Last spotted in San Francisco, USA on March 28, 2003, 1:23 pm
Who is he? Where is he going? Where has he been? David Barrett / Quinthar
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One nice thing about Egypt is that tea is in vast and ready supply. Every city seems to have a coffeeshop or two stuck back in every alley to satisfy the thirsty patron's tea and hashish needs. Egyptian tea is strong and generally drunk with two or three spoonfuls of sugar, though I generally shock other patrons by drinking it straight. Plus, as I learned the hard way when finishing the last drops of my first glass, the tea leaves are left to lurk at the bottom. I'd recommend not drinking them.
Not only are coffeeshops in an unbelievable supply, but everyone drinks tea everywhere else as well. Merchants set up tea stands in the souks and alleys, and large shops seem to brew their own tea in the back for customers and employees alike. And for those not able to supply their own, boys can be constantly seen running to and fro with silver platters covered in cups of tea and Turkish coffee (exceptionally strong and served from a distinctive long-handled pot). Being a big fan of tea, this all sits very well with me.
Of particular interest in the cafes are the ever-popular water pipes: not having ever tried drugs in my life, despite my long hair and living so near San Francisco, I never really took the time to figure out how these things worked. But basically there is a small bed of tobacco packed into a fluted instrument affixed to the top of the pipe. Glowing coals are placed directly on top of the tobacco, producing the smoke. This smoke is sucked down the column of the pipe to the bottom of a pool of water, causing it to bubble up into an enclosed container whose only outlet is the long flexible tube through which you suck. Apparently the water draws out some of the tar and cools the smoke, which I'm guessing is good? The most ingenious aspect of the pipe, however, is the second opening to the smoke container: this opening is normally sealed with a small metal ball, preventing smoke from seeping out. However, if you accidentally blow into the tube instead of sucking, the increased air-pressure lifts the metal ball and expels the airm before it shoots up the pipe and blows tobacco, water, and flaming embers everywhere. Boy they're clever.
The biggest drawback from the Egyptian caf‚, however, is the flies. I'm not entirely sure why it's evolutionarily advantageous for them to sit on my eyebrow, but they absolutely love that spot. And, if that is taken, they'll happily take any other exposed or non-exposed part of my body. To make matters worse, once you know flies are about, you start feeling them walking on you even when they're not. Bah, no me gusta.

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