Friday, May 25, 2012

Initial Results from Egypt's Presidential Elections

Preliminary results from the Presidential elections are being announced from governorates around Egypt. They are, needless to say, less than what was expected. [For information on the leading contenders please click here.]

Results in Hurghada indicate that Commander Ahmed Shafiq stood in the lead, after 54,013 votes were cast, and of those 53,446 considered valid. Shafiq led the pack with 13,819 votes, followed by Hamdeen Sabahy 13,471 votes, and then Abu Fotouh 9078 votes, and Amr Moussa, 8039 votes, and Mohamed Morsi 8033 votes. A shocking twist for the revolutionaries to see the former PM of Mubarak's regime taking the lead. Is this an indication that the votes may have been rigged? Better yet, is this indicative of Egyptians having grown weary of the continued conflicts and uncertainty that reign supreme at this time, longing for the 'peaceful' days of the Mubarak regime. Mubarak's last words, "you'll regret this Egypt," seem to ring true! 

Sohag's results are no different. Initial indications show Morsi in the lead with 202,554 votes, to Shafiq's 177,418. 

This means that the potential run-off could be between former PM Shafiq, and the MB's candidate Morsi. For someone observing on the outside, all I can wonder is how was this allowed to happen. Shafiq's nomination would certainly appease the Western powers eagerly watching to see the power-struggle unfold in Egypt, yet for Morsi to take the presidency can be nothing more than a huge step backwards. Politicians will again busy themselves with talks of banning bikini's and / or sale of alcohol while subverting the primary issues of importance in Egypt at the moment: the economy, unemployment, and rebuilding a devastated infrastructure. 

A New York Times article published today discusses the possibility of a run-off between both candidates. In speaking to Commander Shafiq's spokesman, Ahmed Sarhan, when asked about what could have appealed about Shafiq to the Egyptian voters he said it was because he'd "promised to save Egypt from the dark forces," in an apparent reference to the MB and the Islamists.  

"Mr. Shafik would bring back security, Mr. Sarhan said. “The revolution has ended,” he said. “It is one and a half years.” The other former front-runner who fell behind Mr. Shafik was Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a dissident former Brotherhood leader campaigning as both an Islamist and a liberal. He explicitly challenged the Brotherhood’s authority to speak as the voice of political Islam. His iconoclastic campaign promised to upend the old culture-war dichotomies of Egyptian and Arab politics, and it caught fire among an unlikely alliance of Brotherhood youth, ultraconservative Islamists known as salafis, and more secular minded leftists and liberals," the NYT article noted.

As an interesting sidenote, the NYT article points out "As the votes were counted Friday morning, some liberals and leftists ruefully observed that, taken together, Mr. Aboul Fotouh and Mr. Sabahi attracted more votes than Mr. Shafik or Mr. Mursi. Neither, however, will enter the runoff."

That provides little comfort for those watching the votes being tallied. The next few weeks in Egypt will be a very telling time. 

Egypt's Indecision 2012

As two days of elections to choose Egypt's new president drew to a close in Hurghada, initial estimates showed a surprising twist in the candidates in the lead. The presidential elections have been a long awaited, perceived end to the almost 17 month struggle for freedom and democracy in the country. They were seen as a monumental move forward. Yet the initial results trickling in from around Egypt are causing revolutionaries to sit back and wonder if there ever was a revolution in the first place.

To begin with, let's take a look at some of the contenders for the presidency in this race.

Dr. Abd ElMoneim Abo El Fotouh: 
Many initially believed that Abo El Fotouh would be the favourite in the parliamentary elections. His name is familiar with many Egyptians due to his years on cable as a television sheikh. A self-proclaimed Islamist politician, he was jailed three times during the reign of Mubarak due to his pronounced disagreements with many of the regime's policies. A former Muslim Brotherhood member, Abo El Fotouh severed his ties with the party in 2011 following his decision to run for the presidency.

