It’s nice here.
But this is Cairo from the perspective of two eyes—literally—so let it not be the final sight.
It would be unjustified to say the people here are simply great, but they really are amazing. Islam pierces through the life and character, in varying capacities, of all Egyptians.
More often than not, an ‘Assalamo’alikum’ is rebutted with a wholesome ‘Wa’lakummusalam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatohu’. More often than not, you will randomly be greeted by people. Not to mention when you become close to someone, expect an elaborate, (occasionally sticky), and physical ritual of salutations and goodbyes, unfamiliar to us cerebral, cool and dry westerners.
Egyptians are a curious folk. If you look at all foreign or sound foreign, they will engage you on the streets, restaurants, inside pyramids, asking where you’re from and what you’re doing here; and they love a sense of humour, if you possess one! I in no way exaggerate when I tell you that they will randomly pull over on a busy street (if you look foreign) to ask you whether they can help, presumably not asking for anything in return, though I never took up the offer.
What of Arab hospitality? It’s true. If you are fortunate enough to be invited over for tea or a meal, I assure you, you will be taken care of. Even if it’s to someone’s tiny shack. You will find time fly by before you have the opportunity to leave/escape. And, remember, when they say lunch, it means approximately dinner time for us in the West. So: showing up at twelve in the afternoon will cause many a stomach growls. When you feel you are done, rest assured you will be eating another whole plate, so try and feel full faster. But no matter what, never pass over an opportunity to sit and sip tea with an Egyptian – you will want to recreate the experience plenty a times.
Now for the bad apples. There are many who will try to cheat you, quite immodestly at times. If you are foreign, you will quickly get accustomed to informal, and occasionally formal, ‘foreigner pricing’. Prices at times jump between 50 to 300 per cent for non natives – and they don’t bargain! Mostly they’d rather lose a sale than reduce foreigner pricing. One ought to simply shop around, or as a general rule, approach the more apparently Muslim merchant – worked for me.
The merchants and salespersons of high density tourist spots possess a unique character. You will find them excruciatingly pleasant. They will tell you it’s a gift, they will tell you they love you, they will dazzle you with their ability to say a few things in many different languages, but be warned, they charge per inhalation. They will agree to a price before the service, and ask for handsome ‘charity’ once it’s done (kind of like a fine print, only unprinted). Also, often your pockets are the best place for your hands as you will find yourself owning something even before you process the thought. And, piece of advice: never pull out a wad of money in front of anyone, it’s assumed that it belongs to them (why else would you pull it out?).