Sunday, January 23, 2011

Cairo Culture

Cairo is huge! See the pyramids?!

There are so many things to say but so little time to say them. First thing to know about Egyptians: they are very friendly. Our resident manager, Mr. Mamdouh, is a prime example. He bends over backwards to make sure we are comfortable in Egypt. If your drink is empty, he will give you his. If your plate is empty, he will give you his food. He is very outgoing as well, often singing and dancing throughout the day and sharing jokes with all of us in his very broken English. As he tells us, five times a day in prayer he thanks Allah for sending us to him in Egypt.

In my last post I also mentioned crazy traffic. It is super crazy. Cars, buses, motorcycles, horses, scooters, donkeys, etc. Today I saw a horse and cart going the wrong way on the highway and a scooter with four people on it: a man, a boy, and a woman holding a baby! The only place in Cairo with stop signs and stop lights is downtown and half of those don't work. Traffic is bad. It took us 30 min. just to cross the Nile today and an hour to go 1 mile! There is just a constant drone of car horns.

I also mentioned the police. They are everywhere. Every street corner downtown has at least 3 police officers and since there are no traffic lights they have police officers directing traffic at every major intersection! There are also police in front of most restaurants, hotels, and apartment buildings.

In the last couple of days I have eaten some interesting dishes as well: Kushari, a traditional spicy Egyptian dish and roasted pigeon, which was actually quite good.

Yesterday we visited Al-Azhar mosque and even got to go through their religious library and peruse the ancient tomes of hadith, the sayings of the Prophet. Today we went to Muhammad Ali mosque and the Citadel as well as a perfume and papyrus factory. Tomorrow: The Pyramids. Until next time, ma salaama.


Thursday, January 20, 2011


This place is huge. And crazy. And wild. Holy crap. Temperature: 70 degrees, sunny. Density: 44,521.9 people/sq mi (NYC is only 27,532/sq mi). Gas is only .96 Egyptian pounds and the conversion rate is currently at 5.8 EP/$1: You do the math.

Traffic is insane. Wall to wall cars and buses and trucks and motorcycles. No order; complete mayhem. So far the Egyptian people have been over the top friendly and nice. I came out of the terminal like a deer in headlights and was immediately helped by a tourist police officer who even let me use his personal cell phone to call my resident director! And boy are there a ton of police. They are everywhere! There must be thousands upon thousands in all different sectors. Occasionally they are just sitting on the side in a little hut! My family better really research their stuff before they come here, the airport is crazy. Getting around seems like a nightmare. Hopefully in 2 months time I'll have some handle on things.

We ate dinner in the upscale Heliopolis area of Cairo before heading to our apartments in the Dokki neighborhood near Giza and the Nile River. The Nile is huge and full of party boats!

Also, our apartments are awesome! We will be living here for a little over a week and then on to Alexandria! This is going to be something else. I don't know near enough Arabic and I don't think that I've quite realized the fact that I will be in Egypt until June!

That is a door to a balcony FYI. We are on the 9th floor.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Egypt Pre-departure

Well Life hit me with a sucker punch this morning: coughing, congestion, and a fever. Can't wait for that 12 hour plane ride to Cairo this evening! Anyway, I was able to make it into the doctor's office and it turns out I picked up some nasty bronchitis. Prescription antibiotics with codeine for the plane ride? Check. Should be a horrible day. Prayers appreciated.

Regardless, on to Egypt. Egypt has been in the news lately and not for good reasons. A tourist bus crash and Christian-Muslim tensions have highlighted the news coverage. Another brewing storm involves the revolution in Tunisia. Like Tunisia, Egypt has been ruled by the same man, Hosni Mubarak, for the last 3 decades and he is grooming his son, Gamal, to take over . It remains to be seen whether the successful revolution and freeing of the Tunisian people will have an effect on the Egyptian people. Needless to say, this will be a very fun time to be in Egypt; well if revolutions are your idea of fun, of course....

Note: Best farewell advise continues to come from my good friend, Rob Kearney. Rob is a veteran of both Kosovo and Iraq and is full of priceless gems of information. Exhibit A: "There are no such thing as cool low-riders in the Middle East. Avoid low-riders, especially outside of churches." Exhibit B: "Good Luck man... if the shit goes down you can find a used AK pretty cheap there... anything more than $150 and they're ripping you off." Clearly, the best of advise.

Next post will be from Egypt. Until then, Ma'as Salaama, my friends. Go in peace.