Many people go to Cairo to see the pyramids, but getting almost as many visitors is the home of Tarek Taha, CouchSurfing's Cairo Ambassador. (CouchSurfing is a network of travelers creating cultural exchanges by staying with locals.) Tarek got into CouchSurfing in 2007 while road tripping across the U.S. Since returning home he has hosted more than 100 couch surfers (my husband and me now included). During our recent stay, I asked Tarek to tell me about his most memorable hosting experiences.
- 1. Proposal at the Pyramids: A couch surfer from California asked for my help to arrange a candlelit marriage proposal outside the pyramids after dark. We bought hundreds of candles to spell out "Marry Me Jane" in the sand, while my wife hired a horse to deliver the unsuspecting girlfriend. After it was over, it wasn't only Jane who had tears in her eyes, but also my wife, and the horse wrangler.
- 2. Newborn Couch Surfer: I think I hold the honor of hosting the youngest couch surfer to date: a five-month-old baby from Milwaukee, who along with his parents, were taking their first trip outside the U.S. I almost forgot how much babies cry during the night.
- 3. Our Morning Person: It's hard to forget the girl who visited us from Madrid, even though we only saw her for a minute every morning. At five a.m. she would call to be let in and would go straight to bed. We were starting to think she wasn't experiencing much of Cairo. When I went to leave feedback on her CouchSurfing profile, I was surprised to see recent testimonials dated the days she was staying with us. They were all from local Egyptian guys saying how much fun the girl from Spain was.
- 4. One Bad Experience: Toward the end of one American couple's stay, I found the girl on our floor crying. She was missing $400 and blamed our 16-year-old live-in housekeeper, whom she threatened to have deported (not realizing she was Egyptian). She was hysterical saying how that money was for their trip to Luxor, so I agreed to pay it. But when we got to the train station to buy the tickets they refused to show their passports and instead decided to fly back to the States. Not long after, they pulled their CouchSurfing profile. A year later we have the same housekeeper and there have been no further incidents.
- 5. A Full House: During Africa's biggest soccer competition in 2008, Egypt was in the finals. We had six couch surfers in our three-bedroom apartment. All of us went down to a local coffee shop to watch the game. When Egypt won, the city exploded in celebration. Everyone filed into the streets where we danced side-by-side, locals and foreigners alike.
Lisa Costantini is a writer/editor currently traveling the world with her husband working on a project about sport and culture. More information can be found on their website at www.whysportmatters.com. Lisa will be blogging from the road for us as she and her husband travel through Africa, Asia, South America, and Europe over the next several months.
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