Oct. 27th, 2007 – Cosmopolitan Hotel

Cairo Travel Blog

 › entry 12 of 27 › view all entries

I checked out the Nile Hilton today. I was so excited in the cab, thinking about this move. I would have clean sheets, decent food in the many choices of restaurants, a fresh smelling room, a clean shower and toilet that work. Wow! What luxury. The taxi driver stopped about two blocks from the hotel and explained to me that for security reasons no cars were allowed within two blocks of the hotel. I paid him and walked the rest of the way. Once at the hotel, I had to walk another two blocks to the back entrance (since I’m not a guest staying there) and then I had to walk down a corridor lined with shop after shop after café after shop – I felt like I had just landed at LAX. When I finally made it to the reception desk I was feeling strange. Maybe it was culture shock! There were a few people before me in line, and as I waited patiently I observed my surroundings, perhaps soon to be my new home.

I noticed a wealthy-looking Kuwati family wearing their traditional garb, wealthy Europeans, middle-aged people who reeked of “tourist” instead of “traveler.” They were waiting for a tour bus to take a tour somewhere. By the time it was my turn at the reservation desk, I was already homesick for Cairo! I missed the craziness. I missed my twelve block walk to school in the mornings, soaking in the hustle and bustle of the city, my fellow students studying Arabic in my hotel and hanging at the business center with its broken computers and no fax, printer, or copier. I missed my tiny dilapidated room with all its problems. I missed Ahmad, the man who cleaned my room. (He gets so excited when he sees me because I gave him a US$3 tip for delivering my laundry, and that is a day’s salary for him.) I also missed the silly guard, Mohammed, outside my hotel who always flashes a big smile and a “Salaam aleikim” anytime I enter or exit my building. I missed the receptionist Mohammed who makes fun of me each day with my various struggles. Every morning he says, with a charming smile, “What problems can I help you solve today?” Then I relate all my problems of the previous day: “Well, today, the noise on the street was very bad. I heard a bomb-like sound several times around 2 am, which woke me up.”

“Kids in the street playing with firecrackers. They are bored.”

“Then I heard banging on metal at 4 am.”

“Oh, we are making plates, beautiful metal plates. I can show you later when they are finished.”

“At 4am you make metal plates?”

“It’s Cairo.” He shrugs.

I even missed my fuul and bread, and the awful-tasting kasha breakfast.

The Nile Hilton receptionist looked at me. “Hello. How can I help you?” Perfect English, no accent. I said, “I’m sorry. I’m fine, thanks,” and left. Walked out again through the polished-looking, decadent mall and back to the crazy street of honking cars, bumper to bumper traffic and smog, and I was much happier. I had a new appreciation for Cairo. I’m starting to get this city! I’m finally finding my groove!

Back in my hotel, I say hello to Mohammed, the guard and pass through the metal detector to the lobby. I tell the female manager my story and that I write for a travel guidebook and I am not happy with my room because of this, this, and that and it’s my second change of rooms. She seems empathetic and says, “You are breaking my heart. Just a moment.” She hands keys to a bellboy and he leads me to check out a new room: 601. It is much better than my two previous ones – though still a dump – but it’s in the back so there’s little noise, and a decent bathroom with water pressure and a toilet that works. The only problem is that I will have to keep the shower running for about ten to fifteen minutes in the morning if I want hot water because the water has to make its way up to the sixth floor. Whatever. I tell Samiah, the manager, that it’s excellent. “I’ll take it.”

“Please write something positive about us. I will do everything for you. Last time the travel guidebooks aren’t so good to us. They said that we recycle our food from one customer to another.” I laughed and said, “You do! I’ve seen it several times already.”

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photo by: vulindlela