The street was lit like a Christmas tree. Music was pumping. It was uncomfortably loud and the taxi vibrated a little with every bump of bass. I covered my ears. I was really looking forward to getting to the hotel after our stressful train journey.
The taxi pulled over.
No no no, we told the driver. We want to go to the hotel. This is some main drag retail/party area.
We drove a bit further on. Our driver pulled up to the Cairo Paradise Hotel. I looked at our reservations which showed Paradise Boutique Hotel. Surely this wasn’t it. Richard called the hotel manager who spoke to our driver. We drove on and I breathed a sigh of relief. We were almost there.
We pulled over at the very same music blaring, lights flashing spot.
Oh gosh, our hotel is here.
My legs refused to propel me out of the car. Even when the hotel manager arrived to take us to our room.
Ok, maybe it is a hidden gem. Maybe there is a garden paradise with sound proofing, just around the corner.
The hotel manager led us down a dark alley, through a decrepit doorway and into an ancient elevator. It was one of those old designs where you can see out the wrought iron gate at each crumbling floor we passed.
Then a beach came into view. Or rather it was a beach mural plastered over the entire wall of floor 5. Still, it was an improvement. The lobby looked fairly decent. As the manager led us towards our room I was starting to think a little more positively. Then we got to our room.
Thump, thump, thump, thump.
How was it possible for my teeth to be vibrating with each beat of the music playing SIX FLOORS DOWN? The Cairo party scene was challenging the laws of sound waves. Richard immediately tried to secure a different room but apparently this particular paradise was so popular there were no other rooms available. Bloody hipsters paradise.
We sat down dejectedly, our dour countenance at odds with the upbeat party music thrumming through our molecules.
When the manager came back we were still sitting there, frozen with misery. A new room was provided. Hooray! It was still loud but not bone-vibratingly so.
The next morning Richard picked up my parents from the airport. As he left the hotel and waded through the garbage littering the entrance he realized the entrance looked way better at night than in the light of day.
I have to give my parents credit though. After an 11-hour flight they arrived at this rough budget hotel and they rolled with it. They were seemed unfazed by the surroundings and excited to be with us and embarking on this adventure.
On the plus side, the hotel was only $30 a night and it was very central. The staff, while largely unhelpful, were pleasant. The rooms were nicely decorated. There were ill-fitting screens on the windows which were wholly ineffective in keeping out bugs, but the thought was there.
There was a McDonalds a block away which was brilliant for breakfast to lessen the culture shock a bit. We only had to wait half an hour for our fast food. Then we took a short walk to the Egyptian Museum, which was amazing. We saw Tutankhamen’s death mask, ancient statues, sarcophagi and mummies and finished with a lunch of Egyptian food at Felfela.
I’ve known my mom for a long time, my whole life in fact. There are a few fundamental aspects of my mother. One, she likes ice in her rum and coke. A lot of ice. Two, her ideal museum visit duration is about ten minutes. Three, she’s a meat and potatoes gal. Foreign food is not her jam. So, I was a bit worried after we came back from our two-hour tour of the museum followed by foreign food and the ice situation at the hotel was not looking good. The hotel staff responses to our multiple requests for ice ranged from “no” to “yes, in ten minutes” to “check in an hour.” A walk down to the shops was equally unsuccessful.
That night, while sipping on warm rum and cokes in our budget hotel room, with the music pumping in the background and mosquitoes trying to suck some fresh Canadian blood, I was surprised and pleased to hear my parent excitedly recounting how much they loved the day, including all two hours of our museum experience.
As we turned in for the night and the mosquitoes prepared for their evening buffet I reflected on what troopers my parents were and resolved to make this an epic trip for them.