26-31 July 2016
Cairo is hectic and it gets some time getting use to. The people are hot-headed and have no sence of reasoning. For better or for worse, Cairo is a unique city like no other. I have never experienced so many situations in one day in my life. I quickly realised why there are very few tourists..
It is certainly not a trip for the weak solo traveller.
Within minutes of landing in Cairo I was the victim of the Airport VIP Treatment Scam
I was staying in Downtown Cairo where I climbed 5 flights of stairs to arrive at Hotel Safary where I was hoping to give Cairo another chance, clean slate – new beginning. Hotel Safary was a total piece of shit hotel which was dull and gloomy, it looked like a place where tourists stay – and die. My room was stuffy and had no windows and the ceiling was literally coming apart. The wifi was poor, the kitchen filthy and the bathroom was just about clean (with no tissue paper). I don’t recommend anyone to stay there, ever.
I turned the corner out of the hotel walked for half a mile along the busy street but there was no sign of anything I’d learned in our history lessons about Egypt. Instead, the over crowded streets were full of menacing looking merchants and mountains of rubbish on every corner. I had no map, not even a vague idea of where exactly I was, but I turned inland to back streets hoping to stumble across a local restaurant, surely downtown Cairo must have its finer corners? But then I found a few restaurants that you automatically associate with downtown Cairo; dirty. The back streets were full of over fat women, demanding men and unattended children who were often trying to sell something in filthy t-shirts. I felt as if I had wondered onto another continent.
In Cairo several families pay the equivalent of £2/month or less towards rent for large houses. This is called paying old rent. This is due to laws that were frozen at a certain time in the past. In return, the buildings are falling apart and can’t be maintained because people are paying old rent. So people are living in these great apartments in great locations (such as downtown) worth millions while their monthly rent is the price of coffee in London. Also – old rent is passed down from generation to generation to prevent change.
Hang out with the locals if you want to experience various aspects of Cairo (semi-peacefully). I hung out with Ibra, an amazing character – Cairo local and we spent a whole crazy day together. People treated me differently. The men on the streets only hollared under their breath and we paid the local price for everything. It was great.
Ibra and I met downtown. We walked up to Sadat station and took the metro to where Old Cairo / Coptic Cairo are. The metro itself was a completely new and crazy experience. People literally get stuck in the doors as they attempt to get on while the rest of us are jammed up together. I kept laughing and the locals would just stare. Women don’t usually travel in the non-ladies cabin either. If you have a look in the Ladies Only cabin it is full!
I was amazed at the contrast from downtown Cairo to Old Cairo. It was quieter and peaceful which I really appreciated. We visited all of Coptic Cairo then made our way to the amazing Khan el-Khalili by metro and microbus. The microbus journey was really fun, the other (local Egyptian) passengers were hilarious! They were making jokes, shouting outside the window and even though I didn’t understand it was a really pleasant ride. It cost us 3 EGP which is approx £0.30p for a 15 minute ride.
We walked back towards Tahrir square!!
We walked in the road the whole time and an old creepy muslim dude even elbowed me! On purpose because when I looked back his expression said “yes, I elbowed you. And what?”
We walked for about 40 minutes until we got tired and jumped on a moving bus which was going to Tahrir square.
It was really a bizarre day, taking the metro, bus, microbus, walking in local neighbourhoods through busy streets. It was visual porn. Everything was a new stunning experience…
…I didn’t think my day could get crazier. Little did I know I was yet to be shocked.. twice.
I don’t know exactly where we were when we jumped on the (moving) bus which cost 1EGP to Tahrir square. We sat at the back seats and two teenagers got on the bus and sat down on the steps (where my feet were, right in front of us) without paying. The ticket conductor (who sits at the back too, see pic) asked the boys to pay their fare, they ignored him and refused. The then began to shout for the boys to get off the bus. One of them did while the other refused. The ticket conductor then slapped the boy in the face and they began to brawl right in front of me and Ibra. Kicking, punching and slapping with full force. While they were fighting I was very conscious of how close they were. They were half an arm’s length away from me and the busses in Cairo are small. Ibra managed to pull them apart with the help of another local on the bus. I was watching with a mixture of shock and wonder. Surely the solution for the conductor isn’t to fight the boy? No.
We strolled to a local bar which was on one of the back streets of Tahrir square.
