Author

amiraaymans

Where do I start…

Let me tell you a short story first. In the early 1990’s my grandfather used to work for the army and he was sent to Thailand to source wood for import. He fell in love with Thailand and was returning almost every single year. In 2010, he took my sister and I on our first trip to southeast Asia. We ate lots of tropical fruit, got massages every other day and browsed the night markets like our lives depended on it.

I would say I really liked Thailand but I had no idea that I would go back and completely fall in love with it. I should have known better since I’m very much my grandpa’s daughter.

Fast forward to 2017, I “accidently” taught a couple of yoga classes and that was the first time I realize that I would like to teach. My fanatic search began for 200 hour trainings but everything I found was either badly timed, way out of my non-existing budget or the worst of all: had a meh curriculum.

A friend of mine recommended that I check Dice and Briohny, mentioning “great practice and teaching in Thailand,” that’s all. After checking the Bryce YTT my reply was, “It’s perfect, too perfect, but unfortunately expensive.”

Photo Credit: Lenka Minarikova @zgungphotography

If you’re based in Egypt or earn in Egyptian pounds, you know how the devaluation of the EGP kinda fucked us all so I decided not to give it much thought because I didn’t want to feel bummed about it. I still checked Briohny’s online classes and for some reason, this specific training wouldn’t leave my mind.

I registered, got my acceptance letter, started my payments and bookings, and everything started moving way faster than I anticipated.

You know when something just feels right? Everything was falling into place and whenever I had doubts, more things would fall into place. Even my period shifted to right before the training and right after!

I took off to Thailand a couple of days before the training because I wanted to rest and deal with any jetlag before the training starts. I spend 48 hours in Bangkok and then took a flight to Koh Samui.

Ps. I’m covering Bangkok in the next blog post.

 

Bryce 200 HR YTT

The Basics

The training was 20 days with a day off every 5 days or so.

The daily asana practice was anything between 3 hours to 4, if not more.

Kirtan and pranayama were practiced for at around 30 minutes daily.

Philosophy, business, anatomy, alignment and practice-teach were covered over the remaining hours of the day.

We were staying at Absolute Sanctuary, Koh Samui.

Key People

Briohny aka Bri: I started practicing some of her Alo yoga videos on youtube to try and decide if this training is for me and I actually went because of Bri. I can’t tell you what it is exactly but I just felt comfortable knowing that she’s there and one of the lead teachers. Bri’s practice is strong and therefore she’s the queen of adjustments and preventing injuries. She’s also very knowledgeable about the business of yoga as well as philosophy.

Dice: I didn’t make an effort to know more about Dice before booking the YTT. I felt like I wouldn’t be able to relate to him so I just didn’t really know a thing about him except maybe his name. Dice turned out to be everything you wish a teacher (and friend) would be. He is extremely approachable and down to earth. His flows are strong and he is one of the biggest zero bullshit people I have ever met probably. I still cry when I remember kirtan mornings with Dice.

Mathieu Bouldron: Do you know how some people can embody a practice or a belief? Mathieu is Yoga. He is a walking and talking yogi, he lives its values fully (for what appears to me) and he is a phenomenal teacher. He was mostly teaching philosophy and led practice a few times. His signature yinyasa flows are gold.

Emily Torockio: I didn’t get to know Emily during our first few days but when I did, I realised I wish I had gotten to know her earlier. Emily was assisting and adjusting a lot but she also organised so much during the training. Emily’s adjustments in class where on point. I would actually know it’s her adjusting me without looking! On our 17th day, Emily led a badass hiphop yoga class (which I sadly couldn’t make till the end because of wrist pain) but loved. She challenged my thoughts about the traditional outlook on yoga.

Dean Zeller: Dean is an acroyoga teacher who was partially present during the training. He can fly you, literally and metaphorically, even if you zero acroyoga background. His presence, though, added immense value. The kind of value derived from things you didn’t know you want or need or could bring you that much joy.

Extras

Now, I am not like most people in terms of asana practice. Poses fascinate me but I didn’t always care for getting there. The asana practice might actually represent the least ambition I had when it comes to yoga. In a way, this was good because I was always excited for the philosophy, business and anatomy classes. But so much has changed since then and the asana practice is now climbing my yoga ladder. To be honest, though, I had no doubt that I wouldn’t make it till the end of the training because of the 4+ hours of practice. My own strength surprised me and a lot of that strength was derived by being immersed and surrounded by a group of people who wholly believe in you 24/7 for 3 consecutive weeks.

One of the other things I was so concerned about is the occasional acroyoga practice. As you might know, I am not a big fan of acroyoga because of an injury that has ruined so much for the past 3 years. I am definitely not blaming it on the acroyoga practice but at least I know that my fear is, in a way, “rational.” Having said that, even the acroyoga practice was fun and this is due to the friendly approach of Bri, Dice and Dean.

