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Lemonada: Peppy Sohour at the Lemon Tree & Co's Ramadan Tent
Published On: 28/06/2015

With the wide array of restaurants and eateries to choose from in Cairo, it's always interesting to see how some of these venues adapt to Ramadan requirements and schedules. While some adopt special set-menus for the Holy Month, others transform themselves into full-on kheyam for that extra edge in the Ramadan dining experience. However, with so many out there, what separates one from the rest? Zamalek favourite, The Lemon Tree and Co, doesn't lack for buzz and has proven to be a heavyweight in the Cairene nightlife scene. Their Ramadan kheima, Lemonada, located atop the Imperial boat, shares that very same buzz, so we couldn't resist going there for sohour. As we walked in, we were taken aback by the bewitching décor and alluring air to the place. Gorgeous lanterns and potted plants were strewn around on ceilings, tables and walls creating a dimly lit, yet irresistible, aura. Pieces of fabric cascaded overhead, which, in addition to the mesmerising music – which they have mixed exclusively for them – completes what we loved the most about Lemonada: the ambiance. We were seated at a high table, which proved to be a bit uncomfortable as time went by, with a great view of all the colourful lights of the feluccas in the Nile. Whilst browsing through the drinks menu, we thought to ourselves, we can't be at Lemonada and not order lemonade. So we opted for just that (20LE) and some peach ice tea (28LE), too. The lemonade was a perfect balance of not too sweet, and not too sour, a match surprisingly hard to find these days. The ice tea could have been a little colder, but it was quite flavoursome nonetheless. As we were being handed the food menu, we couldn't help but notice how attentive and friendly the staff was; we were quite apprehensive that, in the sohour hustle, they wouldn't be and, fortunately, we were proven wrong. For appetisers, we chose the Kobeba Lava (42LE), Classic Falafel (26LE) and Butter Paprika Sweet Corn (32LE). The Kobeba, stuffed with cheese, was a delightful twist on a Ramadan favourite and we very much enjoyed how the cheese didn't overpower the Kobeba – as we thought it might. The Falafel, on the other hand, were a bit bland and lacked that classic Falafel crunch, but were good once coupled with warm bread. The Sweet Corn was as it should be, buttery and golden, and though the paprika was subtle, it definitely added to the overall flavour. For the main course, we decided to sample some of their Feteer. With so many options, we picked the Chicken Rosemary Feteer and the Soujok Feteer (78LE each). The Chicken Rosemary was delectable, with hints of rosemary marrying nicely with the chicken and cheese. The Sojouk was equally scrumptious; the pomegranate reduction on top was strange at first, but proved to be a great flavour pairing with the bell peppers and sojouk. Before dessert, we were craving some shisha, so we ordered some Bluemist (35LE) from the hilarious and amiable designated Shisha guy, and he did not let us down with either flavour or coal-maintenance. Now, for dessert; we had Zalabya Yonani (48LE) and Mixed Berry Madness (52LE). The Zalabya, though we would have liked it to be a little warmer, was quite delicious, the ice cream adding a nice, cool, element and completing the dish. The berry concoction, meanwhile, was an explosion of sweet berry heaven over a bed of meringue, topped with a scoop silky smooth ice cream; we would definitely recommend it if you have a sweet tooth. Overall, though the prices were a bit steep, the night was quite enjoyable, and we would definitely go again.

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Art Corner Gallery: 'Ramadaniaat' Group Exhibition
Published On: 26/06/2015

