Thursday, March 26, 2009

Zamalek - الزمالك

We stayed on the island of Zamalek, which was highly recommended by friends. I wouldn't recommend our hotel (The Marriott Zamalek)... I know it's beautiful, but it's just too big.

I have to admit it felt extremely decadent to stay at our hotel once we saw the surrounds. While we were at the Khan el-Khalili I overheard one of the tourist police ask Rani where we were staying. I don't know if that was a safety measure or just curiosity, but I'm certain people thought we had money as soon as they heard which hotel was ours.

The only reason we stayed there was because we weren't entirely certain what we were getting into, and safety was key. However, after visiting I think a smaller hotel would be better - it's not such a display of excess, they would be more customer oriented, and I would feel as though our money was directly helping local business as opposed to this enormous chain.

As for the positives, there were so many pretty details that I appreciated whenever I passed by. The lights and the metal work were particularly beautiful. I'm also a big fan of Moorish architecture, so those little elements definitely didn't go unnoticed.

One thing I did absolutely loved (besides the palatial architecture) was the Bakery with Egyptian pastries. Most of them were sweetened with honey and coconut, but they were so very delicious. It's probably a good thing I can't find too many recipes to try, but believe me - I'm still looking!

While in Zamalek we also tried the shisha, which is typically a flavored tobacco. I really hate smoking and everything to do with it, but so many people told us to try it when we were there. Then my paranoia kicked in after I read about being cautious since it's a way tuberculosis can be spread.

Fortunately we could try it with a brand new tube, which was opened in front of us. It doesn't have a smokey smell - it's closer to incense, which is the only reason I decided to take a couple puffs from Stefan's Apple shisha. We decided to try it with our Egyptian dinner, which unfortunately wasn't super unique. I told Rani the falafel that he bought for us was better than our dinner - I don't even want to know what the price difference was. The best parts of the dinner were the 'foul medammes' and the baladi bread.

Zamalek also has the Cairo tower, which is the main tourist attraction on the island. It took us a little bit of effort to get to the Tower, because we were wandering around, but we saw so many things during our walk.

The view is really beautiful and you can slightly make out the Giza pyramids in the hazy distance. Again, the smog is very noticeable when you're so high above the rest of the city.

It's very startling to see how congested things are, and then there's Zamalek with ample sports fields and the most green grass and trees in sight for a long long way.

I always love reorienting myself with a nice view over they city. From the tower we could not only see the pyramids, but also the much closer Egyptian Museum and the Citadel area.

As we were leaving the Cairo Tower we spotted the most beautiful tree. I would love to know the history behind it and how old it is, because it's so beautiful and ancient looking. I loved that someone else also valued it, because the road was built around it.

I also admired the flowers growing on the trees. The bright contrast and colors from nature and life are very welcomed amidst the neutral browns that seem to be painted across Cairo - from the desert to the buildings there isn't a lot of color and vibrance. With such a struggle to live, I'm not sure how much time there is to appreciate something as simple as color or nature, but I warmly welcomed it even after only a couple days.

1 comment:

JoernandAllison said...

Congratulations to the beautiful purple flowers growing in the midst of a majorly congested city! Nature has a way of putting the most beautiful things in the middle of man-made drab.
Interesting comment about your hotel. I think it is difficult as a tourist, in places like Cairo, to balance out safety and not sticking out. Of course the Mariott looks like it was a beautiful hotel though. But next time, you know you can stay somewhere else.
What was the shisha like? I would have the same apprehensions, but it does seem like something to try once.