Breakfast at the hostel was a simple serving of boiled eggs, cheese spread, bread with butter and confiture, and coffee.
Just minutes outside of our hostel, we were solicited by a smile that persuaded us into a shop of natural perfume oils. The shopkeeper was proud of his selection of alcohol-free scents, lighting a fire under them to substantiate his claim, then dabbing vanilla on one wrist and jasmine on the other. He presented a wide spectrum of bottle sizes friendly for all types of travelers. Next to one another they looked like the Matryoshka dolls of Egyptian oils and when we thought the bottles couldn't get any smaller, he pulled out a thimble-sized one for the not-yet-ready-to-commit traveler.
Standing in Tahrir Square was surreal. A renowned site, it's been marked by many a political demonstration, including the revolution in 2011 that led to the fall of Mubarak, the country's oppressive leader for 30 consecutive years. It was hard to imagine thousands of people, provoked by frustration, anger, hope for change and for the future, swarmed in this space, bound by a common optimism.
Next we visited the Egyptian Museum, though perhaps shameful to admit, we decided not to go inside. For one, it was an hour from closing time, which we deemed was not enough time to wander, but also, we were simply not motivated. We later learned that some of the tombs excavated from their original burial sites in Luxor are housed here. For those interested in visiting the museum, it's recommended to arrive earlier in the day to ensure entry since operating hours listed online or in guide books may vary from actual operating hours. Keep in mind that visitors must pass through security screening. Cameras are not allowed inside the museum and must be checked in before entering, but outside is fair game.
The late afternoon was spent walking along the Nile down Corniche-el-Nil, crossing over to the Agouza side by way of the Cairo Tower on Gezira Island. Feluccas lined the riverfront, blasting techno as a way, one could only suppose, to entice the young and romantic to cruise down the river just as the sun was setting. Our aimless promenade concluded at a small café where locals came to sip on fruit smoothies and smoke shisha among friends. We were like fish out of water, but were treated with the same enthusiasm as other patrons. By evening, we found ourselves in the Zamalek district, a more affluent and happening neighborhood where hip restaurants and cafés abound, a popular area for visitors and ex-pats.