We covered so much more than I expected.

Asana, pranayama, kirtan, alignment, practice-teach, anatomy and philosophy? Check

Yoga and teachers around the world? Check

Prenatal yoga? Check

Yoga for the elderly? Check

Business? Check

Even pop music? Check

Coconut ice-cream? Check

One of the things worth mentioning is that there were occasional surprises that truly picked us up when we needed something extra to keep going.

Now, there’s so much more I can share with you but this post would end up being a small book so instead, I’ll share some excerpts from my journal during the trip.

But before I do, you ask: Do I recommend this training? Yes, without a doubt. If you have any questions, I’d love to answer them so leave a comment under this post, email me via the contact page or find me on social media.

A couple of reviews that I found great as well were by this post by Zgung and this podcast episode by Kevin Boyle.

Now I leave you with my thoughts during the training…

 

June 1: “No expectations” and “intimidating.”

June 2: “Handstand practice on the first day? Really? Twice a day? Everyday?”

June 3: “I intentionally look for distractions to avoid certain things…” referring to the practice.

“I do this with people. If someone bothers me, I’ll just walk away, I’ll find an excuse to avoid confrontation” reflecting.

June 4: “Today I was introduced to my new check in buddy, Charlotte. I love her! My first check in buddy was Sylvia who I loved as well! The evening ____” I think I was too tired to write.


June 5: “Day four.

I can’t believe I’ve come so far.

Today, I woke up energized.

During this morning’s meditation/visualization, Dice asked us to visualize the face of a loved one. I felt the tears run down my face. I was upfront so close to Dice and I was worried he’d notice.

After opening our eyes, I realized that I’m not the only one who cried. In a way, it was comforting. Did I feel less weak or did I feel collective weakness?

During breakfast, I expressed my frustration to Dice. I feel like I was mean and harsh and just a total bitch. Lovely!”

June 6: “The morning practice: WOW!

We were lined up shoulder to shoulder and in two lines facing one another. We worked together, leaning on one another, literally, while listening and screaming our lungs out to songs like Lean on me and Stand by me.

Phenomenal. I’m happy, energised. I feel at home.”

June 8: “Bri, I appreciate you.

I appreciate you more than I know how to express it.”

This was probably after she opened up or during one of the business classes, which I truly appreciated!

June 12: “The pain in my hips. I don’t have words for that.

I’m glad though.

I’m glad it didn’t push me to the point where I’d get emotional.

I’m glad it didn’t drive me to quit.

Tapas, the third discipline of the niyamas.

Motivation, determination, pushing through. Am I finally learning to practice tapas?

I’m in pain.

I was in pain during the evening yin practice but I pushed through.

Tomorrow, I take rest.”

June 15: “My wrist hurts, child’s pose.

Oh, left hip, oh, oh, oh. I’m out of here.

I observed quite a bit today during the morning practice. We created the corner for what we called the elderly. I don’t know if that’s inappropriate or offensive to anyone in any way but for us it was funny.

Today was the first day we study anatomy. I’m still finding it hard to understand the muscles.

Evening practice was partner work and acro. I mostly practiced with Emma, which I thought would be hard because of the size difference but it was amazing.

I based for her and Mascha a lot. It was actually fun and I had no back pain at all which I guess (or hope) means that I was properly aligned.

After class, Dean said he’ll give me my birthday flight and it was amazing! He really knows his shit and so he made it very therapeutic.”

June 18: “I invite you to revisit our first night here.

Do you remember how different this room looked?

Do you remember how different it felt?

How did YOU feel?

Were you excited? Intimidated? anxious?

Day 2: Do you remember your first check in buddy?

Day 4: You were introduced to your second check in buddy.

Day 5: Dice’s visualization of our loved ones.

Day 6: Hello Mathieu! Standing up side by side, lean on me.

Your first day off.

The beach.

Yin.

Mathieu’s last day.

The soreness, the hugs, the laughs, the cries.

Chanting our hearts out.

Who did you share them with?

How far did you come in 18 days?

You’re surrounded by people coming from all parts of the earth.

Diverse.

United by a love, need or want to practice something so ancient yet so new.

Diversity within unity.

Or is it unity within diversity?

If this isn’t magic, what is?”

June 20: “My heart is so full.

A couple of days ago I recorded a 9.5/10 on the happiness scale and that was only because my hair was all poofy from the humidity.

Today, I’m glad to report a record 10/10.

Happiness does not depend on your circumstances but solely depends on what you make out of whatever life throws at you.”

My minimalism journey started a few year ago. I had written about it some time in 2016 and that is what I would like to share with you today.

Note: If you are not interested in reading my old ramblings, scroll down till the last paragraph to read all about the challenge I am starting tomorrow.

Alright, here it goes:

“It all started with travel.

