Cairo, Our Son, Personal

Road Rage: Walking in Cairo

From the eyes of a pedestrian.

Walking the streets in Maadi, can get a bit hairy with the sun beating down, creating a shiny glare on the pavement in front of us. When Sebastian and I take to the streets he’s strapped into the Bjorn and we are headed somewhere. Take your pick of about a half dozen places we usually take walks to. By the end of the week, all the destinations have been used and we find ourselves a bit bored. But I digress.

Our most frequent walk is to the LRC (Learning Resource Centre) for Sebastian’s therapies. Some weeks we are there every day, other weeks, it’s three times, which is our schedule most recently. We walk along a semi-quiet road until we reach the round about near the Grand Mall, from there we walk along a busy road next to the satellite area until we reach the next round about which is very busy.

There is a brief patch of sand between the mansions built facing probably the worst view in all of Cairo, the walled in satellites. At each corner of the high cement wall sits a guard who sometimes whistles or says hello, in a way you don’t want to be said hello to, as we walk by. I try never to look up. We try to walk close to the wall to hide in the shade that slowly disappears as the sun rises. On our walk back we are practically hand in hand with the wall as the shade is just a sliver. This is the safest part of our walk and the only part where we don’t have to worry about cars running us over.

At the round about there is a truck full of police guards that just hang out in their blue pick up truck with large weapons slung over their shoulders and berets on their heads. I don’t know why they are there, maybe back up in case someone wants to attack the satellite station? We have to walk in front of them every time and they just drool and stare. It must be pretty amazing to see a blonde woman with a baby attached to her chest walk by like clockwork each week.

Fairly recently they installed lights at this round about as well as painted zebra crossings. Sometimes there is even a traffic policeman hanging out midway between the two zebra crossings that Sebastian and I have to cross. I say hanging out because he doesn’t actually do anything. Except stare. Of course. I have seen him mediate traffic once in awhile with the lights. Lights are very recent in Egypt. Well, perhaps they have been here since the time the British were here, but they never actually used them. And now they are supposed to. Which means they are supposed to know how. Which if they do, you can’t always tell.

This brings me to the zebra crossings. I’m not sure why they painted them because NO ONE knows what they are. Except Sebastian and I. I mean, Egyptians don’t use them to cross the street. They would rather zig zag dangerously through the traffic, resting on a poorly made median. And the cars? They definitely have no idea what they are for, even with the large yellow people painted before them, which imitate someone walking.

I’ve actually had the best luck with the taxis. I have to step down from the curb and wait for a break in traffic and then walk as fast as possible across. Many times taxis will stop for us and then the cars behind them honk. I say a lot of curses under my breath. I always stare down each car because I have to see if they are aware we are even crossing the road. Sometimes they aren’t because they are talking on the phone, leaning down to light a cigarette or just not looking. One encounter was with a woman driving with a baby on her lap looking at the passenger (another woman with a baby on her lap) while talking to her, and a couple of small kids in the back. If I had gotten the attention of this woman, there would have been an accident, so it was a good thing the pedestrian watches where she is going. {Don’t even get me started on car seats and babies, toddlers, and kids sitting in the front seat leaning on the dashboard. Seriously, what is wrong with people?!}

I always take Sebastian in the Bjorn because the traffic on the way to the LRC is so bad and so is the up and down walking from road to sidewalk (when it even exists). But one day while Moira (ali’s mum) was here I wasn’t feeling very well so she suggested taking the pram. When crossing the road, via the zebra crossing of course, I stepped out first to stop the traffic since getting across was a little slower than walking and I wanted to make sure my son was safe. A yellow car was headed straight for me and was not going to stop. I stood in front of it with my hand out and he just kept coming. He was slowing down but he really thought he should keep going. I started shouting at him. Moira says I was speaking Arabic, but I don’t remember. And I don’t know that much Arabic anyways. Then he was shouting at me. I felt so this rage from deep within myself come to the surface. I was so angry at him, I could feel a dryness in the back of my throat and tears stinging my eyes. I really thought, what the f*ck is wrong with people and where are they going that they can’t let a woman, her baby and his grandmother cross the freaking road?!!! After we crossed we walked by the traffic policeman. He was still staring at us. Is it really that hard from him to step off the curb and stop traffic for us?

I feel this rage beneath the surface most days when we take to the streets. It’s because no matter where we walk, I always have to be on high alert to make sure we don’t get hit by a car. Even though the cars are usually going fairly slow where we walk sometimes they come really close to us and there is no where for us to go and I imagine one hitting me and me putting my hand through the open window and grabbing the driver by their hair and pulling them out and just punching and yelling at them.

I am not a violent person. I have never been and I don’t even like watching violence in movies. I don’t believe violence can solve anything. I’ve actually campaigned against violence. But mess with my kid and you better watch out. Watch yourself on the street. This is one mama you don’t want to run in to.

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4 thoughts on “Road Rage: Walking in Cairo”

  1. lol -it’s funny how being a mother can bring out the protective violent side! And reading this really made me greatful of the area we live in here – I never ever get that kind of unwanted attention when I am out with Yashar. If I were alone and in a different area of Istanbul then that is another story… You are brave!

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  2. I smiled and nodded while reading this – not out of malice, but because I SO know what you’re talking about!

    I have never been to Egypt, but used to live in Indonesia where road rules, pedestrian crossings, traffic lights, traffic police etc were all apparently ‘ornamental’ rather than functional.

    Go you and your road rage!!! But take care out there on the roads!!! xo

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  3. I believe it! Don’t mess with you or you’re gonna pay. šŸ˜‰ Sorry it’s such a tough time getting from point A to point B. Good work at getting it done.

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