Stranger things have happened

October 12, 2008 § Leave a comment

I forgot to mention that while I was in Cairo, I did a few things that some might call, ‘off the beaten track’. A couple of must-mention highlights include:

Watching Countdown with Sarah on a lazy afternoon. Countdown is basically a British gameshow where one attempts to form the longest word out of a series of alphabets. If you have read/seen Nick Hornby’s ‘About A Boy’ you will know what I mean. Of course we were only watching it because Sarah was on it, on which she won a Countdown teapot proudly displayed in her Cairo flat.

Going to the one and only Rugby Club in Maadi. This is another one of those places where one will only find it if someone told you where it was. It was a Saturday night and I wandered down the confusing streets of Maadi in search of this place. I had some rough directions. I was told it was beside some restaurant we went to the night before. I found it easily enough despite it being pitch black and it being the most ordinary building with no signage except a little Rugby sticker on the front door.

After a 10 second hesitation (surely this can’t be a Rugby Club???) I rang the doorbell. I almost expected to give it a secret knock which of course I did not know. The door opened and there it was, a real Rugby Club full of English expats, and other minorities such as me. I found Sarah and her friend Katie and basically spent the entire night getting wasted and making fun of all the old people gyrating on the dance floor. An old guy wearing baggy shorts with socks pulled up to his knees, thrusting his pelvic region to 80s hits, is in my opinion, WRONG.

Making a new Canadian friend randomly on the street. Ok so it wasn’t so random because David knew her but what happened was she lived down the road. So what do I do but invite myself to her place. I found myself spending a nice evening with Jen playing with her cat and cooking a decent dinner at her place while helping her get ready for a date.

Thanks for the wonderful memories!

Egypt: A short survival guide

October 10, 2008 § Leave a comment

A few days here has taught me some important lessons:

1. Discard fear as it will be burdensome and useless. I must admit I harboured a lot of it while trying to walk across 8 lanes of traffic. Pedestrian crossings don’t exist, therefore people literally walk in front of speeding cars to get from one side to the other.

2. In view of the above situation, I quickly developed a handy system to assist me. I decided the best way was to walk beside an Egyptian and become his pseudo shadow as he crossed. Tried, tested and proven as I soon found myself easily crossing from Alexandria Library to the Mediterranean Sea on the other side. Laugh if you will, but hey, the system has not failed me. I have not yet been squashed.

3. Still on the topic of traffic, get a honker. You will want it as cars here honk at anything and anyone. There does not seem to be logic to it. I say, honk back.

4. Taxis here also like to honk loudly at any non-Egyptians, which might actually scare some people as they take what they think is a quiet stroll down the road. Get the words ‘I don’t want a taxi’ printed in Arabic somewhere highly visible. Better yet, get the words ‘I don’t want a taxi, horse, camel, or donkey, please just go away’.

5. Accept that garbage is your friend. It is literally everywhere. Embrace its stench and walk amongst it, otherwise you will end up going nowhere. Resistance is futile.

Adhere to the above rules, and good times will be had.

First 24 hours in Cairo

October 6, 2008 § Leave a comment

Where do I start? Perhaps yesterday morning at Cairo Airport. The place is a total madhouse, I discovered as I joined the end of the longest passport queue in the world at 2:45am. Within 10 minutes, people were cutting the line. Passengers started to yell at one another. Customs guy started to yell at the passengers. Passengers started fighting. Customs guy stood on his chair and shouted in Arabic what I assumed is ‘Shut the fuck up everyone’.

I stood quietly in my queue for a good hour and cleverly managed to sneak myself into the ‘express’ lane for those with an Australian passport. I was feeling extremely pleased with myself and walked out of customs to meet the driver sent by my couchsurfing host David who was meant to pick me up. The feeling of satisfaction evaporated as I saw what can only be described as a zoo at the arrivals hall. It was almost 4am and the place was chaotic as hell. Of course I didn’t find the driver and was just about to give in to one of the ridiculous cab fares when I met Joe. It turns out he works in the American airforce and was also waiting for his friends to come out of crazy customs. Most importantly, he lived in Maadi, where I wanted to go. Naturally I hitchhiked a ride with him.

Airforce Joe very kindly spent the next hour trying to help me find David’s place but to no avail. So together with his friends, off I went to his American Embassy apartment. I kept trying to contact David but no luck. It was almost 7am. So I did the next best thing and called Sarah, an English expat couchsurfer who had given me her number in Cairo.

Me: Hi Sarah, it’s Steph from couchsurfing, remember me? Sorry to wake you up but I’m kinda stuck in some random stranger’s place in Maadi, can I come over and hang out at your place until I find David?

Sarah: What? Am I in some kind of a mind-fuck? Oh, Steph! Um, yeah sure!

Me: Cool! I’ll be there in 10 minutes!

Airforce Joe was even nice enough to drive me to Sarah’s, and Sarah was nice enough to offer me to a room at the last minute. Oh, did I mention Sarah lives in a gorgeous super-big apartment and went out and bought me expensive sheets to sleep on? She also has her own driver and maid, and my washing will be done this afternoon by the magic cleaning fairy. Apparently this was how most expats lived. As I lounge around in her balcony, sipping my Vodka Peach and looking down on one of the many AK47-carrying guards ‘protecting’ the streets of Maadi, I thought to myself, what the? I feel like I’m in some kinda mind-fuck myself. Can this be real?

Couchsurfing rocks.

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