I am staying in a hostel in downtown Cairo. It is reasonably priced, basic, clean, perfect for my needs.
I am, of course, among the oldest people staying here. The ever-shifting population is mostly made up of backpackers, who tend to be in their 20s. I was at a similar age last time I spent time in hostels anywhere. It’s pretty comfortable for me, though. Perhaps I am young at heart. Perhaps I am immature.
Interactions with my fellow hostel residents and the young staff provide interesting seasoning for my daily meals of discussions with old friends and new contacts among Cairo’s permanent population.
Some are irritating, of course. I marvel at the 18-year-old Canadian woman’s extraordinarily naive observations broadcast at high volume. Somehow she has managed to travel here through the Balkans and Turkey, often hitchhiking. She is planning on Iran next. I suspect she is learning next to nothing from her experiences, beyond a dislike of how men behave in patriarchal Mediterranean societies.
A group of art students from Braunschweig, where I once did some research on textbooks, led me to an art gallery and the promise of productive discussions there. Serendipity.
A Syrian student has arrived. This is a good time to have a Syrian to talk to.
John, the British computer programmer, leaves tomorrow, which will make me the sole Brit again. Until a new one turns up.
I dislike the sterility of big hotels. They are isolating, alienating spaces, without community. The hostel is more like a caravanserai, or a Chaucerian inn, perhaps. It would be possible to keep oneself to oneself, but where’s the fun in that? Travel is all about the people.