Friday, November 30, 2012

Only in Egypt

In another edition of Only in Egypt, this photo today comes from Tahrir Square's protest. In an attempt to combat sexual harassment and civil unrest in the square, a group calling themselves "Tahrir Bodyguards," have been created.  Using Social Media to bring together volunteers, today they decided to go one step further to create an observation post to gain a better birds-eye view of Tahrir.

I guess engineering and safety standards when it comes to construction are not at the top of their list. But at least the observer is wearing a reflective yellow safety jacket!

Tahrir Bodyguards have a Twitter account, @tahrirbodyguards, but due to continued problems with the account being suspended by Twitter, they have also created a Facebook page. Good luck everyone in Tahrir today. Despite my jest, Tahrir Bodyguards - I hope you make a difference! 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Care and Respect for Senior Pets

This article is a great resource for anyone with older four legged friends. Written by the talented Melissa Hathaway who provides a few tips on how to best help and maintain a healthy senior pets.

Care and Respect for Senior Pets

When humans get older they need more specialist care and this is completely true of our four legged friends too.

When dogs get on in years they deserve the same respect, care and love that any family member would receive. They have been a loyal friend and character all their lives and now it is time to repay them with some love, care and attention.

How old is your dog?  

Many people use the “one year of a human’s life equates to seven of a dogs” way of working out how old a dog is, but to be more accurate different breeds of dogs age in different ways. Cross breeds often age at a later stage than pedigree breeds and smaller dogs aren’t considered senior until later than large dogs. As a rough idea you can begin to think of your dog as heading towards his senior years at around seven. From then on just keep a closer eye on them and look out for any signs of aging. You may also be able to discuss the details of a senior care programme with your veterinarian. Noticing changes early in your pet can improve their quality of life in their senior years. 

Signs of a senior

You may notice that your dog’s movement is slowing down a bit and they may be experiencing a bit of stiffness, particularly in cold, wet weather. They many want to take less exercise and this is the time you also need to be careful about weight gain. Dogs can suffer from arthritis just the same as humans and this can impair their movement. Some drug treatments could help to reduce pain and improve your dog’s quality of life and some physiotherapy treatments can make a big difference. Exercise a senior pet little and often, about 20 minutes, two to three times a day is ideal.

With less exercise, you are going to have to be careful with what you feed your dog. Cut back a little on those treats and tit-bits and it may be a good idea to put them on a senior diet which is lower in calories but full of the essential vitamins and minerals. Speak to your vet to find the perfect diet for their needs.

Your senior dog could also have some deterioration of their eyes and ears. Dogs are very good at adapting and using other senses but they may also become a little more anxious and worried about dangers. Reassure your pet when out on walks in busy areas.

Many changes inevitably come with age as they do with all of us, but there can also be medical problems that arise with age. An older dog’s immune system may not be so good at fighting off diseases and internal organs can deteriorate. If you notice a particular change in personality with your pet, it could be a sign of illness. Get them checked out by your vet. 

Paying for those expensive bills

An increase in visits to the vet can become expensive and even insurance premiums can escalate with a pet’s age. It is even more important to do your research when it comes to finding the right Pet Insurance for an older dog. It is best to insure your pet as early as possible as some policies won’t insure dogs over seven or eight years old, but if you have left it till later, don’t despair, with a little bit of research you should be able to find a policy to suit you. When taking out a policy ensure that it offers comprehensive cover and that it suits all your needs. Some policies cancel insurance as your dog gets older, so look into this if you want it for the long-term. Most pet insurers will exclude pre-existing conditions from the cover, so bear this in mind as you may need to save separately for this. 

Don’t let them be forgotten

When it comes to choosing a new animal, senior pets can often be overlooked. The thrill of taking a cute puppy into the home often wins. Adopting a senior animal can have many benefits. You already know the size of the pet. They will probably already have had some training in obedience and socialisation and they are likely to be house-trained. Many have lost their homes through no fault of their own but due to owner circumstances and they offer ready-made companions. Many rescue homes have lots of loveable older companions waiting to live out their senior years with a caring owner. Take a look at some of the adoption sites and shelters and you won’t be able to resist those loving eyes.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

TIME'S Person of the Year

It's that time of year again where TIME magazine is preparing to select their Person of the Year. Last year's announcement came at a critical time in the Arab Spring, when 2011's person of the year was declared as "The Protester." Of course this was not limited solely to the protesters in the Arab world, as we have seen protests around the globe over the past few years. But to select the protesters as 2011's Person of the Year was a monumental acknowledgement of the power that organized individuals can have together.

This year the race is on, and perhaps (for me) the most surprising candidate was Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. From their website, they say: As always, TIME's editors will choose the Person of the Year, but that doesn't mean readers shouldn't have their say. Cast your vote for the person you think most influenced the news this year for better or worse. Voting closes at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 12, and the winner will be announced on Dec. 14.

