It was her love of two seemingly unrelated things, Arabic music and animal rescue, that fortuitously led Simone of London to ESMA’s facebook adoptions page in autumn of 2011, where she saw the photos of adorable animals looking for homes . When she made the decision to adopt from ESMA she decided to make a visit to Cairo in December 2011, and the lives of Marta and Bondok were changed forever. Marta was rescued from the grounds of the Gezira Club in Cairo with a badly injured leg that had to be amputated, and Bondok was a house cat dumped by his family after several years due to the commonly-held misconception in Egypt that cats are dangerous to pregnant women and newborns. The story of how they made it to the UK six months later is one of paperwork, procedures, and waiting, as these were the first ESMA animals adopted by a UK resident after the easing of the notoriously strict UK animal quarantine requirements. Read Simone’s story in her own words here:
I am originally from a small city in the north of Italy in the Dolomites, but have been living in London for the past 8 years, and currently work as an Account Manager for Google. Arabic music has been my passion since I was little, as has animal rescue. Out of these two interests came my search for Middle Eastern animal rescue organizations, and that’s how I discovered ESMA’s Facebook page.
I saw Marta and Bondok for the first time in the adoption albums on the ESMA Facebook page in the autumn of 2011. Back then I didn’t have a definite idea about which cat to adopt, there were so many looking for a home. So I decided to actually visit the shelter in December that same year.
When I entered one of the cat rooms Marta limped towards me with her three legs and I picked her up. She started purring and that was that: love at first sight. She put a big smile on my face, the so called “adoption smile,” seen on people’s faces when they make the beautiful decision to giving an animal refugee another chance in life.
Bondok was not an easy decision, as there were so many adorable cats in the shelter, and he didn’t conquer me immediately. But the more I found out about him, his story and his character, the more it became clear that he had to be the other chosen one. In addition to that, he was already friends with Marta at the shelter. I am so glad I chose him as he has turned out to be the perfect fit and an incredible cat.
Then the preparation and waiting time started. It took about 6 months until they were ready to travel: vaccination booklets, rabies titre tests, third- country veterinary certificates, and so on, a long list of documents that needed to correspond exactly, down to the finest detail, to entry requirements for the UK. Travelling with incorrect paperwork could have meant a long quarantine or potentially even a death sentence.
Luckily we had Safwat, a fantastic agent who I can’t praise enough, and Mona from ESMA, who both did wonders coordinating everything on the Egyptian side. I was helped by my friend Lisa whose cats would also be flying on the same flight, who did most of the research on the UK side. It was arranged that they would be shipped as cargo on an EgyptAir flight from Cairo to Heathrow, as this turned out to be the most cost effective and easiest way of travel.
They arrived to the UK on Thursday, 28th June 2012 after a long journey and a long wait at the Heathrow Animal Reception Centre. They confirmed that the paperwork was ok only shortly before their release, so it was a nerve-wrecking wait. We had seen animals rejected for release and the reactions of desperate owners, but also the happy endings of families being reunited with their animals. Thanks to thorough preparation ours was a happy ending too.
A month later, Marta and Bondok are still going through the various phases of the settling-in process and it is a pleasure to see how they make their new home more and more their own every day. Adopting Marta and Bondok was an exciting adventure, during which I made new friends and met a lot of new people, and best of all, I now have these two beautiful and fascinating creatures in my life. I no longer wonder why the ancient Egyptians worshiped their cats.