Friday, October 26, 2007

Settling Down in Cairo

Today is Friday, the start of the weekend in Cairo, and my fourth day in Cairo. Over the past few days, I have been walking quite a bit, from the hotel to the language centre to the office and back to the hotel. That's about 1 hour and 20 minutes of walking per day along the dusty roads of Cairo. I have read about the infamous taxi rides in Cairo. Since I landed, I was not brave enough to hail one down. Fortunately, I experienced my first ride with an Egyptian real estate agent and I think I will be game to take one on my own soon. Here is a video clip taken during the bumpy ride.

The taxi ride was taken on my way to see an apartment that I will be renting for my four months of stay in Cairo during my language training. Compared to the four apartments shown to my back another agent the day before, this apartment is a godsend. It's clean and bright with three big bedrooms and a nice kitchen topped with three balconies. Seriously, I don't need such a big place but this building is just five minutes walk from the language school. The others I saw were a good 30-40 minutes walk away. While this apartment will cost more but the premium is very much worth it considering the savings in walking time. I will be signing the lease later this afternoon. I will post some photos after I moved in and settled down.

I started lessons yesterday at the Kalimat Language & Cultural Centre. Two hours of Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and two hours of Egyptian Colloquial Arabic (ECA). MSA is for the read and write while ECA is for speaking. They are quite different but yet similar. If you know Chinese, MSA is like the Chinese writing while ECA is a local dialect such as Mandarin or Cantonese. But unlike Chinese, Arabic words are formed by alphabets which is similar to English. I basically need to memorised the alphabet and the pronunciation and script of each alphabet. It's quite a difficult language for me as there are sounds that I have not been using like "Rrrrrr" and "Kh". I find the lessons very interesting and challenging. For a moment, I felt like a kid learning ABCs, very refreshing indeed.

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