Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Egypt Chronicles - New Year's night

We arrived at the hotel, tired and weary from walking around the Pyramids. Most of us just wanted to laze around and rest. There was a party going on downstairs at the hotel reception. More of a 'bring your own beverage' party, than anything else. We went there for a few minutes. All the hostel's inmates had gathered around. The Polish women were there too. There was a Sufi dance going on. Here's a video of that.

It was fun, but SK had seen (and shown on his camera) better ones from his visit to the Pyramids at the start of the trip (he had already been in Cairo for a few days before we arrived).

We went back up to our floor and I was sorting out currency for SP and SK. (I was the local forex guy, remember?). SM came in all showered and shaved, ready to rock Egypt's nightlife senseless. He was a tad disappointed to see all of us saying 'Mehhh' to go out that night. MS, SS, ST had already chosen to rest and retired to their rooms. S2K also had almost gone back to bed. The rest of us were really not sure, so the deal finally came down to a walk around Tahrir. It was close to midnight, so we stayed until it struck 12, wished everyone, and headed out into the night. It was six of us - DT, SM, RA, S2K, SP and me.

We walked down to Tahrir, and crossed the square back to the other side and went around the bend towards the Semiramis Intercontinental. That seemed to be our first stop. As we approached the hotel, I began to get the feeling we were standing out. The general public in the hotel was smartly dressed, not surprising considering it was New Years' and a luxury hotel to boot, and here we were in unwashed jeans, dusty shoes and an assortment of jackets and hoodies. SM was probably the only one looking smart enough so we let him go first. We entered the lobby and as soon as I passed the door, the alarm of the metal detector went off and attracted 2-3 bouncers to the gate. I was pretty sure I'd left the wallet at the hostel, but hadn't realised the hip flask was still at the hip :D

The bouncers patted me down to make sure there wasn't anything else in the decoy of a hip flask - and let us enter. The jazz was on the fourth floor. SM went to negotiate with the concierge and came back with an entry charge so high, we burst out laughing. We looked around the hotel (DT, remember the lady with the heels?) and quietly made our exit to check on something else. That was when we found a cab driver, who suggested other options in the Zamalek area. He made us a good deal - he would take us to the club, we could check it and he would drop us back if we did not like it. And he quoted a reasonable fare. So the six of us (and him) squeezed into his cab.

He drove away from Tahrir, across the Nile into the other part of the city. All along, he insisted on playing music at a high volume, and made inane conversation. Thankfully, I was sitting towards the window and let SM field all his questions. It was a long drive, making us think whether we should have declined his request. The busy roads became a bit quieter, and the signboards began to disappear, and it was becoming a bit unfamiliar, so we decided to pull out and asked him to turn around. He said it was not far from here, and turned around into a quieter alley. A lot of cars were parked around, and there were the odd shops. The club was around the corner, he said. I got down from the car and walked towards the club. It was called Melouk, I think! The cabbie called one of his cronies to park the car, and accompanied me and SM into the club. I felt the club's entrance was shady - there was a cloud of smoke, a small lift to take us up and it was quite crowded inside. I could hardly see any ladies in the outer part of the club. We were led into the inner part, which had a dance floor and a bar, and I could spot very few couples. We thought we didn't want to get the guys here, so we excused ourselves and asked the cabbie to take us back. Poor guy, he could probably see his cut vanishing … he tried to sell us a couple of different venues, but nobody was *really* interested, so we went back to the Semiramis. (Note - Google Maps says Melouk is in Dokki, which is on the way from Tahrir to Giza, by road. But we didn't go by road, so why were the signs familiar??)

We got down on the bridge and looked at the bright lights reflected on the Nile. There was a small boat, similar to our cruise boat, moored towards one of the hotels. There was the usual New Year crowd - people walking around, wishing other groups and making merry. We slowly walked our way back past the bridge, past the hotels and across the Tahrir Square. The Square was lit up, but the crowd was dissolving. We stopped at a handcart and ordered tea. Stood at a historic site, on New Years night, and let the feeling sink in. DT wanted coffee, so we stopped for her coffee at Kazaz (which by the way was open every time we passed it in our time in Cairo) before we went into the hostel.

Back in the hostel, while everyone hit the bed, SK, SP and I sat down for tuna sandwiches and what we did best - bakarbazi!! It was a fine mix - SK on the verge of something new, SP in his first year of marriage, and me in my second year of fatherhood!! It was here we really caught up on the day's events. SK recounted his story of the scarab beetle. How it had weaved itself into his activities today, and all along the trip. Conversations turned again towards marriage, life and love. Then some jokes. 3 AM. Silence. Contemplation. 4 AM. The fact that tomorrow was the last day. The fact that today was the last day. Tomorrow would be the first day. 5 AM. No, 4 AM. No, 5 AM. SK's flight in an hour. Let's sleep.

I think I finally slept after seeing SK off at about 6:30 AM.