Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Around the World: Cairo et Ale

February 22, 1992

"Le gateau, mettre le glaçage blanc sur le gâteau."  I'm having a dream, telling someone to put white icing on a cake.  I don't know why I'm speaking French in my sleep.

After a leisurely start to the morning, and of course, another shower, I head down to the hotel lobby for breakfast.  The waiter is a jolly man who greets me in a different language every time he passes my table.  The front desk returns my passport, complete with the required registration.  I stop by the Ministry of Tourism / Police for a map and to verify that this registration process was required and complete.  An officer takes my passport to check and when he sees all the stamps, he calls over his co-workers, who find it very interesting. All is on the up and up.

With much assistance, I find my way to the Cairo Museum.  All the street signs are in Arabic, although the name of some streets are in the alphabet I am familiar with.  As I don't know any Arabic, I find speaking French is the best way to get directions.  Unfortunately, the French I speak when I'm awake is not as good as it is while I'm sleeping.

Photo by Ronald Homer.

The Museum is packed with an amazing amount of excavated items.  The King Tut exhibit only had 300 pieces of the 5,000 piece collection on display.  The rest of it, ironically, is currently in Toronto.  Tut's tomb is one of the least decorated because he was so young when he became king and reigned for such a short time.

There is so much more to I want to see, but admiring the exhibits is difficult in the crowded museum.  It's frustrating to find something intriguing, worth spending the time to appreciate, only to be practically carried away from it in the mob that wants to move on to the next display.

Exploring Cairo, I find a shoe store and trade in my grime-of-India-ridden converse, for a pair of tartan runners for $3.  On the way back to the hotel, I find a restaurant bearing the Wimpy's logo, but in different colours.  This is the strangest fast-food place I've ever been in.  There's no queuing at the counter.  Here you sit at a table and someone brings a menu.  A "burger" is served on two plates.  One contains a small beef patty, a wiener, potato chips and an egg done over easy.  The second plate has a hamburger bun.  I'm not quite sure how this all fits together. I decide to order two, in case I get it wrong the first time.  With a soft drink, the entire meal costs $3.  Apparently it's a three dollar kind of day.

In a large cul de sac of little shops, I bought an ankh charm for my necklace, a small statue of Nefertiti and some silver rings.  One shop had beautiful fabrics.  The owner of the shop invited me in for mint tea.  We talked about all sorts of topics, none of which involved the sale of goods, and I decided on a large, black, finely crocheted shawl.

It didn't take long to figure out that there are two prices for almost everything, one for Egyptians and one for tourists.  It's no secret, either, as it's posted quite clearly for everyone to see.  As a tourist, almost everything costs twice as much as the locals pay.  I suppose it's true the saying, membership has it's privileges.

Egyptian market.
Photo courtesy of TrekEarth.

Just down the street from the hotel is a restaurant with a bar.  People watching with a pint of Stella is both relaxing and refreshing.  Just a few doors from the bar is a pastry shop, well stocked with delicious treats.  I've been out on the streets of Cairo all day, and no one has pinched my butt.  Best of all, when I return to the hotel, I'm still clean! 

Sabina found the hotel and is desperate for a shower.  I recognize the sighs and sounds of relief coming from the bathroom.  I imagine it will be a while before I see her again.

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"We tend to forget that happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have."
~Frederick Keonig

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