A Journey Through Time
Our Tour Egypt Visit to Egypt, Part VI
by Jimmy Dunn
While many in our small tour to Egypt, all Tour Egypt colleges, family and friends, were probably becoming a bit homesick as we approached the last several days of our trip to Egypt, that would end in Cairo, I am always, no matter how long I have been in Egypt, saddened to leave the friends I have made there over the years. As we flew out of Sharm headed back to Cairo, this feeling was already setting in.
We returned to the hectic traffic and noise of Cairo fairly early, giving everyone a chance to rest up. Hebba from the Hotel Longchamps arranged a dinner for us that evening, and I once again called some of my friends, hopping they could make this meeting. I headed down to the Hotel Longchamps, hopping to catch Hebba and planning to do a little shopping, particularly at the AUC Bookstore. I must always look for new material and research, and so the American University in Cairo Bookstore is always a required stop whenever I visit Egypt. However, Hebba had a meeting elsewhere, and would not return until about 4:30 pm, and I had forgotten about it being Friday, a day that the bookstore was closed. Nevertheless, I wondered around this neighborhood that is so familiar to me.
It was actually nice to be away from the people in the tour at this moment, and just to enjoy this little part of Zamalek that seems almost more home to me than the area where I live in Lubbock, Texas. It seems funny, but I know more of the people here, in the blocks surrounding the Hotel Longchamps, than I do in the blocks around my house in Lubbock. I stopped in at Canadian Cleaners, though I had no cleaning this time, but I was enthusiastically greeted by the owner. I visited a small jewelry store, around the corner, where the owner enjoys good jazz, and purchased a few trinkets for Christmas gifts. I had to have at least one hamburger from Hardies, up the street, where even when I've been absent for a number of months, the employees still know how I like my burgers. I greeted friendly, familiar faces, met a young man walking his Golden Retriever, which did make me miss my own dog and constant companion, George. I even set tome time on one of the chairs so often provided in front of the various shops, and visited with the locals who frequently prefer to be on the streets rather than in their shops if there are no customers.
In fact, this is why I know so many more people in this second home of mine. The streets are alive with those who make this neighborhood their home, and people are always friendly or perhaps curious enough to make my acquaintance. Its not so much like my home in Texas, were porches have been usurped by TVs, and too many people conduct their social lives from a computer terminal. Neighbors almost always know each other and even strangers in their midst cannot remain strangers for long. In many respects, an Egyptian neighborhood is not so different than an American one of a few years ago. In this huge city of Cairo, neighborhoods remain small villages simply clustered together.
I finally returned to the Hotel Longchamps to relax on the back terrace while I waited for Hebba to return from her business appointment. She and I then took a short ride up 26th of July street to meet the rest of the tour group on the famous terrace of the Marriott Hotel on Zamalek. Once again, Misr Travel had been kind enough to keep the bus around for their transportation from the Movenpick in Giza.Along with the tour group, we also met up with our Cairo manager, Ahmed Antar, and my to good friends and founders members of the Egyptomaniacs, Diaa Khalil and Nancy Awbrey. Diaa is an Egyptian, and one of my oldest friends in Egypt, while Nancy is a US ex-pat working in Egypt. It was very nice to see them, as we had problems meeting up earlier in the tour. The Egyptomaniacs are sort of an impromptu society of people who frequent our BBS (conference center) and are a very important element of Tour Egypt. They are made up of both Egyptians and foreign nationals who frequently visit Egypt. They help answer questions about Egypt on the BBS, and sometimes even assist tourists who travel to Egypt. They also provide me with help on research and sometimes even write articles for Tour Egypt.
We all enjoyed a nice visit on the Marriott terrace before deciding to accept Hebba's proposal to dine at Cristos, a fish eatery actually only a few blocks away from the Movenpick where we were staying, with an excellent view of the Pyramids. Having released the Misr Travel bus, we all piled into Hebba and Ahmed's cars, with the addition of one taxi, and headed back out to Giza.
At Cristos, which apparently is currently in fashion with local dinners, we all moved up to the roof terrace which has a grand view of the Great Pyramids. Here, one selects fresh fish which is then delivered to the table on large platters, and we all enjoyed this next to last evening in Egypt among good friends eating great food. Afterwards, we all made the short trip back to the hotel for a restful night's sleep before our last day in Egypt.
