Saturday, October 14, 2006

A morning of mosques

Well, I probably should be studying for my TWO quizzes tomorrow, but I'd rather procrastinate a bit. Besides, every so often, I'll glance over at the words and convince myself that I do know something...I think I left off last time with a night at the Khan...well, the next night it was deja vu. I spent an incredibly luxurious Friday lazing around my apartment, sleeping in till 11 (wow!), running some errands, but by about 4 I became rather bored, and had little desire to study vocab, so I called my friend and set a date for iftaar at the Khan. Absolute insanity! The restuarants had seating that spread about 20 tables or more deep in Medan Hussein, and still we could not find a table. Eventually, one restaurant dragged a coffee table (literally, a coffee table), set it up to the side of a street, and sat us down. The space was a little cramped, but I reveled in every minute of it, the tides of people flowing in front of us, families, lovers, beggars, orphans, friends, the entire social strata of Cairo laid before us like beautifully patterned hijab that only reveals the surface qualities.
After our chaotic, and too expensive, dinner (the food wasn't very good, it was more the experience than anything), we wandered into the outskirts of the Khan to the start of the Muski (don't get me started on that!) I bought one of those beautiful and comfy tunic tops for 15 LE, blue with a pretty pattern down the front. During the bargaining process, someone grabbed my butt, and I turned around and smacked him, although it really didn't give me much satisfaction. I wish I would have done something more, but I wasn't sure what, and the lane was poorly lit and crowded. I got my shirt, and then we came back to my apartment and watched Shakespeare in Love, how I miss my movie collection! I wish'd brought more movies...oh well, I had to go to bed fairly early because of my tour the next morning.
Arising from bed is always such a process at 8 in the morning on a Saturday, but I managed, and was definitely glad I did. Most of Cairo is still asleep at 9, as were most of the ALIers, and so our tour group was very small, which was perfectly fine with me. First, we visited the Ibn Tulum mosque, an impressively simplistic mosque that dates back to the 9th century. The architect was truly brilliant, as the symmetry inside was astounding; even though pillars were used instead of columns, the architect had managed to convey a sense of openness and airiness, and each arcade allowed one to see the center courtyard from any angle. The beauty is difficult to convey on paper, but the sturcture was subtlely stunning, with ornately carved windows, over 140, opening onto the outside, each with a different geometric pattern. Because the Fatmids (I think that was the predominant dynasty, the details are a little sketchy) believed that excessive decoration distracted from the act of prayer, the lower areas of the mosque were rather plain with the capitals and arches were ornately carved. I learned lots of interesting facts, like one side of the mosque (remember, most mosques consist of a central courtyard surrounded by arcades), the east, is deeper than the rest to symbolize the direction of mecca, and thus, this is the direction from which the leaders preach and into whose wall the 'pulpit' and ornate recess is set. These things all have names, but they escape me at the moment.
After touring the inside of the mosque, we climbed the minaret, and this mosque just happens to have the only outside staircase in all of the city. Clambering to the top was well worth the effort, as it afforded not only gorgeous views of the city, but a rickety ledge upon which to crawl out and snap crazy pictures ;-)
Next door to the mosque was the Gayer Anderson musuem, actually two houses dating to the 16th and 17th century restored and converted into a museum of sorts by a British general in the 1920's. After spending half of my life reading books about life in the harem, cloistered behind latticed wooden screens, I finally peered through the small holes in the screens into the courtyard below. I could almost imagine a wealthy merchant welcoming male guests into the courtyard below, greeting them with loud salaams over the silver plashing of the center fountain, and then inviting them into the inner sanctum of the reception hall, reposing against plush cushions and gorging on sweetmeats and tea. All the while, the hint of whispers and the rustle of fabric idicated that the women had followed the men from room to room, always behind the screens, and now observed them bemusedly from an upper chamber. Well, like I said, I could almost imagine what life was like, although it was interesting to learn that women only remained sequestered behind the screens when guests came; the rest of the time, the roamed as freely as the men. Also, most of the houses of the time opened inward, not outward, so the balconies and such all faced a central courtyard, not the outside world. One disturbing collection of the museum was the birthing chair collection, a selection of rigid wooden chairs with a hole in the center, that apparently, was for the baby. No more comments on that!
