My take on Cairo

‘Taxi?’

‘No thanks.’

‘Why not?’

‘We already have one.’

‘Where?’

****

‘It’s 190 pounds.’

‘But it says 120 on your website.’

‘That’s when you book on the web.’

‘190 covers everything. Tip to driver also.’

****

It turned out that 190 Egyptian pounds did not cover everything. Nor did the driver try to cover his curiosity for a couple of Asians. Conversed in very broken English and equally bad Arabic, we finally found the hotel in the absolute chaos that was Cairo’s early morning traffic.

This was Cairo in a nutshell. The hot weather, pollution, horrendous traffic, and people trying to make a few quick bucks off the tourists.

There are no doubts about it, Cairo was not my favourite city. But amidst all this chaos, Cairo extended its welcome in the most fortuitous ways.

getting sick in Cairo

I managed to fall ill the next day we arrived in Cairo. Even after a long sleepless night, I was determined not to miss the pyramids.  I felt great in the first couple of hours touring the pyramids, having a go at riding the camels (which was much higher off the ground than I had imagined) and braving the heat around the complex with little shade. Leaving the pyramids, the food poisoning finally caught up with me and I got horribly sick when we stopped over at a service station for refreshments. So it was at the back of this servo that a young employee noticed this girl chucking her guts out. He immediately went back inside and came out with a thick wad of tissues. I managed to stop throwing up long enough to utter a shokrun.

Totally unexpected, simple but touching gesture.

night time Cairo

After a week in Aswan and Luxor, we came back to Cairo via the most disgusting overnight train known to men. Even Cairo was a welcoming sight. I spent the day doing some papyrus and linen shopping by myself because Ben, surprise surprise, was sick. Our group decided to go out to a posh place for dinner. I was quite fed up with Cairo by the time I reached the restaurant by myself, having had enough of the traffic and the greedy taxi driver.

But I immediately fell in love with this restaurant situated at the tip of Zamalek, next to the Nile, without a single sound of car horn! The white shade sails, white linen covered wicker chairs and tables, groups of Caironese smoking sheesha – it was utter calm and relaxation. I had a great meal (mixed grill) and a lot of freshly squeezed juice.

I had to catch another taxi back to the hotel by myself. Driving through the Cairo cityscape at night, it was a completely different city. Gone were the traffic jams and sight of the bland and dilapidated buildings. The city was alive, in a different way, with young people dressed in dazzling party outfits, and hundreds of neon lights from boats and buildings bouncing off the Nile.

I was once again taken aback by this remarkable city. The taxi driver’s incessant personal questions and radical driving did not even bother me.

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