So my outing on Wednesday 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 mashrabiya gallery and finally back home on the embassy shuttle. However, 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 of walking up and down and back and forth, I made it back to Tahrir Square – never so delighted to see all the chaotic traffic.
Despite never finding Omar Effendi 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 small silver tray and two 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 under the circle to avoid having to Frogger around it, 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 (but I wasn't too surprised). 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! It 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.