"For better or worse." Taking that last bit into consideration, perhaps Morsi is deserving of the title. After all, since Mobarak no man has brought Egypt so close to the brink of a civil war. Between his recent Constitutional Declaration that granted him sweeping powers over everything in Egypt (even more power than Mobarak had) to his half-assed backing of the cease-fire in Gaza - between playing nice to the US and EU to keep the funding while his party the Muslim Brotherhood pledge undying allegiance to the people of Palestine's rights to defend their country -Morsi certainly has left an impact.

I said it when he was initially elected, and I'll say it again now (particularly as it seems he may get recognized as TIME's Person of the Year ...). Why is it that the Egyptian people are so quick to forget that the root of their problems lies NOT at the top political tiers of society? The root of their problems is not who Egypt is allied with. It is not about where Egypt will get its next hand-out from - speaking of hand outs, all the $$ sent from the EU to Egypt, I'd love to see a break down of where that has gone so far ... that is aside from purchasing Turkish drones.

The core issues in Egypt lie in the societal infrastructure. Grassroots is where the problems lie. Yet as happened in the time of Mobarak, and in the period of elections both parliamentary and presidential, the Egyptian people have been distracted by issues that really DO NOT impact their day to day life! Will it help the poor kids living in the streets if Mr. Morsi utilizes foreign funding to purchase weapons? Does it help with the traffic congestion and rubbish in Cairo? Does it address the growing trend of illiteracy?

Of course not, but let's go ahead and just distract people with senseless issues. Let's convince the lower class that the bikini-clad Westerners are all foreign elements and spies here to take over their country. Let's get them arguing about how late a coffee shop should be allowed to stay open. Let's have them believe that the sale of alcohol in the beach bars and hotels is the reason that Egyptian society and its corresponding problems continue into a deeper downward spiral.

I mean, taking all that into consideration, of course he deserves TIME'S Person of the Year award, right? After all, he's made such a huge difference in the everyday lives of Egyptians - just like he promised he would... Back to the streets they go!

To read more, or to vote on if you believe Morsi should be voted Person of the Year, click here.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Casting for High Risk International Jobs

I received this e-mail the other day, and have been given permission to re-post it. I'm sure there are at least a few readers of this blog that might qualify for this, right? Red Varden Studios are currently casting for a new show that will be targeting the same audience as the "adventure" shows like Deadliest Catch, Ice Road Truckers, Gold Rush, Storm Chasers, and Ax Men.

While you don't need on-camera experience, you must be comfortable in front of a camera. Naturally, otherwise why would you apply for a reality TV series :).

They are specifically seeking Americans who are working abroad in "high-stakes international jobs." If you think you fit the bill for this, then get in touch with Red Varden Studios.  They want to know your story, what city and country you are living in, and the best way to contact you. So go on, send on your info here.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Public Pressure Triumphs for Red Sea Poisoning Campaign

For animal owners in the Red Sea, the campaigns of poison that are waged throughout the year are one of your biggest fears. Many dog owners will neglect taking their dogs out at all for fear of them ingesting poison. Recently the bait has been covered with powdered strychnine, rendering it far more deadly. An animal need only sniff at the poisoned bait, and death can occur in a matter of minutes. Our vet here was completely baffled, he'd never seen anything like it before.

In the beginning of the month rumours surfaced that the government in the Red Sea was planning a mass-poisoning campaign to begin around the 15th of November. It didn't take long for the Facebook Animal Activists parade to begin. FB pages were flooded with requests to email the relevant authorities in Hurghada. The scope went far wider than just the ex-pats living here. Tourists were threatening to boycott the city due to the gross animal cruelty that the government was planning to enact. Thousands of emails from around the world flooded the inboxes of officials in Hurghada, some tothe point that the email inboxes were bouncing the messages back due to a lack of space!

I was one of those many emails, and was absolutely delighted to receive this notification in my inbox today, sent from the

Complaints sent to the E-Portal stopped Stray dogs poisoning campaign in Hurghada
In a response to the many complaints sent to the Electronic Portal of Red Sea Governorate by a lot of tourists and foreign inhabitants of different nationalities, who threatened not to come to Hurghada again, in addition to the frequent requests of Humane and animal protection societies,  the portal put the whole matter to the Governor and the Secretary General of Red Sea who made the following decisions:
  1. The  campaign of stray dogs elimination should be stopped all around the Governorate.
  2. The manager of Veterinary Medicine Directorate in Red Sea is to prepare a study about the application of stray animals neutering Program.
  3. Veterinary Medicine Directorate in Red Sea is to cooperate with the volunteer civil societies to implement this program.

So to everyone who sent an email, I thank you and applaud you. Together guys, we may have just done it and succeeded the government here that poisoning campaigns are NOT the way forward. From what I've read, HEPCA will coordinate with Blue Moon Animal Shelter and the local government vets to re-start the TNR programme that was suspended a few months ago. 


