TRAVEL THERE: THE CRAZIEST TRAFFIC IN THE WORLD
Rent control isn’t the only problem in Egypt. Try finding a trashcan. If they were ever installed, they would probably be stolen. In Giza I saw what could have been a lovely square in the town center, but all that was left was the metal frame of several benches on stark concrete. The wooden slats had been removed and utilized elsewhere. Weeds had filled what was intended as a garden spot and a layer of dust covered everything. It was a small picture repeated in a variety of ways everywhere I looked.
Our Tour of Heliopolis Continues
While I had thought Mona’s neighborhood was pretty crazy last time I was in Egypt, on this trip, super-imposed on the already crowded and confusing landscape was a construction project of gargantuan magnitude. They are putting in an underground transit system. Forget any American construction site where thoroughfares are rerouted with the use of bright orange detour signs and interruptions. While these are frustrating, Americans usually keep these tangles contained in a manageable block of space. This entire section of town was a construction site and no attempt was made to provide passage.
I honestly don’t know how the people were living in the midst of it. All the main thoroughfares were blocked and side streets were all but impassable. Navigation consisted of winding through the every day insanity of triple-parked cars and vendors setting up shop in the middle of the street. And that was just the beginning of it.
I saw streets where 10-15 of the locals had dragged their lawn chairs (not that there were any lawns) out into the street for a good chat and smoke, while the detoured traffic tried to maneuver through the madness – spinning their steering wheels, honking their horns, waving their hands, lucky to make inches of progress and shouting their frustrations. On almost every block you would come upon a small child standing in the middle of the street, with or without shoes, absently holding a toy and gazing into the distance. Maybe they would move. Maybe they wouldn’t.
And that dust I’ve made so much of? The air was thick with it. It didn’t just show up in a layer on coffee tables, it was thick in the very air you breathed. I keep trying to figure out a way to explain it to you and all I can think to compare it to is an intense pinball machine, where the center section is completely blocked and the obstacles on the sides have been multiplied five-fold. You would have to be the pinball wizard to play, because telekinesis would be your only hope of moving the ball.
And Suddenly We Were There
The horrendous traffic was a blessing of sorts, because no one could throw me out of the car and drive away. I could walk faster than they could drive. Mirette suddenly turned into a parking lot and we were there. We were the ones parked in the third row of the three-deep cars.
Next was the elevator. I’m more of the stairs type, but I was warned away from them. The apartment was ten stories up and each story had several flights of uneven stairs. The elevator was so tiny that I didn’t know how Bill rode up with us with his extreme claustrophobia. There were two elevators and even though there were only three of us, when it would open on a floor (and it opened on every floor), the potential rider would glance into the car and then wave us on.
Entering the apartment was like entering a riot. Family members of all ages were spread throughout the rooms and in each room was the site of some kind of intense activity and none of the activities seemed related to what was going on in the other rooms. One room did have several children sleeping in a bed, but I don’t know how they managed to do so with all the racket.
I have more to tell you about the fun evening, but you’ll have to come back next week!