In June 2015, I traveled to Italy and Germany with a big suitcase. Five weeks later, I returned home and as soon as I opened the door to my room, I felt overwhelmed by everything I saw in front of me. More than 100 items of clothes hanging, more than 50 pairs of shoes underneath. 4 wicker boxes of sentimental items, 8 pillows, 50 books on the floor, 2 cameras on my desk, 15 makeup brushes that need cleaning and 20 pencils that need sharpening.

I have often walked into people’s homes and questioned the emptiness of the space but I never reflected those thoughts on their personalities. Were their homes empty because they lacked experience and authenticity? Or were they empty because their minds are neat and clutter-free?

People have often walked into my living space and asked about where I got certain items; most of which were items are collected during my travels. I had been filling my space with things I thought were a reflection of who I am.

In September 2015, I went on a last minute trip to Nepal with a carry on. I stuffed it with leggings, jeans, tribal-style loose pants, a few pairs of t-shirts and so much more. I wore 3 to 5 of the 20+ items I had.

Once again, I returned home and looked at what I own. I was horrified and it was one of the first times in my life that I started thinking about how I could live with much less. I thought that those things I own bring me happiness. I realised that this unplanned trip, this little hike in the forrest and being with good friends brought me so much more happiness than any of those items I own.

Within a few months, I packed bags and bags of items to giveaway. And then I had a brilliant idea; I decided to sell whatever I can and donate the money to charities I’ve been meaning to support. I made 4,000 EGP from thin air (or shall I say, rather heavy bags of clothes and accessories).

I immediately picked up a copy of the best-selling book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and yes, it did change a bit for me.

In late December of the same year, I traveled to the UAE and India with a backpack. In fact, I got on the plane in Cairo with nothing. I picked up the backpack in Dubai and stuffed it with a few items of clothing that had traveled a few days before I did, with a friend.

I remember watching the New Year’s fireworks over the skyline of Dubai and thinking that my only resolution is: to have more. Yes, I was no longer chasing a world of less, I readjusted to want more, but more definitely didn’t mean more things. it was becoming clearer and clearer that I want more time with loved ones, more time to read, create and relax. More time to help others and more time to pursue the things I love. I wanted more space to breathe and more chances to learn. More also included material items, like more money for travel.

India ended up being a big lesson in spirituality. It shifted my perspective entirely and I came back a changed woman. It wasn’t a positive change but that’s a story for another time. The few incidents that took place in India forced me to let go. I did not really get a chance to think about what I want, especially in terms of material items.

When I came back to Cairo, I was mostly sleeping and de-cluttering. I noticed that my appetite for food was decreasing but I embraced it.”

And then my story ended here. It had been a roller coaster of old consumerist habits and fresh minimalist habits since then. I have more of a minimalist inside me that I reflect on my space. This is why, tomorrow, 1 May 2018, I start the 30-Day Minimalism Game. I had known about The Minimalists for years but it was not until January of this year that I started paying close attention to their writing and their podcast. The Minimalism game keeps popping up so I figured it is time I give it a try. The rules are simple. On day 1, you get rid of one thing. Day 2, two things. Day 3, three things and so on. I will donate, sell or trash (my environmental-self is judging me right now) the items as soon as possible. I can only this up for 28 days, because I travel on the 29th but well, there goes nothing!

Will you be joining the challenge?

 

 

It was the year 2010, my grandpa, my sister and I were sitting at sidewalk cafe in Singapore and I spotted the words passion and fruit on the menu. I am certain that we like food upon tasting or smelling it but that day, it was love from the first sight, the sight of the passionfruit on the smoothies menu. I had never tried passionfruit before but since then, it has held a special place in my heart. Or shall I say, gut?

Okay, my love song is over and now I’ll share with you how I eat/drink my passionfruit.

Mango x Passionfruit

For every mango, I add 1-2 passionfruit. To make a smoothie, I add mango and passionfruit to one cup of filtered water and blend. For a smoothie bowl, I half the water.

Top tip: add chia seeds for an extra nutritional boost.

Watermelon x Passionfruit

For every quarter of large watermelon, I add 2-3 passionfruit. I usually deseed my watermelon, blend it with one or two passionfruit, pour into a glass and then top with one passionfruit.

Where do I get passionfruit, you ask? Sunny and Seoudi supermarkets have imported passionfruit but recently Gourmet started stocking a local variety.

There you have it, I embraced the minimalist in me and avoided an unnecessary serenade for a fruit.

Lots of love,

Amira

One of the questions I’m constantly asked about my diet is how expensive it is. Today, I’ll address this question by breaking down what I eat, how and where I buy it and more.

Let me begin by saying that there are 3 main things that raise the $$ of food:

  • Eating out frequently and eating processed foods
  • Splurging on superfoods
  • Eating all organic

I don’t think anything is wrong with either of those habits but we all have different reasons on why we would prefer to spend less. For some people, it is not an option, they just really cannot afford it. But most people claim that it’s not affordable to them while it really is.

