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"It is the journey which makes up your life."

Friday, January 20, 2006

Ahlan Wa-Sahlan

Exit London and enter... well, not the most comfortable city in the world. Cairo. al-Qaahira fi MaSr. The Egyptian one.

My first impressions of the city are of an immense, dusty, noisy morass of incomprehensible motion. When our plane arrived in Cairo airport (there were probably 15 or so of us on the same flight in from Heathrow) we were met by a round, jolly man with only half his teeth. He gathered us up and herded us out the door to the most haphazard minibus I've ever seen.

We piled in and, with our police escort's sirens wailing (the fact that we had such an escort startling and worrying in of itself), we headed off into the darkened, congested highways of Cairo. Apparently nobody here believes in headlights.

Apparently nobody here believes in organizing anything ahead of time, or conveying any pertinent information when other cultures might consider it necessary to do so. As a result we tumbled out of our bus onto the doorstep of our marble-and-glass dorm, all ready to fall immediately into bed after our varied but lengthy travelling ordeals, only to be hurried into the lobby in preparation for... sitting. And more sitting. The reception and security crew piled up our suitcases carefully in one corner of the room, then shuffled the heavy bags to another end of the room and carefully resurrected the mass. Eventually they gave up and simply piled everything in mounds on the floor.

After much clambering, confused zippering and unzippering of bags to facilitate the security staff riffling through our belongings (for booze, apparently... two students found themselves already receiving warnings for possession), we were handed envelopes filled with papers and our room keys. One reception staff member led a group of us (girls) to the women's wing of the dorm, to show us where our rooms were. We lugged our massive suitcases (me being one of the most lightly laden, I can attest to the unpleasantness of this task) up two flights of stairs to the "first" floor, where the elevator banks were located. After 10 minutes of frustrated pushing of buttons, the staff member concluded that the elevators were broken (again), and led us back to the stairwell and pointed up in the direction of the various floors we lived on. My floor was the 6th.

Round about the 3rd floor a few other girls and I discovered that the elevators actually functioned from the third floor, and decided to risk taking one up to our respective floors. We made it alive, and stumbled out in relief. The keys here are different than I was used to back home, so upon finding my room (nobody here believes in putting room numbers in any sort of logical order) I fumbled around with the lock for a few minutes, then in frustration attempted to rattle the doorknob. To my surprise I discovered it had been open the whole time, and even more surprising, I discovered that I had a roommate, and that I had just woken her up.

I had requested a single, and the student services office had neglected to tell me my living circumstances would be other than what I had asked for. Clearly life in Cairo is going to require almost superhuman amounts of patience.

That's it for first impressions. Hopefully I will be able to begin including useful travel tips and pointers on local Arabic for those intrepid travellers who are not dissuaded by to so-called "Cairo Moments" I experience.

I will leave you with one tantalizing image, however:
Posted by PicasaThe Nile, in all its Glory.


Anonymous anna said...

Oh, so I was gonna say that the Nile was pretty until I zoomed in on the picture and noticed random crying floating.

10:25 PM


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