Clarinets and karate
Whether your child is a future Mozart, a budding Jackie Chan, or just enjoys listening to music and kicking a ball around, there is something to please in this summer's proliferation of specialist programmes. Al-Ahram Weekly uncovers Cairo's paradise of junior creativity
Who can say whether today's children are luckier than their predecessors or not? True, past generations had only limited entertainment options. There were no computers, no Internet, no play stations, no 24-hour cartoon channels. They had no super-sophisticated toys and games, and no child-friendly restaurants. Nor were there all the amusement parks we nowadays take for granted.
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Top: Children during the summer school staged by the Egyptian Museum in Cairo show off their new-found knowledge after a trip through the halls of the museum.
Singing, dancing, swimming and IT are some of the other activities available for keeping young minds busy during the summer
As children growing up in Cairo during the 1960s and 1970s, we had to create our own entertainment to help the time pass: TV broadcasting hours were so limited, we had no choice. Some of us would try their hand at painting, while others would assemble pieces of wood and nails to build their own toys, or grapple with sheets of coloured paper and reed in order to manufacture a home-made kite. Some would even transform old pieces of cloth into a tent on their balcony or in their room, so they could play at being scouts in the safety of their own home.
Today, all these activities are unnecessary. Kids have ready- made plastic kites, ready-made tents, scooters (the modern equivalent of the old Egyptian forrera that used to be made out of wood and simple rubber wheels), and all kinds of shiny toy and sophisticated computer game. But as a result of this good fortune, their opportunities to express and explore their creativity and innovation have become more limited, especially as the current educational curriculum leaves little space for arts and crafts or to practice any kind of sport. In addition, as the city has "developed", there are fewer and fewer green areas where children can play outdoors and breathe fresh air.
Over the last few years many parents have realised that more can sometimes mean less, and have seen the need to develop their children's more artistic side. Just as the "back to nature" trend has been adopted in cooking and food, so the "back to the golden age of creativity" slogan has been taken up by a number of organisations for children. Thus yesterday's deprivation becomes today's niche marketing opportunity.
These organisations are as various as Cairo itself, offering programmes in fields such as arts and crafts, music, dancing, sports, and reading, as well as the obligatory computer sessions, and other attractions. Some of them provide a real mix of activities, while others stick to a single focus; some offer full-day programmes, whereas others only operate for a couple of hours a day. Some take their children out into the open air, while others keep them indoors for most of the time.
There are also interesting programmes laid on by a number of cultural centres and public libraries.
The following is our recommended list of some of the best programmes available over the coming summer.
Arts and crafts
"It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child." These words of Pablo Picasso point to the unique value that expression through art can hold for children. Their approach is simple and spontaneous, and that is why it is so difficult to emulate. However, in our art-starved surroundings, even this spontaneity often needs a push if it is to be translated into real concrete works of art.
This summer, various institutions will be running arts and crafts programmes to help your child discover his or her inner artist.
Bedaya Arts School and Conservatory is one such institution that believes in children's natural creativity. "Bedaya" in Arabic means "a beginning". According to its owner, Ahmed Selim, the centre's mission is to nurture the development of artistic talents from the youngest age. "Kids sometimes do not know what talents they have," explains Selim. "We put them at the beginning of the track by exposing them to various arts. If they have a real talent, they will make progress."
Bedaya arts courses are aimed at children between the ages of five and 15. They include an introduction to art history, charcoal drawing on wood, still life drawing, oil painting, tissue and shirt painting, pottery colouring, landscape drawing and artwork using recycled material.
For the five- to 10-year-olds, courses are held twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and cost LE250 per month. There are also courses that meet just once a week for LE300 per month.
For children between 10 and 15, prices vary according to the child's talent. Children with ordinary talent attend a two- month course which meets twice a week for LE300, whereas those with a "super talent" pay LE380, as they will be using more expensive materials.
Art Fun is run by a group of mothers who have a keen interest in the arts and who have trained in the ateliers of renowned Egyptian artists such as Mustafa El-Razzaz and Farghali Abdel-Hafeez.
