This week’s Deal takes place on the opposite side of the world in Cairo where a new attraction has most folks excited, but skeptical. The attraction has nothing to do with ancient Egyptian civilization. On the contrary, it is inside an ultra-modern mega-shopping center. The Mall of Egypt, just 30 minutes away from the great pyramids of Giza, had its grand opening this March 2rd. It is not just any shopping mall, but nearly 2 million square feet containing 400 retailers, an ample 6,500 parking spaces, 2 family entertainment centers and an indoor ski complex. Yes, snow in the middle of the desert, all year round. How ironic is that! I was lucky enough to be visiting my niece who had just taken her 3-year old son after school. Showing off their souvenir photos, I could see that this is something really special for Egyptians. 

Ski Egypt is the first indoor ski slope and snow park on the African continent. It offers skiing, snow-boarding, lessons, a sledding ramp, a chairlift, and a pro shop. The Snow View Café gives visitors while sipping hot cocoa a picturesque overview including watching adorable live penguins waddling around. 

Ski Egypt was built on the great success and on-going popularity of Ski Dubai by the same Emirati developer, Majid Al Futtam, and operated by a British partnership, Extreme Cool Ltd.

MAF began the construction for the mall in 2012, taking almost six years to build employing 6,000 local construction workers costing close to 6 billion EGP or $400 million (hard to know in real dollars because of so much inflation). For more info.  

For a family of 4, the cost is approx. $70 for rentals and lift tickets, and don’t forget professional photos.  To our American standards, the outing sounds like a bargain. For Egyptian standards, it is extremely expensive, if not nearly impossible for the working class. A government employee earns about 1,200 Egyptian pounds per month, or $66 US ($1 USD = 18 Egyptian pounds). 

If Ski Egypt is not affordable for the average Egyptian, the question is who are they targeting their customer base? Is it the more affluent Egyptian? There is a good chance they are getting away on weekends to their Red Sea or Mediterranean villas. Is it international tourists who are taking a day off from visiting national treasures and “Mummies and Deadies” at the Egypt Museum? 

The investment group may be betting on sheer numbers for Ski Egypt’s success. Cairo’s population is close to 10 million and they need somewhere to go. Even if the obvious factors are working against them such as political unrest, weak Egyptian currency and economy, high unemployment, a declining tourism industry, ongoing safety issues, a food shortage (most recently, sugar) and a growing population of penniless refugees from Iraq and Syria. With such huge problems, it would be wonderful to take the afternoon off to enjoy a light-hearted activity. 

To be honest, I am not sure what kind of “deal” this is for the Egyptian people. My biggest fear is that the Egyptians have learned American consumerism, living hand to mouth, accumulating debt, and ravaging its country of its natural resources, especially water. 

On the other hand, it was apparent how excited my niece and her toddler were after spending a few hours at the center. They should be proud, SKI EGYPT is amazing. I am hoping it will be a huge success. After all, it provides a paycheck for hundreds of employees and gives people a fun place to go. Otherwise, they may sitting on a huge pile of slush in the middle of the desert.  



Mall of Egypt

Al Wahat Al Baharia

6th October, Cairo, Egypt  


SNOW GO (entry, rentals, helmet)

Child, height and age restrictions           300 EGP ($17)

Adults                                                 350 EGP ($20) 

NORTH POLE EXPERIENCE (entry, lesson, gloves, locker rental)

Child and Adult                                            480 EGP ($27) 

SNOW VIEW, Entry to Café for Viewing

Admission                                                    120 EGP ($7)

(Sue Helmy has plenty of tricks up her sleeve. She is currently providing superb administrative services at a financial management firm in Century City. She is active in countless church and civic organizations and spends every minute she can spare dancing to the Zumba beat.)


DEALS & DISCOUNTS--As Nora journeys from uptight business major to lefty activist, she discovers that the right-wing politician whose office she’s occupying is college friend, Star, who once championed the oppressed. This is the story of the transformation of two women and the people who shape their journey across the ideological divide. From former Black Panther sisters to religious demagogues, there is no turning back for anyone in the city of Los Angeles. Financial and political structures collapse as the two women face off - opposites again - but crossed. Star-Crossed. 

That there is my screenplay in a nutshell, or, as they call it in the Biz, a logline. I’ve worked for years on this feature and I’ve got to tell you, I’m more than a little bit excited at the thought of the awesome cast of actors that is assembling as we speak who will be giving their time to bring these characters to life. That’s why I’m reaching out now to invite you to come be a part of this process. 