Monday, November 19, 2012

Where to Go: The Good Shepherd

Most of us ex-pats here know the feeling. The moment you step off the plane back into Europe or wherever it is that you may be from, most of us have a hankering for pork products. Bacon, chops, salami, you name it. I found a butcher in Cairo that used to sell pork products, but the problem was that most of his pork meat came from the pigs in Manshiet Nasser - aka garbage city - so you know what those pigs were fed! :-|

In Hurghada, The Good Shepherd butcher offers you the choice of premium pork meat, imported directly from Europe. Yes, it's a little bit pricey, but let's be honest here, wouldn't you pay for a decent BLT every once in a while? ;)

The Good Shepherd - "Think Pig," is located in Hadaba and has a huge variety of meats and cold cuts available on its menu. It's not only limited to pork products, and offers chicken and beef too. Check out a sampling of their price listings and pork products below, taken from their Facebook page.

German style cold cuts & bacon

So where are they exactly? You will find The Good Shepherd at Building 244, Mohamed el-Masy Street, in Hadaba, Hurghada. For more information you can contact them either via their Facebook page, or on 065 345-0977. They offer delivery of pork products throughout Hurghada, so go on, give them a try, you know you want to ;)

For more information and a "360" look of the butchers, you can check out the review on 360 Tourist Guide here.

Friday, November 16, 2012

E-cigs - A New Smoking Trend

An article I wrote a few days ago introducing e-cigs. I've seen a few of these for sale in Egypt, if you're interested in finding a location that sells them in Hurghada, please contact me and I can give you a few locations :). 

What is an Electronic Cigarette?

You  may have seen one. A strange looking cigarette with an LED light at its tip that will often light up red, blue or green. Electronic cigarette’s are the newest innovation to hit the smoking market.

Electronic Cigarettes, or e-cigs as they are often called, are made up of three parts. A battery that powers the e-cig, an “atomizer” that vaporizes liquid, and plastic cartridge with a dual purpose. The cartridge’s primary purpose is to function as the mouthpiece of the cigarette, and its second purpose is to house the liquid that is the core that enables the e-cig to work in the first place.

A Chinese pharmacist known as Hon Lik is widely considered the inventor of the present-day electronic cigarette. A heavy smoker for years,   Hon Lik used to smoke up to three full packs of cigarettes a day. It wasn’t until his father died of lung cancer, having also been a heavy smoker, that Hon decided to kick the habit. It was this decision that led to the creation of the e-cig.

Hon Lik promotes it as “a much cleaner, safer way to inhale nicotine.” Like many smokers before him, the nicotine becomes the addictive element of the cigarette, and overcoming that addiction provides the greatest challenge. The negative health implications of smoking have been widely documented, but Hon’s electronic cigarette throws these pre-conceived notions on their head.

Firstly, with an electronic cigarette there is no smoke. In fact, E-cigs don’t burn at all.  The plastic canister with the liquid holds nicotine which has been diluted into a propylene glycol solution.  With the use of the lithium battery, it powers the atomization of the nicotine liquid solution. This is then inhaled by the smoker from the mouthpiece, and when exhaled it resembles cigarette smoke! It gives smoker’s the nicotine kick they are looking for yet reduces the harmful effects that tar and other additives that a normal cigarette would pose.

Electronic cigarettes hit the market in China in 2004, after Hon Lik was awarded a patent for their creation in 2003. But it’s only recently that they are being introduced into the United States’ market. One e-cig carries a retail price of around 25$. Although that might sound expensive, consider that one e-cig is said to contain the equivalent amount of nicotine of up to four packs of regular cigarettes, so they do present as a cheaper alternative.

One of the selling points of the electronic cigarettes these days are that they deliver nicotine to smokers without the stress of gum, or nicotine patches. They are designed to be fun, and come in a variety of styles and flavors, including strawberry! E-cigs are also rechargeable. The plastic cartridge containing the liquid nicotine can be replaced. The concentration of the nicotine can also be altered, ensuring that each smoker gets exactly what they are looking for.

The only downside to the electronic cigarettes in the minds of many consumers may be that it is battery operated, and therefore will require charging. The weight of the battery may also be a hindrance, as the longer you want your e-cig to hold a charge, the larger the battery will need to be. But aside from that, e-cigs are being met with great enthusiasm around the world as modern-day alternative to cigarette smoking!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Problem with Outsourcing

When it comes to business these days, most companies are looking to cut costs at every corner. It's not rocket science; in an economy where consumers are hesitant to spend their hard earned cash, companies are forced to find alternative options to cut costs and keep profits higher. Enter the world of outsourcing.

Having had experience working in online sites before, I took my shot at And the problem with outsourcing becomes immediately clear. Within 24 hours I had a few projects ask me for samples, and offer me projects. The first informed me they would pay a "very good rate" of 2 dollars per article. I refused. The second offer was for 2.50 $, but this is only after one month of working for 2 $ an article. Let's say it takes me an hour to research, draft, and write an article. So essentially I'm looking at an income of 2$ an hour. Seriously?

