One more try to revive this dying blog…

The sun is setting. I’m sitting behind a cup of sweet turkish coffee at a cafe on the corniche of Alexandria, Egypt. I feel good. After the large helping of lamb kofta and good hour of smoking sheesha, nothing can get me out of this chair. So I’ll write.

I arrived by train this morning after a few days in Cairo. My introduction to the African continent has been a good one: in addition to the classic tourist itinerary (catching a sunburn at the foot of the great pyramids of Giza, getting lost in old Cairo) I’ve met some interesting characters.

“Backsheesh, grease for the gears, right?” My new friend Mohammed explained a few things to me about his version of the “Egyptian way” over sheesha and mint tea. I told him that I had just visited the Egyptian museum but was disappointed about not being allowed to photograph anything. “Of course you can!” He showed me the proper way to pass the museum guard a folded up bill on the sly. “They’ll leave you alone. The Egyptian way, my friend!”

Mohammed just wanted to sell me on a tour of the Cairo, but I knew that when he asked me to sit down for tea. I told him with a smile that I wasn’t interested in a tour but he asked me to stay anyway and chat. He wasn’t busy. We talked for an hour about all sorts of random things, I met his wife, he introduced me to the neighbors (awkward, no English), then I walked on.

I’ve been in the country for 4 days and already I’ve had two such experiences. Of course, for every genuinely friendly guy there are a dozen annoying touts who have no interest in me beyond what I might be persuaded to buy, but I can’t even say that much for many other cities I’ve visited. With the reputation Egypt has among other travelers I’ve met, I’m surprised to find it such a pleasant place to be a tourist.

Other random observations: - People walk fast here. Thai people walk slow. I hate that. - Single women don’t have it so easy around here. I’ve witnessed some minor harassment. - Old Cairo is just like it is in the movies. Which movies? I don’t know. There must be some.

OK time to go.