Here’s how I eat wholesome vegan food without breaking the bank.

Pick your produce one vegetable at a time

I personally prefer to go to the farmers market and pick my vegetables. I pick food that is rich in color, for example, if I’m buying tomatoes, I’ll pick the reddest, most plump ones. Shopping that way means that most of the food I get is package-free and that I don’t end up with any bad produce. Less bad produce means less waste. Less waste means spending less money on food. If you can spend less money on food by adopting this technique then you can spend the same amount of money on organic produce (no waste) and non-organic (with lots of waste).

Since I eat 60% fresh vegetables, this accounts for the bigger chunk of my food budget.

Top tip: at my favorite market, the one at Nun Center, I start at Sara’s Organic Food and My Kitchen Garden, because most items are not packaged. I then make my way to Makar, Thai Farms and Tabi3y to buy whatever I couldn’t find at the first two vendors.

Grow your own

I don’t think I know of an easier crop to grow than arugula and its one of the healthiest. Most vegetables and herbs are extremely easy to grow and many can grow in pots. I would recommend you start with mint and arugula. Then add zucchini, eggplant and romaine lettuce. Tomatoes need a bit more work. Root vegetables need a bit more experience. Basil, oregano, rosemary and most herbs can grow in small pots. If you have a garden, I highly recommend investing in a mulberry tree. They grow very fast and produce insane amounts of fruit. Lemon trees, and citrus in general, are invaluable, especially since we use lemons every day.

There are endless resources online on how to grow your own food. I think this is a skill we should be taught in school but even if we’re not, it’s very easy to learn online and from experience. On the short run, it saves a lot of money. On the long run, it saves your life.

Buy local grains, buy nuts, seeds and legumes in bulk

We buy ridiculous amounts of brown rice and quinoa, which we can’t find unpackaged or in bulk, unfortunately. But we do buy the ones produced locally. I honestly cannot find a difference in quality that justifies the price difference or the extra CO2 emissions.

As for nuts, seeds and legumes, we buy those in bulk. It is definitely much cheaper to buy from the attar 2 kilos of whole flax seeds then to buy them packaged at a supermarket. Same goes for dried legumes and pulses. Why buy a can of chickpeas with added salt and sugar and packaged in a can while you can buy them dried, in bulk, for much cheaper?

Grains, nuts, seeds and legumes account for about 25% of my diet.

DIY everything

We make our own nut milks, we cook our own legumes and pulses, as previously mentioned and I even tried making tofu. Here’s the thing about making your own food from scratch, it’s a relationship. It’s a give and take. It’s an exchange. You give your food love and in return, it gives you a lot more than energy, it becomes supercharged with good stuff and nourishes you from within. Now, that’s not exactly science so you don’t have to believe me but you can try it for yourself.

I understand that it is time-consuming, I can’t pretend like it’s not. But being organized is key here. For example, I soak my chickpeas overnight and then boil them in the morning while I’m practicing yoga or even if I’m working from home. If you can’t do that, try switching this out by soaking the chickpeas before you leave to work and then boiling them as soon as you’re home, as you shower or make dinner or watch a movie. The point here is that it works, it’s cheaper, it’s healthier and it’s over all kinder to you, your wallet and the environment.

Avoid processed foods

The number one reason I try to avoid packaged food is because they’re mostly processed with palm oil, an ingredient I avoid at all costs. This isn’t one of the items I allow myself every once in a while, or anything of that sort. It is not a joke. Palm oil is an environmental disaster to produce and I will never, knowingly, pay for that.

Back in the day, I used to walk into a supermarket and buy snacks for hundreds of pounds. This wasn’t a daily habit but it really adds up. This habit is now replaced with splurging on artisanal vegan foods or sweeteners; items like maple syrup or matcha tea.

Splurge smart

Now, believe me when I say I splurge big time. But I’m also extremely smart about it so here are some examples.

I love berries, but why buy fresh if the frozen is riper and is much cheaper? Both are packaged anyway so the best deal is to buy frozen.

I prefer hass avocadoes but they’re only in season for about one month of the entire year. During that month, I eat a ridiculous number of avocadoes. For the rest of the year, I think I eat an avocado once every two weeks. I know that when I buy other varieties, I waste a lot so why bother?

I know that the cleanest brand of coconut milk is available for much cheaper at a small shop in an area I almost never go to. So instead of buying it whenever I need it, I go once and buy a few.

When traveling somewhere I can get a good deal, I allow myself to go all out. For example, I discovered that I can buy a kilo of coconut sugar in Germany for 9 euros. How’s that for a deal?