That next morning morning most of the tour visited the Egyptian Antiquity Museum, though I ventured back to Zamalek in order to pay a visit to the AUC bookstore that had been closed the previous day. However, we all met up again for lunch the famous Naquib Mahfouz Cafe in the Khan el-Khalili Bazaar, and afterwards, of course, everyone went on a last minute shopping spree. I really had a long day ahead of me with several meetings, but I stayed in the Bazaar a little longer than I had planned making a few purchases of my own.
As everyone else left on the Misr Travel bus back to the hotel, I went back to Zamalek to say my farewells to Hebba at the Longchamps, where I also met up once more with Ahmed and my old friend Hoose Stryjak. Hoose, as we call him, is a well known German writers, responsible for the famous German version of the Marko Polo guide to Egypt, and these days even a German radio personality. To me, he's just Hoose, one of my best friends, even though our busy workdays often prevent us from communicating with each other as we should. We spent much of that evening on the terrace of the Hotel Longchamps, while I basically ignored my responsibilities as tour leader, letting the rest of the group do their own thing that evening. We had a good visit, though Hebba was a bit too busy entertaining her other guests.
Later, I said my goodbyes to Hebba and Hoose, and Ahmed carried me out to Heliopolis and the Sonesta Hotel, where I joined up with some good friends from South Sinai Travel for a final dinner. The place restaurant was packed full of Americans winding up some tours with that company, and I ended up my visit to Egypt among good friends, including Antoine Riad, the owner of South Sinai, Terry McKendree, who runs their operation in the US, Medhat Mourad, who's company I have come to greatly enjoy, and Samir Sidhom, a jovial Egyptian friend who latter went far out of his way to drive me back to the Movenpick Pyramid Hotel.
As it turns out, I missed some fun back at the hotel that evening. Some American GIs from the peace keeping forces in the Sinai had come in on leave and were staying in the Movenpick Pyramids. Apparently everyone got to know them, and latter they and a few of the group went out on the town for a while and had a gay.
That next morning we arose early for the flight home. Misr Travel took us back to the airport, where they made sure all was in order. We had a good flight back to New York, though the EgyptAir plane was somewhat more crowded than on the way over, and arrived back in New York where this time we stayed in the Metropolitan Hotel nearby Rockefeller Center. That night, most of us were a little tired out and I suppose that this was our loss, as some of the others walked the few blocks over to see the famous Christmas tree all lit up in Rockefeller Center. The next day, we all did a little shopping in New York prior to making connections for our flights back home.
I have to give Misr Travel due credit for an enjoyable experience in Egypt. Everyone in the Tour expressed their satisfaction with the visit.
Misr Travel's performance was flawless. Every transfer was exactly on time, and on many occasions, they went beyond the call of duty, providing busses and transport that was not a part of the original arrangements. All of their staff in Egypt were courteous, friendly and helpful, and I think many of our tour members truly regretted having to say goodbye to Soha, our guide throughout the trip. In addition, the busses that they provided during our visit were modern and all were in good working order. Air conditioning always functioned when we needed it, there was never any mechanical failures and the drivers wee excellent. We could not have asked for a more perfect performance on their part.
I have one final note, and an endorsement to make. On that next to last night in Egypt, when were joined by Diaa Khalil, he made a very important announcement. It seems that this young Egyptian friend of mine has found the girl of his dreams, who he wishes to marry. Knowing Diaa as I have for many years now, the girl named Asmaa must be a very special young lady indeed.
Among traditional Egyptians, marriage is a very serious affair, not taken lightly by the parents and families. In fact, many young people must wait for years before earning both the respect and assets required for marriage. I have never made such an endorsement on Tour Egypt, but to the parents of Asmaa, I would like to take this opportunity to tell them of my respect for Diaa, which must also be bestowed on Asmaa through him. He is one of the finest Egyptian I have ever met, and during my many years visiting Egypt, he has on numerous occasions been of great assistance to me, never asking for anything in return. He has been a good friend who I have never seen violate any Islamic practices. I also know Diaa to be a very traditional Egyptian, with strong ties to his family, loyalty to his friends, and a hard and diligent worker. In fact, though Christian myself, through his outstanding values, I have gained a great respect for Muslims, and I believe that if others could see Islam through Diaa, the world would be a better place. To Asmaa parents, I would have to say that Asmaa has made a fine choice in Diaa. There are simply no better young men then him. So to him and Asmaa, I give my highest regards, and I wish both of you a successful journey though this difficult, but rewarding process. No one deserves it more than you, Diaa.
Last Updated: June 6th, 2011