Noisy, alive, sprawling, fast, dusty, fragrant, colorful.
This city is a heavy-breathing, powerful beast. Old French villas, elegant slim mosques, brown tower blocks and the Nile flowing calmly through the restless, ever changing human landcape.
The music of Cairo is a never ending cacophony of car noise. The traffic is a murderous shambles. I spent my first two days here worrying I was to start and end my trip on the same side of the road.
It is practically impossible to cross the street. No car ever stops. They come at you in their thousands, at crushing speed, like one of those massive waves you see on TV at a particularly succesful surfing contest. You basically jump into this sea of blasting, jumbled metal, close your eyes and pray.
Now I’m no traffic sissy. I’ve done my share of bad traffic in Amman, Istanbul, Mumbai and a few other brave places where people take their lives in their hands every day to get milk. Cairo makes them look like a village roundabout in Germany.
And the hassle, oh the hassle, please come here if you want the write the book of hassle.
You know that feeling of sailing a crowd on your own, you and your thoughts, unseen and untalked to? Forget it! You are never alone in Cairo.
Any tiny trip is a social occasion. People talk to you randomly, men follow you singing, boys shout as they fly past on scooters, kids run into your knees, old ladies approach you with tissues, mints and cigarettes.
Welcome to Egypt.
The funny thing is I love it. The energy of the city is splendid.
The trays that waiters carry in the morning to cater to bored, winking policemen, the sun playing with the iron cast balconies of crumbling houses, men rowing down the Nile, fruit and veg overflowing.
The dance of everyday life and the smart men and women of an ancient land talking about the frustrating chaos of the present. The twinkle in their eyes, the cloud of perfume, that beautiful, glowing skin.
Lamb testicles on restaurant menus.
Stumbling upon an island of fragrant jasmine on a side street, the moon over the understated beauty of an old mosque, cafes where people sit in rows smoking argyllas and watching the spectacle of the world.