I also buy maple syrup, agave, coconut sugar and other expensive items but if I also know that consuming lots of those means that I’m not getting enough fresh produce. I now eat pancakes or waffles with maple syrup once or twice a month, which means I go through 150 EGP worth of maple syrup in about 4 months. Now, is that really expensive?

In a way, we’re lucky the vegan industry isn’t thriving yet in Cairo

When I’m in Germany, I buy all sorts of vegan chocolate bars, donuts and pizzas. Because plant-based milk in available everywhere, I have too many cappuccinos. In Cairo, the options are much limited, which means I mostly eat my fresh produce at home. Needless to say, I eat more at home when I’m in Egypt than Germany. And even though vegan food in restaurants in picking up in Cairo, I still make sure I eat out less to benefit from all the points I mentioned before.

I hope this essay answer the question of whether or not a vegan diet is expensive. I would love to hear from you if you have any other opinion on the topic. I’m also very interested in discussing the topic of the real value of food, so stay tuned for that!

 

Much love,

Amira

Part (II): Zero-Waste Essentials

Be sure to read till the end. I have a BIG surprise for you!

Imagine no trash? Imagine no animals ingesting plastics? Imagine a world free from pollution? Microfibres? Non-biodegradable bottles?

What a world that would be!

Zero-wasting basically means producing no waste. You carry your bag to buy groceries, you purchase sustainable fashion items and so on. It is pretty much one of the most controversial movements in the environmental fields of study. Can we truly be zero-waste? But what if we can not, do we stop trying to reduce our waste?

Here is where conscious consumerism steps in. The movement is not asking you to stop buying nuts because they come packaged in plastic. I am asking you to take your own bag or jar to buy nuts. I’m also not asking you to stop wearing socks because they come wrapped in plastic. I am just asking you to either find ones that aren’t wrapped at all or not to hoard on socks. You get the drill! Reducing our waste is vital for our own wellbeing as much as it is for the planet and everything around us.

Now, let’s go through the list of “zero-waste” essentials I personally think should be on everyone’s shopping list.

Soapberries or Soap Nuts

Did you know that the detergents we use on a daily basis are loaded with harmful chemicals? Your body does not know all those synthetic fibres and so it mistakes them for hormones and acts accordingly! No wonder we live in the age of manmade disease! Soap nuts are basically nature’s soap, free from any chemicals or processing. They grow on a tree and they are naturally foamy and have a plain clean scent. They’re also cheaper than most soap or detergents. Now, I won’t lie, soap nuts are a bit tricky to use. The best way I found when using it as laundry soap is to soak the nuts for about 30 minutes in hot water before using the soaking water along with the soap nuts in the washing machine. It is also recommended to use them with hot water, never cold, or else they’re soap won’t be activated. As a shampoo, I boil about 5 nuts and let them simmer for about 20 minutes. I then squeeze out as much foam as I can from the nuts and I used the liquid to massage my scalp for a few minutes. I then leave it on for about 20 minutes, if possible, and then I rinse it out. My hair is usually very soft, clean and shiny after I do this.

The best bit? You can reuse the nuts a few times and then compost them!

Where to find: Online and in health food stores in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia. My friend Manon said you can buy them fresh in Indonesia, which makes using them so much easier.

 

Bamboo Toothbrushes

I’ve been using bamboo toothbrushes for years! I haven’t bought a plastic toothbrush in a long time and I can’t imagine ever buying one again. Not after I learnt that there are entire beaches covered in used toothbrushes in South America! Did you know that your own toothbrushes could have traveled from anywhere in the world to be washed up there.

There’s nothing different about them in terms of use. They just feel slightly different but you adjust quickly. Some come with compostable bristles and others not but in all cases, the rest of the brush is compostable. You just add it to your compost pile or stick it in the ground. It’ll disappear before you know it!

Where to find: Most health store or green beauty stores around the world and online.

 

Bamboo Ear-picks (Mimikaki)

Cotton buds? What’s that? I believe the last time I picked up a box of cotton buds was almost three years ago! The ear-picks are a Japanese tool that can be purchased in plastic, bamboo or stainless steel. And while they look like medieval torture devices, they’re actually pretty easy to use.

But aren’t we supposed to avoid sticking anything inside our ears? Well, yes and maybe, but if you’re going to stick something inside your ears, you better make sure it doesn’t harm you or the environment.

Where to find: Asia obviously but also any Asia town in Europe and North America will stock them. I got mine in Japan town in Düsseldorf. You can also find them online.

 

Menstrual Cup

The first reaction I usually get to those two words is “eww.” But let’s break it down. It is your own blood. No, it isn’t disgusting. And it remains your own whether you discard of it in the toilet or the trash. Having your trash travel distances doesn’t mean it’s any less your own trash. Not to add how toxic those chemical-laden pads and tampons are to your health!

