Friday, May 8

Egyptian weekend

First of all, I was outside the country in the last three weeks of April. Second of all, I did not get a chance to post an entry since then. Third of all, the reason for such a long pause is that I was on the all expenses paid trip by my husband to Egypt!

Abi, his parents, brother, auntie and I departed at 11.45pm from KLIA on the 15th. We flew to Cairo in an EgyptAir’s Boeing aircraft. It took us about seven hours of journey before we needed to transit in Mumbai, India for around an hour. We carried on for another four hours and reached Cairo International Airport after seven in the morning, local time.

Breakfast was being served at Malaysia Hall at the time of our arrival. So we were transported there once the flight landed. Everybody had their chance to freshen up before we continued with the program. By that I mean we just carry on with last night’s clothes we had on and put on our best smile (I did not even brush) to get through the day, really.

After that, we took a bus ride straight to the Pyramids and Sphinx in Giza. It is one of the world’s wonder and we were actually there! I must say that piece of work made me wonder about the purpose and significance of its existence. I just wondered though, not hoping for any answer because I was on holiday, remember?

At night we were brought out for a special dinner. On a cruise that was! We went on board about 6pm and the liner began sailing along the River Nile which is considered the longest river in the world, mind you.

Several forms of entertainment were already waiting for us, the Egyptian way! The first was a dance called tanoura. The man knew how to please the crowd by speaking in many different languages. He greeted us in Malay getting the Malaysian tourists all excited about it. We sure enjoyed that one.

Then, out came the belly dancer doing her thing for us. Period. When that show was over (finally!), the musical band played endless Egyptian numbers to accompany us during dinner. Dinner was different but it was good to try new food, I guess. I loved the dessert; they were simple but so sweet!

The next day, we had the privilege to visit the Imam As-Shafie Mosque. He was an Islamic scholar who led one of the four Islamic schools of thought. My way of practicing the religion is according to this man’s teachings therefore, paying my respect at his mausoleum inside this mosque was a great honor.

After lunch, it was shopping time! We went to Khan El-Khalili bazaar, the art and cultural market for buying keepsakes. I did not get anything but both Abi and his brother bought a few mementos. After that, the three of us had a drink at a coffee shop and did some people watching. I had a glass of chai or Egyptian tea while the more adventurous husband of mine had a cup of Turkish coffee. Actually, his brother dared him to so Abi had no choice but to drink it like a man. Errgh.

Then, we went to Al-Azhar University and snap pictures in front of the first Islamic university in the world. A cousin of my husband’s is currently studying in this wakaf institution. It means that all learning expenses are paid for by contributing Muslims. Students just need to prepare some pocket money so they could survive their years of studying over there.

I fell for Egyptian men almost immediately. Their gigantic figure did not intimidate me at all; instead it made me feel safe communicating with them. They wear smartly too, like Ricky Martin as Abi would put it. All thanks to the Western culture that has some influence on their dressing style. To complement their classy look, Egyptian men are friendly, gentle and helpful most of the time.

Egyptian women are the opposite of their male counterpart, though. They were not pleasant except for our tour guide because she was super nice. However, I suspected that it was her Western educational background that made her special. German is her first language so go figure. In addition, she studied Egyptian archeology thus she was the best person to show us around.

Being in the tourism industry, she has good etiquette compared to the lady immigration officer at CAI or the salesgirl at the papyrus shop or even the EgyptAir stewardesses. They were too harsh and unsympathetic towards others including the elderly people. It was funny when the Malaysian tour agent’s staffs who travel with us regarded these women as stepmothers!

Anyway Cairo was an excellent vacation spot. If you are into ancient civilization and Islamic architecture, there are just so many jaw dropping historical sites to visit. If you dig exotic form of entertainment or simple pleasure, there are always belly dancing and shisha, respectively. If you are into shopping and souvenirs, there is the souk where you could purchase nonalcoholic perfume (read: pure essence) or papyrus products, to name a few.

Of course it was hot and sunny during the day but it was still bearable. I thought it was going to be really hot but it was not. In fact, it was kind of Singapore hot minus the humidity. On the other hand, the cold nights in the Cairo were something unexpected for. My husband and I purposely left our jackets in KL thinking that we would not be using them in the Middle East. Well, we thought wrong.

Again, I must thank you, Abi for such a wonderful experience. Did I already say I love you? Well, love it all, love it all, love it all!

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