Thursday night I landed on Cairo international airport. Expectations always reveal themselves in experience: I was amazed by this facility, huge, modern, no hint of developing country in its finishing. Marjan had described Cairo to me as like Delhi-but-different. Delhi recently opened a new a terminal, finally a building that is suitable for an international hub, but the finishing still gives it away as arrived-in-India. That’s what I apparently expected.
My first impressions of Cairo, after a weekend walking, boating and driving around the city center? Huge, huge huuuge, the 8-lane elevated highways, the double digit story apartment buildings, the mass of traffic on the bigger roads, outing the small town boy from a country that doesn’t have any metropolitan cities.
But Marjan is right, it is also a bit like Delhi-but-different, and thus familiar, and a city that I am sure is going to get under my skin, in the positive sense that is. I think that might be true of all metropolitan cities, if one survives their overwhelming assault on one’s senses, and that is an if, and starts to know one’s way around, they offer a sheer inexhaustible universe of diversity.
What I hadn’t realized until Marjan pointed it out to me is a similarity between Cairo and most other cities I’ve lived so far: They are where and what they are because of a big river. Nijmegen, on the Waal, the main arm of the Rhine in the Netherlands, Varanasi/Benares/Kashi on the Ganga, Phnom Penh on the Mekong, and now Cairo on the Nile. Even Kathmandu on the Bagmati falls in this category, although that’s a bit of a sad story.
Be prepared for regular features on things Cairene. For the next years I’ll be based here, living in an apartment in Mohandeseen.