Journal: Wednesday 15 January 2003
We had a slow start today. Abdul had disappeared somewhere and Sam announced that she wanted a day off doing nothing at all. Jane and I both felt pretty lazy too but I couldn’t bear the thought of wasting a whole day, so we decided to go to the Egyptian Museum. On this occasion it was quite easy to get a taxi down to Tahrir Square – an exciting ride dodging cars and bicycles as well as donkey carts and kamikaze pedestrians on the busy Sharia Ramses. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Cairo until now but for the first time I am really enjoying being back in the city. After ten days in rural Egypt being escorted everywhere by the police as though we were royalty it’s a good feeling to lose myself among the crowds of the metropolis where nobody took any notice of me and I didn’t stick out too obviously as a tourist. I was even enjoying the now-familiar smell of hot oil, hot animals and a hint of spices.
It was almost lunchtime when the taxi dropped us off near the Nile Hilton, as good an excuse as any for going into the hotel. Besides, I knew from previous visits that the museum would still be crowded with tour groups who mostly go there in the mornings. Jane hadn’t been to the Hilton before and we went to look at the posh shops in the hotel arcade, calling in at Nomad, my favourite store that sells Bedouin crafts, then Miss Egypt and the bank to change some money. We also went into the big two-story shopping mall. Many of the stores there were closed or empty, but we stopped in the cafeteria for coffee and some delicious cakes. It was hard to choose as the patisserie had some amazing confectionary that looked almost too good to eat. Back outside Jane went into a couple of stores in front of the hotel where she bought some souvenirs and then we went on to the museum. I wasn’t sure whether photographs would be allowed here now, but to my surprise they were and we didn’t even have to buy a camera ticket.
I’ve always found it difficult to take pictures in the Egyptian Museum because the light is not good and many of the exhibits are behind dirty glass-fronted cases, but that never stops me from trying again. I particularly wanted to have another look at the Amarna gallery, having been at Tell el-Amarna just a few days ago. The thing that annoys me most about this museum is that many of the objects are badly labelled or not labelled at all. There was also a new exhibition to mark the museum’s centenary year. This was housed in a long room behind the main museum and had some beautifully displayed exhibits in a much more modern setting.
We stayed in the museum until it closed, by which time it was dark outside. Feeling adventurous I suggested that we take the metro back to the Ciao Hotel. Walking down into the labyrinthine tunnels of Sadat Metro Station we eventually found the train to Mubarrack, which is outside Rameses Station and just across the road from our hotel.