Nov. 3, 2007 – Airport – Egypt Air – Cairo to Luxor 4:15am

Egypt Travel Blog

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Random thoughts while staring into space, reading the Herald Examiner and people-watching while drinking a cup of Nescafe at 4:30 in the morning, and a bit delirious from only a couple of hours of sleep:

Sheesha:

I believe the sheesha (the water pipe) is the key to world peace and if everyone smoked it (preferably with apple tobacco), the world would be a much better place. Everyone would experience the “hubbly bubbly” feeling and forget about their problems, war and hatred. It truly is a relaxing and bonding experience. I have seem how it brings the locals together: in any one café you can see Muslims, Christians, Europeans, Americans and Australians all discussing religion, politics and daily life without any tempers rising or fists flying.

Baksheesh:

Traveling gives you an opportunity to look within yourself.

It also offers many opportunities to indulge in judgment, anger and frustration. I admit I have partaken of some the latter while being baksheeshed to death here in Cairo. Baksheesh is the local name for tipping or bribery, which seems to be the only way to get anything done around here. Everyone expects baksheesh before they will perform whatever job or duty they are supposed to be performing. With wages so low, it’s understandable that people would want to supplement their meager incomes. But here the custom seems to have taken over almost every aspect of daily life (and especially when dealing with foreigners). It seems everyone who says hello to you wants a tip! Overall, the people of Cairo have huge hearts and mean well, but please, the baksheesh custom has to stop!

Pollution:

I’m reading an article that says Cairo is perhaps the world’s most polluted city. The smoke, soot, dust, liquid droplets from fuel combusted by the two million cars just in the Cairo area (rarely fueled by unleaded gasoline and usually poorly maintained) are causing levels of emphysema, asthma and cancer to skyrocket, leading to over 30,000 deaths a year. Scientists also blame the terrible pollution on the dry, sandy climate, which leads to thick dust that is rarely cleared by rain.

Terrorists:

Six men of Iraqi descent who were heading home from doing training for the U.S. military are suing America Airlines for detaining them and harassing them after other passengers expressed concern about them because they were speaking Arabic. Uh-oh! I wonder if that means when my Arabic gets to perhaps intermediate level that I will feel my terroristic inclinations rising and not be able to fly anymore without being harassed. I guess I’ll just have to take my chances.

Informal Valets:

Yesterday I learned about informal valets. My friend Victoria pulled up in front of a restaurant and a man suddenly appeared from the street and she handed her keys to him. I asked who he was because of his lack of a uniform, sign, or anything official-looking, and she said, “Oh here in Cairo there are informal valets. Men who are out of work will show up at various locations and park your car for you and you tip them.” I asked her if anyone had ever taken off with her car. She said no, there is a fundamental level of trust here and everyone knows everyone. So, when you come out of the restaurant, if the man you gave your keys to is not here then someone who knows him will be, and will help you out.

Sure enough, when it came time to leave the restaurant we looked around and there was the man who had taken her keys. He told us where he had parked her car, we walked there and there it was! Of course, Victoria tipped him.

vances says:
Apple tobacco for shisha is good, but triple apple is best!
Posted on: Jan 17, 2008
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