Cairo and Sharm El Sheikh - my first trip to Egypt

My flight from Istanbul to Cairo was quite an adventure!
Back in 1996 there was still a smoker's section in the airplanes and for some reason I got seated there, at the very back. There was a free seat beside me - which meant that whenever somebody from the non-smoker's section felt like they needed a cigarette, they came walking to the back, sat down next to me, smoked and then walked back to the front. I was surrounded by smoke for nearly the entire flight, thank you very much!
Well actually, only the first part of the flight - because towards the end we experienced some turbulences. It didn't feel like we were flying but more like driving over a potato field! The guys in front of me started praying to Allah quite loudly...
And then a flight attendant sat down on the free seat over the aisle from me. He was clearly rather motion sick and one of his female colleagues was with him, patting him on the back to comfort him.
So yes, it was a VERY bumpy flight into Cairo! I sure was glad when we landed safely...

My friend Mona was already there. She had been to Egypt a few times before and got kind of addicted. She also met some Egyptian women before who we hang out with. On the bottom left is Hoda, a certified tourist guide. Above her Sahar, her friend. Top right is Mona and of course bottom right myself.
Sahar was a teacher at an international kindergarten. We went to meet her at work - a children's birthday party held at Mc Donald's!

And where is the first place they took us for dinner? Kentucky Fried Chicken! Yep, that's what they consider a great meal out because hey, they can have Egyptian food at home every day!

But we didn't spend much time in Cairo to begin with. Instead we caught a night bus to Sharm El Sheikh. It was a bus for Egyptian tourists which meant that there was a TV on all night at very loud volume! So much for sleeping on the trip.

Sharm El Sheikh itself was lovely, especially the snorkeling. Sahar came along. According to her modest dress code she was covered from head to toe and when she came out of the water when had to be ready and catch her with a towel immediately to cover her up.
This did however not mean that in the evening Sahar wouldn't be caught flirting with a German tourist. We jokingly warned her to tell her mother about it!

The ancient Egyptian art of towel animals!
Back in Cairo we went to see the pyramids of course. The first surprising thing is that they are not far out in the desert but instead right by the city. Well I guess, the city just caught up with them eventually...
OK, you probably won't see anything in my pictures you haven't seen before - these old stones always look the same. But we need proof that we actually were there nevertheless!

 The pyramid with me, Nicole (Mona's friend who came along) and Sahar

El Fishawy cafe at the Khan El Khalili (bazaar). 
We went to the bazaar as a group but then split up so that all of us could do their individual shopping. I didn't have the faintest idea where to go - but my trained nose lead me straight to where I needed to be: Mahmoud Abdel Ghaffar, the biggest costume shop in the bazaar (and we are talking several levels here!). I bought this lovely costume which was on the hight of Egyptian dance fashion:
They needed to do some fitting, so I let them do that and went to rejoin my friends who were already getting worried about me getting lost. But hey, I arrived precisely at the agreed time!
Then we went back to the shop together to pick up the costume.
Our Egyptian girls where kind of scandalized that the owner of the shop would be around me when my belly was naked! But after all, it's something he sees every day.

In the evening we went up on a tower with a great view of Cairo.

 Visiting a mosque

We were staying at a private apartment in the middle of a residential area. So one of my fears (besides getting hit by a car in the crazy traffic) was to lose my friends. I would NEVER have found that address again!
Views from the windows. 

It might look peaceful and quiet, but don't let it fool you: Early in the morning there were men with carts circulating the streets, announcing loudly that they were collecting or selling things. My "favorite" was the guy with the gas containers. He would hit some metal tool against the containers to get the attention of everybody and to make sure we wouldn't sleep too long!

Of course we did more walking around, especially with Hoda. She is very proud of "her" Cairo and happy to share it with visitors. And we did get some real Egyptian meals. 

By the end of the week I flew back to Istanbul and stuffed even more things into my new big bag.
I also made a last walk up to the bazaar, just to be sure I didn't miss anything. 

Nobody at the airport in Zurich asked me if I had anything to declare... This is how I smuggled seven costumes into the country! 
This is me after unpacking all my new possessions, including the the costumes and hip scarves I bought for other people.