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Alicia & Rich's Roads to Everywhere London to Australia on the route less traveled

Cairo - Day 1

EGYPT | Sunday, 19 October 2008 | Views [343]

Arrival:

Walking out of the Cairo airport, we were hit by the humidity like a hot, sweaty slap in the face. Briefly trying to bargain down the rate for a taxi we were relieved to find our driver had an air conditioned car. We had booked a hostel in downtown Cairo and as we headed toward it, the congestion set in. Traffic came to a stand still as we entered the city and Alicia (who had a cold for the last week) suddenly felt her sinuses close up. You could see the smog hanging in the air, just above the rooftops. There was black smoke pouring out of just about every exhaust pipe and there seemed to be hundreds of cars within eyesite.

  • They say that spending one day in Downtown Cairo is the equivalent to smoking 30 cigarettes.

Driving

Traffic in Cairo is unlike traffic in any other city we've been too. There are no lanes, its not unusual to see 10 cars across a road that would normally be three lanes. Cars zip in and out of any open space they can find. Horns are honked repeatedly and incessantley. You honk to let people know you're trying to get around them, trying to let them around you, or just because you're bored of waiting in traffic. It's such a crazy driving system and yet, we only saw two slight fender benders, and no major crashes.

With this traffic system, it's unbelieveable that people are expected to navigate their way across the streets without any traffic lights, zebra crossings, crossing guards (or lollipop ladies for English people). No, you have to say a quick prayer and follow a local to understand how to cross without getting killed.

We had our first crossing experience when we got out of our cab and had to run across the street, with our backpacks (ok, Rich carried the big ones) to the hostel. Obviously we made it.

The Hostel

The hostel was called King Tut and although it was pretty nice, the manager was really pushy. He tried to sell us every tour package he could think of and after we told him they were all too expensive and we'd do it ourselves, he pretty much ignored us. (He got annoyed that Alicia didn't want to see a lot of the sites in Cairo, especially the Egypt Museum, but this was her 2nd time in the city)

Walking in the Heat

We spent the rest of the day walking around downtown in the 90 degree heat. We looked for a market the Alicia had been to on her first trip to Cairo, and never found it. We found lots of food and clothing markets, heard lots of "taxi?" "you want taxi?" and after walking for a hour in the heat and smog, we did want a taxi.

Night Time

That night we walked around again and found the streets packed with people. It was a Sunday night and everyone was out. We had a quick tea at one of the many cafes and people watched. Rich noticed something unusual - many of the men seemed to be walking arm and arm. Sometimes two guys, sometimes three and after a while we began noticing it everywhere. Now either Cairo is a gay man's paradise (which doesn't quite sit right bearing in mind we're talking about a Muslims country) or the culture here is much more open and loving then in the western world. We decided it's the latter, just like girlfriends linking arms out of friendship; here men do the same - and why not?

Alicia still had a cold and because of the smog and pollution, her throat was very sore and painful. Rich spotted a pharmacy as we walked down and alley and we went in to see if they had anything that could help. Surprisingly there was a man/woman (we actually couldn't tell!) who was extremly helpful and knowledgeable. He/She gave Alica antibiotics for her throat and said thats the only way it'll get better. He/She was right, the next day after taking 2 enormous sized pills, Alicia was right as rain.

That night we fell asleep to the sounds of honking horns.

 

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