At the end of my first full day in Cairo I returned to my room at the Carlton Hotel, not to be mistaken for the Ritz Carlton. My bed was the place I retreated to at the end of the day. A place of peace where I could replay the day and its unfolding.
There was the photography, as always ... my client, her Egyptian film-maker, the gallery owner and then Cairo herself on that first day. The Egyptian Museum stunned me with its collections of mummies ... pharaohs from the 18 to 20th Dynasty found in Thebes. There was a group found in Deir el Bahari cachette, and it consisted of the mummies of: Seqenenre, Ahmose I, Amenhotep I, Tuthmosis I, Tuthmosis II, Tuthmosis III, Seti I, Ramses II, Ramses III. Another group, found in the tomb of Amenhotep II ... Amenhotep II, Tuthmosis IV, Amenhotep III, Merenptah, Seti II, Siptah, Ramses IV, Ramses V, Ramses VI, (and three women and a child.)
Magical names I thought myth ...
And there was me, strolling through this massive museum near the Nile, passing by artefacts so ancient that I couldn’t begin to grasp the time that had passed between them and now.
A note: if you need a little respite from Cairo’s carbon monoxide, the museum has filtered air and was a little oasis of calm but for the fact that I was surrounded by the likes of Amenhotep the I and II. The corselet and a gameboard belonging to Tutankhamon were there ...
The Lonely Planet had recommended our hotel but promised nothing extraordinary, a place to sleep, friendly staff, a rooftop restaurant and cleanish rooms.
We found the staff friendly and helpful and there was a sense of family amongst those who took care of us. The elevator was old but seemed to work perfectly.
We amused the night manager by asking to see the fire escape. He led us out back and pointed to the spiral metal stairs disappearing up into the narrow alleyway darkness but failed to mention the padlocked fire escape door we noticed when we were up in the roof restaurant for the view. I’m sure there’s a contingency plan but we were put off asking anything more because he laughed and gently tease us about the fire escape whenever he saw us after that.
I always struggle with the initial restrictions of other countries ... in this instance, don’t drink the tap water, avoid ice in drinks, and salads washed in tap water. I ended up settling for a hunk of tender roast sheep with a little rice for lunch, lentil soup and rice for my dinners.
The noise was a constant, a market on the street directly below .. I’m glad I packed my mp3 player.
But that was the day when I began to love my Cairo life.