Countries Visited

Svalbard Spain United States of America Antarctica South Georgia Falkland Islands Bolivia Peru Ecuador Colombia Venezuela Guyana Suriname French Guiana Brazil Paraguay Uruguay Argentina Chile Greenland Canada United States of America United States of America Israel Jordan Cyprus Qatar United Arab Emirates Oman Yemen Saudia Arabia Iraq Afghanistan Turkmenistan Iran Syria Singapore China Mongolia Papua New Guinea Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Malaysia Tiawan Philippines Vietnam Cambodia Laos Thailand Myanmar Bangladesh Sri Lanka India Bhutan Nepal Pakistan Afghanistan Turkmenistan Tajikistan Kyrgyzstan Uzbekistan Japan North Korea South Korea Russia Kazakhstan Russia Montenegro Portugal Azerbaijan Armenia Georgia Ukraine Moldova Belarus Romania Bulgaria Macedonia Serbia Bosonia & Herzegovina Turkey Greece Albania Croatia Hungary Slovakia Slovenia Malta Spain Portugal Spain France Italy Italy Austria Switzerland Belgium France Ireland United Kingdom Norway Sweden Finland Estonia Latvia Lithuania Russia Poland Czech Republic Germany Denmark The Netherlands Iceland El Salvador Guatemala Panama Costa Rica Nicaragua Honduras Belize Mexico Trinidad & Tobago Puerto Rico Dominican Republic Haiti Jamaica The Bahamas Cuba Vanuatu Australia Solomon Islands Fiji New Caledonia New Zealand Eritrea Ethiopia Djibouti Somalia Kenya Uganda Tanzania Rwanda Burundi Madagascar Namibia Botswana South Africa Lesotho Swaziland Zimbabwe Mozambique Malawi Zambia Angola Democratic Repbulic of Congo Republic of Congo Gabon Equatorial Guinea Central African Republic Cameroon Nigeria Togo Ghana Burkina Fasso Cote d'Ivoire Liberia Sierra Leone Guinea Guinea Bissau The Gambia Senegal Mali Mauritania Niger Western Sahara Sudan Chad Egypt Libya Tunisia Morocco Algeria
Map Legend: 28%, 75 of 263 Territories

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Falafel-Off 2010! And more pics from Cairo

After an expensive few days in Israel, we were looking forward to getting back to Egypt. The border crossing at Taba was even more of a hassle than we'd anticipated, since the Egyptian Embassy in Tel Aviv gave us the wrong information and said that we could just buy a new visa at the border. After paying the exorbitant Israeli exit tax and walking over to the Egyptian side, we discovered that this isn't true--you either need to get your visa in advance in Israel, or be on a tour operator's list to be able to get your visa at the border. Long story short, after a lot of flipping out at officials (yeah, that really got us somewhere) on my part, Andy calmly paid a tour operator a "fee" to get on his list, and we got back into Egypt.

We managed to catch the last bus of the day to Cairo, and were ensconced in our favorite grubby but cheap hotel in the center of town. This time, they "upgraded" us to a suite with a bathroom far bigger than many entire hotel rooms we've stayed in in the past.

The next day, after booking our flights to Turkey, Andy and I made for Felfela, our favorite falafel joint in Cairo, for Falafel-Off 2010!

What, never heard of Falafel-Off 2010? That's probably because we made it up. It all started when we were sitting together one day in Dahab, eating (what else?) falafel.

Tara: I love falafel.
Andy: I know.
Tara: I think I could eat a lot of falafel.
Andy continues chewing.
Tara: I bet I could eat more falafel than you.
Andy: Bring it on.

I don't know what got into me, challenging a survivor of the gallon challenge, the cinnamon challenge, and the 50-hot-peppers-in-five-minutes challenge to an eating contest, but now that I'd thrown it out there, I couldn't back down.

We agreed to wait either until we reached Syria or until we got back to Cairo to do it, since falafel is cheap in those places. Since Syria rejected us, Cairo it was.

We chose Felfela Takeaway because the falafel is delicious there and it costs around 25 cents a sandwich. The surroundings are pretty, too!

We paid at the cashier and then I took our receipt up to the order counter. Twelve falafel sandwiches, please!

