Swatting flies

Trip Start Sep 07, 2005
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Flag of Egypt  ,
Tuesday, March 28, 2006

So, Cairo. 18 million people, over half the population of Canada in one city! It is loud, crazy, dirty, exciting, and overwhelming. You take your life in your hands just stepping out the door in the morning! First from the smog. There is so much polution, there is a thick constant haze over the city. I read that it is the equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Disgusting.

Then, once you actually get out the door, you're lucky if you don't get run over by something! Traffic is an absolute gong show. Rome, Isanbul and Naples together have nothing on this town. Lanes mean nothing. Traffic lights mean nothing (if you can find one in the first place). Driving is a complete free-for-all! There are donkeys pulling carts driving down the road, people driving in the wrong direction, reversing for blocks on end, pedestrians walking everywhere, no crosswalks, garbage everywhere, it is madness!But exciting and fun at the same time. Wouldn't want to live here, but it is a wild place to visit.

It is really dirty though, from all the garbage thrown everywhere, and dirt, and smog. You never feel clean. And of course the water is a bit gross, so showering isn't all that much help. Maybe that is why they sell so much perfume!

Since there are no crosswalks, or rules of any kind, people just walk wherever whenever. Middle of the road, no problem! And to cross a road with traffic flying in all directions, they just wing themselves out in the middle and pray not to be hit. It's not like drivers stop either. If you are lucky they may swerve a few inches, but even that is asking a lot.

I of course, stand out like a sore thumb. First, because of what I wear (and that I don't cover my head) but also because I don't look Egyptian. So every guy that speaks English in this crazy place wants to talk to me. Which you would think is flattering, but is really just annoying and tiring. None of them can be trusted anyway, because chances are they are going to try to drag you back to their perfum shop, or papyrus shop, or sell you a tour or something. Sadly, it means that my usual propensity to chat with strangers while travelling has been halted. I ignore everyone equally! It's a shame since so many Egyptians are very friendly, but you just get tired of being seen as as dollar sign. Rich white tourist, that's all so many of them see.

Usually the attention is limited to questions of where are you from, need a taxi, where are you going etc. Gusy who can't speak English just wolf whistle or make kissing noises, and yell things (probbly lewd) in Arabic. Which you learn to ignore pretty fast. Nobody ever touches you though. Until today that was!

Pretty minor too. I took the bus out to the pyramids (leaves right by where I am staying, and costs 2E!). Getting on the bus I asked the driver to make sure it was the right one. He didn't speak Eng, so he asked one of the guys getting on the bus to translate. Was the right bus, so I took a seat. The guy kind of hovered, like he was going to sit beside me. The bus was practically empty. So I put my things on the seat so he wouldn't sit there. He sat behind me instead.
He tried to strike up a conversation (happens about 37 times a day of course, and gets tiring). So I basically ignored him. I'm sitting against the window. Later the bus is full, and a girl sits beside me. He is directly behind me. I thought I felt something on my right side just above my waist, but I looked down and there was nothing there. This happened a couple of times, but I thought I was imagining things. Was very light. Then, after about the 4th time, I look down and see his fingers! Which I swat away. I look behind, and he is pretend sleeping. So, I put my water bottle down in the crack, and was on my guard. About 5 minutes later, sure enough, same thing! I see the fingers. So this time I've had it. I smack his fingers away, turn around, and poked him in the forehead with my finger, and said loudly, DONT TOUCH ME AGAIN. Everyone was then staring at him. Ha ha ha! The girl beside me figured out what is going on, and lays in to him in Arabic.
Anyway, not sure if he was trying to cop a feel, or get into my pocket to take money, or what the deal was. But I figure if that is the worst that has happened in 7 months, I am doing well!
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