Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Landed in Cairo . . .

We landed in Cairo after 24 hours on the plane. We were exhausted, more than ready for a sleep. But first, we haggled for a taxi and then were treated to a hair-rising ride through Cairo at night, cars passing on the right and the left, a mad bumper-car-ride through town at 70 mph, with all of the cars heavily dented from what looked like the national contact sport.

Our driver, in heavily accented English, welcomed us to Cairo and brought us safely to our hotel, The Windsor, according to Lonely Planet, a former British Officer's Club with a 'lift' style elevator that goes up smoothly, but that defies gravity on the way down. Our room (in 2004, a thrifty $53/night) was cut out of a larger toom, two twin beds for short people, archaic phone, a bidet in the bathroom, really old watercolors of the Nile on the walls, an amazingly large armoire (big enough for several dead bodies), and very high ceilings. The windows look out over a street scene that had men sitting at an open air tea house at midnight. We are within walking distance of the Egyptian Museum, and I can hardly sleep.

We were enchanted. Our room, dark but welcoming, seemed a bite from the colonial past with its wooden shutters and antique furniture. We were too exhausted to care, simply slept those first 10 hours away.In the morning, I opened the wooden shutters, startling these lovely large birds -- black winged with gray bodies, that flew up out of the courtyard. I learned later they were considered 'garbage' birds, crows, more technically, the black-hooded crow.

Black-hooded Crow, Cairo (Wikipedia Commons)
 I looked across the street at the neighborhood cafe to see perhaps that same group of men gathered around small outdoor tables, wearing galabaya (traditional long, flowing robes), smoking waterpipes, and drinking hot tea. We begin our month stay in Egypt and are at home in Cairo for about a week.

Early Morning

I awake bleary, too many hours on the plane:
Only seven am and already the streets are noisy.
Cars are driven fully here, horns, brakes, shouts!
Pedestrians leap out of the way.
Dirty city streets make a brown city
yet a side street has locust trees
and large gray birds with hooded black heads and black wings.
Horus, the falcon, protector of the Nile,
how did I come to be here,
half way 'round the world,
where your day is my night?
As the sun rises, the buildings
turn creamy yellow,
night becomes blue sky day,
the tea houses open.
For thousands of years,
people have lived here,
in this city by the Nile, the pyramid an icon
of past splendor, the desert close,
the Nile no longer floods.
Last night from the plane I saw
hundreds of small communities
scattered in the desert like jewels,
small pinpoints of light glistening in the dark.
Today the pyramids are new,
the sun has risen,
the Egyptian Museum beckons.

This month, I'm revisiting a month long visit to Egypt in 2004 with pictures, an occasional poem, and commentary. As a first stop, you can visit the Windsor Hotel in Cairo. Would I return to Egypt today? In a heartbeat!

Snake Charmer at Aswan,
wearing traditional galabaya (Camp 2004)


Sandy Brown Jensen said...

Cairo! There are no such things as garbage birds, whatever people may say. All corvids are exceptionally smart and photo worthy. I'd never heard of this species befire, so thank you!

Beth Camp said...

Perhaps something was lost in translation, Sandy, for I knew very few words in Egyptian, and the young man who was explaining about the birds knew only a little English. But those are the surprising words he used. We saw them everywhere! And, yes, crows are very smart. :)