Amr Moussa:
Image courtesy of
Amr Moussa served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs for former President Mubarak's for a decade, and served as the Secretary General of the Arab League from 2001 - 2011.  His candidacy was a hot topic following the initial ruling that no members of the former regime would be eligible to run in the presidential campaign. Moussa has claimed to be a staunch supporter of the Revolution and that he was opposed to the Mubarak regime while in service of the government.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Hamdeen Sabahy:
Hamdeen Sabahy is a pro-revolution long term political activist. He is the token left wing candidate in the elections and had a great support base among the Egyptian youth and revolutionaries. Sabahy supports the model implemented by late Preisdent Gamal Abd El-Nasser, and is considered a strong Nationalist. Sabahy has no ties with the former regime.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Commander Ahmed Shafiq:
Commander Ahmed Shafiq was one of the more surprising candidates. Having served as Mubarak’s last prime minister, he was still in his post of power on the infamous day of the attack, February 2, 2011, when thugs rode into protests on horseback and camels. He has made his Anti-Revolution stance apparent, and remains a strong supporter of Mubarak, even continuing to regard Mubarak as a good man and a role model. He is an ex-military commander himself and claims to be on good terms with the current ruling military council.

Image courtesy of
Dr. Mohamed Morsi:
Dr. Mohamed Morsi is the Muslim Brotherhood's presidential candidate. He is the group’s replacement for Khayrat Al-Shater whose presidential bid was rejected. He served as the chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood political party since the revolution in 2011. He is regarded as relatively unknown to many voters as he wasn’t put forward by the leadership until he was chosen to replace Khayrat AlShater (a prominent leader of the group).

Next up, a blog detailing the initial results from the presidential elections.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

15 Things to Give Up

Taken from the Purpose Fairy, sometimes we all need little reminders like these.

Here is a list of 15 things which, if you give up on them, will make your life a lot easier and much, much happier. We hold on to so many things that cause us a great deal of pain, stress and suffering – and instead of letting them all go, instead of allowing ourselves to be stress free and happy – we cling on to them. Not anymore. Starting today we will give up on all those things that no longer serve us, and we will embrace change. Ready? Here we go:

1. Give up your need to always be right

There are so many of us who can’t stand the idea of being wrong – wanting to always be right – even at the risk of ending great relationships or causing a great deal of stress and pain, for us and for others. It’s just not worth it. Whenever you feel the ‘urgent’ need to jump into a fight over who is right and who is wrong, ask yourself this question: “Would I rather be right, or would I rather be kind?” Wayne Dyer. What difference will that make? Is your ego really that big?

2. Give up your need for control 

Be willing to give up your need to always control everything that happens to you and around you – situations, events, people, etc. Whether they are loved ones, coworkers, or just strangers you meet on the street – just allow them to be. Allow everything and everyone to be just as they are and you will see how much better will that make you feel.

“By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond winning.” Lao Tzu

3. Give up on blame 

Give up on your need to blame others for what you have or don’t have, for what you feel or don’t feel. Stop giving your powers away and start taking responsibility for your life.

4. Give up your self-defeating self-talk 

Oh my. How many people are hurting themselves because of their negative, polluted and repetitive self-defeating mindset? Don’t believe everything that your mind is telling you – especially if it’s negative and self-defeating. You are better than that.

“The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive.” Eckhart Tolle

5. Give up your limiting beliefs 

about what you can or cannot do, about what is possible or impossible. From now on, you are no longer going to allow your limiting beliefs to keep you stuck in the wrong place. Spread your wings and fly!

“A belief is not an idea held by the mind, it is an idea that holds the mind” Elly Roselle

6. Give up complaining 

Give up your constant need to complain about those many, many, maaany things – people, situations, events that make you unhappy, sad and depressed. Nobody can make you unhappy, no situation can make you sad or miserable unless you allow it to. It’s not the situation that triggers those feelings in you, but how you choose to look at it. Never underestimate the power of positive thinking.

7. Give up the luxury of criticism 

Give up your need to criticize things, events or people that are different than you. We are all different, yet we are all the same. We all want to be happy, we all want to love and be loved and we all want to be understood. We all want something, and something is wished by us all.

