Saturday, June 13, 2009

1st Day in Cairo

Actually today I begin my 2nd full day in Cairo, but my last day and a half in Cairo was an adventure!

Luckily, all my flights worked out just fine and I made my connections in Portland and then Frankfurt smoothly. I have to say the airport at Frankfurt was not fun--confusing, hot, sweaty, and cramped. Still, I made my flight to Cairo on time and connected with my driver Abdu at the airport who was waiting for me just as planned.

Then I got to experience Cairo driving and traffic for the first time. I arrived as chance would have it at about 4pm, just in time to run into rush hour! I've heard about Cairo driving, but hearing and experiencing are two different things! There is no such thing as "cutting someone off," it's just what you do, and cars whiz around missing each other by scant inches! It's exciting and terrifying at the same time--I'm just glad I wasn't the one doing the driving! It's not a quiet activity either as everyone honks all the time for any number of reasons. It's communicative unlike in the US, meaning a lot of things from, "I'm here, don't merge into my lane!" and "Hey lady on the curb, need a taxi?" In addition, people walk in the street a lot because the sidewalks are challenging in terms of curb height and levelness. So in addition, you have cars sweeping around people by scant inches, and being a pedestrian is an adventure all unto itself. I still haven't managed to cross a major road by myself, but it's only my second morning here!

Of course when I got to the flat and tried to get my phone working it didn't. This is what I'm starting to call the "welcome to Egypt," experience where things don't exactly work like they're supposed to and you just have to figure it out. Abdu lent me an extra sim card and now I have my cell working once again! We ran around to get some groceries and food and then I collapsed at the end of my first few hours in Cairo.

Yesterday, a friend from AUC called me and we decided to have lunch out in 6th October where he lives because some cafes in Zamalek where I'm living were shut down because of the swine flu scare in the AUC dorms here. I hear there were a few cases, but the dorm was succesfully quarantined and everyone is pretty much recovered now. The extra screening in the airport when I got here was a bit disconcerting though! Especially since I got motion sick on the plane as we were flying in over the delta and the city since I was so excited. I was afraid I would throw up and get quarantined for having a suspected flu case!

In any case, yesterday I got to go for an early morning walk in the neighborhood before getting ready to go out to 6th October, which was lovely. Cairo is refreshing in the early morning before things get too hot and sweaty and everyone is still asleep or waking up. My flat is right across from the Nile, so it was very pleasant to stroll along the tree-lined streets. Zamalek is very green as you can see from this photo off my flat balcony!

6 October was really interesting to visit, as it's to the west of Cairo about 25 min in good traffic. The drive out was gorgous, and I was suprised to look out the taxi window and see the pyramids through the haze in the distance over the green agricultural fields just outside the city proper. I must get out to Giza soon, that gorgeous view was just enough to tease! I couldn't get a picture from the taxi, but it was beautiful.

The suburb city (yes, it is it's own city now) of 6 October rises up when you drive in like a crop of huge villas rising out of the desert. A new development, it is clean and modern looking, but a bit sterile, lacking the character of the city. My friend and I ate in an Italian cafe that actually served very Italian food that was delicious--I can see why it's one of his favorite places! We smoked some shisha, drank tea, and discussed the ins-and-outs of AUC including the new campus which we'll be visiting on Monday. The new campus is in another new development (New Cairo/Rehab) out in the desert to the East so it should be interesting to check out.

After the drive back, looking at the pyramids from the right-hand window this time, I caught my mother on Skype for a couple hours. Skype is truly an awesome program...even with my iffy internet here at the flat with it's low connectivity I was able to see and hear her pretty well for our 2 hour chat. I also caught my friend in New York this morning on Skype too. I would definitely get it! It's free, easy, and works better than other ways of communicating!

Other random notes:
-There are many cats around, and they have been trying to sneak into my flat via the balcony, but are too shy to actually do it!
-You can smoke shisha anywhere and everywhere.
-In the Zamalek area I'd say about 75% of women have their hair covered, but in general people seem to dress less modestly than I expected.
-It's fiercly dusty here...more on all this stuff later

No comments:

Post a Comment