Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Letters from Egypt: Finally a Tourist

I have officially started my 9th month here as of March 10 and up until that time, I hadn’t done one touristy thing. I hadn’t even seen the pyramids from a distance until I rode with some friends to Alexandria on March 6. Well, with my first official weekend off, I went to the Khan el-Khalili.

Unfortunately, but not surprising, after the bombing, the percentage of visitors had decreased tremendously. Haggling prices were almost impossible – even though I tried in Arabic – because as revenue has been cut, most vendors were unwilling to budge. I will recommend that if you go, stop off at Fishawy’s and grab some sheesha. If you like shawarma, ask the man at Fishawy’s where to go – basically its located by the mosque. It was a lot better than I’d anticipated, but I still stake everything on the shwarma in Mohandaseen.

I ended up getting henna with some of my friends outside in the square and one thing I noticed was that all the Egyptians that passed were so friendly. They all stopped to speak and just had a pleasant smile. I’m not saying that Egyptians outside this place are rude, I’m just pointing out that I wasn’t expecting such friendliness. I suppose that it could be because they are excited that foreigners are there promoting the tourism industry – Egypt’s livelihood – especially after recent events.
I also went to a Bedouin show in downtown Cairo last week. The music was great, the atmosphere intimate and it was thrilling to see something so unique, yet privy to Egypt. It was located at a place called Al Makaan and is scheduled for every Wednesday starting at 9pm with a 20LE entry fee. The fee is nothing compared to what you’ll see. If you want to go, I suggest going with an Egyptian as it is a difficult place to find and very difficult to instruct the cab driver.
**On a personal note, today is St. Patrick’s Day. It is my favorite holiday and yet the saddest day. My father passed away four years ago on this day. It’s ironic that it would be one of my favorite days. Last year, I was incredibly sad although it had been three years. However, this year while it isn’t an afterthought, there’s something about what I’m doing in Egypt that brings me solace – or perhaps it is just Egypt altogether that brings me some peace.**
**Outting of the Week**

Cairo Jazz
197, 26th July St., Agouza (simple directions for any cab driver – Midan Sphinx, Mohandaseen)

I have to admit, this is one of my favorite places in Cairo. I always have fun here, perhaps that’s why I’m such a regular. The crowd is good, music is diverse (one week a Reggae band will be performing, next day a jazz musician, various house djs, etc). Now, as most of us know, it’s rare to find a bar/club that offers a decent food selection, especially a somewhat edible one. Therefore, you’ll be pleased with the items here. I will suggest though, if getting a chicken dish – as you should with ANY place – cut into the thickest part to ensure it’s been cooked thoroughly. I did have to send my dish back three times one night, but the chef presented me with a cheesecake at the end of the meal – so all was forgiven.

However, one word of caution to the wise, the door can be a little strict. If you are male, make sure you bring two females (more men, do the math – two females to every guy). Or simple solution, make reservations and/or arrive early (10ish). You can click the link above and even book online for your reservation.


Boss Bar in Maadi
Corner of 276 and 258 in New Maadi

I had originally started going to this place, as there aren’t many to choose from in Maadi and when first arriving, you’re too scared to venture out in a cab alone to meet friends (at least I was, there, I’ll admit it). Things have changed from when I previously frequented. That being said, there are some good nights, but make sure you go with a group. Females – beware of the douche bags present at this bar. They will hassle. Go in a group, a group with guys. However, the doorman Mohammad is amazing.

But as bars go in Maadi, you never know when it will be the trend again.