May 232008

Pardon the crappy writing. I haven’t really slept in a couple days now and am quite exhausted.

It was very interesting to learn from Mahmoud, an Egyption friend of mine, just how taboo the mere concept of Israel is throughout the Middle East.

Egypt and Jordan are two of the only countries that will allow someone with an Israeli stamp in their passport to visit (i.e. for having ever been to Israel, I’m no longer able to visit Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iran, Iraq, and pretty much any other country in the area you can think of). But even though I am allowed to come to Egypt, and Egyptians are technically allowed to go to Israel, no one does. It would be too problematic. The Egyptian government either wouldn’t let them come back, or would keep an eye on them for the remainder of their days – treating them like a traitor or a spy. Mahmoud could drive from his home to Tel Aviv in a matter of hours, and has always wanted to try out the nightlife in Eilat, but was warned time and time against it.

Kind of crazy.

Speaking of nightlife, there seems to be almost none of it here. Even in Cairo, one of the biggest cities in the world, outside of the Hiltons and Sharatons none of the bars stay open after 2am. The biggest nightclubs are smaller than those in Kyoto. And not at all wild.

After our clifftop sheesha experience Mahmoud dropped Mike and I off in Zamelek, Cairo’s biggest nightlife district. It was 1:30am, and almost dead.

No more partying on this trip, I guess πŸ˜†

Having an ISIC card is usually helpful when traveling, but not necessary – you might save a few bucks here and there on museum admissions but it’s rarely enough even to cover the $30 cost of the card. Still, after seeing Peder’s discounts in Brazil I decided to always purchase an up-to-date card before taking off on a major trip. You never know when it’ll come in handy.

God I’m glad I got one before coming to Egypt. The discounts are massive – 50% off – and they have them everywhere (the pyramids, museums, mosques, etc). I’ve probably saved $200 with my card thus far. Even more interesting is how carefully they check; usually I’d be able to just buy 2 student tickets with my one card. But not in Egypt. They even ask to see the card again at the door when you use the ticket to get in. Strict!

Needless to say, Mike was pretty disappointed at the Egyptian Museum when he had to pay 150 pounds to get into the Mummy Room and I only had to pay 75. So the day after our night out with Mahmoud, I spent a few hours teaching him how to use photoshop to “bring his college transcripts up-to-date.”

He’s now the proud owner of an ISIC of his very own. And he got to start reaping the benefits that very afternoon at the Citadel in Cairo πŸ˜‰

A revision to my first impression of Cairo: It’s nicer than I expected, but it certainly does have its worse areas. And the thick smog is undeniable – you’ll just be walking along the street and all of a sudden you’ll step into a pocket of virtually unbreathable air. Yuck.

Still, it does have its high points, offering plenty of English and pretty much anything you’d need to survive as a Westerner. But I think there’d be two things that would prevent me from ever saying I could spend a noteworthy amount of time here:

1) The lack of nightlife
2) The fact that everyone is constantly trying to separate you from your cash gets pretty old after awhile.

  2 Responses to “Cairo Observations”

  1. “I spent a few hours teaching him how to use photoshop to β€œbring his college transcripts up-to-date.””…

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