Sunday, October 11, 2009

The latest reason I love it here

Just when I thought the culture of delivery in this country couldn't get any better, I discover that even health care is made for our convenience.

I go to the clinic today to pick up a refill of my asthma medication (which, miraculously, I have all but given up since moving to Cairo) and tell the Doctor I've been feeling a little sluggish. She says, no problem, why don't we run a blood test to see if your iron is ok. Great. She writes out a referral and sends me to the receptionist to get the numbers of labs in our area.

Can I go to any lab, I ask?

The receptionist looks at me like: "Why is you foreigners so crazy?"

Turns out I just call a little 4 digit "hotline" and the clinic comes to your house, where a lovely (I like to assume) technician takes your blood. He/ she then returns to the lab and sends the results directly to my Doctor. When the receptionist tells me this, she leans in a little and says: "You might have to pay a delivery charge of 5LE (less than $1 US)" and looks at me apologetically, like she would waive the charge if she could. As if I am going to jump up with indignation and yell: "No way lady, I will not pay 80 cents for this service!" Uh, yeah.

I know what you are thinking: we are among a priviledged few who are lucky enough to have private insurance. It is true. But it is also true that all Egyptians have universal access to basic healthcare. There are many government hospitals and clinics all around the city and even the private hospitals perform a great number of pro bono cases. And (I'll have to make sure about this) blood test house calls are available to all who are referred to main labs.

Beat that, OHIP.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Same same but different

When you travel, consistency can be a challenge. Sometimes you are disappointed because things aren't the way you remember them. But that can be a blessing in disguise because it forces you to discover new places and things to do. That's what happened this weekend in Dahab.

Stuff we loved that stayed the same:
1. The Dahab Coachhouse. Walking into the beautiful white and gold courtyard, we felt like we were returning to our very own beach house. "The bread is the same!" Nina exclaimed, as if reading my husband's mind. Besides the comfortable accommodation, every morning we were treated with a scrumptious breakfast -- home made bread, orange crepes, local cheese and fruits, including sweet figs and mangoes. (Nina and Mikkas send love to all our friends who stay there and are expecting you Voracious T to visit when you come to Egypt)

2. Dive Urge on the Lighthouse/ Eel Garden end of the beach. We spent the whole day watching the sea, enjoying the breeze and the shade of their gigantic umbrellas. We drank fresh watermelon juice and ate pizza and lamb shewarma. Basic but d-lish.

On the downside:
1. Dahab is over run with audacious wild dogs and cats. We went to Shams -- a beachfront cafe/ restaurant that we remembered for it's stellar dj. The tunes were still groovy but the constant shooing of aggressive cats (one sat on the chair beside my husband and stared at him with indifference as he waved his arms and shouted obscenities) and an annoying (if adorable) dog who stared at our plates, planning an imminent attack took away any enjoyment we might have derived, what was it we ate? The dog was golden and the cat was black. Just in case you were wondering what I remember.

2. Nirvana. Ecstasy was nowhere in sight. In fact, Nirvana was kind of smelly. And therefore, quite unappetising. So we ordered a masala chai and called it a day.

Fabulous new discoveries:
1. Blue House Thai restaurant. YUM. Definitely worth a visit. The seating area is above the main drag so you can catch all the action below as you enjoy your green curry chicken.

2. The Indian restaurant past the bridge. I don't think it has a name. Just a sign that says: "Indian. Thai. Chinese." We had the chicken biryani and lamb korma, started with samosas and finished with gulab jaman.

3. Eel Garden Stars. Comfy seating and lovely staff who "Just want you to feel happy". Mijou was our host and just the coolest guy (ok, coolest after my husband ;-) Even the requisite wild cat (thankfully, there was only one) was pretty mellow and just hung out without bothering us. We sat for countless hours, drank tea and coffees (REAL filter coffee vs the ubiquitous nescafe - halleluya), ate mouthwatering moussaka, discovered that dill is brilliant in cucumber salad and.....

Best of all: I discovered snorkeling! Which is a fairly hilarious discovery when you consider that LITERALLY all my closest friends are divers (where have I been? I can hear Voracious T laughing at me) Anyway, I'm in love. And cannot wait for our next getaway to be a diving trip. I think there was no better place for the introduction: the shallow, warm waters of the Red Sea are filled to every inch with spectacular under water life. I could have stayed in the water all day.