Wednesday, August 1, 2007

More Bomas and Entering Egypt

After our adventures with the Maasai and animals of the Serengeti, we went back to what we did best in Nairobi: sit on our friends' couch, eat lots of delicious, local food, watch some TV, play with the kids, and otherwise take a bit of a vacation from our travels. While we probably seemed like the lamest travellers to Donald and Caren, it was a nice respite from the usual activities of finding food, a place to stay, arranging transportation, what-have-you. But we did do a little more than that before we headed up further north.

On our second to last day, we went with Caren and Donald to a friend's house for a party. Not just any old expats party, but an apartment warming goat roasting party. Donald's friend had just found a place, bought half a goat, and invited everyone over to celebrate in the Kenyan way. Except that he didn't really know what to do with the goat. Fortunately, Caren made a few calls for advice, and we had delicious goat about four different ways (which you'll hear more about when I write about Kenyan food). On our last day, we went to a place called "Bomas of Kenya," a government run park that had examples of the homes and huts of many of the different tribes of Kenya. While many were similar, there were differences in the layouts and construction based on the different tribes. And it's probably a good historical record, as we all saw differences between the traditional styles and the current buildings from the Maasai that we had seen and the Luya and Luo that Donald and Caren knew. Then we followed it up with a traditional lunch of Nyama Choma, or barbecued meats--lots of it. We ate chicken, fish and goat, more meat in one sitting that we would have eaten in six months in India!

Cortez and Bradley admiring one of the bomas

Cortez spent most of the visit running from boma to boma

How I felt about the idea of being Tyler's third wife....

Then, sadly, it was time to pack and get ready for our 3AM departure. Our eight days in Kenya had been wonderful. Some of it was having a local contact, but a lot of it was our experiences with the people, who were incredibly welcoming and friendly. While I'd happily re-visit any of the places we've been to on this journey, I hope those are not empty words for Kenya.

After a quick drive to the airport (no traffic at 3AM!), we prepared for our final African country: Egypt. Sleeping through the flight, we arrived at 11AM. And it felt like we had suddenly entered an Indiana Jones movie--desert sands stretching out below us, then palm trees and the retro "Cairo Airport" sign on the building. Strangely, almost everyone on our plane was connecting to go somewhere else. On the bus taking us to customs and baggage were only about a dozen passengers, mostly locals. So after getting our passport stamps (actual stamps, you have to lick and stick in yourself), we collected our baggage, arranged a hotel, and rode into town with a friendly and talkative taxi driver who pointed out the notable sights along the way.

Despite the interesting sights and sounds awaiting us, we (well, I) promptly napped the afternoon away, not ready to face the city on about four hours of sleep. But after some rest and a hot shower, we wandered around our new neighborhood a bit. I had expected Cairo to be a bit chaotic, noisy and a little overwhelming, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a relatively clean, well-organized and friendly place. Several times since arriving, we've paused, confused about exactly where to go or how to find what we wanted, when some nice Egyptian will ask if they can help. And then they do! Without expecting anything in return! We've been directed to an internet cafe, shown where to buy train tickets, accompanied for more than five minutes to a bus station, and shown the best place to buy souvenirs at a government run shop by a man on his way to prayer. Though the busy streets are hectic to cross, it's a very pleasant city.

We decided to head to one of the neighborhoods on our Lonely Planet map that had a few restaurants and cafes to find some dinner. After a little wandering around, a man at a sidewalk tea/hookah cafe invited us to sit down. Ready for a rest, we had a seat and had some mint tea, fool (fava beans cooked with lemon and garlic) and falafel on pita bread. Sitting there, we took in the sights, small groups of men gathered around the water pipes, other men taking shoes to be polished while the customers relaxed, hearing a group of older men chatting loudly in Arabic inside the cafe, the men at the hotel across the street trying to shoo away a street cat. We also chatted a bit with the son of the cafe owner, Achmed, who ended up offering us a cup of Egyptian tea before we left. It was delicious, but strong, with granules of tea sitting at the bottom, plenty of sugar, and a fresh sprig of mint. After this, we crossed the street to go to an unpromising looking hotel that had a bar in a former gentlemen's club. The bar was nice, very colonial feeling, and we had some delicious hommous with pita chips, beer and an Egyptian dessert. A promising start to our two weeks in Egypt!

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