first impressions of Cairo: the Himalayan proportions of it all….

First impressions are important to document. They tell something about the perceiver, they tell something about the perceived, and they are short lasting. If they are not documented they disappear into automatic pilot normality.

It’s the scale of everything urban that distinguishes Cairo from what I have seen of cities until now.

Yesterday evening walked with Marjan from home in Mohandeseen to the Khan El Khalili area, took two hours and the walk had a couple of distinct half hour sections: one underneath the elevated highway after Zamalek is a second hand clothes sellers only market…half an hour! Then a stretch of Paris like buildings, every ground floor a shop, and then another half hour of traffic free bazaar streets to the Khan El Khalili market proper and its spectacular Islamic Cairo surroundings. The mass of people, goods, traffic and sounds was psychedelic.

Today accompanied Marjan to her school in Sheikh Zayed, one of the new developments, West of Cairo, and from there to the main campus in Festival city in New Cairo, East of Cairo. An hour on the highway most of the time passing new developments. This metropolitan area of close to 20 million people is something to behold.

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3 Responses to first impressions of Cairo: the Himalayan proportions of it all….

  1. Keiko says:

    Nice post!
    You’re right in saying that first perceptions need to be documented. It tells you about your preconceptions about certain places or peoples or sounds, smells, sights before having experienced them in person. I never really thought about that until you wrote it down. I think it is particularly relevant to our type of lifestyle: of moving a living from one place to the other**.
    It’s difficult to try and recapture those first perceptions once you’ve gotten to know a place– I do think it is possible to do so, to some extend. For instance, when introducing a place to people who have not seen it/been there yet, you can relive the amazement about the workings of (now) everyday life through the eyes of the visitors.

    Can first impressions go beyond seeing it for the first time? I like to think that artists are somehow skilled in shedding a new light on their surroundings by trying to find the absurd in the regular and putting that into their work. Could you have seen something before but not have picked up on it until you have truly seen it? You would be trying to become aware of your everyday impressions. But then, could you call it a ‘first’ impression?
    As a newbie in a new place, your senses are working at full speed and can pick up on mundane things as if they are the most fascinating things you have come across. It could be similar to how someone reacts to their environment while they’re on some sort of psychedelic drugs. What if you have the ability to open up your senses in that same way, to suddenly be aware of much more than you regularly would…could you then call your newfound amazement at the regular a ‘first impression’? As if you really (and I mean REALLY) see it for the first time? Or is it more like a rediscovery of the world you live in and would it then be a ‘second impression’?
    Impressions, whether ‘first’ or otherwise, are important. Yet, what is still so intriguing about the ever-sought-after ‘first’ impression (and it is still intriguing)? Is it the feeling of being overwhelmed with ‘the other’, ‘the new’ that does it?

    I can’t wait to come visit you in Egypt and learn about the place the same way you are now 🙂
    x Keiko

    **Is it an addiction to change, to something new, something else that makes us want to move to other places? Like many others who have grown up ‘with the traveling bug’, I think that once I feel the drag of the routine (sleur) setting in, I have to find a way out. It is as if my mind starts screaming for another ‘hit’, an overload of the senses by going to a place I have not gotten used yet. Hmmm..perhaps it really is an addiction. But I think it is an addiction of the good kind. It keep me awake, it keeps me on my feet and moving forward.
    For the moment I enjoy being in one place…as long as I know that I have an open ticket for my next stop…wherever that may be.

  2. Fantastic Roger. Already on your blog. You may want to visit Bénédicte’s blog when she was in Egypte. You may find nice idea about visits.

  3. Pingback: Bangkok through the lens of Cairo | roger henke's fancies

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