A bit behind schedule, our tour group was hurriedly ushered into the bus to the next stop, the Sultan Hussein mosque and the Riffiqi mosque sp? These mosques are behomouths in size and grandeur; the first one, built by the Mamluks in the 13th century, was positively colossal, with ceiling stretching hundreds of feet above ones head, decorated with carved wood, gold, and paint, especaially red and white. The Mamluks did not the same restraint on oramentation that the Fatimids did; there structures were covered from floor to ceiling with decoration; this mosque also used to be a school, so it was even larger to accomodate discussion and classroom areas, as well as prayer areas. The call to prayer was announced, and a group of several men were praying before the altar as we toured; I felt slightly voyeuristic watching them, but the ritual was a bit memorizing. One of my teachers had told me that the women always pray behind the men, because if they prayed in front, then the men would be too distracted my their behinds to concentrate on prayer. Apparently, females do not harbor such craven thoughts...After that mosque, we went next door to the Rifiiqi mosque that served mostly as a mosoleum and shrine to a Sufi saint, Rifiqi. Built in 1869 but not dedicated until 1912, the mosque was built in the Turkish style, but still incorporated many elements of the Mamluk dynasty (the Mamluks ruled from something like 1260 to 1511 and were former Eastern European slaves turned rulers). Because the saint's grave was already located in the area, the mosque just built up around it, incorporating in into the numerous mausoleums and central prayer area design plan of the mosque.
Well, that's enough touring info for one day. After the tour finished, some friends and I grabbed lunch at McDonald's and then I went home for a nap and quick study session before a Thai food party at a friend's house. She happens to live in Embassy housing, and, my God, I think I'm in the wrong profession. My apartment's nice, hers is gorgeous. I mean, she's got a dishwasher, microwave, washer AND dryer, as well as beautiful wood floors and furniture and glossy white walls. And she had Tootsie Rolls (sigh!) It was a little slice of Americana.

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...

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Dahab and Mt. Sinai

Another truly amazing weekend...I got back at 12:30 last night after an arduous 10 hour bus ride, and I had to do some homework before going to class at 9:30, so this is my first chance to write.
As I had mentioned, we left for Dahab at 12:15 am from the Ramses bus station; the four of us-Frances, Akshaya, Phil, and I crammed into one cab with all of our luggage. I, of course, brought prodigious amounts because I have never learned the concept of traveling light. Maybe the safari will teach me...Anyway, the bus ride to Dahab, a city on the Sinai pennisula an hour past Sharm El-Sheikh, was uneventful, especially beacause I slept much of the way. I don't think I've ever been cramped into such a small space for so long; the seats are smaller than an airplane's, and not as comfortable. Anyway, we arrived in Dahab around 10 in the morning, having passed through numerous check points (these take awhile, as they check everyone's passport each time) along the way. Security in the Sinai region is extremely tight due to the slew of bombings in the area in the past few years. Sharm's been hit several times and Dahab just once last year, and, throughout our stay, we noticed a significant paucity of tourists in the town, at least compared to most coastal cities. My roommates and I had reserved two rooms at a place called the Christina Beach Palace for 220 LE per room per night, but, the 'taxis', i.e. back of a flatbed, had drivers that pushed their own lodgings on you. As my companions were willing to look into these (I'm a bit of a hotel snob, but I tagged along gamely), we ended up staying at a place called the Spinx hotel for 60 LE a night. The old Sphinx, mind you, not the New Spinx hotel, which is much nicer. Our place was adequate, on the ocean, and had a private bathroom, although the shower did not have a curtain and the toliet had an annoying habit of draining to fast. Thus, I had to race against the toliet and fill the tank up with water from the sink, very exciting, mind you. Frances and I have progressed far enough in our relationship to now share a bed, as the only room available with an ocean view had one large bed. We only slept there one night, so no problem, I try not to snore too loudly. Dahab itself was a divine mix of laid-back beach atmosphere and Bedouin tradition. We knew when we got on the bus, surrounded by younger white people and older hippies, that Dahab appeals to a different sort that