Monday, August 28, 2006

Night of Sheesha

I have had an absolutely crazy past few days! I've hardly been in my room except for sleeping. Last night our awesome RA, Dina, took us to a beautiful restaurant on the Nile, Sequoia. All eighteen of us piled into 4 cabs and eventually arrived on the other side of Zamalek. We slid into two couches right next to the Nile, with palm trees waving in the breeze, soft lighting barely illuminating the tables, and picturesque views of the river. The restaurant has a 50 LE minimum, which is very easy to spend if you order food, sheesha, and drinks. Yes, that's right, Laura smoked sheesha, and it was fun! Mine was peach-flavored and bubbled pleasantly while I poofed smoke at the Nile. It was such a relaxing evening, reclining on our couches, smoking sheesha, drinking (well, for me, Diet coke), and sinking into the placid rhythms of Egyptian life. Of course, reality surfaced and we had to return to the chaos that is Cairo Khan. Getting a cab is always an experience, not the least because foreigners often seem to be charged more. Downtown is such a seething pit of life! I'll be happy to move to the much quieter Zamalek, but sad to leave my great friends.

The fifth mysterious roommate showed up in our apartment, and she's Egyptian (well, American Egyptian, but she's got family here). Now we've got a full house, but I'll be gone soon, although Sherine is really great! She knows all sorts of great restaurants and hotspots for us to hang out at. First, before I could have any fun, I had to take an Arabic placement exam for the ALI program. The ALI office finally decided to reveal themselves to us, although it was generally unruly and an extremely difficult test. I'm praying for good results tomorrow! After that, we wandered into the Egyptian Museum gardens, and my friend and I, Tanya, had alot of fun laughing at the tourists. Honestly, if any of you come to Egypt or the Middle East, don't dress sluttily, provocatively, or otherwise inappropriately. This means no tank tops or shorts. Yes, I know the temps are over 100 F, but just sweat it out, we do! By the end of the day, you will relish that shower, let me tell you. After wandering the museum, we took a cab to the mohendiseen neighborhood and visited a salon there. I had my arms 'sweeted', basically, waxed, but with this sugary, sticky, lemony substance that pulls hair out. A little painful, but I love the results! I also got a pedicure, and the total cost of my visit, with tip, was less than 10 dollars. Definitely not breaking the bank, mom!
After that, we visited Khan El-Khalil and just wandered the streets. You have no idea how many people can fit into one small alley until you have traversed these streets. Not the touristy area, but the stalls where Egpytians buy clothing and other goods. Wall to wall, elbow to elbow people, as far as the eye can stretch! Overwhelming, but amusing, and surprisingly safe! Other than those always appreciated hisses, catcalls, "Hey babe", and other lines, I felt pretty comfortable. One thing that amazes me-I see fully veiled women walking down the street, and then see them stop and paw through extremely hideous tight piles of men's underwear or barter over lingerie that I would not find in the U.S. I mean, these things are risque little teddies and bras that can really serve only one purpose, and it's not functionality. Anyway, I came back from that a sweatball, and ran into my roommates leaving for a resturant on the Nile, and I couldn't pass that up, so we went to a boat on the Nile, Nile City, and dined in a very nice Egpytian restaurant. We had a bit of trouble coordinating the cabs to drop us off at the right spot, but fate was with us, and we ended up happily dining in another charming place! I was such a tourist, whipping out the tripod for my camera and snapping a few nice photos. Cairo traffic always makes me laugh. Back home, we obey traffic laws and walk signals, but here, these things don't exist. We simply cross into the street amid honking cars and pray the drivers don't hate Americans;-) Seriously, though, it is like a scene from a movie where the star darts out into oncoming traffic and barely makes it across, but it's like this everyday! Tanya had it right, it's just like frogger! Honestly, though, everyone will stop for you, they may honk and act angry, but they'll stop.

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