British Ambassador John Casson: 20 Memories and Lessons from My Time in Egypt
In this exclusive by Casson himself, the ambassador reflects on a wild four years.
If you’re reading CairoScene, you know the real Egypt lies far beyond the tourist sites and the official meeting rooms. So I couldn’t say goodbye without sharing these authentic memories of four unforgettable years in Om Al Donia:
Bid Your Fos7a Farwell
Unless you want to leave your taxi driver bemused –thinking you belong to the time of the Flintstones – you’ll realize that all the years you invested in fosha were wasted. Now fokak menny and go learn some fresh vocab.
Words of wisdom
On your way to work, check out stickers on taxis and cars. They carry unforgettable words of wisdom and are great meme material.
Get your Shadda On
The invisible shadda in the word Hammam makes a world of difference. One gets you to the little room we all have need to be, another gets helpful Egyptians taking you on a journey to find stuffed pigeons. Make sure you know the difference.
Where do I start! The mouth-watering Bamia, the Shakshoka, Abu Tarek’s koshary and the honey and cream feteer from Fatatry Al-Hussein. Not to mention Qadoura’s fish. Loved it all expect maybe for the feseekh. Feseekh, was for me an experience to be tried… just once.
Ahoy there! Captain on the Bridge
Being on the board Tahya Masr is an unforgettable experience but sailing it into Alexandria is incomparable. OK, maybe not actually sailing it. But standing right next to the real Captain, so I can pretend that I did.
Nothing beats home cooking
Fettah cooked by yours truly – under the supervision of my guru Chef Ahmed, of course.
Ramadan is here
The time for Konafa and festivities. And, just like Christmas, a time to give something back. I packed Ramadan goodies with a group of young Egyptians in Alexandria and handed out dates in Cairo. I also tried a one day fast with my colleagues.All unforgettable, humbling experiences.
Can’t pick which one was my favourite… that day we bought a sheep and headed to an orphanage days before Eid, or that time I went to Eid prayer with my Muslim friend and his son.
Should I wear the grey suit, the black one or the dark blue? The everyday question before I head to meeting after meeting as part of diplomatic journey in Egypt. I recycled the same outfit many times…. but I’m sure no one noticed?
You don’t have to head to the gym to get your exercise. Head to the Alex Corniche. It is open 24/7, free and has a view to whet your appetite for an unforgettable run.
The sphinx definitely aged gracefully. An unforgettable moment was when an app said it was only 15 years older that I am.
If you’re not into a Corniche run, try kayaking on the Nile.
Life outside Cairo
Egypt goes far beyond Cairo. I was blown away by the Bani Hassan tombs in Minya. I recommend that everyone goes.
Red Sea diving is a mind-blowing experience. Especially when you meet a fish twice your size. I’ll never forget my diving experiences in Hurghada and Marsa Allam. There really are plenty of fish in the sea. And a big shout out to my diving instructors Magdy and Andrew.
Standing on that Football
It was not just about diplomatic skills. Ramadan Sobhy taught me how to stand on that football too. Habiby ya Ramadona.
A super hat-trick from the Egyptian king Mo Salah against Watford. Followed by a sit down with the humble and hardworking Mo over a jar of Assaleyah.
Launched to support inspiring Egyptians, the British Embassy’s Inspire Egypt program allowed me to meet with Paralympian, swimming and squash champions. It was also how I got to meet Egyptian actress Yosra El-Louzy, actor Ahmed Hatem and many more inspiring Egyptians with incredible stories.
A moment dear to my heart was when I had the honour of awarding the World Number One IGCSE certificates to Egyptian students. Just so you know, Egyptians are sweeping the board in Maths, Languages, Physics, Chemistry and pretty much all subjects.
The angelic voice
Two birds, one stone. BP invited Angham over to sing at the inauguration of one of its biggest projects in Egypt. Thanks BP - Those tickets are hard to come by!
1.2 million Salam
I will never forget the 1.2 million Twitter followers that welcomed me and @UKinEgypt. You have offered support and criticism and put up with my spelling mistakes.
I’ll miss you all.