Memories of Egypt -- Cairo the City that Never Sleeps!!

Memories of Egypt -- Cairo the City that Never Sleeps!!

Marcia Forbes PhD

Memories of Egypt—Cairo the City that Never Sleeps
After a few false starts I finally arrived in Cairo, Egypt. As one photo exhibition pronounced, “Yes, Egypt is an African country”. It’s situated right up there to the north of the huge continent. Cairo is one of the largest cities in Egypt and boasts anywhere from 15 to 18 million people, depending on who you believe.

Flying for hrs.!!
Personal circumstances dictated that I flew directly from Jamaica to Cairo, foregoing the highly anticipated reunions with relatives and friends throughout the U.K. So after 14 hours of flying time, 3 hours of highly enjoyable, albeit somewhat frenetic shopping at Heathrow Airport and one hour of sitting in the plane waiting to leave London, I arrived at my destination some 18 hours after leaving Jamaica.

It’s now almost 2am, Wednesday-- very, very late at night or very, very early morning depending on your perspective. I had left Jamaica on Monday night. But not to worry I was well rested. Cairo time is 8 hours behind Jamaica and thanks to Air Jamaica’s comfortable club class seats which allowed me 6 hours of sleep en route to London, I’m fairly bright eyed and ready for adventure. It’s just as well since there was no one to meet me at the airport as anticipated-- Every name held up on a card, except mine.

Nerves of Steel Needed
Having read a few on-line blogs and a bit about life in Cairo, I managed. I had sufficiently prepared myself for the nuances of haggling in Egypt and the wiles of the men. Driving from the airport to the hotel I was struck by the number of cars which drove without lights. This practice was particularly noticeable among the ubiquitous ‘antique’ black and white Fiat taxis.

Being driven in Cairo is an experience in ‘nerves of steel’. Years ago I had experienced ‘shrinking’ in Grenada, were the vehicle virtually climbed the mountain side to create space for another to pass. Cairo was different. Every driver seemed to be testing how small a space the vehicle could be maneuvered through. Horns had a language of their own but incredibly there was little cussing or swearing from the humans.

Sleepless in Cairo

At 3am mid-week driving from the airport to my hotel, Cairo is wide awake. Several stores are open, adults and children are on the streets, restaurants and sidewalk cafes are conducting brisk business. The following night, having presented my conference paper and now ready to play tourist, I again experienced the restless sleeplessness of Cairo. At 12midnight there is bumper to bumper and fender to fender 3 lane one-way traffic. Discussing the population stats with my colleague, he commented that 10 million of them must have been on the bridge across the River Nile which we happened to have been crossing at that time.

My great plan to conduct walking tours of the city evaporated quickly once I felt the heat and experienced the traffic congestion. Getting from one side of the road to another required skill, perseverance and much bravado. Jay-walking is de rigueur and I didn’t plan to be run over in a foreign country--nor in Jamaica for that matter! Leith Dunn (God must have sent her to save me that 1st morning when I ventured out to the conference after a couple hours sleep) warned that Egyptian drivers are a scary lot. Taking her advice, I focused on skill and perseverance, foregoing the bravado.

Cairo is a fascinating place and there was my never-ending ‘must do’ list—visit the magnificent Pyramids (tombs of the Pharaohs and one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world), sail down the River Nile, ride a camel while keeping my bones intact, experience the bazaars, visit the Egyptian Museum and some mosques, pick up mementos for friends who were so supportive during Richard’s hospitalization etc., etc. I managed to get through almost everything on my list, thanks to a city that never sleeps.