The “nondescript” hotel
This is a follow-up to my post on my first trip to Cairo.
I shall refrain from naming the hotel we found ourselves in that night, but I will describe it. The hotel is in the middle of a residential side street with the most outdated neon sign bearing the hotel’s name in Arabic only. The tiny lobby looked like it was last renovated in the 1950’s, shortly after Gamal Abdul-Nasser declared Egypt a republic and was furnished with a high desk and an ill-tempered receptionist/manager. On the ground floor was a beat-up elevator we avoided and an Indian restaurant called Biryani that we didn’t even think to try.
We took our surroundings in, and grimly nodded at each other. We hauled our bags up the stairs and made our way through the narrow hall to our room. I couldn’t stop pointing at the yellowing wallpaper – torn here and peeling there, I knew it was just a forewarning of the room to come. I was not disappointed.
It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t take pictures of our room – the AC shaft was coming off the ceiling and the fitted grey carpet was stained. The room was musty and dank and we (the three girls sharing a bedroom) looked around helplessly. Someone – it was probably me – opened the window and in rushed the smell of curry. Our room must have been directly above Biryani. We explored our tiny room, lifting the antique telephone and pointing at the many moldy cracks in the bathroom. Looking back, it was nauseating but we were worn out and trying to make light of things. I remember how we all laughed nervously as we took out the bed sheets we had brought from Kuwait and lay them on top of the beds, trying to make sure our skin didn’t come into contact with the hotel’s gruesome sheets. I honestly didn’t expect things would be that bad but I was grateful for my grandmother’s suggestion.
We were up early the next morning and the morning light flooding in allowed us to better examine our room. Daylight made the room a little better. It lost its creepy thisiswhereIbringmyyoungmistress vibe and instead was filled with a thisplacehasn’tbeencleanedinseveralyears feeling. One of the girls tried to call the lobby to request an iron. She used the retro antique phone to dial 0, assuming that would transfer her to the one and only employee in the building, but she couldn’t get through. She tried each and every number after that and even random possible combinations: 111, 101, 100, 200. Finally, it rang!
Her: “Allo? Is this the lobby?”
Him: “No. This is the restaurant. Dial 147 for the lobby.”
147? And we were supposed to guess that?
We had a few more misunderstandings at that hotel ranging from their reluctance to lend us an iron to the breakfast buffet which was essentially a bowl of boiled eggs, a plate of limp cucumbers and tomatoes, and tea with condensed milk for those of us feeling particularly fancy. Despite the general ickyness of the place, we managed to have a good time, turning the questionable stains into a joke and laughing at the smell of spiced rice and chicken that flooded our room every night after 10.
Those were good times.