The last job offer I received told me, with no reservations, "we'll pay you 1$ per 500 word article." They admitted that "yes, we don't pay well," but try to get you to take the bait with promises of "articles that will pay you 3.50$ down the road." It's the promise of better paying jobs down the line that I'm sure will grab the attention of many freelancers, yet what they neglect to tell you is just how long you'll be working at 1$ per article before you even make it to 3.50$.

Many of you may think that outsourcing relates simply to the telephone and call center jobs that are sent overseas. When you call that 1-800 number for help, you're speaking to Abdul all the way over in India, who for the duration of his shift is known by the overly-Western and obviously false name "John," or "Kirk," or something else along those lines. Often these phone calls can be one of the most frustrating aspects of outsourced work; half the time you have a difficult time even understanding what "John" on the other end of the line is trying to tell you, let alone actually getting any help. But for a business owner it's simple: why pay someone in the US the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, and have to provide breaks, employee benefits, holidays, etc, when you can find someone in a developing country willing to do the work for less than half the price and not expect any benefits to go along with it.

This trend is growing. If you want to see how far the reach of outsourcing really extends, just go into Google and type in "work from home jobs." The scope is expansive. From data entry, to online research, to transcription, to administrative jobs, to technical support, all the way up to article writing.

Let's say you're in a marketing position for a start-up firm based in the US. You need to get a ton of content written, you need to make your digital footprint in our online world. But to hire a US-based writer will cost you. Consider for example you need an average of 8 to 10 articles totalling about 500 words each, written on a daily basis. For me as a writer, I would guestimate that would take me about one full day's worth of work. I like to ensure that A) My articles are all well sourced, B) well researched and well rounded, and C) of course completely original content. So if my going rate in the US (at minimum wage) is $7.25 an hour, for 8 hours of work I'll be expecting to bank at least 58$. It's not cheap.

The economic environment now means that most start-up companies simply cannot afford these overhead prices when combined with the costs of running their day to day business operations. Enter sites like Simply set up an account, post a project and let the freelancers start bidding. The pattern of bidders immediately becomes obvious. For one: most come from developing and / or under-developed nations. Little flags depict the nationality of each bidder on the project. Just glancing over the bids on article writing projects and you'll see countries like India, Cambodia, China, Vietnam, etc. Rarely if ever will you see a flag of a Native English Speaking nation. Why, you might ask yourself, when the native English speakers would be the best fit for articles targeting an English speaking audience?

Math is the simple answer. I will write articles until I'm blue in the face, but I refuse to work for any less than 4 $ per article. When I am paid $3.50 per page for Editing, why would it make sense for me to be paid less when I am expected to write, research, and finalize the article myself? And let's be fair, 4$ for a 500 word article is still paying pennies. Literally, less than 1 penny per word.

Egypt is a common country to outsource to. Vodafone UK has outsourced all its call center jobs here. Egypt offers a cheap work force, willing to work long hours which is naturally seen as a great advantage for large companies. Online outsourcing is also a great opportunity for many Egyptians. Take women here for example. Working online means never having to deal with a male-dominated work environment. For many men, outsourced work can provide an inlet into the world of technology and networking opportunities that they can rarely find elsewhere.

Furthermore, as the Egyptian economy continues to suffer like many others around the world and unemployment grows,  outsourced and freelance work seems a great way to make a paycheque. As the majority of companies offering outsourced work are based in the West, they should be offering a fair rate of pay, right? My personal experience indicates that's often a resounding "No."

So next time you're browsing the internet and come across an article on "How to Jailbreak your iPad" or anything of the sort, and you realize that not only is the English atrocious but it's also poorly sourced, just think back to Abdul sitting in Egypt or India, working for 1$ per article. No wonder the English language, and particularly English on the Internet, is getting worse by the day.

As the saying goes: "If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Man Jailed for Sexual Harassment

Unfortunately, sexual harassment is not a topic I've never covered in this blog before. I have written posts with tips on how to avoid harassment in the street, as well as documented cases of women being attacked. In the post-Revolution Egypt, harassment has been on the rise. For a while it seemed that there was little effort made to stem this growing problem, so women themselves responded.

Small groups of activists banded together and decided to do something about the problem. HarassMap became one of the more popular methods of disseminating stories of harassment, where women were able to anonymously post their experiences, where it happened, and speak with women who had similar experiences.

The increasing media and societal pressure seems to be starting to pay off. Yesterday, Ahram Online ran a story reporting on the case of a man who has been sentenced to 2 years in prison, and a 2,000 LE (just over 300$ fine) for sexual harassment. Certainly a step in the right direction, and I hope an acknowledgement by the government that this is an issue that needs to be resolved swiftly. Find the report below.

