My first 24 hours here in the amazing city of Cairo included getting wrong directions from the police officers, Pizza Hut welcoming my first meal here after some of our failed efforts at finding something “ethnic” (but has to be clean, decent etc of course), having to make decisions about which water bottle brand looks the best, avoiding stepping on cats on the sidewalk, getting run over by cars, and almost being kicked out of Pub 28 in Zamalek at 1:30 am.
My introduction to Egypt started right in the airport, where I met a former architecture professor of AUC who insisted on guiding me there. We talked about our travels and Cairo traffic when I was approached by a woman who said “Welcome to Egypt!” really enthusiastically. Turns out she was on my flight from Dammam and I reminded her of her own daughter so she insisted that I stay with her and she will arrange my transportation because “girls like you should not be traveling around on your own”. Fine. For some reason I could not get away from this stranger. So I waited with her for her son to come pick her up while she showed me photos of her family. She was really sweet actually. After her son came, somehow thirty minutes later no one would let me hold anything and I am in a taxi that was haggled by them, with one of his friends who was instructed to take me to my dorm and let her know that I have arrived safely. Talk about hospitality. Oh and I am invited to their home before classes start.
Zamalek Dorm is in this posh neighborhood near the Pakistani embassy. It was full of newly arrived American students, with Euro pop music blasting in the lobby. There are bunch of security guards who check your bags every time you come in to make sure you are not smuggling alcohol or whatnot. There were guys watching the soccer match in one side, and the whole place smelled of smoke. It was much prettier than I have heard though.
When my papers were ready I was taken to my room with a female guard, and two guys to carry my bags. She started yelling “MEN IN THE FLOOR!” as we entered the girl’s dorm.
My room is much nicer than I thought. I had heard so much about how small it is or how dirty, but I was greeted by a room the size of a normal double in Beebe Hall at Wellesley except with tiled floors and wooden everything, and each of us get our own closet that reached to the ceiling. And much better lighting than in Wellesley.
It felt like orientation week in Wellesley all over again, where everyone is super friendly and lots of smiles and hand shakes and invitations (except that we are in Cairo, don’t know our way at all, and unlike Wellesley there are boys here. Hmm…). A group of us went around Zamalek trying to find a place to eat that was authentic but had to finally settle for Pizza Hut which as usual, is much fancier outside of the US. Zamalek is a pretty posh area, so it’s no surprise that Western cafes and restaurants replace more traditional, family owned venues.
Annoyance- having to walk around and not being able to look up because you are wathcing your step since you don’t know what you might step into. And cats.And dust (my new converse sneakers have a shadown of brown now).
Later last night another group of is went to Pub 28 which is a small, smoky bar fullof expats and Egyptians too and overpriced everything. An hour later we are in a bigger group as more AUCers come in. Apparently it is the place that always attracts American study abroad students. Surprise.
And as we come back at around 2 am (I think?), there are all these guards checking out bags and whether we should be let in. Pass.