Ramadaniaat is colourful exhibition marking the month of Ramadan at Art Corner Gallery in Zamalek showing an esquisite collection of paintings by seventeen talented artists. One thing that each of these paintings displayed all share is the reference to Cairo and the month of Ramadan. Art Corner may be a small gallery space and not as easily spotted as it's neighbouring galleries but their exhibitions are both alluring and clear to their purpose, for instance within just one minute of being inside its walls the festiveness of Ramadan is almost leaping off the canvases. The first painting to captivate us, a large oil painting by Cairo-born artist, Gihan Maher, portrays a dusty street in Cairo painted in monotonic tones except for the colourful Ramadan decorations and a fanoos hanging above an arched entrance.  On top of those monotonic tones is a sprinkle of yellows to light up the scene and add some zest and sparkle.  The contrast between the sandy background tones and the brighter colours used for the decorations emphasise that it is a time of celebration and of course the fanoos stands proud as a symbol of Ramadan.   Waleed Yassin, another Egyptian Artist, born in 1961 has several paintings displayed upon the walls and, like Maher's,  they too focus on the scenic side of Cairo.  One of his most beautiful paintings displays a boy in the street balancing a plate in one hand which suggests he is working as a waiter or perhaps with the traditional foul cart.  The most remarkable thing about this painting is the way the artist has managed to capture the realistic tones of the hair, skin and clothes in the natural light and the joyful emotion on his face.  From a distance this piece could easily pass as a photograph right up until you stand an arms length away and only then are those extroadinary brush marks so apparent and vivid. Waleed Yassin also has on show a detailed and scenic painting of El Calaa Square in Cairo with a view of El Iman Al Shafai Mosque beneath a blue, cloudy sky.  His overall style is quite photographic from afar despite the strong brush marks that give his paintings their personal touch. Another painting further into the gallery space that caught our attention was a still life piece with collaged elements featuring Islamic symbols and texts.  Bold marks, vivid colours and intricate patterns taken from the designs upon the mosque are what makes this painting so interesting and pleasing to the eye.  Known for his use if bright, flamboyant colours, Taher Abdel Azeem also contributes to this exhibition through an esquisite painting of Old Cairo by night with all its glowing extravagance.  For anyone that has been to Old Cairo will not only recognise the buildings in this painting but also that famous glittering glow that rests on all the intricately designed architecture.  However, it was the final piece of art that deemed to be the liveliest of all, in the form of an abstract swirl of colours there to illustrate the Tannoura as it spins with the dancers.  . This intriguing exhibition not only encapsulates the celebration of Ramadan, but also awakens us to all  sides inlcuding the preperation, the symbols and the celebration mixed with glittering memories of Old Cairo. 

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Ramadana: Huge Fetar at One of Cairo's Oldest Ramadan Tents
Published On: 25/06/2015

As per every Ramadan in Cairo, tents – or kheyam ­– have popped up all over Egypt's capital, all offering fetar and sohour options, sprinkled with entertainment and other quirks. One such place is one of oldest tents around, Ramadana, which this year is taking place at Riverside in Zamalek. Having started in the earl nineties, Ramadana can rightly be considered a trailblazer of sorts when it comes to the modernised kheima culture. Naturally, with such a popular tent, reservations are an absolute must – and the sooner, the better. When reserving, we were told that fetar is served a la carte, though we arrived to find set menus. Misinformation aside, we arrived to find the venue fairly empty, but there was still a generally amiable Ramadan atmosphere thanks to the decor – colourful wooden ahwa chairs and table tops adorned with modern adaptations of traditional Islamic designs. The set menu price is 205LE per person, before tax and service, and includes soup, Ramadan drinks, appetiser dishes, as well as mains and desserts. Firstly, the service is outstanding; water and Ramadan drinks were delivered to our table a suitable fifteen minutes before the call to prayer, while the other dishes arrived five minutes beforehand. Beginning our meal with a cream of chicken soup, the opening dish was a perfect fast-breaker, so to speak; the pieces of chicken were plentiful and the soup as a whole was full of flavour and well-seasoned, while our Ramadan drink, karkade, was chilled to perfection and not too sweet as is so often the case. The appetiser dishes, meanwhile, were a mixed bag, despite coming in hearty servings; the hummus and the vine leaves were excellent, though the tehina and baba ghanough were, unfortunately, not. Both suffered from a lack of balance with the ingredients, with the baba ghanough particularly suffering from the roasted aubergine element dominating the dish. The set menu also included pasta with white sauce, minced meat and sprinkled, peculiarly, with grated carrot, served in a tagine bowl; the penne pasta used was cooked well and the sauce was creamy and tasty; the surprise element, however, was the carrot, which gave the dish an interesting textural contrast, but if there is to be one criticism, it's that it all very heavy. The real star of the show was the main course; grilled chicken and kofta. The dish affords the diner a half-chicken portion, which was marinated with onions and tomatoes amongst various seasonings and spices. The chicken was perfectly cooked, tender and retained all of its juices. The kofta was equally as pleasing, if less complex in flavour; cooked and seasoned well, it was also surprisingly light and came in a huge portion. Moving on to the dessert, we were expecting classic Egyptian dish, Om Ali, as per stated in the menu. Unfortunately, it was unavailable and we were instead given the option of mahalabeya, rice pudding or a plate of Oriental sweets. We went for the latter two, with the rice pudding being incredibly creamy and, again, not overly sweet. The Oriental sweets, meanwhile, offered an eclectic variation, but was overall unspectacular, though in no way offensive, either – maybe forgettable is the best word to describe it. With all that in mind, Ramadana's fetar is very much geared towards the idea that Egyptians love to feast at dawn; the set menu offers a pleasing array of dishes, each served in typically large Egyptian portions. Though it was far from perfect, it certainly offers value for money, and the highlights are much more memorable than the downfalls.

