|We spent our last day in Cairo digging the Ramadan festivities and learned quite a lot about how the Islamic world spends one month of every year. In the morning we visited Coptic Cairo and the (Hanging)Church that claims to be the oldest Christian place of worship, which is interestingly located near the Ben Ezra Synagogue of Cairo which has been restored to a magnificent state and as you may figure is not used today for worship as the Jews have left the building. The afternoon was passed by wandering the streets of Islamic Cairo (the Old City) watching as the locals shopped for food and drink and prepared for Ramadan, which began at sunset (5:30). We returned to our hotel at about 5:00 which is in the downtown area to find the entire downtown to be deserted--and I mean deserted as in the end of world as we know it! What a strange scene--no one on the streets save for the occasional tourist. By the time we were picked up by our driver for the airport at 7:30, things were beginning to pick up and as we drove we saw mosgue after mosque (there are thousands in this city) full with men and women praying and cars parked everywhere as we passed through the middle class neighborhoods. So for the next month many stores and offices will open after dinner and stay open until 2 or 3 in the AM, then close for most of the afternoon. It's interesting how completely Ramadan affects this city and most big cities in the Islamic world.
We are now in a suburb of Nairobi writing this entry, but I'll save Nairobi for the next entry and spend a minute looking back on the Mid-East. We spent the past five weeks in the Mid-East and with Morocco a total of seven weeks in Islamic countries. We have gotten used to the call to prayer that occurs five times a day, although we were not always near a mosque to hear it, and luckily so at 4:30 am. We definitely won't miss the plumbing in this part of the world--it is pretty lousy, and we'll be glad to be able to use a toilet without giving someone a tip. We have gotten tired of the hotel breakfasts which have consisted of tomato, cucumber, feta cheese, olives and bread (sometimes good, somtimes not so good). We will not miss the coffee served at the hotels and everywhere we stopped--Nescafe instant served in a packet with hot water and powdered cream. Yes we could occcasionally score Turkish or Arabic coffee that was rich and flavorful, but not always. We finally tired of the cuisine, especially in Egypt, which we finally learned about in Cairo, but it was pretty heavy and filling with very little in the way of fresh vegetables--cooked or raw. And we definitely tired of the Egyptian people who see Westerners as dollar signs and nothing else. At first when someone approached us in a friendly manner we were glad to initiate a conversation, but soon realized that we were nothing but a possible sale of something--anything, or if not, then baksheesh--a tip!
You know when I write these entries I get into the highlights of our travels, and omit a lot of what goes on during our long days, and righfully so. I mean you do not want to read about the little frustrations , let-downs and disappointments that we go through. And you certainly don't want to know about how we do laundry in our romms or go from ATM to ATM in search of much needed cash. At the same time I leave out (or just plain forget) little moments of personal contact and interesting street scenes. Well, we have just finished up a large segment of our journey and have been living out of our bacpacks for 2.5 months (and have 4.5 months to go) so we have been reflecting and wondering how many interesting moments have not made to these pages. Both Barbara and I love sharing our travels and we spend a great deal of time talking with fellow travelers about where we all have been, what we know about this or that place and where we plan to go.
We are about to begin an African Safari and then head to Sri Lanka and Asia, and hope you all remain on board as we gather up our energy and resources, buy a few much needed supplies and KEEP ON TRUCKIN'!