They provide a special arts course for kids between age 7 and 14. Unlike many other courses, this one runs three days a week from 10.30am until 3pm. This means that parents can leave their children for a whole day without having to leave work in the middle of the day to pick them up. The cost is LE400 per month, and there are two sessions: one starting in mid-June and the other in mid-July. The programme includes an introduction to art history, the work of famous artists and different schools of drawing, as well as an overview of the art of the Pharaohs.
Practical activities will consist of painting and collective craft work including textile printing, pottery, and a garage workshop where kids will learn how to recycle old objects and transform them into works of art.
For children under seven, Art Fun has another programme comprising two classes a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays, from 10.30am to 1pm. Children can choose to attend both weekly sessions, or only one. The fee in this case is LE140 for four sessions.
The summer programmes of the Art Design Centre in Heliopolis are another interesting option. The centre offers two programmes, one indoors and the other outdoors. The indoors programme is held at the headquarters of the centre in Heliopolis on Saturdays and Tuesdays from 11.30am to 2pm and costs LE140 for four sessions. It includes classes in drawing, painting, basic design, pottery, collage, graphics and furniture design.
The outdoor programme is entitled "A different destination every day" and is mounted in collaboration with the National Museum for Children in Zeitoun. On this programme, the children make a different visit every day by air-conditioned bus. In this way, they will discover museums such as the Mahmoud Khalil Museum, the Islamic Museum, and the Museum of Modern Arts in the Cairo Opera House. They will also visit the pottery centre at Fustat in Old Cairo as well as the ateliers of renowned painters such as Bahgoury and Gazebiyya Serri.
"A workshop will be held at the end of each visit, for example in the garden of one of the museums, or in one of the ateliers," says Issac Azmy, head of the Art Design Centre. "This will give the kids an opportunity to draw what they have seen. After the tour of the Fustat pottery centre, they will get training in modelling clay and the use of glaze and ovens, and professional trainers from the Fustat centre will be on hand to teach them the techniques of pottery manufacture."
The "different destination" programme is held three days a week on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11.30am to 2pm. Course fees are LE140 for three sessions.
Both these programmes will run throughout June and July.
In August, the centre will organise a "creative integrated international camp" at Agami in Alexandria. The camp will run artistic workshops, including painting and sculpture. Camp fees are LE780 including one week's full board accommodation, transportation and supervision.
The Cairo programmes are open to kids between four and 16 years old, whereas the Alexandria camp is restricted to those over 7.
If you dislike the thought of confinement, and you want your kid to spend part of his vacation in a typical rural environment, painting and experimenting with various crafts, then Fagnoon Art School, on the Saqqara road, is the place. The name Fagnoon is a cross between Funoon (arts) and magnoon (mad). There, your children can discover their hidden talents for pottery, drawing, metal work, woodcrafts, iron bending and silk painting. They will also have the chance to watch true professionals at work. This summer, a photography course will be introduced for the first time.
Parents are welcome to wait for their kids while the classes are running, and the older generation can even bring their friends and have a barbecue in the vast green areas around the school while waiting for the session to finish.
The school is open every day in summer from 10am to 6pm. A course that runs three days a week (that is, 12 sessions a month) will cost LE200; for eight sessions a month, the price is LE150. You can also pay on a day-by-day basis, at a cost of LE25 a session. But watch out: if your children need to use extra materials, the price can quickly soar.
The Art Attack course is organised by the Smash Tennis Academy. Here, children can spend long hours in the open air trying their hand at painting and crafts. The course is given by architect Ayman El-Qashty, and is held around the academy's breathtaking swimming pool. It meets twice a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays, from 5pm to 7pm.
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From top: Children in a dance class; straight out of the pool and into an art workshop; a budding artist listens intently to her mentor
This course is aimed at kids between five and 10 years old. And it is not your ordinary course in colouring and painting; instead, it seeks to teach children something about the arts, but in an indirect way, "without telling them that we are teaching them," as El-Qashty puts it.
