Finally! After two weeks in Masr, on Sunday I finally moved into a place to call home. It's on the top floor of our building and has roof access. Above is the view from the roof at night (the Nile is visible in the back, between the buildings); check Facebook within the next few days for daytime photos.
Negotiating the contract was pretty funny. After our elderly landlord told us she would be our "mother in Egypt" and promised to bring food over to us periodically, we read over our two-page contract -- in Arabic. Fortunately, my roommates Mike and Chris have a much better command of both formal Arabic and Egyptian dialect, so they took charge. Some highlights:
- The Revolution Clause: We added a stipulation that we wouldn't be responsible for paying anything extra if we had to leave early, i.e. if there's another uprising and/or violence. Our "mother" wrote into the contract -- in colloquial Arabic: "If they have to leave early, ma feesh mushkila" -- no problem.
- $$$: Even though ATMS are ubiquitous in many neighborhoods of Cairo, Egypt is still a cash-based society and, as such, we paid everything entirely in cash. Credit isn't popular because I don't think banks are insured, and there's obviously uncertainty about the future coupled with tons of bureaucracy and a large degree of corruption.
- Wasta (connections/favoritism): It turns out our landlady is a cousin of presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Turns out she has the same last name. Maybe we can meet him; I have a feeling he won't be too busy after the elections this fall.
- Stop, drop, and roll: We asked Mom if she could buy us a fire extinguisher. "Ma feesh mushaakil [There are no problems] in my apartment!" she replied. "If there's a fire, just knock on my brother's door next door -- he knows some important people in the fire department, and they'll come quickly." Needless to say, we're buying a fire extinguisher on our own this weekend.
- Grape leaves: After bring us koshary last week, she promised to cook us grape leaves the other day. Unfortunately, she has yet to deliver.
Despite our lack of grape leaves, we're pretty set otherwise. Going against everything I know and have heard about Egypt, almost every single thing that was wrong with the apartment when we moved in was fixed within 48 hours. Maybe the revolution had an even greater impact on Egyptians than I thought…
Still gotta clean and buy a desk...
I have a great view of the Saudi Faisal Islamic Bank of Egypt, as well as the Sheraton.