Sunday, August 30, 2009


It’s Ramadan so the city is apparently much different than usual. During the afternoon you can drive and walk around without much of a problem. Most of the stores are closed and a lot of people are sleeping. But when the sun goes down, the streets come alive. It looks completely different at night, it’s nearly impossible to get my bearings at night; nothing looks like it did during the day. If you thought there was a lot of horn honking in NYC or DC, you would go deaf here. It seems as though taxis honk at you once to let you know they want to pick you up. Cars will honk a few times to let you know they’re coming up behind you fast and to get out of there way – people walk on the streets here, it seems so because if you walk on the sidewalk you are walking thru a sisha cafĂ© every couple of stores . Whoever invented Frogger definitely had recently returned home from Cairo. There are crosswalks, but they mean nothing more than lines on the street. People cross where they want and cars and people dodge each other. One great tip I have learnt is to try to make eye contact with drivers as your crossing, this usually convinces them to stop, or at least swerve around you. Sometimes you have to stop and stand in the middle of the street in between lanes of speeding cars in order to accomplish the original task of crossing the street.

Food during the day is a bit challenging to find. The McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, KFC and Hardee’s near the apartment are still open during the day, but any authentic food is closed. As dusk rolls around, smoke starts billowing from every food stand, tables consume the streets and turn the side streets into one lane twisting roads, people miraculously appear and hundreds of shisas are ignited. Fasting has ended for the day and it’s now time to eat, socialize and relax. This goes on all night, people are out all night, shops are open and packed. As daylight nears people begin to hibernate from the sun. People seem to sleep all day and then eat and do all their chores at night. This makes crossing the street even more challenging at night, there are more cars, more people, and lots of cars that either don’t have or don’t use their headlights (I can’t wait for my parents to come and visit, it’s going to be great fun trying to get my mom to cross the streets)!

Everyone seems to be very friendly so far. I obviously stick out and when a few of us walk by people say “welcome” and if they have good English they’ll try to talk for a while. Unlike the US big bills are not the way to go here. Everyone here likes small bills, if you pull out you money and try to give 50 L.E. they’ll run their fingers thru your money and pull out a 20 L.E. and give you the 50 L.E. back with you change. This is mostly because of how inexpensive things here are. I went out with my roommates for shisa and tea, we ended up drinking three teas, one juice, smoking two shisas and eating fries, a delicious egg concoction and a cucumber & tomato salad and it came to 14 L.E. which is less than $3 US. The food has all been delicious, I’m a little bummer that it’s Ramadan because there are no street meat or falafel stands open during the day to munch on.

The break-fast dinners have been great though. The past two nights we’ve eaten at our apartment brokers’ office. They just yell out the window and within 10-20 minutes a huge try of food it walked through the door. There’s been chicken, meat, lamb, potatoes, roasted eggplant, hummus and salads. And when we’re done, they just yell out the window again for tea or coffee. I did try a coffee here the other day, although it still tasted nasty to me, I can definitely see why people prefer Greek/Turkish style coffee to the American style. Here the coffee actually has a flavor beyond dirty water.
It’s been an interesting first two days. Today will be more wandering around the city and tomorrow it’s back to campus for more orientation and Tuesday I begin my survival Arabic course. If you hear back from me later this week I guess the course worked.


So my adventure began on a bit, well more than a bit, of a sour note. Made it to Toronto plenty early, made it to LGA on time, caught the shuttle to JFK and made it there with enough time to check in and change my seat to an exit row. After getting my ticket I was informed that the flight was delayed for 3.5 hours and would depart at 10pm, but I figured no big deal, I have an exit row seat for a 12 hour flight so maybe it won’t be so bad. By the time I got to the gate (15 minutes later), the flight was delayed until 10:30pm, as the clock ticked closer to 10:30 I started to get a bad feeling because no gate number was appearing next to my flight, but flights leaving at 1am had gates. Needless to say I was not happy! A glimmer of hope appeared around 10, the flight crew showed up and was waiting to get on the plane. It’s finally 10:30pm, I’m thinking “Cairo here I come!” Nope! JFK Ramada Inn here I come! At 10:31 representatives from Egypt Air told us they were taking us to a hotel and we would know within 2 hours when we were leaving.

The hotel was a bit of a dump, rooms were musty, the buffet dinner was not very good and the wireless signal was horrible so I was fighting my computer and their modem for hours trying to establish a consistent signal. 3 hours pass, no word from Egypt Air. Finally at 3:30pm the next day I get a call to come get my boarding pass. I get to the airport, trade in my boarding pass, but my new one isn’t an exit row, it’s the last row of the plane. Shortly after boarding the plane I learnt I had the 2nd worst seat on the entire plane (the guy sitting next to me had the worst one). In front of me was a special needs child who was screaming and making half dinosaur half bird calls all night and then right across from my row was the bathroom so every time someone went to the bathroom I had the privileged of having the likes of a spotlight bearing down on me when the door opened. I’ve bet most of you have realized I didn’t sleep at all on that overnight flight.

I finally made it to Cairo, a day late, tired and aggravated…

Monday, August 10, 2009

1st post

Hello world!

The internet has just birthed a new blog. This is my first blog and hopefully it will be an entertaining chronicle of my upcoming adventures in Cairo, Egypt. I arrive in Cairo August 27th, so check back after that for updates on my travels.