8. Give up your need to impress others

Stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not just to make others like you. It doesn’t work this way. The moment you stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not, the moment you take off all your masks, the moment you accept and embrace the real you, you will find people will be drawn to you, effortlessly.

9. Give up your resistance to change

Change is good. Change will help you move from A to B. Change will help you make improvements in your life and also the lives of those around you. Follow your bliss, embrace change – don’t resist it.
“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls” Joseph Campbell

10. Give up labels

Stop labeling those things, people or events that you don’t understand as being weird or different and try opening your mind, little by little. Minds only work when open. “The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” Wayne Dyer

11. Give up on your fears 

Fear is just an illusion, it doesn’t exist – you created it. It’s all in your mind. Correct the inside and the outside will fall into place.
“The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

12. Give up your excuses 

Send them packing and tell them they’re fired. You no longer need them. A lot of times we limit ourselves because of the many excuses we use. Instead of growing and working on improving ourselves and our lives, we get stuck, lying to ourselves, using all kind of excuses – excuses that 99.9% of the time are not even real.

13. Give up the past 

I know, I know. It’s hard. Especially when the past looks so much better than the present and the future looks so frightening, but you have to take into consideration the fact that the present moment is all you have and all you will ever have. The past you are now longing for – the past that you are now dreaming about – was ignored by you when it was present. Stop deluding yourself. Be present in everything you do and enjoy life. After all life is a journey not a destination. Have a clear vision for the future, prepare yourself, but always be present in the now.

14. Give up attachment

This is a concept that, for most of us is so hard to grasp and I have to tell you that it was for me too, (it still is) but it’s not something impossible. You get better and better at with time and practice. The moment you detach yourself from all things, (and that doesn’t mean you give up your love for them – because love and attachment have nothing to do with one another, attachment comes from a place of fear, while love… well, real love is pure, kind, and self less, where there is love there can’t be fear, and because of that, attachment and love cannot coexist) you become so peaceful, so tolerant, so kind, and so serene. You will get to a place where you will be able to understand all things without even trying. A state beyond words.

15. Give up living your life to other people’s expectations

Way too many people are living a life that is not theirs to live. They live their lives according to what others think is best for them, they live their lives according to what their parents think is best for them, to what their friends, their enemies and their teachers, their government and the media think is best for them. They ignore their inner voice, that inner calling. They are so busy with pleasing everybody, with living up to other people’s expectations, that they lose control over their lives. They forget what makes them happy, what they want, what they need….and eventually they forget about themselves. You have one life – this one right now – you must live it, own it, and especially don’t let other people’s opinions distract you from your path.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Egyptians Eagerly Anticipate Presidential Debate

I naively hadn't realized just how monumental this moment is in the lives of so many Egyptians until I had to explain the concept of what a presidential debate actually is.

Tonight Amr Moussa and Abou el Fatouh will face off in the presidential debate and have the chance to argue their platforms. Anyone wanting to watch this debate live can do so at the following link, Al Masri Al Yawm's channel:


Cleo, a Success Story

On April 8th, I posted a blog about the creation of a new equine charity in Hurghada, the Continental Rescue. In this blog, I detail the story of Cleo, the first mare to have been rescued who is now considered almost back to full health, and has started working under saddle again. 

I caught a few pictures of her today out free running, and they speak far louder than I ever could. Cleo is a beautiful little mare, who has finally found the bounce in her step again!

Here is Cleo the week she arrived on October 23, 2011.

And here is Cleo today, flying!

Enjoy a video of Cleo the Arabian having a ball! 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Easy Vanilla Cheesecake Recipe

Cheesecake is one of those desserts that never fails to wow people, yet many novice bakers are apprehensive about taking cheesecake on as it is believed to be so difficult to make. This is not the case; in fact as far as baking goes, cheesecake is actually quite easy, it just takes time. To show you just how easy it is, I've provided a step by step with photos.

