Friday, March 9, 2007

Of People and Places

It occurred to me that nothing particularly interesting happened to me after the events of my last post. We got up, visited a couple more sites, and headed back into Cairo, which was a long, fairly dull drive.

What I find a lot more interesting is the variety of people I've met in Cairo and Egypt. Like any truly cosmopolitan city, you get men and women of every sort, weaving in and out of your lives in the most unexpected way. I've already mentioned Thalia, who I went to Chenery with 8-9 years ago, and our absolutely bizarre meeting while taking an Arabic test. But there are other people who just jump out of nowhere and turn out to be totally fascinating.

For instance, our desert guide Saeed. He was a boy from the Bahariya, the little town we visited, who moved to Cairo to go to al-Azhar University, the educational part of the famous mosque, founded in the 10th century. It's one of the oldest universities in the world. He learned French language and literature, and is an extremely well educated man fluent in at least three languages. But the state of the Egyptian economy is such that he has to work as a desert guide to make ends meet.

I was at a birthday party last night in an apartment with a gorgeous overlooking view of Cairo, where I met some more interesting people. For instance, Josefina,(maybe mis-spelled), and Amir - a Carioca model and her Egyptian boyfriend. Squeezing my way down the hall to get to the bathroom, I heard a Portuguese phrae and couldn't stilfe my curiosity. Turns out this girl was in fact Brasilian, so we spoke for about half an hour. It was tricky, because Arabic kept slipping into my Portuguese. Still, considering she didn't speak any English, our conversation was pretty good. Her boyfriend showed me up by being able to speak Portuguese better than I - but it was a nice opportunity to practice, nonetheless.

Another fellow I met was Roy - a Norwegian ex-Intelligence officer, ex- UN "blue beret" in Croatia with a thick Scottish brogue. You really cannot make this stuff up. He talked about being a peacekeeper in Croatia and Bosnia, and how when he got to Cairo, Norwegian intelligence called him up and tried to re-recruit him. Really crazy, out-of-this world stuff.

There was also an Egyptian Rastafarian called Mahmoud with the longest dreadlocks I've ever seen - down past his belt, easily. It was really a great party, and the Nile river view was absolutely gorgeous. Every day and every night this city surprises me in a new way, whether it's watching the Real Madrid-Bayern Munchen game in an English bar while gorgeous Heineken beer girls take bets or having a discussion on the merits of Kaka and Robinho with the owner of an Egyptian chicken restaurant(the guy kept calling them Santos and Souza, and so it took me 5 or 6 minutes to finally understand what the hell he meant - no one in Brasil uses those names).

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