Life From the Back of An Egyptian Taxi

You know that saying?

My life just flashed before my eyes?

It must have originated somewhere in Cairo from the backseat of a taxi.

Each time you enter the unknown charted territory, otherwise known as a Cairo taxi, a travel advisory should be issued.

Enter at your own risk. Be forewarned.

First of all, you have to negotiate. Meter, meter and meter.

However, taxi driver wants money, money and money… preferably of the easy kind from the easy foreigner who does not understand how much to pay.

When the meter has been negotiated, you now wait in solemn silence to watch as the meter begins to tick upwards praying to the taxi gods that it ticks at the appropriate rate.

Not the rigged one that unsuspecting novices might not notice.

If it is rigged, you can protest, you can demand to get out, you can renegotiate money instead of meter or you can do as we did yesterday, cut the ride short and “not so politely but still polite enough to be Canadian” fork money over and stomp away!

In any case, a taxi ride in Cairo is never boring.

Zooming down the highway, way beyond the means of a broken down beat up taxi, we whip in and out of lanes barely missing the rear view mirrors of fellow cars. Jade and I exchange looks of panic and grasp for something, anything to hold onto as taxi driver dreams of winning the race, a race we didn’t know we had entered!

Yes, there are lines on the road. Yellow, like in other countries. Someone went to the trouble of painting them on the road. But why?

Maybe Cairo wanted to be like other cities. It wanted to fit in. It wanted lines, rules and drivers who follow rules.

But this is not what Cairo is.

Cairo is Cairo. The lines look nice. But mean nothing. Not one single thing.

I think they are meant as practice. To learn how to straddle them. To learn how to cross them going any and all speeds, as many times as you can. The crazier, the better.

So lines are out. And the horn is in.

To drive in Cairo is to honk. Simple as that.

So if you want to ride in taxis, hold on, pray a little and put the ear plugs in.

Armed with our Arabic taxi, small bills and a fierce determination to fit in, Jade and I have passed the beginner’s level in taxi and have now moved onto a more advanced one. Little did we know that this level meant driving right into oncoming cars!


A Day Trip From Cairo

It was confirmed yesterday that I am the world’s worst history student.

I am living in Egypt and despite a very talented tour guide, I struggle to retain historical facts. So as we ventured outside Cairo to visit more pyramids in the Saqqarah and Dahshur areas, I was probably more enamoured with the green fields, the date palm trees, the camels, the goats, the sheep and the donkey carts of everyday life in Egypt. Do I have pictures of those? Of course not. But someday… I will manage to get a few.

In the meantime, we saw a lot, we learned a lot and well… I retained a little. Jade braved the “bent down steep incline into a pyramid” while I waited outside. I did venture into one pyramid that involved “less folding over” and was rewarded by my first sighting of hieroglyphics. The pyramids are far from the hustle and bustle of Cairo, set quietly and elegantly in the desert.

Egypt is so much more than its pyramids but it is its pyramids that make it unique and extra special. Overall, a fascinating country with a history that amazes and confuses me daily!

New Cairo: Shades of Brown

I live in New Cairo and yes, it is new. But sometimes it is hard to get my head wrapped around that.

When we think “new”, we imagine shiny and clean.

These aren’t the 2 words that pop to mind when I look at my neighborhood.

Shades of brown, dust, dirt, garbage and touches of colour scattered amongst is what I see as I walk daily to school and to my shops for much needed water, bananas and bread (oh and the odd Milka bar as well).

But with the shades of brown comes smiles, high fives and the odd person who stands out from the rest.

Once while looking for a restaurant, a lady offered to drive us there so we could find it. We got inside and she happily drove us to it.

Once while shopping, we paid too much for our vegetables and the man happily told me and returned the money.

Once while waiting for Jade to join me, the parking man offered me his seat so I could sit down.

Small gestures that mean a lot when adjusting to a new place.

So although shades of brown dominate my landscape, I see the colours and the vibrancy of the people who encompass it as well.




Adhan: The Call To Prayer In My Neighborhood

Last night when I was skyping my husband in Canada, the call to prayer began.

I took my computer to the bedroom window and opened it so he could share in my experience of listening to it.

