I’m always searching for new ways to describe Cairo to family and friends who have never been here.
Before I left, I had a fun night out with two of my closest friends Sarah Gordon and Chrissy Speich. Walking down the streets of Boston they were singing Taylor Swift songs.
I was out of the loop and didn’t know the words, so before I left, I downloaded a couple.
“The Way I Loved You,” goes like this:
“He is sensible and so incredible and all my single friends are jealous
He says everything I need to hear and it’s like I couldn’t ask for anything better
He opens up my door and I get into his car and he says you look beautiful tonight
And I feel perfectly fine
I miss screaming and fighting and kissing in the rain
And it’s 2 am and I’m cursing your name.
So in love that you act insane
And that’s the way I loved you
Breaking down and coming undone
It’s a roller coaster counter-rush
Never knew I could feel so much
And that’s the way I loved you.
OK. Thanks for reading through that. You either secretly (or openly) love it or you’re really wondering where I’m going….
Cairo is infuriating, crowded, hot and filthy.
Males constantly harass me in the streets and sometimes I get sick from the food.
People try to overcharge me because I’m female and foreign.
Sometimes I end up in the wrong place because I can’t communicate with cab drivers, read building names, or maps in Arabic.
Sometimes I really want delicious grilled chicken with onions and peppers and the cook, smiling, gives me fried chicken fingers and fries. “American, yes?”
Other than the teas, things aren’t sugar-coated here. Bathrooms usually don’t have toilet paper and the tastiest restaurants might be in the dingiest allies.
The perfect flat might be in a dilapidated building with an elevator which only goes up, not down.
Going to the beautiful cave church requires a trip through a village of horrid smelling garbage.
Taylor sings on about respecting space and talking politely but concludes–
“And my hearts not breaking because I’m not feeling anything at all.”
The range of emotions and types of experiences in Cairo is boundless. Feeling nothing at all, being bored, is virtually impossible.
People who barely knew me have welcomed me into their lives and homes.
I’ve met so many eager to talk and share ideas. They want to talk about politics,
religion, culture, gender and freedom. They read the news and feel invested in unfolding events.
I’ve found a library downtown with free internet and seen new parts of the city searching for flats.
Exploring the last few days I’ll be in an upper-class area with trees and guards and turn the bend to behold crowded streets decked with juice stands, koshari, and all sorts of people interacting.
I’ve met Americans, French, Palestinians and Britons who navigate life here as comfortably as Egyptians.
I have relied on myself and put more trust in others–sometimes strangers–than I thought I was capable of granting.
I have been scared, alone and overwhelmed. I’ve been ecstatic when I’ve gotten things right.
Loving and appreciating Cairo–just living here is not always easy. Every-day-things–making a copy of my resume, finding a new street– can feel like an epic odyssey.
Yet at the end of the day, if I’m dirty from walking outside, physically and mentally exhausted; if I’ve learned a new word or made a new friend–it’s a day well spent.
To finish on a note—
“….You were wild and crazy, intoxicating
And that’s the way I loved you…..”