Keeping a Pet in Cairo

Pets can make you feel at home, especially in an unfamiliar place.  We ended up leaving our cat, Ruby behind, but if you are traveling to Egypt, you can of course bring your pet.  I’ve heard of people doing it, but unfortunately I don’t have any info about costs, as I never planned to do it myself.  I do know several airlines will let you bring a small cat or dog right in the cabin (Air France is one).

Cairo has numerous pet shops.  You can find a pretty good variety of animals.  Parakeets, parrots, sparrows, kittens, puppies, turtles, fish, mice, and hamsters.  I personally was not impressed with the care taken of the animals.  The puppies weren’t feed pet food, but some mixture of soft cheese and other ‘people’ food.  I saw a dead hamster being pecked at by the other hamsters in the cage.  After my son begged and begged for a mouse, lizard or hamster, we finally compromised  with a sparrow.  Unfortunately, one of our pair of sparrows died within a month of purchasing it.  We also lost two turtles.  I’m not sure if the problem was the store or us.  I read a lot about care for turtles, their food and habitat, one thing they need is a heat lamp, which they did NOT have at the shop.  I did purchase a lamp, but it probably wasn’t adequate.

I’m not sure how easy it is to find a vet.  The way that street and farm animals are treated is often appalling, so I’m not sure how much demand there would be for medical treatment for animals.

A puppy will run you about $50, a kitten as well.  They are pure breeds.  Surprisingly dogs are a pretty common pet.  Surprising for two reasons, many muslims view living with dogs to be haraam, and, given the cramped conditions in Cairo, God knows why would you want a dog to share your space, particularly the large breeds that seemed popular.  I saw a lot of bull dogs!  Another drawback would be commercial food, I don’t remember specifics, but compared to other foods, dog and cat food were not cheap!  We purchased our little turtles for 15 L.E.’s, there were huge ones for over 100 L.E.  Birds go anywhere from about 20 to 150 L.E.’s.  Bird food and cages are pretty cheap as well.

Some people also have rabbits, although you won’t find them at the pet stores.  You can get them at the souk, I think for about 20-30 L.E.’s.  Of course more people prefer to eat them then keep them as pets.

Street dogs and cats abound, but I would NOT recommend taking one off the streets.  They are WILD animals.  The afore mentioned Ruby was a very mild and fat cat.  It was a big deal to see her jump up on the couch.  Cairo cats on the other hand can scale 8 foot walls!  I felt my heart in my throat several times when a cat jumped out of a dumpster right at me, just as I was throwing our trash inside!  Street dogs are the common mutt variety, tail between the legs, usually sleeping underneath cars during the day, avoiding the sun.  At night, they seem to roam in packs.  Some brothers reported being chased by them at the time of fajr.  I know some even took to carrying rocks to throw, just in case.  People from the ‘west’ are often dismayed to see the poor treatment of animals.  It is common to see the children of the poor taunting, teasing, or doing worse to the poor dogs in the streets.  Once we watched from the balcony, a group of ‘bawwab’ kids mistreat a dog that they’d tied up.  We yelled down at them, but most people just ignored them.  Alhamdulillah, one man came out of a building waving a  stick and made them scatter.  I shared an arabic class once with a Ukrainian girl and she came to class very upset about  seeing a group of kids mistreating a cat.  It is very unislamic to mistreat animals, but many of the people live pretty hard lives themselves and are ignorant to the idea of ‘animal rights’.

One thing which surprised us were the sheer number of animals wandering the streets.  Obviously there is no official neutering program in place.  I did hear tales of people poisoning animals to reduce their numbers, but I don’t know if that is true.

There are other non domesticated animals to be found in the streets.  Ferrets are pretty common.  You can occasionally see a hoopee bird in the park.  There are toads as well.  In the spring, the kids and I found toad eggs  in a park puddle.  We took them home and tried raise tadpoles and eventually toads, but unfortunately they didn’t live.  I found a pic of the typical street dogs, below.