A Cairo court sentenced a man on Monday to a two-year prison term as well as a LE2,000 ($330) fine for sexually harassing a woman in an incident which occurred several months earlier.

Local rights group El-Nadeem which was handling the case announced that the 42-year-old man was arrested in July for sexually harassing a woman in the southern Cairo district of Maadi.

Sexual harassment of women is a growing problem on Egyptian streets. Since Egypt's January 25 Revolution, the number of the different initiatives that work on combating sexual harassment has significantly increased.

The first sexual harassment lawsuit in Egypt that led to the harasser being imprisoned was in 2008, when a young woman named Noha Roshdy took legal action against a man who harassed her.
Sexual harassment lawsuits receive particular media attention because of the difficulty of convicting harassers amid unclear legal punishments for the crime.

In Late October, Prime Minister Hisham Qandil stated that the Cabinet, along with the Ministry of Interior (MOI) and the National Council for Women, are working on a law to combat harassment on the streets through imposing harsh penalties.

A 2008 survey by the Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights found that 83 per cent of local women in Egypt and 98 per cent of foreign women had been subjected to harassment at least once.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Repost: The Politics of Food

Re-posted from The Egypt Independent, I find this article significant for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it was news to me that much of the produce sold at the local vegetable stands are sprayed with pesticides. One of the great advantages of living in Egypt was the constant access to fresh fruit and veg. The article itself doesn't comment on the type of chemicals, their proliferation, or how often these are sprayed. These are figures and stats I would very much be interested in seeing if anyone has an idea on where to find out that information (that isn't tailored, I mean REAL figures!)

I will readily admit, K and I are part of those who have bought into the "organic" eating trend, and much of our produce is purchased from Egypt's one "organic" farm, Isis. It claims to not only provide the best organic products in Egypt, but will allow you to actually trace where your products have come from based on the batch number. It's a shame that more Isis products are not offered in Hurghada *cough cough* like the Organic Milk. Virtually impossible to find in skimmed versions except on very rare occasions. I would love to see a wider distribution of Isis items.

Anyhow, with that being said read on. I applaud Asuncion Molinos' initiative, as I whole-heartedly believe everyone should have access to clean, fresh, and high standard fruit and vegetables.

