From Qatar to Egypt – Highlights of 2017

If someone had told me in December 2016 the following year we’d be living in a new country, with new jobs I don’t think I’d have quite believed them. At that point we weren’t sure if we were leaving Qatar and Egypt wasn’t even on our radar. So, here we are December 2017 and I’m writing this sat in my little garden in New Cairo, proof that you should always expect the unexpected……Looking back 2017 has been a funny, challenging, exciting, crazy year. If you ever want any tips on how you should relocate to a new country feel free to DM me but I’ll give you some tips.

  1. Try not to move to a country which has cut diplomatic ties with the country you’re moving from. It means you, your husband, your dog and your shipping can’t get there directly!
  2. Try to avoid moving during Eid (especially when moving from and to a Muslim country).
  3. Make sure the Air B n B you’re going to stay in when you arrive actually exists.
  4. Don’t put your dog on a flight with a connecting flight – you may panic when you’re told he missed his flight in Jordan.
  5. Don’t cry in the car of an estate agent you’ve only just met.
  6. Don’t let your dog meet the ‘friendly’ cat which repeatedly will attack him until he’s so scratched you have to put him in a T-shirt as you still haven’t found a vet.

Now the dust has settled and I can just about laugh at how stressful the move was, here are 2017’s highlights.

Once we knew we were leaving Qatar we decided to spend the Easter holidays there completing our bucket list. One of our most memorable parts of the holiday was our stay at Regency Sealine Camp about 1hr south of Doha. A luxury camp right on the seashore we loved how relaxing it was, the tents were incredibly comfortable and the sea was wonderfully clear. If you read my post you’ll know our last morning was a bit of a let down, but I would have loved to go back and stay there again. I definitely recommend a visit here, it’s family friendly too.

The second hotel stay to mention was my solo staycation at the Kempinski Royal Maxim Palace, New Cairo. I’d had a tough couple of weeks and my stay here gave me some much-needed ‘me time’. I loved the sleek design of my room and the huge pool, plus it does a great staycation rate. I recently went back for a massage and made use of the indoor spa facilities which were very good.

One thing I miss desperately about Doha is having so many bars, restaurants and cafes on our doorstep. Cairo has been better for our waistlines and wallets, but I have found it hard to find consistently good places. I miss having the Marriott Marquis literally over the road for breakfast at Quickbites and sliders at Champions. On reflection, one of my most memorable meals of 2017 was at New York Steakhouse’s during their ‘chocolate menu experience’ with this venison dish. Their Ramadan tent was fabulous too.

In Cairo I’m so happy to have found Kazoku. Offering modern Asian food we’ve been several times on a Friday afternoon and never been disappointed with the service or the food. If you haven’t been you’re definitely missing out!

We also found Casper & Gambini’s is consistent and offers a wide-ranging menu. We often pop into the one at Cairo Festival City for brunch.

Pub wise we like to go to the Tap East in New Cairo for food and drinks. I think we’ll make more of an effort to go and listen to some live music here next year.

My New Year resolution for 2017 was to get more exercise and I started by walking 10,000 steps every day. This was mostly done walking along the corniche every afternoon with my headphones in listening to podcasts. I love being by the water and every day I noticed something different and enjoyed watching the weather and landscape change. Since moving to Cairo I’ve joined Fibers Gym but some of the classes have been a bit disappointing, hopefully they’ll improve in 2018.

I have loved having a garden and seeing Dyson playing on the green spaces that we have where we live, it’s so pretty. He’s such a good dog and manages so well moving from country to country. After saying goodbye to his Doha dog friends he’s made a new friend, our neighbors dog Zoe!

One thing I will never forget was the first time we saw the pyramids. A couple of weeks after moving we were driving around on a mission and trying to work out which direction the pyramids were in. We thought they were miles away but, literally seconds after discussing it, we drove up a flyover and, as we turned a corner, they were there in front of us. I nearly crashed! On our official tour there recently we were blown away by how big the pyramids actually are and the skill and ingenuity that went into building them. I think what I love even more is that there are still so many unknowns and so much still to be discovered.

I enjoy being by the water and one evening I went on a boat trip along the Nile. It was so special sailing along, listening to the call to prayer, watching the sunset and the realization I live in Cairo! It’s a lovely way to spend an evening.

