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Friday, January 04, 2013

Welcome in Egypt

In the end of last year I travelled to Egypt and I didn't feel as a tourist, but as a traveller. I tried new things, met new people and looked beyond what was right in front of me. Somehow I found a key to understand the my so called "spirit of Cairo".

november, 22nd. 2012.

"I'm in another world."

These are my first words in my travel diary. I am in Egypt - it's my first visit in Egypt and in the Middle East in general.
The airport is literally in the desert. Nothing but sand on the left and right hand side of the airstrip. There are rusting airplanes next to the airstrips, prayer rooms in the different airport wings and signs in a language I've absolutely no clue of. It's my entry to a new world.
Fifteen differnet cab drivers are coming towards me as soon as I left the airport building. I turn around and try the opposite direction. Another ten cab drivers are coming from this direction towards me. -"Do you need taxi?" "Special price for you!" " Where are you from?" "Where do you wanna go?" "First time in egypt?" -
Way too many questions in the first 20 minutes on egyptian ground. But besides all the questions everybody told me "Welcome in Egypt". At this time I didn't realize the meaning of this sentence because somehow I felt lost between a dozen cab drivers speaking english and arabic to me. But this sentence should follow me on my adventures through Cairo.

Let's first check the facts: Cairo is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world and in Africa. Cairos metropolitan area is in the list of the 20th largest in the world.
And I have never seen such big traffic problems than in Cairo Downtown. I have never seen so many people on one spot. And I've never breathed in so many exhaust gases in one gasp.
Taxis speeding on the streets - honking, racing, honking. People debating - loud voice, hands in the air, deep view. I drove to the islamic area for less than 30minutes - without having seen many women on the streets. My thoughts are unsorted and confused. I arrive at the Khan-el-Khalili market. And I'm stunned from the colours - blue, red, purple, green, yellow - the fragrances of olibanum and vanilla, the babble of voices. I passed the flying salesmen and followed my friend into the heart of the market. Jewelry in different colours, silver, gold, aladdin and gini lamps, pyramids, cleopatra costumes and scarfs made of silk - and the questions of the salesmen "Where are you from?" "Special price for you".
There is this little spot in the heart of the market. It's a café in a sidecorridor called "el fishawi". A spot where travel guides show their tourists how to drink tea the egyptian way - a spot where you may experience in a special way a spark of the spirit of cairo and a spot where I've talked to special people to experience and hear more about the footprints of the arabic spring in Cairo's everyday life.

" I take a mint tea, please." 
- "With sugar? Is it your first time in Egypt?"
"Yes with sugar, please. And yes, it's my first time in Egypt and in the Middle East."
- "You're on the right spot here. Egypt is beautiful - Welcome to Egypt." 

more stories will follow.

having tea in "el fishawi"

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