Back in Africa

Day 37
Cairo, Egypt

It was a stressful day of traveling — starting in Santorini, where paranoid tourists furiously pushed and shoved through an interminable line at the airport out of fears that after yesterday’s strike, the only afternoon flight off this island had been overbooked. In Athens, the far from competent counter clerk gave me a minor heart attack after she couldn’t locate my reservation until she had made several phone calls in a language that’s Greek to me (no pun intended). Then, aboard an ancient EgyptAir jet, it was hard not to close my eyes and just hope that the plane would return to its motherland in one piece.

Alas, I’ve arrived in Cairo, my sixth country on this trip around the world. After buying a visa, getting stamped in and finding my backpack, it was time to brave the fast-talking cab drivers, who were ready and waiting to take me for a ride. I’ve learned some lessons since Morocco — fares are always negotiable and never pay more than you’re supposed to. The touts came almost immediately: starting at 110 Egyptian pounds, or about $20USD. My magic number was less than half that. It took some persistence and haggling, but eventually I’d found my man, agreed on the 50 pound price and hopped in his junker black and white taxi. Patting myself on the back, we exited the airport parking lot, at which point my cabbie turned around and said, “You pay.” After an intense stand-off, grudgingly, my wallet was opened to fork over another 5 pounds for his parking — ridiculous, but guess you can’t win them all.

We drove through the somewhat controlled chaos that is Cairo traffic. Horns are constant. There literally isn’t more than a second or two without someone blasting one — either in a friendly “hello,” or more likely, a “get the hell out of my way!” Although walking through the metal detector at the entrance to the Victoria Hotel was an ominous welcome to where I’ll be spending the next two nights, the accommodations here are actually quite pleasant. The building is over a hundred years old and has what Lonely Planet calls a “faded grandeur revamped in 1970s look.” The ceilings are high and my room, #127, is quite spacious.

Plus, the phone is really cool and retro. These probably sell in SoHo now for like $200 bucks.

After settling in and taking a little stroll around the neighborhood (note: cross streets by tailing the locals), it was back to the hotel for some dinner and a couple locally-brewed Stella beers. My trip with Intrepid through this country kicks off tomorrow morning.

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