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Off the Record: Nile FM

The quirky hosts of The Morning Show, Sally Sampson and Mark Somers let us in on their (work) lives a little more...

On the radio every weekday in the morning, most of us already feel like we know Sally Sampson and Mark Somers. 

The quirky hosts of The Morning Show on Nile FM, they’re the proud owners of Cairo’s most recognisable voices, getting us to wherever we’re going with a dose of humour, wit and good music. We delve deeper into the minds of the dynamic duo as they open up about swearing on air, Cleopatra cigarettes and what songs they want stricken from the record… 

Listen up!

How ready are you for this interview on a scale of one to Charmander?

Sally: I have no idea what that means.

Fine. How did you get into Nile FM?

Sally: I had just got back into Cairo from London, and a friend called me and said she wanted us to do a demo for Nile FM together. I actually ended up doing it alone though and after 3 or 4 interviews I got the job!

Mark: I was at home in the UK, freezing, and saw a job advertised online. I actually applied about a year and a half ago but it only became official a few week back. I’ve actually been on the radio for years back in the UK.

What was the biggest difference between working in Egypt and the UK?

Mark: Understanding what people write! I didn’t realize that when Arabic is written in English, it has the numbers in it! I struggle with certain names and pronunciation too.

What’s so special about The Morning Show?

Sally: Well me and Mark just met and started working together so I was a little concerned about whether we’d get on. But we got on great and I think that’s what makes the banter and chit chat fun.

Mark: I’m a nice guy!

Sally: He is! The Morning Show is a fusion of our personalities in a PG-13 context.

How hard is it to be PG-13?

Mark: Some struggle more than others! I’m used to not cursing on air.

Sally: I’ve said a few things and I’m like, “Did I just say that on air?!”

Mark: When you’re reading off things from a screen, it’s sometimes hard to stop yourself from saying things you shouldn’t! You have to read through the texts and tweets a few times to make sure they’re clean.

Sally in the Studio

What would happen if you did swear?

Sally: It wouldn’t be good!

Mark: It happened to me once before back home. I was on a glider, live on the air and said “it’s just like a rollercoaster, and I hate fucking rollercoasters!!!” The guy in the studio went “Oh my God, oh my God, he didn’t mean that, he didn’t mean that!”

What are the weirdest texts/tweets you’ve ever gotten?

Mark: We’ve gotten some really funny and sarcastic political messages that we’re not allowed to read out. It’s a shame because some of them are really, really funny.

Sally: It’s a little bit frustrating, but at the end of the day, we represent the station.

Has anyone been mean about you through texts or tweets?

Sally: Someone said to me “Your voice is so annoying, I used to listen to The Buzz but now I don’t!”

Mark: The other week I got: “That’s far too strong of an English accent to have on in the morning, go home you shouldn’t be on our radio station!” I’m sort of used to it though and most people say nice things.

How hard is it having playing happy, fun songs, but not being able to talk about what’s going on in the country?

Sally: As an Egyptian, it’s really hard to put away how I actually feel and be neutral, and it comes across as detached.

Do you get feedback about that?

Mark:  Yeah, we get people saying don’t you know what’s going on?! I don’t want to come across as being a guy that’s coming from a foreign country and is oblivious to what’s going on, so we make references but we make sure its toned down.

Sally: We can say be safe and allude to it without being blatant.

How much of what you play is your choice and how much is part of the station’s?

Mark: Well, it’s mostly chosen by the station who focuses on the US and UK Top 40 Charts.

If there’s something you really want to hear, can’t you slip it in?

Sally: No, unfortunately!

If there were one song that you could remove from the list ,what would it be ?

Sally: Ke$ha’s Die Young!

Mark: That Taylor Swift one, never, ever, ever, ever…

Has anyone ever recognised you for your voice?

Sally: I had a weird experience, two months into doing the Evening Session with Adham, someone came up to me and I was like “Oh my God, you’re Sally from Adham and Sally…Edeelo ba2a!!” Edeelo ba2a was Adham’s little catchphrase, and I didn’t really know what to say!

Is it weird working together as Sally, you have an American accent, and Mark, you’re very British?

Mark: Sally can’t stop doing an English accent!
Sally: Yeah, I have to take the piss out of him.

Do an American accent…

Mark: …Oooh maa Gaad …No.

Mark in the Studio

What was your first impression of Egypt when you came, Mark?

Mark: I love it! I didn’t know if I would take to the people and the culture but I have. I love the mental way people drive, that they toot their horns every two seconds, and that in the supermarkets they’re even worse! You need horns on trolleys here too! I love the quirkiness, people are very friendly, and they’re funny.

Sally: Mark had a very unique experience smoking Cleopatras. We told him, man, those are going to kill you!

Mark: But they are so cheap! I stopped a guy in the street for a lighter and he pissed himself laughing at the foreigner smoking Cleopatras.

Do you still smoke Cleopatras?

Mark: Uh no… a still have a few boxes left, but I only smoke them before payday when I haven’t got anything else left. You just can’t speak the morning after.

Is radio a dying medium?

Sally: No, there is always a time and place for it. And then there’s online radio.

Mark: It’s a tough time for radio, for sure, with digital downloads being so easy. But you can’t ever get that chatty vibe, even if it’s a podcast, unless you’re listening to live radio.

What makes a good radio presenter?

Sally: Someone who’s able to be very fluid and natural/ You have to be good at multitasking and really alert. Which can be hard when you have to wake up at 4AM like me!

Mark: I wake up at 6.10AM and roll into the car.

What happens when you have to pee on air ?

Sally: You either wet your pants or you don’t. I’m happy to say I have never wet my pants… so far.

Mark: You can put the songs onto autopilot if you need a break. We had a morning when both of us were stressed and we couldn’t even get words out so we decided to take 10 minutes out.

If you could interview anyone who would it be?

Sally: Russell Brand.

Mark: Bono.

Someone in Egypt…

Sally: Omar Sharif.

Mark: I only know about three people in Egypt!

If you could interview yourself, what would you ask ?

Mark:  “Would you like to be paid for this interview?” Hahaha! But THIS is the craziest interview I’ve ever had; the setting on the 23rd floor, on a couch surrounded by people in a circle…

How would you rate this interview, from one to Charmander ?

Mark : I’m thirty years old, I kinda missed the Pokémon thing.

What superpower would you like to have?

Mark: Like Sylar from Heroes, stealing everyone’s powers.

Sally: The ability to eat without getting fat.

Mark: And I’ll steal that power.

Do you like Egyptian food?

Mark: I love it!

On a scale from foul to taameyya, what Egyptian food are you ?

Mark:  I’d rather be wrapped in breadcrumbs and fried than squished like foul.

Sally: I’m more foul than taameyya.