Day 95 – Day 1, 2011 or I’m on a camel

This is long overdue so we will jump right in.

We expected that the Cairo metro would have a stop near the airport, but that line is actually still under construction, so we had to find another way to get to our hostel. A man working at the airport directed us to a shuttle stop (unmarked) that took us to a bus depot. He told us what number bus we should take, but we can’t read Arabic numerals and anyways most of the buses weren’t marked, so we asked a man at the station to help us. It turns out he was a local tour guide who was going in the same direction, so he showed us what bus to take, how to pay, where to get off, and how to walk to the street our hostel was on. We were very lucky to have had him to help us, because the Cairo bus system is a little crazy. For the most part there aren’t bus stops, you just have to chase one down and jump in, possibly while the bus is still moving (they have the door always open for this reason).

Once we reached our destination, a man walks out of the building and starts to explain to us that he’s the manager of the hostel and that Dahab hostel is completely full because a large party of Norwegians came, but that we can have a room at another hostel he owns. We argue with him for a while, saying that we have a reservation and that we want to go up to the main desk to work this out,but he insists that all the rooms are full and that we need to go to this other place. Because it’s late and we weren’t really thinking straight (we were too used to things going smoothly in Europe), we followed him to this different hostel where we proceeded to argue with them for about an hour over the reservation, getting a room, the cost, whether we were terrible distrustful people, etc. But their story kept falling apart on a number of points (e.g. we were first told that there was no one else at Dahab, then we were told that they called the hostel and confirmed that there were no rooms left), so we started to walk back to Dahab. At this point the man blocks us, says that he’s already told us there’s nothing there, and tells us we should look for somewhere to stay in another direction. So we wait until he leaves and then go back. When he sees us again he starts yelling, but right then two other people walk in. We ask if this man really is the manager, and they say, “No, don’t listen to him, he’s crazy. Come with us.” So we finally just push past him and go up and check in around midnight. So it was an eventful New Year’s Eve.

The next day we went to the pyramids. We took the metro most of the way there, and while we were trying to find a bus to get us the rest of the way there, we asked a local guy for help. He showed us to where the bus would come, and offered to buy us tea while we waited. At first we were somewhat skeptical, particularly after the events of the previous night, but we talked to him for a while over tea and as it happened he was just a very friendly and hospitable guy about our age who was studying at Cairo University. He was going our direction because he lived right by the pyramids. We ended up stopping by his place to get an amazing view of them from his roof (also more tea), and then he showed us to a place that did tours of the pyramids on camels. We weren’t originally planning to do that, but it wasn’t a bad deal and we went along with it. The pyramids were as impressive as you’d expect–they live up to their hype. After that we were feeling a little overwhelmed by being out in Cairo, though (it’s a lot of culture shock after being in Europe for a couple months), so we went back to the hostel, got some local food called koshary for dinner (made of noodles, rice, and lentils), and turned in. The next morning we got up, got more koshary and some really good pastries, and made another long bus trek back to the airport to fly to Delhi.

-David