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Carousel: Ramadan Goodies at Heliopolis Favourite
Published On: 23/06/2015

With Ramadan comes the potentially deadly challenge of trying out as many of the mouth-watering desserts that Cairo's patisseries come out with every year. It's like there's an on-going competition of who can create the most sugar-loaded dessert- not that we're complaining. Located in a lively part of Heliopolis, Carousel's mint-coloured theme makes it stand out against the general grey tones of the street. The moment you step inside, you notice just how relaxingly uplifting the Alice in Wonderland décor of the place is. To say we were dazzled by the wide array of desserts on display would be an understatement. Our eyes first fell upon the dozens and dozens of dessert cups on display including Banana-Nutella Kunafa, Red Velvet Kunafa, Blueberry Kunafa, Aish Saraya, and Black Forrest Kunafa. We also saw a few others treats, including large bowls of Banana-Nutella and Red Velvet Kunafa, as well as Maltesers Kunafa and Kunafa-Mango. A very sinful-looking Kunafa Fudge Cake also caught our eye from the display. Other desserts Carousel is known for include Nutella-stuffed Zalabya and Toasted Atayef platter that comes with blueberry, Nutella and caramel dips. We made up our minds and went for the Red Velvet Kunafa Cake (170LE), that was swiftly boxed by our cheery server. Did it live up to our expectations? Well, let's just say our taste buds were singing with joy at the first taste. Overall, the cake was sweet without being overly so, even with the fresh cream cheese frosting. The thin layer of kunafa, however, added the Ramadan-touch to an otherwise mainstream dessert. All in all, Carousel totally catered to our westernised craving for oriental desserts with a twist. We loved how friendly the staff were and the vibe the venue carried. We'll definitely be going back to try more of their Ramadan creations!

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Ramez Wakel El Gaw : Ramez Galal's Weakest Ramadan Prank Series Yet
Published On: 22/06/2015

