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.


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.

Only in Egypt

This is too funny.  I have personally seen a lot of the things in this video happening in the street.  I had myself a good laugh.  Especially from the traffic and spelling mistakes, classic Egypt.  Just realized there is music ( I usually have my speakers off.)





Here I felt bad for the donkey, but they really do use them like this.


And here’s another one that doesn’t surprise me.  Alhamdulillah, no one was hurt.


What would you do?

I’ve had a number of cleaning women come a go, at least five.  Most of the women who clean house in Egypt (they are called shaggala) are not professional housekeepers.  The more well-off Egyptians will often hire women from other African countries to clean, and they are usually more expensive (and so I’ve heard, better at cleaning). 

I’ve had a lot of people warning me about trusting cleaning ladies (or workers in general).  Most people feel you should basically keep a watch on them at all times.  I don’t have the time or inclination to do this.  If I hire someone to clean, I don’t want to have to trail them around the house.  I’ve also been told you must be pretty firm, or else they’ll walk over you.  I’ve found this to be true also.  Most of the women started off cleaning excellently, but slacked off as time went on.  I’m just not a very good task master (or whatever you’d call standing over while they work). 

On two occasions, I’ve had stuff disappear from the house.  The first time, dh, made excuses for the person (suggesting maybe I lost the items in question, I didn’t), although no one else could have possibly taken the things that had gone missing.  For me however, the trust was basically gone, and our relationship changed.  I ceased to offer her food with us, and certainly didn’t feel like any chit-chatting.  We eventually asked her to stop coming. 

This latest time, several items have gone missing from my kitchen.  Minor stuff, two new packages of Dove soap, a full jar of honey, baking chocolate.  I’m in the middle of a move and the shaggala had been helping me to  clear the kitchen.  I noticed the soap gone right away, and the kids said ‘the cleaner must have taken it!’ (they’ve never liked any of the cleaners, but that’s a different story.)  I brushed it off, till I noticed the other items missing.  Finally I called her and asked what had happened.   She suggested that the things had gotten thrown out accidentally, and actually told me to look through the garbage for my things!  Allah knows best, I think it’s much more likely that the stuff found it’s way out of the house in the full bag of stuff she left with.  I did offer her some used clothing, and old toys.  I realize now I should have looked through the bag, but I’m just not that kind of person.  I guess I’d never make a good supervisor :).  I know that we should not accuse a muslim of theft without positive proof, and I didn’t accuse her outright.  But I can’t believe that she ‘accidentally’ threw out new items, and left empty jam jars on the counter.  It just doesn’t make sense.  I’m a pretty easy-going person, but I don’t take  kindly to people trying to walk over me.  She’d requested a few other things and actually wanted to buy some things I’m selling, but the deal is off and I don’t want her back.  It is always possible that she really did throw out a full jar of honey, but if she did, I still don’t want her back.  What would she throw away next!

The kids were complaining to our neighbor about the incident, and he told them to just forget about it and be patient.  That Allah has blessed us with more and them with less.  It’s not the stuff that really bothers me so much, it’s the idea that someone may have felt they had a right to it when it was mine.  Also the feeling of being made a fool of by trusting someone. 

Third Culture Kids

I got that term from an expat homeschool group I belong to.  It refers to kids who’ve traveled/lived overseas most of their lives.  I wonder if my kids will end up like this.  Global citizens with no ‘home’ culture.  They are biracial Americans, living in Egypt.  They are familiar with three languages and somewhat fluent in two of them.  Dd loves America.  Our last day there, she was singing ‘good-bye America’, ‘good-bye clean streets’.  My son refers to America as a ‘kafir’ country, but he doesn’t necessarily favor Egypt.  My youngest hasn’t really expressed a preference as far as I can see.  But our experiences have certainly changed them.  They never saw poor people in America.  I mean REALLY poor, dirty clothes, homeless, type poor.  Here it’s in your face.  They are unfamiliar with typical American names.  My dd pronounces Barbara=Ba-bear-ra.  Once my youngest was reading a book, and she kept referring to a character as Tris.  I told her to let me see it.  It was Chris.  I corrected her, but she insisted on saying Tris, cause ‘Chris doesn’t sound nice.’  They don’t understand American slang (no big lost there), and sometimes copy the British venacular (thanks to being friends with a British family). 

A former friend of my husband’s claimed that they will grow up as outcasts.  Both for being raised outside of America and outside of public schools.  They won’t know how to deal with race.  I certainly don’t want them to be outcasts, but not sure what it means to ‘fit in’ to American society.  Could be a good or bad thing, depending on how you are defining it.  I don’t want them fitting in with a lot of what I’ve seen in the blogging community, both from muslims and non.       

I don’t think term is necessarily suitable to the children of immigrants to America.  America has a way of swallowing foreigners, and by the second or third general, they are completely American.  At least in my experience. 

Egypt was not our first stop and I don’t know if it well be our last.  A return to the US is entirely possible.  Inshallah I hope they will be suitably prepared spiritually and educationally for whatever realities they face.   

Ramadan Journal and pics

First day, I’m feeling good, I shopped, I prepared.  I had a menu for the entire month. 

I burn the food. 

Yep, and not once but twice.  So first day of Ramadan we order out from Yemen Al-Sa’eed.  Mandi, a yemen dish which is delicious.  You can order a platter or 1/4 up to one whole lamb.  We got 1/4, which a was plenty for us. 

I went really overboard with buying food/preparing special meals.  Which makes me feel guilty cause so many people don’t have enough.  There are places for people to get food in Ramadan.  The most famous is Maida Al-Rahman (Table of the Merciful).  They set up lighted tents throughout Cairo with tables and chairs.  Anyone can come and eat.


Some masaajid also serve food.  I visited the masjid that the kids Quran teacher cooks for, and mashallah, they really cook.  Fish, chicken, rice, salad.  Good food most of the people probably can’t afford.  Which is good.  If I had to depend on charity for food, I’d want something nice too. 

We did a few ‘Egyptian’ nights.  One night we had mashi, stuffed cabbage, eggplant, and grapeleaves.  I’d tasted it in arab restaurants in the states, but never liked it till I came to Egypt.  Egyptians are in a class by themselves as far as mashi goes.  We also had kushari, never really liked it much, but the kids love it.  Got recipe from ummurahma’s site, and turned out great.  I also made Hawawashi for the first time.  Seasoned ground beef, fried with onions and green peppers, stuffed into ish baladi (Egyptian pita) and either fried on top of the stove or cooked in the oven, covered with oil.   Most days I also made Qattayef.  Small pancakes stuffed with nuts, raisins, and and coconuts, then fried and soaked in sugar syrup.  To me the sugar syrup is overkill, so I sprinkle powder sugar on mine.  Here is one batch I made.



We decide not to get a fanoos.  The kids had small ones last year, but broke them.  I asked around about the origin of the tradtion.  According to one sister, it begin in the Fatimiyya period.  They fixed lanterns in the streets to light the way to the masjid, and they became associated with Ramadan.  Most buildings will display a fanoos, and there are small ones sold for kids.


Eid was ok. We prayed at Masjid Bilal.  The kids really look forward to the sweets that are given out, but they didn’t really get anything this time.  I guess they’ll just have to learn to go for the prayer, and not the sweets!  After the prayer, we went the their arabic teacher’s house, where the kids filled up on sweets, extremely sugary basbousa, and the homemade cookies people make for eid.


Obviously most of this stuff is not about the essence of Ramadan: sacrificing our food and sleep for the sake of Allah, charity, increasing our worship, but that kind of stuff is hard to put into pics.  Inshallah we all benefitted and will continue to benefit till next year.