it was the last day of 2004, and here we were in cairo, egypt of all places. the night before we had stayed up late playing cards and drinking wine w/ sage and her friends. it had been a fun night. today our plan was just to do some shopping, kick it around town, and get ready for new years eve. it’s pretty weird celebrating new years in another country. back home, you spend all of december thinking about nye, planning it, talking about it. by the time it gets to the 31st, everyone is so full of anticipation. here, it’s a whole nother scenrio. nye isnt a big deal here. no one really cares, and although it’s been in the back of our minds a bit, we hadn’t really thought about it that much. we never even decided what we would do until the night before. walking around town, although we would be greeted by the occasional “happy new years”, there definitely wasn’t the usually higly electric vibe that occurs on this day.
when we walked out of our hotel that morning, the first thing we noticed was about 100 men sitting in the street and praying. whoa! it was such a crazy sight! it was friday, which is the most important day for praying, and the mosque that is next to our hotel was completely full, so all these people had to do their prayers in the street. since there was like a 100 of them, they flooded a big part of the street and cars had to swerve etc just to get around them. it was such a bizarre scene. after getting fallafels (10 cents each) at our local fallafel shop, we went to the souqs to go shopping. we’re starting to get used to cairo. although the enormous contrast between it and dahab was a bit overwhelming the first day, we’re more chill now and are enjoying it… well, everything other than the pollution!! it’s hard to breathe the air here, and after walking around all day, you just feel so dirty!
oh, the other crazy thing here is the traffic. it’s really hardcore and intense. most often when you cross the street, you just have to step out into a swarm of driving cars and hope they dont mow you over. if you’re lucky, you’ll see an egyptian crossing the street and you just try to follow their lead, but otherwise you just hope for the best. some cars stop, some cars swerve around you, while other just plunge straight ahead and you better run!! the trick is to figure out which of those 3 things each car will do. rough!
after shopping for a bit, i needed to take a taxi to the fedex office wayyyy across town to finally pick up the atm card that i’ve been missing. the taxi ride was totally nuts. first off, my driver drove like a madman. seriously. i’ve been in a lot of crazy taxis by now. i was beginning to think that i’ve seen the most insane driving ever… but no. this guy took the cake. he not only drove a million miles per hour, but squeezed into the smallest spaces between cars, veered into lanes that others were merging into, and just generally did everything he could to kill us both. add to this the fact that as we drove, i became more an more woozy due to carbon monoxide in the car. there was a lot of complex bartering on how much the cab would cost (they have no meters here), and although it’s too complicated and long to mentions here, let’s just say he took every opportunity to try to squeeze money out of me.
by the end of the cab ride, we had agreed on 80 pounds, and when i handed him 100, he handed me back two tens, said “here’s twenty”, and sent me on my way. i was just about to get out, when i looked at the change he had given me. he had given me two ones instead of two tens!! i said that, and he starts appologizing and pretending that he just made a mistake. after that he hands me 5 more and then says he has no more change!! i demanded my change and so he first gave me a 20 euro cents piece (what would i need that for?) and then gives me a fist full of a random assortment of crap change that wasn’t even egyptian. i tell him i dont want his crap and i just want my 20 pounds change. he starts digging through his car and digs up some old dusty tape. “here! you have this one! keep!” i was getting so fed up w/ this guy. i told him that if he had no change, he could give me back my 100, and i’ll go get change myself. so he gets out of the car, and then comes back later and hands me a 10. i tell him that this still makes only 17, and not 20!! and he tries to hand me the 20 euro cent thing again. arrrgghhhh! finally i just left. fuck it. he can keep the extra 3 pounds. sheez.
anyways, i finally have my atm card now!!!
so, time went on and we had a dinner before we went out for new years. my food wasnt very good, but hey, i guess that often happens when you try something new. so, to celebrate new years, we went out to this egyptian concert. the guy performing was Mohammed Mounir and he’s insanely famous here. he’s probably one of the most popular singers here right now. we had heard that there was going to be something like 30,000 people at the show, but when we got there, although it was pretty packed, i doubt it was near that number. the venue, was probably one of the worst venues to hold a large show. just a small stage set up w/ everyone standing around it. no seats. no bleachers. nothing. if you weren’t near the front, the chances of you seeing much were slim to none. to make matters worse, there were bright blinding lights poitning at the audience. also, there was no alcohol served. new years eve.. with no alcohol? so weird.
but, despite all that, we still had a good time. the concert didnt start till like 11:45, and they took a break between songs to shoot off some fireworks at midnight. the music wasn’t all that impressive, but what was cool was how excited the people there were. it seemed like every single person there knew the words to every song. everyone clapped and sang along. people were so psyched. some looked like they were literally gonna start crying. even though we didnt know any of the words etc, the excitement was totally contagious. also, we were hanging out w/ some people that worked at our hotel and it was cool to kick it w/ them as well.
the one really annoying thing though, was the amount of attention that the girls in our group were getting. it was absolutely ridiculous. groups of guys would just walk up to us and stand there staring at the girls for like half an hour straight. other guys, while dancing would slowly sneakily dance closer and closer so they could be close to the girls. me and david ended up spending a big part of the time there strategically placing ourselves between the girls and random men in the crowd. ugh.
after the show, we went to a random cafe to hang out. one weird thing there was that they sold chickpea soup, but it came in a glass and you drank the hot soup through a straw. weird eh? unfortunately, we were all hella exhausted by then, and we knew we had to get up early the next day, so we ended up leaving fairly soon.
what a weird new years. definitely interesting and kind of fun, but very different….
Tara, David, Sage, and Mohammed walking through cairo on nye