January 1st, 2005: Turkey chopped no fewer than six zeroes off their currency in a revaluation move welcomed by perpetually ripped-off tourists throughout the country. The world continued to mourn the tens of thousands of casualties of the 26 December tsunamis. Luxembourg stepped up to take its turn as the President of the Council of the European Union.
Jeremy and I were in Egypt, just days away from concluding a travel extravaganza with his brother and sister. We had left Turkey a week or two before and foolishly not traded in our lira to the shady money changers in Antioch. The tsunami was not really on our minds - if we even knew about it at all - since we'd been traveling and had little access to news or internet. We had no formed opinions on Luxembourg.
But we were in Cairo, one of the most populous cities on earth, and were spending the day at the Egyptian Museum after a fun, if unorthodox, New Year's Eve. Not wanting to ring in the new year in a 5-star hotel lobby with rich people wanting to meet foreigners, we'd ventured out into the city to catch a midnight movie with the rank and file. National Treasure was the best film on offer, and I really enjoyed it, even with the odd, unexpected ten-minute smoking intermission in the middle.
The four of us at the Pyramids. Yes, they are that big.
The first day of the New Year passed uneventfully, if you can call viewing thousands-of-years-old mummies at the Egyptian Museum "uneventful." I confess that Jeremy and I were all museum-ed out after just a few hours. Dave held out for a while longer. Sarah was already on her way back to the States.
Sarah and I with a flock of veiled schoolgirls. Each one of them had a camera and requested their own picture, so you can guess how long we stood there smiling awkwardly. Sometimes the owner of the camera whose turn it was to take a picture insisted on switching places to actually be the one standing by me or Sarah. Ah, the joys of being a blonde foreigner!
That night at the hotel, none of us were feeling very good. The pollution in Cairo had been absolutely terrible during our entire visit, and it was finally taking its toll on our respiratory systems. We turned in early for the night, but Jeremy stayed up for a while after I went to sleep. In fact, he ended up leaving the hotel a few hours later to venture to a pharmacy to get some medicine. Being left alone in the hotel in the middle of the night put me on edge, and I was glad when he got back, having stocked up on Egyptian NyQuill knock-offs.
By 3 o'clock in the morning, I had fallen asleep again and was resting fairly soundly. As far as hotels went, this one wasn't half bad. We hadn't seen any cockroaches in the room since the day we arrived and we also hadn't gotten sick from eating the hotel's complimentary buffet breakfast.
Suddenly, I was awoken by a loud crash and a bang. My first instinct was to throw the covers over my head and burrow underneath them. Fortunately, Jeremy was still awake and could calm my fears and tell me without any hesitation that it wasn't a bomb or anything dangerous. I don't know if he actually said "bomb," but he seemed to know that I thought it was an explosion.
What it actually was, was the hotel room's TV set falling from its mounting high on the wall in the corner, crashing to the floor, and smashing into pieces. By the sheer fortuity of the room's design, the place where it fell was next to, not directly over, our bed.
Even though it was the middle of the night, we called the front desk and they sent someone up to help us. The employee briskly swept away the debris and cleaned up the larger chunks. He displayed no concern for our disrupted sleep, nor for how close we had come to being smashed to death in our bed. Instead, he expressed his deepest apologies for our not being able to watch TV. This sentiment was repeated to us the next morning by the hotel staff at the front desk.
If anything, they should have been upset about the TV itself. I'm sure it was a total loss. I hope they were able to replace it so that our room's next resident wasn't deprived of precious TV-watching time in one of the greatest cities on earth.