Cairo: The Worst Traffic in the World
Cairo Travel Blog› entry 24 of 58 › view all entries
June 19th, 2009 – by: reger1520
For this day, I am simply going to tell the story as it happened and observations I made. I have had a total of one hour of sleep in the last 35 or so hours if that gives you any clue as to what I have seen/done.
After the final test on Thursday night, I spent the rest of the evening saying goodbye to everyone as if I was never going to see them again. Everyone was so excited that Craig and I were headed off to a whole different continent. The trip started at 11:00pm June 18th when Craig and I (along with four other girls from Central Florida) hiked to the train station. At around 11:30pm, we went to the track, and low and behold, the creepiest looking train screeched into the station.
Into the train we went. The girls were heading to Munich for the weekend so they had a seven hour ride ahead of them. Craig and I on the other hand had to get off in Stuttgart at four in the morning. This train was one of the classic European overnight trains. There are little compartments with six seats each. The seats are very close together and you get to know your neighbors really well. I was lucky enough to have two of the girls assigned to my cabin, however, when we walked in there were two other people curled up asleep in the corner seats. My plan was to sleep, however, that mission failed. The seats were the most uncomfortable seats I have ever sat on and I had zero leg room whatsoever.
Once in Stuttgart, Craig and I said good bye to the girls and off we went. The train station was very quiet at four in the morning and the subway to the airport didn’t start running until five. We killed the time walking around and chatting about our upcoming weekend. The subway to the airport was very fast and a lot more comfortable than the train from Metz. Once at the airport, we indulged in a Burger King breakfast, got our boarding passes, passed through one of the quickest security checks ever, and went to the gate.
We were flying Swiss Airlines from Stuttgart to Zurich, Switzerland, and then from Zurich to Cairo.
The flight to Cairo was four hours and we were treated like kings. We had lunch, as many drinks as we wanted, and even a free Swiss chocolate bar. I love European airlines. Unfortunately, I did not have a window seat but the pilot announced that the pyramids were just off the left side as we were landing.
The first thing I noticed was how incredibly clean the airport was. The terminal we arrived in was only a couple of weeks old and looked gorgeous. Everything was still shiny and it even smelled new. Our first stop in the airport was a swine flu check. We had to fill out a form with our information and if we had been sick within the past month. There were many people wearing masks and visual inspections were being done on everyone. My healthy self made it through without any problems and off we went to immigration.
Visitors from the US are required to have a tourist visa in Egypt. However, these visas can be purchased before immigration for 15 USD.
A couple of things I noticed when we went outside including, obviously, the weather. It was about 100 degrees outside, I was running on zero sleep, and had my big backpack on. I was sweating pretty badly even though it was a dry heat. The next thing I noticed were the cars. It looked like I had taken a time machine back to the 1950’s. We later confirmed that most of the cars in Egypt were between 20-40 years old. I then asked our driver, Mohammad, about the traffic in Cairo. Cairo is home to 22 million people and is one of the largest cities in the world. “Cairo is worst traffic in world”.
We pulled into downtown Cairo and somehow parked right in front of the hostel. The Australian Hostel (nothing Australian about it except a flag at the entrance) is located on the 3rd floor of one of Cairo’s many apartment buildings. We entered cautiously with Mohammad and made our way to the elevator. This wasn’t your typical elevator. It looked like something out of a horror film. We opened the door and there was cardboard being used as a rug. The three of us squeezed in, shut the door, and off we went.
It gets better. There is no door on the elevator, only on the individual floors. That means, if you really wanted to, you could jump off the elevator as there was nothing protecting you.
We had booked a three-bed bedroom in order to secure a free airport transport. The room was a decent size with very high ceilings. We even had our own balcony overlooking a small side street. After we were settled, we went to talk to the friendly hostel staff about setting up tours for the weekend. Craig and I ended up paying 48 Euro each for a Nile river dinner cruise and a personal driver to the pyramids of Giza and Saqqara.
Just to give you a time update, we landed in Cairo just before 3:00pm, at the hostel by 4:30pm, and out the door again for the Nile cruise at 6:30pm.
Our guide dropped us off at the pier, parked the car, and then led us onto the boat. This boat is one of the fancier ships that cruises the Nile, therefore, we had a “security check”. This security check consisted of a metal detector and a little boy watching. The kid couldn’t have been older than ten. Needless to say, everyone beeped but no one was stopped. Oh well. Once on the boat, we found our seats and headed to the balcony for a few pictures before dinner was served.
The dinner was an all you can eat buffet. The selection included Egyptian potatoes, veggies, pork, fish, pasta, salad, and a plethora of desserts. I can safely say that I ate way too much. After dinner, there was an Egyptian show comprising of belly dancing and other performances. The beats of the music sounded like a mix of American hip-hop and traditional Middle Eastern beats. After a bunch of different Egyptian dances, it was time to belly dance. As we were enjoying the show, the belly dancer, out of nowhere, grabbed Craig’s hand and took him to the dance floor. Craig was belly dancing on a boat on the Nile River. Doesn’t get much better than that.
Around 10:30pm, still going on no sleep, we arrived back on land and began our journey back towards the hostel. The traffic was insane and it confirmed the fact that Cairo has the worst traffic in the world. Not even Shanghai can compare to this place. Cars honk more than they use their blinkers. It is normal to come within inches of another car and/or pedestrian. Even about 25% of the cars didn’t have their headlights on. We crossed the Nile back towards Revolutionary Square and our hostel. The main bridge we crossed was packed. Men and covered women all come out at night because of the hot temperatures during the day. Once back to the hostel, we rode the sketchy elevator back to our room and called it a night. Finally.
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