Mastering the art of doing nothing


So today I decided to make an effort and go to the city center. On my own. Again.

Well I knew it would not be easy. First of all I needed a cab. Ok, it is easy to get a cab on any main street – not a big deal. But I needed to explain the directions. I knew the street’s name: 26th of July street. Hmm. Obviously taxi drivers don’t know English and I could not say “26 of July” in Arabic. So my mission was nearly impossible. I’ve spent 10 minutes on the road catching cabs and talking to my friend Sara on the phone who tried to explain taxi drivers what I needed. Over the period of 10 minutes I saw:

– a man peeing in front of me: he just lifted his gown and did what he needed to do;
– I was checked out by random men zillion times;
– received various comments from them in Arabic and felt stupid for standing there and talking on my phone.


Finally I got the cab. The problem is that even taxi drivers have no idea where anything is in this insane city. So even if they know how to get to let’s say Zamalek, it doesn’t mean that they know the particular street that I needed.

My cab driver was incredibly friendly. He called someone and passed me the phone so I could explain my directions in English. I was freaking out a bit since I don’t understand Arabic and had no idea where he was taking me. When we were in the down town area he asked someone on a crossroad for directions. People are extremely friendly here and willing to help. That was nice. I finally found the arts gallery that I needed.

Contemporary Egyptian arts

Kareem El Qurity "People Against the Constitution" at Al Masar Gallery

I was impressed. This small gallery has a decent collection of contemporary Egyptian paintings on various topics: everyday life, political ones and abstract. I am not a big arts specialist, but I do enjoy discovering new art scenes. There was one picture, called People Against the Constitution depicting three military men and a throne on top of them (the attached picture does not reflect the uniqueness of the work tho). The artist used different materials in his work. Golden painting and glass that divided people and the throne on top. Picture is full of symbolism and I guess everyone could understand it in a different manner. The owner of the gallery told me that it is his oldest son’s work. He made it in 2010, before the revolution. The owner was clearly proud of his son and the fact that I enjoyed this work a lot. In the meantime his youngest one (aged 10 or so) was watching some cartoons in English on his lap top. Friendly people and friendly atmosphere

Nice experience was followed by fresh pomegranate juice for $1.6 and eventually led me to a book store. Even though I was in the city center I was not able to find a nice street café with hookah and coffee so I could enjoy my Newsweek. Hmm

My way back home was full of surprises. Taxi driver clearly wanted to rip me off and tried to fool me around. HALAS I say!!!! Every proper taxi car has a meter machine in it, so I could know how much to pay. Well this driver did something to this machine so it did not work. Hmm. He wanted to get 20 LE (3 dollars), but I know that the ride cost 10 LE tops. We were arguing on my way back home. It was funny since I don’t speak Arabic and he does not know English. But my Chinese bargaining skills did not fade away and were in place. Eventually I said HALAS and tried to open the door and leave the car. He said: OK, 10 LE madam. Victory.


About Masha Egupova

I am coming from the small city on the Russian Far East called Vladivostok, but Chinese call it 海參崴 [Hǎishēnwǎi] meaning "Sea Cucumber Cliffs." In my blog I will present the view from and about Vladivostok and my views on what is going on in Russia in general.

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