We were supposed to stay at the Nile Hilton tonight (in part so we could store our extra luggage there), but Romani has instead booked us into a hotel near the airport. It is a nice place, but is surrounded by the same type of upscale urban sprawl found in California or the Minneapolis suburbs or so many other places around the world. There would be no neighborhood to explore here even if I had the time and energy to do so.
Not that I have energy for anything. I’m actually hungry, but I’m more interested in crashing and sleeping for about three days.
However, Romani has other plans. We must eat dinner and see a bit of Cairo tonight.
Soon I am on a tour bus headed into the city for dinner at a restaurant in a park.
It is dark now and I glimpse the city in bright little flashes.
It looks like a wonderful, fascinating city.
Equally fascinating is the police car that evidently will accompany us everywhere. It seems weird, as the view outside my window looks a lot like any other major city. Do we really need a police escort?
At the park we wind through narrow twisting roads before being dropped off to wander through the park to the restaurant. The distant-seeming city around us glows with lovely, subdued lights. A huge mosque floats above the distant city. We wander through the carefully manicured landscape, past elegant pools, toward a warmly glowing traditional-style building.
It is magical.
It is very cool – literally. Romani warned us the wind can be cold at night, but hey, I’m from Minnesota, what’s a little cool air?
The cold evening breeze slices through my thin sweater. I am freezing, so am relieved that we are not dining on the patio (despite the beautiful view). Gratefully I enter the relative warmth of the restaurant.
The building is designed to look like a traditional mansion. Despite the grand exterior, it is simple and elegant inside, with clean lines, cool plaster walls, and intricate medieval-looking chandeliers. The wooden furnishings are heavy and over-sized. It all feels very exotic and foreign.
(I will realize the next day that this park is Al-Azhar, which I had read about in the New York Times, but had not expected to see. The restaurant we eat in is either called the Citadel View Studio Misr or the Hilltop Restaurant – all I know this night is that it is beautiful and smells wonderful.)
I end up at one end of a long table, with Romani seated to my left (at the head of the table) and his brother and assistant Isaak (Eshak) to my right. Larry and his wife Lynda are seated across from me. I ask Eshak a few questions, but he is quiet and shy, so mostly I listen while the Alderinks catch up with Romani.
The bread and its accompaniments are wonderful. All of the food is good, but some of the meats are quite rich with lovely, unusual seasonings.
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