Seasons of Cairo

Born and raised in the midwest, I’m used to 4 seasons.  Freezing winters (we’ve been snowed in for a few days!), spring with lots of rain, warm summers, and colorful falls.  There is not as much visible change to mark the seasons in Cairo.  None of the trees lose their leaves or change color, however, some of them do flower becoming quite colorful beginning in March.  The rains usually come in winter (and a lesser amount in the fall as well).  And you can usually guess the time of year from the different fruits and vegetables available in the streets (the opposite of the states, where you can usually find most fruits and veggies, regardless of the season).  Corn on the cob all summer long, roasted over coals.  Many people supplement their income by selling it in the street.  It took some getting used to, people eat it without butter, salt or spice.  Here is a pic (I didn’t take the Egyptian pictures, I searched the internet to give a better visual idea).  I was always tempted to photograph the fire of the woman I bought corn from, but I hated looking like a tourist, lol.

Also in the summer grapes become available, as well as strawberries, which are sold on a platter, the seller using a cup or some type of scoop to measure out as many kilo as you want.  At different times of the year you can get oranges, fresh figs, kiwi, bananas, watermelon, frequently arranged beautifully at a corner stand.  Sometimes they arrange lights as decorations.  A lot of those guys actually sleep next to their fruit stands.  This is a more humble example.

In the winter there are roasted yams.  They smell delicious and very sweet.  You can buy one for half guinea ( I think less than a quarter), the vendor hands it to you wrapped in paper.  Here’s another pic to give you an idea.

Our year in America has been chronicled with pictures taken outside during different seasons.  The kids actually took some of these.  Here in the backyard of the house we rented when we first arrived home during March.  That first winter was really beautiful.

Summer canoe trip

Fall in the park


Slaughter in the Streets

I know this is late, but I’ve been really busy and traveled during Eid.  I used to complain years ago about how difficult it is to slaughter  islamically in America.  Which is one reason most people send money overseas instead.  Every year dh would slaughter a lamb in Egypt.  You can literally buy one in the streets of Cairo. We had a stall right outside of our apartment where they were housed and sold.

Of course dh would drive out into the country to get the biggest, ‘cleanest’ animal he could find.  Last year I missed most of Eid day traveling.  Once I was home most people had done with their slaughtering.  I had planned to take pics, but all I got was the blood in the streets, lol!

While I appreciate how easy it is to slaughter in Egypt,I did have some reservations about it being done in such a metropolitan area.  I mean, people literally do it in the streets.  All day you are walking around blood puddles, tails, etc.

My kids have seen slaughtering since they were small.  They’ve never had a problem with it.  LOL, dh usually lets them make friends with the animal.  Two years back, my youngest then 6yrs, rode on the back of the animal, later while we were packaging the meat, dh asked her, “aren’t you sad about the lamb being slaughtered.”  She said, ‘well yes, but I still want to eat it!’  In fact it has kind of been the highlight of the Eid.  It can be kind of graphic, particularly when a cow or a camel is slaughtered.  I’ve only heard about the camels, but we’ve seen several cows slaughtered.  It can be an overwhelming sight, even for adults, but the kids handled it well.  There are usually about 6 or 7 men, who literally jump on the cow, to get it down on the ground.  Then someone comes in with a knife and slashes as the neck.  Then everyone scatters.  Sometimes the cow gets up again.  If the cut was good, it will lay there, but kick, while buckets of blood pour from the vein in the neck.  It can kick for several minutes after its apparently gone.  After its still, they hook up a  water hose to it’s insides and empty it of waste (gross, I know) and then they removed the insides and skin it pretty quickly.  Finally the animal is applied to a hook and cut into pieces.

Just because it’s done in a muslim country does not mean that the rules of slaughter are always followed.  A sharp knife should be used to dispatch the sacrifice as soon as possible.  The knife should not be displayed or sharpened in front of the animal.  Animals should not be slaughtered in front of each other.  Of course they should not be mistreated.  All of this is in hadith, but I’m too lazy to search for them right now, maybe later I can post them.  In a poor country people don’t always keep the welfare of the animal in mind.  Many times the slaughter is done in plain sight of other animals.  I actually saw one poor sheep escape and take off down the street twice.  He knew his fate!  Here are some pics of the slaughter in Egypt.  I got them from a website in Australia dedicated to the welfare of animals.  Unfortunately, their purpose was to show how inhumane slaughtering is.  It really depends on who is doing it.  I believe slaughtering Islamically is very humane.

As you can see, any and every means is used to transport the animal, including the trunks of cars.

Finally, here is a pic of our animal this year, done in a slaughterhouse, by another muslim brother, since dh was just too busy with work.  Ah, that’s life.

