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

park

Bugged Out

I am neurotic about insects.  Roaches, flies, ants.  There is no room in the house for me and them both.  I wrote about the huge roaches that come up out of the bathroom floor drain.  But during Ramadan, I had a problem with the ‘regular’ kind.  After I’d noticed a few, I figured I better check for the source.  It can be in the bags of fresh produce from the corner, or in the eggs you bought.  That’s right, eggs.  The eggs here don’t really come in cartoons, they come in an open tray, usually without any wrappings.  If you want packaging similar to what you have in the states, you can get it from the supermarket, at a higher price.  So I’d usually have my eggs delivered from a corner store (that way I don’t have to worry about breaking an open tray of eggs).  Well, one day I pick up one of my newly delivered eggs, and a roach crawls out of the place where the egg was!  Here is my source!  I took down the previous egg tray and there are about 5 roaches sitting in the darn tray!  I kill them, but I’m still noticing the darn babies.  Every night, middle of the night, I am up in the kitchen with the bottle of Raid, spraying the spots where I see them.  Finally I don’t see any more babies.  I hope I have eliminated them all, inshallah.  I really, really have a very strong distaste for roaches.  REALLY. 

Before the roaches there was some kind of ant outbreak.  Not small ants, mind you.  Those huge, oversized army-type ants.  For some odd reason they were attracted to something in the bathroom.  I kept seeing them, everytime I made a visit.  One day I noticed a large number near the toilet.  I pulled up the rug and there had to be 20-30 of ’em under there!  And as I said, they are BIG!  It happened again with the laundry basket.  I dump the clothes to sort them out and there is a huge number of big ants inside.  More than before.  It reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie The Birds.  Except it was ants.  I was screaming and stomping at the same time.  The kids with me. 

Now I have read hadith which state not to kill ants.  And usually didn’t.  But this was just too much.  I can’t live with this many insects in my house.  The only alternative was to move.  This was all out war.  I bought some spray and started to spray the bathroom.  I also sprayed near the bottom of the front door, and some of the stairs in the stairwell (there is a crack in the stairs where you can see them coming out).  That seemed to handle it.  Oh and I also mopped with ‘gas’.  It’s sold by a man in a donkey cart.  It’s supposed to clean anything and get rid of ants.  Not sure what it is in English, turpentine maybe?  I am still not sure what attracted them in the first place.  The ants here are weird, lol.  They don’t just go for sweet stuff.  They will pick up other dead insects and carry them away.  They will cluster on snot paper (do they eat it?).   Right now it’s under control, but I expect an increase once it’s warm again. 

The Kids Quran School

dar abdul warith

This is the kids Quran school, Dar Abdul Warith.  The kids have been going on and off for over two years now.  The school is located in Madinat Nasr, Haya Asher.  There are classes for women and kids.  You can chose for your children to attend daily (sat-thur) or 3 days a week.   The cost is 30 LE (about $5) for 3 days, 60LE for 6 days.   Most of the sisters who teach are all practicing, most, if not all wear niqab.  I consider it a very good atmosphere. 

Organization is sometimes a problem.  They don’t always have enough teachers, or keep to schedule.  In fact, I removed my girls for a time because I felt they weren’t accomplishing enough (my son no longer attends, no boys after 8yrs).  They are back in now, and hopefully things will run more smoothly inshallah. 

Another issue has been brought up by  several families we’ve referred to the dar, and that is cleanliness.  It hasn’t escaped me that the dar is sometimes not in the cleanest state, in fact my children have complained about it at times.  Since I feel there is ultimately benefit in them attending, I overlook the dirt.  There is not always a maid available, and the sisters are too busy working with the kids to clean up after them too.  I’ve seen really nice and clean ‘secular’ and even so-called Islamic day-care for kids and I wouldn’t feel half as comfortable with my kids going to them because of the staff and the school practices.

The summer program is usually very productive.  Last year my oldest completed 4 ajza, mashallah.  Inshallah I hope this year is just as productive.

Oasis in the midst of a concrete desert

One challenge of living in Cairo is finding safe places for play and recreation for children.  I really have to make myself go out nowadays, especially in the heat.  One good thing about Madinat-Nasr is the abundance of gardens around.  You really need to see some green after all the ugly concrete buildings that predominate.  Here are some pics from one short outing where the kids rode their bikes.

Dust storms and ATMs from h%$#.

dust storm 

Last week I braved a dust storm to go get money from an ATM.  Really high winds, low visibility, dust in the eyes, etc.  Put the card in, select amount, out comes card, but no money.  Can this really be happening?  Egypt is notorious for having card-eating ATMs, I have lost my card TWICE.  Rushed back home, checked the balance and sure enough, the money was withdrawn.  I called the bank (Egypt Agricole) and was assured the money would be returned by the next day.  Next day, no money.  Another trip to the bank, an automaton-like receptionist just tells me I’ll just have to contact my bank.  My bank?  In America?  Even though that ATM is sitting outside your bank?  Alhamdulillah, very clear instructions from my bank, and very quick response.  Wouldn’t it be great to combine the best things from the west  with the best things from the muslim countries?

Rain, rain…

A British sister and I took the kids to the park yesterday, despite me having some sort of stomach bug.  I know of at least two other families who are afflicted with the same illness.  It causes either diarrhea or vomitting and horrid labor-like cramps.  Anyway, I took my son’s bike.  Basically we had to put it on the roof of the taxi.  The driver took one look at us (we have eight kids between us) and the bikes and asked ‘Tadfa’een kum?’ (How much will you pay).  I quickly told him 5LE, which is double the price, and he agreed.  At the park, Hadeeqa Tifl, we were charged twice the rate for Egyptians.  We used to pay the same, but now for some reason ‘foreigners’ have to pay more. 

The kids had fun on the bumper cars and riding bikes, and all of a sudden there was a downpour. It doesn’t rain that much in Egypt, but when it does, the streets become flooded partly because of the lack of street drains.  The kids could not resist stomping, jumping, even sitting in the puddles  The got so wet, we ended up walking home.  Even though we were all sloshing wet, it wasn’t unpleasant.  The puddles were mostly warm and the sun was out.  The worst part was crossing the streets with a crowd of kids, a stroller, and a bike, but we made it, alhamdulillah.

 Once home, there was even more water to deal with, the floor drain in the kitchen had backed up and the water flowed to the middle of the floor.  There was also a drip in the bathroom ceiling.  Last time it rained, we told the bawwaab (doorman) about the drip and he said he’d speak with the owners.  Later he came back and informed us, ‘it’s because of the rain.’  HELLO, I know that, the question is, WHY is the rain coming in?  Good thing it doesn’t rain much.