Catching up in Cairo

After our abrupt departure from Sudan, we were glad to land in Cairo, a city we’ve enjoyed since our first visit in 2013. We’ve been walking around some of our favorite places, remarking on what’s changed and what hasn’t. A big highlight of this visit was the chance to see our friends Tom and Linda, who spend three months of every year here in Cairo.

Tom's photo of Linda, me and Alan
Lemon-mint, Nescafe, Arabic coffee and good conversation. Photo by Tom:

We met up in Khan el Khalili, a famous souk located by El Hussein Mosque and Al Azhar Mosque. After dinner, we ambled down to one of the pleasant pedestrian streets in Khan el Khalili to enjoy tea, juice and more chat. Plus, of course, Tom’s humorous interactions with the vendors who frequent the coffee shops of Cairo. Here, Tom is negotiating for a new wallet. I do admire his bargaining skills, honed by years of living in Cairo.


Tom negotiating for a new wallet  in Khan el Khalili, Cairo
Tom gets the wallet he wants, at the right price — and both parties are happy.

We first got to know Tom and Linda when we started planning our first trip to Egypt. It was not long after the Egyptian revolution of 2011, and we wondered whether conditions were safe enough to enjoy Cairo, and to travel in other parts of the country. I got online and looked for blogs in English, and found Tom’s Travel Blog **. It was full of detailed posts about Egypt (and lots of other places, too), and the entries were recent. So I wrote to Tom, and after some back and forth, Alan and I felt confident that it would be perfectly okay to go forward with our plans.

Tom and Linda invited us for a day out during our March 2013 visit – and what a wonderful, memorable day it was! We visited the Ibn Tulun mosque, one of the most beautiful and atmospheric I’ve ever seen; the Gayer-Anderson Museum next door to the mosque; walked up to the Citadel for incomparable views of Cairo; toured the Northern Cemeteries; and finally ended up at Khan el Khalili for a lovely dinner at El Ahd El Gaded, a well-known restaurant located in an ancient building, and filled with interesting modern art.

It was both fun and comforting to meet up with Tom and Linda again. They have a deep love and appreciation for Egypt, and they’re both frank and funny about the glitches and obstacles that crop up from time to time as you live and travel in this wonderfully complex country. (Plus, Linda is an avid reader and has provided me with many excellent recommendations over the years.)

Friendships formed through travel are special. You feel you’re part of a tribe – the Tribe of Travel – and that your fellow tribespeople understand, like no one else, the attraction of living in places that test your patience and resourcefulness. Of course, the pleasures of new sights and sounds, and of experiencing different people and cultures, are a big part of why one travels, but travel always brings some unexpected twists and hurdles. At such times, it’s these precious friendships with other travelers that can remind you to laugh and relax again, and to be grateful that you get to live this life of change, motion and vitality.

** If you’re at all interested in travel – or even just in reading the observations of two insightful people leading an interesting life – you should follow Tom’s Travel Blog. It’s really the production of both Tom and Linda, reflecting both of their interests. The pictures are great, and Tom provides links back to his Flickr account, where most of their photos live. The Flickr account is also a great one to follow if you enjoy excellent photography and a wide range of interesting and unusual subjects.

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