While alcohol is rarely a problem on Cairo's street, thirst is another reason for traffic jams, especially in summer.
Next to sellers of lemons, flowers, etc. you will also see walking beverage sellers. They are often dressed in white robes with colorful hats, carrying a huge jar containing juice or karkadee on their back, around their neck hangs a little tray, carrying two classes and a plastic pot filled with water to clean the glasses after their use (you guessed right, everyone buying a drink from the seller will drink from the same 2 glasses, and the only way they were cleaned was by quickly rincing them with a bit of water from the plastic pot. Welcome Hepatitis! But this is another topic).
So now imagine a thirsty driver spotting a beverage seller at an intersection, he waves him over, payes the seller who then bends over so that the beverage can flow through a long opening on top of the jar into one of the two glasses. The full glass is handed over to the driver, who has to slam down the content as fast as he can and give back the glass to the seller before driving on again. Question of the year: how many cars have gathered up behind that driver, furious and honking again, in this process?
Yesterday I had a taxi driver complaining about the hot weather. In the middle of a tiny street, he sudently stops and shouts out of his window to one of the many doormen sitting in front of "their" building that he is thirsty. Apart from two cars already lining up behind us nothing happens, so he shouts again "water, ya basha (polite form to address someone on the street)", "water!". ... 5 cars behind us...The doorman finally comes running with a cooled bottle of water...honking and shouting.... my taxi driver takes the bottel, drinks about one third and gives it back to the doorman: "thanks, I was thirsty" ... I can not count the amount of cars caught behind us anymore.... The driver waves with his hand in a very Egyptian "Malesh" (a combination of sorry and get over it) and drives on. Later he shows me that he had an own bottle filled with water "but this one is warm, I wanted some cold water".
By now, I think that everyone knows that cairo has crazy traffic. Some of the reason for it is the crazy attitude of drivers as well as the ones supposed to regulate it. I've been witness to policemen waving a bus to turn around on a tiny street, causing a huge queue of waiting and honking cars, blocking off side streets in which other car queues formed...
Another policeman, supposed to regulate traffic was not authoritarian enough, so that a car of the street he commanded to stop just went on driving straight into the intersection. Even though it was our turn to drive, my friend stopped in order to avoid hitting the "indisciplined" car crossing the iontersection. Now you would expect the policeman wistling at the car which drove without permission and maybe even inflict a penalty, but no, not this one. His reaction was to scream at my friend, she should have driven on (and eventually hit the other car), as if that would have been the only way to stop the other car from ignoring the policemen's order.
Roundabouts are another of my favourite traffic topics. Now, we in the western world are used to drive around roundabouts and drive out of them at the street you want to follow. Well here, this is not completely the case. Some people will circle, others though will just start off in the opposite direction, if their exit is closer this way, causing immense chaos, of course. This is how we got stuck for a full hour at the big roundabout of the pyramids at 3am!!!
Other cause of small and less small traffic jams are the sellers on the street. As I had told you before you can buy kleenex boxes at each street corners. Lemons, flowers, fresh mint or jasmine chains (used to temporarily perfume the car) are also highly appreciated goods which can be purchased at intersections. By the time a driver decides to buy something, negociates the price and gets out the money, again a nice queue of honking cars will have lined up behind him.
Happy out-of-the-car-shopping, my friends!!!
Yes, it is high season for tissues again. On every street corner you find people standing and selling cleenex boxes to passing by car drivers.
No, the buyers dont all have the flue (even though with the freezing A/C temperatures in buildings, it would not be surprising). Most people buy the tissues to put them in the car and use them to wipe the sweat of their faces in a frequance exponential to the temperature outside. Taxi drivers often even have a special holding device which fixes the box in a place of the car where they can get out the tissues out ergonometrically. Polite taxi drivers will offer some to their soaked customers as well and I usually accept greatfully.
While I am writing this, the thermometer shows "nice" 38C in my living room, needless to say that a jumbo box of cleenex is my loyal companion ;-)
Well, I think I have been productive enough today, "feeding" you with all these new blog entries. Just to keep you hooked, soon you will be able to read about my little escape to Hurghada, a decadent beach party, traffic jam at 3 o'clock in the morning and plenty of funny stories you can encounter while looking for a job in Egypt.