Getting the hang of it takes a couple of cycles but once you get used to it, it becomes so easy and comfortable. You don’t feel it’s existence, it’s pretty hygienic and it actually helps you understand your own cycle and detect any abnormalities. It’s basically a win-win for your health and the environment.

Where to find: Online and in health food stores in Europe and North America.

Update: OrganicCup is now available in Egypt.

 

Straws, Chopsticks, Utensils, Coffee Cups and Water Bottles

I know a lot of people say it’s a hassle to carry around extra items in their bags but I also know that those people never tried. While moving my items from one bag to another, I’ll move my wallet, my pot of shea butter, my keys, my straw and my chopsticks. Sounds easy enough? yeah, I thought so. Little switches with big impact.

I use 24 bottles and BKR but I also highly recommend Klean Kanteen and Two Thirds‘ bottles. I also use a medium-sized Keep Cup. I’ve had it for about 4 years and I gotta say, it’s chic and indestructible!

 

I’m glad you made it till the end! Here’s the big news: UrbanEarthlings will soon be an online shop for all things sustainability. All the items on this list will be available through the shop. Not only that, but most items will be manufactured locally and the shop will be a non-profit, which basically means that all profits will benefit charities around Egypt and the world!

I can not announce the launch date yet but I’m already receiving samples and working on the packaging. It will probably be right after the summer holiday. Please, let me know if you have any questions, comments or requests here. Anyone as excited as I am?

 

Much love,

Amira

 

Part (I): Pantry Items

While I’m a big advocate for eating local, I can’t lie about my obsession with European health shops. On a daily basis, I’m consuming common food items including rice, legumes, fruits and vegetables, but I still love quinoa, chia seeds and many other items that were not only recently introduced to the Egyptian market but are now grown and processed in Egypt.

Some items, though, are never regulars on the shelves. Vanilla pods come and go, I never spotted any matcha tea and nutritional yeast has completely disappeared!

Here are some items that I consider essentials and always stock up on when I’m abroad.

Matcha tea

What is Matcha? Matcha is basically high quality green tea that comes from Japan. It is finely ground and therefore it dissolves in water or milk. It is definitely more beneficial because consuming the whole leaf means you’re consuming more antioxidants.

Now, don’t get too excited and go buy yourself 100 gm of matcha (yes, that’s considered a lot!). Matcha is an acquired taste. Most people don’t like it when they first try it. It took me close to 2 years to really like it. I now can’t live without matcha.

Buy the ceremonial grade to use as tea or for making lattes and buy the culinary grade if you’d like to use in cooking. Available in all health shops in Europe, in any Asia town around the world, widely available in Asia, the U.S. and Canada. My favorite brand in Europe is Matcha 108 but definitely pick it up in Japan if you have the chance.

Hemp seeds

Hemp is often associated with cannabis, for a good reason. Hemp is a variety of the cannabis plant. If you believe in the medicinal qualities of cannabis then there you have it, another healthy way to consume it. If not, then let me tell you this. The hemp plant is all around awesome. It grows extremely fast, you can make endless products from it’s leaves or fiber and its use is sustainable. Hemp seeds are basically the seeds of the hemp plant and are packed with protein, minerals and vitamin E.

They can be used in smoothies, to sprinkle on salads, in porridge or even for baking.

Available in most health shops in Europe, the U.S. and Canada.

Gluten-free Pasta

I do not eat gluten-free but trust me, gluten-free pastas are life changing. Unrefined, unprocessed and packed with nutrients. My favorites are buckwheat, brown or black rice, quinoa and chickpea pasta.

No bloat post pasta is definitely the way to go!

Widely available in Asia, Europe, the U.S. and Canada.

Nutritional Yeast

Often referred to as the thing that adds the “cheezy” flavor to any vegan dish, nutritional yeast is a gem for a whole other reason. Most nutritional yeast is fortified with vitamin B12. If you’re like me and would rather not bother with supplements, then fortified nutritional yeast is for you.

Rumor has it, nutritional yeast originated in Egypt. You can’t find it in modern day Egypt though!

Available in health shops in Europe, Asia, US and Canada.

Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar is the perfect replacement for refined white or brown sugar. To be honest, I rarely reach for it but I use a whooping full cup to make caramel sauce. I would say buy it online in a larger quantities (1 kg is ideal) to get the best price.

Available in Asia, especially coconut producing countries such as Indonesia as well as Europe, the U.S. and Canada.

Liquid Sweeteners

Going to Canada? Stock on maple syrup. Going to Mexico? Buy your agave.

Neither? Natural Liquid sweeteners are widely available all over the world. You can choose from rice malt, barely malt, brown rice, maple, carob, date syrups or coconut nectar. They’re all slightly different in taste and consistency so their uses are different. You need to experiment to discover what you like and how you like to use it.

A lot of these are currently available in Cairo but they fly off the shelves and usually don’t make a come back for months and months.

