It rained yesterday. That was quite strange.
I imagine all Cairenes had already assumed the summer was upon us (yes, this early) because the temperature has been increasing steadily for the past two weeks. More and more people had already begun to shed their winter outfits and make ready for spring (that is, if one can call the period between winter and summer – generally lasting no more than a day to a week – spring).
As I took a cab back home from Downtown Cairo (from near the American University in Cairo’s Greek Campus), I noticed a couple of good things about the rain; the trees seem greener and the air smelled different, somewhat purer (not pure, of course. I doubt that anything short of divine intervention or a nuclear weapon can rid Cairo of the obscene levels of pollution that it suffers from). But aah! The trees were beautiful.
And that was about it.
Being Egyptian, and living in Egypt, I did not allow any shred of happiness to overcome my sensibilities. As usual, I was proven correct in my decision. I had to wait for an empty cab for a period which exceeded thirty minutes. As a general rule, this is a bit much. This is because most Egyptians are completely unfamiliar with rain. It’s also because government officials, or those in the Ministry of Transportation, clearly have no idea on how to plan and construct decent roads.
Let me explain. (Thought I warn you, this may take a bit and could be detrimental to your psychological health.. as an Egyptian. To all non-Egyptians, well… behold some of the miniscule reasons why I personally believe Egypt, as a country, should be declared one of the wonders of the modern world.)
I’ll start with the roads. Most Cairenes with a decent memory span of one year (you can’t expect more from Egyptians) or… more(!!!) understand perfectly well that rain is an urban disaster in Egypt; the roads flood, the metro (subway, tube, whatever) breaks down, public transportation in the form of buses and so on also break-down, walls leak, sewege and drainage pipes overflow… the whole works. In all honesty, this makes no sense at all.
You see, most Egyptian roads, in my humble opinion, should be labeled as hazardous. Apparently, in an attempt to keep Egyptians drivers and pedestrians on their toes (always on the lookout for possible hazards), no two Egyptian roads look alike, feel alike or are even designed alike. Hell, the same road in Egypt takes on forms that are so different that were you to blindfold a passenger in any four-wheeled vehicle (preferably a non-Egyptians. The Egyptians would be fooled for maybe… 3 seconds, then they’d identify the exact address – including the closest building number), they would probably believe that they are traversing urban, rocky, desert, tundra and savannah terrain all in one go.
You have streets which are V-shaped, then you have those that take on a wave form, then you have streets that go like this: / or like this \. Or a combination of both – /\/\/\/\.
You have streets with pot-holes, you have streets with ditches, you have streets with sidewalks, without sidewalks, with asphalt, without asphalt, with and without asphalt (Thirty-One flavors?! Humph! The Egyptian government has put Baskin Robbins to shame!) You have streets which wiggle you, make you slide, spin, rotate, vibrate, elevate, depress, compress and dissect you. (The combination is always a secret… and subject to change. You’ll always be caught with your pants down.)
We don’t have regular streets (usually consisting of a long, black smooth surface which is slightly curved upwards in the middle). WHY WOULD WE?! Why on earth would any sane, logical person want to have a road where the water automatically moves to the sides and where a gutter and efficient drainage system awaits to whisk it away through a myriad of well-designed, placed and built pipes?! I know why! Why that would be completely and utterly boring. This way, every time it rains, all car-drivers can imagine they’re boat captains (Ahoy there Cab Driver!) and navigate around the city. Because of the state of some Cairo streets, the previous statement isn’t really an exaggeration.
As it stands, when it rains, the normally insane Egyptian drivers split into factions;
King of the Jungle Faction: The group of people that will inform you that rain or shine, nothing stands in the way of their vehicle. They will continue driving along at speeds in excess of 100 km/h (in 60 km/h zones). As a special treat, and to illustrate their point more practically, they might even consider bumping up their normal vehicular speeds a good 20-40 km/h. To prove a point you see.
Head in the Ground Faction: My personal favourites. This group of people will slowly and surely inform you that to move beyond 1 km/h in the rain is a sure way to ultimately damage your vehicle. Thus, they plod along at 1km/h, effectively causing 5 km traffic jams. (What really bothers me is that they refuse to go home and park the car… As far as I can deduce, their dogma stipulates that they continue driving around the way they do, in order to spread awareness of their beliefs.)
Heads will Roll Faction: Most drivers fall into this category when it rains. This group of drivers will drive along at a moderate speed, slow down when it comes to newly created middle-of-the-road oceans, seas or lakes. A little faster when the road clears up. But, they are extremely pissed off because of the behaviors of the Head in the Ground Faction and the King of the Jungle Faction.
Rain in Cairo will, apparently, forever change the way you view the environment. Rain in Cairo will turn the staunchest Green Peace activist into a hardcore mother-nature vandal. Yes indeed!
Ain’t I lucky that I don’t have a driver’s license yet?
And that’s the way I see it.