A Turkish town and an Egyptian princess

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There is nothing better than flying 10 hours (OVERNIGHT!) and arriving in a remarkable city like Istanbul. Although our time there was super short, it was just long enough to glimpse the Bosphorus from afar and roam the lively area  that surrounds the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. We stepped into the Grand Bazaar for a few seconds, grabbed an apple tea (which smelled like heaven) down the road (which road, I couldn’t say) and nibbled on a satisfying Turkish pancake filled with potato, onion and spices.

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Then…sadly, it was time to get back to the airport so that we could continue onto the next leg of our trip. We arrived in Cairo with red eyes at 2am local time.  After a quick pop through customs, we were ready to embrace  luxury and mostly, a bed, with open arms.

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Holy Egyptian cotton Batman! Sleeping on planes is not for me…especially when one can sleep on clouds at The Fairmont Towers Heliopolis. We slept and slept and slept. It was about 1pm local time by the time we awoke and realized food was greatly desired.

We had a very ODD  day in Egypt. It isn’t often  I can say with great certainty that I am a “dumb old tourist” but our time in Cairo confirms this. There are ranges of inappropriate behaviour and dumb moves when travelling but I think we reached a whole other level of stupidity. We had intended with what one would assume great ease to waltz out the doors of The Fairmont into a taxi and off to Giza to view the Pyramids. They are those big three dimensional triangular stone things that sit in the desert. You know them right? Yeah well when we left The Fairmont (before our 40 minute death defying taxi drive along the streets of Cairo) we were pretty sure that everyone was on board with where we were going. Giza. Pyramids. Plateau. Where we ended up was admist the bustle of street vendors, cars, and people just a stone’s throw from Giza Square in the heart of the Islamic District.  Now how this happened I don’t quite know. Beyond our obvious inaccurate location, I was also particularly inappropriately dressed to be hanging out in the Islamic District in a majority muslim country. Particularly because I am a woman and one who has often been mistaken for an Arabic woman, my bare arms, uncovered head and otherwise minimal dress made me INSTANTLY uncomfortable.  I couldn’t help but reflect on our luck to be dropped off of all places there.

It reminded me of a recent adventure that Mike and I took exploring the Rail Path. We finally decided to investigate a building which is smack in the middle of  a bunch of industrial buildings. In all ways it looks like an old factory or strorage warehouse but curiously at the rear, it boasts a stained glass window featuring a cross. I assumed it must be a church but it was an odd place and building for it. As we walked up to the front of the building as hords of people were exiting, Mike yelled out, “I’ll be damned. It is a church!” Because if there is any one place on earth to choose to utter those words, steps away from the congregation as they are walking out of their place of worship is where it should be.  So with the same class and nonsense, there I was inappropriately dressed in the most inappropriate of places. And I should really know better. I have a great amount of respect for the women who (one would assume) choose to express their tradition and faith in the way they veil themselves. More importantly, having experienced how Arabic men cajole and ogle Western women right in front of their wives and children, I neither want to be handing out or on the receiving end of such disrespect.

Fortunately, things started to look up only another hour after witnessing the reckless ways of Egyptian drivers and inhaling a few good years worth of diesel and gasoline fumes. We stopped in at the Egyptian Museum where I chose to pick my battles and let Mike pay for a local guide. We headed back to The Fairmont to meet up with Uli and her daughter, Aisha. I met them both back in 2006 at a Pioneers of Change gathering in Nova Scotia. Uli is a brilliant German woman who now lives in Cairo with her husband and daughter. She manages this great daycare and has co-created The Hub Cairo.

Now Aisha is 6 years old and at that brink of seeking independence but as much wanting her mom’s attention every minute. Of course for Uli these are moments of torture.  But she is very good spirited about it and truthfully, Aisha is a darling and so clever. She speaks German and Arabic at home with mom and dad plus English plus she attends a French school. She is ridiculously charasmatic (when she wants to be) and her impish smile and big blue eyes give me the sense that she is going to have a lot of fun in life. She is a little Egyptian princess if I ever met one. She didn’t remember me – and how could I expect her to – but I told her that I would take a photo of us and send it to her so that next time she would know who I was. This is us at Cliantro (a hip local coffee chain).

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Next stop…Kilimanjaro.


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