The International Journal of Sport and Leisure
(Some sport. Some leisure. Also, schistosomiasis.)
Galapagos Islands (5)
About Me (1)
Ecuador: Quito (5)
Egypt (Again) (2)
Honduras: Utila (4)
New York (??) (1)
Rio de Janeiro (2)
South Africa (14)
Temporary Update (1)
* To Dahab
* Return to Cairo
* Home Sweet... Laziness
* Birthday Bonanza
* Leaving Luxor
* McDetox Days
* Karnak the Magnificent
* Tea and Cakes and Isis
* Nubia Night on the Nile
* Ozymandias Mania
* Khan Al-Khalili and the Night Train to Nubia (Part 2 of 2)
* Khan Al-Khalili and the Night Train to Nubia (Part 1 of 2)
* Ancient Egypt Overload
* The 100,000 Camel Pyramids
* Nungwi to Nairobi to Khartoum to Cairo
* Zanzibar Time (Part II of II: Nungwi)
* Zanzibar Time (Part I of II: Stone Town)
* Diving Aliwal Shoal
* South of Durban
June 18, 2005
Return to Cairo
Friday, June 17 to Saturday, June 18, 2005:
I was dead tired and stuck in a mile-long traffic-jam with shrieking horns and sirens, hollering street-vendors and the blaring voice of a Muezzin all competing for my attention. It was nearly midnight and my driver, who wasn't more than 20, was hopelessly unable to find the hotel I had asked his boss, the dispatcher, to get me to.
"It is no problem," the dispatcher had told me back at Cairo International Airport, swiping a few pounds backsheesh from my hand. "I know where it is."
And so he probably did. But the kid driving the car had no clue --- and he didn't speak any English either. When we did break free of the gridlock, he kept pulling over to the side of the road to ask questions of not less than 10 different men or groups of men. At sheeshah cafes and souks, outside of theaters and restaurants, wherever he saw a policeman, street-cleaner or street urchin, my driver pulled over to ask the way to my hotel. Only he couldn't pronounce the name of the hotel correctly (it was English) and each time he tried I had to chime in and correct him. Invariably the person we asked knew exactly where the hotel was and after listening to the instructions (in Arabic, whereas I had a map of the area labeled in English) we drove down the street and around a bend before the driver, promptly forgetting those instruction, pulled over to ask somebody else's advice. Soon we'd executed a maniacal U-turn and were back where we had started. We passed some of the same intersections six or seven times, though the driver didn't seem to realize it.
Finally I noticed in Lonely Planet that my hotel of choice was near a large theater. I told the driver the name and he caught on and started asking the way to that instead. After more than 90 minutes, we finally arrived at the hotel. "Tip" asked the driver, eagerly. I gave him one, too. By his logic, the extra time at the wheel merited more money. Glad to finally be getting a room after a 24-hour sleepless trip from New York (the flight left on Thursday, June 16, at 9 PM) with an eight hour wait in Madrid, I didn't mind. It was even a little amusing. I like Cairo in the way I like those rare sorts of charmingly crazy people you sometimes meet on the street --- the sort who are fully aware they are crazy.
I wasn't so amused when I checked into my hotel, however. After seeing the room, paying in advance and tipping the porter, I began to get ready for bed. Then the phone rang. "I need your passport," said the man at reception.
I went downstairs, exhausted and annoyed. It was 1:30 AM and I now found myself arguing with reception over leaving my passport in his office for the night. It was required, supposedly.
"No way," I said. I took my money back, repacked my things and left. The nice thing about Cairo is that there are plenty of people still out on the street at that hour and its very easy and safe to walk around looking for another place (or shwarma or a donkey or plumbing supplies). I checked Lonely Planet again and walked ten minutes to the Happytown Hotel. The rooms there were cheaper and also had air-conditioning and TV. Finally, at 2:30 AM, I was able to fall asleep.
The next day I managed to discover some excellent and fairly inexpensive Chinese food near my hotel. This was some of the best food I'd had in Cairo, short of the pricy Sabaya and The Birdcage, Lebanese and Thai restaurants, respectively, in the Semiramis International Hotel. I was really surprised to be getting such a good meal in a city I'd written off as far as affordable food is concerned. I'm only mentioning this here because I'd previously mentioned the lack of decent dining options.
The only order of business of the day (apart from adjusting to jet-lag) was heading to the central bus station to book a ticket to the town of Dahab in the Sinai Peninsula, a place known for its laid-back backpacker lifestyle, bedouin camps and excellent Red Sea diving spots. I booked the first bus leaving at 7:30 AM. Perhaps the proudest moments of the day, however, involved my cab rides to and from the bus terminal. Neither driver tried to argue with me over the amount of money I handed them at the end of the drive (with a nod and a hard stare). I had finally gotten the gist of the Cairo taxi protocol. Now that I was leaving, of course.
Posted by Joshua on June 18, 2005 05:22 PM
Category: Egypt (Again)
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