Cairo - Day One

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Note: This has been moved into the normal “blog stream” and out of the comments…

Okay. I’m on a crappy, cicra-2001 Windows box in a hotel, so I’m not logging into anything I don’t have to — include my blog-editor. So. Hopefully all interested parties will find this in the comments. When I get back to Berlin, I’ll make them into regular posts.

So. I arrived late last night and someone had already pulled my bag off of the baggage carousel and stole my two near-empty bottles of cologne out of the exterior pocket. So: Might I suggest to my fellow travellers (Haley) that you keep any electronics (cameras, iPods) on your person during the flight into Cairo and stash anything else valuable deep enough inside your bag that someone can’t get into it without totally dismantling your luggage. Also. Be aware that people at the airport offering you taxis and whatnot WILL try to scam you. So just mak sure you’re aware of the exchange rate (about 6 Egyptian Pounds per US Dollar) and don’t let them pull this bullshit:

“Taxi to hotel? $10.”
“I only have Egyptian.”
“Okay. Whatever you think is fair, EP200, EP300.”
“How about EP70?”
“Whatever you think is fair.”
Hand over a EP100 note.
“How much you want back?”
“No. EP20.”

This sort of nonsense also happened with the SECOND cabby after the first took me to the wrong place (a simple error, since there are more than one hotels with the name of mine). The wrong hotel arranged for a short ride for EP10. Fine. $1.50 or so. But. I only had EP100s. So.

“Here’s EP100. I need EP80 back.” Tip.

He hands back EP50, each note individually, with the western numbers facing away from me (they use actual current Arabic numerals, not numbers we’re used to). So I have to sort out what I’ve been given ask ask several times for more.

Anyway. I’ll turn off of this subject, except to note that (obviously) everything’s up for bargaining at any time and the closer you get to the airport (or any tourist spot), the worse, I imagine, it gets. Just make sure you know our information, and it seems to be fine, since they’re essentially preying on ignorance — of exchange rates, modern Arabic numerals, etc.

Anyway. I spent today walking around the downtown isle in the Nile. I forget the area’s name, but it’s shoppy and full of embassies and schools, so it’s well protected. The city’s huge. Massive. And dense. And it smells like burning rubber and everything’s got a fine layer of sand and grime on it, including me after a few hours. It’s very hot and packed — packed — with people. Most seem perfectly fine, but there are pickpockets and gypsies sorts that linger about. Several times I observed a woman with a baby following behind me, waiting to make a move. Once kept asking for money and I kept ignoring her. She made a weak grab at my camera and walked off. They ALL keep their eyes on the pocket with the wallet. They jut stare. Forunately, the ne’er-do-wells are pretty obvious. Most Egyptians lingering about are just sitting, smoking, talking, and resting in the shade. They have little use for some white guy wandering around.

What else? Um. I bought a Cairo Lonely Planet on my walk and a map (yeah — I set off only with the map in my mind I memorized off of the web in Milano — heh). Oh. All hotels feature metal detectors at the front door (which I set off every time but no one seems to care). Also, I have yet to see a coin, though I’ve received bills as small as EP 0.25 (a quarter-pounder — about 5 cents US).

Okay. ot sure if I have the balls yet to venture out at night, so I may just go hang out at the swimming pool onn the roof. It’s got a great view of the seemingly endless sprawl of raggedy buildings.

More soon.


Posted Wed, July 13, 2005, 2:58pm EST by Lee

Where are you staying in Cairo?


Posted Wed, July 13, 2005, 5:09pm EST by Lee

Don't respond to request above here. Please email. Hope all is going well.