Cairo is a big, big city. It’s a chaotic city, where most things don’t work as you might expect it. It’s a city where the predominant colours are brown and grey, it is almost as if you are watching an old movie in an old tv, where the vibrancy of colours is not what we are accustomed in today’s high-end smartphone screens.
Cairo, at first, is also rude and unapologetic. It can get to you if you are used to the nice ways of the European cities.
Cairo it’s like that friend that we all have, the one that works in his own way. The one that seems not to care at all about what others think of him, to the point of being inconsiderate. That friend that will make you wait for an hour and don’t show up; the one that when you try to reach him does not pick up. The friend that does not apologize for the way he is and, sometimes, he comes across as being cocky.
But it’s the friend that we can’t do without because if you get past that I-don’t-care-what-you-think appearance, he has a big heart. And you can’t help but love him. Despite the numerous times that you swear that it is the last time, you always end up forgetting about it; because there is something about him that it is rare: he is genuine.
Cairo is like that.
It is a city where fifteen million people live in it and millions more come every day to work, but it is not ready for that human stress. And it does stress it. Traffic jams are the norm and not the exception, people seem on edge every morning and driving here is only for the brave hearted.
Public services are all but non-existent and dare you if you try to do anything bureaucratic. People struggle every day just to make ends meet. And let’s not talk about politics… A subject reserved for the confidence of your own thoughts.
But get past that. Get past the dusty air -after all, is built on a desert-. Get past the soft, almost pastel colours, the traffic, the conglomeration of people, the difficulty of doing anything relatively normal in many other places, the edgy people and jungle-like driving, the appearance that everything was built a century ago and has not been taken care of.
If you do, you will find that Cairo is alive; and that is more than you can say of many other places. And Cairo has a big heart, just like that friend.
With a bit of patience and perseverance, you will discover that Cairo has a lot of secrets. Look for the beautiful spots at the shore of the Nile or the popular cafés at Old Cairo where you can smoke a shisha for hours just looking at people passing by. Walk around and see how the people from here enjoy their own city, how despite all, they appreciate it. See the kids playing on the streets. Hear the Adhan coming from a thousand minarets -Cairo was called the city of the thousand Adhan-. Strike a conversation with a taxi driver, or anyone else you find. You’ll be surprised.
Dig deeper and you will find that it has a story to tell, a long an arduous story, all the more interesting because of that. You will meet people carrying the weight of a thousand year and people whose ways seemed taken out of an old novel. You can find the latest and the oldest, all in one place.
And at the heart of it all, there is knowledge. Hidden; only for those who seek it and want it. A knowledge that will help you find yourself, and what other knowledge you might want?