05.05.2017 31 °C
We woke up yesterday still frustrated and tired from the day before. Long story short, we went over our budget from Egypt and some things hadn't gone how we planned. We were frustrated that we had spent more than we wanted to and we hadn't had the experience we were hoping for! We thought about getting a cab to the airport and just waiting there allllll day until we flew out at 3am the following morning. But we thought things couldn't get much worse and we were going to try and make the best of it and find a pool.
We went outside to hail our own cab, the man didn't speak any English but he understood the area we wanted to go and he wrote down the price, he couldn't even say that in English. We agreed as it was ridiculously cheap and we hopped in. Offline google maps have totally saved our trip, so after tons and tons of mid day Cairo traffic, we were on Zamalek island and I had the GPS going to get us to the Hilton. Maps are a universal language! We made it and the very nice man happily excepted our fare and tip even though we felt like it was nowhere near enough.
Walking into the Hilton was a breath of fresh air. The reception was all solid marble it was GORGEOUS. The first hotel staff we came in contact with was sweet and spoke English and led us to the pool where we paid the fee (which was smaller than what they quoted us over the phone) and we set up our lounge chairs. They had huge towels for us and it was hot and sunny and it was everything we had wanted for the day! I was worried that if we had drinks from the bar it would cost a fortune, but the local beer was only $2.65 Canadian plus tax for a large can! We had a few drinks and decided to order lunch, also super, super cheap.
We ended up chatting to a couple from Miami here on business who had nothing but rave reviews for Egypt. We shared our last couple of days and they just shook their heads and said it wasn't at all what they had experienced. I was happy to hear that they had a great time, and they said they'll be coming back often for more business and vacation. We did some quick math and had we stayed at the Hilton at just under $100 usd a night and had the reception help that they did, our trip probably would have cost us less! Live and learn.
We enjoyed the sun, drinks, pool, and view of the Nile until about 4:30. The sun had gone behind the hotel and we decided to cab back to our place to get some rest in before we had to leave for our flight. Traffic was once again a nightmare and it took us over an hour to get home. Our young driver spoke little English but he was super friendly and was definitely the least aggressive driver we've had! We once again spent next to nothing on the taxi and wished we had done it our way from the start.
Inside the hotel we thought we should enjoy the rooftop view for the last time, and I still had the bottle of wine gifted to me from the hotel. We went up to the roof to enjoy the sunset, and we watched below as some teenage guys were fighting and playing in the huge empty lot next to the hotel.
Things escalated quickly from there, as we watched the boys start to chase and throw rocks at the dogs, trying to corner them in the cemented areas and chuck the rocks right at them. Josh yelled from the balcony to get them to stop, and they did. But they went to a cemented garage and pulled out two dogs on ropes, a puppy and a bigger one, and then they pulled off their shoes to start scaring them. It almost looked like they were trying to get them to fight or try to bite the other boys. We ran downstairs and asked Karim, the front desk guy, to open the window and ask them to stop, in Arabic. I asked him to tell them to respect animals and pick on someone their own size. Those dogs didn't do anything to them. The boys yelled back that they owned the ones on the ropes and that they weren't doing anything to them. I didn't like any of it.
We then stayed down to chat with Karim and his friend, our former camel guide, came up the stairs to join us as well. He apologized a ton for the other day, but we know it wasn't his fault he was taken by the guards! Karim also used to be a pyramid guide and he told us stories of when he was taken and basically held for bail when he was as young as 14.
We talked for an hour or so, about Egyptian politics and military, and mostly about what needs to happen to Egypt if tourism is ever going to come back. Karim had some phenomenal ideas; he totally gets that the country needs an overhaul. We expressed our thoughts and totally agreed with each other. It was crazy.
Which brings me back to chats we had with our driver Mansour. He was talking religion with us and his frustration with social media and the news. He said he is a Muslim but his best friend is a Christian. He said nobody asks each other's religion and nobody cares. He loves alongside his fellow Egyptians no matter what religion, and everyone respects each other's choice. He was frustrated with the way the media represents the country, and while it has its problems, friendlyness and respect isn't one of them. Yes we were hassles at the tourist places, but most often if we said no the local would just tell us to have a nice day and, "maybe later" we could heck put his store or service. It was not like this in Kenya or Uganda where they didn't really leave us alone! In hindsight we just had some terrible luck in a country that had quite a bit more to offer us.
We finally made it upstairs for a cat nap before our driver took us to the airport at midnight. Driving through the dark streets most of the stores near our hotel were still open! Several weddings were sending off the bride and groom, so that was cool to see. And there was traffic almost all the way to the airport. The city doesn't sleep!
And neither did we. I write this on the metro in Athens heading back to the airport for our connecting flight, more on that soon. But we've slept 3 hours in the last 29, so we're not feeling 100% but we're ready for a comfy bed in Tel Aviv, sooner than later!