Live from the Longchamps
Days Five and Six
by Jimmy Dunn
Who comes to Egypt just to sit in an office all day? What sort of fun is that? Unfortunately, I do, and very frequently. Today was spent like that, as will the better part of tomorrow. Luckily, I should soon finish this business and be back to exploring Egypt. Before I leave, it is very likely that I will find myself in several interesting locations that even I have not visited in the past.
It has taken considerable work to get the products in our Virtual Khan el-Khalili all worked out and shipments the way we wish. The first problem is uniformity. People want what they buy in an on-line picture to be the same as the product that they receive, but unfortunately, many of the hand made items typically have no uniformity at all. Glass blowers who make perfume bottles and such do each one differently, so no two are usually very similar at all. So we get a shipment of 2,500 perfume bottles with the same part number, but each is a different color, design, and shape. The only thing they have in common is the size. These are problems that everyone who wishes to publish a catalog of such products have, and rarely is the problem solved. Fortunately, our partners in Egypt are very good, and we have in fact solved these problems, though it has taken considerable effort and a lot of head pounding to do so.
Another problem is papyrus and museum replicas. Many scenes painted on papyrus are pretty, but bear little resemblance to any real, ancient paintings such as those on tombs and temples. Even those that do are frequently very inaccurate. I have insisted that our papyrus be accurate depictions of real scenes, and I spent some of the day, with reference books in hand, pointing out the variances I wished to have corrected. This also applies to our Coptic Christian papyrus. I don't really want odd scenes of the Holy Family's travel through Egypt. I want real scenes from ancient monasteries and Churches. Now one might thing that a statue replica purchased from the Ministry of Culture, which is in charge of antiquities in Egypt including the Egyptian museum, would produce very exact work, but think again. There are often considerable variance in these as well, so again with reference books, I demanded exact copies, varying only in size. I believe that very soon, we will have some of the finest museum reproductions available, made especially for the Virtual Khan el-Khalili. But it certainly takes much work to get that accomplished, and it is one of my main reasons for being in Egypt. Of course, I am also making a selection of other products that will be added to the store, some of which are very unique. Tomorrow should be a little less boring however, as this work will probably take me to the real Khan el-Khalili to look for new products.
So that was my day, with the exception of a nice lunch at Johnny Carino's. Yes, that is a US chain, in fact based in Texas. If some Americans are unjustifiably afraid to come to Egypt, certainly American restaurant companies are not. I have already eaten at Chili's since arriving in Egypt, and later this week I will have dinner at TGI Fridays. Of course, there are McDonalds, Hardies, KFCs, Pizza Huts and others. Its sort of funny, but when I am home, I sometimes go to someplace like TGI Fridays when I get homesick for Egypt. By the way, this evening I had excellent Kabob in the Hotel Longchamp's restaurant.
While today was all work, last night was not. I had the fortune to meet with up with some old and very good friends, specifically Diaa Khalil and Nancy Awbry who is also sometimes known as Goldie. We were accompanied by some relatives of Diaa, and by one of Nancy's workmates, a girl from New York. Nancy is a transplanted Californian who came to visit Egypt and seemingly never left. She teaches school, while Diaa is an Egyptian in the IT field. These are friends made long ago on the Tour Egypt BBS who became part of an informal club known as the Egyptomaniacs. Diaa and Nancy often get to know people who are planning on coming to Egypt through the BBS and meet them once they get here.
They are great people, and Diaa is simply one of the nicest Egyptians anyone could ever know. His name might be recognizable to some, because he sometimes writes for Tour Egypt, though we have never gotten Nancy to do so.
The plan was for us all to go on a felucca ride, which we sort of did. A felucca is an Egyptian sail boat. However, there was not much wind, so we soon parked it on the bank and simply had a good visit. It was a warm pleasant night and a very relaxing moment. Actually, an evening felucca ride in Cairo is an experience that all tourists should try. The lights and sounds of the Nile are grand in the silence of these small boats.
After getting back to the dock, however, we decided to try something a little livelier. I suppose it was my idea, ever eager to try something new. We went out on a party boat, which is not a typical tourist experience, but an amusement of regular Egyptians. It was, nevertheless, fun riding along with music blaring. Intermittently, one or more of the guests would stand up and dance in the middle of the boat, which is all part of the fun. However, one of the small children was especially interested in my camera and completely determined to wrestle is out of my hands.
This was all very nice, because the rest of my day had, like today, been spent doing business and I was ready for a break.
Now, a couple of notations. First of all, I hear from various sectors in the travel industry that soon, Nile cruises may resume from Cairo. Currently, and for a number of years now, Nile cruises have only taken place from just above Luxor down to Aswan, but they have not originated from Cairo. Secondly, I should warn visitors that payment to hotels while staying in Egypt cannot be made with Egyptian pounds. This should really affect few people, as those arriving for tours do not directly pay hotels, and most others use credit cards.
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Last Updated: June 14th, 2011