There are a plethora of cheesecake varieties out there, with perhaps the most famous being the New York Style, but I'll save that for another day. Today we're going to tackle the age-old traditional vanilla cheesecake.

First up you will need a pie crust. Store bought pie crusts work fine, but if you're like me, you'll want to make it from scratch. I've played around with a variety of different ingredients for the crust, and one of my favourite things to throw in there are Hob Nob biscuits. The oats in the biscuits add a lovely crunch to the crust, so if you  happen upon Hob Nobs, grab a pack!

So here's what you'll need for the crust: 

  • 1 1/2 cups crumbled biscuits (or flour if you prefer - if using flour, add 2 - 3 tbsp of sugar to the crust)
  • 6 tbsp of melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon. 

*Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, 190 Celsius*

Start off with your biscuits. I chose plain old vanilla tea biscuits for this recipe, but depending on your taste preferences you can choose a wide variety. Play around with it and find what suits you best!

Next up you have to crumble the biscuits into fine crumbs. You can use a food processor, or you can use one of my favourite stress busters. Stick your biscuits into a Ziplock bag, and using a rolling pin roll them out and crush them into crumbs.

It should end up looking like this: 

Add one teaspoon of cinnamon to your crust mix. 

Throw in your melted butter on top of it all, and mix well. 

The end consistency should be one of soggy crumbs. Not too wet that they clump together, but not too dry that you cannot get them to stick.

Finally, in an 8 inch pie dish, mold your crumbs into a pie crust like this: 

 Bake your crust in the oven for about 8-10 minutes until it's slightly golden. Remove and let it cool.

Next up is the cheesecake part. Here's what you'll need for this: 

  • 300 - 500 grams (3/4 - 1 lb) of softened cream cheese (the more cream cheese you add, the more solid your pie filling will be. For this pie I used 300 grams of cream cheese, and the final result was the consistency of cream cheese pudding. Delicious! But for first time bakers of cheese cake, go with 500 grams)
  • 1 1/4 cups white granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 3 large eggs
Here's a tip I have found ever so useful. I always thought it had to be Philadelphia cream cheese in the recipe to get the perfect cheesecake. Not so. Philadelphia in Egypt is outrageously expensive, making the overhead costs of just one cheesecake topping out at around 20 dollars. Fortunately, Kiri Cheese is a perfect alternative. Make sure you leave your cheese out before cooking to let it soften, it will make the first step much easier for you. 

Combine your cheese and sugar in a large mixing bowl. 

Add your vanilla essence. 

Mix well until you have a smooth mixture like this: 

Add your eggs one at a time and mix thoroughly. Make sure you're scraping the sides of your bowl as you go along to really get all the ingredients mixed well.

The end mixture should look something like this: 

Add the cheesecake mix to your cooled pie crust, and throw it in the oven for about 30 - 40 minutes. You want it to be solid, but still wobbly in the center. Remove the cheesecake from the oven, and let cool. Refrigerate from 12-24 hours. Serve on its own, or with whipped cream as a topping, or really whatever you want!

Here's the final product! 

Bon Appetit! :D

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Reports of 18 journalists assaulted or arrested in Egypt

The ongoing violence in Abasseya in Cairo does not appear to be slowing down any time soon. According to a report posted on the Committee to Protect Journalists, 18 journalists have either been detained or assaulted in the past few days. Below find the report.

