The First Two Hours in Cairo by Nigel Snow
from : A bar frequented by explorer types, Windsor Hotel. Cairo.
"Hello, welcome to Cairo. You look friendly, where are you from? You need a hotel? I am a Bedouin but we don't live in tents. I live near the Pyramids and I don't have a phone. Come, I will take you there. I am Bedouin, come, come."
We had just flown in from Singapore,
a place that is more than just different to Cairo; it is Cairo's antithesis.
Singapore is modern; Cairo is ancient. Singapore is air-conditioned
efficiency; Cairo is dusty chaos. Singaporeans are polite and reserved
while Egyptians are ebullient to the point of abrasiveness and this
was now apparent with the huge mustachioed man standing in front us.
Everyone who talks to you in your first two hours in this city seems
to be on the make. Within ten minutes of stepping off the airport bus
we were in a perfume shop being smothered in aromatic oils,
The population of this maelstrom of a metropolis is unknown but everyone we asked is proud that the number is big. Very big according to a particularly pleased schoolteacher we met later and claimed 30 million. With half of them trying to sell us something, we realized it would take hours to walk to our hotel so we hopped in a taxi but the driver didn't speak English. No matter, we were quickly learning the language. He said 'Hello, welcome to Cairo. I will drive you around aimlessly, I'll eventually ask another taxi driver for directions to your hotel (which is only two blocks from where I picked you up) and when we get there I will be very rude when you balk at the extortionate fare I'll demand. Enjoy your stay.'
We arrived at the Windsor Hotel,
an old officers quarters from the time when the British controlled this,
and almost every country we have been to on this trip from Sedona to
Sedona via the rest of the world. It was converted into a hotel around
the time my grandfather was born and has proudly changed nothing since.
In the hotel bar, there was a British film crew working on a documentary
about a Persian army of 50,000 that was lost in the western desert hundreds
of years ago. When we asked why they were using the bar as a set they
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