Café Cairo - Do Internet Cafes make you feel more or less connected with people?
That's the question. I started my Cairo tour at Intr@net, on the first floor of an office block in downtown Cairo. Pleasant, comfortable, businesslike. Run by Mr Aziz and staff, it's the only non-smoking internet café in Cairo. It's where I met French traveller, writer and Cairo resident Anne Clarac. But she was off to the Western Desert and she was much more concerned about her emails and maybe she felt a bit odd about talking to me, a complete stranger, face to face in an internet café where she was used to contacting friends abroad. She did promise to meet me later and in a tree sheltered terrace outside a huge and jolly café on the other side of town, Anne told me about an Internet Café at the edge of the desert, where many of the clients are Berbers. Nomads on the net. Is this a strange idea? A mismatch?
Then on to another café, Solutions, a Coptic Christian run café in Geziret Badran, where I notice for the first time that people who go online in cafes in Egypt have by law to register, using their ID. They may be connecting, but it seems they're being watched as they do so. And we wind up at 2 in the morning at an upmarket café in Zamalet, across the Nile, where net night owls say they come for the company. Even if they don't speak to each other.
Meanwhile, it seems logical that my next visit will be to Accra in Ghana. But I don't have a connection - except one from back in London. The fact that Michael Palin - another world traveller for the BBC - stayed in this wonderful old fashioned hotel in Cairo is no comfort. Cairo-Accra anyone?