The business trip was the second of its kind in the same year: the first was the trip to Masai Mara in Kenya for the sole purpose of selling Mara Safari Club which was part of Lohnro Chain of Hotels. The Egyptian trip was organized by three main players in the industry who stood to benefit greatly if we included Egypt in our holiday packages. If you have read through my blogs, you know by now that I was a Travel Consultant for many years and part of my job was to sell packaged Holidays for Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands. Of all the destinations we sold, Egypt came in second. We flew Egypt Air which departs from Entebbe to Cairo twice a week: I had a huge suitcase only because I had a lot of trouble deciding what to pack for a business trip: we were going on a cruise for crying out loud, would I wear a suit or carry some fancy cruise clothes? Well I eventually did both and decided that I would just do away with what I did not need based on how the rest of my colleagues dressed. I wrote a review on the airline’s international flight to New Jersey but I neglected to mention I had flown with Egypt air more than once. The seats were comfortable, clean, enough room leg and the journey was not long at all. Some of the colleagues I travelled with had been in the industry too long, they were complacent and arrogant. I on the other hand could not wait to land once we were air borne.
We arrived late afternoon in Cairo, the rain had fallen earlier and the air felt fresh. I was excited to be in this land of the ancients, not to mention one of the world’s most popular destinations in Africa. Cairo has an official name, Al-Qahira which literally translates to mean the Vanquisher. The Egyptians however call their city Misr which is an Arabic translation of the word Egypt. There are two parts to Cairo: The old Cairo also known as the more Islamic part of Cairo, and the Modern Cairo: the more touristy and developed part of Cairo. Cairo has many historic as well as modern towns that one would need more than just a week to tour all of them. We had a total of two weeks of which 5 days would be exclusively for the cruise at Luxor. We were scheduled to spend 3 days in Cairo during which we had business meetings. I do not know if it is just Africa, but Cairo is such a dirty city for an Islamic city. Even though I did not spend much time touring on foot, our driver went through the town with such ease amongst the crowds and traffic jams. Like in my country, the streets are dirty and littering does not seem to fetch any penalties.
I must dedicate a whole paragraph to the traffic in Cairo, I don’t know if it has gotten any better in the years following my visit. I had never seen traffic like I saw in Cairo. Beside the new cars, are such bad drivers that should not be behind car wheels? The pace alone is endangering, they drive so fast and so recklessly the pedestrian is of no consequence. The lanes are doubled (what I mean if the road has two lanes, there will be four lines of cars) all trying to get to their destinations as fast as they could. Our driver Yusuf was no different, he drove through the narrower streets like he was all by himself, I kept holding my breath each time he tried to squeeze through what a motorcycle would normally use. No regard for pedestrians whatsoever. I tell you after driving many years in the US, I say the pedestrian knows no bliss like those here in the US. But then Imust commend the Cairo pedestrian, they still make their way across the traffic jams to their destinations untouched. It is imparative that you bring your survival instincts with you especially if you come from countries where the rules of the road are dollowed. Here in cairo, there are no rules.
The more tourisitc place to start was Khan al-Khalili Market Bazaar the runs day and night, Yusuf our driver recommended. This is the more traditional town of Cairo with markets on very narrow streets: the sellers packed anything they wanted to sell on their stands restricting the area to where one can feel uneasy. Now I come from a city where this kind of market arrangement is nothing new, so I was excited and grinning as we went along like a child in a candy store, I loved the bargaining for what one wants to buy. I bought a Persian rug from one of the older sellers, he looked old tired and ancient, but his eyes: his eyes glowed like that of a child that never grew up. I wish I had taken a photograph of him. We were stopped on occasion by the seller to see if we wanted to but things from them. I do not now recall the name of one of the older Mosques that we saw in the area, I had up until then never entered a mosque in my life. I’m Catholic and we do not do the Mosque thing, as we cleared to get in, we were told to take our shoes off and we washed our hands outside. I felt an over whelming sense of guilt as if I was committing a sin getting into the Mosque. Three of my colleagues were Muslims and they were happy to go to the most, it was time to say a prayer anyhow. Inside the mosque was a happy crowd, some praying and others just conversing? A few other places and it was time to return to our hotel where I was glad for a hot cup of tea. I kept my thoughts to myself since I did not know what my older colleagues would say: John especially had a complex that made him uglier than he appeared, I was the youngest in the group and he thought he could intimidate me. I stayed out of his way but made my presence felt elsewhere. He had always been competition for my American boss.
Day two: On the second day we went to visit Mohammed Ali's palace situated at the Citadel. For an architecture love like me, this was like being in a candy store: huge structre with meticulous detail. One can tell time and money was put into it's construction. Across from teh Citedal is a view ofthe Pyramids. Did you know that Egypt has a large population of Christins as well as Muslims? The orthodox Christians are a very dorminant group: Yusuf took us to one of the orthodox Churches build in a very Italian fasion on a hill side, infact curved into the rock. I was facinated by the inside of this church, I recall wondering afraid to ask my very Muslim colleague a christian question, about the words incribed next to the curving of Jesus on the cross at the top of the altar. The inscription was in arabic and curved caligraphically into the rock as well. Christina or not, this is a place you want to stop by.