Cairo Calling

Despite what our tour guide said, Cairo is not the third largest city in the world, only the 15th. Perhaps she meant the third noisiest, and if that’s the case, I sincerely don’t want to visit the second or first place winner. Traffic in Cairo clogs the streets all day and all night, and I’m not sure to what end. Neither will you be if you visit this chaotic place. There are no traffic lights, no stop signs, no visible lanes on the road, so horns are the mechanism used to assert a vehicle’s place on the road and elbow in and out of the endless flow.

There are some cars, but mostly Cairoites (Cairoians?) ride motor scooters. They are way too small to be called motorcycles. The riders make up for the smallness by loading as much stuff on to their conveyance as possible. I saw a woman in a burka balancing five children on her micro-bike, a guy with three crates of dates plus two passengers (holding down the crates of dates) that zigged and zagged and zigged and somehow did not die, and another guy with his three closest goat friends dodging a close encounter with our mini-bus, which was moving at tortoise pace towards our hotel. The two-wheelers played chicken with the chickens on the buses and trucks. No helmets need apply. All in a Cairo afternoon.

We did make it to the hotel, which was right on the Nile. At the entrance, there was an X-ray scanner where all your stuff went through. My stuff went through about 1,000 X-ray scanners during our trip. Everything in my knapsack was zapped into submission. I think my stuff is now certified for life on Mars.

Mr. Wahid greeted us as we got out of our van. His name tag said Mr. Wahid. We never learned if he actually had a first name. Our tour guide said we could feel free to tip him when we left the hotel. At that point, I wasn’t exactly sure what Mr. Wahid did, but I later learned that in Egypt one must tip everyone who glances in your direction, however fleeting the glance.

I stopped at the Marriott Bonvoy counter to make sure they had my Marriott number. Mr. Wahid seemed very happy to help me do this, although I couldn’t figure out why I needed help. Never mind. We headed up to our room to relax after the long flight and seven-hour time change. I put the Do Not Disturb on the door. A snooze ensued. Until the phone rang. I flailed about to find the receiver. It was Mr. Wahid. Because the DND sign was on the door, he wanted to make sure if we needed anything. No, Mr. Wahid. And if you think this will increase the tip you’re definitely not getting, it will not. (That part was my inside voice.)

The next day involved the requisite sight-seeing to the pyramids, mosque, and museum. It was dusty and chock full of antiquities, which I suppose excused the dust because antiquities are pretty much guaranteed to be dusty. We arrived back to the hotel, had a dinner that involved hummus and baba ganoush and various other dips that I would shortly learn would appear at every breakfast, lunch and dinner in the foreseeable future (not that there was anything wrong with that – the only thing that was consistently wrong was the beef bacon, but I digress).

Once again, I placed the DND sign on the door. We succumbed to jetlag an hour after dinner. I awoke with a start when the hotel room door opened. I yelled at whomever had decided to both disturb my slumber and barge into my room. Five minutes later the phone rang. Mr. Wahid. He wanted to make sure we were okay, because the DND sign was on the door. Well done, Mr. Wahid, said my inside voice. Is it possible to give a negative tip?

Another day of sightseeing. Various antiquities and veils of smog. Once again, the pillow beckoned early on the eve of our departure for points south on the Nile. Once again, a phone call awoke me. Not Mr. Wahid, but apparently an emissary of Mr. Wahid. They would like to deliver a fruit basket to us. To thank us for our Marriott loyalty. At least it wasn’t to thank us for our loyalty to Mr. Wahid. I declined as politely as was possible at that moment. Then tried my best to sleep before the next day’s crack of dawn flight to Luxor.

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