Still in Cairo

The plan was that by now I would be in Gaza, dealing with salty drinking water, a lack of greens to eat, Israeli attacks and dodging speeding taxis.  But Murphy’s Law and a tough Egyptian Rafah border guard got in the way.   In spite of my making several phone calls and emails to the  Canadian Egyptian embassy, asking about the validity of my documents, it turned out that although my Egyptian visa was good for 6 months, my pass for crossing the Sinai desert expired 4 and a half months ago.   So on Tuesday afternoon I was alone at the Rafah crossing with only my Arabic dictionary for comfort, and my air conditioned, fancy, fast, secure $100 a day taxi, with it’s English speaking driver, was long gone.  Everyone seems to have nightmare stories about Egyptian taxi drivers and hellish, over priced rides.  Fortunately I had spent my 2 hours waiting for the guard to say “no entry today”, by chatting with the local child porters and tough nut drivers and giving out a few balloons and sharing my water, so I think someone took pity on me.  Samer offered to pack me and my 80 lbs of luggage, back to Cairo, in a non air conditioned, ancient, slow, rattle bang, stretch Mercedes, with 7 other passengers for the going rate of about $15.  Being the first passenger he bagged, I had to wait until he rounded up another 7.  And then, after waiting a couple of hours for Samer to score the last 8th fare, all us 7 passengers chipped in to buy the last space and get on our way.

The ride was long, slow, dusty and hot, with many many army checkpoints and tanks, due to the on going tensions with the desert Bedouins.  But the sand dunes, lovely sunset, camel, sheep and goats herds, pretty villages and friendly passengers and driver made it very enjoyable in deed.  Samer had me take the wheel regularly at 100 kph while he light up his smokes (I didn’t tell him that was my bad arm).  We arrived in Cairo around midnight to huge traffic jams, and as luck would have it, the old Mercedes decided to die in the center of a huge intersection.  Within seconds we were surrounded on all sides by honking trucks and cars and yelling drivers.  But this was apparently standard operating procedure for Samer, who calmly jumped out, and with the aid of me and my flashlight, hot wires the engine in seconds and we are running again, and slowly picking our way through a jam of traffic of our own making.

I have no idea where to get dropped off, as no one knows where my previous hotel is, in spite of my having the address and a map, but they’re in English.  So a fellow passenger suggests that his $15 a night hotel in a rough looking part of town would suffice, and I agree.  But it turns out they are full and Samer is gone.  So I drag my luggage up and down dark streets, stairs and tiny elevators to 7 other hotels in old downtown Cairo, but all are full.  I’m kindly offered  the lobby couch in the last place but I decline.  Finally, well after 1 am, I find a room in an old colonial hotel, but it’s the bridal suite and costs accordingly, regardless of whether I have a bride or not.  But any port is good in a storm, so I bed down in a king sized bed, in a beautiful 26 foot circular bedroom with 15 foot ceilings, with a separate sitting room full of gold over stuffed chairs and sofas, and a complimentary glass of champagne.  In the morning I inform the staff that I have to move as I can’t afford the price, so the owner cuts the price enough that it’s not worth me moving.  So I’m here for a week to ten days waiting for the new permission letter, and all I need now is a bride:)  I wish Georgina was here to share this.

So I have to fill this coming week or so with things to do.  Today I spent 7 hours in the Egyptian Museum and ran out of time.  It was amazing but you don’t need to hear it from me, just go on-line.  I can inform you about something important though.  You can’t take cameras into the museum, which then entails checking them in at an office.  So what you say?  Well the  gal at the camera check-in room had just told me that it’s by donation, when a very very agitated Japanese tourist charged up, shouting that his just returned camera is miraculously missing it’s battery.  The pretty check-in gal shrugs  and walks away. Being a Marxist, I can fully appreciate this redistribution of wealth in a poor country, but I immediately empty out my camera’s battery and chip and pony up a suitable amount of protection money, re: a “donation”.  And the pretty check-in gal smiled and nodded.

So, unless something untouristy happens to me, while I wait the next 7 to 10 days for my letter, then I won’t likely be making any more blog entries.  But “interesting things” do seem to happen to me sometimes.  I see that the new Star Trek movie is showing in 3D down the street.  I expect the plot will be so transparent and cliche ridden, that I’ll be able to follow it, even in Arabic.  Aye Raaijs James T Kirt, harfu wasli  liummi attaarifi nagezima safina USS Enterprise!

Good night from a bridal suite in Cairo.



One response to this post.

  1. Posted by v Daniel on June 17, 2013 at 9:31 am

    And where are you now? June 17


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