For example, El-Qashty may give the children a material that seems to have been chosen at random, such as stones, straw, or even the sticks used to make Shish Tawouk, and then ask them to do whatever they want with them. The children are free, and the course leader makes a point of not intervening to direct them in one way or another. "The result is always tremendous," he says.
Among the topics he teaches are the nature and effects of colour, how to make a figure, and the relations between different colours and different figures. "I give them the guidelines and they just go ahead," says El-Qashty. "They don't have to colour a human face pink or to draw a man with a moustache. They just draw and colour the way they feel the thing."
Safari sketching is one of the most interesting parts of this programme. Safari trips are organised to places such as the Petrified Forest in Maadi. There, the children take time to look, feel and absorb; then they seek to express everything they have assimilated in their work, whether it be painting, sculpture or another craft.
Other topics covered include stone, glass and ceramic colouring and indoor figure sketching.
The programme is divided into three sessions: 9 June to 8 July; 9 July to 8 August; and 9 August to 8 September. Fees for each session are LE300. (Arts and crafts also figure in the general programme of the summer school which is run at the Smash Tennis Academy, along with many other activities -- see under summer schools).
Another open-air programme is that organised by Ragab's Pharaonic Village in Giza. The Arts Centre, which was only opened last year, is a wonderful venue buried in the midst of the greenery of Jacob Island. Here, children can try their hands at pottery making, sculpting, papyrus and boat making, mosaic and woodcraft.
The village programme runs over four days each week. The fee for a one-week course is LE95, which covers four activities. Each session lasts for two hours, and children are free to choose the hours that best suit them. Transport to the Pharaonic Village by the Village's private cars costs an extra LE15.
The School of the Egyptian Museum offers children from six to 16 years a golden opportunity both to learn about their Pharaonic heritage and to express what they have learned through different kinds of artistic practice.
One of the old neglected store rooms of the Egyptian museum has been cleaned out, painted and furnished with nice small blue tables, useful shelving and a projector, to turn it into the first school in Egypt that teaches archeology to kids.
During the three-month course, which started in the second week of June, the children are taken on organised tours of the Egyptian Museum accompanied by professional archaeologists. After each tour, they go back to the workshop where they can draw what they saw or make sculptures, model in clay or paper dough, or cut out Pharaonic shapes in aluminium foil -- shapes such as the Ankh (the key of life), the lotus flower, or various kinds of cartouche. Sometimes kids are asked to write a story or a poem to express what they experienced during the tour.
According to the manager of the school, Elham Salaheddin, the first hour of each session is used for the tour inside the museum, introducing the children to some aspect of ancient Egyptian life, such as hunting or agriculture. The second hour is then spent in the workshop, trying to recreate in art the impression the tour had made on them.
At the end of the course, a major exhibition will be held displaying all the art works and craft objects produced by the children.
The course runs twice a week for two hours a day, either from 10am to 12pm or from 12pm to 2pm. There is no fee.
If your child has an exclusive interest in pottery, then the place to go is the Pottery Workshop. Here, children can learn everything there is to know about the craft of pottery: the kind of clay used and where it comes from, the way it is mixed and the different methods of manufacture, whether by hand, wheel or with a mould.
The Pottery Workshop was opened over 20 years ago. It is a real factory producing exquisite everyday objects, as well as works of arts -- craft vases, lamps, and candle holders using arabesque and Mamluke designs, and platters, plates and pots decorated with Kufi writing.
Fortunately, the owners have decided to dedicate some of their time and space to teaching kids over six this stunning art. Fees are LE10 per lesson and the children can take what they make home. The lessons are open to parents too.
Music and dance
There is a long tradition in Egypt of music lessons for the young. When their kids showed a certain talent, some parents used to get special music tutors to come to their home to teach them how to play piano, violin or organ.