The sandwiches were delivered within minutes. Let the games begin!
First bite! Each sandwich consists of a white pita, a flat falafel patty, a tomato slice, and a glob of tahini sauce.
Within a short time, Andy was on sandwich number five.
But I was not far behind! Here I am just a few minutes later with my own fifth sandwich.
Startin' to feel a little queasy, though.
As I dug into sandwich #6, Andy went back to the counter to procure us two more sandwiches. Sadly, halfway through #6, all the falafels seemed to hit my stomach at once. "This is my last falafel," I conceded. I did manage to finish it, though!
Andy has finished his seventh already, so, assured of the title, he does the happy dance...
...and polishes off sandwich #8 for good measure.
Final score, 8 to 6. Andy is the champion! But I did much better than either of us really expected I would, so I was happy with my performance, too.
As a final note, I'll point out that 14 falafel sandwiches in Cairo cost us less than $3...which is the price of around half of ONE falafel sandwich in Israel. Advantage, Egypt.

Our return to Egypt also gave us a chance to try a few foods we had missed the first time Fanta Canta! It actually tasted more like honeydew than cantaloupe, and was a scary fluorescent green color. I enjoyed the first few sips, but felt pretty sick by the bottom of the can. Then again, that may have been the six falafel sandwiches still digesting in my stomach.The day of Falafel-Off 2010 also happened to be the first day of a major Muslim festival, Eid al-Ahda, a.k.a. the Festival of Sacrifice. To commemorate Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son to God, and the fact that God told him to substitute a ram at the last minute (phew!), Muslim families the world over sacrifice a ram of their own, keeping some to eat and giving some of the meat away to loved ones and the poor.

Anyway, this meant that you could find freshly slaughtered ram carcasses hanging all over the city. And tons of live rams being coralled in the streets, too, before they met their fate. And, um, some blood in the streets. Not really a holiday for the squeamish or vegetarian.

In between bouts of feeling rather ill (Falafel-Off!!), Andy and I wandered around some parts of Cairo we hadn't visited before, including the fancy, island-in-the-Nile Zamalek quarter.
On the banks of the Nile, we caught a lovely sunset.
I wasn't sure I'd ever be able to eat again after Falafel-Off, but had plans to meet Emma and Rashad for dinner for some fiteer, or Egyptian stuffed pizza. The sausage-and-vegetable one Andy and I ordered was so good that we actually had no trouble polishing it off...
...and a raisin, coconut, and nut-stuffed dessert fiteer..., and part of a honey-and-cream dessert fiteer, too. Fiteer is tasty!
Proof that we have friends: Here we are at the fiteer joint with Emma and Rashad. We must thank them again for all their guidance, culinary and otherwise!
If you thought we were done eating for the day, you were wrong. We accompanied our friends to a nearby cafe, where I tried Emma's favorite drink of hot milk with tons and tons of cinnamon. It was pretty much like drinking a milky stick of Big Red gum. Emma tells me that there's not usually quite such a ridiculous amount of cinnamon floating in this drink. I think the cafe staff must've been feeling extra generous with the holiday spirit.
And that was it for our second Cairo adventure--after a healthy breakfast of some delicious, cheap baklava, we flew out the next afternoon for Istanbul.

But I'll leave you with two pictures from our first visit to Cairo that we'd forgotten to upload for the last post. Both are from Coptic Cairo, though neither are from churches.

This one's from the Ben Ezra Synagogue, in which you are officially not allowed to take pictures. Andy had to be very sneaky. It's a beautiful little chapel. (Jan, if you're reading, this pic is for you!)
And this one's from the oldest mosque in Cairo, Amr Ibn El-Aas. They happily let Andy in clothed as he was, but I was lucky enough to get to play dress-up in this snazzy green thing, which they provided me at the door in exchange for my shoes (and a demand for baksheesh, of course). I felt ready to chant with the monks in that scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail...
Thanks for reading our bonus Egypt post!


  1. I'm currently searching for a fiteer place in nyc because, man, those look delicious. No luck!

    Tara, I think coming in second to Andy in an eat-off (especially after making such a good effort) is nothing to scoff at. :)

  2. I feel to privileged to have now "witnessed" two of Andy's food challenges. Kudos to Tara for hanging in there as long as she did!

  3. Seriously - that fiteer looks phenomenal. Also, I want to visit Egypt just to see that bathroom. Hilarious.

  4. I love the absolute zeal with which you tackled Falafel-Off 2010! Brilliant! :)

    Also: Now I want a falafel too. :)