Melvin Johnson and Bill White are the producers of the Nesona Play Reading Series. They’re always super busy putting up artistic works that reflect the lives of real people in the diverse communities of Los Angeles. They are committed to diversity and inclusion and to telling socially relevant stories of the resistance and heroism of ordinary people and extraordinary people. 

The readings they produce help writers develop their work by providing a space where artists and audiences can interact in a productive and exciting way. This is where my script will be going up next Wednesday, April 12. The event will include a reading of the script as well as Q&A and a meet and greet with refreshments. You too can have all of this for a donation of your choice. 

A couple of months ago, I was attending a Film Independent event, getting inspired by the cast and director of “Moonlight,” when I ran into an actor friend of mine, Bill Mendieta. I’ve known Bill since I came to Los Angeles. We got to talking about days gone by and times to come. To make a short story even shorter, it was Bill who gave me the nudge I needed to get this thing up on its legs with a reading. 

Turns out Bill is also perfect for the part big firm accountant, Robert Barnes – the husband of one of my leads; and fortune would have it that he was available. Jill Awbrey (playing Nora Bolden) is an amazing actress from my class with the incredible Brad Barnes. “In the moment” is her middle name. I was over the moon when my acting coach and richly talented actor and director, Elise Robertson, agreed to play Star. It is the ideological journey of Nora and Star that lies at the heart of the story. 

I met Bruce Lemon Jr. while doing a bit of casting for Carolfrances Likins’ reading of her script “Subversion!” for which I also played a leading role. That story told the tale of a family affected by the infamous Palmer Raids of the early 1920s, which resulted in massive rounding up and deportations proceedings against thousands of people #resisting unfair labor practices and other social ills. 

This past December, I went on to shoot a reading of a Langston Hughes poem with Bruce. I’m thrilled to say he will be playing the part of Jason Wright – a pivotal character in the life of Nora and the future of Los Angeles. 

More actors are signing on to play pivotal roles and we are sure to be in for a treat. For any of you awesome City Watch readers who would like to be a part of this creation and an enjoyable evening, I extend a hearty welcome. #TheResistance continues – onward to the big screen! 


Reading of “Star-Crossed” by Jennifer Caldwell

April 12, 2017 7:15 pm

MOments Playhouse

665 Heliotrope Drive

Los Angeles, CA 90004 

A production of NESONA Play Reading Series

Contact Information:            213-908-5032                323-702-6317

You can find NESONA Play Reading Series on Facebook


Next Readings:   

April 26, 2017

“Oscar’s Last Stand” by William “Bill” White

May 10, 2017

“A Lesson Before Dying” by Ernest J. Gaines

May 24, 2017

“Bunk” by Julie Taiwo Oni

(Jennifer Caldwell is a an actress and an active member of SAG-AFTRA, serving on several committees. She is a published author of short stories and news articles and is a featured contributor to CityWatch. Jennifer can be reached at  Facebook: - Twitter: @checkingthegate ... And her website: 


CALL THE HOTLINE --Now is the time to enjoy the lovely wildflowers of So Ca. The Theodore Payne Wildflowers and Native Plants Hotline is an excellent resource to start planning your trip. You will hear the voice of Emmy Award winner, actor extraordinaire, Joe Spano, most currently on NCIS, giving a weekly report on where to go and what to see at each location in local Southern California sites. The hotline is only available during the spring months of March through May with an updated voice recording every Friday. 

THIS WEEK--Though it is a recorded message, it sounds like Joe is reciting poetry as he describes blankets of color such as the pink of the monkey flower, yellow of California poppies, purple of the desert lupine, deep burgundy of the desert willows, and the dainty white and yellow desert lilies. 

Expect to see a great display throughout this entire season everywhere with a variation of terrain, elevations and sun exposure. This week Joe talks about four locations to catch these beauties in different desert regions in So Ca: First, the Anza Borrego Desert State Park with 600,000 acres to explore, then Santa Rosa Plateau in Riverside, the Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach and finally Placerita Canyon in the San Gabriel Mountains. 

