the related themes of traffic and air quality have intruded my posts about Cairo, cannot really say “inadvertently” because however much they are cliches giving away my recent arrival, ignoring them would be dishonest. So at the risk of boring you I’ll deal with them head on one last time. Wipe the slate clean and move on to whatever is left after these elephants have left the room.
Traffic, the stationary part of it, blocking roads and side walks, force pedestrians into a weave-your-way-through-the-obstacle-course mode. Nowhere else have I seen walkers and cars so intertwined as here. Side walks that one can stay on for longer stretches without being forced onto the road are exceptions. Those of the Corniche, along the Nile, have such bits but motorcycles have discovered them as bypasses . No one complains.
Cars rule. One would think. But city planners apparently have a love for speed bumps. Seldom a road that doesn’t have one. In the most unexpected of places. No one complains. A curse maybe if the metal scrapes the bump, but it’s only metal seems to be the reasoning. Which I actually appreciate. Never seen a place where all cars, also the most luxurious and expensive ones, unless brand new, are dented and scratched. All of them. Why repair?
And then the air. I do not adjust. It feels thick as smoke, breathing hurts, the air tastes foul. Even if I do my rounds on the sandy track of the Gezira club, a large green space on Zamalek, yes enclosed by busy roads on both sides, but also with the river on both sides, there is no freshness.
Traffic and air pollution combine into a physically challenging environment, dangerous, unhealthy. That’s how it is for me, spoiled whimp that I am. Cairenes don’t seem to mind. Everywhere tea houses, shisha (water pipe) cafe’s, eateries spills out onto the side walks, traffic moving, honking, belching fumes right next to it. And the number of smokers is substantial. It’s a favorite pass time, sipping tea with cigarette or hookah in the other hand, chatting with friends, enjoying a break, out on the street. The city rages, but many of its inhabitants seem to practice equanimity. Admittedly many others not, but that’s true anywhere. Should it instill hope, this ability to adapt? I’m not sure.
As always, let me end with something totally different, but to my pattern seeking mind that I inhabit utterly appropriate.