Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sinai on Sunday

Can you say that three times fast: Sinai on Sunday?
With just a tinge of sadness, I’m taking the bus tomorrow to Dahab, which is on the east coast of the Sinai. It’s supposed to be more of a laid back, “hippie” resort, with excellent diving and beaches (not that I’m much of a sun person…) I might not spend much time there, however, because I'm running into yet-another potential religious conflict with Israel. The way it's timing, I could end up being in Israel during the high holy days of Roshashan and Yom Kippur, and I've been told that travel is more complicated then, hotel rates go up, etc. etc. In fact, the Lonely Planet book advises you to try and avoid going there all together -- and those holidays are Oct. 2 and 9. So I might speed things up a bit: go to Sinai and get the ferry to Jordan, and then go directly to Petra and Wadi Rum, which would then get me into Israel by next weekend. It's moving quickly, but I think it might be the better idea.
I’ve sort of gotten into the pace of Alexandria while I've been here, hanging out and drinking coffee (or small bottles of Sprite, for 40 cents each) at the cafes. Most of the time I’m with Mohammed, my buddy here, or any number of his friends. It just amazes me how much they know about American culture. It’s frightening actually. Everything from Tweety Bird to Limp Biskit (the band) – not much escapes them. All of them listen to American music, and sing along to all of the lyrics, many times not even knowing what they’re saying.
I love how the cafes all serve their drinks on a metal tray, and always with a glass of water on the side. Sometimes, the street kids who beg or try to sell little packets of Kleenex will come in and ask if they can drink you glass of water. They do, and then scamper out.
It’s also a sign of respect that when you see someone you know, and like, you’ll kiss them on each cheek once or twice (each side), and then put your right hand up to your heart. Everyone does it, but none more than café or restaurant hosts. They’re consummate hosts. And, of course, they’ll never kick you out. Sometimes I notice that people will just come into the café to sit for a few minutes, not order anything, never get bothered, and then get up and leave. Last night, I saw an older man walk over to a table near the window, take off his prosthetic leg (from the knee down), clean it, and then moved his chair so that it was facing east and he began to pray.
Can you imagine sitting for hours, and all it cost you was 40 cents?
If Mo and I plan to meet, he usually says something like “We meet ten-and-half,” meaning 10:30 pm. That’s a normal meeting time, especially at night and even more so during Ramadan. Everyone stays up as late as possible. There’s also been some articles in the paper, trying to get people to eat less food and healthier food during Ramadan. Evidently, people gorge themselves so much after fasting all day that it brings on a multitude of problems, from indigestion to heart attacks!
There’s always one guy who is the cashier at the café. He just sits there, doesn’t seem to really notice what’s going on around him, but he ALWAYS knows what’s being served, to whom, and who has paid and who hasn’t.
If you’re looking for a business to try in Egypt, you might want to manufacture or import fly swatters, or perhaps those fly strips with sticky paper that traps the flies. They’re beasts here, but no one seems to mind.
If anyone wants to get your attention, they do this sort of “tsssst” sort of sound. But they all do it at the same pitch, so somehow everyone knows that sound.
It's interesting to see the woman in their full hijab going swimming! Nope, they won't wear swimsuits, but they still get into the water, fully clothed, and take a dip. I didn't want to take a picture, however, seemed too intrusive.
I went to dinner last night at a place called Nassar, presumably after the ex-President? I like to try the Ramadan-plate specials, but I should’ve asked more questions this time. It was a huge beef shank, plus a rather green-looking stuffed pigeon (stuffed with rice), these wrapped vegetables and stuffed potatoes, along with rice with chicken livers and French fries. That was about $9, which is quite expensive, but when you add a beer, tax and the service charges, it was almost $15 – quite a grand feast for Egypt.
See you in Sinai!

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