 

Every once in a while I’ll pick up things like vegan marshmallows, spirulina or an ombar. Those aren’t staples for me by any means though. What pantry items do you pick up when you travel?

 

Where do I begin? crispy, creamy and dreamy. I love crumbles. This bowl is basically two layer; a bottom fruit mix and an upper cinnamon-y and crispy oats granola. I started making this after years of eating the plain old oatmeal and to be honest, I was done with it. After reading Dr. Greger’s “How not to Die” over the summer, I came to understand how important it is to incorporate more antioxidants into my diet. Along with oats, cinnamon, ground flax, chia seeds and almond meal, this recipe checks more than 5 items from his daily dozen.

The best thing is: this is an amazing meal to take out. All you’ll need to do is to pack this in a jar with the coconut milk in the bottom and everything else on top. Close the jar and just shake it to mix everything before eating. There’s also a variation of this recipe on BindubyOhoud where I make this exact recipe but into a parfait; perfect for having guests over.


Print Recipe
Apple Berries Crumble
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings
2
Ingredients
For the Granola Topping
For the Fruit Base
Extras
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings
2
Ingredients
For the Granola Topping
For the Fruit Base
Extras
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to medium heat.
  2. Peel and de-core the apple and then cut it into small pieces. Place the apple pieces in a pot and cover the bottom with a little bit of water. Cook the apples for about 5 minutes and then add the berries and cook for another 5 minutes.
  3. If you're adding the chia to the fruit, then prepare it by adding a tablespoon of water to the chia in a cup, stir well and set aside. After the fruit cooks and cools down, add the chia mixture and stir well to incorporate.
  4. Mix all the dry ingredients for the granola in a big bowl. Add in the maple syrup or honey and mix everything until the sweetener is evenly distributed and the oats are a bit clumpy. Set aside.
  5. Transfer all the fruit to an oven-safe dish and flatten using a spatula. Top the fruit mixture with the granola and spread evenly. Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes.
  6. Once the granola browns a little bit, remove from the oven and serve immediately in bowls and top with coconut milk.

This recipe first appeared on bindubyohoud on December 12, 2016

During the winter, we all crave something warm. Something earthy and warm. Despite popular belief, tomatoes won’t make you fat, in fact this recipe is nutritionist-approved since tomatoes are only mildly acidifying and are nutritionally dense. I’ve been making this for a year or two and I even have it in the summer sometimes! The best thing about this recipe is that it’s very versatile, some days I’ll skip the garlic and some days I’ll skip the onions. You can change up the seasoning and you can replace the red bell pepper with carrots and celery! I sometimes even skip the olive oil when I’m trying to avoid added fat to my diet on a certain day. Aaaand you can have it for breakfast, lunch or dinner! Since the typical Cairene home isn’t equipped with heating, here’s a blanket in a bowl for you!

 

 


Print Recipe
Roasted Tomato & Red Bell Pepper Soup
Course Soups
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35-40 minutes
Servings
1-2 people
Course Soups
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35-40 minutes
Servings
1-2 people
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven. I don’t really set the temperature; I turn it on to the maximum setting.
  2. Slice the tomatoes and onions into rings, the red bell pepper into thin slices, and the garlic into halves. Take care not to thinly slice the onions or garlic since they burn very quickly.
  3. Spread everything on an oven tray or Pyrex, drizzle some olive oil and sprinkle the peppers and herbs.
  4. Place the tray in an oven for 30-45 minutes but make sure to check on it every once in a while after the first 20 minutes have passed. The tomatoes would have released their juices at that point so stir the ingredients if they look like they’re drying out and the juice from the tomatoes will prevent sticking.
  5. While everything is roasting in the oven, boil one glass of water (or a bit more in case you like your soup thinner)
  6. When everything is browned and aromatic, take it all out of the oven, dump all the ingredients in a blender along with the boiling water and blend until smooth. I like mine very thick but feel free to add more water if you like yours lighter.
  7. Transfer to a bowl and drizzle with balsamic vinegar (optional) and herbs. Serve with bread or crackers, or even better a light green salad!

A couple of weeks ago, my sister, my friend and I visited Be Good to You and we basically feasted on the vegan items on the menu. Everything was so good that we ended up spending about 3 hours there… for breakfast!

Before going there for the first time, I was quite skeptical to be honest. Healthy in Cairo can mean anything from skimmed milk to baby chickens and that is not really my kind of healthy. I was very impressed by the variety of vegan items that are actually healthy. Matcha lattes in Cairo? I wouldn’t have dreamed of that one! And so the feast included avocado on toast, smoothies, a baked falafel salad, brownies, apple crumble and more… The star of the show, though, was that smooth and silky mushroom on toast dish. Amanda, the friend, was hooked!

