Before touching down at Cairo airport it had become apparent that the city was situated in the desert. Sand was everywhere. We were met by a man with a sign – the first time ever for me. As we weren’t sure who we were with we were none too sure that we had joined the right group. We were directed to a counter to buy our visas but nobody told us that this was where we should also exchange our money for Egyptian pounds. By the time we found this out the queue for visas (or perhaps money) was long and moving slowly and we had missed our opportunity. Not to worry – there was a bank at the hotel that our guide assured us gave the same rate of exchange.
We were bundled onto a mini bus – 3 couples around our own age and two single girls probably in their fifties. Our guide made a suggestion. The first of many. As we couldn’t get into our room until 2pm (and it was now mid morning) we should add a tour which would take us to the oldest pyramid in Egypt, the Imhoteb museum, Memphis , a carpet school and included lunch at what looked to be a resort. Despite 26 hours without sleep we all agreed. We went to the hotel we were staying at to pick up two other single people who were joining our tour and off we went. More about that next time but it was worth doing.
This gave us a lot of driving around Cairo and what struck us was the number of appartment blocks and the state of repair that they seemed to be in. Few seemed to be finished and yet there was evidence such as sattelite dishes, washing hanging out to dry and air conditioners that made us wonder.
Most buildings had structural metal standing up on their roof space. We were told that this was so that if the family increased they had the ability to add an extra storey. This is a society where families live together. Another reason we also heard was that government taxes are cheaper for unfinished buildins so no building was ever finished although it was lived in. Another reason – The flats are sold unfinished and young men buy them so that when they go to negotiate a bride price they will be looked upon favourably by the girls parents because they own property. I thought – there must be a large number of unmarried men. By tradition the bride pays to decorate and finish the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. The man does the remainder. We all considered setting up a business where we created finished flats without a cent to spend. Oh….. If only I were younger.
The other thing that struck me as being so different from where I come from was the variety of transport used on the roads. There was cars, motorcycles, buses, trucks, mini vans, blinkered horses and camels. The traffic on the whole was horrendous. Traffic lights were a suggestion – not a rule and it seemed most people chose to ignore the red light. The noise was horrendous
Although the traffic seemed lighter here it gave a good view of the apartment blocks and the noise was just as great coming from the highway above.
From our hotel room looking down on the Nile and the traffic it seemed and sounded like bedlam. I determined that Cairo was not a city I wished to wander about in by myself. Not for safety issues but because I knew I would never get across the road. I thought it was worse than the traffic in Hanoi and I found that difficult to negotiate.
The video with the sound gives you a small taste of Cairo.