A day in Cairo
I was extremely grateful for the suggestions from all of you about what we should do in Cairo, but I have to confess that the one full day we had here was given up to pleasure more than intellectual improvement (though that came in its usual back door route). This wasn't so reprehensible, as I have been to Cairo a few times before -- and have been pretty energetic in the Archaeological Museum, the Old City (with Dr Alcock's guide). etc.
This time, given we had just a day, I was in the end keener to suss out what the son was doing, the style of student life in Cairo. He is learning Arabic in a serious way there, like I always intended (and no, I haven't actually got further than the most basic restaurant-speak).
So we wandered through the streets of Garden City, near our hotel, past the British Embassy (which looks like a bunker..), around the antique shops (full of fakes? or real nineteenth century French furniture? or nineeteenth century Egyptian copies of French furniture? or modern Egyptian copies of nineteenth century French furniture - - - I couldnt honestly tell),and the cake shops (the calories that Islamic culture saves in alcohol, it makes up for in sweeties) until we got to the son's flat on the eighth floor of an old(ish) block downtown.
I am pleased to say that he and his mates have followed local tradition and bought a couple of budgies, at about 3 quid a head (seen in the picture at the top -- and don't worry they do get plenty of time out of their cage, swooping round the flat).
It was in fact a lot better than I had expected, though the view from the balcony is simultaneously charming in its urban squalor and depressing in its poverty. I'm not sure if you can see on the picture, but there are tents and makeshift huts on the flat roofs of the surrounding buildings -- where people are indeed living.
And -- nice as our hotel is -- it does raise all the questions about this kind of tourism and where the money that it raises goes. The son pointed out that the hotel car we had booked from the airport cost more than what the (comparatively well paid) domestic staff at his university own per month. Just the car journey alone . . . never mind the room (with a fantastic view over the Nile, and onto the pyramids in the distance), the dinner and the round of pre-prandial cocktails.
But of course that's what nice western liberal tourists always worry about...while still going on spending their money in the same way.