So long Europe

Trip Start Oct 07, 2009
Trip End May 25, 2010

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Where I stayed
The Canadian Hostel

Flag of Egypt  ,
Monday, January 4, 2010

I said good-bye to Andrew and the other folks at Mavi Hostel, then made the trek to the other side of town to meet up with my couch surfing host Mehmet. It was unfortunate that I was only able to stay for one day, which is always too short when surfing. Mehmet cooked up a nice Turkish dinner and we talked about travel for a bit, but by 9:30 I was ready to call it a night. Sharing a dorm room with upwards of twenty people at Mavi wasn't exactly conducive to restful sleep. Mehmet's dark, quiet spare room was a welcome reprieve, and I enjoyed the best sleep I've had in days.

I suppose this is the part where I'm supposed to say something deep and philosophical about my last three months in Europe.....To be honest I'm finding myself at a bit of a loss, so I will steal from Mr. Theroux "extended travel, at first so expanding, eventually contracts the mind" or something to that effect (I looked through his book to find the quote but failed). Without giving it much thought I found myself in Ireland three months ago with ambitions for Istanbul. I'm a simple man, so food was my mission. If I came across a church, and it was raining, and I had just eaten, I might step in to check it out, I figured. But as the time passed I found myself growing curious about a broader range of subjects; history and languages took center stage but architecture even began to tickle my fancy. A genuine curiosity for the places I had traveled took hold, and I became compelled to read as much as I could. Further on down the road and I really started to realize what makes me happy. Something about carrying your worldly possessions on your back helps put things in perspective. I realized what I value most in life; family, friends, and a clean pair of socks. Alright, that's as philosophical as I care to get for now. Moving on.

My two hour flight from Istanbul was slow to start, and delayed in the air. We did a couple loops over the city like a dog looking for a good place to lay down. Eventually the captain managed to put the plane on the ground. A painfully long taxi down the runway, and he slowly eased the beast to a stop. I elbowed my way to the front of the line and after a painless pass through customs was on the road. Oh, it feels good to be back in Egypt. The familiar smells, the constant honking, the food.

"Are you hungry?" I ask my taxi driver
"No, not really, are you?"
"Yeah, I want to eat some fuul"
"You want fuul? Okay okay, I know a good place."
A little bit further and he pulls the car to the curb and flicks on the hazard lights.
"You want fuul or falafel or both?"
I like his style, both it is. He insists on paying for my sandwiches despite my genuine pleas. We get back into the cab and I tear into the chewy bread with its soft crunchy fillings. Like a junkie getting his first fix in all too long I can feel the bread and beans slide down my esophagus and settle into my stomach. "Oh yeah, that's the good stuff" I sigh. I have arrived.

I drop my bags at the hostel and head to the common room to chat with whoever cares to. I meet up with Brandon a fellow Canadian, and a couple Americans, Donny and Megan. We talk for a bit, but eventually we become restless. Nobody is particularly hungry, but with food prices as they are here, eating for fun is a great way to pass the time. I lead the pack in search on another Egyptian classic; koshari. With vague directions from the hostel staff we head off, following a twisting route through narrow lanes. Touts and the sweet smell of sheesha try to draw us in, but we stay focused. A friendly police officer stops us and asks what we are looking for."Koshari." A knowing smile grows across his face, and he nods in approval, pointing the way.

In front of the restaurant the eager staff clear us a spot. We set the price before we order; at five Egyptian Pounds (about a dollar) for a large, it's hard to go wrong. Koshari is comfort food regardless of your back ground. Macaroni, lentils, and rice, topped off with crispy onions and tomato sauce; it hits all the right spots. I barely manage to finish off my portion.
"Please come again tomorrow"
"Oh, you can count on that."

The day after that is a good bet too.
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