TRAVEL THERE: LET THE CRAZINESS BEGIN
It was a late night arrival in Cairo, so the activity inside the terminal was actually pretty calm. A flight arrived from Saudi Arabia about the same time as ours, but otherwise customs and baggage claim was empty. Preoccupied with my own arrival I wasn’t really focused on other passengers, but it was clear we were in the Middle East.
What’s With the Guys Wearing Towels?
In the terminal, hajibs and galabeyas were more frequent than blue jeans and yoga pants, but one guy really got my attention. To my uninformed eye, it looked as if he were dressed for a toga party. His white garment came to about mid-calf and had been torn all the way around the bottom. The texture was towel-like and it appeared one shoulder might be bare. Something like a a shawl was pinned around his other shoulder. He was definitely wearing shower shoes, but whatever the reason for his outfit, staring would be rude, so I kept my eyes down.
If there had only been one guy like that, I might have forgotten about it in the hustle and bustle, but I began to realize there were a lot of men wearing variations of the same thing. Some ‘togas’ were longer than others. Some men had both shoulders wrapped. One hem would look freshly torn with ratty looking strings hanging around the bottom, while another hem would be so smooth I wondered whether it were torn at all.
There were also variations in the textures of the garments. The first ‘toga’ I had spied looked like a laundry mistake. If you’ve ever washed a few towels and then discovered them still in the washer several days later – damp, wrinkled and soured – then you know what I mean. I didn’t get close enough to smell him, of course, but that’s what it looked like. He was the anomaly in the crowd, but there were other subtle differences. While some had the lush looped-terry of a luxury hotel’s complimentary robe, a few had the even more exclusive look of a waffle-woven linen hand-towel No loops there.
Please understand, I’m making all these observations out of the corner of my eye or from under lowered eyelids. I didn’t want to appear to be a gawking tourist, even if that was exactly what I was. I started trying to figure out if this was totally a male thing and I was able to ascertain very quickly it was. The women wore traditional galabeyas and hajibs, and most were of the gloved, head-to-toe, black variety mentioned in my initial blog about this trip. Days later, I would begin to realize there were women dressed in simple white variations of this head-to-toe manner, traveling with some of the men, but if they were at the airport I missed them.
I kept quiet and kept my eyes to myself as much as I could, but I couldn’t help but wonder what the deal was. Did an entire group of conventioneers get their luggage stolen and this was the best the hotel could offer? Your imagination does weird things in a vacuum of information.
Where are Mirette and Ayman?
Step-by-step we made it through customs and retrieved our luggage. We were almost out of the terminal, but with the exception of professional drivers holding signs, we hadn’t seen anyone greeting our fellow arrivals. Just outside the sidewalk was busy with people cuing up for cabs.
Have you ever looked around a place, trying to get your bearings and missed the most obvious thing. I was looking so hard to find my niece or her husband, that I missed a wild cacophony right in front of me. When I finally got my bearings, I started to wonder if I was about to get caught up in a riot.
On the other side of a thoroughfare filled with cabs was a huge crowd. Many of the men had on the togas I had noticed inside the terminal. Bill headed across the street and I followed him, wondering if he’d even noticed the rowdy crowd. They weren’t rowdy in a soccer fan kind of way, it was more purposeful and less emotional, but nonetheless quite loud. What a kaleidoscope of sight and sound to begin our sojourn in Egypt!
I’ll tell you about it next week.