While some may argue that originality is dead, no genre is more vulnerable to that notion than comedy, which has always been prevalent in Egyptian Ramadan TV. One only has to look to polarising TV personality and prankster, Ramez Galal. Appearing for the fifth consecutive time on TV screens during Ramadan, Galal's latest shenanigans present nothing new – in fact, one could argue that this year's show, Ramez Wakel El Gaw, is one of the poorest yet; even the opening credits have come to be uniform. A grand orchestral intro makes way for nonsense music with nonsense lyrics. Galal – who lends his vocals to the opening credits – begins each episode in the same way, weaving in some banter at the expense of the celebrity that he's about to prank. The concept of the show is that each unsuspecting victim is summoned to a mystery business meeting in Dubai via plane. The prank? It's simple: convince the celebrity in question that the plane is experiencing engine failure and that they are about to die? Tasteless? Maybe. Unfunny? Almost certainly. Galal and co also pepper the celebrity's ride with smaller, more infantile mini-pranks – serving strange-tasting coffee and spewing unpleasant odours in the plane. As mentioned, the main prank itself is significantly weaker and cruder than that in previous series. In addition, episodes are shorter, while the show misses the opportunity in making the most of their guests – a sit-down and interview would give the show much more value, for examples. In fairness, however, the disguises and make-up that Galal uses during the pranks isn't half-bad and there's a certain guilty pleasure in seeing what he'll look like in the next episode. As always, the pay off in a show like this is how the celebrity responds to the revelation of the prank and this series has thus far seen some pretty angry and over-the-top reactions, with one particular episode featuring former belly-dancing star and actress, Lucy, requiring an inordinate amount of bleeping. Galal was even the victim of a pretty firm kicking at the hands of another unimpressed guest. Galal shows have always received criticism, but viewing figures have always proven the popularity of them; like him or loathe him, people are always talking about him. This year, though, despite Paris Hilton featuring in an upcoming episode, there isn't as much buzz; this is partly because of the emergence of other Ramadan prank shows, but could Egypt finally be tiring of his antics? Only time will tell.

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Boho Gallery: One-of-a-Kind Picks at Quirky Zamalek Boutique
Published On: 21/06/2015

There's an increasing problem with what you might call mainstream shopping venues in Cairo – think of imported chains and brands, and local ones that follow the same trends. Most items are both generic and mass-produced, resulting in hundreds of others rocking the same outfits and looks – which is not cool, of course. That's why clothing boutiques that offer only one or two pieces from each design have come to hold a special place in the heart of true shopaholics. Located in Zamalek, Boho Gallery offers a collection of bold, unique clothing items that are both imported and designed locally by young Egyptian designers. The store has a relaxing vibe, with the minimal décor allowing the clothing items and accessories to stand out. A previous review of Boho Gallery's Heliopolis branch had praised the shop's eclectic range of products and its reasonable prices, so we were hopeful that this was still the case. Offering all kinds of women's apparel, one can most definitely build up a whole outfit from the quaint shop. From quirky, bejewelled denim shorts, to evening wear, swanky dresses, handbags, accessories, swimwear, sneakers, kimonos and kaftans – more than enough clothing options are on display. Our eyes caught a collection ZAAM handbags lined up in a corner, including the basic bucket bags (450LE). Heading over to the vests and kimonos section, we loved the short floral vests (400LE), a black and white Aya Ashraf Designs kimono (290LE), a long white lace Medany Designs maxi kimono (500 LE), an eccentric pink-fringed kimono by Nada Akram (330LE) and a white lace beach coverup (380LE). In the middle of the shop, we found a table boasting all kinds of gold-coloured jewellery, including earrings, bracelets and necklaces. We, however, loved the long arm cuffs (700LE). All throughout our visit, the staff was quite friendly yet not all overbearing or pushy, retreating to allow us to shop freely yet offering to help when needed. Boho Gallery is quite the delight to visit and shop in. We love the fresh concept of the store's offerings and how helpful the staff was. Needless to say, we couldn't quite leave without treating ourselves to one of the dozens of pretty kimonos on display. 

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Jurassic World: Bigger, Flashier But Not Necessarily Better
Published On: 17/06/2015

