*** Friday, 19May06 ***
Today, I took the Metro one stop and then walked to the Ibn Tulun mosque
and then on to the base of the Citadel and then to the Islamic Art Museum
and to the Metro for one more stop and back to the hotel. The route to
the Ibn Tulun mosque is littered with very old mosques that are standing
but in need of serious repair. Some of these mosques are from the 9th
century when Europe was in its Dark Ages.
of the Ibn Tulun mosgue.
For the first time on my many trips, I knew where I was every minute
of the way. My route was new, what I saw was new but I was sure of my
location at all times. I am getting the grip of getting around this city
*** Saturday, 20May06 ***
Went looking for Egyptian fridge magnets for Jarrod and Samantha -- and
found them. I went to the famous market here, the Khan al-Khalili which
originally (in the 1300s) was a caravansary. Today it is a huge mass of
small shops selling everything imaginable, including Egyptian-themed refrigerator
magnets. The Khan is a great place to shop or just to observe the bustle
of street life. Fortunately, the streets are too narrow for cars so you
only have to cope with buyers and sellers and tourists. It is a lot of
*** Monday, 22May06 ***
After work I walked over to AUC Bookstore hoping they had a book of maps
of Cairo. I never did find out because as I was about to enter the campus,
a sandy-haired young man with a red, scruffy beard spoke to me, pointed
at my Boston College cap, and asked me if I had gone to BC. He said his
name was Peter.
We talked a lot, for an hour and twenty minutes. OK, I talked a lot! But
he did get to speak and told me what campus life is like at BC these days.
Apparently a lot of things have changed since my days there. Peter is
a Junior and spending a semester abroad in Cairo. It has apparently taught
him to appreciate BC a lot.After eating at the local KFC, I walked under
Tahrir Square and on my way out I met two of the pool guys entering the
Metro. They were quite friendly, we shook hands twice.
*** Tuesday, 23May06 ***
Tonight I decided to go back to the AUC bookstore to get the map of Cairo
that I wanted. I gave my photocopy of my passport to the guards and they
let me in.
of the Ibn Tulun mosque with its unique outside staircase.
As I turned the corner I met Peter again. We both laughed. He asked why
I was there and I said that I was trying to complete the task that I had
interrupted to talk to him yesterday. I pulled out a personal card and
gave it to him and he laughed when he saw my five-year-old image and said
he would send me an email.
I went to the bookstore and found the book of maps of Cairo that I wanted.
I also looked for "Learn Arabic" computer resources but found
nothing that I think I could use. I did find out about two bookstore in
Talaat Harb Square that might be worth visiting.
One guy behind the counter of the bookstore had a Mac laptop! I asked
if it was so and he admitted it. I told him that I had a 17-inch PowerBook
that I thought was the only one in Egypt and he said that he had the newer
Intel model. I asked if he knew that he could run Windows on it and he
said that he did. "I only do it for games," he said, I prefer
the Mac interface for other work." A very savvy guy in Cairo.
When I go out on my hotel room patio, I look out to the West of the city
but, after dark, I am blinded by the lights the hotel has set up to flood
light the hotel and bring out its pink color. It is a symbol of something:
I can see distances but am blinded by the lights that flatter the building.
*** Thursday, 25May06 ***
Les had a going away party at the Marriott which I noticed has cheaper
prices for food. I was pleased to learn that there is a possibility that
the Marriott might become our preferred hotel. I would enjoy staying at
the Marriott rather than the Semiramis. The sunsets at the Semiramis are,
unquestionably, spectacular but there is more to living than sunsets.
I am ready for a new ambience and cheaper prices in the restaurants.
The Peskiness of Flies
Flies in Egypt think humans are here to entertain them. When they land
on your nose and you swat at them, they assume you want them on your ear.