Bye, bye for now... but see you soon again :)
In June, I decided I was fit enough to travel and accompanied with my pink Barbie ring, I made my annual trip to Europe. This time I managed to visit 4 countries in 5 weeks, which is 2 countries less than last year, but still I did not get bored and enjoyed all the time spent with my family and friends.
It was great fun to meet my dear Anciens again in Sarajevo, reviving good old AEGEE stories and I am particularly looking forward to welcome this crazy bunch here in Cairo next year.
Another event I could not have missed was our 10 years highschool graduation anniversary. Big thanks to Merle who organised everything along her 30th birthday. It was so good to meet so many former classmates and childhood friends, catching up with everybody, having interesting discussions and spending a lovely time. I truely enjoyed!
I have been back in Cairo now for the last 3 weeks, mainly busy looking for a job and already collection new stories for this blog ;-) so stay tuned...
So again, I had to find a new place to stay... after a while I found a lovely apartment in Zamalek, the green island in the heart of Cairo, which I would share with a Greek girl. My moving was planned for the weekend and because my future flatmate was going to be out of town, I picked up the double of the key she just got made for me on thursday.
Saturday all my boxes, bags and suitcases, filling up a whole minibus, that I just had moved a month earlier from Dahab were ready to be moved again. A friend was nice enough to organise 4 guys and a pick-up truck who would take care of moving everything.
The first problem happened when we arrived at my new builing and the porter refused to let any of my boxes or bags enter the elevator. "The guys can carry it up the stairs". Well, considering that there was a truck load to be carried and that the flat is on the 24th !!! floor, the porter had to be convinced with some bakshhesh to let us use the elevator in the end. After X elevator loads most of my stuff was on the 24th floor when both elevators stopped working (I guess there was a reason why the porter did not want to let us use them in the beginning). And poor guys had to get up the last load up the stairs.
During this time the next problem developped. When I put my key into the lock, it just would not turn, everyone tried, but nothing helped, the door did not open.
Call to my flatmate: she said she had made the double, but did not test it before she gave it to me. So we called the landlady, she said she had several spare keys but was not sure if any of them would fit this door.
One of the guys was sent to pick up the keys. It took him almost an hour to drive half way through Cairo and come back, while we were standing in the hallway joking around to avoid thinking about what would happen if those keys were not the right ones. We tried them all out and of course, none of them was fitting.
One option was to get all the stuff down again and me staying in the hotel next door until my flatmate would come back from her weekend. But since the two elevators were still not working, it would not have been the smartest thing to do.
Next idea was to let me stay at the hotel and pay a guy to stay in the corridor and guard my stuff...
In the end, my friend had enough and slammed against the door. Three well placed shoulder slamms and the lock flew through the air and the door was open. (scarry how fast and easy these locks break!). Now all boxes, bags and suitcases could be brought into the flat.
The door was open, but no lock was left to close it again. Luckily there was still a door chain and a plastic plant in a tremendously heavy pot, which I could push in front of the door for the night until a carpenter could come the next morning to fix the door and put in a new lock...
Big thanks, to Mohssen, who stayed through the whole "process" and was more than helpful!
For the last 3 months now, I have been able to enjoy my nice sunny apartment with lovely Nile and Pyramids view without any bigger disturbences - El Hamdullilah!
As I said before, I was stuck in Cairo due to my broken coccyx and the need of daily physiotherapy. Once I had decided, I would not go back to Dahab and start over in Cairo again, I had to find an apartment for myself.
First of all, thanks to Karina, who put up with me the first two months after the accident, lying on her couch watching the whole Bartlet Years-Season of The West Wing on DVD between physiotherapy sessions. Also thanks to Sarah and Janine, who gave me shelter later on.
