I’m a journalist, travel writer, editor and copywriter based in Melbourne, Australia. I write pacy travel features, edit edifying websites and fashion flamboyant copy. My articles and photographs have appeared in publications worldwide, from inflight to interior design: I’ve visited every continent, and have lived in three. Want to work together? Drop me a line… 

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Get some pork on your fork

This is an old rumour, but a deliciously naughty one worth repeating in the light of the swine flu fanaticism: word has it on the streets that the government has been selling pork meat for the stunningly low price of LE5 (just over a US dollar) a kilo.

Of course, the pork comes from the pigs who have been slaughtered in the fever of swine flu. A further rumour, which I’m SURE is not true, is that unscrupulous butchers are mixing the meat with that of beef and lamb to flesh out their supplies.

I don’t rate this one because surely no butcher would be so bad as to mix what’s considered unclean meat to Muslims, who comprise around 80 percent of the Egyptian population. But rumours, like the flu, have no boundaries.

But then, as a Christian friend said to me recently, “Muslims say they don’t eat pork, but once they’ve eaten my pork, they love it.”

Hotly contentious, I’ll leave it at that. I have no beef with pork, either way…


Getting porked

Rumour has it on the streets that the government is selling pork meat for the stunningly low price of LE5 (just over a US dollar) a kilo. Of course, the pork comes from the pigs who have been slaughtered in the fever of swine flu. A further rumour, which I’m SURE is not true, is that unscrupulous butchers are mixing the meat with that of beef and lamb to flesh out their supplies. I don’t rate this one because surely no butcher would be so bad as to mix what’s considered unclean meat to Muslims, who comprise around 80% of the Egyptian population. But rumours, like the flu, have no boundaries.


Sniffing the Breeze

A lot of people have asked what happens in Egypt during Easter. Well, for a start, the Coptic Christian Easter kicks off a week later – so it all starts happening this weekend.

It’s a holiday for most of the country; like anywhere in the world, people are happy to take a public holiday for another religion’s feast days, so the Muslim population will enjoy a long weekend, as will the Christians.

I popped into a Catholic church last Sunday (Palm Sunday), walking in while Mass was just about to start. It was in English, and the congregation was a real mixed bag, with lots of Asian worshippers, elegant old French ladies with big gold earrings and black scarves tied over their coiffed hair, black, black Africans and a few stray whiteys. A Christian friend told me that on Easter Sunday, they will go to church for three hours (three hours!) then picnic with friends and family afterwards.

The weekend culminates in a holiday on Monday called ‘Sham el Nissem’, or ‘Sniffing the Breeze’, where everyone gets out and picnics. One website says that this feast, which is also regarded as the first day of spring, has been celebrated by Egyptians for over 4500 years, making it one of the world’s oldest.

Interesting name, the traditional thing to eat is salted anchovies, sardines and mackerel, so the breeze will be interesting indeed.

Cairo on the run

You know there are days when you’re SO lazy, you just want to bunker down and order out for everything. Happily you can do just that in Cairo, from razors to bread, laundry, home-cooked meals, plumbers or cleaning ladies.

The takeaway food scene is hyper-developed: McDonalds delivers well into the dead of night, another place, Cook Door, has stickers everywhere and has an almost cult-like following for its Viagra burger (grilled or fried, it’s a heart-stopping brew: a long white roll stuffed with mayo, calamari and fish), and a lady slipped a photocopied note under my door advertising home-made kofta, a kilo for about $11.

When I needed a plumber, my fixer, Hegazy, whipped one up out of the blue in a few hours, which surely will bring a tear to the eye of any Australian home renovators trying to get a tradie into their homes before 2010. However, friends, some things never change. He smoked in the bathroom, left sticky grease marks on the taps and cigarette butts in the loo. The upside is the price was about a tenth of his Australian cousins.

So my phrase of the week is ‘Mumkin te gibli…” Can you bring…” I have a welter of cards, from pharmacists to little supermarkets all with small boys ready to deliver at the trill of a mobile phone. Even if their shops are, literally, next door to my apartment block. The three security-slash-doormen guys have listed their phone numbers and when I run downstairs to grab some foil or tomatoes, they’re like, ‘Why? We can do it!”

There are so many people offering to deliver – who’s doing all the receiving?


Pigeon English


‘Begoon,’ it reads on the menu. I’m getting pretty good at menus, but this one has me stuffed. And stuffed it is. Begoon is the Arabgleeze for ‘pigeon’. (is there a word for Arabic-English, like Spanglish? Let’s make one up!) Yes, the flying rat.

So I order the begoon, sitting in the most touristy midan or plaza, of Cairo. I have taken up residence in the front seat of a café that faces the country’s most holy mosque, Al Hussein (died AD 680), the grandson of the Prophet Mohammad. Its holiness derives from the tomb inside, which is said to contain Hussein’s head.

As we’re in sight of a mosque, there’s no beer (though they serve a non-alcoholic version, Birrell) and the square is packed with tour buses, tourists more touts than you can poke a sheesha pipe at.

They’re selling shoe shining, Ko’rans translated into a Babel-like number of languages, tacky headdresses supposedly worn by belly dancers, cheap papyrus, leather wallets, fake watches…what do you want? One boy is carrying a standard wooden crate of flat bread on his head. If he can’t sell you the bread (and he’s pedalling to café patrons) he’ll sell you a photo opportunity of him with said picturesque bread on head. Some, like the woman with a sleeping baby, are just out-and-out begging.

The begoon when it arrives, is a taut drum of well-cooked, oily skin containing rice and a few scraplets of meat on the tiny legs. The bones, of which there are many, go to a battalion of waiting cats beneath my chair, the scene of open warfare between a big-headed ginger tom and a black, malevolent creature that hovers just out of ankle’s reach.

So what does pigeon taste like? Chicken. Of course.


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