It’s strange looking back at 2017, it feels like we’ve lived two separate lives this year – the familiarity of Qatar and the brand new experiences of Egypt. For us 2018 is going to be an exciting year. I turn the big 40, we have an epic summer trip planned and we are looking forward to exploring more of Egypt and Africa. Thank you to everyone who had read my blog, followed me on social media, messaged me with advice and tips – it really is appreciated. I wish you all a wonderful holiday with family and family and friends.

See you in 2018!

Blogger Link up – Teaching during Ramadan : U.K. / Qatar 

Before moving to Qatar I was a teacher in the UK for 14 years. The school I taught in was located in South Yorkshire and about 35% of our pupils were Muslim. In the UK the school year finishes at the end of July and for the last few years Ramadan has fallen during the summer term. In 2014 I moved to Qatar and continued teaching. As part of this months Blogger Link Up I thought I’d write about how schools and teaching differ in the UK and Qatar when it comes to the Holy Month.

Ramadan in a school in the UK

At my school in the UK the day started at 8.40am and finished at 3.10pm. These hours did not change during Ramadan so pupils still did a full school day including Muslim pupils who were fasting. Muslim pupils, including those fasting, took part in all lessons during Ramadan including Physical Education, music and cooking unless they had a note from their parents excusing them but this was quite rare. The majority of the Muslim pupils I taught during Ramadan cooked once a week and instead of eating with the class they took their food home with them to eat at Iftar or Suhour. The school canteen continued to be open during Ramadan and pupils and staff could eat and drink openly at break time, lunchtime and in class.

Provision was made for pupils who were fasting as we set up ‘Ramadan Rocks’ which was in a quiet area of school. Pupils and staff could go there at breaktime and lunchtime to relax, meet with friends and pray. It was not just for our Muslim pupils however, anybody could go – but no food / drink was allowed and it was supervised by Muslim and non-Muslim staff. There was no prayer room at our school so during Ramadan 2 classrooms were set aside where pupils could pray.

At State schools in the UK attendance is very closely monitored and schools come under great scrutiny for their absence rates. Pupils can not take holidays during term time and can actually be taken to court for doing so. Pupils were not allowed any absence during Ramadan even for ‘religious observation’ therefore I would say pretty much all our pupils were in school during Ramadan. Pupils were allowed 1 or 2 days off for Eid and this was recorded as ‘religious observation’.

Overall, I would say Ramadan had very little impact on me as a teacher in the UK despite working with many Muslim pupils and colleagues. I was aware that some pupils were fasting but I don’t think I understood the full concept of the Holy Month, its importance and the impact on pupils such as tiredness. I guess I was quite naive to the demands it placed on some of my pupils.

Ramadan in a school in Qatar

The first difference is that as soon as Ramadan starts our hours are reduced. Staff work 8am – 1pm and pupils 8.30am – 1pm. A large percentage of our Muslim pupils do not come into school during Ramadan and this is recorded as religious observation and is allowed. As our normal curriculum lessons continue to take place in school some Muslim pupils who know they will be absent will ask for work to do at home. Some pupils chose to work with private tutors around their schedule so they do not fall behind with their studies.

Our whole school end of year exams for pupils in Year 7 – Year 12 took place at the end of May and at the moment the public iGCSE and A Level exams are taking place during Ramadan. Pupils can take a drink into the exam room with them and, if requested, Muslim pupils can been seated at the front of the exam hall so they don’t see pupils drinking. According to some scholars Muslims sitting exams during Ramadan can be given special consideration and are allowed to drink as its considered linked to their future success, as Islam is a religion of knowledge and enlightenment.

As school is a public place eating and drinking is not allowed. The canteen is the only room in which pupils can eat and drink at break time, our canteen does not serve any food or drink so pupils bring everything from home. Staff can eat and drink in the staffroom only (no cups of tea or bottles of water on our desks which is hard when you talk for the majority of your day!). We have male and female prayer rooms throughout the school and pupils can leave their lesson at 11.30am to pray if they wish.

All of our Muslim staff and some of our Muslim pupils who are fasting are attending school as normal and this is challenging for them as many of them have been up late. In this heat and dust teaching and studying whilst tired and fasting must be difficult.

Teaching in a Muslim country during Ramadan has given me much more of an insight into the Holy Month and what is means to my Muslim colleagues, pupils and friends. It has deepened my understanding and knowledge of Islam and although I haven’t fasted myself this year I am considering challenging myself next year!