Welcome to Cairo. I think I’ve heard that phrase more than 10 times in the past four hours. You could never accuse Cairenes of being inhospitable.
True to previous form, I have managed to find a hotel room where the “L” from the neon hotel sign is right outside my window. The good news is that it doesn’t look like the sign’s worked for years. I’m in the district called Doqqi –as well as the L, you can see the Nile from my window, and if you drive 10km down my street, you’ll run into the Pyramids. Just across the Nile and across another bridge is thumping Downtown, home of the Egyptian Museum and a thousand souvenir shops selling Nefertiti’s head on fraying papyrus. That’s not to say I haven’t met my own purveyor of such exquisite goods. In less than two hours, I’ve acquired Hassan, a jovial, rotund, moustached shop owner who has happily offered to become my Egyptian fixer. As well as selling scarab beetles carved from jade and said papyrus, he also runs private tours out to the deserts and oases, can unlock my phone to take a local SIM, has shown me where the cheap internet café is and is making calls to help find me an apartment.
My hotel, the Concorde, isn’t the Abu Dhabi Shangri-La, but then, there aren’t many places that are the Abu Dhabi Shangri-La. But the blue curtains and the carpet match, the textured cream wallpaper isn’t peeling too obviously and while there are a lot of mirrors, I’m taking this in a positive light – honest scrutiny is occasionally motivating.
Ramadam is in full swing, so while it’s poor form to be eating on the street while Muslims fast, they really know how to kick on till late, eating, drinking and, if they’re good, praying till the wee hours. There is a down side: my Abu Dhabi driver yesterday was from Bangladesh, and hadn’t eaten since sunrise (about 6am) and had two hours’ sleep, so after our long day’s drive to Al Ain so I could sate my thirst for camel photography, he was nodding frighteningly at the wheel till we pulled over at a service station so he could wash his face (I suspect he even drank some water in the loos as well).
Not quite sure what I’m doing here, but I reckon a nap and an internet fix and it should become apparent…