In Cairo, we have noticed a recurring theme. Many places that are visited a lot by westerners are sectioned off from the rest of the city. When Egypt was a British colony, the colonialism was expressed by importing British culture into Egypt. With modern colonialism, a section of the western world is placed wholesale as a small colony inside the city.
After a rather tiresome day, we didn’t feel like we had the energy to go egyptian style again for dinner. Instead, we decided to indulge ourselves in this New-Colonialism. We made reservations at the Hard Rock Cafe, which is located in the Grand Hyatt Hotel at the northernmost tip of the Roda island.
To make the night complete, we had the doorman hail a cab for us. He negotiated the fee for us and we got in. We spoke with each other in Norwegian the whole time, and let the driver drive. Recurring observation: Corniche el-Nil and Sharia 26th July are madhouses, at least during Eid il-Fitr. The taxi took 15 minutes to get the 2 kilometers from the gardens by Ataba station to Sharia Tahrir. I recorded the noise from the traffic on my cellphone, and I hope the sound quality will be good. It will tell more than many pictures. Corniche el-Nil was flowing nicely in the Garden City, however, and after passing the Tahrir bridge, we soon arrived at the hotel.
This is where the world “New Colonialism” first popped into my head. Grand Hyatt has it’s own bridge across the Nile on the northern tip of Roda. The river acts as a moat, and armed guards stop each car, and check it with bomb dogs. No kidding! The hotel entrace itself has a metal detector and two armed guards standing next to it. After successfully getting though the metal detector, we arrived at the Hard Rock Cafe Cairo.
The restaurant is a blueprint copy of any Hard Rock Cafe around the world. They play the same music, serve the same food and wear the same uniforms. The only difference is the magnificient (for a ground floor establishment) view of the Nile. We were watching pleasure barges and felucas float pass as we ate.
After this New Colonial Splurge, we did make amends. We have now gotten more used to how to do taxis in Cairo, and we felt much more genuine with the taxis than with the meal
As the guidebooks say, taking a taxi from a 5 star hotel like the Grand Hyatt will bring up the fare substantially, so we crossed the “moat” back to Garden City on foot. The taxis leaving the hotel without a fare will honk and stop and ask “do you need a taxi”. Approach the drivers window and say “Midan Ramsees” (or whereever – and this time: Pray that there’s only one Midan Ramsees in Cairo!). They seem to say either “Okay”, or “How much?” You state an amount. From Roda to Midan Ramsees aboud LE 10 is reasonable. Seeing as it was late at night, a holiday, and bad traffic, we suggested LE 15. The first driver laughed artificially and said “No, 30!” To which I just say “Maalesh” (never mind) and walk away. The taxi drives off.
We actually met the same driver again while we’re on the bridge. We shared a snicker when we didn’t recognize each other, and decided to continue to agree to disagree.
Getting down on Corniche el-Nil, our first attempt at the same strategy paid off. We say “maalesh” and start walking off, and he’d call after us: “Okay, 15 pounds”. I think I’m getting the hang of this.
Copyright © 2006 Johannes Brodwall. All Rights Reserved.