This is sort of neat: one day I wore a flower print jumpsuit, the next day I found and posed with a bush looking pretty much the same as the other day’s print in one of Cairo’s tiny and random public gardens (small reasons for happiness, as you soon will learn). As you all probably know, Cairo is far from the greenest city in the world. Crowded, dusty, and noisy, with packed streets running crisscross between faded behemoths of apartment buildings, it is quite an overwhelming place for many a visitor, and an occasional pain for residents and returning enthusiasts. Still, Cairo remains my favorite city in the world. It is mine. It has soul. I wouldn’t trade it for the beauty of Barcelona, the hipness of Istanbul, nor the relatively organized-ness of gridded US cities like Chicago or New York.
Of course, surviving and coming to love the city is a matter of attitude. To be happy here, you need to adjust your expectations, learn to chill, and adopt a positive outlook. Yes, the city can be an eyesore in broad daylight; learn to appreciate the full potential of its splendor by night – the closer to sunrise the better, as you will have the city almost all to yourself. Cruise across the full extent of an empty 6th of October bridge as the night turns to dawn with some Oum Kalthoum playing in the background to fall in love with the city anew (I did this last Ramadan – traveling from a sohoor gathering in El Dokki after fagr to my place in El Rehab felt almost magical).
Stuck in the infamous Cairo traffic? Observe the various and highly creative forms of non-verbal communication you will not encounter the likes of anywhere else but here. Let your thoughts fly. Read a book. Call a long lost friend. There are many solutions to such a problem. And if you are suffocating from the pollution and noise, you need not look far for an escape. Get on a faluka (boat) from El Maadi (the non-motorized, quiet one) with snack and good friends, enjoy the priceless view and impeccably chill music in Sequoia at the edge of Zamalek overlooking/being surrounded by the Nile, or even better in my opinion (and waaay cheaper), pay five geneih (less than a dollar) to enter Al Azhar park at night (a true oasis in the middle of the city), grab a to-go cup of tea from the outdoor coffee shop, sit on the grassy hill overlooking parts of the city, and talk or reflect while listening to the taraweeh prayers of a hundred mosques (in Ramadan, that is).
Learn to enjoy the simple things you may encounter in the city. Did the taxi driver actually give you the exact change back, including halfs or quarters? What a pleasant surprise! Particularly green gardens in between buildings and cars (like the one above) are to be appreciated. Stores that close at 11 or midnight? Yes, please. Oh, and perhaps the most missed aspect, according to friends who go back and forth or who end up leaving; anything and everything can be delivered to you. At almost any point of the day or night. Groceries, medication, or Mac Donalds at your doorstep? Why, of course. There are a plethora of other small issues to jump with joy over, of course, but I’ll let you discover those on your own (let me know if you already did – what is there to love about Cairo?).
Scarf: Ebay, neck scarf: H&M, oversized shirt: Bershka, tropical flower print jumpsuit: Mango, ethnic black and white belt: River Island, accessories: Icing, River Island.