Cairo Travel Blog› entry 1 of 9 › view all entries
April 9th, 2009 – by: Transitory
After a slightly cramp, nearly 11 hour flight, very attentive care from the flight attendants of EgyptAir, and excited conversations with Anny, my buddy and a nearby passenger, Dean from Egypt, we finally reached Cairo. I spied from my window seat, fields of sand to ordered plots of vegetation, and an endless image of sunbaked buildings.
Exiting onto the tarmac, we thanked our pilot and flight attendants for our safe and [mostly] comfortable flight.
Wearily, we went through customs, I forgetting to have filled my form in and hurriedly filled and handed it in. Then we passed through the clearance, and looked for our driver. There he was, standing with a modest sign. Later he introduced himself as Muhammed Ali, whom I would jokily refer to as the "greatest driver in the world."
We entered the car, I put on my seat belt, the first and only time throughout the trip as I was concerned about the "mad Egyptian drivers" I had read about.
When we reached the narrow street where Sara Inn hostel was located within a residential building, we exited where a young Egyptian from the hostel offered to take our bags. Entering a narrow lift, the 3 of us went to the 6th floor where the reception of the hostel was. After some confusion over our accommodations, (they thought we were getting a single bed), and some joking, we got our room in order and paid for the 2 nights we would be staying there.
After showering, Anny went to find a phone card with the same young Egyptian man who carried her bag, and he took her round the neighborhood to find one. I stayed behind, showered, and unpacked a bit. When Anny came back her new phone card ended up not working at all. Though she did remark on her observations on how the young Egyptian was very protective. He had counted out the money, walked her to the store, was the one to talk to the clerk etc. She was not quite grateful as she is an independent woman but she did find that it was a gracious move for someone new to the country.
The two of us then decided to take a walk around ourselves so that I could exchange some money and find the nearby phone place from the hostel. We got some directions and a discreet map from the assistant manager (unfortunately I didn't catch his name), and we went out.
We received some hellos, welcome to Egypt, smiles, grins, and stares as we grew accustomed to the new sights. I was shy at the intensity of being singled out but ignored what I could and in a matter of minutes we found our way to the phone place that was only 4 blocks away, and across the street from the Nile Hilton and Egyptian Museum.
Unsure, we asked how to place a call, and a man immediately tried to strike up a conversation with Anny about our nationality, where we were staying, if we were married etc. Anny answered in a disinterested tone and short words, but motioned to me to stay nearby her. She brushed him off, and we made our calls in the cool retro phone booths with clear doors.
Later, we went back and exhaustedly fell asleep. When we woke up around 9:30PM, I enquired Ali, another guy at the reception where there was a nearby place to eat Egyptian food, after he discouraged me from going to Khan el-Khalili at that time of night. He recommended nearby Felfela Din, which I later found out is a chain restaurant in Cairo. In any case, we got ready and walked the 1.5 blocks away to the eatery. Cairo at night was very festive, lights, families walking, streets abuzz with life.
The restaurant decor was interesting, stone slabs with smooth pebbles, faux grapevine overhead, and dim lighting from low hanging stained glass pendants.
The stuffed pigeon had rice with lentils, and there were thin slices of squash, carrots and some sort of starchy vegetable on the side. I found the skin to be crisp, the meat dark though naturally, lacking. Overall the meal was savory and a perfect light dinner. Anny remarked that there was only one Egyptian family there.
I watched the water dribbling from a tiny fountain in the corner, and the lights flickering from the candles, and began to feel more at ease. Admittedly, my first day I was a bit overwhelmed, though I kept assuring myself that Cairo was just like NYC, except for many more men, scarce women on the street and more sand.
We paid, left and decided to walk around the neighborhood, and "find the Nile." haha. Anny followed my lead and I walked towards the Nile Hilton b/c according to my common sense, the Nile should be on the other side of the hotel according to the name. But Anny was concerned about us wandering not knowing where we were going at night, so we asked the tourist police. They grinned, claimed not to speak English, and called upon other pedestrians to inquire if they spoke English.
Akmed, a young cute Egyptian guy in a baseball cap and curly locks stopped. He walked with us, pleasantly chatting, carefully directing us around fast moving traffic. I asked if this was in any way his direction because we had been walking for at least 5 long blocks, he laughed and said no but it was his pleasure to show us around, though he claimed he did not know why we would want to see the Nile river.
He left us by the water, and another young man immediately approached us and offered us drinks. His stand looked hygienically questionable at best, so we declined. An older man in a galibeyyah approached us to take a ferry ride. Anny asked what was across the river, he said it was closed but we could go tomorrow. Right, quite a bit lost in translation :). I guessed it was probably Zamalek. His wife then proceeded to try to grab Anny's attention by pulling on her hoodie. I laughed at the situation, then saw the staircase winding up to the pathway on the bridge across to the other side of the river. So she followed me and we made our way across, stopping for pictures.
One young man in a white polo shirt, popped collar, cap and jeans started trailing Anny as she lagged a bit behind me.
We declined, and they again welcomed us to Cairo and Egypt. We walked away, and they continued to trail us but we said no thanks again. They then waved goodbye, as we walked away from them, I carefully eyeing them to see if they would again follow us, instead they walked over to a nearby car which was trailing them and jumped in.
We continued walking around til we got tired, and walked our way back without a hitch, except for when we made a shortcut through the expressway back to the hostel. As we crossed, we ran, clasping our hands and half collapsed on the other side, jokingly yelling "Best friends forever!!" Haha, it was slightly tense, as cars were making their headlights brighter, in theory to help pedestrians, in reality, blinding us in the process. We made our way back to the hostel, with one stop to pick up a litre of water for the next day for 4EGP.
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