Now there are even more options for musical education. In the past few years, a number of private specialised institutions have opened their doors to young learners and offer training on various instruments, including the piano, organ, xylophone, guitar, oud, and violin. In addition, the Opera House now offers programmes for kids from six to 16 years old through the Educational Centre for the Development of Artistic Talents.
Dancing classes for kids are also much in fashion of late,and there are a number of centres offering jazz, ballet and break dance classes, often alongside gymnastics and aerobics. Some of them even add Karate, Taekwondo, and Kung Fu.
The Educational Centre for the Development of Artistic Talents of the Opera House is a good place to start if your children are interested in oriental music, oriental singing or opera.
The centre was launched in 1992, and offers violin lessons starting from age four, piano starting from age 10, and flute and oud starting from age five. Lessons are held twice a week and cost LE300 per instrument for three months.
There are also special opera classes that are held twice a week at a cost of LE300 for three months.
If your children are fond of singing and you feel they have a certain talent, then the children's chorus of the Opera House can help develop their abilities. Classes are held once a week on Thursday at 5.30pm. The good news is that they are free.
There are also oriental singing classes twice a week which cost LE300 for three months.
Bedaya Arts School and Conservatory offers music lessons for kids from five to 16 years old. Lessons in piano, drums, violin, guitar, flute and xylophone are given by professional teachers from the conservatoire. Prices vary according to the child's age and the frequency of the lessons. Kids from five to 10 can have one weekly lesson for LE200 for one month or LE320 for two months. As for kids from 10 to 16, one weekly lesson costs LE200 for one month or LE380 for two months.
Lessons here are for individuals, not for groups. There is a small test, which takes only five minutes, before the children start, to assess their potential.
There are also ballet classes which run twice a week for LE250 a month.
Besides music and ballet, the centre recently introduced karate classes, since Bedaya's owners consider the martial arts to be arts in the fullest sense of the word. Karate classes are held twice a week for LE180 a month.
Maadi Music Centre's activities, on the other hand, are restricted entirely to music. The centre offers music lessons for children as young as three years old by professional Egyptian and foreign teachers. Options include Western and oriental instruments, such as piano, flute, violin, and lute, as well as clarinet and vocals. A summer package is offered for kids from June to September with classes twice a week. Fees depend on age and activity.
If your children have no special desire to play or sing, but still enjoy music, they might like to join one of the dancing classes offered by a number of private centres. There, they can not only listen to music but learn to translate its rhythms into body movements.
En Vogue Modelling School in Heliopolis provides a range of great activities for children from six to 12 years old in a pleasant atmosphere. Here they can learn classical ballet in addition to jazz dance, gymnastics, and children's modelling, which includes movement, voice training, poise, and table manners.
A three-week summer package is offered for kids throughout June and July. This covers jazz dance, break-dancing, street dancing, hip hop, aerobics, cat walk, body language (including how to sit properly) and etiquette, in addition to certain related skills such as how to design a "thank you mum" card, for example.
Classes are held twice a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays, from 3.30pm to 5.30pm. The centre is closed during August, and the package costs LE350 per course.
Creative Dance and Fitness Centre is another option for those who live in Mohandessin and Maadi. Again, it is a pleasant place where kids could have a lot of fun. The centre offers introductions to folk dancing and tap, besides classical ballet and modern dance. They also run gymnastics classes as well as aerobics, children's boxing, Taekwondo, modelling and etiquette. You can choose one activity for LE200 a month with classes twice a week, or join the summer camp and choose any three activities for LE500 four times a week from Monday through Wednesday.
If you're looking for more reasonable prices, then the Injie Solh Dance and Fitness Centre in Mohandessin could be a nice alternative. There children can learn jazz or ballet, or join the aerobics class, for only LE60 a month. Classes are held once a week from 5.30pm to 6.30pm. You can choose two activities for LE120 per month.
The Fitness and Dance Academy in Zamalek offers a tempting package for August that includes ballet, modern dance, kids' fitness and gymnastics. Classes will be held twice a week and fees will range from LE300 to LE350. In June and July the only option open to children will be gymnastics at a cost of LE160 per month. Classes will be given twice a week.
