We spent the first part of our last day driving into Cairo from Alexandria. It didn’t take long to get into Cairo but then we were in Cairo trying to get to the Museum for a second look for about two hours. Cairo traffic is no joke. Aleck was an angel in the driver’s seat and never complained once, but Eman and the rest of us were quite restless. We crawled past the pyramids for one last glimpse and then after being stopped dead for almost an hour, Eman had us leave Aleck and the car and head to the subway – the Cairo subway.
This was quite the experience. We’ve all been on a subway and by this time in the trip we were used to being stared at, but this was an overall bizarre experience. We were the only outsiders and everyone stared – apparently tourists don’t often ride the subway here. It was also the wrong day for Emily and I to wear dresses so that added to the staring. Eman shuffled us through the crowd and did her own glaring back at some of the other riders, then we separated because turns out there are cars for men and women. This was actually established for the safety of the women because street harassment is so awful in Egypt. The men have to ride in their car, while women can choose, but pity the woman who gets stuck in the men’s car alone. On our way out there were two girls laughing at Emily and I, but Eman told us that one girl liked my red dress and the other wanted to cut her hair short like my sister’s.
Once we emerged from the subway we made our way to the museum across the way. A guard told Eman the traffic was due to some road closures around the court because one of the Brotherhood members was on trial that day. Eman took my mom, sister and I around the museum at record speed to show us some really cool things, including the second mummy room where King Tut’s mother and grandmother are – his mother was clearly murdered judging from the chunk of skull missing from her head. One King, Ramses III, was also murdered – by his own harem. We basically saw the half of the museum that Mona didn’t have time to show us while dad ran around reading hieroglyphics.
After the museum we walked along the water to Zamalek Island, a richer, cleaner portion of Cairo. We had a very late lunch at a 1940s-era restaurant called Abu el Sid that had old wooden windows, colorful lanterns, cool paintings and mismatched chairs. Plus, the whole table was a giant Lady Susan. The food was incredible, I had lentil soup and chicken made from an Ottoman-period recipe. While we waited for the food, Eman took us ladies next door to a store with Nubian-made scarves and clothing, all handmade and embroidered. I bought a pillow cover and embroidered scarf, as well as a handmade cashmere scarf with the same style and pattern as the dresses worn by Egyptian women. Eman left soon after and we sadly parted, I still miss her incredible kindness and spunkiness.
Traffic held us up for another hour or so on the way to our hotel out in Heliopolis, which is nearer the airport. We had an early start in the morning so the evening was filled with packing followed by a drink at the bar.
I always keep a notebook/scrapbook when I travel and usually write a last entry reflecting on my trip. This time I couldn’t bring myself to do that because I want to return to Egypt one day and just continue my trip, but I did write some reflection that last evening as follows:
This was the most incredible trip I’ve ever been on. I’ve dreamed of coming here and seeing these things for a long time and it was way more than I imagined. More importantly, I got a sense of the people and culture here. Friends at home were so worried about us coming to Egypt but I’ve never been around such a kind, welcoming and generous people. Those I’ve met care so much about their history – even the Nubians selling their wares. Mona, Muhammad, Eman and Aleck have been so good and generous with themselves and their knowledge and I will not forget them. Aleck was so kind and gentle all the while, but would always watch out for us. Mona and Eman were kind mother hens and Muhammad became a good friend. They made this trip, as well as the kind people at every store, hotel and restaurant.
I was so sad to leave but had no regrets on the trip, we really didn’t miss anything, but I still miss seeing the sights and learning about the ancient history. For now I have perfume, jewelry, scarves and many knick knacks to remind me of this incredible, life-changing trip.