What’s a weekend?

As with all Muslim countries, the official weekend starts late Thursday and all day Friday, which means the city absolutely pumps on Thursday nights as everyone mainlines sugary pastries and soft drink – surely a lethal combination but the only way you can hang out till 4am, hey?

For a city that’s always bubbling, it can be surprisingly difficult to know when things are open…or not.

Take for instance, the hairdressers and barbers. They are all closed on Mondays. (Why? Who knows?) Many Christian-run businesses will close on Sundays, regardless of whether they’re locksmiths or watchmakers, the traders at the traditional uber-souq of Khan al-Khalili shut up shop early on Sunday evenings, regardless of the many wandering tourists loitering aimlessly with money to burn on sheesha pipes and Arabian slippers.

In summer, siesta is well and truly enforced as the heat drives Egyptians to their beds in cool dark rooms. I rang a shop the other day to see what time it opened in the mornings – the shutters don’t go up too 11am, so it was a shock to meet a friend who works…wait for it…9am-5pm.

And me? Well…Australia comes online at midnight, Cairo time, so it seems the only way is to go with the flow – I guess one way to not have to readjust to a different time zone is to just stay with the one you left, even on the other side of the world.

About the author

Fear is found on a creaking glacier in the Caucasus mountains and joy is encapsulated in the perfect Shanghai dumpling. And while I love a $500-a-night hotel room (who doesn’t?), sometimes the best stories are found in a $20 guesthouse. With an eye always out for good markets and great street eats, I write the travel news and features for the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne’s The Age newspapers, and features for whoever else asks. I have a particular soft spot for the wilds of the Middle East, scarves and carpets. My articles and photographs have been published in a range of consumer magazines and newspapers in Australia and abroad, and occasionally I chat on radio, too, from Essentials Magazine to 3AW or the Irish Times.

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