only in Egypt you can see...

… a coffee shop employee putting a refrigerated water bottle in the microwave to get it to “room temperature”.

… an ambulance van with a regular house A/C sticking out of the rear door to cool down the vehicle.

… cleaners literarily flooding whole building staircases as regular way of “cleaning” them.

… policemen “borrowing” plastic crocodiles displayed in a hotel swimming pool to the occasion of an art event

… donkey carts on the highway

… trucks loaded to such extend that they tilt backwards, leaving the driver in his cabin hang high in the air.

... taxis deprived of all interior finishing, with eternally open windows and activating the horn by making a bare wire touch a random peace of metal in the car.

… expats drinking hot spice wine at 25 C during the traditional Christmas bazaar

…sheep standing on balconies, courtyards and being transported in or on taxis shortly before the great feast

… a combination of blinking lights, colourful garlands and a dozen of slaughtered cows hanging in front of the butchers to signal the approaching of the great feast.

… the UN Day Gala opened by pompous fire show accompanied by the Star Wars melody.

And to make it clear, while some people might interpret these things as complete nonsense and reason for not living in such an “unorganised and chaotic” city, these are exactly the things that I find, I admit not always amusing, but all in all charming. These are the things that make every day a little adventure and life more interesting… smile, you are in Egypt :)

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what can I say? ...second half of 2008...

Health wise my tonsils have not been very nice to me in the last year, constantly getting infected to an extend that doctors recommended to take them out. I was not thrilled, especially as I have managed to stay out of hospitals and ORs in the last 30 years of my life. I was determined to do the operation in Bremen and after various fights with my insurance I finally got the "green light" for August. When children get the operation they are fit again after 3 days, but the older you get the more painful it is and the longer the recovery takes. "Well, you are thirty" was a doctor's response to my wining question why the little kid operated on the same day than me was already singing and jumping around, while I was still screaming for morphine. It took one week hospital, followed by 10 days of close care by my mom who especially flew to Bremen (merci maman!) and then almost 3 weeks in bed until the doctors allowed me to take a plane back to Cairo. My lovely employers, with sustainability report saying they treat their employees very well and supposedly use western standards, decided that they would not accept the German doctor’s note (giving me 5 weeks sick leave) and only paid me 1,5 weeks. For the rest of the time, no salary for me… isn’t that nice?

I arrived back in Cairo beginning of October, in the middle of Ramadan. As I was still not 100% fit I did not fast either this year. Apart from that, the usual madness of people leaving work early, cars rushing through the streets, taxis not willing to take any customers and people getting into fights out of fear of not arriving at home in time for iftar (breaking the fast). And as always, fasting or not, I had a good time in this very special month of the year.

Shortly after the End of Ramadan I received the good news: A new job as Deputy Director of the Austrian Cultural Forum Cairo J yeay! So since the 23rd of November I, French-German, am happily spreading Austrian culture in Egypt – this is globalisation! The first ten days have already been full of exiting events, bananas, films …. but I will write about some more in detail a bit later.

Before starting to write today, I read through my old posts of this blog and I realised that I gradually changed environments and surroundings in the last 4 years I have been in Egypt. Especially in the last year I got to know again another of the many faces of Egypt, so you can expect new stories with new flavour in the future. The great thing about this city though, is that it gets never boring and still, every couple of day you see things here, which you would not even dream of seeing in Europe stay tuned for more!

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what can I say? ...first half of 2008...

Once again a loooong time passed since my last blog entry. Actually quite scarry I did not manage to write since last February! It is true that my life calmed down a bit but that is no excuse ;-)

So again a quick overview of what has happened so far... actually not that much.

I was mainly busy working and travelling back and forth: Zamalek (the place I live in) -work- Zamalek. Depending on thraffic, this could mean up to 3,5 hours stuck in traffic per day. Time enough to doze off in the morning and have nice conversations with colleagues taking me back in their car.

