Sunday, October 26, 2008

Wandering Down the Street

Today, I have decided to take you along as I walk, taxi, walk, and finally taxi back home, all in the name of a quest for the “the best pasta in town.” Last Thursday, I set out from my flat with a short list of chores that needed to be accomplished before Friday. Hubby, you see, had scheduled an Institute picnic for Friday at which my job was to look pretty and make a good impression on everyone present.

To accomplish this Herculean task, I needed to rip hair from my face, buy a decent bottle of liquor or wine, and practice my Arabic so it would look like I hadn’t spent the last two months nesting. Obviously, I was in trouble before I had even started out the door. I couldn’t get an appointment at the spa in Zamalek, wine in this town sucks and I wasn’t going to share from our South African stash, and in three Arabic lessons, all I’ve managed to retain is how to buy vegetables and even that was rather shaky.

Undaunted, I made an appointment with my friend for an at-home eyebrow wax. I then spent twenty minutes finding my sun hat and making taxi packets before heading out the door without my now forgotten hat.

(Taxi packets are my pre-made rolls of money that will cover the cost of my taxi ride to and from wherever I am headed within Cairo. I fill them full of piaster notes and always make sure to put at least one large pound note on the outside as this is what the driver will first see when I hand it to him after I alight from his vehicle.)

Traffic that day was unusually heavy and it took twice as long to get to the liquor store, Drinkies, than usual. Once there, I perused the shelves for a minute and eventually decided to torture my hosts with Egyptian champagne. I packed the bottle away in the satchel I brought for that purpose and began my long walk to lunch.

Walking anywhere in this town takes patience, good eyes, comfy shoes, and extra dose of patience for good measure. You see the “sidewalks” here are often inaccessible because cars frequently park on or across them. They are also littered with garbage, animals, and the feces of said animals. The final icing on this cake is the danger of walking around buildings with air conditioners hanging out their windows, as these often rain down Freon and dirty water on unsuspecting pedestrians below.

The following is a typical walk to the end of a typical Cairene street. Imagine that you have cars parked on both sides of your already narrow street. This feat of parking prowess ensures that there is only just enough room for a small car to maneuver its way down the street. Since the sidewalks are generally inaccessible, you elect to walk on the road and jump between cars every time someone honks at you to get out of the way.


Annoyed and about to be driven to murder by the constant beeping of horns, you look around and see what appears to be at least 100 feet of uninterrupted sidewalk. Like the good pedestrian you were taught to be back in the Real World, you hop over to your designated area and proceed forward. Only this is what greets you at the end of the 100 feet:


Your path blocked, you look to the right to see if you can squeeze between the cars and continue on your way. Instead you see this:


Frustrated, but still patient, you retrace your steps until you find two cars you can safely squeeze through. When you finally find such a spot, you look around and realize that you just walked ALL THE WAY BACK TO WHERE YOU STARTED!

That was how I spent Thursday afternoon. All I wanted was two eyebrows, a bottle of bubbly, and a bowl of pasta. Instead, I walked up and down the streets of Cairo losing what precious little was left of my sanity.

17 comments:

Leanne in Italy said...

Hello,
I read your blog, but have never commented before...but had to come out of the shadows for this post. It was so funny! Next time you should just climb over the cars!

psychoknitter said...

So did you manage to get your eyebrows done in the end???

Good idea on the taxi payment rolls by the way....

Connie said...

I have been known to walk across pressed-together bumpers. Have you ever watched how cars get parked this tightly? One car will find a hole - about 3 ft wide, nose in, and push the front car as far as they can, then they pull out, forward, then back in... push the rear car as far back as possible... shoving all cars - front and back - out of the way, until they can squeeze in. It's hilarious! But it works. Which is why people leave their gears in nuetral. And what's wrong with parking on the sidewalk? At least it's not blocking traffic... and it's not like you're supposed to use the sidewalks, for walking anyway ;-D

Hi! I'm Janola. said...

Too funny! Ended up giggling here at the cafe. That is so true! The adventure of a walk around a Cariene neighborhood was something hubby and I never expected. The taxi packets are a good idea.

An Egyptian said...

who is the Egyptian guys in the photos, your friends?

GutsyWriter said...

What does the bubbly taste like? I see they like to park their cars like Parisians.

Connie said...

Here are a couple links that you might like:

For gourmet meats - delivered - Gourmet Egypt.

If you haven't visited already, come to Maadi and check out this resource: Community Services Association - CSA . In addition to classes, tours, etc. they print a very handy magazine. Nice articles, but I get it for the ads.

Stephanie said...

Just bumped into your blog, and love it. Keep it up!

Mamasphere said...

And I thought Brasil was bad! Sidewalks there are still considered somewhat sacred.

I love your blog! I'll be back for sure. And thank you for stopping by mine today!

TMI said...

Man, sounds frustrating for you, but funny for my reading pleasure! Congrats on being featured at BATW.

Louise said...

Hey! Great BATW feature. You really do throw yourself into your expat life, don't you! Hope you continue to enjoy Egypt. And to write about it for our reading pleasure.

Tara @ Living A Dream said...

That was a lot of fun to read! Thanks for hosting us today on BATW!

JourneytoFamily said...

What a fantastic tour of Egypt!!! Especially fun since my son and I studied Egyptian history last year. And our plane re-fueled in Egypt on our way to Ethiopia and back, though I wish we could've stayed in Egypt a few days to see the pyramids. (visiting from Los Angeles, CA)

Marla said...

fantastic!

Melissa Lester said...

So at this point you may be used to seeing pyramids in the horizon, but it looks so different to me than anything I am used to. It is amazing to think about all the places you have lived. We should probably stop back in to see you from time to time when you take on a new part of the world. Thanks for the tour!

Lynnette Kraft said...

I'm a day late, but I just wanted to say HI! I'm here from BATW! That's so cool that you live in Egypt!
Have a great day!
Lynnette

Vicki said...

Great pictures. I can only imagine how great it would be to live there. I would love to travel the world, but that'll never happen so I have to live vicariously through others. Thanks for letting me spend some time in Egypt.