Monday, April 26, 2010

Eastern treasure in the heart of Hussain

A new Indian restaurant has opened up in the most unusual of locations. Just as you emerge from the underpass from al azhar to Hussain, facing you is a huge beautiful brass door. Upstairs there is a sumptiously decorated cafe and indian restaurant with me and my friend Emily checked out last night.

The restaurant is called Taj al Sultan and its address is 1 al azhar square! they have valet parking should you require it, and the food was incrediably tasty. We had 2 starters, 2 vegetarian main courses, fabulous garlic naan bread and a coffee and water and the bill was 185le. I'd definatly like to return to try out more from their menu.

Service was elegant.

If you don't like Indian food- no problem- they also have a moroccan menu.... and indeed a lot of the decor reminded me of Morocco Walima (a restaurant I used to dance in in Edinburgh!) Not to mention the uniforms with the fez hats!

They were throwing a childrens birthday party upstairs... and I laughed til i cried when a pantomine horse came around all the tables in the restaurant, nuzzeling up to various higabbed women before heading up to entertain the kids!

Their website is and although it is fairly slow to upload, i do like the steaming cups of tea on the home page! There are also photos of the interior in the gallery page if you have the patience to wait for them.

A lovely bit of culinary calm in the chaos which is Khan al Khalili.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Cairo answers

Answers to problems..................... some are very strange... for instance , if I spent a large amount of time in my car... and found my mobile phone battery kept dying- I'd buy a charger for my phone...

in Cairo -no- they install these units at petrol stations so you can charge up your phone as the same time you are filling your car with petrol (or whatever it takes!) and yourself with coffee!

I don't have my own car... therefore don't carry around a charger that works in a car... so i have actually had to use this on occasion!!!!

Actually... my current answer to this problem, which is a huge problem in Cairo since all plans are made and changed at the very last minute!, is to always have a spare battery pr charged in my wallet!!Thats the cost of living moment to moment!!!!!

Old style Glamour

The last time i was back in Scotland my friend Michele Dillon, who is a fantastic photographer (and dancer too!) and based in Glasgow, did a few studio shots for me. If you are interested in getting her to do some shots for you her website is

It was my last night before I flew back to Cairo... and I had been teaching all day.. but despite that she did wonders and managed to get a few good shots....

Hope you like the Egyptian flag inspired costume!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Pharonic Village, Cairo

Every day when i get a taxi to work, the driver asks if i want the pharonic boat, or pharonic village.... Since I had never visited the 'village' I thought having visitors from Scotland was the perfect excuse to go and see what i had been missing.

This was a very expensive day out (160le for an adult, which means anyone over the age of 10!!!) ...... but incrediably interesting and educational. The children i went with really enjoyed it too.

The tour starts with a boat trip round the island with a prerecorded commentary, showing you statues of people and gods of note from the pharonic era. We found it amusing that the god Osiris had his own personal shower head over him!!!

There were lots and lots of herons nesting,

and a model of the Moses story within the bullrushes...

and lots of 'how life was' scenes of cultivation and craftmaking...... all with actors dressed in clothes of the day, and some responding to that fact that there was a boat full of tourists looking at them, but mostly just repeating over and over their actions, which i think i prefered because you could imagine more how it might have been in those times...


storing the grain....

None of the women working there looked particularly happy, but i felt it made a really nice change to see so many women employed in somewhere like this despite that...mind you, i guess they must repeat the same actions numerous times for all the boats coming round all day....

fishing (he had some plastic nile fish in his net too!)...

The women pretending to squeeze flowers to squeeze out perfume oils was a very pretty scene..

But the potter was the only one actually actively creating something, rather than just miming....

spinning the wheel with his feet.....

It was all very well done... but there were a few things that really annoyed us... like the metal file with plastic handle for filing the alabaster???? and the plastic sheeting over some paintings which reflecting in the sunlight and meant you couldn't see the imagine. Plastic in pharonic times... hmm- they were ahead of their time- but not that much!

Also the commentary was incrediably fast as was the boat, so to listen to everything, take it in, think about it and watch everything going on, never mind to take photos there just wasn't time. I think i heard maybe half of what was said. I would have liked all that slowed down... especially for people who might find a lot of these ideas and words new. I felt very sorry for the chinese guy in front of us who was translating everything into chinese for his group after it was said in English.... even he just gave up in places! It wouldn't have taken much on their part to have added a few minutes onto that section of the tour, since it was the most interesting part of the entire village.

After the boat tour we had a personal guide to take us round the 'temple' which is a copy of the temple in Karnack in Luxor, although much smaller! She had a lot of interesting things to say... but unfortunatly her English wasn't good. She knew her script, and recited it incrediably fast, but didn't know the intonation of how it should be said , so we could hardly understand anything she said, and that was us British,... trying to understand English, god only knows how the Chinese group got on with that!!! Esther did try on the anubis mask though and said it was very heavy!

I guess its the performancer in me that really loved seeing the 'actors' when they had finished their pharonic jobs for us, sinking back into real life- a pharonic bread maker checking her mobile!!!....

The scene themselves were really well recreated and reminded me of scenes i saw in Siwa, where house are still built around palm trees, these urns were used to store the wine!

The thing that really let the whole experience down (other than the boat with prerecorded message being too fast, and the guide's English not being great and being incrediably fast) was that we felt the hard sell.

Maybe this works with some people, but to us it felt pushy and cheap. The tickets to the pharonic village are not cheap, yet the guide's talking suddenly slowed down and we weren't rushed onto the next exhibit any time there was an opportunity for us to spend money... at the shops and cafeteria. To the point that we really got quite annoyed and i had to ask the women to move onto the next exhibit after the shop as we didn't want to spend any more money! That's when she discovered i spoke arabic, and wasn't too impressed at my request to move on. Which makes me think that her work is partly commision based. After spending so much entrance fee it really was a cheek to be continually asking for more.

At one point they showed us bread making and described an ancient egyptian pizza- some bread with olives and tomato... and offered to sell us some.. tell me; what would it have cost them to have had a tiny portion for each of us to try, for free. We would have felt it was a much classier experience, worth the huge entrance fee! In fact- we were so angered by this attitude throughout that i even took a photo of the 'motto' they had around the village... because i felt it all sounded lovely- but NOT lived up to, unfortunatly! Especially number 2 and 5 !!!!

However, depsite the many things they could have done to improve our experience, Overall fun was had by all............ as you can see from the photo below... a fun informative, child friendly day out.