Oct. 25th, 2007 – Cosmopolitan Hotel Room

Cairo Travel Blog

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Driving today was crazy. I learned that the signs for the exit off-ramps are positioned after the exit, so unless you’re familiar with the streets you’re inevitably going to miss your exit, perhaps several times. I was told that one of the most famous driving sayings here is, “Son-of-a-bitch!” – usually uttered right after you’ve passed your exit ramp.

Crossing the street feels as if you’re caught in the middle of a video game! It’s a true Egyptian baptism by fire – once you make it across in one piece you feel like you can take on anything this city throws your way.

I missed Ramadan by one week. During Ramadan, the religious fast that goes from dawn to dusk, nothing passes Egyptians lips – not even romance. But I was told by many that once the sun sets they go crazy! People stay up all night drinking, eating and smoking. They compare it to New Years Eve, except it’s every day for a full month. Before learning about Ramadan from my new friends here, I had thought it was a spiritual time for self-reflection and taken very seriously – a time for sacrifice. Was I ever wrong! They do sacrifice for Allah by not eating or drinking anything for about eight hours, but then at night they indulge like never before. It’s their favorite time of year. (Other Islamic countries, like Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Sudan, are apparently much more conservative and don’t stay out all night partying). I am just perplexed as to how these people can function with such little sleep for such long periods of time. I guess they’re used to it.

The truth is, Ramadan or not, Egyptians stay up all night. Most have two jobs: a day job for eight hours, then a night job for six or seven more. Then they catch a few hours of rest and do it all over again (for a mere $80.00 - $150.00 per month)! I learned this from the man who manages the business center, after I caught him sleeping several times and asked him if he was okay. We started talking and he told me his story, then brought in other hotel employees and they also told me about their second jobs and salaries. Now I know why there is so much incompetence among the workers here. They are all exhausted and don’t really care about their jobs, since their pay is so paltry. Nothing is done right and when you ask for something – even room service – half the time they forget and never show up, and then later apologize. But now that I understand I have far more compassion for them. No soap in my room, no clean sheets or clean towels, television broken, bedside lamp flickers, no problem!

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photo by: vulindlela