April was marked by the visit of my dear LesAnciens. For the first time the annual Les Anciens meeting did not take place in Europe but in our wonderfully chaotic Cairo. We organised pre-events in Luxor&Asswan and in the White Desert and a relaxing post event in Dahab. The tradidional saturday European Night was hosted by Karina in her great living room, high up, with view on Nile and Pyramids. Once the furniture was moved, the DJ took his place and the bar was set up, the perfect party location was created. And as we did not only celebrate the Europen night but also my 30th Birthday (yes, I joined the club this year) we had plenty of reasons to dance til dawn ;-) It was lots of fun and great to have you all here!


Summertime was linked to lots of travelling... In June I got to spend some days in Germany to the occasion of Michiel and Janina's wedding in Luebeck. Then I travelled to Barcelona for a conference in July and in August it was Janine's turn to get married to her Southafrican Donald in Bremen. All the best to the happy couples!


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... already half a year

Half a year has passed again since I last wrote on this blog...

So what happned so far?

I got a job as Coordinator of International Affairs for Heliopolis University. It is quite far outside and it takes me more or less an hour to get there and longer to get home, as traffic tends to be bad in the afternoon. since i still didnt manage to buy a car, the taxis are earning quite well with me (here also plenty of "funny stories" to tell.... later ;-))

Ramadan went by smoothly, this year. I didnt fast along and did not really get into the "ramadan feeling"... maybe this was also due to the fact that the part of town I live in is full of embassies and mainly inhabited by expatriates. Still, I got to enjoy some nice "Iftars" (fast breakings) with moslem friends who were happy to invite me despite my non-fasting ;-) Thank you!

As my egyptian friend had a baby, she invited me to a typical egyptian baby party.... but this is worth a whole blog entry.... coming soon!

Then Christmas time approached, and I have to say, by now the Egyptians have figured out that there is a lot of money to be made by selling all this kitschy Christmas decdorations to the huge foreigners community in Cairo. Compared to 3 years ago, when I arrived and I unsuccessfully searched half of the city to find a simple light chain to decorate my green plant in the desperate try to get some Christmas feeling, this year whole stores full of Christmas decoration magically appeared on every street corner. As the German School in Cairo opened its doors for a Christmas market, i even had the pleasure to drink hot spice wine at Cairo typical "winterly" 25 C .

I got two spend 2,5 lovely weeks in Europe: Christmas in France with my family, inclusive one day shopping in Paris at crispy -8 C sunshine and clear blue sky and of course THE 6 hours lasting Christmas meal at my aunt's ... mmmhhhhh!!!! Then New Years in Bremen with my dearest friends, who managed to all get together to celebrate into 2008 - it was great!

After I came back to Cairo, the weather decided to help me not getting home sick (not that I ever do, but the weather did not seem to know that) and dropped dramatically in temperature.  Suddently i saw myself wearing T-Shirt, pollover, suit jacket and big winter jacket all on top of each other. Unthinkable to go to bed without big blanket and running heater. It was really cold and actually still is. And in case you wonder what my definition of "cold" is, i think you will agree that 2 to 12 C is not really bikini weather.

Two weeks ago Cairo went completely mad, when Egypt won again the African Cup in football, which was held in Ghana this time. Now, I dont know why Africa is having a continental Cup every two years and not every 4 years like the european or world cup, but the Egyptians seem to enjoy it a lot, especially when they win! I will spare you with "hoppa-e hoppa-a"s and description of black, white and red with a golden Eagle in the middle flooding the streets... you can read the blog entries from two years ago for that ;-)

Now that is what happened so far, my life calmed down a bit it seems, but still, I am sure I can come up with new stories for you, so stay tuned!

And of course, a bit late, HAPPY NEW YEAR to you all, may it bring joy, happiness and plenty of nice surprises!

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Thirst & traffic

While alcohol is rarely a problem on Cairo's street, thirst is another reason for traffic jams, especially in summer.

Next to sellers of lemons, flowers, etc. you will also see walking beverage sellers. They are often dressed in white robes with colorful hats, carrying a huge jar containing juice or karkadee on their back, around their neck hangs a little tray, carrying two classes and a plastic pot filled with water to clean the glasses after their use (you guessed right, everyone buying a drink from the seller will drink from the same 2 glasses, and the only way they were cleaned was by quickly rincing them with a bit of water from the plastic pot. Welcome Hepatitis! But this is another topic).

