Shisha smoking well-loved here
While Kenya banned shisha smoking, also called hookah, in public places more than a year ago, here in Cairo it is all the rage. Not surprising considering the widely accepted practice of smoking in this country. Shisha joints thrive in Cairo and many people patronise these establishments just to have their lung-fill of scented tobacco smoke. This kind of smoking is liked by both men and women and there are some establishments which are almost exclusive for just shisha smoking clients. Yours truly, a non-smoker, who has done a fair share of travelling, has never met a country whose people love to puff more than the Egyptians.
Time to switch off the music
If you have been to public joints in Kenya in the early evening you may have noticed a regular ritual of music being turned off for clients to watch the 7pm news on local television channels. Here in Cairo, towards sunset music in public joints is also switched off momentarily. This happens at the time when there is public call to prayer from the mosques. You will not see authorities stationing people in these joints to ensure the music is turned off, it is just a ritual that is part of the life of the people here. Muslims pray five times a day, before sunrise, midday, after the sun passes its highest, in the afternoon, just after sunset and between sunset and midnight
Spoken language bit of a challenge
The national and official language of Egypt is Arabic, so naturally, if you do not understand this language you will encounter plenty of problems trying to communicate. Thankfully, the organisers of the Africa Cup of Nations here in Egypt have included multilingual volunteers who can speak in English and French to help players, officials, journalists and guests at the main contact areas – stadium, hotel. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the security officers. Majority of them do not understand English or French and are of little help when someone requests for assistance.
Mobile apps apt in communication
Still on lingua franca issues. Not knowing Arabic can be frustrating in the streets of Cairo. Sign language will only get you so far. But thanks to technology, communication is now greatly enhanced. Want to ask for directions, or buys something etc etc, just load an app that can translate English to Arabic and vice versa.
There are many different apps, some requiring text input and others audio. However, it must be admitted, that it is a comical sight to see Arabic and English speakers first talking to their phones then giving it to their listener to read and then reply by speaking into the little device and handing it back, back and forth until the conversation is complete.