By my second and final week in Cairo, I had finally managed to find some order into my daily routines here, and become quite accustomed, or rather spoilt by the comforts and luxuries of this majestic hotel.
7:30 Am – Bang !!! ….. the electronic alarm would ring. About 3-4 ‘snooze’s later, I’d reluctantly wake up and drag myself to the balcony to feast my eyes on the marvellous view of the placid waters of the Nile flowing by, under the golden rays of the sun !
The next 1.5 hours would be a mad rush in getting ready for office ……..barely managing . somewhere in between, to bite a few slices of bread and butter as breakfast ! Finally, by around 9 Am, I’d tighten the noose around by neck ……..or rather the neck-tie ! The Egyptian clients, unfortunately, could not compromise on this ! [Personally, I’ve never been able to comprehend how a narrow piece of cloth hanging around your neck, choking your air supply and drastically cutting down the flexibility of your neck, could add to professionalism ! ]
At the office, most of the guys would have already been in by the time I walk in.
“Sabhah Kheer” (Good morning) …….“Kaif halak” ( Kya haal hai ? )
………… the usual platitudes would be exchanged, and I’d proceed to shake hands with the guys in the room. It was good to be friendly with the clients one worked with……..but more importantly, shaking hands also ensured that you do not get kissed on the cheeks ! ……as it is customary for Arabs to greet each other doing that !!!
In the room, there were about 5-6 guys besides me , all real nice chaps !…….It was a young and jovial crowd, and really couldn’t have been more fun…….. and supportive at the same time ! They made me feel quite comfortable ! Thankfully for me, it was the first time they were meeting a consultant from India and were quite happy about it ! There was Aby, the tester who I worked with – my very own encylopedia on anything technical or otherwise [ yeah, he’s the guy who had earlier taught me the real cause of the Tsunami that struck India 2 years back (refer to my earlier post ‘Some Egyptian Gyan’ if you would like to be enlightened yourself ! ) ]
Then there was Ayman, a huge bloke – about twice as big as me and maybe thrice as heavy ! Though every single day, he comes to office in nothing less than blazers/suits, the only productive thing that I’ve ever seen him do is play the ‘Age of Empire’ on his comp ! Then of course, there was Bayoumi – a very friendly and helpful guy …….and Megeth – who had been to Delhi on a work assignment about 5 years ago, and still raves and rants about the place ! Besides ….. there was Amr – a total freak on Fighter planes [ he even taught me a point or two about the Indian Air Force ! ] ….and Moustafa – the only hard-working chap among the lot, and of course Yacine – a French-Moroccan consultant, who was quite a fan of Bollywood movies. He liked Shah Rukh Khan, and the other day, was telling me about an SRK movie that he had recently seen when he was on holiday in Morocco. He couldn’t really remember or pronounce the name, but said that it consisted of some 4 smaller words !
[ Hmmmmm…sounds like a Karan Johar movie ! ]
He said there were lots of songs, almost every few minutes !
[ Yeah…..must be a Karan Johar movie ! ]
He could distinctly remember one song ……where Shah Rukh gets out of a helicopter, dressed in black suits and runs towards his house, where an ‘old, bearded man’ was waiting !
[BINGO ! …….thats gotto be ‘Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Gham’ ! ]
And he supposedly liked the movie !
[ ????? *&$^£&*^$”*??!^$!**&%*^£(*& ]
For lunch, I’d generally order Shawarmas with the guys …..The Shawarmas here are massive …much, much bigger than the ones I’ve grown up eating back in Kuwait ! We used to order combos – for 10 Egyptian pounds, we get 1 shawarma, 1 pack of French fries and a Pepsi. I used to struggle to complete the shawarma, because of its sheer size and the amount of meat in it……but by the time I manage to do that, Ayman would have finished two !
The guys would start leaving the office by 4 PM. I used to stick on till a little past 5 and then walk back along the Nile, to my hotel. Once there, would relax in the pool until sunset.
It was on one of those evenings in the pool that I made friends with Aly – a Lebanese kid, who was here on holiday with his parents. [Quite a rich family he must have, I reckoned …… to be holidaying here in the Conrad ! As it did indeed later turn out, his dad owned a huge construction company back in Beirut ! ] ………This guy was the youngest cool-dude I’d ever seen …….. All but 10 years of age, he was sporting a David Beckham-stlye Mohican hair-cut, had a Scorpion tattooed on his arm and spoke about 5 international languages ! We used to play with his football in the water.
Later in the evening, I’d venture out into the city, exploring the sights and sounds of this vibrant, exotic place ! I would walk around, easily for about 2-3 hours, each time trying to explore a new area ….thanks to my sense of direction [which has almost never let me down so far 🙂 ], I’d always manage to get back to the original spot I started from ! The areas around the city centre, very much resembled a typical European city of the early 30’s or 40’s ……with its architecture and tree-laden boulevards ! I later learnt that those central districts had been modelled on Paris by the early developers of Central Cairo !
Contrary to public perceptions, I found the city to be very safe and friendly. In fact, even upto midnight, the streets would be buzzing with activity and it wouldn’t be uncommon to see women and children out in the open, or enjoying the breeze by the banks of the Nile !
On my way back, I’d get into one of the many huge malls around and grab some junk food for dinner. By around 11 PM, I’d be back in my room….and watch TV for a while, or go out into the balcony and enjoy the live Arabic music and dance performances by artists along the poolside-Lebanese restaurant ………..and then finally doze off on either one of the 2 large double-beds !
What I liked best about this 5-star accomodation (….. that I was fortunate enough to be bestowed on by my very generous clients); was not really the 2 large double-beds, nor the luxurious bathroom ……..nor the beer-and-goodies filled refridgerator, the electronic safe, nor the TV with cable and DVD player …………… but honestly, was the simple fact that I could throw my shoes or clothes around in the room in the morning, and come back from office in the evening to find them properly arranged inside the wardrobe and the shoes neatly polished ! Ah ……the sheer joy of Luxury !!!