Thursday nights are the best in Egypt because it signals the start of the weekend and some much needed rest. Cairenes sure know how to party and then at the end of it, how to chill out. Friday mornings are the chill out session, with the usual manic streets now deserted and eerily quiet. The only other time the streets are this quiet is during Iftar when people are at home, too busy stuffing their faces with 15 hours worth of food. Making up for lost time you see.
Friday mornings are the best time to explore Cairo, as the experience is entirely different, and you get to see another side to the smog filled city. Fridays are like a breath of fresh air, and its all yours for the taking.
Jumping into a beat up taxi, we rolled down the windows and enjoyed the fresh morning breeze as the driver whizzed his vehicle along the deserted roads. His dirty finger nails, blackened by the cheap cigarettes he smokes constantly, tapped against the stirring wheel as he turns the dial of the radio. Traditional music blares out from the speakers as we pass the Citadel mosque and the amazing view over the city and its abundance of minarets. I’m surprised no ones thought to build a viewing platform at this point, as the view is breathtaking.
We pass The City of The Dead with its flat roofed plain housing and the numerous minarets dotted in between, and the densely green terrain of Azhar park. Soon enough we are outside khan al Khalili and thats where the adventure begins. It was 10am by now, and already the market was filling up with sellers setting up their stalls. Mini tambourines, cheap looking caps with the Egyptian flag sewn on, tacky belly dancing costumes, fragrant spices from all over the world, and the ubiquitous cheap tourist tat. Helpers set up straw prayer mats outside Hussain Mosque, where in a few hours time, worshippers will be pouring in ready for friday prayers.
Whilst waiting for a friend, I sought respite under a tree, with the sun already out in full force. It just turned May for gods sake! Spotting her, we made our way to Fishawy’s cafe for a morning drink.
Those of you who have not heard of this cafe (do you live in a cave?!) it is one of the most famous cafes in the area, mainly due to the fact that it never closes and is open 24 hours. The place is alive and kicking especially at night and especially during ramadan. The joyful sounds of the oud serenades customers whilst people congregate and dance, and street hawkers dodge in and out of the small alleyway selling all kinds of things ranging from the useful to plain weird (we were once approached by a man selling stuffed dead animals, and an irate seller who couldn’t understand why we didn’t want to buy a doll). I thought this youtube video summed up the atmosphere.
We managed to easily navigate a pram through the crooked alleyways, grateful for the quiet time we chose.
Because it was friday before midday prayers, only a few shops were open. We explored the depths of the market taking in the streets and architecture.
I even spotted this Sisi outfit for children in the market, amongst police uniforms. Forget superman, now your little dear ones can dress up like the new superhero on the block, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (Insert sarcastic face).
I’ll continue to update my travel to Palestine, but in the mean time back to cairo…
There’s a new French pastry shop opened up near me called La Gourmandise and what perfect place to have brunch with a friend then there. The place looks tiny from outside, but once you enter through the glass doors (which are helpfully opened for you by the doorman) you realise just how big it is inside. My friend and I walked past glass cases enclosed with hand-man chocolate cakes, fresh bread and delicate macarons. Then upstairs past the pink and mirrored decor.
The menu was decorative and had a funky design, colour coordinated to match the interior. I self-indulgently ordered ravioli with mushroom sauce and for desert chocolate cake and a creamy latte. We ate surrounded by ex pat mums and those expecting, all trying to escape from the mugginess that has engulfed Cairo at the moment.
From posh surroundings to being brought back to reality with a thud, as I went with my husband to the doctor. He has a throat infection which has been getting worse. His appointment was at 9:30pm and we arrived on time, maybe 5 minutes earlier wanting to be seen as soon as possible.
The waiting room was on the first floor located in a tight hallway. Hard wooden benches were laid out on either side of the walls reducing the space even further. There were four rooms with three occupied by doctors who were busy examining patients. After the checkup they would quickly dish out prescriptions and dismiss them. All the seats were taken up by whole families and crying cute babies. Only the fact that they were cute made me smile rather than scream. One girl looked so sad that I asked her in Arabic if she was ill but she just stared at me with her sad eyes and looked down.
The doctor was late for his job, and only after 1 and a half hours of sitting on that hard bench did he arrive. The checkup was only for 5 minutes! It closely resembled waiting times in the NHS.
Oh, and I’ve just received news now that the university fees have risen in the UK from £3,000 to £9,000. The Liberal Democrats are the biggest liars and sellouts of their OWN policies. Thinking about David Camerons smug face is making me want to slap it with a wet fish and stuff it in his mouth. Smug git.