Just wanted to thank everyone who responded to my earlier postings. I had a brilliant 6 days in Cairo, although I left with a lingering feeling of regret, and definitely have to return in the not too distant future to see more of the city and the rest of the country.
Being from Karachi in Pakistan, the general feel of the city wasn't too much of a shock... nice upmarket neighbourhoods juxtaposted with urban squalor and overcrowding. But what really struck me was the overall friendliness... I took a street map and walked around the city a lot asking people every now and then for directions. Even thde time to go to the Citadel and the Coptic quarter. Khan El Khalili I found overrated, perhaps to western eyes it's more of a spectacle. And Monica, there's another branch of Farahate in Mohandasin, where I had the stuffed pigeons you'd recommended. Not bad... although the other kebabs were better.
Debbie... there was no problem in having visitors in your room at night. I myself didn't bring anyone up, but a lot of people in my group found paid companions at the hotel discos (why, oh why, are they so seedy?), and security didn't create any issues. After a couple of days sampling the entertainment the hotels have to offer, I started wandering around the city, and met a number of very cool people at different points. Had I more time to spend in the city, I would have definitely explored one or two of them further.
Overall, I went back very happy with Cairo. It's the only city after New Orleans where I've felt at peace. Oh, and when the hell do Cairenes sleep? Went to the Hard Rock Cafe a couple of times, and it'd still be rocking hard when we would leave at 4-5 am. Then we'd get back and have a drink at the hotel disco, which would invariably be packed as well - I mean they opened up at 2:30 am!
Oh... and the shopping's brilliant too... I bought some nice Egyptian cotton business shirts for less than $20 each.
Debbie... I owe you that drink. Perhaps on my next visit?
Well, I stayed at the Pyramisa for one night... long enough to realise that despite its official "5 star" rating, it was, as someone mentioned, rather seedy. Not red-light, but just rather run-down. They'd advertised some rooms as having a "river-view" and I was given one of those rooms. To be honest, I could actually see the river from between two buildings.
Anyway, after the first night we transferred to Gezira Sheraton. Same five stars, but a different world. I was on the 17th floor with an amazing view of upstream and downstream, the whole Giza side, and could actually see the pyramids quite clearly once the morning mist (smog?) lifted around 10. Plus the rooms were generally nicer, better lit etc.
The sleazy discos... the Pyramisa had one, the lobby of the Cairo Sheraton (the one on the Giza side) was a pick-up joint, the disco of the Gezira Sheraton was quite sleazy as well. Always a few heavily made-up women lurking waiting to negotiate. We also made brief forays to the clubs at Pyramids Road one night, but didn't stay at any of them. Anyway, the question is... when do the locals sleep? In the mornings, it seems.