting out in my cabin’s balcony with the twinkling lights of Luxor lighting up the shores, watching the Nile flow into the night, I could not help think about how the shores of the Nile must have resounded with the chants of the ancient Egyptians as they gathered to pay homage and offer prayers to this river of life….

These photographs will give you an idea of why I was so mesmerised and wrote such a long post


In my quest for my Holy Grail (read Vegetarian food in Cairo), I stumbled upon Koshary! You can't visit Egypt and not have Koshary - that's akin to blasphemy!!

Koshary is a traditional Egyptian meal that consists of a strange combination of macaroni, spaghetti, rice, black lentils, chick peas, garlic sauce and a spicy tomato chili sauce, all topped with fried onions. It is sold from carts by street vendors, in restaurants or even made at home and each is considered a different taste experience. I am enclosing a recipe which is supposed to be quite authentic but every koshary stall, every home, every restaurant will have its own version...


1 cup brown lentils
1 cup rice
1 cup uncooked macaroni (orzo, small shells or elbow macaroni)
2 large onions, diced
2 tablespoons oil
2 cups tomato sauce
hot chili powder or sauce


Cook the lentils in salted water until tender and strain. Cook the rice in salted water until tender and drain. Also cook the macaroni, rinse and strain.

Place lentils, rice and macaroni in a cooking pot. Fry onions in the oil until browned, then drain the onions on absorbent paper towel and strain the oil into the lentil mixture. Return to the cooking surface and cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking and burning.Place mixture on each plate and top with tomato sauce, onions and sprinkle with hot chili powder or sauce if desired.

Masah el kheer

My husband and I are amidst 1300 year old mosques, modren infrastructure, ancient bazaars, huge mlals, mixed with not just Pharonic history but also a mysteriaous Coptic past and military Caliphate history.

Settling into new home - its an adventure! Its a large beautiful apartment which is full of light ad feels happy!

Time value is a concept that is clearly not understood but the peole are very nice.People are similing, passionate, more fashionable than the Europeans and very very argumentative!

Saw the pyramids - they are awesome and breathtaking, though its humbling to know that man created this over 4000 years ago!

Vegetarian food is a quest for Holy Grail, but I am enjoying the chase! Cold weather is remniscent of Delhi- I'm chilled to the bone...but its fun!!