Waking up in Cairo
Cairo Travel Blog› entry 1 of 12 › view all entries
A business tripâ€¦ what a strange word actually. I mean, I love a trip as much as any of you, and I donâ€™t mind doing business either, but a combination of the twoâ€¦ Normally when I think of a business trip I think of getting drunk with my colleagues in between some boring presentations. This time however, thereâ€™s no colleagues with me. It is just me and my customer contact, and weâ€™re here for a week to do the annual review and additional training of their helpdeskâ€¦ in
Iâ€™m having trouble getting started. I have just finished a weekâ€™s working, arrived at 4 am in my hotel after a night-flight to
So after sleeping in until late this felt just like a normal Saturdayâ€¦ had a sumptuous breakfast, checked some e-mails, read the newsâ€¦ and being in a room with a large comfy king-size bed and all the luxury I could wish for (and more) this is not the type of waking up normally associate with travel! I mean, whereâ€™s the noise? Whereâ€™s the dirt? Where are the cockroaches?
But I must be crazy staying indoors behind my laptop only because this doesnâ€™t feel like a trip. I am in
So around 2 oâ€™clock I managed to pull myself together and get dressed, grab my camera and go out. Outside of the hotel I hailed a cab and I figured the best way to start to feel like being on a trip was to plunge myself as deeply as possible into the chaos of Islamic life.
Though Khan al-Khalili is somewhat of a tourist trap these days, the narrow market streets have remained remarkably traditional under the influx of tourism. You can buy anything here, from rugs to sexy underwear to toy camels and marble pyramids. The more kitsch the better seems to be the motto and who can blame them, when busloads of tourists are all too happy to part with their money for â€˜papyrusâ€™ or a miniature sphinx carved out of marble.
And since I was alone, the shop owners were remarkably uninterested in me. Of course quite a few still stopped me in the street to sell me something in the most original (and good-natured) way I have ever encountered ("hello sir, how can I take your money?") but on the whole their radars were mainly focused on the hordes of pale Americans following their guides (holding up embarrassing signs like â€˜Sofitel group 1â€™) through the narrow maze of shopping streets.
One of the main sights in the area is the Al-Azhar mosque, where I found some tranquility after the crowded streets of Khan al-Khalili. I like mosques. The inner court of a mosque is usually a place of sociality and happiness rarely found at its Christian counterparts, and Al-Azhar is no exception. Itâ€™s a beautiful building too, with no less than 5 minarets and a sober, though impressive prayer hall.
After a few hours strolling through the narrow bustling streets Khan al-Khalili, where I undoubtedly made many friends for life, I ended up in the El Fishawy pub for a traditional chai and sheesha (Tea with a waterpipe). El Fishawy proudly claims to have been in continuous business for more than 200 years, and have yet to see a quiet day. The place was absolutely packed with mostly locals, and a few â€˜daringâ€™ tourists (undoubtedly without a guide as well).
I ended up having dinner in the Mahfouz coffee shop - another place favoured by tourists and locals alike. Feasting on some tasty Lebanese 'Mezze' and Egyptian style 'Kofte' this made the perfect closure for an excellent day, erm, half-day in
I guess business trips arenâ€™t so bad after allâ€¦