One Night in Cairo

We arrived at Cairo airport from London at about midnight. We cleared immigration on the 2nd try, after we went were sent back to buy a Visa stamp. Fortunately, it was $15US each, rather than the $25 we expected. Upon exit from the arrival terminal, we were fully expecting to be swarmed by airport “touts”, and had spent time on the plane discussing our strategy. The best approach seemed to be to push through the wall of men offering help with a taxi or hotel, and negotiate closer to the street. The guide book said 35 Egyptian pounds (E£35) was a good negotiated rate for a taxi to the airport, but this may have been only from the city to the airport. After negotiating with several guys, an impromptu auction arose, with Patrick talking to a group of men all at once. Eventually Patrick got a guy to agree to E£45.

He walked us away from the airport and down a long tunnel, which was a bit worrisome. We got to his small car, and Patrick got his first request for baksheesh (alms or a tip) from a nearby taxi driver, which was declined, because this other fella hadn’t done anything for us. Diane rode with our packs in the back seat. Why? Because it is easier to exit the cab for the agreed upon fare if you bags aren’t held hostage in the locked trunk. The car didn’t move for about 3 minutes, which seemed like an eternity, but I think it was because it may have been prayer time, as a chant came across the car radio.

Exiting the airport, the driver wanted Patrick to pay the E£5 airport fee, and he wouldn’t until the driver agreed that his remaining fee would now only be E£40. A bit of shouting ensued, but he was under pressure because we were blocking the toll booth. He reluctantly agreed, but it didn’t seem like he was committed to it, or very happy about it. He drove us to town, but didn’t know where the hotel was. After talking to a number of cab drivers (some while both cab were in motion) and a couple of street police offers, we made it to a huge locked gate on a very dark and dusty street with a painted sign that said “African Hotel” illuminated by a single incandescent bulb. Diane stayed in the car, which we couldn’t afford to lose until we confirmed that we could get in, while Patrick checked the gate. There was an old man on a cot inside the gate, who rose slowly, almost painfully, to unlock the chain that held the very old heavy cast iron gates closed.

We walked down a large hallway into what was once a grand old colonial building, with sparse lighting illuminating pealing paint. We climbed 3 flights of wide stone stairs, following small signs that said “Africa”. On the 3rd floor, we found a small, dimly lit room with a desk, and a helpful young Egyptian. He had our name already written in a book, from our online reservation done in London the night before, the technological advancement of which was in stark contrast to the environment we now found ourselves in.

We were shown to a huge room, with 15 foot ceilings, high door ways, and 3 beds. You could tell this was once a beautiful old building. It still was, if you could see through the dirt and the many layers of cracking paint. The old floorboards flexed so much when Diane walked on them, she was worried she might fall through. The sheets seemed cleaned based on the sniff test, and we locked ourselves into the room using an old-fashioned key from the inside of the room.

At this point, Diane was stressed almost to her limit, and it took some time for her calm down. Patrick laid out our sleeping sheets (individual sleeping bag liners made of silk), into which we put our money belts and ourselves for safekeeping. Diane clung to Patrick as loud noises outside made sleep difficult.

We wrote this the following morning, so we obviously survived our first night in Cairo. It was an exhilarating introduction to one of the world’s great cities.

15 thoughts on “One Night in Cairo

  1. Bev

    Wow…We all look forward to hearing about your adventures. Good work Diane in making it through the first obstacle. You will be an expert by the time you return.

    Reply
  2. Norma

    Oh my it has just begun! All will be well. Go with the flow and enjoy. You will be safe my Diane and in no time flat you will be a pro and keep them all in line. Can’t wait to see you. Love from Aunty

    Reply
  3. Annette

    I feel like I’m watching a video that keeps buffering and I can’t wait for it to load so I can watch the whole thing. I’m anxiously waiting to hear more.Diane: You will look back on this and laugh one day.

    Reply
  4. Susan M.

    This is all so exciting…your descriptions transport me there…it’s like reading the script of a really good movie…can’t wait to get to the next scene! I’m thinking Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts could play the leads in your movie!

    Reply
  5. diva and indy...

    wow only 9.9 months left.. good thing you have 198 some odd ativan left.. eating them like candy yet??? Seriously, I am so proud of you sis, for getting through one night in Cairo (isn’t that a song?) oh that’s one night in bankok… you going there too?love you,shelley..

    Reply
  6. penny Pataki

    Can I make a prediction of where you may have gone next……????? How about a Bazaar to do some bargaining the Islamic way….Maybe the Alkhalili Bazaar in the Islamic Cairo. What part of Cairo are you in? Islamic part…Then you may hit the Citadel for a view. What is it like to Bargain for things in Egypt? Will you get some “clean” Egyptian air on the Nile on a Faluccca as they call them. I am curious about your observations of how and when the citizens pray…I hear that you may not get a good night sleep sometimes with all the praying!!Looking forward to more from Al Qáhirah and of course the pyramids close by.

    Reply
  7. Mrs. B

    You haven’t had a rat crawl across your chest as you lie “sleeping”, so all is well so far.Bill Bryson is a fantastic travel writer. Someone described him this way :”writes in a way that’s both trenchantly observant and pound-on-the-floor, snort-beer-out-of-your- nose funny”Before the days of blogs, he would travel/live in a place, and send “postcards” to a newspaper in the states. (where he’s from) You two could easily do that. What I’m saying is I accidentally snorted beer out my nose while reading your Cairo observations.

    Reply
  8. Adrian

    🙂 Pat, you are always true to yourself. You know 5 Egyptian pounds is only $1.13 Canadian, right?Anyways, good luck and have loads of fun as the adventure continues.

    Reply
  9. ms_piggy99

    sounds like you really are being baptised by fire on this one.. oh well a little while and you’ll have it all under control.. enjoylatest news I am leaving for Nairobi on May 6th so if you think you are scared think of me all by my self okay… see ya then love ya keep the info coming love to hear from you love aunty bjk

    Reply
  10. Jan

    I just caught up on your postings and am really enjoying your adventure so far! Diane, your standards of clean and safe will diminish dramatically over time and you will soon wonder what all the previous fuss was about.Stay safe and keep the entries coming!Janxo

    Reply
  11. moearn

    Hi you two.How priveledged to wake up yesterday AM & with coffee in hand read your blog & be transported into a completely different world.WOW!!How could you not fall in love with those adorable kids? Dianne, you are more than a trooper. We don't know how you made it thru that canyon. Our hearts stood still just reading about it.So good, as always, to hear from you. Keep safe & look after each other.Moe & Arlene

    Reply

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