A beautiful magical sound was emanating from the mosque beside our flat (pictured above). Although I was unable to understand the words, I imagine someday being able to comprehend a few of them.

As I write this at 3:35 PM it has begun again. Now more wake awake, I realize I can not only hear the mosque beside my flat, but also another a short distance away. The sound echoes through out our flat.

I love this reassuring calming sound five times a day that speaks “community” to me. Even if the “community” sounds sometimes begin around 4AM!

Cairo: A Felucca On The Nile

So as the heat wave continues, we ventured out to the Nile for some respite. I am not sure a breeze was actually felt, but seeing the water cooled us down…slightly.

It is hard to get your head wrapped around the “This is the Nile River!” fact as water is water but the surroundings made it known that we were indeed in Egypt. Looking out to the shore, it was easy to decipher that this was no river in Canada. Palm trees, brown sandy buildings (they scream, we are in the Middle East now!), and cars honking were left behind as we slowly drifted down the river. Fishermen (fisher people?) were out in their long thin boats sometimes used as their homes. Address: The Nile River 🙂

What was most outstanding was the sun set. A spectacular orange foggy glow appeared as the sun set. As this was the first teacher event, I spent most of my time conversing with new colleagues and discovering what drove them to teaching in Egypt.

Jade, on the other hand, spent time at a special place at the back of the boat with another teen which of course made her experience even more wonderful. Her words after we docked the boat, “This was the best day in Egypt so far!”

I love those words.

Wonder when I will hear them again.

Maybe tomorrow at the pyramids?

My A to Z On Travelling

Age of 1st International Trip

My first international trip was a school trip to West Germany, Switzerland and Austria. I was 15 and stayed awake all night before I flew. I tried to imagine what cobbled stone streets would look like, what people would be wearing, what food I would be eating and these questions kept me wired until I landed. Once I stepped foot outside the airport, I was hooked!

Best Drink

My younger version would say the beer at the Hofbrauhaus in Munich, Germany simply for the fact that I was drinking under age! My older version would say the homemade lemonade in Cuzco that I drank by the gallon last summer.

Cuisine (Favourite and Least Favourite)

My favourite cuisine was in India but even then, at the end of the trip, I was eyeballing the pizzas coming out of Domino’s. Yes, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing! My least favourite was in South Korea. There is only so much red pepper paste and kimchi a person can handle and I had a year of it!

Destination (Favourite and Least Favourite)

This is impossible for favourites. I would go out on the travel limb and say Cambodia, Guatemala, India and Morocco. This will probably change but who knows? My least favourite is South Korea.

Event (most exciting/interesting)

I can’t narrow it down to one so it is a toss-up between the sandstorm in the Sahara desert, the ride through the jungle in Guatemala in the early morning on the way to Tikal listening to the howler monkeys, the first time I laid eyes on animals in the wild in South Africa, cycling down a mountain in Peru or hiking the Inca trail in Peru.

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Favourite Mode of Transportation

My absolute favourite mode of transportation is the back of a motorcycle. My mom and I hired motos in Cambodia and saw the country side with the wind whipping through our hair (or what I had left of it from my bout with malaria). My second favourite is the train which I loved in Vietnam and hope to love really soon, once again, in Sri Lanka.

Greatest Travel Feeling

My greatest travel feeling is when I shared with my family their first experience to travel overseas. There is nothing that beats seeing people you love have their eyes opened to what awaits them via travel.

Hottest Place I Have Lived

I have lived in some hot countries but Suriname takes the hot cake on this one! I would wake up very early in the morning and go to work ( a day care for children with physical and mental challenges) and then by noon, return home to fall asleep stuck to the couch. By 5pm, I would wake up and begin the day all over again. Usually I would go out very late in the evening and stay up most of the night with my friends dancing and partying and then begin it all over again the next day.

Incredible Service

I do not feel comfortable staying in fancy hotels where service is expected nor can I afford to do so! So given that, I would say service in restaurants both in Morocco and in India stand out from the rest.

Journey I Won’t Easily Forget

The ride on the camel in the Sahara Desert hurt the most physically (my butt says never again) and a bus ride in Morocco when my daughter needed to desperately use the bathroom and couldn’t might have been one of the most stressful!

