Running around

Cairo Travel Blog

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Sara Inn Hostel, our double bed room
Through 1.5 hour long of traffic on the highway with the smell of exhaust and fumes on the way to JFK airport, Anny and I entered JFK's random lines and disorganized security checks. After our clearance, we boarded and waited for what would be an hour long delay because of traffic on the runway before we could depart.

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.
Sara Inn Hostel, private bath
The temperature was a relief from the stagnant warm air of the cabin, not especially hot. I tossed my bags over my shoulders and we boarded the shuttle bus to the airport. Anny entered the lines for our visas and then exchanged some money, I went to the toilet and gave my first baksheesh.

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.
Sara Inn Hostel, vanity
Turns out I am already used to crazy driving coming from NYC! As we drove past hospitals, government buildings, embassies, large scale photos of the Egyptian PM, and the suburb Heliopolis, I stuck my head out the window, the fascinated child, while Anny put on her sunglasses and remained cool and aloof. Men grinned as we passed by, and a little girl on her father's scooter shyly smiled then hid her face into her father's back.

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.
Sara Inn Hostel, bathroom

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.
Sara Inn Hostel, look at the drain, not in Kansas anymore :D
There was a bit of broken sidewalk, which was amusing as Anny tried to walk it in her flip flops.

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.
Sara Inn Hostel, shower drain
My call came out to be around 9EGP for a few min. Anny had a long conversations with her bf, so hers came out out for approx. 30EGP.

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.
Our lovely shuttered windows to a side street, which provided lots of air
We were seated at one of the many beautiful wooden, earthy looking tables. I ordered what I read was recommended to eat whilst in Egypt, the stuffed pigeon, along with hibiscus lemonade. Anny ordered a leg of lamb with some sort of rice dish that had a pat of butter on it.

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.
downtown Cairo near Sara Inn, was walking around looking for the phone place that the assistant manager told us about.

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.
Like 4 blocks from Sara Inn, across from the Nile Hilton and Egyptian Museum

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.
I think the Nile Hilton, downtown Cairo
He struck up a conversation with her, and asked her what would become the routine questions on the trip, "where are you from, where are you staying, are you married?" He was very open though, answering our questions, then his companion came around to my side. I felt a bit pinned in as I was standing by a street lamp, and asked him to move. He obliged, and then the two of them worked up to the real question they were working on asking, "Do you need a tour guide?"

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.
downtown Cairo near Sara Inn
  Anny and I then walked down the pathway towards all the waterfront restaurants, avoiding the park. We had no clear idea of what to do, so we just roamed a bit, taking note of the fashionable, rich young Egyptians; some dressed very Western, others in a hybrid of Western clothes with most young women in heavy kohl-lined eyes and hijabs. We witnessed a couple's procession, a bride in a richly ornamented, elaborate headdress and wedding gown, under fairy lights to a grand docked ship.

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.
Transitory says:
I pushed his hand off but didn't do anything else because he didn't try anything else on me. Prob. just was trying to see what he could get away with.
Posted on: Aug 01, 2009
hlek says:
no way...shld have slapped him on the spot...raise a complain at the tourist authority...anyways, let bygones be bygones...
Posted on: Aug 01, 2009
Transitory says:
hey i was like 5-10 min. from the Egyptian museum/train, very near each other. I think it was roughly the same prices too. Oh yeah the driver touched my inner thigh, dunno if it was friendly or um a skeevy gesture.
Posted on: Aug 01, 2009
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Sara Inn Hostel, our double bed ro…
Sara Inn Hostel, our double bed r…
Sara Inn Hostel, private bath
Sara Inn Hostel, private bath
Sara Inn Hostel, vanity
Sara Inn Hostel, vanity
Sara Inn Hostel, bathroom
Sara Inn Hostel, bathroom
Sara Inn Hostel, look at the drain…
Sara Inn Hostel, look at the drai…
Sara Inn Hostel, shower drain
Sara Inn Hostel, shower drain
Our lovely shuttered windows to a …
Our lovely shuttered windows to a…
downtown Cairo near Sara Inn, was …
downtown Cairo near Sara Inn, was…
Like 4 blocks from Sara Inn, acros…
Like 4 blocks from Sara Inn, acro…
I think the Nile Hilton, downtown …
I think the Nile Hilton, downtown…
downtown Cairo near Sara Inn
downtown Cairo near Sara Inn
Cairo Hostels review
Economical, clean, and cozy hostel in downtown Cairo
My friend and I got a free pickup from the airport for booking two nights at Sara Inn. When we got off the plane, the driver was waiting for us, so al… read entire review
Cairo Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
Moderately priced, decent fare
The decor toed the line between sort of overly-ornate and cheesy to interesting. There were lots of bird cages, faux grapevine, stained glass pendants… read entire review
photo by: vulindlela