Thursday, September 13, 2012

Round about Cairo (27 Oct 2008)

It's my first full day in Cairo. Let me start by saying that my friend Alane, who once told me that Athens was a "dirty city," has obviously never been to Cairo. Cairo doesn't have the profusion of graffiti that Athens did, and both have, I think, an equal share of crumbling buildings, but the accumulated grime that coats everything is amazing to me. The balcony of our room looks out toward a building that seems brown at first glance, but upon closer inspection, is actually red. And there's enough garbage on the street to put other middle eastern countries that I may have inhabited to shame (no offense to the continuing inhabitants of that country, but they know as well as I do that when instructions on how to get to the cold store involve, "turn right at the garbage pile," and movies previews stress not littering rather than not pirating, you know you've got a problem...just apparently not as much of a problem as Cairo). We thought that the logical place to start was in Khan Al Khalili (the souq or bazaar here), but I have to say, I was a little disappointed. I've visited a number of souqs now, and maybe I was just too early to get the full effect, but actually, the persistence of the shopkeepers at that hour (10-12-ish) was already enough to make me grind my teeth a little.
I figured we were so close to Islamic...oops, apparently Islamic is supposed to be off-putting to foreign tourists so they call it Fatimid close to Fatimid Cairo that we ought to just cross the street and explore. Belinda has misgivings about my ability to navigate, but I feel I acquitted myself pretty well today. Over the footbridge and past several mosques, we came to Bab Al Zuweila, a kind of a gate with two minarets looming upwards, that we were able to climb to get a partial panoramic view of Cairo (turns out it's a pretty fricking big city).
Right after that we came to the tentmaker's market. The kinds of colorful, silkscreened fabrics that Belinda's studio are hung with are on sale there, as well as incredibly beautiful, intricate quilted wall hangings and other goods that have the same kind of arabesque design. This was probably my favorite part of today's wanderings. Then onwards toward the Citadel (which we didn't actually enter), past Cairo's Blue Mosque, which is currently kind of in ruins but UNESCO has it in on it's "To Do" list. And finally back to the hotel.
I wanted for us to go to a belly dance show at Haroun Ar-Rashid tonight, but when I phoned for a reservation, it turns out nobody's performing tonight. However, tomorrow night DINA is there, so we made the reservation, and I am seriously excited about it!!! Dina is one of the best known Egyptian dancers at the moment, and there is just something super cute and sexy about her style. Okay, I'm going to stop gushing like a giddy schoolgirl, but be ready for possibly more gush on Wednesday (eeeeeeeeee!)

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