Notes From Cairo

Nobuko is back in Cairo and sharing her impressions.

I left Bahariya on a bus and five hours later, I returned to the flat of my couch surfing host in Cairo. She welcomed me back and that night, we stayed home and ordered home delivery of beer and food, and talked. In Cairo, you can get home delivery of virtually anything you want from food to cleaning supplies to electronic items.

The next day I ventured out to the Citadel. The hefty entrance fees were getting to me and my wallet, but I went anyway, paying 50 E pounds. The most impressive was the mosque. Apart from that, the Military Museum held nothing interesting for me, and the palace complex was closed for renovation.

View from the Cairo Citadel

View from the Cairo Citadel

From the Citadel, I walked to the Bab Zuwayla area through a vegetable and chicken bazaar. When I asked three older gentlemen sitting and drinking shai (tea) for directions, they invited me for a cup. I talked to them about my trip in front of a barber shop that had closed down and this space became a sitting area for locals to sip shai, like they were doing.

I arrived at Bab Zuwayla, but the area was quiet with closed shops and not many people walking around like I saw on my first visit.

Bab Zuwayla

Bab Zuwayla

But it was 1 p.m., and at this time of the day, only tourists would walk around. The locals would avoid the heat by retreating into the house. Along the way, I received many “Welcome to Egypt!!” or hand waves  from vendors and pedestrians. I love this kind of reception!!  I happened to find a metro station, and it was 2:30 p.m., the hottest time of the day, so I took a metro back to my host’s house. It cost only 1 E pound for a ride.

I grew to like Cairo very much. But there was one more place I wanted to see … Alexandria! I said good-bye to my host in Cairo, and bought a second class ticket (19 E pounds) for a local train from Cairo and 3.5 hours later I was in Alexandria. I was received by the couch surfer, Islam, who kindly delivered me to the hotel (Crillon hotel). The room I got was 120 E pounds with breakfast, sea view, and a very retro interior. I loved it!

Islam invited two other friends named Islam as well. We went to eat kosharia (Egyptian food) where I got a meal for 15 E pounds. Alexandria has many eateries and cafés with tables outside. This is so nice since the temperature was very pleasant and there were no mosquitoes!  The three young men are young 20-something guys who are well educated, open minded, and hilarious!  I enjoyed their company a lot.

After dinner they took me to a place,  I don’t know what to call the place, it might have been a tea shop?  There are many establishments where people come to drink tea, smoke shisha (water pipe) and play games like chess.  It’s a very lively place with tons of people – mostly men – until well past midnight. I like cities with nocturnal hang-out places like this.

After a while, there were people congregating outside so we went to check it out. There was a group of several young boys doing a rap gig, surrounded by a crowd. One of my young friends joined in. I did not know this, but he is a mechanical engineer who spends much of his time writing poetry and singing rap!  The boys were very friendly (and handsome!) and we chatted a lot. They mostly rap about politics. This was impressive since usually many boys their age may have their minds filled with girls or naughty stuff. They spoke English quite well, too.

The next day, I ventured out around 11 a.m. to the Citadel by the sea. Wow. It’s a beautiful fort with the blue sea behind it. Islam and Islam came to meet me there, then we moved onto the palace at the other end of the city. Inside the palace we found three people playing music and dancing at the side of a parked car. Of course, the rapper Islam joined the dance and got me to dance too. I love this kind of spontaneous character.

We wrapped up the night by visiting the same tea shop we had gone to the previous night. And to make the night more special, we found those young rappers there again!  They were so happy to see us, too, and we talked again and exchanged our contact information. One boy in particular was very flattering, complimenting me with kind words, even called me beautiful! But come to find out, he is only 18! So I told him that I will be his Japanese mother…We took pictures together and said our good byes.

I find Egyptians to be extremely outgoing and friendly. My three friends named Islam did not know any of these boys, but they hit it off very well and made friends with each other instantly. This type of quick-to-warm-up social behaviors were seen many times not only with me, but also among Egyptians. This is the best part of my Egypt experience. People are ready to have fun and connect with others. Egypt got on my list of places to return to. Definitely!