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Tale of two Ramadans

I keep thinking about it, trying to analyze my feelings and figure out why this past Ramadan was literally the best I’ve experienced in 4 years (ie, since we left America).  The only thing I can figure is, the sense of not having any ‘place’ in Egyptian society really effected me more than I realized.  Despite being a minority, in religion as well as race in America, I can’t help but feel that I  belong here.  As much ease as I felt in regard to my kids and their Islamic upbringing, in Egypt thoughts of the future stretched out into a really bleak, lonely horizon.  We did make friends, but for the most part, they kept their ties with their countries, and would travel back and forth. 

Usually in Egypt, dh would go out to the masjid alone.  The closer neighborhood ones were usually small, with no space for women.  The larger masajid did have a space for women, and many Egyptian women do attend the prayers, especially in Ramadan.  But, if we all wanted to go, that usually meant a taxi, or a hike.  Not something I was interested in after fasting all day.  So the kids and I usually stayed home. 

This Ramadan, the masjid is right around the corner, literally walking distance.  I went to tarawih probably about 18-20 nights out of the month.  We didn’t socialize much, probably 3 iftars total (not counting the ones at the masjid), but that was more than in Egypt.  Almost every night I saw someone I knew at the masjid.  At a masjid not far from my house one of the Qaris during taraweeh was a boy man I knew as a preteen, all grown-up, married  and leading the prayer (btw, I’m not that old, I was about 19 when I used to know him).  At the same masjid, there is iftar dinner every night, I remember attending half of the month when I was pregnant with my first kid.  I have a history here.  It’s hard to completely leave that behind. 

Of course it is also a heck of a lot easier shopping, cleaning, even cooking here.  I still remember walking up those 5 flights of stairs, carrying my grocery bags (which I had walked home with).  Contrast that with walking right outside my door, stepping into my car and driving to the store.

We’ve discussed ways in which we might move again overseas, and for the most part I’ve rejected the idea of going back to Egypt.  To tell the truth, I’m not sure if I’d feel at home in any other country, but the life *might* be easier.  Dh did receive a job offer (for not much money) in another country, but he’s not excited about it.  We’ll just have to wait and see what Allah has planned for us.

Sad news

Um Muhammad was the arabic teacher for my kids for 3 years.  They really grew to love her.  We would spent our Eid al-Adha together.  My husband would go with her husband and brothers to purchase the sheep for slaughter.  The men would all slaughter down in the courtyard, while the women waited upstairs having tea and sweets.  I grew to know Um Muhammad’s family.  About her married daughters, their marriages, problems, husbands, and pregnancies.  I met them, the older one, an English teacher, younger one a college student and hafitha of Quran.  Her son Muhammad, also a college student.  She shared her worries with me and I shared my troubles with her.  She always helped me with finding drivers, household stuff, and cleaning women.  She frequently brought by food; delicious beshamel, mashi, basbousa.   

Her son Muhammad was a 19 yr old engineering student.  She complained about how he drove her car (it frequently needed repair after he was done with it).  She would tell my oldest she’d like the two to marry.  As was typical with boys, especially only sons, he frequently got his way.  I found out in Ramadan that he has died, from complications with diabetes.  I can only imagine what Um Muhammad is feeling (I have tried to call but can’t reach her).  Ina lillah, wa ina ilahi raji’un.

Natural Medicines from the Sunnah

I’d been planning for a while to write about hijama, and just by chance I came across American Bedu’s blog with the same topic.  She also has a video depicting hijama, which I’ll steal post here, since it is very similar to what I do myself. 

There is such a wealth of natural medicine to be found in hadith.  Two remedies from the sunnah of Rasulullah, sallahu aleyhe wassalaam, I never tried til I lived in Egypt.  The first was Talbinah, a barley porridge.  From hadith:

Volume 7, Book 71, Number 593:
Narrated ‘Ursa: Aisha رضى الله عنها used to recommend At-Talbina for the sick and for such a person as grieved over a dead person. She used to say, “I heard Allah’s Apostle صلى الله عليه وسلم saying, ‘At-Talbina gives rest to the heart of the patient and makes it active and relieves some of his sorrow and grief.” [Bukhari]

Volume 7, Book 71, Number 594:
Narrated Hisham’s father:
Aisha رضى الله عنها used to recommend At-Talbina and used to say, “It is disliked (by the patient) although it is beneficial.” [Bukhari]