I drove Amanda to the airport this morning and went straight to the grocery store, picked up some fresh mushrooms and then hurried to the kitchen. Amanda, who’s a great UrbanEarthlings supporter had been trying to get me back to writing and I figured there’s no other way to say thank you for the support. I had to recreate this for her!

Panda, as you make you way back to Germany, I’m breaking my fast on creamy mushrooms to test this recipe. It’s a hit! By the time you get home, this post will be up and you can indulge in it too!
ps. I totally cried too!

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Print Recipe
Panda toast aka El Funghi Coconut Toast
Course Breakfast
Prep Time 2-3 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
1 person
Ingredients
Course Breakfast
Prep Time 2-3 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
1 person
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Cut the mushrooms into 1-2 cm cubes and add to a pan. Turn on the heat to low and add water as needed to avoid the mushrooms from sticking. Within a couple of minutes, the mushrooms will release their water.
  2. Add the diced garlic clove and cook on low heat for a few minutes.
  3. Add the salt and pepper followed by the coconut milk and stir. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to the lowest setting and cover the pan.
  4. When the mushrooms have softened and most of the water from the coconut milk has evaporated, add the nutmeg and remove the pan from the heat.
  5. Let the mushrooms cool a little bit before serving on toast to avoid the toast from crumbling and falling apart. Drizzle some olive oil and sprinkle the nutritional yeast and dill over the top. Serve warm and enjoy!
Recipe Notes

I would totally add some spring onions next time I do this so consider adding them early on with the mushrooms.

Last week I got on a flight feeling as prepared as I can be. Reusable shopping bags: check. Reusable straw and cup: check. Soap nuts order: check. Patagonia store locations pinned: check.

As we took off, I started thinking about a carbon emission test I had taken a while back and as our plane climbed higher, so did my feelings of guilt.

While most of my numbers are pretty low, I drive a pretty polluting car and I fly quite often.

I came back home last night only to realize that I didn’t prepare anything for Earth Day. Honestly, Earth day is depressing for me.

This morning, I woke up feeling down and tired, I kept going in and out of bed for at least three hours. Occasionally, I wake up feeling helpless. What can I do for humanity? How do we save the animals from the most dangerous species in the world? For how much longer can Mother Earth be so resilient?

I dove back under the covers.

A few minutes later I stumbled upon Haley’s instagram story and picked up this line, “Do you have time to feel like shit?” Well, of course I do!

Then maybe I also have time to do something about it.

The truth is: I try. Every.Single.Day!

I remembered I picked up the latest issue of National Geographic magazine at the airport last night. I was so excited to read “7 Climate facts you need to know now,” hoping that it can rid me of my feelings of helplessness. As expected, it didn’t. My cheeks were flooded with tears upon seeing a picture of a beautiful polar bear, knowing that his species will go extinct during my lifetime.

I am often told that we have “bigger problems” and that “I’m privileged” and that’s why I can “afford” to think about such things so here are the facts:

Yes, I am absolutely privileged. I have a warm bed, running water, a roof over my head, clothes to wear and enough food to sustain me for years. Oh, wait… That’s also you and everyone you know! Every single day, we make excuses as to why we cannot afford to think about climate change because we have other priorities. The truth is our priorities come in the form of real jobs so we can eat real food, dress in real clothes and buy more real things. But also, our real jobs cost real animals their lives, cost real farmers their lands and cost real children their last hopes for a chance to live like we do. Our very “real” lives are costing everyone else theirs. This is how we truly pay for it. The only “real” thing you need to know right now is that we pay to kill other beings every day and this process is really easy to understand. We eat animals, we wear animals and we use animals to make most of out products. We emit so much greenhouse gases and then use air conditioning to condition our spoiled selves, without realizing that we’re polluting further. Industrial waste, pesticides and animal agriculture are real. Climate change is killing off entire species. Climate change is murder and we should be charged.

Still doesn’t sound like a priority? Climate change is flooding agricultural lands, leaving poor families in rural areas hungry. Climate change is the reason why entire islands are starving because they cannot find enough resources because we have taken all that away. Climate change is why your children will not know the penguin and the seal and the sea turtle.

Pessimistic much? No, there’s so much we can do and it’s actually easier than you think. Cut the meat in half, cut the AC in half.

Want to do more? Eat mostly local.

Not enough? Cut back on the chemicals, including soap, detergents, shampoos, etc.

 

Now, I’ll go back under my covers so I can get a week’s worth of crying over with. Tomorrow will be a better day.

I’m sorry, Mother. We should’ve known better.

Happy (not really) Earth Day!

 

If you’d like to read more about some of the facts mentioned please check this and this for AC facts, this and this for our meat consumption and this for the UN’s recommendation.

Disclaimer: I think a lot about filtering my content before publishing but I don’t. This is as raw as can be. This is who I am on an angry day and I don’t feel the need to mask it.

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