The experience of Cairo: where – how – to begin? She is a place that can effortlessly embrace diametrically opposed elements, and then ask you why you are looking at her like that? See the hijab-wearing woman enjoying the bellydance show; see the galabiya-clad men answering phones with James Brown ringtones. See the mosque; see the MacDonald’s. See the pyramids, although you’ll have to move a bit to see around the “Coke: Quenching an Ancient Thirst” billboard. See the artificial limbs for sale, displayed on blankets on the street. See the filth; see the man galloping down the street, riding bareback on a majestic white horse, mane and tail flowing in the wind (what a missed shot that was!); see the pockmarked freeways that suddenly just end; buy a delicious, refreshing fresh mango drink from a guy on the corner. Enter the bar where patrons shout at the soccer match on the telly; see the aversion to Western culture; hear the constant request for baksheesh. See the contempt for women; feel the policemen grab your ass; meet spectacularly gorgeous men who are not horrified that you’re a woman. Meet the school girls thrilled to try and talk to you; then meet their teachers who are so angry that they are. “Hire” a private hour inside the pyramid of Cheops, where weird things most certainly happen, but don’t enter if you’re claustrophobic (note: crawling required). Visit the elegant Pink Lady – the Egyptian Museum – to stare at really spooky artifacts, but only if you dare cross the murderous-seeming streets where drivers are incapable of not honking their horns. And definitely don’t miss the policemen astride camels.
See – and hear – it all. These photos offer only a tiny glimpse into this noisy, dirty, fast, shocking, surprising, astonishing, mysterious, confusing, discomforting, inscrutable settlement on the famous river that 20 million Cairenes call home. But don’t take my word – I was in Egypt for less than two months, and it wasn’t last week. If you’ve been or when you go, I’d love to hear how it went for you.
Live all you can. It’s a huge mistake not to.