Sept 01, 2005
5000 years of amazing history. 20 million people. Cairo is quite a town.
I arrive and instantly feel at home at the Dahab Hostel: a fantastic, cheap backpacker place located on a rooftop in the dead center of downtown Cairo.
Tons of interesting travelers come through the Dahab Hotel. I start making lots of friends right away: students from France in Cairo learning Arabic, an Australian belly dancer who is a regular traveler to Egypt, an ex-navy translator/spy, a gay boy from the American South who wears a chastity ring pledging virginity 'til marriage to keep his parents happy - apparently anal sex doesn't count, and a couple of hardcore war correspondent photographer types. Quite an odd mix we were.
The belly dancer, Zurina, told me horror stories of the "Luxor Ladies". They're foreign women who have fallen for, and married, Egyptian men in Luxor. According to her, all the men do is lie, and the only things they're looking for are money, visas, and cheap sex as Egyptian women are unobtainable. She talks about a grandmother who squandered her grandchildren's inheritance on a young man. Then he left her with his family, while he went off in search of another wife. Now, she's trapped without any money, without a passport, with a family that doesn't speak English.
The war correspondents have fascinating stories too. Jim talks about the takeoffs and landings in war zones. On the way in, the plane makes a tight corkscrew down to the landing strip to avoid flying over any areas that are hostile. On the takeoffs, they put the brakes on, put the engines on full, let the brakes go, squeal down the runway, and then zoom straight up to 30,000'.
Stewart watched "Shock and Awe" from a balcony in Baghdad, and was once even arrested and held by Sadaam's government. He has driven across Iraq three times, and invites me to go with him. Hmmm... I think that I'll pass on that.
Stewart is in Cairo reporting on the election. It's an interesting time to be here. Our hotel is directly across from the headquarters of Ayman Nour, the opposition candidate. Every time that there is going to be a political rally, we know it's coming, as the streets fill up with hundreds of riot police. They outnumber the protestors. The day of the election was pretty quiet with only a couple of scuffles around town. But it hardly seemed honest.
Mubarrak won his 5th 6-year term. International observers were forbidden from observing the election. Mubarrak's party claimed that turnout for the election was a record 70%, but a panel of judges disagreed saying that the turnout was a measly 2-8%. Immediately after the election, Ayman Nour, the opposition candidate, was thrown in jail on a seemingly trumped up charge of fraud.
On top of all that, the previous election changed the constitution so that Mubarrak's son can run for office, turning this mockery of a democracy into a near-official hereditary monarchy. That's Egyptian democracy for you.
I'm loving my life as a world traveling bum. I'm specifically not looking for a job, yet two fall into my lap. In the hostel, I see a guy struggling over something on his computer. I offer to help, and end up quickly fixing some visual basic code for him. On the spot he offers me a job, which I happily decline. Then I hear about acting jobs for white people in Cairo. This one I couldn't turn down. The small money that it paid didn't matter - what a laugh would it be to be in an Egyptian movie. Unfortunately when I went along with some others to meet the casting agent, we waited an hour and he never showed up. So, I guess I'm not going to be an actor - at least not now.
In Cairo, I'd throw a party given any excuse we can make up. That's just the way that I like living my life. And while the booze in Egypt is bad, at least it's damn cheap. Our favorite drink in Cairo was a "brandy" that was relatively drinkable and only $1 for a 750ml bottle.
The guy with the computer problem is a German named Georg, and he's actually in town getting engaged to an Egyptian woman. Like I spoke about with the "Luxor Ladies" foreign women marry Egyptian men all of the time. But it is very, very rare for a western man to marry an Egyptian woman. When Georg gets engaged, we throw an extra big party for him with huge piles of schwarma and falafels, endless bottles of brandy, and an amazing chocolate heart-shaped cake from the local bakery.
A few days after Georg leaves, I get another job offer from him. His boss is offering me an all-expenses paid trip to Denmark with no obligation - try it out for 2-weeks, and see if I like it. I've never been to Denmark, and so I cannot say "no". After years of running away from work, I finally get a job offer I cannot refuse.
I guess I'm off to Denmark.
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