We arrived in Cairo by taxi, going by minibus was not an option since we had all our luggage. We had found a place that looked pretty decent - Arabian Nights - located in Islamic Cairo near the Khan El Kalili Markets. We got lost and drove around in circles…eventually we found it and it was exactly where I thought I had seen a sign that read “Arabian Nights”! We had driven by so quickly and it was a bit tucked away so I thought I surely made a mistake but after driving around, down one-way streets causing the meter to go up exponentially, we finally found the place.
We hadn’t made any reservations but didn’t think it would be a problem. When we got there, the surfer looking Egyptian at reception was rather rude and told us that he had a room for us for 100EGP ($17.85). We tried to bargain but he insisted that it was his best rate. We offered to go without the TV but he told us that the TV in our room was broken anyway and that’s why we were getting the cheaper rate. Having come out of paying only 50EGP for the two of us, the price seemed outrageous. After weighing our options though we decided to just stay there because it included breakfast and we were tired since it was already close to 6PM…getting over from Giza in traffic and the fact that we got lost, our journey there had taken us over an hour.
The room was small and we had to use the bathroom down the hall. We figured we would just stay there the night, explore Islamic Cairo and then try to research for another place to stay. At least the hostel had a nice rooftop that no one else seemed to take advantage of except us.
The following day, we had planned to go out to Alexandria which is 3 hours away by train. We were supposed to take the 6AM train so that we could arrive at 9AM and spend the whole day touring around. Sadly, that didn’t happen and we woke up at 9AM. By the time we got ready and made our way to the station, we would probably arrive in Alexandria around 1PM and it just wouldn’t be worth it since some places closed at 4PM. So we had our breakfast of instant coffee and bread - the bread was memorable! -
and decided to walk around Khan El Kalili which was the open market nearby selling almost anything you could think of. We then walked around and then ventured out to the Citadel since Lee missed it the first time around. We also got to walk into the mosque….although I’m not Muslim, there was an incredible sense of peace that came upon me entering the praying hall. Needless to say, Islamic architecture is amazing.
After our day at the citadel, we headed back to our hostel to pick up our bag and move to a different hostel. We had found one that we agreed upon, Jasmine Hostel, and made a reservation this time!
It was quiet when we arrived but I thoroughly enjoyed my stay there. The guys here were all really nice and it was close enough to the Egyptian Museum. Lee had already gone there but was willing to check it out again with me…it’s here that Tutankhamen's gold mask and treasures our housed.
The days were becoming a bit somber as Lee was heading back to the US in just a couple of days! I never imagined that I would have someone to travel all of Egypt with and I never imagined that we would get along so well! You know sometimes when you travel with someone, there are times when you get annoyed with them? You just can’t help it but you don’t see eye-to-eye on things…Maybe there were times when he got annoyed with me but I thought he was a really good travel mate and I was sad to see him go.
It’s always better to leave than to be left but there was still so much of Cairo I had wanted to see! Lee’s return ticket back to the states was already set so I had no choice but to say good-bye and have him leave me alone in Egypt! I had gotten so used to splitting things with him, hotels, meals, cabs, it was going to be a whole new ball game without him; especially in a male dominated society.
The following morning, we attempted to do Alexandria again but again, same story! We woke up too late. Lee didn’t want to travel so far anyway since he was leaving that night. So we decided to just hang around Cairo and see the sites and enjoy each other’s company one last day. Oh, but he needed traveler’s checks cashed again! So, we spent about a good hour trying to find a place for him to exchange his money. *Tip* if you didn’t pick it up yet, traveler’s checks can be a pain! I always only carry a couple of $100, just in case but do not have all my money tied into traveler’s checks!
Lee wanted to try and catch a Whirling Dervish Show and we had heard of a free one from the guy at our hostel so we decided to go back to Khan El Kalili and walk around, pick up some last minute souvenirs for his family and then go to the show. Somehow we lost track of time and by the time we were done shopping, we realized the show had already started so we decided to just go and eat dinner at a nice restaurant instead…we were going to treat ourselves.
The restaurant we settled on was a mixture of Egyptian, Indian and Middle Eastern food. It was a pretty good meal and we ate a lot! The best part was I think we only spent about $50 or so; not bad considering all the food we got. We enjoyed each other’s company and I couldn’t believe he was leaving me in a few hours!
After dinner we went back to the hostel and just hung out…exchanged photos since I had taken so many - and made plans to meet again, possibly in Brazil (because as you know I’m afraid of that country!) and if not, definitely in NYC. At 11:30PM, it was time for him to go so I walked him out and sent him off in a taxi. It was sad as I saw him drive off and his last words to me were “see you in Brazil” and in response I said “I’ll be waiting!” So, we’ll see how that works out. Either way, it’s sad that it all had to end but as with anything, all good things must come to an end….I’m grateful to have met him and learned so much from him about Middle East history, culture, language that I really feel he enhanced my trip. I’m glad that I got to share all my Egyptian experiences with him and he will always remain very special to me.