Sports, of course, is a vitally important activity for children: it builds up their body, provides them with energy and keeps them fit. In summer, most sporting clubs offer summer courses for their youngest members. These will typically include swimming, karate, handball, volleyball, basketball and other interesting games. However, most of the sporting clubs get overcrowded with children during the summer, and this can mean that the children in turn don't receive the best standard of training. As a result, some parents prefer to send their kids to the summer programmes at the new sports academies that have become so fashionable over the last few years. These exclusive venues cater for tennis, karate, Taekwondo, swimming and squash, and the pleasant atmosphere means the children are sure to enjoy their time there. These academies are open to non-members too, though not at the same price as for members.
Smash Tennis Academy is focussed exclusively on tennis. It has a large number of tennis courts and professional trainers. Training programmes are open to all ages from six years up. Before being accepted as a new trainee, children must undertake an evaluation to assess their potential. They are then divided into categories according to their ability level. Training sessions are held twice a week and fees range from LE110 to LE150 per month depending on the level of the trainee and his age. (Tennis is also included in the general programme of the academy's summer school -- see under summer schools)
Katamiyya Heights Golf and Tennis Resort -- El-Shafie Ranch is another good option for kids who take their tennis seriously. The nine-court resort, owned and operated by veteran Egyptian tennis champ Ismail El-Shafie, has become a place of pilgrimage for national tennis fans. The intensive summer programme starts in June and runs till the end of August. Sessions last from 10am to 4pm and there are four levels of training. The full day mini-tennis programme is open to children from age four, and includes tennis in the early morning followed by fitness training, swimming and indoor activities. The juniors programme is designed as an intensive tennis course and includes both practice sessions and competitive play. Swimming and gymnastics are also provided to improve fitness levels. Prices vary according to level, starting at LE300 for one week of mini-tennis and rising to LE500 for a week at advanced level. Lunch is included.
For those who are fond of sports in general and want to indulge in a variety of activities, the Cairo American College (CAC) summer day camp may be the most appropriate place. This year, the camp has a sporting theme, and many of the activities proposed revolve around recreational sports and swimming. Instructors come from the Dutch Sports Academy, in addition to the regular CAC programme staff. Every camper and staff member is assigned to a "tribe" where they participate in session-long activities that include relay races, charades, games, friendly competitions, water sports, water balloons and baseball, to mention but a few.
The summer day camp has three sessions: session one will run from mid-June to 26 June; the second session runs from 29 June to 10 July; and the third from 13 to 24 July.
The camp will accept children from six to 11 years old and runs daily from 8am until 3pm. Fees are $200 per participant or the equivalent in Egyptian pounds.
Sessions of Karate, Taekwondo, Kung Fu, children's boxing, gymnastics and aerobics are available in most of the new dancing and fitness centres that have sprung up of late around Cairo -- see under Music and dance.
Some parents like to get their kids involved in a variety of activities in one place. For that reason, there are now organisations offering a package of activities including sports, arts and crafts, music, drama and cooking, all rolled together into a single programme. These are known as summer school programmes, and they generally run from early morning till the end of the afternoon, which is something of a boon for parents who have to work long hours. Also, since the programme is so varied, the children never get the chance to feel bored.
The Swiss Club in Cairo is putting on an attractive summer school for children between three and eight years old.
Although it is situated in the lower middle class neighbourhood of Imbaba in Kit Kat, the Swiss Club is an elegant building in the middle of a huge 7000 square metre garden that has grown over the years into a welcoming green oasis.
For children, the Swiss Club is paradise: there is lots of space to play and many interesting things to explore. Activities range from ballet to aerobics, karate or taekwondo, and from basketball to music and drawing.
The summer school programme runs from June till September between 9am and 3pm. This special programme includes creative educational games, photography, videos, painting, clay work, theatre and literature in Arabic and English, as well as field trips and sports. Fees are LE600 per child per month.