Egypt’s food production suffers from schizophrenia: it ranges from a tomato grown in sewage water and sprayed by killer pesticides to a perfect orange, grown following strict international quality and safety standards. The fruit and vegetable stalls in souqs all over the country are flooded with produce belonging to the former category, while most of the high-end, locally grown produce is exported to Europe and other markets.
“The highest quality products that Egypt produces are inaccessible to the normal consumer,” explains Asuncion Molinos, a Spanish visual artist who inaugurated her latest art installation “El Matam El Mish-Masry” in the informal neighborhood of Ard al-Lewa in northwest Giza.
Through the creation of a restaurant with aesthetics that correspond to any street food venue in Egypt’s popular neighborhoods, Molinos aspires to open a conversation on food in the public sphere. “This conversation should be happening in politics, but unfortunately it is not on their agenda,” she deplores. “Healthy food is the best medicine, we could alleviate so many diseases if people had access to clean, nutritious and vitamin filled food,” she says.
But, this food is out of reach for 99 percent of the Egyptian population.
<br />
The temporary restaurant that Molinos has opened will run for the entire month, with each week focusing on one dimension of the food problems Egypt is currently facing. This week, all the dishes that are served (which range in price from LE1 to LE5) use Egypt’s higher quality produce, which is either exported directly to Europe or purchased by the local elite.
Every day, the restaurant will propose a unique menu composed of one soup of the day, two or three salads, one to two main courses and a dessert. “I just want people to rediscover what normal food is, and should be,” she says, explaining that her definition of normal food is food that has been grown by farmers over the entire human history until the Green Revolution of the 1960s, which started applying industrial practices to agriculture.
“I don’t like to use the term organic because not only has it been overused and acts as a brand, but also because the term is often misused, and some produce are dubbed “organic” when they really are not.” According to Molinos, “ordinary food” instead of being the exception, should be the norm again, just like it was for all of human history.
Egypt’s agricultural policies rely on cash crops, which were presented by economists as the solution for buying food that can not be grown locally. However, these cash crops require vast acres of land, suck up Egypt’s scarce water resources and win over viable agricultural land that should be used to grow what Egypt consumes the most: wheat and corn.
Egypt imports more than half of its wheat supplies, mostly from the US but also from Russia, Argentina and France. Whenever a natural disaster strikes in these countries, like the great drought in the US this summer or the latest superstorm Sandy, Egypt faces difficulties in importing enough to feed its population, especially considering that bread makes up a third of the Egyptian diet.
Molinos believes that only a grassroots movement composed of farmers, researchers and university professors can create a coalition to defend the people’s rights to decent food, and farmers’ rights to a better lifestyle.
Reem Saad,  a professor of social anthropology at the American University, is a specialist in rural issues. She told Egypt Independent that she is trying, along with her colleague Habib Ayeb, a geographer and professor in Cairo’s Social Research Center, to include the concept of food sovereignty in the new draft of the constitution in the making.
“I believe that food sovereignty should be the cornerstone of Egypt’s post-revolution food policies,” she stresses. Food sovereignty is a concept coined by members of the international coalition “Via Campesina,” which groups over 148 organizations that advocate a family farm-based sustainable agriculture. Food sovereignty refers to a policy framework that recognizes the right of people to define their own food and agricultural systems according to their needs and not according to the needs of the global market.
“This concept is very different from the idea of ‘food security’” asserts Saad, because food security’s only concern is to provide enough food and is strongly entangled with the fear of hunger. “Food sovereignty is about the quality of the produce, not just the quantity, and the welfare of the ones who produce our food, the peasants.”
She also explains that agricultural and trade policies of the last decades have shown a constant lack of vision on food, and that it all comes down to a political choice: what type of agricultural policies do we want and where do we put public investment? “It is absurd that only the biggest agribusinesses receive help from the government!” she says.
Neither Molinos nor Saad are against Egypt exporting part of its agricultural produce, but what they advocate for is a vision and the prioritization of local consumers. “The idea is not to go back to the Middle Ages, it is just to have a shift of priorities,” Molinos explains. “Egypt should grow healthy, nutritious food for its population, and sell the excess produce on the international market,” she adds.
<br />
Khaled Zayed works for the food supplier company El-Nour in sales. The company he works for supplies many five-star hotel and gourmet restaurants in Egypt with the highest quality fruits and vegetables grown in the country.
“All the farms we work with have a Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification,” he says. The GAP is a collection of criteria that ensures the food is safe and healthy, while taking into account social, economical and environmental sustainability. “We sign agreements with these farms, then we have a quality control team which checks the product and in the final stage we take care of the packaging,” explains Zayed.
To clarify the process of quality standards, he takes the example of a tomato. “We check the tomato’s coloration, its diameter, and the chemicals that have been used, because some of them are allowed under the GAP certification, while others are completely banned.”
The Hilton, GW Mariott and Four Seasons are the major clients of El-Nour company, and recently, an online premium fruits and vegetable supplier, joined the list of the company’s clients.
Since great food grows in Egypt, the actual challenge is to how to democratize access to cheap, healthy food. “It all comes down to dignity,” Ahmed el-Droubi from Greenpeace Egypt said in a previous interview with Egypt Independent. “Food in quantity is not sufficient: quality and dignity need to prevail.”
El Matam El Mish-Masry” runs until 27 November, 5–10 pm at Artellewa, 19 Mohamed Ali El Eseary Street, Ard al-Lewa, Giza.

Facebook Tries to Close Page Supporting Feminist Uprising

A recent press-release on FB allegedly attempting to shut down a site promoting the Women's Uprising in the Arab World. 

Facebook attempts to shut down the voice of The Uprising of Women in the Arab World

Nov 7, 2012 -
On the morning of November 7, 2012, the 5 admins of The Uprising of Women in the Arab World log into Facebook, to find out that one’s account has been blocked for 30 days, another for 3 days, 2 others for 24 hours, and 1 other received a warning notification.
According to Facebook, those persons had violated its policy by sharing a post asking for supporting Dana Bakdounes on Twitter. The message that was sent to the admins as the reasoning for the ban from Facebook was: “You have posted a content that violates Facebook Community Rules, the post says: Follow us on Twitter @UprisingOFWomen. Support Dana with hashtag #WindToDana”

Dana Bakdounes is one the hundreds of women and men who participated in the Uprising of Women in the Arab World campaign, holding a sign expressing the reason why they support this uprising. Dana’s slogan stated: “I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because for 20 years I wasn’t allowed to feel the wind in my hair and on my body”, and her picture showed an unveiled woman carrying her passport with her picture when she was veiled.

Dana’s picture was initially posted on October 21, among many other photos and statements of women and men of various religious beliefs and practices (some women were veiled, some unveiled, some in niqab...), all demanding women’s rights and equally enjoying the freedom of speech, in a secular space that promotes tolerance and embraces the differences. But on October 25, Facebook chose to censor Dana’s image and to suspend for 24 hours the account of the admin who posted it. This incident provoked an outrage among the defenders of freedom of speech who started sharing Dana’s picture all over Facebook, Twitter and other media channels.

On October 28, persuaded that Facebook had mistakenly taken down the photo due to abusive reports of haters of the Page and that the photo held no offensive content, and seeing that it was all over the web, we uploaded it again. A few hours later, Facebook removed it again and blocked another admin’s account for 7 days.

However on October 31, Facebook restored Dana’s censored photo to The Uprising of Women in the Arab World page without any notice nor explanation, although it didn’t lift the ban on the admin’s account which ended on November 5.