A BLOOMIN’ BONANZA--With the deluge of rain this winter, this year’s wildflower season is going to be a specular. So go explore. Enjoy your senses. See the colorful beauties to behold against the desert terrain, take in the aromatic floral scents in the air, hear the gentle trickling of the water in the streambeds and waterfalls, and feel the sunshine and breeze. You might want to keep a printout of the hotline recording handy to help identify the wildflower species. Here’s the PDF

Keep updated with the TPF Wildflower Hotline each Friday. You might enjoy this free resource so much that you will feel compelled to get involved in the organization by becoming a member or volunteering. I did, I am now a proud TPF member and owner of a TPF coffee mug!  



The TPF is everything California native wildflowers, plants and gardening to promote reduce water usage, cutting down on pesticides and fertilizers, encouraging natural pollination through birds and bees, and reducing maintenance. With its staff members and generous volunteers it maintains an educational center, nursery on it 22 acre property, a gift shop and art gallery, hike site, and hotline. 

10459 Tuxford

Sun Valley, CA 91352

(818) 768-1802   

NURSERY--The retail nursery carries over 900 unique high quality California native plants. 75% of the plants are grown on premises. There is a helpful and extremely knowledgeable staff who can help you pick out plants according to what kind of soil, lighting, and to attract hummingbirds, songbirds and butterflies. The identification placard on each plant species is very detailed saying everything you need to know. There were over ten different kinds of buckwheat plants for sale!

So much to write about, check it out.   


Poppy Days Plant Sale 

Saturday, March 18, 2017, 8:30 am – 4:30 pm

The region’s best selection of California native plants. Discounts for being a TPF member. 

Annual Native Plant Garden Tour (Year of the Buckwheat!) 

Saturday and Sunday, April 1 and 2, 2017, 10 am -5 pm      

A self-guided tour of 32 inspiring gardens. Learn about native plants, landscape design and wildlife habitat

For tickets


(Sue Helmy has plenty of tricks up her sleeve. She is currently providing superb administrative services at a financial management firm in Century City. She is active in countless church and civic organizations and spends every minute she can spare dancing to the Zumba beat.)


BAD DEALS--Your mission should you choose to accept it! Destroy Cayla the spy! 

Two years after it was found to be vulnerable to hackers, Cayla the doll with several identities has been deemed guilty of illegal espionage device according to Germany's telecommunications regulator, Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur). If you listen to BBC News in an article they published on Feb. 17, 2017, Germans on both sides of the former wall are pretty darn careful when it comes to matters of surveillance. They are having none of it.[i] 

Penalties for possessing banned surveillance devices can result in up to two years in the big house over in Deutschland. Parents have been advised to destroy Cayla and never look back. 

Across the water in the UK, the Retailers Association isn't worried about the spy, even though researchers have been able to listen to and talk to children from up to 33 feet away. They've even been able to accomplish this THROUGH SEVERAL WALLS! Indeed, some researchers have been able to get Cayla to sprew foul epithets. 

Here in the U.S., My Friend Cayla is under investigation as well. The Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether Cayla’s ability to upload children’s speech is an undue violation of privacy[ii]. According to a compliant filed with the FTC, corporations can insert their productions into conversations with the children straight through the mouth of good ole Cayla. 

Turns out the U.S. maker of the snitch partners up with the same database maintenance team that develops and maintains voice recognition software for law enforcement and the military. Zowie! Your kid could be Navy Seal ready before she even gets to first grade! 

Cayla isn’t the first spy to hit the streets. Hello Barbie was introduced back in November 2015. According to an article in Newsweek soon after her release, kids can say whatever they want to Barbie simply by pressing her belt buckle. She is configured to keep all of this information in a cloud. From time to time, she will ask the child about information the spook has gleaned from the child in the past. The implications are pretty scary if you ask me. 

I’m not the only one who thinks so. A class action suit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court against Mattel, ToyTalk and KidSafe[iii] claiming that Barbie is a dangerous gal who can and has been hacked. 

I don’t know about you, but I say these dolls are sinister. It’s sad to think that even one of them could be a kid’s best friend. Even if the kid doesn’t tell the doll that much, Barbie and Cayla can pick up intel from anyone within a certain radius. Bad news and a bad deal for free thinking people everywhere.


(Jennifer Caldwell is a an actress and an active member of SAG-AFTRA, serving on several committees. She is a published author of short stories and news articles and is a featured contributor to CityWatch. Her column at is dishing up good deals, recipes and food for thought. Jennifer can be reached at  Facebook: - Twitter: @checkingthegate ... And her website: 


More Articles ...