New York, May 4, 2012--At least 18 journalists have been assaulted, injured, or arrested in the past three days while covering clashes between protesters and thugs and uniformed military personnel in front of the defense ministry in the neighborhood of Abbasiya in Cairo, according to news reports.
"Authorities cannot stand by while journalists are being beaten--at times so viciously that their lives are put at risk," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "We call on the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to identify the attackers and bring them to justice immediately, as well as to release journalists in custody. Journalists must be allowed to carry out their work without threat of physical assault or arrest."
Intense clashes in front of the defense ministry between protesters on the one hand and armed thugs and uniformed military personnel on the other began on Wednesday with at least 11 people killed and hundreds injured, according to news reports. The demonstrations began as a sit-in protesting the exclusion of a would-be presidential candidate, but other groups soon joined. Today's protests were largely in response to the deaths in Wednesday's clashes, news reports said. The military stepped in today to clear protesters out of Abbasiya Square; the demonstrators were met not only by uniformed personnel but also unidentified thugs with guns and batons, firing pellets and live bullets and assaulting hundreds of people, news reports said.
Mohamed Raafat was the most badly injured. A reporter for the news website Masrawy, he was beaten and shot at with pellets by three unidentified armed men who noticed him filming them as they were assaulting protesters on Wednesday in Abbasiya, his employer reported. The three men confiscated his camera and continued to beat the journalist for one hour, Raafat said in a phone interview from his hospital bed on privately owned satellite broadcaster ONTV. Rafaat was severely beaten, as shown in several graphic photographs of him published on Masrawy's website after his assault. Raafat sustained multiple injuries to his head, back, face, and the rest of his body, he said. The journalist was taken to the hospital and received 25 stitches in his head, hesaid in the interview.
Today, Abd al-Rahman Yousef, a photographer for the independent news site Hoqook, was taking pictures of the clashes when an unidentified man approached him with a knife and cut part of his ear off, his employer reported. Yousef has been unable to reach a hospital due to the military surrounding the square and preventing anyone from getting out, the report said.
Ahmed Ramadan and Islam Abu al-Ezz, both working for the independent daily Al-Badil, were arrested today while covering the clashes in Abbasiya, according to thenewspaper. The two journalists were assaulted and captured by unidentified thugs and handed over to the military, the report said. The two journalists were taken in a military vehicle to the military prosecutor's office, the newspaper's editor-in-chief, Khaled el-Balshy, posted on his Twitter account.
A crew of seven cameramen and correspondents from the satellite broadcaster Misr25 -- Ahmed Lotfy, Hassan Khodry, Ahmed Fadl, Musaab Hamid, Ahmed Abd al-Alim, Mohamed Rabie, and Mohamed Amin -- was arrested today while covering the clashes, the broadcaster reported on the air. Abd al-Alim told Misr25 that he and about 70 other people who were being transported in a vehicle by security forces were being viciously beaten, the broadcaster said. 
Virgine Nyugen, a Belgian photojournalist for the English-language daily Egypt Independent, was injured in the face while covering clashes in Abbasiya today and taken to Ain Shams hospital for treatment, according to news reports. Military forces entered the hospital and arrested her and took her to a state security office, multiple local journalists reported from their Twitter accounts. She was questioned briefly and released three hours later, according to the same sources. Mohamed al-Shami, a journalist from the Arabic-language sister publication Al-Masry Al-Youm, was also arrested, Abeer Saadi, an Egyptian Journalists Syndicate board member, told Al-Badil.
Abd al-Rahman Musharaf, a reporter for Egypt's newest daily, Al-Watan, was arrested and beaten today by military police while covering the clashes in Abbasiya and remains in custody, his employer reported. Three other Al-Watan journalists covering the clashes -- Mohamed Kamel, Ahmed Abdu, and Ahmed Bahnasi -- were rushed to the hospital suffering the effects of tear gas, the newspaper reported.
Kamel was also assaulted by a group of protesters while covering the clashes yesterday,Al-Watan added. Mohamed Amr, a photographer for the daily, was hit by stones thrown by unidentified assailants while taking pictures yesterday, the newspaper said. Amr received three stitches for his injury.
This week's assaults and arrests in Egypt mark the largest spate of attacks on the press since CPJ documented a spike in attacks in February against journalists in Cairo and Suez. In December and November alone, CPJ documented 50 anti-press attacks during clashes between protesters and security forces in Egypt. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Summer is here!

May has arrived, and with it the summer sun and heat. One of the most beautiful things about living along the Red Sea are the wide array of colours you can catch just wandering around. Here's a few shots taken around Hurghada that I think help to show the beauty of this location. Enjoy :)