Cairo, World

On the streets of Cairo

Sebastian and I walk everywhere. It’s one of the things I like about living here, in our neighborhood. That there is no need for transportation. And if there is, the cabs are cheap, even if a little scary on the motorway. At least the cars are upgrading and more of the cabs have meters and aren’t falling apart. That’s not the case for every taxi driver, like the nice man who is parked at the end of our street and you can’t say no, even though you want to because his dash board is being held up by styrofoam. He understands that we need a nice cab when we are going downtown or to Carefour. It’s safer and all with a baby. And he loves Sebastian.

Getting back to walking everywhere. Because we walk everywhere, I am very aware of my surroundings and the other drivers. Most times there isn’t a sidewalk, so we are walking in the street. There are defintitely no cross walks and sometimes traffic is coming from every direction. There are some streets that are just easier to cross without the stroller, so I use the baby carrier for those trips, like to the LRC. But for the walk to the Maadi Club, I take the stroller and manouver my way through the round about and over the rail road tracks. I know how to do it, it’s as though I am another driver in a car, although a little more exposed. I look at the drivers. I look them in the eye. If I can’t see their eyes then they can’t see me and I have to make sure we are out of the way. I’ve gotten very good at crossing these streets. It did not come without practice and some shouting…

Since I am so in tune with my surroundings and the drivers, I see a lot of things. Things that you would never see in a western country. Things I wish I could take photographs of because you either won’t believe me or won’t be able to imagine it if you have never been outside of a western country. I decided that since I can’t take a picture (it would be like taking photos while driving for me since I have to be so aware of everything) that I would try to list some of the outrageous things here.

People in vehicles:

I never tire of seeing old cars packed full with people. Once I saw a tiny car full of children plus the driver. There are also the pick up trucks overflowing with men standing, sitting, and holding on to each other. Going to work. Coming back from work. Sometimes in suits and sometimes covered with dust. I see children sitting on the laps of their parents in the front seats, babies, toddlers, even young school aged kids. Today one was steering for his dad in a big SUV. Maybe he was four. Children playing on dash boards. Wresting in the back seat. Car seats? Never hear of them. This week I had a woman come over to get our old high chair and she had a five month old in a little bassinett that she just placed on the back seat, nothing holding her in. And off they went. Women in niqabs (black, full face veil) driving like shadows and in the sunlight it’s a ghost driving the car and making eye contact is impossible because I’m unsure how her peripheral vision holds out.

Items on top of vehicles:

Today it was about 25 boxes tied on top of a small red car, larger than the roof itself. Sometimes it’s large pieces of glass or sheets of metal and the only thing holding it on top of the roof are the passengers and maybe even the driver. I have seen men riding bicycles with Christmas trees on top of their handle bars. Recently it’s large Egyptian flags hanging out each window in support of the football games (African cup). Kids sitting on the window frames, waving the flags in victory once the game has finished.

There’s more. There’s always more.

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