So my outing yesterday was intended to do a book-swap at the embassy library, then wander to Omar Effendi, a large department store, then to an Egyptian crafts shop that I saw advertised in a local magazine, then possibly to a mashrabiyya gallery and then back home on the embassy shuttle. Things did not go exactly as planned.
The shuttle downtown was fine and I made the book-swap at the library without incident. I called Ron to tell him I was there and was going to go a’splorin’. He told me to be careful and not make any new friends. I had figured out my path beforehand, and had taken notes. I walked around past AUC, into Tahrir Square (which is really an enormous traffic circle) and was supposed to take the second road to the right. I knew fairly early on that I had taken the wrong road (one too early), but I mistakenly thought that I could find my way over to the correct road. To make a long, hot, dirty, and unsuccessful story short, after almost two hours, I made it back to Tahrir Square – never so delighted to see all the chaotic traffic.
Despite never finding Omar Effendi’s nor the gallery, I did see some rather interesting sites:
• An ice truck making deliveries of huge ice blocks
• Parked cars so close I had to walk down 4-5 cars to find a space wide enough to walk through to the sidewalk
• A herd of 10 completely adorable long-haired goats being walked through the streets
• Two men, at different times and places, with missing right arms (how odd?!)
• Women carrying children (~1-2 years old) on one shoulder while the child rested his arm on her head as if he was at a table
• Various things dripping on me from awnings and who-knows what else (eww)
• A guy selling bread from a pallet he carried on his head
• Guys wearing a keg-like device on their chest (like a marching band drum) with small glasses on top – I believe they’re selling tea, but I haven’t been gutsy enough to try it
• Men in ties walking down the street with a silver tray and glasses of tea (maybe they visited the keg-guys – I wonder if you can bring your own glass?)
• My very own personal guide to something, but I refused to engage his attempts at a conversation and just kept walking. He was quite determined and kept saying, “No backshish, no backshish.” Ron told me that a lot of the souvenir shops employ these guys to get customers into their shops, but I just wasn’t in the mood.
By the end of my travels at Tahrir, my goal was just to get back to the embassy and catch the shuttle home. I decided to use the subway station to avoid having to Frogger around the circle, so I walked over to the nearest entry and just happened to see across the street the Egyptian craft store I’d been looking for. It wasn’t where it was supposed to be. I was a little frazzled by this point so I actually stood on the curb staring at it trying to decide whether to go in or not. I figured since I’d been so unsuccessful so far, I might as well check it out. I crept up a narrow staircase, not even sure I was heading in the right direction, and luckily found it on the second floor. I’m so glad I did! I was a wonderful store full of pottery, linens, lamps, wood-working, candles, cards, jewelry, books, CDs. Some of the nicest stuff I’ve seen to date. I “treated” myself to a nice necklace and some hand-made cards and then headed back to the embassy.
Other than mis-reading the time for the shuttle, and attempting to get a taxi home, but then having the shuttle driver see me and come offer me a ride, the ride home was uneventful – thank goodness.