A Date in Every Country: A Series
Location: Cairo, Egypt
Nationality: Egyptian, born and raised in Cairo
Activity: So. Many. Things. Museum, TokTok, Monastery, Iftar, Night show in the desert
Time: 13 hours
Will see again? I would
Connected via: Tinder
I’ll admit that I wasn’t sure how online dating would be in a Muslim country as this was a new experience for me especially during Ramadan. I tried both Tinder and Hinge and found Tinder worked better for me but either are options here in Egypt. Many profiles are quite serious with no smiling and of course they still have the typical gym photos.
I swiped right on this guy because he had great energy with a huge smile, had pics in Paris and referenced Friends in his profile. I figured between Friends quotes and travel we would have something to talk about. He specifically mentioned that he was open to friendship which made me feel he was a safe choice. He immediately messaged asking lots of questions and had strong opinions on what I should be seeing/doing in Cairo and other parts of the country. He took the time to send me a giant list of things which was quite thoughtful. We agreed to go out and he asked what I had already done so he did not repeat things. He did confirm he was fasting and asked to celebrate iftar with me. This is when Muslims break their fast at the end of the day with a big meal and it's an honor to be asked to join. Sundown becomes quite a celebration with many counting down the minutes until the call to prayer. I had to ask my new Egyptian female friend about expectations of how to greet him and such. Was touching allowed? Handshake? Hug? Air kisses? I wanted to be respectful to both the culture and Ramadan. She suggested that as he was fasting he likely would choose not to touch but to take my cue from him which is what I did. We didn’t touch upon greeting.
He picked me up for the date (the driving here is INSANE but I love it). For those that have driven abroad, it's like Italy but somehow more insane. We headed straight to the new Museum of Civilization here in Cairo. He booked these tickets in advance after confirming times with me and double checking that I wasn't going to bail. Exploring the museum together was a blast and he wanted to make sure I didn't miss anything. The highlight of this museum is the royal mummies so we headed into the dark basement to look at dead bodies together. Romantic, I know. It was fascinating and I would definitely recommend this museum if you're headed to Cairo. I had told him that I had been trying all the different forms of transportation here - metro, microbus, etc. While thinking I was crazy for doing this, he quickly got on board and insisted we do a TokTok which is the same as a tuk tuk in Asia if you’re familiar. He parked the car and hired one to drive us around the block just so I could add it to my list.
Next we drove up to what is the largest monastery and Christian church in the Middle East. It’s carved out of the mountain and reminded me of RedRocks in Colorado but somehow more insane as it's a giant cave. You have to drive through some pretty large slums to get there and he confessed later that he was worried I would think he kidnapped me because the drive was so rough. (I must confess that was EXACTLY what crossed my mind at one point.) The church was stunning and we even got to explore a separate underground cave which held another church. Did I trip and fall on the million and one stairs? Of course but apparently my clumsiness was charming. This bodes well for me.
Next stop was iftar. We headed into the city where he had made reservations (!) for us. He literally ordered everything. There was so much food to try and it was all delicious. I’m an adventurous eater so I got to try several new things which always gets me excited. You generally eat with your hands here which is something I typically avoid on dates back home. The restaurant grew livelier as everyone came out to celebrate breaking their fast. It was a large outdoor space tons of places to sit including cushions on the ground with low tables, benches and traditional setups. The whole area was decorated with Ramadan flags strung high above the tables. It was several hours together at this point and the conversation became more casual as the date continued. We took a walk after dinner through some very crowded streets where he insisted on holding my hand as we dodged and weaved through the masses. I wasn't sure if this touching was ok but I was taking my cues from him. He seemed quite protective as I stood out in the crowds with my pale features and blonde hair. The walk was a good decision after consuming our weight in food. Afterwards we jumped in the car to head to the petrified woods for a late night show. He was so excited to keep surprising me with new activities, all of which I loved. I personally love surprises and this date just kept getting better and better.
Final stop was out in the desert for an evening show and sohour. We sat on the floor on these beautiful pillows in our own private desert cabana. They brought us tea and shockingly he ordered us more food. I was still stuffed from dinner but I made a valiant effort to enjoy the om ali - a baked dessert made with peanuts and coconut. Sohour is the second meal after breaking one's fast. It is typically eaten around 3am during Ramadan as they often eat through the night. I learned that they’ll even get up to cook at 1 or 2 to prepare for sohour. I definitely wasn't gonna last til 3am let alone be able to consume an entire second dinner so we had a mini-sohour a tad early. He arranged to have the fire dancers come visit our cabana for a private show followed by tanour dancers. Both were incredible. I have no idea how tanour dancers don't pass out. They spin in these wild circles with their traditional dress flying; they look like a spinning top come to life. They'll even take part of the outfit and spin it overhead. My arms would have fallen off.
After enjoying our private show, we relaxed and talked for a few hours all snuggled up in the pillows because it was surprisingly cold. There I sat in a desert cabana, my skirt tucked all around my feet and with cushions pulled close to block the breeze with man who was entirely engaged in our conversation. The touching rule seemed to be a little lax with foreign women and especially after fast ends. My hands were tucked into the pocket of my fleece and somehow his hand found its way in there as well. He had to be sneaky with any touching but with the pillows piled around for warmth, privacy was an added benefit. He managed to get a little cheeky and this provoked an interesting conversation regarding PDA and what was allowed, what I was ok with and what he wanted to do. We found a middle ground in there somewhere but I must confess it was hard to not get hung up on the potential consequences as it was illegal. He announced he was going to kiss me before the date ended but I had no idea how he was gonna pull that off. Clearly the cabana was off limits as was the parking lot. What was his solution?! Apparently it was to kiss me while driving a million miles an hour on the freeway - maybe not the safest option but our Fast and the Furious moment was rather exhilarating. He was holding my hand in the car but broke contact when we encountered a police stop on the way home. The laws here are no joke so while the idea of parking the car and making out sounded fun after our great date, it was simply not an option. He managed to sneak one more speedy kiss while driving before dropping me back off. It was after 1am and I realized that our date was 13 hours long!
All in all, a fabulous date. He clearly put a lot of thought into it and we shared many laughs. He still texts me and wants to see me again so we shall see as the rest of my time in Egypt progresses. We are currently at 2 dates in 2 countries, both wonderful. Hoping this good luck continues.
Teaser: My next date included castles and other women.
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