I was just fascinated by the idea of someone selling glasses of tea in the centre of peak traffic. This was around midday, schools were closing for the day and children were navigating their way through a traffic rush that was unending. Cairo had all manner of vehicles on the road including a whole family (mother, father and two children on a motor cycle most not wearing helmets) For me – trying to cross this busy razzmatazz of traffic was quite something since there were no traffic lights on this long and busy ring road. If you were a local,you’d understand the signals. but I …. I was in a panic
But returning to the tea seller – here was a lesson in entrepreneurship. I guess on a hot day in the middle of peak traffic, people get thirsty. Always – I imagine transporting this scene to my country and realise that while we can learn from and copy each other’s practices – it would never be quite the same without the broader prevailing culture, norms and values of that society. But still, this was a great experience!
I remember scrolling through an Airline magazine and being magnetically drawn to the stark beauty of Mount Sanai. I decided almost in an instant that I wanted to travel there and take my own photograph. I was impulsive back then and had a good reason to cultivate this dream. My husband’s milestone birthday was coming up.
Our trip to Egypt took place almost at the cusp of the first uprisings there in 2010. In fact we spotted a number of election campaign posters upon arrival. For me, it was both a rich palette of experience and pleasure, an awesome walk through history, a spiritual sojourn as well as an awakening and learning about myself. I was particularly intrigued by a picture I took which begged so many questions when I compared it with my own country.
I wondered how the washing was strung up, I wondered about the scrap heap on the roof and the many unfinished buildings I saw, I wondered about the crossover of urban and rural lifestyles and at the same time I was beguiled by all the great people we met. Are you still travelling with me?
Travelling is a great teacher. I learnt to appreciate the orderliness of my own country despite the fact that we complain about traffic lights not working or taxi drivers behaving badly on our roads and the accompanying road rage. Yet, in the same breath I marvelled that a city as large and dense as Cairo with over 20 million people could survive without road rage and accidents. I stood trapped on the pavement not sure how to navigate across the road through an unceasing rush of traffic. Then later, watched school girls walk through the rush of old and battered vehicles without fear or hesitation.
On one evening, we sipped our Egyptian tea in a restaurant close to that busy street, much quieter then, as people shut doors behind them, In front of us, men huddled around their shisha pipes. Despite the seeming chaos of this concrete jungle still languishing in its carelessness of many rules that others held sacrosanct, I enjoyed my short stay in the desert city, happy in the thought that I would finally make my way home.