On November 7, all 5 admins of The Uprising of Women in the Arab World’s Page received threats by Facebook for the reasons mentioned earlier that their accounts may be permanently deleted. The repeated temporary blockades on the admins’ personal accounts with no clear motive or explanation show a direct attack on The Uprising of Women in The Arab World’s Page. It also raises serious questions about the true intentions behind FB’s policies, and whether Dana’s “controversial” image is a mere excuse to shut down the voice of the Uprising of Women in The Arab World.  
(Note that during the past 3 weeks, we have wrote to Facebook several times asking for explanation about their censorship but received no response at all.)

Today more than ever we want to say to the world that our voices will not be silenced, not by Facebook, nor by patriarchy, dictatorships, military rule and/or religious extremism. They may be temporarily denied, overlooked, censored or whitewashed, but only to be uttered once again. We will continue to write on the dividing walls of fear, submission and defamation, if not tear them down.

The Uprising of Women in the Arab World has already hit the streets! Our slogan is printed on t-shirts in Damascus, riding bicycles in Marseille, being tagged from walls of Mohamed Mahmoud street of Cairo to private home walls in Riyadh, and will soon be all over the world. Schools and universities are organizing workshops inspired by the campaign, films are being shot, music composed, as tens of thousands of women have  decided that enough was enough. The wall of silence has been broken. The revolution continues.

- Ends -

For more information regarding The Uprising of Women in the Arab World page:
Twitter: @UprisingOfWomen

The links to these press releases are below:



Wednesday, November 7, 2012

GMO's and the Dangers They Pose to You

I'll admit, this post has absolutely nothing to do with Egypt - other than the fact that I will mention that Egypt requires labelling of GMO products.

Image courtesy of Bold Vegan

With that being said, yesterday was a huge day in the United States for more than one reason. President Obama was elected for a second term, and millions of Americans hit the polling stations to let their voices be heard. In California, one proposition that was up on the voting ballot was Proposition 37. Unfortunately, this proposition was never passed. For those unfamiliar with it, ballotpedia explains:

If Proposition 37 has been approved, it would have:
  • Required labeling on raw or processed food offered for sale to consumers if the food is made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways.
  • Prohibited labeling or advertising such food as "natural."
  • Exempted from this requirement foods that are "certified organic; unintentionally produced with genetically engineered material; made from animals fed or injected with genetically engineered material but not genetically engineered themselves; processed with or containing only small amounts of genetically engineered ingredients; administered for treatment of medical conditions; sold for immediate consumption such as in a restaurant; or alcoholic beverages."

James Wheaton, who filed the ballot language for the initiative, called it "The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act."

Essentially, it would have given consumers in California the right to know if what they were about to purchase, which is labelled "all natural ingredients," has in fact been altered at the genetic level. I won't get into a tirade here of how GMO crops are manufactured because I urge you to do your own research into it. The more educated people are about this, the better choices you can make for what foods to put into your shopping cart the next time you're at the supermarket. 
Image courtesy of Real Food University

Yet for a proposition that appears to have a very simple request, to allow people to know what they were eating, it created a huge stir in the upper echelons of big agriculture, the topmost of which is Monsanto.

Monsanto is a self-proclaimed "Sustainable Agriculture Company." They made it big with their Round-Up pesticide, but their tendrils of influence stretch far. Monsanto heads up the GMO market, and themselves own patents on the genetic material present in their GMO crops. Translation: Monsanto have managed to patent biological life itself. When was that allowed to happen! 

The immediate repercussions of Monsanto's patent on their GMO crops are being felt by farmers the world around. They can't help it, it's nature. If you have a crop of organic corn 2 miles down the road from a field of Monsanto's GMO corn, and the wind happens to catch a few of the modified seeds and distributes them over the organic farmer's land, it's only natural that seeds will cross-pollinate. And yet there are increasing reports of farmers being sued by Monsanto for violating their patent. 

Hold on a second, what? 

Check out this excerpt taken from an article published by the Intellectual Property Watch, where farmers who have been sued by Monsanto discuss their case:

“This case asks whether Monsanto has the right to sue organic farmers for patent infringement if Monsanto’s transgenic seed should land on their property,” said Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT’s executive director and a law professor at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York. PUBPAT is a non-profit legal services organisation based at Cardozo law school. Its stated mission is “to protect freedom in the patent system.”
“It seems quite perverse that an organic farmer contaminated by transgenic seed could be accused of patent infringement, but Monsanto has made such accusations before and is notorious for having sued hundreds of farmers for patent infringement, so we had to act to protect the interests of our clients,” he said in a press release.

So farmers, through no wrongdoing of their own and Mother Nature taking the natural course that she does, are finding themselves fighting the big-agro companies and losing rights to their own crops. 

All right, you might ask, what does that have to do with labelling of GMOs? 