So now imagine a thirsty driver spotting a beverage seller at an intersection, he waves him over, payes the seller who then bends over so that the beverage can flow through a long opening on top of the jar into one of the two glasses. The full glass is handed over to the driver, who has to slam down the content as fast as he can and give back the glass to the seller before driving on again. Question of the year: how many cars have gathered up behind that driver, furious and honking again, in this process?

Yesterday I had a taxi driver complaining about the hot weather. In the middle of a tiny street, he sudently stops and shouts out of his window to one of the many doormen sitting in front of "their" building that he is thirsty. Apart from two cars already lining up behind us nothing happens, so he shouts again "water, ya basha (polite form to address someone on the street)", "water!". ... 5 cars behind us...The doorman finally comes running with a cooled bottle of water...honking and shouting.... my taxi driver takes the bottel, drinks about one third and gives it back to the doorman: "thanks, I was thirsty" ... I can not count the amount of cars caught behind us anymore.... The driver waves with his hand in a very Egyptian "Malesh" (a combination of sorry and get over it) and drives on. Later he shows me that he had an own bottle filled with water "but this one is warm, I wanted some cold water".


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traffic jams and other crazy things

By now, I think that everyone knows that cairo has crazy traffic. Some of the reason for it is the crazy attitude of drivers as well as the ones supposed to regulate it. I've been witness to policemen waving a bus to turn around on a tiny street, causing a huge queue of waiting and honking cars, blocking off side streets in which other car queues formed...

Another policeman, supposed to regulate traffic was not authoritarian enough, so that a car of the street he commanded to stop just went on driving straight into the intersection. Even though it was our turn to drive, my friend stopped in order to avoid hitting the "indisciplined" car crossing the iontersection. Now you would expect the policeman wistling at the car which drove without permission and maybe even inflict a penalty, but no, not this one. His reaction was to scream at my friend, she should have driven on (and eventually hit the other car), as if that would have been the only way to stop the other car from ignoring the policemen's order.

Roundabouts are another of my favourite traffic topics. Now, we in the western world are used to drive around roundabouts and drive out of them at the street you want to follow. Well here, this is not completely the case. Some people will circle, others though will just start off in the opposite direction, if their exit is closer this way, causing immense chaos, of course. This is how we got stuck for a full hour at the big roundabout of the pyramids at 3am!!!

Other cause of small and less small traffic jams are the sellers on the street. As I had told you before you can buy kleenex boxes at each street corners. Lemons, flowers, fresh mint or jasmine chains (used to temporarily perfume the car) are also highly appreciated goods which can be purchased at intersections. By the time a driver decides to buy something, negociates the price and gets out the money, again a nice queue of honking cars will have lined up behind him.

Happy out-of-the-car-shopping, my friends!!!


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high season for kleenex boxes

Yes, it is high season for tissues again. On every street corner you find people standing and selling cleenex boxes to passing by car drivers.

No, the buyers dont all have the flue (even though with the freezing A/C temperatures in buildings, it would not be surprising). Most people buy the tissues to put them in the car and use them to wipe the sweat of their faces in a frequance exponential to the temperature outside. Taxi drivers often even have a special holding device which fixes the box in a place of the car where they can get out the tissues out ergonometrically. Polite taxi drivers will offer some to their soaked customers as well and I usually accept greatfully.

While I am writing this, the thermometer shows "nice" 38C in my living room, needless to say that a jumbo box of cleenex is my loyal companion ;-)

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Well, I think I have been productive enough today, "feeding" you with all these new blog entries. Just to keep you hooked, soon you will be able to read about my little escape to Hurghada, a decadent beach party, traffic jam at 3 o'clock in the morning and plenty of funny stories you can encounter while looking for a job in Egypt.

Bye, bye for now... but see you soon again :)

21:31 Écrit par Natalie :) dans Algemeen | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0) |  Facebook |

Good old Europe

In June, I decided I was fit enough to travel and accompanied with my pink Barbie ring, I made my annual trip to Europe. This time I managed to visit 4 countries in 5 weeks, which is 2 countries less than last year, but still I did not get bored and enjoyed all the time spent with my family and friends.

