Archive for August, 2012

Ramadan Iftar at ESMA

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Although Ramadan is over, we wanted to share a few images from our ESMA iftar (meal to break the fast) that was held in the courtyard of the Shabramont cat shelter. Breaking the fast with friends and loved ones is one of the best aspects of Ramadan, and this evening was no exception. It is very rare that the people who keep ESMA going day to day are able to sit down together in a social setting, and so this was a great opportunity for the ESMA board, shelter workers, vets and volunteers to bond over some homemade Egyptian food.

Sitting down to eat together

Dr. Karim el Demerdash and Dr. Karim Hegazi with senior shelter worker Walid Ibrahim

Mona Khalil makes sure that everyone’s plate is full


From the sands of Cairo to the beaches of Miami: Mazloom’s amazing journey

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

In November 2011, a dog we later named Mazloom was found on the streets of Cairo with grave injuries to both back legs.  We thought we had seen it all, but this was one of the worst cases we treated, and no one could even imagine what might have happened to him.  Mazloom underwent a double amputation and a long recovery at the ESMA shelter.   Some called for him to be euthanized but we knew from our experience that he had a good chance for a healthy and fulfilling life with the right adopters.  A long time supporter of ESMA, Tanya Mahrous of Atlanta, Georgia, and her family saw him on our facebook page and decided to open their home to Mazloom as foster parents in spring 2012. They created his own facebook page that was constantly updated with photos and videos showing his amazing progress and personality. He caught the eye of Catherine MacDonald of Miami, Florida  and Mazloom recently settled into a happy life with his new family there.  Mazloom has a better life than we ever dreamed was possible.

Don’t miss these other amazing videos of Mazloom on his youtube channel:



The human faces of ESMA: film director Sherif Amasha takes a starring role with Egypt’s neediest horses

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

Although you may be familiar with the animals ESMA helps, you may not know so much about the people who make our work possible. This month we are introducing a feature on our blog where we will introduce the “Esmarians” behind ESMA, highlighting a new face each month.

An independent film director and instructor at the Higher Institute for Cinema in Cairo, Sherif Amasha has a deep love of animals.  He joined ESMA’s circle of volunteers just before the revolution, in December 2010. At that time, no one anticipated the revolution that would begin just the next month, nor did anyone imagine the chain of events that would result in a massive crisis at the horse stables near the Pyramids when the revolution brought the flow of tourists to Egypt to a complete halt.

Horses line up for treatment in the shadow of the Pyramids

The owners of the stables tend to view their horses as commodities, not living creatures with their own rights, and when tourists stopped coming to ride their horses, they simply cut way back on the level of feeding.

ESMA stepped into the quickly deteriorating situation to provide relief to thousands of horses, and many of you made these very expensive efforts financially possible.   What you might not have known was that once ESMA board member Susie Nassar got this program off the ground and running, it was Sherif who stepped into the leadership role to continue and coordinate ESMA’s horse feeding intervention and make it all possible.

Sherif examines a horse at Nezlet El Samman

This challenging role includes not only buying and packaging the feed, scheduling volunteers, setting up and supervising the distribution station, but, most importantly, working to establish a relationship of trust with the horse owners so that they will begin to listen to our advice on care and treatment.  Sherif has always maintained that developing these relations is the key to improving welfare for these animals. Read more about Sherif and ESMA’s work with these horses in this excellent article by Ingrid Wassmann from El Ahram weekly.

For the last six months, ESMA has continued this program in partnership with The Brooke, and we hope that when our current Memorandum of Understanding with The Brooke ends, it will be willing to renew the agreement to continue working together since these horses are not yet being taken full care of by their owners.

Sherif with members of the ESMA and Brooke team

London Calling: First ESMA cats arrive in UK

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

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.

First glimpse of London

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.

Relaxing at home

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.


Checking out their new surroundings