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When we got married in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia (Canada) one of our daughters, aged 11 at the time, bought us an ornament of a bride and a groom getting married. It will always be very special.


Let-Down Sight

Fish River Canyon in Namibia was this for me! After hours and hours of driving with little to see, we got there and I said, “This is it?”

Moment I Fell In Love With Travelling

When my parents returned from Central and South America and my dad showed me his blow dart gun from the jungles of Peru and my mom showed me packages of junk food that were written in Spanish. I knew I needed to travel.

Nicest Hotel Stayed In

Oh boy there are many.. the one in Ubud in Bali, the many in Morocco, but the one that has the most memories is in Santiago Atitlan in Guatemala (Posada de Santiago) where we could swim in the pool or soak in the hot tub and look over Lake Atitlan surrounded by volcanoes. Truly gorgeous and breath taking. At night we could step outside our little bungalow and watch it storm over the lake while eating snacks bought in the local town. Perfection.

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Obsession With This

Markets… I just love them. I love to take pics of markets, I love to wander them, and every now and then I even buy something. I enjoy pretending like I live there, imagining my life as a local or at the least, as an expat. I can never have enough markets!


I have had a lot of them in my life and some have been heavily stamped. I have never lost one or misplaced one… knock on wood!

Quaintest Place

I can’t choose just one. It might be Patzcuaro, Mexico or Bevagna or any town in Umbria in Italy or Ollantaytambo, Peru or Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala or Ubud (a long long time ago) in Bali or Luang Praband (a long long time ago) or Pleasant Bay, Cape Breton

Recommended Country

I highly recommend Guatemala if you live in North America and want an inexpensive shorter distance to travel to and a world of experiences to follow. I highly recommend Morocco if you live in Europe and want an inexpensive and shorter distance to travel to and a world of experiences to follow. And I highly recommend India to anyone who wants to have an experience each and every moment. You will never forget it and you may just fall in love with it!


We splurged when we visited Niagara Falls in Ontario and took a helicopter ride over the falls. Best money spent. We also splurged in Morocco on nicer accommodations as the country is known for its beautiful older residences (riads) and this was money well worth spent. We don’t do it often but when we do, it is meaningful.


Touristy places can be ruined if “tacky” prevails but sometimes touristy spots are eye-opening such as Alcatraz in San Francisco, Times Square in NYC, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Machu Picchu in Peru, the Colosseum in Rome… just to name a few of my personal favourites.


I will probably never forget my most miserable experiences (malaria, dengue fever, being robbed, Delhi belly, field hospitals, cockroaches) but it is the most exciting ones that keep me researching where to go next. Travel for me is an addiction…but I choose to see it as a healthy one…I never forget that feeling of a new place and am always looking to replicate it elsewhere.


Visas are a pain. A royal pain in the backpack! So many countries (particularly in Africa) are requiring visas to be obtained ahead of time. If a visa is needed, those given upon arrival at the airport are my favourites. Unfortunately they are becoming fewer and fewer. 😦

Winning At Travel

I used to think the perfect job was to be a professional travel blogger. Having joined a few FB groups, I have learned that this too has its stresses. Competition can creep into anything… even into travel blogging. I am happy to win at travel by doing what I want to do and not having to research constantly 20 Ways You Too Can Get Off The Beaten Path. Or maybe I am just trying to convince myself….

eXcellent View

I have been blessed to have experienced many views over the years but recently seeing Machu Picchu with my family from Sun Gate stands out as one of the great ones.

Years Of Travel 

Uhhmmm….nope not going to go there but I have had my share of years of travel but more importantly, hopefully, many more to come.

Zillion More Places To See

Well, there is maybe not a zillion more to see but at least a lot! As I get ready to move to Cairo, my travel wish list is becoming more of a reality. Sri Lanka, one destination that has been on the list forever, is soon to be checked off in September! I can’t wait 🙂

Anything you would like to share about my A to Z? I would love to hear from you 🙂

In Training for Cairo

So it just hit me.

This Cairo move might just require some practice.

So as I walk downtown in my town of 18 thousand people, I try to imagine a city of 17 million. So for every person I meet in my town, I need to add 944 people to that person.

Ok. That didn’t go so well.

I try to encourage people in my town to honk like crazy, ignore all traffic rules, and drive in multiple lanes going in every direction.