It was great fun to meet my dear Anciens again in Sarajevo, reviving good old AEGEE stories and I am particularly looking forward to welcome this crazy bunch here in Cairo next year.

Another event I could not have missed was our 10 years highschool graduation anniversary. Big thanks to Merle who organised everything along her 30th birthday. It was so good to meet so many former classmates and childhood friends, catching up with everybody, having interesting discussions and spending a lovely time. I truely enjoyed!

I have been back in Cairo now for the last 3 weeks, mainly busy looking for a job and already collection new stories for this blog ;-) so stay tuned...

21:13 Écrit par Natalie :) dans Algemeen | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0) |  Facebook |

Moving in Cairo II

So again, I had to find a new place to stay... after a while I found a lovely apartment in Zamalek, the green island in the heart of Cairo, which I would share with a Greek girl. My moving was planned for the weekend and because my future flatmate was going to be out of town, I picked up the double of the key she just got made for me on thursday.

Saturday all my boxes, bags and suitcases, filling up a whole minibus, that I just had moved a month earlier from Dahab were ready to be moved again. A friend was nice enough to organise 4 guys and a pick-up truck who would take care of moving everything.

The first problem happened when we arrived at my new builing and the porter refused to let any of my boxes or bags enter the elevator. "The guys can carry it up the stairs". Well, considering that there was a truck load to be carried and that the flat is on the 24th !!! floor, the porter had to be convinced with some bakshhesh to let us use the elevator in the end. After X elevator loads most of my stuff was on the 24th floor when both elevators stopped working (I guess there was a reason why the porter did not want to let us use them in the beginning). And poor guys had to get up the last load up the stairs.

During this time the next problem developped. When I put my key into the lock, it just would not turn, everyone tried, but nothing helped, the door did not open.

Call to my flatmate: she said she had made the double, but did not test it before she gave it to me. So we called the landlady, she said she had several spare keys but was not sure if any of them would fit this door.

One of the guys was sent to pick up the keys. It took him almost an hour to drive half way through Cairo and come back, while we were standing in the hallway joking around to avoid thinking about what would happen if those keys were not the right ones. We tried them all out and of course, none of them was fitting.

One option was to get all the stuff down again and me staying in the hotel next door until my flatmate would come back from her weekend. But since the two elevators were still not working, it would not have been the smartest thing to do.

Next idea was to let me stay at the hotel and pay a guy to stay in the corridor and guard my stuff...

In the end, my friend had enough and slammed against the door. Three well placed shoulder slamms and the lock flew through the air and the door was open. (scarry how fast and easy these locks break!). Now all boxes, bags and suitcases could be brought into the flat.

The door was open, but no lock was left to close it again. Luckily there was still a door chain and a plastic plant in a tremendously heavy pot, which I could push in front of the door for the night until a carpenter could come the next morning to fix the door and put in a new lock...

Big thanks, to Mohssen, who stayed through the whole "process" and was more than helpful!

For the last 3 months now, I have been able to enjoy my nice sunny apartment with lovely Nile and Pyramids view without any bigger disturbences - El Hamdullilah!

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Moving in Cairo

As I said before, I was stuck in Cairo due to my broken coccyx and the need of daily physiotherapy. Once I had decided, I would not go back to Dahab and start over in Cairo again, I had to find an apartment for myself.

First of all, thanks to Karina, who put up with me the first two months after the accident, lying on her couch watching the whole Bartlet Years-Season of  The West Wing on DVD between physiotherapy sessions. Also thanks to Sarah and Janine, who gave me shelter later on.

Mid March, I finally found a room in a shared appartment in Mohandesseen (one of the nicer areas in Cairo). My flatmates were British and Canadian. It was a nice big flat, directly on Gamaat El Dowal El Arabia Street, one of the biggest and busiest streets in Cairo. This ment constantly having the impression to have a 100 cars driving and honking through our living room.... the impression did not fade during night either. After two unsuccessful attempts to buy earplugs (Egyptians seem to just have much bigger ears than me - impossible to get the plug even a millimeter into my ear), I surrendered to my fate and had frequent dreams of playing frogger.

