Alexandria looks cleaner, more prosperous and much more western than Cairo and the Upper Nile cities of Luxor and Aswan. Traffic is orderly, not chaotic – other than the horns. It reminded me of my one and only visit to Newark, New Jersey 20 years ago. Lots of horn. The cars look newer, larger and in much better shape than in Cairo and everywhere else. They do not have as many scrapes, scratches and dings. There are lots of cabs.
On the highway north out of Cairo we passed the toll booth and were soon on a four lane each way divided freeway. The right lane was to go 80 km/h, the next over 90 km/h, the next 110 km/h and the far left lane was posted for going 120 km/h. Some cars went much faster.
The freeway was nicer than any of the freeways in Oregon or Washington really better than any western state that I have been in. Four lane freeway for about 100 km.
There are many fewer men wearing traditional Egyptian clothing. It reminds me of Trabzon, Turkey, on the Black Sea. Alexandria lacks the trash and chaos of Cairo and Luxor. But you still might see an occasional horse-drawn cart go down the street, with a man at the reins, carrying fruit, vegetables, eggs or alfalfa.
After uploading the several previous blog entries, I walked down to the lobby to listen to piano music. There was no music. I went to the desk and asked the desk agent where I could have a beer. She replied ‘upstairs and they have a complementary light dinner.’
I walked up the marble staircase to the first floor, down a long wide hallway with doors 10 feet high and 18 foot high ceilings.
I was greeted as I entered. I felt informal. He was dressed formally.
Alone in my room, earlier, after a long and tedious decision process, I planned what I would wear to dinner and how I would do my hair. Sandals, my hair down with a slight twist and a flip.
He showed me the salad bar. I asked ‘Can I set anywhere?’ and he affirmed. It was a tough decision. I sat in the corner so I could see the entire seating area. I could not see the Muslim couple. There were 15 tables with 6 chairs at each table and all were empty. Just me in the far corner staring at a sea of empty tables and chairs.
Ate salad, cheese, no bread, and had a Stella. Gold filigree was everywhere, high ceilings, very formal and french feeling. Music was terrible. Soapy western soundtrack music, being played by a guy to my left with basically an enhanced ipod-keyboard-canned-soundtrack-playing machine. The Muslim couple departed. It was just me and the DJ. I wondered if he had any Dire Straight he could cue up for me.
He played ‘Just The Two Of Us’. (OK, if he did not, he should have).
And then more soapy instrumental music with flutes, harps to an electronic accompaniment. The ‘Theme to Godfather’, ‘Feelings’, ‘I Need You’ by the band Bread. He stopped and took a short break. I almost applauded. He started up again.
I quickly left, but not before a small piece of chocolate cake.
Taking a beer with me, I walked downstairs and had a seat a large window in the lobby about 4 feet above the sidewalk and the 2 lanes of one way traffic. I watched people and cars. The piano guy appeared. There was one after all. People walked past and stared. I made sure they could see my ponytail. After 20 minutes for his last tune he played ‘Hit The Road Jack’. Really.
There are few men wearing the traditional Egyptian gallibeya. Fewer women fully covered by the hajib; most wore headscarfs and some wore western jeans.
I found this online from the Quran:
Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: And Allah is well acquainted with all that they do. And say that the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. ‘And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss.’
— Sura 24 (An-Nur), ayat30-31, Qur’an
One young woman in a full hajib stared at me, sitting in the window, as she walked past. She looked directly at me from her little slit to the outside world. Our eyes met.
Where I was sitting, I felt like a prostitute in a window in the red light district of Amsterdam.
She continued her stare as she walked past. I smiled, winked and licked my lips.
She looked away but I think she smiled under her hijab.
Hope you had a chuckle. I enjoyed writing it.