Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tourist Tuesday

As is suggested by my corny, alliterative title, we did a lot of touristy things today (or even typically Egyptian things). I've mentioned before that I am nothing of an early riser here in Egypt and thus it was that I slept until 11:30 or so (which is a bit early for me, really). Graciously, Ross took over my role as host and took Brian to get juice and food and visit Cairo Tower for a view of the city. The juice has become something of an addiction. I think Ross and Brian made it to Mohammad Ali (the juice shop) some three or four times today and made a stop at another juice shop closer to Midan Tahrir. They came back to the apartment by which point I'd gotten ready, had my habitual breakfast of muesli and yogurt, and even managed to work on one of my paper's a bit. Soon we were out and about, passing a detached hoof left over from the Eid on our way down Tahrir Street. That didn't diminshed our appetites though and we headed straight to lunch--koshary at Koshary Tahrir. Brian was a big fan and I have to admit that the quality of the food is better at Koshary Tahrir than at our neighboring koshary joint, though it's vice versa for the service. Our next stop was Coptic Cairo where we visited the Hanging Church and made friends with a few of the girls our age who serve as guides there. In addition to Arabic, one of the guides spoke French and Portuguese, another English and Spanish, and yet another English and German. Brian and I spoke in French, but respectively, we also threw out some Portguese and some German and Arabic. We also stopped by the Ben Ezra Synagogue (Egypt's oldest, dating from the 9th Century) where an Egyptian tourguide was giving a rundown on the place in fluent Mandarin Chinese.
Phil joined us part of the way into our wandering the area and came back downtown with us to our place where we hung out for a while before trekking up some of the most congested streets in this part of Cairo. The amount of people was overwhelming in stark contrast to the calm we experienced yesterday. The weather today, though, was just as perfect. Absolutely gorgeous. We had dinner at a place that Ross and I had gone to months ago. It was even better this time: clean, the "special beans" were delicious. It was basically unmashed ful with peppers. We all enjoyed pretty standard (and cheap) Egyptian fare. Next, we made our way to El Abd, a celebrated pastry shop in the heart of Wust al-Balad (downtown), and decided Ross would be the one to navigate the absolute madness inside to secure us a half-kilo of baklawa, konafa, and more. All that hard work ended in one of the many juice breaks which in turn was followed by our heading to the ahwa (café) where I've played my games of towla. Ross and Phil shared shisha, and we exchanged all sorts of stories. It's a blast having Brian here and that we've managed to drag Ross away from his papers. Marise and Jenn joined us and then the whole lot of us (sans Ross, who we again lost to wise studiousness) headed to Garden City where we caught a felucca. We shared our pastries with Jenn and with Marise (whose birthday it was), but also the boatman who snuck a couple more than we'd offered when we were taking goofy photos at the bow. The boatride around the nile, though, was fantastic. The views were great and I couldn't have been in better company.
Tomorrow, the six of us are reconvening to visit not just the pyramids at Giza, but also the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, and those at Memphis. It should be a lot of fun and hopefully followed by a bit of shopping in the Khan. It's too bad Brian's leaving so soon and the reality of my papers is lurking in the background--I could really get into this tourist stuff!

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