When I went to my Arabic class early on Thursday morning, the taxi skimmed through empty streets so fast, the driver HAD to give me change (normally they will shamelessly pocket whatever you put in their hand, even a 100 pound note, unless you put up a fight).
Where was everyone? They’d all scooted up to the North Coast for the long weekend which celebrates Revolution Day when King Farouk I was toppled from his throne by military coup in 1952, led by a handful of officers, three of whom (Sadat, Naguib and Nasser) would go on to become the first three Prime Ministers of Egypt and have metro stops named after them.
(Egyptian trivia: Farouk’s full title was His Majesty Farouk I, by the grace of God, King of Egypt and Sudan, Sovereign of Nubia, of Kordofan, and of Darfur. He might have been but a puppet of the English, but love the throne! So much more colourful than the incumbent black hair dye addict, Hosny.)
So Cairo has been a ghost town…well, as much as a city of 16 to 20 million people (give or take 4 million) can be. Even chic Sangria, a nightclub, bar and open-air restaurant on the Nile, was quiet on Friday night. Walk straight in and get a riverside table for eight! No crawling between elegantly exposed knees to get to the bar! Room in front of the mirror in the ladies! Bouncer let the men in wearing ‘slippers’, ie cool leather thongs!
While we chilled over cantaloupe (rockmelon, for you Aussies) shisha, we heard that the normal 1.5 hour journey between the city gates of Cairo and Alex took double the time, the traffic on the mega-freeway actually stopping for an hour late at night. Knowing Egypt, though, some enterprising young guys would have appeared from the farms along the roadside selling tea, cigarettes and blow-up beach toys at 3am.
Ghost town or not, the Corniche along the Nile was still bumper to bumper traffic when we left Sangria at 1.30am in the Victorious City which I’ve heard not described as the city that never sleeps, but the city that sleeps…in shifts.
Check out: Sangria, Corniche el Nil, opposite the Conrad Hotel, 2579 6511. Reserve on Thursday and Friday nights if you want a table outdoors. If all else fails, the garden below is often nearly completely empty, even though its dreamy white curtained lounges are gorgeous.
(Pic credit of Sangria: www.eklegodesign.net)