Last Egypt post! (Well, I'm thinking about one showing off all of the license plates - they use actual Arabic numbers, instead of the numbers we use that we call Arabic numbers.)
Our night train arrived in Cairo four hours late, and the man sent to meet us seemed awfully relieved at our arrival.
Things went totally smoothly at the hotel, and we quickly jumped a cab back to Islamic Cairo. We were wanting to wander a bit in the markets, pick up a couple of gifties, see more of crazy Cairo...
We started out with more fatirs, the pancakes which were our favorite Cairene eats. Egyptian Pancakes Houssen it is!
They aren't pancakes, of course, or pizzas, like the menu implies. They're fatirs, that Egyptian treat with the flaky pastry crust, but I think the menu was translated to help us white folks feel a bit more at ease...
We tried to order the "meat" pancake, but they were out. (of meat?) So, we got the "Eastern Hot Dog" and egg options.
These weren't nearly as good as the other ones we had at the restaurant near the Nile, but they sufficed.
We also ordered a dessert fatir, listed on the menu as "sugar and cream".
Or Karo and cheese... sort of the same thing. SO SWEET.
Bellies once more filled, off into the souk we went. You could easily spend months in this part of Cairo; there are so many mosques and madrasas to visit, never mind all of the stores jammed with silver, cloth, and household goods. Most of these spill out into the street - and where the shops themselves aren't in the street, enterprising folks have set up booths.
And, don't forget the extremely forward sales techniques - nobody actually grabbed my arm to drag me into a store, but it came very close!
You could even feel the craziness with half of the shops closed for Ramadan and Eid.
I was giving thanks for dryness underfoot. Apparently, burst water mains are really common in this area. Look at this picture, and imagine what it would be like if the ground was covered in water.
After making a couple of purchases, we stopped for a drink and sheesha at el Fishawy, an establishment that's been open for 200 years. Every day, according to our guidebook.
We got a bench seat quickly and ordered some tea and a shisha. I have no idea why the only kind we were able to order, anywhere, was apple - good thing we like apples?
The mint tea was quite nice, with actual mint leaves in the glass.
Since the sheesha pipe lasted us a really really long time (apparently, we're very slow smokers), we were able to order another round of drinks. I had a delicious mango juice that actually tasted just like mangoes, and Husbear ordered a sahleb. We saw a lot of people enjoying the drink, which is milk thickened with orchid root! It's served warm and SWEET SWEET with a topping of nuts and raisins.
We eventually relinquished our people-watching perch to go do a little more shopping.
We even tried our hands at a little bargaining, and felt pretty good when we were able to drop prices by half. I'm sure Mama Bear could have gotten them down another half.
There were mosques all over the place, but we didn't have the time needed to make a more in-depth study of the area.
Since it was getting late and we were feeling dusty and shopped out, we grabbed another taxi back to the New Palace.
It was getting on towards time to figure out dinner, and I have to say that after only five days we were really tired of Egyptian food, or at least the kind we found in restaurants! Fatirs were nice and all, but we had heard of a Korean restaurant in a hotel near the river.
Before you judge us, please realize that we haven't been out for Asian food since we left Austin, with the unfortunate exception of one horrific Chinese place here in town. We had a serious jonesing going on!
But, I mean really, Korean food in Cairo? What were we thinking? It was about as good as can be expected.
We ended up back at the Nile Hilton. Again. I'm not sure how that kept happening.
This time was a little different, though, because there was a wedding going on! You could hear it from outside of the hotel - drums and wind instruments and yelling and dancing and clapping.
We stayed at the Nile Hilton for a little while, enjoying some more of the Alexandrian Cru des Ptolomees wine and one last sheesha. We then walked home through almost deserted streets back to our hotel, passing a building under construction on the way. Here in the historic areas of Europe, when a building is under construction, it is usually covered with a screen with a painting of what the building would look like if it wasn't currently covered by a large sheet.
The next morning, we struck some poses for the mirror in our hotel room, because, you know, why not?
Then, we said goodbye to the hotel...
And then, a short taxi ride, and a squabble over the line for luggage x-rays, we said goodbye to Egypt.
I'm not sure if it's a testament to the foreign-ness of Egypt or that we've been in Italy for several months now, but coming back to Italy felt comfortable. Not like home, by any stretch of the imagination, but familiar.
It was wonderful to go to Egypt, but to be honest, I had a real sense of relief stepping onto the plane home. Egypt highlighted for me that there are some places that, no matter how much I try, I'll never blend in. It's a good lesson.
So, that's it on Egypt. Next, we went to a truffle festival in San Miniato last weekend with Auntie! Also, we went to an "international market" before leaving for Egypt that turned out to be full of delicious German sausages and Dutch pancakes.
And - omg omg - on Thursday, we are leaving for five days in Switzerland! Interlaken, to be more precise. Woot!