Trip Start May 22, 2009
Trip End Feb 16, 2010

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Where I stayed
Dahab Hostel Cairo
Read my review - 4/5 stars

Flag of Egypt  ,
Thursday, February 11, 2010

Time to leave Alex.  It’s been so nice to visit with our friends and have a few days that weren’t filled with constant site-seeing, and to be away from all the tourist nick-nack shops.  But back we must go, to the most determined of totes:  Cairo

Riding the Tram that actually crawls, we attempted to board the train.  It was as if everyone were in a rush to get on board - worried that if they didn’t hurry, the train would leave without them.  Standing in the crowd waiting for an opening to go up the ladder, my little frame (off balance from the pack) was jostled about.  Already unsteady, and precariously close to the edge of the platform, I pushed back.  Unfortunately, it seemed that everyone else were more determined than I, and I made little progress towards the door. 

Then I felt something.  Like a bulldozer from behind pushing.  A woman was making her way through the crowd at what seemed to be breakneck speed in this quicksand pit of humanity.  People were pushed aside like bowling pins, and she was the striking ball.  Only my size in height, she must have been 3-4 times my size in width.  Making it to the ladder, she clasped one leg in both hands and hoisted it up onto the first step.  Arms secured to the sides of the train she strained to get up, but no longer was she moving with determination.  If it hadn’t been for the 2 or 3 people pushing up from below, she would not have made it through.

That was it!  As entertaining as that was to watch, I was not being pushed around any more.  Throwing myself forward with disregard for everyone else, I boarded the train.  Turning into the car, I saw that the mammoth woman was seated in the very 1st row, and her massive bulk was taking up the entire isle while she sorted herself out.  Giving a little back, I pushed on through.  Funny thing is, as strange as pushing felt to me, no one batted an eye about it. 

Back in Cairo (at the now familiar Ramses station) I was again surrounded by those determined to get my money.  Walking along the platform I watched a group of foreigners digging in their pockets for baksheesh for the man who showed them how to exit the train.  A little ways away an anxious crowd of taxi drivers were descending like vultures over a kill.  I walked with confident steps:  I knew where I was going, and didn’t need a taxi to get there. 

Even with a destination firmly in mind, others wanted to change it.  One man told me that the hotel we wanted to stay at was dirty and very expensive and we should go to this other instead.  Another man (camped out in front of the building) told us that the hotel we wanted was full, and we should go to another.  I insisted that it was fine and we would go and talk to the hotel ourselves.  The man was not put off and started to follow us to the elevator.  Passing by the doorman, we were reassured that the hotel was full and we needed to go to this other hotel (on a different floor).  Still  not interested.  Shoving his way into the elevator with us, he started pushing buttons still trying to taking us to a different place.

Upon arrival, of course there were rooms available, and at a fabulous rate.  But the man hung around, arguing with the staff in Arabic that he deserved his commission for bringing us to the hotel.  I argued that we knew about the hotel from before and that he forced himself on us.  Not backing down, he sat and waited…  So I grabbed my pack and said we’d find another hotel if this was going to be a problem.  A few pounds sent him on his way and we were left alone.  A peaceful (for Cairo) open rooftop where we had a good little chat with the staff about this kind of behavior, and thankfully, these are genuine people not determined to rip off tourists.

Out on the street, I watch a gathering of men join on a small carpeted area.  Amidst the moving people, honking cars, and smells from the pizzeria next door, these men found a way to bow their knees, close their eyes, quiet their hearts, and pray.  Hard to fathom in the heart of the chaos of a city of 25 million people.  I guess I’ll just have to admit that in this place, there are many more determined than I. 

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