Edit Blog Post
Published: January 17th 2006
The journey began with an Italian airline. Alitalia is a bit more basic than what I was expecting, not that I minded as flights to Egypt are not all that expensive from London anyway. I therefore stopped over in Milan and will stop over in Rome on the way home. I was amused when they pronounced that we would be served with a snack, and recalling the sunflower seeds with dried anchovies that I was served on Thai Airways wondered whether I would be presented with bread and cheese in true Italian style. I was not far wrong- it was a small baguette with mozzarella and sun dried tomato's.
I got to see the airport of Milan. The most amusing part was that it is a non-smoking airport- but not so as you would notice! Apparently the Italians do not do non-smoking and just blatantly smoke everywhere anyway! I spent the stopover watching to see if any of these lurking smoking Italians would be told off, but they didn't seem to be. Even the Italian man from my flight who just sparked up in full view of everyone didn't encounter any repercussions!
The second half of the trip I
My first Turkish coffee
Pandora would have loved it. Luke warm, ridiculously strong and served in bone china.
was lucky because the flight was empty, I thought this might have to do with the fact that it arrived at 3am in Cairo. I was plagued by the smell of meths during this stretch. I was a bit worried that I might be being slowly killed by aeroplane fuel. I was therefore relieved to land, though not as much as the smoking Italian from behind me who started a round of applause. I wondered whether this meant that it was not granted that we would get there safely- though he was possibly just drunk, which would explain both the smoking in plain view at the airport and the smell of meths...
I arrived and bought my visa and was greeted by an extremely articulate Egyptian who does the tour transfers. He told me that driving in Egypt is crazy. I thought to myself that I have been to Bangkok and Bali and that it could not get much worse. I was wrong, he was right. On the way from the airport I saw the largest number of dented Lada's I have EVER seen in my life. All of them were driving like they would walk, not restricted by
You cannot see the lurking men... but they are there ready to offer generous camel dowries.
the pavements, other cars or even the side of the road that they were supposed to occupy! Once (fairly) safely at my hotel at 4am I brushed my teeth and went to bed.
The next day I was free as I didn't join the tour until 7.30pm. So I figured I would take a taxi (Lada's being the official taxi in Cairo) over to Islamic Cairo that had big markets. It was seriously like throwing myself straight into the deep end. I first discovered that Egyptians are absolutely obsessed with eyes. One might think that goes without saying when you consider their famed symbol is the eye, but I was still amazed by how many comments they make. And how many protests you face if you dare to try and put sunglasses on. While walking around the markets I received several marriage proposals, and a perfume selling man tried to kiss me after bailing me up in his shop which was a bit of worry.
I stumbled across a very friendly man who gave me mint tea and Egyptian coffee with cardamon. He also showed me a fixed price silver store where I bought what I have the
feeling are the only pieces of real silver that I will manage to get. After about an hour with this made he made me let him give me an egyptian eye make up makeover- apparently I look like an Egyptian, and also apparently have an egyptian name (which means of course beautiful.. huh!). I bought an antique container which he suggested I could keep hashish in! Then busted some hashish out! So I ran away...
Shell-shocked after my crash course in Egypt I found a taxi and negotiated a ride home. This involved a policeman verifying that yes, indeed the hotel was far away and 20 pounds was a decent price (2 british pounds). So I got in and the taxi driver jumped out to push the Lada into the stream of traffic because it needed to be bump started!
I had not managed to eat anything but Turkish coffee because I was too scared of the food stall's and cafes were not all that obvious. So shame on me I ended up going to the only really obvious food place in the Hotel area which was the KFC run by deaf Egyptians. It involved a lot of
pointing. But the jovial deaf server even managed to crack a silent joke about me drinking diet coke! Apparently the Colonel's secret herbs and spices in Egypt involves a large amount of cardamon. As it turned out I had arrived on the tail end of a religious festival so nothing was open. There was no available Internet either, which is why it has taken me so long to update the blog. I later met the group and found out that my room mate that I was supposed to get didn't turn up, so was quite pleased to get a room to myself.
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