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October 15, 2007 (Part 2)

Cairo Travel Blog

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Lufthansa Airlines – Frankfurt – Cairo

On the second leg of my flight I am seated next to an elderly Iranian couple. As it turns out, they don’t speak a word of English and ask for my help filling out their entry visas. I’m translating for them using English and intuition and large doses of sign and hand language with the flight attendant.

Taxi ride to hotel:

I arrive at the airport and look for someone carrying a sign with my name on it. Nothing. I keep looking. Still no one with a sign saying “Lisa.” I head to baggage claim and then out the airport doors with my luggage. There are more men waving signs with people’s names written in large, bold, letters. But again, no Lisa Haisha sign. All of a sudden, I don’t feel so safe anymore. Where is my nice, trustworthy Hameed?

Within seconds I am bombarded by taxi drivers and tour guides: “Hello Miss. Welcome. Do you have hotel? I know good hotel with good price. I can do everything for you. You are like my family. I will love to invite you to dinner. You can meet my wife and children, they will love you too. We love the American people, they are very good. I can take you everywhere you want to go. How long you staying Cairo?”

I just keep walking, while saying, “No, shukran.” (thank you). “No, shukran. No, Shukran.” I don’t want to give up on Hameed but I may have to. Finally, after about twenty minutes, I accept one of the taxi drivers’ invitations for a ride to the hotel Hameed told me about. There are no vacancies for another two days. I ask my driver to take me to another hotel I had looked up on the internet as a back-up: The President Hotel, supposedly, a three-star hotel.

During the half-hour trip my driver, Mahmood, is hell-bent on teaching me basic Arabic. I had told him I was here to learn the language, and his excitement is bubbling over. “Baba. Can you say, ba-ba?” I repeat, “ba-ba.” “Good! You will do very well. Salaam aleikum.” I repeat, “Salaam aleikum.” “Ahh, very good …’

Over the course of my twenty-minute taxicab lesson, I learn the following words that Mahmoud feels are very important for my stay here in Cairo:

madrassa — school

baba — father:

‘um — mother

shukraan - thank you

salaam aleikum – hello

sabah al-kheir — good morning

insha’allah – God willing

allahu akbar – God is great

al hamdullilah – peace be upon you

Great! Now I can impress my teacher on my first day.  But all I can think about is getting to my hotel room and taking a shower and collapsing. Insha’allah!

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photo by: vulindlela