Shai (pronounced shy) is tea, plain old loose, black tea. Everything in Egypt is made better with shai. Shai is life. Shai is an experience, and no matter where you are, people seem to simply apparate with trays of it to serve to anyone in need. It isn’t shai if it isn’t practically half sugar. We have come to really like it (what do you know?) and now I even make it myself with a bit of hibiscus added in for fun.
A quick word on coffee is necessary here as well. It is a genetic predisposition for me to crave coffee. Just ask my dad. Ahwa is the word for coffee and the name given to coffee shops here although very few ahwas actually serve the holy brew. Everybody is just too busy sipping shai to drink coffee. There are a few exceptions. Fishawi’s (remember open 24 hours a day for the past 200 years?) had typical Turkish style coffee. Don’t drink the thick stuff at the bottom. Most of my coffee experiences were in order to also find free Internet. These local places catered to those of us longing for espresso drinks and were trying hard to serve like Starbucks. Beanos (Great name, eh?) had mediocre coffee and dial-up speed Internet. Cilantros (Isn’t this an herb for Mexican dishes? Who names these places anyways?) had terrible coffee and minimally better bandwidth. By far the best coffee I experienced was at Caffé Greco. They had great joe, adequate Internet, and the manager gave me a cool cap as a souvenir. Thanks Caffé Greco!
Now that we are in Luxor my coffee experience has plummeted. Instant coffee is the only brew on the West Bank. I am thankful that I brought a bit of Pete’s coffee and for the advice of my friend and fellow coffee addict Tom Fikes who recommended this portable coffee filter idea. Lacking any form of coffee maker I have resorted to using one of Sarah Jane’s old socks as a drip filter. It’s not bad, except that I have to give it back to her each morning so that she has something to put on her feet.