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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The spice of life…from Canada (yes, Canada)

The worst thing about writing shopping stories while travelling is constantly finding things you MUST MUST have. Which then leads to such scenarios as storage units full of stuff and no house to put any of it into. Yes, that’ll be the box with the divine Egyptian light fittings. And the roll of Moroccan carpets. The Chinese tea pot and the Turkish cushions. And oh, my new love?

How fabulous are these puppies? By Vancouver designers Fox & Fluevog.

So ok, I know this entry has nothing to do with opening the Rafa border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, and even less to do with climate change (though they are hand-made). But sometimes, you just need a little positive orange in your life. A gazillion Hindus can’t be wrong.


Hot to shop: Hong Kong

See the pros in action in one of the world’s greatest retail meccas, Hong Kong.

How to compress shopping in Hong Kong into 600 words? Physically impossible. But you’ve got to have a go… You can see the story here.

Speaking of shopping, I came across an article recently which found that in a round-up of 14 cities across the globe, Australia is the most expensive destination for electronics and camera shopping. Not that we didn’t know that already.

Surprisingly, Manila came in second most expensive, while Shanghai and Jakarta were in the cheap end of town, the example of a Canon EOS 550 DSL being US$570 more expensive in Sydney than Shanghai. Shame, Australia.

Pic credit: Sun-Herald


Hot to shop: Manila

The reason why a week in Manila was so manic: because I needed to discover the underbelly of the city, from the grandly named Mall of Asia to the street markets selling everything from seashells to Chanel.

It’s hot, it’s steamy … just the weather to spend in an airconditioned super-mall that is this shop-mad city’s specialty.


Click here to read more.


Psst, King Tut going cheap

Learn to keep mum when shopping in the mother country of civilisation.

‘Let me give you some advice for shopping in Egypt,” said the elderly Cleopatra on my second day in Egypt. She leaned in close, peered over the rim of her spectacles and raised a dagger-like finger. “If you’re not interested, say no. If you’re interested, say no. Then start talking.”

A year spent in Egypt and it’s still great advice. Cheaper than Morocco and even better value now our dollar is flexing its muscle, Egypt is hot news in 2010, with tour companies saying Aussies are flocking to the cultural craziness of Cairo for all the colour and oriental whimsies of Arabia-meets-Africa. And forget Britain, this is truly a nation of shopkeepers.

Click here to read more about shopping in Cairo from the Sun Herald.


Because you asked…

Well it’s been three weeks since I hit home after almost a year in Egypt. There’s a definite pattern in the questions I’ve been asked since I’ve been back, so let me run you through the answers (I probably should have done this weeks ago, which would have saved me sounding like a parrot).

Did you wear a headscarf? No. I’m Christian and I’m foreign. People don’t expect me to cover my hair. However, I did cover my knees and usually upper arms. Having said all that, in the chic nightclubs and private beaches, anything goes, from belly button rings to crop tops and miniskirts.

Were you scared living in Egypt as a lone woman? No. Cairo is an incredibly safe city. Like any place, there are some areas you don’t want to go (and not just women, but men, too!) – such as super-poor districts – but to get there, you’d really have to work hard: either take a cab or coax someone into to driving you. Hordes of drunks cruising the streets causing havoc are unheard of in Cairo. In fact, I attribute a large part of Cairo’s safety to the lack of alcohol in the country. Which brings me to the next question…

Could you drink alcohol? See Answer 1. Christian and foreign means alcohol is fine. However, wandering around drunk is very poor form. Some waiters were uncomfortable with serving women alcohol, but I am not quite sure why they were working in such establishments if they felt this way. Compared to average consumption in Australia, it was all severely curtailed. The local wine, friends, was generally dreadful, but alcopops, spirits and beer are in easy reach…24-hour delivery, if you really need it.

And what about pork? I think when you travel to places with different diets to your own, you either (a) obsess about the food you can’t eat – think Australians’ obsession with the thick, black, salty paste called Vegemite that we slather on our toast – or (b) you just forget about it. There was some pork floating around Cairo – most notably at the Italian Club and in an Italian-style café in Zamalek, but after Egypt knocked off all its pigs, ostensibly to prevent swine flu, neither love nor money would get you a slab of bacon. However, there were rumours going around the expat network recently there was a guy in Alexandria…

Work or holiday? Well, since my rich great-aunt died, I have spent my life on cruise ships and safari, without needing to work. That was sarcasm. Yes of course I worked, but Egypt being a far less expensive country to live in compared with Australia (no car registration, insurance, overpriced taxis and cheap, fresh food) meant I didn’t have to chain myself to a desk five days a week, and could instead travel to surrounding countries which I’m still publishing the stories for.