Well, in order to establish a pattern of behaviour, it is first important to point out how the big-wigs who are running this 'spiel' behave. It is also worth mentioning that you should research into how many people in the US Administration (yes, including Obama's Administration) are former employees and / or advisors of Monsanto, or are in their pocket. Again, I'll let you do your own research into that. 

So it's little surprise that California's Proposition 37 was not passed. The financial backing of the companies that do not want GMOs labelled far surpassed the concerned groups trying to get the word out. Investing millions of dollars into advertising to urge California voters to vote "no" on proposition 37, they have succeeded. This YouTube video gives a great introduction for anyone unfamiliar with the whole story. 

In addition to this, the labelling of GMO products is required in ALL EU countries, as well as many others around the world. Why is it that other countries are pushing to completely OUTLAW the sale of GMOs when US consumers are being told they are perfectly safe? 

For more reading, check out these links: 

For a fantastic documentary that I highly recommend, check out The Future of Food

And here, just because I find the argument so incensing and the complete ignoring of the facts blatantly obvious, is a Professor of Agriculture and Resource Economics from UC Berkeley (David Zilberman) trying to justify why labelling GMOs is a bad idea.  

Stuffed Bell Peppers

I made these for the first time last night and they were a huge success. K exclaimed I'd made "Egyptian mashi-style rice" as apparently the rice used to stuff the peppers tasted just like that. Who'd have known. I suppose I could even call these "Egyptian stuffed bell peppers."

Overall, it's not the quickest recipe to make as there's a lot of vegetable chopping involved, but in the end it is so, so worth it. Next time I'll have to do a photo montage as I go along to post on here. The recipe I made would have comfortably served 3-4 as we had leftovers. Depending on how you want to serve them, either 1 full pepper to a person or 1/2s, this makes a great side dish or starter.

So here's what you'll need: 
4 medium sized bell peppers - I used 2 red and 2 yellow
1/3 cup dry rice
Chicken stock
1 medium onion
1 large carrot
1 medium tomato
1/4 cup red cabbage
1 plain yoghurt
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon each cumin, salt, and black pepper
1 tbsp of white feta


  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 Celsius (350 Fahrenheit). As your oven is heating up, slice your peppers in half (leaving the top on. You want the pepper to give you a nice little "bowl"). In a non-stick pan, drizzle 1 tbsp EVOO over the peppers. When your oven is heated, stick the peppers inside for about 15 minutes. 
  2. While your peppers are cooking, cook your rice with a chicken stock cube (or chicken broth if you prefer). Cook for about 15 minutes, or until almost done. Meanwhile: 
  3. Chop your onions and carrots into small pieces. In a large saucepan, thrown in your remaining 1 tbsp EVOO, chopped onions and carrots. Cook on medium heat until the onions are almost see through. 
  4. As your onions and carrots simmer, chop up and rinse your red cabbage and tomato. Add this to your onion mix when the onions are ready. Leave simmer on medium heat until your rice is ready, stirring occasionally. 
  5. Add your rice to the vegetable mix. Cook for about 1 - 2 minutes with the veggies, then add in your yoghurt and feta, stirring occasionally. 
  6. By this time, your peppers should be finished their first round. Pull them out so that they're not overly hot when you are trying to stuff them (you don't want to burn yourself!)
  7. As your peppers cool slightly, stir your rice and vegetables thoroughly. You want the feta melted and the yoghurt absorbed. This should take you about 4 minutes. 
  8. When your rice mixture is finished, spoon it out a tablespoon at a time, and add roughly 2.5 tablespoons to each of your pepper 'bowls.' You don't want the rice spilling out, so how much rice you add will depend on the size of your peppers. 
  9. Throw the stuffed peppers back into your oven, and cook for another 10 - 15 minutes. (10 minutes will keep the peppers tasting more 'raw' so gauge it on how well you liked your peppers cooked through). 
  10. Serve hot. 

A great and tasty dish for any time of the year. I know we'll be making these again. 

Bil hana wa Shiva!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Gangnam Egyptian Style

For anybody who hasn't been living under a rock the past month, the phrase "Gangnam Style" is something you're pretty much guaranteed to have heard. The YouTube video has clocked an astounding 658,297,390 views, making it the second most viewed YouTube video - ever.  Produced by the South Korean performer, Psy, Gangnam Style has spawned an entire culture of parody videos. [If you have been living under a rock and have yet to see this video, click the link and be fore-warned, if you are consuming any beverage at this time it is likely to spray your computer monitor from laughing]

In my opinion, one of the best parody videos I have seen to date is one produced by Egypt's, titled "Hobaaaa Egyptian Style." Anyone who has lived in Egypt, or even those who have visited and seen the 'real' face of the country, and not the one tailored for the tourists, will greatly enjoy this video.

My favourite bits have got to be the chorus and the constant reference to baladi salad (tomatoes and cucumbers). Egyptians all have one fantastic trait in common: they are fully capable of laughing at themselves and have a great sense of humour.