Looks like someone had "mercy" with me though, and more or less made me move out a month later. Our landlord suddently came up with new very interesting rules like, we were not allowed to have male vistors at all, not even at day time! And this after my flat mates had had their boyfriends over for months without any problems. The reason he gave us was that he "could not lose himself (religiously)" and allow "bad things" to happen in his flat. When we tried to confront him with the fact that he had not objected anything before, he pretended he had such a critical heart condition he could not discuss this matter any further. His heart condition was not bad enough though, that he could not have announced that he was going to charge us about triple of the phone bill in advance, as security, in case we would run off before paying the bill!

We started to tell him, that these were conditions we did not sign for in our contract. His reply: this is my flat, I can change the rules whenever I like and if you are not pleased you can move out.

Needless to say that we were gone the next month...

Later on we got to know that our landlord's sudden "moral concerns" were less motivated by religion but rather by the upcoming rental of the flat to Saudis. Every year in summer Saudis and other "Arabs" (Egyptians don't consider themselves as Arabs, as they value their pharaonic origins) invade Egypt for their vacation. They are not only known for exeeding ALL limits (very strict in their own countries), but also to pay up to 5 times more for a flat. So for our landlord it is much more morally acceptable to rent a flat for 15000 Pounds per month and have Saudis getting drunk and having prostitutes than renting it for 3000 Pounds to three girls, who have male friends coming over for dinner.

Praise the Lord!

19:33 Écrit par Natalie :) dans Algemeen | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0) |  Facebook |

thanks God for Barbie

As you know I fractured my coccyx end of January. This ment being stuck to the couch for quite some time, which could be very frustrating.

On the other hand it also ment funny things, like getting a daily butt massage by my physiotherapist for continous 4 months.

Once I was more mobile again, i had to find a way to sit again, my poor little butt (ok, it might not be that little, but it sounds better in this expression :-D) still being quite fragile, the doctor suggested a medical sitting ring. The only problem: it was impossible to find an imported ring and the Egypt-made ones, dont only smell horribly rubbery, but they also deflate after 2 mins. So I spent almost 2 months sitting sidewise, in the weirdest positions, putting the weight on one leg and shifting again on the other leg once the first one got numb. Then a friend told me that she used a swimming ring when she had broken her coccyx.

I did not wait long and took a little trip to Carrefour. The only swimming ring available was a bright pink Barbie ring. I bought it anyway, covered it with a black pillow cover and have been carrying it everywhere ever since.

Last week, after 2,5 months loyal service, poor Barbie ring deflated and could not be revived anymore.

Thinking, I could change style a bit, I bought a new "rainbow" ring. However, when i unpacked it, I realised it was way too big. I surely have a large butt, but not that large! Thing I did not know, there are actually different sizes of swimming rings - you learn something every day!

Since this rainbow ring was the only one available in my neighbourhood, I asked a friend to get me one in the size I needed, and guess what he brought me:

Yes, even though this time more purpleish-pink, with a princess on it, it is also coming from the house Matel: Barbie!

Looks like Barbie is there to serve my butt eternally,...

Needless to say that these lines are written while sitting on lovely Barbie ;-)

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News News News

Hello again,


scarry enough, time has gone by so fast again since my last blog entry. You might be wondering what I am doing now... well, I am still in Cairo and this is not due to my fractured coccyx (which is slowly getting better - more about that in another message). I chose to move back to Cairo. My "nice" partners in Dahab were not that nice after all and after some irregularities, i could not turn a blind eye on anymore, I decided to leave the partnership and the hotel. It was not an easy decision to leave my dream, but now I realise it was the best thing to do. I am happy to start new adventures in my beloved huge, chaotic, noisy but fascinating Cairo. A nice little plus, as well: my blog name fits again ;-) yeayyy!!!

So now get prepared for new stories from my life in the beating heart of Egypt.

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slippery socks are a pain in the ass!

Slippery socks are a pain in the ass! this is ment literally :-s


Two weeks ago, I slipped on the stairs, fell and broke my coccyx. Since then I am stuck in Cairo, neither allowed to sit nor to travel, having very exciting days: bed-couch-physiotherapy-couch-bed. Needless to say I am terribly bored!!!

