Smiles on the Nile

Travel tales
Last Updated : 13 August 2015, 18:48 IST

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Life keeps us so busy that even in this day and age of technology, we don’t get a chance to catch up with a friend. My British-Pakistani friend from London and I had been planning to meet each other for a long time.

I didn’t mind meeting him in any place (other than London since I have lived there). So one evening over a casual WhatsApp chat, we planned to meet somewhere in between and both of us chose Egypt. Neither of us had been there and since my friend’s sister lives in Cairo, we thought we could stay with her.

Due to our work schedules, July seemed to be the only possible month for our holiday despite it being very hot over there. I booked the tickets in March and got them at an affordable rate. The visa process was hassle-free too.

When I arrived in Cairo, I was delighted to see my friend at the airport. It was like a ‘Jai-Veeru’ moment! We soon reached his sister’s apartment in the heart of Cairo, Garden City, in a lane just off River Nile.

It was unbearably hot and we decided that we would spend all our time in Cairo, exploring the city in depth and chilling at home rather than just touching places like Luxor, Aswan and Alexandria. After all, we had worked hard throughout the year and deserved to take some time off just to relax. What follow the next nine days opened up a different world for me.

Cairo was the first Arab city I had visited. Contrary to what many may believe, it’s liberal, safe and secular. My friend’s sister was kind enough to take us around the first few days to get us acquainted with the people and culture. She spoke fluent Arabic, in spite having been there for just four years. Moreover, she educated us on how Egyptian Arabic was different from the Arabic spoken in other Levantine countries.

Cairo is very alive at nights — probably because the days are so hot. It’s common to see people of all age groups hanging around Tahrir Square or the vibrant Khan el-Khalili late in the night.

All those who return from Egypt have fond memories mainly of the Pyramids but for me, Khan el-Khalili was the most special place. It’s a market area that is open 24 hours. Out of the eight nights that I spent in Cairo, I visited it four times. It just tantalised all my senses at once.

As a holiday destination, Cairo is extremely affordable. The taxi and food costs were on par with what one would pay in Bengaluru. Hence, it is a great holiday destination for anyone (with the ideal months to visit being November and February).

On the last day, I treated myself to a room at Kempinski, with a splendid view of River Nile. Since it was my last 24 hours in Cairo, I wanted to unwind and soak up the Nile as much as I could and every moment of it was truly worth it!  

(The author can be reached at shikha.krishna.80@gmail.com) 

Published 13 August 2015, 14:05 IST

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