Monday, October 18, 2004

Day 4: October 11th – our last free day in Cairo before joining the tour group

Today, David and I wanted to have a free day before joining our tour group tonight at the hotel. After breakfast at the hotel, we found a fabulous café around the corner for REAL coffee. This café was amazing. We were instantly transported back into North America. The café looked just like a Second Cup. The floors were dark hardwood with tile flooring and the chairs matched the paint on the walls. They used a painting technique that matched the pattern of material on the chairs as well. We had cappuccino and espresso. It gave us a chance to review the pictures from the day before and I could write up the blog.
I hardly every gush about a public washroom (which they refer to as a toilet here) but this public washroom was gorgeous. It was clean (a rarity in Cairo), had toilet paper, and had a beautiful sink filled with granite pebbles which the Fawcett poured water into it. I took a picture of it and told the store clerk that he had the nicest publish washroom in all of Cairo.

From the coffee shop, we found our neighborhood internet café to post our blog and catch up with email. It was nice to receive emails from family and friends.

Next we walked to the closest busy road to catch a taxi. We haggled for a taxi ride to the Cairo tower for 10 Egyptian pounds. We found a very friendly English speaking taxi driver. Tried as he did, he really wanted us to hire him for the day. We politely told him that we just wanted to go to the Cairo Tower and gave him a Canadian flag pin when we left his taxi.

The Cairo Tower is something that I’m glad we did. It is something that the tour does not cover. For 40 Egyptian pounds each, we took an elevator to the top to see all of Cairo. We were surprised to see a sports club that had gardens, a horse track, tennis courts, and pools right below the tower. The greatest challenge David and I have been having while staying in Cairo is finding a restaurant to eat at. We’ve discovered that you have to start looking at least 45 minutes before you are hungry to find a restaurant. Once you find one, service is generally fast and the food is good, esp. if you go to a local restaurant. From the tower, David and I saw a few restaurants along the Nile, which we wanted to try. We misjudged the distance that we had to walk to the nearest boat restaurant and we ended up walking 45 minutes before we found one that we wanted to try. We wanted a rather large lunch because we knew we were going to eat one big meal that day and this would be it. The food on the boat was delicious and we saw many other boats sailing on the Nile. Unfortunately this restaurant was not one that you eat while you sailed on the Nile. L

We were thinking of doing another felucca ride but we were tired and we wanted to rest before meeting our tour group at 7pm, so we headed back to the hotel by taxi.

Since we were looking for a taxi after 3 pm (rush hour in Cairo) it took a while to find a taxi. We negotiated 15 Egyptian pounds to share a taxi with a French diplomat. She told us how much she detested Cairo and was hoping to be transferred to Istanbul in the next year. She also told us never to pay more than 5 pounds for a taxi in downtown Cairo, no matter the traffic. We thanked her and then we were off to find our hotel. Luckily the taxi driver had been there before and was able to find the Salma hotel by going through the back streets.

We relaxed a little before meeting our tour group at the hotel bar. It was too loud so we went up to the roof top patio to talk. There are 15 people in our group:

Kati and David are from London, England. Kati just finished her PhD in Child Psychology. Her thesis was in eating disorders. David does Management consulting. They are both from London England and are in their mid-twenties.

Kathy and Bruce who we met earlier are very friendly Aussies from Cannibury Australia. Bruce is retired from the government where he traveled all around the world with the Foreign Service. Kathy works at a government office which is responsible for communicating world events to the critical government offices in Australia. They both have children from previous marriages. It’s funny that Bruce has a cat (black and white – like Moses) and Kathy has a dog. Unfortunately they lost their home and all their possessions last year in the forest fires in Australia. Since then they have been able to buy a new house. They told us how generous companies in Australia were to help people who lost their homes during the fires – much like what happened in Kelowna last summer.

Peter and Marcia: Peter is a plumber and they are both from Australia. They are planning to build a house on their property (on a hill) when they return from this vacation. They have children from previous marriages and a dog.

Desiray (lawyer) and her niece Claire (midwife) from Dublin, Ireland. Claire is 26 and is a mid wife. She was a nurse and then went back to school to become a midwife.

Jamie (accountant) from Australia

Ron ( who is a retired telecommunication computer programmer) and Sue ( who is a retired secretary from a bank in London) from London, England. They retired young so that they could travel. They have been to all places in Africa and they have been to the Himalayan Mountains. I’m sure they have been to many more places – we just have not learned about them yet.

A blond woman who is a planner from London, England

Craig from Oregon who is a computer programmer. He is the only American in our tour group so everyone is asking him about the up coming American elections in November. He is voting for Bush (at the moment).

Our tour guide is named Sandra and she is from ???. She started this position 3 months ago. She is a little nervous and a little difficult to get to know. She is very professional though and told us from the very start what her responsibilities are. Her presentations could be a little more relaxed – but they are full of information.

At 9 pm everyone was starved so Kathy and Bruce asked us where our favorite restaurant was and we ended up taking 11 of the 15 out for dinner. We didn’t get home until late but it gave us a great chance to get to know everyone.

Tomorrow is a very full day. Museum, Citadel, and then the bazaar. Phew!

We will email more soon.
Veronica and David


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