Okay girls, here’s the real truth to living in Cairo (men, you may want to skip this part, it’s best not to know too much):
Hair – For those of us affected follicley by humidity (whether it’s those of us whose curls tend to expand, to those others whose do’s flatten), I’m finding that living in a dry country such as Egypt might be a really good thing. The lack of humidity makes hair happy; which in turn, makes us happy. Full circle of pure happiness. I may have uncovered the perfect-hair resort, or perfect hair-resort, you choose. ☺
Mani/Pedis – I wasn’t sure what I was going to find in terms of manicures and pedicures. However, it’s become very clear that getting a manicure or pedicure in Cairo will not be a problem. Deciding where to go, will. There are salons all over the place, in all neighborhoods. I’ll have to start asking around for some recommendations or referrals. I’ve also heard that you can arrange to have them come to your house. Further exploration in this area will continue.
Purses – For many of us, finding the right purse can be a life-long, never-ending, ever-changing pursuit. For others of us, we’re just extremely finicky and our tastes change with the wind. Bottom line is, many of us have a lot of purses (yes, I’m confessing a personal issue here). So before coming here, I actually spent some time thinking about what purse might be best for my new life in Cairo (I know most men would be boggled to learn that any thought went into this at all). I decided on a small purse, one just to carry money, ID and keys, with a long strap. I found it, bought it, and on day two here, learned that it was exactly the wrong purse to bring. Lovely.
Overall, there is very little personal crime in Cairo. Though pick-pockets and purse-snatching does occur. So I learned to never use a purse that is worn across the body (ie., long strap), and to walk facing the traffic and carry my purse/bag on the opposite side of the cars (so drive-by snatchings can’t occur). So I messed up. But you know what this means… purse shopping in Cairo!! For those of you on the edge of your seats wondering what I’m doing purse-wise in the interim, I’ve opted for a synch-top backpack. Works fine; just not very cute.
Fashion – I’ve already mentioned the “fashionably forward” crowd in Zamalek, and the bedazzled shoes, but I have to drop a note about Egyptian clothing. There are many women here wearing the traditional gallibaya (long, loose, “dress”), some in colors, some all black with the full headscarf (called a “niqab” – pronounced “ni-kab”), showing only their eyes, though the latter is definitely in the minority. Most other women opt for more traditional western dress, but some still wear the headscarf (“hijab”). Some of the younger women, teens and twenties, fall into this latter category. And I have to say that I’ve noticed that Egyptian women have fantastic figures. They cover their hair with the hijab, many in the most amazingly beautiful fabrics, and wear very close-fitting tops with long full skirts (often denim). (I have yet to learn how they fasten the hijab, but I will attempt to find out.) The young men’s clothing tends to be very western, though some men do wear full gallibayas (typically older men, in basic white, cream, gray, or brown shades), others wear pants with a gallibaya shirt. I know very little about the traditional dress, but as I learn more I will share. I do know that neither men nor women, beyond childhood years, ever wear shorts. And some older men wear variations of head-coverings, sometimes a turban-type thing, others a while cap, but I have to find out more about these as I’m not sure of the reasons for them, nor the names. (You can see some of these items in the photos from The Khan, though I know they're dark.)
Shoes – I’ve already covered these some, and I promise pictures (it’s like looking at schools of shiny, colorful, sparkly tropical fish), but I will add that my MBT tennis shoes and crocs (of the mock and genuine variety) are working out perfectly. The only issue is dust. Which actually makes the crocs ideal, as I can just hose them off when we get home.
Temperature – So I hear it’s hot here; really really hot. Like 140 degrees in the shade in the height of summer. But currently, in April/May it’s beautiful, simply perfect. Sunny during the day (always), warm, but then evenings turn cool enough to wear a light sweater. But since true ladies, and certainly “diplomat wives,” don’t sweat and merely glisten, I’m sure I’ll have no issues regardless of the temperature. I also hear that winters here actually get cold enough for coats. But there’s still no chance of snow in Cairo. We may have to “hop” over to Switzerland for a quick snowball fight in December.