Welcome to crazy Cairo! It was 33 degrees at 2am when I landed, British Airways being late AGAIN. That’s 2 flights late from 2 flights taken on BA – a disgrace.
Hubs met me at the airport and she was a little frazzled because her taxi driver started taking her to the Suez Canal instead of the airport. Anyway, we met up without too much incident and the adventure of Egypt was about to begin. Outside the airport Hubs went to grab a cab – but before getting in she spoke to the driver to find out how much it is going to cost – whether we can negotiate a fixed price of if they are going to use the meter. I’ve since learned that most taxis in Egypt have meters that don’t work. She tells the first taxi driver to go away and goes to the next one to go through the same ritual. Nah, she’s cracked it with him and tells me he’s a crook and walks away. We walk away, with all my luggage, away from the entrance of the airport. She waves down the oldest, cruddiest, crappiest looking taxi I have ever seen (and I have been to Sri Lanka) and then motions me to get in. It looked like a bashed around Peugeot rally car from the 1960s, one that had never seen a service, let alone a wash.
“What? This? I’m not getting in that,” I tell her, “it’ll never get to the city – look how crappy it is!”
“Yes mate, trust me, this is fine,” Hubs says and jumps in. What choice did I have? We were in the taxi and I was trying not to freak out that there weren’t any seat belts. I noticed the lock button didn’t work, the windows didn’t wind up, and the seats were made of vinyl, funnily enough they were intact without rips.
The taxi driver has obviously taken driving lesson from the Starsky and Hutch stunt driver – he was swerving all over the road, dodging cars, motorcyclists sans helmet, and trucks. Hairy to say the least.
Then we arrived at our five star oasis in the middle the Cairo craziness, Hotel Semiramis on the banks of the Nile. After a hiccup getting into the hotel – I had to hand over my weapon of mass destruction, the Swiss Army Knife, I checked in. Hubba tried to explain to the beefy security guard that it would take all day to kill someone with that little knife, but he stood firm. Best not to mess with a man carrying a gun, so we complied and I let him take my pocket knife.
Our room was lovely, 2 king size single beds that were firm with soft and fluffy bedding and the best quality Egyptian cotton sheets, white bathrobes for each of us, slippers too, L’occitaine bathroom products, ah it was just joy. Zzzzzzzzzz
We slept in and made to the huge breakfast buffet selection before it closed at 11am. I love it when there is a chef making omelettes to order! The coffee was too disgusting for words, resulting in a decision that I shall only drink tea in Egypt. Here I was thinking that in Egypt I’d lose weight, melt it all off, get rid of that Italian excess baggage I picked up in the mother country over six weeks. Not if breakfast was anything to go by…
Hubs and I caught a taxi, another fight with another three drivers before she found one who was ripping us off the least, and we went to the Citadel and the mosque of ex Egyptian ruler, Mohamed Ali. It was beautiful and over 1000 years old. The Citadel had magnificent views of the city, but with all the haze and smog in the air we couldn’t see the pyramids. Oh well. We caught another taxi (another three fights for Hubba) to a huge modern shopping mall – yes, airconditioning!! Aaahhhh. This mall is as big as some of the malls in Dubai and it has all the big brands – loads of Italian brands too. After a couple of hours, we were both weary and walked out to get another taxi, sigh. Hard work.
It was stinking hot outside and we were both sweltering and it a joy to return to the oasis, the Hotel Semiramis, for a rest and a relax by the pool. Just what the doctor ordered!
At 7pm we again tackled the taxi drivers until Hubs found one with a reasonable price and went out to Giza, to the pyramids, to watch the sound and light show. For an hour we were wow’d as the three pyramids were lit up with different lights and scenes as the history of Egypt was explained. It was something special and I left there with my head in historical cloud-9 land, very happy and excited with what else we would be seeing.
Cairo really is a city best at night in the summer. It’s still hot but not as bad as during the day, and everything looks so much better lit up. During the day you really see the haze in the sky, the dirty buildings, and just how poor so many people here are.
Hub’s theory on Egypt: 100 million people, 80% of them scum bags, 20% are great nice lovely educated people. Taxi drivers mostly fall into the 80% group. There are a lot of the 80% group in Cairo.
We weren’t quite ready to retire, being only 9.30pm, so we went to downtown Cairo. We had a bit of a walk around, and I didn’t enjoy that. Although I was covered up completely, I was the subject of stares and some comments that I couldn’t quite hear or understand. My coping mechanism was to avoid eye contact with all people at every available opportunity. In fact, that was pretty easy to do given I really had to watch my step as the pavement was never smooth – cracked, broken and a sprained ankle waiting to happen.
I cracked up laughing when we came to a set of traffic lights. Firstly, there’s a count down clock to tell the drivers how many seconds left on the red / green light. The drivers, the worst in the world I have seen anywhere, all rev their engines like they are on the F1 starting grid and let the engines rip once that light goes green. Unlike in Roma where drivers will slow down or stop for a pedestrian (as long as you don’t hesitate), in Cairo they speed up and then swerve to not hit you. Crossing a road in Cairo sucked!!! I hated it!!! Crossing 4 or 5 lanes of mad ass traffic with no lights…an experience I can live without!
The few pedestrian traffic lights there are, are hilarious! When the green man comes on, he moves in a running motion – like a little green running man cartoon. To me this says “Run!!! Hurry up!! Run and get across the road before you get killed!!!” Every time I saw that I cracked up laughing!
Hubba and I eventually found a sheesha place on the top level of a not so smart shopping mall. It was quiet, there were other women in there smoking, and I didn’t feel every eye on me. We had a fresh mango juice and played backgammon whilst enjoying the apple tobacco through the sheesha. Our bill was 30 Egyptian pounds, or A$6.
I dug deep, found some courage and with Hubs crossed a 7 lane crazy round about road to get back to our oasis. Laying down on those gorgeous five star beds is something I’ll dream about for a long long time. So so so lovely. Zzzzzzzz