Mid March, I finally found a room in a shared appartment in Mohandesseen (one of the nicer areas in Cairo). My flatmates were British and Canadian. It was a nice big flat, directly on Gamaat El Dowal El Arabia Street, one of the biggest and busiest streets in Cairo. This ment constantly having the impression to have a 100 cars driving and honking through our living room.... the impression did not fade during night either. After two unsuccessful attempts to buy earplugs (Egyptians seem to just have much bigger ears than me - impossible to get the plug even a millimeter into my ear), I surrendered to my fate and had frequent dreams of playing frogger.
Looks like someone had "mercy" with me though, and more or less made me move out a month later. Our landlord suddently came up with new very interesting rules like, we were not allowed to have male vistors at all, not even at day time! And this after my flat mates had had their boyfriends over for months without any problems. The reason he gave us was that he "could not lose himself (religiously)" and allow "bad things" to happen in his flat. When we tried to confront him with the fact that he had not objected anything before, he pretended he had such a critical heart condition he could not discuss this matter any further. His heart condition was not bad enough though, that he could not have announced that he was going to charge us about triple of the phone bill in advance, as security, in case we would run off before paying the bill!
We started to tell him, that these were conditions we did not sign for in our contract. His reply: this is my flat, I can change the rules whenever I like and if you are not pleased you can move out.
Needless to say that we were gone the next month...
Later on we got to know that our landlord's sudden "moral concerns" were less motivated by religion but rather by the upcoming rental of the flat to Saudis. Every year in summer Saudis and other "Arabs" (Egyptians don't consider themselves as Arabs, as they value their pharaonic origins) invade Egypt for their vacation. They are not only known for exeeding ALL limits (very strict in their own countries), but also to pay up to 5 times more for a flat. So for our landlord it is much more morally acceptable to rent a flat for 15000 Pounds per month and have Saudis getting drunk and having prostitutes than renting it for 3000 Pounds to three girls, who have male friends coming over for dinner.
Praise the Lord!
As you know I fractured my coccyx end of January. This ment being stuck to the couch for quite some time, which could be very frustrating.
On the other hand it also ment funny things, like getting a daily butt massage by my physiotherapist for continous 4 months.
Once I was more mobile again, i had to find a way to sit again, my poor little butt (ok, it might not be that little, but it sounds better in this expression :-D) still being quite fragile, the doctor suggested a medical sitting ring. The only problem: it was impossible to find an imported ring and the Egypt-made ones, dont only smell horribly rubbery, but they also deflate after 2 mins. So I spent almost 2 months sitting sidewise, in the weirdest positions, putting the weight on one leg and shifting again on the other leg once the first one got numb. Then a friend told me that she used a swimming ring when she had broken her coccyx.
I did not wait long and took a little trip to Carrefour. The only swimming ring available was a bright pink Barbie ring. I bought it anyway, covered it with a black pillow cover and have been carrying it everywhere ever since.
Last week, after 2,5 months loyal service, poor Barbie ring deflated and could not be revived anymore.
Thinking, I could change style a bit, I bought a new "rainbow" ring. However, when i unpacked it, I realised it was way too big. I surely have a large butt, but not that large! Thing I did not know, there are actually different sizes of swimming rings - you learn something every day!
Since this rainbow ring was the only one available in my neighbourhood, I asked a friend to get me one in the size I needed, and guess what he brought me:
Yes, even though this time more purpleish-pink, with a princess on it, it is also coming from the house Matel: Barbie!
Looks like Barbie is there to serve my butt eternally,...
Needless to say that these lines are written while sitting on lovely Barbie ;-)
scarry enough, time has gone by so fast again since my last blog entry. You might be wondering what I am doing now... well, I am still in Cairo and this is not due to my fractured coccyx (which is slowly getting better - more about that in another message). I chose to move back to Cairo. My "nice" partners in Dahab were not that nice after all and after some irregularities, i could not turn a blind eye on anymore, I decided to leave the partnership and the hotel. It was not an easy decision to leave my dream, but now I realise it was the best thing to do. I am happy to start new adventures in my beloved huge, chaotic, noisy but fascinating Cairo. A nice little plus, as well: my blog name fits again ;-) yeayyy!!!
So now get prepared for new stories from my life in the beating heart of Egypt.