Sunday, June 3, 2007


Not much of an excuse for this long of a lag, I suppose. I mean, I have been busy, but not that busy.

In any case, I got my old laptop fixed, a new laptop arrived at about the same time, and I've been in relatively good health since then once I started drinking plenty of water and eating lots, which is harder than it sounds when it's hot--and it has been hot. So far the hottest temperature I've had to deal with is 41°C, which is around 105°F I think. However, Cairo can get as hot as 45°C (115°F). That should be interesting.

The main event has been that, for the past 3 days, I have been homeless. My flatmate and I had been looking for an apartment for around 2 weeks, but the apartments we found eventually fell through. So when the lease ended, we were both out of our apartments, temporarily without a place to stay.

So, I've been living in cheap hotels/hostels for the past 3 days. And even then, I've been shuttled from one place to another, so these past few days have very much been a case of constant transitioning. The old idea that you are trapped by your material possessions has never seemed truer, as I have been burdened with hauling my belongings back and forth as I've been moved from one place to another (fortunately a friend kindly allowed me to store a bulk of my belongings in their flat).

There have been a few occasions when, for whatever reason, I've been forced to spend a night or two in a hostel or hotel in the middle of long-term living in a location. Whenever I do this, it feels like I've hit the reset button. So when I woke up on Friday morning and stepped out of my hotel (I had woken up unnaturally early, around 6:30am, desperately craving water and having none) I felt like a tourist again, a stranger in Egypt. There was a moment or two when I even wondered if all the Arabic that I had learned had evaporated, as all the street signs in Arabic swam meaninglessly by in my groggy state. It was not until after I had gotten back from the cafe with my bottle of water and had a drink that I realized I had navigated the whole process (which included asking a man for directions and making the purchase of water) in Arabic. I found that somewhat reassuring.

In the stillness of an early morning Friday in Egypt (always the quietest time in the Muslim world), I was suddenly overcome with a tiny urge to pray. By the time I made it back to my hotel room, however, exhaustion took over and I fell back asleep.

So, much of Friday went by in a distracted, frustrated blur. The prospect of having no place to live is for me very draining of my energy, and when I finally came across an apartment that seemed to be a good match, I was elated but still very tired (if all goes well, I move in this afternoon). It was a bit more expensive than I'd hoped, but still pretty inexpensive.

Friday evening I was in a new hostel and stayed up late chatting poorly in Arabic with the workers in the hostel, and even sharing in their simple meal of tuna fish, bread, and tomatoes (I hope I partially returned the favor when I brought them some fresh apricots the next day). The next morning I woke up. Again, I was going to have to move, but fortunately they let me keep my bags there.

I met a nice man from Oregon named Shane who had just arrived in Cairo the day before and was about to set out on a package tour of Egypt that evening. I offered to show him around Islamic Cairo, and we had a great time -- going from Attaba east towards Al Azhar mosque, then cutting south towards Bab Zweila, going through the Tentmaker's Market and a weaving slowly through a vegetable, meat, and anything-else-you-can-imagine market down to a Koshari restaurant where we both had a bowl of the stuff, then curving down a bunch of old side streets until we came upon Midan Saida Zainab and saw the large and beautiful Saida Zainab mosque. All in all, a very nice day.

The whole time I was sharing my limited knowledge of the area and telling him about different things that we saw along the way. He suggested that I become a tour guide. I told him that I would probably enjoy the job, except that I wouldn't want to have to read all about the history of all the different buildings. I joked, "Some guy would ask me -- what's that mosque? And I'd reply 'I don't know, but I can tell you about what that guy over there is eating.'" Shane was great, but he and I are pretty different people. He'd cut up his Lonely Planet so he'd only bring along the relevant sections (a common technique for travelers to save space; I've never had the guts to do it) and failed to bring any material on the food in Egypt. If I had to take only one section from a guide, that is probably the part I would keep.

Arriving back at the hostel, I was taken to my new hotel, which was not quite as nice -- no wifi and very noisy (I heard every car passing through Midan Tahrir, probably the busiest square in Cairo), although the beds were comfortable and the bathroom was clean. I went to see a friend over in Zamelek and got back late, around 2am. Again, I woke up unnaturally early due to thirst, but this time I was so tired that I simply went to the bathroom and drank from the tap rather than going to buy a bottle. I was so thirsty that the water--which pretty much any Cairene will tell you is completely undrinkable due to its chlorinated taste (although it is perfectly safe to drink)--actually tasted sweet. I went back to sleep and slept till about noon.

Which brings us, more or less, to the present moment. I hope to move into my apartment tonight. When I do: full load of laundry, shower, television, nap; in that order.


Cairogal said...

The first two hostels that you linked looked quite nice. Were they both under 50LE?

Jordan said...

Desert Safary is 30LE a night to share a room with shared bathroom facilities. The other two hotels were 50LE each.

Toby said...

I'm sorry you're homeless, Jordan, although it sounds like you're still having amazing experiences. I can't wait to see you!

Rachel said...

hey Jordan, it's Rachel, Toby's friend, remember me? i'm writing to you from Argentina, where i am also teaching English and having a crazy time with some intervals of homelessness here and there. sounds like you are having some interesting experiences.... that's cool that you are learning Arabic! well check out my blog if you have time:

see ya on the flip side.
take care!

Toby said...

Jordan, aren't you in Paris, or something? Post an update! Sheesh.

theinquiringmind said...

I am planning on attending AUC this fall in the TEFL program. I really don't know anyone whose ever been there; needless to say, while I'm excited to be going, I'm also just a bit nervous. I'm trying to get some idea of what living in Cairo is like. I 've been looking at as many chatrooms and blogs as I can, but one thing I never seem to see mentioned is what it costs to rent an apartment in the city.

I am looking to rent an apartment in the downtown area near the school. Could you give me some idea what rents in this area are like? Any pitfalls I should watch out for when renting a place?