Besides its regular arts and sports courses, Smash Tennis Academy organises one of the best summer schools in town, combining several activities in an exclusive open-air atmosphere. The two-week programme includes tennis, aerobics, self-defence, nature discovery, dance classes, arts and crafts, cooking, drama, science, table tennis, water games, gymnastics and other activities. The first session starts on 16 June, the second on 30 June and the third on 14 July. Children will attend five times a week from Sundays through Thursdays from 10am to 4pm. They will be divided into different age groups, and each group will have no more than 20 kids.
Fees are LE450 per session, including snacks and one hot meal. Brothers and sisters are eligible for special discounted rates.
The cultural centre of the Integrated Care Society (ICS) is an interesting option, combining pleasant and well-equipped facilities with reasonable prices.
The ICS was founded by Mrs Suzanne Mubarak in 1977 to provide children with opportunities to explore and challenge themselves through art, computer studies, dance, music and cultural activities.
This summer, the ICS is laying on four programmes for kids from age six to 15. These programmes will focus on computers, music, arts, and sports, respectively. The computer programme is tailored for kids, and will include a simple introduction to Windows, Photo brush, the Internet (using the kiddonet browser for kids), MS Frontpage XP and Swish 2.
The music programme includes a study of the principles of harmony and rhythm, how to play different instruments, solfege singing, a tour of the instruments of the symphonic orchestra, and choral singing. Kids who show talent will be selected to join the ICS troupe, which takes part in childrens' concerts and TV programmes.
The arts and crafts programme includes work with paper dough and clay, printing, collage, mosaic and ceramics. The sports programme, for its part, will provide an opportunity to do gymnastics, ballet, aerobics and other physical activities.
There are two types of session. The first is a two-week session that meets daily except on Fridays, and combines the computer programme with one other programme of your child's choice (music or sports or arts). Fees in this case are LE170.
The second type of session lasts a month and runs three days a week. It is made up of any two programmes except the computer option, and fees are LE150.
Children will be divided into groups according to age, and each day runs from 9.30am to 2.30pm.
Public libraries are also a major provider of special cultural programmes during the summer vacation. These may range from reading to watching videos, writing stories, painting, acting, puppet shows, or cinema outings, to name but a few options.
The Greater Cairo Public Library, for example, boasts a wonderful atmosphere. The terrace of the library overlooks the Zamalek corniche and children can sit out there to draw and colour or play games and do puzzles.
The library, once the home of Khedive Ismail's granddaughter Princess Samiha Kamel, offers courses by specialists in drama and in arts and crafts. It also encourages story writing, recitation and scientific research. An exhibition will be held at the end of the summer to display the fruits of the children's work. Activities are all free, except for the IT Club that provides 15 computers for kids to browse the Internet.
This summer, Mubarak Public Library in Giza is holding workshops where children can learn music, recycling, painting on textiles and various handicrafts, such as making carpets using looms.
There will be also cartoon cinema shows and puppet shows, and there are regular story telling sessions on Fridays.
Activities are only open to library members. Membership fees vary according to age. The under-20 pay LE15 a year; for those in the 20 to 30 age bracket the fee is LE25; while the over-35 have to pay LE35.
The brand new state-of-the-art Maadi Public Library, which opened in July 2002, is another place where children can go to read, draw, colour, and do different crafts over the summer. The library also hosts puppet shows, video sessions and story telling. Activities are only open to members; the yearly subscription is LE50 for adults and LE25 for students.
Misr Al-Gadida Library in Heliopolis has an attractive summer programme that runs from June to mid-September. It offers a 12-hour music session for kids for LE40 per month and a 12-hour arts session for LE30 per month ; both of these run three days a week. A two-week computer session is also available. Fees vary, according to the number of hours and the age of the child, from LE50 to LE100.
The library also offers a wide range of activities for children, such as field trips, parties, competitions, a puppet show, a science club and arts and crafts practical sessions.
Prices and dates were accurate at the time of going to print. The newspaper is not responsible for any change in prices or dates that may be made by the different institutions.