Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Allure of Cairo

The allure of Cairo is in its contradictions. The modern and the ancient. The poor and the rich. The backwards next to the technologically advanced.

That a donkey cart is completely at home on the road alongside a Mercedes.

That one of the most peaceful places in Cairo is on a sailboat on the Nile in the middle of the city.

That the largest Coptic churches and mosques seem to come in pairs.

That the best bread in Cairo is made in open-air bakeries.

That even the poorest Egyptian can still afford a mobile phone.

That the oldest tourist bazaar in Cairo is right across the street from the one of the most conservative mosques in all of the Middle East.

That anything you want "today" is usually not available but it might possibly come "tomorrow."

That two lanes designated by white lines on any given road actually become three or four whenever there are cars on said road.

That the pollution of Cairo results in some of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen.

That some of the oldest mosques in Cairo have been built right into the fabric of Cairo, surrounded on all sides by streets, shops and apartment buildings.

That "Old Egypt" is actually Coptic Cairo.

That there are markets deep into the city where most foreigners never venture selling used books in English and secondhand Western-style clothing.

That the great bustling city of Cairo backs right up to the last surviving ancient wonder of the world.

That big trucks drive like they're the smallest of cars.

That it might take you an hour to drive what should take you only five minutes.

This is what I find the most fascinating about this city of 20 million people. It's the things that make me stop and scratch my head... and laugh and think to myself "that's SO Egypt."

The sights, the sounds, the smells - all a part of what they call "the mother of the world."

This is Cairo.

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