Hurghada. But, honestly, I preferred the atmosphere of Dahab to Hurghada. Short, tank tops, bikinis, anything was acceptable, and you were not restricted to your hotel, but could wander along the corniche with the ocean lapping gently a few feet away. Recently constructed, the corniche is one of the aspects that made Dahab wonderful-it's a cobblestoned walkway that runs along the shore from the tip of the laguna to the end of the row of stores. Oh, yeah, and the hotel only had saltwater spouting from the taps, so I didn't actually shower for three days ;-) I figured, what's the point, I went swimming multiple times each day, and I wouldn't even be washing the salt off. The first day, I changed into my swimsuit and ambled down to the beach cafe and sprawled out onto one of the incredibly comfortable chairs right by the shore. The cafe, the Funny Mummy (the best name in the town, in my opinion), was one of the typically 'Bedouin' cafes, with low cushions propped on the ground for chairs and quaint little tables for eating and drinking. The staff were, as always, very attentive, and found us highly amusing, as I speak some Arabic and Frances can carry long conversations in Arabic. They also had succulent, fresh fruit juice smoothies in giant glasses with fresh slices of fruit adorning the sides for only 12 LE. We swiftly concluded that the owner, Jimmy, was either always high or ADD because he never failed to shout amusing things and us or laud our presence with racuous applause. The beach was not a true beach, but a corally beach with tide pools at low tide and calf-deep water at high tide, with a sudden, precitpitious, 100+ meter drop to the depths not far from shore. Still, it was fun to wade around and cool off. Lounging around for much of the day, we sunned, dozed, browsed the shops in town, and eventually split up. I flagged down one of the men selling horseback rides and took off at 4 with him.
Now these were not the typically docile nags by the pyramids. No, the horse he put me on was a half-broken 3 year old filly (by his own admittance, too, he kept on saying she was 'new' and not fully trained) named Amira. She was definitely Arabian, and a truly beautiful grey-coated horse, but was simply too much for me to handle. Learning that I am not an expert rider was slightly painful, but, I suppose, necessary to my pride. We took off riding down the road, and she kept breaking into a trot, but I reined her in, slightly uncomfortable with the fact that she didn't always respond to me. We reached a stretch of deserted beach, and he asked me if I wanted to gallop. Of course I said yes, and kicked Amira after my guide's horse, thinking her gallop would be the rolling gait of every other horse I'd ridden. No, her muscles bunched beneath her, and we flew! Her legs churned the sand faster and faster, and the beach became a blur, and I soon realized we were charging at a full gallop down the beach towards a wall, and tried to rein her in, but she just surged forward, skirted the edge of the wall, brushed up against it, stopped and threw me. Well, alright, I didn't fly so much as pop out of the stirrups, over her neck, and into the soft sand. Neither of us was injured, although I was peeved at myself, and I got right back on her, brushing off the guide. We continued down the beach in a slower fashion, although I still could barely control her. She certainly wasn't bolting, but she wasn't obeying me either. We met up with my friends at the laguna, a swimming sandy beach, and they tried to pet her, but she shied away, tossing her head and prancing. Finally, after many frustrated attempts to have her stop for a picture, I succeeded, dismounted, and switched horses with my guide, and enjoyed a much more pleasant ride back. He had to deal with Amira's incessant recalcitrance, and I could enjoy splashing in the surf. We even galloped a bit, and, although my horse took off sprinting extremely fast, I did manage to stop without hitting anything. I made it back to the hotel, famished, and let Akshaya and Phil have a dinner to themselves while Frances and I found another cute little cafe seaside at which to dine. The seafood in Dahab is superb, freshly caught, and I enjoyed a pleasant meal of snapper, rice, ice cream, pop, and several other items for under 20 dollars. Our dinnermates, seated in the square of cushions next to us, were always rather fascinating. They were employees on the Norwegian cruise ship that sails Hawaii, and they regaled us with tales for hours life from a staff's perspective. We also enjoyed fending off the proverbial cats that would patrol the restaurants in search of a dropped morsel; all of the cafes provided squirt bottles full of water to fend off unwanted felines, and we waged a successful war against roving kitties.