Arriving fourteen years after the last Jurassic Park entry, the fourth film in the twenty-two-year old franchise is finally here with Trevorrow's Jurassic World; a thrilling, but flawed, addition to the series that never really recapture the magic of the original, but still manages to excite and serve as a fitting summer blockbuster.   Picking up twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park, the story is centred in and around the dinosaur amusement park on Isla Nublar, belonging to billionaire Simon Masrani (Khan), who has taken the idea from the late John Hammond and turned it into a multi-million dollar reality. Responsible for managing the park's security is rigid operation manager, Claire (Howard), while her impressively knowledgeable colleague – and love interest -  Owen (Pratt) is in charge of training the park's dinosaurs.  As one might expect when playing god, things quickly go wrong when the genetically engineered Indominus Rex – the park's latest attraction – escapes from its enclosure leaving Simon and his team of soldiers – led by Vic (D'Onofrio) – to fight of the giant monster. Having spent over a decade in development limbo, there's a certain amount of satisfaction to be found in the realisation of what, at times, like a pipedream for diehard fans. Though reception has been mixed, Jurassic World proves to be a thrillingly visualised world. The park and all of its bells and whistles – including a petting zoo and a triceratops ride – are designed with careful detailing and the film succeeds in communicating a sense of awe and wonder. However, in the harsh light of day, the film just doesn't have the same impact, when considering the fact that the plot isn't all that fresh – in fact, the skeleton of the story is the same – scientists play god, things go wrong, step forward hero. Granted, the dinosaurs being substantially larger and smarter adds a grandeur to proceedings, their human counterparts aren't so lucky. Performances by both Pratt – channelling his inner Indiana Jones – and Howard are solid, however, most of the characters aren't explored or fleshed out enough to make you care about the outcome, leaving the mass destruction the hub of enjoyment – and it's simply not enough. Considered by some quarters to be Spielberg's biggest contribution to Hollywood, Jurassic Park has a timeless quality about it; a quality that stacks the odds against a successful sequel even more so. This is a top popcorn movie, so to speak, but just lacks the sheer magnitude in ingenuity of the original. But then again, it has broken several box office records.

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Good Kill: Ethan Hawke Carries Inconsistent Film About Modern Warfare
Published On: 16/06/2015

Written and directed by Gattaca's Andrew Niccol, Good Kill arrived in Cairo cinemas with generally favourable reviews and the distinction of having competed for the Golden Lion at the 2014 Venice Film Festival. However, despite a strong performance by lead man, Ethan Hawke, and the film questioning the necessity of war, the film loses its way after raising some thought-provoking points. The story is centred on former Air Force pilot, Tom Egan (Hawke), who now operates as a drone pilot, comfortably flying in and out of enemy territories from the safety of a Las Vegas control centre. Working under the command of the officer-in-charge, Jack (Greenwood), Tom is considered as one of the best in the business, although his six tours in Iraq have left him itching to be out on the battlefield. Hitting targets – and occasionally a few innocent civilians – has become a part of his daily routine and his ambiguous mental state is often carried into his private life and marriage to wife Molly (Jones), as he becomes more and more distant. It's only when Tom and co are forced to cooperate and take orders from the CIA that the hushed man begins to questions the the dubious missions he's been asked to carry out. Good Kill starts off relatively strong and the setup to the dispassionate and the merciless world of drone warfare – where targets are killed off with a flick of a joystick – is executed remarkably well.  Infusing plenty of technological detail, the film's premise offers an interesting, if not necessarily fresh, outlook on the concept of the 'war-on-terror' and for the fans of the genre, there is definitely enough here to pass the time. However, the film quickly loses its way and, after the initial engagement, things simply trail off, and the film doesn't deliver the strong climax it promises. This is of course not the first time that Niccol puts the spotlight on modern warfare – see Lord of War. The difference here, however, is that the director fails to maintain the same level of interest in his characters. And it's a shame, because Hawke is able to pull a quietly impressive performance of a troubled soldier of war, but it's his life at home and his connection – or lack thereof – with the terribly wasted January Jones – as well as his fellow pilots – that throws the movie and everything it tries to achieve, down the drain, turning Good Kill into an occasionally fascinating, occasionally tiresome watch. 

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Safar Khan Art Gallery: Summer Collection 2015
Published On: 16/06/2015