That didn’t work too well either.

I just read that flying ants and big butt spiders are par for the course in Cairo. Yuck!

But no polite request to my ant hill in my front yard results in any flying ants so I am out of luck there as well.

Apparently sand coats everything and constant sweeping is required to get rid of that gritty feeling on the floor.

I try to get my dog to bring in some dirt but she just looks me and goes back to sleep. So nope that didn’t work either.

In Cairo you haggle and bargain for a lot of goods such as fruit and veggies in the market.

I try to negotiate with the clerk at the grocery store and she looks at me like I have 3 heads. That didn’t go down too well.

I have read that I will need to lower my expectations when running errands. I guess one errand per day in Cairo is a lot.

Yay! Finally I meet with success. I am totally capable of running only one errand a day. That sounds just like me!

Oh? You say that one errand can take all day to complete and tons of patience? And maybe some Arabic thrown in? Darn! I knew there would be a catch.

So much for the training. I will be winging it I guess, along with the flying ants!

(On the bright side, Cairo has a delivery culture where almost everything can be delivered… so maybe we will just stay inside with the sand, the flying ants, the big butt spiders and have everyone come to us instead. That would make for a very exciting travel blog. NOT!) 🙂

My Dad Hated Cairo

You know those questions you want to ask but you no longer can?

I have a few of those.

My dad, who had all the answers (you know how some dads just do), passed away with no warning and now I am left with a disorganized inventory of clouded memories.

Together we shared hundreds of travel books, travel stories, travel dreams and trips to South Korea, Cambodia, South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, India and Europe. He had completed his bucket list, short of one balloon ride. I hope I can say the same.

He had seen a lot of the world. Much of it before tourism caught on… that sole traveller in a jungle in the Amazon with the blow dart gun when tour groups were unheard of and hotel bookings were done by letter months in advance. That intrepid traveller willing to do anything once, including swimming with the water buffalo in the Mekong River – as seen in the header. Note to dad: Sorry, I know you would not be happy about your tummy being exposed but I guess you are not in a position to do anything about it now . 🙂

And of all those stellar five star travel memories that we have shared, I only remember one place he truly didn’t like.

My dad hated Cairo!

Now my dad was a slow mover and in the travel world, this means an easier target. He was a beacon, a green light, a neon flashing sign, for all the touts of Cairo. Notorious for slowly trodding, slowly talking, slowly paying, slowly moving on, he would gather his adoring fans, desiring his attention, attention of course he never sought and never liked.

So as I plan to move to Cairo to live, I don’t remember which African country he loved the most… I can’t remember if he spent time at Lake Malawi… I can’t remember which refugee camps he visited… I can’t remember his tales of Israel and Palestine… I only clearly remember…

He hated Cairo! Ugh…

Sorry dad, but we are still going.

(In the meantime, I am in training to speed up my pace and quicken my mind so I can out walk and outlast the touts and their infamous maneuvers that my dad never forgot. And since we are going to live in Cairo, I know that our experience will be different and uniquely our’s. Especially when my daughter, who is accompanying me, is the most positive enthusiastic traveller out there. Her travel cup is always half full!)

Have you lost a loved one and had questions you wished you could still ask? 

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Basket

The strangest thing happened the other day.

I went to the travel clinic in Cobourg, Ontario. Bored, I gazed at the photos of South America when something caught my eye. There sitting on the floor of the clinic was our basket from South Africa; wobbly, worn and faded just as I remembered. It was most definitely ours. Sitting there proudly holding slippers for travel patients waiting to get needles to go overseas. A fine life for our basket.

I thought to myself ,”How did it end up here?” I don’t know this clinic; in fact I hardly know anyone in this town.

Then I remembered… the desperate search for something for Jade to sell so she could participate in a fundraiser for her school trip to Europe. Having sold most of our stuff in PEI, there weren’t too many extras left over so I guess this basket had made the ultimate sacrifice.

Now Jade and I just returned to the travel clinic and I excitedly pointed out our old basket. The basket from Africa that moved to Canada to helped Jade fund raise to travel to Europe was now sitting in its new home as we waited for needles to return to Africa. The travelling basket had come full circle. Who knows what its future has in store for it?