Friday, March 26, 2010

Day 3: Cairo

So this morning’s flight was way too early but it so nice how Royal Air Maroc offered direct flights from Casablanca’s CMN to CAI, after all it was already 5 and a half hours. Well I finally made it and although I was exhausted I couldn’t wait to hit the city! I mean it has so much to offer being the largest city in Africa, I just couldn’t decide what to do first. Stepping out of the airport I immediately felt the rush of the desert like heat and was thankful I brought sunscreen, but was ready to explore. Prior to my trip I booked a room at a local inn. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize this lovely "antique" hotel was in the middle of Coptic Cairo. This means it is in one of the oldest areas in Cairo, the original site of the Roman-built Babylon. There is no air conditioning in the middle of the summer. Call me spoiled, but I’d like to see the city and not die of dehydration. Luckily, my parents wired me some money to the Egyptian National Bank and I got to book a room at the Nile Hilton, Cairo’s first modern hotel. Anyways, after dropping off my bags I took to the streets, just me and my camera

Cairo International Airport

Egyptian National Bank:

Nile Hilton:

First stop: Sharia Tahrir Street! After passing the Arab League building, I headed straight for Midan Tahrir, the Liberation Square. This used to be the center of Cairo, but now it is just a crowded area. The amount of traffic was insane! I realized that this traffic is a major factor in the smog above the city, causing tens of thousands of deaths a year due to air pollution. Heading east, I went to the Midan Falaki Square where there is a local food market. Like other markets in Egypt, it was outdoors and run by families selling everything from bread, fruit, to cheese. My favorite treat was the mango flavored ice pop called Squizz. Then I went to the north side of the square where I got to relax and have a Stella, a local beer, and play a game of chess.

Liberation Square:

Midan Falaki Square:

Squizz ice pop:

Stella beer:

As the afternoon faded, I walked downtown and enjoyed the sunset along Talaat Harb Street where I passed the infamous Groppi’s tearoom and Cinema Mar Girgis, a movie palace built in the 1930s. Although I enjoyed the stroll, I was getting hungry again and definitely wanted to see what Cairo’s nightlife had to offer, so I went to Alfy, also known as Al Alfi Street. It kind of reminded me of Chapel Hill’s Franklin Street with all of its restaurants and bars. I couldn’t decide where to eat so I asked a young boy where I could find the best Cairo had to offer. He told me to go to Alfi Bey where I enjoyed delicious classic Middle Eastern dishes in a comfortable atmosphere. I thought the menus were hilarious with their purposefully misspelled items, which the waiter so sweetly translated for me. I highly recommend this place to tourists.

Groppi's Tearoom:

Cinema Mar Girgis:

Al Alfi:

I thought I’d be able to go out and explore some more, but that early flight really did me in. So I headed back to the hotel to get a good night’s sleep, but am really anticipating tomorrow’s festivities. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to learn more about this amazing city! But so far it has been a fantastic experience!