Recognizing the Mother of Cities

“The mother of cities” they call it, I had never heard the term until I arrived in Cairo earlier this week. If I were to imagine what the mother of all cities would look like, I guess like Cairo, it would have to be massive. It would also, like Cairo, have to be a place that cannot be ignored, drivers honk all day and all night, and dusty weathered buildings loom large in every direction you look. And then I would top it off, as Cairo does, with a powerful river – in this case, the Nile definitely fits the bill.

No one who has been here for a week can really tell you about Cairo. I imagine you could be here a year and still not know every corner of a place that is so vast and overwhelming. They say New York City never sleeps, but Cairo turns the night into day. And when you can top it all off with a world reknowned cultural movement for creativity and change, it makes for an extra interesting time to be in the heart of the mother of cities.

But don’t let me romantize the worst quality air imaginable where everyone must automatically smoke the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes per day just by walking down the street. Where some areas don’t feel all that welcoming and even if you were welcome, the standstill traffic would never let you get there in a reasonable time. You sit in a cab for an hour but you only rack up a tiny bill. In fact, you could have probably walked faster but its Cairo and sometimes its more about being comfortable than being logical.

I’m yet to sit in a cafe without someone joining in my conversation and offering a testimony about what has been going on and what they have experienced. It seems no one is afraid to speak anymore, and its hard to imagine them keeping quiet.

That about sums up my first days in Cairo: loud city, talkative people, mind boggling scale.