Egypt: Day 1 by Maia Coen

  I arrived in Cairo last night after a grueling 26 hours of travel time.  I know I’m supposed to be writing about today but let me first tell you about my first night in Egypt.  Once out of the airport we hailed a taxi and sat back to enjoy the ride.  No seat belts were offered and no air conditioning was available, only open windows and a motor that sounded like it was on its last legs.  The seats were covered in duck tape and it looked like the meter hadn’t worked in years.    I have seen my fare share of traffic laws or lack thereof in my time but nothing has been quite like this.  The taxi driver weaved through traffic like a mad man laying on the horn at every moment.  He went through spaces an American driver would never dare to go through, weaved between busses making me wish our car would flatten like the bus from Harry Potter, and he only had one hand on the wheel, all the while blasting Egyptian music.  The side view mirrors, obvious causalities of the driving environment, were battered and cracked.  It was absolutely terrifying and I found it best not to watch.  If you can make it from the airport to the hotel in Cairo you can make it in Egypt.

Today I awoke to the Muslim call to prayer at 6:00.  Once packed up my father and I made our way to the breakfast room and waited for instruction.  There was no buffet, no menus, no one to ask if we would be getting served, and nothing that indicated we were going to get fed at all.  A woman finally appeared and fixed some things on the other side of the room and left.  I’m certain she saw us there but proceeded to come in and out of the room before acknowledging our presence.  When she came back for the fourth time she was carrying food.  She placed it on our table with indifference and walked away.  To put it simply our breakfast consisted of bread, bread, and more bread.  After our meal we headed back to the streets of Cairo to engage in another death defying journey through the traffic.

Our destination; The Citadel.  The fortress perched on a hill in the city center is a popular tourist attraction.  The fort itself is not overly impressive but certainly worth a visit.  The high walls were a deep burnt orange color that seems to be the norm here in Egypt.  Within the fortress there is a place where a broken clock tower stands overlooking the well sculpted architecture.  The story of the clock goes back years ago.  In Paris there is a beautiful large white obelisk standing overlooking the city.  This obelisk was taken in ancient times from Egypt.  In return for this magnificent obelisk the French gave the Egyptians a clock.  The clock never worked.  This was not a fair trade, to say the least.  After our pictures were taken and we were thoroughly satisfied with our visit we left the citadel.

We entered the streets in yet another taxi cab and went on to our next hotel.  This hotel was quite an upgrade from our previous one.  First of all this hotel had real opaque curtains.  Secondly it had air conditioning that didn’t sound like an obnoxious car engine.  Lastly the beds were comfortable and had good solid headboards instead of thin metal ones.  I settled into the new hotel and took a nap before returning to the lobby for our first tour meeting.  Everyone got acquainted or reacquainted and everybody laughed.  We had a nice buffet dinner with plenty of different options.  The day felt like it lasted forever due to jetlag, the heat, and the constant onslaught of dust in the air.  I was more than happy to return to my hotel room after such an exhausting day.  It was an excellent start to the trip and I can’t wait to see what happens next.  Now to the pyramids…