When you swat them there, they take it as a message to change ears and
another swat tells them to land on your forehead, then on to the short
hairs on the back of your neck, and so on. This process generally results
in you flailing about like a deranged windmill with judgement so damaged
that you slap your ear so hard that produce a ringing sensation. The fly
thinks this is hysterical. Your opinion may differ.
*** Friday, 26May06 ***
This morning I had breakfast in the Cafe. Met Marcia, Bill and his wife.
Les stopped by and we wondered how Bob was doing. Paul told me last night
that Bob had passed out in the hotel elevator and the car stopped at a
floor and the doors opened and a woman was left to view Bob sprawled on
the floor -- a scene that only Alfred Hitchcock could love. Marcia gave
Les Bob's room number and Les said he would call and check up on him.
A young man
in a shop doorway.
Mohamed had told me that there was a mall called El Yamama in Zamalek
that had a shop that sold nice men's shirts (i.e., shirts for nice men)
and they were out of the main tourist areas so they wouldn't rip me off.
Today I set off to find the rumored shop by walking up the Nile Corniche
to the 6th of October Bridge, over the bridge and then North into the
Zamalek neighborhood of Gazira. I was very impressed with the neighborhood;
it was quiet, shady, and had nice housing. It is also home to a lot of
Embassies. Zamalek is definitely the nicest residential neighborhood I
have discovered to date.
On my way I found some very pleasant shopping areas and stopped into several
shops to look at the merchandise. The shop keepers were very accommodating
and not the least bit obnoxious. I even found a reasonably priced Hand
of Fatima, one of the few things that I had been asked to find.
On my travels I walked past a store with a fascinating display. The store
was open-fronted with a glass case parallel to the street. In the case
were two shelves. The front of the case was not vertical but angled back
so the top shelf of the case was a lot smaller than the bottom shelf.
The top shelf contained a dried starfish, a ceramic row boat, a woven
animal and other tacky bric-a-brac. Below this were large cuts of beef.
I asked if I could take a picture but the owner told me (with motions
only) that the images were state secrets (kind of like the Bush administration
keeps classifying everything as top secret) so I could not record the
scene for your edification.
I located the street the mall was on but walked to the end without finding
it but the walk was so pleasant that I didn't care. I walked on to the
Northern tip of the island and then turned around for my second go at
finding El Yamama. This time I was luckier and located the mall. It was
about five stories tall but had only about six shops -- none of them selling
men's shirts (nice or not). I still didn't care as I had seen several
men's shops on my journey. Soon I will do some comparative shopping and
prepare for the big moment of an actual purchase.
On my walk I took a lot of pictures including shots of a boy, a young
man and an older man. I asked each if I could take their picture and each
nodded agreement and none asked me for a payment. Altogether a very pleasant
*** Saturday, 27May06 ***
I was up fairly early and decided to eat in the Cafe and headed off to
Manyal Palace Museum. It is a fortress of a place on Roda Island with
the "treasures" of the collection of the last royalty of Egypt.
The included mosque was quite beautiful so I took some pix and got the
A ceiling in
El Manyal Palace.
inevitable tour that was ninety percent in Egyptian followed by the inevitable
tip. It was then that I realized I had only three one-hundred pound notes
left. Way too much to tip with and change was out of the question. I skipped
the stuffed animal collection (PETA would be proud of me) and visited
the house and looked around. Dark and designed to be impressive but not
my cup of tea. The garden had once been filled with exotic plants but
had been allowed to go to seed. All in all, a not very good day.
I used the maps I had and failed to find the very old mosque that was
in the neighborhood and turned down a street thinking it would take me
to the Nile but instead I found the mosque. I think I found it because
the entrance was five feet below the current ground level and that is
a common happening to old buildings but there were no English signs and
I couldn't risk being asked for a tip if I went in. I did notice that
the minaret had been updated with vertically placed neon lights circling
near the top so I'm sure I can find it again if I want to.
Well, the day was getting hotter so I went back to the hotel and went
to the pool to get some sun. I used the time to edit an important document
that needed a good edit. But would anybody notice?