Friday, August 27, 2010

Moving Day

After a lovely last breakfast at our hotel (see photo above), we packed up everything from our hotel room and are moving into our new flat.  It's challenging to move a year's worth of things for a family of three without a car, but the taxi cabs are well-equipped to handle moves.  I wish I'd had a spare second to take a photo of the taxi that just left with Cameron and Jeff.... it had two big suitcases on top, a full trunk, a backseat with luggage and Cameron's child's guitar (that Jeff enjoys playing) and Cameron on Jeff's lap in the front seat with Abdul, a nice driver we met yesterday.   I'm at the hotel now waiting for Abdul to come back for the last couple pieces of luggage and I'll go with the second load.  Here's a picture of Cameron with all the stuff holding a couple balloons given to him by friends we made here.

Our breakfast view of Cairo for our first week

One of my favorite things during my first week in Cairo was having breakfast in the restaurant of our hotel which is on the 11th floor in Zamelik, an island in the Nile.  One whole wall of the restaurant was all windows and the weather here is always beautiful and sunny so this was our view every morning.  We had a wonderful buffet breakfast of croissants with cheese or jam, hard-boiled eggs, gratefruit, and tea.  I see the Egyptians make tea the same as the British:  it starts with a cupful of hot milk then the teabag is added to that.  Nothing better than to have a couple cups of tea in the morning while looking at these views.

Photos of New Cairo

Here are some photos of New Cairo that I described in my last post:

We decided it would be too challenging to live in New Cairo without a car so instead signed a lease for an apartment in an area called Maadi that is very close to a Metro.  The metro in Cairo is wonderful.  It's clean, has lovely artwork with mosiacs of the ancient Egyptians, it covers most of the city and it's about 17 cents to ride.  Curiously, foreigners don't seem to know about it.   In the week we've been riding the Metro, we never saw another foreigner.  It's also interesting that wealthier Egyptians don't seem to ride the metro either since they have cars.  A really nice Egyptian woman who is also an AUC student was kind enough to drive us around to look at apartments one afternoon and she commented that she had never been on the metro though she's grown up here.   With traffic being very challenging here (both in terms of traffic jams and drivers who are very liberal with their interpretation of rules of the road) and with gas prices sure to increase as there is less oil available worldwide, I wonder if the metro will be used more by all classes of people here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

First Week in Cairo

We have been in Cairo for one week and what a week it's been.  There were some bumps in the road, sometimes big bumps, but overall, things have been great.   We found an apartment in a wonderful neighborhood minutes away from the metro, signed a lease, and found a terrific school program for Cameron ... all in one week!

Here are some highlights of the whirlwind week:

We arrived in the middle of the night on 8/19 and were happy to see the driver from the American University in Cairo shuttle waiting for us outside of the customs holding a sign with my name.  We had booked a ride with the shuttle online through the university and were delighted to see that it worked.  But he had a small car that wouldn't fit three people plus their luggage so anther vehicle was lined up which took us to our hotel.   Despite it being 2am, the roads were busy and many people were walking in the streets.   (It's Ramadan season right now for Muslims which means fasting all day, then "breakfast" after sundown, then the rest of the meals through the night.)  We collapsed in our room once we arrived.  Since it took us two days to arrive in Cairo (with an all-day layover in London), we were exhausted.

We were pleased to wake up the next morning to see we had a great view of the city and the Nile from our room.    Our hotel is in a lovely part of Cairo called Zamelek which is an island.   We cross the Nile four times a day as we go and come from the metro during apartment and school searches.  Here's one night photo I took from one taxi and also a photo of one of the pair of lions who guard the bridge over the Nile.

We spent our first day in Cairo finding my school (American University in Cairo, AUC for short) and the school we'd thought Cameron was going to go to, the British International School in New Cairo (which is 10 minutes from my school).   We'd thought we would live in New Cairo since it would be close to both schools, but it turned out to be too remote, especially without a car.  Most of New Cairo is being built from the ground up, intermingled with arid open land.  Many of the apartments in these half finished buildings are already sold.  Jeff talked to someone who said they had purchased an apartment in New Cairo as a business investment and it would be finished in 2012.  (I'm going to try to post a couple photos I took of New Cairo in another posting since I wasn't able to upload them on this posting.)