Flying into Cairo for the third time in just over a year made me feel like I was coming back to the familiar again, no matter how much I hate flying, the excitement of the destination and the journey is what drives me. Cairo, a city blanketed by its existence and 20 million people, emerges only as the sun reaches its zenith or by night’s light, and sometimes not even then.
With no work to do this trip I took advantage of the cooler weather by exploring the streets and alleys of Cairo. Everywhere I looked the vibrancy and music of the city pulled me ever deeper into it’s fold.
Although not religious I did not hesitate to explore what is Cairo’s dominant faith and skyline feature – muslim mosques. To truly understand a culture, it seems obvious to me that getting under the skin of their dominant beliefs and value system is integral to this enlightenment. What truly intrigued and fascinated me was the craftsmanship and colour that adorns the mosques.
I love just wandering. Walking the streets and seeing where I end up and what I see. Cairo is a fascinating city to explore, with many little alleys surrounded by dual carriageways (with more than dual traffic). Most fascinating though are the people. Each day as I stepped on to the street I was met with a barrage of compliments and great one-liners – if only because they were hurled at everyone passing by! For example, “You look Egyptian” (and clearly I don’t – I share only the dark hair); “Where you from?” (before anything else could be said, after this comes the hello); and, “I can help you, I know everywhere” (when I had clearly found the place I was looking for as I was standing at the gate/door entering)! Unsolicited advice and help came from every direction, some was free, some was not.
In wandering the streets of Cairo I was really able to gain an insight into life in one of the world’s most populous cities.
And then there were the ‘What the?’ moments…
Having overstayed my time in Cairo city, I escaped to the Mediterranean Coast for a day. Alexandria, famous for its library (bibliotheque) that is to hold a copy of every book ever published, or so I am led to believe, had me curious. With its promise of fresh sea air and food I hopped on a train with my new travelling companion (the lovely V, who shared many of these adventures with me) for the 2.5 hour journey.
For anyone who has ever been to the Mediterranean coast, it offers a different view to my largely held belief that it had wide open beaches, staggering cliffs and picturesque views. Unfortunately for the Mediterranean I have only seen it from cities, alas a very urbanised concrete world with the water seemingly out of bounds for the bare footed traveller. However the food did not disappoint, and the escape from Cairo was much rewarded.
Would I go back to Cairo again? Probably not. But not because of the grinding closeness of everything or to revel in the generous hospitality of Egyptians. I have itchy feet and they crave new adventures (feels strange referring to my feet in the third person, and you probably think it strange that my feet have some say in what I do!!).