‘A’isha رضى الله عنها the wife of Allah’s Apostle صلى الله عليه وسلم said: When there was any bereavement in her family the women gathered there for condolence and they departed except the members of the family and some selected persons. She asked to prepare talbina in a small couldron and it was cooked and then tharid was prepared and it was poured over talbina, then she said: Eat it, for I heard Allah’s Messenger (may peade be upon him) as saying: Talbina gives comfort to the aggrieved heart and it lessens grief. [Muslim]

You can buy Talbinah prepackaged in ‘Attaba from Abu Fida’, or in bulk from almost any ‘atara.  LOL, the package claims it cures anything from cancer to diabetes.  It was good for helping me with stomach upsets and depression.  It’s interesting to note, barley is used mostly in the middle east, but other countries, such as Japan use it a good deal also.  In addition to using the flour to make porridge, you can buy hulled barley (sha’ir).   The cooked barley can be added to salads, soups.  You can actually drink the water used to boil it, mix it with milk and honey.  It’s very good for lowering high blood sugar.

The other cure from our Rasulullah, sallahu aleyhe wassalaam, is hijama, or cupping.  In case you don’t know, it involves applying a glass or plastic suction cup to a part of your body, then making a small cut to draw out the blood from that area.  I never even considered trying this in the States.  I just happened to visit a sister (Um Esa)  while she was having it done.  I had been having back pains (from a horridly soft mattress), so I arranged to have it done.  Cupping, like everything else, you might have to pay a pretty penny.  I think I was quoted, 3LE per cut.  If you are getting quite a few areas done, that adds up.  Alhamdulillah, I purchased my own equipment, and had a sister show me how to do it.  You can either find doctor who practices natural medicine, or just individuals who’ve learned how to do it.  It is wonderful for insomnia, depression, headaches, and a host of other maladies.  Dh still won’t let me do it on anyone else ( I did do cupping on my youngest back in Egypt when she was sick FOREVER with some sort of stomache virus.)  I still do it whenever I get a chance, especially when I have a headache I just can’t shake.

Allahu alim, there don’t appear to be specific hadith in regard to where to cup for particular illnesses.  The people who practiced this in Egypt seem to follow the ‘points’ established for acupunture.  There is actually a photocopied book you can purchase in some souks with ‘points’ for everything from arthritis to weight loss.  From my understanding, cupping works best if you do it fairly regularly.  But it does make you tired afterwards.  I only do it at night before bed.  It is REALLY relaxing.   

I found a few websites that discuss benefits of barley.


And here is the video depicting hijama.

Inspiring People

I met Um Esa at Markez Fajr.  She had a kind of dry sense of humor which she’d use it in the kitchen during our breaks.  I’d always been shy, but I realized if I wanted friends, I’d have to make some of the first moves.  I found out (as I’d guessed) that she was a Londoner of Bengali origin.  She’s come to Egypt a few months prior to us.  During the course of our conversations, I found her son, Esa, 8, at the time same age as my oldest, had memorized five juz of Quran.  Wow, I thought.  We’d always planned for our kids to memorize the entire Quran, but had assumed they wouldn’t start in earnest until they were older, say 12.  This changed the whole equation!  I quickly got hooked up with her teacher and started the kids on private Quran lessons.

It became a competition among the kids.  How much have you memorized?  Or, I’m on such and such juz or surah.  I remember being on an elevator with a sister from Kosovo, she told me with pride that her son, the same age as mind had memorized 10 azja.  My son, who had finished about 15 juz, said, “that’s all!” It got so that was the first question they’d ask a kid when they met, ‘what surah are you on?’  LOL, once they said it to their American cousins, who weren’t even memorizing the Quran!

Um Esa was who I’d go to to ask questions about the kids reviewing the surahs they’d memorized.  Or to find a new teacher or Quran school.  I tried her ideas, put Quran on while they are playing.  Have them listen to each other recite.  Um Esa would make charts to track their progress, and much of it she did alone, while her husband worked in Britian.  Her son finished his hifz last year, before his 11th birthday.  Her daughter was about 3/4’s finished and was trying to finish the same year.  Her kids recite beautifully mashallah.  I’m still waiting for my ‘moment’, when my oldest inshallah finishes.  She still has 4 azja remaining.  I don’t think I ever could have pushed her alone, dh primarily works with them and makes sure they are progessing and reviewing.