Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cairo Re-visited

Well it's been a hectic week, including a trip to Cairo and a visit to Hurghada from my friend LeAnne. It's been quite some time since I've been back in Cairo, I think the last time I was back was in the end of April. Surprising, how quickly you can forget parts of the city, and aspects of life that defined Cairo living.

I was staying in Maadi, and immediately realised that I missed living there. I even asked Karim if he ever had regrets about moving away, or if he thought he would ever move back. My feelings of reminiscence however were quickly replaced by those of frustration, and albeit a short trip back to Cairo, I was reminded of why I left the city in the first place.

Firstly, Smart Village is ready for its grand opening in Maadi. This in itself has changed the dynamics of the once quiet, green, suburb. Now, driving around Maadi there are road signs newly erected, giant billboards that you pray will not topple over and crush an unsuspecting car, actual road blocks and roundabouts that almost appear to be working, and traffic. Oh good god, the traffic. Maadi is beginning to resemble parts of Zamalek during the day when it comes to the amount of cars that are going in and out, and unfortunately, adding a few whistles and bells does little to ease the chaos caused by the massive spike in the number of people entering the suburb everyday. Not only that, but driving around my old neighbourhoods, I see new grocery stores next to the old pet shops, new fashion designers displaying their ware where there was once a small bedouin crafts store. Maadi, once so charming and quiet, is beginning to look like its urban brothers Zamalek and Mohandessin. 

Making the trek downtown is always an adventure in itself, but with the cars on the roads in Cairo multiplying at an exponential rate on a virtual daily basis, the dodge-em traffic style really wears on you after a while. I don't really see very many donkey and horse carts in Hurghada, so although it was nice to see those on the streets again, it reminds you of the abject poverty that runs rampant throughout this country. The people attempting to commit suicide by running across the autostrad, the microbus drivers that have never had a day of driving lessons in their life. Ah yes, the hustle and bustle of Cairo.

I had my first taste of what it really feels like to be a part of an Egyptian family while I was in Cairo though, and that's an experience I can treasure. Karim's family took me wholeheartedly under their wing, and I was immediately adopted in as one of them. Women trying to teach me how to belly dance, and honestly I wouldn't be surprised to find out that some of these women have electricity running through their veins the way they can shake. The atmosphere of eating in an Egyptian family gathering, everyone bringing dishes, the amounts of food endless, reminding you that should you come with anything but an empty stomach, you will have to leave by rolling yourself out of the door. This was definitely the highlight of my trip back to Cairo.

I was also reminded of how difficult getting around the city can be. Not only do you have to deal with mountains of traffic, but the taxi drivers that will go out of their way to rip you off! Don't get me wrong, we have those in Hurghada too, but at least here I'm fully aware of the prices to get places! I actually had a taxi driver try to ask me for 50 LE to get from Maadi to Zamalek, (which shouldn't cost more than 30 LE at NIGHTTIME!), who then volunteered to go and "ask" other taxi drivers coming back how much they would charge. He even promised I would be surprised to hear 60 LE from these drivers. Listen buddy...I've lived in this city before, I know how your agenda works. Take your 30 LE, and be done with it. I'm not that stupid.

So after a long week, it's finally the weekend. And I am ready to hit the sack, and let the hustle and bustle of the outside world be one thing that I don't have to worry about!

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