Monday, June 04, 2007

Cairo (Al Qahirah)!

i really, really don't know where to start... or how to even do this. i just had the most amazing week ever. not only was i fortunate enough to see my great friends and spend so many minutes chatting, catching up, watching the sunset and drinking wine on the Nile, but i was in Cairo, or rather afloat on a houseboat in Cairo. Francesca was just the best hostess ever and really tried to show us what it's like to live in and love Cairo. She thoroughly succeeded. It was impossible to leave my friends, but also hard to leave Cairo. She even put up gracefully with us wanting to do lots of touristy things and also managed to squeeze in very untouristy things like The Virginian (above in banner) and eating at Al Omda (the mayor).

The houseboat that she so amazingly organized for us was just really out of this world... this kind of Victorian, colonial, antique, leftover look. like everything there had been placed very carefully... 90 years ago. it was really picturesque... even the dust added to the feel. we were so at home and had the whole place to ourselves to party and catch up. we brought tons of wine and spent countless hours chilling on the deck. i just can't imagine a better housing situation for the week. i don't think that i can ever stay in a hotel again - to have a space like that makes such a huge, huge difference. here are some photos of our (i liked to call it "our") houseboat, its view and us lounging on and around it's stately furniture.I can't really recap this whole adventure. I do want to describe a few highlights though...

We first met Said on the way to horseback riding by the pyramids at Giza. As the evening came on Caitlin, Francesca, Peppe and I, and, of course Said, our taxi driver, who later became almost a friend, headed south and west to Giza. Said drove us through the craziness of the stable area like a pro and didn't attempt to alter our original destination even though there was considerable pressure for him to do this. Men were almost jumping in front of our cab to convince us that their stable was the best of the 20 or so that lined the dusty, dirt road - or not even the best, but what do we care?! This tactic was not very convincing. "We know where we are going, but thank you very much.", became kind of a slogan, or at least it did for me. That was the phrase that the Lonely Planet recommended one use when being ballyhooed. It is a bit of an over simplification... when one guy started banging on the back window as we drove past...finally we arrived at stable F.B., never really knowing what that meant, but very happy to see that their horses looked fed, and healthy, which could not be said for all of the stables. Caitlin was relieved. After getting on the horses (oh god, don't ask how this went), we took a leisurely stroll through the wildest, little shabby-town ever, dodging (well we weren't really going so fast that we had to dodge, but you know... avoiding, i guess) camels, cars, kids flying past on donkeys, teenagers on camels, men galloping Arabian horses, buses, old people, cats, etc., all of this on a street just about the width of a car itself while i was trying to get comfortable with the idea of sitting on top of an animal. no, I'm not a real horse-gal, but it was going o.k.
it wasn't long before all the stresses began to pass and the pyramids fell into sight. ya salem!!! (wow!) majestic, regal, humongous, just like you can imagine, but maybe grander... it was such a breathtaking experience... breathtaking also because soon i started to wheeze with allergies... and then sneeze and then sniffle. but nothing could overpower the feeling of clippity-clopping through the sands of the desert with wide eyes focused on the great pyramid and her little sisters. after our ride we came back for a little respite on the couches in the "waiting room" of stable F.B., and a cola, while Francesca finagled the fees for our lovely ride. everything in Cairo is done first and then the prices are discussed after, which inevitably leads to some pretty outrageous conversations/discussions/arguments... in the end we probably paid too much for most things, but such a small price, really extremely small, that the question becomes: too much for who? that's the concept, i suppose. it's not too much for you, you rich american lady, so pay me more! which is really completely understandable and acceptable. and which we genuinely and completely accepted. but there was always a little haggling by francesca, done in her impressive arabic, to get us a more just price. thanks to francesca!we went later in the week to touch the pyramids. which was also a truly amazing experience. yes, you are asked while walking through to buy quite an astonishing number of Egyptian trinkets and it can be tiresome, but you are also allowed to touch the pyramids! i mean most places have ropes these days. there are countless more stories to tell: the Egyptian museum, mummies!, sailing on the Nile, parties, shish tawook, mosques and minarets... and so many more scenes to describe, but for the moment, i have to leave Cairo for a bit and get back to life here in Rome. i hope in the coming weeks a few more stories can pop out - maybe even someone will write me a story and let me pass it along to you all?... caitlin? For now I'll leave you with our photo book which you can view by clicking here. it's hard enough being back here, having said goodbye to francesca, caitlin and stef and not really knowing when i'll see them next without still pretending that i'm there... i must get to work!

1 comment:

matt said...

AWESOME!! I'm jealous. Except the sick part. m