Saturday, May 14, 2011

I am actually writing this "blog entry" on a piece of paper, while eating lunch in the 'GAD cafe', where i have ate at virtually every day whilst in Cairo, just because its doesnt seem to bother my stomach, and its decent and cheap - about a dollar for a decent sized Chicken Shwarma. I have ate alot of Shwarma, lets just say that.

I just came back from Tahrir square, where there were actually still some buses bound for Gaza. Word on the street here is that they are being turned away at the border, so i suppose its just as well that i missed out this morning when 3 of my hostelmates were leaving.

While wandering the street near my hostel, i randomly met a guy who walked with me to Midan Tahrir, a very friendly awesome 34 year old dude, named "Sam" who lost one of his brothers in that very square, due to a sniper on Jan 28th, during the revolution.

We talked politics and he said it was thrilling to be able to freely do so now, unlike before the uprising when he and so many others were simply too scared to let their true opinions be known. "Sam" just chatted me up in the street, and i took the chance that he wasnt just hitting on me, or trying to sell me something, and decided to walk with him around for a bit. I am so grateful that i did, because it was amazing to hear his perspective on everything, and to walk around Tahrir square with him, whilst all this Palestinian support was happening. I bought a T-shirt that says "viva free Egypt" in Arabic, though i wish i had bought a Keffiyeh (Palestinian scarf) now that i think about it.

Anyways, this kind of random encounter, and friendliness is why i so love it here in Cairo, and more generally is really an example of the warmth and generousity of the Egyptian people. A similar showcase of the kindness of strangers happened yesterday on the train from Luxor to Cairo.

I had somehow managed to get on the 830 am train, even though it was officially only for locals, and the man taking my ticket seemed worried because there are no "tourist police" on these local trains to "protect" the travellers. I wasnt particulary worried, but maybe seemed a bit..lost as to what platform to get on, which train, and where my seat was (tickets here are printed only in Arabic). Sensing my confusion perhaps, another lone female on the platform read my ticket to me in english, and being that it appeared we were both on the same train car #8, started talking to me. She wore pink converse sneakers and a matching pink hijab, glasses similar to mine, maybe a few years younger but otherwise very similar to me really. We boarded together but, as it turned out that she had mistaken my seat # 8 for the train number, i had to move up 4 cars, and i waved goodbye, no big deal.

As i sat in my new seat, in train car # 4, about 15 minutes later, she appeared again having walked through all the train cars to apologize for her "mistake" and say how sorry she was! I gave her a hug and was astonished that she would go to such trouble, walking on a moving train all that way, just to say sorry for such a minor issue!

This is the kind of thing i will remember most about having travelled here, and its a reminder to me that while some people (a lot of people really) are unforunately looking to "scam the rich tourist", or hit on the easy western lady...its important not to become jaded or dismissive of people as a whole.

As a local Egyptian told my fellow travelling friend here, with advice on how to cross a street in Cairo:

"Close your eyes and open your heart".

It sounds silly but its true.

with love and a mushy heart,
from Cairo,
- Julia

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