Ibra asked me if I wanted to go to a local bar or a semi-touristic bar. I settled for local and I made the right decision. It seemed to be a popular spot with the locals as it took up the entire back street with tabled and chairs. The atmosphere was great, people sitting around in groups chatting, drinking tea, playing board games and eating sandwiches. Street cats would wind their way between tables, beggars would drop peanuts or tissues at the table hoping to come back for some change and street kids would come around begging with their hands out or with toys. You struggled to have a peaceful chat without somebody coming beside you with their own version of why you should give them money. One of the street kids who was selling balloons (or something) made a joke with me. Ibra translated, it was a silly kids joke. He disappeared for a while then he came back and screeched in my ear. I jumped. Two seconds later the waiter slapped him hard in the face. He then started kicking the boy and even picked up a chair and hit him with him. The boy got a serious beating. Right in front of me, though the man was kicking or should i saw booting him away from the street. True, it wasn’t nice what he did, but it wasn’t harmful to me. The waiters reasoning was extreme. He seriously beat the kid up, right in front of my eyes, for all to see, and this time – nobody helped the boy.
That day I realised that people from Cairo do not know how to reason. The concept is simply foreign to them.
I got into a fight myself with an obese old Egyptian man who worked at a food stall I ate from.
He claimed I owed him 8EGP from the night before’s dinner.. I think he was low on funds that day.
People paid attention to me, men to holla or women to stare, yet I felt safe enough. I was clearly a tourist and I confess I clutched the straps of my backpack tightly, yet there was no sign of real danger. They are used to having a hard time in Cairo. After the revolution there seems to be little order. People are so hungry that they’ll eat everything alive (metaphorically speaking) and they have seen an estimated 95% drop in tourism since the revolution due to political and social unrest ( I saw 5 other tourists during my entire stay in Cairo) but it has also brought alot of problems upon itself largely through corruption and incompetence. Embezzlement and trade mispricing are ripe, often the main drivers of illicit financial outflows. Every service in the city is constantly on the brink of collapse. It is the biggest city in Egypt and the streets are filthy. Though the service is good. Even now the average worker in Cairo is expected to receive 2,745.45 EGP (£274.5/$310) per month – many people have two jobs (private and governmental) just to survive. All I know is that everywhere I went there was pandemonium; people were shouting, cars were beeping and men were hollaring. I walked and walked and it never got any better. Even the main shopping street, although it looked nice was so crowded I found myself always walking in the road through the lunatic traffic to avoid the crowded pavement. The city has become effectively ungovernable.
Sightseeing in Cairo
Old Cairo / Coptic Cairo
Aside from visiting the Pyramids of Giza, this was probably the most touristy thing I did in Cairo. Visiting Old Cairo and Coptic Cairo was so nice. Coptic Cairo is very peaceful, I indeed felt strange at how quiet it was. If you’re religious you’ll love this place.
Old Cairo is a part of Cairo, Egypt which pre-dates the Fatimid city of al-Qahira, founded in 969 CE.
Coptic Cairo is a part of Old Cairo which encompasses the Babylon Fortress, the Coptic Museum, the Hanging Church, the Greek Church of St. George and many other Coptic churches and historical sites*
The Hanging Church
The Greek Church of St. George
Ben Ezra Synagogue
Mosque of Amr Ibn al-As
Khan el-Khalili Market
The Other Side Of Cairo
I met a girl in Cairo and she invited me to chill out with her and her friend and guests by their pool.
At first I was super skeptic, this was almost like a blind date type of thing. After a few tests (send me a selfie with your thumbs up) I agreed to go. This was my introduction to wealthy Cairo. It felt like I was in a Malibu villa. The vibe was totally chill and liberal. Beer, piercings, tattoos and hash… They were all well spoken in English and were pure Egyptian. Was this how the other side lived? The wealthy are liberal and free – while the poor people of Cairo are conservative and limited?
I enjoyed myself highly, but was discomforted by the obviously thick line between rich and poor.
It is almost like the Cairo people weren’t looking at me like a human
Money seemed to be on the forefront all the merchants mind. Shop keepers, locals and children would constantly be trying to sell something. I counted that 1.5 out of 2 people would attempt to get something out of you (money).
Sexual harassment for women is a serious issue in Cairo. Luckily due to the rise in social media people are aware of it and there are activist groups in Cairo who fight for the protection of women. Men in Cairo behave as though they have never laid eyes on a woman before. How to deal with harassment as a women? Fight back, MAKE A SCENE. Scream if you have to. Men in Cairo appear to be mostly all talk. They don’t expect women to retaliate. Once you fight back, they will stop. But also be aware of who you are fighting back, notice when it is simply better to ignore and walk (quickly) away.
Apart from the old man who elbowed me, and the over fat man who wanted to fight me for 8 EGP I was fine. Just be careful
Upon leaving I didn’t even think about looking back at Cairo. Not about giving it one more try. I couldn’t face it. Happily I got into my first class cabin to Aswan and I slept (almost) like a baby.
My Trip To Aswan ( Coming Soon)
My Trip To Alexandria (Coming Soon)