Did you learn any Arabic? Yes. Well, it was either learn Arabic or spend a year doing Marcel Marceau mime impersonations. While plenty of Egyptians told me I didn’t need to learn any Arabic, they are obviously delusional as to how much English is actually spoken in Egypt. And I think it’s pretty shoddy if you can’t at least say thanks. Also, if you can’t count, you’re just leaving yourself open to being fleeced (a nice way of saying ‘ripped off’).

So… were you fleeced? Of course. But then Egyptians are an indiscriminate bunch, and will try the same tricks on their fellow Egyptians. It’s just that as a foreigner, I’m obviously insanely wealthy and therefore fair game. The more Arabic I spoke, the less it happened.

Any essential travel things you would never go to Egypt without? An enormous cotton scarf. I bought an awesome one in Cairo and, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, it has worked as a headscarf when entering mosques, to wrap up in freezing planes and um…. as an emergency towel. And Lonely Planet’s fantastic Egyptian phrasebook. I carried it every day. It is still recuperating from its year-long workout.

And finally, do you miss Egypt? Cairo’s a dirty, crazy city of 20 million people. The pollution is ridiculous, the noise intense, and you can stick out your finger and poke the energy. I miss it every day.


Old school, new kind of cool

Are you cheating on a blog if you re-publish your own print work? Maybe…maybe not. In any case, some of you reading might be (a) men and (b) heading to London with an empty suitcase, fat wallet and the need for a tux or upholstered champagne chest. Men, look no further…

As the song goes, “every girl’s crazy ’bout a sharp-dressed man ..” But perhaps you shouldn’t be singing ZZ Top when cruising central London’s best-dressed streets. Keep your focus tight: between the tube stations of Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus, where Regent Street has undergone a revival, with contemporary brands such as Ted Baker and an influx of US brands making a show among the traditional English names…

Click here to read the full story.


Sultans of Bling

Most people visit Cairo for the Pyramids at Giza, Sakkara and Dashur. Many do it also for the medieval mosques in Islamic Cairo. But Cairo as a shopper’s paradise like Hong Kong or Bangkok? Not quite.

However, we’ve spent the past couple of days exploring the underbelly of Cairo’s gold traders, in search of a wedding ring (no, not mine!) Jewellery is dictated by fashion, make no mistake. And the fashion at the moment in Egypt is for Seriously Big Bling.

So when Fee turned up in town with her little, white hands and a taste for the understated, it became immediately obvious we were in for a rough time. We visited the gold strip in Misr el Gedida (Heliopolis) near Midan Salah El Din, and also the gold traders of Khan al-Khalili and Sharia El Muizz.

The shops ranged from luxe emporiums to tatty offices where dealers pulled trays of diamonds out of secret compartments behind their knees and talked about the colour H and vvsi grades of clarity, princess cuts and claw settings. It was a learning curve for both of us.

We weren’t the only shoppers. While a few Christmas tourists poked their noses into the shops, Egyptian buyers were busy poring over the trays of gold, lured by enormous diamonds and rich yellow, 18-carat extravaganzas. None of Australia’s pale, limp 9-carat wanna-be gold.

Interestingly, it’s the ladies who wear the most gold in these parts. The precious metal is considered to be detrimental to men’s health, so most men wear a silver wedding ring. I’m ok with that. With gold prices at an all-time high as investors seek safe investments, grooms get off pretty cheaply. Not like the brides.

Rings ranged from pretty little trinkets from young men to their intended bride to no-holds-barred golden knuckle dusters that have you dragging your hands on the ground under their weight.

The main thoroughfare of El Muizz is lined with gold and silver shops (not to mention other businesses selling lanterns, plaster busts of Nefertari, pyramid fridge magnets, inlaid chess boards, chandeliers, tatty jewellery and a never-ending stream of tassle-laden shisha pipes). All through the night the cobbled street rang with the sounds of the zaghroota, the elated wail that Arabic women do when they’re celebrating. Weddings especially.

“It can make a man’s blood rise,” an old man confided to me once.

“What’s that woman screaming for?” asked a concerned Fee. Different ears, different interpretations.

Fifteen shops and three shopping sessions later, we have found the ring (a sweeping solitaire), negotiated the price (of course, more than the original budget) and organised for the resizing. The bling, my friends, is in the bag.

PS: If you’re jewellery shopping in Cairo and want some contacts, we had success finding the ring at the dusty, seemingly empty Ahmed Hosny & Sons at 99 Sharia El Muizz and are getting work and diamond done at the lovely Gouzlan, beside Naguib Mafouz restaurant in the heart of Khan al-Khalili.


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