I spent six days in Cairo one summer in the early noughties, before heading off to Sharm el Sheikh on the Sinai peninsula for a further three days. I travelled with a friend, whose ginger hair, pale skin and freckles were not entirely suited to the climate of north Africa. The furnace like heat from the midday sun was, at that time, the biggest issue for western travellers.
I sat scratching my head for a few minutes, trying to work out exactly which year we went. I had a historical point of reference to help – I needed only to consult Wikipedia. I remember sitting by the pool on a very warm late afternoon when the television at the bar announced the news that Timothy McVeigh had been executed. It was big news. It was June 11th 2000.
The holiday itself was very much a luxury affair. Booked through Kuoni, it was five star hotels, full board and guided tours all the way. It was my first trip abroad to my dream destination with no expense spared. Cairo was a lot of fun. Insanely busy, chaotic, smelly, colorful, sweaty, noisy and more. It’s a sensory overload. I had my first taste of falafel there, in a McDonald’s. A McFalafel. It was revolting, but in keeping with the rest of the city’s cuisine. Generally speaking, one doesn’t visit Cairo for its culinary gifts to civilisation, but in spite of them.
Nonetheless, Cairo is the city where it was confirmed that I do indeed have a pretty solid digestive system. Cast iron innards, one might even say. I ate what I wanted and passed the test. My friend, alas, was not so fortunate. I did catch one bug there though. The travel bug. It may have been my first to exotic lands, but it wasn’t my last. For the next five years, I would cram in four or five trips a year. Needless to say, I quickly exchanged Kuoni for budget flights, hostels and self guided tours.