So please my dear friends, if you have some time, (after having had a good laugh about this ridiculous situation - no, no, go ahead, it is ok) send me mails, sms or call me!!!


Thanks in advance and take good care of your butt (you only realise how important it is once it is not functional anymore ;-))

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Rudolph the rednosed reindeer....or at least half of it

... as you could read before, Christmas in Dahab is not exactly what you and I are used to from home (unless you live in Australia - weather wise you know what I am talking about)

In the evening it gets “pullover-cold” and it is nice to sit at the open fires that warm up the open door restaurant In the morning though, the sun is still shining hard.

As my office is situated in the roofed part of the hotel's inner court, I still kind of sit in an open space and the sun shines in on my right side, causing my right arm to be already about 2 to 3 tones darker than the right one.

And yesterday it happened! Next to my only on the right side existing freckles, I managed to get a sunburn on and only on the right side of my nose - half a Rudolph so to say ;-)

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Wonderful Christmas time...

Well, last time I wrote on this blog, I wished you a good summer... summer is over, fall too.... now we are already in winter....

Winter, the time of snow, walks in the cold clear air, chimeny fires, cinnamon cookies and hot wine, you can almost hear the angles sing Christmas Carols...

Bzzzzzz, STOP! Wrong picture!

This year I am spending winter, Christmas and new years in Dahab. This means palm trees, red sea and temperatures of 18-25 degrees Celsius. Moreover, Egypt, having a 90% Muslim population, you can imagine that it is slightly more difficult to get into the Christmas Spirit here.

I used my last trip to Cairo to have a shopping orgy in Carrefour (a big French super market chain), where I bought plenty of kitschy Christmas decoration - in a place where Christmas is almost non existent, it can not get kitschy enough ;-)

Mission accomplished: I decorated the reception, our internet cafe as well as my desk and yes, with all the red and golden balls, ribbons and bells, I slowly feel like Christmas.

Some of our employees loved the idea and were happy about the colorful decoration, the receptionist even "stole"  some of my office decoration to put it at the reception... and others don't seem to get the point of this all. Doubtfully shaking his head, one of them said "it looks like you are celebrating a wedding or a birthday" - Well, actually, if you think about it, this is exactly what we are doing: Happy Birthday Jesus ;-)

Buying decoration was not enough though... making it yourself is even more fun... turning up the loudspeakers while listening to Christmas songs, I spent the whole day making signs, which I hang all over the hotel… snow flakes, snow men –(where does this obsession with snow come from??? ;-)), Santas, Christmas trees and mistletoes - By the way, where is the man who would like to stand with me underneath it? Sorry, (for a short time I forgot that I am in Egypt) I correct the sentence: where is the man I would like to stand  underneath it with?

Maybe this is what I should ask Santa for this year ;-)

Wishing you all a merry Christmas!!!


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Dahab forever.... or at least for the next 5 years!

Hello all of you,

yes, I have not written for long and no, I have not been spending my time being lazy at the swimming pool of the Marriott. In contrary, I have been quite busy, and this time, I have good and bad news.

The bad one is that now, the name of my blog will be not adequate anymore... Nat in Cairo will be history. I should have been a bit more foreseeing and flexible when I gave a name to my blog, Nat in Egypt would have been better. Malesh, now it is too late. ;-) The good news are, I finally realised my dream of having my own business and working for noone but myself :)

In September I will be moving to Dahab to take care of my hotel, the Sphinx, directly at the waterfront.

More good news, I will not be alone, I am having my two partners Jimmy and Allan working with me in a quite international team... if we take Terumi, Allan's wife along, we manage to have 5 nationalities (German, French, Egyptian, Danish, Brazilian) from 3 continents within 4 people. This will make the difference in managing the place compared to our many Egyptian steered competitors. And should you like to help us in our success, come and stay with us, just book your next vacation in the Sphinx Hotel in Dahab ;-)

For those of you who are missing my tales about Egyptian life.... no worries, I collected plenty of notes which just need to be formulated into nice little stories once I've got a bit more free time.

Until then, enjoy your summer!




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