I actually pay attention to, and appreciate the clothes the women wear here. At home I barely notice. Specifically, I really enjoy the long, fancy gowns that the slightly conservative women wear. (All the cool kids wear jeans and shirts, everything long but also tight.) I've seen some very cool long gowns, as well as tastefully understated ones. My favorite is a long black gown which has on it, in spirals, numbers in blue and green hues. At home you will find T shirts with similar creative designs, but the effect is much better when a design is on a full body dress instead of just a small rectangle on the chest.
I've been seeing a physical therapist for a pulled muscle in my elbow, and Danielle has twice seen a dermatologist regarding a rash she's had. It's pretty sweet to be able to just call the specialist directly, and be able to see them the next day. Prices seem very reasonable (about $20 for a consultation). We found our doctors by checking the US embassy web page. They do seem to prescribe medicine much more readily than doctors at home. For instance I'm taking 2 pills and a cream for my elbow. They also massage, use ice and electrical stimulation, as well as ultra sound and a laser light. (I'm sceptical that the laser does anything, but you never know.) But medicines are cheap, and prescriptions are not required. We were able to buy more of our malaria medication for about a fifth the price we paid in the US.
Anything you might want is available in Cairo, although finding it is a function of your personal network. There isn't really a yellow pages or a website where you can look up anything. To get a new camera battery (custom one for Canon cameras) we went to an electronics neighborhood. There we randomly picked somebody and showed him what I wanted. He passed my battery to somebody else, who went off somewhere (presumably) far away. It took about 45 minutes before he returned, but he did have a brand new, Canon brand, battery for me. The price was quite reasonable as well (a little bit more than it would cost at home, which is par for imported products).
We went to Saqqara with my parents the other day. We'd gotten a private tour for the 4 of us, and it was awesome. If you only visit one ancient Egyptian site, this is the one. The pyramids are neat to see from the outside, but the highlight was that we visited the inside of a noble's tomb. The inside was covered in great rock carvings, largely still intact. It is one thing to see some slabs of rock in the Egyptian museum. Seeing it all in context is much more interesting. We also got to go inside of Tite's pyramid. Unlike the great pyramids, the insides still have a lot of hieroglyphs left over, and our guide explained to us how the pyramid's massive sliding rock doors were closed, and how grave robbers got in anyway. Most of what we saw was in incredibly good condition too. It was hard to believe that it all was thousands of years old.
Muslims respect their mosques in a very different way than Christians respect churches. Non-believers are not allowed inside many of them, while anybody can wander into a church. On the other hand, churches tend to be a quiet respectful place, while in mosques I've observed what I thought were loud conversations. I've even seen people walking around using their cell phone at times. Every mosque also has quite a few people in it just lying on the floor, taking a nap. But in mosques you take off your shoes and, if you're a woman, cover your head. Expectations just differ a lot between churches and mosques.
I offered to take a look at our neighbor's computer, which locks up when accessing hotmail. So after quite a bit of playing around I concluded it was the modem driver that did it. We moved the PC to our apartment to use DSL and get new drivers. And to be nice I downloaded 50MB of Norton updates, but during install the machine locked up. Turns out the HD was bad, and now WinXP wouldn't boot anymore. (It took me quite a while before I figured out that the HD was the issue.) So I got a new one, and installed WinXP from scratched, recovered almost all files from the old machine, and generally cursed at Windows, wishing I could just install Ubuntu instead. It takes a long time to install XP, download updates, install them, and reboot all the time. It's quite amazing how much better Ubuntu is in this regard. Anyway, I finally got it all pretty happy. I did have a bit of trouble activating the installation. None of the Egypt phone numbers worked, so I used Skype to call the US 1-800 number, which was busy. So I called the US toll number, which transferred me to a rep in India who helped me get the magic numbers. Next time I'm running memtest86/badblocks first, and then looking at any problems that might exist.
I've finally browsed the Koran a little bit. I'm no Bible expert, but I have read bits and pieces. The first thing that struck me about the Koran is how explicit it is in its rules. A lot of the same stories from the Bible are in the Koran, but the interpretation is not left up to the reader. On the other hand, it's not like a true franchise manual. For instance scholars do not agree on how women are supposed to dress. There is at least one section in the Koran aimed at atheists (can any of your friends create a universe? then surely you must believe in Allah), which makes me wonder how prevalent atheism was when Mohammed wrote the Koran. There at least a few places where it explicitly states that Jesus is a prophet, and not part of any holy trinity and not God's son either. It's interesting, but not easy reading.