Friday, September 01, 2006
More shopping;-) for the new apartment and visit to the Egyptian Musueum
As always, I've had a last few exhausting days. On Thursday (yesterday), I woke up in my new capacious apartment, inhaled deeply as the light streamed in through my curtains, and wandered into my connecting bathroom to wash up. It was so wonderful to have my own space and not have to worry about whether I'm taking too long or wonder about the cleanliness of the space. My tiled pink bathroom has a very wide sink with an excellent drain (if you're a girl, you'll appreciate this) and a wondeful shower with excellent water pressure complete with a ledge behind to store all of the stuff girls deem essential. My room itself is actually rather plain, but I've spruced it up ;-) After lazing around for a little while, going down to the Metro and stocking up on paper products, lighting my incense to perfume my room (my new best friend), Frances and I went to Khan El-Khalil. We usually make Midan Hussein our base for exploring, and this was exceptionally significant today because a memorial sevice for the author Naguib Mafooz (I know I butchered his name) was held in the very same square earlier in the day. I know this because I flipped on CNN to discover a clip from the memorial service on TV. I was rather astonished to realize that I had walked in a place that was so recently in the news! Anyway, before entering the bazaar, we wandered into Islamic Cairo again and strolled down a crowded Egyptian street. I saw camel's feet, eggplant, cell phones, and Ramadan lamps all for sale within the same block. This neighborhood of the city is so antithical to my own that I can hardly grasp the superficial differences between cultures, let alone the little nuances. While we were walking, the call to prayer was announced from the various mosques in the area, and the noise filtered through the streets and surrounded you with an ethereal quality. Then, of course, the moment is broken by someone throwing rocks at you or proposing marriage. After wandering through the streets and admiring the amazing Arabesque architecture, we entered the Khan where I bought two poofs. They're basically cushions you stuff and set on the floor so guests have a place to sit, and they give my room a very Middle Eastern flair. Then, we wandered into the cloth makers' market, where some of the world's most beautiful quilts and wall hangings are crafted, I'm sure. Basically, people hand sew comforters, pillowcases, and other sized cloths decorated with painstakingly detailed lotus flowers, Arabesque swirls, Quarnic writing, and other patterns. Of course, I had to have one, and Frances and I visited one man's gallery, where hundreds of these were displayed. I cannot even fathom the amount of labor it took to craft the pieces he showed us, but I was impressed, to say the least. I looked at at least 50 before I knew which one I wanted, a gorgeous turquoise, black, and blue swirly pattern that currently adorns my bed. After a bit of bargaining, essential to any purchase in the market, I came away with my masterpiece. Later that night, after organizing my room, I visted my frinds at Cairo Khan, and my awesome RD, and got McDonald's at 1:30 am before taking a taxi back to my place.
Today, I had a date at 11 at the Egyptian Musuem (see above picture), which I kept, more or less, but was not terribly impressed with the museum. The artifacts themselves were endlessly fascinating, from the colossal stautes of Akentenon to the ancient papyrus scrolls of gods and goddesses. First, the guard at the gate was a little too friendly, professing his undying love to me and proclaiming my beauty. Then, cameras are not allowed inside, which is kind of a joke, because the museum is not air-conditioned, and the 100 degree humidity does far more damage to the relics than a camera flash. Even the Louvre allows you to bring a camera inside, if not use it everywhere. But no, I had to check my camera with a very dubious security lady. Then, the guard at the metal detectors (another joke, as I beeped but walked right on through), REALLY wanted one of my carabiner hooks on my backpack. Everytime I walked, by he'd ask. Rather annoying, esepcially since I offered him one if he'd let my bring my camera in, buy he said no. I'm trying to think of a better bribe ;-) Needless to say, we left soon after because of the oppressive heat. I've heard that they're building a new musuem out by the pyramids in Giza, with air conditioning, but, this being Egypt, who knows how long that will take. I whiled away the rest of the afternoon shopping along Talaat AlHaarb with friends, purchasing a skirt and two shirts, one without sleeves (scandalous, I know!) One interesting fact about Muslim culture: Don't go out with you're hair wet, as this is a strong indicator that you just had sex. To be honest, the reason for this is, after sex, you cannot pray until you've showered, so these two are irrevocably intertwined. Even Muslims don't entirely dispute this fact, so I plan on soon investing in a blowdryer. After this, we almost attended a concert, but that didn't work out, so I returned home. We rode the Metro to the AUC campus, and I was unabashedly impressed with the system. The station was spotless and clean, without a urine scent, and my blonde friend and I hopped in the all women's car (the front one). and were, for once, free of the brazen stares, points, gestures, and comments, of Egyptian men. The cab ride home to Zamalek was, for once, rather frightening. The cabbie took me through a more 'Egyptian' area, and suddenly a black man ran past shouting, followed by a gang of young men. The first man ran into a store, grabbing people and shouting. At first I thought he was robbing the store, but when the rest of the men showed up, I think he was asking for help. I didn't see what happened next, because traffic started moving again (thankfully), but I don't think I wanted to. When Egyptian women start fleeing the scene at an undignified run, it can't be good. I was locked in a cab, so I felt pretty safe (FYI mom). After returning home, I met Frances at a bookstore on Zamalek, very classy because it accepts credit cards, and bought some interesting Arabic fiction, translated, of course. Afterwards, we went to this wonderful Egyptian restaurant, Abu ElSaid, where I proceeded to down an entire bottle of wine ;-) Seriously, though, it was a baby bottle, and I didn't finish it all, and a weekend, so perfectly acceptable. When we asked the bartender, I thought the wine was 6 LE, but when the bill came, it turned out to be 55 LE. A bit of a surprise, but still under 10 dollars. The restaurant was disguised behind a very non-despcript pair of wooden doors, without a sign, but when I entered, the place was packed. And for good reason, with latticed iron lamps straight from Sheharzad, antique mirrors, velvet divans, and photos of the ubiquitious Mubarek. Very Egyptian!