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Farewell To Cairo

Last night we had our final full group dinner.  Sam, the guide, will be at another hotel tonight getting ready for his next trip out.  So, it was easier to do it the night before than tonight.  Not sure what dinner will be and who it will be with if anyone.  But last night’s was neat.  We took several taxi’s over to another part of town, apparently where the “foreigners” in Cairo live (foreign is such an odd concept when you apply it to yourself).  Had dinner at this very cool little restaurant that was jam packed with locals and not-so-locals alike.  The restaurant was behind this massive pair of doors that from the outside gave no hint as to what was inside.  I had one last Egyptian meal of Koshary.  The third I’ve had.  Unfortunately the best was still the cheapest one in that little dive near the pyramids.  But I was still content to just hang there with everyone and soak in the end of the trip.

Came back and read for awhile before slipping into a nice sleep….

Wakened by the 5am call to prayer from the mosques but managed to go back to sleep again.  That will be my last call to prayer anyway (at least for this trip).

Back up a couple of hours later for breakfast and then off on our last day of seeing Cairo.  We visited a Coptic Christian Church carved into the side of a mountain and dedicated to Saint Simon.  Apparently, this mountain is the site of a couple of miracels, the first when St. Simon helped the local Christian leader prove Christianity to the Islamic Caliph in Egypt that Christianity was a real religion.  He did this by moving the mountain via Earthquake.  Although Christians are a small perecent of Cairo, they are afforded the same rights, etc.

On the way to the mountain, we drove through the city of the dead, a city where the poor live in shacks built around the tombs of an old cemetery.  Really a surreal sight.  And we drove through the garbage city.  Very much a shock to any one from the west.  The city’s garbage is all collected and taken there.  The lower stories are used for sorting the garbage, and the families live above it. I’ve never seen so much refuse before.  Just street after narrow street packed with it.  Through both locations, for the most part, we stayed in the van.

Our next stop, however, was in the garbage city, to see APE, a charity group that works to recycle some of the materials collected.  We saw paper being re-pulped and fabrics being re-worked.  They had gift shops that help support the project and some lucky friends or family are getting recycled gifts.

After that, on to the Citadel, apparently a must visit in Cairo.  It’s on some of the highest ground in Cairo, former home for the ruler of Egypt, and includes a centuries old mosque built by Mohamed Ali (not the boxer).  We got to visit the inside of the Mosque and learned a bit about Islam and Muslims.  Of course, it was information I had known before but long since forgotten and probably will not retain again unfortunately.  At least I correctly identified which way East was (Mecca).  I give myself brownie points for that if no one else will.

After that, another small caravan of Taxis to the Khan el Kalili (sp?) market.  We said farewell to Sam and Ola (our local guide who we met at the start of the tour).  And then everyone kind of split into their own directions to explore the market.  This one was a bit less pushy than Luxor at least, but I still love all the inducements to shop.  My favorite will always be, “let me take your money.”  At least it’s honest!

I managed one purchase while there, and I just rode on the coat tails of one of my fellow Americans, Lilah, who had managed to strike a bargain.  I asked if I could get the same deal, and he said only because she had such beautiful eyes.  Thanks again, Lilah, if you read this.  Our little group, Khan and Angela, Aussie siblings, and Lilah, Fran, and myself (the Americans), wandered on for awhile.  Khan was ready to go back and I was done shopping so we caught a cab together and left the rest to their shopping.

Tonight, re-packing and catch a meal somewhere before… not really sure yet… I have to be in the lobby at 2:15am to get my ride to the airport.  So, either, I shower and get all ready and sleep until 2am, or I just stay up and hope that I’ll be so exhausted that I find a way to sleep on the planes between here, Frankfurt, and Atlanta.

As I’ve said several times, it’s so incredible that I got to come here.  I don’t regret it in the least and would repeat it all again if given the choice.  But I am read for home.  I’m ready for a familiar culture where I know what something costs before I buy it and I don’t have to argue over the price.  I’m ready for familiar foods (unless I get sick tonight, I have avoided the “pharoh’s curse” as Sam called it – i.e. upset stomach).  And most ready for my own warm bed again.  Maybe one day I’ll let my gypsy urges take full control, but right now I’m happy to have some place called home to return.

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