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I know it has been a long time since I last wrote. I am alive, obviously, unless Hades has been hooked up with the Internet. I will continue to regale you with my adventures and observations. They will be less fresh than if I was still there, but write I must.
So I am back in NY, but I haven't left Egypt yet if you know what I mean. The contrast is so stark. The disparity between Egyptians and New Yorkers is amazing. In Egypt, people seemed pretty happy. There was something light about them, and they were very friendly and social. Here the people are dark, absorbed in their own worlds, or if not absorbed, then too protective of themselves to allow anyone else in. Ah, NY!
On my last day in Egypt I went to the North Cemetery in Cairo. This was a large necropolis outside the old city limits where people were entombed. The wealthy would build themselves mausoleums, and believe it or not, throw parties there. Cemeteries were happening places back in the day. In Western society we often eschew the final resting places of the deceased except when plagued with filial guilt or morbid curiosity, but you should note that within European medieval tradition it was the place to take your date.
Even today the necropolis was not so much the city of the dead, as the city of the living. People made their homes everywhere. One of the more amusing sights to see was clothing draped and set out to dry over the tombstones. It’s a pretty logical place to put wet cloths if you ask me. Even in the "non-residential" areas, there were sure signs of life--the omnipresent colorful mark of disemboweled oranges and the occasional pea shell.
Most of the areas with tombs are secluded behind walls and locked gates. There was one however that I found unbarred. I don't know to what size the physical dimensions of this area expanded, but it felt like I had entered the Tardis (for all of you non “Dr. Who” fans, that is a traveling device that looks like an English police box on the outside, but has unlimited space on the inside). I kept wandering, and wandering, and wandering. Around every turn I felt certain that my path would terminate, but there was only a continuation of tombs and mausoleums.
I went looking for Mohammed Ali St (a very famous street where dancers and musician would hang out for hire--though not really the dancers any more). It is questionable if I found the right area, especially since there was much confusion with the taxi driver. Instead of delightful refrains of music wafting on the air, I was forced to stair at the ugliest, largest furniture I have ever laid eyes on (or if it wasn't the ugliest, then it definitely was not to my taste). The whole area was a huge furniture bizarre. I ended up twisting my ankle on one of Cairo's wonderful sidewalks (only slightly worse than those of Brooklyn), so I got tired of gimping around amidst turgid furniture and gave up the hunt.
In the evening I was getting my regular falafel and ful, when a middle aged Egyptian guy struck up a conversation with me. I ended up going out with him, his female friend from New Zealand, and her taxi driver to a sheesha bar in Giza. I finally got to penetrate the male world of hookah bars and fast paced board games. So amidst hot chai, wafting sheesha smoke, pleasant conversation, bets for the looser to buy dinner, and the gawking stares of locals, I was taught how to play the Egyptian version of Backgammon (Tawla). Tawla is enormously fun, and in my opinion much better than the other version! It was a fabulous ending to my last night there, but unfortunately my trip still had some surprises left for me.
The taxi trip to the airport was a nightmare. Instead of arranging a taxi through the hotel, I agreed to have my taxi guy friend from the previous night drive me (we shall dub him Sam since i can't remember his name off hand). Sam arrived at 7:30 sharp with another guy who was doing the driving. En route Sam was being very amenable, lauding our victory in tabla, pointing out various sights, telling me to contact him next time I was in Egypt, etc. Good so far right?
Amidst those pleasantries he draped his arm over the back of the seat and his hand came in light contact with my knee. Must of been an accident, so I discreetly moved my leg. He then dropped his arm lower. After the third round of subtle adjustments there was no mistaking that his contact was purposeful. Shudder. And he seemed like such a sweet old man the night before.
En route Sam got dropped off at the side of the road, and I was to continue with the other guy (“Jack”) to the airport. Sam said his farewells, but before we left he asked me if I knew what the price was. Assuming that I was with "friends" I had thought he would give me a fair "Egyptian" price, and that I would give him a healthy tip for being so nice. I hesitated and he spewed out a price that was 4x higher than I knew a regular taxi would charge. My jaw dropped, and my heart sunk even lower. After two weeks of being seen as a dollar sign (and despite of that trying to gain respect), here was a person that just shattered any hope I had of being appreciated as a person/"friend." Something in me just died and gave up.
So off Jack and I zoomed to the airport. Jack must have been a taxi driver in training, because he was the most inept driver I have ever had the misfortune to meet. To make a long and aggravating story short, he didn't know where the hell he was going. The majority of the time I was telling him which way to turn according to the signs I could read.
He dropped me off at the "international terminal." Thankful to finally be there, I handed him a bill (a large one since that was all that I had left) and expected him to give me change. He tried to walk off with the whole bill. I insisted on my change, and he gave me less back than he should of, muttering something about gate tolls. Bullshit! But I just wanted to get away from him, so I left it at that.
After fighting my way to the first security gate, and fending off untold numbers of baksheesh begging baggage boys, I was told by the guard that I was at the wrong terminal. I needed terminal #2. WHAT!!!??? So now I had to find another taxi to get me to the right place.
I went back outside, and was negotiating w/ a driver when Jack walked up to me. "Why you here?" Because you took me to the wrong fucking place dip wad! I demanded that he correct his mistake and take me to the right terminal. He protested, saying he was already parked, but grudgingly relented under my fuming pressure. I paid him more than enough money, so he could damn well take me to the right terminal.
So back in the taxi with him. He still didn't know where he was going, and my time until departure was quickly wasting away. He tried dropping me off at a terminal "2," but it was clearly marked domestic. I fortunately was able to query a fluent English speaking pilot who was being dropped off. He told the driver where to go, and said to me it was another airport. I was almost in hysterics! Another airport! I would never get there in time with Jack driving!
Again Jack wandered aimlessly. By some stroke of good fortune, he found the terminal. It was in the same airport, just far, far away from the other terminals. Of course I still had to tell him where to turn to actually get me to the drop off point. Once we stopped I verified that it was the right place. Jack muttered about having me pay more, but a withering look from me and he shut up and walked away. There is only so much I can put up with, and I was at the end of my rope.
The plane trip was uneventful, except that my belly decided to strike again for old times sake. I felt bad for the guy sitting next to me as he constantly had to get out of his seat to let me pass as I sprinted to the bathroom. Fun, fun. But I made it home safe and sound.
I know I still have to write about the other parts of my trip that, of yet, have been omitted. The stories shall come. Hope you have enjoyed thus far.
Love you all,