Friday, October 13, 2006

Another week in Cairo

This has definitely been just another week in Cairo, lots of classes and quizzes, a visit to the Khan, late nights studying and breathing in the semi-fresh night air. One thing I must say about October in Cairo-It's hot! I really don't mind the heat, especially when I hear that it snowed in Minnesota (hee hee the high here is 90 today)! Supposedly, in the past, Cairo had cooled down by now, but with the excessive pollution (and trust me, the pollution is more opaque than pellucid at times), Cairo is one giant greenhouse that traps the heat, exhaust, pollution, etc. into the Nile Valley and cooks like an oven during the day. All rather fascinating to a Midwesterner who has never wanted to wear tank tops into October (of course, I never acutally would outside of the AUC campus, but it's nice to dream about days when I could wander around in tank tops unsolicited). Eid starts in a week, and I plan on spending much of it on the beach or at a desert oasis somewhere far from Cairo.
Not that Cairo isn't fun, of course. Frances and I went to Khan El-Khalili yesterday to observe the Ramadan festivities, and the zehma both there and back was atrocious, particularly in Zamalek-and with no air movement, the cabs soon became uncomfortably warm. Anyway, we disembarked from the cab into masses of people, as the Khan is the place to hang out during Ramadan. Lots of roving bands of young men troll the streets, and most only give you the cursory, you're blonde and therefore easy, but do nothing more; a few shout things (the best was a man who continued to shout 'water' at Frances and I, as if somehow that word has a salacious meaning?), and the very bold few grope. I wasn't really groped at all, which was quite a miracle, and Frances only received such attentions once, which made for a rather successful foray into the Khan. We stopped in a few shops, and I had a beautiful pearl necklace made for me (although they're cheap freshwater pearls, dyed light pink, beige, and cream). The shopkeeper wasn't terribly thrilled to make it for me, as I had selected three different strands of colored pearls and made him unstring them into one shorter necklace for me, but he ended up being very cordial, and the shop was so fascinating! There are the most wonderful bead shops in the Khan full of every stone, color, and shape imaginable, from coral to aquamarine to pearl to amethyst to jade to lapis lazuli, etc. After that, we pushed our way through the throngs to the always bustling cafe, Fushawi's, where we watched the world go by for about an hour and sipped karkaday. During that time, we had our hands painted with henna by one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen. She charged us too much, 15 LE, but the result is quite spendid. Tracing the design on my hand with a deftness I could never master, she then swiftly drew another design on Frances hand, added more details when Frances complained mine was better (it was;-) and was gone within 10 minutes. Fushawi's is a constant barage on the senses, as traffic is always bottlenecked in this area, music is blaring from various shops, salesmen and waiters are shouting at customers, and the air flow is obstructed by the narrowness of the alley and the teetering building on either side. After shoving our way through the crowds to get out, we felt a little better, as we learned out henna lady was also trying to charge Egyptians 20 LE for her services. Emerging eventually into Medan Hussein, we admired the plentitudes (is that a word?) of people sitting, talking, and smoking, and took a cab home. Unfortunately, cabs are alot more expensive to and from the Khan during Ramadan, and we paid 15 LE both times, instead of the usual 8 or so. It was worth it, though, especially after I showered and admired my purchases in the quietude of Zamalek.
Food. I like food, too much, and there are such varieties available, especially during Ramadan, that I want to try them all, but, alas I cannot, because of my stupid gluten-free diet. It's pathetic, but I end up eating at MCD more here than I do in the states, simply because it is the only restaurant nearby that has gluten-free stuff to go. One of the advantages to downtown is the proximity to a large quantity of cheap food, but I'm quite happy in Zamalek, especially after the cab driver incident at the Cairo Khan ;-) I tried to branch out my eating habits on Monday by buying some rice at the Metro, but it was apparently laced with gluten, because I spent much of the evening vomiting it right back out. I've been a little suspicious of the Metro since then, but I did discover (well, Franny did, and I copied her) that the Metro makes really good rotisserie chicken. I just bought half a chicken today (it was very small) for only 9 LE, and I couldn't help eating it all. Fresh dates have become one of my favorite fruits, and they eat just like an apple, but with a slightly drier flavor and texture, if that makes any sense.
Our landlord is here right now, and I've been neglecting him and making Ames deal with him, so I should probably go. Until next time...

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