After a good night's sleep, very chaste, we both kept to separate sides of the bed ;-), Frances and I were up early to eat and do a bit of homework. We booked an excursion through the hotel 'concierge', i.e. Jimmy, but it was only 25 LE and worth every piaster. We excursioned to the Blue Hole, an amazing reef area about 25 minutes from Dahab via the covered back of a jeep or switchback and pot-holed, unpaved roads. It was, bar none, the best snorkeling I've ever done, and if anything were to ever convince me to dive, this was it. The best way to see the Blue Hole is through a scuba mask, but I still enjoyed the snorkeling immensely. A ring of coral with a center shaft of blue nothingness, the Blue Hole lived up to its reputation, with fantastic, pristine walls of never-ending coral encircling a slightly eerie 'blue hole', the bottom not even visible in the crystal clear water. On either side of the blue hole, as one part was sunken to allow access into the ocean, walls of coral stretched up and down the entire coastline, even more spectacular than the Blue Hole. The coral here was unlike any I'd ever seen in terms of species, variety, abundance, and color. Blues, purples, pinks, greens, sea fans, elkhorn, brain, everything was there, phenomonally healthy and teeming with beautiful fish. On one side lay the vast ocean, a muddled shade of blue extending down and outward farther than I cared to discern, and on the other side grew the reef. Among other things, I saw another lion fish and a school of scintillating silver fish. I wish I had purchased a camera, but that means I'll just have to go back ;-) After a successful arguement with the transportation, who wanted us to sit at the Blue Hole for several more hours, we caught the jeep back home, again sharing it with two Canadians, an Australian, and a Norwegian, minus the two Swiss guys who rode over with us.
I am rather stupid person at times, and that afternoon was no exception. I had run into my horse guide earlier, and decided to go riding again that afternoon, I thought on the gentler horse. Mentioning, apparently while he was within earshot, that Amira was crazy (she was!), I had mortally offended him (as he told me later), and so he gave me Amira. I wanted to tame the beast, so I obliged and got on. I figured it would be about an hour and a half ride on the beach again, so I wore stretchy capris, a bikini top (like I said, I'm a idiot), and, of course, shoes. No, this time we would ride into the mountains for two hours, which I agreed to, not really thinking properly. Passing the outskirts of Dahab, I realized that we had left the touristy area and were now in place where the Egyptians live. Well,that was fun, I even posed for a random guy's cell phone camera so he can now have wonderful fantasies about the blonde girl in a bikini astride a horse. I never felt unsafe, though, or I would have turned around. The horses made it off the road without getting spooked, although I worried slightly when a cavalcade of dune buggies roared passed, and we even managed a gentle canter without any issues. We tried to stop for a pictures, and then Amira started acting up. More aggressive about my desires, I dismounted without being told and handed the reins to the guide. Switching horses, we continued into the mountains themselves for a good hour, eventually reaching a canyon where we had to turn around. The guide took a few pictures for me, and, as he was handing the camera back, asked me if I wanted to do anything else. I'm a bit naive, I'll admit, so I looked around, saw a lone tree, rocks, and dirt, and said no and turned my horse to the exit. It wasn't until later that I realized, I think, that he was asking if I wanted to have sex. Honestly, what else was there to do? He couldn't eat (fasting), and my bikini top probably gave the poor man too many fantasies too control. Anyway, we turned around and headed back into town, now over two hours into the ride, with another good hour left to go. Amira bolted a few times, and my horse followed suit, so I wasn't terribly inclined to give them the signal to gallop, so we marched slowly down the highway; I seemed to attract horns and random stares like a magnet, which didn't help my horse's nerves. The sun had set and the moon was beginning to rise before I reached the beach, paid the man, and scurried off to meet Frances, to whom I'd promised to meet before sunset to go swimming in the laguna. Well, we had a moonlight swim, which was actually very enjoyable, especially after the hot horseride, and grabbed some grub before the trip to Mt. Sinai.
