Adventures with a Houseguest

At the beginning of April, Ron’s friend from college, Joe, came to visit us on his Spring Break. As a high school English and Literature teacher in NYC, he apparently felt the need to just get away, and where better to go? Cairo!

He was only here for a week, so we mentally tabulated a list of things he could do during that time, with the intention of letting him choose. One thing we did not anticipate, but I think ranked at the top of Joe’s visit, was a performance by the Indianapolis Colts’ cheerleaders. Ron’s office had a get-together the day after Joe arrived, which we dragged poor Joe to. It was held at the Maadi House, the expat “club” in Maadi. Apparently the cheerleaders were on a tour to see the troops, with their first stop in Cairo. Most of the audience on this sunny Saturday afternoon, however, was expat kids, a lot of girls around 10-years-old and a few “mildly interested” husbands/fathers hanging around the edges. And based on the parts of the show I did see (you might have to ask Joe, as he saw far more than I did), I think the ladies were toning it down for the impressionable audience members. I will add that they were quite talented, several had really strong voices, and their ability to switch outfits and keep track of what feathers go with what sequins was quite admirable. The men of Ron’s office were acting quite uninterested in the whole thing, but I think us wives may have been putting a damper on things. Poor boys. At least Joe got a nice peek into Dip-Life – and I think he may be considering a career change.

Despite any attempts to thwart it, Joe was not able to circumvent the dreaded Cairo jet-lag syndrome, so our outings were often broken into two segments, allowing for a nap in between (the jet-lag is truly incapacitating, and seeing yet one more ancient tomb, really old mosque, or trinket for sale, holds absolutely no interest once the exhaustion hits).

We did get him to the Citadel and then walked around the streets, down to the Rafa’i and Sultan Hasan mosques (where we ate our pb&j sandwiches – why is it that a slightly squished pb&j sandwich that’s been heated by the sun and carried around in a mildly odiferous backpack is so delectable?).

Another day was filled with a zip around the Egyptian museum, then a rather harrowing taxi ride (which included a backwards stint down the Corniche because our driver missed the turn off) to find the Nileometer. I will post my article about this interesting engineering marvel separately, but suffice it to say, we were allowed to walk down into this stone pit that reached below the Nile, and we not only did so willingly, we paid for the privilege. From there we had our same (insane) taxi driver take us to the Khan, where we explored the Al-Ghuri Complex and climbed the minaret as I had done with Haitham in January. (Again, I’ll post my article separately, which includes the other half of the complex that Haitham and I were not able to explore.)

We treated ourselves to a refreshing drink at Al-Fishawi’s café in the Khan, which is a true staple of Cairo life as it’s been in business for over 200 years and is allegedly open 24/7 (though we have admittedly not tested that yet), and then hit a few stores for Joe to get those much-needed, just-can’t-live-without, how-did-I-survive-before, Cairo trinkets/ mementos/ gifts. One of our insisted stops was at Crazy Brothers, which is a junk shop of the best kind, hawking bizarre lamps, tin plates, umbrella stands made out of antique missile parts (Ron was desperately trying to get Joe to buy one of these – better his house that mine, I mean, ours), and “genuine” Bedouin finds. Joe showed off his savvy New Yorker skills and managed to only buy what he actually wanted to – very impressive. By this point, we were all thoroughly exhausted, even those of us not dealing with jetlag, so we headed home and promptly collapsed.

The next day Ron decided to test his driving/navigation/patience skills and drove Joe out to the Giza pyramids. I opted to skip them this time and did my volunteering instead, but Ron and Joe actually hiked out all the way past the middle pyramid (Khafre) toward the smallest one (Menkaure), where they encountered an ancient toothless soda seller on an equally ancient, probably toothless, donkey, slowly wandering the desert. Apparently as soon as he saw them coming, the seller grabbed two bottles out of the pack on the donkey's back that was wedged full with a 12" cube of ice and Coke bottles. Despite his outward appearance, he had just enough pep left in him to finagle 15LE (~$3) out of Ron for two Cokes. Then, as they were drinking them (they had to drink them there so they could return the bottles), he apparently kept peppering them with requests for more money - "Hey, hey, give me five pounds." I can’t imagine he gets too many wandering Khowaggas (Westerners), so I can’t fault him for his determination, however Ron ignored his mutterings and merely returned the empty bottles.

Throughout his stay, we took Joe to a few of our favorite restaurants, including Sequoia where we ate outdoors on the Nile as well as Abu Tarek, the very local koushari joint we also took Mom to. This time I was able to snap a few shots of our Abou Tarek evening.

On the way home, Ron and Joe stopped off for some fun with the locals at Haitham’s favorite teahouse just around the corner and Ron treated himself to a shoeshine by the guy who’s faithfully always on that corner.

For Joe’s last night in Cairo, before his 6am car ride to the airport the next day, we decided to just enjoy a casual evening, so we grabbed some take-out from a local Lebanese restaurant and with our friend Ben along, rented a felucca and bobbed around on the Nile for an hour while we ate and watched the sun set. All in all, Joe managed to see a lot of Cairo’s highlights without really racing from monument to tomb to mosque to museum. Although, you’d have to ask him whether the glory of the Citadel outshined the sequins of the cheerleaders.

It seems that people have taken our warnings against visiting Cairo in the summer months to heart, and our next scheduled visitors, Ron’s Aunt Joan and Uncle Jerry, aren’t coming until October (very smart). We’re hoping to be able to convince Ron’s dad to join them as well and come see the land that physics forgot. However, for anyone considering a visit, I cannot promise that we can arrange the cheerleaders again, however, I’m fairly certain the desert soda seller with the ginormous ice cube and a knack for over-charging will be eagerly awaiting your arrival.