In all the time I’ve been in Egypt I haven’t had the chance to do a lot of exploring. Between preparing my classroom, planning lessons, going to the gym, and all the other minor inconveniences of life, there’s not a lot of room left for sight-seeing. Also, many of the tourist destinations; the Pyramids, Tahrir Square, etc., are far from my home and not the safest place to be.
However, a week or so ago some coworkers and I had the opportunity to do a little exploring. Angelica, the Kindergarten teacher, found a listing for a sushi restaurant, with an all-you-can-eat special, that she wanted to try. Lindsey (middle school Language Arts and Social Studies) and I were game and we had a free day, so why not? After a nice long workout at the local gym we locked up our sweaty gym clothes and caught a taxi to Maadi, an expat-filled neighborhood of Cairo.
Of course, although we had a map, our cab driver had no idea where we were going. I’m finding that to be common here in Egypt. Cab drivers will say they know where they’re going, but stop and ask for directions several times a trip. Our driver that day didn’t stop and ask for directions, but he did drop us off far from where we wanted to be. He pointed us down an alleyway where we could see signs in several languages: Korean, Chinese, and Japanese. Not what we wanted, but we could see what he meant.
Luckily, we were dropped off in one of the embassy districts where guards are more likely to speak English. We asked for directions a few times and walked the 20 minutes to Jo Sushi.
Though not much to look at from the outside, and tiny on the inside (5 tables) the food was good. The servers spoke English fairly well, and were helpful in choosing good sushi rolls. All three of us managed to over order and overeat though. We were starving, and the food took quite a while to arrive, but it was pretty decent.
After our over-indulgence we decided to walk off some of our gluttony along the Nile. It was sunset, and cooling off nicely.
Sunset on the Nile.
A colorful storefront selling hookahs.
These little kiosks are everywhere.
Along our walk we were accosted a few times by men hawking boat rides on the Nile. I wasn’t really in the mood, but Angelica and Lindsey stopped to ask prices. Turns out that an hour’s ride on the Nile at sunset was only 150 Egyptian pounds (LE), significantly cheaper than our 135 LE each all-you-can-eat lunch.
So we negotiated a fairer price (100 LE) and settled in for a sunset ride. It was gorgeous, and peaceful. Some of the traffic on the river was odd: Rowers, fishermen, etc, and the trash everywhere was saddening, but overall it was lovely.
We sat at the front of the boat
Why the two different architecture styles in one building?
There are many houseboats on the river, some abandoned, some occupied. This one, though occupied, looked ready to collapse into the river with nothing more than a sneeze.
Signs in Egypt are in English and Arabic.
Our trusty captain, blaring the music.
A family of fishers. Mom rows, dad fishes, and the baby supervises.
It’s hard to tell but this boat’s lights are shaped like traditional sails.
Everyone is on the river, including boatmen.
You see some weird things on the river including this odd carving made from tree trunks.
Well, except for the soundtrack. Two minutes after launching our captain turned on some Egyptian techno music. LOUD. And didn’t turn it off for the whole hour.
The Blue Nile is just one of many river restaurants.
This building was burned during the revolution last year to get rid of any and all documents.
The sails of this boat were made of rags and old clothes.
We took pictures of EVERYTHING, which is only fair, since everything stared at us; the three lonely foreigners in a boat on the Nile. It took the whole hour to circle the island of Zamalek, especially since we started by going upstream. I often forget that the Nile is the only river in the world that flows ‘backwards’ or Northward. Upper Egypt is the south, and I live in Lower Egypt, the North.
After our lovely boat ride we caught a cab and spent the next 90 minutes sitting in traffic. But it was totally worth it.
We started with a simple goal: go to a sushi restaurant. We met that goal, and went even further to have a minor adventure on the Nile. A very successful day for 3 expat teachers.