The best way to see Mt. Sinai is by sunrise, so most climbing trips arrive at the area around one in the morning to begin the trek up. As Dahab is two hours from Mt. Sinai, we left to hotel around 11, curled up for a nap in the mini bus, and stumbled out at around one to gaze at the craggy black mountains outlines against an etherally blue night sky pinpricked with stars. I hadn't really considered the fact that I was going to climb Mt. Sinai. Until we arrived there, it was just another thing to do. Then, as we gazed at the range of mountains enveloping us with blankets of deep blackness, I began to realize that this is THE Mt. Sinai, where God had spoken to Moses thousands of years ago, where the burning bush had appeared before him, where he had received the 10 commandments at age 80. Of course, we were not the only climbers, there were plenty of tourist buses to fill the parking lot, but there was enough mountain to spread us out. Alright, I should probably confess that I did not actually climb Mt. Sinai, but rode a camel up most of it. Many entrepeneurs hark there wares here, and camel men are no exception. Supposedly, our fee that we paid to the hotel included a 'guide' for the night, but when three of us told him we wanted camels, he responded ok, 65 LE per person. That seemed a little steep, so we brushed him off and 'negotiated' down to 50 LE with little arguement. Phil and Akshaya were wavering over whether to walk or ride, but there was no way I was going to walk ;-), so I let a camel boy pull me along and find me a camel, leaving my friends behind. For a moment, it was comsummate chaos, walking up the slope to the mounting point, jostled by camels, camel boys, hikers, and pilgrimers singing songs of praise to the Lord. I mounted, met the boy who would lead the camel (see, I really didn't have to do anything ;-), waited for a British woman to join us, and set off. For awhile I felt like I was walking through time, swaying to the gait of the camel, watching Mt. Sinai slowly come into focus, and imagining that Moses had himself trod these same stones, and I almost, almost, felt a spiritual ephiphany, but realized that I was waxing too cornily, and returned to the moment. Eventually, we reached the end of the trail, having passed the poor souls who were walking with their own power, got off, rested from the exertion of riding (I rode Bedouin style, kind of like sidesaddle ;-), and looked for the summit. Oh, wait, there were 753 more 'steps' that we had to surmount before we could achieve the top. And they were, of course, not normally sized stairs, but jagged, twisting, turning stairs that taxed me a bit, I must say. I reached the summit at about 4:15-4:30, and bundled up in my sweatshirt until the first glimmers of light peeked over the horizon. I was not alone at the summit, but had arrived early enough (although Frances, Phil and Akshaya, the latter two who rode camels, had beat me) to secure a seat right at the edge of the mountain, facing east, for an unobstructed view of the sun. The top or mountains are never flat, and Mt. Sinai was no exception, but a tilted slope of several precipices and even a small chapel to welcome the sun every morning. Despite the numerous perches one could find on the summit, I happened to find one that was on top of Phil and Akshaya's feet, bundled as they were in a Bedouin blanket they had rented from the ubiquitious hawkers even at the top. As much as I love words and loquaicity, words simply cannot describe the sunrise from Mt. Sinai, only my pictures can do it any sort of justice, and not much. Frances found us not long after sunrise, and we waited for the crowds to trickle down before we began our descent.
There is a monestary near the base of Mt. Sinai, St. Catherine's, that is Greek Orthodox. At some point in its long history, a monk, in repentence for some sin, had carved a series of steps most of the way up the mountain, different from the sloping path I rode up. After descending the intial 753 stairs, we found the Steps of Repentence, and my calves began to repent ceaselessly about halfway down. Whatever sin the monk had committed, it must have been truly grave to warrant such torturous treatment. The climb down these steps took about two hours, and then we waited for about half an hour to go inside the monestary. Entirely enervated, I dozed briefly, but jostled my way into the monestary, thinking that I'd bop in, see the church, and bop out, as visitors are not allowed to visit much of it. Then, Frances mentioned that the burning bush was over there. The burning bush? But there it was, still thriving after all of these years, its vines dangling into the pathway with nonchalance. Now, of course I cannot confirm that this is The Burning Bush, the selfsame plant that blazed with God's voice in instruction to Moses, but, at some point, faith must endure, and it did. After the bush, I wandered into the entrance of a little museum of rare icons and relics with Phil and Akshaya. The fee was five LE, and they weren't that interested, but I was intrigued, so I paid the fee and walked in. It wasn't huge, but the museum contained items dating back to the 6th century, the paint still unfathomly vivid and striking. Old Bibles, translations and other things occupied me for a little while, and, on the way out, I stopped to thank the father. We had chatted briefly earlier, about where I was from, etc., but he told me to wait a moment, and he left to front desk and took me on a little tour and gave me the history of many of the artifacts. Then, he asks if I have a camera, and he invites me to take pictures of whatever I want, even though photography is strictly forbidden. I think he was truly fascinated by the fact that I was interested in the stuff, and actually paid to enter, as most everyone else there was on a package tour with tour groups. He was extremely kind, a bit monkish with pepper gray hair and a long beard. Then, I realized it was after 10, and my shuttle bus was going to depart 10, thanked him again and promised to return, and ran out to catch the bus. From there, we went back to the motel, checked out, went for a quick swim, and caught the 2:30 bus back to Cairo.