Dating back to 1968, Safar Khan is often forgotten when speaking about Zamalek's many galleries, but the refined and cosy, two-floor venue has a knack for putting together some truly marvellous exhibitions – the latest of which is the galleries annual summer collection. The collection features paintings both large and small, as well as some fascinating mixed-media creations.  One of the first pieces you see upon entering, Mohamed Ismail's Metamorphosis, is a large painting in mostly black and white with a small area of deep red in the top left-hand corner. Created using oil paint on wood, large, bold marks stretch across the crisp white surface and it is clear to imagine the powerful movements used when applying them; a style today known as action painting or abstract expressionism.  Though at first the painting appears too abstract to discover its true meaning, the closer we inspect the black marks, lines and shapes, we can see they are actually quite figurative.  The colours black and red mixed with the strong, harsh movements used to create the piece indicate something strong and aggressive within the painting, perhaps between the people entwined within them, or people in general and if we go back to its given title it could even imply the metamorphosis of the people in society.  Another quite exquisite painting on the far wall by Kareem Abdel Malak appears to be a highly religious and powerful piece for the scene looks to be inside of a church of some sort which is further emphasised by the two large hands positioned as though they have floated down from the sky ready to communicate a message to the people.  The title is Under the Same Sky which could suggest a bringing together of people and the idea of peace on Earth for we are all sharing the same ocean, land and 'sky'.  Most of the colours are monotonous which suggests the scene is quite dated yet the image itself is vivid and filled with intense detail.  An interesting aspect of this painting is that the wood in which it is painted upon is divided into two, yet placed beside each other to create one full image; the two hands are also divided onto the two pieces of wood.  The collection of artists who have their work displayed within Safar Khan, are all talented, well-educated in the field of art and successful in decorating the walls of the gallery space creating a rich, artistic environment.  Some are simple line drawings capturing brief moments of stillness and beauty; others are more detailed paintings both figurative and landscape each portraying an element of the artists' souls.  One delicately painted scene shows the interior of a large, ancient building, possibly a palace, with men inside wearing the traditional tarboosh and women with long flowing robes suggesting, along with the palm trees, that it is located in Egypt. On the upper floor there are several unusual pieces featuring 3D objects collaged onto wood or canvas and even rope and softer materials which are fixated to create a 2D affect from afar.  On the whole, Safar Khan's summer exhibition offers an exquisite collection of contemporary art available for viewing of the public in order to educate, enlighten and entertain, but even more so, to appreciate.

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Gallery Misr: 'Colour Lyrics' Exhibition by Magdy Naguib
Published On: 15/06/2015

Currently showing at Zamalek's Gallery Misr, Magdy Naguib's latest exhibition is perfectly named; Colour Lyrics aptly portrays the story-style of the paintings and every single one is a rainbow of positive energy , with the bright colours seeming to dance across the canvas.  Each individual piece is illustrated much like a children's book and it was of no surprise to learn that Magdy Naguib has published more than seventy children's books in his lifetime and this is something that can be seen in what is a refreshingly optimistic exhibition. A mixture of colourful characters stand out in each scene, with round faces painted in blue, orange, green and yellow; all of them are flat, lacking in any depth whatsoever –  in fact it's the simplicity that makes them so striking.  There's also a clear element of inspiration from African culture in the paintings, from the African masks and the colourful costumes which are present throughout as Naguib has stated, "I draw inspiration from the African soul which is also ours, being the lifeblood running smoothly in our veins – the land and the Nile." Naguib also asserts that there is a connection between the colourful style he uses and the simple, colourful life led by the populations of Africa, despite the instability of the continent.  There are references to Egyptian culture, too, through the paintings of camels and pyramids, right down to the style of clothes the tiny characters are wearing.  Another recurring theme in the paintings is that they all seem to focus on leisurely activities with images of colourful foods; men playing instruments and women dancing fill the canvases and create a joyous scene.  Even the children are seen carrying balloons, dancing, running and smiling. The plywood canvases used are often large, yet the many figures inside are miniature in comparison, leaving a vast white space – another, more subtle, throwback to the pages within children's books.  All are painted in acrylic which has become the most popular paint due to its flexible and convenient qualities such as the short amount of time it takes to dry.  As a poet, journalist and artist, Naguib is to turn seventy years old in 2016, but has a rare gift to see life through the eyes of innocence and communicate that spirit through his work.

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Huawei P8: New, Cutting-Edge Smartphone Sells Out in One Hour at Cairo Launch Event

Chinese telecommunications and technology giant, Huawei, celebrated the Egyptian release of their revolutionary new smart phone, the P8, this week with as special event at the Citystars branch of Virgin Megastore. The launch, much like the device, attracted much buzz and had people lining up outside